Essential Daredevil Vol. 6

First Published: November 2013

Contents: Daredevil #126 (October 1975) to #146 (June 1977); Daredevil Annual #4 (1976); Iron Man #88 (July 1976) and #89 (August 1976); and Ghost Rider #19 (August 1976) and #20 (October 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, Bill Mantlo, Jim Shooter, Chris Claremont, Archie Goodwin, Bob Brown, John Buscema, John Byrne, Sal Buscema, Gil Kane, George Tuska, and others

Key First Appearances: Heather Glenn, Brock Jones/Torpedo, Blake Tower, Bullseye

Story Continues From: Essential Daredevil Vol. 5

Overview: By now, I think we all know the Daredevil story. Blinded as a youth, Matt Murdock’s other senses have been heightened, allowing him to do spectacular feats beyond that of a normal man. Whether fighting crime on the streets at night or defending clients in court during the day, he is the Man Without Fear – Daredevil! This is Essential Daredevil Vol. 6.

Now at this point with the collection, Daredevil has been in business for over 10 years. Maybe it’s time for a change, to shake things up for the characters. For starters, let’s get the law firm of Nelson & Murdock out of their fancy offices. Instead, we are going to have them open up a storefront legal clinic in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen, where anyone can walk in off the street to discuss their legal problems. Let’s also introduce a new girlfriend, Heather Glenn, for Matt. A free spirit that makes you question what color the sky is in her world. (Given that this is a black & white collection, the answer should be white, but you never quite know how she might answer that question.) But just when things are getting comfortable between Heather and Matt, who should return but former romantic interest and secretary Karen Page.

Maybe we can add some new faces to the rogues’ gallery? In shoots Torpedo – but is he a hero or a villain. Or both?Then there is the new assassin known as Bullseye. He never misses regardless what the weapon is in his hands. But fans like the old foes too, so let’s bring in the likes of the Owl, Cobra, and Mr. Hyde. And being the in the Marvel Universe, you know you will have to cross paths with some other heroes, such as Iron Man, Black Panther, Namor, and Ghost Rider.

But Daredevil still shines brightest when he is a hero for the common man. Stopping a runaway bus, finding a lost boy in the big city, dealing with crooked cops, and the other challenges that come up from time to time. Going toe-to-toe with the villain of the month may sell comics, but protecting his city defines the man.

What makes this Essential?: I’ve got mixed opinions for this collection. Part of me says this is essential simply for the character introductions. Heather Glenn would be a long-time romantic interest for Matt. The Torpedo was a C-List hero but became a key part of the ROM book. District Attorney Blake Tower would become a fixture in many Marvel books, such as Amazing Spider-Man. Bullseye would become one of the most important Daredevil villains of all time, especially given the events during the Frank Miller run.

But…. these stories just seem very average. Marv Wolfman writes the majority of the stories in this collection, but I don’t feel like this is his best work. This was doing the era when Wolfman was also serving as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, so it makes sense that this title may not have had his full attention. I want this to be a stronger title, given the list of creators attached to these issues.

Footnotes: Ghost Rider #19 & #20, and Daredevil #138 are also reprinted in Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Brian Michael Bendis’ legendary run on Daredevil in the early 2000s. I’ve previously recommended the Miller run, the Kevin Smith run, and the Mark Waid run with the Man Without Fear. It makes sense to cover the Bendis run, as he takes Matt Murdock and friends in a whole new direction. Bendis really makes this a psychological examination of what makes the hero, dragging him down to his lowest point ever. The Kingpin returns as the main protagonist for Daredevil, as well as the Owl and Bullseye. The highlight of the run is Matt Murdock being outed as Daredevil and forced to defend his name in court in a desperate attempt to maintain the dual identities. This series has been collected multiple times in trade paperbacks, hardcovers, and omnibus editions, so it should be easy to track down.

Spring Break 2017 – UPDATE!

Greetings, true believers! I know it’s been awhile since I last checked in. Thank you for your patience with my absence.

First, the surgery went well, and I am on the path to a full recovery. I am still going through rehab, working to get the full flexibility back into the knee.

Next, the blog will start back up on May 1. While I am getting back into getting some reviews written, I am also preparing for two conventions coming up on back-to-back weekends in Kansas City.

That leads into my next item to share with you. My hometown convention is Planet Comicon, which is coming up April 28-30. Once again, my friends and I will be managing the Hero Initiative table (#1030/1032). If you are at the show, please stop by and say hi!

My friends and I also do the Worst. Comic. Podcast. EVER!, which I hope you give us a listen each week. With our work on the podcast, that has opened the doors for us to host panels at the convention. If you are at Planet Comicon, stop by the Marvel Comics panel on Saturday, where I will be hosting Jason Aaron, Dennis Hopeless, Cullen Bunn and Greg Smallwood.

On Sunday, I host two different panels which may interest you. I start the morning off with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel with co-creator Kevin Eastman and artist Freddie Williams II. Later that day, I will have a conversation with legendary writer Chris Claremont.

So, if anyone has any questions for any of the creators, please share them with me and I will do my best to work them into the panels. We are going to try to record all of the panels we host, so hopefully, I can share the audio with you after the con.

Essential ROM is still in the works. I am working my way through the books, but as we all know, Bill Mantlo can be a wordy writer. Look for updates on that project later this spring!

So, that’s all for now. Look for me at Planet Comicon, and the blog resumes May 1. Thanks!!

Essential X-Men Vol. 10

xmen10First Published: March 2012

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #265 (Early August 1990) to #272 (January 1991); Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 (1990); New Mutants #95 (November 1990) to #97 (January 1991); X-Factor #60 (November 1990) to #62 (January 1991); and material from Fantastic Four Annual #23 (1990); New Mutants Annual #6 (1990), and X-Factor Annual #5 (1990)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Louise Simonson, Rob Liefeld, Jon Bogdanove, and others

Key First Appearances: Remy LeBeau/Gambit, Seraph, Ahab

Story Continues From: Essential X-Men Vol. 9 

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 11

Overview: Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of future present for the X-Men and their extended family. Make no doubt about it, the X-Men title in this era is a full-blown daytime soap opera. You’re going to need a scorecard to keep up with everything going on here in Essential X-Men Vol. 10.

Let’s start with Storm, the one-time leader of the X-Men. She is suffering from amnesia, and her body has been reverted from adulthood to childhood. She is getting by with petty thievery on the streets of New Orleans, where she meets the Cajun mutant, Gambit. Will this charming rogue stick around?

Speaking of Rogue, she’s back in Australia from the Siege Perilous. But she has been split into two people, Rogue and Ms. Marvel, whose powers she absorbed so many years ago. The two women must fight each other as well as the Reavers for control of the headquarters and for control of Rogue’s body. Who will win?

Of course, we can’t tell an X-Men story without involving Wolverine. We get a great stand-alone issue, featured on the cover of the Essential, which tells a flashback story of Wolverine and Captain America saving a young Natasha Romanov, who would one day become the Black Widow.

But the highlights of this collection are the two large stories that take up most of the book.

The first is the Days of Future Present story, which ran across multiple annuals in 1991. Serving as a sequel to the original Days of Future Past story (check out Essential X-Men Vol. 2), a grown-up Franklin Richards travels from the future hoping to stop the events that lead to his current situation. This leads to fights between the Fantastic Four, the New Mutants, X-Factor and the various members of the X-Men. Adult Franklin meets young Franklin, Jean Grey meets Rachel Summers, and Cable spends time in the same room with infant Nathan Summers without things going wacky.

But the main story that takes up the last half of the book is the X-Tinction Agenda epic. The various teams (X-Men, X-Factor, and the New Mutants) must ban together to finally overthrow the Genoshan government. This storyline wrapped up so many ongoing storylines, with the most important conclusion being the reformation of the X-Men as an official team with a line-up featuring Storm (now returned to her adult form), Wolverine, Banshee, Forge, Psylocke, Jubilee, and Gambit. But the teams did not escape unharmed. Warlock was killed, and Wolfsbane finds herself trapped in her wolf form. She and Havok elect to stay behind on Genosha and help rebuild the government, one which will treat mutants and humans as equals.

What makes this Essential?: This is an interesting era for the X-Men, as the book (and the various related titles) truly become a large soap opera of sorts. While it’s always been a key component of any Chris Claremont X-Men story, the stories in this collection seem even more focused on the character interactions than the over-the-top superhero adventures. (Don’t get me wrong, you still get those stories, especially with the epic crossovers in this book.) weekly book, putting out two issues a month for several stretches at a time.

If you have been reading the X-Men since Giant-Size X-Men #1, then, by all means, pick up this book, if you don’t already have all of the issues. But if you are just getting into the X-Men, you might be better off just focusing on the big epic stories, many of which can be found in their own hardcover or trade paperback collection.

Footnotes: Material from Fantastic Four Annual #23, New Mutants Annual #6, X-Factor Annual #5, and Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 are also reprinted in Essential X-Factor Vol. 4.

Uncanny X-Men #270 to #272, New Mutants #95 to #97 and X-Factor #60 to #62 are also reprinted in Essential X-Factor Vol. 5.

If you like this volume, try: the X-Force series that started in 1991. Following the end of the X-Tinction Agenda story, the New Mutants book was due for a shake-up. Wolfsbane left the team to stay in Genosha and help rebuild the nation. Long-time member Warlock had been killed during the story. New members were joining the team, and the group was now led by Cable. Series artist Rob Liefeld had taken over the writing duties, and it made sense for Marvel to relaunch the title in a new direction with a new #1 issue. Along with co-writer Fabian Nicieza, X-Force #1 became one of the best-selling comics of all time, thanks to the issue being poly-bagged with collector cards. The first year of X-Force has been collected in an omnibus edition, so that might be the best way to track down these stories to read.

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 4

Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 4

First Published: February 2013

Contents: Marvel Team-Up #76 (December 1978) to #78 (February 1979), and #80 (April 1979) to #98 (October 1980), and Marvel Team-Up Annual #2 (1979) and #3 (1980).

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Steven Grant, Mike Vosburg, Sal Buscema, Carmine Infantino

Key First Appearances: Cutthroat, Mister Fear, Dansen Macabre, Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird, Alexi Vazhin

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3

Overview: Living in New York City, Spider-Man has the opportunity to cross paths with many different heroes from all corners of the Marvel Universe. A casual stroll through Greenwich Village usually prompts an encounter with the mystical Dr. Strange. Being sent on a photo shoot for the Daily Globe allows Peter to meet up with the Invisible Girl. And you just never know when Howard the Duck might drive his cab from Cleveland to Manhattan.

While references are made to ongoing events in Spider-Man’s other monthly books, these stories usually follow the one-and-done format, giving the reader a complete story within the 20-plus pages per issue. These stories also tend to be more lighthearted, giving into the absurdity that brings some of these team-ups together.

What makes this Essential?: The team-up books, such as this or Marvel Two-in-One, are a good way to read a particular character, be exposed to a variety of other characters, and not get bogged down in continuity from the main character’s books (usually). While mostly one-and-done stories, there are a couple of mini-story arcs (#76, #77, #80, #81; and #82-#85) that make for more interesting stories. While this is not a must-read volume to understand Peter Parker, this is a friendly  way to introduce a new reader to the world of Spider-Man.

Footnotes: Marvel Team-Up #79 is not included in this Essential volume. That issue teamed Spider-Man up with Red Sonja. Marvel no longer holds the rights to publish Red Sonja, so it could not be included in this Essential.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
#76 – Spider-Man & Dr. Strange
#77 – Spider-Man & Ms. Marvel
#78 – Spider-Man & Wonder Man
#80 – Spider-Man & Dr. Strange and Clea / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1
#81 – Spider-Man & Satana / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1
#82 – Spider-Man & Black Widow
#83 – Spider-Man & Nick Fury
#84 – Spider-Man & Master of Kung Fu
#85 – Spider-Man & Shang-Chi, Black Widow, and Nick Fury
#86 – Spider-Man & Guardians of the Galaxy
#87 – Spider-Man & Black Panther
#88 – Spider-Man & Invisible Girl
#89 – Spider-Man & Nightcrawler
#90 – Spider-Man & Beast
#91 – Spider-Man & Ghost Rider
#92 – Spider-Man & Hawkeye
#93 – Spider-Man & Werewolf
#94 – Spider-Man & Shroud
#95 – Spider-Man & Mockingbird
#96 – Spider-Man & Howard the Duck
#97 – Hulk & Spider-Woman / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 2
#98 – Spider-Man & Black Widow
Annual #2 – Spider-Man & Hulk
Annual #3 – Hulk & Power Man, Iron Fist, and Machine Man

If you like this volume, try: the first Hawkeye mini-series from 1983. We see Hawkeye in Marvel Team-Up #92 working as the security chief for Cross Technological Enterprises (CTE). Hawkeye would work for CTE during his many leaves of absence from the Avengers. The mini-series brings the CTE storyline to a conclusion, as Hawkeye discovers that the cousin of CTE’s CEO is the villain Crossfire, who is hatching a plan to destroy all superheroes. Working with former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Mockingbird (first introduced in Marvel Team-Up #95), Hawkeye stops Crossfire’s plan. The series ends with Hawkeye and Mockingbird getting married. This series has been collected in a trade paperback and as a Marvel Premiere edition.

Essential X-Factor Vol. 3

xfactor3First Published: December 2009

Contents: X-Factor #36 (January 1989) to #50 (January 1990); X-Factor Annual #3 (1988); and Uncanny X-Men #242 (March 1989) and #243  (April 1989)

Key Creator Credits: Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Chris Claremont, Kieron Dwyer, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Arthur Adams, Paul Smith, and others

Key First Appearances: Alchemy

Story Continues From: Essential X-Factor Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential X-Factor Vol. 4

Overview:  This book has a little bit of everything for the mutant fan in all of us. Sit back and enjoy the read of Essential X-Factor Vol. 3.

First up is the Evolutionary War crossover in X-Factor Annual #3. From a chronology point of view, this should have been collected in the prior Essential volume, but there was a lot going on in that book, so we get it here. In the main story, we see X-Factor trying to stop the High Evolutionary from exterminating the Moloids and others that are at the end of their evolutionary development. It’s part of the big storyline running through the annuals that year. The big take away from the annual is the back-up feature, which features the various kids in training with X-Factor, such as Skids, Boom Boom, Rusty, and others, taking off in their own adventures, which would be told in the X-Terminators mini-series – sadly not reprinted in Essential form.

Next up is Inferno, which we have talked about previously with Essential X-Men Vol. 8. The big takeaway for the X-Factor team is the resolution of the Jean Grey-Scott Summers-Madelyne Pryor love triangle. Madelyne is killed, leaving Scott and Jean to resume their lives together raising baby Nathan. As the team all catches their collective breath, the X-Terminator kids return, only to break up their band. Many of the older kids would transfer over to the New Mutants title, becoming key members for the years to come.

But I need to focus on X-Factor here, because we are quickly caught up in the Judgement War. The team is kidnapped and sent across the galaxy to a planet facing judgement by the Celestials. On this planet, everyone is ranked on a perfection scale. Jean Grey is viewed as being perfect, while some of the guys (Beast, Archangel) tend to fall at the bottom of that ranking. The team members work independently before reuniting and stopping the Celestials.

What makes this Essential?: This is a transitional volume. We see Walt Simonson’s run on the book come to an end with the Inferno storyline. The art is handled by committee, with most of the work done by the criminally-underrated Paul Smith. We do experience Rob Liefeld’s first work for Marvel – you decide what to make of that! Through all of this though, writer Louise Simonson continues to provide a steady direction for the title.

My biggest issue with this collection is that the book gets highjacked by events going on in the other X-Men or Marvel Universe books at the time. The first half of this book is given over to tie-ins with the Evolutionary War storyline or the Inferno storyline. Considering that the Inferno story has been reprinted already (see Footnotes), you almost feel cheated by paying full price for half of a volume of “new” material.

Footnotes: X-Factor #36 to #39 and Uncanny X-Men #242 and #243 are also reprinted in Essential X-Men Vol. 8.

If you like this volume, try: the Acts of Vengeance storyline. After multiple summer events which focused solely on the Marvel mutants, this event crossed over across the Marvel Universe. Secretly organized by Loki, the villains unite and agree to change up their normal foes, in an attempt to surprise the heroes. So you have the odd combinations of the Punisher facing Doctor Doom, or Daredevil vs. Ultron. In typical fashion, the villains plans unravel due to infighting and personal agendas. Loki is revealed as the organizer, which leads to yet another face-off with the Avengers. Now, this may be a harder storyline to track down. There was an omnibus released which collected the main issues of the storyline. However, this omnibus has gone out of print, and the prices have skyrocketed in the secondary market (eBay). A second omnibus was released featuring more of the crossover issues, but not the main storyline. This omnibus is still readily found for cover price or less. This may be a case where the thrill of the back issue hunt is more fun, to track down all of the numerous crossovers, which should be noted by a triangle window in the upper right corner of the covers.

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

First Published: July 2009

Contents: Doctor Strange #30 (August 1978) to #56 (December 1982); Man-Thing #4 (May 1980); and back-up story from Chamber of Chills #4 (May 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roger Stern, Ralph Macchio, Tom Sutton, Chris Claremont, Gene Colan, Marshall Rogers, and others

Key First Appearances: Sara Wolfe, Madeleine Saint-Germaine, Morgana Blessing

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3

Overview: You’ll have to pardon me here. I’ve read a lot of Doctor Strange issues over the last couple of years, and I think I am getting the feel for some of these spells. Let me practice a few of them as we go through this review for Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4.

“By the Ruby Rings of Raggadorr!” OK, in terms of content, this book gives us a nice, uninterrupted run of full-length stories from the pages of Doctor Strange. The majority of this book is helmed by either Roger Stern or Chris Claremont, with art by a rotating crew of legendary and upcoming artists, such as Gene Colan, tom Sutton, Marshall Rogers, Brent Anderson, Michael Golden, and Paul Smith. While most stories remain one-and-done, we do get a couple of multi-issue story arcs, including one by Claremont that crossed over with another title he was writing, Man-Thing.

“By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!” While a lot of random threats pop up from time to time to challenge the good Doctor, we do get a lot of Baron Mordo, Nightmare, and Dormammu throughout the collection. We get a fun time-travel story – consider that Strange usuals travels between dimensions, not time – that sends Strange back to World War II (where he encounters Sgt. Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes) and ancient Egypt (where he inadvertently gets involved in one of the earliest adventures of the Fantastic Four.)

“By the Vapors of the Vishanti!” For many years, Doctor Strange has had a tight circle of friends. For some characters like Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four, I could fill up a blog post just listing their friends, family, and close associates. For Doctor Strange, you have Wong, Clea, and Victoria Bentley. That’s the list. However, in this volume, we see three new women enter the picture.

First up is Sara Wolfe, a Greenwich Village neighbor who starts working for Strange as an office manager of sorts, to handle the bills and accounts for the household. Then there is Madeleine Saint-Germaine, a former paramour of Stephen’s youth, who re-enters his life during a consultation that leads into a multi-issue arc traveling from England to the Florida Evergreens.

Finally, there came a point where Stephen realizes his relationship with Clea is not working. He can’t serve as a mentor to Clea, while being in a romantic relationship with her. So he puts that relationship on hold, so they can focus on her training. That opens the door for Morgana Blessing to come into the picture. She seems to be mystically-inclined, able to see through Strange’s spells. She also becomes a pawn for Baron Mordo, who disguises himself as Morgana’s missing cat in order to attack Strange when his defenses are down. Seriously! Going to go out on a limb here and just say that Mordo doesn’t win this battle!

What makes this Essential?: Want to know the sign that this was a good Essential? As soon as I finished this volume, I started searching for Doctor Strange #57 and subsequent issues to keep the story going. I’ve never been a big fan of Doctor Strange, as I have noted in these previous reviews, and generally, it has only been the art by the likes of Colan to keep me with the book. But this volume, written primarily by Stern, was a dramatic turn for me. Stern made this character his own, and a much more intriguing one at that. While a lot of the stories still remain one-and-done, there is an ongoing narrative that develops, as we see more and more about Stephen’s life when he is not being called to defend the Earth.

In some ways, Doctor Strange has become very much like DC’s Superman, in that as the strongest and best at what he does, the threats it takes to overcome him become greater and greater, and generally more and more absurd. To get away from that, a good writer has to reverse the direction and keep that title character more human with definite limitations. You create situations where the character has to not use their skill sets, but rather go in the opposite direction. For Superman, that means using his head more than his fists. For Doctor Strange, it would be the exact opposite, making him more physically involved in the action, versus standing safely in the background and recanting spells. Stern does a good job of getting Strange into the action, and showing that despite all of his talents, he is still a man with flaws and issues. Issues which I now want to keep reading about.

Footnotes: Man-Thing #4 and Doctor Strange #41 are also reprinted in Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: the 2009 story arc from New Avengers, Search for the Sorcerer Supreme, from Brian Michael Bendis, Billy Tan, and Chris Bachalo. Within this volume, we saw Dr. Strange and the mysterious Brother Voodoo cross paths in issue #48, and given the nature of their line of work, it would not be their only encounter. Following the events of World War Hulk, where Dr. Strange was forced to use dark magic to stop his ally from the days of the Defenders, Stephen renounces his title as Sorcerer Supreme and protector of the dimension. The Eye of Agamotto leads the “new” Avengers on a search for a suitable replacement throughout the world, before leading them to New Orleans and giving the title to Brother Voodoo. Of course, what is not known at this time is that there really was a character by the name of Agamotto, and not only does he want his eye back, but he wants to take over our dimension. Dr. Voodoo and the other Avengers are able to keep that from happening. I know a lot of people have mixed reactions to Bendis’ run with the Avengers, but I found stories like this one to be fun “What If”-type stories actually occurring in ongoing big picture narrative of the Marvel Universe.

Essential X-Men Vol. 9

Essential X-Men Vol. 9

First Published: June 2009

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #244 (May 1989) to #264 (Late July 1990); and Uncanny X-Men Annual #13 (1989)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, and others

Key First Appearances: Jubilation Lee/Jubilee, Matsuo Tsurayaba, Cylla Markham/Skullbuster

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 8 

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 10

Overview: Wow, where to start? This book goes all over the place and back, in the short time frame of 14 months in publishing time.

The book starts out with a key issue, as a new character is introduced that would become a staple of the 1990s team, both in comics and in the animated series. The women of the X-Men plan a girls night out and have Gateway transport them to the ritzy Hollywood Mall. There they encounter a young teenage girl who goes by the nickname of Jubilee. She can create energy plasmoids with her hands, and uses them to her advantage to avoid the mall cops. When the X-Ladies return to their secret headquarters in Australia, Jubilee tags along in secret, and hides out in the basement headquarters until Wolverine tracks her down. From that point, Jubilee becomes an unofficial sidekick to Logan, and eventually a full member of the team.

After that, the story just seems to fall apart. The characters start going their separate ways. Storm is killed – don’t worry, she gets better later. Many of the X-Men are sent through the Siege Perilous, which is like a cosmic reset button for each of the characters. Dazzler returns to Hollywood to become a movie star; Colossus becomes a successful artist; Rogue is transported to the Savage Land to become the consort of Magneto.

The most dramatic of resets comes for Psylocke, who ended up in Japan in control of the Hand. Spiral uses Betsy to save the brain-dead lover of the Hand’s leader, Matsuo Tsurayaba. Betsy’s mind is placed in Kwannon’s body and utilizes the new body’s physical skills to become a new assassin for the Hand, known as the Lady Mandarin. Her first assignment is to kill Wolverine. However, during their battle, Betsy regains control of herself and returns to her Psylocke identity, albeit in a different body.

The volume lumbers to a conclusion, as one-time members Banshee, Forge, and Polaris work to track down the missing X-Men. Unfortunately, you will need to wait until Volumes 10 and 11 to see the full team back together. And when I say the FULL TEAM, I mean there is enough X-Men hanging around to create at least two teams of X-Men!

What makes this Essential?: Two words describe why this should be collected: Jim. Lee. Like many of the “young gun” artists that came up together, Jim Lee took the X-Men by storm (no pun intended). His early issues still command large prices on the secondary market. This is also an era where things get really busy for the X-Men. The monthly book became a bi-weekly book, putting out two issues a month for several stretches at a time.

Personally, the stories in this volume just never appealed to me. The team felt very fragmented, with characters running off on their own adventures. These issues are the first time that I felt you also needed to be reading the Wolverine title in order to understand everything that was going on with him. At this point, Claremont had been scripting the team for over 15 years. Maybe his story well had run dry, or maybe he needed to tear everything apart to rebuild the team in a new direction. These may not be the highlight stories of Claremont’s X-Men career.

If you like this volume, try: the original Excalibur series, which ran from 1988 to 1998. Way back when the Mutant Massacre came to an end, several of the X-Men were severely wounded or damaged. To oversee their care and rehab, Kitty (& Lockheed), Nightcrawler, and Rachel were sent to Muir Island, missing out on many adventures of the X-Men, including their perceived death during the Fall of the Mutants story. The abandoned former X-Men soon joined up with Captain Britain (a Chris Claremont co-created character and the brother of Psylocke) and his girlfriend Meggan (a shapeshifter) came together to form a new team to protect Great Britain. The initial team of Claremont and artist Alan Davis took a fun inventive approach with the characters, working together on the first 24 issues. Davis left the title for awhile but later returned as writer/artist when Claremont stepped away from the book. Over the years, numerous creators would come onboard with their own approaches to the team, but nothing quite matches up to the first two years of books from Claremont/Davis. Also, they flew under the radar of a lot of readers during this era. Excalibur didn’t get caught up in the other ongoing X-Men events (unlike New Mutants and X-Factor), they were left alone to do their own stories. There have been multiple trade paperbacks issued to collect these issues, so they should be somewhat easy to track down.