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.