Essential X-Men Vol. 7

Essential X-Men Vol. 7

First Published: April 2006

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #214 (February 1987) to #228 (April 1988); Uncanny X-Men Annual #10 (1986) and #11 (1987); and Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1 (February 1987) to #4 (June 1987)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Barry Windsor-Smith, Alan Davis, Arthur Adams, Jackson Guice, Marc Silvestri, and others

Key First Appearances: Crimson Commando, Stonewall, Super Sabre, Mr. Sinister

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 6

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 8

Overview: After the events contained in the last Essential X-Men, you have to wonder where the X-Men can go from here. The Mutant Massacre have left the X-Men at half-strength, with Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat severely injured. Magneto is overseeing the New Mutants, and the X-Men team is down to the still-powerless Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, and Psylocke.

First up is to build up the ranks of the team. During a battle in the Mojo Universe that involved the X-Babies, Longshot returned with the team to Earth and became a member of the team. On a chance encounter, the X-Men extend an offer to Dazzler, the mutant with light powers that was first introduced prior to the Dark Phoenix Saga. Next up is Havok, the younger brother of Cyclops that once did time with the X-Men in the 1960s. He rejoins the team, as the world has become dangerous to all mutants with the Marauders on the loose. During this time, Havok’s former sister-in-law, Madeline Pryor, starts hanging out with the X-Men, leading to some awkward interactions when they cross paths with X-Factor.

While a lot of these stories are one or two-parters, the overarching storyline is building to a confrontation in Dallas, known as the Fall of the Mutants. This event also crossed over with X-Factor (see Essential X-Factor Vol. 2) and New Mutants, but each title had its own story thread under the Fall of the Mutants banner. Storm has traveled to Dallas to find Forge, and force him to find a way to return her powers to her. The X-Men follow and encounter Freedom Force, led by Mystique and comprised of the former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Storm and Forge are battling the Adversary, a foe that has been tormenting Forge for years. The only way to stop the Adversary is by the X-Men sacrificing themselves, which they reluctantly do if it will save the Earth.

However, the sorceress Roma, who had been saved by the X-Men during this battle, saves the souls of the X-Men and gives them the chance to live again. They are still considered dead because they could put their loved ones in danger if it was known that the X-Men were still alive. As a side effect of saving them, the X-Men find out that their images cannot be recorded by electronic devices, keeping them hidden from most of the world. The volume ends as the world mourns the loss of the X-Men, and the X-Men prepare for a new direction for the team.

What makes this Essential?: I find it a challenge to review some of these volumes that collect issues that I originally collected off of the newsstand spinner rack. Truth be told, I think I actually had a mail subscription to Uncanny X-Men in this era. When I was reading this month-to-month, in a world without the Internet and spoilers, we were on the edge each month wondering where Chris Claremont and friends would take the mutants in the next issue. Twenty-five years later, reading them all in a row in a short time period, I really start to appreciate the grand vision that Claremont was laying out for us. This is a good volume for the X-Men fan. However, if you want to read the full Fall of the Mutants storyline, you need to pick up the Omnibus that collected all of that storyline.

If you like this volume, try: The X-Men vs. The Avengers mini-series from 1987, 25 years before the AvX nonsense of 2012. Released around the same time as the Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men mini-series, it was not included in this volume. The story takes place shortly after the events of Uncanny X-Men #200 when Magneto is brought to the World Court to be held accountable for his actions in Uncanny X-Men #150. The Russians are still upset with Magneto for his actions, and send the Soviet Super-Soldiers after him. At the same time, the Avengers are called on to stop a pair of asteroids falling towards Earth. They discover that one of the asteroids is Magneto’s former headquarters, so it is time to pay a visit to the X-Men. As with any of these meet-ups, a confrontation ensues pitting the teams against each other. The original plot by Roger Stern called for Magneto to resume his evil ways in the final issue, but Marvel editorial stepped in, wanting to let the Magneto story play out in the pages of Uncanny X-Men under Chris Claremont. That may help explain why Jim Shooter gets a writing credit for #4. This has been collected a couple of times, most recently as a premiere edition in 2010.

Essential X-Factor Vol. 1

Essential X-Factor Vol. 1

First Published: October 2005

Contents: Avengers #262 (December 1985); Fantastic Four #286 (January 1986);  X-Factor #1 (February 1986) to #16 (May 1987); X-Factor Annual #1 (1986); Thor #373 (November 1986) and #374 (December 1986); and Power Pack #27 (December 1986)

Key Creator Credits: Bob Layton, Jackson Guice, Roger Stern, John Byrne, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Rusty Collins (Firefist), Cameron Hodge, Artie Maddicks, Tower, Frenzy, Apocalypse, Skids, Trish Tilby, Blockbuster, Prism, War, Famine, Pestilence

Story Continues In: Essential X-Factor Vol. 2

Overview:  It’s the original X-Men, reunited once again! Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman, and Marvel Girl. No longer students at Xavier’s school, what do these five friends do to continue Professor X’s dream of humans and mutants living together as one? Let’s pose as mutant-hunters, and secretly bring in mutants to start training them on how to use their powers. Maybe not the soundest start to a team, but it works for X-Factor.

X-Factor started off with sincere intentions. The team did find mutants unable to control their powers, and a cast of characters developed around the X-Factor team. But once you’ve been an X-Man, you are an X-Man for life, which means you get sucked into what ever ongoing storyline is occurring in Uncanny X-Men.

In this case, X-Factor finds themselves right in the middle of the Mutant Massacre, as the Marauders go on a rampage in the Morlocks’ tunnels. While trying to defend Artie, Angel is pinned to a wall by his wings by Harpoon (X-Factor #10). Due to the extensive injuries and infection, doctors are forced to amputate Warren’s wings in X-Factor #14. Warren has a hard time coping with the loss of his wings, and (apparently) commits suicide at the end of issue #15.

What makes this Essential?: The original X-Men hold a special place in my heart. They were the first, and to see them reunited was an exciting moment in my comic reading history. While their desire to train mutants like Professor Xavier trained them made a lot of sense, and I liked that aspect of the title. The fact that they were posing as mutant-hunters just never sat well with me.

The early issues of the title seem a little stiff. It’s only when the Simonsons come on board – first Louise and then Walt – that the book seems to come alive and move forward. These are the issues that really matter, and make it an Essential read. However, if you are going to read this, you should also read Essential X-Men Vol. 6 in order to read the complete Mutant Massacre storyline.

Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes: Let’s flashback to Uncanny X-Men #137 (See Essential X-Men Vol. 2). The X-Men are battling the Imperial Guard for the life of Jean Grey, who is controlled by the Phoenix force. In her last moment of clarity, Jean professes her love to Scott (Cyclops) Summers, and then commits suicide. Or did she?????

Jump ahead a few years and the Avengers discover a cocoon at the bottom of Jamaica Bay in New York. The Avengers bring the cocoon to the Fantastic Four, because Reed Richards is the smartest guy in the world. During his examination of the object, it opens up and out walks Jean Grey, alive and well. Apparently when the X-Men were returning from space, they crash-landed their shuttle at JFK Airport in New York City, coming to a rest in the aforementioned Jamaica Bay. Prior to the crash, the Phoenix force placed Jean Grey in this protective cocoon, and created a new body in Jean’s image to inhabit. It was this host body that died in Uncanny X-Men #137. So now Jean is back, with no memories of what happened since the the shuttle crash

Footnotes: X-Factor #9 to #11, Thor #373 and #374, and Power Pack #27 were also reprinted in Essential X-Men Vol. 6.

If you like this volume, try: the All-New X-Men series by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen. As part of the Marvel Now campaign which launched several years ago, All-New X-Men brings the original X-Men team (circa Uncanny X-Men #9) from the past to the current day, in an attempt to make them aware of what their future would look like and try to get them to change. The original team is shocked by how their lives have played out, but choose to stay in the modern times to find out more. This is the perfect jumping on book for anyone afraid of how large the X-Universe has become, because the reader shares many of the same questions as the original X-Men. This is still an ongoing title, and the early issues have been collected in multiple trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

First Published: October 1996

Contents: Wolverine #1 (November 1988) to #23 (April 1990)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Buscema, Peter David, Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Bloodscream, Roughhouse, Archie Corrigan, Silver Fox, Geist

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

Overview: Welcome to the solo adventures of Wolverine. Under the guidance of writer Chris Claremont, Wolverine had developed into one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe in the 1980s. At a time when the X-Men were confined to just one book per month – yes, that’s true – it made sense to spin Wolverine off into his own title and give the character even more exposure.

Most of the stories in this volume take place on an island nation, Madripoor, where Wolverine loses his costume and goes by the name of Patch, complete with a trademark eyepatch. Add in a small supporting cast, such as Jessica Drew and Lindsey McCabe from the pages of Spider-Woman, and Wolverine is a distinct book that can be read without also reading the Uncanny X-Men.

In the lead story, Wolverine is caught up in a turf war on Madripoor, and must get his hands dirty to protect his friends and help free Karma from the New Mutants. Another story arc dealt with Wolverine’s pilot friend, Archie Corrigan, whose brother stands to inherit a lot of money, but has delusions of grandeur. That story arc brings the characters to San Francisco before returning to Madripoor.

The final story arc, from the creative team of Archie Goodwin and John Byrne, takes Wolverine to Central America, where he must keep a general from using tainted heroin to turn his own son into his own super-soldier.

What makes this Essential?: At the time this first volume was released, I was adamantly opposed to this being collected as an Essential. This was first released in 1996, so these stories were less than 10 years old. I wanted to see more of the older material being collected, and not issues I could have bought (and sometimes did buy) on the newsstand when it was first released. Jump ahead to the spring of 2014, and I am now looking at this volume for the first time, nearly 17 years after it was first released, and these stories are now more than 20 years old. With that frame of mind, yes, these stories should be collected as an Essential. Wolverine was an extremely popular character and worth being featured in his own book. Given the talented creators attached to this book, it should be part of any collection. 

Footnotes: At the same time that Marvel launched the ongoing monthly Wolverine comic, the tittle character could also be found in a new bi-weekly anthology, Marvel Comics Presents. This title would feature 3-4 stories per issue, with Wolverine being the anchor character and the other stories rotating throughout the Marvel Universe. The Wolverine stories were not included in the Essential Wolverine volumes, focusing strictly on the character’s monthly title.

If you like this volume, try: the original Wolverine mini-series from 1982 from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. This was one of the first mini-series that Marvel released, and was a break-out hit. It is still a popular book in the back issue marketplace. Wolverine gets word that his beloved, Mariko, has been married off, and Logan travels to Japan to find out what is going on. Along the way, Wolverine gives us his famous catchphrase, “I’m the best there is at what I do…” while taking on ninjas and double-crosses. This series has been collected many, many times, so it should not be hard to track this down. Sadly, this series has never been collected in an Essential volume, although Marvel had two opportunities to include the book. Obviously, it could have been included in this Essential volume. With this edition serving as one of the first volumes released, it appears Marvel was trying to keep page count in the 500-550 range. If they had included the mini-series in this Essential, it would mean breaking up the Archie Goodwin-John Byrne storyline. The second choice to place this volume would be Essential X-Men Vol. 4. Readers will find that most reprint collections of the Wolverine mini-series include Uncanny X-Men #172 and #173, which featured the X-Men traveling to Japan for Wolverine and Mariko’s wedding. Those two issues are included in Essential X-Men Vol. 4. Bear in mind, there was a lot going on in the Uncanny X-Men book at the time, so including the Wolverine mini-series there might be an issue, but it does complete the story. If you are only reading the X-Men title, Wolverine’s wedding comes as a big surprise to the reader. Regardless, this story should be a must-own read in any fan’s collection. 

Essential X-Men Vol. 6

Essential X-Men Vol. 6

First Published: September 2005

Contents: Uncanny X-Men #199 (November 1985) to #213 (January 1987); Uncanny X-Men Annual #9 (1985); New Mutants Special Edition #1 (1985); New Mutants #46 (December 1986); Power Pack #27 (December 1986); Thor #373 (November 1986) and #374 (December 1986); and X-Factor #9 (October 1986) to #11 (December 1986)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Romita, Jr., Barry Windsor-Smith, Walt Simonson, Alan Davis, Arthur Adams, and others

Key First Appearances: Phoenix (Rachel Summers), Freedom Force, Brightwind, Hrimhari, Nathan Summers, Marauders (Arclight, Blockbuster, Harpoon, Malice, Prism, Riptide, Scalphunter, and Scrambler)

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 7

Overview: Welcome back to the ongoing adventures of the students of the Xavier School for Gifted Children, led by the headmaster Magneto. Wait, what the?!? Magneto leading the Xavier School? What is going on here?

Once again, Chris Claremont introduces one change after another in the newest Essential X-Men volume from Marvel Comics. Magneto is brought before a world court to face charges for his actions back in Uncanny X-Men #150 (see Essential X-Men Vol. 3 for that story). During a battle, Xavier is gravely injured and is taken away by Lilandra and the Starjammers for treatment, leaving the reluctant Magneto in charge of the school. At that same time, the powerless Storm defeats Cyclops in a Danger Room fight to determine the leadership of the X-Men. Cyclops, his wife Maddie, and their son Nathan opt to leave the team behind and try to start a new normal life. That plan gets derailed later in the pages of X-Factor.

The highlight of this volume is the Mutant Massacre, which spread out into other Marvel titles such as New Mutants and X-Factor. The bulk of the Morlocks were killed by the Marauders; The Angel’s wings were badly damaged when he was pinned to a wall, leading to his wings needing to be amputated. Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat are all severely injured and leave the team – this leads to the later creation of Excalibur. A new member joins the team in Psylocke. And we are treated to a nasty dogfight between Wolverine and Sabretooth.

The art in this volume is just stellar. In addition to the talents of John Romita, Jr., the ongoing series artist, we are also treated to art by Arthur Adams and Barry Windsor-Smith.

What makes this Essential?: If you like your X-Men to be EPIC, this is the volume to pick up. Between the finale of the Asgard arc that started in the previous Essential to the Mutant Massacre that crossed over with New Mutants, X-Factor, Thor, and Power Pack, this covers all aspects of the team’s greatness. In addition, Rachel Summers becomes Phoenix, the future Cable is born, and Psylocke joins the team. These stories are the ones that drove all of the various X-Men storylines of the 1990s. If you have not read these stories yet, this is the most affordable way to read all of the issues at one time.

Footnotes: Power Pack #27, Thor #373 and #374, and X-Factor #9 to #11 were also reprinted in Essential X-Factor Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the New Mutants Classic line of trade paperbacks. The New Mutants were introduced in 1982 in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 and earned their own title the following year. For many years, the New Mutants title was required reading if you were also reading Uncanny X-Men. The New Mutants were a new group of teenage mutants brought to the Xavier school to train them on how best to use their powers for the benefit of mankind. Sadly, this title has not been collected (as of yet) in the Essential format. The first 4 1/2 years of the title have been collected in seven Classic trade paperbacks, which is a line that Marvel has used for a lot of 1980s titles. With this Essential, we are getting into a period where the big X-Men crossover events (Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, Inferno, etc.) will be collected in both the Essential X-Men and Essential X-Factor volumes. Reading the New Mutants Classic books will give you an understanding of what was going on in the other area of the Marvel mutant community.

Essential X-Men Vol. 5

Essential X-Men Vol. 5

First Published: July 2004

Contents: First Edition: Uncanny X-Men #180 (April 1984) to #198 (October 1985), and Uncanny X-Men Annual #7 (1983) and #8 (1984); Second Edition: Uncanny X-Men #180 (April 1984) to #198 (October 1985), Uncanny X-Men Annual #8 (1984), and X-Men/Alpha Flight #1 (December 1985) and #2 (January 1986)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Romita, Jr., Paul Smith,  Barry Windsor-Smith, and Steve Leialoha

Key First Appearances: Amiko Kobayahsi, Forge, Adversary, Nimrod, Angelica Jones/Firestar, Fenris

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 6

Overview: The X-Men return from the Secret Wars to face new adversaries, including one by the name of Adversary, in this next Essential from Marvel Comics.

The team is going through some change. Storm loses her mutant abilities after being shot by a gun designed to take down Rogue. Rachel Summers travels from the future to join the team, only to discover that her future cannot be, as her mom no longer lives. Kitty Pryde and Wolverine take leaves from the team, but soon return back to the fold.

The X-Men cross paths with Selene, an energy vampire who craves their mutant blood. Selene puts herself in position to be named the new Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, longtime enemies of the X-Men. In a battle against Kulan Gath, first seen in the Conan the Barbarian comic, and his attempt to change reality, the X-Men, the Avengers, and Spider-Man are brought together to stop him.

Two issues stand out, both from Claremont and guest artist Barry Windsor-Smith. Lifedeath (Issue #186) and Lifedeath II (issue #198) deal with the powerless Storm looking to come to grips with the loss of her mutant abilities. Issue #186 finds her confronting the inventor of the gun used to strip her of her weather controlling abilities, Forge. As much as she wants to hate him for what he has done, she finds herself attracted to him and his story. In the sequel story, Storm has travelled back to her home lands in Africa, to reconnect with who she once was, and to explore who she could become.

What makes this Essential?: Not that there is ever any truly “normal” time for the residents at Xavier’s mansion, but this really seems like the calm before the storm – no pun intended. We get a lot of one-and-done stories. If they do spill over, it’s just for one more issue. A lot of going back-and-forth with the kids from New Mutants. Beginning with the next Essential volume, it becomes one event after the next, with hardly a moment of quiet time to be found in the books. Enjoy these moments while you can, because nothing is the same following issue #200. If you are a fan of the epic stories across multiple titles, skip this volume and move onto Essential X-Men Vol. 6.

Footnotes: In an ongoing move to include additional material, Marvel adjusts the content listings between the first edition and the second edition of this Essential volume. The first edition contains annuals #7 and #8, while the second edition contains annual #8, along with X-Men/Alpha Flight #1 and #2.

If you like this volume, try: the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine miniseries from 1985 by Chris Claremont and Al Milgrom. Following the X-Men’s return from the Secret Wars event, Colossus breaks things off with Kitty in Uncanny X-Men #183. She needs a break from her environment and takes a leave of the team to visit her parents. Returning to Chicago, Kitty finds that her dad is in Japan under mysterious circumstances. Following her father halfway around the world, she encounters a mysterious figure from Wolverine’s past, which provokes our favorite Canadian to join up with Kitty in Japan. During this series, Kitty matures into a young adult and settles on the codename of Shadowcat, which has been her costume name ever since. This is an excellent series and has remained in print for years in both trade paperbacks and hardcover collections.

Essential X-Men Vol. 4

Essential X-Men Vol. 4 (second edition)

First Published: June 2001

Contents: First Edition: Uncanny X-Men #162 (October 1982) to #179 (March 1984), and Uncanny X-Men Annual #6 (1982); Second Edition: Uncanny X-Men #162 (October 1982) to #179 (March 1984), Uncanny X-Men Annual #7 (1983), and Marvel Graphic Novel #5 (1982);

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, Brent Anderson, Paul Smith, John Romita, Jr., Michael Golden

Key First Appearances: William Stryker, Binary, Brood Queen, Lockheed, Madelyne Pryor, Callisto, Masque, Sunder, Morlocks, Plague, Dr. Valerie Cooper,

Story Continues from: Essential X-Men Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 5

Overview: Marvel revisits the X-Men after a nearly three-year span between Essential volumes. What a rough time it is to be a member of the X-Men! The story starts out with the first Brood war, and introduces us to the second costumed identity for Carol Danvers, as Binary. A new member of sorts joins the team as Lockheed the Dragon is paired with Kitty Pryde. Following this battle with the Brood, which nearly claimed the life of Charles Xavier, we see the X-Men return to Earth to literally find New Mutants living in Xavier’s Mansion, forever changing the dynamic in the X-books.

A new group of mutants, the Morlocks, are found living in the tunnels of New York City. To save her teammates, Storm must fight for control of the Morlocks with Callisto. At this same time, the X-Men face a moral challenge as a reformed Rogue comes to Xavier asking for help in controlling her mutant power. Not only is she welcomed into the mansion, she is placed on the team despite the objections from many of the active X-Men.

A new romantic interest is presented to Cyclops in the form of Madelyne Pryor, who bears a sinister resemblance to Scott’s former love and fellow X-Man Jean Grey. In a whirlwind romance being manipulated by Mastermind, it culminates in the wedding of Scott and Madelyne and the retirement of Cyclops from the team.

For anyone reading the second edition of this Essential, Annual #7 is a fun romp as the Impossible Man sends the X-Men on a scavenger hunt.  Every now and then, the writers throw in an issue like this, where things are not grim and gritty for the mutant team. You get to see them unwind, whether playing baseball on the lawn of the mansion or watching a movie together. There is a lot of humor in this particular issue, and this is one of the first times we’ve seen the Impossible Man used in a book other than the Fantastic Four.

What makes this Essential?: This is a must-have volume in anyone’s collection. Between the Brood war, the introduction of the Morlocks, an apparent wedding for Wolverine (left at the altar) and a wedding for Cyclops (preceded by a drag-out fight with Mastermind). In particular, the famous “God Loves, Man Kills” story is one of the most-important X-Men stories of the 1980s. For years, writers have used the X-Men and the subject of mutants as a soft allegory for race and ethnic relations in America. Beginning here, Claremont and others make this an ongoing discussion point in the books.

John Romita, Jr., starts a three-year run on the title in this volume, taking over from Paul Smith’s beautiful run. These are some of my personal favorite stories, as I started collecting the title off the rack in this era. Uncanny X-Men #171, with Rogue joining the team, was my first purchase in this corner of the Marvel Universe, and I was hooked for life.

Footnotes: In an ongoing move to include additional material, Marvel adjusts the content listings between the first edition and the second edition of this Essential volume. The first edition contains annual #6, while the second edition contains annual #7, along with Marvel Graphic Novel #5.

The inclusion of Marvel Graphic Novel #5 causes some issues with the look of the reprint. The Marvel Graphic Novel line was a deluxe book printed on a heavier paper stock. The dimensions of these books were just a smudge smaller than an 8 1/2″ by 11″ sheet of paper. In comparison, a standard modern-size comic comes in at approximately  6 1/2″ by 10″. As a result, it was necessary to reduce the size of the Marvel Graphic Novel reprint in order to fit the Essential format. While it is still readable, having a pair of magnifying glasses handy might be helpful when re-reading this story.

If you like this volume, try: the Leave It To Chance series by James Robinson and Paul Smith. This incredible series from Image Comics in the late 1990s told the story of a teenage girl, Chance Falconer, and her pet dragon, St. George – a nod of the hat to Kitty Pryde and Lockheed, perhaps. Chance is the daughter of Lucas Falconer, a paranormal investigator in the city of Devil’s Echo, a world where magic is common. Chance finds herself getting into trouble as she tries to assist her father in solving cases. This all-too-short series started very strong, but was plagued with publishing delays towards the end. Smith’s art follows the 1990s animated style, with smooth, clean drawings that look to have been taken from a TV screen. Nearly the entire series has been reprinted in a series of hard cover collections from Image. This is a great all-ages storyline that should be in all collections.

Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1

Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1

Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1

First Published: June 1999

Contents: The X-Men #1 (September 1963) to #24 (September 1966)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Werner Roth

Key First Appearances: Charles Xavier/Professor X, Scott Summers/Cyclops, Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, Hank McCoy/Beast, Warren Worthington III/Angel, Bobby Drake/Iceman, Magneto, Vanisher, FBI Agent Fred Duncan, Blob, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver, Jason Wyngarde/Mastermind, Toad, Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Unus the Untouchable, Lucifer, Kevin Plunder/Ka-Zar, Zabu, Savage Land, the Stranger, Cain Marko/Juggernaut, Bolivar Trask, the Sentinels, Master Mold, Mimic

Story Continues In: Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2

Overview: In 1963, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko were reaching new heights with their comic creativity. In that year alone, Marvel Comics introduced Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, the Avengers, and the Uncanny X-Men. That last title featured a group of teenagers with mutant abilities that set them apart from the rest of humanity as freaks. Professor Charles Xavier enrolled these kids into his private school. In addition to normal school studies, the teenagers learned to use their abilities and talents for the good of mankind. Wearing matching uniforms, these teens were named the X-Men, and from these humble beginnings would grow a legendary saga.

The original X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, and Iceman) would remain the core line-up throughout the 1960s. In the very first issue, the team faced off against Magneto, who would threaten the teens and the world over and over in the first two years of the book. In issue #4, Magneto brought in a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants — Mastermind, Toad, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch — to go one-on-one with the X-Men. (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch would later reform and leave this team to join up with the Avengers.) We saw the introduction of Charles Xavier’s stepbrother, the rampaging Juggernaut, followed by the mutant-hunting Sentinels.

What makes this Essential?: These are fun stories, but not great stories.  The better line of X-Men stories came a decade later, which have been collected in Essential X-Men Vol. 1 and subsequent volumes. With these issues, all of the key parts to the X-Men mythos are introduced, but it took the next generation of writers and artists to propel the X-Men franchise to the stars. If you are a fan of the X-Men, this should be in your collection.

Footnotes: This volume was first published as Essential Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1. When it was time to release the next book, Marvel renamed the title to Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2 (and later Vol. 3). Subsequent new printings of this book now show the title as Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 1. Despite the title changes, the contents remain the same in all editions of the first volume, X-Men #1-24.

If you like this volume, try: X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker and Roger Cruz. This 2006 mini-series (collected as both a trade paperback and a hardcover) retells the early days of the X-Men with a more modern sensibility to it. There have been multiple continuations of the First Class line of stories with mini-series, one-shots, and ongoing series. (Although it shared the same name and similar concept, this series is not connected to the 2011 X-Men: First Class movie.)