Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2 (Chris Claremont) Omnibus Review

X-Men - Days of Future Past

I’m currently working on a project where I read Uncanny X-Men from the very beginning and see how far I can get before I get tired of it all. For the original 1960s run and the Hidden Years” (1970-1975), I was just reading everything on Marvel Unlimited. Once I got to the Chris Claremont years, though, I started reading physical omnibuses. This is my favorite format for comic-book-reading, though it’s admittedly not a cheap one.

I’ve already shared my thoughts on Volume 1, so today I’m creating a complete overview of the Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2 omnibus, by Chris Claremont.

What’s collected in this volume?

X-Men - Wolverine

This volume contains 912 pages of X-Men goodness, starting right where the previous volume left off. This collects Uncanny X-Men #132-153, The X-Men Annual #4-5, The Avengers Annual #10, Marvel Fanfare #1-4, Bizarre Adventures #27, Phoenix: The Untold Story, and material from Marvel Team-Up #100 and Marvel Treasury Edition #26-27.

Note that I’m using Uncanny X-Men as the title of the comic, even though it was called The X-Men until issue #141. These books are filed under Uncanny X-Men (1963) if you look for them on Marvel Unlimited.

If you want to see exactly how this is mapped out, it looks like this:

  • Uncanny X-Men #132-138
  • The X-Men Annual #4
  • Uncanny X-Men #139-149
  • The Avengers Annual #10
  • Uncanny X-Men #150
  • The X-Men Annual #5
  • Marvel Fanfare #1-4
  • Uncanny X-Men #151-153
  • “At the Sign of the Lion!” (from Marvel Treasury Edition #26)
  • “Joyride Into Jeopardy” (from Marvel Treasury Edition #27)
  • “Cry–Vengeance!” (from Marvel Team-Up #100)
  • Bizarre Adventures #27
  • Phoenix: The Untold Story

Bizarre Adventures #27 is printed here in black and white, even though it’s printed in full-color in the Dark Phoenix Saga omnibus (the original printing was in black and white, and it wasn’t colored until 2017). Also, the version reprinted in the Dark Phoenix Saga omnibus only collects the Phoenix story, while this one also contains a story about Bobby Drake (Iceman) at college, and one that pairs Nightcrawler with the Vanisher.

Aside from the comic book issues, you also have introductions from Chris Claremont, Terry Austin, and Louise Simonson, as well as a cover gallery and a few production sketches.

How is the quality of the physical book?

Uncanny X-Men Volume 2

First off, I need to say right away that this book is extremely hard to find, and while it’s reprinted frequently, those reprint runs tend to sell out in a flash. I did manage to get a copy when it was in print, but only because I’d been watching for it for almost two years. I’m extremely fortunate to have this — at the time of this writing, used copies of this book are going for almost $300 on Amazon.

If you want this book and you see a reasonably priced copy somewhere, don’t even think twice. Just buy it. Even if you don’t want to keep it, the resale market for this book is super hot. I’m not condoning jacking the price to unreasonable levels, but if you’re an impulse buyer who’s feeling buyer’s remorse, I won’t hold it against you if you turn a $20 profit on that purchase.

That said, my copy of the book was manufactured between July and September of 2021 at R. R. Donnelly Asia Printing Solutions in China. With this printing, there were some changes made to the book. These are the same changes that were made to Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1, but I’ll go over them again here.

The change that bothers me the most is that the font size on the spine has been substantially reduced. Just look at Vol. 2 in comparison to Vol. 3 to see how drastic this is:

Uncanny X-Men Volume 2

This bothers me as a collector, because even though I own Volumes 1-4, they don’t look consistent on my shelf. I have no idea why Marvel decided to change this, when the old spine looks just fine, in my humble opinion.

I do believe the 2021 print run was the first run to change this, so if you find an older version of this book somewhere, it should have the larger font size on it (but good luck with that, kid).

I know I’m repeating myself here (I said the same thing about Vol. 1), so I’ll just finish my rant here and move on.

Uncanny X-Men Volume 2

One thing I forgot to mention in my previous review is that the backs of these omnibuses show a thumbnail gallery of every comic book that’s collected inside. It’s kind of a cool little visual touch that I tend to appreciate (and this is pretty consistent in these older X-Men omnibuses).

When you pull off the dust jacket, the red-and-yellow circle X-Men logo is printed on the back of the book.

Uncanny X-Men Volume 2

I believe that’s another change that began with this particular print run, but it’s a change I heartily approve of. I actually really like that.

As for the binding, this one is sewn, and it feels really tight. In fact, of all the omnibuses I own, I think this one has the tightest binding. Just look how little that “eye” is when I open the book:

Uncanny X-Men Volume 2

This could change over time, as I read the book over and over again. I guess we’ll see what this looks like in a decade.

But despite how tight this binding feels, surprisingly little of the art is lost in the gutter. There actually aren’t a lot of two-page spreads in this book, but there are a few (mostly the covers to Marvel Fanfare), so I was able to photograph an example.

Uncanny X-Men Volume 2

As you can see, there is a little bit of loss there, but much less than, say, the recent Doctor Strange omnibus (which had tons of two-page layouts). If you press down on the pages hard enough, you can almost mitigate this entirely.

Now, Marvel uses two printing companies to manufacture a majority of their omnibuses (though not exclusively — I’ve seen others pop up from time to time). One is R. R. Donnelly Asia Printing Solutions in China; the other is Imak Offset in Istanbul, Turkey. This book, as I mentioned earlier, was printed by Donnelly, which tends to produce slightly higher-quality books than Imak, with more durable bindings and thicker paper.

These pages do seem to have slightly less bleedthrough than those in my Vol. 1 omnibus (which was manufactured at Imak Offset), but, as you can see in the image below, there is still a little bit of image bleeding through.

Uncanny X-Men Volume 2

This generally only happens when there’s a really dark image on one side of the page, and a whole lot of white space on the opposite side. This is something that’s never bothered me — I mean, this sort of thing is inevitable with images printed on paper — but some people do care about this so it’s worth mentioning.

Are these stories any good?

X-Men - Sentinels

The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past are generally considered to be two of the best X-Men stories of all time. And both of them are collected here.

Well, that’s not entirely true. The first chunk of The Dark Phoenix Saga (and all of The Phoenix Saga that precedes it) is actually collected in the previous volume. I won’t complain about that here, because I already ranted about it in my previous review. Besides, I own both volumes, so I can read the whole saga in chronological order anyway.

Starting the collection off with these stories really emphasizes how good Claremont is when he’s given a long, uninterrupted stretch where he can set things up over a long period and build tension into these massive moments that will eventually become legendary.

However, you also have a lot of one-offs in this book, from the annuals (The X-Men Annual 4 and 5, plus The Avengers Annual 10) to the Marvel Fanfare miniseries to the stories collected in Bizarre Adventures and Marvel Treasury. A massive chunk of this book is side content, and at times it feels like a companion to the main stories. it’s good that this material is collected here (The Avengers Annual 10 is the first appearance of Rogue, for example), but it does interrupt the flow of the larger stories a bit.

I have to admit that I’m drawn to some of the stranger elements of the serialized storytelling here. For example, I’m fascinated by the tragic love life of Scott Summers, and the period where he and Aleytys Forrester are stranded on a deserted island (Uncanny X-Men #145-148) is just such an unexpected genre shift for the X-Men that I really enjoyed that part of the book. Plus, that comes right after a brief appearance by Man-Thing, which is another unexpected shift in both genre and tone.

X-Men - Man-Thing

Even though Kitty Pryde was introduced in the previous volume, it’s this volume where she establishes herself as a mainstay, as awkward as she can be at this stage in her life (I can’t fault her too much, as she’s 13 or 14 at this point, which is just an awkward period of life for anyone). Obviously, she’s going to be a part of the series for a long, long time, despite her repeated departures over the years — the first of which happens toward the end of this volume.

Actually, let’s talk about that for a moment.

In the last few issues of Uncanny X-Men collected here, Kitty’s parents decide to withdraw her from Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters so she can instead attend a Massachusetts school run by the Hellfire Club. Storm decides to accompany Kitty to the new school to make sure she’s okay, but as it turns out, that’s exactly what the Hellfire Club expected.

Because of the type of science that only exists in comic books (and cartoons, I suppose), Emma Frost and Storm end up switching bodies. This ends up being a really interesting setup, because both women need to learn the other’s powers on the fly. It leads to this wild scenario where their powers are running amok and they have to sort of work together to help each other learn how to tame those powers. There’s so much storytelling potential here, but this swap ends up undone before any of those avenues are really explored — this whole thing only lasts for two issues.

X-Men - Emma Frost and Storm

There’s also an issue where Kitty tells a bedtime story to Illyana, and we see the introduction of Pirate Kitty. Yes, she only appears in this bedtime story, but Pirate Kitty (well, Pirate Kate, I should say) will eventually reappear in the pages of The Marauders. I have a ton of affection for the swashbuckling, rum-drinking Kate Pryde, and I love seeing that this was actually the adult version of herself that Kitty imagined as a 14-year-old. Just think back to when you were 14, then try to remember the most ridiculous thing you imagined you’d be doing as an adult. Then imagine that you’re actually doing that thing now… What a crazy world that would be, right? For Kitty, that’s the world she’s living in.

Of course, the more serialized stories are going to return with a vengeance with the Brood Saga, which is collected in Volume 3. In fact, if you’re only able to pick up one of these omnibuses, the obvious choice is Volume 3, because it’s the highest point of Claremont’s entire run on X-Men. But I’ll talk more about that in my next review.

As for Volume 2, this definitely features some important character moments, even if you take away the Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past. For example, this contains the very beginning of the drama between Rogue and Carol Danvers (The Avengers Annual #10 is a heavy, heavy story), as well as the first appearance of the tragically misguided Caliban (in Uncanny X-Men #148). However, it’s mostly dominated by side stories. a few of those are worth reading, though many of them feel kind of throwaway. If you read this book from cover to cover, you’ll definitely notice some inconsistency in quality and tone.

X-Men - Caliban

But this is also an essential collection of X-Men stories, which features some of its most important moments alongside a whole lot of what feels like filler content. It’s a mixed bag, but one you’ve got to get through if you really want to appreciate what Claremont did with the X-Men in the 1980s.

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