Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 (Chris Claremont) Omnibus Review and Reading Order

Wolverine #4

My X-Men reading project continues!

After finishing my readthrough of Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 omnibuses, I’m ready to dig into the third volume, Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3. I should say upfront that I’ve read everything in this book before, and some parts of it (God Loves, Man Kills, specifically) I’ve read three or four times. So unlike my previous reviews — where I’d read most of the content before, but was filling in the gaps in my previous readthroughs — the only thing that’s new for me here is that I’ve now read literally every issue that precedes it.

Yes, I even read the 1960s issues, as well as the “Hidden Years” in the first half of the 1970s.

That means I have a little more context for some of the things that happen in this book. Not a lot, mind you, but some.

So let’s dig into this beefy collection.

What’s collected in this volume?

X-Men - Brood

This book contains 1,056 pages, and it collects Uncanny X-Men #154-175, The X-Men Annual #6-7, Special Edition X-Men #1, Marvel Graphic Novel #5 (God Loves, Man Kills), Wolverine #1-4 (the 1982 miniseries), and Magik #1-4. Here’s how it’s laid out in the book:

  • Uncanny X-Men #154-167
  • The X-Men Annual #6
  • Special Edition X-Men #1
  • Marvel Graphic Novel #5 (God Loves, Man Kills)
  • Uncanny X-Men #168-171
  • Wolverine #1-4
  • Uncanny X-Men #172-175
  • The X-Men Annual #7
  • Magik #1-4

On top of including all of these issues, this book also contains the letters columns from each issue, the relevant Marvel Masterworks intros by Louise Simonson, the “special features” from God Loves, Man Kills (interviews and concept sketches), a cover gallery, and one last thing that I think is really interesting.

This book contains almost 70 pages of entries from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1983-84). These are basically encyclopedic descriptions of each mutant next to an image of the mutant in question. There are also incredibly detailed diagrams of Xavier’s mansion and the X-Men jet.

Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 (Chris Claremont) Omnibus

This is such an amazing feature. I get why this isn’t printed in every omnibus, because it takes up a lot of room, but it’s great for newcomers who are just jumping into this book, or even for those who are struggling to keep almost 200 issues worth of X-Men lore straight at this point.

Some notes on reading order…

X-Men

Uncanny X-Men spins off into New Mutants during this run, and I think it’s best to read those two series together. If you’re reading in omnibus format like I am, that means you’ll be jumping from book to book. And New Mutants Vol. 1 doesn’t line up perfectly with Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3; it continues into the Uncanny X-Men Vol. 4 content. This can get a little confusing, though the New Mutants omnibus includes some X-Men issues that can serve as anchor points.

I’m going to lay out a reading order that incorporates both Uncanny Vol. 3 and New Mutants Vol. 1. I’m also rearranging the print order a bit, because I personally think it flows better this way.

  • Marvel Team-Up #100
  • Uncanny X-Men #154-159
  • The X-Men Annual #6
  • Uncanny X-Men #160-166
  • Marvel Graphic Novel #4 (The New Mutants)
  • New Mutants #1-3
  • Uncanny X-Men #167
  • Special Edition X-Men #1
  • Marvel Graphic Novel #5 (God Loves, Man Kills)
  • Uncanny X-Men #168-171
  • New Mutants #4
  • Marvel Team-Up Annual #6
  • Wolverine #1-4
  • New Mutants #5-7
  • Uncanny X-Men #172-175
  • The X-Men Annual #7 (optional)
  • New Mutants #8-13
  • Magik #1-4

There are a couple problems with this reading order, of course. Moving Annual #6 up does create one inconsistency, where Colossus mentions that he’s doing homework because Xavier said it was due. At this point in the Uncanny story, Xavier is in a coma, so he wouldn’t have assigned homework. However, I read this as Colossus still trying to complete homework that was assigned before the coma. Even though Xavier can’t grade it, I do feel like Colossus would still make sure he turned it in on time.

Also, there’s mention in issue #160 of them having just fought Dracula, and they’re very clearly talking about what happened in issue #159. However, since they also fight Dracula in Annual #6, you could make the argument that that’s what they’re talking about there. Then everything falls into place.

Another problem is that Special Edition X-Men and God Loves, Man Kills are impossible to put into any order where they make sense. Illyana is a teenager, but Cyclops and the Starjammers are still around. I get why people place these between Uncanny #167 and #168, but The iconic first panel of #168 is Kitty’s reaction to the last page of #167. Putting two stories in between those panels is a little bit frustrating. In a perfect reading order, I actually think Special Edition and GLMK would be happening at some point in the middle of Uncanny #168, but I can’t really break up the story in any way that makes sense.

I guess the one thing you could do is read all of Uncanny X-Men #168, except for the Scott Summers pages, then read Special Edition and GLMK, then read the Scott pages. As confusing as that is, it makes the most sense to me.

Also, the Magik miniseries is a flashback that takes place during Uncanny X-Men #160, but the framing panels take place between New Mutants #14-15. So this is why people tend to put it so late in reading orders.

How is the quality of the physical book?

Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 (Chris Claremont) Omnibus

My copy of this book was manufactured between July 24 and October 5, 2020, by R.R. Donnelley Asia Printing Solutions in China. This book originally came out in 2016, so my copy of it is a reprint that I believe was printed in anticipation of Vol. 4 (which was released in early 2021).

The first thing I have to say is that I adore the front cover. This art was created by Jerome Opeña and Dean White exclusively for this book, and it depicts a number of scenes that you’ll see play out in the book (like the Brood, Wolverine fighting ninjas in Japan, and the wedding of Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor). Yes, those are kind of spoilery if you’ve never read this stuff, but it’s all shown right on the cover. I don’t think I’d be maintaining any veil of secrecy by not mentioning it.

There is a variant cover that shows the cover of issue #167, which matches the previous two omnibus covers (Volume 1 reuses the cover from Giant-Size X-Men, and Volume 2 reuses the cover from issue #137). However, I think the custom art on the standard edition makes it the better cover overall.

Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 (Chris Claremont) Omnibus

As is pretty common for Marvel omnibuses from this era, the back shows the covers for all of the issues printed inside the book. I really love this format for the back of the dust jacket.

Also, I believe this version of the book is probably the last time the original font size will be printed on the spine. If you’ve read my reviews for Volume 1 and Volume 2, then you’re probably familiar with the smaller font size that’s on the spines of the newer printings. I’m pretty sure this change was made in 2021, so any reprints after that should have the smaller font size.

Uncanny X-Men Vol 1-4

I don’t know why Marvel changed this. As you can see, the variance in font size makes the books look inconsistent when they’re stacked on a table or lined up on a shelf. Marvel’s really struggling to keep these in print, so I acknowledge that I’m lucky to own all four volumes despite the changes. On the other hand, these books aren’t cheap, with a cover price of $125 per book, so collectors are right to expect quality here. (I should point out that I don’t pay cover price for these books — CheapGraphicNovels.com for the win…)

Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 (Chris Claremont) Omnibus

Under the dust jacket, the front cover is plain black with white text on the front, with just a dab of red for the Marvel bar on the spine. The back cover is pure black with no text or anything.

Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 (Chris Claremont) Omnibus

The binding is stitched, and this book looks really nice despite the fact that I’ve read it multiple times now. The binding is holding fast through all of this, and I’m impressed at just how new this book still looks.

The paper quality feels nice. It’s satisfactorily thick and has just a little bit of a glossy feel to it. There’s a very slight amount of image bleedthrough, which you can see in the image below, but it’s hardly noticeable.

Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 (Chris Claremont) Omnibus

I have other omnibuses where the image bleeds through the page a lot more than this. Marvel has been using two main printers for their omnibuses lately, and the ones printed in China tend to be just a little higher in quality (and thicker) than the ones printed in Turkey (this book was printed in China).

I should point out that I did spill a little bit of water on this while I was reading it, and the pages do not hold up well when wet. Thankfully, it was just a few drops (I had placed the open book next to the sink and a few drops of water splashed onto the pages), but the affected spots on the pages immediately warped. I’m a little saddened by this, but books are meant to be read, and they’re bound to take some damage in the reading process. That’s just life.

All things considered, this is an impressively high-quality book, and it’s holding up to multiple readthroughs surprisingly well.

Are these stories any good?

X-Men - Wolverine's Berserker Rage

I’m just going to say this upfront: This collection features the high point of Chris Claremont’s long career. These are some of my favorite X-Men stories, and this volume is great from start to finish (well, almost). If you only buy one omnibus from the Claremont years, it should be this one.

I think it’s telling that this volume opens with the Brood Saga, and that’s (almost) the low point of this book. It’s not that the Brood Saga is bad — far from it; it’s a beloved storyline — it’s that everything else in this book is just so good. It starts really strong and just keeps getting better as it goes (with one exception that I’ll get to in a bit).

You have Kitty’s clever costume trick (issue #157), Illyana’s transformation into Magik (issue #160 and the Magik miniseries), a flashback where Xavier and Magneto are fighting Hydra Nazis together (issue #161), and Carol Danvers’ transformation into Binary (issue #164).

And all of that is before God Loves, Man Kills, which is one of the best X-Men stories of all time (and the inspiration for the X2 movie). Seriously, GLMK is so, so good. It’s super dark and it grapples with some pretty heavy topics, but it takes itself seriously enough to make it all work. Plus, Magneto is absolutely great here, and he’s finally beginning something of a redemptive journey.

And then, after that, you see Kitty “adopting” Lockheed and Scott Summers meeting Madelyne Pryor in the same freaking issue (issue #168). And issues #169-171 make up one of my favorite X-stories ever — it’s when Storm fights Callisto for leadership of the Morlocks. I don’t even know what to say about this three-issue arc other than that it’s X-Men perfection.

X-Men - Morlocks

And then there’s the incredible Wolverine miniseries, where our bub-Snikt-ing friend goes to Japan to reconnect with an old flame and ends up crippling an entire criminal organization. And he fights a whole bunch of ninjas too. And then you have the absolutely heartbreaking fallout from that series in Uncanny issues #172-175, as well as some really weird stuff with Madelyne Pryor.

I actually remember the first time I read the Madelyne Pryor arc, I was really surprised to see some of the directions it goes. It’s such a bizarre and twisty (and ultimately tragic) romance that it makes for a really compelling read — especially if it’s your first time. I will say that it definitely reads much better if you’ve read the Dark Phoenix Saga beforehand, though.

In case you aren’t familiar with this story, Scott Summers meets a woman named Madelyne Pryor, who looks exactly like Jean Grey. Even weirder, she miraculously survived a plane crash at the exact same moment that Jean Grey died. This story is constantly showing Madelyne near fire to really drive home the possible Phoenix connection.

X-Men - Madelyne Pryor

Is all this a coincidence? Is the Hellfire Club involved? Or is this even more sinister than that? You’ll have to read it to find out, my X-Men-loving friend!

Oh, and how could I forget to mention that Rogue joins the X-Men in issue #171? By the way, this issue is way, way better if you’ve read The Avengers Annual #10 (which is collected in the Uncanny X-Men Vol. 2 omnibus). Because wow, the drama between Carol Danvers/Binary and Rogue is intense!

X-Men - Binary vs. Rogue

Yeah, I’m just gushing at this point, but this was such an incredible era for the X-Men that I can’t help myself. These stories are super dense — sometimes I’ll go back and look through a single issue and it feels like three or four issues worth of stuff happening. By the time you get four or five issues deep into this volume, you’re going to have a hard time putting it down. It’s just phenomenal.

Okay, so this omnibus does include Annual #7, which to me isn’t just bad — it feels aggressively bad. In this issue, Impossible Man (a shape-shifting alien) is on a scavenger hunt to find the coolest stuff on Earth. So he steals Xavier’s mansion, Ka-Zar’s sabretooth tiger, Wasp’s costumes, Hulk’s shorts, and more. He even breaks into the Marvel offices to steal Stan Lee (who isn’t present), which results in a whole bunch of jokes about the Marvel staff. I absolutely hate these sorts of stories, and this entire issue is pretty much pointless. You can skip it altogether if you’d like. I’ve read it twice now, and I think on subsequent re-reads, I will just pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s a really bad story that’s surrounded by absolutely brilliant ones — it’s only here for the sake of completion.

But aside from one really bad issue, and a couple issues toward the beginning that just aren’t as strong as the rest, this is still a phenomenal collection.

Conclusion

X-Men

If you’re at all interested in reading Chris Claremont’s X-Men in omnibus format, this book is a must-have. Yes, both the Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past are more iconic and instantly recognizable than anything in this book (with the possible exception of God Loves, Man Kills), but Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 is better paced and more consistently good than anything that came before it. This is a collection of stories that are fairly important to the overall X-mythos, and better yet, they’re really fun to read.

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