X-Men Epic Collection Volume 12: The Gift Review

X-Men - Cain Marko

If you’re interested in reading all of Chris Claremont’s run on the X-Men in omnibus format, I’ve got some bad news for you: At the time of this writing, there is no Uncanny X-Men Vol. 5 omnibus. Volumes 1 through 4 exist, starting from Giant-Size X-Men and The X-Men #94 and taking you all the way through Uncanny X-Men #193 (The X-Men was renamed Uncanny X-Men after issue #141, but the numbering didn’t reset — the first issue of Uncanny X-Men was #142).

You’ve got a few options for picking up the issues between Uncanny X-Men Vol. 4 and the Mutant Massacre omnibus. One option, of course, is to sign up for Marvel Unlimited. Personally, I try to avoid that option whenever possible (the app kind of sucks), so I decided instead to pick up X-Men Epic Collection Volume 12: The Gift. This allows me to avoid Marvel Unlimited for a few more issues, which is a plus.

Unfortunately, it does look like this volume sold out shortly after I bought it, and I’m seeing it on secondhand marketplaces for almost $100 (the cover price is #34.99, and I believe I got mine for around $25). The good news is that Epic Collections do get reprinted occasionally, especially popular ones. So if you didn’t manage to get this one while it was in print, you can always cross your fingers and wait for the next round of reprints.

With all that said, I’m going to dig into this collection.

What’s collected in this volume?

X-Men - Nimrod

This book features 512 pages of X-Men adventures. It includes Uncanny X-Men #189-198, X-Men Annual #8, X-Men and Alpha Flight #1-2, and Nightcrawler #1-4. Yes, if you own the Uncanny X-Men Vol. 4 omnibus, you’re going to be double dipping on several issues — half of these issues are also collected in the fourth omnibus. The Epic Collections and omnibuses are mapped out independently of each other, so they rarely line up, unfortunately. That means if you use Epic Collections to fill in the gaps in your omnibus collection, you’ll end up recollecting a lot of the same issues. There won’t be a perfect solution until Marvel releases Volume 5 of the Uncanny X-Men omnibus series.

Weirdly, if you’re reading this alongside the New Mutants Vol. 1 omnibus, the endpoints actually line up perfectly.

Anyway, here’s how these issues lay out inside the book:

  • Uncanny X-Men #189-192
  • X-Men Annual #8
  • X-Men and Alpha Flight #1-2
  • Uncanny X-Men 193-198
  • Nightcrawler #1-4

I should point out that the Nightcrawler miniseries sometimes gets put between Uncanny X-Men #194 and #195 in reading orders, but I actually think it fits better after #198.

How is the quality of the physical book?

X-Men Epic Collection Volume 12: The Gift

For those unfamiliar with the Epic Collection format, these are paperback books that are designed to collect huge runs of comics. For example, this particular book is Volume 12 in the X-Men line, and the previous 11 volumes collect the entire run of Uncanny X-Men, beginning with the original issue that released in 1963. Since these books contain about 500 pages a piece, they can cover about half the amount of content as an omnibus.

Also, it’s important to note that the Epic Collection paperbacks are in full-color, as opposed to Marvel’s Essential Collections, which are in black and white. A lot of folks who pick up the Essential Collections are disappointed to find the lack of color inside the book.

So remember: Epic is full-color, Essential is black-and-white.

Personally, I prefer the omnibus format to any of Marvel’s paperbacks. I like hardcover books, and I like the fact that the omnibuses are oversized with semi-glossy pages. The Epic Collection format is the exact opposite; these are softcovers with pages roughly the same size as the actual comic book issues. The paper is also textured, which also feels more authentic to the comic-book format. While I’m more of an omnibus guy, I do get the appeal of the Epic Collections for people who want an authentic representation of these comic book issues, just bundled together in a larger book. They also smell more like floppy comic books than the omnibuses do, and there’s some nostalgic value there.

Anyway, the front cover, as you can see above, shows Doctor Doom standing over the body of Cyclops, with Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Storm, and Rogue in the background. This is actually a reused version of the cover for the Essential X-Men Volume 5 trade paperback, and that was already a recolored version of the cover of Uncanny X-Men #197. This cover really gets around. But, I mean, Doctor Doom is always a good choice for cover art, so I get it.

X-Men Epic Collection Volume 12: The Gift

The back cover shows Warlock, Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Colossus, and this image comes straight from the cover of Uncanny X-Men #192. You can also see the number 12 on the back (for Volume 12), with the date range of the issues collected here (1985-1986).

X-Men Epic Collection Volume 12: The Gift

If you lay the book flat, you’ll see it’s a glued binding, so you’ll probably start to see creases form along the spine if you read this a lot. I generally see omnibuses as being made for collectors and the Epic Collections being made for readers, so I stress out a lot less about the wear and tear on my Epic Collections. These are good for lugging around with you and reading out at a park bench or a coffee shop, whereas the omnibuses can be difficult to carry around due to their sheer size and weight.

Are the stories any good?

X-Men - Kulan Gath

So, this is a really odd collection of stories. I guess it makes sense if you think of the Epic Collection series as a way to collect Uncanny X-Men issues without dipping into the context provided by the other series that were running concurrently. As an independent volume, though, this one is a bit awkward.

This collection starts with Uncanny X-Men #189, which is an odd issue to jump in with. This issue is actually wedged between New Mutants #22 and #23, and it’s the middle part of the story of Selene integrating herself into the Hellfire Club. So this is the middle part of a story that you’ll not get the beginning nor the end of within this volume.

That’s followed up by Uncanny X-Men #190 and #191, which is a bizarre story where a sorcerer named Kulan Gath zaps a part of Manhattan back into the medieval period. I’ve talked about this story already in my Uncanny X-Men Vol. 4 omnibus review, but what I didn’t mention was that this whole story is resolved with some time-travel magic that means the two-issue arc essentially never actually happened. At the very end of #191, there’s a brief scene with Nimrod, but the rest of this story has almost no impact on the overall story of the X-Men.

And then you have issue #192, which follows up on another plotline from New Mutants, this time involving Warlock’s father Magus. Having read this in continuity, it was great, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to try to read this story independently of Warlock’s story in New Mutants.

X-Men - The Magus

From here, we jump into X-Men Annual #8, which is a campfire story told by Illyana. It’s another issue that’s mostly inessential, with the exception of a brief scene at the end between Kitty and Colossus.

Next up is the X-Men and Alpha Flight two-issue miniseries, which was supposed to kick off a new team of heroes called the Berserkers. The Berserkers never ended up happening, so you’ve got another chunk of issues that could probably be skipped entirely. It does feature Loki, but he’s not very well-written in this particular series, and while he does come into play in New Mutants shortly after this, I don’t think X-Men and Alpha Flight is essential to understanding the New Mutants story arc. Admittedly there is a pretty big character reveal (involving Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor), but that won’t become important for quite a while yet.

Issue #193 of Uncanny X-Men is the 100th-issue anniversary of the Second Genesis era, and it takes the X-Men back to the NORAD station that played an important role in the story “Warhunt” from issue #95. Appropriately, this issue is called “Warhunt II.” While you don’t necessarily need to read issue #95 to appreciate this one, there are tons of callbacks to it.

In issue #194, Juggernaut returns, which coincides with the beginning of Nimrod’s mutant hunt. Instead of having to fight either of them, the X-Men sort of just let the two of them duke it out. In this issue, there’s mention of the X-Men escaping into the realm of the Morlocks beneath New York City, and then the story jumps to Power Pack #12.

X-Men - Nimrod vs Juggernaut

Power Pack #12 is not included in this volume, but there’s a short summary of the issue over the cover of Uncanny X-Men #195, which picks up the story after that point. In fact, issue #195 is mostly a Power Pack issue, telling the story of how the Power kids were kidnapped by the Morlocks and rescued by Kitty Pryde, Rogue, and Wolverine.

And the end of #195 leads directly into Secret Wars II #1, which, once again, is merely summarized in tiny text above the cover of issue #196 — Secret Wars II #1 is not a part of this collection, but it leads directly back into issue #196.

In that issue, Xavier is dampening his own psi-abilities with drugs, but he senses that there’s a murder being planned. The rest of the issue unravels like a murder mystery, as the X-Men attempt to stop the killing before it begins. All the while, they’re being stalked by the Beyonder (from Secret Wars). Honestly, this is a really good issue, though the Beyonder scenes make more sense if you’re also reading Secret Wars II (admittedly, Secret Wars II isn’t great — it’s better than the original Secret Wars, but that’s a pretty low bar).

Issue #197 is a rematch against Arcade, a sequel of sorts to the Arcade story from Uncanny X-Men #146-147. This issue is the reason Doctor Doom is on the cover of the book, though his appearance is briefer than the cover might lead you to believe.

Issue #198 is “Lifedeath II,” the sort-of sequel to the fan-favorite “Lifedeath” from issue #186. Like the original “Lifedeath,” this one was drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith. Honestly, despite the title, this story is actually mostly standalone, and it’s also the strongest issue in this collection by far. This is a largely internal and character-centric issue that sees a depowered Storm wandering in the desert in Africa. If you’re a fan of Storm, “Lifedeath II” is a must-read story.


To end this collection, we have the four-issue Nightcrawler miniseries. In it, Kitty and Illyana accidentally send Nightcrawler to another dimension, where there are flying squids and sky pirates and a sorcerer shark who can’t stop kidnapping women. This allows Nightcrawler to show off his swashbuckling side, and it allows artist Dave Cockrum to really show off his fantastic fantasy-style backgrounds.

Cockrum is credited as both the writer and the author for this miniseries, and some of the art showcased here is amazing — especially in the first two issues.


However, I kind of lose interest about halfway through this series. As Kitty and Illyana try to bring Nightcrawler back, they keep accidentally sending him to other dimensions, and he spends way too much time in a dimension that is a mirror of the story Kitty told young Illyana way back in Uncanny X-Men #153. While I was enjoying the swashbuckling pirate adventures, the fairytale stuff kind of loses me a bit. Too much of it is told for laughs, so the tension is never really allowed to build toward anything. This is probably someone’s jam, but it’s just not mine.

At least the Nightcrawler miniseries is self-contained, so it’s one piece of this collection you can actually read as a standalone story. And that brings me to my final point…

Is this a good place to start reading X-Men?


This volume would be an objectively terrible place to begin reading X-Men. This is Volume 12 of a bigger series, and Volume 13 doesn’t exist yet. But even if it did, this book is missing so much essential content that it’s difficult to read on its own. The problem isn’t that these stories aren’t good (though a couple of them are pretty mediocre); it’s that they’re crisscrossed with a bunch of other series, and none of that content is included here.

I picked this book up specifically to fill in some of the gap between the Uncanny X-Men Vol. 4 omnibus and the Mutant Massacre omnibus. I also read this book alongside the New Mutants Vol. 1 omnibus, which has a lot of context that feels essential to this particular collection, and I was able to read Power Pack and Secret Wars II on Marvel Unlimited.

If you’re like me and you pick up this book as a gap-filler, it does give you some of the issues that would be tricky to collect otherwise (until there’s an Uncanny X-Men Vol. 5 omnibus, which feels inevitable at this point). As a standalone book, though, this would be extremely frustrating to read, because it feels like so many parts are missing.

So as a gap-filler, this is a fine volume, but as an independent book, it’s kind of a failure. If Marvel’s Epic Collections are your preferred format for reading these old comics, then you’ll probably pick this up for the sake of your collection, but this volume simply feels like too many pieces are missing.

Then again, perhaps I’ve just been spoiled by reading omnibuses…

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