Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review- THE X-MEN OMNIBUS VOL. 2



THE X-MEN OMNIBUS VOL. 2 (Marvel, 2011; Hardcover)

Collects X-Men Nos. 32-66, The Avengers No. 53, the Angel stories from Ka-Zar Nos. 2, 3, Marvel Tales No. 30, and the Echhs-Men spoofs from Not Brand Echh Nos. 4, 8 (cover dates May, 1967- April, 1971)

Writers: Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich (#44-47, Not Brand Echh #8), Arnold Drake (#47-54), Linda Fite (#57), Denny O' Neil (#65), and Jerry Siegel (Ka-Zar #2, 3 and Marvel Tales #30)

Artists: Pencilers- Werner Roth (#32, 33, 35, 38-57), Don Heck (#38-42, 45-49, 52, 54, 55, 64), Neal Adams (#56-63, 65), Dan Adkins (#34), Ross Andru (#36, 37), George Tuska (#43-46, Ka-Zar #2, 3 and Marvel Tales #30), Jim Steranko (#50, 51), Barry Windsor-Smith (#53), Sal Buscema (#66), Tom Sutton, and John Buscema ( The Avengers #53); Inkers- John Tartaglione, Dan Adkins, George Roussos, Don Heck, John Verpooten, Vince Colletta, George Tuska, Dick Ayers, Herb Trimpe, Mike Esposito, Tom Sutton, Sam Grainger, and Tom Palmer (#56-65)

It may seem hard for modern fans to believe, but The X-Men were a bunch of also-rans back in the 1960s. No matter who worked on the title, it seemed like no one put a lot of effort into it. These were just in between other assignment jobs to most. Sure, Roy Thomas did some occasionally clever stuff, but it really wasn't until Issue 50 that this title was a serious contender. That iconic logo that adorned the cover for decades was created by Jim Steranko, who stepped in for a mere two issues and seemed to jump start things.

Jean calls Warren Scott, and no one even cares. Not Roy who wrote it nor whoever lettered it. 

That's not to say that every issue prior to #50 sucked. Werner Roth did some fine artwork, sure, but much of this stuff was just sort of there. Even Roy Thomas was hit or miss. I am a fan of his work, but he didn't seem to give this book as much care as he did The Avengers. Only when he was able to make them identifiable to teenagers of the day was he able to make it work. The whole outsiders, us versus them, establishment versus the new generation zeitgeist bit was when the title hit it's stride. I found in interesting that the term Cybertron was used repeatedly in #48. Computo's cyrbernetic servants were called Cybertrons. This obviously predates Transformers by 15 years.

Now THAT is some villain dialogue right there. 

Once Neal Adams came on board this title became the best that Marvel was publishing at the time. Indeed, the Thomas/Adams era of this title ranks right up there with the Claremont/Byrne run. Like them, Thomas pushed Adams who pushed Thomas to write more intelligently. In short, issues #56-63 and 65 are art of the highest order. Read those issues and then read anything that Marvel is doing today and try telling me that their comic books are better now. They're not.

If you are an aspiring comic book artist then Neal Adams should be your god. Adams' artwork is kinetic and actually seems to thrust from panel to panel and off of the page. Paired with inker Tom Palmer, Adams was an unstoppable force of nature. His panel layouts and composition were groundbreaking. What makes his work even more impressive to me is that he wasn't doing this to option a television or movie deal, nor was he trying to do “iconic” images to license on t-shirts or whatnot. He simply made art. If there were a Mount Rushmore of the all time greatest comic book artists then Adams would be on it. Photo realistic comic book art should never be considered out of style.

Thomas and Adams went from strength to strength, trying to top themselves with each and every issue. The twist endings and subplots take your breath away. These comics move at such a brisk clip that I was left begging for more, not screaming for mercy. These guys are still alive and it would be great if they could do more X-Men stories together. A guy can dream, right?

Neal Adams rules!

My favorite issues were the ones with the Sentinels. While it was Lee and Kirby who introduced them, it was Thomas and Adams who ushered in the growing anti-mutant hysteria that Chris Claremont would build upon in the '70s and '80s to great effect. Sauron was another fantastic introduction. I'm going to level with you. I could sit here and gush endlessly about Roy Thomas and Neal Adams' X-Men, it is that good. I weep for the children who have never read this stuff and accept what now passes as the X-Men.

The Angel back-up stories from Ka-Zar and Marvel Tales were written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. It makes me sad to think how poorly some of the legends were treated in their later years. I mean, you gave the world Superman and the best assignment you could give him were Angel back-up stories? Cripes. The more things change...

Many fans hold Not Brand Echh in almost mythical regard. I am not among those fans, as I find it to be unreadable. The only thing that I found enjoyable was Roy Thomas' Doom Patrol slam. You see, the Doom Patrol were led by a guy in a wheelchair and debuted at roughly the same time as The X-Men. It is standard Internet operating procedure for Marvel and DC fans to argue about who ripped off whom. I'm going to go out on a limb and just say that The X-Men were stolen from the 1953 science-fiction novel Children Of The Atom. Google it and decide for yourself. This renders The X-Men versus Doom Patrol argument moot.

I enjoyed the Mutant Mailbox letter pages which were included for each issue, especially seeing letters from future Marvel creators Tony Isabella, Mark Gruenwald, and Doug Moench.

This was an uneven read. It was admittedly tough slogging through some of these issues on the reread. If I ever revisit this material it will strictly be the Steranko and Thomas/Adams issues. The rest of these are of historical significance and are recommended for completists only.

Please note that the rating below is an average. Some of the earlier issues in the book were abysmal and dragged the average down.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Marvel Omnibus hardcovers make my heart swoon. Think of them as Blu-Ray boxsets, primed and ready for binge consumption. At 912 pages this should keep even the most voracious reader occupied for a while.
DVD-style Extras included in this book:
Roy Thomas' introduction from Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Vol. 4. (2 pages)
Roy Thomas' introduction from Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Vol. 5. (2 pages)
Roy Thomas' introduction from Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Vol. 6. (2 pages)
Gil Kane's Comics Code Authority rejected cover for The X-Men #33. (1 page)
The X-Men #33 unused cover by Werner Roth. (1 page)
The X-Men #38 unused cover by George Tuska. (1 page)
Unused page from an aborted storyline originally slated for The X-Men #49. (1 page)
Three new pages of story created for the reprint of The X-Men #45 originally published as pages 2-4 in Marvel Triple Action #45. (3 pages)
The X-Men #56 unused cover by Neal Adams & Tom Palmer. (1 page)
The X-Men #62, page 6 original art by Neal Adams & Tom Palmer. (1 page)
Neal Adams & Tom Palmer color guides for The X-Men #62, the entire issue presented as thumbnails, four per page. (5 pages)
Original art for The X-Men #64 by Don Heck and Tom Palmer for pages 2, 9, 10, 12-20, presented as thumbnails, four per page. (3 pages)
Wraparound covers for the reprint series X-Men Classics #1-3 and X-Men Visionaries: Neal Adams TPB cover from 2000. (2 pages)
All-new recap pages for X-Men Classics #1-3 by Mike Zeck and Tom Palmer. (3 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. God bless the Cory Sedlmeier pilgrimage to the Sparta warehouse several years ago. It yielded a treasure trove of pristine elements which resulted in the “Blu-Ray” edition of this material. Don't believe me? Pull out the 2004-2006 version of the Masterworks and compare them to this. Masterworks are scanned at 600dpi because when things are printed they are down-sampled to 600dpi anyhow. The old ones were scanned at 300dpi and used inferior sources. I had the old Marvel Masterworks of this material but sold them prior to buying this book to get the upgraded linework and color restoration, which are now also available in the more affordable softcovers. The original hardcover printing of Vol. 6 from 2006 was pretty good; it was the glued mousetrap binding that killed that book for me.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Oh how I miss the beautiful thick coated stock with a slight sheen that Marvel once used on their Omniboo.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding, 8 stitches per signature. The book lays flat from the first page to the last as Godzilla intended.

While this book is out of print, you can buy the same material with the same restoration in the following books at InStockTrades!







Also available in black and white in the following books:



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