X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS VOL. 1 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects X-Men: The Hidden Years Nos. 1-12 and the X-Men: The Hidden Years back-up story from X-Men No. 94 (cover dates November, 1999- November, 2000)
Writer and Penciler: John Byrne
Inkers: Tom Palmer and Joe Sinnott (Fantastic Four panels only)
Colorist: Gregory Wright
Wow! While I am usually glad for my dozen-or-so-year-long sabbatical from the hobby, books like this help me to realize that yes, indeed, I did truly miss out on some fine, fine comic books while in absentia. John Byrne is X-Men royalty, as evidenced by his classic run with Chris Claremont from 1977-1980. Byrne's art has always struck me as a combination of Kirby's power with Adams' kinetic energy. Tom Palmer was the inker during Neal Adams' godlike stint on the title in 1969-1970, providing the polish to Adams' photo realism. By combining Byrne's fluidity with Palmer's polish, we get the next best thing to a continuation of either one's prior tenure on the title.
|Shades of Neal Adams!|
The X-Men was cancelled due to “low sales” after issue 66 in early 1970 and revived as an all-reprint title from issues 67-93. #94 was of course the second issue of The All-New, All-Different X-Men featuring whippersnapper upstarts like Wolverine and Nightcrawler. While the eighth volume of Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men collected all of their miscellaneous guest appearances in between #66 and 94, X-Men: The Hidden Years posits what really happened during this time, with Byrne going so far as to hide issue numbers on the cover of each issue, i.e. #1 is really #67, #2 has 68 hidden in the artwork, etc., with the idea being that this would be a 27 issue maxi-series. I'll go more into what happened with that in my forthcoming review for Volume 2.
Byrne channels Neal Adams something fierce, and Tom Palmer applies the polish and sandpaper accordingly. Greg Wright's colors were the then-state-of-the-art computer color separations. These, coupled with a handful of post-1970 popular culture references, keep this from being a period piece and somewhat rooted in a modern or timeless sensibility. Truth be told, all of Marvel's continuity from Fantastic Four #1 in 1961 to the present day comics is said to be about a decade in Marvel time. Back in the pre-Internet world of the 1980s I sat there with all of my Spider-Man comics and Official Marvel Indices and mapped out exactly how much time had elapsed between his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 and whatever issue it was in 1987 or 1988. I came up with 8 years, 7 months, and some number of days. No, I did not have a girlfriend as a teenager. No, I still cannot ascertain why that was.
This is an incredible read. Sauron, Magneto, the Savage Land (with Ka-Zar and Amphibius in tow), Mastermind, the Blob, Unus the Untouchable, and Sentinels are all featured throughout this book. These are like lost classics and they blow the doors off of any X-Men comics published around the same time. My only gripe is the original team encountering Storm. While Byrne has addressed this issue on his own site it felt a little thin to me. He does a good job at fleshing out a few plot points that occurred later, such as how the Phoenix force chose Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) or how Mastermind came up with the idea of targeting her to destroy the X-Men. Marvel has crapped up The X-Men up beyond redemption, so it was wonderful having some new stories that didn't make cringe in terror.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Nothing out of the ordinary to report.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: X-Men #80 pin-up by John Byrne. (1 page)
#2 variant cover. (1 page)
Covers for #1-12 minus trade dress, four per page. (3 pages)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Everything looks great. There might be a handful of pages scanned from issues rather than film or files, but they are good enough to keep it at a 5.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Thick glossy coated stock which makes these colors pop.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Nice thick waxlike lamination.