The (Uncanny, Astonishing) X-Men have a long and celebrated history thanks writers like Chris Claremont, Grant Morrison, and Scott Lobdell. The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past were first released in the early 1980s and still hold up well enough to be the subject of movies in the 21st century. X-Men Blue Vol 0: Reunion collects some of the works of one of the most underrated X-Men writers.
Steven Seagle was the writer for The Uncanny X-Men from 1997-1999 but is often forgotten since he was the person who followed up Lobdell’s celebrated run. Seagle’s tenure was also short and reportedly marred by editorial interference further lessening the impact of his run. Reunion gathers much of Seagle’s overlooked run (issues 351-359).
Along with Seagle’s short tenure, Reunion also includes X-Men Unlimited #17 written by Terry Kavanagh and The Uncanny X-Men/Fantastic Four Annual from 1998 written by Joe Casey. The stories may seem unrelated, but the Unlimited issue deals with distrust which is an important theme in Seagle’s run, while the annual was released while Seagle was still writing Uncanny.
The highlight of Reunion by far is Seagle’s writing. The X-Men can be a difficult title to work on since along with dealing with “normal” superhero issues like uncontrollable powers, supervillains, and having to save the world, the writer also has to regulary touch on emotions like angst, unrequited love, and prejudiced. The majority of the world do not just fear the X-Men’s powers, they hate what they are. At the core of the X-Titles is how the mutants deal with this hate and why they continue.
Seagle captures the tone of the X-Men immediately. For decades, the X-Books have been filled with a malaise that borders on being too much for anyone who is no longer a teenager. The best stories have the perfect balance of unease mixed with heroism, and Seagle’s writing meets it. For example, Rogue is not just unsure of her power, she is unsure of herself. Over nine issues she goes through a journey that involves fantastic adventures and has a very real conclusion. Readers can relate to Rogue’s sense of disquiet and cheer for her acts of bravery.
As important as mood is for a successful story, The Uncanny X-Men is a comic book. Seagle never strays into melodrama and keeps the stories filled with action. For better or worse, X-Men stories are known as company wide crossovers that are too difficult to follow. Sealge does have an overarching story, but it is told as the heroes do battle in an almost “villain of the week” style. To add to the comic book feel, there are little quips and verbal jabs tossed out be the X-Men. It is borderline corny and works beautifully.
In order for a comic book to truly be something special, there has to be good artwork and Chris Bachalo is the perfect partner for Seagle. Bachalo uses an anime like style that perfectly captures the characters’ emotions. In the few splash pages when the actions do speak louder than the words, Bachalo’s art enhances Seagle’s writing instead of drowning it out. This is in part due to the great ink and color work. Overall, the art is a great complement to the story.
One thing that may turn off newer or uninformed readers is how dense the backstory for The Uncanny X-Men is. Seagle does a great job of keeping the story focused and interesting, but in doing so there are many callbacks to previous stories. This is no surprise when reading comics; like starting a television show in season five, you already know you missed some stuff. The problem with Reunion is you cannot go more than a page without there being some annotation. There are even instances of multiple annotations in one panel! The writing is already interesting enough to make you want to read more, but the notations make the undertaking seem daunting.
X-Men Blue Vol 0: Reunion is a great read. Along with Seagle’s fantastic writing, it has an X-Men Unlimited story that adds to the theme of the book, a fun X-Men/Fantastic Four story, and an always interesting look into Cerebro’s files. X-Men Blue Vol 0: Reunion is a must read for newer and older X-Men fans.