The way the comics industry has changed from its humble beginnings is something of a feat of evolution, especially when it comes to collected editions. Marvel has done a great job of collecting classic stories and continuous comic book series with their Marvel Masterworks editions, but let us go back to an era before those hardcover beauties existed and visit the single issue reprint; roughly September of 1986. Comic book shops would be few and far and if you were lucky to find one you’d better have had your money saved up get those back issues of the comic book series you collected. So where were the X-Men at that time?
The Uncanny X-Men comic series was at issue 209 and was one of the popular go to comics of the day; luckily Marvel saw an opportunity to get the classic adventures of the “International/Uncanny” X-Men in the hands of the fans, so a reprint series was created that would start at Giant Size X-Men #1 and continue to issue 94 of Uncanny. The best thing about this reprint series was that it would also add in extra story to help flesh out the stories along with the classic reprinted issue being edited to help fit in with the continuity of the era. This idea ran for 44 issues and reprinted Uncanny X-Men all the way up to issue 138.
In this second volume of the X-Men Classic Complete Collection we are treated to issues 24 to 44 of Classic X-Men and part of Marvel Fanfare #60. The trade is very thick and opens with a credits page that features a murderers’ row of comic book talent. With each issue in the trade it has a write up explaining the changes that were made from the original Uncanny X-Men issue to the Classic Reprint issue along with a quick recap of what happened to the X-Men in the original issue. Then we are treated to the backup story from the reprint and those are just a joy in themselves.
The backup stories are great add-ons to what was happening in the X-Men franchise comics of the era. I’ve always wanted to see a complete trade paperback of the Dark Phoenix Saga that also includes the Classic Reprint backup stories. These backups helped to add dimension and depth to the original stories and the changes that were made to them; for example the idea that Jean Grey wasn’t the Phoenix and was really in a cocoon down in Jamaica Bay, like it or not it did happen. These backup stories gave Chris Claremont a second chance at stories and character along with making a stronger connection to the overall continuity of the series.
Along with the Classic Reprint backup stories, we are treated to the new covers that ran on issues 45 to 110 of Classic X-Men, pin-ups that were featured in the issues, a rundown of the original X-Men adventures of the Original five back in the Amazing Adventures series, info from the first X-Men Classic series that reprinted the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams adventures, the covers from the X-Men the Early Years reprint series, and the Omnibus edition introduction from Ralph Macchio. There is so much in this trade that no true X-Men fan would want to miss out and if you’re a new fan and want deeper insights into your favorite X-Men then this volume and its previous are great trades that belong on your shelf; just picture VH1’s Pop-Up Video or Behind the Music but for the X-Men comics.