Comixology Sale Picks: Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Lee)

Comixology Sale Picks: Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Lee)
Over the 70s and throughout the 80s, Uncanny X-Men went from being a bi-monthly series pulled back from the brink of cancellation, to being the best-selling title in the industry, responsible for a growing number of spin-offs. This culminated in 1991 when, at the height of the book's fame, Chris Claremont and his artistic collaborator, Jim Lee, launched a second volume of the series simply titled "X-Men", which sold 8.1 million copies. Admittedly it had 5 covers, but even so. We shall not see its like again. And this period is currently Comixology's big sale. Time to buy some comics.

For much of this era the series isn't divided into discete arcs, and Chris Claremont loved subplots, so it's hard to make sure you get the whole story if you don't read everything. But if you just want to get the major story beats and better issues, this guide should tell you what we recommend. Art for these issues is pretty solid, if very 90s: it's mostly done by three future Image founders: Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld.
The Siege Perilous: Uncanny X-Men #244-252

At the time the sale starts, the X-Men have been living in an abandoned town in the Australian outback for around 20 issues. This era of the team effectively comes to an end in #251, when the remaining members of a depleting team - Psylocke, Storm, Colossus, Havok and Dazzler - enter the Siege Perilous, which is a mystical gift promising to grant them "new lives" (i.e. reshuffle the status quo with little to no story mechanics required).

By this point, Rogue has already used the Seige Perilous, after sacrificing herself to defeat Mastermold in #247. And before that, Jubilee joined the cast in issue #244 and has been hiding in the X-Men's base. She and Wolverine are the only two main characters not to go through the Siege Perilous, and their thread forms a major part of the next few years of stories. Wolverine and Jubilee meet properly in #251-2, when he returns to the base to find the X-Men gone and she rescues him from The Reavers. It's worth reading these few issues specifically, as they set up much of what happens afterwards.

Uncanny X-Men #244
Uncanny X-Men #247
Uncanny X-Men #251
Uncanny X-Men #252
Around the World: Uncanny X-Men #253-269, #274

With the status quo firmly shattered, the next era of the title involves us encountering the X-Men in their new lives before their original memories return. Most of these aren't very interesting, but some are, and it's best to get on board with the idea - it's a long time before the team looks anything like itself again.

During this era Claremont rotated the spotlight between characters and would leave major cast members out of the book for months at a time in ways that would made modern editors choke on their own red biro. For this section we've done a guide to following the major threads by character, since that's a good way to read stuff if you don't want to read ALL of the stuff.

Storm & Gambit: Uncanny #253 reintroduces Storm following her trip through the Siege Perilous, and marks the start of the "Child Storm" era, which only persists for a little while but is quite memorable. A major beat in that story happens in #265-267, which introduces Gambit. However, she's not seen again until the start of the X-Tinction Agenda in #270, when she returns to the mansion. These stories are interesting if you want to see how Gambit got started, particularly.

Wolverine, Jubilee & Psylocke:Wolverine and Jubilee's arc turns up again in issue #256-8, which is a three-issue story that reintroduces Psylocke, who assumes her continuity-nightmare/culturally-dubious ninja form for the first time. They reappear in issue #261 when Psylocke and Jubilee must rescue Wolverine, and in issue #268 the trio meet up with the Black Widow in an issue that features a flashback, possibly the first, to Wolverine's World War 2 days. This is a strong thread, and it's basically Claremont writing Wolverine in his prime. This is the guy people loved, and that makes it worth reading these issues.

In Uncanny #269, over a calendar year since her last appearance, Rogue finally pops back into the world, reappearing in the now-abandoned Australian base, sans powers. Gateway sends her to the Savage Land, and in #274 she's been living there for some time when she encounters Magneto. These two issues comprise a classic Rogue story and show the origin of her on-again, off-again attraction with Magneto, so they're worth reading for that reason.

The rest of the issues deal with the likes of Dazzler, Colossus and Havok, most of whom end up in not-very-interesting situations. Havok's a Genoshan Magistrate, Colossus is an artist, Dazzler's a film star. There's also a plot thread about things on Muir Island getting weird which pops up every few issues, and characters slowly begin to converge there in advance of a future storyline.

Storm & Gambit Checklist:
Uncanny #253
Uncanny #265-67

Wolverine, Jubilee & Psylocke Checklist:
Uncanny #256-8
Uncanny #261
Uncanny #268

Rogue Checklist:
Uncanny #269
Uncanny #274
The X-Tinction Agenda: Uncanny X-Men #270-273 (plus crossovers)

It's crossover time! Yaayyyyohgod! This is the story that effectively reunites the X-Men following their global disarray, but it's also the first time the book united the New Mutants, X-Factor and the X-Men, so it's hard to tell where one team ends and the other begins as they attempt to bring down the mutant-exploiting Genoshan government and suffer some heavy losses as a result.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the story, but it's an undeniably major beat for all three teams. For reference, at this point the New Mutants are being looked after by Cable, and X-Factor consists of the original five X-Men.

X-Tinction Agenda Checklist:
Uncanny X-Men #270
New Mutants #95
X-Factor #60
Uncanny X-Men #271
New Mutants #96
X-Factor #61
Uncanny X-Men #272
New Mutants #97
X-Factor #62
Uncanny X-Men #273 (epilogue)
X-Men In Space: Uncanny X-Men #274-277

By this point the book hasn't had anything like a functioning X-Men team in it for years. Apparently editorial had noticed this and was feeling uneasy, so Claremont was ordered to get the team back to its classic status quo. Step one of this was reintroducing Professor X, who he packed off into space some 75 issues ago.

So, after going to space at the end of #273, the newly-formed X-Men team fights the Shi'ar and the Skrulls in #274-7. It's a great story and you should definitely buy those issues unless you can't stand the X-Men in Space. It's particularly good for seeing the new recruits - Gambit, Jubilee, and such - working as part of the team for the first time ever.

X-Men Vs. The Shi'Ar Checklist
Uncanny X-Men #274-277
The Muir Island Saga: Uncanny X-Men #247-277 (plus crossovers)

That's right! Another crossover! This one's a lot smaller, though. Basically, it's the X-Men and X-Factor joining forces to fight the Shadow King, who has assumed control of Muir Island and all who reside on it, which includes a large group of former X-Men.

It's also the big ending for the current status quo. The five members of X-Factor rejoin the X-Men, the X-Men return to the mansion with Professor X back in charge, and the X-Factor name is given to an entirely new government-sponsored team. It's effectively the big climax to Claremont's run, because from this point on he wasn't really the writer anymore, and a few issues later he's gone for good.

Muir Island Saga Checklist:
Uncanny X-Men #278
Uncanny X-Men #279
X-Factor #69
Uncanny X-Men #280
X-Factor #70
X-Men: Volume 2 (plus two issues of Ghost Rider)

Claremont's *actual* final story takes place in X-Men #1-3, which features the X-Men split into two groups - Blue and Gold - and fighting a rather world-weary Magneto one last time on Asteroid M. It's a great place to go out if you're a Claremont fan, even if the story was plotted by the artist Jim Lee.

After that, things take a severe downturn writing-wise, but Jim Lee is arguably at the height of his abilities as an artist. Issues #4-7 are the first non-Claremont issues, plotted by Lee and scripted by Byrne. They introduce Omega Red, but there's not much notable about them beyond that. #8 introduces Bishop to the Blue Team (after his first appearance in Uncanny X-Men, which is now the Gold Team book.) #9 is a crossover with Ghost Rider (those issues are also in the sale) and #10-11 are a Longshot story. None of these are objectively much cop. If you don't have 90s nostalgia like I do, just check out when Claremont does.

X-Men v2 Checklist:
X-Men #1-3

As well as the crossover issues, this sale also includes a bunch of random spin-offs - an issue of Classic X-Men, and annual set just after Jubilee joins the cast, and some issues of X-Factor which lead into the crossovers.

There's nothing especially worth buying, but of the options you do get, X-Factor #64-68 are the only ones worth paying much attention to. Written by Chris Claremont to essentially clear the deck for X-Factor to return to the X-Men, it features the team facing off against Apocalypse. It's the story where Cyclops famously sends his son to the future to keep him safe. And we all know how that turned out...

Spin-offs Checklist:
X-Factor #64-68

The sale is on until the 17th. Don't spend too much. But remember that if you're spending more than £40, you can get it all as a single web-only bundle!