Uncanny X-Men 137 (Fascimile Edition) // Review
House of X is out, and the X-Men have changed forever. Or at least until the next retcon, anyway. With all the (justifiable) hype surrounding the X-Men, Marvel is currently also cashing in by using their current reprint line to bring some classic comics back to life. Giant-Size X-Men #1 was last week, and other reprints include New Mutants #98 and even 1963’s first X-Men comic. To match what is their most-hyped X-Book in ages, and a recent botched movie with the skeleton of the same story. Marvel has reached back into their vault to bring out perhaps the most famous issue from Chris Claremont’s legendary run: X-Men #137.
This issue was written by Chris Claremont, with pencils by John Byrne. Both worked on the overall plot together, while Terry Austin inked the pages. Glynis Wein colored the issue, and Tom Orzechowski lettered. The remastering, as usual, goes uncredited.
For the few of you who have not seen this issue, it is the double-sized grand finale of the Phoenix Saga. Started back in issue 101 when Jean Grey became bonded with the cosmic entity of the Phoenix, the cosmic force became corrupted by humanity and eventually devoured a star. Which, thanks to artist and writer miscommunication, resulted in her also killing off an entire alien species. As such, the Shi’ar have decided that the Phoenix must die, but Professor Xavier calls for a trial by combat. If the X-Men win, Jean lives. If they lose, she dies. All the while, the threat of Jean becoming the Dark Phoenix looms overhead, despite the losing battle the X-Men face.
Despite being only 44 issues into Chris Claremont’s 20-year run on the comic, this writing is often recognized as some of his best, if not the best the franchise has ever seen. Pathos, brooding, and purple prose are crammed into 35 pages of story alongside some of the best pages John Byrne has ever drawn. It’s hard to claim this comic is anything less than a masterpiece of comic storytelling, only improved by age and time for once. The other crew working on the comic are also legends in their own right, and it’s great to see their work once more.
An amusing note is that some readers may actually be thrown by the facsimile presentation. After all, most comic fans will have read this book as reprints in collections, or as a digital archived copy. Turning the page to suddenly encounter an ad for Bubble Yum, or seeing the original Captain Marvel hocking Hostess Twinkies can rip a reader out of the story instantly… but it’s also completely fascinating to see how hand-drawn advertisements to kids have given way to photoshop and generic adverts for more grown-up products.
The only possible complaint that could be levered against this comic is that Marvel includes little context outside the original comic. Similar to Howard the Duck’s reprint earlier, this is far from the first story for the X-Men and is actually the end of a long and dramatic tale with some of the most iconic moments in X-Men. To receive the book alone without that context does remove a lot of the emotional impact, but does little to decrease the quality of the comic itself. After all, it is a complete reprint of the original comic, released in September of 1980.
X-Men fans now have a good way to pick up this issue cheaply, and really should consider it. The only true downside is the cover price of $4.99, but at least the comic is 50 pages (including old advertisements) that almost justify the price physically. Digital collectors should go for the $1.99 remastering from several years ago. Other comic fans should still pick up the Epic Collection covering the storyline to experience this story for a lower price.