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January 4th, 2007

52 Books, and the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus.

Long time readers of the blog here will remember when I said I would read 52 books in 2006. There was even a feeble attempt to keep that list here.

Well, since my friend C and I had a bet, in which I would give him, in dollars, the amount equaling the number of books in that 52 I didn't read, I sat around and figured out how badly I went. Turns out, I didn't do so bad, and I owe him four bucks.

As part of the bet, I wasn't allowed to count graphic novels, except for the marvel omnibus of Uncanny X-Men. That was over eight hundred pages, and, given the old style of comic writing, it was a kind of dense thing to crawl through. It was interesting however: I was way too young to be reading any of Chris Claremont's run as the writer of Uncanny X-men. By the time I found it, in High School, he had been gone for a while. The omnibus, however, offers the very start of the Claremont run, when he and the recently departed Dave Cockrum took over the title, and replaced the main cast with new X-Men. Characters such as Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Banshee and, of course, Wolverine, were introduced, along with Thunderbird, the American Indian character who died within a few issues. There's some funny stuff there, such as when Thunderbird tells Xavier to shove a cactus in him when he first appears, and to be quite honest, it borders on being unreadable now. It settles into its stride when the Sentinels and Magneto arrive, which is about the time that Claremont brings back Jean Grey, and the begins his long, long saga of the Phoenix. You really have to give Claremont his soap opera props for that.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the volume, however, is the slow development of Wolverine. In the opening issues he's really a side character, and one with very little too him, except that he picks fights with Cyclops and gets beaten around a bit. However, over the five years worth of issues in the book, you can see the Wolverine he eventually becomes later. When John Bryne replaces Cockrum as artist, about half way through the book, and both he and Claremont settle in the co-plotting of the issues, the evolution of Wolverine kicks up a few notches, as does the Phoenix saga. Suddenly, there's a lost alien queen, a prehistoric world hidden in the Antarctic (though that might have been in the Marvel universe long before), and shadowy forces who lurk in the background, playing with the characters minds.

These days, I've pretty much gone off reading the X-Men and the big franchise titles. Occasionally I read one, if the creator is of interest to me. I read Joss Whedon and John Cassidy's Astonishing X-Men, for example; but these days, superhero franchises just aren't of interest to me, and I need the writer side to pull me in. Even then its a bit of a battle. Yet, I have to say, i'm kinda wanting Marvel to release a second omnibus volume, so i can get another chunk of five years of Claremont and Byrne, and hopefully the larger, and more soap operic Phoenix Saga, with it's Hellfire Club, and Days of Future Past, and all that classic stuff I've only seen redone in cartoons and movies.