27th Aug2019

‘Marvel Tales Featuring X-Men #1′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Various | Art by Various | Published by Marvel Comics

marvel-tales-xmen-1-cover

I remember reading recently that DC Comics top brass were a little miffed that their more recent stuff is still being outsold by their older stuff. Like classic coke beating new coke, the people at the top always seem to be the last to grasp what makes their ‘product’ both accessible and in demand. The reason the old stuff sells better, for both DC and Marvel, is that back in the day the publishers knew their audience, knew the level at which they were pitching their books. As that audience aged, so did the books tone and content, though still with a healthy taste for nostalgia in there too. Which, don’t worry I am going somewhere with this, will bring me into the reason books like this one need to exist. Having read books since the late 70′s, my tastes tend to lean more to the 1970′s and 1980′s books, such as the material being re-published here, but I’m also happy to try a bit of everything out there. Every book has its audience, and that’s the way it should be.

So, Marvel Tales Featuring X-Men is a sort of greatest hits book, featuring classic stories from the past. This is to all help celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Timely/Marvel Comics. Three books have been picked, from three distinct eras, and although interesting to read and enjoy all three stories, it is also a lesson in how comic book scripting and artwork have changed down the years. The first and third stories feature comic book in royalty, with Roy Thomas and Neal Adams on the first, and Chris Claremont and Jim Lee on the last. Sandwiched in-between are the lesser known Jo Duffy and Kerry Gammill. Let’s take a look.

The first story comes from X-Men #58, way back in 1969, and when the word ‘classic’ is used this should be one of the cover’s shown. It has the double whammy of being one of the best Sentinels stories ever drawn and written, and the first appearance of the in costume Havok, brother of Cyclops. It features the original X-Men, so pre-mutation Beast, Iceman, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Angel (in a costume that only Neal Adams could make work), and sees them fighting the Sentinels under the control of Larry Trask, son of their creator. Although the script by Thomas is outstanding, it is the art by Adams that just blows you away. His style and composition still looks incredible today, and must have been breathtaking then. If anyone has not read a Neal Adams story in his prime, this is as good as any.

The second story, from Fallen Angels #2, circa 1987, seems on paper the weakest of the three but is still a very good read. Easy to forget now, but in the mid 1980′s the New Mutants were a huge hit for Marvel, and Fallen Angels was a spin off series to showcase favourites Sunspot and Warlock, often with a dash of some obscure Marvel hero or villain. It was a fun book, with an obvious dollop of teenage angst to give readers something to identify with. I certainly did at the time. This story deals with the ramifications of Sunspot walking out on the New Mutants, feeling unwanted, and the efforts by New Mutants headmaster Magneto (yep, on one of his ‘good’ phases) to track him down by sending out Multiple Man Jamie Madrox and Banshee-lite, Siryn. Nothing truly groundbreaking happens, but it is a great example of a late 1980′s Marvel book, with solid writing and art.

The closing story comes from X-Men #272, circa 1991, and is smack dab in the middle of one of the many massive X-books crossovers, this one the nattily titled X-Tinction Agenda. This one is prime Claremont and Lee, cutting loose with everything at their disposal. Subtlety was never a word in either’s vocabulary. This issue literally has a cast of thousands, with Iceman, Archangel, Sunspot, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Beast, Cable, Cannonball, Banshee, Gambit, Psylocke, Jubilee, a mind controlled Storm and of course, Wolverine. As per most Claremont stories it’s all as confusing as heck, but fun in the sense that big Summer blockbuster movies are fun. It is also very representative of the spirit of excess that ran through 90′s comics before the mid-1990′s bust.

I really enjoyed this collection, a great snapshot into not only different era’s of The X-Men, but different era’s of Marvel. Great nostalgia for me, and if they make younger, more recent readers seek out the source material, all the better. They could have made a bit more effort with the cover art though, didn’t think it fitted the feel of the book at all. On balance though, a great read and reminder of Marvel’s legacy.

****½  4.5/5

Marvel Tales Featuring X-Men #1 is out now from Marvel Comics.

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