The Essential X-Men Vol. 7 and Vol. 8, The Essential X-Factor Vol. 2

We have reached the end of a reading project!

Well, sort of. There is definitely more X-Men to read after this if I want to keep reading Chris Claremont’s legendary run on the title. But this does mark the end of the reading project that began with the Essential Classic X-Men #1 a few years ago and now I have read all of the original X-Men title from the first Lee/Kirby issue to the end of Inferno. Ditto for X-Factor, as I have the first two essentials and that book’s Inferno issues are contained in volume 8 of the X-Men book.

So what we’ve got here is basically the fallout from The Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, and Inferno, which marks the beginning of the annual crossover storyline tradition that would carry on for quite a number of years (I personally bugged out around 1993 after “Blood Ties”). I’d read bits and pieces of each of them years ago, so I kind of knew what I was getting into when I cracked these volumes. It also made them pretty quick reads despite their phone book size.

I’m not going to give a huge synopsis here because we’re talking two years’ worth of comics from two separate titles, so I guess I’ll mention a few things I liked, did not like, or found surprising.

Claremont’s long game is still strong. I know that the X-Men titles are notorious for having soap opera-esque storylines that seem to take forever to resolve or have events that are hinted at but never actually come to fruition. At this point in the title, Claremont’s allowing certain character arcs to take their time still works to his advantage. Storm is probably the best example here. She lost her powers about two years prior to Fall of the Mutants and has led the team since; at the end of this storyline, she gets them back. I found myself surprised that it took this long for that whole story to get resolved and truly enjoyed her arc.

The Goblin Queen comes too quickly. Another long story arc is that of Madeline Pryor. She was introduced around issue #168 or so and since then married Cyclops and bore his child (who will eventually go on to become Cable). However, once X-Factor started up, she left Scott and seemingly disappeared. Then she was supposedly dead, hunted by The Marauders, and eventually winds up working with the X-Men to the point where she joins them in their faked deaths at the end of Fall of the Mutants. She winds up being one of the two antagonists of Inferno and her transformation from the X-Men’s Oracle to the Goblin Queen seems to happen awfully quickly, especially considering the time Claremont took with having her disappear for a while.

There are times when X-Factor is the stronger book. Around this time, Uncanny X-Men was pretty much always on top of the sales charts and would continue to be really strong throughout the rest of the 1980s and the early 1990s. But whereas that book is always consistent, the X-Factor storylines tended to be more compelling. Maybe it was the Walt Simonson art, but I was hooked into the X-Factor Fall of the Mutants issues where Angel becomes a Horseman of Apocalypse more than most of the X-Men in Dallas storyline (save for the Storm part). Plus, the Jean Grey/Maddie Pryor conflicts in that book were also really intriguing. Sure, there were times when Artie and Rusty and Skids were a little bit irritating, but watching each of the original X-Men go through turmoil over these issues was a treat.

Marc Silvestri’s art is … okay. We go from John Romita Jr. and the occasional fill-in/special annual artist (such as Art Adams) to Marc Silvestri, who would have a pretty long run on the book before Jim Lee took over. There are times when the book was a double-shipper, so Rick Leonardi alternated on art chores and I found myself enjoying the book more when Leonardi pencilled. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Silvestri’s art per se; I just never thought it had enough of the “wow” factor of some of the other greats that worked on the book.

The Australian Outback issues are a snooze. At one point, I actually owned quite a number of the issues between Inferno and Acts of Vengeance, as well as some of the other issues that were contained in these volumes. I think that’s because they were cheap and plentiful whereas the Jim Lee issues weren’t. Why? Well, this isn’t the best set of stories. After faking their deaths the X-Men need to go into hiding, so they wind up taking over the headquarters of a group named The Reavers in the middle of Australia. It’s a point where the book is spinning its wheels and even though Inferno is enjoyable, I think that’s mostly because of X-Factor, to be honest.

So where do I go from here? One idea I had was to finally get that Marvel Unlimited subscription and keep reading until Claremont’s last issue and similarly finish out original recipe X-Factor (though I have a digital trade of the last arc on my iPad, so there’s only a few issues I need to grab). I might do that if I feel like I want to spend the money on the subscription. For now, I’m going to put this on pause (much like my Titans read-through, which I’ll pick up again when the next volume comes out) and return to some of the other books and trades I am working my way through.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?

Keep.

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