X-Men by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams – Gallery Edition (graphic novel review).

Long before the X-Men became ‘All-New, All-Different’, back in the 1960s, ‘The Uncanny X-Men’ were on the verge of cancellation through lack of sales. Comicbook artist Neal Adams wanting to come over to Marvel Comics from DC Comics did not want to take on a best-selling title but one that wasn’t. The X-Men was then put in his lap with writer Roy Thomas scripting and they did 9 issues, missing out only on 2 before the title ended on # 66.

Circulation figures were a bit nebulous and often late back then and ‘X-Men’ was cancelled before they came in on their run showing a significant improvement. Later evidence showed that sales had jumped up and so it came back reprinting the early issues to keep it on the shelves. Eventually, the title got resurrected with new material and…well, the rest is history.

I was always an X-Men fan and the opening splash of X-Men # 56 with Angel flying wings spread over a vehicle containing the rest of the team and a captured Living Pharaoh towards an Egyptian temple was jaw-dropping. I wasn’t reading DC Comics at the time. The apparent feud where you stayed local only to one of the Big Two was a contributing factor and poor distribution in the early 70s meant I never saw Neal Adams later work on Batman and Green Lantern until much later because comicshops, let alone UK fandom, didn’t exist at the time.

However, my jaw continued to drop with the pace of these stories. The end of the Pharaoh as he turned into the gigantic Living Monolith, the return of the Sentinels, Karl Lykos turning into the tragic Sauron and a second visit to the Savage Land and the return of Magneto was a magnificent pace, topped only by a logical return of Professor X. Sheer joy.

These tales have been reprinted in a UK annual and a couple times in the USA long before the latest giant reprint I have in my hands. An added bonus is the alternative cover for # 56, a selection of black and white original pages and Neal Adams’ colour schemes for some of the pages.

Rather oddly, we never do find out who was the final colourist on his issues but there’s certainly enough information to think it was based off his choices. Of course, having Tom Palmer doing the inking was a perfect match. The Sunfire issue that Adams didn’t draw but done by Don Heck was inked by Palmer showed a similar quality showing how much inkers contribute to the work.

Seeing the art at this size is rather weird. It’s only about a quarter less than the original size drawn so you’re essentially seeing it as it was prepared. In the Neal Adams Sketchbook he explains that he never draws a passive panel unless it means something. The pace of these stories is extraordinary and are stories that I never tire of reading.

After all these years, Neal Adams has still had a major influence on comicbooks and even if you already own these issues or their reprints then this makes for an interesting addition to your collection.

GF Willmetts

October 2019

(pub: Marvel, 2019. 208 page very large hardback. Price: I pulled my copy for about £23.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-302-91936-8)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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