The Uncanny X-Men has operated as the nexus of Marvel Comics‘ most profitable series turned franchise for decades. Since Giant Size X-Men #1 introduced the ‘international team’ of mutants including Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, Banshee, Sunfire and a little known character named Wolverine, the series has been a mega-hit. The introduction of the animated series in 1992 introduced many more readers to the series in what has been called the most excessive and glamorous era of the series. Everything from crossovers, ‘deaths,’ and ‘rebirths’ to collectible trading cards and limited edition Pizza Hut video tapes bolstered and damaged the reputation of the infamous mutant team through the decadence of the 1990′s.
Of course you can’t talk about the X-Men without mentioning Chris Claremont who wrote a stunning run on the series. His initial issues deeply developed each character, but it must be said that his favorites were always Cyclops and Storm, two characters who haven’t been handled rightly by any other writer since. While his collaborations with Dave Cockrum and John Byrne are legendary, it was his team-up with Marc Silvestri and later Jim Lee that divided fans. Through both collaborations, the comic devolved into a never-ending high-drama slug-fest that stumbled drunkenly from one mega event to the next until Claremont left the franchise entirely to write for DC Comics (less said about that, the better). These issues are remembered fondly by many, but are also amongst the less ambitious X-Men tales to date.
In the past few years, the X-Men have gone through a major overhaul thanks to Kyle Yost, Peter David, Ed Brubaker, Mike Carey and editor Alex Alonso. From Grant Morrison’s ‘E is for Extinction’ story where mutants became the majority and inevitability for mankind, the franchise has taken a 180. The ‘House of M,’ ‘Decimation’ and ‘Endangered Species’ storylines have whittled down the mutant race to a very small number… until this year a mutant baby was born.
The ‘Messiah CompleX’ crossover that touched every X-Men title gave purpose back to the titles and even gave birth to new titles such as ‘Young X-Men’ and the new ‘Cable’ (isn’t it always the way?). In an interview with ComicBookResources.com, Marvel editor Nick Lowe gave some hints at what lies inside the gorgeous Alex Ross cover:
“I’ll tell you this, they certainly come together under a dream,” Lowe remarked. “But it’s not necessarily Xavier’s.
“We are looking forward,” Lowe continued. “[‘Uncanny’ #500] is smash-bang and it sets up the next year or so of stories in Uncanny. It also sets the tone for all the X-Books.”
For his part, Alex Ross hopes to be drawing more X-Men in the future, but didn’t specify any upcoming plans. For now, the artist is happy to reminisce on 500 issues of one of the most popular superhero titles in history, a joy that is on display in his portrayal of the X-Men.
On the cover itself, Alex Ross had a field day. His love for the ‘classic renditions’ shows through in this special cover. The deft hand of Dave Cockrum (definitely the most important artist to work on the characters) can be seen in his finished painting. As the artist explains, there’s a reason for that:
“[In creating the cover,] I tried to be true to most every character’s first appearance look,” Ross said. “Notably, Rogue is in her earliest costume, the Silver Age X-Men are in their earliest outfits, and, if it can be considered that Phoenix and Marvel Girl are two separate people, then I did the first costumes for both. There are liberties taken with that goal with the appearances of characters like Iceman and Emma Frost, though.
“I would argue that no designer put their imprint on these characters greater than Dave Cockrum. In fact, the test of great designs is how well they are handled by many hands. An example of a poor costume era for a character would have to be Dazzler, who reflected the ‘Flashdance’ era of workout clothing.
“What’s important about the first appearance looks of these many characters is that designers generally go back to these earliest inspirations for design reboots of the characters, so, in a fashion, that’s the most timeless ways you can present them.”
Uncanny X-Men Omnibus
New X-Men Omnibus
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga
X-Men: From The Ashes
X-Men: Endangered Species
X-Men: Messiah Complex
X-Men Trilogy (X-Men/ X2 – X-Men United/ X-Men – The Last Stand)
X-Men Evolution – The Complete Third Season