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Uncanny X-Men, Part 25: The Proteus Saga and My First Comics!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 25: The Proteus Saga and My First Comics!

Welcome to the 25th installment of my reread of The Uncanny X-Men from 1963’s issue #1. We’re now in 1979 and this post will cover issues #125-#128. This is a really memorable run for me for a few of reasons.

First of all, it’s an amazing 4-issue story with huge stakes and high drama, and an example of the Claremont-Byrne team entering their creative peak.

Second, in these 4 issues, some really messed up stuff starts to be revealed about the psychological manipulation of Phoenix that puts the whole series and Marvel history on a collision course with the Dark Phoenix Saga.

Third, issue #128 was one of the first four comics my mom gave me after she came back from a trip, and I remember reading it with a sense of wonder and confusion as I learned by myself how to read comics. I very shortly ended up trading parts of my fledgeling collection to a friend in return first for issue #125, and then finally issues #126 and #127 (and #137!). So my inexperience with the form as well as the non-linear way in which I absorbed the story are indelible parts of my view of what later became known as the Proteus saga.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 24: Arcade, Murderworld and their First King-Sized Annual

Uncanny X-Men, Part 24: Arcade, Murderworld and their First King-Sized Annual

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Oh hi! You’ve stumbled onto part 24 of my ongoing reread of The Uncanny X-Men. We’ve reached the year 1979, about halfway through the Bronze Age of comics and about a third of the way into the legendary Claremont-Byrne-Austin run. Looking back, we’ve come a long way from 1963; the Bronze Age was a time of growing sophistication and experimentation in comics, and the X-Men was one of the petri dishes.

This post will only cover issues #123 and #124 because we’ve also got our first King-Sized Annual in the mix as well. Taken together, there’s less character development and angst than normal, in part because these three issues are wall-to-wall mutant superheroics.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 23: 1979 – Chaos in Canada with Alpha Flight!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 23: 1979 – Chaos in Canada with Alpha Flight!

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Welcome to my 23rd blog post detailing my epic reread of The Uncanny X-Men. I started in 1963 and had reached the classic Claremont-Byrne-Austin period that ran from 1977-1980. From Giant-Size X-Men #1 with thirteen team members, the creative team pared them down to seven by issue #111, peeled off Jean Grey and Professor X by issue #117 and in issue #119 injured Banshee so gravely that essentially these new X-Men are down to five effectives: Cyclops, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler and Wolverine.

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A Tour of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon: Marvel: The First 80 Years

A Tour of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon: Marvel: The First 80 Years

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Marvel: The First 80 Years, magazine edition from Titan Comics. On sale November 2020

I was in Barnes & Noble yesterday, picking up some new releases, including a new Stellaris anthology and the latest Year’s Best anthology from John Joseph Adams (here’s the complete stack of titles I walked out with), and literally on my way out of the store my eye fell on a colorful cover in the magazine section. I reversed course to get a closer look, and three minutes later I was back in the checkout line, buying one more item.

The magazine was Marvel: The First 80 Years, a 160-page full color special release from Titan. It’s a little pricey, even with my B&N discount ($19.99 cover price), but according to the scant facts I can find on the internet, it’s a limited release magazine version of the upcoming book Marvel: The First 80 Years, scheduled for hardcover release in two weeks with a $29.99 price tag.

I didn’t know any of that yesterday, tho. I shelled out nearly 20 bucks for an oversize magazine because it looked more than worth the money. Have a look at the gorgeous interior photo spreads below and see if you agree.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 22: 1978 – The Savage Land, Japan and Psionic Throwback Thursday!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 22: 1978 – The Savage Land, Japan and Psionic Throwback Thursday!

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Welcome to my increasingly Quixotic reread of the Uncanny X-Men. I started in 1963 and am now in 1978, and in my favorite period, the legendary Claremont/Byrne/Austin run. In this installment, I’m covering Uncanny X-Men #115 – 119. It’s a special run for me. As a kid, issues #116 and #118 were among the earliest great trades I’d made, but as with all filling of back issues, I didn’t get the in-between stories until years later. But in those days, I suppose we just lived with the chapters we had and filled in the gaps with our imaginations.

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In 500 Words or Less: Icarus by Gregory A. Wilson et al

In 500 Words or Less: Icarus by Gregory A. Wilson et al

Icarus Gregory Wilson-smallIcarus (The Longest Fall #1)
By Gregory A. Wilson (author), Keith R.A. DeCandido (script), Athila Fabbio (illustration), Kris Siuda (lettering)
Atthis Arts (130 pages, $24.99 paperback, $11.99 eBook, Nov 10, 2020)

A lot of speculative fiction these days is focusing on class conflict and subjugation, especially out of the United States – and rightfully so. With Icarus, Gregory A. Wilson and his co-creators present Vol, a world where magisters with arcane powers are the tyrants, fire demons and lava floes are the daily hazards, and digging for flamepetals is the factory or labor work offering basic subsistence.

Jellinek the flamepetal digger is our window into this struggle, and it’s through him that we meet angel-winged savior Icarus, who arrives with no memory but an impulsive drive to learn about Vol and stand up to its bullies. It’s a familiar concept but one that strikes a chord with a lot of us, I think, as we look for people and symbols to get us through difficult times.

There are nuances to the way Wilson and scriptwriter Keith R.A. DeCandido explore these familiar concepts through these characters. Icarus has some innocence to him as he approaches truth and justice, but he’s far from a wet blanket, especially as he learns more about his role in Vol’s history.

Jellinek’s wisdom and pragmatism get them through some tricky situations, but he’s willing to go down fighting after “living half-afraid” and stands up for things the way a lot of people probably wish they could. Throw in some intense action and adventure, and I’m hooked.

The artwork in both books is particularly striking. I love the balance between reds and blues that Fabbio and Pizzatto use to separate different aspects of this world, especially the way they show that even the antagonists are still grounders (Vol natives) and separate from Icarus.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 21: Epic Magneto Triumph and More X-Men Death!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 21: Epic Magneto Triumph and More X-Men Death!

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I started collecting comics in 1981. I was lucky that a friend had been collecting for a while and didn’t care much for X-Men. I ended up trading comics with him and ending up with X-Men, which was my favourite. Because of that, for the longest time, the earliest X-Men issues I had were #112, #116 and #118. Occasional trips to the comic shops in Toronto and my many visits to my town’s lone second-hand book store helped me fill in many gaps, although it wasn’t until the 1986 reprint series Classic X-Men that I got to read issue #111.

That experience of just trying to collect all the stories of your favourite characters seems alien to my son, who has trade and omnibus editions, can read digitally for a pittance and so on. My reading experience growing up was not knowing what was in the missing issues which felt like standing on an island and looking across the way to another island I couldn’t reach, but could imagine.

Welcome to my 21st post in my ongoing blog series of my reread of the X-Men starting in 1963. We’ve reached 1978, just three years before I started collecting, and we’re into issues now that form part of my biographical comics playlist. These were among the stories that shaped the outline of my creativity. The art and story and emotion still leave me in a bit of awe.

So put on your bell bottoms, check your medallions and pull up a chair to 1978. If you need help getting into the mood, the radio was playing Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty, September by Earth, Wind and Fire, Just What I Needed by The Cars and Abba asked us to Take a Chance on Me.

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 20: Iron Fist, Blame Canada, and Some Strike-Outs

Uncanny X-Men, Part 20: Iron Fist, Blame Canada, and Some Strike-Outs

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This Quixotic blog series of my reread of the Uncanny X-Men has gotten to twenty posts! When I started in December, I wasn’t sure how long I could do this, but it’s been a lot of fun! In this post, I’m going to go over two gems from 1977: the Canadian Invasion in Uncanny X-Men #109 and the dinner party gone bad in Iron Fist #15. Then I’m going to take a bit of a higher level look at a few swing-and-a-miss guest appearances and another issue where a fill-in art team mangled an issue.

You’ll recall that at the end of X-Men #108, the X-Men, along with Princess Lilandra, had just come home after Phoenix saved the universe. Except for their vacation-trap in issue #101 this is basically the first break the X-Men get since issue #98. #108 is the first issue in over a year that didn’t end with some kind of a cliffhanger!

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Uncanny X-Men, Part 19: Phoenix, Firelord, and the Imperial Guard!

Uncanny X-Men, Part 19: Phoenix, Firelord, and the Imperial Guard!

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Welcome to Part 19 of my reread through the Uncanny X-Men. In this post I want to cover Uncanny X-Men #105-110, which finishes the first part of the Phoenix Saga, from their last fight with Eric the Red, the alien Shi’ar spy, to the fate of the M’Krann Crystal, which fully shows the full set of changes that Jean Grey has undergone when she resurrected herself in issue #101. This post begins though, with a side-trip to Iron Fist #11, which was also being written by Claremont, and drawn by Byrne and inked by Dan Adkins. We do this only to see Jean and Scott leaving the hospital.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu Part Twelve

Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu Part Twelve

MOKF 61Master of Kung Fu in 1978 was in the process of finding its footing again. Paul Gulacy’s departure from the title left an enormous hole for the series’ two new alternating artists, Jim Craig and Mike Zeck to come up to speed and offer readers a comparable level of accomplishment. Just a few years earlier, martial arts mania had swept much of the Western world on the strength and charisma of Bruce Lee. Marvel had quickly responded with the creation of Shang-Chi and Iron Fist (among other characters). Master of Kung Fu soon spawned a companion magazine, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. By 1978, only Master of Kung Fu was left to showcase a non-superpowered martial artist hero. Morally complex scripts and artwork that took its cue from Jim Steranko’s groundbreaking work for Marvel in the 1960s were the essential ingredients to keep this niche title from fading in sales with the waning martial arts fad.

Issue #61 kicked off the epic-length “China Seas” story arc that saw writer Doug Moench drawing inspiration from Milton Caniff’s long-running newspaper strip, Terry and the Pirates. Moench and Jim Craig launch the story with Shang-Chi having moved in with Black Jack Tarr at the Savoy. Sir Denis Nayland Smith is visiting Melissa Greville in hospital where she is  finally recovering from injuries sustained back in issue #51. Leiko Wu is struggling with loneliness and regret as she sits in her apartment listening to “Dreams” from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours LP. Black Jack Tarr buys a print of Frazetta’s “The Silver Warrior” from an art gallery before meeting up with Sir Denis as Clive Reston arrives to visit Melissa in hospital.

Jim Craig’s artwork was improving dramatically with a truly lovely rendering of Melissa preparing for her discharge. Moench’s script and Craig’s artwork renders the start of Clive and Melissa’s relationship surprisingly sweet. Shang-Chi, lost in his thoughts of Leiko and with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” running through his head is set upon by a Chinese assassin called Skull-Crusher. Their fight is brutally realistic and intercutting it with the supporting characters’ normal interactions is surprisingly effective. Leiko attempts to rekindle her relationship with Clive only to discover he is now dating Melissa. Shang-Chi is in the dark about who has hired Skull-Crusher to kill him until Clive and Melissa deliver a letter mailed to Shang-Chi care of MI5 from Juliette which will send him back to Hong Kong to aid the other woman who broke his heart and take him back into conflict with Shen Kuei, the Cat in an unexpected call back to issues #38 and 39.

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