A sad, tragic letdown of a collection.
Reviewed in the United States on March 15, 2021
As with all Uncanny X-Men omnibuses, I’ve been waiting for this collection for years. The Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr. era of Uncanny, is when I started reading comics, and remains today, some of the greatest comics ever produced by any team, due to the maturity of the writing, and pitch perfection of JR JR’s unbelievable work, and a team of characters it was just impossible not to love. There are so many incredible tales collected here, that it’s impossible not to find something to enjoy. And Claremont’s writing, his deep characterization, his innate understanding of each member of the team, holds up incredibly well after so many years.
The quality of the volume is also fantastic. The binding is glued, but the book holds together nicely and opens flat. The paper stock is a crisp white and everything about the design of the book is fairly consistent with the quality of previous volumes put out by Marvel.
What makes this an unforgivable disaster, is that for some unknown reason, the team responsible for putting this collection together, have fiddled with John Romita’s art! Why this was necessary is hard to fathom. Romita remains my favorite “classic” Uncanny artist. His line work and clarity of storytelling are some of my favorite in all of comics, and the work he did on Uncanny, is seminal. For for some unfathomable reason, they have interfered enough with his line-work, that the issues frankly look like they could have been drawn by another artist. And although the problem shows up throughout the entire volume, it seems to get progressively worse! Who in their right mind thought it would have been a good idea to “touch up” JR JR, on a seminal, incredibly important run in comics? And since the volume is mostly about JR JR’s work, and Chris Claremont himself declares as much in the introduction, it is just incredibly disappointing to see pages which were once so clearly JR JR’s artistry, reconstructed somehow until they no longer resemble the work of artist who originally drew them.
Admittedly, it took some time before i realized that this is what had happened. But the effect of the interference is hard to miss. It’s most odd in the character’s faces. But the interference is pervasive and ultimately, it becomes distracting. Reading this book is the equivalent of going to the cinema to see a film by a great director, only to watch a parody film by a student who studied their style and uses some of their techniques.
What is perhaps most confounding about this situation, is that JR JR’s work has been produced in collected editions before, albeit in black and white editions where these stories were previously reprinted. When this volume was finally announced, I became extremely excited at the possibility of being able to re-encounter the artist’s excellent body of work on X-Men, in color, in what I knew would be a high quality printing. I never imagined anyone would have been stupid enough to have re-worked the pencils, for any reason. Surely, if there was a challenge in re-producing these pages, other compromises should have been made? But to have interfered with the sublime line-work of one of the most famous, gifted, and influential X-Men artists of all time, seems like a boneheaded decision that is just unforgivable.
The result is that, speaking frankly, you are more likely to enjoy reading these stories in the black and white reprints Marvel released of these books many years back, than in this volume.
Save the money. Don’t reward Marvel for this travesty. Don’t let Marvel think this approach is successful, and encourage them to do it again. Avoid this book at all costs and spare yourself the pain of seeing altered JR JR art that is a mere shadow of the original work.
What were these people thinking?
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