The last time I got a wild hair to read X-Men I left off with #110 knowing that #111 is a good jumping on point. #111 begins in medias res, but I’m reading in conjunction with the supplemental material from Classic X-men, so let’s start with #17 of that series.

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Both covers are bloodless. That must have been deliberate.

My first take on the second cover was it looks like Wolverine is just frightening the Hellfire man to the right. But that's a mistake: you're supposed to infer the falling guy on the right has been slashed open and the same thing has just happened to the standing guy. The expression of the guy on the left shows he, too, is facing mortality. So it's actually a subtly ghastly cover.

IMHO, this was when Wolverine became WOLVERINE! Before it could be argued that he was not as interesting as Nightcrawler or Phoenix but now he started to become the focal point of the book as seen by #139.

X-MEN #134 / CXM #40:

X-MEN #134: Cyclops recovers from Mastermind’s psychic attack and Wolverine finds the X-Men just about the same time the Black Queen shrugs off Mastermind’s mental control enabling the X-Men to turn the tables on the Inner Circle. On monitor duty at Avengers Mansion, the Beast is alerted to the disturbance and decides not to notify the rest of the Avengers but goes on his own. The X-Men escape, but unfortunately, the ordeal causes the Black Queen to transform into Dark Phoenix.

CXM #40: A Nightcrawler story set between #131 and 3132. He meets a one-legged breakdancer and thinks she is a mutant for some reason.
X-MEN #135 / CXM #41:

COVER COMPARISON: I’m a sucker for the ones in which the logo is destroyed.

X-MEN #135: the X-Men barely survive the destruction of their aircraft over Central Park. Dark Phoenix defeatrs them and departs Earth for the stars. Back at the Hellfire Club, Sebastian Shaw broaches the topic of Sentinals with Senator Kelly after the X-Men’s attack. The Beast arrives at the scene of the X-Men’s defeat. Professor X in New Mexico confers with Moira McTaggert in Scotland. Dark Phoenix opens a stargate, flies to another galaxy, consumes a star ad destroys a planet, witnessed by the Shi’ar. CLIFFHANGER: Dark Phoenix is returning to Earth!

CXM #41: A story of Cyclops’ childhood and a tie-in to the then-current “Inferno” storyline.

In #134's case I find the new cover much more powerful. In #135's the new cover strikes me as bland. The original cover is a homage to #56's, of course.

X-MEN #136 / CXM #42:

COVER COMPARISON: The logo of the original is still cracked from last issue. The new cover misrepresents the ending.

X-MEN #136: After a hard-fought battle at Jean Grey’s parent’s house, the X-Men defeat dark Phoenix and restore her to humanity. Summoned by Professor X, the Angel arrives after the battle, but just then, all of the X-Men disappear in a flash of light.

CXM #42: Continued from last issue, another story of Scott Summers’ childhood and Mr. Sinister.
X-MEN #137 / CXM #43:

COVER COMPARISON: I really HATE those banner ads Marvel ran on their covers a time or two in the ‘80s. Who thought that was a good idea? Obviously I prefer new one, also by Byrne. Here’s another cover (a wraparound) of the same scene by John Romita, Jr. and Al Williamson.

X-MEN #137: The conclusion to the “Dark Phoenix Saga.”

CXM #43: This story occurs immediately after #137 and deals with what happened to the Phoenix entity after the “death” of “Jean Grey.” “Comic book philosophy” at its worst.
PHOENIX: THE UNTOLD STORY:

COVER: A wraparound with the other X-Men (including Marvel Girl) on the back. I was not reading X-Men in 1980. This may have been the first time I read #137 (unless I had already picked it up as a backissue by this time). This one-shot presents the issues original five-page ending, from before EiC Jim Shooter insisted on a new six-page sequence (plus two panels of altered dialogue) with a revised ending in which Jean Grey must pay for the genocide perpetrated by Dark Phoenix. PERSONAL NOTE: Whenever this story is reprinted in a collection which includes #137, I always feel it’s kind of a rip-off (to make us pay for the first part of the story twice).

The one-shot also includes “The Dark Phoenix Tapes,” a round table discussion of the events surrounding the re-write. I read it once when it originally came out, and a second time last night. I really got a lot more out of it my second time through, 35 years later, I must say. It really presents a complete version of events, with each person involved recalling his or her piece of it. Here’s the gist…

Chris Claremont, John Byrne and editor Roger Stern approached Jim Shooter with an idea for a story in which Phoenix turns evil, and Shooter approved it. John Byrne disliked the character Phoenix, but loved Jean Grey. Several issues into the arc, Byrne started thinking in terms of “cosmic possession” rather than Jean Grey herself actually turning evil, but Chris Claremont had an idea in mind for #150 that Magneto would find out about Dark Phoenix and somehow manage to “re-villainize” her.

It was Claremont who plotted that Dark Phoenix consumes a sun, but it was Byrne who, during the pencil stage, added the detail about the D’Bari planet being destroyed. By the time it saw publication, Jim Salicrup was editor. He was thinking along the lines of possession, too. He even mentioned The Exorcist, saying that when Regan MacNeil was eventually exorcized, no one said, “Let’s kill that murderous little girl.” At that point, the ending would have given Jean a “mutant lobotomy” in which the Phoenix entity was removed from her body. This wasn’t the story Shooter had approved, and by the time it was finished, he required that some changes be made.

What I find interesting is that Byrne clearly already had the idea to bring back Jean Grey which would eventually see print in Fantastic Four #286. When the subject of separating Phoenix from Jean Grey came up, here is what was said…

JOHN: I have a way to do that. We’ll talk.

CHRIS: A little late now!

JOHN: NO!

CHRIS: HUH?

MARVEL AND DC PRESENT:

If Phoenix: The Untold Story (1984) may have been the first time I read about the “Death of Phoenix” story, then Marvel and DC Present (1982), by Chris Claremont and Walt Simonson, was definitely the first time I encountered Darkseid. I know for a fact the first “New Gods” I read (apart from this one shot) was the 1985 reprint series. That opened the Kirby floodgates for me, but at this time I had only just recently discovered Teen Titans (and re-discovered X-Men). To be perfectly honest, I didn’t get much out of it at the time, but I tend to re-read it every time I re-read X-Men or Teen Titans or New Gods. Although it takes place in a universe in which both teams co-exist, I really appreciate it now.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

CXM #42: Continued from last issue, another story of Scott Summers’ childhood and Mr. Sinister.

I have this one, and noticed recently that the backup story is 15 pages, almost the length of the 17 page reprinted lead story.
X-MEN #138 / CXM #44:

COVER COMPARISON: #138’s is a classic, but I’m not real fond of the background. (Maybe if it wasn’t pink…?) I think a plain white background would have worked better, or maybe something similar to CXM #44’s background.

X-MEN #138: This is an “album issue” which summarizes the team’s entire history from Scott Summers’ point of view. This issue was a favorite of mine before I completed my X-Men collection, but I haven’t read it in years until this weekend. It still holds up. It is also the first example I can think of in which comic book events are held up to the mirror of reality, specifically, Scott’s reaction to the revelation of Professor Xavier’s death hoax: “Professor X said it was a necessary deception… I thought it cruel.” By the end of the issue, Cyclops is out and Kitty Pryde is in.

Last week I was trying to remember how and when I first learned about the death of Phoenix since I wasn’t reading X-Men at the time. I remember now it was via George Olshevsky’s X-Men index.

CXM #44: Although Classic X-Men would run for another 66 issues, this is the last one to run a back-up story. This one is about Rogue (who hasn’t yet been introduced in the regular series yet) and her first kiss.

X-MEN ANNUAL #4:

X-Men Annual #4 fits into continuity here, but it’s not a particularly good fit, IMO. Cyclops is out and Kitty is in, but #139, the actual “Kitty’s Introduction to the X-Men” story, makes a much better one than this. The art is by J.R., Jr. and Bob McCleod.

MARVEL FANFARE #60:

As I mentioned yesterday, Classic X-Men stopped running back-up stories with #44, but one more, originally scheduled to run in #45, had already been written and drawn. Why they didn’t just go ahead and run it I don’t know, but it eventually saw print nearly two years later in Marvel Fanfare #60, the last issue of that series. It is a continuation of the story from Classic X-Men #44 and deals with Rogue’s teenage years, her angst over her powers and her relationship with Mystique, who balances uneasily between treating Rogue as her daughter and a soldier in her private war.

When I return to this discussion next year, I will provide an overview of the X-Men Classic Omnibus.

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