Revisiting Each Of The Uncanny X-Men's Centennial Issues
Among Marvel’s most prized properties, the Uncanny X-Men saw its 600th issue land in stores last week. The stupendously prolific (and top-bloody-notch) Brian Michael Bendis writes the milestone installment, while Sara Pichelli, Mahmud Asrar, Stuart Immonen, Kris Anka, Chris Bachalo, David Marquez & Frazer Irving provide the impressive array of penciling talent (along with colorists Marte Gracia and Jason Keith).
Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, creators of Awesome Comic Books Galore, were responsible for The X-Men's debut in September 1963. Introducing Professor X and his original line-up of mutants—Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Marvel Girl and Iceman—the book started as a bi-monthly publication before issue #14 introduced a monthly shipping schedule.
This lineup of X-Men remained consistent up until #60 (published September, 1969), when Havok and Polaris joined the action for seven issues. The next five years (#67 through #93), however, featured only reprints of previous escapades, forcing fans to wait until issue #94 for a fresh fix of stories. Readers were also treated to an all-new roster—Cyclops was the only original member to survive the cut.
Since then, the book has been something of a revolving door for mischief-thwarting mutants. A mind-boggling 46 different lineups have graced X-Men/Uncanny X-men’s pages, with a slew of complications (team disbanding, crossover events, supervillain-fueled shenanigans…) prompting this rotation of core characters.
Each centennial celebration of the book’s launch has featured a significant event in X-Men history, with various creators masterminding them. It all started with...
Uncanny X-Men #100 (August 1st, 1976)
Chris Claremont (writer), Dave Cockrum (pencils, inks), Bonnie Wilford (colors) and Annette Kawecki (letters) crafted the X-Men’s first landmark issue, with fans shelling out a mere 25 cents to read it. Oh, and the cover depicts Professor X as the angriest bald guy since Stone Cold Steve Austin spilled his last beer...
"Greater Love Hath No X-Man" arrived only 7 months into the book's “All-New, All-Different” reboot, with Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Banshee, Nightcrawler and Colossus comprising the team. The mutants battle robotic versions of themselves (X-Sentinels!) while trapped aboard a space station, with twisted genius Stephen Lang and his Mark II Sentinels further complicating matters. The issue ends on a rather cool cliffhanger—after fleeing the space station, Jean Grey is entrusted to navigate the X-Men's escape pod through a radiation-lavished solar storm…
Uncanny X-Men #200 (December 1st, 1985)
Fast forward nine years and Chris Claremont was still the man writing Uncanny X-Men. Issue #200 saw him work alongside John Romita Jr. (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Glynis Oliver (colors) and Tom Orzechowski (letters).
The X-Men roster had seen further change, with Rogue, Shadowcat and Rachel Summers (AKA Phoenix) now joining veterans Cyclops, Colossus, Storm and Wolverine. Titled “The Trial of Magneto”, the story centers around, well, Magneto on trial. His crime?
Being a bad mutant. Or more specifically, a mutant inclined towards acts of terrorism. Eek!
Newly returned from Asgard, the X-Men face all manner of mishaps—Madeline Pryor-Summers goes into labor with Scott’s son (that'd be Cable); Professor X has a heart attack (prompting him to leave the team); while the Strucker Twins target Magneto to avenge their father, Baron Von Strucker. In a development less expected than Guy Ritchie's pal Vinnie Jones appearing in X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto elects to continue Professor X’s legacy and joins his team of mutants...!
Well, sort of.
Uncanny X-Men #300 (May 1st, 1993)
Comic books + the 1990s = FOIL COVERS! Also: Fiendishly inflated prices.
While X-Men #100 cost a mere 25-cents of its readers’ hard-earned cash, Uncanny's 300th installment fleeced fans of close to four bucks! The snazzy cover might’ve distracted some from the asking price, but my mum was far from impressed while paying for 13-year-old me's copy at Nostalgia & Comics...
This time around, Uncanny X-Men came courtesy of Scott Lobdell (writer), John Romita Jr. & Brandon Peterson (pencils), Dan Green, Dan Panosian & Al Milgrom (inks), Steve Buccellato & Glynis Olver (colors), plus Chris Eliopoulos (letters). Creators-a-plenty!
"Legacies" was the story featured within, with mutants Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Colossus, Bishop, Wolverine, Archangel, Storm & Professor X topping the bill. The action kicks off in France as the X-Men pursue Fabian Cortez and his Acolytes. Utilizing the kidnapped Moira MacTaggert's talents, Cortez has been brainwashing victims to assist his diabolical exploits. Oh, and Magneto—previously thought dead—is revealed to be alive and well by the psychic Gamesmaster.
Uncanny X-Men #400 (December 1st, 2001)
Moving swiftly on from the foil-entombed 300th issue of Uncanny X-Men, the next milestone, "Supreme Confessions," saw Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Chamber, Stacy X, Iceman and Archangel fill the team roster.
Joe Casey was now clad with writing duties, with Cully Hamner, Ashley Wood, Eddie Campbell, Javier Pulido and Sean Phillips providing pencils. Scott Hanna (inks), Hi-Fi Design (Colors) and Richard Starkings/Comicraft (letters) were their contributors.
A new logo and redesigned costumes were part of the X-Men's reboot for the new century, with some of the creepiest conflict they'd ever faced arriving via Supreme Pontiff and his fanatical Church of Humanity. Rookie Stacy X mistakenly teleports herself into trouble, leaving the team with no choice but to save her (sabotaging their mission in the process). Supreme Pontiff kidnaps Nightcrawler amidst the action, and far from a connoisseur of compassion, elects to plunder the poor hero’s brain.
Alarmingly, Nightcrawler got off somewhat lightly with his pernicious lobotomy. The experience induced nightmares involving his own crucifixion, but Pontiff's Church of Humanity actually did crucify the character known as Skin. Fate is often a cruel mistress where mutants are concerned...not least when one's powers are limited to stretching your surplus six feet of dangling, graceless flesh.
Uncanny X-Men #500 (July 23rd, 2008)
Cloaked in a striking Alex Ross cover, issue #500 boasts the creative team of Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction (writers), Greg Land & Terry Dodson (pencils), Jay Leisten & Rachel Dodson (inks) and Justin Ponsor (colors).
Cyclops, Emma Frost, Storm, Beast, Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Cannonball, Pixie and Wolverine are #500's featured mutants in part one of the "SFX" storyline. It introduces oddball artist Guy DeMonde and his celebration of “Mutant Kitsch” in downtown San Francisco, with the exhibit’s highlight coming in the form of decommissioned Sentinels! Unsurprisingly, the X-Men are not too enthused by the idea of civilians flocking around ominous instruments of obliteration. The Sentinels' sudden reactivation—seemingly at the hands of Magneto—doesn't exactly inspire a change of heart, either. As it turns out, Magneto’s appearance was but a smokescreen for a much bigger problem… Meanwhile, a mob of fervent mutant-haters, “The Hellfire Cult”, are introduced to further complicate the X-Men’s day, identifying Pixie as their initial target.
Six hundred issues, oodles of stories, bucketloads of creators, more mutant characters than Internet forum squabbles started by John Byrne...and X-Men fans wouldn't want it any other way! Well, most of them. I think. Erm, maybe.
Happy anniversary, Uncanny X-Men!