X-Men The Hidden years TPB review

X-Men:  The Hidden Years

2012 Marvel Comics

328 pages  $35

The X-Men started by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in September 1963, the same month as The Avengers.  Things did not go well.  Kirby penciled the first dozen issues and slowly stepped aside in the months after that issue.  The book limped along for its entire run, published bi-monthly.  Some great artists followed like Werner Roth and Don Heck, until Neal Adams was given the art duties on the book with issue #56.  Adams was a relatively new artist, and it was felt that the book would soon be cancelled.  Writer Roy Thomas and Adams were on the book longer than anyone expected, but they could not make the book sell, and their run ended with #66.  The next issue started the reprints that continued until the “All- New, All Different” X-Men started up with new adventures in #94 (and Giant Size X-Men #1).

Fast forward to 1999.  The X-Men series no longer resembled anything from its heyday of the 70′ and 80’s.  Marvel had eaten all of its children in the name of the speculator market, destroying virtually all of its once great books.  The choice was made to try to recapture some of the old glories of the 80s.  They got John Byrne to take up the X-Men again.  This time he would write as well as draw, with the original inker of the Neal Adams stories, Tom Palmer along for the ride.  He would take up where the Thomas/Adams run left off.  The attempt was not to be just like the Adams stuff or his own prior run on the title, but to blend them and tell stories of the original team.

This trade collection reprints the first 12 issues (of a total of 22) and a teaser from  the then current book.  First off, the art is really very nice.  Byrne  uses a panel and page layout that is closer to Adams than his own, but inside those panels, it is very much Byrne.  Tom Palmer’s ink lines are just faintly reminiscent of his lines over Adams.  The art works very well, the issue that I have is with the story.  I have fond memories of reading the Thomas/Adams run a few years after they were new, but if I am honest, they have not aged well for me.  The thrill of reading them back them has not lasted into reading them in the last few years.  The feel of these collected stories is very much the same, they feel just like those older stories do now, forced and over dramatic.  Byrne is one of the old school of melodrama, classic comics at their best, but when he is at his best they feel fresh and modern while still holding the feel of the old nostalgia.  This is a book that feels very much like many of the 90s Marvel books;  forced.  Trying desperately to capture lightning in a bottle again and failing.  I do not blame Byrne, as his skill-set is on display for all to enjoy.  I just think it is poorly used.

If you remember the classic run, and can still read it and enjoy it for what it is rather than what you remember it as, then this is the collection for you.  If the books of the 1970s leave you cold, then I would give this one a miss.

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