Okay, these two both actually appeared on the top 100, but I forgot to post the essays (oops!), so here are two essays on two X-Men runs!
(I’ll reprint the bits for each of the runs in question before posting their essays)
90. Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr’s X-Men – 106 points (1 first place vote)
Uncanny X-Men #175 (partial), #176-197, 199-200, 202-203, 206-211
As was the case for the X-Men juggernaut of the 80s, whoever an artist replaced was seen as impossible. Replace Byrne and Cockrum with Paul Smith? Impossible!
And yet when it came time for Smith to leave the book, it was “Replace Paul Smith? Impossible!”
And yet that was the task for John Romita, Jr., the young budding superstar that was coming off a popular run on another one of Marvel’s major titles, Amazing Spider-Man.
Matched with inker Dan Green, Romita produced artwork that was a bit grittier than previous X-artists, and it matched writer Chris Claremont’s slightly darker stories of the mid-80s.
This was the run where Kitty calls the guy the N-word, where Professor X is almost beaten to death, where Magneto ends up taking over the team, where Wolverine stabs Rachel in the chest to keep her from killing – it was not the funnest of times for the X-Men, and Romita left the book just as one of their darkest periods period came up, the Mutant Massacre.
By the time Romita left, it was once again “Replace John Romita Jr.? Impossible!”
Here is Teebore on why it was his top pick:
X-Men was my gateway comic, and remains a favorite to this day, so I knew one of Claremont’s runs would shows up on this list. And Romita Jr. is one of my all time favorite artists, so really, I knew exactly which run would be #1 on my list from the beginning: favorite characters drawn by favorite artist = first place.
I’m sure most people who put an X-Men run on their lists picked either Morrison’s or the Claremont/Byrne run. And don’t get me wrong, I love both those runs. But there’s just something about the Claremont/Romita Jr. era that really clicks for me. With New Mutants, the franchise was expanding, and big things seemed to be on the horizon, but it hadn’t yet swelled to the monstrous uncontrollable behemoth that devoured it would become. Claremont still had a pretty firm grasp on the two titles, and the New Mutants were almost like the supporting cast of Uncanny X-Men. This run is also struck the perfect balance between done-in-ones, story arcs, and overarching subplots, a balance that to this day I consider an example of “the way it should be done.” Romita Jr.’s art has always been the best kind of superhero art, a nice balance between realism and over-the-top cartooning.
Just look at all the cool stuff that happened in this run: The Kitty Pryde/Caliban “marriage” in 179, the Colossus/Juggernaut bar fight in 183, Storm losing her powers (and becoming a better character for it) in 185, the trial of Magneto in issue 200, all the way up to the Mutant Massacre (one of the first and best crossovers). Plus, there was the time Kulan Gath “Conan the Barbarian-ed” up all of Manhattan and its resident heroes. I read those two issues over and over when I was a kid.
So yeah, Claremont and Byrne did some phenomenal work together, making my #1 run possible, and Morrison blew the whole thing open with all kinds of crazy ideas, but Claremont and Romita Jr. still turned in some solid, fun, superhero comics that remain my favorites.
71 (tie). Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri’s Uncanny X-Men – 133 (3 first place votes)
Uncanny X-Men #218, 220-222, 224-227, 229-230, 232-234, 236, 238-244, 246-247, 249-251, 253-255, 259-261
By the time Marc Silvestri took over as regular artist on Uncanny X-Men, the X-Books were, well, “the X-Books,” which was not the case for when Byrne and Smith took over. This was not just a comic book, this was a FRANCHISE, and Silvestri, not yet 30 years old, was being given a chance to draw the main book of the franchise.
Its interesting, I always thought of this time period as the Silvestri/Leonardi run of Uncanny X-Men, as they had a deal where artist Rich Leonardi would draw the issues Silvestri didn’t, so as to give Silvestri a break, as you can tell from the above list of titles, Silvestri did not often draw a lot of books in a row. HOWEVER, while Silvestri did not draw a lot of issues in a row, he was quite clearly THE penciler during this time period, drawing the vast majority of the issues during his tenure on the book from #218-261.
Silvestri used a different style back then then the one he would develop working for Image in the early 90s. On Uncanny, his art was a great deal more experimental, it seemed almost reminiscent of the work Mazzucchelli was doing on Daredevil around the same time.
This was the time when the Fall of Mutants occurred, and the world thought that the X-Men were dead, but instead, they went and lived in Australia for awhile. Then Inferno happened, and then the X-Men broke up and there was a long storyline where the group slowly got back together. By this time, Silvestri had left the book to begin a popular run on Wolverine with Larry Hama.
Here is Sandy on why it was his top pick:
When I think of great comic book stories, even great stories in general, the great X-Men mega-arc from 1987-1991 instantly jumps to mind. It began shortly after the Mutant Massacre, with the team reforming after splitting off in that event’s aftermath. Wolverine and Storm were the only ANAD X-Men left, with Rogue and Psylocke as recent additions who stuck around. Dazzler, and Longshot, who had both appeared before, but had never officially joined the team. Havok also returned from years of obscurity.
Along with these newcomers was a new artist, Marc Silvestri.
While his art was fantastic, the art is always secondary to the story for me. This run started with the new team, saw them “die” in Dallas, move to Australia, discover the dark secret of Genosha, battle through demons during Inferno, and become separated when attacked by the Reavers. It was during Jim Lee’s run that the team came back together and then folded X-Factor into the X-Men, capping off an epic of Homeric proportions, but it was Silvestri’s run that contained most of it’s best parts.
The crown jewel of the run was the Wolverine/Jubilee/Psylocke journey. This was back when Wolverine, while resilient, was still clearly killable. Wolverine was brought closer to death than he’s ever been and then back up to the top. This is often brought up as one of Wolverine’s greatest stories, as he survives by shear force of will and a little help from Jubilee. This run is full of such great character stories and blockbuster action scenes, making it my favorite run of all time.
Back to runs that didn’t make the Top 100 tomorrow!!