Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men - Volume 5 Hardcover – Jan 19 2005
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This should have been the trilogy to the X-Men movies.......maybe someday.
Picking up where the previous volume left off. Volume five continues and ends quite possibly the most epic storyline in the X-Men mythos; The Dark Phoenix Saga. Many fans I know consider this storyline the absolute best. I wouldn't exactly argue against that but I will say it's among my favorites though. Volume five contains issues 132-140, and X-Men Annual 4. The stories are delivered again by Chris Claremont.
The first few issues come out in full throttle as the X-Men immediately lock horns with The Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club, which is made up of a group of powerful mutants with some extraordinary mutant talents. I remember this group capturing me by complete surprise when I first read these stories. The writing in this chapter is splendid due to its well balance of action, drama, and heavy suspense. Although Claremont's storytelling feels a bit formulaic, he managed to keep this reader, at least, gripped to every page.
Jean Grey is the focal point of this story as it mainly focuses on her Phoenix transformation. Leading up to this chapter, there were many segments taking place concerning her "time slips", which involved a supposed ancestor of hers whom was possibly married to a man named Jason Wyngarde. In this saga everything comes to light, while all loose ends are tied up in the process. The drama comes out well choreographed, with Jeans love for Cyclops being well exercised. The romance angle feels genuine and never really had that cheesy feel which ran rampant in the animated series.
The story is full of plot twist and new developments. Jean is eventually consumed by her god-like powers and is considered a universal threat. This soon involves the X-Men's one time enemies and allies the Shiar Empire, which is being lead by Professor X's lover Lilandra. The threat of Phoenix is very well developed due to Claremont's writing and wild imagination. He doesn't give readers a taste, instead, he delivers a full serving on Phoenix's abilities and maniacal ways. He even goes so far to mention that Phoenix could very well become a greater threat than the world devourer Galactus, since Phoenix could very well grow dependent on consuming entire solar systems.
The ending is wrapped up very well, and the aftermath creates a new chapter in the X-Men's lives; such as many of them developing new personalities, and the mantle of leadership is given to another. To include, Wolverine's violent actions towards certain individuals will result in the creation of the cyborg gang called the Reavers. The follow up story which takes place in X-men # 138 is a retrospective story, that chronicles the journey of the original X-Men team as well as the new one. I think it was the perfect cool down and aftermath story. Unfortunately, the cool down was taken a bit too far with the X-Men Annual # 4: Nightcrawler's Inferno. This story features Dr. Strange and quite honestly, I found this one to be very boring to say the least. I had a hard time getting through it. The final two stories introduces Kitty Pride as a X-Man, and wraps things up as Wolverine travels to Canada with hopes on making peace with Alpha Flight. This story leads him into teaming up with a few members of the group to take on the mythical beast named Wendigo.
The artwork is once again splendid with some very nice character designs. I especially liked the detail in the facial expressions for Dark Phoenix. It was just something else to see Jean Grey with such an evil and hateful look. I actually found it quite funny. The battles are plenty and are very good, which is to be expected. The fight between the X-Men and Inner Circle is a great display of their mutant powers. Someone who may be new to the series will see how come the Hellfire Club were instant favorites. They gave the X-Men one hell of a showdown. This also goes for the all out battle with the Shiar Empire. The fight against Wendigo was also good with a brutal moment or two.
In closing, this is the best book so far during the Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men run. Hardcore X-Men fans really shouldn't pass this up. I also recommend casual fans picking up this book along with the fourth volume. For those out there whom enjoyed The Dark Phoenix saga in animated form, I definitely think you should give this a read. This is one of those occasions where the TV show didn't do the book much justice.
Pros: Action, drama, writing
Cons: One weak story