New X-Men Ultimate Collection: Volume 3 – Grant Morrison

This is the final volume of 12 issues marking the end of Grant Morrison’s series. This is the epic third act and it is literally all go. There is a secret identity revealed, the re-appearance of an old adversary and plenty of deaths. Plus a weird future epilogue which may or may not come to pass.

There are quite a few artists and styles in evidence here. There is also some of the boldest colouration we have seen to date with huge blocks of emotional primal colours.

Extras wise we have Morrison’s eleven page treatment outlining in detail what was currently wrong with the X-Men title and how he intended to fix it. This is a fascinating read and it is interesting to see what changed from his original vision to the final pages. There is also a single page of cover art.

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New X-Men Ultimate Collection: Volume 2 – Grant Morrison

This is the awkward middle volume of the ultimate collection trilogy with the relatively humdrum New Worlds (weapon XII) ramble and the energetic Riot at Xavier’s. As it is 12 issues it just squeezes in Murder at the Mansion too which is actually one of the finest stories in this arc.

With so many artists working on this book it has a real potpourri of styles, particularly during the first half. This eventually settles down into a house style of traditional technicolour realism thanks to Frank Quietly’s direction.

This is definitely a money saving volume – although at $35 USD even this is debatable. There are no frills and this has the least extras of all three volumes. There are only five unused/ alternate covers. The cover and pages themselves are very thin and will definitely show wear after multiple readings. And at 360 pages this is only a TBP and a half. But if you can find it in a sale then go for it.

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New X-Men Ultimate Collection: Volume 1 – Grant Morrison

This collects the first two trade paperbacks or first twelve issues of Grant Morrison’s soft reboot of the X-Men franchise, often called New X-Men, from 2001. There is also the X-Men annual 2001 which, whilst you could technically leave out, should probably have been part of the series.

This is a fun romp and is a great place for new readers to come on board from any of the film franchises or the cartoons. It is a self-contained story so you could stop reading after this volume but it does continue if you are hooked.

It really doesn’t deserve the term Ultimate as it isn’t hardback or oversize and there are a mere eight pages of lacklustre bonus art as extras. The cover is barely thicker than the pages and will certainly show signs of wear very quickly. The paper is glossy and the images are crisp and clear.

The art is good, if traditional, and five separate artists contribute just to the drawing. What is unusual is the annual is designed in landscape format unlike every other previous Marvel comic which came in portrait. When you open it all up it is like you are reading one of the old “Giant Size” X-Men comics from the sixties. Or an issue of 2000AD. Whist this is a gimmick and adds nothing to the form or function of the piece, save for inconveniencing you as you have to turn it sideways, bravo for trying something different.

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New X-Men Volume Seven: Here Comes Tomorrow – Grant Morrison

These four issues are the final part of Grant Morrison’s three year run revitalising the X-Men. It is definitely an epilogue and not essential reading. Either knowing he had issues to fill or a replacement in the wings triggers him to go crazy. Setting things 150 years in the future grants him licence to destroy the entire world in a gibber of psychobabble. And he has an entity powerful enough to clear up the mess when he is done.

The art is delivered by Marc Silvestri who does a grand job keeping up with Morrison’s off-the-wall antics. His lines are far more rustic than the clean realism we have seen in many previous books. This is great for conveying a future that is coming unravelled. The colouring is particularly bold and primal signifying a sun setting on the universe.

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New X-Men Volume Six: Planet X – Grant Morrison

This book immediately picks up from the last as we are in the middle of the Weapon Plus storyline.

The art switches to series regular Phil Jimenez, probably because we need a lie down after the frenetic style of Chris Bachalo.

It is a seven issue book containing a single storyline that is the next chapter in a story that has been running for more than two years. Unfortunately the massive reveal of everyone’s favourite Bond villain is pre-emptively revealed by the cover. It is interesting to see what Morrison could do with such a beloved and ancient adversary. But is unfortunately disappointing as the man behind the curtain is more Dr. Evil than genuine threat. There are some interesting ideas at work meditating on how the world has changed and how world domination isn’t what it was when the X-Men debuted in the 1960’s. But ultimately this is overshadowed by another rug-pull that happens on the last few pages. One we have also seen before.

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New X-Men Volume Five: Assault on Weapon Plus – Grant Morrison

This is a seven issue collection beginning with the three chapters of Murder at the Mansion which is one of the finest parts of Morrison’s run. It is that most classic of genres the whodunit. And more importantly the whydunit. Like the “Who Shot JR” of the 1980’s (or who shot Mr Burns from the Simpsons if you are a younger reader) this is a gripping and thrilling tale following on from a tragic love triangle with some messed up participants.

Phil Jimenez does most of the art and does a great job. It is mostly traditional square panels but he isn’t afraid to mix it up at appropriate points rather than being flashy for his own sake.

The slightly longer Assault on Weapon Plus ends the book as we hook up with Fantomex once again and dive into this perennial favourite (Weapon X). It is quite action packed but the book ends before the plot does.

Chris Bachalo is on art duties and his style is all his own. His work is incredibly busy and he seems to be on a quest to make every page unique, channelling MC Esher to lay out his panels. He isn’t afraid to use 12 panels per page or circular borders or anything that comes into his head. It’s kind of like it’s his last day at work and he goes crazy. There is some sumptuous colour at the beginning with an orange and black palette that has the majesty of an open fire and really exudes human warmth and passion.

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New X-Men Volume Four: Riot at Xavier’s – Grant Morrison

These five issues switch to the students of Xavier’s school for the gifted. In a mix of teenage growing pains and an allegory for the rise of fascism (and its use of fashion) it goes back to the core of the X-Men – being different.

Since time immemorial angry youth has rebelled at the way the world is and what the grown-ups have done to it. And in the wake of Genosha young mutants have a lot to be pissed-off over.

All these new-ish characters and this whole storyline could easily have had their own spin-off book. And with their new uniforms, team name and symbol this could be a tester for such. But they are asking important questions in a way that only the young can and so are connected to Morrison’s “NEW” X-Men ideas.

The art is more consistent than the last eclectic volume with Quietly, or those able to match his style closely, in charge. The realistic technicolour is perfect for a youthful modernist storyline.

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New X-Men Volume Three: New Worlds – Grant Morrison

This brave new series dips from world shattering thriller to Weapon X fan service in a seven issue story that you can easily skip over. Even the death of named characters has no impact on the new reader. It isn’t helped by the fact the artists switch almost every issue in a merry-go-round of highly diverse styles. You get the feeling that Morrison was waiting for something and just passing the time spinning his mental wheels cranking out filler unfortunately.

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New X-Men Volume Two: Imperial – Grant Morrison

This is the second part of Grant Morrison’s famous run on the X-Men. It is twice as long as the first part at eight issues so is definitely value for money and ends at a natural break point.

The art is good but previous penciller Frank Quietly gets precious few pages as four other artists are rotated in and out. This means there is precious little consistency and the widescreen aesthetic is definitely gone. But each new artist is really creative and inventive in their own way with plenty of exciting, dynamic layouts and inserts. The star of the show is issue 121 which is an entirely mute trip into Professor X’s subconscious. There is literally no lettering. For a mainstream title this is brave stuff and closer to Morrison’s usual fare.

This is a big dumb space-romp with a huge villainous plan at its centre but it is very entertaining.

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New X-Men Volume One: E is for Extinction – Grant Morrison

This volume marks the start of Grant Morrison’s 2001 soft reboot of the X-Men franchise, often called New X-Men. It sought to be a jumping on point for new readers following the success of the first X-Men film and works very well. Although there are some legacy continuity points that aren’t explained everything you need as a newcomer is there for you to get started. The team is new, the costumes are new and there is also a new villain(ess).

The art is great with Frank Quietly taking the widescreen approach that he used on The Authority where most panels stretch the width of the page and in some cases across the width of two pages. There are also clever insets and breakouts at just the right moments. Each issue has a distinctive title page and there are plenty of great touches. The colouring is strong and modern but more functional than stylish.

Sadly this only collects the first four issues, but they are long issues and the ample dialogue means it isn’t a quick read. The star of the show is Morrison’s eleven page treatment outlining in detail what was currently wrong with the X-Men title and how he intended to fix it. This is a fascinating read and it is interesting to see what changed from his original vision to the final pages. There is also a single page of sketch art.

If you are only familiar with Morrison’s more outlandish works such as the Invisibles or Doom Patrol and are nervous about how accessible this title is then don’t be. This is a very mainstream title with a good balance of action and soap opera and perfect for a bit of escapism.

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