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As mentioned before (refer to my reviews of X-Men 2099 #1 and X-Men #25), 1993 was the year when the 30th anniversary of the X-Men was celebrated. Back then, Internet connection was not very accessible to the public, social media had not been invented and streaming movies and TV shows was not yet the norm. How did Marvel Comic organize the celebration for X-Men fans? By publishing a lot of comic books and selling merchandise.
In the first quarter of 1993, Marvel Comics went on to feed the perceived high demand of X-Men fans by launching X-Men Unlimited which was an all-new comic book series with a schedule of quarterly releases per new comic book (initially with 64 pages of content using glossy paper). They released X-Men Unlimited #1 in March 1993 and I bought a copy for a hefty $3.95.
So what exactly did the said comic book feature? Was it good? We can all find out in this look back at X-Men Unlimited #1 published by Marvel Comics with a story written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by Chris Bachalo.
The story begins on the snowy surface of Antarctica where the Blackbird (the X-Men’s jet) has crashed. Cyclops is outside the crashed jet already suffering from internal bleeding and other injuries. As his ruby quartz visor has been lost, he desperately keeps his eyes shut to avoid firing any optic blast. Even with tremendous odds against him, Cyclops concentrates very hard to reach out to Charles Xavier and successfully makes contact. Xavier is surprised.
With telepathic assistance provided by Xavier, Cyclops successfully reaches him and carries him. After some searching, they spot Storm alone on the snow. Elsewhere, a lady gets up from the snow and walks towards a facility. Upon entering, there are scientists working with computers and they called her Ms. Blaze. She asked them if she succeeded in killing Cyclops, Storm and Xavier…
To get to the point, I should state that the main lesson of this X-Men story written by Lobdell is about leadership mixed with responsibility and survival. Symbolically, the three leaders of the X-Men (Xavier the head with Blue Team leader Cyclops and Gold Team leader Storm) were placed in a situation of great odds and their respective powers cannot just help solve their problems nor help them get away easily. Here we get to see Cyclops, Storm and Xavier really struggling and having no choice but to use their wits as well as skills learned from the past in order to survive and progress. This is easily the comic book’s most unique feature and it is very rare to see Xavier and the two team leaders spend a lot of time together and work with each other. As far as emphasizing the leadership dynamics of the X-Men is concerned, Lobdell succeeded. I should also state that Lobdell really dramatized the respective personalities of the three.
Still there are some notable flaws. I should say the story had lots of dragging moments in between and the overall pace is between slow and medium. The dialogue is quite wordy and ultimately a lot of it felt like fillers than actual attempts to develop personalities and explain things. There were attempts to make the dialogue more philosophical but end up dragging the narrative. I should state that verbal descriptions or narrations in certain pages were quite excessive. If you are looking for superhero spectacle, there is actually little to enjoy here and by the time the final conflict is over, you will end up unsatisfied. Of course, there are also scenes of incidental moments (examples: explosions, the environment causing damage, etc.) that were emphasized as if to make up for the lack of superhero spectacle.
The antagonist Sienna Blaze is not a compelling villainess. There is no justification as to why she tried to kill the X-Men. The way she is presented, Blaze is more like a reckless and impulsive teenager than a real opposing force against Xavier and his mutants.
Lastly, there is the art by Chris Bachalo which has always been sub-par and disappointing to look at. While Bachalo did a decent job drawing disaster-related moments, his art on drawing the X-Men really sucked. There were many times when Charles Xavier LOOKED LIKE A DUMMY (think mannequin) than a living person as drawn by Bachalo. The art of this comic book was disappointing in 1993, and it has aged badly by today’s standards.
Apart from the main story, this comic book has a gallery of artworks highlighting the X-Men (including members who did not appear in the said story) done by varied illustrators. The quality of the art, unsurprisingly, is a mixed bag. Ultimately the art gallery served as convenient filler made to satisfy the cravings of X-Men fans.
Apart from being made to sell a bunch of copies and take advantage of the comic book collector craze of the time, X-Men Unlimited #1 (1993) was an effort to keep defining the X-Men for fans and comic readers of the 1990s by adding depth to the bond between Xavier, Storm and Cyclops. The problem is with the execution as the story dragged a lot, and a whole lot of dialogue and text descriptions were made as if to ensure that enough content would fit the 64-pages of content of the comic book. As far as 1993 X-Men comic books go, this one has one of the worst looking artworks used in storytelling. When it comes to its connection with the 30th anniversary of the X-Men, what happened to Xavier in this comic book is connected to the events of Uncanny X-Men #304 and #310.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of X-Men Unlimited #1 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $10 while the near-mint copies of the signed edition (without certificate), the newsstand edition and the signed edition (with certificate of authenticity) cost $105, $32 and $105 respectively.
Overall, X-Men Unlimited #1 (1993) is unsatisfying. If I were you, I would avoid spending any money above its cover price. Considering its quality, the near-mint copy of this comic book is really worth only $1.
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