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‘Giant-Size X-Men: Tribute To Wein & Cockrum #1’ (review)

Written by Len Wein
Art by Various
Published by Marvel Comics

 

The very first non-Harvey comic book I ever read was X-Men # 11 in 1965 and when I actually began collecting, at age 7, I remained a loyal fan all through the team’s original incarnation. I remember kicking back on my bed and devouring Giant-Size X-Men # 1 when it was published in 1975, the first full-length X-Men story in several years! I was sad when I sold it about eight years later but I got a lot of money that I was able to use to support an expensive girlfriend at age 23.

Nowhere near as much money as it goes for these days, though!

When I first heard about the new version of the now-classic Giant-Size X-Men # 1, done as a tribute to original creators Len Wein and Dave Cockrum and featuring art by today’s biggest names, it sounded like a fun idea.

In execution, however, not so much.

Oh, I guess it’s a clever little way to milk the X-Men fans for a little bit more money but I’ll be honest, there are only a handful of the artists involved that I have ever even heard of—Alex Ross, Kevin Nowlan, Chris Samnee, and Phil Noto, plus the Japanese duo known as Gurihiru, who did the recent Superman Smashes the Klan.

Granted, I don’t read many modern comic books but, seriously, are all of these guys current big names or just current Marvel freelancers?

Surprisingly, one name that shows up only briefly up front and a bit more in the two short interviews at the back of the book is that of Dave Cockrum. Seems a bit odd to have a tribute to Wein and Cockrum and even use Len’s entire original script while at the same time having more than 50 artists—most of whom Dave would never even have heard of, either—redraw all of Dave’s pages in their own styles. I compared the individual pages to those of the original, as seen in Marvel’s 2005 digital reprint.

Some utilize Cockrum’s original layouts—a few to the point of being almost tracings—while others go off on tangents all their own. Not a one works as comics as well as Cockrum’s version.

Among the pages I do like, however, are the painted splash for Part II, apparently by one Mark Brooks if I counted the pages correctly. By contrast, the splash to Part IV, introducing the giant monster, Krakoa (which I drew in school all the time for the next couple of years!) looks for all the world like it could be Dave’s original art just painted over by computer.

There isn’t a lot of variety as far as the art styles, either, with the most unusual being the almost inappropriately cartoony style of the Gurihiru team on the page where Professor Xavier introduces himself to the ultimately tragic John Proudstar.

The book’s biggest flaw—at least as far as my PDF review copy—is that its pages aren’t numbered. Thus, the up-front cheat sheet naming the new illustrators is not particularly useful unless one keeps counting forward or backward from the PDF pages (which, of course, are numbered differently). Even with numbered pages, though, a reader would have to keep referring back to the list of artists. It would seem logical and rather obvious in a project like this to simply credit the new artist on each page, the way Marvel did with last year’s Marvel Comics 1000.

After the story, longtime X-Men “showrunner” Chris Claremont, and Dave Cockrum’s widow, Paty, offer some interesting insights with which I was unfamiliar even after all these years. The interviews are short, but good.

Keeping in mind that this comic book—like all modern comic books—wasn’t made with aging fanboys like myself as its target audience, I still got some pangs of nostalgia from it, although ultimately, I have to say it seemed all rather pointless.

After I read it, I kicked back and read more of the digital Cockrum issues.

That was MY tribute!

R.I.P. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum.

 

 

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