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Review: X-Men Visionaries - Neal Adams
Neal Adams is a comic book legend who, along with writer-artist Jim Steranko, helped raise comic book art to a whole new level in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Adams began his comic book career at DC Comics, but was intrigued by the "Marvel Method" of creating comics, and by 1969 he was also freelancing for Marvel. His first assignment for the company was as artist/co-plotter (with scripter Roy Thomas) for the X-Men series.
Today, Adams' nine issue run on X-Men could set you back over $1,000 in Near-Mint condition. Fortunately the entire run, consisting of X-Men #56-63 and #65 (#64 was a fill-in drawn by Don Heck), has been collected in paperback in X-Men Visionaries - Neal Adams.
Return of Professor X
These are key issues. Not only was the character of Havok introduced to the team during this run, but Professor X, Magneto and the mutant-hunting Sentinels - all of whom had been previously killed or destroyed, were also brought back.
Of course, characters return from the dead all the time in comics, but the beauty of these issues is that the characters' reappearances didn't feel like "cheats". They were believable (at least to the degree that "believability" applies to a comic book about super-powered mutants).
The artwork was eye-opening for X-Men fans, as well. Comic book pages at the time generally consisted of square and rectangular panels separated by neat borders, but Adams filled panels of irregular size, shape and placement with almost photorealistic artwork, keeping in mind the appearance of the entire page, not just the individual panels, in his layouts. For the most part, these pages are reproduced quite well in this paperback collection, which is printed on a higher grade of paper than the newsprint used in the original comics. The only real problem with the book is in the coloring, which is stunningly sloppy in a few places.
As a bonus, X-Men Visionaries - Neal Adams also contains some unpublished pencil art for God Loves, Man Kills, an X-Men graphic novel Adams had begun pencilling in the early 1980s, but was unable to finish (the book was ultimately drawn by Brent Anderson), as well as an introduction from Neal Adams, an afterward from inker Tom Palmer, and a new cover, also drawn by Adams.
Classic Neal Adams:
Rating: 4 Stars
I give the book 4 out of 5 stars, taking away one star for the coloring, which Marvel should have taken much greater care with. Another problem, one commonly seen in collections based on a single artist, is that the book leaves the reader hanging. It ends with Professor X falling into a coma, a situation which is resolved in X-Men #66 (following a classic battle between the X-Men and the Hulk), but that issue isn't part of this collection because it was drawn by Sal Buscema, not Neal Adams.
Despite these drawbacks, I consider X-Men Visionaries - Neal Adams (which for some reason is listed at Amazon.com as The Neal Adams Collection - X-Men Visionaries) to be a must-have for fans of Neal Adams, the X-Men, or of comic book art in general.