The Xavier Institute: Deadly Genesis In ‘Giant-Size X-Men’ #1

by Tony Thornley

With most comics on pause for the foreseeable future, it’s a great time to dive into the classics and take a look at some comics worth a re-read or a revisit. That also means it’s a great time to revive this column, and revisit X-Men comics of yore!

After Uncanny X-Men #66, the low-selling series switched to a reprint only format for years. Then in May 1975, Marvel published a gamechanger- Giant-Size X-Men #1. The issue reintroduced the X-Men and bolstered their ranks, adding seven new members to the team. It set the stage for the next forty-five years and set the franchise on the path to becoming the juggernaut that it is today.

But is it any good?

The issue was written by Len Wein, with art by Dave Cockrum, Peter Iro, and Glynis Wein, and letters by John Costanza.

The issue opens with Professor Charles Xavier gathering the new X-Men; Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Wolverine, Banshee, Thunderbird and Sunfire. He needs these mutant’s help to find his first class of students alongside the only seeming survivor- Cyclops. The team travels to the strange island of Krakoa, where things are not what they seem.

There is a class of superhero comics that are considered classics because they’re important, but not all of them are GOOD. This is a perfectly fine comic – it’s enjoyable but flawed-  but it’s held in such high regards because it’s important. There’s a lot of good here though. Several of the character introductions are not just enjoyable but are extremely good- Nightcrawler and Storm’s in particular. The action is well written, and Krakoa is a frightening threat.

Even better, the art is excellent. Cockrum is one of the best artists of this era of comics. His character designs are fantastic, and he uses them to give each character a lot of personality. His action work is fantastic as well, even making the most abstract parts of the battle exciting through his layouts and pacing.

However, there’s enough bad that it’s worth pointing out before you dig in. The second half of the issue is a chaotic mess which is compounded by Wein’s overly wordy narration. Krakoa is an ill-defined threat, with abilities that change every page. Most of the characters are barely recognizable from what we know now, and not in the sense of character growth or progression. Several of them- Thunderbird especially- are nothing more than a stereotype or caricature.

So is Giant-Size X-Men #1 worth checking out? Yes absolutely. Though it’s more “important” than it is “good” it has enough of the latter- especially in terms of the art- that it’s worth picking up. It’s a solid adventure comic, with some great characterization in the beginning.

The issue is available in multiple collected editions available digitally and physical, such as Uncanny X-Men Masterworks volume 1, Uncanny X-Men Epic Collection: Second Genesis and more, as well as reprints including a recent facsimile edition reprinting the issue exactly how it appeared in 1975.

Giant-Size X-Men #1, Marvel Comics, 1975. Written by Len Wein, line art by Dave Cockrum and Peter Iro, color art by Glynis Wein, and letters by John Costanza.

We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.

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