The Xavier Institute: A Look To The Past In ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #268

by Tony Thornley

As we observe Captain America’s birthday this week (that is what the Fourth of July is, right?) we thought it would be fun to revisit a few of Cap’s notable appearances in other heroes’ titles. On the X-Men side, this means an interesting look into the past of Marvel’s most popular mutant, Glob Herman. (I’m kidding, it’s a Wolverine story.)

A huge part of Wolverine’s appeal for so much of his existence was the mystery. How old was he really? What did he do before Weapon X? How did he become the Wolverine? Stuff like that. Naturally readers would dig ravenously into any story that dug into his past, which made Uncanny X-Men #268 a standout, based on the iconic cover alone.

This issue came at a weird time in X-Men history. The X-Men weren’t really a team any more, with its members scattered across the globe having their own adventures (for example the previous two issues introduced Gambit alongside a de-aged Storm). Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Glynnis Wein, and Tom Orzechowski took advantage of that to tell a flashback story centered on Wolverine’s first time meeting none other than Captain America.

When a mission of the Black Widow’s brings her to Madripoor- the current base of operations of Wolverine, Psylocke and Jubilee- Nat and Logan realize there’s a connection to the first time they met. From there, the issue flashes between Logan and Steve Rogers teaming up to rescue young Natasha Romanov from the Hand and the X-Men teaming with the Widow to stop the Hand and Hydra from teaming up. Can they successfully thwart the assassins’ plot?

This issue is iconic for the cover, there’s no doubt. It’s a great cover, one of the best of Lee and Williams’ tenure on X-Men. However, the actual story is somewhat forgotten. It’s a pretty fun, yet ultimately forgettable romp.

The plot connection between the past and present stories are tenuous at best. In the past Logan, Cap and Nat’s bodyguard (it’s hinted that she’s Russian royalty) team up to stop the leader of the Hand making Natasha his apprentice. In the present, Widow, Wolverine, Psylocke and Jubilee have to stop the Hand from allying themselves with the Fenris twins. It’s a connection that makes the reader think maybe this single issue would have been stronger as a pair of standalone adventures, rather than a single issue.

The art is largely the best reason to check this issue out. It’s frankly a shame that Lee didn’t draw Cap before her leave for Image. He looks great, and it goes cover to cover. It’s clear reading these issues WHY Lee became such a superstar. He has a great sense of pacing, and a wonderful eye for action. 

The only downside is a story issue. The flashbacks and present stories switch abruptly, sometimes halfway through the page. The art doesn’t do anything really to set the timelines apart, either in the lineart or colors. It’s not really confusing but it does take you out of the story a bit. It’s something I’d put on Claremont or editor Bob Harras though, as Lee and Williams were still young.

Is this issue worth the time? Without a doubt, for the art alone. It’s a fun relic of the time, a great example of early Jim Lee, and a fun team-up. It’s not the strongest single issue X-Men story ever, but well worth the time and effort to track it down.

Given its iconic status, this issue is available readily in various collections, most recently in Marvel Visionaries: Chris Claremont. It was also reprinted last year in 3D. You can also find it digitally via Comixology (in 2D).

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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