"Essential X-men Volume 6" by Chris Claremont and Others
This TPB is a collection of X-men, X-Factor, Power Pack, New Mutants, and Thor comics from the 1980s. Chris Claremont wrote almost all of them. Pencils were handled by Arthur Adams, John Romita Jr., Walt Simonson, and many others.
I read most of these when they first came out. I was in elementary school then, but my opinion of these particular chapters in the ongoing X-men saga is unchanged. They are OK, but I will never be a huge fan of the X-men.
My main problem with the X-men? There are too many of them. In other words, when an increasingly large group of people has special abilities, these abilities will be decreasingly special. This is especially true of Marvel's mutants, but also goes for DC's "metahumans."
Chris Claremont's writing also leaves me flat. His comics always struck me as extremely soap-opera-ish, full of overwrought dialogue and labored love triangles. This was obvious to me even in elementary school. It is all the more obvious now. Claremont deserves credit for bringing a lot of girls into the comic book fold (forgive the pun), but I always had trouble believing that his henpecked Wolverine was such a badass.
Claremont's writing aside, there's some phenomenal talent on display within the pages of these comics. Arthur Adams is one of my all-time favorite pencillers, and the rest of the artists gathered within this volume are far from untalented. The elegance of John Romita Jr.'s art always surprises me, as does the fluid grace of Walter Simonson. I was addicted to Thor around the time these comics first came out, and when Simonson started pencilling X-Factor I bought up every issue.
It is funny now to look back on these comics as historical objects. In retrospect, I think a lot of readers were feeling the same way about the X-men that I was. How else would we have seen the turnaround into those "paramilitary" mutant comics of the 90s? The popularity of X-Force and the new X-men were no accident, and reflected a shift towards less "talky" comic books. At the time I welcomed the change, though I can't say that they were, on the whole, much better.
I enjoyed this look back at the X-men's 80s adventures, but more than anything this one has me wanting back issues of Thor, Daredevil, or Hulk from the same era. Now those were the days...