Well, this is it – the last of the black & white volumes I’ve collected in my X-Men Reading Project. From here on out (unless I discover something I need to go back to), everything I read & review will be in full color.
While I’m happy to be leaving black & white behind, I do have to say that Essential X-Factor vol 5 (ISBN 978-07851-6353-4) was exceptionally good. It’s 528 pages, and collects X-Factor #60-70 & Annual #6, Uncanny X-Men #270-272, 280 & material from Annual #15, and New Mutants #95-97 & material from Annual #7.
The print quality seemed to be better than the other Essential collections, and was able to show off the really great artwork even in black & white aside from a few exceptions. While the art and stories were great overall, there were a few times I had to look up and refer to issue summaries to be sure of what was going on.
Probably the best thing about this collection is that it includes three major stories: X-Tinction Agenda, End Game and The Muir Island Saga (not to mention a good Proteus story which I didn’t know existed!). As I mentioned in my previous review of X-Tinction Agenda, there is a full color collection that is reasonably priced. In my opinion it’s worth picking up that collection to read it in color. Still, having it here in Essential X-Factor vol 5 makes it an outstanding collection at a great value.
Having just read X-Tinction Agenda in color, I skipped it here and continued with the stories right after. First was a two issue story involving Iceman having to travel to Japan to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend. While the story wasn’t critical, it was enjoyable.
Next up is a collection of stories in the Annuals. There’s one that is continued over different Annuals involving a mission for Freedom Force. I’ve never been a big fan of that team or most of it’s characters so I wasn’t really into it. (I have grown to like Mystique and Destiny, though.)
However, the annuals also include a really good Proteus story and I was was surprised how much I enjoyed it!
The volume ends with the two important stories End Game and The Muir Island Saga back to back, and I thought that both were awesome. They’re only a few issues long each, packed with action, and have some really important moments.
One minor complaint I had was that at the beginning of The Muir Island Saga material, X-factor #69, it mentions that it’s “The continuation of the Muir Island/Shadow King Saga begun in Uncanny X-Men #279.” I found it puzzling that Uncanny #279 was not included in this collection as it seems like it would be an important part of the story. Perhaps I’ll pick up that single issue later on.
One final thing to note is that this volume is right around the end of the legendary Chris Claremont era. It was weird to end X-Tinction Agenda with him still writing and then come to the next Uncanny X-Men issue included here to see his run on that title had ended after so long. I’m not sure exactly when his last issue was, but it was truly a great era that I really enjoyed.
Definitely recommended X-Men reading!