Gorgeous, oversize, and well designed, Ultimate X-Men is also perfectly titled. It's a comprehensive overview of four decades of Marvel Comics's monstrously popular mutant superheroes--from their debut, in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's X-Men #1 (1963), to the terrific X-Men movie (2000). Ultimate X-Men includes the many major mutants who have appeared in The Uncanny X-Men and its spinoffs (Alpha Flight, New Generation, Wolverine, X-Factor, and numerous other series and miniseries). Two-page spreads detail the most important characters' origins, powers, costumes, and relationships. In addition, every superhero and supervillain appearing in the movie receives a sidebar, with stills, that describes the onscreen incarnation. Also receiving detailed coverage are nonmutants important to the X-Men, including Ka-Zar, Longshot, and Dr. Moira MacTaggert; major alien groups and races, like the Starjammers and the Shi'ar; and important locations and technology, such as the Danger Room, Dr. Xavier's estate, and the Blackbird jets. The book also covers the best Uncanny X-Men story lines, the Dark Phoenix Saga, and Days of Future Past. A Summers family tree lays out clearly a tangle of relationships (between clonal and alternate-timeline versions of Cyclops/Scott Summers and Marvel Girl/Phoenix/Jean Grey) that could drive even an experienced genealogist crazy. Ultimate X-Men opens with an entertaining foreword by X-Men creator-editor Stan Lee and concludes with a two-page overview of the X-Men animated series (1992-1997); a four-page "Making the X-Men Movie" section with many great shots; and an insightful afterword by the series' best writer, Chris Claremont.
Ultimate X-Men is a book every X-Men fan will want. It's practically a necessity for the newcomer drawn to the comics by the movie, because Marvel's mutants multiplied like superpowered rabbits in the 1990s. Art-oriented fans, however, may be disappointed by Ultimate X-Men. While it contains a hefty amount of art, the original artwork (the preliminary character sketches, a lovely Dave Cockrum sketch of Nightcrawler and Ororo, etc.) is outnumbered by panel and cover reproductions. And if you're less than enamored with the nature of endless comic-book series, Ultimate X-Men will prove that the more things change, the more they stay the same. --Cynthia Ward [via]