John Byrne’s X-Men Artifact Edition

John Byrne’s run on the X-Men began with issue #108 and lasted until #143. The team of Claremont, Byrne, and Austin made the X-Men (which was already a hit series under Dave Cockrum) soar to the top of the charts in comics sales. They introduced Alpha Flight, and then created the near-mythical storylines “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past.” These and the rest of their stories remain burned into the memories of collective fandom to this day, and have been the basis for several X-Men films.

This Artifact Edition will include more than 100 pages of X-Men covers, splashes, and pages from Byrne’s X-Men run. All have been meticulously scanned from the original art and reproduced to the exacting Artist’s Edition standards that have won IDW Publishing five highly coveted Eisner Awards (to date)!

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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.

For those of us middle-aged or a little older, this is the iconic run from our childhood. Pages from X-Men issues 108 to 143, one hundred thirty-seven in total. These range from a single page from issue 118 to ten pages from issue 137. And a gallery of one-off art with a nice selection of covers. Plus an introduction by Byrne, and closed out with a one-page biography.

Fifty-six people thanked in the indices means these pages came from all over, and when going page by page scan quality varies greatly. For the most part, the pages look great, but we do see pixelation, blurriness and poor colour balance resulting in “whitening” of art. Pages have all aged to varying degrees, from light tanning to brown. Little to no gradients in the blacks. Minor use of correction fluid, mostly to fix text, word balloons and panel borders. Very few remaining margin notes after printer trimming, but what we get is informative and that elusive peak behind the curtain. Mostly we see signatures and dedications from the creative team. Plus many Stan Lee signatures.

Dahlk provides a cohesive design with a limited colour selection and clever use of “X” designs. Clear original art enlargements for the endpapers and clear black and opaque images for the rest. As always Dahlk enhances the experience of these books of tan original art pages.

A note about the page numbering:
Most of the pages in this book have the page numbers on the top right-hand corners. These numbers represent the positioning in the original X-Men comics as published with advertisements. We have chosen to list the art by story pages for sequential clarity.

We also have this note on the table of contents; with most people reading these issues in collected editions without ads, perhaps this is the way to go. Since IDW doesn’t publish pages numbers and now the art pages don’t bear the same number as the art it’s become just a little more difficult to identify what you’re looking at, especially in an artifact edition that doesn’t contain complete issues.

Production is excellent, but there’s a subtle change to the “IDW standard”, and that’s the paper. There is a glossy look and a slick feel to the paper, falling outside of the intended experience of holding the original art. Sewn binding of a paper type I’m not sure of. Most pages lay flat when the center is smoothed, with minimal glue where the signatures meet. The book comes shrinkwrapped in a cardboard case with a small colour sticker showing cover and UPC.

Without question, this is one of the most desired collections of original art. It’s an impressive feat to get this many pages from such a wide ownership. Yes, it has issues in the scans from so many people as opposed to one person scanning, but that method would have been close to impossible.

John Byrne’s X-Men Artifact Ed HC

from Things From Another World