June 1991 – “Free Charley”
Everybody has to start somewhere. This was it for me. This was my very first issue of Uncanny X-Men. It wasn’t my first comic book with X-Men characters. I already had What If…? #6 and New Mutants #98 by this point, but I was still fairly new to comics. And what an amazing place to start out. Now keep in mind, that I knew absolutely nothing about these characters. I didn’t even realize that their costumes weren’t normally blue and yellow. But this issue caught hold of me and didn’t let me go. It created a monster that was still going strong 23 years later. I also remember everything around this time being a pain in the ass to get hold of. Jim Lee’s issues were incredibly rare at the comic shops I would frequent. Plus, I didn’t necessarily get to the comic shop every month, so finding out the events leading up to this story would take a bit of time.
This issue never lets up. The X-Men in space (Storm, Forge, and Banshee) are chasing the Starjammer vessel. They manage to get inside where they, along with Gambit, face off against the Starjammers (who I totally thought were enemies at the time). Turns out, the Starjammers aren’t who they say they are. Hepzibah, in an effort to take down Gambit, turns into something big and green. Now, I had no idea what Skrulls were, so I just figured this was Hepzibah’s “power” (like most teenagers, I was an idiot). The X-Men prevail and begin to enter the atmosphere of the planet.
Down on the planet, Lila Cheney (again…no clue who she was) and Deathbird (ditto) face off against Professor Xavier, Gladiator, and Psylocke. Seriously, though. I’m going to stop pointing out who I didn’t know because that will probably double the length of this blog. Wolverine and Jubilee show up and attack Deathbird while Lila teleports out of there. Before they can finish off Deathbird, the Starjammer vessel crashes through the window. The X-Men step out, tossing out the faux-Starjammers.
A battle ensues (with Gambit throwing an entire deck of cards into Gladiator). Eventually the faux-Professor X drops everyone with his mental powers. However, amazingly his powers stop working and we see the real Professor X standing behind him. real-Xavier pounds faux-Xavier into unconsciousness, ending the fight. He greets his X-men (remember, he hasn’t seen any of them for 77 issues) and at Banshee’s urging, he scans Storm’s thoughts to find that the Shadow King is wrecking havoc back home. He agrees to follow his students home.
When I first picked up this issue, I had very little experience with X-Men. I knew a few of them because a friend was reading comics. I also remember going to two different places for comics. My only chance was when it was my turn to pick where we went for dinner. So once every three weeks I got to check out the comics. I also didn’t know anything about having a subscription at these stores (plus one of them didn’t even offer that stuff) so I would miss a lot of issues. It wasn’t until X-Force #1 that I started collecting them regularly. Still, just from this issue, I immediately reached out to get #275 (a double sized issue with the entire team, the Starjammers, and the Imperial Guard – a gem of an issue) and collected the entire story. Then I worked my way backward. 20 years later, I’m still working, but now the issues are a tad on the expensive side.
Incidentally, this wasn’t my first experience with the X-Men. What If…? #6 was my first. The alternate story of Inferno showed me my first X-Men and a friend also had #275 for me to read. After that, I was hooked. Anybody remember their first issue? It sure created a monster out of me (my comics drive my wife nuts – but 15 long boxes will do that).