The Uncanny X-Men Trading Cards Book is worth more than nostalgia

I think I’m addicted to Marvel Snap and that’s okay. The game is fun, easy to pick up, has some cute little touches with the map animations, and allows me to adapt my comics knowledge to friends who aren’t as deep as me – but I almost didn’t. did not give this game a chance. I’m not usually into mobile games and like to avoid anything easy to spend money on – anyway I got married anyway – but the inspiration came from a strange place this time. After receiving a copy of The Uncanny X-Men Trading Cards: The Complete Series and flipping through it, a wave of nostalgia hit me. Suddenly I was like a kid again, flipping through the binders of my favorite heroes and villains and reading all about them. I needed more to keep this hustle going – so Marvel Snap was my best bet – but the book is what definitely reignited that fire.

The 1990s may have been a rocky decade for the comic book industry as a whole, but the early years were a boom in the popularity of the X-Men with a comic book, toys and trading cards. Marvel’s Mutants never looked this good until artist Jim Lee grabbed it, and now he’s created the full set of 105 cards (99 standards, 5 holograms, and 1 checklist). Some of Lee’s original character sketches are also added here, which are excellent and will be seen for the first time by many readers. The book also comes with three cool bonus cards in the back, but I’m tired of opening them…for now, anyway.

The presentation here is top notch. The cover has a great image of Magneto on the front and some images for the cards on the back as examples, but take that off and the back cover is a full poster with a large portion of the roster, which is just awesome. The hardcover itself has a spectacular image of Wolverine noted for appearing on several cards as he was the most popular character at the time.

I like that the book is smaller with a summary style because it fits the topic and makes the pages easy to flip through. There are two introductory writings here, from Ed Piskor (X-Men Grand Design) and editor Bob Budiansky, as well as notes from several contributors who helped make these maps a reality.

These insights into card production and the choices made at the time are as informative as they are entertaining. I was extremely amused by the one about how Gambit smokes on the back of his card, and fans would never see that in the comics today, or how vague they had to be with some of the character descriptions, which at the time had barely been on the books for a few months. There’s a nice element to reading the information here and knowing how much these characters have changed, seeing who has remained popular in the fandom and who hasn’t, plus more notes on what they would have done differently with this knowledge.

This book gives the impression that the editors wanted to handle the revision of this collection carefully – or at least as much as they could. Each card has its own page, centered on a white background in the same way you would see this artwork if it were on a museum wall. The back of the card is on the next page with bios, X-tra facts, and a fun graphic that shows character stats instead of just a boring list of them. It looks like an item more likely to exist in the X-Men universe. My favorite part might be the profile pictures on these pages. These more laid-back snapshots of the subject usually feel very different from the action scene or sinister messages on the front of the card as a behind-the-scenes look. It might sound silly, but my favorite example is the Blob wearing a backwards baseball cap in his shot. These feel really unique.

This set is full of style, talented craftsmanship and great choices. One of the fun things about Marvel Snap is improving the look of collected cards, with the first change being called Frame Break – where the character breaks the boundaries of the card. Lee’s collection already did that, choosing to let characters like Beast and Nightcrawler ignore boundaries to make them stand out and stand out. Some things are just cool enough to last.

According to Ed Piskor in the foreword to the book, Lee knew how to show the X-Men at their best and could make even the silliest of characters look impressive. It is true. Maybe no one cares about Widget, Gatecrasher, or Maverick, but if those depictions were anyone’s first impression, they’d think differently. Personally, my favorite cards are simple: Cable, White Queen, Bishop, Mastermind and Omega Red. A strange assortment, but each image has something that I find captivating.

Between the team cards, the holograms (of which Gambit is the best), and the nine-card Danger Room image, The Uncanny X-Men Trading Cards book is eye candy and a treasure trove for most fans of Marvel Comics. It’s not just a shot of nostalgia, or a way to own the set without buying the cards for the second time in my life, but more of a journey. Something like an overall experience that offers more than the original product. It’s hard not to be biased as someone who still owns a few, though, and now the book has me playing Marvel Snap, continuing my collection. This will take a place on my shelf for a while where it belonged.

Disclosure: The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

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