It was the first halfway decent X-Men comic we had seen in like, a year, and it proved that given the right elements (Wolverine/ninja/Jim Lee/babes) the X-Men could actually be… cool.
I say “cool” in a superficial sense, because the addition of superstar artist Jim Lee to the mutant books really just added a fresh sheen of glamour and style to the tired old X-Men template. Longtime writer Chris Claremont learned to cater to Jim Lee’s strength and over the course of their collaboration on the X-Men books, Lee got to draw Rogue in a jungle bikini, Nick Fury, helicarriers and super-submarines, dinosaurs, chic new villains, and just a lot of people striking tough poses while festooned with gear and ammo and pouches and knives and shit. Lee made the X-Men books a sexy high-tech militaristic fashion show and brought a certain action figure sensibility to the comic that endures to this day. The X-Men were hot again. The word that perfectly describes the Jim Lee Era on X-Men and all its early-Nineties goodness is “radical,” and I mean that in the colloquial sense, as in “tubular” or “wicked @wesome.”
So here’s the story: during one of the most meandering and unfocused periods of X-Men history, the team had been broken up and Uncanny X-Men followed all the different X-Men and minor characters doing their own things all over the world – for like, a year and a half. This particular issue features Wolverine, Psylocke, and (shudder) Jubilee with guest star The Black Widow in a ninja-packed adventure in the modern-day Orient while flashing back to an equally ninja-infested adventure in 1941 with young Captain America and young Logan (Wolverine). That’s all you need to know.
The three X-Men save The Black Widow from an army of ninja from Marvel's preeminent ninja sect, The Hand. They color The Black Widow's suit with zipatone for the entire issue, and it's a great effect. Plus, I'm a fan of the Widow's short-hair big-collar grey-suit look.
So the story alternates every few pages between the Widow storyline and the 1941 storyline, when Captain America and Wolverine meet for the first time. I have to say, from a pure fanboy perspective, Jim Lee draws a fantastic Captain America.
Check that out over there, plunging into a bunch of ninja blades like a star-spangled bird of prey! CAAAW!!! He looks bad-ass, you have to admit.
Claremont's writing style is so distinctive that you never forget you're reading an X-Men book, even with the new paint job. Here's a typically wordy panel where Jubilee spies on Wolverine and Black Widow having sex:
I'm just joking, kids. They weren't having sex. Wolverine doesn't have a penis.
This story may not have sex, but it's got lots of foxy superheroines and lots of violence and lots of Claremontisms:
Is Wolverine shooting somebody with heat vision in that panel? That would be so cool.
So let's see - Jim Lee art, ninjas, zipatone costumes, Claremontian dialogue, Captain America... It was 1990. How could I not love this comic?