Review: X-Men #120

X-Men #120 cover
Cover by Bob Budiansky and Terry Austin

X-Men #120
Published and © by Marvel, April 1979

Title: “Wanted: Wolverine! Dead or Alive!”
Synopsis: The X-Men’s return flight from Japan is mysteriously rerouted to Canada for a showdown against a new superteam – Alpha Flight.

Writer (plot): Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Writer (script): Claremont
Penciler: Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin

Review: While the pace of creation had slowed for much of Marvel since the Silver Age, Chris Claremont’s X-Men assumed the role of reliable creative engine. Seemingly inspired by a series of gifted artists as partners, the writer regularly unleashed a flood of new characters and concepts. This was particularly true during his collaboration with Canadian artist John Byrne, with this issue’s debut of Alpha Flight serving as a great example of their work. It would take awhile for the new characters to be fully fleshed out, but their potential is obvious right away. Fun stuff from an exceptional creative team.

Grade: A-

Second opinion: “It seems like Claremont doesn’t want to clear up existing subplots nor tell a story in a single issue. (This series) is, nevertheless, one of the best published. … 8/10.” – Roger Caldwell, AFTA #3, April 1979 … “With its ambience of menace, disciplined pacing, and deft character touches, X-Men #120 is the start of the second phase in the Claremont/Byrne partnership.” – Jason Powell, “The Best There Is at What He Does: Examining Chris Claremont’s X-Men,” 2016 … “X-Men I rate particularly high and a glance through (X-Men #120) should tell you why.” – Les Chester, Comic Media News International #39, May-June 1979 … “A story rich with atmosphere and suspense.” – Jim Johnson, The Comics Buyer’s Guide to the X-Men (Comics Buyer’s Guide Presents), 2003 … Recommended by The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003.

Cool factor: Alpha Flight!
Not-so-cool factor: The Canadian government’s pursuit of Wolverine is pretty dang fascist. And rude!

Notable: First appearance of Alpha Flight, albeit “off camera.” … According to the annual statement of ownership on the “X-Mail” letters page, X-Men had an average total paid circulation of 115,260 for the 12 months preceding Sept. 25, 1978.
Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a 12p British variant of this issue. … According to MyComicShop.com, there is also a Mark Jewelers variant.

Character quotable: “ If anyone on Earth has a prayer of corralling Wolverine, it’s Alpha Flight.” – Vindicator, AKA “Major Maple Leaf”
A word from the writer: “Included in that story, a cameo by then-Premier Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a guest appearance the gained the book nationwide press coverage – in print, radio and TV – north of the border.” – Chris Claremont, from “Harmony of Vision,” a 2004 essay collected in “Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 1,” 2006

Editor’s note: This review was written March 24, 2022.

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