Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s collaboration on X-Men got off to a solid start several issues before this, but this is the point at which it became consistently great. The best was still to come, but in retrospect, as offbeat as it is, #111 feels like the start of something special indeed.
The story drops us right into the middle of a mystery and places us in the point of view of a character who has been out of the loop for a while—Hank McCoy, the Beast. He has been busy avenging with the Avengers and hasn’t gotten a chance to personally meet the new X-Men yet. So imagine his confusion when he finds people who look like dead ringers for Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus performing as carnival freaks. (Well, you don’t have to fully imagine—Byrne renders Beast’s bewilderment rather vividly on the opening splash panel.)
Three X-Men Hank does know—Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Banshee—are also part of this carnival, but they aren’t acting like themselves. Complications ensue as the Beast attempts to unravel this mystery, leading to a terrific final-page reveal that basically commands you to read the next issue.
And that was part of the trick Claremont and Byrne accomplished in this run—incredible storytelling momentum carried directly from issue to issue. Events happen, and they have consequences that don’t get tidied up within twenty pages, thereby setting up the next issue. But this isn’t just one long tease to leave readers salivating in anticipation of some eventual grand payoff. No, each issue provides its own payoff in one way or another. Serialized storytelling at its finest, and X-Men #111 serves as a great starting point.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Publisher: Marvel Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Marvel Unlimited; included in Essential X-Men vol. 1 and other collections
Appropriate For: ages 9 and up