Ah well, here's the most obvious marker I've come across, a double-sized comic featuring a gaggle of creators who made the X-Men great. Sadly, there's no Dave Cockrum, as he's no longer with us, and no John Byrne, as he's John Byrne.
There is, though, Chris Claremont, the team's longest-serving writer and the characters' most influential voice. And he knocks it out of the park, fastball special style, with a hugely satisfying 20-page tale which fits neatly between Uncanny X-Men #173 and #174.
Not that you need to have been reading back then, as Claremont does a terrific job of introducing characters and recapping situations as needed. The plotline is nothing earth-shattering, which is fair enough, given that X-Men #174 never referred to a sentinel factory in China. It is a splendid primer, though, on just why Marvel's not-always merry mutants were so big in the Eighties - the irresistible mix of characters. First and foremost here is Kitty Pryde, who narrates the tale, giving us insights into her friends and colleagues along the way. Kitty herself is right on model so far as the period is concerned, using her computer skills in a bid to learn why Mariko dumped Wolverine at the altar a few days previously. Logan is understandably annoyed at the invasion of privacy, but their spat is interrupted by an alert from China comprising panicked calls and explosions from a mysterious industrial unit.
Kitty, Wolverine, Cyclops, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Lockheed the dragon and new member Rogue take the fast plane to China, pausing only to drop off 'civilians' Professor X and Madelyne Pryor with Shi'ar Empress Lilandra and the Starjammers - the alien pirate crew headed by Cyclops' father, Corsair. Then it's full-on battles with a super-giant Sentinel pumping out regular giant-Sentinels. Saving the day involves a plan from Kitty which provides more sharp teamwork than we normally see in a month of Marvel or DC books. It's fun, it's dramatic, it's the X-Men as I remember them and as I'd love them to be again (click on images to enlarge).
And backing Claremont all the way is his New Mutants partner, Bob McLeod, an artist whose talent is far bigger than his reputation. His work isn't flashy, drawing attention to itself - it's strong, solid and services the story all the way. McLeod draws a mean fight scene, but it's the facial expressions that really sing. And the artist's thoughtfulness shows through in the pitch-perfect nightwear he chooses for the X-Men (the ever-so regal, entirely humourless Lilandra in a nightie gave me a fit of giggles).
Louise Simonson plots, Stan Lee scripts, Walt Simonson draws and we get The Sorrow Beneath the Sport, a story set in the original X-Men's first months together. Marvel Girl offers a date to whichever classmate - Cyclops, Beast, Iceman or Angel - can get to the Danger Room first. And don't think of Jean as a teen temptress, these were innocent times in comics - she likely meant a trip to Coffee A-Go-Go. There's some good-natured tomfoolery between three of the boys, but Scott's a miserable git, and more than happy to ruin the fun when Professor X gets cranky (almost certainly not a subtle nod to his single-panel, bad taste crush on Jean Grey).
I'm delighted to see longtime X-Men letterer Tom Orzechowski handling the whole book, in a variety of styles. The Sixties mode he adopts for the Lee/Simonsons strip is especially splendid.
Olivier Coipel's cover meshes X-Men from various incarnations of the team in a good-looking piece that could do with some colour 'pop' to match the elegance. And the rubbish, apologetic logo doesn't help matters.
I'm glad I bought this book, for Claremont, McLeod and Walt Simonson. A 50th anniversary bash, though, should be a lot better than this - I'm imagining an anniversary issue of the type DC did so well in the early Eighties, an 80-page extravaganza saluting the comic's history in one long 'novel'. As is, we get some curiosities, a fine 'lost issue' of Uncanny and a monstrosity that has no place at a party.