The X-Men's best costumes only lasted eight issues. Over the years, Marvel's merry mutants have gotten through many different costumes. When Charles Xavier first founded the X-Men, he had his students suit up in matching team uniforms that haven't aged particularly well; it wasn't long before the Professor allowed them to start wearing more individualistic outfits, with Jean Grey designing the first ones.
In 1991, Jim Lee redesigned the X-Men as part of a major relaunch. The designs he used became viewed as iconic and definitive for the X-Men, in part because of the success of X-Men: The Animated Series, which used them. But, as successful as the X-Men relaunch back in '91 may have been, over the course of the decade the franchise declined. It did so largely because of behind-the-scenes chaos, initiated when a number of prominent Marvel artists left to found Image Comics, and continuing when Marvel came close to bankruptcy. The X-Men became stagnant, neatly symbolized by the fact even their costumes remained the same for years.
All of which makes it ironic that, back in 1997, Joe Madureira came up with some fascinating new costumes for some of the X-Men - that lasted only eight issues. Writer Scott Lobdell launched an arc in which a handful of X-Men were spirited away by their alien allies the Shi'ar, plunged into a crisis in which a techno-organic race known as the Phalanx had come close to overthrowing the Shi'ar Empire. The X-Men were in civilian attire at the time, and consequently, they adopted outfits from Shi'ar fashion. All this afforded Madureira with a fantastic opportunity to create some whole new looks for the team.
Madureira's costumes were remarkably creative. Beast, for example, wore an actual outfit of some kind, in contrast to the pair of trunks that comprised his typical look at the time; what's more, the whites and yellows contrasted interestingly with the blue of his fur. Gambit's was visually interesting, abandoning his customary trenchcoat in favor of something sleek and imposing, with the Shi'ar insignia on his chest completing it. Rogue's departed from her usual greens to stand out from every other costume she's ever worn, and it was popular enough to prompt Marvel to sign off on an action figure. But the best was undoubtedly Bishop's, not least because it incorporated what appeared to be vents that emitted excesses of the bio-energy he always stores.
These designs were superb, but sadly they didn't last, worn from Uncanny X-Men #142 through to #150, when the X-Men returned to Earth. It's a real shame because these had the potential to symbolically develop the X-Men again for the first time in years, to move the franchise forward in a new direction. Unfortunately, this was a time of chaos at Marvel, with editors changing at an incredible frequency and the writers in constant conflict with the editorial teams, meaning nobody agreed on what that direction should be. Soon the X-Men were back in their Jim Lee era costumes again, and these spectacular designs were sadly forgotten.
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