Beginning with the Demon Bear story in the issue pictured above, New Mutants (a book I was already a bit interested in as I had read the first few issues) took on a much more energetic look and feel.
Written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, this era introduced us not only to the Demon Bear, but also Rachel Summers (the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey from the future who comes to the present and becomes the Phoenix), Warlock (an alien renegade who seeks refuge with Xavier's students), Legion (one truly messed up individual) and reunited us with a member long thought dead who's put on quite a bit of weight and gone insane. We also get an appearance by Cloak and Dagger, popular characters at the time that never had much in the way of direction.
This part of the series surely stands out to me as the peak of it's run. I also consider this one of Bill Sienkiewicz's biggest achievements. And it wasn't until after I saw his art in New Mutants that I became aware of his past work in Moon Knight. At the time I started reading comics Moon Knight was only sold in comic shops. And I had yet to see such a place.
Sienkiewicz's art had a great impact on me and I find myself quick to accept artists such as Alex Maleev (Daredevil) and Tommy Lee Edwards (The Question) because of their similarity.
I recommend checking this run out. Don't worry about missing anything previous to #18. The shift in the art and the ability of Claremont to make it accessible leaves nothing necessary from the earlier issues. And as for after #37...
Well... that's easy. The reason why it closes up so well is that they all get killed. Yep. Each and every one. In #37 they have a run in with the Beyonder, a God-like being who was the antagonist of Marvel's Secret Wars II crossover event at the time. He considers them an anomaly and decides to clean house. Killing them all off, he then removes the school from existence. One of the best endings to a book ever. With great characterization of the characters in a sort of tragedy style.
For those of you who are curious... The Secret Wars II story ended between #37 and #38 and the team returned to existence.
#38, while not part of this suggested reading, is worthy of note for the cover which was very fitting.
I was a bit disappointed, however, with X-Men Unlimited #43. I actually had higher hopes for the book. It really did serve as nothing more than a reunion for Chris Claremont, Bill Sienkiewicz and the New Mutants. What could have been a fantastic event for longtime fans was marred by a rather trivial plot that appeared forced to get the characters together. It was nice, though, to experience a bit of nostalgia for a time that deserves to be remembered.