Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jason Powell on Classic X-Men #2b

[Jason Powell continues his look at Claremont's X-Men -- including the back up portions of Classic X-Men, as this this post is looking at. Click his name in the tool bar on the right for his earlier posts on this blog.]

"First Friends"

Claremont and Bolton's back-up strip for Classic X-Men #2 has another "First" in the title (see Classic #1), and details a sort of first date (placed chronologically somewhere amidst "the days, the weeks of training" alluded to in X-Men #94) between Jean and Ororo. This is a "Claremont cliché" - the intensely close friendships between female characters. "First Friends" is more about Storm than it is about Jean, although both characters get some nice moments. Essentially, the story expands upon the question of why Ororo, who had an idyllic existence in the land that she loved, would give that up to become a superhero in crowded, polluted New York City. Len Wein's explanation in Giant-Sized X-Men #1 amounts to little more than that she needed a change. This story goes deeper, suggesting that Ororo still has certain psychological demons to overcome, and that her new friendships among the X-Men - and particularly the one she forges here with Jean Grey - might give her the strength to face those demons. This is Claremont being typically idealistic, and a good example of why I love his work. The "X-Men" premise is tied, in a very pseudo-scientific way, to notions about evolution, but in Claremont's hands, "evolution" refers more to personal, psychological growth. Over the course of his 16-year run on the title, all of the main characters evolve in fascinating ways - some for the better, some for the worse - but the overriding theme (which Claremont often makes explicit) is about the importance of personal growth, and of one's willingness to change as time goes on, rather than stagnate.

1 comment:

Matthew J. Brady said...

I don't think I've read this story, but it seems interesting. I never really thought about it when reading the early Claremont issues (in the form of the first two "Essential" volumes), but I've read criticism that Claremont established Jean and Ororo as pals by just having them state that they were good friends, rather than showing them developing a friendship. Maybe stories like this were attempts by Claremont to go back and "fix" possible errors like that, filling in the gaps in his early issues. Neat.

So, Jason, are you looking at these in the Classic X-Men form, rather than issues of Uncanny X-Men (or just plain X-Men, whichever it was known by at the time)? Not that I'm complaining, but it might be a good idea to mention which issue of the original series is being reprinted in each issue of Classic. Just a thought.