[Guest Blogger Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Chris Claremont's X-Men run. For more in this series go to the tool-bar on the right, under Guest Bloggers, and click Jason's name.]
One of Chris Claremont’s hobbyhorses is pilots – whether of airplanes, helicopters, or space vehicles, Claremont loves them.
Claremont also seems to have a fascination with the machinery as well. Issue #99 is the first indication in an X-Men comic of Claremont’s airplane fixation, but it won’t be the last. There’s a long sequence (made longer in Classic X-Men #7 by some new pages) in which Peter Corbeau smuggles the X-Men into a rocket, and a lot of detail goes into the launch, as well as the countdown leading up to it. Dave Cockrum does some beautiful work during this sequence, the visual details adding a lot to the overall feeling of verisimilitude that Claremont seems to be aiming for.
We also get, during the countdown, another narrative device that will become a Claremont staple: A close-up of each X-Man in rapid succession, each with several attendant word balloons containing verbose inner monologue. This is one of those devices that contemporary readers seem to really despise – presumably because it’s very un-cinematic, and also (I suppose) a bit heavy-handed. Personally, however, I adore it. Claremont writes the best inner monologues in the business for my money, and I like the idea of allowing readers into the heads of every cast member simultaneously.
Characterization revealed during this particular inner-monologue sequence:
Colossus is deathly afraid, because his brother was one of Russia’s first cosmonauts, and he died during a failed launch.
Storm, as a claustrophobe, is freaking out both at being inside the rocket and at being stuck inside an enclosed space suit. She’s not telling her teammates, however. (Recall that at this point, readers know she’s a claustrophobe, but the only other X-Man who’s aware of it is Jean.)
Cyclops is worried about Jean. I know, what else is new, but recall that this point in the storyline, what we know about Cyclops is that when offered a choice between quitting the X-Men when Jean did or staying on to train the new team, he chose the latter. He’s starting to regret that decision now – we’ll see more of this over the next few issues.
Nightcrawler wishes his “friends in Dar Jarmarkt could see [him] now.” Once again, while all the other characters angst over their situation, Nightcrawler is the one who sees the positive side, the attractiveness of the adventure. (Nightcrawler was Cockrum’s favorite of his own X-Men creations, and given Kurt’s rather refreshing attitude in contrast to the other characters in the book at this point, it’s not hard to see why.)
Peter Corbeau even gets his own inner monologue. We learn that whenever he goes into space, he feels like he’s “going home.” Claremont loves to romanticize his astronauts ... even bit-players like Corbeau.
So, the X-Men take a space shuttle to the outer-space headquarters of Steven Lang and his Sentinels. During an outer-space battle, Storm gets sucked out into space. This leads to a strange scene in which Storm is able to generate wind even in outer space, by manipulating “the cosmic storm” as well as she does atmospheric weather. Classic X-Men #7 completely rewrites this scene, and attributes her maneuverability in space to her spacesuit’s jetpack. I’d call that an improvement.
Claremont hints at a romance between Colossus and Ororo in this issue. Claremont may have been too intoxicated by the idea of writing an interracial romance – he was writing one contemporaneously in the pages of “Iron Fist,” between the black Misty Knight and the white title character. For whatever reason, the hint of romantic tension between Colossus and Storm will be aborted in a couple of issues, and soon after Claremont will settle on the more familiar dynamic between the two characters – that of a surrogate-sibling relationship. These early hints tend to ring oddly in retrospect.
Also of note is a single-page montage in which we see news reports about how the Sentinel invasion has touched off a new wave of anti-mutant violence. The firebombing of Judge Chalmers’ house is interesting: First in that it’s a fairly violent image (even though the text makes it clear that no one was killed during the incident); second in that Chalmers (described here as being “pro-mutant”) is not a new character, but actually an anti-mutant judge from the Neal Adams Sentinel arc. Presumably this is another homage/acknowledgement of Claremont’s debt to Adams.
[A few minor things I thought worth mentioning: the phrase "Death Star" appears here less than a year before Star Wars: A New Hope; Claremont's neologism "atmos-spheres" (the personal bubbles that allow the X-Men to survive in the vacuum of space) is very Morrison-esque in retrospect (cf. Extrailia, Magamerica, Euthanasium); and Geraldo hilariously makes an appearance.]