Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jason Powell on Classic X-Men #11, part a (UXM #103)

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right.]

“Fall of the Tower”

So, apparently Banshee’s ancestral home, Cassidy Keep is home not only to Banshee’s family but also to a bunch of leprechauns. This is a strange turn for the story to take at this point (though it was clearly planned – Banshee asked about the “little ones” in the previous issue). I’m not sure the presence of leprechauns in Banshee’s childhood home has ever been explained, or even mentioned, after this. Claremont will never touch it again after this issue, which concludes the Juggernaut story arc.

Paul O’Brien has commented that the Juggernaut is a character that loses potency the more you use him, because each time he’s beat, his boast of being unstoppable becomes that much more laughable. So it’s nice that, here at least, Claremont doesn’t give the neophyte X-Men a real win over the villain. It adds both to the Juggernaut’s power and to the notion that these particular X-Men are still somewhat green. Instead, Juggernaut freaks out after seeing Black Tom Cassidy knocked into the ocean by Bnashee, and dives into the ocean after him ... “his life risked – perhaps lost – in a desperate attempt to save his friend.” This is an early example of Claremont attempting to give some dimension even to some of the more one-note villains: Juggernaut in the Silver Age had only one trait – he wanted to kill Charles Xavier. Now, the character has a second quality, and it’s oddly touching: He’s got a friend.

Also, in this issue: Wolverine’s real name is given for the first time as “Logan.” We all know that now, of course, but readers back in the ‘70s had no idea – until Uncanny X-Men #103, when a leprechaun calls Wolverine “Mr. Logan” and he says “How do you know my name?” It seems strange, doesn’t it, in retrospect, to think that Wolverine’s real name was originally revealed by a leprechaun?)

Finally, “Fall of the Tower” at last brings us back to the loose end that is Eric the Red. We learn that he’s the one who contrived for the X-Men to get trashed by Juggernaut and Black Tom, but we still don’t learn his agenda. However, a final cliffhanger tells us that Eric has gotten himself a new ally – and “the gentleman’s name is Magneto.” (Claremont seems to like this sentence. He will use it in narrative captions in at least two other Magneto stories over the next few years.)

It seems worth noting at this point that Claremont is pretty canny in how he fits the old villains (the Sentinels, the Juggernaut and now Magneto) into the new series. The Sentinels were a natural, of course, because they’re enemies of all mutants – old X-Men and new X-Men alike. Juggernaut also makes sense, since his grudge is against the Professor, who of course is still around. And of course Magneto is right around the corner, a villain who doesn’t bear a grudge against any individual X-Men so much as he’s opposed to Xavier and his students’ entire ideology. These villains are all worked in very nicely. And the slow-burn of the Eric the Red subplot (along with the revelation that he’s the one deploying one villain after another against the X-Men) gives momentum and focus to comics that would otherwise seem like gimmicky, villain-of-the-month stories. (Though they are that too, to some degree. This is still a superhero comic book, after all.)

[Claremont's simple device here, is that rather than just doing simple one villain a month stories, recasts the one villain a month as a wheels within wheels thing. This is a move Whedon will use a lot on Buffy. You keep the network happy with stories that can be easily serialized, but you also get to work on a bigger palate. I have been told this, but the more Claremont I read the more I see how Whedon learned everything from him.]


Patrick said...

The leprechauns are never mentioned again, at least in the 76-91 Claremont run, perhaps they show up in his later work. Nothing says X-Treme X-Men like a bunch of leprechauns.

And, the Whedon/Claremont connection is very strong. The early issues have it to some degree, but the most notable is the Paul Smith stuff, where the personal angst to fighting ratio slides decidedly in favor of personal angst.

Christian said...

Actually nothing says Leprechauns like Generation X. Which I think actually has said leprechauns in it. But that series was strange. The more grounded stuff is amusing and all that, but for some reason there's a heavy turn to fantasy elements in like half of the earlier books. It's jarring and honestly a little boring, but I guess with Banshee leading the team it at least makes a little sense.

Matthew J. Brady said...

That's right, there was some sort of weird plot about the Cassidy Keep leprechauns in Generation X. I used to own most of the run (up through 40 or so issues), but I got rid of all the ones Bachalo didn't draw. I think he did some nice covers of those issues though.

Also, isn't this the issue when Nightcrawler discovers that he can disappear when he's in shadows? I remember something like that in there. Is that even important, or is it a forgotten detail that rarely got mentioned again?

Jason Powell said...

Did Bachalo draw the leprechaun issues of Generation X?

Matthew: This is the issue that Nightcrawler learns he can turn invisible in shadows, yes. I didn't mention it because it was ret-conned out of the Classic X-Men reprint. So I guess that answers your other question: It did indeed never get mentioned again. Even though Byrne would continue to draw Wolverine becoming invisible in shadows, Claremont tacitly, over time, adjusted the original power (which is explicit invisibility) to the more prosaic "he is dark-blue and non-reflective, hence he becomes *virtually* invisible in shadows."

Alan Davis' Excalibur stories circa 1992-93 will actually go back and say Nightcrawler DOES become fully invisible, and attempt a kind of Occham's razor explanation, suggesting that Nightcrawler's teleportation power has to do with space warps, and a side effect is that light also warps around him. (Davis explains it better.)

Mitch said...

I. Love. Leprechauns. AND that there are leprechauns at Cassidy Keep. AND that they "name" Wolverine. Saints be praised, that's some right fine storytellin', laddie.

Speaking of Whedon's good storytelling habits- I finally read your "Out of Gas" essay tonight Geoff. I can't believe you actually made a diagram of the ship AND plotted out the areas where each scene happened! You are a crazy man! Crazy!

Excellent analysis and (especially) conclusion, though. Ha-zaa!

Geoff Klock said...

Mitch -- thanks

Matthew J. Brady said...

Jason: No, Bachalo didn't draw those issues of Gen X. I think it was Roger Cruz or somebody like that.

Matthew J. Brady said...

I was going to link to a couple of Bachalo's nice covers from that Cassidy Keep story, but was down. So I found them elsewhere. Here they are: #8 and #9 .