“Juggernaut’s Back in Town”
While from late 1984 to early 1985 Claremont was reaching new heights of narrative complexity with Bill Sienkiewicz on New Mutants, he seems to have been relatively less inspired by the art on Uncanny. John Romita Jr. is a formidable artist by any standard, but compared to Sienkiewicz he is of course much more conventional. So in February of ’85, while New Mutants completed the multi-layered “Legion” trilogy, featuring a metaphoric struggle between an Arabic terrorist and an Israeli mutant -- a story that still seems timely over two decades later – the Uncanny X-Men fight the Juggernaut for the umpteenth time.
What lifts the story above expectation is Claremont’s shrewd decision to transfer his apparent own sense of ennui as an author to that of the characters. In one of Claremont’s funniest openers, we get a montage of the X-Men hearing a radio report of Juggernaut’s return to New York City, and most of them react with boredom, apathy, or – most humorously in Nightcrawler’s case – a petulant tantrum. The sequence (filled with lovely art details by Romita Jr. including, marvelously, Kitty phasing through her alarm clock so that it explodes and she can go back to sleep) can’t help but bring a grin. The very notion that the X-Men are simply fed up with this sort of thing is a wonderful dash of prosaic realism, lifting the story into being something beyond the rote superhero clichés it makes fun of.
The bit wherein Wolverine talks Nightcrawler into going out to take on Juggernaut again is priceless as well, worthy of extended quotation:
Nightcrawler: “Anyone ever tell you, Logan, that you’re a sadistic brute?”
Wolverine: “You’re the first.”
Nightcrawler: “We’re in no shape for this.”
Wolverine: “We’re also all there is.”
Nightcrawler: “Do we have to?”
Wolverine: “Nope. We never have to.”
Nightcrawler: “Sigh – coffee?”
Wolverine: “Already brewed.”
Logan’s deadpan responses are quite funny, a canny way of sweetening the firm undercurrent of the X-Men’s responsibility (“We’re also all there is”). Note also that Wolverine doesn’t contradict Kurt’s assertion that the X-Men are in “no shape for this,” nor is he enough of a “sadistic brute” to suggest that they go out to fight the Juggernaut before they’ve had their morning coffee. Hilarious.
Claremont also comes up with a clever new use for Rogue’s powers in Uncanny #194: Although Rogue had previously absorbed several characters’ powers simultaneously (it was during her first appearance in Avengers Annual #10), this issue marks the first time Claremont has made a visual trick of the idea. The image of the Rogue/Nightcrawler/Colossus amalgam is great, very comic-booky, and it’s also nice to see a reiteration of Nightcrawler’s trick from two issues earlier of teleporting only a piece of the enemy.
“Juggernaut’s Back in Town” also features the use of a simple, but classic, trick in the arsenal of any good serial superhero writer: The taking down of a classic powerhouse villain to demonstrate how formidable the NEW bad guy is. Granted, Cain Marko’s “unstoppable” gimmick had been devalued over the years thanks to various comics in which he was physically overpowered. Still, Nimrod’s ability to toss Juggernaut around like a toy is a good shorthand way of establishing his power-level. It also continues Claremont’s political re-alignment of the X-Men. Once again, they find themselves in sympathy with former enemies – outcasts, in other words – in the face of a new enemy who represents the Establishment (Nimrod was built by the U.S. government, his entire existence dedicated to the maintenance of the status quo). Not only do the X-Men protect Juggernaut in spite of the fact that he’s a “jerk” (another hilarious line from Rogue toward the end of the issue), but they also escape the scene of the altercation via the Morlock tunnels.
Annotations department: The epilogue set at KGB headquarters with Colonel Vazhin ranting about a coming Armageddon goes nowhere – but in an oblique symmetry, Rogue’s listening to the “Nazgul” on Page 5 is a reference to George R.R. Martin’s 1984 sci-fi novel “The Armageddon Rag.”