[Guest Blogger Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Chris Claremont’s X-Men run. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right.]
“There’s No Place Like Home”
Continuing from the rousing cliffhanger at the end of the epic New Mutants Special Edition #1, “There’s No Place Like Home” claims – on its gorgeously designed title page – to be an X-Men story “guest-starring the New Mutants.” In fact, it’s the opposite. Storm is a key player in the proceedings, but the rest of the X-Men are the supporting act here; the New Mutants have center stage.
As in part one of the two-part “Home” saga, there’s an incredible sense of sweep and scope to these pages. Claremont, Adams and letterer Orzechowski remain to give the story an aesthetic consistency, but are joined this by a different colorist, Petra Scotese, and a lineup of three inkers that includes Adams himself.
Among the most significant scenes in this issue is, first and foremost, Madelyne’s premonition after the X-Men disappear from Earth. “Oh, Lord,” she says. “Why all of a sudden am I so afraid I’ll never see him ... we’ll never be happy together, ever again?!” It’s dramatic license on Claremont’s part, the author preparing readers for the imminent X-Factor #1, in which Cyclops abandons Madelyne for the newly resurrected Jean Grey. In terms of strict plot logic, there’s no reason Madelyne should somehow sense what’s coming, but her prescience is thematically appropriate for a story set mostly in a land of ancient mythology. The story’s sense of sweep makes the story work in defiance of prosaic logic at any rate, and it is quite dramatic. Meanwhile, Art Adams shrewdly undercuts any potential emotional overkill by including Lockheed in the same panel, a cute little purple dragon wagging his paw in good-bye at the departure of Kitty and the others.
Petra Scotese’s colors aren’t as brilliant (in the less hyperbolic sense of the word) as the work of Christie Scheele in “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” but her palette nonetheless yields some gorgeous visuals, particularly her liberal use of pink in Amara’s fantasy sequence early on. Later, Scotese uses the same shade of pink to color Amara herself, suggesting that she is becoming less and less real.
With so many immensely talented professionals all working at such an unrelentingly creative pitch, the amount of clever details and ingenious moments is too high; an individual cataloguing of each one would become tedious. (Storm takes up the Thor hammer! Warlock becomes the starship Enterprise!)
So let me just point out that X-Men Annual #9 makes one of the best uses of inter-title continuity I’ve experienced as a reader. The story makes several allusions to going-on depicted in contemporaneous issues of Thor, but they are woven in with such economical precision that readers never feel as if they’re missing information, or that only part of the story is contained here. The references are placed just so – just enough information to know why it’s important, never so much that we feel like we have to buy Thor issues to figure it all out.
In terms of the broader scope of Claremont’s X-Men canon, the “Home” two-parter (later collected with X-Men/Alpha Flight in a large, beautifully packaged TPB called “Asgardian Wars”), X-Men Annual #9 is significant mainly for its suggestion – most rigorously espoused by the New Mutants character Sunspot – that perhaps mutants belong on Asgard, where there powers allow them to fit in rather than be outcasts. If the X-Men and New Mutants represent “the other,” than why not relocate to an entire world populated with “others”? Sunspot is, in effect, arguing a separationist philosophy, but not much is really put into the metaphor. Wolverine accuses Bobby of cowardice, and the force of Logan’s personality seems enough to make the younger man re-think his position. Ultimately, there is very little here that contributes in an essential way to the X-Men canon (the repercussions of the story are felt much more deeply in subsequent New Mutants issues).
It really is all about fun. Sure, Bobby’s controversial politics don’t get proper time devoted to them, but it’s still a rousing moment when, only a few pages after having been awed by Wolverine, he answers the question of his and his fellow mutants’ identity with, “We’re Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters – bub! Want to make something of it?!”
Geoff, if the Morrison/McGuiness JLA: Classified comics are your quintessential example of great superhero comics, then this and the New Mutants Special Edition are mine. Action, drama, comedy, pathos -- and the starship Enterprise vs. rock trolls. I could ask for nothing more.