Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Jason Powell on Classic X-Men #21, part a (UXM #115)

[This post is part of a series of posts looking issue by issue at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series see the tool bar on the right.]

“Visions of Death”

More characters from the Adams run, Sauron and Ka-Zar, show up here, in a story that is actually split down the middle. The first half is the X-Men vs. Sauron, while the second half is part one of a the “Sun God” two-parter. The unorthodox construction may also be a nod to Adams, who experimented a bit with non-chronological storytelling when he segued from his Sauron story to his Savage Land story back in the ‘60s.

The two-page spread on Pages 2 and 3, with Wolverine attacking Sauron, is a true widescreen visual treat. From there, the entire first half of the comic demonstrates Byrne’s talent for fight choreography, with Cyclops and Banshee in particular getting some good licks in. Cyclops blasting a hypnotized Wolverine with his eye beams is fun too.

Another hypnotic villain so hot on the heels of Mesmero from only four issues ago feels repetitive. To be fair, it’s not Claremont and Byrne’s fault that two of the X-Men’s Silver Age villains were both hypnotists; still, as time goes by, we’ll see that Claremont really enjoys his mind-control plots.

The second-half of the comic is laden with some fairly tangled exposition to set up next issue’s big fight. It’s more tangled than it needs to be, when the essential plot is not too complicated: a villain called Garokk (aka The Petrified Man, aka the “Sun God”) and his priestess, Zaladane, has built a temple over the “geothermal heat-sink that warms the savage land.” If the temple is not destroyed, the Antarctic winters surrounding the area will close in and destroy the Savage Land for good. Ka-Zar needs the X-Men’s help to defeat Garokk and destroy the temple. Fairly simple really, but there is a lot of extraneous material in the exposition for some reason.

There’s a good bit at the end in which Cyclops refuses Ka-Zar’s request, with Wolverine becoming enraged that – as with their first Magneto fight in Uncanny #104 – Cyclops is making the X-Men look like cowards. Again, Claremont is looking at every scene in context of everything he’s written up until now – finding parallels among earlier stories and mining them for use in fun character bits like this one.

Before the X-Men change their mind about helping out, there is a panel of the X-Men leaving the village of the Fall People, and Colossus saying goodbye to a native girl named Nereel. Her reply: “Farewell, my Colossus! I will cherish you always!” This brief bit was never expanded upon in any later issue of Uncanny. However, the b-story of this issue of Classic will at last fill in the gap as to what went on between these two, and X-Men Annual #12 (published only a few months later but not to be covered by this series until quite a ways later, sorry) will present a rather touching epilogue.

[Just a few things I noted: The splash page you mention above as "wide-screen" does seem very modern doesn't it? There is a shift in visual tone here more connected to the X-Men I grew up on than what came before.

The Sun God is wearing jeans, right? That is some goofy stuff.]


dr zombieswan said...

Of course you probably already saw it but did you see that Whedon is doing a Serentity comic?! I didn't get it; they were out. But still! It takes place after the series & before the movie.

Geoff Klock said...

I did. It sucked. >Here is the link to my review.

neilshyminsky said...

I remember seeing that splash page for the first time in the Classics and just having my mind blown. I wanted Byrne to be drawing the new issues of X-Men. It doesn't just look like there's depth to the scene - you can actually feel three-dimensions.