Saturday, April 12, 2008

Jason Powell on Classic X-Men #22, part b

[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.]


As with last issue, Claremont and Bolton continue in Frazetta mode, with a solo Storm story set before the X-Men finally leave the Savage Land. Bolton’s splash on Page 2, an elegant figure drawing of Storm (exquisitely colored by Glynis Oliver) sets the tone, and Claremont’s baroque narration matches the beauty of the illustration: “More and more, she finds herself coming into conflict with her most fundamental beliefs. Thus far, it’s been a case of resistible [sic] force meeting immovable object ... but slowly – with glacial inexorability – she feels that relationship begin to change. And is terrified.”

The departure point for this story is Storm’s guilt over the death of Garokk, and her concern that her life as a member of the X-Men will lead her into more situations whereby she is responsible for the death of another. This time, she only failed to save a life. How long before she finds herself forced to take one? This is another example of Claremont introducing a thread of characterization much earlier in the chronology. This internal conflict for Storm will be touched on only sporadically over the next few years of Uncanny, but will become quite explicit when artist Paul Smith takes over.

In “Solace,” however, the theme is addressed more obliquely as the story takes some fantastic turns. Storm dives into a pool of water where she spots a diver in danger from an undersea predator. During the rescue attempt, Storm enters a portal into another dimension, and later learns that the diver she saved is the “warlord” of that dimension, a kindly and beautiful woman called M’rin. For any reader with doubts over where the story is going, Claremont erases them when Storm awakes from a nightmare and calls out “Mother!” to M’rin. The orphaned Storm has at last found a mother figure. (It’s perhaps surprising that Claremont never thought to do a story like this before 1988, when Classic X-Men #22 was published.)

Storm spends the next several days helping M’rin in battle against the older woman’s enemies, finding that when she is in this other dimension, she is “nothing like [she is] at home.” She is less gentle, fiercer and more wild. She’s also tempted to stay with M’rin rather than return to the X-Men, but chooses not to because of her “responsibilities [and] obligations.”

On a symbolic level, Storm is choosing not to stay in a world where she is free to do what she wants, where her own conscience’s demands would be replaced, or supplanted, by the comfort of a parent’s approval; a place where – with a “warlord” for a mother – she would never have to feel guilty about the death of a foe, and could enjoy a kind of eternal childhood. Instead, Ororo returns to the more demanding world, the “responsibilities, obligations” of her life with the X-Men. She chooses adulthood.

This is Claremont and Bolton at their most elegant. The childhood/adulthood theme is not as explicit as Claremont’s themes sometimes are, and is reinforced in subtle ways: Note that when she’s in M’rin’s dimension, Storm actually looks a little younger than she did in the gorgeous Page 2 splash. Meanwhile, everything in M’rin’s dimension is like something out of a children’s fantasy. (Even M’rin’s giant “warhound,” C’Jime, visually alludes to the Luck Dragon in “The Neverending Story,” of all things.)

[You are very kind here, glossing "resistible" with a "SIC" when it is the OPPOSITE of what is meant!]


Jeff Jackson said...

Man, this reads like it was written at 6:45 a.m. after noisy neighbors kept you awake.

j.liang said...

I don't have this particular issue but I do remember reading it years ago when a friend lent it to me.

In Uncanny X-Men Annual #12, Art Adams draws M'rin as being drastically taller than Ororo, which visually reinforces the parent-child dynamic. Did Bolton establish this in Classic X-Men #22? And are these the only two published appearances of M'rin?

Jason said...

Geoff, but it IS just a typo!

Jeff, you're wrong about the time, but the "noisy neighbors" part is accurate. Also ... ouch! :)

J. Liang, yeah -- M'rin is taller than Ororo in the Bolton story. Storm is drawn to look almost like a child, and that includes her looking shorter, rather than the typical, statuesque visual that the character usually has.

I'm pretty sure those are indeed the only two published appearances of M'rin, but Claremont seems to have had at least one other story with her in mind. You might remember, in X-Men Annual #12, when M'rin sees Storm for the first time, she says "You've changed your hair *again*!", which I took as an implication that there is an as-yet-unpublished M'rin/Storm story set chronologically sometime during the latter's mohawk phase.

Jeff Jackson said...

Well "Jason," this sounds like a typical liberal position ... always blaming someone else. Also, Wolverine's hairy ass is sexy.

P.S. It's spelled "Jeff," not "Geoff"

Geoff Klock said...

JJ -- the "Geoff" was directed at me and the comment I made at the end of Jason's post. Plus, "typical liberal position" -- this is a politics thing now? Noisy neighbors? Really? I thought your first post was too random to be a proper insult, but now I am not so sure. Calm down.

j.liang said...

Jason: Yeah, Claremont wasn't always that subtle but I appreciated the fact that he would drop these clues as he went along and bring them together in a fun way, usually much further down the road. I didn't follow the books closely after he left so I was curious if any other writers ever picked up on this particular thread. (A Google search on M'rin didn't reveal much either way.)

KamandiCurt said...

Another great post, Jason. This series has actually compelled me to sift through my collection of Claremont X-books and rediscover some of these lost gems. Keep up the good work, noisy neighbors be damned!

Jason said...

J.Liang, agreed. The long-term rewards of the run, i.e., the stuff that comes together years after the fact, is so satisfying. It's such a rewarding run if one is patient enough to stick with the whole dang thing.

KC, that's awesome. Thank you for the kind words! :)