Saturday, September 06, 2008

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #163

[Guest blogger Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men Run. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right.]


“Rescue Mission”

At this point in his run, Claremont seems generally to have pulled free of the long shadow of his work with John Byrne (as well as that of Kirby, Lee, Adams, et al). Recent months have seen him take the series in directions not at all predicted by anything seen previously in an X-Men comic – proof that Claremont alone has the imagination and creative wherewithal to steer the X-Men into exciting and surprising directions, irrespective of his artistic partner.

Still, a job is a job, and the relentlessness of the monthly deadline – combined with Claremont’s own recognizable writing idiosyncrasies and quirks – make it inevitable that he will still repeat himself from time to time. (Ultimately, the same is true of any writer in a serialized medium.)

In the present issue, there are distinct shades of the middle act of the Dark Phoenix Saga, wherein Wolverine and Cyclops were the lynchpins of the X-Men’s escape from the Hellfire Club. Here, Wolverine is once again the catalyst for an escape, this time from the Brood (whom the X-Men all seem to spontaneously nickname “sleazoids” – a prime example of Claremont’s aforementioned quirkiness). Furthermore, Claremont seems to be heading Carol Danvers towards a Phoenix-like transformation. Danvers’ arc will eventually play out fairly innocuously, but readers at the time of this issue’s initial release must have heard danger-alarms when reading Carol’s dialogue on Page Six: “Fire ... burning within me – so bright, so ... beautiful.”

The more interesting bit with Carol Danvers actually occurs pages earlier, when Wolverine off-handedly references having once rescued her from the KGB. That seed will blossom to awesome effect years later, during Claremont’s four-part Genosha storyline with Marc Silvestri in Uncanny issues 235-238. For the moment, it’s an intriguing bit of back-story, tossed out in that off-handed manner that Claremont employs so well when it’s called for.

After the initial sequence with Wolverine and a disconcertingly Phoenix-like Carol, “Rescue Mission” settles into an entertaining dead heat. With Claremont and Cockrum back in sync after the previous issue’s weird creative dissonance, the X-Men once again seem right at home in a sci-fi milieu. Cockrum’s action sequences are infused with effervescent fun, while the feminist in Claremont takes clear delight in bolstering the X-Men’s male-heavy lineup with gun-wielding females Carol and Lilandra. (Toward the end of his Uncanny run – the Jim Lee era – Claremont will make fun of his fetish for tough, armed females twice inside six months. Uncanny #276 will actually contain the phrase “bad, beautiful babes with really big guns.”)

Meanwhile, the less amusing penchant for sexualizing Kitty Pryde again rears its ugly head – even on the cover, which depicts Kitty in a ravaged dress and covered in gashes. The trend seems even more tasteless in the wake of the deliberately disturbing material from Uncanny #160.

Wolverine’s angst is nicely handled in “Rescue Mission.” Suffering from premature survivors’ guilt at being the only X-Man not implanted with a Brood egg, here Logan can think of no better way to express his grief than to try and murder the alien queen. It’s perfectly in character – even poignant, in its way – and contributes to the overall sense of dread that Claremont weaves regarding the whole Brood-egg concept, which will go on to play out expertly over the next few issues.


Patrick said...

Oh man, it seemed like sleazoids was said every other line in that comic. All the issues of this arc blend together for me, but I do remember really liking the Carol Danvers stuff. The Wolverine knows everyone everywhere thing got a bit old as time went on, but it's still cool here and works well.

Jason said...

Yeah, and the planet has no name other than "Sleazeworld," apparently ...

The issues of this arc used to blend together for me as well, until I was forced to separate them out for this blog series. Even now, individual issues from this era don't tend to stand out in the memory with the same individualism as Claremont/Byrne issues.

Still, two issues away from Paul Smith ... ! (Rah rah!)

Anonymous said...

Wolverine started calling the brood sleazoids in iss. 162 pretty sure. The other X-Men then picked up on this, as, due to his solo encounter, he was the expert at this time. I also kind of think that this really started the trend of everybody following what Wolverine did or said.