[This post is part of a series of posts -- now coming at you three times a week -- written by Jason Powell looking issue by issue at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series click Jason's name in the toolbar on the right.]
“Wanted: Wolverine! Dead or Alive”
In a two-part arc whose plot probably originated with the Canadian John Byrne, the X-Men are stranded in Calgary on the way back home from Japan. It’s all part of a plot by James Hudson, aka Weapon Alpha from Uncanny X-Men #109, to get Wolverine back into Canada’s clutches. Against John Byrne’s wishes, Claremont has rechristened the character “Vindicator” (Byrne on the subject: “What does Canada have to vindicate?”). Vindicator is backed up by a whole team of Canadian government super-agents, collectively known as Alpha Flight. In a nice touch, we only see bits and pieces of the characters in costume in Part 1, with the impressive reveal saved for the next issue.
In fact, all throughout this first part of the story, Byrne and Claremont manage a strong, tension-filled tone. Most of the X-Men appear in normal clothes rather than their superhero costumes for the duration of the comic, and they are constantly on the defensive or on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of opponents that they never actually see. This is the first time the comic feels genuinely edgy and suspenseful.
Claremont even manages exposition-laden dialogue well, weaving it into the suspense of the story for added urgency, e.g. in Wolverine’s line to Cyclops, “I was operational when Hudson gathered the rest of Alpha Flight. Outside of him, I don’t know who we’re up against. Or how many.”
Claremont still finds time amidst the tightly-wound action for good character bits, though. A charming example: when Banshee – who burned out his sonic scream last issue – takes a pull on his pipe, then thinks, “I shouldn’t be smokin’.”
And in the final couple pages, some unexpected role reversal: Wolverine, while thinking about Mariko Yashida (who earlier became the first character in Uncanny to learn Wolverine’s real name), asks himself, “Love. Who needs it?” Then answers, “Me.” On the very next page, Cyclops closes the issue with the line, “The X-Men didn’t start this fight, people – but we’re sure as blazes gonna finish it. If necessary, over Alpha Flight’s bodies!”
So, Wolverine is distracted by thoughts of love, and Cyclops wants to kill people. Fantastic. Claremont loves to surprise us.
[There is also the detail, only humorous in retrospect, that Northstar is introduced surrounded by beautiful women. When was it established that he was homosexual?]