[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.]
“The Action of the Tiger”
The previous issue was the middle act of the Mutant X arc, deliberately slackening the tension and devoting the bulk of its narrative to the X-Men licking their wounds after their disastrous first encounter with Proteus. Here, the focus tightens to laser-beam intensity, and after a brief re-cap for latecomers (“Every issue is somebody’s first,” went the philosophy of Marvel’s then-Editor in Chief Jim Shooter), readers are treated to a dozen action-packed pages of the X-Men vs. Proteus.
As is often the case with these climactic battle scenes in the Claremont/Byrne run, Claremont’s writing is the secondary attraction. It is Byrne and Terry Austin who really shine here, producing panel after panel of viscerally exciting images: Wolverine slicing right through Proteus’ stomach; Cyclops and Havok blasting Proteus simultaneously from opposite sides; the fantastic three-panel Colossus transformation; etc.
Still, Claremont sneaks in a few good character bits amid the action. Cyclops is once again the perfect strategist/tactician, his mind always on the battle, and there’s a nice contrast in the way he and Wolverine react to seeing Proteus strike down Jean. Wolverine flies into a rage; Cyclops just keeps attacking the villain. And when Wolverine gives Cyclops grief about it – “Jean’s zapped bad, Cyke, and you ain’t even battin’ an eyelash” – Havok gets angry about it (“Short-stuff, you are so off-base about my brother, it’s pathetic”), but Cyclops isn’t the least bit bothered. Both Scott’s dialogue and inner monologue continue to be only about the fight, which is great characterization.
Colossus’ comforting of Moira on the final page is also rather touching, I think. It’s a nice irony that Peter – the most peace-loving of the team, and also the one who was so recently doubting whether he was pulling his weight – is the one who delivers the killing stroke. Congratulated by Wolverine on the job well done, Colossus replies with the gentle reproach, “Hush now. Let Moira grieve in peace,” which is a lovely example of the character’s quiet courage (he just told Wolverine to shut up) and compassion.
All in all, the perfect conclusion to a great action movie in comic book form. (The Proteus arc would have been a marvelous story for X-Men 3 -- certainly incalculably better than the hackwork that Brett Ratner delivered.)
And from here, it only gets better. Claremont and Byrne are going from strength to strength now.