Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #136

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

“Child of Light and Darkness”

It’s the penultimate chapter of the Dark Phoenix Saga, so again the narrative tension slackens. The fight between the X-Men and Phoenix is essentially a reprise of their battle from the previous chapter, and ends the same way. Mostly we’re being geared up here for the finale next issue.

However, this issue is noteworthy for its final sequence, brilliantly executed by Claremont and Byrne. It begins on page 13, with Cyclops making a verbose plea for Phoenix to rediscover the Jean Grey part of herself. The word “love” is hammered home repeatedly: “You can’t kill us because you love us. And we love you. ... For love of the X-Men, you sacrificed your life. For love of me, you resurrected yourself. For love of the whole universe, you almost died a second time to save it. Know nothing of love?! Jean, you are love!” Claremont is deploying his by-now familiar verbosity and sentimentality, lulling the reader into believing Scott will have to succeed in talking Jean down.

Meanwhile, Claremont leaves the sneaky stuff to Byrne, who in panels 3 and 5 of the same page is ever-so-subtly telling his own story: the arrival of Professor X and Angel on the scene. The surprise sucker-punch comes on the next page, when Jean, absorbed in Scott’s saccharine appeal to her good side, is struck down psychically by Charles. The fantastic aspect of the sequence, besides its shock value, is that neither the readers nor the characters will now ever know if Cyclops’ approach would have succeeded.

The psi-war on page 15, again recalling the “Psi War” between Xavier and Farouk in issue 117, is an excellent use of continuity for readers who’ve been there that long. Once again, as in the White Queen vs. Phoenix duel in issue 131, Phoenix is made analogous to Farouk, the megalomaniac villain. This is why Byrne and Claremont’s “Psi War” story was necessary in the first place. That story’s seemingly arbitrary insertion in between parts of the extended Neal Adams homage was a stealthy bit of foreshadowing, setting us up for the outcome of the present chapter. Just as Xavier won that fight, he also wins this one.

Thus, Jean is healed, Scott proposes marriage, she accepts (in dialogue that cleverly recalls their post-coital conversation in issue 133), while all around the couple, X-Men both old and new gather in a dramatic tableau alongside Jean’s family. Xavier asks John Grey for some tea, and there’s where there could’ve been a happy ending.

Instead, we get one last cliffhanger, launching us into the finest single issue of X-Men that Claremont and Byrne – and, arguably, anyone else – ever produced.


Anonymous said...


1) Covers! This trilogy had three excellent ones in a row.

Question for the readers: is this the first use of a "Pieta" in mainstream comics? I'm pretty sure it's the first one with the male lead holding the dead female.

George Perez would unabashedly swipe this for the death of Supergirl in 1987, and about three hundred others have used it since. It's a total cliche today, almost impossible to use without irony, but that wasn't the case in 1980.

One strange element: the cover box that tells us "You DARE NOT MISS this issue, with more TWISTS and TURNS than ever before!!" It's straight from the cover of a Stan Lee Spider-Man comic circa 1963. Weird.

2) Or perhaps it hearkens back to the earliest days of the X-Men, when every other issue -- literally, every other issue -- ended with Professor X stepping in to solve things. I'm pretty sure this is the first time Claremont and Byrne unleashed the Professor at full blast.

Note the relative power ratings: Dark Phoenix is much more powerful than all the X-Men combined (her kicking the crap out of them twice in a row serves to drive this home); Xavier, almost as powerful as Dark Phoenix (he beats her because her Jean-side helps him).

3) I have to point out that once again the big red "FAIL" sign is flashing over Scott, even though this time it's not his fault. Still, the narrative imperative is clear: where Jean is concerned,
Scott /always/ fails.

4) Note how Jean's clothes disappear at the denouement. I suspect Claremont intended this to symbolize a return to innocence. I'm not sure my teenage self saw it that way, but never mind that now.

5) The art deserves a shout-out. In particular, notice how Byrne plays with Dark Phoenix's eyes, hair, and facial structure so that she looks sometimes more, and then again less, like Jean Grey.

6) In just a few panels, Claremont made Jean's parents so boring that nobody has ever been able to make them interesting. This is a real accomplishment in comics.

7) If my understanding of X-history is correct, Claremont and Byrne always planned for this issue to end with the X-Men being whisked away into space for a confrontation with the Shi'ar. However, at this point they had not yet decided to kill Jean off -- the "psychic lobotomy" variant was still on the table. It was the casual incineration of D'Bari last issue (itself a last minute decision) that made Jim Shooter force the issue.

As I've said before, I view this as two questionable decisions combining to give a serendipitously good outcome. If Jean had /only/ destroyed the Shi'ar battlecruiser, their action against her would smack of a grudge rather than a desperate -- and, really, heroic -- attempt to contain a cosmic menace. On the other hand, if she'd lived... well, we'll get to that next issue.

8) A random thought: has anyone considered how this looked from Lilandra's point of view? For her, it's the damn M'kraan crystal all over again: the superpowered alien who fixed the crystal turns out to be just as dangerous. /And/ it's the protege-cum-daughter figure of her beloved. Being Empress kinda sucks sometimes. The Imperial Guard are kinda jerks, but Lilandra's kind of a tragically sympathetic character here.

Doug M.

Jason said...

1.) No, it comes up on the Byrne message board fairly often. People always accuse Perez of ripping of Byrne's cover for Crisis, but Byrne is among the first to point out that it had been done before (I believe there's an "Imaginary Story" cover from the '60s with Superman holding a dead Lois Lane in a wedding dress --- why Superman is wearing a wedding dress, I'll never know. [insert Groucho eyebrow-wag])

2. Yeah, Xavier was sidelined for much of the Byrne/Claremont run, which I think was done *because* the Silver Age established him as so powerful. He'd be too tempting a Deus Ex Machina if he was always around, always at full power. So, he's always being debilitated by nightmares, or off on another planet, or possessed by the Brood, or in a coma, or dealing with the "phantom pain" of his legs, etc., throughout Claremont's run. I guess you're right, this is the first time we see Claremont/Byrne doing the "Xavier bails them out" trope (though of course we did see them doing "cool Xavier" in the flashback issue, "Psi War"). Note also, this is another trope Whedon very clearly lifted for the season finale of the "Dark Willow" season. It occurs at a different point in the story -- about midway through -- as the mentor figure, Giles, shows up, intimating he's the only good guy whose powers are on the same level as super-powered Willow. (The hammered-home use of "love" to bring the supercharged villain down is also lifted by Whedon in the same episode, with Xander talking Willow down by saying "I love you" over and over.)

3. I don't agree. I think he succeeded, or was about to.

4. I first read it when I was a teenager as well. So ... yeah. :)

5. Good call.

6. Lee/Kirby made them boring first -- issue 5, I think. The first appearance of any of the X-Men's parents! I kind of like when they get turned to demons during "Inferno" ...

7. You're correct; I never meant to imply that the entirety of issue 137 was Shooter's idea. My point was simply that Claremont and Byrne were being very exciting here, cruising past the obvious point in the story that could've been the happy ending and instead going for something bigger. It's a holdover from the first draft of this entry, when I did a compare/contrast with the aforementioned "Buffy" finale, which DID end "Dark Willow" at the more obvious, easy point. But I cut all that, not wanting to be so constantly dissing Whedon (and yet, here I go again -- I'm addicted).

8. Yes, Lilandra's role in issue 137 is one of my favorite things about it. The pull between her personal feelings for Xavier and her "duty to the Empire" has a very weighty, Greek-tragedy feel to it, like so much of the issue.

Anonymous said...

1) It had been done before? Huh. Okay.

Well, it's done well here, anyhow.

2) The sidelining of Xavier got pretty obvious after a while. It seems like Claremont's imagination got taxed... remember the bit where he gets beaten up by a mob?

On a tangent, Xavier's power levels have made Dark Xavier an obvious ploy to try. This has been done both well (Cassandra Nova) and, um, less well (Onslaught).

3) We're encouraged to think he was just about to succeed, sure.

But having Xavier shove him aside /and then win/ just emphasizes how ineffective Scott is. Yeah, maybe Scott's love speech would have brought her around, but Xavier actually does it.

This is an inversion of a trope common in both comics generally and the X-Men in particular: the intelligent, non-violent character is talking the monster around, and then the violent character (in the X-Men, usually Wolverine) says "hell with this" or maybe "good job distracting him, Bob" and jumps in swinging. Which results in the violent character getting blasted through a wall and the monster going on a rampage.

Here, Xavier takes over, picks a fight with the monster, /and wins/. Because he really is all that.

Is Xavier being a complete asshole here? Refusing to recognize his children as adults? Showing utter arrogance in overruling Scott? Endangering the whole world by deliberately enraging Dark Phoenix?

Or is Xavier just supremely /right/ -- knowing he's the only one who can defuse the bomb, and stepping up to do it?

While "arrogant Xavier" is attractive, consider what would have happened, on the story's own terms, if Scott had been allowed to proceed. The Shi'ar fleet would have attacked a few minutes later. Dark Phoenix would have destroyed them( probably with the Earth as collateral damage) and then gone rampaging off across the universe again. So, the balance of evidence favors Xavier being right. (Note that being right does not exclude him being an arrogant SOB /too/.)

Oh, and: I had forgotten that Scott proposed marriage here. Fits the doomed love paradigm perfectly, no?

Doug M.

Jason said...

I hadn't thought about the Shi'ar angle in relation to whether Xavier was right. But yeah, of course. If Scott had talked her down, she'd have just gotten riled up again by the kidnapping. Excellent point.

You're right, Xavier IS all that. There's a letter in one issue of Uncanny where someone pointed out that there are only three male characters that Claremont made as formidable as all his many powerhouse females: Magneto, Xavier and Wolverine. I've never really been able to argue that one.

But I like the mob-beating thing! You don't? I found it effectively shocking and brutal.

I never read the Cassandra Nova or Onslaught stories. (Well, a little of Onslaught, I suppose, via crossover issues and such.) I know Cassandra Nova's first appearance is in the "Morrison starter kit" you provided. No offense, but I can't imagine I'll ever get around to that. I've been burned too many times by seeing Morrison talked up by a dazzlingly passionate and eloquent critic (such as the esteemed host of this blog) only to actually read the issues and find them pretty bland. I admire that Morrison inspires such articulacy and zeal in so many intelligent people. I'm not so foolish as to suggest there is *nothing* there, given all the impressive things written about him by impressive people. But Morrison's work has -- pretty much consistently -- left me cold. I'm really not interested in shelling out bucks for more of that.

Plus, I've already allocated a large chunk of disposable income to checking out Mark Millar's Ultimate X-Men, based on the recommendation of Geoff and others. Won't be anything left for Morrison!

Stephen said...

Claremont is deploying his by-now familiar verbosity and sentimentality, lulling the reader into believing Scott will have to succeed in talking Jean down.

Ok, having (I trust) fully established my bona fides as a critic of Claremontian verbosity and sentimentality in earlier threads, I'll go on record here and say that I think that this particular piece of Claremontania works really well. Partly it's the stakes; partly it's due to Xavier's undermining it; partly it's just better done than much of it. So I think that this speech is actually much better than you seem to give it credit for here.

But I cut all that, not wanting to be so constantly dissing Whedon

Special exception given for dissing the Dark Willow storyline, though -- IMO, pretty clearly the single worst move by the Buffy staff in a generally first-rate brilliant show.

But I like the mob-beating thing! You don't? I found it effectively shocking and brutal.

Yeah, I liked that too -- I liked especially the 'ordinary, brutal humans overpowering the superpowered guy' bit.

But then, I actually enjoyed and have fond memories of Kitty's Fairy Tale too (there goes all my credibility...)


PS: Oh, and please take as read my usual line: great post by Jason, great comments by Doug.

Stephen said...

OK, a separate comment on the Xavier/Jean duel.

This is one place where the art really, really rocks. Doug says above that Xavier is almost as powerful as Jean -- and I guess the fact that he wins supports that, although the dialogue makes clear that it was (as you also noted) with Jean's help.

But look at how the art portrays it. (I'm "cheating": I pulled my copy of the TPB off the shelf and am looking at as I type.)

The first page before the duel proper: we see Xavier on the ground, his wheelchair shattered by Jean's bolt. He's visibly helpless, his crippling paralysis heightened by his being on the ground. His clothes are torn, his face (I think) scarred.) And we're looking at him from above, adding to our sense of his weakness.

Then we see Jean: from below (adding to our sense of her power), surrounded by the phoenix effect, her word balloons in the special "evil" style: all heightening her incredible sense of power and majesty and evil.

Now look at the next page. We have two overlapping zooms: pulling back from our view of Jean, the phoenix effect getting bigger and bigger to stay in frame, as Jean stays standing while Xavier stays weakly propped up on the ground. We start at a fair distance, and then get farther and farther until we can no longer see the figures for the trees.

For Xavier, we zoom in: the first direct shot on him makes him look desperate, helpless -- and, gain, weak. As we zoom in to his eye, we see a tear (bead of sweat?) go down his face, a clear signature of the effort and pain involved.

Then there is the coloring: Jean gets a strong pinkish crimson (or reddish pink); Xavier is increasingly yellowed out. The colors match, to a degree, Dark Phoenix's costume; but they also add to the contrast, and the effect of his weakness: we see him, literally, in the shadow of her light.

Their statuses are heightened by their physical positions; by the awesome power of the phoenix effect versus the almost-invisible tear.

All of which makes it all the more astonishing when -- against all indications -- looses.

We might say that Xavier is more powerful, or almost as powerful, or whatever, but the art effectively and, uh, powerfully shows that she is simply on a different level than he.

It's an extraordinarily effective page. Heck, I might even revise these notes into an entry of my 100 Great pages series, now that I think about it...

(The one thing I don't like is the line that the battle is "waged simultaneously on all the infinite planes of existence": while it is effective in giving the event a sense of scope and importance and epic power, even at ten I knew it sort of made a hash out of the concept of different realities/histories/planes of existence, at least as typically used in Marvel comics.)


Jason said...

"So I think that this speech is actually much better than you seem to give it credit for here."

***Hm, I didn't mean to sound negative. I mean, I like his verbosity and sentimentality. Those aren't pejoratives in my mind. Well, not when talking about Claremont. :) But you're right, I seem to have given that bit kind of short shrift.

"Special exception given for dissing the Dark Willow storyline, though"

***Really? I thought Buffy fans liked that one. See, I know nothing about Whedon, really. I actually just watched the Dark Willow finale by accident -- happened to be home when it was on. I couldn't believe how it was (as Whedon would put it, maybe) "all Dark Phoenix-y".

"Yeah, I liked that too -- I liked especially the 'ordinary, brutal humans overpowering the superpowered guy' bit."

***We agree on everything today, Stephen! This is great!

"But then, I actually enjoyed and have fond memories of Kitty's Fairy Tale too (there goes all my credibility...)"

***Indeed, you just ruined it. :) No, I kid. I kind of like Kitty's Fairy Tale, mainly because I think it suits Cockrum's sense of whimsy really well. His cartoonized versions of Nightcrawler and Wolverine are particularly inspired.

Jason said...

Stephen, yeah, that page is extraordinary. I'm a little ashamed that I didn't include a paragraph about it. (In fact, I thought I had. Maybe it was accidentally struck when I erased all the Dark Willow stuff.)

I love those washes of color from Glynis Wein (Oliver); they're somewhat predictive of that effect that Moore, Gibbons and John Higgins did in Watchmen, the blue/orange checkerboard scenes in the Rumrunner hotel.

The pink/yellow is such a bold choice -- pastels, of all things? One would expect colors that are more ... intense, perhaps. Yet it works brilliantly; it's eerie and offbeat. (Didn't Geoff heap praise on an All-Star Superman cover recently for using pink and yellow as its palette? Hey, how about that, Claremont did it first! I kid again.)

Anyway, Stephen, I'm glad you corrected my glaring omission. Your breakdown of the page in question is lovely.

Stephen said...

I thought Buffy fans liked that one

I'm sure a lot do. In general, however, season six got far more mixed reviews than the prime seasons of two - five. Personally, I think that season six is significantly underrated among Buffy fans... except for the final four (?) episodes.

But of course a lot of Buffy fans will defend every second of film they shot.

I kind of like Kitty's Fairy Tale, mainly because I think it suits Cockrum's sense of whimsy really well. His cartoonized versions of Nightcrawler and Wolverine are particularly inspired.

Personally, I'd guess that memories of that story are seriously ruined by the fact that they went back to it: starting with Illana's fairy tale, and then the Nightcrawler mini series, and on and on... each time taking what was a perfectly fine one-time concept, and not only dragging it out ad nauseum, but retroactively making the original issue (a lighthearted one-shot) seem worse.

I'm glad you corrected my glaring omission.

I live to serve. :)


Anonymous said...

"Morrison's work has -- pretty much consistently -- left me cold."

Ahh, so you lack the Morrison gene.

That means you'll be left behind when the sphere from behind the moon descends out of a higher dimension to upload the rest of us. Pity.

Well anyway: Cassandra Nova is the best of several attempts at Bad Xavier, and she really is Bad Xavier done well. The much-mourned Dave's Long Box said it best:

"The first three issues of Morrison's run introduce a new X-Men villain, who freaks me the hell out: Cassandra Nova.

"[She's} a hideous bald freak with godlike telepathic powers who is insanely, dangerously evil. Cassandra is basically Professor X's evil twin, but saying it like that sort of diminishes her freakiness.

"In this story, Cassandra Nova causes the death of tens of millions of mutants, makes people bleed from the nose, and puts Cyclops in the Black Bug Room, which is not cool. That's just for starters, baby - in Marvel's trade paperback Imperial she takes genocide to a galactic level. Plus, she looks scary. Look at her! Man, she freaks me the hell out...

"Things get worse: The Beast gets beaten with a baseball bat (that should be a Ramones song), Nova gets a hold of a fleet of spaceships and an army of superhuman aliens, lots of people die.

"I really dig Cassandra Nova because she seems genuinely frightening and dangerous. She's not scary because she may do bad things, she's scary because she does do bad things..."

-- some spoilers, click at your own risk. But let me add that I agree with Dave; for the first time since Proteus, here was an X-villain who /creeped me the hell out/. And that was a lot harder in 2002 than it was in 1979.

Well, don't buy the book, but if a friend has it, borrow it. It is worth half an hour of your time. Even if you utterly hate Morrison, this run was hugely influential (even if much of the influence consisted of later editors telling the writers "we have to get as far away from this as possible"). Like it or loathe it, it's the most important X-run of the last ten years, and any serious X-fan needs to check it out.

And for goodness' sake, read We3. Everybody loves We3. And every serious comics reader is going to find much to consider in We3. If "Understanding Comics" was the 101 and 102 double-semester class for everyone taking comics as a major, We3 is the 300-level course where the grad students sit in.

Will address non-Morrisson points in a bit. Thank you.

Doug M.

Jason said...

Stephen -- Yes, Illyana's fairy tale is horrendous.

Doug -- when you get uploaded to Morrison's moon, I'll be too busy cruising along a five-pointed star in London alongside Alan Moore.

Anonymous said...

"Special exception given for dissing the Dark Willow storyline, though"

Agreed. Season two was a much better take on the "tropes of corruption, forgiveness, rebirth" than Dark Willow.

Anonymous said...

I love it when you guys compare superhero tropes.

Something i thought i might add to the gender discussion. forgive me if its already been covered:
It occurred to me that one thing that is so special about the dark phoenix saga is that it realy evolves the idea of of the super-villain out of the silver-age (parallel, but separate from Claremont's evolution of magneto). DP is addicted to the expression of her power, and destroys worlds out of a primal hunger. This is a very different than the more silver-age-y moses magnum or doctor doom character, whose motivation is to "conquer" and subjugate. Perhaps claremont sees the former as more of a traditionally "female" type of villainy as opposed to the latter which seems to be more of "male" type of villainy. Within this story itself, Shaw and Wyngarde, of course, represent the latter type of aggression.

Perhaps Cassandra Nova falls in between. Isnt she a telepath who wishes to subjugate? and this would be mirrored by her androgynous appearance.

People keep mentioning the "dark willow" homage/ripoff of Whedon's. Are there other examples of this trope: the super-villain who is consumed with an addiction to the expression of their "power"?

Anonymous said...

Also, do one of the collections of the pre-dark-pheonix issues contain the "classic x-men" backup stories? I dont thin essentials has it, but what about the masterworks edition? Ive been thinking about purchasing one, but id like to get the classic stories as well.

Jason said...

Shlomo, the backup stories drawn by Bolton appear in their own collections: X-Men Vignettes Volumes 1 and 2. (I believe Vol. 1 does issues 1-13 and Vol. 2 does 14-25.)

The only thing not available in trade currently (and probably ever) are the new, interstitial pages Claremont created for the Classic X-Men a-stories. A lot of fans don't really like those pages anyway, hence their out-of-print-ness. I find them essential personally, but that's cause I'm obsessed with all things Claremont. (Just pointing that out in case no one's noticed.)

Phoenix's "hunger" has a Silver Age antecedent in Galactus, but of course Galactus' premise never had quite the same sense of addiction/obsession. Galactus' "hunger" was always portrayed quasi-reluctantly.

Hmmm, other examples don't come to mind at the moment. But then my brain is currently Claremont-fried. I'm so immersed in this Claremont blog of late that I have a hard time even conceiving of comics written by anyone else ...

At any rate, it's a good point. Phoenix's motivation is fairly original in contrast to the typical comic-book villain megalomania.

Anonymous said...

I can think of at least one recent antecedent: Marvel Comics' Wolfman/Colan Tomb of Dracula.

Claremont was a big fan of Dracula. Well, it wasn't half bad -- still reads well today, and was quite something at the time.

Shlomo, I like your idea, but I'm not sure it holds up, either in the period under discussion or today. What about, say, Proteus? And there were a number of Silver and Bronze Age monsters driven simply by an appetite for destruction.

Doug M.

Patrick said...

First off, I really liked Kitty's fairy tale, it's one of the highlights of the otherwise lean second Cockrum era. Like a lot of Claremont, it's been imitated and diluted by what followed, but the original story is really charming, and a great example of the X-Men as family.

Seconded on the Morrison X-Men recommendation. Admittedly, I'm a huge Morrison fan, but I can appreciate the run as both Morrison fan and X-Men fan. It does a great job of simultaneously remaining true to what made Claremont work and blazing some new ground. If you've read the Whedon run, what Whedon does is basically mix the old school Claremont storytelling with the post-Morrison status quo.

And speaking of Whedon, I wouldn't defend every second of film, but I will defend season six. It's my favorite season of the whole run, but not really because of the Dark Willow stuff. It's the equivalent of the Fall of the Mutants period in Claremont's run, when things get really dark and the characters splinter and struggle to remain together.

As a side note, it's interesting to read about the coloring in this issue since I've never actually read it in color. When I did my Claremont read, I read issue 94-213 in the Essential books, which were black and white. I bought the Claremont X-Men omnibus a few weeks ago and was amazed to see how much better this stuff looked in color. Anyone know if there's plans for a second volume any time soon? I'd love to see the whole run in that format.

Anonymous said...

Jason - i briefly thought of galactus as an analogue, but Im not familiar with his characterization, now im curious though... isnt there an excaliber issue where he and rachel summers argue about their roles?

doug - I hear what youre saying, but I think the difference is that Phoenix describes her hunger in the sexual/lustful way that has been dissected so intensely on this thread. Proteus describes his "hunger" in terms of "subjugation", while Phoenix describes it in terms of "joy". Am i reading into this/recalling incorrectly? Phoenix seems to force us to ponder something completely alien: a sexual union with the universe as she sucks the life out of a sun. (What the hell is that about?) She has become more than human, while Proteus seems to be utterly petty. --all too human.
Its actually a nice contrast.

Anonymous said...

Shlomo, good point -- it is a different kind of hunger. Sex versus food, if you like. (Cyclops comments that Proteus "thinks of us as cows". It's a good line, and twenty-some years later Cassandra Nova will hark back to it: "I don't hate you, Mr. Trask. Does the gourmet hate the steak?")

This brings us to something that I may wait another post or two to dig into: the sexualization of the X-Men generally after Byrne came on board. "Sexualization" may be too heavy (except WRT Phoenix, where it's just right): "sexing up" might be better. If you look at the Byrne run as a whole, compared to the earlier Cockrum issues, there's a sudden appearance of sexual subtexts. Some of this is surely Byrne (especially the sudden rise of nudity and partial nudity in the art), while some is probably Claremont being inspired or freed by working with Byrne.

What's interesting is that it starts as soon as Byrne arrives (Storm mentioning "absurd scraps of cloth" in 109, then getting naked to water her plants), but it stops dead a few issues before he leaves -- the last three issues (the Days of Future Past two-parter and Kitty's fight with the N-Garai) are pretty thoroughly unsexy. Of course, that may just be that the subject material didn't lend itself...

Doug M.

Jason said...


I'd say the sexualization of the X-Men was there right from the start of Claremont's run. Byrne's style is generally "sexier," but sexuality figured in during the Cockrum days as well. You pointed out the classic "Logan shreds Jean's dress" moment, and of course Storm had already shed her clothes before issue 109 (in issue 101, the Cassidy Keep issue, which also had Storm doing her sexy reveal, shedding a robe to reveal a sexy evening gown underneath).

Also, issue 143 contains what might be the first use of the actual word "sexy" in an X-Men comic: Kitty catches Peter with mistletoe, says, "Hi, sexy," and kisses him on the cheek. (Which always kind of bugged me -- the character was only 13-years old at this point.) I have issues with the sexualization of Kitty generally -- during Cockrum's run he often drew her in a bikini, apropos of nothing -- but Kitty's come-on to Peter in ish 143, Byrne's last issue, left enough of an impression on Whedon for him to include it in that montage of Kitty's memories in the opening sequence of Astonishing X-Men #1.

Shlomo, yeah, Excalibur #25 is Rachel/Galactus battle/debate. It's not a particularly memorable issue; I just re-read it recently (like in the last week), and for the life of me can't even recall what the upshot of it all was. I do recall Byrne saying that Claremont was a little resentful of Shooter decreeing that Phoenix had to be "punished" in issue 137 (leading to the solution of killing her, as I'm sure we'll talk a lot about when that review goes up), but Shooter didn't seem to have a problem with Galactus going about his planet-eating without any kind of punishment. (This in turn led to Claremont doing a scene in Uncanny 167 in which Lilandra berates Reed Richards for saving Galactus' life -- in a scene written/drawn by Byrne and approved by Shooter, of course.)

Patrick, yeah, I find color to be "essential" to enjoying these stories. I don't know if they're doing another massive hardback to continue the Claremont X-Men, but it would be nice.

Austin Gorton said...

There's a letter in one issue of Uncanny where someone pointed out that there are only three male characters that Claremont made as formidable as all his many powerhouse females: Magneto, Xavier and Wolverine. I've never really been able to argue that one.

Not that anyone's paying attention, but I think that letter was in issue #274. For whatever, it's stuck with me ever since I first read it.

But I like the mob-beating thing! You don't? I found it effectively shocking and brutal.

I liked it too! But I suppose I'll get to that when I catch up to that particular issue...

wwk5d said...

Aw, I guess I'm the only one who enjoyed BOTH Kitty and Illyana's fairytales...(*ducks*)...

I liked them for the fact that they were both silly and whimsical, and a nice counter-point to how dark the titles were getting and had gotten, respectively.

I always saw Xavier beating Jean was also due to him just being more experienced and knowing Jean really well. Besides, as we see later, it's a temporary victory. Xavier can set up as many psychic circuit breakers as he wants, Jean will just end up smashing them eventually...