Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #147

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

Uncanny X-Men, The #147

“Rogue Storm”

And we see this was all heading toward another miniature recreation of Dark Phoenix, with Storm being corrupted by power. Unsurprisingly, Storm is entirely ready to give in to the seduction of omnipotence, until she remembers Jean Grey. That memory reminds her of the price of such power, and so she relinquishes it. This is a dubious plot idea at any rate so soon after Dark Phoenix ended (only 10 issues ago), but given that Claremont did something similar with Snowbird in issue 140, and had the “learning from Jean’s tragedy” bit as the centerpiece of Cyclops’ solo story in #144, this whole concept is downright threadbare by this point.

It’s too bad, because “Rogue Storm” starts off so promisingly. The opening sequence with Nightcrawler escaping by teleporting “two miles above the ground” is very strong. (With Cockrum back on the book, Nightcrawler is back to being the series’ favorite son, rather than Wolverine or Cyclops). The narration on the second page, which off-handedly tells us something new about Nightcrawler’s teleportation powers, is a delightful surprise: “His range is limited by ... the distance and direction of each ‘port. ... north-south (along Earth’s magnetic lines of force) [is] easier than east-west (against them.)” That’s a fun use of pseudo-science, and also a shrewd way to disguise exposition. This, after all, was back when every issue had to bring a potential first-time reader up to speed. Claremont’s narration here tells readers what Nightcrawler’s powers are, but those of us who were reading from the start get a spoonful of sweet character-trivia to make the exposition go down.

The rest of the sequence is just as entertaining, with Nightcrawler attempting to catch an updraft so that he can “bleed off some of [his] velocity” before teleporting, and I also love the detail at the end of page 3, with Nightcrawler – freezing cold after an hour-long swim – forcing himself to keep his teeth clenched, because, “If they start chattering, my fangs could cut my lips and tongue to ribbons.” These thoughtful details, packed into every corner of Claremont’s best writing, are another thing that separates him from his peers. You truly get the sense that he’s thought through every implication of what these characters do and how they work. The image of Nightcrawler’s mouth being sliced apart by his own fangs is also deliciously gruesome.

From there, though, “Rogue Storm” settles into a fairly rote retread of the previous Arcade story: each member of the team busts out of his individual trap, and they all converge upon the villain. In spite of Dr. Doom’s inclusion, there is little to distinguish the story beats here from those in Uncanny #124 (that one even also had an X-Man – Colossus – gone bad, and needing to be talked down).

There is a cute wink to the past early on when Cockrum cuts to the inside of the North American Air Defense Command (the main setting of Claremont and Cockrum’s first collaboration), and the last page inches the Cyclops/Lee subplot a little further along, but apart from these little sprinkles of personality – and that wonderfully engaging opening Nightcrawler sequence – there is not much to distinguish issue 147. Claremont is still struggling to find a new direction for the series in the wake of Byrne’s departure.

4 comments:

scott91777 said...

Jason,

Don't know if you watch the Daily Show, but during his interview with Maggie Gylenhal, Jon Stewart made an "M'Kraan Crystal" reference

scott91777 said...

Oh, and I thought I remembered that Nightcrawler's powers at this point were supposed to be limited to 'line of sight'... at least I thought I remembered hearing that somewhere.

Jason said...

Scott,

No kidding? That's awesome! Jon Stewart is so great.

Re: Nightcrawler's powers, it's probably -- like many things in comics -- inconsistent from writer-to-writer. But as far as Claremont's concerned, the idea is that he can teleport anywhere within his range --- including places he's never seen. It's just that, if he DOES teleport somewhere he hasn't seen, he risks dying (by teleporting inside a wall, or around an object). It's not that he actually *can't* do it, it's just that he doesn't because it's too great a risk.

scott91777 said...

The context was Stuart telling Maggie Gylenhal (one of his two favorite Gylenhals) that he now watches X-men and Batman cartoons with his son in the morning and he finds himself getting into them so, when his son is like: "Dad, it's time for school" Stuart is like "You're not going anywhere, they haven't recovered the M'Kraan crystal yet"