[Guest blogger Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run. I ask a question at teh bottom. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right.]
Issue 155 maintains the momentum of the previous installment, skillfully increasing the scope of the plot and weaving in the rest of the X-Men. The villains of the arc are revealed: Death-Bird, a villain from Claremont’s Ms. Marvel series revealed here to be Lilandra’s sister; and the extra-terrestrial Brood, as blatant a crib from James Cameron’s “Aliens” as the N’garai of issue 143 was from Ridley Scott’s original film. Cockrum’s design for the Brood is lovely, cannily evoking the Giger design to which it alludes but adding a distinctly comic-book spin. And since Claremont wouldn’t know what to do with mute villains, the Brood are also – unlike their film counterparts – fully capable of speech.
Actually, the “Aliens” inspiration for the villains of “First Blood” is not entirely obvious here. Apart from a brief reference to the “Mother,” the extent to which the Claremont and Cockrum have borrowed from Scott and Cameron isn’t entirely explicit. Later will come the implantation of eggs in host bodies, the existence of a Queen figure, etc.
In the meantime, Claremont’s plotting is as lean as it gets for this issue, featuring some neat details. Xavier’s planting Kitty and Kurt on the flagship after telepathically “punching” all of his knowledge about the Shi’ar into her brain is a particularly cool maneuver. The X-Men also come off very well in their battle with Death-Bird and the Brood, executing quite a few well-conceived stunts. The superfluous guest appearance by Tigra doesn’t add much (though Claremont clearly has an affection for the character), but apart from that the action sequence is tight and creatively done. That the X-Men still lose the fight despite being in such peak form adds to the credibility of the villains as well.
“First Blood”’s cliffhanger isn’t all that convincing, granted. (A lead character dying just before the “To Be Continued” is pretty much always a feint, in any medium.) But it at least ends the comic at a high pitch, priming readers for an exciting Part Three in a month.
On the negative side, why is Kitty once again spending half the issue in a bikini? The repeated objectification of a 13-year-old girl is starting to become distinctly discomforting. (Kitty’s four-panel fashion show for Kurt is a joke for long-time readers, reprising Nightcrawler’s image-inducer bit for Storm in Uncanny X-Men #101.)
[Should we not be bothered by Claremont's obvious habit for going to the movies and then coming back and basically importing other people's concepts wholesale into his books: Star Trek / Star Wars becomes the Starjammers, Alien becomes the N'Garai, Aliens becomes the Brood, the Terminator becomes Nimrod. Of course this is all part of fiction writing and influence happens all the time; I have argued that Morrison's Cassandra Nova is very much a version of Onslaught, who could of course be traced back to a number of villains, and of course the the evil twin thing is as old as time. Planetary builds itself through analogues, where you are supposed to recognize the source. But with Claremont it takes this particularly shameless form: very little time passes before the idea is swiped, very little revision is done to the idea so that it is crystal clear where the thing comes from, he does not improve on any of the concepts, and you just get the feeling that he goes to the movies looking for X-Men villain ideas.]