Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #156

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

Uncanny X-Men, The #156


Dave Cockrum is certainly in his element here. The entire issue serves, more than anything else, as a showcase for his fantastic sense of design. His sleekly organic conception of the Starjammers’ ship makes for a great reveal early on in the story, and the double-page spread of the Brood’s living whale-vessel is delightfully over-the-top.

Cockrum’s interior archaeology is equally eye-catching, particularly the first peek inside “one of the domed cities that dot the [Brood] vessel’s hull...” Cockrum’s new addition to the Starjammers – a tiny medically-trained helicopter that Claremont names Sikorsky – is cute and creative. Sikorsky’s syntactically inverted, Yoda-esque speech style is evidence that Claremont has obviously seen The Empire Strikes Back by this point. Like Kitty’s briefly wearing a Darth Vader costume in the previous issue, the allusions to Lucas’ film franchise are placing things firmly in the space opera genre, with hardly any superhero conventions in sight.

On the other hand, the tight plotting exhibited by Claremont in the previous two issues slackens a bit here. His impulse to again top himself by making the scope of the story even more vast now works against him, as the actual X-Men, who are meant to be the stars of the series, get lost among the explosive cosmic twists. Also, Claremont forces himself into a redundancy in the scene depicting Storm’s shock that the Brood’s whale-ship is alive. Besides being hardly a surprise given the organic feel of Cockrum’s design, the reveal is a rehash of Cyclops’ shock that the Sidri are alive in issue 154. Three issues into this saga – which had started with so much freshness – and Claremont is already being forced to reiterate story beats; not a good sign.

The other reveal of the issue – Samedi’s allegiance to Death-Bird – is another easily guessed twist, and zero progress is made with the Nightcrawler/Kitty thread as well. This initial phase of the year-long Brood arc is only four parts, set to conclude with the next issue ... yet with Part 3 it is starting to feel a little padded. The momentum generated by the previous two issues is just enough to see this one through to the final page with a reasonable amount of excitement and drama, but the plot certainly has burned through readers’ good will by the end.

The best part of “Pursuit” is Professor X, whom Claremont and Cockrum seem to be suddenly on a mission to make cooler than ever before. His trashing of a Brood warrior with a fist to the face is the most satisfying moment of action in the issue, and the subsequent dialogue between Charles and Scott is by far the most entertaining character bit.

[Where does the "living space ship thing" originate? I know the Cylon ships are alive on Battlestar Galactica but I do not know if that is the case in the original series.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if David Lapham (Harbinger, Stray Bullets) read this issue as a youngster and used the organic super ship as a spark for his Defiant Comic - Warriors of Plasm?

Good series if you can find it....