[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.]
As in the previous issue, the X-Men occasionally get lost in the shuffle of this one. Instead of assimilating the genre trappings – as occurred in the awesome sci-fi of “Days of Future Past” – the X-Men here get a bit swallowed up in the space opera elements so exuberantly delineated by Dave Cockrum. Certainly the sight of a civil war among the Imperial Guard members is grand, especially when rendered by the man who designed most of them, but it’s not the most satisfying payoff to a plot thread that had originally focused on Kitty and Kurt. The two of them do get a couple of good moments – the sequence in which they escape from their room is cleverly executed, for example, and their “Dark Phoenix” hoax once again reinforces Kitty’s status as the surrogate Jean Grey – but ultimately they get shunted aside in favor of the “Imperial Guard vs. itself” bit.
To add insult to injury, in the big climactic moment wherein the Earth is about to be destroyed – the planet ends up getting saved by the Starjammers! The X-Men have become supporting cast members in their own comic.
Still, better things are coming, and they are hinted at here. The sequence wherein Xavier “senses an anomaly within himself” is suitably ominous, as is Deathbird’s promise to deliver the X-Men unto the Brood. (In a bit of overkill, Deathbird silently swears that she will eventually betray the Brood – this turns out to be an empty threat. She’ll keep her promise in issue 161 and then promptly disappear from the comic, not to return for nine years.)
So, the first act of the Brood saga – after a slam-bang start – ends here with a fizzle. Recognizing perhaps that they let their love of space opera overwhelm the finer points of their story, Cockrum and Claremont will now pull back from this entire milieu. The next four issues will each be mainly self-contained stories -- two drawn by fill-in artists and all of them much more grounded – before the series launches into the Brood Saga’s Act Two. By then, the lessons of this lopsided four-parter will have been learned, leading to a far more integrated and satisfying adventure.
In the meantime, “Hide-‘n’-Seek” can be enjoyed for its artistic achievement at least. Cockrum really seems to love drawing this kind of stuff, and his whimsical sense of humor is truly inimitable. (The visual gag of Kitty constantly changing her costume also hits its apex in this issue.) Claremont, not nearly as canny in this regard, can barely keep up – his feeble allusion to “Captain K’rk” being a particular groaner.