[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right.]
“Scarlet in Glory”
Published May through August of 1982, Claremont and Miller’s “Shogun”-inspired Wolverine miniseries ended with Logan announcing his engagement to Mariko Yashida. Eight months later, the continuity of the Uncanny series catches up, as we witness the X-Men arriving in Japan for the wedding.
Meanwhile, the Silver Samurai (Mariko’s half-brother) and Viper are on the scene, having sworn (in the contemporaneous New Mutants #6) to kill Wolverine before he can marry the heir to the Yashida empire. There’s a strong energy to comics like these if one has been following all the different threads in other titles (Viper and the Samurai had previously appeared in Claremont-penned issues of Marvel Team-Up and Spider-Woman); a pleasant cognitive crackle at witnessing the different threads suddenly come together. It’s something that can’t quite be duplicated by anyone without access to a large shared universe like Marvel Comics, and Claremont particularly enjoys bringing together these type of cross-pollinated moments. These days, he seems more inclined to try and create such effects without first laying the groundwork – one of the reasons why his latter-day X-Men work fails to satisfy. But in 1983, Claremont was a master.
So, “Scarlet in Glory” brims with cross-connections, right from the start: Logan catches up on what has been happening in X-Men in continuity (his enemy, Rogue, is now a team member; Kitty has a pet dragon, etc.). Meanwhile Yukio, from the Wolverine miniseries, fights the Silver Samurai, etc. Also in the mix is the slow-burning “Phoenix resurrection” bit. There is a lot going on in this issue, but – buoyed by penciller Paul Smith’s ingenuity -- Claremont handles the disparate components gracefully, weaving them into a clockwork plot that still stands as one of the most elegant and precise that the series has ever seen. So meticulously thought-out is the story that Claremont and Smith are able to execute no less than five surprises/reveals over the course of Pages 12-18, each one perfectly set-up and brilliantly executed.
Smith, meanwhile, once again employs a powerful sense of design characterized by hard right angles, this time also incorporating appropriately Eastern-flavored design elements. The cumulative effect is exotically futuristic: the superhero-comic-book equivalent of Ridley Scott’s retro-future aesthetic in “Blade Runner” (barely a year old when Uncanny #172 hit the stands). Some of Smith’s effects cry blatantly for attention, as with the symmetrical relationship between Pages 2 and 3. Others subtly tell their own story – note the final panel of Page 8, with the X-Men seated at a couch, except for Rogue, who sits at a bar. Smith’s choice of perspective masks the significance of the seating arrangement: the characters all seem to be gathered together. When Smith shifts the angle of the scene two pages later – revealing the degree of Rogue’s isolation with geometric exactness -- the effect is dazzling. The narration, wisely, never comments upon this aspect of the scene, letting Smith make the point through images alone.
Claremont, meanwhile, writes a lovely scene between Wolverine and Storm, carefully mixing plot tension (the poisoned tea) with a powerful character beat (Logan and Ororo each gently acknowledge the changes the other has gone through during their months apart). When the tension finally explodes, it’s with the force of a bullet.
From there, the domino-chain of strong dramatic reveals propels the story to a final page crammed with harshly horizontal panels dropping breathlessly to an exhilarating cliffhanger -- the final thrill in an issue densely packed with them. This is one of Claremont’s all-time best.