Thursday, November 06, 2008

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #178

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

Uncanny X-Men, The #178

“Hell Hath No Fury ...”

The conclusion of this little two-parter going some way toward redeeming its weak first half through sheer verve. The climactic scene between Mystique and Rogue, for example, is neatly constructed (it’s also a tacit retcon, with Rogue claiming she came to Xavier of her own free will when issue #170 very strongly suggested that Wyngarde was manipulating her). We get a slightly stronger sense from this scene than we did in Uncanny #171 of the desperation of Rogue’s situation and why she is with Xavier rather than Mystique. Claremont even resolves Rogue’s wonky characterization from Dazzler #’s 24 and 28 that depicted her embarking on a hazily motivated vendetta against the title character.

Meanwhile, we see a few clues as to the darker direction the series is heading in. It is prefigured in the new dynamic Claremont establishes here between Storm and Wolverine, in a scene consolidating their lovely encounter in Uncanny #172. Ororo is now as hard and as terse (and as inclined toward macho bravado) as Logan, and the new energy that exists between them as a result is almost sexual in nature. Claremont will continue to develop this surprising new tension over time, and circa issues 214-216 it will become the emotional core of the comic. (Thus, oddly enough, Brett Ratner’s X3 was obliquely on the right track when it cut Xavier, Scott and Jean out of the franchise and made Wolverine and Storm the core of a new team. Motivated by the star power of Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry rather than respect for source material that they weren’t even familiar with, the filmmakers serendipitously replicated a forgotten era of X-continuity. None of which is to say that X3 isn’t a complete failure on every artistic level.)

There is a subtle precursor of what’s to come during the battle sequence as well, when Nightcrawler wraps his arm around Avalanche’s neck and teleports him, delivering a succinctly tough straight line: “Right idea, Avalanche – wrong target.” Uncanny X-Men is still an action comic, but the next few issues see Claremont, teamed with his grittiest artistic collaborator to date, making the action less akin to sci-fi (as was so common with Cockrum and Byrne) and closer in tone and style to the kind of action that might star Eastwood, Bronson or McQueen.

6 comments:

Dougie said...

The cover image reminds me that Romita cleverly uses Ditko's visual language to indicate that Amanda and Dr. Strange draw upon the same sources of power.

Jason said...

Good point. Especially evident when Dr. Strange guest-stars in issues 190-191 ...

Andrew said...

great analysis on a solid issue, i'm curious though, jason, how do you feel about the movie X3 by Brett Ratner?

Jason said...

I very much hated it. :)

Rob Salerno said...

When and how was it suggested that Wyngarde was manipulating Rogue into joining the X-Men? I don't remember that at all...

Jason said...

Issue 169. Mystique has a nightmare created by Wyngarde (a fox hunt, just like the illusion he created for Jean in issue 126). She wakes up, recognizing the dream as some kind of psychic attack.

A few minutes later, when she learns that Rogue has run away, Mystique says, "This is as deliberate as my dream." And then they cut to Rogue on the bus, and there is a caption about echoing laughter (the same "laughter" heard when the White Queen is struck down, again by Wyngarde). It all very strongly suggests that Wyngarde is responsible for Rogue leaving Mystique. (If not for her coming to the X-Men.)