[Guest Blogger Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Chris Claremont’s X-Men run. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right.]
This issue at least pulls together some of the many chaotic ongoing subplots Claremont has got simmering at one time. Raven and Valerie had been bouncing around the title for the last couple months doing nothing of seeming relevance, but Claremont weaves them in here, as we see their meeting with Forge and the material involving his “Neutralizer” (a weapon that steals superpowers) become tied in with the dangling thread of issue 182, wherein Rogue was framed for murdering a government agent. We see now where Claremont was going with all of this in the climactic bit, as a Neutralizer-blast meant for Rogue hits Storm, inaugurating a new status quo for the latter character: She is now powerless. This is actually a supremely logical step in Ororo’s evolution as a character, a perfect way to continue her ongoing progress from the original mother/goddess incarnation of the classic Cockrum/Byrne days to someone more down to earth (both literally and figuratively).
The centerpiece of “Public Enemy” is a lovely extended sequence between Storm and Rogue set on a Mississippi riverbank. Romita Jr. and Green shine in this section of the comic, both with the lushness of the environment and in their visualization of Rogue, suddenly -- and for the first time – a very sexy character. Matters become a little awkward when the scene switches from sentimental to action-packed. The art remains top notch (note the particularly arresting panel depicting Storm as she shoots lightning from every extremity), but Claremont’s writing instantly and inexplicably becomes awkward. There’s a particularly painful bit in which Rogue self-consciously analyzes her own thoughts during a firefight, realizing that she is more heroic than she thought; it’s really awful.
Also, while it’s true that certain threads are being pulled tighter, others continue to be awkwardly jumbled in. A scene with Rachel tells readers what they’d surely guessed – Rachel is not just some random mutant from an alternate future; she is the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey (though she mistakenly pegs Madelyne’s voice as that of her mother’s during a phone call). It’s not exactly a shocker, and the dramatic beat of Rachel reacting to some anachronism or present-day surprise by bursting into tears is already getting old, and this is only the second month Claremont’s used it.
Meanwhile, Destiny mentions that “the very fabric of time itself has been rent asunder.” This probably refers to the same menace that Naze was concerned with in the previous issue, but two months in a row of such vague threats is – again – getting old. Claremont also is making things a bit tough on readers: Is the rending of time’s fabric something to do with Rachel having just come from the future? (The answer will turn out to be no, but that’s certainly not clear here.) Is it anything to do with the “Demon Bear” in New Mutants? (There, the answer is probably yes, but even that’s debatable because Claremont is so vague.)
The reference toward the end to a Storm/Mystique story in “future issues of Marvel Fanfare” is frustrating as well. Key story beats are being omitted simply so they can appear in some other comic book – at some vague point in the future? (The actual story doesn’t appear until Marvel Fanfare #40, some three years hence. It’s not bad, but it isn’t worth the wait either.)
The last page marks the final insult, in which the Rom villains known as Dire Wraiths announce their attention to kill Forge. Villains we have never seen in action (unless we read Rom, of all things) threaten to kill a character we know virtually nothing about. This is a cliffhanger?
[This sounds like some of Morrison's crap cliffhanger beats from New X-Men. He really DID steal everything from Claremont. :)]