[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.]
“Fun ‘n’ Games”
Although the villain for this particular issue more properly should be showing up in New Mutants, Uncanny #192 is nonetheless – startlingly, at this point – an X-Men story par excellence. For the first time since issue 188, the concerns and preoccupations of the lead characters are forefronted: Nightcrawler unwittingly mock’s Rogue’s inability to touch; Colossus agonizes over his breakup with Kitty; Xavier wonders how to help the now-powerless Storm, and also expresses concern that the “recent controversy about Dazzler and her film has evidently catalyzed considerable dormant ill will” against mutants. (This last is a reference to Jim Shooter’s risible “Dazzler: The Movie” graphic novel.)
Though most of the issue is given over to a gratuitous battle against Magus -- the evil father of the New Mutants character Warlock – there is nonetheless a strong sense that events in the X-Men universe are moving forward. Apart from the above examples of solid character focus, “Fun ‘n’ Games” also sees Wolverine and Kitty’s return to the title after an eight-month absence, as well as a tersely exciting one-page flashback to the “Days of Future Past” timeline, giving strong hints about how Nimrod fits into matters.
Also, it must be said that the X-Men vs. Magus battle is one of Claremont’s best fight scenes to appear in Uncanny in quite some time. Claremont seemed a little blocked in recent months when it came to finding new things to do with his lead characters (hence their relegation to guest-star status in Uncanny #’s 184, 187 and 189). Now, it appears Claremont has been doing some brainstorming. Hence, for example, the brilliant idea to have Nightcrawler teleport only a piece of Magus rather than his entire mass – in almost a decade of the character’s existence, no one had ever thought to have him do such a thing before now. Almost as exciting is Rogue’s absorption of the villain, causing her to temporarily become living circuitry, which is a great visual and a demonstration that she’s getting less timid about using her power. (Back when she appeared as a villain in Dazzler, she wasn’t even willing to absorb the Angel because the idea of growing wings freaked her out.) The X-Men are starting to feel hardcore again.
Issue 192 also features one of the most shockingly brutal cliffhangers Claremont has ever written. Indeed, that last, horrifying scene – more than anything else in the comic – really draws the reader back into the series. No doubt many readers were getting restless at around this time, 1984 having proven to be one of Claremont’s more meandering – albeit imaginative -- years on the series. With the December 1984 issue’s depiction of Charles being beaten to death by callous anti-mutant bigots, fans were no doubt hugely surprised – not only by John Romita Jr. and Dan Green’s incredibly stark depiction of the violence, but by the instant sense that 1985 would prove to be a far more intense year.