Friday, January 16, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #192

[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.


Anonymous said...

The Magus always felt to me like Claremont trying to come up with his own COSMIC character, and not succeeding very well.

IMS, Warlock is one of those Claremont characters that no other writer ever got too enthusiastic about. Magus, same but more so -- I'm pretty sure nobody but Claremont ever used him.


Close -- he's had two appearances since 1987, both brief.

An intelligent species that's all male, that reproduces by building its offspring, and *where the son and father then always fight to the death* is a pretty stupid idea, ennit? As is the notion that a member of such a species could be a "mutant".

Also, the way this storyline resolved in New Mutants a bit later? Was one of the most painfully stupid things Claremont ever wrote. You might be right about the last annual being the worst single issue, but the defeat of the Magus was for sure the worst single fight scene. "No, I won't help my student defeat the cosmic monstrosity that's about to kill us all and then eat the planet as well -- he has to learn to do things by himself!"


Doug M.

Anonymous said...

I had forgotten about the beating Xavier takes at the end of this issue, which sets up his leaving the title for several years. While I did not enjoy the outback X-Men, I think taking a break from the standard set-up of Xavier and his school made me appreciate those issues while realizing that when that status quo is there for so long it gets stagnant. Almost dying leads to all kinds of character moments for Xavier that doesn't quite gel with the amoral, manipulative Xavier of today.

sexy said...
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wwk5d said...

"IMS, Warlock is one of those Claremont characters that no other writer ever got too enthusiastic about. Magus, same but more so -- I'm pretty sure nobody but Claremont ever used him."

With regards to Warlock, the only writer to use him was Louise Simonson, and she (and Liefield) kill him off. As to no one else using him...after the resolution in New Mutants, and with Warlock dieing later on, why bother?

Magus did appear in the Warlock series from the late 90s/early 00s once Warlock was resurrected.

And Claremont was helping his students out. I thought it was a clever resolution, especially as it was done by Cypher, who previously kept whining about being the weakest member.