Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jason Powell on X-Men Annual #8

[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.]

“The Adventures of Lockheed the Space Dragon and His Pet Girl Kitty”

Occurring chronologically in the gap toward the end of Uncanny X-Men #192, between Magus’ final threats and the cliffhanger that takes place “months later,” the events of X-Men Annual #8 are of course mostly inconsequential. The final few pages advance some of the storylines: Storm decides to once again try heading back to Africa (her first attempt having been abortive thanks to Kulan Gath’s spell in Uncanny #’s 190-191), while Colossus and Kitty get back on speaking terms.

Everything leading up to those end bits are simply a weak attempt to recapture the whimsy of Dave Cockrum’s “Fairy Tale” in Uncanny #153. Artist Steve Leialoha has the appropriately cartoony style for such a project, but Claremont’s writing has never been more awkward.

The premise: Kitty’s “best friend,” Illyana, decides to tell a campfire story to cheer Kitty up. She sets it in space, and the title implies it will be light-hearted fare about Kitty and Lockheed. Fair enough. So what happens in the story a few pages in? Kitty’s parents get murdered by the White Queen. Oh, Illyana, you little scamp! Boy, with friends like these...

And she only gets more tactless as time goes on, painfully reminding Kitty and Colossus of the awkwardness between them, and bluntly incorporating Storm’s power-loss into the plot as well. And all for a story that isn’t even any good in the first place.

Between 1975 and 1991, inclusive of all the spin-offs and ancillary titles, Claremont wrote roughly 340 comics about the X-Men. Statistically speaking, one of them has to be the absolute worst.

X-Men Annual # 8 ... ? Stand up and claim your award. You deserve it.

Claremont is now six for six in churning out X-Men Annuals that aren’t very good on their own terms and also rarely contribute anything of significance to the overall mythos. Happily, this will change in a year. Teamed with the magnificently talented Art Adams, Claremont will produce some fantastic material for both the 1985 and 1986 annuals.

The 1984 one, however, remains thoroughly, depressingly awful.


Anagramsci said...

I never read this--despite my enjoyment of Lockheed the dragon...

I was one of those non-annual buyers that forced Marvel to come up with the "yes annuals matter" philosophy behind the Evolutionary War and Atlantis Attacks years... I didn't like those much either, but I bought them.

Then I quit buying comics altogether.

Take THAT, annuals!


Jason said...

The Evolutionary War X-Men Annual is awesome, though! (It's pretty much self-contained, though. Anyone wanting the next chapter in the "war" was probably disappointed.)

Anagramsci said...

hmmm--I'll admit that I can't recall anything about any of the Evolutionary War annuals, but I'll be very pleased to revisit the X-Men one with you, when you reach it!

scott91777 said...

I'll be honest... I couldn't bring myself to finish this one. I just got bored. And I, too, am I big Lockheed fan.

On the annual note, I think one of my upcoming 'from the box' pieces will be the 'Kings of Pain' storyline that crossed over the Uncanny X-men, X-factor, New Mutants and, for some reason, New Warriors annuals right before the big change over to X-Force, Jim Lee's X-men and Peter David's X-factor. It attempts to revisit proteus and, I think, is the first non-Claremont Uncanny Annual (am I correct in that Jason?)

Anonymous said...

Annuals 9, 10, 11, and 12 are quite good. You've got the X-Men throwing down in Asgard; the X-Babies versus the New Mutants with Mojo, Spiral, and Longshot; the X-Men versus Horde (with Alan Davis art! Claremont/Davis stories and Claremont/Adams stories usually rocked-New Mutants annuals 2 and 3 also kick butt); and the X-Men go to the Savage Land. All very good.

It was pretty much downhill from there. You've got X-Men tied into the wretched Atlantis Attacks storyline, then Kings of Pain, then I think Shattershot, then I think Days of Future Present, then those horrible annuals that introduced brand new forgettable characters who never did anything. After that I lost track and that is probably a good thing.

As for annual #8...I think I only read it once. When I first bought it. About 20 years ago or so. Does that tell us something? I think so.

Jason said...

Anon, for me it's all about the Art Adams annuals. (Even though I like Alan Davis just fine ...) So I'm all about annuals 9, 10, 12 and 14.

Scott, you're close. Not counting X-Men Annuals 1 and 2 (which were in the 60s), the first non-Claremont annual is #13, the Atlantis Attacks crossover in 1989. (Not sure why he didn't do that one, since he went on to do the 1990 annual, "Days of Future Present." Maybe Claremont was just burned out from all the "Inferno" craziness and wanted to take a break from mass, company-wide crossovers ...)

#15 was "Kings of Pain," I think. I've never read it, so I'll be intrigued to hear you do a recap! I was still reading the titles at the time so I was tempted to pick up "Kings of Pain." I probably just couldn't afford it at the time.

Anon, as noted above, it was Atlantis (1989), then Days of Future Present (1990), then Kings of Pain (1991), then Shattershot (1992). The 1990 one was good. (Well, I liked it, anyway.)

Shattershot was, as I recall, downright horrible, and part of what eventually got me to drop the X-titles altogether.

Paul G. said...

I remember liking the "Days of Future Present" annual simply because it was enormously better than the three preceding parts of the storyline. Those chapters (the 1990 Fantastic Four, New Mutants, and X-Factor annuals) were written by Walter and Louise Simonson. They were cluttered, poorly paced, and featured characters that mostly fought and screamed at each other as soon as they crossed paths.

But the Claremont/Adams part opens up so quietly, with Rachel eating a hamburger. She then spots the adult Franklin Richards. Whereas in the previous installments, they would have yelled and fought with each other in confusion, here they just float in the air and talk.

I don't remember any other detail of that story, but that wonderful peaceful moment sticks out.

Jason said...

Paul, you just delineated the *exact* same reason that I love that annual.

(And it's also a great snapshot of why I really don't like Louise Simonson's work.)

wwk5d said...

Hmmm. I must be in the minority, as I liked this annual. Yes, it wasn't as fun-filled as the Kitty's Fairytale, but I saw that as a testament to the time, and how things had changed. It's like comparing Kitty vs N'gari (sp?) demon and Kitty vs Sidri Hunters. And, the innocent, younger Kitty is the storyteller last this. This time, we have demon sorceress Illyana.

The annual does have a slight impact on the titles, as Kitty and Peter start on the road to repairing their friendship, and Storm gets back on the path to finding herself by going to Africa.

Then again, I enjoyed most of the Annuals. Not the best stories, mind you, but most are decent entertainment.