[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.]
“Home Is Where the Heart Is”
This 64-page comic – together with its companion story, “There’s No Place Like Home,” published in X-Men Annual #9 – demonstrates Claremont at the peak of his powers. A cold, bold plunge into the fantasy genre taken for the sheer fun of it, the “Home” cycle, particularly this first half, is a triumph of sequential storytelling. Ann Nocenti once again earns her chops as an editor; she’s got every member of the creative cast working not only at peak efficiency, but seemingly in telepathic unison. The various design elements – layout, line, color, letters – complement each other so well, it’s almost hard to believe that so many different people were involved. The clarity of expression and continuity of design are breathtaking.
Claremont’s writing, as he tracks the nine members of the New Mutants through separate adventures in Asgard that gradually merge, is epic in tone and scope but still tightly plotted. The story’s overriding gimmick is clever and fun, depicting each member of the cast as he or she struggles through a different fantasy milieu: Danielle among the Valkyries, Amara among the Faeries, Sam among the Dwarfs, Bobby among warriors, Illyana in the clutches of the Enchantress, etc.
Penciller Arthur Adams is able to change moods on a dime, and the story bounces from melodramatic to comic to creepy with effortless ease – there’s a new twist with each turn of a new page. Working with classic X-inker Terry Austin, Adams has a style that must have seemed shockingly new to superhero readers in 1985. The artist’s work here, along with his equally striking work on the contemporaneous Longshot miniseries, is pretty much the origin of the style that will eventually be associated with Image artists such as Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld and Whilce Poracio (Portacio inked the Longshot miniseries). Adams is, much like George Perez, incredibly detail-oriented, but his work is also far more kinetic than Perez’s, and Adams’ details always contribute to the storytelling (as opposed to Perez, whose tendency to cram is often distracting). Example: the cheeky detail on Page 42 (only obliquely commented on in Claremont’s text), wherein a beautiful female Dwarf seems to goose Sam, much to his embarrassment, or Adams’ amusing choice to cast one of the giants in the Rahne sequence as Martin Short’s Ed Grimley. (Claremont throws an “I must say” into the dialogue to complete the effect, and the resulting effect is rather Dave Sim-esque.)
Regular X-Men colorist Glynis Oliver isn’t present for this issue, and instead the colors are handled by Christie Scheele, who turns in phenomenally vibrant work – particularly nice is the striking reddish-brown coat on Wolfsbane, complemented by the bright green used for her eyes. Tom Orzechowski teams with his apparent second-in-command Lois Buhalis on letters, and their work is as slick and as bold as everyone else’s – I love Buhalis’ increasingly large “Uhnff!”’s for Sunspot on page 40.
All these elements combine for a boisterously exciting yet well-controlled story whose inevitable climax – all nine characters unite to take down the villain – comes together expertly, in a rush of pure narrative adrenaline. This is superhero comics as they ought to be – sheer, effervescent fun.