Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #200

[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 Trial of Magneto”

Early in Uncanny #200, the judge presiding over the eponymous trial rules that the charges against Magneto be “restricted to those specifications which occurred after Magneto’s ‘resurrection’” in Uncanny X-Men #104, his first appearance under Claremont’s pen. This is the author’s quite shrewd use of continuity to make the character entirely his. It’s right there now, in black and white: Everything Magneto did before Claremont wrote him doesn’t count.

As Claremont’s greatest achievement as writer of the X-Men, Magneto always manages to stand out as a dynamic and arresting character, even if the rest of the goings on aren’t necessarily up to snuff. (See “God Loves, Man Kills” for the most extreme example of this phenomenon.) Here, Claremont places Magneto in the rather staid milieu that is the courtroom drama. The resulting goings-on are predictably bland, although Claremont’s casting of “Sir James Jaspers” as prosecuting attorney is a fun Easter egg for Alan Moore fans. (Jaspers is a super-villain -- a mutant posing as a normal human being -- in Moore’s “Captain Britain” comic published in the UK circa 1982.)

Magneto, however, again seems better than the story he appears in. His testimony toward the end of the comic is the most entertaining part, particularly the explanation for why he no longer seeks world conquest: “I thought I could impose sanity from above – through conquest,” he explains to the humans on the bench, “but there are too many of you. So, I decided I must try another way.” That’s a great line, and a far more credible motivation than the idea of him suddenly seeing the light. Indeed, Magneto’s evolution from issue 150 (wherein he was portrayed as a pure villain until the final few pages) to now has been steady and controlled. Xavier’s entrusting the entire school to him seems somewhat abrupt as it occurs in this issue, but considered in a larger context that includes Magneto’s appearances in “Secret Wars,” “God Loves, Man Kills” and New Mutants, it is a perfectly logical next step.

As mentioned in the previous issue, Claremont is deliberately shifting the series’ political alignment – revolutionaries like Magneto are sympathetic; backward-looking conservatives like Scott are played quite the opposite. During a cutaway in this issue to Madelyne, stuck in the mansion alone and pregnant, we find out that Scott hasn’t called her since his arrival in Paris. “Others have phoned,” we are told by her thought balloons. “Ororo, Nightcrawler – and Kitty almost every day, bless her!” Claremont is laying the groundwork for X-Factor #1 (to be published in two months’ time), which will destroy Scott entirely when it depicts him abandoning his wife and newborn son to reunite with a resurrected Jean. That’s the ultimate moment of ruination, but Claremont’s use of him here is almost as bad: That Scott doesn’t call his pregnant wife is downright reprehensible. The author has complained about X-Factor ruining Scott as a hero, but his work here makes Claremont himself culpable as well. Claremont writes Cyclops as an asshole, both in this issue and the next. (There is, amazingly, a large contingent of X-Men aficionados who fervently defend Scott’s behavior in Uncanny #’s 200 and 201, and in subsequent issues of X-Factor, via any number of laughable, ridiculous arguments. I’m tempted to wonder whether that speaks to the high level of sexism among much of comic book fandom.)

At any rate, as with the previous issue, there is once again a sense of Claremont using Magneto and Cyclops to deliberately flag up the paradigm shift that he is attempting with the series: Magneto, the consummate Silver Age villain, becomes a hero, and Cyclops – the only remaining Silver Age X-Man besides Xavier – is explicitly a “real jerk.”

The anomalous variable in the equation is Xavier himself, a Silver Age character who has transcended the conservative, assimilatory stance he once held. As he did in Uncanny 193 when he let the Hellions go free, Xavier once again eschews operating within the bounds of conventional law. He asks Magneto to take over his place at the school because to do so “will stand as a far nobler monument – and better safeguard to mutantkind – than [Magneto’s] martyrdom at this trial.”

As the three characters who appear both in the original X-Men #1 and here in #200, Xavier, Cyclops, and Magneto are the crucial triumvirate for expressing the series’ political shift, with the former being the mutable axis around which the latter two shift positions entirely.


Anonymous said...

Jason, Jaspers' appearance wasn't intended as an Easter egg. Claremont thought that Marvel owned the rights to Jaspers and intended to use him as a villain but it turned out that they weren't allowed to use him without Moore's consent.
I think that you're reading too much politics into Claremont writing Scott as a jerk. He was probably told by editorial to cause problems in Scott's and Maddie's marriage. That's what Claremont meant by X-Factor ruined Scott. Didn't Claremont say in that interview where he talks about learning about X-Factor during the plotting session for 198
that his plans for Scott and Maddie had to be changed?
The weird thing about Claremont's writing of Scott is that in X-Men Annual 9, Kitty concludes that Scott has figured out who Rachel is. That might have been Claremont's explanation for Scott's odd behavior in issues 200 and 201. But Scott shows no sign of knowing until Days of Future Present, where Jean concludes (without any evidence) that Rachel was telepathically preventing Scott from figuring out who she was.

Geoff Klock said...

Jason -- just so you don't miss it, there is a good question for you in the Free Form comments.

neilshyminsky said...

Jason wrote: "There is, amazingly, a large contingent of X-Men aficionados who fervently defend Scott’s behavior in Uncanny #’s 200 and 201, and in subsequent issues of X-Factor, via any number of laughable, ridiculous arguments. I’m tempted to wonder whether that speaks to the high level of sexism among much of comic book fandom."

Indeed. If the message boards at Comicboards is any indication, it might also have something to do with a lack of life experience. A common justification for Scott was that Maddie told him to go or even threw him out, the logic being that he was just doing what she told him to do. But for those of us who have been in committed relationships, though, and especially for those of us with children, we realize that Maddie wasn't sincerely telling him to do anything. She was angry, and we often say things when we're angry that are designed to provoke a response - to give perspective, as it were - which shouldn't be taken literally. But you sort've need to have been in that place to understand.

Another related guess, given that many of these guys on the X-Board were also in their 20s and 30s without that kind of relationship experience to draw on and from which to derive empathy for Maddie, would be that these are guys who identified strongly with Scott as a character. So they would do pretty well anything to save him.

Richard Melendez said...

"The author has complained about X-Factor ruining Scott as a hero, but his work here makes Claremont himself culpable as well. Claremont writes Cyclops as an asshole, both in this issue and the next."

The thing is, if you're Claremont and you know that Scott is going to reunite with Jean in X-Factor, there's no way to let that happen and NOT write Scott as an asshole. If you're going to write the sequence of events that set-up his departure believably, namely Scott leaving his pregnant wife for his just returned from the dead girlfriend, you really can't do that and have Scott coming out of it looking like a good guy. Not any way that wouldn't stretch credibility, at least.

To leave Maddy, Scott would have to be an asshole. The only way he wouldn't be would be if she gave him her blessings, something that I wouldn't believe would happen, and even so, Scott would still be kind of a dick for leaving. In order to make his move to X-Factor believable, it was all but necessary to show Scott as an asshole. My theory. So yeah, Claremont's culpable for making Scott an asshole, but as a writer, what else could he do?


Jason said...

Neil, I think you're probably right. Although I suppose it does bring up the point that Scott, as a character at this time, is young and inexperienced. So maybe there is something to be said for the theory that HE just didn't know any better at the time. But I feel like even that -- far more charitable -- notion would be met with scorn by the Scott Summers Defense League.

Michael and Richard -- the thing is, Claremont had written Scott out of the X-Men over a year earlier. Scott and Maddie began a new life at the end of Uncanny X-Men #176. The story line of X-Men could have completely ignored X-Factor, or at least not participated in the ruining-of-Scott aspect. Yet Claremont writes Cyclops back in, and writes him as a jerk. So Claremont became an active participant in the ruination of Scott. For better or worse, it's there.

Whether Claremont made the choice due to editorial decree or perhaps in a form of perverse protest, I can only guess (unless someone can point to an interview wherein Claremont explicitly explains his characterization of Scott at this time). But personally, I think it is something that -- like other changes that were not organic (the death of Phoenix, for example) -- enriches the tapestry of the X-Men. Scott as the ruined hero creates an unexpected dynamic, and it makes the inevitable X-Men/X-Factor confrontation (which Claremont, Simonson, et al amazingly managed to delay for a full three years after X-Factor #1) into a hugely dramatic event, like something out of a Greek tragedy.

Jason said...

And Michael, I actually knew the real reason for Jaspers' presence in the comic. But since it goes nowhere and this is his only appearance in Claremont's run, the result is that it is no more than an Easter egg.

Jason said...

Geoff, I am not seeing the question for me in Free Form Comments ...

Anonymous said...

Couple of things.

One, I don't think Claremont had the judge rule out pre-104 Magneto actions in order to make the character "his". I think there were two perfectly good reasons to do this. In-story, it decoupled modern Magneto from the lame, shackle-and-cackle villain of the original X-Men, and made an acquittal at least plausible. And at a meta level, it relieved Claremont (and us) of the need to review a large but rather dull chunk of X-history.

I notice you don't even mention the villains of this issue, the Strucker twins united as "Fenris". On one hand, I can understand why, since the Strucker twins are stupid and suck. On the other, it might be worthwhile to pause a moment and consider why that's so. I mean, Claremont obviously crafted Fenris to be a foil to Magneto at multiple levels. They're mutants; they're the children of that nasty Baron Strucker (who was the enemy of both Magneto and Xavier, back in the day); they're exactly the sort of one-dimensional villain that Magneto himself used to be. They should have at least been decent villains, and perhaps could have been great ones. Instead... well, they're stupid, and suck. The reasons (IMO) involve the details of some things Claremont was still a bit shaky on -- character construction, and story pacing.

But anyway. I remember this as a decent story, but not a candle on #100 or #150. The redemption of Magneto was interesting but had clearly been coming since Secret Wars I, the fight scenes were nothing special, and the courtroom drama dragged a bit.

Random thought: something we didn't know in 1985, but (alas!) now do, is that it's damnably hard to reform an original early 1960s Silver Age Marvel villain for good. Sooner or later, some later writer comes along and decides that the only possible "right" version of the character is the one Stan Lee wrote back in the Kennedy administration. Magneto is the most obvious example, but the Sandman and the Juggernaut both got reformed into heroes or near-heroes for a while and then got de-reformed under later writers. I think this is a damn shame, myself, but there it is.

Doug M.

Anonymous said...

Jason, I think that Claremont had other plans for Scott BEFORE X-Factor interfered. In X-Men 197, Scott is going back to the X-Men. Claremont says he only found out about X-Factor during the plotting session for 198. My guess is that the art for that page of X-Men 197 was already done by the time Claremont was told and then he had to change his plans. I asked you about that interview you mentioned before-and I think that's the question that Geoff is referring to- doesn't it say something about how Claremont's plans for Scott had to be changed because of X-Factor and he had to be written out?

Anonymous said...

As evidence in favor of Michael's point, note that Cyclops remains on the masthead nearly continuously from his retirement in 176 to his duel with Storm in 202. Clearly Claremont had plans for him even after he was written out of the main storyline.

Geoff Klock said...

Jason -- sorry, some tech problems with that particular comment. I will let you know when we sort it out.

ba said...

How did Moore keep the rights to jaspers and not any other character from captain britain? And claremont has used jaspers a number of times since then, including a whole miniseries (Die By The Sword) revolving around him.

I'm not sure if cyclops' behavior has been written by future writers to conform to the asshole he was in leaving madelyne, but you can't deny that he's been a consistently terrible boyfriend/husband since then.

While I do like the Inferno crossover very much, I do think it was a pretty bald attempt to get rid of madelyne (and later cable) in order to wipe out vestiges of both characters' arcs (not to be seen again until after claremont left). Not that comics don't always go back to status quo - this just seemed particularly egregious considering how cyclops treated her, they have to make her a demon queen to justify his actions.

Richard Melendez said...

"...personally, I think it is something that -- like other changes that were not organic (the death of Phoenix, for example) -- enriches the tapestry of the X-Men."

I have to agree with you on that observation, and like Neil, I can chalk it up to the poor decisions we make when we're younger. Overall, it does add to the tapestry of the X-Men in general, and Scott in particular. Not unlike, in my mind, Hank Pym and how his one incident of battery towards Janet has been folded into his overarching story, making him a flawed hero.


Anonymous said...

I thought Fenris was actually pretty cool, with a neat visual created by John Romita, Jr. They could have been great enemies for the X-Men and Magneto, but no one really used them after this. They were allegedly in that "Upstarts" group of villains in the 1990s, which mostly consisted of them being defeated off-panel. And now Andreas Strucker is a major character in the "Thunderbolts" comic. Those characters have been on a strange journey. Any in-story explanation why the twins never took another shot at Magneto?

I'm surprised you didn't touch on one of issue 200's greatest ramifications-the writing out of Charles Xavier. Except for the period he pretended to be dead back in the Silver Age, this would be the longest stretch the X-Men's mentor would be out of the picture. I actually started collecting X-Men when Magneto was in charge of the school, and was disappointed when in the early 90s the powers that be at Marvel decided to hit the reset button and bring back the "Classic" version of the X-Men: Westchester mansion HQ, Prof. X in charge of the schoo, Prof. X in a wheelchair, and the five original X-men back in the lineup and clogging up the place.

It seems since then there has been a phobia in comics against letting characters grow, change, and move on. It was cool Cyclops left the X-Men and moved on. It was cool Prof. X went off to fight an interstellar war with his beloved Lilandria (it gave the tortured character something of a happy ending). It was cool the X-Men relocated to Muir Island, then to Australia. I am not sure why Marvel felt it necessary to do away with all of that.

Anonymous said...

ba,Richard, I think the problem with Scott is that between Inferno and Morrison's run, everyone tried to treat Scott as a boyscout. As opposed to Hank, whose sins have been an integral part of his character since Avengers 213.

Richard Melendez said...

"I think the problem with Scott is that between Inferno and Morrison's run, everyone tried to treat Scott as a boyscout. As opposed to Hank, whose sins have been an integral part of his character since Avengers 213.

All the more reason that I think that embracing this a bad decision on Scott's part, a youthful indiscretion, adds to the overall tapestry. Even boy scouts have lapses in judgment.


ba said...

Anonymous, I agree with that characterization, which only serves to make scott a two dimensional character: goody-goody, and fickle with the "loves of his life." the two make a poor combination. the fact that they're recharacterizing him circa astonishing x-men and the decimation makes a boring character just as boring, but in a different way.

remember how a couple of issues after jean died, he dated colleen wing for one issue?

re: fenris - they were always rather underwhelming rogue once said (in x-men 5 or so), "as bio electric furies go, it kinda tickles."

of course, ellis did great work with andreas strucker on thunderbolts, with the lovely twist of having his dead sister's skin on his sword.

Anonymous said...

ba, I thought the "dead sister's skin" thing was gratuitous and creepy -- classic "Ellis in sniggering jerk mode". YMMV.

Anonymous, I didn't think Fenris' graphics were that great. Compare and contrast, say, Aurora and Northstar, another brother-and-sister-with-touch-power team. Just not as cool.

The twins remind me of the New Mutants, actually: interesting backstory, and... um, that's it. Powers not well thought out, visuals left to the artist to do the best he can, dialogue purest cardboard, and really nothing interesting about them beyond the backstory. The New Mutants were given time to evolve beyond that weak start; Fenris, not. Claremont himself seems to have lost interest in them almost at once.

Doug M.

Jason said...

Man oh man, lots of comments on this one. Forgive me, I always like to respond to everything but I am drained this week. I'll do my best.

FIrst, to the ever-contrary Doug. :) ... Agree with you about Fenris. Don't like their costumes. I kind of enjoy their whole decadent aspect, which was played up more when they (apropos of nothing) showed up in Africa and shot Storm. When they show up in issue 200 in their silly costumes, it seems like a step down from the somehow more evil iteration of them, just as a pair of rich, good-looking #$$holes.

I don't think your reasoning behind the judge's ruling is contrary at all to my interpretation. It supports it. The ruling distances this Magneto from his Silver Age incarnation. Exactly something Claremont would want to do to make the character his own. I do want to keep my unofficial title on the blog as "the most reasonable guy on the internet" (I wear that one as a badge of honor), but I have to stand firm on this interp, because it is clear as day, right there in the issue: The Magneto stories that occurred pre-Claremont DO NOT COUNT. They are THROWN OUT. Claremont was claiming the character as his own. This is there in the comic, very forcefully driven home. (Perhaps more forcefully than typical, in a deliberate blow for re-conquest of the franchise after Jean Grey was snatched out from under him?).

Michael, Claremont's story about learning about Jean Grey's resurrection is probably in a couple of different sources. The one I have makes no mention of where issue 197 was at that point. So yeah, maybe Cyclops was already going to come back. But I have to go back to what is in the text, and that is Claremont writing Cyclops convincingly as a real bastard. Maybe he was told to do that, maybe it was done as commentary -- whatever the case, it seems to have been done with gusto. My point again stands: Claremont is culpable for the Cyclops we have now. And again, I don't mind. I find X-Men more interesting with this version of Cyclops.

arcus -- I'm afraid I don't buy that the corner box means ANYTHING to the storyline. Those things seemed to be updated as an afterthought more often than not, and many's the time a character remained in that box long after they were a significant part of the comic. (Cyclops is also on the cover of X-Men Annual #7, despite not appearing in the issue at all. I do not think that means that Claremont had plans to put Cyclops in the annual but an editorial mandate forced him to change those plans.)

Ba, no clue about the legalities of the Captain Britain stuff, though Moore seems to have a real penchant for getting himself stuck in these legal quagmires. Brilliant writer he may be (which is to say, he IS), but one gets the impression he doesn't have much of a head for business. And yes, there is plenty to debate about "Inferno." This is the second time it's come up in the comments section and we are still three years from it. God knows how long the comments threads are going to get when the blog hits the actual "Inferno" issues! It's gonna be fun!

Anon, I think I will touch upon Xavier's departure in the notes to Uncanny #201 (which is the issue that actually sees the Starjammer break orbit!). FWIW, I agree with you; I think it was a great move, and indeed gives Xavier a bit of closure. The "status quo" thing really did become a problem. Claremont did some really radical things when he shifted the X-Men to Australia and before that made Magneto a member of the X-Men. It's a shame that these things got rolled back by the corporate machine. Interesting too that Morrison seemed to deal with these forces years later. As Geoff pointed out in his reviews (which I have just had occasion to re-read), Morrison's run began with bold steps in a fresh direction, then they suddenly seemed to roll back into re-explorations of tired old motifs from the 90s. The evolution of the X-Men does seem to be marked by these ebbs and flows, and a battle between radical and conservative.

Gary said...

"Overall, it does add to the tapestry of the X-Men in general, and Scott in particular. Not unlike, in my mind, Hank Pym and how his one incident of battery towards Janet has been folded into his overarching story, making him a flawed hero."
The difference is that the fans and the writers remember that Hank Pym hit his wife during a nervous breakdown and will never forget or forgive him for it. It's brought up as often ToyFare brings up Tony Stark's alcoholism. The writers, on the other hand, are completely willing to forget that Scott abandoned his wife and child to run off and make googly eyes at his old flame. It seems only the readers remember.

Gary said...

And, having read past that comment now, I find my comment redundant. My apologies.

James said...

Gary - "It seems only the readers remember."

Only some of the readers, at that (see: Neil & Jason's discussion re: message-board consensus). You're right though, there's a huge double-standard being embraced here, which I'm going to brazenly put down to the emotionally under-developed having a simplistic knee-jerk reaction to any and all [i]physical[/i] violence against women, while emotional abuse is okay because "she turned out to be a nasty old Goblin Queen anyway".

(Pym's portrayal as an abusive weasel with an inferiority complex in Mark Millar's Ultimates kind of sealed his fate, as well.)

Anonymous said...

After reading West Coast Avengers growing up and the redemption and new direction of Dr. Hank Pym depicted therein, I've been shocked at how his character has been drug through the mud the past several years under writers such as Geoff Johns, Chuck Austen, Mark Millar, and Brian Bendis, and also how fans are suddenly rising up against the character of Hank Pym, deriding him as a "wife-beater" every chance they get. It's very sad, this is one of Marvel's first Silver Age heroes, one of the founding Avengers, who went through a lot of crap but emerged out the other end a true hero. All that work that writers like Steven Englehart did to rehab Hank's character are just tossed aside and everyone pretends like it didn't happen. Along with deleting the Peter Parker-Mary Jane marriage, abruptly bringing back Aunt May from the dead, and resurrecting Norman Osborn, the dismantling of Hank Pym's character is probably one of the worst sins Marvel has committed against its properties in the past 15 years or so.

Anonymous said...

@Jason, how can we tell? I mean, short of Claremont showing up on this thread to say "oh no, Doug is wrong and a damn fool too -- I /totally/ intended to make Magneto my character, that's exactly what was on my mind." Debating authorial intent can certainly be fun, but absent clear authorial statements it ends up being about angels and pins. (And sometimes even with clear authorial statements... but that's another story.)

I would add one thing: in 1985, the great majority of readers were not familiar with pre-Claremont Magneto. Remember, the character's last appearance in the X-Men had been in 1969! After the original series died, he wandered aimlessly around the Marvel Universe for a few years, making guest appearances in the Avengers and such, before finally being reduced to babyhood in (IMS) 1973 or so.

A thing to keep in mind when reading comics from before 1990: memories were shorter back then. The average fan was younger, and hadn't been reading for nearly as long. Reprints were much harder to come by; IMS, in the 1980s the early Lee issues of X-Men had only been reprinted twice, and the later Neal Adams issues from the end of the first run hadn't yet been reprinted at all! (Different times, man...) So, for the great majority of readers of issue #200, Magneto was /already/ Claremont's -- he was a character they'd never seen before issue #150, or #111, or at the very most #104.

BTW, as long as we're on the subject: does anyone remember when it was first made clear that Magneto was the father of Wanda and Pietro? IMS this came out in an issue of _Avengers_ -- Shooter and Byrne? Michelinie and Byrne? It was the "Chthon" storyline, right? -- but while the readers knew about it, the characters had to wait several years before a later writing team allowed them the big reveal. I'm just asking because I'm pretty sure Magneto was unaware of it at this time.

Doug M.

Jason said...

Doug, no, we can't be 100% sure. I am hearing your points, but okay, even if it wasn't Claremont's intent, that is very much the effect. Again, it seems SO deliberate. And as far as readers' memory spans, certainly Claremont has seemed to rely on them being pretty long in the past. What year had Mastermind last appeared in an X-Men comic before the reveal in the middle of the Dark Phoenix Saga? Or the Blob before "Days of Future Past"?

I haven't read any of the Scarlet Witch and Pietro stuff that connected him to Magneto, but by the time of this issue, Magneto does seem to have known. Claremont only made one reference to it, in a New Mutants issue roughly contemporaneous with Uncanny #192. Magneto tells Lee that his "children" have disowned him, or words to that effect.

It could be taken to mean that his children are "mutants" and they -- i.e., the X-Men -- have disowned him by treating him as a villain rather than as the savior of mutantkind. That's actually an interp I prefer, but when read in context it doesn't quite work. Pretty sure it actually refers to Pietro and Wanda.

I get the distinct impression that Claremont didn't like the Wanda/Pietro ret-con. He made one reference to it during his entire X-Men run, and it wasn't even in the main X-Men title, and it was very oblique at that. It certainly muddies the backstory Claremont wanted to run with, the Magda/Anya material. I think Claremont was very deliberately ignoring that whole development. (But of course I can't be 100% sure about that ...)

Anonymous said...

Doug,Jason, it was Byrne's idea for Pietro and Wanda to be Magneto's children. In Avengers 186,we learn that Wanda's and Pietro's mom was a woman named Magda who looked like Wanda. Later, the next month, in Uncanny X-Men 125, Magneto looks at a picture of his wife Magda who left him. Though not stated explicitly, clearly Magneto is the twins' father. However, Wanda,Pietro and Magneto didn't find this out until Vision and the Scarlet Witch 4, which came out the same month as Uncanny X-Men 166. That wait was nothing, incidentally. Clea had to wait a DECADE after the readers learned Umar was her mom and Dormammu was her uncle to learn these truths.

Fnord Serious said...

I started reading Uncanny X-Men during the outback era and quickly started buying up back issues. Issue #200 is as far back as I got before my comics dollar started getting eaten up by other books. So issue 200 is a sort of landmark for me. I've always been okay with Cyclops's characterization during this period as I never knew any different. I always thought of him as acting out of confusion rather than that he was an outright asshole. Scott feels like someone who is aspiring to do what is right and fulfill the obligations of authority. Maybe he thought he was doing the right thing by abandoning his current obligation (Madelyn) for his previous devotion (Jean).


Anagramsci said...

good stuff Jason!

haven't had time to peruse all of those comments, so I'm not sure if I'm being repetitive here, but:


yes! super-comic "resurrections" can open up wonderful new possibilities in storytelling... and you are wise to direct our attention to Claremont's power-play re:Magneto

on the other hand--I am very very far from agreeing with your Cyclops problem! I think what they did with Cyclops/Maddy/Jean was awesome! Yes, he's behaving like a jerk--but isn't it understandable? Who ever said we had to look up to Scott Summers? He's been a whiny, self-pitying, romanticist (and I know what that's like, since I'm one of those too) since his first appearance, and it's entirely in character for him to do what he does... the whole thing makes a beautiful contrast with the even more deeply Vertigo inspired Gwen Stacy Clone saga in Conway/Andru's Spider-Man!

At least until Inferno--which destroyed the whole plot by turning the neglected third of the triangle into a "demon queen" (unlike the GS Clone Saga, in which the "resurrected" woman just leaves to begin a new life, after the situation has done its narrative work--i.e. clarifying the Peter/MJ relationship)


Anonymous said...

Hmm. I seem to have been evolving into the Grumpy Voice of Online Negativity here... but, well, the Scott Summers character arc really looks to me like a bad piece of jewelry made from found objects. It's a one-two pattern of Bad Idea followed by Retcon, spun out over multiple X-titles for almost 30 years.

As Jason pointed out a while back, the Cockrum/Byrne version of the character was consistent, interesting, and pretty damn cool. He was repressed and rather neurotic, and the Dark Phoenix storyline implied that he was something of a sub as well, but he was fearless and tactically brilliant and, on the whole sympathetic. Perhaps more to the point, he made sense -- the various pieces fit together.

That hasn't been true for a long time. Today it's pretty much impossible to have a Cyclops who is (1) cool, (2) likable, and (3) consistent with his history. Morrison and Whedon both tried hard, but neither were able to achieve more than two out of three.

Doug M.

Gary said...

James says:
(Pym's portrayal as an abusive weasel with an inferiority complex in Mark Millar's Ultimates kind of sealed his fate, as well.)
I actually count this as the "no one ever forgets it", rather than sealing it. Millar's grabbing that character element and running with it (to the grim n' gritty - or is it kewl? - extreme as he is wont to do) is just another piece of writers won't let it go in my book. Find a new bone to worry, people.

Gordon Harries said...

To be fair, on the Pym issue (and Millar does state it was an abusive relationship, as opposed to a one time act of violence.) in the ’real world’ I think that kind of behaviour does kind of taint one’s perceptions of a character.

Forevermore, there’s always the question.

Teebore said...

There is, amazingly, a large contingent of X-Men aficionados who fervently defend Scott’s behavior in Uncanny #’s 200 and 201

As a major Cyclops, I, for one, just wish he'd never acted that way.

That said, a blight on the boy scouts record, as the comments mentioned, would be a perfectly reasonable reconciliation of the behavior, if any writers chose not to ignore it outright.

wwk5d said...

"See “God Loves, Man Kills” for the most extreme example of this phenomenon"

Dude...let it go lol

I don't mind Cyclops being negative towards Magneto joining...I have to say, his attitude is perfectly justifiable. Remember, he hasn't been with the team in a while, so he hasn't warmed up to him the way the others have, and it's all still new to him. He hasn't Magneto's redemptive arc the way we have, so I'll cut him some slack on this one.

With regards to not calling Maddie...yeah, he comes off as a douche, but again, it might just be jitters at becoming a father. My fanwank is, as someone else pointed out, he just learned Rachel is his daughter with Jean Grey from an alternate timeline with Jean Grey...on the eve of the birth of his son with a woman who looks like Jean Grey. That's gotta mess your shit up.

In hindsight, the way Scott was written out works if the X-factor story never happened. He finds out about Rachel and makes his peace with that, acts like a jerk with Maddie but eventually accepts his new life, and trusts the school over to Magneto and Storm. Not the best send-off, but a decent one, and certainly a better ending than him ditching Maddie and his child. It's too bad Claremont wrote him as something of an ass in his last few appearances, but oh well.

That reton in Days of Future Present kind of pissed me both X-men/Alpha Flight and the last Annual, there are 2 scenes which hint, VERY strongly, that he figures out who her parents are. And then, in DOFPresent, he acts like it's all new to him? Even if those 2 scenes didn't happen, how dumb is Cyclops? She's a green eyed, red headed psi, using the name Phoenix, a costume inspired by Jean/Phoenix, and her name is Rachel SUMMERS. Who did he think her parents were, the Toad and Magma?

Anonymous said...

I would say writers not wanting to acknowledge Cyclops leaving his wife has less to do with not wanting him flawed and more to do with the entire story being a complete fucking mess retcons and all. A cosmic deity takes the form of his first love then dies so he shacks up with a woman who looks exactly like her (because she's a clone we find out later) who he then leaves for his first love who it turns out was hybernating in a cocoon on the bottom of the ocean. Try explaining this to someone new to comics and see how fast they say "fuck this, I think I'll stick to video games."

Derek E

Cosmicídio Atômico said...

A bit late for the discussion, but I think that the main problem with the whole Cyclops/Maddie relationship is that it was very problematic from the start. Pryor, as a character, have a very limited story function or premise. She is a kind of redemption of Jean Grey and the happy ending of Scott. If she turned out to really be Jean resurrected, it would be fine, and the character could develop without being a dead end for Cyclops development. I think that is the main reason because most writers and fans tend to disregard that part of Cyclops history. It's very odd in hindsight. Cyclops chronology seems broken between Jean's death and Jean's resurrection, with Madelyne as kind of hiatus.

NietzscheIsDead said...


I would just like to point out how wonderful it is to find out that someone was reading these reviews alongside me, and is only a day and a half ahead of me at most! Pure, unadulterated joy, that.

Aaron said...

I am convinced that Magneto's lawyer (Gabrielle) is modeled on the legendary political theorist Hannah Arendt. She looks like Arendt, smokes like Arendt, has a similar back story, and is involved in the trial of the century.

Claremont studied political theory as an undergraduate, and Arendt was at the height of her popularity back then. Does anyone know if Claremont ever acknowledged this link?

NietzscheIsDead said...

I read this review over a year ago, Jason, but something has been bugging me about it in the back of my mind and I just figured out what it is. Claremont has the judge acquit Magneto of his pre-resurrection crimes, which is a logistically savvy move, since it at least opens up the possibility for Magneto to be viewed in a sympathetic light, since his only post-resurrection crimes are two personal fights with the X-Men, one appearance in Captain America with a new Brotherhood who accomplished approximately nothing before disbanding, and the single instance of aggression against a sovereign nation (the sinking of the Leningrad).

But Claremont himself seems less keen to dismiss Magneto's Silver Age antics, almost as if he was aware of how hokey it may seem to simply write off Magneto's worst acts of villainy in order to redeem him. Over the course of the next six years (until Claremont leaves the series), Claremont will continually force Magneto to confront his crimes in a way that the International Court of Justice did not. This starts with issue #196, when Magneto is the one to convince Rachel Summers not to go down the same path that he went down previously, which forces Magneto to admit that his entire fight for mutant rights has accomplished nothing. It's an important turning point for the character and an important one for allowing him to change, but before that can happen, Claremont makes Magneto face the consequences of that wrong choice.

The first instance is in issue #199, when Magneto has to face the Brotherhood and what they've become. Then, in issue #200, Magneto has to face the consequences of his decision to kill Wolfgang von Strucker instead of sparing him as Xavier would have. It's obvious at this point that Claremont is allowing Magneto to redeem himself for these mistakes, but the pattern continues.

I seem to recall some of Magneto's choices coming back to bite him in New Mutants, but I don't remember that series as well as I do Uncanny. New Mutants #40 is an example of this pattern, though, as Magneto has to face heroes who he's fought against and try to convince them that he's reformed. During the Mutant Massacre, Magneto attempts to use his powers to heal Colossus, but that ends in only a half-success at best, as you noted, Jason. Then, in Fantastic Four vs. X-Men, Magneto has to face more bridges that he's burned and realizes that he maybe hasn't changed as much as he'd hoped, when he his arrogance and aggression nearly cost Kitty Pryde, set up in the miniseries as a surrogate replacement for his daughter Anya, her life. In X-Men vs. Avengers, Magneto is contacted by a group of mutants who still follow his old Silver Age incarnation; however, he doesn't force them to disband, and thus has to face them again in adjectiveless X-Men #1, where he also has to confront the deaths of the soldiers aboard the Leningrad. Before that, in Uncanny #275, Magneto has to face the sin of creating the Savage Land mutates and does battle with Zaladane, who is set up as a proxy of his Silver Age incarnation. (And, if one believes that Polaris is in fact Magneto's daughter, then Zaladane is also another proxy of Anya, and Magneto killing her himself represents the ultimate failure of his test.)

Overall, Claremont seemed to put Magneto through the ringer for his past crimes, as opposed to simply absolving him as this issue would suggest. An interesting thought, and another example of how fantastic Claremont's long-term plotting was.