[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series see the label at the bottom or the toolbar on the right.]
This one is sunk immediately by the art of Jackson Guice and Dan Green – both solid craftsman (especially Green), who maybe for some arcane, behind-the-scenes reason, had to do a last-minute rush job on this? Whatever the reason, their work here is unbelievably awkward and amateurish.
Claremont, meanwhile, is wasting readers’ time a bit with this entire “Old Soldiers” affair: three flaccid and uncreative villains, a murkily defined moral quandary for Storm, and a lot of material about Wolverine possibly going insane, until he suddenly is not. (That latter bit is at least explainable, presuming Logan’s healing power extends to mental disorder. Still, it’s not the stuff of great drama.)
The one marvelous moment of the issue is when Wolverine finally shows up to bail out Ororo. It was in Uncanny #211 that Claremont established an arresting new dynamic for this pair of characters, with Logan acting as Storm’s pet psycho. That characterization is consolidated brilliantly here, as Wolverine arrives on the scene ready and able to kill any and all of the WWII superheroes. Yet, he immediately defers to Storm: “I don’t know these clowns. Want me to take ‘em, boss – or do we call things quits, and everyone goes their separate ways?” In that single ingenious moment, the new “core” of the X-Men has been perfectly defined. The previous two iterations of X-Men were both, for better or worse, built around a “heart” that comprised Cyclops and Jean: a pair of wholesome white-bred kids in love with each other, presided over by a parent-figure, Professor X.
The new X-Men are built around Logan and Ororo – a psycho killer and a former thief (“We are both damaged goods,” Storm tells Wolverine on this issue’s final page), both with hazy morals and personal demons, and who share a queer kind of dominant/submissive relationship (which, as blogger Patrick keenly notes, does indeed have a sexual dimension). The presiding parent is Magneto, a former villain – also haunted by demons, and more familiar than anyone with moral compromise.
Geoff has suggested that Grant Morrison is the author who first made the X-Men dangerous, examining “what it means to inherit the earth and make your own rules.” I think the seeds of that are here, however, in Claremont’s creation of a generation of X-Men beyond the Cockrum/Wein iteration. It is not perfect – Claremont hedges a lot, hence Storm’s dubious moral victory toward the end of issue 215 (“Tonight, I was better!”) and Logan’s uncertainty on the final page.
Still, with a quartet of new members building around the jagged-edged new center that is Storm, Logan and Magneto, the X-Men are approaching a new era of hardcore – what Geoff calls “pop sexy post humanism.” I contend that, when Marc Silvestri becomes the regular penciller four months from now, Claremont nails this aesthetic entirely.
[Jason Powell has been called the nicest guy on the internet. That is why he wrote that he thinks the "seeds" what Morrison does are in Claremont, rather than just saying I was wrong. :)]