Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #216

[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. :)]


Patrick said...

Thanks for the linking. I really like this era of the run, if there's one status quo that's most interesting to me, it's probably this area between Mutant Massacre and Fall of the Mutants, where there's a huge sense of chaos, and for the first time you really feel like they are fighting a world that hates and fears them. That's not to say all the stories are great, but the overriding atmosphere is really effective, and builds to a nice climax in Fall of the Mutants.

Gary said...

I like this review. The parallels between the foundation of the X-Men and this new iteration are very interesting.

"Wolverine possibly going insane, until he suddenly is not."
I do not attribute this to Logan's healing factor, but rather to the couple that the bad girl kills. He knows he could have stopped it, but did not. This guilt, this responsiblity, pushes Wolverine to pull his act together. Look at him when he shows up on the scene at the end of the book - he is more put together than any of the others. It's always stood out to me just how fresh and clean he looks compared to everyone else in that scene. And he is in complete control of the situation. He defers to Storm as to whether he should kill Stonewall and Crimson Commando, but there is no question that he can kill them. Why? I'd pin it up to guilt. He's been messed up since he first caught wind of Jean back in the Morlock tunnels, and now, he's going to make up for it. That's not a costume, it's an interview suit. He's on his best behavior, he's bringing his "A" game, because he's got to prove himself to himself (and Storm) all over again.

I hope this is coherent. It feels rambly.

ba said...

I agree with Gary in that Wolverine doesn't often defer to anyone (see - stabbing rachel), and that it may very well have been a submissive act just for storm, particularly since he punched her last issue.

I think the x-men have been "dangerous" since claremont took over, just in a more subtle way than Morrison does, in that "I'm so crazy, I'm Grant Morrison" way of his (which, by the way, I like when it's called for). Storm went from an african goddess to a former thief with a mohawk. Wolverine went from a secret agent to a man plagued by severe demons, barely able to keep the psychopathic murderer at bay. Cyclops went from boy scout to fickle lover and wife-ditcher. How does any of this sound "not dangerous" to anyone?

Also, comic code aside, Claremont writes some of the worst dialogue for junkies ever.

And yes, Silvestri Is anxiously awaited, particularly for how he draws faces.

Jason said...

Patrick, I'm happy to link to your comments ... as I recall, I do it at least one more time in the blogs for this era (I wrote these a while back). (Hopefully you'll see fit to name-drop me in *your* Claremont project -- can we talk about that here, or is it under wraps right now?)

Gary, that's a good take on it. F*ck, that is such a great moment, isn't it? (There's a similar moment in the movie "Suicide Kings" that I love, when Denis Leary comes in and immediately says to Christopher Walken, "Which one of these guys should I shoot?") I really love that kind of thing. And you're right, there's no question that Wolverine could take them all down, which is what makes the moment so great. Such a great come-uppance for the WWII trio, who were so cocky throughout the story. Man, I love that.

Ba, that's a great point, but this era still, to me, has a more dangerous feel. Like Patrick said, there is a more chaotic feel to this part of X-history. The X-Men don't have many friends here ... they've got a "cornered animal" thing happening, and -- it's actually a Claremont cliche, used in this story I believe -- that "the cornered animal is the most dangerous."

I love the "nicest guy on the internet" title, by the way! I should re-title my own blog that ... if I ever update my own blog again ...

Geoff Klock said...

Jason -- you are not allowed to blog anymore for anyone other than me. I own everything you write on the internet from now on. Read the contract next time. :)

Jason said...

Guess which scene from "Newsradio" you just reminded me of ...

Anonymous said...

By my calculations, you're now almost exactly 2/3 of the way through this, give or take an issue or two due to annuals and such.

Go Jason go.

Doug M.

Anonymous said...

ba,Claremont has said in interviews that Scott leaving Maddie wasn't his idea.

Anonymous said...

Storm's line about "Wolverine will slay Stonewall, or be slain by Stonewall instead" is very amusing. When I was a kid, my dad read this comic and said, "So how would the power to not be knocked down help against adamantium claws?" He had a point. Storm was giving "Stoney" wayyyyyy too much credit.

The art in this issue is pretty ugly. At one point the Commando's mask goes from sticking right to his face to sticking out like it's about to fall off.

Gary said...

Storm's thought process is that if she is killed by Commando, he and Stonewall will fight Wolverine together, which Wolverine might lose (this is especially true if Commando is good enough to take Storm). I know this goes against my earlier take on Wolverine's arrival, and in truth, I had forgotten it. When Wolverine shows up, there really is no doubt that he can take anyone there. This doubt is added later (and clearly, for me, is not as memorable).

I think the falling off mask scene you're referring to is meant to be showing his vision powers, as "Super Sabre moves as a blur that only the Commando can truly see," or something to that effect. There's sort of a red "popping out" effect in front of his eyes in a 1/4 rear view of his face.

ba said...

Michael -

Even so, he still started dating Colleen Wing VERY quickly after Jean's death (even in comic time). Shazam!

scott91777 said...

Just wanted to give my 'thumbs up' to the idea that, during the Silvestri run, was when the X-men truly became dangerous and pop-sexy. That's the period I remember the X-men themselves, as a comic reader, seeming to be at their weirdest and scariest... and that's what eventually pulled me into the series in the first place.

wwk5d said...

With regards to Wolverine being submissive to Storm...I think it works given everything that's happened. His best friends on the team are all gone, and it's not like they left, they were all injured. He doesn't really know all the new members all that well, and while he's known Rogue for a while, there is prob still some resentment towards her for what she did to Carol Danvers. Throw in the fact that he might be going insane, as after catching Jean's scent twice and all the stuff that happened with Malice, he's probably really fucked up by this point. The one thing he can count on, the one thing he has left is Storm. Is it any wonder he is constantly deferring to her?

Guice's art in this issue isn't that great, but I feel he really picks it up next issue, with Dazzler and Juggernaut.

wwk5d said...

One thing I forgot to add, compare how he defers to her now, to how their relationship was when she first began leading the team. Remember how they got into an argument and she had to assert her authority during the fight with the Brotherhood in DOFP? Quite an interesting change in their dynamic.