Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #222

[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men run. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels below.]


Concluding the X-Men vs. Marauders two-parter begun last issue, “Heartbreak” cranks up the intensity a bit further. Last issue was a blast thanks to the creative team’s shared sense of kinetic exuberance; this time, the fun comes in watching Claremont, Silvestri and Green crank the levels up and get hardcore.

Granted, there is still plenty of goofiness to be found here: the return of the sycophantic Japanese kids from issue 181; the cameo by Dirty Harry; the joking nod to George R.R. Martin’s “Wild Cards” series of fantasy novels; and more liberal application of Silvestri’s sexy-meets-slapstick aesthetic (hence, three babes hitting the ground face-first on the final panel of Page 2).

But the wackiness is counter-pointed by some well-applied trademark Claremontian pathos. Havok’s angst over realizing what’s happened to Polaris is quite effectively realized, for example, and wow, do Silvestri and Green just nail the reveal: The deliciously evil expression on Malice, combined with Claremont’s devilish “Hi, lover. ‘Bye, lover!” as she blasts Alex in the gut, make for a wrenchingly melodramatic moment.

Meanwhile, Claremont has fun pouring on the tough-guy rhetoric in the Golden Gate Bridge sequence, as Wolverine, the ultimate alpha male, takes on not only his fan-favorite archenemy, Sabretooth, but Scalphunter and Scrambler as well. It’s one of the most relentlessly “male” scenes in Claremont’s entire canon – the character names alone feel like they should be tattooed on a bicep. Sample dialogue includes the following:

Wolverine [while delivering a backhand slap to Scrambler]: “That don’t slow me down punk ... or make me any less strong.”

Sabretooth: “But when my claws rip out your throat, Logan, my boy ... you’ll die!”

Wolverine: “My bones are laced with adamantium. They can’t be broke. You’d have a gentler time punchin’ steel! Scrambler can’t affect them!” [Logan stabs Sabretooth.] “He can’t affect my claws,” and finally

Scalphunter: “Your bones may not break, X-Man – but your flesh’ll still bleed! And when I’m done ...” [he opens fire on Wolverine] “ ... there won’t be a piece of it left!”

The whole thing positively oozes testosterone, and it’s glorious -- the superhero-comicbook equivalent of a Sam Shepard play.


Anonymous said...

One problem with the ending- Alex tries to kill Lorna thinking that it's act of mercy- it's better that she die than be forced by Malice to kill people, and later Lorna is freed from Malice's control before she kills anyone. Yet Lorna never mentions it after she's freed from Malice. She and Alex never even discuss it for five seconds. Admittedly, it's possible Claremont was going to go somewhere with this,but Harras shot it down, but it still should have been addressed at some point.

Jason said...

I don't recall the two characters having a free moment to talk after Lorna got better, under Claremont's tenure. The only time they reconnected was Uncanny 249/250, and that whole time was spent in a fight.

If later writers didn't follow up on it, I don't think that represents a problem with the issue in question.

Anonymous said...

One other weird thing about this issue- there are two Eye-Killers in the issue. In Dr. Strange, Claremont introduced them and left without revealing who they were working with. Then, Stern took over- it turned out they were Chthon's followers and they were killed. Now they show up here- it looks like Claremont didn't realize Stern resolved that plot.

ba said...

I don't think that people remember what they do whilst under the control of Malice - thus, Lorna wouldn't have remembered Alex shooting at her, if that's what you were asking.

Anyway, glorious ep - easily the best since the introduction of the new members.

Is it possible that, since the Eye Killers were likely summoned by Naze, that they weren't really aware of what they were doing either?

I like that sabretooth didn't remember that wolverine had an adamantium skeleton...it hints that, even if they had a past together, sabretooth probably hadn't seen logan since he went through the bonding process. The punch followed by the claws popping was far more visually effective than just stabbing sabretooth with the claws.

And, of course, love the japanese fankids.

Anagramsci said...

I only read this issue once, and didn't remember any of the specifics until Jason jogged my memory, but man do remember disliking it...

any focus on Wolverine always got me down though, so I wasn't exactly reading with an open mind...

nothing's changed in that regard, but, as always, it's fascinating to look at these books through the eyes of an intelligent person who likes them!


Paul said...

I just interviewed Chris Claremont about his newest project, X-Men Forever on the lastest episode of X-Addiction: http://www.thecomicaddiction.com/podcast/2009/5/27/x-addiction-episode-12.html

Jason said...

Cool, Paul. I will listen to that tonight. Thanks for the link!

Dave, I'm sorry we don't seem to be very compatible these days. But I am glad you're continuing to read the Claremont blogs, even though the very subject matter does not appeal to you!

Jason said...

"I like that sabretooth didn't remember that wolverine had an adamantium skeleton...it hints that, even if they had a past together, sabretooth probably hadn't seen logan since he went through the bonding process."

That seems quite likely. I've got a word document that I adapted from Ronald Byrne's "Wolverine Chronology," and I putz with it now and then ... basically I stripped away from Byrd's essay anything that wasn't introduced into Wolverine's backstory before 1991. The result is quite a streamlined little origin. And it does seem to fit that, indeed, Sabretooth's first encounter with adamantium Wolverine was AFTER Logan joined the X-Men. (It doesn't fit at all with what was "revealed" post-Claremont but of course I care very little about that. :)

Anagramsci said...

compatibility is overrated Jason!

my appreciation of good appreciation is not at all dependent upon my feelings about the primary texts (familiarity IS important though, so I'm glad I actually bought these off the rack in 1987--and I can truthfully say that this is the first time I've ever said that about this part of the Claremont run!)


Anonymous said...

About Sabretooth, Claremont hinted that Sabretooth liked to torment Wolverine on his birthday(see Wolverine 10 and a Classic backup story.) Even under Claremont, Wolvie definitely had the adamantium for more than a year by the time he joined the X-Men, so Sabretooth probably would have found out before Wolvie joined the X-Men. And even if he hadn't, I'm sure Sinister told all the Marauders about Wolvie's adamantium. I think Claremont just intended this as a stupid move on Sabretooth's part.

Jason said...

Michael, I think your interp is compatible with ba's.

There is a difference between knowing and *knowing.* Being briefed on it (or even just smelling it on Wolverine ... would he be able to do that?) is different from the visceral experience of punching it, surely? I don't know, I kind of like the idea that Sabretooth's stupid move was because -- despite a few encounters -- he wasn't really used to adamantium-Wolverine.

Also, the backup in Classic X-Men #10 implies to me that Sabretooth's stalking of Logan there is actually the first time in years that it's happened. Logan says the game of tag "strikes a chord" in his memory. That's a weird thing to say if the same thing had happened a year ago, and every year before that.

I tend to read it that Sabretooth's "birthday stalking" may have gone on in the past, but that he lost track of Logan when the latter was kidnapped for the adamantium experiment. And Classic X-Men #10 represents Sabretooth finally finding Logan again and resuming the cat-and-mouse game for the first time in at least a decade.

Dave, thanks. It is heartening to know that our incompatibility is not a problem. Of course in my heart of hearts I wish I could turn you around on these issues, but if the best I can do is at least make you glad for the first time that even bought them ... I can live with that!

Isaac P. said...

Even though the reveal of Polaris as Malice is well played in terms of its impact on Havok, I do find it contrived that none of the other X-Men who have already seen Malice up close wouldn't mention this fact to Havok as soon as they saw him.
I love the panel Silvestri draws at the conclusion of the Wolverine/Marauders faceoff where it looks as though Wolvie is surfing on a wave of Scalphunter's gunfire as he leaps off the bridge. So many of the Image artists were so much better in their youth before they started to become parodies of themselves, IMO. It's been great to come back to this run and remember why I liked Silvestri so much back then. Easier than seeing why I fell for Liefeld. Hey, I was thirteen :P

Jason said...

"I love the panel Silvestri draws at the conclusion of the Wolverine/Marauders faceoff where it looks as though Wolvie is surfing on a wave of Scalphunter's gunfire as he leaps off the bridge. "

I know *exactly* the panel you're talking about, and it always stayed with me as well! That is a great one.

As for Havok, I think the scene as played is all right. At that point, the only ones who knew Polaris was possessed were Dazzler and Rogue, and Havok had only reunited with them for about fifteen seconds, before he went to turn Polaris over. I can buy that off-panel, Ali and Rogue were both thinking, "Oh, crap, we should say something ... damn, too late." :)