[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.