[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right or the labels below].
“Omens & Portents”
The X-Men are once again based in San Francisco (predicting the relocation to that same city by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker in Uncanny #500 – whose publication is imminent as of this writing). This time the team are hiding out in Alcatraz, which is a fun idea. It’s a shame it will last only for a couple issues. In the meantime, after the exhilarating Marauders two-parter, Claremont shifts his focus back to the Storm/Naze “vision quest” material. Unfortunately, this was working just fine as a simmering subplot, e.g., issue 222’s bit with the oddly named “Eye Killers.” Here, Claremont simply recapitulates the previous month’s motif, wherein Naze manipulates Storm into fighting demons that – unbeknownst to her – actually are operating under his orders.
The most noteworthy aspect of Storm’s hallucinatory experience is the inclusion amongst her delirium-induced visions of a giant bear. This is the titular villain of 1984’s “Demon Bear” arc in New Mutants, wherein Danielle Moonstar – a Cheyenne Indian, just like Forge and Naze – faced down the monster, which had possessed her parents years earlier. Though the connection is never spelled out explicitly, the fanatic devourers of all things Claremont are invited to connect the dots: the bear is one of the demons that Forge freed years ago during the Vietnam War, an agent of the villain who we will learn over the course of this story arc is known as “the Adversary.”
That Claremont leaves this all for readers to intuit is an example of one of his quirks – something he’s been both criticized and praised for. But it only makes sense for a comic book writer to work this way. The medium is inherently dependent on readers’ willingness to fill in gaps; as Scott McCloud pointed out, the spark of imagination ignited by the “gutters” – the space between panels -- is what makes comics unique among artistic media. Claremont’s extending this principle to the gaps between different comic book series is a shrewd way to stimulate the reader on multiple levels at once. The effect, for those patient enough to collect and process all the relevant pages, is genuinely arresting.