Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jason Powell on X-Men Annual 11

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

“Lost in the Funhouse”

Illustrated by Alan Davis and Paul Neary, the 1987 X-Men annual looks fabulous. It even features Brian Braddock and Meggan in a guest role, just so that fans of Davis’ work on the Captain Britain series can be treated once again to his peerless iteration of those characters.

In terms of story, however, this is all almost entirely non-essential. It plays on a well-worn sci-fi cliché, wherein characters are defeated by the fulfillment of their own “heart’s desires.” Claremont even erases the story from continuity at the end, implying that it won’t be long before the X-Men forget that it even happened.

Not much commentary needed, then. However, I would like to discuss a few key details in the story, and examine how they refute a standard accusation leveled at Claremont now and then.

In Geoff’s book, for example, he suggests that an “angst-filled teenage morality” is at play throughout Claremont’s X-Men (or “Clairmont’s X-Men,” a misspelling I’ve come to love, deciding that it’s the name of an “imaginary” Claremont, the writer everyone thinks of when they hear the name, based on stereotype rather than the actual content of the author’s work). Geoff reduces the love relationships in X-Men to the soap-opera mentality with the line, “Oh, but how can I even think of kissing him, when he is with her?”

Such claims are contradicted in the sexually permissive relationship between Wolverine and Storm in X-Men Annual #11. The story is ostensibly framed within the context of Wolverine’s angst at having lost his one, true love, Mariko Yashida. In spite of that, Logan nonetheless casually shares a passionate kiss with Ororo on Page 14, just before the team embark on their latest adventure.

Claremont is being as clear with his implication as he can in a Comics Code-approved superhero comic, but the writing between the lines is not hard to read. As blogger Patrick puts it here, Logan and Ororo are “friends with benefits” – and seemingly guiltlessly too, despite Logan’s pledge to love Mariko.

Further along in the story, Claremont goes on to imply that Storm’s sexual spectrum is wider than readers might have guessed, alluding to a romantic attraction between her and Yukio during a flashback to their adventures from Uncanny #’s 172 and 173.

None of this is perhaps as blunt as the superhero threesomes in The Authority (which Geoff sets up in opposition to the work of Clairmont in his book), but the implication of a more complex, and more permissive, sexual dynamic among certain members of the cast of X-Men is intensely persuasive within its context, and one of Claremont’s least celebrated innovations for the series.

[Mistakes were made. Jason, I love that you have started this massive project on this blog with the, even partial, aim of setting me straight. it is totally working.]


Jason said...

Thanks, Geoff!

Addendum to this blog entry: At the time I wrote it, I didn't know Patrick's last name. For the record, it is Meaney, and he is quite the vocal Claremont supporter. Rock on! (I will quote him again in a few blog's time, again just calling him "Patrick" with no last name cause these were all written a while ago. Sorry 'bout that Patrick.)

Patrick said...

No problem, Jason. As long as the link's there, that's what matters. I've got some exciting Claremont related stuff in the works too that's not quite ready to be announced yet, but should be of interest to anyone reading these posts. More on that when it breaks.

Jason said...

Awesome, Patrick.

I am totally jealous and I hate you a little bit, but still, awesome. :)

neilshyminsky said...

This comic is also important, at least in the minds of fanboys, for being the first to elevate Wolverine's healing factor to omnipotent levels. Sure, we're given a pretty credible reason for why it can happen in this exact situation - but other writers won't even bother with the whole 'crystal that has the power of a god' thing.

ba said...

Neil - thanks for bringing that up. This is constantly pointed out as an example of wolverine healing from a drop of blood, and that it was written by claremont makes it canon. People always ignore the crystal part.

I think Claremont was very heavy-handed in the sexual implications in x-men: it was just the comics code that held them back. Not to mention that storm and nightcrawler have also kissed thus by claremont's pen...mystique and destiny, lesbian lovers...yukio and storm, lovers...colossus and the very underage kitty...heck, prof x and an alien!

Also, I like the intimation that, since they failed the test, the kree and skrull races will no longer evolve. Nice touch.

Dougie said...

IIRC, Roy Thomas originally stated that the Kree had stagnated in terms of evolution in his Kree/Skrull War story. Claremont, who contributed plot elements towards the end of Thomas' tenure on the Avengers, very deftly connects with that idea here.
This story also prefigures Psylocke's horrid "Iron Maiden" phase.

Jason said...

Did I not mention the healing thing? I probably didn't want to dignify its misinterpretation with a response or something silly. :)

It is ABSURD that people think he can regenerate from a single drop of blood because of this story. That same scene also has him glowing bright yellow and using telekinesis. Do people also think those are things Wolverine can always do?

Ba, when did Storm and Nightcrawler kiss that intensely? Was this in the early days? I remember a light kiss on the cheek around issue 167 ... (This isn't something from 1999 or later, is it? 'Cause that stuff totally doesn't count, man!)

And yeah, Ba, I think Claremont's implications were clear. But they did get more intense as time went on. Colossus/Kitty, Charles/Lilandra. Those were tender, monogamous love relationships. Lilandra being an alien was a non-issue, and Kitty's being underage was a point of contention for Peter, something to be discussed. Even with Mystique and Destiny, you are looking at a committed, monogamous relationship, it is just that it is same-sex. (Still a significant move on Claremont's part, but it's not really what I'm talking about.)

The Storm/Wolverine thing is in a different matter entirely. It falls into a different area, a different type of sexual commitment. Less conventionally "moral," and more free and -- I don't know -- bohemian, I guess? It's such a far cry from the "comic-book" romance, the two lovers who have eyes for no one else. Wolverine and Storm are -- with their casual sex -- breaking the rules of their genre, I think, and paving the way for the more blatant sexual freedom depicted in "The Authority" and the like.

Anonymous said...

Later on Havok and Psylocke share kiss before going through the Siege Perilous. Maybe Betsy did it to distract Alex from his suspicions he wasn't going under his own free will, but it seemed totally random and out of the blue.

It is very odd to see Brian and Meggan in this story. It makes sense that they would come to visit Betsy, but in this era of the X-Men being "under siege" it's strange that Cap and his girlfriend weren't asked to play a role in helping the X-Men.

I've actually always liked this story. Sure, none of the characters remember it, but it serves as a nice rundown of who each character is. At the time, with so many new people on the team all at once, it was good to learn more about them. I particularly like the Rogue and Dazzler moments.

ba said...

The nightcrawler/storm kiss (and the nightcrawler/rachel kiss!) both happened within a few issues of each other in claremont's second run in the 00's.

Anonymous - I always thought the betsy/alex kiss was sort of a "well, I'm controlling his mind anyway...I might as well..."

FYI - Psylocke's armor phase was actually my favorite. YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?!

Jason said...

The Psylocke armor was pretty cool, I thought. I even liked how it came out of nowhere, only to be explained two years later (kind of) in an issue of the Wolverine solo comic.

Menshevik said...

Re. "I have been faithful, Mariko, in my fashion" - actually, I recall that when I read Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #3 I got the impression from a "later" caption that we were meant to think that Logan had sex with Yukio on the roof.

Also, since we're talking about sexual geometries in Claremont's X-Men (hey, it's more fun than a "would X beat Y?" discussion!), let's not forget Piotr's Savage Land tryst à trois with Nereel and Fahé (ca. UXM #120, made rather more overt in the Classic X-Men version). Colossus was no innocent when he first met Katya!

Jason said...

"Re. "I have been faithful, Mariko, in my fashion" - actually, I recall that when I read Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #3 I got the impression from a "later" caption that we were meant to think that Logan had sex with Yukio on the roof."

That's right, I thought that too. I forget about that for some reason ... possibly because of the distinct lack of any sexiness whatsoever in Milgrom's art ...

"Also, since we're talking about sexual geometries in Claremont's X-Men (hey, it's more fun than a "would X beat Y?" discussion!), "

Ain't it, though? Of course John Byrne would just say this means we are too old for comics ...

"let's not forget Piotr's Savage Land tryst à trois with Nereel and Fahé (ca. UXM #120, made rather more overt in the Classic X-Men version). Colossus was no innocent when he first met Katya!"

No, but per Classic X-Men, he was an innocent *before* the menage. In the original comic, Wolverine says to Peter as he walks off with the gals, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do," and Peter responds, "Is there *anything* you wouldn't do?"

Then in the Classic b-side version, Claremont omits Piotr's knowing reply, and instead there's a thought bubble saying, "What did Logan mean by that?" Then when the girls first start coming onto him, he resists, having not realized that THIS was what they had in mind.

I hadn't really considered this scene in context with the Peter/Kitty stuff that takes place later (but was written earlier). Peter does seem to have a pretty clear idea about how young is too young to lose one's virginity.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this ...

Stephen said...

Properly speaking, I should leave this link back on the entry on issue #143... but then no one would see it:

Jason said...

Awesome, Stephen. Thank you for that!

Starman1976 said...

...and somehow he reintegrates the adamantium back into his body at the same he heals back from a drop of blood. I could understand healing back from a drop of blood, considering that drop still contains his DNA, but how did he get back his adamantium? That's the only pet-peeve I have with this annual, otherwise it's an enjoying read.

My first post here? I'm enjoying your reviews of these classic X-Men issues, Jason. Keep up the good work. :)

Jason said...



As for the claws, it's been established at that point of the story that Wolverine's been made omnipotent and can do anything.

Doesn't seem unreasonable that he would give himself back his claws, possibly without even consciously thinking about it. That part never bugged me.

I hope you keep posting here!

Arthur said...

This reply is a few months late (but hey, I hadn't found this column yet!), but there's one thing that I thought was neat about this, and I'm pretty sure it's entirely accidental.

A year or two before this issue, there was a Graphic Novel about the fate of the Living Monolith, a villain who's power was linked with Havok. In the GN, LM is able to absorb cosmic rays without Havok blocking it. He ends up absorbing so much that he keeps growing and growing, eventually become so large that he's taken out into deep space, where he becomes a living planet.

OK, maybe it's not the best story, but I thought it was neat that Havok's heart's desire lead him to become a living star, sharing a similar fate to his power-twin.


Anonymous said...

One important aspect of the "tempted by their desires" cliche in this annual is that, at some point, many of these are addressed in the comic itself.

Longshot's dissolution into nothingness prefigures his falling apart and search to find himself.

Dazzler's acceptance of the life of a baglady is brought up again in the differing versions of herself she sees in the Siege Perilous.

Psylocke goes on to become the Iron warrior.

Even Storm is given a couple of months to be an adventurous thief again, albeit as a child and with Gambit in tow.

Even if they don't remember this adventure, the repercussions do effect them later on, in their confusion during the time in the Outback and their rebirths in new lives through the Siege.

-- Mortsleam

NietzscheIsDead said...


Wow! I have never quite connected this issue with the dissolution of the team at the end of the Oz-Men era. More Claremont foreshadowing: here, at the beginning of this team's tenure, we get to see how it will all eventually fall apart. Note that this team holds until Wolverine gives up his responsibility to the team by abandoning them to play wildman in Madripoor, essentially failing the test only he passed here.