[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Uncanny X-Men. For more in this series, see the label at the bottom, or the toolbar on the right]
As noted earlier, Claremont’s begging and borrowing from other series – such as Longshot and Captain Britain – in order to assemble his new team of X-Men has led to the overall “X” canon becoming a dense field of information. Indeed, the “X” itself now seems like nothing so much as a symbol for how so many different lines – be they character arcs, plotlines or thematic threads – intersect in any given issue.
Here, the density of information becomes particularly noisome, as Claremont brings multiple threads crashing together in genuinely dramatic fashion. First, he liberally borrows both characters and imagery from Alan Moore’s “Jim Jaspers” arc in Captain Britain. In that particular piece – brilliant in its own right – the various characters were represented by pieces on a chessboard, manipulated by Merlin and Roma, the caretakers of reality. All of that is reprised (minus Merlin, whom Moore killed off) in this story, the resulting resonance being quite striking for anyone who’s read the Captain Britain material. Even Claremont’s use of Destiny here – the depiction of her going somewhat mad as she realizes that her timeline is about to reach its terminus – is pinched from a similar bit in Moore’s Captain Britain work involving a precog called Cobweb. (purportedly Claremont originally wanted to use Jim Jaspers for this bit as well, which would have made this almost a carbon copy of Moore’s work. Happily, legal issues pre-empted Claremont’s original intent, leading to the vastly superior idea of bringing the Naze/Forge material to a climax instead.)
We also get a final face-off between the X-Men and Freedom Force, the latter’s membership bolstered by the WWII trio of issues 215-216. That little conflation turns out to be more entertaining than one might expect. The Crimson Commando in particular suddenly seems much cooler in the context of the Brotherhood.
Also, since this is the first X-Men/Brotherhood confrontation since Longshot joined the team, another cross-mythos resonance is struck when Longshot faces off against Spiral. The energy of the two characters’ relationship from the Nocenti/Adams miniseries is deftly woven into Claremont’s already powerful information-field, and further sparks fly.
Still, while so much fun is generated by the various intertextual relationships going on, other bits of “False Dawn” create grins by more visceral means. Surely one of the funniest set-pieces in Claremont’s entire run is the insane visual of the Blob’s crotch zooming toward the reader as he’s dropped from on high to crush Wolverine. Silvestri draws a magnificent Blob, with that code-name seeming more apropos than ever. The dialogue that Claremont gives the Blog just after landing on Logan is hilarious as well: “Don’t fret, X-Men. Li’l fella ain’t croaked. I can feel him wrigglin’.” The ridiculous payoff pages later – Blob grinning in one panel, his eyes bugging out in the next, before he flies straight up into the air, his flight revealing Wolverine with claws extended and smirking smugly – is cartoon-crazy, and Silvestri handles the slapstick perfectly.
And in the very next panel, a prime example of what Marc Caputo calls “the ‘stand up and cheer’ factor,” a delightful component of many a classic action story: that moment when the audience is given exactly what they want, just how they wanted it. Here, it’s the fabulous sequence wherein Colossus -- absent from the series for a year but now finally healed from his “Mutant Massacre” injuries -- appears from out of nowhere (courtesy of Roma and his sister, Illyana). And of course, he’s arrived just in time to pound the Blob into oblivion – all while quoting Monty Python, no less.
Containing an extraordinarily high incidence of thrilling moments in the space of only 23 pages, Uncanny X-Men #225 is a fantastic slice of superhero fiction. At this point, it seems certain that Claremont, Silvestri and Green can do no wrong.
And, trivia: This is Tom Orzechowski’s 100th issue of Uncanny X-Men, a fact coded by Dan Green into the background rubble of the opening Colossus scene. Yet more information packed into the mix. (It’s also Orz’s 61st consecutive issue, the prodigious and talented letterer having not skipped a month since #165 – which is also Paul Smith’s first and the one Joss Whedon considers the most influential.)