[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men Run]
Another complaint about Claremont (there are so very many) is that his brand of superhero feminism was less than it should have been, because he “cheated” by making his female characters into powerhouses. A letter was published in Uncanny late in the run, opining that Claremont had only three males -- Xavier, Magneto and Wolverine – who could stand alongside the females in terms of raw power.
I honestly have a hard time not seeing a bit of sexism in this complaint as well. Are males so threatened by powerful females that they can’t even stomach having a bunch of them in a comic book? If X-Men is filled with powerhouse women, we must surely view this in relation to the rest of the superhero landscape, which is dominated by scores of powerful males.
In any case, grist for the sexists’ complaints on this front can be found in “Men.” The masculine counterpart to the previous issue’s “Ladies’ Night,” Uncanny #245 gives a bit of short shrift to the males. While “Ladies Night” was light in tone, it boasted strong characterization and slick artwork. And while the villains were a joke, they at least were given some weight via their connection to the series’ “persecution” theme. Indeed, the entire “M Squad” premise even served as an epilogue to the original premise of Bob Layton’s X-Factor.
The dudes don’t fare so well. The guys’ night out becomes a complete joke – the story is not just light, but an out and out parody (of a DC story, no less!). Havok gets to angst a bit about Lorna and Madelyne (and it is charmingly done), but other than that there is very little psychological insight into the characters here. And while the ladies never looked sexier thanks to Silvestri, the men …. well, they are drawn by guest-penciller Rob Liefeld. Not a name that really needs any explication these days.
So, complain away, men’s rights activists. “Ladies Night” was a tour de force, and “Men” is a joke. Claremont’s priorities are plain.
Despite all that, this issue is genuinely funny. Claremont clearly enjoys making fun of himself. The “Jean Bomb” is a rather brilliant bit – even people from other planets are making clones of Jean Grey!!! (A letter writer would actually complain about this element, criticizing Claremont for doing another Jean-clone story!) And the thread about the one member of the invasion force who researches Earth and learns that it’s filled with superheroes – and is, thus, a terrible choice for invasion – is rather inspired. (It’s also a call-back to a scene from one of Claremont’s earliest X-Men issues, back during the Cockrum days. Read Pages 2 and 3 of this issue, then re-read Uncanny #105 and you’ll see the one I mean.)
And there is probably no more laugh-out-loud funny line in the entire Claremontian catalogue than the lead alien’s comment on the Sydney Opera House: “Its shape offends me.”
Meanwhile, Liefeld turns out to be a perfect choice for this material. Inked by Dan Green – who keeps a sheen of professionalism over everything, as always – Liefeld’s wacky proportions and insane anatomy highlight the comedy perfectly.
I don’t know what Australians would have thought of this issue – Claremont goes for some pretty broad stereotypical humor here. That said, it is not without its shrewd touches. Their lackadaisical reaction to the invasion is interesting; by most accounts Australia is a generally laid back country, and that’s at least partly the result of its unique geographical circumstances. They really aren’t used to being invaded.
And while it’s an obvious touch, I do laugh at Havok’s Crocodile Dundee paraphrase, “Those aren’t blasters. THIS is a blaster.”
(Meanwhile, apropos of nothing, Page 24 is obliquely prescient, juxtaposing Dan Quayle’s name and Murphy Brown’s in the same panel, only two word-balloons apart. This was February of 1989; Quayle’s famous “Murphy Brown” speech was still over three years away!)
Issues 244 and 245 occupy a strange little niche in the history of Claremont’s run – a pair of light, fun, mostly self-contained stories, cleansing the palette after the gigantic “Inferno” and letting readers catch their collective breath before Claremont would begin his final, doomed overplot. Few comics in Claremont’s run function this way. (“Kitty’s Fairy Tale” being the most noteworthy up to now.) It’s also the only time that a pair of Claremont issues act as genderized counterparts of each other, explicitly splitting the team right in half along the gender divide. Not many other superhero comics could do this if they wanted to, because the males almost always outnumber the females. Not in a Claremont series, though – bless him!