[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men run in a series that has become downright EPIC.]
“The Day of Other Lights”
“The Day of Other Lights” is a modest offering – mostly a character piece, which only hints at the impending chaos of Claremont’s final, massively ambitious overplot. The opening sequence is significant in bringing back the bizarre “Seige Perilous” concept to the series (which had more or less been ignored after Claremont introduced it a year earlier, in Uncanny X-Men #229). Readers are reminded – through a hallucinogenic montage of Dazzler’s possible other lives -- that the Seige functions as a dispenser of instant karma. (Why Alison is sitting in the catacombs, in a bikini, holding the crystal in the first place, we are never quite sure … perhaps artist Marc Silvestri’s penchant for T&A is to blame?)
The scene recalls Uncanny X-Men Annual #11, in which each member of the cast was given a chance to live out their fantasy lives. The Seige Perilous concept takes this a step farther, suggesting that the characters’ actual realities can change by stepping through the portal. That seed will bear fruit in five issues’ time.
A nicely rendered scene between Ororo and Logan follows, with the latter written out of the comic for four issues. As Ba pointed out, the “Havok/Wolverine: Meltdown” miniseries by Louise and Walt Simonson (with painted art by Jon J Muth and Kent Williams) slots chronologically between the last issue and this one, thanks to the dialogue opening a space for it. We get a delightful little joke from Claremont and Silvestri here, as Logan uses hair gel that he bought while he and Havok were “on the road.” The gel makes the points of Wolverine’s unique hairstyle droop comically, thus mimicking the character’s stylized portrayal in “Meltdown.” He sees himself in the mirror, comments that the hairdo somehow looked better at the time, and proceeds to wash the gel out. This is one of Claremont’s funnier bits, and a canny use of humor to paint over the ever-growing ridiculousness of Wolverine’s multiple appearances in various different superhero titles every month. It’s nice that Claremont is able to poke fun while still retaining Logan’s basic integrity as a character in the core series. (The previous issue contains a similar bit, wherein Ororo comments on Wolverine’s “frequent absences, to which Logan replies dryly, “I’m here when you need me.”)
A possible example of Bob Harras’ editorial influence is that – starting with this issue and continuing through to the end of the run – Claremont increasingly revisits the classic X-Men “riffs” (begun with Lee/Kirby, codified by Thomas/Adams, and finally cemented by Claremont/Byrne). The most direct and simple of those riffs is The Sentinels. As a gigantic metaphor for the “prejudice” theme that always informs the series to some degree, the Sentinels make the perfect go-to when any X-writer needs to hard-focus on the comic’s basic point. As “mutant-hunting robots”, they never require much narrative justification for showing up, nor much explanation to new readers for what they are … and they immediately anchor any X-Men story, no matter how strange and unfamiliar other elements may be. (This is why they show up in so many key X-Men stories: The only Lee/Kirby X-Men three-parter; the first full Thomas/Adams arc; the first major Claremont/Cockrum epic, the first issue of Millar’s “Ultimate X-Men”; the second major arc in “X-Men Forever,” etc.)
Thus, it’s no accident that the villain of issue 246 is a Sentinel. Satisfyingly, Claremont also brings back Nimrod, one of the major plot-danglers left over from before “Mutant Massacre.” Nimrod was originally rather blatant in its derivation by Claremont from two sources: Alan Moore’s Fury and James Cameron’s “Terminator.” Fair enough, since both of those characters owed a debt to Claremont and Byrne’s “Days of Future Past.” To keep readers from forgetting the story that came first, Claremont throws in Sebastian Shaw and Senator Robert Kelly, both major players from the original “Future Past” two-parter.
Amusingly, when Nimrod first appears on panel in Uncanny #246, this time both the milieu and the character’s dialogue are clear riffs on “RoboCop.” The elision ends up working well, since Claremont had already been teasing in Nimrod’s previous appearances at the character becoming less robotic and more “human,” which is the same dichotomy explored in Paul Verhoeven’s film. For contrast, Claremont also brings in Mastermold, the original Lee/Kirby Sentinel recently resurrected by the Simonsons in X-Factor, to play the “ED-209” to Nimrod’s Murphy. (Meaningless synchronicity: 209 was the last issue of Uncanny to feature Nimrod.) Claremont’s twist on the source material is to have the two robots merge into a single entity.
The issue’s cliffhanger -- Rogue about to be killed -- is typical superhero comic-book fare, and indeed, no one would be shocked to learn that the X-Men show up to save her on the opening splash of the next issue. However, Uncanny X-Men #246 teases that one member of the team dies in the next issue, and it does turn out to be Rogue. (Not that she stays “dead” for all that long.) Thematically this seems a little off, given that Dazzler was the one having visions of death in the story’s opening. Apparently, Dazzler was the one slated to die, but Marc Silvestri – a fan of blonde bombshells, presumably – objected. Instead Dazzler ends up being Rogue’s “killer” (sort of), a clever twist on the meaning of her “death” hallucinations that arguably improves on the original idea.