Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Uncanny X-Men #261

[Jason Powell. Chris Claremont. Every issue. That is all.]

“Harriers Hunt”

This issue is Marc Silvestri’s 32nd and last of Uncanny, making him second only to John Byrne in amount of Uncanny issues penciled during Claremont’s tenure. It’s also the last Claremont Uncanny issue to be inked by Dan Green, making his final tally a remarkable 58 issues – far surpassing any other embellisher.

It’s not the finest comic for Silvestri and Green to go out on. The Dazzler material of the previous issue was much more impressive – and more representative, for that matter. “Harriers Hunt” is, by contrast, an uninspired story that accomplishes nothing other than to return Wolverine to Madripoor. (The move was necessary in order to sync up Wolverine with the solo title, which at this point was being handed off to Jo Duffy for another saga featuring the Madripoor-based supporting cast.)

In a nod to the series that necessitated this story in the first place, Claremont brings in some of his own original characters from Wolverine #5 – Harry Malone, Battleaxe and Shotgun, or “the Harriers.” That earlier story hinted at the existence of a larger team, and so – in much the same way that, ten years earlier, the Claremont/Byrne “Weapon Alpha” story had eventually led to a sequel featuring Alpha Flight – here we get the ranks of the Harriers filled out with more than half a dozen new characters.

But whereas Alpha Flight were striking and memorable thanks to John Byrne’s canny designs, the Harriers are something else again. A promising double-page spread introduces them – a la the Reavers’ intro in Uncanny 248 – but ultimately they turn out to be a collection of ciphers, lacking the personality and mystique of teams like Alpha Flight, or the sheer dramatic impact of villains like the Marauders. Uncanny 261 is, in retrospect, a foretaste of the latter-day Claremont that flourished in the pages of X-Treme X-Men and other vanity projects – the lackadaisical writer who would gleefully introduce a team of new villains at the drop of a hat, providing some codenames and some vaguely defined sets of powers, but entirely failing to make any genuine impression.

We also get a single Banshee/Forge scene, setting up the upcoming Morlock two-parter. It’s a welcome bit of variety, but ultimately not enough of a diversion from the plain vanilla of the main plot: The Harriers show up, Wolverine is kidnapped, Jubilee and Psylocke rescue him, and another 22 pages have been filled.


Dave Mullen said...

Agree with the review, Am I not right in thinking this was a 'Tryout' on the behalf of Silvestri who hoped these characters would take off?
I've not read this particular issue since it came out as it's so disposable but it would be interesting to speculate whether it was any sort of genesis for his later Cyberforce work.

At this point I'd like to state my deep admiration for Claremonts treatment of Sean Cassidy, throughout this arc he had tremendous service and despite not being as central as other X-Men he was always a favorite of mine thanks to Claremonts writing.
I think it was Classic X-men that introduced him to me at the time and that fed nicely into his appearances in Uncanny X-Men 217 for example.

His self confidence and professionalism shone through and he was, in my opinion, in the same class as Storm, Cyclops or Wolverine. Just a very strong & believable character who deserved better than he would get.

Evan said...

Although again, Jo Duffy chooses to ignore what Claremont is doing with Wolverine at this point and does not include any of Wolverine's madness. Claremont is essentially bowing to continuity here, when continuity doesn't seem particularly interested in what he is doing.

Having his character changes to Magneto debateably undone for Acts of Vengeance was blow 1, although that can be at least partially forgiven since Claremont was no longer using Mags in his regular book (since at this point New Mutants was a L Simonson production). I can't help feel that his character changes being ignored in Wolverine is sign that his creative influence over the X-men franchise as a whole is ending. (Also completely sad that the stories in Wolverine didn't take advantage of Psylocke and Jubilee being with him at this point... Claremont left a lot of room for embellishment for the trio's time in Madripoor that no writer has really taken full advantage of to my knowledge.)

Jason said...


It had never occurred to me that this team might've been a tryout and/or a proto-"Cyberforce" for Silvestri. I hadn't heard that, but you certainly could be right. The characters always struck me personally as more Claremontian than as something one would see in an Image book. (And two of the characters, Shotgun and Axe, were created by Claremont years earlier with old-school artist John Buscema.)

I do like Banshee's comeback around this time, yeah. Particularly issue 255, the splash page, where comes crashing through in the blue-and-yellow costume.

Evan, yeah, exactly. I had the same interpretation of events around this time. (See the blog for issue 252.)

Anonymous said...

The return of Banshee is easy to overlook, but after years of being on the sidelines due to losing his powers, he is back thanks to a gunshot wound from the Reavers and a subsequent healing session with the Morlock Healer who heals not only his wound but also his damaged mutant vocal chords. Banshee had been powerless for...how long? Sean's character added a new dimension to the X-titles, the guy who was once a mainstay of the team, lost his powers in one heroic act (saving Japan from Moses Magnum) and subsequently retired, acting as an occassional advisor and trainer for the X-Men but more or less out of the way and done with the super heroics. It was an interesting decision to bring him back as Banshee and at full power after so long. Does anyone think that this was in Claremont's mind all along? Or was he a just a conveinent person to send on a quest to find the X-Men, given his history with the team?

Jason said...


I'm not sure. One thing to keep in mind (and I myself occasionally forget) is that Banshee got his powers back in a non-Claremont comic, specifically a serialized story in Marvel Comics Presents 17-24. (I'm not sure who wrote it, but it wasn't Claremont.)

This is why Banshee's powers are already restored in issue 253, *before* getting shot by the Reavers and having his healing session in 254.

So, tough to say if Banshee's return to power was Claremont's idea, or an editorial decision that he took and ran with.

Anonymous said...

Bob Harras wrote that Cyclops story (it's actually good!) where Banshee was healed. Sounds like a bit of editorial interference that Claremont ran with.

Teebore said...

Similar to Dave, I'd always heard (can't say where, and no idea how true it is) that this issue was intended as a "tryout" for the Harriers, and someone (Claremont? Harras? Silvestri?) hoped/thought they might be able to spin them out into their own book.

I've always read the issue as little more than that. Good to know there isn't any depth to the issue I'm missing. :)

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the issue actually credit the creation of Hardcase and the Harriers to Claremont/Lee (even though Lee doesn't draw this issue and didn't draw the Wolverine that introduced the first few members)? It wouldn't have been Silvestri's tryout, unless Claremont/Lee created them for him.

I may be completely misremembering, though. I'm pretty sure there's a statement somewhere in the issue's credit's or splash-page about who created the team.

Jason said...

Anon, I just checked. There is indeed a "Hardcase and the Harriers created by ..." box. No Lee, though. They are credited as a co-creation of Claremont and Silvestri.

I assume Silvestri had nothing to do with the creation of Hardcase and Shotgun, though ... but then again, I suppose it's possible.

I just remembered, the other member who was introduced in Wolvering #5, "Battle Axe," I think he may have been intended by Claremont to be the same "Axe" from an early issue of New Mutants. Not sure. The original "Axe" was a bizarre character -- basically a blatant avatar of Mr. T, complete with mohawk and penchant for calling people "fool." Not exactly Claremont's proudest or most timeless "creation" ...

Isaac P. said...

Although the plot is slight and the Harriers one-dimensional, Claremont does use the issue to display some nice characterization between Logan, Jubilee & the newly-transformed Psylocke. It feels like a fun 'breather' issue after the intense drama of the last three issues.

That opening page spread really does feel like they are working really hard to sell you on these COOL NEW CHARACTERS! Throwing the increasingly-popular Silvestri a bone, perhaps, with a potential spin-off?

Thinking about what I find lacking in Silvestri's Image work while reading through these issues, it is really the sense of fun and humor that can bring to the page that I found missing in Cyberforce. His overposed supermodel women and grimfaced men feel visually shallow with nothing lighthearted to contrast.

Jason said...

I agree, Isaac.

Silvestri obviously got to a point in his career where he was just drawing only what he wanted to draw, and kudos to him. We should all be so lucky. (Or I should, at least.)

But it is a shame that apparently all he wants to draw are steroid-dudes with guns and supermodels with perfectly spherical breasts.

I've seen some of his sketches and I still maintain that he's a talented artist. But gosh, I wish he still did the stuff he was doing in the late 80s.

Aaron Forever said...

Jason, in your review for this issue, you said "Uncanny 261 is, in retrospect, a foretaste of the latter-day Claremont that flourished in the pages of X-Treme X-Men and other vanity projects – the lackadaisical writer who would gleefully introduce a team of new villains at the drop of a hat, providing some codenames and some vaguely defined sets of powers, but entirely failing to make any genuine impression."

But about 10 entries back, you said you hadn't read Claremont's "X-treme" or his (3rd) "Uncanny" run with Davis/Bachalo.

Puzzling. Yes, there was a lot of set-up of characters and ideas that would eventually go nowhere on his 2nd run ("Revolution" in "Uncanny"), but that was by editorial mandate after they somehow missed the fact that the X-Men movie was going to be huge. After a decade of retreads with the same ideas, same villains, etc., I found it ironic that it was Claremont, when he came back in 2000, that was finally willing to move things forward with new ideas, new stories, new characters. As misfortune would have it, his legs were cut out from under him in this regard. One of the main reasons he left in 1991 was that they were rejecting his storylines because the characters were becoming crystalized by the marketing machine in outside media and product. History repeated itself in 2000, after a few years of the X-Men fading from the public eye outside of comics, only for the final and ultimate crystalization to take place a few months after his 2nd run began. They immediately went back to the old storylines, the old villains, etc.

I suggest you try "X-treme" and his David/Bachalo run on "Uncanny." there's some pretty good stuff in there that isn't at all how you describe it. The books are, of course, mired by various editors and outside writers forcing him away from his own stories. But it's still pretty good. And again, I don't understand how you can describe it as such anyway, since, as of this blog, you hadn't even read it. Unless you did between your posts for 250 and 261.

Matt said...

Bob Harras wrote that Cyclops story (it's actually good!)

You don't need to act so surprised! He's a decent writer -- he penned a very entertaining multi-year run on Avengers!

I'd like to take this moment to mention that it kind if bothers me that usually, whenever this era of the X-Men is reviewed (not just here), Claremont is painted as the poor, suffering artist, and Harras as the evil, plotting editor who wants to destroy everything Claremont has dedicated his career to creating.

I certainly agree that mistakes were made on Harras's part, but I feel that those mistakes were mostly confined to how he dealt with Claremont personally. Maybe, like Jim Shooter, he just didn't have great people skills (though he was extremely gracious and polite when I met him at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2000). But I have always felt that his ideas and the changes he asked for were perfectly reasonable.

Like it or not, at this point the X-Men were fast becoming a commercial juggernaut. They needed a status quo in order to be put on Underoos and trading cards (as was noted earlier) and Saturday morning cartoons. I don't think Harras asking for a "return to basics" was a bad thing. Again, it could have been managed better, but -- in my own opinion, when your boss asks you to do something which, whether you like it or not, makes sense, you should do it or get out of the way. Claremont ultimately did the latter, but only after much gnashing of teeth and somewhat immature behavior (he and Harras were apparently communicating exclusively via fax at the very end).

Anyway, not sure what all I'm trying to say here except that I like Chris Claremont and I like Bob Harras. Both made extremely important contributions to the X-Men franchise. Claremont made it one to begin with, and Harras shepherded it through its most popular, and most profitable phase (and yes, its most commercial phase too -- which despite the protestations of suffering artists everywhere is not necessarily an awful thing)!

Yeesh, I didn't mean to turn this into such rant! I just got a little frustrated over seeing so much Harras hate in such heavily concentrated doses (I've read most entries from the mid 180's to now over the past week or so). I actually like a lot of the issues from this period! Definitely moreso than the Outback era, anyway. But I should add that no "era" on this title can hold a candle to the Scott Summers Glory Years of Giant Size #1 through Uncanny 176...!