[Jason Powell covers every issue of Claremont's X-Men run. It's almost GAMBIT time people. Can you believe it?]
“Hot Pursuit “
This issue is – not counting the typical quota of Claremontian subplots – basically a “done in one,” its plot revolving around an incursion by Genoshan magistrates into the States, to reacquire David Moreau and Jennifer Ransom. (They both defected to America at the end of the original Genoshan arc.) This is the magistrates’ second such attempt, the first having occurred in issue 259. Repelled by an amnesiac, non-metal Colossus originally, they arrive with greater numbers and firepower this time around, requiring a team-up between the Forge/Banshee duo and a couple members of X-Factor.
All of which happens in order to set up the next mutant-title crossover: “X-Tinction Agenda,” which will begin in six months. Claremont also takes the opportunity to clean house: The Colossus/Callisto thread (which climaxed in the previous issue) gets a line drawn under it, making it explicitly clear that Peter is out of circulation, at least for a while.
Meanwhile, the Banshee/Forge thread is abruptly truncated. In Uncanny 255, Claremont set up what looked to be a long-term arc in which Banshee and Forge traveled the country in search of the missing X-Men. As it turns out, they make a complete botch of their quest, failing to follow up on any leads and logging very little travel time before ending up in the ruins of Xavier’s mansion in issue 261. The Morlock two-parter hooks them up with Jean Grey, which in turn leads them to this issue, wherein they are hanging out as guests in X-Factor’s giant ship. At the end of “Hot Pursuit,” Banshee – quite out of the blue – says that he and Forge won’t be doing any other exploring on their own, but “link[ing] up” with X-Factor instead.
This has all the makings of editorial fiat in action. Back when Jim Shooter was editor in chief, he had dictated that the X-Men and X-Factor not meet or crossover during the first year of the latter team’s existence. While some rather artificial means were employed in order to keep in line with this edict, Shooter’s logic was – in retrospect – rather shrewd, allowing the increasing number of mutant titles to each enjoy distinct identities. By 1990, Tom DeFalco was the new EiC, and the pendulum presumably swung in the other direction. Starting with this issue and continuing to the end of Claremont’s run, the various X-characters begin bleeding more and more into each other’s series. Indeed, within two years of Claremont’s departure, the X books will have become entirely amorphous, the differences between them all but dissolved.
While the impetus for this editorial shift surely started out of a desire to strengthen all the different parts of the “X” brand, there is admittedly a narrative and thematic logic as well to having the ties between Marvel’s mutant community be strong. Why shouldn’t they all be spending time with each other?
And yet … one does get the sense of artistic identities being lost in the shuffle. Issue 264 is a perfect first example: Set in X-Factor headquarters and with members of X-Factor as two of its main protagonists, this scarcely feels like an issue of Uncanny. The lack of a distinct artistic identity for the series at this point only compounds the problem (Michael Collins’ pencils here are less than satisfying). Even ever-reliant Tom Orzechowski and Glynis Oliver are absent – instead, “Hot Pursuit” boasts some decidedly sloppy lettering by Clem Robins and murkily dubious colors from Nelson Yomtov.
As for Claremont, even his undeniably unique authorial voice seems in danger here of getting lost in all the editorial deck-shuffling. He attempts to paste over all the chaos through his use of Forge, who narrates the comic in first-person for the second issue in a row – the only character besides Wolverine to do so during the Claremont years. But whereas last issue’s Forge story was redemptive, this time his running monologue is bolted to an impersonal and shapeless narrative, which it neither enhances nor particularly enlightens.
With its unceremonious truncation of plot threads, amorphous story, ugly lettering, uninspired pencils, forgettable colors – and of course its focus on characters from a different series altogether – this is the least distinctive issue of Claremont’s entire X-Men run.