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Uncanny X-Men #151 (1981, November)

June 17, 2013

Claremont and Jim Sherman don’t take much of a break after the big Magneto story, with “X-Men Minus One!”

X-Men Minus One!

A memorable cover, and one I would’ve expected to be homaged at some point.

It starts with Xavier telling everyone that Kitty’s parents have withdrawn her from the school. Kitty runs out of the room, crying. Hours later, Ororo goes to talk to her, and Kitty says her parents are sending her to Emma Frost’s Massachusetts Academy. We get a flashback to the events of issues #129131, when the White Queen captured the X-Men and threatened to destroy Storm’s mind. Kitty wonders how much her parents care about her, since they’re splitting up and sending her to a school she doesn’t want to go to. She feels that if she can’t depend on them, what can she depend on, which reminds Storm of when her own parents died, and she felt a sense of betrayal. It’s a nice scene that does a pretty good job exploring the complicated feelings of a child whose parents are going through a divorce.

Eventually, the day comes when she has to leave. She gives everyone a farewell kiss on the cheek, even Nightcrawler, showing how much she’s grown. Colossus, she kisses passionately, the first time she’s done that. It’s unfortunate that it’ll be a few more years before Secret Wars comes along and breaks them up, because seriously, wrong. He’s 19, she’s still 13. The rule for figuring out if someone’s too young for you is half your age plus seven. Colossus shouldn’t be involved with anyone younger than 16. Even in the ’80s, I think that age difference would be seen as inappropriate.

Anyway. Storm decides to drive Kitty to the Academy. Kitty says she did some research on Emma and the Hellfire Club. They’re all rich. They’re criminals for the kicks, and she thinks they’re sick. Kitty talks about how everything looks perfect, and she wishes she’d worn her oldest, most frayed pair of jeans. In the school, Storm’s confronted by Emma Frost. Later, Kitty sees Storm off. Once Storm’s gone, Kitty thinks about having been to another planet, fought aliens, demons and supervillains, and she simply doesn’t belong at that school.

Storm pulls the car over to the side of the road not far from the school, and revels in her elemental powers (reciting King Lear, Act 3, Scene 2 in the process). When she’s done, she reflects on what she needs to remember about the powers, but still loves how it felt. Then she put on some lipstick and takes out a cigarette and a phone to call Shaw. Back at the Academy, a pair of guards hear a prisoner scream. We see a blonde woman on the ground, thinking Storm’s thoughts. She manages to turn on a light and find a mirror, and finds herself in Emma Frost’s body.

At Xavier’s, Kurt and Amanda are taking a walk along the lake. They’re attacked by a Sentinel. Nightcrawler goes down quickly, but an optic blast from the mansion knocks it down. Wolverine arrives to help Kurt and Amanda back to the house, but the Sentinel didn’t arrive alone. Colossus shows up, and he and Wolverine go to work on the Sentinels, with Cyclops providing support from the house. A Sentinel takes Cyclops and Xavier down, and another drives Colossus into the ground. Nightcrawler teleports into the house and grabs some plastique, then teleports around the legs of the Sentinels, attaching the explosive, which takes them out of the fight. That’s when “Storm” arrives to finish one off. Then she knocks out the X-Men.

Back at the Academy, Storm-in-Emma picks the lock on her door, but once she’s outside the room, she starts hearing thoughts in her head. She drops, then runs away. She gets a flashback to Jean telling her about it taking concentration to block out thoughts. She manages to create a wall around her mind, then slips into Kitty’s room. Kitty naturally assumes it’s Emma, and tries to dive away. Storm tries to stop her with a psychic bolt, but fears she may have hit Kitty too hard.

This was a very cool issue. The art wasn’t at Cockrum’s level, but it wasn’t bad. But the story was excellent. Kitty’s pain at her parents getting divorced was very well done. Emma taking over Storm’s body was also done well. It started subtle, but our suspicions grew quickly until being confirmed. Very good. The only real problem is the Kitty-Colossus romance, which becomes more uncomfortable the more it develops.

I also need to bring up Avengers Annual #10, by Chris Claremont and Michael Golden, for a few reasons. It starts with Spider-Woman – another character Claremont was writing at the time – saving a woman who’d just fallen off the Golden Gate Bridge. Later, Spider-Woman is at the hospital (where a young girl named Maddy Pryor is just leaving – it was the name of the singer for one of his favourite bands, and he just happened to reuse it for his famous creation) to find out how the woman is doing, and Liuetenant Morrel comes to tell her it’s Carol Danvers. Her mind is basically nonexistent, so Spider-Woman calls the X-Men for help (who are still repairing the damage from the Christmas demon attack – yeah, Kitty really wrecked the place). Xavier flies out to San Francisco to check Carol out, and finds her conscious mind completely erased. He does believe he can bring back her most critical memories and personality traits, and he did find her assailant – Rogue.

Then we cut to Central Park, where Captain America is defeated by Rogue. She kisses him and absorbs his powers and memories. She thinks about how she needs to be careful not to get carried away, or the transfer will become permanent, like it did with Ms. Marvel. He’s thrown through the Avengers’ front window, and they call Iron Man to bring in Dr. Blake. Before he leaves, though, the Wasp comes in, and attaches a device that renders Iron Man immobile. Then she shifts back to Mystique. Spider-Woman pulls up to Avengers Mansion in a cab, and sees Rogue. Thor touches down outside the Mansion, and as soon as he switches to Blake, he’s knocked out by Rogue. Then Spider-Woman attacks. Blake switches back to Thor, and he grabs Rogue, who grabs him and absorbs his power. Rogue then has to fight all the Avengers, but finds she can’t absorb Wonder Man’s power. She decides to cut out.

We then get a brief synopsis of Avengers #200, the infamous Rape of Ms. Marvel comic. Claremont also remembers that Beast is a genius – something that the writers of the Avengers usually forgot – by having him be the one who examined Cap and Thor. Beast also manages to run a scan for Ms. Marvel’s hybrid energy signature, to find Rogue moving towards Ryker’s Island. There, Iron Man is dropped out of a plane, smashing through the main generator for the power inhibitor fields. The Brotherhood takes advantage of the opportunity to escape, but before they can get away, the Avengers arrive. Big fight scene! Also, there’s clearly a closeness between Mystique and Destiny. It’s still never been explicitly confirmed on-panel that they were lovers, but even at this point, the implications are pretty clear. The fight is really cool. Inside, Spider-Woman finds Iron Man, but Mystique finds her. Luckily, Spider-Woman’s actually fast enough to avoid the bullets. Spider-Woman frees Iron Man, who goes after Rogue. The Scarlet Witch wakes up and causes a gas main to burst. Mystique decides to escape, with Rogue coming along. The rest of the Brotherhood falls quickly.

Then we head to Xavier’s school, for the real meat of this story. The real reason Claremont did the whole damned thing. Carol’s memories and personality have been mostly restored, and the Avengers come to visit. We get a brief moment showing the start of the close friendship between Carol and Jessica, which Kelly Sue DeConnick has been doing wonderful things with and has turned into perhaps the best-written friendship in all of comics. Then Jessica and the X-Men leave Carol alone to meet the Avengers. She tells them Marcus is dead. Iron Man asks if there’s anything they can do to ease her pain. Carol angrily asks if they didn’t do enough to cause it. She starts to cry, and Thor gets one of the best lines ever: “Be not ashamed of thy womanly tears.” So hilariously misogynistic. He thinks it’s because she lost the man she loved. She says she never loved him. She says she left with Marcus because he gave her no choice. She goes over who he was and how he won her over, including the line, “with a subtle boost from Immortus’ machines.” That comes from the original story. She talks about how, when she was pregnant from an unknown source, going through the whole nine-month term overnight, none of the Avengers showed any real concern for her. They made jokes. Not a single one of them thought about what she must have been going through, and how terrified she must have been. And she’s right. None of them cared about her well-being. Half of them were excited about the baby, the other half were concerned about the baby but not about its effect on Carol.

This whole issue was mostly a way for Claremont to express his disgust at Avengers #200, disgust that was shared by a few other people at the time, most notably Carol Strickland, who wrote The Rape of Ms. Marvel for the old comic ‘zine LoC. That article’s well worth a read, by the way. And the scene in this comic where Carol calls the Avengers out on what happened is powerful.

The rest of the issue is pretty good, too. The Brotherhood are a legitimate threat, and do very well against the Avengers. Rogue is a great new character. While the scene between Carol and the Avengers was the most important part at the time, in the long-term, the introduction of Rogue has had the biggest impact. She’s a good character. In this first appearance, she’s ruthless, reveling in her powers. But she’s also got a distinctive voice, and not just because of her Southern accent. When she plays up that Southern belle thing, it’s actually really funny. Rogue’s a recurring threat for the next couple of years, both in UXM and elsewhere. She would eventually, of course, join the X-Men, and become one of the team’s mainstays. She’s still there today, and is now one of the stars of adjectiveless X-Men, where Brian Wood is mercifully writing her without the phonetic accent. One thing I do find amusing about Claremont is how much he loved to cross over the books he was writing. He had the X-Men show up in Spider-Woman, and now he has both show up in this Annual, along with Carol Danvers, whose solo he’d previously written prior to its cancellation. I love how Claremont took advantage of the shared universe in general, but especially when he did it with multiple books he was writing.

One Comment
  1. I love the scene of Carol telling the Avengers off. I really dig that she specifically brings up some of the terrible things they said in Avengers #200. The bit about Beast being the baby’s teddy bear really gets me. I’m so thankful that Claremont was able to get ahold of Ms. Marvel and address that awful, awful story.

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