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Uncanny X-Men #186 (1984, October)

October 6, 2014

Oh, here’s a big one. In size and importance. Chris Claremont and Barry Windsor-Smith bring the double-sized special, “Lifedeath.”


This cover is nowhere near cool enough for the story inside it.

Storm is laying in bed, depressed to the point of not moving. Forge comes in with some food, and tries to get her to respond, but she doesn’t. He yells at her and storms out, then feels like a dick. He uses his holograms to look at her in various phases of her career, then to rewatch Gyrich blasting her with the Neutralizer. Storm walks in as Forge pulls her from the water, and she says he should’ve let her drown.

At the school, Xavier can’t find Storm. He hasn’t sensed anything from her since a shriek of agony through his rapport with her. It left him unconscious for a whole day, and unable to use his psychic powers for a little while after. He instead tries to scan for Rogue.

At Forge’s place, Storm asks if there’s been any word on Rogue. He says no. She guesses Rogue escaped. Forge asks what brought them together, and she notes they have a bit in common, what with having been a thief. She figures she should probably be grateful that her thieving skills are earned, not a power, so she still has them. Then she asks for a floor – the open spaces make her nervous, since she can’t fly any more. She sees some clouds in the distance, and reflects on how, a few days ago, she could’ve sensed them, and how the rain would fall. She feels like she’s not really alive any more.

Forge leaves to go for a swim, and Storm joins him. They race, and as she climbs out, she notices his metal leg. He says he does understand some of what she’s going through. He tells her he was injured in Vietnam, getting too close to a bomb. After losing his leg and hand, he tried to kill himself.

In Mississippi, Val Cooper is talking to some dude. She says that Storm’s energy release burned out the mutant scanner they tracked Rogue with, and she doubts Forge will loan them another. She also mentions that Gyrich plans to deal with Storm. The guy, Phil, heads to his car, and he gets killed by a Dire Wraith. Then “he,” and two other Dire Wraiths, head to the motel for Val. Rogue interrupts – she wants Val for herself. Val manages to grab the gun from “Phil,” and shoots “him” in the head. Rogue, fighting the last Wraith, accidentally touches it with her bare hands, absorbing it. Xavier senses her fight for control, and is freaked out himself. Val tries to drive away, but Rogue catches her and knocks her out, and absorbs her memories. She’s not happy about what she learns.

Back a Forge’s place, Storm puts on a nice dress and offers to help Forge with the cooking. He’s awed by her appearance, but she thinks he thinks she’s childish. She changes into overalls instead. He starts to tell her what he’s cooking, but she recognizes it. It seems to be Japanese. They flirt a bit while she drinks some champagne. They trade backstories a bit. It’s established that Forge is Cheyenne. They hear thunder, and she presses a button to check the storm, and is terrified. It makes her feel small.

They kiss, and Forge says he may be able to reverse the effects of the Neutralizer, but then they’re interrupted by the phone. Storm listens in, and learns that Rogue is alive. She also overhears Forge saying that while Gyrich shot the gun, Forge designed it. She cries out, and starts running. Forge follows. She uses the control console she has to play with the holograms, and winds up pulling up the bombing run that cost Forge his hand and leg. She stumbles off a platform, and hurts herself, and cries out to the Goddess for help. She answers by hitting the tower with a lightning bolt, opening a path onto a balcony.

Then Forge finds her. He tries to convince her he’s not her enemy, but she doesn’t believe him. She believes she’s a lab specimen to him. He says he can protect her, and she says that’s a lie, and that if she stays, anything she learns will be told to Gyrich, who will use the information to subjugate mutantkind. Then she decks him, and tells him that he’s nothing but an illusion, hiding away from the world for a sense of control, believing in nothing.

Claremont has said this (along with Lifedeath 2) is his favourite X-Men story. It’s certainly powerful stuff, as we see Storm trying to come to grips with the loss of her powers. Her depression and confusion is shown well, and builds in a satisfying way to her anger and sense of pride at the end. She has an OK chemistry with Forge, though it’s not really all that convincing. Much more convincing is her chewing him out. The whole final act, starting when she learns Forge designed the Neutralizer, is really good stuff.

Windsor-Smith’s art is fantastic. There’s a good use of backgrounds and perspective to highlight Storm’s emotions at each given moment. The blankness of the early pages reflects her sense of emptiness. There’s a lot of far shots from above to make Storm look smaller and weaker. Then, as she gets back her sense of self, the angles shift to make her look bigger and stronger. Aside from that stuff, though, Windsor-Smith’s just a fantastic artist. Great character work, great expressions, great backgrounds, great everything. He nails the issue. It’s a dramatic departure from JRJr, and a very welcome one. Sadly, it’s only for this one issue, and JRJr remains on the book for a long time to come. Still, this is a great change of pace, and just stellar art in general.

The weakest part of the issue is probably the stuff with the Dire Wraiths. It’s plot stuff, of course, and that tends to be important. But the main story, of Storm and Forge, is so strong that the plot feels like it’s intruding on it. Which might be a bit of an odd thing to say, but nonetheless, it’s true. Any other issue, Rogue fighting Dire Wraiths would be pretty cool. Here? I just want the scene over with so it can get back to Storm. That’s not to say, of course, that the plot is bad. It’s not a bad plot at all. It’s not a great one, but it’s pretty good. The Dire Wraiths are a creepy enough foe, though I found Rom mediocre enough that it made it tough for me to care much for the Wraiths.

Still. A fantastic issue.

  1. loved this one..

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