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Uncanny X-Men #196 (1985, August)

February 28, 2015

Secret Wars II continues. By Claremont and JRJr, “What Was That?!!”

What Was That?!!

Wolverine vs. a Gimp.

Xavier is doing a lecture, when he overhears a stray thought from one of the kids who attacked him, thinking they need to kill someone.

Out on the Serengeti, Storm is approached by a silver-maned lion, which is then shot. Then she gets shot, herself. Andrea is the shooter, paying her back for hitting Andreas.

Back in New York, Xavier’s briefing the X-Men. Magneto’s with them, and the X-Men aren’t very happy about it. The waiter at the restaurant praises Nimrod while bringing the bill. He says it’s great having a hero looking out for the common man, not just saving the world all the time. Wolverine keeps staring at Xavier, which kinda creeps Rogue out. Kitty asks Xavier why he doesn’t use his telepathy to find the killer, but Xavier lies and says he’s in the midst of an experiment that requires him to dull his telepathy with drugs. He’s actually dulling it because he can’t block out thoughts, due to his injuries, but he doesn’t want them to know that. Rachel spots a guy standing outside the restaurant, and then he pops inside. Rachel goes to talk to him, and recognizes him as the Beyonder, but when Kitty comes over, he’s gone.

Elsewhere, Nightcrawler pays a visit to Father Bowen, who’s having a crisis of faith. He worries that the Beyonder is god. And that leaves him searching for the faith that once sustained him.

At Columbia University, some students are setting up a device in Xavier’s office, while the X-Men do some recon. Rogue and Rachel are flying around, and Rogue reflects on it being weird that Magneto’s become an ally. Rachel says that, in her time, he was a friend and a hero. She senses a mugging, and the two stop it. Then they see that the guy was spraying an anti-mutant message on the wall. Elsewhere, Kitty and Wolverine are sitting on some steps. Kitty gets annoyed at Wolverine’s cigar smoke, and grabs it out of his mouth to take a few puffs on it. She determines never to smoke again. They talk about Magneto and Xavier. Wolverine shares Kitty’s doubts, but figures they should trust for now.

Kitty runs off to check out some more suspects. She goes to the computer physics lab, where some students are gathered. She asks what they’re doing. Apparently, she’s part of the same seminar – she really is a genius, if she’s taking university courses while she’s only 15. The group is tense, and wondering how she got in. A black guy asks if she’s a mutie. Her response is, um . . . not something I can print. Claremont probably went a bit too far here, if we’re honest. His heart was in the right place, but using the N-word is just not cool, no matter the motivation. Anyway, the guys attack her, and decide to kill her.

Outside, Colossus, Wolverine and Rogue are sitting, and Rogue is feeling a little dispirited, wondering why they even bother. In Xavier’s office, Rachel is telling Xavier and Magneto about her sensing the Beyonder. She senses him again, and she links her mind with Xavier and Magneto. That trips the device the kids planted earlier. It turns her own telepathy against her. She lashes out and blows a hole in the wall, sending Xavier and Magneto out through it. Colossus throws Wolverine up (Fastball Special Tracker: 13), and he finds Rachel crying. She senses Kitty in danger, and switches to her hound outfit and flies out.

The black guy is trying to choke Kitty to death when Rachel blasts her way in. Kitty’s still alive. The black guy pulls a gun and tries to shoot Rachel, but she sends the bullet back at him. It stops inches away from his face, held in place by Magneto. He begs Rachel to stop. He says that his own path has done nothing but made him hated and feared, and hasn’t done anything to help mutantkind. She says it’s people like the kids she attacked who turned her into a hound and made her kill people she knew and loved. She wants to get revenge, and since she can’t do it against the people who hurt her in the future, she’ll do it to the people now. Magneto tells her to do it, and show that she’s no better than they are. Rachel lets the bullet fall, and says she may never forgive Magneto. Kitty asks Magneto how he knew what to say, and he says they’re a lot alike.

This is a really good issue. It’s mostly character-driven. Rachel gets a strong focus, as we see her dealing with her bitterness and anger. Her resentment towards Magneto for stopping her from killing is especially strong. I also like her changing her clothes with a thought – it’s a nice show of her power, and a great callback to Phoenix being able to do that. Magneto’s speech to her is very good, and shows just how much growth he’s had since UXM #150. He’s become a hero.

The Kitty/Wolverine scene is cute. The Rachel/Rogue scene touches again on the anti-mutant sentiment that was being pushed at the time. I still wish Claremont had done more to show organized campaigns promoting tolerance, too. Also, the N-word moment was ill-advised. I’m curious how readers at the time – especially black readers – felt about that panel.

The Beyonder’s presence drags the issue down a bit, unfortunately. A pretty common problem with the whole Secret Wars II event, actually. A lot of books had to tie into it, and few were improved by the tie-in. It just feels shoe-horned in. Which it probably was – I suspect Claremont had this issue planned, and then was told to use the Beyonder. There’s an issue coming up that does a lot more with the Beyonder. But he was always a stupid concept. The Beyonder sucks. Yeah, I said it, the Beyonder just flat-out sucks. He was never interesting, even in the original Secret Wars, which was overrated in the first place.

JRJr’s art isn’t too obtrusive here. It doesn’t hurt the story. There are a few panels that are actually pretty cool. There are also a few that kinda suck. But for the most part, it’s just there. It’s images the words are set to. Considering how I feel about Romita, Jr’s style, about the best I can hope for is that it doesn’t distract me.

I also want to talk about Amazing Spider-Man #267, by Peter David. “When Cometh the Commuter!” It’s one of the most absurd, ridiculous, hilarious Spider-Man stories ever. It’s so damned funny. Spider-Man chases a burglar into the suburbs. That’s all you need to know, is that it’s Spider-Man in the suburbs.

Song of the day: Classic Girl by Deidre & the Dark.

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