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Uncanny X-Men #209

August 21, 2015

I’ll probably be doing a thing tomorrow. I’ll talk about it Tuesday. But for today, by Claremont and JRJr, “Salvation.”


That’s a pretty generic cover.

We pick up where we left off, with Nimrod confronting the assembled X-Men and Hellfire Club. Rachel is curled up in a ball not far away, and hears thoughts about Nimrod. She wants to help, but talks herself out of it. Rogue busts out of the ground, which stuns Leland, allowing Kitty to go rescue Colossus. The Hellfire guards open fire on Storm, who’s saved by Callisto, and then the guards are scared off by Nightcrawler and Wolverine. Rogue fights Shaw, and apparently they’ve battled before, and Shaw nearly killed her. Sadly, a story that never does get told. But I actually kinda like that sort of thing. Makes the comic world seem bigger when we know there are a lot of stories we’ll never actually get to see. Anyway, Rogue throws Shaw at Nimrod, who sends him into orbit.

Selene attacks Nimrod, with no success. Her pawn, Von Roehm, gets fried by Nimrod. Storm suggests an alliance against Nimrod. Rogue gets taken out by Nimrod. Rachel wants to go help, but also doesn’t want to, and she’s too hurt to help anyway. She follows some music, and finds Spiral’s Body Shoppe.

More fighting. Leland tries to use his power on Nimrod, keeping him distracted Nightcrawler tries to teleport away a chunk of him, but Nimrod is ready, and when Nightcrawler disappears, no one can tell if he teleported or was disintegrated. Leland starts to have a heart attack, which makes him release his power from Nimrod. Colossus pops out of the ground to grab him, while Kitty phases through him. Colossus starts slamming Nimrod around. Selene wraps Nimrod up, and Storm gets an idea for Leland’s last act. She wants him to bring Shaw back down. Wolverine tries to finish Nimrod off, but Nimrod teleports away.

Throughout the fight, we also get scenes of Rachel following Spiral up a spiral path, leaving bits of herself behind as she starts dancing along with Spiral. The issue ends with Spiral promising she’ll be a star. As I said before, this was supposed to lead to a Phoenix limited series, which never developed.

This was a really good issue. It was mostly just fighting, but it was done fairly well. Not perfectly. There were a lot of panels of characters just standing around. Nimrod spent a little too much of the fight just hovering menacingly. Truthfully, for most of the fight, there’s little real sense of danger or tension. And Nimrod ends up being defeated a little too easily – Colossus and Kitty just smack him around a bit, and that’s pretty much that. That bit is really cool, though. Also awesome was Leland turning Shaw into a meteor. It’s worth noting that Shaw actually survived it, though he was unconscious. Shaw’s power seems to have no upper limit, on the kinetic energy he can absorb. Anyway, it’s a really cool scene. One thing Claremont could’ve done is give Nimrod some thought bubbles suggesting a reluctance to kill the X-Men. It would’ve justified how slow the fight was, while also adding to his depth. This issue treats him as just a mutant-hunting robot. No personality, no hint at his growing humanity. That’s a shame.

The better side of the issue is Rachel’s. Her doubts and fears are effective. When she starts following Spiral, it’s odd and creepy without doing anything too overtly creepy. There’s a sinister undertone to it all. It’s a real shame that the Phoenix limited series never happened. I should also note that, apparently, the Rogue/Shaw fight was planned for the original Ms. Marvel series. I guess Claremont had planned to have Ms. Marvel, the Brotherhood and the Hellfire Club all be in conflict for an arc. Of course, the series was cancelled before that could happen. Another shame. But like I said, it’s kinda cool when there are references to untold stories.

The art in the issue is OK. I think the art is part of why the fight was boring. JRJr (who did the layouts, with finishes by Craig Russell) would’ve been the one who choreographed the fight, and he did a weak job of it.  I suppose he needed to make plenty of space for Claremont’s dialogue – especially with Claremont being such a wordy writer – but just the same, he could’ve included a lot more images of Nimrod actually attacking the mutants. Once again, it gets a lot better in the Rachel sections. The colours work really well there – very bright. There is an odd sense of flatness, though. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. Part of the problem may have been printing limitations of the time. I can’t help but think of how glorious those pages would look if done today.

All in all, a good issue, but not one of the better ones.

Also this month, the debut of Classic X-Men #1! The first issue reprints most of Giant-Size X-Men #1, by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum. I won’t re-review that stuff. There is, however, some new stuff, by Claremont and John Bolton. The issue actually starts with some new material. It shows Scott returning from the first (failed) mission to Krakoa. Xavier reads his mind to find what happened, and then Scott’s optic blasts start back up, stronger than ever. Then comes the reprint material – mostly, it’s the gathering of the new team, with the actual rescue being very much compressed. By which I mean it’s done in two frigging pages. Seriously, two pages. Then, more new material.

Xavier wonders what’s going to happen with the two teams of X-Men. He checks on Havok and Polaris, and they plan on going back to school. Xavier’s fine with that. He checks on Scott, who’s also being checked on by Jean, but he’s determined to finish a report on the Krakoa mission. She knows he loves her, but wants him to find a way to express it. Banshee and Colossus are in the common room – Banshee playing piano, Colossus drawing. Nightcrawler pops in to join them. Iceman also enters, and acts like an asshole. He hints they might be traitors, he snaps at Colossus for being Russian, and he’s just angry at there being a new bunch of X-Men. Iceman’s a dick. Nightcrawler offers friendship, and Iceman storms out. He passes Thunderbird, and tells him off, too. Back outside, Wolverine finds Jean, and hits on her. This is where Claremont apparently decided that Jean and Wolverine belonged together. Because prior to this, he had never done anything that really hinted that she was really interested in him. Quite the contrary, he’d made it clear that she belonged with Scott. My guess is that Claremont’s bitterness over Jean’s return, and Scott being taken from Maddie, made him latch onto the Jean/Wolverine ship, even though it ignored his own damn stories to do that.

In the air, Angel flirts with Storm. He spots Wolverine making his move on Jean, and interrupts by grabbing him and tossing him into a tree. Wolverine goes berserk, so Storm interrupts with a lightning bolt. Jean goes to talk to Wolverine, but he says he’s bad news. She says she’s not scared.

Morning comes, and Jean goes to talk to Xavier. She confesses her attraction to Wolverine. Urgh! Ugh! No no no! Bad Claremont! Bad! Honestly, the whole Jean/Wolverine thing just pisses me off. She also says she wants to see the real world, and Xavier wishes her well.

Meh. The new opening material is pretty bland – I think it’s mostly designed to introduce Scott, to any new readers. The new material at the back is OK. Iceman really does come across as an unbearable prick. He’s just completely impossible to like here. Just a spoiled, xenophobic ass. The interactions between Banshee, Colossus and Nightcrawler are good. The Jena/Wolverine stuff is just . . . I hate it. I hate it so much. I really do. I hate that ship. It is one of my all-time most-hated ships. It pisses me off every single time I see it, and it pisses me off a thousand times worse when I see it used in the comics. I hate it.

I don’t hate Bolton’s art, though. (Ha! Segue!) It’s good art, especially for this type of character-focused stuff. It’s really soft and pretty. It does a good job at setting mood. It’s good work.

I should also mention Captain America Annual #8, by Mark Gruenwald and Mike Zeck. Wolverine guest-stars. The story even starts with Wolverine in a bar, ignoring a brawl going on behind him. At the centre of the fight is Bob Frank, Nuklo. Wolverine decides to follow him out. Nuklo gets attacked by a robot, so Wolverine jumps in to slash it up. The robot leaves, and Wolverine hears the word “Tess.” After getting Nuklo to a hospital, he looks for the robot’s trail. He and Captain America both independently track it to Adametco, an adamantium manufacturer. They come across each other, and Cap wants to know what Wolverine’s doing there. Now that the X-Men are working with Magneto, Cap wants explanations whenever they do anything. Wolverine gets annoyed and attacks. The robot breaks up the fight by joining in. The robot and its handler, Overrider, escape, so Cap and Wolverine decide to team up. They each do some independent checking around, then head to a military base being attacked by Tess and Overrider. Cap and Wolverine take down Tess, and then confront Overrider, whose plan is to fire all of America’s nuclear missiles into the sea, as unilateral disarmament to stop WW3. His son suffers “nuclear psychosis” – he’s so scared of nuclear war that he’s withdrawn from reality. Stupid, really. Comics used to love giving characters catatonic relatives – especially children – for villains to care for. The catatonia was seldom the result of physical trauma – it was usually “the horror of war,” or something along those lines. It was shock, basically. In comics, shock has a tendency to be permanent. People only ever get over shock if it was played for laughs in the first place. Regardless, I don’t think there were many kids in the ’80s who went into permanent stupor over fears of nuclear war. So that’s stupid. Anyway, Cap throws his shield to knock Overrider off his little flying platform, and Wolverine considers stabbing him, but instead just lets him hit the ground. Cap tells off Wolverine, saying he’ll never be an Avenger. That’s probably the most notable part of this entire comic, and it’s only notable in hindsight – Wolverine was an Avengers mainstay for Bendis’ entire run. Anyway, this comic’s not very good. Part of the problem, I think, is the knowledge that nuclear war hasn’t happened yet. I don’t know if it was actually that huge a concern in the ’80s – the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, definitely, but hadn’t that fear started to fade by the ’80s? Decades of nothing happening must have left people a lot more jaded about it, I would think. So the whole “the world is going to be ended in nuclear fire!” hysteria of some of these comics just feels quaint and absurd. It’d be like reading a comic warning about the impending doom of Y2K. It’s hard to take it seriously at all. Now, the nuclear fears could be done well – Ann Nocenti, during her Daredevil run, had a kid who was convinced nuclear war was coming. But it was a result of him being a young kid watching too much news and having too active an imagination. But here? “Nuclear psychosis?” Give me a frigging break, Gruenwald. Beyond that, the story was a fairly standard superhero story, with nothing too remarkable about the writing or the art.

Speaking of Gruenwald’s Captain America, the same month had Captain America #321, where he shoots a terrorist. Then he spends a few months angsting about it. It was pretty silly, truthfully.

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