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Uncanny X-Men #215 (1987, March)

November 30, 2015

I have four days off. So I’ll be doing three posts. Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Claremont and Davis, “Old Soldiers.”

Old Soldiers

Oh hey, it’s these guys.

We start with a flashback to the plane crash Maddie was in. As she walks out of the flames, they naturally take on a phoenix shape behind her. Because of course they do. When she’s in the ambulance, she sees a flame bird in her mind. Then she wonders where her baby is. The ambulance she’s in is actually being driven by Scalphunter, with Arclight disguised as an EMT. She jumps out of the ambulance, and starts running and fighting back, while wondering where Scott is. She ends up being shot by Scalphunter.

Then to the school, where Rogue is loading Colossus into the Blackbird. Nightcrawler and Kitty are already inside. They’re going to Muir Isle. Storm and Wolverine are staying behind. Longshot is now a part of the group, along with Dazzler, and they’ll be going to Muir. This is actually Longshot’s first appearance in the main book. Storm also mentions that she doesn’t entirely trust Longshot or Dazzler, or herself. Storm goes to see Wolverine, and asks him to accompany her on a job upstate.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Maddie wakes up in a hospital.

On the long drive, Storm talks to Wolverine about the need to get over their trust issues. They get to where they’re going – Sara Grey’s house. Destroyed. The pair are very professional about the whole thing, looking for clues of what happened. Wolverine says there’s no death scents. Storm thinks they should warn their friends, including Forge, and she starts thinking about him. Wolverine says two people were caught in the blast: Scott and a woman whose scent makes Wolverine freak out. He decks Storm and runs away.

On the Blackbird, Kitty phases out of her pod. It’s stated that she’s 15. Apparently, either Claremont screwed up here, or he screwed up later, because Excalibur #24, 3 years after this issue, has her turning 15. Anyway, she feels sorry for herself about the fact that she’s going to die. She gives Longshot a ghostly kiss, which he actually feels. Longshot says he felt her past and future, and her future included a void. I mention it because of how Davis draws Rogue’s reaction to Longshot’s comment. He does a great job showing her as shocked, scared and full of pity. Davis nails the expression.

Storm wakes up in a dungeon. She quickly picks the locks on her chains and the door, and makes her way upstairs to a very nice house. Clearly belonging to hunters and soldiers. The wall has a bunch of animal heads, and it also had WW2 memorabilia, like a torn Nazi flag, a chunk of wrecked metal, some kind of artillery shell, a bunch of medals. There’s other military stuff, too – a cannon, a machine gun, a whole bunch of regular guns, a katana and wakizashi. Three guys enter the house, and Storm gets grabbed by Crimson Commando. She kicks him and throws him off the balcony she’s standing on. Super-Sabre keeps her from escaping, and knocks her out with a snap of his fingers right by her ear.

Later on, Storm and another girl are taken outside the house, and pointed towards the forest. They’re told that if they can get out of the forest, they can go free. Storm demands to know who they are to hunt innocent people for sport. We get their backstory. They fought in WW2, and were ready to fight the USSR in the Cold War, but concern over nuclear war led the government to tell them to retire. But over the years, they started getting all pissy about the changes to the US, because old people are cranky, and figured the best approach they could take was to grab random criminals and murder them. To send a message to other criminals. Who would never actually know it had happened, because it’s done secretly. Stonewall explains that the girl, Priscilla, was a drug dealer, along with her boyfriend, who they’ve already killed. Sabre says they found Storm in a burned-down house, and call her a looter. Which, I don’t know, maybe they could’ve tried asking her what she was doing there? That might have been a good idea. Better than just jumping to “kill her!” Storm explains that, but starts running anyway.

Later that night, Storm weighs her options. She thinks about abandoning Priscilla, but decides she has to protect her, because that’s what heroes do. And the group that X-Plain the X-Men dubbed “the Murder Grampas” is on the hunt.

This is . . . kind of an odd issue, really. It’s good, but this Murder Grampas story just feels a bit out-of-left-field, given recent events. Everyone is still reeling from the Massacre, and now Storm also has to worry about all their friends, and suddenly, bam! Three random old dudes who got way too into The Most Dangerous Game. They feel out of place, given the circumstances. I’m not sure what purpose they serve, narratively or thematically. It just feels like Claremont had an idea for some characters he wanted to use, so he tossed them in. But they don’t fit well here. It’s not that I have anything against them, though it’s not like they ever ended up amounting to much, and nothing would’ve been lost by them not existing. So the arc feels like filler.

There is still some good stuff. The scene with Kitty was great. We really get a look at just how depressed and fatalistic she is. It’s a sad scene, and easily the best one in the book. And while the Murder Grampas story is out of place, Claremont does still do a really good job telling it.

And, of course, no comic can ever be truly bad when Alan Davis is on art. It’s Alan Davis. The guy is a phenomenal artist. He’s fantastic at facial expressions and body language, telling you exactly how a character feels from one moment to the next. For example, when Storm opens her cell door, she’s got just a bit of a smirk. It’s a small moment, but it really conveys a sense of her being proud of her skills. He also does a great job on the action moments. Davis is awesome.

There’s also Classic X-Men #7, which is a reprint of X-Men #99. As usual, a couple scenes are added, done by Jim Sherman. First, a scene that shows Corbeau taking the X-Men to the emergency shuttle launch. That scene doesn’t really add anything. A second scene is at the Hellfire Club, with Lang reporting to them about the goal of studying the X-gene to be able to reproduce it. The leader of the Hellfire Club, a guy named Ned, tells Shaw that he trusts Lang, and also thinks about how Lang’s real goal is to eliminate mutants. This is another scene that doesn’t really add much, except to set up how Shaw became leader of the Club. And a third scene, of Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm freeing Wolverine and Banshee.

Then the back-up story, drawn by John Bolton. This one is about how Shaw became head of the Hellfire Club. At a Christmas party at the Club, Shaw is dancing with his lady, Lourdes Chantel, who warns him not to trust Edward Buckman, the Club’s president. Ed and Shaw talk, and Ed mentions having rough edges as a result from not having been born to wealth, and having to earn it himself. After the chat, Lourdes once again warns Shaw that Ed is a bad guy, and Shaw asks Tessa for observations. She says he might be sincere, or he might be lying. He telepathically contacts Emma for her advice. She’s looking after Colonel Rossi, and says that his memories show his plane was attacked by Sentinels after he left Lang. So now we get some explanation for what happened to him after that plane crash. I forgot about this. Neat. She also tells Shaw that Project Armageddon’s goal is the destruction of mutants. Then a Sentinel attacks her. Shaw asks Lourdes to teleport him and Tessa out, to help Emma and Leland. In the ensuing battle, Lourdes gets speared. Leland gets pissed off and helps Shaw against the Sentinel. Leland’s heart starts to suffer from the strain. Foreshadowing! Of something we’ve already seen! Aftshadowing? Shaw holds Lourdes while she dies, and vows revenge against Neddie.

Later on, at the Club, Ed goes into a meeting with his Inner Circle, and kills them all, under Emma’s control. Then Shaw kills him, and takes control of the Hellfire Club. So, there’s that part of Shaw’s origin. It’s a good story. It humanizes Shaw, who was always a really interesting villain. He sincerely loved Lourdes, and he respected Ned. He shows self-doubt and insecurity, a desire to be accepted, which is interesting. Lourdes’ death gets him over that. Leland also seemed to have strong feelings towards Lourdes, though it wasn’t necessarily romantic. Her death shocks him into action against the Sentinel. It’s kinda interesting that no one’s done anything with Lourdes since her death. She’s never been brought back, she’s never been used in flashbacks, nothing. This story is her only appearance. Might be interesting if someone did something with her. Anyway, it’s another solid story, though Bolton’s art doesn’t work as well here. It looks good, but it’s very soft, and I think this is a story that would have benefited from a harder art style. Might just be me.

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