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Uncanny X-Men #221 (1987, September)

February 19, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). I won’t be posting tomorrow, since I’m hanging out with a friend. We’ll be going to see Deadpool! Today, by Claremont, Silvestri, Green, Oliver and Orzechowski, “Death By Drowning!”

Death By Drowning!

Drowning in energy blasts?

We start with Mr. Sinister telling off his Marauders for failing him. Oh hey! The first appearance of Sinister! Neat! Anyway, he wanted the Marauders to kill Madelyne Pryor, and they failed, and he threatens to kill one of them as a lesson. Sabretooth attacks him, which doesn’t go well. Sinister went to the effort of eliminating every trace of Maddie’s existence, and now he wants the Marauders to kill her, before she can reach the X-Men or X-Factor.

Meanwhile, Rogue and Dazzler are fighting in a big concert hall. Dazzler blasts Rogue away, but Rogue comes back, so Dazzler drops a few tons of scaffolding on her. Then the Danger Room reverts to norma, and Rogue wants to know what the hell was with Dazzler’s choice of opponents. Amusingly, after Rogue calls her “girl,” Dazzler points out she’s older than Rogue is. Dazzler still holds a little bit of a grudge against Rogue. Just because Rogue repeatedly tried to kill her! I mean, jeez, Ali, when are you going to get over that whole “repeated attempted murder” thing? Before the two can fight, Psylocke says Wolverine’s called the team together.

In the Grand Canyon, Naze notes that the fate of the cosmos rests in the hands of Forge and Storm, both strong but flawed and vulnerable. Naze has plans for them. He returns to Storm, and the two continue their journey on foot, abandoning their rented truck. He also hits on her, saying maybe he’ll try to court her, and she says he’s welcome to try. She doesn’t seem bothered by his age. Or the fact that he’s a father-figure to a guy she loves. Every bad guy has the hots for Storm, and she’s pretty open to all their advances. It’s . . . a little weird, honestly. Ah, Claremont.

And then, San Francisco! The X-Men are watching over the hospital where Maddie’s been staying. Alex is whiny about Wolverine dragging them across the country. Don’t be that guy, Alex. Wolverine says he got a call from Maddie wondering where Scott is and why he dumped her and took their kid. Psylocke does a scan of the area and finds Marauders all over, with two inside. Rogue swoops in, decks Sabretooth out through a wall, and then interrupts Scalphunter before he can kill Maddie. This gives Maddie a chance to fight back.

Uncanny X-Men #221

Go Maddie!

Dazzler manages to shoot Scalphunter through a window, but then she, Psylocke and Longshot are attacked by Vertigo. And Longshot grabs Psylocke and Dazzler and jumps off the roof. Harpoon hits Psylocke with a, um, a harpoon (his name is very self-explanatory), and she sends that pain telepathically to the other X-Men. Scrambler messes with Havok’s power, and makes a big boom. Luckily, Maddie’s still around.

Uncanny X-Men #221

And she’s this badass in a hospital gown!

Rogue grabs Maddie and brings her away from the hospital, to lead away the Marauders. They get grabbed by metal girders controlled by Polaris. Dazzler joins along for the ride. The girders are thrown into the bay, where Dazzler cuts Maddie and Rogue free. Though she almost doesn’t help Rogue. Her power’s almost gone, so she starts to leave Rogue (who agreed it was the right call), but then she turns back and fires one last laser that weakens the metal enough for Rogue to snap free and save them both. Once they get to the surface, Dazzler says the X-Men have to stick together, and that what’s past is past.

Then Polaris shows up to finish them off.

This is a solid issue. Sinister’s introduction is cool – he is, of course, one of the classic X-Men villains. Though he became a lot more prominent after Claremont left the title. Here, he’s OK. He’s somewhat menacing. He’s a bit of a generic villain, though of course, that was part of the point: It was supposed to be a child’s idea of a supervillain. Still, he definitely shows some potential, in his scene here. And then the fight between the X-Men and the Marauders is really cool. It’s a good fight, well-done, with lots of back-and-forth. The real heart of this issue is the Dazzler/Rogue rivalry. Previous issues have shown that Rogue likes Dazzler, but Dazzler still sometimes showed animosity towards Rogue. It makes sense. It’s hard to forgive someone who tries to kill you. Rogue was crazy at the time and didn’t really know what she was doing, but just the same, Dazzler’s not wrong to not forgive her. The fact that she does ultimately move past it, at the end of the issue, shows what a good person Ali is.

And, of course, there’s the Storm/Naze scene, which moves us one step closer to Fall of the Mutants. I do still find it weird that Storm is open to Naze’s advances. I think that’s just Claremont, though. His Storm was very open, sexually. It was probably a little more fetishizing than was entirely appropriate, but oh well.

The art’s good. There’s some panels that look a bit odd to me, but there are also some that look great. I like Silvestri’s art. It’s not the best the book has looked. There are artists I would’ve liked on the book more. But he does some solid work, along with Green and Oliver. Oliver, of course, was one of the greatest colour artists of the time. I think she did contribute to the book’s success, because she complemented and enhanced the art really, really well.

So, yeah, great issue.

There’s also Classic X-Men #13, a reprint of X-Men #105. As usual, there’s a couple pages added, this time by Bob Layton (who also inked the reprint, with colours by Evelyn Stein). First, we get a scene of the Blackbird flying away from Muir Isle, going sub-orbital to get back to the school more quickly. The plane is actually seen by Lilandra in her own shuttle, who reflects on how crazy she was to follow a psychic trail to Earth. And Xavier is hit by another psychic flash. Jean asks if he’s OK, then telekinetically carries him up the stairs of her apartment building, while Erik the Red watches on a viewscreen and gloats about how Xavier’s going to die. So, nothing too important here. The other added page adds to the fight between the X-Men and Firelord. It includes a Fastball Special – it’s been a long time. (Fastball Special Tracker: 18.) It’s a pretty good fight scene, actually. It doesn’t add to the story, but it’s cool.

And, of course, the back-up, by Claremont, Bolton, Scotese and Orzechowski. This one has Jean and Misty on a beach at night. Claremont’s prose is even purpler than usual here, and apparently, “purpler” is actually a word. Wow. Danny and Colleen have gone back to the beach house to gather some snacks. Misty starts to doze, and dreams of the city, dark and dangerous, with Colleen wanting the two of them to be strong and hard. But Misty also thinks of Danny, seeing him in an idyllic field. Misty’s torn between the two. Jean asks where she fits in, saying she needs a friend. Misty wakes up, and talks to Jean about Jean having changed.

Jean then senses a cry for help, and rushes over to a speedboat, joined by Misty. They boat out a ways, then Jean dives into the water. Misty spots a shark, and dives in to deal with it, by punching it in the face.

Classic X-Men #13

Misty Knight: Shark-Puncher

The shark hits back, and is about to kill her, when something else pokes it. A dolphin saved her, and it turns out Jean was helping a family of dolphins. Misty’s pissed off that she almost died saving some animals, and Jean shifts Misty’s consciousness into one of them so she can experience what life is like for them and gain a greater appreciation for them. Even though dolphins are actually kinda assholes. Anyway, Jean wants Misty to be there for her as a friend, and Misty agrees. And that’ll be the end of that friendship!

So, this isn’t a particularly strong story. Claremont’s writing is too melodramatic – too Claremontian, really – and the overall story isn’t all that interesting. But the bigger problem, I think, is that it tries to really push Jean and Misty as close friends, something that wasn’t seen back in the day, and has never been seen since. I mean, at this point, I’m not sure Misty would even remember Jean. “We were roommates? Are you sure? Doesn’t ring any bells.” And it’s not even like this is just one of those stories that didn’t get followed up on. This back-up was written a decade after X-Men #105. It was clear for a long time that there would never be a follow-up.

So, yeah, bleh issue.

I should also note that this is the same month that Peter and Mary Jane got married. Yay! I liked them as a couple.

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