Uncanny X-Men #223 (1987, November)
We start in Georgetown, where Crimson Commando and Stonewall, two of the Murder Grampas, are inducted into Freedom Force. Mystique is unimpressed. Blob tries to push over Stonewall, but pushes himself over, instead. Spiral says there’s an intruder approaching. Outside, Avalanche is doing some yard work. Huh, that’s pretty cool. I always like it when characters have hobbies. There’s something nice about the idea of Avalanche having an appreciation for yardwork. Anyway, a speedster passes by him, but then Spiral trips him and catches him. It’s Silver Sabre! He’s alive after all! Then everyone is distracted by a scream from Destiny. She says the X-Men are going to die soon. Dun dun duuuun!
And now to Colorado, where Storm catches a fish by hand. Naze passes out, and she brings him to a nearby shack. He’s burning with fever, and wasting away. He caught some venom from the demons they fought, and he hoped his magic could resist it, but he’s too close to Forge’s Aerie.
Next, to Queens, and a bar, where some blue-collar workers are arguing with a reporter about mutants. The reporter says they’re human, the other guys say not, with one saying he would abort a mutant baby. I’m trying to remember if this scene leads to anything down the line, but I don’t think it does. Maybe it was just to show the anti-mutant sentiments that were spreading, or maybe Claremont had an idea that he dropped or which got squashed by editorial. Tough to tell, either way, the scene then shifts to San Francisco, where the X-Men are looking for the Marauders. There’s no sign of them, though. Rogue returns to their Alcatraz hide-out.
We see some training from the X-Men, then shift focus to Maddie. She’s feeling a bit messed-up by all that’s happened to her. Alex is jogging, and see her standing by the edge of a cliff. He thinks she’s about to jump.
Back to Colorado. Storm’s brewed up a brew for Naze, and he gets her to drink it before he does. Then a huge bear smashes into the cabin, bringing a snowstorm with it. The bear smacks her off a cliff, and she falls onto a frozen lake, where she’s then attacked by a water snake. She stabs it in the eye. She starts climbing back up to Naze, but the snake is about to get her. Then it’s killed by an explosion, as the whole scene shifts to a war zone. She keeps climbing, and finds Forge, saying he’s having fun and is going to reshape creation. She stabs him.
Then she’s back in the shack, her injuries gone. Naze says it was a trial. She says she loves Forge, but has to destroy him, and Naze smiles in triumph as it starts to snow outside.
Back to Alcatraz, where Alex climbs up to talk to Maddie. Alex reminds her of his own recent tragedy, and says the X-Men stand together as a family.
This is only an OK issue. It kinda feels like a middle issue. Just moving pieces a little closer to where they need to be. We get Storm deciding she has no choice but to kill Forge, which is the biggest development here. But the whole scene still ends up feeling a little like filler. Just Claremont needing to fit something in to keep Storm busy until he’s ready for her to confront Forge. We don’t get much with the X-Men, just a training session where Wolverine tries to teach them not to be cocky. We also see a little of Alex and Maddie bonding over their tragedies. This is the first step on the path towards Havok’s Inferno outfit. Oh, and there’s also the Murder Grampas joining Freedom Force, where they will continue to be pretty much irrelevant. They’re fine characters, I just think the story where they were introduced was pointless filler.
This issue has good writing, but it does feel a bit bland. The art’s OK. Gamill was never a superstar artist. He was one of those artists who was reliably solid, but not really exciting. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it, except that he may have done longer shots a little too much, where facial details kinda disappeared. Made it less expressive than I prefer. Still, he does good work.
Also that month, Classic X-Men #15, a reprint of X-Men #108. The new pages are by Claremont, Chuck Bolton, Austin, Oliver, Wohl and Orzechowski. We get Corsair reacting to learning that Scott’s his son, and Jean thinking she’s crazy for going inside the Neutron Galaxy. Then, when she can’t fix the lattice containing it, the X-Men offer their life forces to help her. It works, but before she can leave the crystal, she’s confronted by her Dark Side, which she rejects.
And the back-up, by Claremont, Bolton, Scotese and Orzechowski. And it’s the founding of the Starjammers. Chris Summers is on a prison planet, and a woman running from guards runs right into him. The guards grab her, and say they’re going to eat her alive for a feast. Chris objects, but a neuro-lash inflicts severe pain on him, and he begs not to be hurt again. He remembers how he got there. He’s woken from his memories by Ch’od and Raza, who are looking for their friend. He’s still too afraid of the guards to offer any help, and Raza thinks they should kill him, but Ch’od says they should be merciful. When they walk away, Chris gets angry at himself.
He goes to where the skunk-woman is being held. He stabs one of the guards and attacks the others with a neuro-lash. The fight goes poorly for him, until Ch’od and Raza join in. He frees the woman, who says there’s a bloodbond between them now. He joins the group, and the Starjammers are born.
It’s a good story. Pleasant art, as always, almost too pleasant for the story. I can’t help but feel another artist may have been more appropriate here, someone with a darker, harder style. Ah, well. The story itself is good. Basically just a story about how you can only make a person so afraid before their fear turns to anger. It’s cool to see how Corsair became a Starjammer. It’s good.
And I should mention Daredevil #248, by Nocenti, Leonardi, Williamson, Scotese and Rosen. It has Wolverine in it. At one point in the issue, a guy named Bushwhacker, who can turn his hand into a gun, murders a woman. He’s being paid to kill mutants, and killing gives him a rush. Wolverine is hunting him. And that’s it for this issue, but there’s more in the next one.
And on a side note, November 1987 marks the end of Jim Shooter’s time as Editor-In-Chief, and the start of Tom DeFalco’s time in the role. Shooter, of course, was a controversial figure. He had his good points and his bad points. He could sometimes be a bit overbearing, a bit too aggressive in his role, which tended to anger the writers (and the editors, for that matter). He could be very strict about what was permitted. On the flip side, Miller’s Daredevil, Claremont’s X-Men, Byrne’s Fantastic Four, Simonson’s Thor – a lot of legendary runs occurred under his watch. Books got out on time, which was a big problem before he took over. And Marvel did see a big expansion and some great sales numbers. For my part, I’m inclined to think that his run as EiC was, on the whole, a positive one for Marvel.