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Uncanny X-Men #224 (1987, December)

April 2, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Claremont, Silvestri, Wiacek, Oliver and Orzechowksi, “The Dark Before the Dawn.”

The Dark Before the Dawn

I’m genuinely curious what Longshot is swinging from. The X-Jet, maybe?

We open with Storm. She’s wearing some sort of Native American-style garb. It’s from a cache Naze found. The weather’s also gone crazy. He explains that the Cheyenne believe all things are made up of a finite amount of energy, and that the Adversary wants to use all that energy at once to end everything. Then he’ll start everything over again. Naze points her to Forge’s mountain, his Aerie, which Storm has to climb up, alone, so she she can kill him. He sees her off with a kiss. Which she seems pretty fine with. Even though he’s old enough to be her grandfather. It’s things like this that make me think Storm doesn’t care about a person’s appearance, but is attracted to who they are as a person. It’s why I want Marvel to just declare her pansexual.

In San Francisco, Val Cooper’s giving a press conference about Freedom Force, and the just-passed Mutant Special Powers Registration Act (which will soon to shortened to the Mutant Registration Act, or MRA – yep, it’s here!). She says the goal is to bring the days of unregulated vigilantes to an end. Which is a good idea. Yes, it is a very good idea. Vigilantes are dangerous. More accurately, vigilante justice is dangerous. A question is asked about civil liberties, and she says the rights of the many take precedence over the rights of the few. Now, this argument is a problematic one. But the thing is, vigilantism isn’t actually a civil liberty. It’s actually already illegal – you’re not allowed to go looking for muggers to beat up. Requiring people to register just because they have powers is a civil liberties infringement, but if they want to use those powers to fight crime? Then yeah, absolutely fair.

In a gym, Rogue and a guy named Joe are watching the press conference on TV. Joe says what she’s saying sounds reasonable, while he finishes setting up some old exercise equipment he bought when the Fantastic Four fell on hard times and sold a bunch of stuff off. I like this scene. Joe clearly has no problem with mutants, and that’s always nice to see. (Also, we learn that Rogue can press at least 50 tons.) Mystique pays Rogue a visit, to warn her about Destiny’s precognitive flash. She wants Rogue to stay away from Dallas, but Rogue says she can’t leave her friends.

That night, in the Mission District, Dazzler puts on a show. A drunk accidentally knocks out the lights, so she provides her own. The crowd doesn’t mind. After, Wolverine tells her that flaunting her mutant powers may have been a bad idea, with the team trying to keep a low profile. Wolverine, you dick. You couldn’t have let her be happy for a little while longer before expressing your concerns? Also, hiding is the worst thing mutants can possibly do! Let her flaunt her powers! It’s going to make some people think mutants aren’t so bad!

Elsewhere, Alex and Longshot have just gotten out of Raiders of the Lost Temple. Longshot says one of the stuntmen has his name, and another is named Ricochet Rita. Oh. Oh Longshot. You just made me sad, Longshot. Luckily, that sadness is stopped by some random hoodlums, calling themselves the Bay City Badland Boppers, dragging a woman into their convertible. It’s . . . it’s like something out of a ’50s story, honestly. The gang’s name. Their leather jackets. Even the car they drive looks like one of the more bitchin’ ’50s or ’60s cars. Longshot leaps into action, in what is a genuinely awesome rescue.

Uncanny X-Men #224

Longshot’s got skills.

Longshot is a walking action hero. Daring rescues his specialty. I mean, that is a awesome sequence. The car crashes, and Alex suggests the thugs reconsider their lives. They threaten him, and he casually melts their car. They surrender. Alex is pretty awesome here. He has no shits to give. Morrell arrives to arrest them, and warns Alex about Freedom Force being in town.

The X-Men all regroup at Alcatraz to compare notes. Wolverine decides to go look for Storm, and since they were told to stay away from Dallas, he plans on starting there. The rest of the team agrees to go with him. Maddie says she’s going, too, despite Wolverine’s protests.

Back to Storm! Climbing a mountain! She briefly thinks about the fact that she responded when Naze kissed her. I don’t know, it feels weird and creepy. It feels a bit like Claremont’s fetishizing her with it. I don’t like it Regardless, she reaches the peak, and sees Forge, standing before a tear in the fabric of reality. She gets surrounded by demons, threatening to kill her.

Uncanny X-Men #224

Storm has a way with words.

Storm is so badass. She fights through the demons, while thinking about she’s better than she was when she first lost her powers, and the need for balance within a person. She finally reaches Forge, and she stabs him. He explains that he was trying to close the gate, and save the world. Storm done goofed! More demons go after them, so they jump off the cliff, but then they turn to light and go through the hole. Naze destroys Forge’s Aerie, and prepares for the endgame.

This is a fantastic issue. Storm is a badass. She’s conflicted, but the look whens she finally reaches Forge:

Uncanny X-Men #224

Hard. Core.

That is an amazing look. Silvestri nails it. The eyes, and the bloody knife, are so intense. And then she stabs him. Of course, this sets up Fall of the Mutants, which begins with the next issue.

The rest of the issue’s great, too. I love the X-Men in San Francisco. It’s the only place where they really get to be accepted, and it’s nice to see. Anywhere else, everyone you see hates mutants. In San Francisco, we get to see all sorts of people who are just fine with mutants. Who actually befriend them. The gym owner helping Rogue to work out? That’s a great guy! I want more people like that! The Alex/Longshot scene was great, too. Alex is so depressed, so apathetic, and Longshot is so happy and cheerful and excited. He’s just jumping and bouncing around, while Alex just has his head down and his hands in his pockets. It’s a fun contrast. And the action sequence is just fantastic. It’s quick and effective. Longshot doing daring rescues is one of the best things ever.

The art, as I said, is excellent. Silvestri’s take on the X-Men is one of the definitive versions, I think. He just nails their looks so perfectly. Their appearances, their attitudes, all of it. He does excellent work with facial expressions and body language. Rogue’s got a real playfulness to her. Dazzler’s got a lot of humanity. Longshot’s got a lot of joy, Alex is visibly depressed. And Storm looks very Storm. Silvestri gets across a lot of personality with how he draws the characters. The book looks great.

This is such a great issue.

There’s also Classic X-Men #16 is a reprint of X-Men #109, the debut of Weapon Alpha, who would become Guardian. As usual, there’s added scenes, this time drawn by Kieron Dwyer. We get a scene of Mac preparing to attack Wolverine, and feeling scared.  Then we see Lilandra, admiring some birds and thinking about how the Shi’ar used to have wings. She wants to stay on Earth and learn about humanity, even though she knows she’ll have to take the Shi’ar throne sooner or later. She also thinks about how crappy Earth technology is. Well excuse me, Princess. Xavier comes up to talk to her, and they’re both nervous. The other extra scene is at the end, after Mac’s disappearance from the fight against the X-Men. It’s explained how he did it. He also feels horrible about what happened to Moira. He wonders if he should turn himself into the police, but decides it would put the Alpha project too much at risk. The added scenes are all good. They’re important and valuable. The Mac stuff gives us more insight into him, rather than him just being a random threat out of nowhere. The Lilandra stuff also helps to sell her relationship with Xavier, and more important, it gives us an idea how she’s adapting to Earth. Answer: Not great. But amusingly so. So, yeah, the added stuff is good.

And the back-up, by Claremont, Bolton, Oliver and Orzechowksi. This is set in Ireland, with the police chasing someone on a motorbike. The person’s covered head-to-toe, which means it’s probably a woman. Up the road, Sean Cassidy is being frisked and interrogated by police. The Sergeant thinks Sean’s with the IRA, scouting for good smuggling routes. The person on the bike arrives, chases the cops off the road, and tells Sean to hop on. So now Sean’s involved in a high-speed chase! Fun! The sergeant shoots the bike’s tire, and they go flying off the cliff. But Sean uses his sonic scream to fly away with the biker.

They land, and yep, the biker’s a girl! Tip: If someone is covered up head-to-toe when there’s no real reason for them to be, the character is probably a woman. Which is kinda crap, isn’t it? The opposite never happens, where a character’s clothes are meant to make the reader think they’re a female, while they turn out to be male. It always assumes that the reader will assume a character is male. Because we do. Male is the default, the point where “It was a girl all along!” is an actual plot twist. It says something about our culture.

Anyway, Sean and Maeve go inside. Then Tom joins them in the kitchen and flirts with Maeve. Sean takes her back to her residence hall, and asks to see her again. Sean and Tom are both dating Maeve, until spring, when Sean’s supposed to take her to a ball. The asshole sergeant from earlier drives him off the road. He returns home, and asks Tom to take his place at the ball. He initially keeps silent about what happened to Sean, figuring that she’ll choose him, instead. But he finally tells the truth, and she says he’s her dearest friend.

It’s a sweet story. It’s really nice, showing how Sean and Maeve met, and how they fell in love. All three come across well. The jerk cop is a bit annoying, and the whole “twist” with the biker being a woman made me roll my eyes. But other than that, it’s just a really nice story. This is another story where Bolton’s art works perfectly. The softness enhances the romance. It’s a great story. I really enjoyed this one.

And there’s more! Daredevil #249, by Nocenti, Leonardi, Williamson, Scheele and Rosen. Wolverine is checking out another of Bushwacker’s murder scenes. A musician. The place is riddled with bullets, and unpublished works have been burned. Wolverine muses that Bushwacker doesn’t just kill mutants, he kills mutant geniuses. The most creative mutants. Wolverine plans to kill him back. Bushwacker picks up some artist who’s just quit an institute. He describes her art as prescient. Huh. They drive off on a bike, and Bushwacker decides to cause a wreck for fun. He turns his arm into a gun, shoots the tires out on a cab, which crashes into another car. The artist is pretty caught up in it. She’s presumably a bit crazy. Then he kills her. After that, he goes to a theatre playing Looney Tunes. It’s the Duck Season/Rabbit Season bit. It’s a good cartoon. Wolverine has tracked him down and is sneaking up on him. So is Daredevil. Bushwacker leaves, and starts heading for an appointment with a ballerina.

And now a three-way fight starts between Bushwacker, Wolverine and Daredevil, with Wolverine trying to kill Bushwacker and Daredevil trying to keep anyone from dying. Daredevil makes the standard speech about not being murderers. He doesn’t really get Wolverine, does he? Wolverine’s a killer. It’s part of who he is. Talking about how “if we kill then the other guy wins!” isn’t going to mean anything to him. While they argue, Bushwacker slips away and kills the ballerina. Daredevil is pretty shocked by it.

The fight continues, and Wolverine spills a bunch of gasoline on Bushwacker, then lights a match. Daredevil tries to talk him out of it, but Bushwacker says he’s rather burn than rot in prison, and starts shooting at them again, which ignites the gas. All three survive. Wolverine wants to finish Bushwacker off, but Daredevil refuses.

It’s an OK issue. Not the best work of Nocenti’s run. One thing about Nocenti is that her dialogue tended to be pretty inauthentic. It worked phenomenally in some stories, especially once Daredevil’s life fell apart and he started wandering around outside New York and started getting caught up in all sorts of bizarre supernatural stuff., as the book became more a philosophical exploration than a superhero comic. Here, it falls a bit flat, with Wolverine. I’m not keen on how she wrote him. He’s too poetic and philosophical in his dialogue and thoughts. Wolverine should probably be simpler. He’s intelligent, he can appreciate art and all that. But Nocenti brings it a bit far here.

Still, I love Nocenti’s Daredevil run, so I’d recommend reading it, including this issue.

AND Strange Tales #9, by Austin, Blevins, Wiacek, Oliver and Bruzenak. Cloak, with his powers out of control and Dagger having left him temporarily, is going through the city looking for light to absorb. Meanwhile, Dazzler, having finished a show at the pier, is sitting on a rooftop singing. (She’s specifically singing Marlene On the Wall, by Suzanne Vega. Which isn’t a bad song, actually. I’d never heard it before, but I gave it a listen just now, and yeah, a bit ’80s, but pretty good.) Cloak climbs up the wall and grabs her leg. Dazzler pulls him up and recognizes him from X-Men files. She also notices a black-out spreading through the city, and guesses it’s Cloak’s doing. She tries to feed him some light. She finally unleashes all her light at once, exhausting herself. It’s not enough, and Cloak barely stops himself from feeding on Dazzler herself.

It’s an OK story. Dazzler is shown as compassionate and creative. Also, I love how Blevins draws Dazzler. He was a great artist for Cloak and Dagger, but I like his Dazzler, too. She’s got an energy to her. He also makes Dagger and Dazzler look different: Dagger’s cute, while Dazzler look more glamorous. She looks like a pop star. It’s really cool. I would have liked to have seen him do more comics with Dazzler.

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