Uncanny X-Men #226 (1988, February)
Half the X-Men (and Mystique) are inside Eagle Plaza, the other half are outside as captives of Freedom Force, while Destiny shouts about there’s no future. The X-Men debate what to do, until Longshot points out the sun is shining in the middle of the night. Outside, two people from NPR – Neal Conan and Manoli Wetherell, who are actually real people, which is pretty fun – skid in the snow.
Outside the Eagle Plaza, Dazzler’s conscious, and fully-charged, thanks to Super-Sabre’s mini-sonic boom that he hit her with. She blinds Freedom Force, except Spiral, who puts Destiny’s mask on Dazzler’s face and keeps it there by stabbing her in the goddamn head.
It’s a spell, and the knife and mask can both be removed with the right enchantment, but damn, that is cold. Spiral also prepares to behead Psylocke. Rogue grabs her, and Spiral gets behind her, but then gets distracted by something.
Elsewhere, Storm dives off a cliff into a lake. She goes back to Forge, who’s injured but alive. Storm says they’re on Earth, in the present day, but that there’s no sign at all of civilization, and that it’s a world without people. Forge says the Adversary has the power to send them to a parallel Earth for their prison.
Back in Dallas, things have gotten crazy. Time’s messed up, so there’s dinosaurs and fancy sci-fi buildings. Wolverine suggests to Mystique a truce between their teams. We also get a pretty good Colossus speech:
I like Colossus speeches. Neal and Manoli find a news van with dead people, and the tech is beyond anything they’ve seen, but it’s easy to use, so Manoli thinks she can run it through every radio and TV network in the world. She also blames all the chaos on “stinking muties.” Not cool, Manoli. Meanwhile, the X-Men and Freedom Force are saving lives. Neal and Manoli watch, with Manoli sceptical of the X-Men, and mutants as a whole, while Neal defends them. Claremont’s delving deeper into the politics here than he ever did, or will again. He’s been building it up over the past few months, but now, he’s laying it all out on the table.
On the other world, Storm and Forge have found the site of Forge’s mountain of power. It’s destroyed and twisted. I want to mention that Storm’s carrying a bow and arrows, while Forge has a rifle. I find both of these facts to be really cool. Forge talks about the Adversary’s power, and his motivations, as a god playing games and viewing everyone else the same way a child views its toys. Storm decides she needs to go on a quest, alone, exploring the world to find herself.
Back in Dallas, Mystique is being interviewed, and she’s asked about working with the outlaw X-Men, which pisses Alex off. He goes on a rant about how, if they were as bad as people think, they would’ve left already, but they’re heroes who’ve saved the world plenty already, but this time, the cameras are there to see. Mystique approves of Alex’s rant. So does Neal Conan. Spiral tries to take the knife out of Dazzler’s head, but the chaos in the area keeps her magic from working. So Dazzler’s just going to have to learn to get along with a goddamn knife in her head.
On the other world, Storm is in Kenya. Somehow. How the hell did she get to Africa? There’s an ocean, and it’s not like there are cruise ships in this world. I suppose she could have gone north, crossed the Bering Strait. Still, going from North America to Africa is not exactly an easy feat. Anyway, she’s there, but she doesn’t feel the same connection as when she went to Kenya as a kid. She thinks back to that time, and seeing the Great Mother, the Bright Lady she always prays to. The world she’s in has no soul, and she wonders if she’s supposed to be the Bright Lady.
Back in Dallas, a bunch of Cheyenne show up, and offer their help against the Adversary. And, uh, here’s how they’re drawn:
Did Silvestri use old Westerns as his reference material? Would it have been too much to ask that they wear jeans? And shirts? Because I’m pretty sure a modern Cheyenne person is more likely to wear jeans than a buckskin loincloth. Because Native American/First Nations individuals live in the modern world. They have varying levels of connection to their heritages, and yeah, some probably do still wear buckskin pants and stuff like that. But I’m pretty sure most just wear normal clothes. Anyway, a racist cop opens fire, and the rest of the mob does the same, and the Cheyenne are all killed. Holy shit. Seriously, Claremont? Crimson Commando gets all depressed about it, and wonders if humanity even deserves to be saved.
In the other world, Storm returns to Forge, and finds him living in a nice solar-powered cabin. He’s very good at what he does. Though he did have to cannibalize part of his leg. They greet each other with a kiss. Aww.
In Dallas, things are going poorly as they fight a losing battle. Wolverine compares them to the ancient Spartans, holding the line at Thermopylae. Hence, the title of this story. Colossus talks to Destiny, who says she’s now seeing the slightest chance of hope, at the top of Forge’s Aerie. But no hope for the X-Men – they’re dead, no matter what happens. Psylocke reads Colossus’ mind to let Wolverine know what he plans, and sees Roma’s face in his memories. Spiral teleports up to the Aerie, and then rockets back down, with Rogue barely managing to save her. One onlooker expresses disappointment they survived, and Manoli tells him off. She’s learning!
On the other world, Storm and Forge are trying to decide what to do. They can either stay and give the world a soul, or return to their own and kill the new world. Forge says he’s worked out a way home, and says that it’s Storm who gives him the purpose to build the best tools. Very romantic.
Dallas. The lobby of Forge’s tower has been replaced with the jungle of Vietnam. I suppose, given the sliding timeline, Forge’s military service probably would now be the desert of Iraq. A sniper takes shots, and the guy who’d killed the Cheyenne kills the sniper. Wolverine recognizes there’s something different about the guy. Psylocke senses Roma’s thoughts, and Wolverine figures it’s a trap. The X-Men will go spring the trap, while Freedom Force protects the civilians.
Other world. Forge says his neutralizer didn’t remove her powers, just kept her from accessing them, and he might be able to reverse it. In Dallas, Wolverine offers the others a chance to back out, but no one takes it.
It’s yet another great moment. I like Rogue saying bye to Mystique.
Other world. Forge is ready to use the de-neutralizer on her, but warns it’s a one-shot deal, and once they start, there’s no going back. Storm’s response is great:
That’s a great panel. And here’s an even sweeter moment:
The de-neutralizer works, and she’s ecstatic at the return of her lightning, and her flight. She uses the power to return them home. The Adversary drops his disguise, then drops the building, with the X-Men – and Neal Conan – still inside.
This is so damn good. This is a fantastic issue. It’s full of excitement and tension, and full of great, emotional moments with tons of impact. Claremont’s on fire here, with a lot of stellar dialogue and meaningful speeches. The Storm/Forge scenes are really romantic, and work well to sell them as lovers. Neal and Manoli serve well as audience surrogates, and a way to explore anti-mutant sentiment, by showing how Manoli evolves on the issue, and comes to accept the X-Men as heroes. (This will also continue in the next issue.) And it’s neat that Claremont just threw in two real people from NPR. I wonder if they count it among their proudest moments. Like, if someone asks Manoli about her favourite moments from her time with NPR, would she mention shooting an axe-wielding barbarian? Because that would be great.
The art is also on fire. Silvestri, Green and Oliver (with Wray) knock it out of the park. Action sequences are full of excitement. Quieter scenes are soft and intimate. The Dallas scenes all have heightened tension, while the other world scenes all feel big and expansive and relaxing. Landscapes are gorgeous. And seriously, the colours deserve a lot of praise here, because they add a lot to the art, enhancing the mood of each panel perfectly. Facial expressions are also excellent, conveying a lot of emotion. That Storm moment, for example, of starting the moment they met – that is an amazing panel. That might be one of the stand-out panels of the issue, actually, for all its simplicity, because there’s a lot packed into it, the dialogue and the expression and the colours conveying all sorts of meaning at once.
This is such a brilliant issue. This arc as a whole is a must-read, but this issue, in particular, is one of the best of Claremont’s run, I think.
There’s also Classic X-Men #18, a reprint of X-Men #112. As always, there’s added material, this time by Dwyer, Austin Scotese and Orzechowski. There’s a two-page spread, with Magneto’s head in the centre, and the X-Men arranged around him, thinking stuff. And later on, Jean’s fight against Magneto gets a little more space. The big spread probably isn’t necessary, but it is pretty interesting. The slightly-longer Phoenix/Magneto fight is good, and definitely improves the story. So, good additions.
And the back-up, this time written by Jo Duffy, with Bolton, Scotese and Orzechowski. Jean’s out in the woods, doing some camping, and someone’s watching her, and about to attack. She decides to make herself some coffee, and when she bends over to pick up the coffee pot, the guy goes right over her. Turns out it’s Wolverine, and now he’s facing against Phoenix. She then pulls Banshee out of the trees, where he was spying on them. She explains that she’s out in the woods because she’s worried that she’ll let her power overwhelm her, and do something bad with it.
She offers them some coffee, and has Banshee hold the pot while she gets the water.
Then Nightcrawler surprises her. And she drops the lake. The guys suggest she try to clean it up, since it’s the kind of precision control she went out to learn in the first place. And she does it, because Phoenix was a powerhouse. With that done, she tells one of them to get water for the coffee.
It’s a cute story. Very fun. Does a nice job exploring Jean’s fears about herself. It was nice seeing Banshee and Nightcrawler go along to help Jean, too. I think it says a bit about Wolverine. The obvious choices to bring along would’ve been Scott and Storm – her boyfriend and her best friend. Wolverine instead brought along his own friends, Nightcrawler and Banshee.
This is the kind of story Bolton’s art works on. A nice, relaxed, intimate story. It looks really pretty. Scotese’s colours add a lot to this one, too. It’s a nice story.
And there’s Incredible Hulk #340, by Peter David, Todd McFarlane, Petra Scotese and Rick Parker. I should probably post the cover for this one, since it’s a pretty notable one:
The X-Men arrive in Dallas, during a snowstorm, looking for permission to land their plane. And actually, I should probably post Todd’s take on the X-Men:
Anyway, they almost get smacked by the Hulk on one of his leaps. He instead bounces off a commercial jet, so Wolverine sends Rogue to toss off the flaming engine and help the plane to land. The engine ends up landing right on the Hulk. Anyway, one thing leads to another, and Hulk and Wolverine get in a fight. Wolverine actually tries to avoid the fight, since he has responsibilities more important than a pointless fight. But Hulk will have none of it, and keeps attacking, and eventually goads Wolverine into giving in and fighting back. It’s a brutal fight. It’s ended when Clay Quartermain blasts the Hulk and yells at them for being idiots wasting time on something pointless.
It’s a really good issue. It was PAD and MacFarlane doing the Incredible Hulk, of course it’s great. PAD makes great use of Wolverine here, writing him really well, getting to the whole noble-man-battling-savage-nature conflict at the heart of Wolverine. And MacFarlane draws the hell out of the fight. Even this early in his career, the man was a top-notch artist.