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Uncanny X-Men #229 (1988, May)

June 3, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). This is a very notable issue! Today, by Claremont, Silvestri, Green, Oliver and Orzechowski, “Down Under.”

Down Under

Reavers. You know what that means, right?

We start in Singapore, at the Hoan International Bank. The Reavers teleport in and start shooting people. Including a child. Harsh – you don’t often see kids die even in modern comics, but especially not in classic comics. I feel like this is a bit of an indication that comics are approaching their Dark Age. Anyway, the Reavers order the head of the bank to open the vault. His niece explains that the computers have sealed the vault for 24 hours, and there’s no way to open it. So they cut the vault open with a laser, while Pretty Boy decides to bring Jessan Hoan along to handle their finances. Bonebreaker says that, with how she’s struggling, they should call her Tiger. Hint for the future! By the way, I want to mention that one of the Reavers has a swastika on the back of his head. I’m guessing he’s not big on Indian spirituality.

Anyway, they go through a warp portal to the Australian Outback, courtesy of Gateway. He helps them, because they threaten to wreck his holy place so his people will never know peace. The Reavers return to their base to party, while Pretty Boy shows Jessan their treasure vault. He grabs her, then some weird energy tendrils come out of his eyes and into her head, to erase her sense of morality. That night, after the party, a sandstorm blows into town. Storm, naturally. With everyone blind, Psylocke scans the town, and directs Havok’s plasma bolts to Jessan, allowing Longshot and Dazzler to rescue her. Well, Longshot rescues her. Dazzler just kinda falls down a mound of coins. Which is funny.

Back topside, Rogue and Colossus waltz into the bar to fight the other Reavers. And I love how casual and confident they are. They just stroll up, not the least bit worried. And kick ass. Wolverine takes out a bunch more. A couple Reavers do escape. Skullbuster, Bonebreaker and and Pretty Boy get away. The rest of the Reavers are captured, though. That leaves the X-Men deciding what to do about them. Roma shows up with a solution: She gives them the Siege Perilous, a portal that sends a person to a second chance at life, a fresh start with no memories of their old lives. Jessan doesn’t want to go through, so Roma sends her back to Singapore. And the bank where a whole bunch of friends and family are dead. How merciful. Seriously, Roma couldn’t have sent her somewhere she wouldn’t be surrounded by dead bodies? Dick move, Roma. Before Roma leaves, she mentions the X-Men are now invisible to all forms of detection other than direct observation. The computers of the Reavers’ base can also still pick them up – presumably, Roma’s doing? It doesn’t really say. She just says that the devices in their new base can pick them up. I would assume that means she chose to leave those computers exempt from the X-Men’s invisibility.

This is a good comic, though not truly a great one. I do love seeing the X-Men work so well as a team. Seeing them kick ass like this was a lot of fun, and shows just why they’re so good. The Reavers are somewhat generic villains, but enjoyable enough just the same. The real problem is after the Reavers are defeated, and we get a whole lot of debate and exposition. It kinda sinks a bit under the weight of all the stuff it needs to say, and the stuff it wants to say. It’s not a strong section. That said, this issue is an important one, because it sets up the new status quo of the X-Men living in the Australian Outback, popping around the world to fight threats anonymously. The Outback Era is an odd one, but so much fun! This period lasts pretty much the rest of the ’80s. Which isn’t actually that long. It basically lasts a little over a year, though a fair bit of that is spent outside the Outback. There’s Inferno coming up, after all, and there’s also a Brood story, and there’s other things that take them out of the country. But we do also get some fun stories set in the base, as well. And this issue sets up a couple other pretty big developments, too, including introducing someone who will become a pretty major Wolverine supporting character, once his solo series kicks off.

The art here is good. I don’t know if it’s Silvestri’s best work – I feel like he’s done better – but it’s good. It just feels a little bit rushed, but not too much. It still works well. The action is exciting. Oliver is back on colours, and with all due respect to Wray (who’s a fine colour artist), it’s great to have her back. Somehow, Claremont’s X-Men work just doesn’t feel right without her. She wasn’t there right from the start, but long enough to be the X-Men colour artist.

Anyway! Good comic, and one that sets up some awesome comics!

There’s also Classic X-Men #21, a reprint of X-Men #115. There’s just one added scene, by Claremont, Dwyer, Austin, Scotese and Orzechowski. It cuts back to the school, where Jean packs up to leave, thinking about how the school was such a home for Scott. She starts to throw a tantrum about being unable to save her friends. She accidentally sneaks into Xavier’s mind, and Lilandra’s, and the people of Salem Centre, until she pulls herself back. She’s scared by what just happened, and doesn’t know who to turn to. It’s a good scene, and adds a sense of tension to Jean’s own story, hinting at things to come. It works well, and it contributes to the story, so it’s a good addition, worth including.

And the back-up, by Claremont, Bolton, Oliver and Orzechowski. Its about Colossus in the Savage Land. He hates it. He finds it too hot. He can’t even sketch, because of the humidity ruining his paper. Um, question, how does he have a sketchbook with him? No, really, where did he get it from? I honestly don’t know how he could have a sketchbook. He sees some Fall People women, and for a moment, he thinks they’re Anya (from a previous back-up) and a grown Illyana. Which is weird. He sees one woman he had the hots for, and he sees his sister as a teenager (remember that this is before she did become a teenager). What does that say about how he views his sister? It’s an odd decision from Claremont. Anyway, he hears the women scream, and rushes over to save them from a dinosaur. He can’t change to Colossus, so he just chucks a rock at its head.

One of the women gets bitten, but Colossus manages to get on the T-Rex’s back with a hatchet. And I mean, there’s no way I’m not posting this panel:

Classic X-Men #21

Yep. This panel exists.

Peter riding a T-Rex while hacking at it with a hatchet. I like Colossus more now than I did before I saw this panel again. Because listen: Colossus, in steel form, fighting a dinosaur? That’s fine, I guess. Not really unexpected. I mean, of course he’ll beat up the dinosaur. He’s invincible like that. But Colossus, in human form, riding a T-Rex and attacking it with a hatchet? That’s just glorious.

Anyway, the T-Rex ends up in a bog, so it’s dealt with. Two of the women, Nereel and Fahé, are still alive, but the third is dead. After a funeral is held for the dead woman, Nereel and Fahé take Colossus to an island for a little bow-chicka-wow-wow. He’s uncertain, and then the T-Rex attacks again. This time, Colossus transforms, and easily deals with it. And it’s not as cool. The women aren’t turned off by him becoming metal, and still want a threesome.

It’s a cute story. A cute follow-up to an earlier Classic X-Men back-up. It actually also sets up something that’ll come up pretty soon, in an X-Men Annual. And, of course, Colossus beats up a dinosaur. So there’s a lot to like here! The art works well for this one. Even the action sequence works really well. Colossus swinging on vines is entertaining to see. The T-Rex looks scary and badass. The women are sexy, Peter is sexier. It’s pretty art.

In related news, Fantastic Four #314, by Englehart, Pollard, Sinnott, Roussos and Workman, has a cameo from Belasco. The FF at the time was the Thing, Human Torch, Crystal, and the Sharon Ventura Ms. Marvel. They’re exploring some of the tunnels in the Mole Man’s kingdom, just for fun. Crystal gets grabbed by Belasco, who’s decided she’ll be his mate. He turns Johnny into a pig, then gets punched out  by Ms. Marvel. They leave, and come across a city of cat-people that Englehart used in his West Coast Avengers run. Then Belasco shows back up, and it turns out the cat-people worship him. Then Dr. Strange fighting Shuma-Gorath appears in a vision above them all, and Belasco freaks as Strange hurls an image of the Earth at Shuma-Gorath. This is such a weird issue, just bouncing from one thing to the next. I’ll be honest, I never liked Englehart as a writer. In the ’70s, his work was fueled by drugs and pretension, and by this point, a lot of his stuff was just kinda dumb. His work also had really weird gender dynamics a lot of the time. Really weird sexual politics. Someone could write a fascinating essay on sexual politics in Steve Englehart’s work, and I would enjoy reading that essay.

And I may as well mention Power Pack #37, by Simonson, Velluto, Drake, Oliver and Rosen. A girl in a schoolyard is wearing dark sunglasses, and gets bullied by some other kids, who take her glasses. Then she vanishes. At the Power home, a TV report is talking about the MRA, and X-Factor revealing the fact that they’re mutants. Back to the girl, who’s on the Brooklyn Bridge. Then she opens her eyes again, and winds up on top of the Empire State Building. Later, the Power kids are talking, and Jack is shining a flashlight out the window, and the girl shows up on the windowsill. After a little conversation, she looks out the window and teleports again, into a TV studio, where the host decides to interview her. I . . . don’t think these talk shows record live. Power Pack gets her and takes her home. It’s a cute, sweet story. As pretty much all of Simonson’s Power Pack run was. It was such a cute series and you should definitely read it. Only a little bit is up on Marvel Unlimited, so you’ll probably need to check out conventions and the like for people selling old copies. And we should also bug Marvel to put the rest of the run on Unlimited.

Meanwhile, Strange Tales #14 features the second part of the amazing Cloak & Dagger/Power Pack/Punisher story. It’s fun and cute and wonderful. It includes a birthday party for a hamster, and ends with Julie Power teaching Cloak to read, which is just, yes. I love Julie.

It’s not X-Men, but I may as well note that this was the month Amazing Spider-Man #300 was released, with an iconic Todd MacFarlane cover, and an iconic battle between Spider-Man and Venom. It’s a pretty great comic. And Daredevil #254 features the debut of Typhoid Mary. She’s pretty awesome.

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