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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

X-amining X-Men #99

"Deathstar, Rising!"
June 1976

In a Nutshell
The X-Men go into space to rescue their teammates, and come face to face with the original X-Men. 

Author: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Frank Chiara
Letterer: Irving Watanabe, Gaspar Saladino (uncredited)
Colorist: Michele Wolfman 
Editor: Marv Wolfman

Plot
In outer space, Banshee, Wolverine and Jean Grey are recaptured by Sentinels and brought back aboard Lang's orbital platform. Down on Earth, their teammates mount a rescue mission with the help of Dr. Corbeau. Serving as the flight crew of the Starcore space shuttle Eagle One, their identities withheld from the media, they blast off into space. Meanwhile, in Ireland, Banshee's lawyer sends him an urgent message but is attacked by a shadowy figure who calls himself Black Tom. As the shuttle approaches Lang's platform, Corbeau requests permission to board, but is rebuffed by Lang. When the platform's mutant detectors sense mutants on the shuttle, Lang sends Sentinels to attack it.


The Sentinels breach the shuttle, causing explosive decompression which sucks Storm out into space.  Corbeau rams the shuttle into the platform as Storm manages to evade capture. She joins the other X-Men in battle with the Sentinels. Cyclops notes these models aren't as effective as the previous ones, just as Jean telepathically contacts him, telling him where Banshee and Wolverine are. Cyclops sends the X-Men to rescue them and goes off to rescue Jean himself. Just as Lang is about to kill Jean and Xavier, Cyclops arrive and savagely beats Lang before being attacked from behind. As the other X-Men free Banshee and Wolverine, Lang gloats that the Sentinels aren't the true heart of Project Armageddon. Just then, the X-Men come face to face with the original X-Men, whom Professor X orders to attack.

Firsts and Other Notables
Black Tom Cassidy, Banshee's villainous cousin, appears briefly and for the first time, in shadow. More on him shortly.

 
This issue also contains the first mention of Colossus' older brother Mikhail. Colossus says he was a cosmonaut who died during a space launch; in the early 90s we'll learn he wasn't killed during that launch but actually shunted into another dimension (as will happen). Mikhail will go on to have a presence in the X-Men universe off and on for several years thereafter.


A Work in Progress
A news report reveals that Judge Chalmers, Larry Trask's ally in the Thomas/Adams Sentinel story back in issues #57-59, has become a pro-mutant activist since the events of that story, and that his house was firebombed as a result. Chalmers also gets a first name in this issue (Robert).


Starcore One, a deep space monitoring station run by the same multi-national group to which Peter Corbeau belongs, appears in X-Men for the first time (it's appeared previously elsewhere). As the X-Men get more involved in cosmic events, it'll pop up every once in awhile.


It is established that Storm swore an oath to her deceased parents never take a human life.

Also, it's revealed that her powers work on the "cosmic storm", enabling her to manipulate solar winds (the Classic X-Men reprint of this issue eschews that via some redrawn pages in favor of having her move through space via her spacesuit).


That 70s Comic 
The Sentinels rescue the escaped X-Men at the beginning using "atmos-spheres" a delightful comic book-y term.


Geraldo Rivera is one of the reporters commenting on the rise of anti-mutant activity.


Needless to say, the physics on display here are a bit dodgy, as Wolverine, Banshee and Jean Grey chill in space for several moments before being rescued by Sentinels, and later Corbeau simply smashes the shuttle into the space platform, after which the X-Men climb out, despite the less-than-airtight hole the shuttle made. 


Claremontisms
This issue showcases three things that will become recurring motifs in Claremont comics:

The romanticizing of pilots/astronauts. Claremont loves aircraft and his pilots are always classic romantics who love what they do. In this issue, astronaut Peter Corbeau comments on feeling like he's going home while waiting to blast off into space.


The use of a news reporter to deliver exposition/set a scene. It's been done before and will be done by other writers, but Claremont especially likes to use this device, and will, over the course of his run, even build up some of the reporters into recurring characters.


The "inner monologue", in which members of the team are given a moment/panel alone with their thoughts before a big event occurs, enabling Claremont to highlight aspects of each characters' personality based on how they react to the upcoming situation.

Here, just prior to the shuttle launch, we see Cyclops worry about Jean, Storm struggle with her claustrophobia, Colossus upset that he's afraid, and Nightcrawler excited by the adventure of it all.


Also, Colossus drops a "tovarisch" for the first time. 

Young Love
Colossus freaks out when Storm is sucked out of the shuttle, and overjoyed when she turns up alive and well, evidence of romantic subplot between the two which is shortly aborted and transitioned into their more familiar brother/sister relationship.


Human/Mutant Relations 
In the wake of the Sentinel attack on Christmas Eve, anti-mutant fervor is sweeping the nation.

It's in the Mail
Noted comic book historian Peter Sanderson, who famously read every DC comic published in order to fact check Crisis on Infinite Earths and contributed to the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, has a letter published in this issue.


Dave Cockrum on Colossus' design
"Back in college I had come up with a character called Mr. Steel. There were a lot of differences between the two characters, but he was certainly my inspiration for Colossus. The one problem that Len had with Colossus was that I had originally given him bare legs, and Len didn't like characters with bare legs...like Robin...I originally had bare legs on Colossus' costume, so we decided to give him blue legs. For some reason, the material disappears when he turns into Colossus".

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p85-86

Teebore's Take
While it's definitely no big deal these days, with the X-Men having gone from one end of the galaxy to another and gotten embroiled in wars between alien empires, here they travel into space for the first time, and it appropriately feels like a big deal. The highlight of this issue is easily the launch of the space shuttle and the X-Men's voyage to the orbital platform. Cockrum turns in some of his best art yet for this sequence, rendering the launch sequence in vivid detail. Claremont, meanwhile, uses the opportunity to delve into the minds of his cast. While the technique displayed here is archaic by today's standards (and something Claremont's modern detractors hold against him), at the time Claremont was working with several brand new characters, and these brief glimpses into their inner monologues provide an easy way to further familiarize readers with the characters. Jason Powell referred to these inner monologues as a form of "heightened reality", not unlike the similar devices used in plays. It may not represent the most realistic or contemporary style of writing, but there's definitely a certain charm about it.

17 comments:

Anne said...

ha! i'm glad they realized (at a later date) that using solar winds to fly is super male-o
i would like to know how in the hell the sentinels have th ability to creat pockets of atmosphere. Shouldn't that technology be used elsewhere- like coloninzing planets?!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Anne - did you mean Lame-o?

I think i read somewhere once that the only x-men charcter Stan Lee had regrets about was Storm, because scientifically, controlling the weather doesn't make any sense as a mutant power

Joan Crawford said...

Hehehe, Male-o. In other exciting comic book character news, I found another girl who had a huge crush on the 90's version of cartoon Batman.

Geralado! Didn't he try to dig up um... who the hell was that? I should know this. Not Gotti. Now all I can think of is Davey Jones' locker and that makes even less sense. Christ, this is going to drive me crazy. You know, the body of the guy! "Oh, we'll make you disappear like BLANK'S body."* It's not Elliot Ness! So stop suggesting that one, brain.

*Is what my grandparents used to say to me when I would sleep over.

Teebore said...

@Anne: i would like to know how in the hell the sentinels have th ability to creat pockets of atmosphere.

They're robuts, duh.

Shouldn't that technology be used elsewhere- like coloninzing planets?!

Look, if we're going to play the "shouldn't fantastic Marvel Universe technology X be used in Y" game we'll be here all day. :)

I mean, between unstable molecules and the Fantasti-car, the Fantastic Four should have pretty much radically altered the fashion and automotive industries by their third issue.

think i read somewhere once that the only x-men charcter Stan Lee had regrets about was Storm, because scientifically, controlling the weather doesn't make any sense as a mutant power

I don't think I'd ever heard that before, but I could believe it. Storm's power certainly is one of the more nebulous mutant powers and rooted in (even dubious) super hero science the least, though some of the mutants that pop up in the 90s could give her a run for her money (ie Maggot and his mutant digestive system).

@Joan: You know, the body of the guy! "Oh, we'll make you disappear like BLANK'S body."

Jimmy Hoffa.

Geraldo also opened Al Capone's vault. Or has Homer Simpson once wrote into a song, "there was nothing in Al Capone's vault/but it wasn't Geraldo's fault."

I found another girl who had a huge crush on the 90's version of cartoon Batman.

He certainly was a hottie. Did you just like Batman, or did you also enjoy Bruce Wayne in his styling brown suit?

Joan Crawford said...

Oh, I loved the Dapper Dan Bruce Wayne as well. Is Batman the only Superhero who isn't actually magic?

Anne said...

jesus- my typos are out of control on this blog- i never have this many problems anywhere else
yes i meant lame-o

Anne said...

@Joan
Punisher is a super hero that just uses guns
but calling punisher a 'super hero' is a pretty slippery slope...

(spell checked before posted)

Teebore said...

@Joan: Is Batman the only Superhero who isn't actually magic?

Nah.

Batman himself will occasionally hang out with several other superheroes with little more than extensive training and fancy gadgets, like Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl and Batwoman. You may have also heard (or seen on "The Daily Show") the recent hubbub over Batman designating a French Muslim the superhero of Paris, and his only "power" is skill at Parkour.

Batman's fellow Justice League of America member Green Arrow is just a dude who is really good at archery.

Over at Marvel (home of the X-Men) you've got the Punisher, whom Anne mentioned, or Hawkeye, who is Marvel's "guy who is really good at archery" and his gal pal Mockingbird, who's just a highly trained fighter, or Daredevil's girlfriend Elektra, who's just a ninja.

There's plenty more. Plus, it depends on how you define "magic". Captain America, for example, received the Super Solider Serum back in WWII, which gave him strength/speed/stamina/etc. at the highest human levels, but he's not technically super-human. Or Green Lantern, who's just a regular dude, but a regular dude with a magic space ring that enables him to fly and make big green things like boxing gloves with which to punch people.

Jason said...

Thanks for the link, Tee. It's nice to see some of my humble Claremont observations being propagated. :)

In the Comics Creators on X-Men book, Stan Lee actually waxes quite affectionately about Storm, saying that he wishes he would've come up with her. He also once said in a Bullpen Bulletins column that Storm was his favorite female superhero.

Also, have you read "Elektra: Assassin" by Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz? Elektra is most definitely NOT just a ninja, and is most definitely possessed of some magical mojo.

Blam said...


Now we know how the Sentinels got the X-Men through the vacuum of space in #98: "atmos-spheres" (cute name, as you say).

I had totally forgotten about Peter/Piotr's older brother — and never knew he was brought back in the '90s.

Also, Colossus drops a "tovarisch" for the first time.

Where's Hannah and how did she not touch that one?

Peter Sanderson, who famously read every DC comic published in order to fact check Crisis on Infinite Earths and contributed to the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, has a letter published in this issue.

Even more relevantly, Sanderson edited and conducted the interviews for the pair of 1982 X-Men Companion volumes published by Fantagraphics.

Another nice writeup, especially the "Claremontisms" and "Teebore's Take"!

VW: quang — Duck hit by frying pan.

Blam said...


@Falen: ... scientifically, controlling the weather doesn't make any sense as a mutant power

Um... And Wanda's probability-altering "hex" does?

@Teebore: Look, if we're going to play the "shouldn't fantastic Marvel Universe technology X be used in Y" game we'll be here all day. :)

But thanks to Victor von Doom's amazing time platform, we can afford to be.

@Joan: Is Batman the only Superhero who isn't actually magic?

Oh, Batman's magic, sweetheart. He can't die and he always wins.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

pshaa - wanda's a "witch". She doesn't count.
And i didn't mean that Stan Lee didn't like Storm the Character, just that on a mutant power level, it didn't make as much sense (considering most mutant powers have some sort of effect over the mutant, cuz of the DNA thing).
After more thought, i'm 90% sure i saw it on a TV show where they interviewed Stan Lee. I just can't remember what show.

Teebore said...

@Jason: It's nice to see some of my humble Claremont observations being propagated.

You're most welcome, and I'm sure it won't be the last time. The hardest thing about writing these posts is not just saying "go read Jason Powell's post" every time.

in the Comics Creators on X-Men book, Stan Lee actually waxes quite affectionately about Storm

I'm still kicking myself that I didn't think to pull out that book and quote it in these posts until after I'd finished the Lee/Kirby stuff, as Stan's reminiscences are always fun. I should go back and see what he has to say about the new X-Men...

Elektra is most definitely NOT just a ninja, and is most definitely possessed of some magical mojo.

I haven't read Elektra: Assassin, but even still, my "Elektra is just a ninja comment" was fairly tongue-in-cheek. ;)

@Blam: and never knew he was brought back in the '90s.

Don't worry, you're not missing much aside from vague energy powers and convoluted dealings with the Morlocks.

Even more relevantly, Sanderson edited and conducted the interviews for the pair of 1982 X-Men Companion volumes published by Fantagraphics.

Ah yes, thanks for mentioning those. I really need to try and get my hands on them.

Um... And Wanda's probability-altering "hex" does?


Touche. Wanda definitely has the most vague and nonsensical mutant power, no matter how much the Handbook writers try to explain it.

But thanks to Victor von Doom's amazing time platform, we can afford to be.

You know Blam, I laugh at many of the things you write (the things that are supposed to be funny, of course ;) ), but this one just about got my morning Diet Mountain Dew all over the computer screen...

@Falen: After more thought, i'm 90% sure i saw it on a TV show where they interviewed Stan Lee. I just can't remember what show.

Did you ever have those videos of the first few episodes of the X-Men animated series that Pizza Hut distributed once upon a time? They had interviews and stuff on them too, and I'm pretty sure Stan was one of the people interviewed. Maybe that's where you saw it?

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

nah, it was something more unrelated to the x-men. Maybe like a top 100 sci-fi movies or something on MTV where they talk to a bunch of pop culture peeps to get their take on the movie and stan lee happened to be one of them.
I could be completely wrong though.

Teebore said...

@Falen: nah, it was something more unrelated to the x-men. Maybe like a top 100 sci-fi movies or something on MTV

That sounds familiar to me too. Maybe something on Bravo...

Matt said...

"It may not represent the most realistic or contemporary style of writing, but there's definitely a certain charm about it."

This is actually my favorite style of comic book writing. It's evolved some from Stan Lee's style, but it hasn't yet gone too far as it will later on. It's just the right amount of Silver Age camp mixed with Bronze Age "we're taking this way too seriously"-ness, creating a perfect melodramatic style that's very fun to read.

Teebore said...

@Matt: It's just the right amount of Silver Age camp mixed with Bronze Age "we're taking this way too seriously"-ness, creating a perfect melodramatic style that's very fun to read.

I agree. Very well said.