Wednesday, June 22, 2011
X-amining X-Men #114
In a Nutshell
The return of Sauron and the Savage Land
Writer/Co-Plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin Letterer:Jean Simek
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Beast summons the strength to continue carrying Phoenix across Antarctica. Over the roar of the blizzard, he hears a helicopter approaching, and manages to awaken Phoenix, whose burst of power draws the attention of the copter, securing them rescue, but they leave with a heavy heart, believing the other X-Men dead. However, the X-Men have survived the destruction of Magneto's base, thanks to Storm cooling the lava flow as Cyclops and Banshee tunneled out the base, and emerged into the Savage Land. Stretching out and taking to the air, Banshee is attacked by a pterodactyl. After Wolverine fights it off, the X-Men head for a village Banshee spotted while being unknowingly followed by a shadowy figure. Meanwhile, Beast and Phoenix arrive in New York and inform Lilandra and Xavier that the X-Men are dead.
Back in the Savage Land, the X-Men rest and recuperate in the village of the Fall People, mourning the loss of Beast and Phoenix, whom they believe to have died in the destruction of Magneto's base. Cyclops realizes that his feelings for Jean may have changed, as he feels oddly numb about her death, while Storm and Wolverine are openly grieving. One afternoon, as Storm emerges from swimming in a lake, the shadowy figure, drawn to her power, attacks her. The other X-Men are alerted to the attack by a sudden bolt of lightening and discover that Storm's attacker was Karl Lykos, who drained some of her energy to once again transform into Sauron.
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the beginning of the first period of time in which the world at large believes the X-Men to be dead, a situation that will last for the next dozen or so issues. It also kicks off what is sometimes called "the world tour" portion of Claremont and Byrne's run, in which the X-Men slowly make their way back home following their battle with Magneto and travel to various places around the world in the process.
The X-Men also return to the Savage Land for the first time since issue #63, and the end of the issue sees the rebirth of Sauron, who was believed dead as of issue #61.
Though she goes unnamed here, later stories will reveal that one of the Savage Land natives Colossus befriends in this issue is Nereel, a minor character who will pop up occasionally when the X-Men journey to the Savage Land. As such, this issue is her first appearance.
This is the first issue of the comic to be titled "The Uncanny X-Men" (dropping the "All New, All Different" appellation which previously appeared over "X-Men" on the cover), though the book's title won't officially change until issue #142.
A Work in Progress
It is established that Banshee has a hard time hearing while using his sonic scream, which makes sense, but it does make you wonder why the other X-Men don't wince in pain every time he uses it around them.
At one point Cyclops notices his reflection in a stream and sees a resemblance to Corsair, which makes him realize how odd it was that Corsair spoke with an Nebraskan accent using American slang and vaguely recall hearing Corsair calling him "Scott" while in the M'Kraan Crystal (in issue #108). This is the only furthering of the Corsair/Cyclops relationship/mystery we'll get for about forty issues, as John Byrne was apparently never a big fan of the idea.
Cyclop's musings regarding Corsair also trigger a repressed memory from his childhood, of falling out of a crashing plane with his brother, along with Corsair and his mother, (the details of this event will eventually be expanded on and come to encompass what is largely considered Cyclops' "origin").
After Wolverine rashly attacks the pterodactyl to save Banshee, he and Cyclops bicker over Wolverine's methods, which Banshee humorously undercuts.
The added pages in the Classic X-Men reprint show in more detail the X-Men's escape from Magneto's base and tie Scott's reaction to Jean's apparent death into the then-retconned Phoenix story. There's also a line from Phoenix that mentions Magneto having altered the Earth's magnetic field to prohibit long range telepathic contact, which retroactively smooths over some of the rough edges from the whole "how come two of the world's most powerful telepaths don't realize the X-Men are still alive?" question which hangs over the next several issues.
That 70s Comic
Beast and Phoenix are rescued by one of those numerous US Navy helicopters that routinely patrol Antarctica.
Lip service is paid to the X-Men sewing and repairing their costumes (damaged in the fight with Magneto and their subsequent escape) while recuperating in the Savage Land, and despite the fact they have no replacement fabric, everything looks good as new from this point forward.
Similarly, Wolverine's picture of Jean (from Iron Fist #15) apparently travels with Wolverine in his seemingly pocket-less costume AND survived the fight with Magneto.
Storm's Savage Land attire makes for a little slice of cheesecake...
And she even strikes a blow for the environment, deriding the "progress" of Manhattan compared to the pristine wild of the Savage Land.
Claremont will, in the future, return to the idea of the world believing the X-Men dead. though he himself admits he never quite gets it right.
Byrne draws his first fastball special and we get the cool effect of replacing Wolverine's legs with speed lines.
For my money, nobody does stubble quite like Byrne and Austin (though Jim Lee, an avowed Byrne fan, will later come close).
Cyclops is upset that he doesn't feel more grief over Jean's death.
Whereas Wolverine is clearly grieving, upset that for all he cared about Jean, he never even told her his real name.
Colossus goes off to an island with two scantily clad Savage Land natives, one of whom is Nereel. A later story will reveal that Colossus unknowingly fathered a son with her during this time in the Savage Land.
The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
We get some good old fashioned Scott Summers angst as Cyclops blames himself for the Beast and Jean's deaths.
Kids! Become a locksmith!
A Daisy BB gun brought Johnny Unitas closer to his son...isn't that good enough for you?!?
John Byrne on his partnership with Claremont
"'A perfect creative team is seamless...and invisible. No part calls attention to itself at the expense of any other part. That was what I liked about Glynis and Tom: they did their jobs so well that they were practically invisible.' Asked what he felt "clicked" in his collaboration with Claremont, Byrne responded, 'almost nothing! That's kind of what made it work. I've always said we had kind of a 'Gilbert and Sullivan' relationship. We came at the whole storytelling problem from very different directions, and such sparks as there were came about largely from us banging into each other.'"
Lamken, Brian Saner. "The Phoenix Effect: 25 Years of the All New Uncanny X-Men." Comicology Fall 2000: 30-31.
The Thomas/Adams homage tour continues, as Claremont and Byrne take us from Magneto to the Savage Land and Sauron (curiously enough, the exact opposite order used by Thomas and Adams). But after two high octane action issues, they kick off their Savage Land story with a Claremont/Byrne staple: the quiet "downtime" issue. Most of the action in this one centers around the early fight with a random dinosaur. The rest of the issue simply shows the X-Men in the Savage Land and Beast and Phoenix in New York dealing with the ramifications of their battle with Magneto and their belief that the other party is dead.
"The world believes the X-Men are dead" is a story idea with which Chris Claremont has an apparent fascination, as he returns to it again in the course of his run, never quite getting it to work. Here, the longer the world thinks the X-Men are dead, the more unbelievable the circumstances that allow that belief to perpetuate become, as we'll see. His other major attempt at it later in his run, during the X-Men's "Outback" years, never quite has the impact it should. But in the meantime, it's an interesting plot device that opens the door to some clever characterization, both from the X-Men in the Savage Land and from Phoenix and Professor X back in New York, and in that regard, the device is a great success.