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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

X-amining X-Men #118

"The Submergence of Japan"
February 1979

In a Nutshell
The X-Men team-up with Sunfire against Moses Magnum's Mandroids.

Writer/Co-Plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Guest Inker: Ric Villamonte
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Six weeks after being rescued by the crew of the Jinguchi Maru, the X-Men arrive in Japan, only to find the city of Agarashima in flames following a devastating earthquake. With the ship unable to dock due to the condition of the port, the X-Men make their own way ashore. Lacking any proper identification or passports, they head to Sunfire's home, doing what they can to help people caught in the aftermath of the quake along the way. Wolverine reads a news report which suggests there is something unnatural about the earthquake. Arriving at Sunfire's manor, they find the former X-Man in conference with several high ranking government officials, including the Prime Minister, as well as Misty Knight and her partner Colleen Wing. Sunfire is reluctant to accept the X-Men's help, but they are invited inside at the request of the Prime Minister.


Meanwhile, Cyclops calls the mansion only to learn that all the line have been disconnected, not knowing that Professor X and Lilandra are orbiting the planet, preparing to depart for the Shi'ar Empire, while outside a group of men prepare an attack. Wolverine, wandering the grounds, meets Sunfire's cousin Mariko just as a localized earthquake hits, forcing everyone to flee outside just as a group of armored Mandroids attack, intent on kidnapping the government officials. The X-Men and Sunfire beat back the attack, but a hologram of Moses Magnum appears from one of the damaged Mandroid suits. He demands to be declared absolute ruler of Japan within 24 hours, or else he'll use his power to sink the country.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is the first appearance of Mariko Yashida, Sunfire's cousin. She will become a fairly significant supporting character throughout Claremont's run, most notably as Wolverine's ongoing love interest.


Wolverine's past association with Japan is also established for the first time, as its revealed he spent time there when he was younger, and can read and speak Japanese.

The villain of the piece is Moses Magnum, a D-lister who first appeared in Giant Size Spider-Man 4. Claremont later used him in a Power Man annual before his appearance in this story. He'll pop up in a few stories scattered throughout the Marvel Universe over the next several decades, but has never risen to much prominence.


His lackeys in this issue attack the X-Men wearing Mandroid armor, battle suits designed to counter the powers of the Avengers, first deployed against that team by the government during the famous "Kree-Skrull War" story arc.


Sunfire makes his first appearance in the book since angrily quitting the team in issue #94. 

A Work in Progress
It's noted that the X-Men have spent six weeks aboard the Japanese ship, and that Cyclops led them in rigorous training sessions throughout that time.

As proof of this, Nightcrawler demonstrates his ability to teleport from the ship to the shore in one jump, without being winded, something he claims he wouldn't have been able to do weeks ago.


Colossus has become aware of his recent relative ineffectiveness in battle, wondering why he even bothers, shortly before getting blasted out of the battle by a Mandroid.


Once settled at Sunfire's estate, Cyclops phones the mansion, only to find the number has been disconnected by Xavier, as has the emergency direct line to Cerebro.


Misty Knight, last seen bumping into Phoenix at the airport en route to Japan, is helping the Japanese government deal with Moses Magnum, along with her partner Colleen Wing. This opens up the first serious crack in the "the world thinks the X-Men are dead" plot, as at no point does Misty ever mention seeing Jean alive, nor does Cyclops ever mention to Misty his belief that Jean is dead, despite Misty having been Jean's roommate (and despite thinking about how he still doesn't feel anything about Jean's death while talking to Misty).


That 70s Comic
Cyclops expresses surprise at Wolverine reading a Japanese newspaper once they arrive in Japan. So apparently, the fact that Wolverine knows Japanese never once came up during the six weeks the X-Men spent aboard a Japanese ship.


Moses Magnum's whole plan of "declare me ruler or I'll use earthquakes to destroy the country" is pretty much straight out of page four of the Super-Villain Handbook. 

Claremontisms
Claremont once again comes up with a new and innovative way for the characters' to use their powers, as Cyclops hits one of the Mandroids with a pulsed optic blast, setting up a specific vibration pattern in the armor. Then Banshee hits it with his sonic scream, which counters "Cyclops' optic pulse on a fractionally different vibration frequency...the two opposing patterns creating such titanic molecular stresses that the armor literally shakes itself to bits." Read it too closely and it sounds like gibberish, but on the surface, it's comic book science at its finest.


Young Love
Upon meeting Mariko, Wolverine is immediately smitten, establishing for the first time his long-standing taste in Asian women.


Cyclops catches Colleen Wing's eye.


For Sale
Be sure to brush up on your Micronauts before their crossover with the X-Men!


I'm not entirely sure what this Kiss ad is selling (an album, presumably), but its the first Kiss ad to appear in an X-Men comic thus far.


John Byrne on the introduction of Mariko
"I felt that [Wolverine] needed something delicate and fine to just counterbalance it. And rather than introducing a character in the X-Men or a member of the X-Men and add those qualities I thought I would introduce a girlfriend. And when we went to Japan I'd just finished reading Shogun the concept of a perfect geisha was exactly what I was looking for - this tiny doll-like creature, all frail with exactly the kind of things that would push all the buttons for Wolverine."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p93 

Teebore's Take
The X-Men arrive in Japan and meet up with Sunfire as the Thomas/Adams retrospective continues (though Adams didn't draw the issue of X-Men which introduced Sunfire, Thomas wrote it, and its generally considered part of their run). This issue is most notable for being another significant step in the development of Wolverine's character, as his connection to Japan is revealed and he meets Mariko for the first time. The later marks the beginning of a relationship that will last, in one form or another, until shortly after Claremont's departure in 1991. As Byrne notes, the dichotomy between the berserker Wolverine, always fighting to stay in control, being attracted to the demure, controlled, almost doll-like Mariko, is thematically strong, and helps add extra dimension to Wolverine's character. In just eleven issues, Claremont/Byrne's Wolverine has already become a far different character than the loud-mouthed braggart who got humorously knocked out of every fight at the beginning. He's not quite the character who will become the breakout star of X-Men yet, but this issue brings him another significant step closer.

13 comments:

  1. The KISS ad is for the solo albums (one for each member), none very good from what I hear.
    118 was my first X-Men comic, in a 3-pack my mom got at Wal-Mart, I was six. The art, characters, and story seemed really different, more adult and exotic than the usual Hulk, Spider-man, etc. stuff I'd read to that point. It must've been a year and a half later that I bought my next issue, #137.
    That "I will sink Japan!" line seemed really nefarious to my six-year old mind.
    Anyway, I've enjoyed these X-Men reviews. Keep it up!
    Chris

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  2. So, wait a minute. I thought Orbo and Slipstream were Loverz 4 Lyfe. Is "Jean" really, totally dead? She's only Slipstream now? Why doesn't he care? I thought Scott was King of the Crybabies. Also, Colossus' widow's peak alone should be enough to defeat any enemy. He's really just mad that nobody ever comments on his smart hairdo.

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  3. as usual, Joan- spot on

    I'm impressed Wolverine can read Japanese newspapers- as that's a significant challenge for even fluent non-native speakers (our College Japanese professor still struggled with it). Kanji is a bitch.

    Yeah the whole Misty Knight situation seems like a glaring hole.

    I think they should just call Moses' bluff. Why would he sink the place he wants to rule? Also- how does an island sink? i guess maybe he intends to break it apart first, and THEN sink it. sheesh- be specific villains

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  4. Dammit, anne said what i wanted to say, which was, i'd love to see someone just call the villain's bluff on something like that. Mostly becasue i'd love to see what the villain decides to do AFTER he follows through. Like, he sinks japan. Then What? Does he go on and make the same threat to England? Or Australia? This time having the history to back it up? Or is he sad because he really wanted to rule japan, but now he broke it...

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  5. @Chris: The KISS ad is for the solo albums (one for each member), none very good from what I hear.

    Very cool. Thanks for the info.

    The art, characters, and story seemed really different, more adult and exotic than the usual Hulk, Spider-man, etc. stuff I'd read to that point.

    That's a pretty fair assessment, I think, and definitely a contributing factor to the enduring popularity of the Claremont/Byrne run. It definitely feels different than a lot of the other comics at the time.

    Anyway, I've enjoyed these X-Men reviews. Keep it up!

    Thanks! And thanks for reading.

    @Joan: I thought Orbo and Slipstream were Loverz 4 Lyfe. Is "Jean" really, totally dead? She's only Slipstream now? Why doesn't he care? I thought Scott was King of the Crybabies.

    Don't worry, they are Loverz 4 Lyfe. At this point Jean isn't dead at all. Orbo just thinks she is (and she thinks he's dead). But he's having a hard time processing the grief. Being the King of Crybabies, it just hurts SO MUCH that he shuts it down and ends up feeling nothing.

    He's really just mad that nobody ever comments on his smart hairdo.

    He does have a pretty wicked hairdo. You could set your watch to that hairdo.

    @Anne: Yeah the whole Misty Knight situation seems like a glaring hole.

    Yeah, it's only going to get more glaring from here...

    I think they should just call Moses' bluff. Why would he sink the place he wants to rule?

    I'm pretty sure the Super-Hero Handbook explicitly forbids calling the villains bluff when tons of innocent lives are on the line.

    @Sarah: Like, he sinks japan. Then What? Does he go on and make the same threat to England? Or Australia? This time having the history to back it up? Or is he sad because he really wanted to rule japan, but now he broke it...

    Magneto would totally just move on to another country. Moses Magnum, I'm not so sure...

    I'm curious to re-read the next issue, because I can't remember if Moses Magnum ever gives any explanation for wanting to rule Japan, or if its just supposed to be because it would be the easiest country to earthquake to death.

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  6. which brings up another point for me, that moses is kind of a pansy. I mean, Japan does a pretty damn good job of earthquaking itself to death. He's like riding on the coatails of mother nature and pretending to be a super villain.

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  7. How'd they know where Sunfire lives? Or is Sunfire famous enough that they can just ask a citizen where his house is?

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  8. @Sarah: He's like riding on the coatails of mother nature and pretending to be a super villain.

    Ha! Good point. No one ever said he was very good at being a super-villain.

    @Dr. BitzHow'd they know where Sunfire lives? Or is Sunfire famous enough that they can just ask a citizen where his house is?

    Huh. I never thought of that. Though Sunfire is famous enough that they could have asked for directions (he's the "Hero of Japan" or some such) we never see them doing that. I suppose they must have learned the location either from Sunfire during his short stint on the team, or from Professor X at some point.

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  9. I'm back from Comic-Con! The whole time I was there, all I could think about was that I was missing my weekly X-Men review on "Gentlemen of Leisure". Fortunately that won't happen again for another fifty weeks or so.

    "So apparently, the fact that Wolverine knows Japanese never once came up during the six weeks the X-Men spent aboard a Japanese ship."

    That's really funny, and I'd never, ever even thought of it before.

    Regarding Cyclops not telling Misty about Jean -- well, he was thinking to himself at the time how hard it would be to tell Xavier. Maybe he felt the same way about telling Misty...? Doesn't explain why Misty didn't mention anything to Cyclops, though. And I'll reiterate that if the airport scene had just been omitted, this particular plot hole would not exist, and nothing would've really been lost.

    On the subject of the X-Men tracking Sunfire down, I would've just assumed they looked him up in the yellow pages or something, but your summary indicates they were already on the way to his house before Wolverine read the newspaper and revealed his fluency in the Japanese language. So I'm kinda stumped. Maybe Cyclops just knew his address. I wouldn't put it past him. But again, how would they follow street signs if Wolverine hadn't yet read anything in front of them?!? It's so confusing! And it's another thing I'd never thought of before, but now I'll be thinking about it forever!!

    Also, I've always thought it was kind of funny that there's a direct "emergency line" to Cerebro. I haven't read all the Silver Age X-Men comics, but did Cerebro ever talk? Or even accept voice commands? I know it did in cartoons and such (it even spoke in Xavier's voice, I believe, in the 90's cartoon), but I don't think it could do any of that in the comics, at least not at this point. So what do you do when you get ahold of it?

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  10. @Matt: I'm back from Comic-Con!

    Ah, I wondered if that's where you'd been. I'm jealous; I've never been, and even though I know the show is wildly different these days than what it was, I still really want to go someday, just to say I have.

    How was it? Learn any interesting news or have any fun creator encounters?

    I'll reiterate that if the airport scene had just been omitted, this particular plot hole would not exist, and nothing would've really been lost.

    Agreed. In fact, almost all the holes that get punched into the "the X-Men are dead" plot come about because Claremont pushes things just a step too far.

    Everything in this issue would be fine if Misty hadn't bumped into Jean, but he had to add that extra layer of missed communication to the whole thing.

    (And later, when the X-Men return to the mansion but don't call Moira, he's pushing the resolution back just one story too many, so that the resolution can coincide with the beginning of the Proteus story, and so we get another hole when Banshee hangs out in New York for three issues without calling the love of his life).

    I haven't read all the Silver Age X-Men comics, but did Cerebro ever talk? Or even accept voice commands?...So what do you do when you get ahold of it?

    Up to this point, Cerebro hasn't talked (or really been anything more than a computer than beeps a lot). So it's terribly unclear what a direct line to it would accomplish. Maybe it's so the X-Men could hear it beeping? Maybe if it discovers a new mutant, it leaves a message to that effect that the X-Men could hear by calling that line?

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  11. I agree on the thing about Banshee not calling Moira. I think I may have even mentioned that myself a while back. I love the idea of the "everyone thinks they're dead" plotline, and I like the stories that came out of it, but it really falls apart upon even a cursory examination.

    Comic-Con was fun, but extremely crowded as always. I have a love/hate relationship with it -- this was my eleventh trip since 1999, and it's become totally different from what it was when I first went. Every year since around 2008 or so, I've thought to myself that I might not want to come back, but every year I do. It helps to have friends who want to go also. We've already bought our tickets for 2012 (strangely, we'll have our biggest group ever next year).

    Sadly, I haven't met many creators at the con in the past few years. There's just so much going on, and so many lines to stand in, that it's hard to find free time to speak with them. The best night to do it is usually "Preview Night", when they let people with 4-day Preview Night badges into the exhibit hall for a couple of hours on Wednesday evening. But we missed out on getting those badges after the ticket sales fiasco last year! But anyway, besides that, I tend to be more of a fan of the older school pros, and a lot of them don't bother with San Diego anymore, presumably since it's become so "Hollywood".

    But I did see a number of celebrities on various panels. Probably the highlight was a panel with Penn & Teller promoting their new TV show on the Discovery Channel, "Penn & Teller Tell a Lie". It was the first time I ever heard Teller speak! Then they did a brief magic trick at the end. My friend bumped into Penn as we were leaving and got a picture taken with him. We also went to this bar on Saturday which had been rented out by Zachary Levi of NBC's Chuck, and he happened to drop by while we were there. I guess that was the closest I got to anyone famous. Doesn't compare with the time I shared a bathroom with Kiefer Sutherland following a 24 panel in 2008, though.

    Anyway, I think the best summation I can give to the trip is that even though it was crowded and hot and it killed my feet and back to be standing up all day every day, I wish I was still there!! Everybody should experience it at least once, I think. If you ever wind up going, let me know!

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  12. @Matt: Doesn't compare with the time I shared a bathroom with Kiefer Sutherland following a 24 panel in 2008, though.

    That's awesome. Though I think I might have been too scared to pee...

    If you ever wind up going, let me know!

    Definitely. I plan to make it there at least once, and hopefully in the not-too-distant future (when there's still SOME comic book stuff. ;) )

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