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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

X-amining X-Men #138

"Elegy"
October 1980

In a Nutshell 
At her funeral, Cyclops remembers his time with Jean. 

Writer/Co-Plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
As the X-Men attend Jean Grey's funeral, Cyclops reminisces about his relationship with Jean and their time with the X-Men. Afterwards, Lilandra presents Jean's parents with a holoempathic crystal that carries within it an image of Jean and a recollection of her personality. Cyclops tells Professor X he's leaving the X-Men to think things through and get his head straight, though as the X-Men leave the cemetery, he vows not to crawl back into his emotional shell, as Jean wouldn't want that. Back at the mansion, a cab pulls up and drops off the school's newest student: Kitty Pryde.

Firsts and Other Notables
The bulk of this issue is, essentially, the comic book version of a TV series' clip show, with Scott's reminiscences of his time with Jean essentially recapping the history of the X-Men up to this point. Claremont and Byrne had always planned on this retrospective to comprise the bulk of this issue, and only changed the framing sequence to feature Jean's funeral following their revision of issue #137.

 
Cyclops leaves the X-Men, marking the first time the X-Men's roster doesn't include any of the original team members (or Cyclops himself, for that matter).


Subsequently, Kitty Pryde joins the X-Men at issue's end.


Iceman appears in the book, attending Jean's funeral, for the first time since issue #94.

Though he goes unidentified, Jean's sister Sarah's husband makes his first appearance. Bizarre Adventures #27 will reveal his name to be Paul Bailey.

A Work in Progress
At the beginning of the issue, Scott quotes his declaration of love to Jean, spoken aboard the Blackbird while flying home in issue #129 (of course, neither Scott nor Claremont realized at that time that Jean would be dead in eight issues).  


Jean's gravestone lists her date of birth as 1956, meaning she was 24 when she died. It also illustrates Marvel's sliding timeline, as being born in 1956 would mean she was seven when she joined the X-Men in 1963 (the year issue #1 was published).

Cyclops notes that Beast is wearing his rubber Hank McCoy mask from his old Amazing Adventures series.


He also recalls the conversation he had with Storm in X-Men Annual #3, about how their lives aren't what they had imagined them to be when they were younger.


Lilandra presents Jean's parents with a holoempathic matrix crystal, a device that, when held, will display a 3D hologram of Jean and make the holder feel the essence of her personality. This is its first appearance, and it'll pop up again down the road.


As suggested by his post-funeral jump down from a tree, Nightcrawler spends the issue observing the funeral from afar, a reference to his declaration to no longer use his image inducer to hide his features. Though it's unclear who, exactly, he's hiding from, considering all the attendees are X-Men or Jean's family (who were all hanging out with the X-Men in issue #136). Maybe he's worried about the priest?

Cyclops and Professor X have a nice moment together after Cyclops declares he's leaving the X-Men.


Though the flashbacks in this issue largely retell the events of the preceding 137 issues, Claremont does work a few subtle clarifications and retcons into them. The most significant of these is an expansion of the moonlit stroll Scott and Jean took in issue #32, considered the beginning of their romantic relationship. It also suggests that Scott's reluctance to declare his feelings to Jean had as much to do with his history of abandonment as the danger of his optic blast (and the idea of Scott choosing to be alone in order to avoid getting close to someone only to have that person leave him permeates the flashbacks, culminating in his realization in the present that he is no longer bothered by being alone). This scene also first puts forth the idea that head trauma suffered as a boy after falling from his family's crashing plane is the cause of his inability to control his optic blast.

Additionally, Havok's somewhat random introduction back in issue #54 is smoothed out a bit, as it's established that Scott and Alex were in the orphanage together, but that Alex was adopted while Scott was in a coma as a result of his head injury, and that Scott later asked Professor X to track down his brother before his introduction to the other X-Men.


Cyclops notes that after he and Jean declared their love for one another, Professor X was kidnapped by Factor Three. Actually, he fell into a coma that night, and was kidnapped by Factor Three shortly thereafter.

I Love the 80s
The price of comics goes up this issue, from forty cents an issue to fifty, which a surprisingly-cultured Hulk explains.


Artistic Achievements.
The last in a run of iconic covers (well, at least for a few issues), as Cyclops walks away from the X-Men in search of that Toys R Us shopping spree. This is a cover that will be homaged several times, by X-Men as well as other titles, chiefly when a character leaves a team. 

"Professor Xavier is The X-Men are Jerks!" 
Kitty Pryde arrives at the school, excited to be there, then proceeds to sit on the front steps because everyone is at Jean's funeral. They couldn't have told her to arrive the following day (or a few hours later) so someone would be on hand to greet her? 


Young Love
Scott and Jean's relationship retroactively gets the proper beginning it deserves.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
Though wracked with pain over Jean's death, Cyclops vows not to crawl back into his emotional shell, determined to live his life as best he can in honor of Jean. 


Chris Claremont on Xavier's guilt
"...for the first time in history, in the 20 years of Marvel Comics, a hero team has gone to the wall, has to the death to protect one of their own...and failed. To me the guilt for Xavier is awesome. He awakened Jean's telepathic ability, he brought her into the X-Men. If anybody should feel a sense of responsibility for what's happened it's him because he was off screwing with Lilandra when he could have prevented this."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p109, 121

John Byrne on the popularity and impact of "The Dark Phoenix Saga"
"It was something that had never been done before. Marvel had had lots of bad guys go good, but had never had a good guy go bad. She made this noble sacrifice and then Chris kept referring to it every chance he got for the next ten years, so people were unable to forget how important it was. So, yeah, I think that's the point at which X-Men really started to rise. As I said, that particular issue sold 175,000 copies, which were pretty phenomenal sales back then. I think that particular issue helped destroy the industry because it was the first event, and people have been trying to do events ever since. The thing about the 'Death of Phoenix' storyline was that it wasn't planned as an event. It was a story that grew organically from what we were doing. At no point did we sit down and say, 'We're going to do this huge mother of a story that will sell billions of copies.' We just did the story. Ever since then, everybody's been trying to do their own 'Death of Phoenix'. And because they're trying to do it, they can't. It changed the shape of the industry. It changed the shape of what people were expecting. What the writers and artists were expecting, what the editors were expecting, and what the fans were expecting. Suddenly, that's what it had to be. Suddenly it got people going, 'Oh, this could be the next 'Death of Phoenix', I better buy 1,500 copies of this one.'"

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p112-113

Louise Simonson on getting assigned X-Men
"I've been told any number of things. I was told that Chris was considered difficult to work with and they thought that for some reason he would work well with me. I'm not sure what the deal was with that. I did not find Chris the least bit difficult to work with. He was an utter and complete pleasure to work with. I don't know why I was given X-Men, but I was glad that I was. The stories Chris and John did together were wonderful! I guess there was some conflict between John and Chris, so maybe that was what made some of the other editors uncomfortable."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p137

Teebore's Take 
As mentioned above, this issue is the closest thing to a comic book version of a television clip show that I've ever seen, though it does have one advantage over its TV counterpart. Rather than merely reprint panels from previous issues, Byrne and Austin present the entire 17 year history of the X-Men in 17 pages of original art, the television equivalent of filming new footage for a clip show. As a result, via Scott's narration, Claremont gets to smooth over some rough edges left over from the Silver Age stories, giving Scott and Jean's relationship a proper beginning in the process, and we get to see both some of the significant and sillier moments from the X-Men's past rendered by Byrne and Austin, often recreating specific panels or covers (I particularly enjoy the way they manage to make the male X-Men look less dorky in the stuffy suit-and-tie combos the Silver Age artists insisted on putting them in whenever the X-Men went out).


Bookending this retrospective is Jean's funeral and panels which reintroduce Kitty Pryde, a sequence which positions her as the spiritual successor to Jean Grey. Kitty arrives at the mansion just as Jean's funeral comes to a close, buoyed there by taxi, just as Jean was in issue #1. As result, Kitty will for some time exist as a character in comparison to Jean Grey. The message from the departure of Scott and Jean and the arrival of Kitty in this issue is clear: from old life comes new, and no matter how painful it may be, life goes on.

Next Issue: Phoenix: The Untold Story
We jump ahead in time a bit and wrap up "The Dark Phoenix Saga" with a look at what could have been.

17 comments:

  1. I reread this the other night; to me still just as powerful as the previous issue. I can’t understand why this isn’t included in Dark Phoenix trades? This was my 2nd issue, and my favorite character (Cyclops) is leaving! Being a newcomer this issue was an invaluable reference for X-men history, remember this was before the internet and trades, my town wouldn’t get a comic shop for nearly a decade and the new X-Men reprint book (X-Men Classics?) was a long way off. Having said that, the early Lee-Kirby stories were being reprinted in Amazing Adventures at this time (with the occasionally Byrne cover) and I ate those up. Imagine two X-Men titles a month! The Byrne/Austin art on the funeral scenes were/are amazing, that splash page…

    The most significant of these is an expansion of the moonlit stroll Scott and Jean took in issue #32, considered the beginning of their romantic relationship.

    I later got a reprint copy, and combed through it looking for that scene, thinking “Am I missing a page?”

    claremont gets to smooth over some rough edges left over from the Silver Age stories

    At times Scott’s narration in context with the (funeral) setting gets pretty close to parody “when we faced off against Paste-Pot Pete, I thought I’d lose Jean forever”, kind of stuff.

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  2. @Chris: I can’t understand why this isn’t included in Dark Phoenix trades?

    Me neither. That's always seemed odd to me (you'll notice I've tagged this issue as part of "The Dark Phoenix Saga" as well). Though the most recent 30th anniversary hardcover does include it, along with the Untold Story and some What If...s.

    Being a newcomer this issue was an invaluable reference for X-men history

    Heck, I first read this issue as a Classic X-Men reprint, and all the Silver Age stuff was new to me. I hadn't yet found the Amazing Adventures reprints, and it would be years before I'd read some of the stuff Claremont and Byrne reference here for the first time.

    Imagine two X-Men titles a month!

    Ha!

    I later got a reprint copy, and combed through it looking for that scene, thinking “Am I missing a page?”

    The original scene is very, very underwhelming. You only realize it's significance retroactively.

    At times Scott’s narration in context with the (funeral) setting gets pretty close to parody “when we faced off against Paste-Pot Pete, I thought I’d lose Jean forever”, kind of stuff.

    There are definitely some moments where I think you can see Claremont shaking his head and chuckling at some of the Silver Age silliness. Or, at the very least, with his tongue firmly in cheek.

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  3. "the school's newest student: Kitty Pryde."

    newest = only?

    "as being born in 1956 would mean she was seven when she joined the X-Men in 1963"

    Professor X's crush on her is even creepier!

    "a 3D hologram of Jean and make the holder feel the essence of her personality."

    I dunno, I feel like losing a loved one but then feeling their presence through an object would make things even harder. But what do I know on the subject?

    "If anybody should feel a sense of responsibility for what's happened it's him because he was off screwing with Lilandra when he could have prevented this."

    When I firt read this quote I skipped over the word "with." I liked it better that way.

    "She made this noble sacrifice and then Chris kept referring to it every chance he got for the next ten years, so people were unable to forget how important it was."

    Is it possible for Byrne not to sound like a dick? I also like how he says this story ruined comics...which is just odd.

    He called it the first "event." I kind of disagree in that. When I think of "events" in comics I generally think of crossovers that effect the entire Marvel (or DC or...) universe (within the comics).

    It certainly is a pivotal moment for X-Men, but it had little in-story affects for the other titles.

    There's nothing wrong with striving for moments like these, it's just these days they strive for them too often. They need to be few and far between for greater impact.

    Overall I would normally be annoyed by a "clip show" issue. (Much like I am when TV shows do it.) But considering the timing of the issue, the fact that it added new content, the fact that it came at a time where it was nigh impossible to get caught up on back issues and having it function to smooth some of the rougher edges of the silver age stories, I guess I'll allow it. (But I won't stand for any nonsense.)

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  4. you know, I understand that Kurt swore off using his image thingy, but really, the funeral of a friend is probably a time when you can and maybe should, go back on that vow.

    Also, I don't know how I feel about the whole "after this everyone tried to write events" quote. I mean, shouldn't all story lines have a climax at some point? Otherwise we're just reading day to day interactions that don't really go anywhere or have any world and character changing moments. And if the characters don't change and grow, then what's the point?
    I mean, I understand that he's saying after this everyone tried to make their events be the event that would sell a lot of copies, and that's fine, but you can't blame the nature of serial story telling on that the destruction of the industry. There'd better be giant events every now and then, otherwise what's the point?

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  5. @Dr. Bitz: newest = only?

    Pretty much, yeah, at this point.

    Professor X's crush on her is even creepier!

    Shh! We're not supposed to talk about that!

    I feel like losing a loved one but then feeling their presence through an object would make things even harder.

    Now that you mention it, it does kinda seem like a dick move. "Here's a vivid reminder of just who you'll never get to see again..."

    When I firt read this quote I skipped over the word "with." I liked it better that way.

    Ditto, on both counts.

    When I think of "events" in comics I generally think of crossovers that effect the entire Marvel (or DC or...) universe (within the comics).

    Yeah, I definitely think he's misusing the term event here. While it's certainly true that later creators tried to do the next "Dark Phoenix", that's not quite the same as Marvel realizing "hey, we could probably get people to buy shit tons more comics if we have all the characters cross over with each other".

    And trying to replicate "Dark Phoenix" by crafting a well told story with lasting consequences for the characters isn't, in my opinion, a bad thing.

    I guess I'll allow it. (But I won't stand for any nonsense.)

    Heh heh heh. That comment made me chuckle to myself while chewing on a piece of hay...

    @Sarah: I understand that Kurt swore off using his image thingy, but really, the funeral of a friend is probably a time when you can and maybe should, go back on that vow.

    Indeed. And I'm still not quite sure who he's hiding from.

    I mean, I understand that he's saying after this everyone tried to make their events be the event that would sell a lot of copies, and that's fine, but you can't blame the nature of serial story telling on that the destruction of the industry. There'd better be giant events every now and then, otherwise what's the point?

    I think he might be conflating editorial reaction with creator reaction. I'm mean, I'm sure editorial saw the numbers and said, "write more stories like that if they're going to sell 175,000 copies!" but creators were more like, "I want to write meaningful, impactful stories like that".

    If the two happened to occur at the same time, so be it, but he makes it sounds like everyone tried to cash in on "Dark Phoenix" by trying to repeat it, but I think there some of those efforts were a genuine attempt to just tell a good story.

    Again, I just don't equate "event" with "Dark Phoenix" in the way he's trying to suggest. I get the idea that "Dark Phoenix" was the pebble that started the avalanche that is modern day event-driven comics, but there's a hell of lot of other rocks in that avalanche too (even assuming you don't think something else started the avalanche first, and "Dark Phoenix" is just another rock in it).

    And yes, serialized storytelling needs to build to a crescendo periodically. Maybe not every friggin' summer, like they do these days, but every once in awhile, it's good (creatively and commercially) to do a big, rollicking event to shake things up, whether that's across one title or several.

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  6. I know nowadays teenagers wear shirts that might read 'slut' or bitch, but was that common back in 1980? I never noticed it until recently but what else could the word be on Kitty's shirt?

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  7. @anonymous: I never noticed it until recently but what else could the word be on Kitty's shirt?

    I wondered that too! I'd never noticed it before either, but I can't think of anything else it could be (witch?). Maybe it's just me, but that does seem odd for the time, nevertheless the character...

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  8. What a great issue! I'm so glad there's nothing on the cover that would trivialize the emotion of the moment.

    I was going to call bullshit on Jean only being 24 — not because she was around as a character in publishing history for longer than that, just because there had to have been enough stuff happening and enough references to the passage of time in continuity to belie that age. But frankly what with the reprint years and the elastic nature of so many continued storylines I'm not sure if it's so silly after all. The past several issues took place in a very short amount of time, on one hand, as did (I think) the Proteus "saga"; on the other hand, as we've discussed before, Claremont added in downtime between panels to balance things out, as in the Savage Land.

    Y'know, I miss X-Men existing in this sort-of dark, insular corner of the Marvel Universe and being able to grok their entire history as encapsulated in this issue. Part of the loss of that is simply the passage of time — of another 30-plus years of storytelling after this, which like a TV soap opera is bound to engage in revelations and retcons that make your head spin — but part of it is also the numerous spinoff series that hasten and compound such intricacies (often, outright contradictions).

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  9. And yes, I'm aware that you young'uns have basically always lived in a world with X-Factor and Mister Sinister and Apocalypse. 8^)

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  10. The bulk of this issue is, essentially, the comic book version of a TV series' clip show

    Except, as you say, with original artwork, which makes a huge difference...

    Cyclops leaves the X-Men, marking the first time the X-Men's roster doesn't include any of the original team members (or Cyclops himself, for that matter).

    Now that I think on that fact, and having read this issue for the first time in quite a while, it's clear that conceptually as well as literally this is the end of a chapter for X-Men. There's another classic story coming up very soon, and Cyclops will [spoiler alert] return, but if the series had ended here it would've been both a high-water mark and a fitting bookend.

    It's sort-of the Buffy Season 5 finale of X-Men (without the series, like, jumping publishers, or actually having had any recent possibility of cancellation).

    Kitty arrives at the mansion just as Jean's funeral comes to a close, buoyed there by taxi, just as Jean was in issue #1.

    I don't think I ever noticed the parallel there until this reading, which I was sure you'd remark on.

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  11. Chris: At times Scott’s narration in context with the (funeral) setting gets pretty close to parody

    Heck, yeah.

    Scott: "[W]e learned that the professor was fine. His injuries -- the loss of his mutant power -- had been a sham, our fight with Magneto a sort of graduation exercise."

    It was then that the first seeds were planted in Scott's brain of an undeniable truth that it would still take the X-Men years to articulate -- and only then thanks to a girl with the unlikely name of Kitty Pryde: Professor Xavier is a jerk.

    Scott: "Yet when we travelled to the Savage Land, a freak prehistoric wilderness hidden in the Antarctic icecap -- and met Ka-Zar for the first time, and I saw Jean about to be sacrificed to a Tyrannosaurus Rex..."

    Zzzzt! One weird thing too far for the nonchalant nature of this monologue!

    Scott: "Looking back on those days, it seems like we were constantly fighting some new mutant menace or super-villain."

    Almost... monthly...

    The dude thinks amazingly linearly, by the way.

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  12. Dr. Bitz: I dunno, I feel like losing a loved one but then feeling their presence through an object would make things even harder.

    I had the same feeling. Sure, it's no turning a houseplant into crystal, but still...

    Falen: I understand that Kurt swore off using his image thingy, but really, the funeral of a friend is probably a time when you can and maybe should

    Especially if the alternative is that you will literally spend the funeral up a tree — and yet still dress completely in black...

    Teebore: While it's certainly true that later creators tried to do the next "Dark Phoenix"...

    As part of my unintentional habit of bringing up classic New Teen Titans every week here, I have to say that exactly such a thing was actually done pretty spectacularly there a few years down the road.

    Teebore: I just don't equate "event" with "Dark Phoenix" in the way he's trying to suggest.

    Maybe he's thinking less of line-wide crossovers in the vein of Secret Wars or Blackest Night* and more the sensationalism of killing of characters as was done with Supergril and Barry Allen (among others) in Crisis, multiple times over the years throughout X-Men, most sensationally (in the bad sense of the word) via the 800 numbers for Jason Todd, and just this year with The Human Torch. Of course, since bringing characters back has become part of the gimmick, Byrne is partly responsible on that score too with the return of Jean Grey; then again, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are really the ones who introduced supposedly permanent deaths to the modern Marvel Universe with the revelation in Avengers #4 that Bucky was killed — and, believe me, that horse was flogged over the years plenty of times.

    *Okay, Blackest Night had the trifecta of being a line-wide event, killing characters, and bringing characters back.

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  13. This issue was my first introduction to virtually every non-Lee / Kirby Silver Age X-Men story. Reading the single-issue summary with art by Byrne and Austen is much more enjoyable. It can be painful to slog through some of the stuff between Lee / Kirby and Thomas / Adams.

    @Blam "I was going to call bullshit on Jean only being 24 — not because she was around as a character in publishing history for longer than that, just because there had to have been enough stuff happening and enough references to the passage of time in continuity to belie that age."

    She was a published character for just 17 years at the release of this issue.

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  14. Michael: She was a published character for just 17 years at the release of this issue.

    You're right; I misphrased that. What I meant was that she was around as a character in publishing history for longer than that age would indicate if real time and in-story time were equivalent, because of course she wasn't 7 years old when she showed up at Xavier's.

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  15. @Blam: Y'know, I miss X-Men existing in this sort-of dark, insular corner of the Marvel Universe and being able to grok their entire history as encapsulated in this issue.

    And yes, I'm aware that you young'uns have basically always lived in a world with X-Factor and Mister Sinister and Apocalypse. 8^)

    Though it's true that I've always lived in a world with X-Factor and the like, and there are things I like about that, there's definitely some charm to the pre-spinoff, pre-sales juggernaut X-Men, when it felt anything could go because no one was quite paying full attention yet to this little band of mutant misfits.

    Heck, I think a lot of the appeal of the Clarement/Byrne run to this day stems from that feeling of going for broke/doing what we want that still permeates their issues (and the Claremont/Cockrum ones).

    but if the series had ended here it would've been both a high-water mark and a fitting bookend.

    It's sort-of the Buffy Season 5 finale of X-Men


    Agreed on both points. The Buffy season five comparison is exactly what it feels like. I remember after watching the finale, pulling out an issue of Entertainment Weekly and double checking the show really was moving to UPN; I imagine, reading this back in the day, I might have felt a similar "there is another issue coming next month, right?" feeling.

    The dude thinks amazingly linearly, by the way.

    Sequentially, even.

    Then again, Cyclops does strike me as the type who would think amazingly linearly. ;)

    yet still dress completely in black...

    I wonder if his suit is tailored to allow for crouching in a tree. Unstable molecules, maybe?

    I have to say that exactly such a thing was actually done pretty spectacularly there a few years down the road.

    Indeed it was, and whether Wolfman and Perez were consciously trying to do the next "Dark Phoenix" or not, it worked, suggesting that, at least sometimes, attempts to emulate "Dark Phoenix" did work and result in good stories.

    I think you're right about how Byrne is using the term event to mean the practice of killing characters to garner attention and acclaim, though I'd still argue there's nothing inherently wrong with killing characters or making a big deal out of it (it should be a big deal), only when that practice gets out of hand or becomes the sole focus of stories.

    It almost seems like Byrne is saying it's all right that he and Claremont killed a character because they didn't want to in the first place, whereas everyone who killed a character after them chose to write their story that way, and thus, it's a lesser story.

    @Michael: Reading the single-issue summary with art by Byrne and Austen is much more enjoyable. It can be painful to slog through some of the stuff between Lee / Kirby and Thomas / Adams.

    Ain't that the truth? Though when reading through it for this series, I was surprised to find some of the Thomas/Roth run fun in a goofy way, with a couple good moments (and some horrible ones) tossed in.

    The really painful stuff was all the flailing about that happened after the Factor Three story ended and before Thomas/Adams kicked off. Other than the Steranko issues, I'd much rather read a Claremont/Byrne panel summarizing those stories than read them again...

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  16. I've always been amused by the "All New!" blurb on the cover... because if you were a kid flipping through the issue and saw a bunch of Silver Age stuff, there probably was an honest chance you might think it was a reprint or something.

    I think most of the comments have covered things I would've said... that's what happens when I show up a day late! But I'll add a few items to the discussion:

    First, I agree with the assessment that the Silver Age part is a lot easier to read than the actual issues it recaps. In fact, because of this issue, and because of the sub-par quality of the few Silver Age issues I've read (aside from Thomas/Adams), I've never even had any interest in going back and reading the original issues.

    "...Jean's sister Sarah's husband makes his first appearance..."

    Interesting that we were just talking about him a couple of weeks ago... and interesting that I still have absolutely no recollection of him even though I've read the Amazing Adventures story.

    Anonymous and Teebore -- Regarding Kitty's shirt, it just happens that someone asked Byrne about this on his forum a few months ago, saying basically the same thing -- did kids really wear shirts like that in 1980? Byrne's typical non-answer was something like, "I never thought they did either until I took a trip to New York." Which seems to be an implied confirmation that yes, her shirt does say BITCH.

    Why he can't just give straight answers is beyond me...

    Blam -- I have no problem with Jean being 24 years old. You obviously have to ignore references to specific dates, like "back when we fought the Sentinels in 1969," but that's just how it is in comics. Iceman was explicitly the youngest X-Man at 16 years old when the team debuted. If Jean was 17 or 18, I can easily see all the events encapsulated in this issue as occurring over the span of six or seven years!

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  17. @Matt: I've always been amused by the "All New!" blurb on the cover

    Yeah, it's more like "All New (except for the pages representing old stories)!" :)

    Byrne's typical non-answer was something like, "I never thought they did either until I took a trip to New York." Which seems to be an implied confirmation that yes, her shirt does say BITCH.

    Huh. Well, that answers that, though I still wonder, even if kids back then were wearing shirts like that, Byrne thought Kitty would wear one.

    I get that I'm imparting decades worth of characterization onto the character that didn't exist when this issue was published, but it still seems like an odd choice.

    Why he can't just give straight answers is beyond me...

    Ha! Yeah, he does seem unnecessarily cagey about things a lot.

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