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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #151

"X-Men Minus One!"
November 1981 

In a Nutshell 
Storm and White Queen swap bodies as Kitty Pryde leaves the school. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Jim Sherman, Bob McLeod, Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Bonnie Wilford
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The X-Men gather in Professor Xavier's study where they are told that Kitty's parents are pulling her out of Xavier's school, wanting her to study with students her own age. Though all the X-Men object, there's nothing they can do about it, and an upset Kitty runs to her room. Storm comforts her, but Kitty tells her that she's being sent to the Massachusetts Academy, the school run by the White Queen. Kitty leaves a week later, Professor X having confirmed that her parents are acting of their own free will, with Storm driving her to the academy. As Kitty receives orientation, Storm is visited by the White Queen and blacks out after a flash of light.


After orientation, Kitty says goodbye to Storm, not realizing that White Queen has placed her mind in Storm's body. Leaving the school, White Queen revels in Storm's power before contacting Sebastian Shaw. At the mansion, Nightcrawler and Amanda Sefton's moonlight stroll is interrupted by a group of Sentinels sent by Shaw. Professor X and Cyclops are knocked out, but the rest of the X-Men manage to destroy the Sentinels just as White Queen in Storm's body arrives and blasts them all with lightening. Back at the Massachusetts Academy, Storm, her mind now in White Queen's body, awakens in a cell beneath the school. She manages to escape and seeks out Kitty for help, but Kitty flees from whom she believes to be the White Queen. Storm, unable to control White Queen's telepathy, accidentally psi-blasts Kitty, and fears she may have killed her.  

Firsts and Other Notables
The Hellfire Club returns, though only Sebastian Shaw, Tessa and Emma Frost, the White Queen, appear in this issue. It is revealed that White Queen, who was presumed dead by the X-Men (and presumably, the readers as well) following issue #131, survived her battle with Phoenix in that issue.


The latest model of Sentinels, designed by Shaw Industries, debut in this issue.


This is also the first appearance of the Massachusetts Academy, the private school run by White Queen. It will eventually become the headquarters of the Hellions, the New Mutants' rivals, and later, the re-located Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, in the pages of Generation X. Emma does a much better job of running her school as a front for her mutant-related activities, as its suggested there are a number of students present, as opposed to the six or so mostly-grown X-Men at Xavier's school. It's also established that Emma owns most of the town/industries surrounding her school.  

Fill-in art comes from Jim Sherman and Bob McLeod; the letters page notes that Dave Cockrum needed a break after issue #150, and is hard at work on issue #153.

A Work in Progress
Kitty Pryde briefly leaves Xavier's school in this story, though she's not considered to have quit the team (the situation is (most likely intentionally) similar to when Jean left the school to attend college in issue #24, but remained a member of the X-Men).

13-year-old Kitty spends the opening pages of this issue running around in a skimpy pink bikini.


Storm has a personal hatred for/revulsion towards White Queen, as a result of the psychic torture she endured at White Queen's hands in issue #131.
 
Amanda Sefton pops up again, and its mentioned that she's not nearly as powerful a sorceress as her mother.


Storm flashes back to a conversation she had with Jean in the latter's apartment, regarding the difficulty of being a telepath. For what it's worth, the Official Index considers that scene to take place between issue #108 and Iron Fist #15.


I Love the 80s
Check out the enormous computer in Kitty's room.


Both Wolverine and White Queen are depicted smoking throughout the issue.


A narrative caption tells us that Storm doesn't want to break her embrace with Kitty when saying goodbye to her...except at this point, that's White Queen's mind in Storm's body, suggesting White Queen is fooling even the narrator...


Claremontisms
Colossus is described as being "nigh-invulnerable" once again, while White Queen-as-Storm realizes that when using Storm's power, she sees the world as patterns of energy.  

The other characters have taken to referring to Amanda Sefton as "'Manda"; Claremont has a predilection for dropping the first letter off characters' names in dialogue.


Nightcrawler displays another clever power usage as he teleports from Sentinel to Sentinel, affixing explosives to their legs. He completes the task in nine seconds, having set the detonators for ten. 


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
Draw a line in the sand: Professor X claims that while he may have done so in the past, he is no longer comfortable using his power to manipulate people's minds.


Young Love
Kitty and Peter kiss for the first time in this issue.


Teebore's Take
In this issue, Claremont continues, after bringing back Magneto in issue #150 and Sauron in Marvel Fanfare, with what has become a sort of "greatest hits" tour, kicking off a two part story that sees the return of both the Hellfire Club and the Sentinels. Unfortunately, their return is less than triumphant. Considering the last appearance of the two villainous groups were in "The Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past", two the most seminal stories in X-Men history, any return engagement was likely to suffer by comparison, but even ignoring any comparisons between those stories and this one does little to improve it. A by-the-numbers plot involving a very Silver Age-y mind swapping device receives little help from lackluster art by the three artists working on this issue. This isn't an awful story; rather, it's a perfectly average one. Kitty's departure leads to some nice character moments between her and the rest of the team, and the fight with the Sentinels is exciting, even if the art doesn't make it as exciting as it could be. But "average" isn't good enough for a story featuring the return of two of the book's most significant villains, making the whole thing seem less than it deserves.   

Next Issue
Storm is trapped in the White Queen's body, the X-Men are trapped by the Hellfire Club. How will they ever get out of this one? The resolution will make you go, "alright then".

15 comments:

Sarah Ahiers said...

How old is Piotr at this point in the comics? Because i'm kind of skeeved out by that kiss between him and 13 yo kitty.

Also this: The resolution will make you go, "alright then".

Made me LOL

Teebore said...

@Sarah: How old is Piotr at this point in the comics?

Eighteen-ish. So you're right to feel skeevy, but it's not as skeevy as it could be, I suppose.

Made me LOL

Thanks. Let me know next week if I was right. :)

Matt said...

I have a love/hate relationship with this story. As with the Dr. Doom/Arcade story and with issue #150, I like that it's kind of a throwback-type tale, because Claremont doesn't really do too many more like it. But on the other hand, it's just not a very engrossing story. There are some good character bits, but the whole thing could probably be skipped over and you wouldn't really feel like you missed anything.

Also, I agree -- the return of the Hellfire Club is sadly lackluster here. And overtly attacking the X-Men at their headquarters with Sentinels just doesn't strike me as their style. That's a Masters of Evil or Frightful Four type move. Previously and subsequently the Inner Circle is depicted as a manupulative group of behind-the-scenes schemers. Here, they come across as a group of generic super-villains.

Sarah -- a few issues from now, during the Brood saga, Colossus is described in narration as being eighteen years old. So, yeah...

"The Hellfire Club returns, though only Sebastian Shaw, Tessa and Emma Frost, the White Queen, appear in this issue."

Some deep cover mole Tessa is! She couldn't have warned Xavier about the impending attack?

(Yes, I find her true allegiance to be an awful, awful retcon.)

"Fill-in art comes from Jim Sherman and Bob McLeod..."

They do a decent job, but I don't think this is either's finest work. I love McLeod's Professor X, though. And I've always liked the shot of Cyclops on the splash page.

"13-year-old Kitty spends the opening pages of this issue running around in a skimpy pink bikini."

I know Jason brought this up a lot in his reviews, too, and it got me thinking... as we've discussed before, a lot of young male readers apparently had crushes on Kitty. Was this a way to "sex her up" for them? It seems kind of creepy seeing it as an adult, but if you were in the 10-12 target age range, you probably liked it.

"White Queen is fooling even the narrator..."

I've somehow never noticed that. Funny!

Matt said...

"The other characters have taken to referring to Amanda Sefton as "'Manda"; Claremont has a predilection for dropping the first letter off characters' names in dialogue.

Forgot to comment on this -- one of my pet peeves with Claremont's scripting is when he has multiple characters all adopt the same affectation. It reads less like individual people speaking, and more like one person speaking through multiple mouths. He's not as bad as Bendis, but it does happen often.

My (least) favorite example is during the upcoming Brood epic, where every character eventually starts referring to the Brood and their home planet using Wolverine's nicknames, "Sleazoids" and "Sleazeworld"! It almost takes me out of the story when Cyclops says it -- and when the omniscient narration uses the terms, it's just ridiculous.

Blam said...


That is some maddeningly inconsistent art.

13-year-old Kitty spends the opening pages of this issue running around in a skimpy pink bikini.

Yeah. Also, she curls up in bed dressed that way, until dark, which even if the bikini wasn't wet would not be comfortable. So, in conclusion, I proclaim Inappropriate Cheesecake.

Amanda Sefton pops up again, and its mentioned that she's not nearly as powerful a sorceress as her mother.

"But she's a modern working woman as well -- a senior flight attendant for TWA." [actual caption quote]

Check out the enormous computer in Kitty's room.

To be fair I assumed that it was for strategic X-Men stuff, which is less "UNIVAC will have those numbers multiplied for you in a couple of minutes" than "nice job with the secret headquarters, Xavier" — although, yeah, it can probably do less than an iPod. On the other hand: The Rolls has a cordless mobile phone!

...except at this point, that's White Queen's mind in Storm's body, suggesting White Queen is fooling even the narrator...

Maybe the narrator has short-term memory, and that's why it's constantly reminding us of everyone's powers.

In other missed communication, Harvey and Janet have changed into traditional Hellfire Club Flunky suits (with a bonus weird ponytailed wig for Janet) between Ororo-as-Emma's scream and her escape attempt.

Professor X claims that while he may have done so in the past, he is no longer comfortable using his power to manipulate people's minds.

So he'd work over the Prydes' noggins to get Kitty out to Westchester in the first place, but not to keep her from transferring to Emma Frost's school.

@Matt — I... I had no forewarning that your comment would be in more than one part.

Yeah, Nightcrawler saying calling her 'Manda is just a precious affectation, but everyone doing it does make the dialogue not only run together but, more distractingly, run together in a particular flowery way. During the Marvel Fanfare story, Wolverine and Ka-Zar both called Angel "flyboy" (before Ka-Zar interacted at all with the other X-Men). And there are recurring speech patterns, too, which I think we've discussed before.

Teebore said...

@Matt: There are some good character bits, but the whole thing could probably be skipped over and you wouldn't really feel like you missed anything.

Yeah, this story does feel very inconsequential. I frankly tend to forget about it when recalling this era, jumping in my head from #150 to "Kitty's Fairy Tale".

And overtly attacking the X-Men at their headquarters with Sentinels just doesn't strike me as their style.

That's a great point, and this frontal attack remains an anomaly; they never really try it again.

(Yes, I find her true allegiance to be an awful, awful retcon.)

The only reason I'm not more bothered by it is that my annoyance is way overshadowed by how much of a Mary Sue she became for Claremont after the retcon.

And I've always liked the shot of Cyclops on the splash page.

Maybe it's my Cyclops love at work, but that's probably my favorite image in this issue.

I do not like this art at all. I mean, it's serviceable but so completely boring. And the woman who greets Storm and Kitty when they arrive at the Massachusetts Academy is perhaps one of the ugliest bits of comic book art I've ever seen. I meant to point it out in the post.

It seems kind of creepy seeing it as an adult, but if you were in the 10-12 target age range, you probably liked it.

Oh, I'm sure people in that target age LOVED it. And while this wouldn't bother a 13-year-old, part of the reason it seems skeevy now is that she's running around in a bikini amongst full grown adults. If she was hanging out with some teenagers at the pool, it would only be skeevy because we are (now) much older than the character.

As it is, it doesn't quite sit right that they're sexing up this teenage girl while she's hanging out with grown men.

It reads less like individual people speaking, and more like one person speaking through multiple mouths.

Most of Claremont's tics don't bother me, and some I even find endearing (like the phrase "nigh-invulnerable"), but that one does, simply because, as you say, it makes the characters inauthentic.

It almost takes me out of the story when Cyclops says it -- and when the omniscient narration uses the terms, it's just ridiculous.

I don't mind when the characters - even Cyclops - use that nickname, but yeah, when the captions start using it, it bugs the hell out of me. I feel like the narration, at least as it's used in these issues, needs to be more omniscient, and adopting a character's nickname for something seems too personal in these days before the time when first person captions replaced thought bubbles.

@Blam: "But she's a modern working woman as well -- a senior flight attendant for TWA."

That almost made "I Love the 80s". Really, it should have...

On the other hand: The Rolls has a cordless mobile phone!

Another missed "I Love the 80s" moment...

Maybe the narrator has short-term memory, and that's why it's constantly reminding us of everyone's powers.

Ha! That's No-Prize worthy, right there.

So he'd work over the Prydes' noggins to get Kitty out to Westchester in the first place, but not to keep her from transferring to Emma Frost's school.

Not that I disagree that the Professor X of that time wouldn't do so, but I believe it was Phoenix who meddled with the Prydes' minds back in #131, which unsettled both Cyclops and Storm.

Blam said...


Not that I disagree that the Professor X of that time wouldn't do so, but I believe it was Phoenix who meddled with the Prydes' minds back in #131, which unsettled both Cyclops and Storm.

You're totally right. I can picture Professor X's surprise at Carmen Pryde's sudden, welcoming change of heart.

Matt said...

Blam -- "I... I had no forewarning that your comment would be in more than one part."

Apologies! It was originally solicited as a single-post comment, but got changed after the fact.

Jason said...

""White Queen is fooling even the narrator..."

I've somehow never noticed that. Funny! "

I mentioned it in my review four years ago ...

... How quickly my work is forgotten. :(

Teebore said...

@Jason: ... How quickly my work is forgotten. :(

Don't worry Jason, I'm doing my best to make sure your work is never forgotten. :)

Dr. Bitz said...

So Professor X allows Kitty to go to a school headed by the White Queen simply because her parents are acting of their own free will?

Teebore, if I was going to step on a bear trap, even if I'm doing it of my own free will, I'd hope you stop me from doing so.

Matt said...

Jason -- Sorry! If you mentioned it, I obviously read it... though in my defense, I read the first half of your reviews two or more years ago...

Anonymous said...

The only good thing I can say for these two issues is that if they were turned into an episode of a live-action X-Men hourlong TV show, they'd give the actresses playing Storm and Emma a great opportunity to stretch by playing each other, "Face/Off" style.

Also, Emma in Storm's body in a white leather corset next issue did waaay more for me than Kitty in a bikini. (And for Shaw as well, but more on that next time...)

--mortsleam

Jason said...

"Also, Emma in Storm's body in a white leather corset next issue did waaay more for me than Kitty in a bikini. (And for Shaw as well, but more on that next time...)"

I theorized in my own review of the issue that this was the only reason the Hellfire Club did the body-switch thing was so that Shaw and Emma could spice up their sex life.

Teebore said...

@Dr. Bitz: Teebore, if I was going to step on a bear trap, even if I'm doing it of my own free will, I'd hope you stop me from doing so.


Sorry, no dice. Who am I to tell you what to do?

@mortsleam: The only good thing I can say for these two issues is that if they were turned into an episode of a live-action X-Men hourlong TV show, they'd give the actresses playing Storm and Emma a great opportunity to stretch by playing each other, "Face/Off" style.

I think Jason mentions it in his review, but yeah, the whole "switching minds/Face Off" thing really only works in TV/movies, where the fun is in seeing the actors play slightly different versions of their characters.

Also, Emma in Storm's body in a white leather corset next issue did waaay more for me than Kitty in a bikini.

Indeed.