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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #162

"Beyond the Farthest Star"
October 1982 

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine fights the Brood solo.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Dave Cockrum
Inks: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Wolverine, bloody and alone, races through an alien landscape. He's attacked by a plant which sprays him with hallucinogenic gas. He imagines himself horseback riding in Japan with Mariko before they are attacked by two Brood warriors. Coming to his senses, he realizes the Brood are real. He fights them off, but gets ensnared in a massive web. As his body is wracked by sudden, tremendous pain, he remembers the party Lilandra had thrown for the X-Men aboard her ship, and being knocked unconscious by the Brood. When he awoke, he was somewhere else, surrounded by the Brood, but the X-Men weren't aware of them, trapped in an illusion. His intellect and his senses in conflict, Wolverine alternately accepted the peaceful scene along with the X-Men and reacted with horror as he and his teammates were seemingly attacked by the Brood.


Awakened by the memory, Wolverine frees himself from the web. He then recalls the previous night, coming to in what he believed to be Lilandra's palace but which he quickly realized was the Brood homeworld. Unable to snap Storm out of the illusion, he crept out of the palace. Wolverine watched as the Imperial Guardsmen Fang transformed into a Brood when the egg implanted inside him hatched, and Wolverine realized the X-Men were facing the same fate. Snapping out of his reverie, Wolverine is attacked by a cadre of Brood. Flying into a berserker rage, he fights them all off, but then his body is overcome by pain, and he realizes the egg inside him is trying to hatch. The process slowed by his adamantium bones, his healing ability is able to finally overcome the egg, treating it like a virus. The next morning, Wolverine awakens from the ordeal and declares that he will find his friends, and if they can't be cured, he'll kill them all.  

Firsts and Other Notables
In response to his growing popularity and as a companion to his first limited series (on sale at the same time), this issue marks the first time Wolverine receives the spotlight in X-Men for the duration of the issue. More on that below.   

Wolverine refers to the Brood as sleazoids for the first time in this issue, a nickname which will be (somewhat irritatingly) picked up by the other members of the team in due time and used synonymously with "Brood" for the name of the alien race.  

Imperial Guard member Fang (whose costume Wolverine once stole in issue #107) is transformed into a Brood in this issue, showing us for the first time exactly how the Brood work: implant an egg within a host, and when the egg hatches, the host is physically and mentally transformed into a Brood with all the memories and skills of the host.


The body of the Acanti alien (still unnamed) that comprises a fantastic two page spread in this issue will feature in the resolution to this story a few issues down the road.  


A Work in Progress
In the flashback to the events leading up to the Brood attack last issue, Colossus is seen worrying about llyana.


In that flashback, Storm is also ruminating on the events of issue #160, and her Limbo counterpart who displayed an aptitude for sorcery.


During the "implantation" flashback, which is presented via the illusion the Brood are using to placate the X-Men during the process, it is noted that Carol Danvers is separated from the X-Men.


Wolverine refers to Lilandra as "Lil" throughout this issue, a nickname I don't believe is ever used again.

Claremontisms
It's noted that of all the X-Men, aside from Wolverine (whose mutant powers gives him an edge), Kitty is the only other person who senses a wrongness in the Brood's illusion and momentarily fights against being implanted with a Brood egg. Though she ultimately gives in, it's another indication of Kitty's increasing "Mary Sue" qualities.


Artistic Achievements
In addition to the great two page spread above, Cockrum turns in fantastic one page spread of Wolverine in all his berserker glory.


Young Love
Wolverine hallucinates spending time with Mariko.


The Best There Is At What He Does  
Though coined in the first issue of the Wolverine limited series that hit stands the previous month, Wolverine's famous catchphrase, "I'm the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn't very nice" is used in X-Men for the first time in this issue.


Wolverine notes that he considers Japan a second home to him.


On his way out of the Brood palace, Wolverine stops to try and wake Kitty, a further indication of the bond developing between them.


Wolverine's adamantium bones prevent his body from transforming when his Brood egg hatches, and serve as an anchor for his healing factor, allowing it to purge the egg like an infection.


For Sale
The back cover features an add for the Empire Strikes Back Atari game, one of the first video games to be advertised in X-Men.


It's in the Mail
Cockrum's departure from the title, as of issue #164, is announced via the response to a letter. He is said to be leaving to work on an original concept called the Mysterians (which will eventually be published in Marvel Graphic Novel #9 under the name The Futurians, before Cockrum takes the concept to independent publisher Lodestone Comics, where only three issues of a series would be published). I've never read it, but it sounds like it could be kinda fun. 

Several letters in this issue react to Colossus' apparent death at the end of issue #155 in a manner which suggests at least some readers genuinely thought Colossus had died and wouldn't turn up alive in the next issue.


Finally, there's a letter discussing Cyclops' age, which serves as a nice snapshot of the issue with the passage of time in comics.


Teebore's Take
Following last issue's cliffhanger, Claremont and Cockrum dive right back into the Brood story with gusto. In some ways, this is the most modern, forward-looking issue of X-Men yet. In addition to being the first issue to spotlight Wolverine (setting the stage for countless more Wolverine spotlight issues, guest appearances and ongoing series), Claremont presents the entire issue from Wolverine's perspective, writing narrative captions in the character's voice, rather than the voice of an omnipresent narrator. While that trick had been done before (most notably in Wolverine's limited series), rarely had it been employed on such a scale in X-Men as in this issue. Nowadays, the first person narrative caption is the dominant technique used in comics to get inside a character's head, having all but replaced the more traditional thought bubble in most modern comics.

As a result, this issue likely succeeds or fails depending on your appreciation/tolerance for Wolverine. With the character's popularity on the rise, this was likely exactly what many fans at the time wanted to see: a chance for a fan favorite to cut loose on his own for the first time. For modern readers, reading it in an era over-saturated with Wolverine appearances, it is likely a lot more tedious. The narrative captions, groundbreaking at the time and likely captivating for the first time audience, are filled with the kind of tough talk that has become old hat (even cliche, in some cases) for readers of Wolverine's adventures by now. The art brings a lot of energy to the issue, though Cockrum's knack for the fantastic (along with some especially bright colors) doesn't give the alien jungle the savage sci-fi edge the narration suggests, and the story needs, to sell Wolverine's peril.

Through no fault of its own, this is an issue that, while groundbreaking, hasn't aged well, as the ground it broke has become more and more well trod. It still manages to tell an intense story that returns the Brood saga to the foreground of the book in a unique and compelling way (even the flashbacks we see bridging the gap between last issue and the opening 'in media res' pages of this issue are false; at no point in the story do we ever see the actual implantation of the X-Men, Claremont wisely leaving that horror to the readers' imaginations), but with the law of diminishing returns having kicked in, it's tough to get too excited about it on a revisit.      

Next Issue
The X-Men make a daring escape from the Brood. 

And then, next Thursday, we'll look at Marvel Graphic Novel #4, the first appearance of the New Mutants!

25 comments:

  1. I've been waiting for you to review this issue as this was the first X-Men comic that I ever read and wanted to get your take on it.

    I haven't gone back to it in years, but through your review it seems like a difficult issue to grasp what the book was really about. I can't recall what my exact thoughts were at the time, I was about eight or so, but I'm pretty sure that I was confused.

    "There are a lot of people in the corner box, but the story is about one guy. Weird."

    Anyway, I was glad that I stuck with the book.

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  2. @Byron: "There are a lot of people in the corner box, but the story is about one guy. Weird."

    Ha! Yeah, this would definitely be an especially weird issue to pick up as your first. Perhaps even the most new reader unfriendly issue yet - aside from Wolverine, Claremont completely avoids all the exposition about the characters and their powers that was supposed to be in every issue (his argument, of course, most likely being that Storm, Kitty et al were barely in the story, but still, they were there, however briefly).

    I suppose it goes to show that sometimes even seemingly off putting, impenetrable stuff can still capture a reader's attention and get them to come back for more.

    My very first issues of X-Men were #290 and (vol. 2)#8, two issues which, amongst other things, featured Forge debating leaving the X-Men to be with a crazy Mystique (who had gone crazy in another, footnoted title) and some guy named Bishop fighting some guy named Gambit before Gambit's apparent wife showed up. Needless to say, none of that made a lick of sense or looked anything like what little I knew of the X-Men from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, "Pryde of the X-Men", and Marvel trading cards, but the not knowing is part of what made me stick around - so I could find out what the hell WAS going on.

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  3. My first issue of X-Men was (vol. 2) #1. I think I was 9 when it came out. It's crazy to think I started on Claremont's last story and one that references a TON of past issues, but I loved it. Finding those old issues later on was a lot of fun. It's still my favorite X-Men story because I remember just how much it blew me away as kid. Also, the "Blue" team was ridiculously stacked with popular characters at the time. Jim Lee must have gotten first dibs on everyone when the teams were picked.

    What's funny is I had X-Men #1-7 and 10-11 but never got that Ghost Rider crossover you mentioned until just a few years ago. I actually like the Lee issues after Claremont leaves because they aren't a million miles removed from what was happening in Claremont's last Uncanny issues, which might be because Lee was plotting those more than people knew at the time. I'm not a fan of the Lobdell Uncanny issues, though.

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  4. Now that's in medias mes.

    I like the Cockrum/Wiacek combo much better this issue. Great art, great comics, on the opening sequence, especially that double-page spread!

    Maybe because I haven't re-read this era in so long and because I'm not oversaturated on Wolverine except by osmosis due to not reading much of more recent eras (and because I have such nostalgia for this era as well) I'm quite forgiving of any ways in which the story is either old-fashioned or Logan-cliché. Honestly, I was impressed by it.

    Wolverine: "Look. Eagles -- heading our way. ... Somethin' about 'em doesn't feel quite kosher."

    They're carrying BLTs? 8^)

    Huntmaster: "The way is open, novice, Wolverine's trail easy to follow. You may do so if you wish. We will convey our condolences to your progeny."

    So the Brood aren't just a race of ruthless homicidal insectoid parasites with advanced intelligence — they're sarcastic ruthless homicidal insectoid parasites with advanced intelligence.

    If the X-Men were hit with a "stasis bomb" why are they flying around the room?

    Yay! We got a glancing comment about Wolverine understanding the Brood's language and being surprised at it. I figger it's cause o' the queen inside of him, although he doesn't quite come out and say as much.

    The fact that this is totally a Wolverine issue, as you say, with the other X-Men only appearing in flashback and most of the action taking place in the present, felt novel to me even in retrospect. It has a great but weird structure, us being with Wolverine away from the bulk of the cast yet exactly where the "camera"/narrative needs to be to fill us in on what's happening and ready to charge back into the plot when returning to the cast at large.

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  6. @Byron: "There are a lot of people in the corner box, but the story is about one guy. Weird."

    Ha! I can totally see that response, and now I'm trying to think of series or features that I might have come to under similarly "false pretenses".

    What's the deal with the phrase "false pretenses" anyway? I never realized this before, but it's either redundant or a kind of double-negative. All pretenses are false; it's what makes them pretenses.



    @Byron: Anyway, I was glad that I stuck with the book.

    I'm sure you were.

    @Teebore: Claremont completely avoids all the exposition about the characters and their powers that was supposed to be in every issue

    And they're only even in their regular costumes, including Wolverine, in that group-shot corner box. The party has them in fancy Shi'ar couture.

    Good point about the avoidance of the other characters' powers... Since that does happen with Wolverine — not just explanation of his abilities, but the use of his trademark phrase (which is going to make "her power is a song within her" look like a deep album cut) — I guess it just didn't feel necessary with the rest of the X-Men sidelined narratively, and honestly it isn't; knowing what they do or what they're like isn't required here.

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  7. Wolverine a blank slate? Fresh and interesting dialogue? A mysterious and secretive character that you learned about a little at a time and that had no more of a "mysterious past" than the other members of the new team? Sounds like lightning in a bottle. Wish I could have been there at the time!

    @Teebore

    [i]My very first issues of X-Men were #290 and (vol. 2)#8, two issues which, amongst other things, featured Forge debating leaving the X-Men to be with a crazy Mystique (who had gone crazy in another, footnoted title) and some guy named Bishop fighting some guy named Gambit before Gambit's apparent wife showed up. Needless to say, none of that made a lick of sense or looked anything like what little I knew of the X-Men from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, "Pryde of the X-Men", and Marvel trading cards, but the not knowing is part of what made me stick around - so I could find out what the hell WAS going on.[/i]

    Yikes. With the exception of the odd 80's book, I didn't really get into X-men until #281, so I feel your pain. I remember how exciting I thought that issue was (and it was, in a lot of ways) but things got weird very quickly. I still enjoy those early Bishop appearances, though. So much potential there, too bad it never kept the momentum beyond his first year.

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  8. @Blam: ...they're sarcastic ruthless homicidal insectoid parasites with advanced intelligence.

    Good point. While the likelihood of an entirely silent Claremont villain seems silly, I do appreciate that Claremont gives the Brood some personality, even amongst the one off drones and whatnot.

    Yay! We got a glancing comment about Wolverine understanding the Brood's language and being surprised at it. I figger it's cause o' the queen inside of him, although he doesn't quite come out and say as much.

    Ah, I meant to point that out, thanks. I've always assumed it's the Brood egg as well, and I rather like that it stays understated. There's a lot about this issue that's understated actually, and it's one of the things I really like about it.

    It has a great but weird structure, us being with Wolverine away from the bulk of the cast yet exactly where the "camera"/narrative needs to be to fill us in on what's happening

    Yeah, I probably should have made it more clear, but I do really like the structure of this issue: the multiple flashbacks inter-cutting Wolverine's almost-constant motion, the fact that we only ever see the illusion, not the reality of the Brood implantation, and for all the potential of Wolverine oversaturation affecting the issue in retrospect, it's solo focus definitely is novel, even just in the context of the issues around it.

    I guess it just didn't feel necessary with the rest of the X-Men sidelined narratively, and honestly it isn't; knowing what they do or what they're like isn't required here.

    To be clear, I don't think it's necessary here either, but that doesn't mean I'm not surprised that Shooter didn't think it was necessary and let Claremont off the hook. :)

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  9. @Jeff: Jim Lee must have gotten first dibs on everyone when the teams were picked.

    No kidding. It's almost ridiculous how unbalanced the two teams were in the blue/gold era.

    I actually like the Lee issues after Claremont leaves because they aren't a million miles removed from what was happening in Claremont's last Uncanny issues, which might be because Lee was plotting those more than people knew at the time. I'm not a fan of the Lobdell Uncanny issues, though.

    Yeah, the post-Claremont vol. 2 stuff, at least until Lee leaves, was pretty good. The Wolverine arc picked up on some lingering threads, the Ghost Rider crossover was a better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be crossover between two of Marvel's big properties, and the Longshot story was kind of fun. Not groundbreaking stuff, but enjoyable, and like you said, not too far removed from what Claremont and Lee had been doing in Uncanny previously.

    Whereas I don't really start to enjoy the post-Claremont Uncanny until "X-Cutioner's Song". The Bishop stuff is fine, if tedious, but then there's that awful alternate dimension story with Mikhail, and then some hit-and-miss character driven issues that at least have some good stuff in them.

    @Dan: I still enjoy those early Bishop appearances, though. So much potential there, too bad it never kept the momentum beyond his first year.

    I was (and remain) a sucker for time travel stories, so I always had a soft spot for Bishop, product of the 90s that he was, at least in that first year or so. The whole "who was the Witness/who was the X-traitor" thing was one of those plots I fanboyishly obsessed over back in the day.

    But like you said, they pretty much lost all momentum to his story in the course of the yearly events, and he quickly became an afterthought. They got some mileage out of his role in "Age of Apocalypse" but then "Onslaught" came along, we learned who the X-traitor was, and Bishop went from "afterthought" to "pointless". The District X/cop angle was an interesting one, but Bishop just never recovered from "Onslaught". I never liked the heel turn they gave him in "Messiah Complex" (felt too extremely out of character), but it's probably for the best that he's gone (for now).

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  10. Hope I'm not getting us too off topic from the main issue.

    @Teebore: The whole "who was the Witness/who was the X-traitor" thing was one of those plots I fanboyishly obsessed over back in the day.

    The traitor thing was of course the main hook, but I revisited a large block of those post 281 issues a couple of years back and was amazed at just how well Bishop was introduced and how naturally his evolution played out. His fight with the X-Men upon arrival was kind of silly, but once Malcolm and Randall were gone and he started to settle in with the X-Men he really started to become interesting. He was like a POV character for the reader, while the X-Men could also be seen as filling the same role in terms of Bishop's world. The "man from the future who doesn't understand present day society and customs" thing was probably a cliche even then, but little touches, such as Bishop endangering civilians because he was used to them just staying out of his way in his time were nice touches. Storm was tough with him but also more patient than the rest of the team, and as the issues went on he really started to understand what she was trying to tell him about killing and recklessness and he started to move on from violent thug to quiet observer. Over the years we'd get occasional token "I'm from the future and don't understand random household objects" lines, but for the most part, he kind of stopped growing as a character after that first bit. I'm not saying it's a perfect run, but I think it was a very well done introduction of a new character, which is impressive considering how late in the game he was introduced.

    You're right, though, after his first year or so he was finished. AoA had a large role for him, but it never seemed like a natural one. I get it, he was a man out of time once again, but he was essentially a convenient plot device and the entire thing had little to do with Bishop as a character. It might have been nice to know what he was doing in AoA for twenty years (I'm not sure anyone ever wrote that story, oddly enough). I think he was basically irrelevant before Onslaught even happened. That story gave him a quick shot in the arm, but the outright lameness of the traitor reveal sucked the life right back out of it. Then they started hooking him up with Deathbird, sending him to space and then the timestream, making him a cop, siding him with Sentinal Squad ONE, turning him into a villain who was ten times the lunatic he ever was... man, they really had no idea what to do with him, did they? He's probably better off wherever he is now.

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  11. @Teebore: I never liked the heel turn they gave him in "Messiah Complex"

    I didn't mind the fact that they gave him a heel turn, but I thought having it be because of a world-changing event in his future that he just happened to never mention before was pretty lame.

    @Dan Lichtenberg: AoA had a large role for him, but it never seemed like a natural one.

    I have to agree with you on this one. I still really love AoA but they really should have replaced Bishop with Cable. He's a time-traveler like Bishop and also APOCALYPSE IS HIS ARCHENEMY. Seems like he would have fit the story much better. Either way, though, I still love it.

    (Sorry to keep us off topic, but I figure we won't get around to discussing this stuff for years anyway.)

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  12. @Jeff: I still really love AoA but they really should have replaced Bishop with Cable. He's a time-traveler like Bishop and also APOCALYPSE IS HIS ARCHENEMY

    Makes sense to me. Cable would have been available, right? I remember his book crossing over with Legion Quest in a strange way, but now I can't remember what role he played in the whole thing. I think that was the issue where Legion seduces his mother. That one.

    Plus, it would have cleaned up one tiny little plot hole that always bothered me. As it stands, Bishop is from the far future, yet apparently he's also the savior of all reality since he happened to be in the right place at the right time for AoA. The question is, of course, who saved reality the first time through in the timeline that lead up to his? Remember, his timeline only existed because he similarly wasn't there the first time to save the X-Men from Onslaught.

    Then again, you could probably ask the same question of Cable. I know, thinking too hard, but still. That one's bugged me since 1995.

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  13. @Dan: Hope I'm not getting us too off topic from the main issue.

    Nah, "delightfully off topic" may as well be the subtitle of this blog, and there ain't nothing wrong with that. :)

    I think it was a very well done introduction of a new character, which is impressive considering how late in the game he was introduced.

    Definitely. That first year or so after he was first introduced, he was handled pretty well and fit in nicely. Yes, he had a comics crazy origin, but no more so than, say, Rachel Summers, so at least there was precedent.

    He's probably better off wherever he is now.

    If I recall correctly, I believe he's still trapped in the alternate future from Cable's last series in which Bishop nuked North America to limit the places Cable and Hope had to hide. I'm frankly surprised they haven't brought him back.

    @Jeff: I didn't mind the fact that they gave him a heel turn, but I thought having it be because of a world-changing event in his future that he just happened to never mention before was pretty lame.

    Agreed. That was one of those "didn't mind the idea on paper, didn't like it in execution things". Aside from the sudden randomness of his motivation, I also didn't like how far they took him. Wanting to kill Hope for the greater good, relentlessly pursuing her, crossing some lines along the way? Fine. Becoming a global mass murderer, willingly sacrificing billions of lives in your quest? That felt a bit much.

    Sorry to keep us off topic, but I figure we won't get around to discussing this stuff for years anyway.

    No worries, just make sure to bring all this up again when we get there. :)

    I remember his book crossing over with Legion Quest in a strange way, but now I can't remember what role he played in the whole thing.

    It was a very minor role. He was with the X-Men in Israel when the M'Kraan crystal wave arrived. One issue of his series was part of "Legion Quest", I believe. At any rate, he most definitely could have filled the Bishop role in AoA.

    Remember, his timeline only existed because he similarly wasn't there the first time to save the X-Men from Onslaught.

    I think the idea is that in his timeline, the AoA never occurred. His timeline is considered an alternate future, with some similarities to the "main" X-Men timeline (such as the Jean Grey/X-traitor recording), but also some divergences, including some independent of his actions.

    That's pretty much what Claremont established once other people started coming back from the "Days of Future Past" future following that story: time travelers are just trying to prevent the events of their future from occurring in "our" reality. The reality of their future still exists, and (whether they know it or not) can't be changed, but they can try to make sure the events of their world never come to pass.

    But I could be wrong. Trying to make sense of the various time travel plots and alternate realities in the X-Men universe can easily lead to madness.

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  14. The reality of their future still exists, and (whether they know it or not) can't be changed.

    Yeah, I believe Mark Gruenwald came up with that rule. It's a little confusing, but is actually a pretty clever device to tell multiple, crazy future stories throughout the Marvel universe.

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  15. Here's the article on it:

    http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?211098-Mark-Gruenwald-on-Time-Travel-Rules

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  16. @Jeff: It's a little confusing, but is actually a pretty clever device to tell multiple, crazy future stories throughout the Marvel universe.

    Agreed. Not that every writer then or (especially) now stuck to it. But it does solve a lot of the time travel headaches, while still allowing for the occasional "the time travel knew what was going to happen because it happened in his timeline" moments.

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  17. I went back and re-read this issue so that I'd be able to better share my thoughts here, but really they just boil down to --

    Love the second Brood saga. Love pre-90s Wolverine. Love Cockrum's work. Love everything about this issue.

    Also, re-reading this issue turned out to be a slippery slope. I read it. Then I read the next issue. Then the next. I read all the way through Paul Smith's run and ran back here to say how much I loved Paul Smith -- only to realize that we're just starting out the second Brood saga.

    Very exciting stuff just ahead. Honestly, this whole era -- Cockrum's second run (starting with Brood Saga 1) through Paul Smith -- is probably my favorite X-era.

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  18. @Michael: Love the second Brood saga...

    Re-reading these issues, I think I've only read them maybe once before. So far (this issue and the next), I'm enjoying it more than I remember enjoying it the first time.

    Honestly, this whole era -- Cockrum's second run (starting with Brood Saga 1) through Paul Smith -- is probably my favorite X-era.

    We're getting very close to my favorite era as well: Paul Smith to "Mutant Massacre".

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  19. @Teebore We're getting very close to my favorite era as well: Paul Smith to "Mutant Massacre".


    That's an excellent run.

    I should clarify that my favorite run continues past Paul Smith's exit. So many fans crap on John Romita Jr. -- but I'm not one of them. I actually quite like his style, though his original costume designs are awful.

    So, I like JRJR, and Claremont was really on top of his game in this era, so I should have said that my favorite era runs from Brood Saga 1 through the introduction of Rachel.

    Rachel kills the series for me. She's just horrible and she features so prominently in her 20-issue run. Most of the issues in which she leads the story are just unreadable to me.

    Still, most everything that is not about Rachel during this time is excellent. And even some stories in which she's on the periphery (like Issue 200) are excellent. But really, it's a long hard slog for me to read Romita's run in its entirety.

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  21. @Michael: I actually quite like his style, though his original costume designs are awful.

    Agreed. I still consider him my favorite all around comic book artist (for all this body of work, not just X-Men), but yeesh, those costume designs are...ugly.

    Most of the issues in which she leads the story are just unreadable to me.

    I can usually work past her, but she is indeed an annoying, annoying character.

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  22. Wow, I miss one week, and I'm left out of a big conversation about one of my favorite X-Men, Bishop!

    As far as this issue, I really don't think I have a lot to comment on. It's a good issue, and I love Cockrum's work here. He really is at his best drawing far-out alien creatures and landscapes.

    "Wolverine refers to Lilandra as "Lil" throughout this issue, a nickname I don't believe is ever used again."

    Xavier actually calls her "Lil" in one of the Paul Smith issues, in a scene where he's doing some physical therapy. It seems appropriate for Wolverine, but has always struck me as way out of character for Xavier.

    "Though she ultimately gives in, it's another indication of Kitty's increasing "Mary Sue" qualities."

    Has anyone ever proposed to TV Tropes, or whoever's in charge of these sorts of things, the idea of just replacing the phrase "Mary Sue" with "Kitty Pryde"?

    "Finally, there's a letter discussing Cyclops' age, which serves as a nice snapshot of the issue with the passage of time in comics."

    So John Byrne says that in the 80's, the writers usually handled the letter column, using an editorial "voice" rather than referring to themselves in the first person. So it's quite possible that this is Claremont poking fun at himself in this response.

    Moving onto the far more important subject at hand: I love Bishop. I'm not sure why; maybe because around the time I started reading regularly, he was the newest X-Man. But I loved his costume and his demeanor, and I've always felt he was best when written by Scott Lobdell. It's true that he served little narrative purpose beyond his roles in "Age of Apocalypse" and the X-Traitor storyline, but I liked the guy anyway. It was fun seeing him get to know the other X-Men, and grudgingly befriend Gambit.

    His turn to villainy was one of the many things that soured me on current Marvel. I stopped reading the X-Men books shortly after "Messiah CompleX", and Bishop's turn was a big reason for that.

    Michael -- "Rachel kills the series for me. She's just horrible and she features so prominently in her 20-issue run. Most of the issues in which she leads the story are just unreadable to me."

    I agree! I like John Romita Jr.'s work from this period; his run on Amazing Spider-Man just before taking over Uncanny is a favorite of mine. I don't mind a lot of the stories either, because I don't think Claremont had yet departed too much from what the X-Men should be about. But it's the inclusion of Rachel that really makes me never want to touch these issues again. The lack of Cyclops doesn't help either, but Rachel is main deal-breaker for me.

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  23. @Matt: Wow, I miss one week, and I'm left out of a big conversation about one of my favorite X-Men, Bishop!

    That's what you get for going to San Diego while the rest of us toil in the salt mines :) (I assume you were at San Diego, at least; if so, how was it?).

    It seems appropriate for Wolverine, but has always struck me as way out of character for Xavier.

    I'd forgotten about that. Must be something Claremont was trying out. And I agree, it definitely sounds odd coming from Xavier.

    ...the idea of just replacing the phrase "Mary Sue" with "Kitty Pryde"?

    Ha! They should. Kitty Pryde is pretty much who I automatically think of when I hear the term "Mary Sue" used, in any context.

    I love Bishop. I'm not sure why; maybe because around the time I started reading regularly, he was the newest X-Man.

    I have a similar relationship to Cable. Not that I don't like Bishop (at least up through Onslaught), but Cable is my preferred "90s stereotype that I have inexplicable affection for born of the time in which I first encountered him" character. The relationship to Cyclops also helps.

    I stopped reading the X-Men books shortly after "Messiah CompleX", and Bishop's turn was a big reason for that.

    If you stopped relatively soon after "Messiah CompleX", then you hopefully missed out on the worst of his heel turn. As bad as it was in that story, in got much, much worse in Cable's post-"Messiah" ongoing.

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  24. Teebore -- "I assume you were at San Diego, at least; if so, how was it?"

    Yes, that's where I was. It was fun; though crowded and exhausting as always. I feel bad that I go there and never actually attend any comic book panels anymore, but it's a combination of my not being into current comics like I used to be, plus there being other, bigger panels to try and enjoy. Though I didn't see any of the biggest (the Marvel movies, Game of Thrones, etc.) due to lines, I did enjoy some smaller TV related ones, like Family Guy, American Dad, and a few of the Adult Swim shows. Oh, and Breaking Bad! Bryan Cranston seems like one of the nicest and most articulate actors in the history of film and television.

    And now I'm back. A ten-day vacation gone as if it had been only a weekend. So sad...

    "If you stopped relatively soon after "Messiah CompleX", then you hopefully missed out on the worst of his heel turn. As bad as it was in that story, in got much, much worse in Cable's post-"Messiah" ongoing."

    Unfortunately I have a friend who read Cable and told me what Bishop was up to in that title. It was kind of depressing.

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  25. @Matt: I did enjoy some smaller TV related ones...

    Yeah, I have a feeling that whenever I finally make it to San Diego, I'll have no patience for the big crowded panels and end up at the smaller TV ones. At the end of the day, I'm going to still want to do some comic stuff (like shopping and visiting with creators) and not just waste my weekend waiting in line for the big movie panels.

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