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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

X-amining Special Edition X-Men #1


"A Day Like Any Other"
February 1983

In a Nutshell
Kitty gives Illyana a tour of the mansion.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Dave Cockrum & Hilary Bart
Letterers: Tom Orzechowski, David Cody Weiss
Colorist: Andy Yachus
Editor: Louise Jones
Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot 
Feeling down, Kitty works out in the Danger Room until Illyana joins her. Kitty proceeds to give Illyana a tour of the mansion and its grounds, not knowing they are being watched. When the girls reach the hanger, Kitty notices an intruder alert, and they rush off to investigate. Reaching the living room, Illyana throws Kitty inside, where the X-Men, New Mutants and Starjammers surprise Kitty with a birthday party.


Firsts and Other Notables
The bulk of this issue consists of a reprint of Giant-Size X-Men #1, including a black-and-white reprint of the issue's cover, followed by an original twelve page story. Additionally, there is a text intro from Louise Jones and an unused cover by Dave Cockrum (which was later used for the cove of the issue of Back Issue magazine devoted to the X-Men). The whole thing is 52 pages long, and printed on higher quality Baxter paper.  

Published after he'd left the series, this issue represents Cockrum's last regular contribution to X-Men, though he will return to draw Nightcrawler and Starjammer limited series.

Cover dated February 1983 and on sale the same time as X-Men #166 and New Mutants #1, Kitty references both the X-Men's return from space and her parents' divorce, setting the events of the original story after issue #167 and annual #6, yet Kitty makes no mention of her demotion to the New Mutants (presumably because Claremont didn't want to spoil the ending to #167).

More glaringly, no mention is made of the fact that the mansion was recently rebuilt, with several scenes (such as those that depict the characters' rooms containing items likely lost in the destruction of the original mansion) making it seem like Claremont forgot he even destroyed the mansion at one point. Case in point: it is revealed that Nightcrawler has a pet pterodactyl, brought back from the Savage Land, which somehow survived the mansion's destruction in order to reside in the current mansion.  

It is revealed in this issue that Kitty and Illyana are now roommates.

A Work in Progress
Part of the surprise in the party the X-Men throw for Kitty stems from the fact that her birthday already occurred while the X-Men were in space. 

When Kitty phases through the Danger Room's computers, she doesn't short them out.


Kitty explains to Illyana, and thus to the readers, how the new Danger Room works.


Despite the upgrades to the Danger Room, Cerebro still looks much like it did in the early issues of the series (though we'll eventually learn it was indeed upgraded along with the Danger Room). Kitty also mentions the strain involved in using Cerebro, possibly an attempt on Claremont's part to explain why Xavier doesn't spend more time searching for new mutants.


Kitty mentions some vague details about Storm's pre-X-Men past, all of which is, I believe, news to us, and seems like a setup for a future story/flashback, but I don't believe anything comes of it.


Kitty and Illyana have apparently received training (telepathically or otherwise) in SCUBA diving.
 

Kitty refers to the Blackbird as "her dragon".

When Kitty talks about her fight with the N'Garai demon in issue #143, Illyana makes a reference to "her demon", reminding Kitty there's a lot they still don't know about Illyana's time in Limbo.


I Love the 80s
This story is chockablock with awkward, stilted, expository dialogue, the kind of stuff no normal person would ever say.


Kitty and Illyana's room is filled with various bits of 80s pop culture ephemera.


Claremontisms
In one of the more oft-repeated descriptions of Colossus, it's said that he has the soul of a poet who incorrectly believes he lacks the ability to express himself effectively, and it's said in a sentence with another Claremontian device: the interjection of a phrase ("the gift", in this case) in the middle of a sentence.


Young Love
Kitty wonders if she's falling in love with Peter (it's also said that he is 19 while Kitty is 14, something which doesn't bother Illyana).


Later, Kitty plants one on Peter at her birthday party.


Teebore's Take
In an era without copious trade paperback reprints or easy access to issues online, I imagine the genesis for this issue came from a desire to give X-Men readers, especially the new ones, increasing in number as the popularity of the title grew and a spin-off was launched, the opportunity to see the beginnings of the contemporary X-Men by reprinting Giant-Size X-Men #1 (and, of course, to get them to buy it). Then, to give fans who had already read that issue an incentive to buy the reprint, a 12 page original story was created. But to continue the theme of acquainting new readers, the original story essentially serves as a primer on the X-Men and their base of operation. As a result, it's not terribly good. The dialogue is awkward and loaded with exposition, and Claremont seems to give little effort towards disguising it. Cockrum's art (a few horrid faces aside) is as strong as ever, but he isn't given anything more exciting than some gymnastics routines and empty rooms to draw. As a primer for new fans, it probably does its job just fine, so it gets credit for that. But for longtime fans, especially those of us performing an issue-by-issue analysis of the unfolding narrative (which, granted, no one involved in this issue likely ever imagined happening), the whole thing feels like a tedious afterthought.

Next Issue
Tomorrow we look at the intercompany crossover, X-Men/Teen Titans, before returning to the regular series with Uncanny X-Men #168 next Wednesday. 

11 comments:

  1. It took me so long to acquire this issue it almost took on a mythical quality, in my mind. I think I finally bought it in the last half-decade or so.....

    I'm VERY excited about the next entry.

    And we creep ever closer to my first off-the-stands issue, as well as my FAVORITE cover of all time (two separate books!)

    I'm giddy!

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  2. The Storm references seem to be a reference to her meeting with the Black Panther, shown via flashback in Marvel Team-Up #100, 3 years earlier.

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  3. There is mention of the how the "new" danger room works...and its new because the mansion was destroyed, right? So maybe it just so happens that everyone's valued possessions and pets survived?

    And whose has been taking care of this pterodactyl? And what kind of immigration laws is that breaking?

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  4. The reference to Storm possibly killing someone as a child reappeared in an early Jim Lee issue. (UXM #267?) I'm thinking of the truck driver who offered her a ride, and then forced himself on her. Storm responded by pulling a knife and stabbing him in the chest.

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  5. Mock: I think I finally bought it in the last half-decade or so.....

    It took me a long while to get a hold of it as well. Not sure why, though.

    And we creep ever closer to my first off-the-stands issue, as well as my FAVORITE cover of all time (two separate books!)

    I'm curious to find out which they are!

    @Dr. Bitz: There is mention of the how the "new" danger room works...

    I don't believe Kitty ever refers to it as the new Danger Room. We just know it is.

    And whose has been taking care of this pterodactyl?

    I dunno...Coast Guard? Don't worry, I'm fairly certain we never hear mention of it again.

    And what kind of immigration laws is that breaking?

    Tons. But the X-Men are already outlaws; what's a few more laws broken?

    @Dobson: The Storm references seem to be a reference to her meeting with the Black Panther, shown via flashback in Marvel Team-Up #100, 3 years earlier.

    That could be. I don't think I've ever read that story, so I wouldn't be surprised if I missed it.

    @G. Kendall: The reference to Storm possibly killing someone as a child reappeared in an early Jim Lee issue. (UXM #267?)

    #267 sounds about right - that's right in the middle of the "Kid Storm" bit, and an issue I've only read maybe once or twice (since, being the 2nd Gambit appearance, it was expensive back in the day).

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  6. I've never read this one (didn't have time to get to it since I said I would try), so my comments will only be on stuff I know I can respond to... but first I'll just say that I love Baxter paper! I have a few of the "Special Editions" from the early 80's (Warlock and Moon Knight), and they're fantastic.

    "...making it seem like Claremont forgot he even destroyed the mansion at one point."

    It seems impossible that Claremont could forget about this, especially since he just rebuilt the place in concurrent issues of Uncanny. I feel like it's not so much that he forgot, but that he's trying -- for whatever reason -- to pretend it never happened.

    "...it is revealed that Nightcrawler has a pet pterodactyl, brought back from the Savage Land..."

    That has to be Cockrum's idea, right? I was going to say it's kind of silly, but then I remembered Lockheed.

    "Kitty mentions some vague details about Storm's pre-X-Men past, all of which is, I believe, news to us..."

    As Dobson pointed out, this is definitely a reference to the story in MTU #100. I've always considered it the "lost" Claremont/Byrne X-Men story, since for some reason it never gets reprinted with the rest of their run, even though it stars Storm and they both worked on it.

    "...it's also said that he is 19 while Kitty is 14..."

    Wow, I guess that means Colossus had a birthday no one noticed too, since he was specifically stated as being 18 in issue #156. Too bad; we were so close to closing the "creepy gap" between him and Kitty!

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  7. Sean's at the party!

    I was a complete sucker for this when it came out. And I don't mean that in a bad way at all; I loved these Baxter reprints. DC and Marvel did a bunch of them in the years following, as seen at those links — which list a few items I never knew about (and now really, really want).

    Digests were tiny, although I still appreciated the Silver and early Bronze Age stuff they reprinted. Treasury editions had mostly switched to new material by the 1980s, and soon they, like the old 100-Page Super-Spectaculars I loved in the '70s, would be a thing of the past. Actual book collections of comics material were still very few and far between. For a while there I thought that the direct-market Baxter stuff, reprint and new alike, would be the wave of the future — heck, for a while there, I might have been right, looking at stuff such as Frank Miller's landmark creator-owned Ronin at DC and some of the independent titles. One thing I loved about them, and was happy to pay the higher prices for ($1.50! $2.00! $2.50 even! Can you imagine?), beyond the sturdier paper and more vibrant colors, was the combination of lack of ads / presence of extras like cover galleries, outtake material, and editorial matter on the inside covers. The package really worked for me. Soon the squarebound Prestige format introduced by DC with Batman: The Dark Knight became the hot new thing for hot new material, but independents like Eclipse, First, and then Dark Horse continued with heavier covers, whiter paper, and all-around nicely curated projects into the 1990s, reinforcing the fact that issues didn't have to look or feel disposable. That's something that's mostly gone now, across the board, as just about every publisher is looking ahead to trade collection and most single issues are decidedly inferior, disposable products in every respect except possible surprise collectibility.

    As for this particular issue, I didn't yet own a copy of Giant-Size X-Men #1, so a reprint of "Second Genesis!" was a selling point on its own merits. The rest of it just lent credence to the title Special Editon, although if you're merely looking at it in terms of the new 12-page story it's bound to be underwhelming. I couldn't dig my copy out for the read-along, but I remember Hilary Barta's inking complementing Cockrum's pencils nicely — which the panels you put up bear out. And if you need someone to fill in alongside Tom Orzechowski, then style-wise David Cody Weiss is your guy; L. Lois Buhalis would be your gal.

    Is this the only time (outside commissions, maybe) that Cockrum drew the New Mutants?

    Continuity Note: The first Vision and The Scarlet Witch miniseries was wrapping up the week this hit the stands, most notable I think for establishing in-story that Magneto was indeed the biological father of Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. I actually loved the idea that The Whizzer and Miss America were their parents, being a Golden Age buff — that was given lip service in Avengers for a while during the '70s, although how much of all the Wundagore stuff that preceded and/or succeeded it belied the concept I don't recall; my DC continuity mojo is far stronger than it is for Marvel. Nonetheless I have a vivid memory of reading the miniseries on vacation and figuratively but almost literally smacking my head about how much sense it made, and how dramatic it was, for Magneto to Darth Vader them.

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  8. @Matt: I feel like it's not so much that he forgot, but that he's trying -- for whatever reason -- to pretend it never happened.

    Yeah, I definitely think that's what's going on.

    That has to be Cockrum's idea, right? I was going to say it's kind of silly, but then I remembered Lockheed.

    Yes, and yes. :)

    I've always considered it the "lost" Claremont/Byrne X-Men story, since for some reason it never gets reprinted with the rest of their run, even though it stars Storm and they both worked on it.

    I'm certainly guilty of overlooking it myself. Did Byrne work on it? I thought Frank Miller drew that issue - or did Byrne do the backup (the actual Storm story)?

    Blam: That's something that's mostly gone now, across the board, as just about every publisher is looking ahead to trade collection and most single issues are decidedly inferior, disposable products in every respect

    And with that in mind, I'd honestly prefer that comics went back to the old school newsprint and dropped the price a buck or two, though I understand that'll never happen for no other reason that modern coloring wouldn't look as good on newsprint...

    Is this the only time (outside commissions, maybe) that Cockrum drew the New Mutants?

    I believe so. I can't recall any other place he's done so.

    The first Vision and The Scarlet Witch miniseries was wrapping up the week this hit the stands, most notable I think for establishing in-story that Magneto was indeed the biological father of Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

    Ah, good to know. I knew that limited series occurred somewhere around here, but didn't realize this was when it was on the stands.

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  9. Teebore -- "Did Byrne work on it? I thought Frank Miller drew that issue - or did Byrne do the backup (the actual Storm story)?"

    Correct; the issue's main story -- which starred Spider-Man and the F.F. and introduced Karma -- was written by Claremont and illustrated by Miller. The back-up, starring Storm and the Black Panther, is credited as Claremont and Byrne co-plotting, with Claremont scripting and Byrne penciling, just like any of their Uncanny issues around that time. And it's inked by our New Mutants pal, Bob McLeod!

    It's only a ten-page story. I really feel that it should be reprinted in any collection that includes the Claremont/Byrne run, such as the Masterworks, Essentials, and Omnibuses, but I guess Marvel disagrees.

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  10. @Matt: The back-up, starring Storm and the Black Panther, is credited as Claremont and Byrne co-plotting, with Claremont scripting and Byrne penciling

    Huh. I've only read that story once, but I completely missed that. I probably should have included it here, knowing that. Maybe I'll add it in as an exclusive for the collected edition. ;)

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  11. I think the issue would have been more successful if Illyana and Kitty were giving the reader a 4th wall-shattering behind-the-scenes tour. It reads more like the manual of the starship Enterprise than a story, anyway.

    This is really inessential except for the backup and these days you may as well get the Marvel Milestone Edition. I really have no idea why I have both.

    My absolute most favorite part of the x-pository dialogue is when Kitty says to Illyana, "Who are the X-Men, you ask?"

    Did Illyana get some brain damage in Limbo too?

    I'm surprised Kitty wasn't telling Illyana her own name and stuff. "Who are you, you ask? Your name is Illyana Rasputin. Last week you were seven years old but you went through puberty in Limbo and now you're talking about sexy lifeguards and encouraging me to bang your nineteen year old brother even though I'm underage."

    1. I have a kid and every time I see the news or a commercial use the word 'sexy' I wonder when did this word become so commonplace? Here it is in a book aimed at kids in 1982. I'm surprised the code authority didn't mind.

    2. I grew up in a town where nineteen year olds definitely dated thirteen year olds. Well, nineteen year old boys dated thirteen year old girls. (Many other illegal things happened a lot too, FWIW.) Developed thirteen year old girls, that is. It seemed natural to everyone except me and my friends. I thought it was skeevy and my friends, being straight, then had no girls to date for themselves. I suppose it was more natural way back when. People used to get married very young too and often there'd be a decent age gap. Kids are less mature I think for their ages these days, which I now see as a good thing, so fourteen and nineteen is creepy. What I don't understand is why Claremont didn't just fudge their ages if he wanted to make them a couple. They often made mistakes like that anyway so why not keep Colossus at 18 and age Kitty up to 15. Also, I wonder if Colossus's steady gentlemanly resistance is what kept male Kitty fans from turning on him.

    We do know it's a new Danger Room but only because Kitty says, "The old Danger Room wasn't anywhere near as sophisticated or versatile*." She adds that the Professor's made some changes.

    *So sophisticated and versatile it will try to kill you in a few years, Kitty. Maybe for having to listen to you whine. Girl, you in Danger!

    Anyway, I love this blog just as much as Jason's. I don't think I ever followed either of them as they came out. For a while I was waiting for you to get to the Mutant Massacre and Outback era but then I went and finished a re-read but thanks to the Omnibus v3 I'm back re-reading again. I think it's an annual thing almost. This time I'm going to keep up with it even after the Omnibus ends, and I'm going to try to read all the other titles as they come out too.

    As a matter of fact I'm digging through my collection now searching for my copy of UXM vs Teen Titans. I can't remember where I filed it. I'm also very much looking forward to the recolored paperback edition of X-Men v2 I just ordered. Actually, I'd already spent more money on the 20th Anniversary Edition of X-Men v2 (a $25 copy with a tear on the cover to boot) not knowing it was collected with more recolored issues pretty cheaply available. It burns me up, I tell ya!

    Anyway, keep up the good work! (Can you tell I have no one IRL to talk X-Men?)

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