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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #167

"The Goldilocks Syndrome! (Or: "Who's Been Sleeping in My Head?")"
March 1983

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men return to Earth. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciller: Paul Smith
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Yanchus & Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The New Mutants are watching Magnum P.I. when the X-Men burst into the mansion, hoping to take Professor X by surprise. The New Mutants fight back, but Kitty manages to sneak into Professor Xavier's study. However, she hesitates firing on him, at which point he transforms into a Brood Queen and attacks her. As the Brood Queen taunts the X-Men, Cyclops blasts her outside. The X-Men give chase, and their combined efforts are enough to allow Professor Xavier's lingering consciousness to briefly take control of the Brood's body. He begs the X-Men to kill him before the transformation is complete, but Cyclops is unwilling to do so, determined to find another way to resolve the situation.


Later, aboard the Starjammer, the X-Men wait as Sikorsky and Moira attempt to clone a new body for Professor X in order to transfer his mind into it. Corsair declares he intends to remain in space with the Starjammers, but tells Cyclops he wants to take his son to meet his grandparents first. Meanwhile, Gladiator of the Imperial Guard arrives to tell Lilandra that Deathbird has declared herself Empress, causing Lilandra to wonder if she has the strength to mount another rebellion. With the cloning procedure a success, the X-Men gather as Professor X attempts to walk on his new and undamaged legs, but psychosomatic pain prevents him from doing so; he'll have to work to overcome it. Professor X then formally introduces the X-Men to the New Mutants, and declares that, with students her own age at the school now Kitty is to be demoted to the New Mutants. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Professor X's mind is transferred into a new cloned body this issue, which will (eventually) enable him to walk once again. Thus, this marks the beginning of a unique era for the book, one in which Xavier's direct involvement with the team is increased, rather than the usual plot devices that see him sidelined, depowered, or written out for issues at a time. It also means that, to this day Professor X is technically a clone, something that isn't referenced very often, probably for the best.  


This issue marks the first meeting between the X-Men and New Mutants. As the two teams will now be sharing the mansion, the next forty or so issues of both titles will often feature various members of both teams weaving in and out of their respective books. Also, a footnote in this issue directs readers to New Mutants #3, though that issue wasn't on sale until a month after this one.


Cyclops learns that his grandparents, Corsair's parents, are still alive.


Gladiator arrives aboard the Starjammer, looking for Lilandra. He mentions encountering the Fantastic Four, a confrontation that was depicted in Fantastic Four #249-250. He then informs Lilandra that Galactus had recently come to Earth to die, but Reed Richards worked to save his life, as seen in Fantastic Four #242-244. This prompts Lilandra to contact Reed and essentially browbeat him for saving Galactus.


Not surprisingly, some combination of Claremont's thinly-veiled criticism of the story and his use of the FF without running it by the Fantastic Four editorial team irritated the book's writer, John Byrne, which led to the classic "Trial of Reed Richards" story in Fantastic Four #262, in which Reed is put on trial by a galactic tribunal for helping Galactus and ultimately acquitted when it's determined that Galactus isn't evil. Read more about it here.  

According to the Marvel Index, between this issue and X-Men Annual #6, the X-Men appeared in the three issue Contest of Champions limited series. Notable for introducing a variety of international heroes that never quite took off (such as Shamrock or Peregrine), the story found the heroes of Earth pitted against each other as pawns in a cosmic game being waged by Elder of the Universe Grandmaster against Death for the life of his fellow Elder, the Collector. Published in the summer of 1982, it is often cited as Marvel's first limited series, though I have no idea if that's accurate (it seems a dubious claim; if it did beat the Wolverine limited series to shelves, it did so only by a month or two at most). The X-Men's involvement in the story is fairly limited, and never referenced in the main series, which is why I chose not to cover it. 

A Work in Progress
Kitty debuts a new pirate-themed costume this issue, though it doesn't stick around long. She's also wielding one of the Brood's blasters.


As the X-Men burst into the school, Sam instinctively takes charge.


Kitty wonders if Professor X was subconsciously influenced by the Brood Queen inside him to recruit the New Mutants as potential Brood hosts. 

Storm is unable to kill the Brood Queen, while Cyclops compares Professor X's situation to Jean's, refusing to once again to accept the idea that someone he cares about has to die. 


Moira and Illyana join the X-Men and the New Mutants aboard the Starjammer, presumably beamed up from Muir Isle, though Banshee apparently stayed behind.


Storm tries not to be bothered by the fact that Kitty overlooks her after she wakes up from her injuries.


Nightcrawler worries about the New Mutants accepting his appearance.


When Lilandra is told about Deathbird usurping the throne, she comments that madness seems to run in her family. 


Cyclops says that Professor X has been like a father to him. 

Corsair declares that once he's reunited Scott with his grandparents, he intends to go back into space with the Starjammers.


Professor X demotes Kitty to the New Mutants at the end of the issue, saying it was a mistake to put her on the team considering the risk involved. 


I Love the 80s
The New Mutants, are, of course, watching Magnum P.I as the issue opens. 


Claremontisms
Sam says he's "pretty much" invulnerable as Cannonball, which is almost "nigh invulnerable" but not quite. Also, Cyclops says that as the first X-Man, killing Xavier is "my right - my responsibility", another favorite phrasing of Claremont's.

These two panels, as Cyclops declares his intention to spare Xavier and try to find a way to save him, are two of my favorite panels in the entire X-Men pantheon. For anyone who says Claremont is incapable of brevity, these two panels manage to express the personalities of five different characters with just a handful of words. 


Artistic Achievements
The cover of this issue is an homage to X-Men #136, both of which are referencing Michelangelo's "Pieta".

The Awesome and Terrible Power of CyclopsDani pulls an image of Cyclops' greatest fear: losing control of his power. 


For SaleThis video game ad reminds me of some of the games referenced in Ready Player One


Bullpen Bulletins
The Bullpen Bulletins page highlights the first issue of New Mutants, even though the second issue was already on sale at this time. 

Teebore's Take 
This is one of my all time favorite single issues of X-Men. As I went about amassing back issues as a kid, my run of Classic X-Men ended with "The Dark Phoenix Saga", leading to an ensuing gap that ended with this issue. As a result, I read it numerous times through the years without having read the issues which precede it, and it's a testament to its quality that I never had a problem coming in on literally the last chapter of a story. The front half of the issue features a dynamic action sequence, masterfully choreographed by Paul Smith, which makes the situation and the X-Men's objective crystal clear, regardless of what happened in previous issues. The X-Men burst into the mansion, systematically overcoming the New Mutants and taking on the Brood-possessed Professor X, culminating in the final moral debate of the story, as Storm and Cyclops find themselves unable to kill the creature that was once their mentor. The second half of the issue is handed over to sequences of characterization and subplot development, pages which taught me that the quieter moments between characters matter as much as, if not more than, the super-powered slugfests. This seamless blend of action, character and subplot has become the bread-and-butter of X-Men at this point.  

This also heralds the beginning of a new approach to the title by Claremont. With the long-running Brood story firmly in the rear-view mirror, we now enter a prolonged period in which Claremont largely eschews multi-part, long-form story arcs in favor of standalone or two issue stories that are connected by ongoing subplots and characterization. Instead of presenting a series of serialized stories, this creates an interwoven narrative tapestry. Each issue starts to feel less like "chapter X in story Y" and more like just another twenty-some page glimpse into the lives of these characters (who are superheroes, after all, so we still get our quota of action). It's a dynamic and unprecedented approach to the series, and one that will be, for good and bad, hugely influential on superhero comics. It's also one of the things I love about this era of the title, and this issue marks the beginning of my personal golden age of X-Men.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Dracula does what he does best (returns) in X-Men Annual #6. And next week, we'll get one last look at Dave Cockrum drawing the X-Men in Special Edition X-Men #1. 

21 comments:

  1. It looks like Lilandra might have interrupted a "Fantastic Foursome". I never really wanted to see Ben Grimm in his skivvies.

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  2. @Anoymous: It looks like Lilandra might have interrupted a "Fantastic Foursome".

    Ha! When I posted that panel, I thought it might suggest as much, though in the FF's defense, earlier panels depicted Johnny and Ben entering Reed and Sue's room from elsewhere. They came in during the middle of Lilandra's tirade.

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  3. Part One in a 2-Part Comment

    I agree; this is also one of my very favorite X-Men issues. I can't say anything more about it than you already did -- it's a perfect blend of the things that make the X-Men series great.

    "...to this day Professor X is technically a clone, something that isn't referenced very often..."

    I never really thought about it, but this could've worked in the same way as Magneto's de-aging, to keep Professor X's origins tied to Alamogordo and Korea and such. Maybe Xavier was cloned a little younger than before, or maybe the clone doesn't age as fast as a normal person? It's a lot to swallow, but it could work.

    Also, what's up with the Starjammers being able to clone people and transfer their minds into the new body?!? It's a minor hand-waved plot device here, but it seems like a pretty big can of worms to open. I'm glad it's been ignored ever since.

    "Cyclops learns that his grandparents, Corsair's parents, are still alive."

    One thing that really bugs me about this run of issues is that we never see the scene where Philip and Deborah are reunited with the son they've thought dead for a couple of decades, and the grandsons they've either never seen or haven't seen since they were children. Doesn't that seem like a heck of a big scene to skip -- and not so much as mention -- entirely?

    "Not surprisingly, some combination of Claremont's thinly-veiled criticism of the story and his use of the FF without running it by the Fantastic Four editorial team irritated the book's writer, John Byrne..."

    This is one of my favorite behind-the-scenes stories in comicdom. I have to give credit to Byrne here, too -- instead of sniping at Claremont as in the case of the match-scuffed Doombot, he actually uses this scene as the springboard for the story that has pretty much defined everyone's interpretation of Galactus ever since.

    Also, I see Anonymous beat me to commenting on the F.F. bedroom scene. With all due respect to Paul Smith, neither Reed nor Sue Richards have ever struck me as the type to wear little or no sleepwear. I see Reed as a full pinstriped pajama man, and Sue as a frilly nightgown gal.

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  4. Part Two in a 2-Part Comment

    "The X-Men's involvement in the story is fairly limited, and never referenced in the main series, which is why I chose not to cover it."

    This statement leads me to wonder if you might cover Secret Wars? The X-Men play a pretty big part there, and it leads to a somewhat major status quo change. I'd love to see you give it a review, even if it's just all twelve issues in one post. I almost hate to admit it to the world, but I love Secret Wars. I read the individual issues countless times a kid, and bought the trade when I was in middle school. A few years ago, Marvel released a big hardcover Omnibus of the series, and I bought that too. It's probably my number one comic book guilty pleasure.

    "...though Banshee apparently stayed behind."

    So inconsistent. I guess there's no story need for Banshee to be there, but wouldn't you expect him to show up for moral support? And Claremont did/does remember to include him in last week's/next month's New Mutants #3!

    "Cyclops says that Professor X has been like a father to him."

    I love when this relationship is touched on, though it never really comes up enough.

    "These two panels, as Cyclops declares his intention to spare Xavier and try to find a way to save him, are two of my favorite panels in the entire X-Men pantheon."

    I'm with you one hundred percent! I love that Cannonball and Moonstar, the co-leaders of the New Mutants, react with such awe to Cyclops. Even after the Brood egg business that we discussed last week, you can still clearly see that Claremont loves Cyclops.

    "Dani pulls an image of Cyclops' greatest fear: losing control of his power."

    Paul Smith loved to put Cyclops in weirdly contorted poses like this one. There are more in issue #175.

    "Each issue starts to feel less like "chapter X in story Y" and more like just another twenty-some page glimpse into the lives of these characters."

    Y'know, I never really thought about it before -- because I never recognized this transition -- but I wonder if this is why I'm less a fan of the era of the series we're about to move into. A lot of the epic, "never-ending adventure" stuff we had seen during the Cockrum, Byrne, and Cockrum runs dissipates, especially when Romita comes aboard. And as I've said many times, it's the arrival of Bob Harras and Jim Lee that gets me interested in the series again, and around that time, in addition to the more traditional superhero stuff coming back, the ongoing storylines also begin to emerge once more.

    Hmm...

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  5. @Matt: this could've worked in the same way as Magneto's de-aging, to keep Professor X's origins tied to Alamogordo and Korea and such.

    Good point. It isn't like they'd even need to reference him being a clone that often; Magneto's de-aging by Alpha doesn't get brought up that often.

    It's a minor hand-waved plot device here, but it seems like a pretty big can of worms to open.

    Indeed. You kinda think it'd make the Starjammers (and their allies) invincible. I too am glad it never really gets brought up again.

    Doesn't that seem like a heck of a big scene to skip -- and not so much as mention -- entirely?

    Now that you mention it, it definitely does, though (ashamedly) I never really noticed that until now. Seems like Claremont gets pretty distracted by Maddie as soon as she shows up.

    ...he actually uses this scene as the springboard for the story that has pretty much defined everyone's interpretation of Galactus ever since.

    Yes, while I've always somewhat rolled my eyes at Byrne's outrage that Claremont dare to use his characters (he's not necessarily wrong to insist that another writer clear character usage with those characters' editorial office, but this being Byrne, the outraged bluster starts to wear thin), I've always appreciated that he used his frustration as motivation to tell a really good story.

    With all due respect to Paul Smith, neither Reed nor Sue Richards have ever struck me as the type to wear little or no sleepwear.

    My initial reaction when revisiting those panels was "Sue Richards, you saucy minx!". She's definitely one of the earliest MILFs. :) (incidentally, I more or less share your estimation of the Richards' respective sleepwear: Reed in the old school pajamas, Sue in a sexy-but-demure nightgown).

    This statement leads me to wonder if you might cover Secret Wars?

    Yes, I am planning on covering it (though only in one post, since the issue-by-issue involvement of the X-Men is relatively limited). I figure there's enough significant X-Men stuff that comes out of it to cover it, plus both X-Men and New Mutants set it up and it comes into play for the future Secret Wars II crossover issues. And, I happen to enjoy it too, especially the issue where the Hulk is holding up a mountain on his shoulders.

    Assuming I don't make any further modifications to the schedule, I should be posting on it the day after Christmas, which I've always thought was appropriate for a series with a significant toy tie-in. :)

    I love that Cannonball and Moonstar, the co-leaders of the New Mutants, react with such awe to Cyclops.

    I insist to myself that it's not just the adoration for Cyclops on display in those panels that makes me like them so much, but it's definitely part of it.

    but I wonder if this is why I'm less a fan of the era of the series we're about to move into.

    I'm not gonna lie: based on our conversations on the subject here, as I wrote that bit, I thought "and I bet this is why Matt is less of a fan of this era". :)

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  6. Teebore -- "...I happen to enjoy it too, especially the issue where the Hulk is holding up a mountain on his shoulders."

    For me, it's issue #3, where Spider-Man single-handedly beats the X-Men in a fight. I love the X-Men, but Spidey is my favorite character and I love the ease with which he takes everyone out -- especially at the start of the fight, when he slaps -- slaps -- Professor X unconscious.

    (Though really, "beats" them is a strong term. It's more that he holds them off long enough to get away.)

    Teebore -- "I'm not gonna lie: based on our conversations on the subject here, as I wrote that bit, I thought "and I bet this is why Matt is less of a fan of this era". :)"

    Well if two of us agree, then that must be it. I do look forward to revisiting those issues though, as I don't think I've looked at them in about ten years. The Romita stuff is what I've read the least out of all the original Claremont issues. I know chapter and verse of Cockrum through Smith, and I'm quite familiar with "Mutant Massacre" through "Muir Island", but the 35 or so Romita issues are my X-Men "blind spot".

    But first -- the rest of Paul Smith!

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  7. @Matt: For me, it's issue #3, where Spider-Man single-handedly beats the X-Men in a fight.

    Whereas as for me, as an X-Men first/Spidey second guy, that issue has always rankled me. :)

    (Though, as you say, it does go down smoother for the fact that it's less "Spidey single-handedly defeats the X-Men" than it is "Spidey holds his own against the X-Men".)

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  8. The lovely cover to this issue epitomizes that sleek, open "Japanimation" style that I was talking about a couple of weeks ago. Smith inked his own pencils here and the colorist did a very sympathetic job — keeping things mostly "flat" but making Xavier's apparently lifeless body stand out in pale relief. While there's no crosshatching or similar effects, virtually no feathering even, you can't say that Smith was skimping on detail; everything that you need is there and the contrasts are just beautiful. I wouldn't disagree that Peter's and especially Kitty's faces are a bit off, but that's one of the perils of the tightrope that is clean-line minimalism: You have to get your strokes (and, by extension, your negative spaces) in exactly the right place.

    I like the zoom-in, panel by panel, on Pg. 1, too.

    And that double-page spread (viewable here) that follows is great. What really makes it special to me, beyond just how nicely everything is rendered, is the way it's presented as such a frozen snapshot. There are no motion lines, with the arguable exception of the billows of Nightcrawler's bamf cloud. The characters (and the debris, and the soda can, and the popcorn) are clearly in motion, but it's all rendered in the 1982 comic-book print equivalent of the time-freeze special effects used so often in film and television today. Furthermore, the shot can be seen as a continuation of the slow progression on the previous page, although the angle's shifted just shy of 90°; this retroactively lends (or enhances, if you already had the sensation) an air of surveillance to that page as well and adds the X-Men to us, the readers, as the answer to the question of just who it was encroaching upon the scene.

    Smith choreographed the action in the mansion really well overall — I'm glad to see that Teebore agrees — but I particularly like the various shots of Wolverine on the stairs.

    He also does a great job presenting the dialoguing sets of characters aboard The Starjammer on Pg. 16, as Storm and Nightcrawler observe the New Mutants from above before we shift to Cyclops and Corsair, similarly established in silhouette, above them.

    The art throughout is just so darned good.

    Wrapping up both the Brood saga and the more recent separation of Xavier from his elder students, giving the Professor a new lease on life, and bringing the X-Men under the same roof as the New Mutants (which, if you want to get meta about it, could also be seen as bringing the parent title/characters face to face with what their success has wrought), this issue is a great combination of conclusion and relaunch. I only wish that Paul Smith's tenure would last longer, because the delicate energy that he provides is so vivid and those touching final pages promise such great things ahead.

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  9. The New Mutants are watching Magnum P.I. when the X-Men burst into the mansion, hoping to take Professor X by surprise.

    If Cyclops doesn't mean for the X-Men to be attacking the kids, as his thought balloons indicate, then why are they... well... attacking? I'd think that they'd rather enter quietly and approach the Brood-infected Xavier as surreptitiously as possible. Nightcrawler could've just teleported from room to room to find out where he was, say, in addition to Kitty poking around intangibly. It makes no sense for the trio to burst into a room that, just from looking in the window, clearly only held the new students.

    The X-Men's involvement in [Contest of Champions] is fairly limited

    Ha! Unintentional funny?

    Contest of Champions was first supposed to be a tie-in to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, by the way, but the US ended up boycotting the games and tossing Marvel's original plans for a big international-superhero tournament into the shredder.

    Kitty debuts a new pirate-themed costume this issue, though it doesn't stick around long.

    Of all the costumes Kitty has made for herself, this is definitely one of them.

    I agree with your concluding take on the issue and where the title goes — or titles go — from here, short-term. As I've said before, I can't know how I'd have liked what happens during the JR Jr. run if it had been represented by art I didn't mostly hate; moreover, even when the penciler isn't officially co-plotting with Claremont he's influenced by their strengths / interests, so we might have gotten different variations on that material or different material altogether. When JR Jr. took over from Smith midway into #175, though, I felt an eerie foreshadowing of just how fast my enjoyment of the series would plummet. It seems to me — and this is something I'm really curious to revisit for the first time in a long time — that the JR Jr. run, especially in the year barreling towards #200, was one long continued, undisciplined saga, broken up only by the "Lifedeath" issues and the fill-ins circa #201-205 that ended up postponing my departure from the series a skitch.

    Of course I'm not able to speak from experience with what happens to the original series of the franchise between #205 and Inferno or between Inferno and the launch of the new, adjectiveless X-Men, and in the case of Inferno at least the assessment may be unfair because it was an explicit crossover "event" deal, but my perception from checking in briefly at those points was that the sort of delicate balance of character-based subplots, overarching "mutant menace" superplot, and discrete main-action plots that you describe as launching from the end of #167 got lost post-Smith in a bouillabaisse of month-to-month neverending story.

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  10. @Anonymous: I never really wanted to see Ben Grimm in his skivvies.

    Ben Grimm's uniform is a blue Speedo. What surprised me, re-reading the issue, was Johnny, um, storming in wearing plain old white Y-front briefs; I hope that Hanes has an unstable-molecules line. From their lack of dress, however, it was pretty clear that Reed and Sue at the very least enjoy cuddling in the buff.

    @Matt: I see Reed as a full pinstriped pajama man, and Sue as a frilly nightgown gal.

    Yeah, I kind-of waver between what you say feeling more in-character and liking what's depicted as showing them as a loving couple. It's the fact that they keep their bedroom door unlocked in the residential area of the Baxter Building while "making whoopee" (as Bob Eubanks used to put it) that really doesn't compute. And I recall them being dressed exactly as you imagine during the short-lived era wherein Byrne had them adopting secret identities in the suburbs towards the end of his tenure.

    @Matt: I'm with you one hundred percent!

    That panel has stuck with me but to this very day I simultaneously love it and roll my eyes at its quintessential Claremontian preciousness.

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  11. Blam -- "And that double-page spread (viewable here) that follows is great."

    For those who are interested, here is a terrific image of that same spread from the most recent Uncanny X-Men Masterworks.

    There are those say that the slick Masterworks recoloring ruins images that were originally meant to be seen on newsprint, but I can't see how anyone could have that opinion of Paul Smith's work (or Byrne/Austin's for that matter).

    Also, looking at that page, I'm reminded that Smith completely ignored McLeod's super unattractive character design for Karma. She looks quite pretty in this issue. It's a case of an artist drawing off-model that I don't mind, since as we've discussed before, McLeod's Karma is hideous.

    John Byrne has often mentioned (in fact he just brought this up again recently) that Smith wasn't much for working on-model if he didn't want to. Byrne usually cites Storm as the chief example -- he says that he and Cockrum had drawn her with feline features, then Smith came along and gave her more traditional African features, prompting Cockrum to observe, "I guess we were drawing her wrong all this time."

    The other one that Byrne brings up less often is Madelyne Pryor, who, according to Byrne, looked nothing like the Jean Grey he and previous artists has drawn, leading to confusion over the Summers men's reaction to her on the last page of the next issue, since as far as Byrne was concerned, they were just looking at any random redhead.

    The thing is, while I can see the feline features in Cockrum's Storm, I don't see them in Byrne's (other than the eyes). I actually think Byrne's Storm and Smith's look more alike than Byrne's and Cockrum's.

    And I don't get it at all with Jean/Madelyne. Smith's doesn't look like Byrne's, who doesn't look like Cockrum's, who doesn't look like Adams's, and so on and so on. Aside from the costume, she always looks like each artist's "generic" female. The funny thing is, Byrne's point remains -- her appearance isn't impactful since we don't know who we're looking at -- but it's not because she doesn't look like some established character model. It's because she's so nondescript.

    But I guess that's a conversation for next issues comments.

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  12. Oh, also -- I just looked at the FF page. It does seem like Lilandra burst in on Reed and Sue post-coitus, so I guess that explains the nudity.

    And is it me, or does the last panel look like Smith drew it with the intention of an awkward moment between Johnny and his naked sister? Claremont either ignored or didn't notice it, but the Storm siblings seem to be sharing an embarrassed glance.

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  13. Wow! I'd been wishing that I had a cleaner version of that DPS like those that must be in the Masterworks, and there you go with a prettier one that I'd even dared hope for without so much as a page crease to boot. Gorgeous! The coloring is so faithful it looks like it was done from the original plates, which is unusual, although I actually wouldn't have minded if the traditional blue-for-black hair highlights had been redone in more realistic dark gray (a perennial peeve). You see the similarities in Paul Smith's and Art Adams' work even more strongly here, too, although I don't know that I've ever heard/read Adams speak of Smith influencing him.

    Byrne's comments don't make complete sense given that, as you say, I never took his Jean to look much like Cockrum's, and so on, but I'd forgotten until re-reading #165 how different Smith's Ororo looked. She absolutely has more traditionally ethnically African features that've taken some getting used to for me, purely in terms of the context of how previous artists rendered her.

    You're right, Matt, about that last-panel look between Sue and Johnny. Also, I didn't mention this before, but I'm not sure how even a brilliant mind like Reed Richards could instantly deduce that Lilandra was a holographic perception, although as I write that my brain is coming up with the No-Prize answer of him noticing that she wasn't casting a shadow.

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  14. Blam wrote:Of all the costumes Kitty has made for herself, this is definitely one of them.


    Bwah-ha-ha-ha!!! I snorted loud enough reading that this morning, I woke my son up!

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  15. Blam -- "Wow!"

    Yeah, it's pretty neat. Marvelmasteworks.com is a fan site, but the editor of the Masterworks line communicates regularly with them and sends them preview pages for each and every new volume as they're announced. This just happened to be one of the previews for the X-Men volume containing issue #167.
    I had it as the wallpaper on my computer for a while!

    Blam -- "The coloring is so faithful it looks like it was done from the original plates..."

    The current Masterworks team takes great pains to reconstruct the issues exactly as they originally appeared. They even preserve coloring mistakes. And I'm all for keeping the colors close to what they originally looked like, but I don't understand this weird, almost compulsive need for precisely archived versions of the original issues, warts and all. If there was a mistake, fix it!

    But anyway, if you want to own a painstakingly reconstructed, beautifully colored panel of Wolverine with a yellow arm, you can find it in Uncanny X-Men Masterworks volume 2.

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  16. @Blam: What really makes it special to me... is the way it's presented as such a frozen snapshot.

    Fantastic observation. I'd never really noticed that opening splash is a "freeze frame" but it's a great effect.

    I only wish that Paul Smith's tenure would last longer, because the delicate energy that he provides is so vivid and those touching final pages promise such great things ahead.

    Hear hear! And "delicate energy" is a great description for what Smith brings to the book.

    It makes no sense for the trio to burst into a room that, just from looking in the window, clearly only held the new students.

    Good point. It really does only make sense from a "big opening splash" perspective.

    Unintentional funny?

    Unintentional funny. :)

    Of all the costumes Kitty has made for herself, this is definitely one of them.

    Like Mock, the ensuing laugh after reading that drew the attention of people around me.

    my perception from checking in briefly at those points was that the sort of delicate balance of character-based subplots, overarching "mutant menace" superplot, and discrete main-action plots that you describe as launching from the end of #167 got lost post-Smith in a bouillabaisse of month-to-month neverending story.

    The "delicate balance" (to use your phrase) I see launching from this issue only goes so far as "Mutant Massacre" (so up to issue #213, though #211 is technically Romita's last), in my estimation, at least.

    After that (well, after a few "finding his legs" issues following Romita's departure, before Silvestri takes over), Claremont settles in for a more traditional (structure-wise, at least) take on the book, with a return to more distinct, self-contained arcs, if for no other reason than the success of "Mutant Massacre" initiated the annual summer crossover event, which forced Claremont into a more traditional narrative structure at least once a year.

    After "Inferno", we get to the really formless stuff, as Claremont more or less breaks up the team and we get several issues with no official team to speak of before Harras and Lee force a return to even more traditional super-heroics in the wake of "X-Tinction Agenda".

    Whereas I'm a huge fan of Claremont's more form-less run w/Romita Jr. I'm less a fan of the post-"Inferno" approach, in part because it's no longer looking in on the lives of characters I know and love, and in part because he lacks a strong artist to anchor the material and give it visual consistency until Lee comes aboard full time.

    That panel has stuck with me but to this very day I simultaneously love it and roll my eyes at its quintessential Claremontian preciousness.

    It is most definitely one of the most Claremontian panels of all time. :)

    @Matt: It's a case of an artist drawing off-model that I don't mind, since as we've discussed before, McLeod's Karma is hideous.

    Good point. I much prefer this take on the character as well.

    I actually think Byrne's Storm and Smith's look more alike than Byrne's and Cockrum's.

    Ditto.

    Byrne's point remains -- her appearance isn't impactful since we don't know who we're looking at -- but it's not because she doesn't look like some established character model. It's because she's so nondescript.

    Yeah, we'll get to this soon enough, but Maddie looking just like Jean is one of those things where a technique that works for film or TV doesn't work in comics, because no matter how realistic a drawing, a comic is always going to present a representation...but I don't understand this weird, almost compulsive need for precisely archived versions of the original issues, warts and all. If there was a mistake, fix it!

    Perhaps its sacrilegious to say so, but I agree with you. I mean, an error is an error. If you can fix it, fix it.

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  17. @Matt: I'm all for keeping the colors close to what they originally looked like, but I don't understand this weird, almost compulsive need for precisely archived versions of the original issues, warts and all.

    Yeah, I agree.

    When the Archives and Masterworks first started up — stuff like DC's Greatest Stories Ever Told before them, even — I loved that modern coloring was applied to them because it hadn't gotten out of hand yet; it was more nuanced but still flat rather than the absurd, often obscuring modeling that we see today with computer effects.

    I remember a letter to CBG complaining about how the first Daredevil Masterworks had been colored "wrong". The letter-writer was livid that DD's costume was golden brown and burgundy in some scenes. CBG editors Don & Maggie Thompson replied, and the volume's reconstruction editor (Richard Howell, I think) confirmed, that the colorists were merely applying appropriate colors to the scene in question, which took place underground where it was dark. Daredevil still wore yellow and red.

    Nowadays, I gather that lots of Golden Age stuff is either shot straight from the printed pages — instead of "Theakstonized" as it once was (having the color bleached out from printed pages when no original art can be had, and new color applied to the B&W result, a process developed by Greg Theakston) — or done up in such a way as to mimic primitive coloring and newsprint. I could only dream about the variety of upscale reprints (or reprints of any kind) available today when I was younger, and now I can't hardly afford any of what's out there, but I do have a volume of Dick Briefer's Frankenstein, oversized on glossy paper but otherwise vintage-looking. I think that I'd prefer either this extreme or the kind of sensitive recoloring I mentioned earlier to exact replication of colors as printed but on pristine white backgrounds. As vibrant as that page you linked to is, and as much as I prefer seeing it to the snapshot I took from the poorly scanned DVD-ROM file of the issue, I suspect from experience that in my hands (vs. on a computer screen) the colors would look inappropriate. Colorists took the absorption qualities of newsprint into account, which is why early usage of Mando and Baxter paper as well as the Flexographic printing process resulted in such garish imagery. That DPS from the Masterworks is striking, true, but partly just for the surprise; not everything was colored as sensitively as X-Men to begin with, too, and like I said, it isn't truly reflective of the original colorists' intentions — if they'd known colors would be that true on backgrounds that white they'd likely have worked differently.

    Plus I still hate blue-for-black hair. Plus plus, again, I totally agree that preserving outright mistakes is dumb, unless it's charming, slightly off-register colors and whatnot done for maximum facsimile effect on material older than this.

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  18. @Teebore: And "delicate energy" is a great description for what Smith brings to the book.

    I wish I hadn't lessened the impact of it by using the more pedestrian phrase "delicate balance" a short while later, as you quote, but I will take the compliment. 8^)

    I'll take your word for it, too, that the "delicate balance" is maintained after Smith's run for the Romita issues, which I haven't read since they were first published save for some bulk re-reads not long after. Although I will admit that after I'd determined to quit with #200 until it totally wowed me what kept me around for #201-205 was the issues being different, largely self-contained, with mostly neat guest artists. I remember asking a friend what was going on in X-Men shortly after I gave it up; he mentioned the X-Men dying and coming back and nobody knowing it, them being in Australia, and the Siege Perilous, and that's when I started waving my hands and saying "Never mind!"

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  19. "until it totally wowed me" should be "unless it totally wowed me"

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  20. As this is my first post, let me start by saying that I have been erratically reading more than a few of your X-aminations, and I am enjoying them a lot. Thanks!

    These (I mean, Claremont's runs on Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants) are probably the stories that made me a comic fan for life. I haven't been reading them in quite a while, mainly for practical reasons (my comics from that time are buried in some boxes in my parent's house), but maybe also because I was afraid that they would not hold so well as to match the fond memories I have.

    Reading your X-aminations, I am being convinced of the contrary and I am really looking forward to a chance to read these stories again.

    Your analysis of this particular episode also reminds me why, at the time, Cyclops was my favourite X-Man (if not my favourite character EVER!!). I cannot nail it down exactly why (apart from the obvious fact that is girlfriend is a hot telekinetic redhead ), but in Claremont characterization he gets to be so cool - one of my favourite moments during the Proteus saga is when he engages in a fight a shocked Wolverine in order to make him regain self-confidence.

    At some point it seems however that they started ruining the character - the starting point was probably the whole "leave wife and infant son for my ex-girlfriend who just came back from the dead". I don't really know exactly how things have been in the comics in the last ten years or so (I stopped reading mutant comics around 2000). However, as much as I loved the movies (the first two, at least), I have to say that the fact that Cyclops is kind of depicted as a moron, while Wolverine gets to be the cool guy, was really annoying to me.

    Apologies if I went a little bit OT.

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  21. @Blam: Plus I still hate blue-for-black hair.

    Me too. And nice rundown on the coloring process of reprints; a lot of info there that was new to me (like the term "Theakstonized")

    he mentioned the X-Men dying and coming back and nobody knowing it, them being in Australia, and the Siege Perilous, and that's when I started waving my hands and saying "Never mind!"

    Yeah, I'm with Claremont until the Siege Perilous comes into play. That's the point where it becomes a case of "I can respect what he's doing (or trying to do) but I'm not enjoying it much anymore".

    @Max: have been erratically reading more than a few of your X-aminations, and I am enjoying them a lot. Thanks!

    Thank you!

    These (I mean, Claremont's runs on Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants) are probably the stories that made me a comic fan for life.

    Ditto.

    Reading your X-aminations, I am being convinced of the contrary and I am really looking forward to a chance to read these stories again.

    More than anything, that makes me feel like I've accomplished my mission. :)

    I cannot nail it down exactly why (apart from the obvious fact that is girlfriend is a hot telekinetic redhead )

    I can't deny that isn't also a huge part of his appeal to me, either.

    the starting point was probably the whole "leave wife and infant son for my ex-girlfriend who just came back from the dead".

    Yeah, the resurrection of Jean and his involvement in X-Factor pretty much started the character's downward slide, and it took Weezie and Claremont a good chunk of X-Factor issues and "Inferno" to straighten him out, and even then it came at the expense of Maddie, so it wasn't an entirely clean save either.

    However, as much as I loved the movies (the first two, at least), I have to say that the fact that Cyclops is kind of depicted as a moron, while Wolverine gets to be the cool guy, was really annoying to me.

    As Dr. Bitz can attest, you don't want to get me going about Cyclops' treatment in the movies. To this day, the mere thought of his treatment in the third one sends me into a Hulk-like rage, and it wasn't like he had a ton of screen time in the first two, either.

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