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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #177

"Sanction"
January 1984

In a Nutshell 
Mystique attacks the X-Men to retrieve Rogue. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Romita Jr.  
Inker: John Romita Sr.
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Eliot Brown
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Traffic Manager: Virgina Romita

Plot
In an abandoned circus, Mystique is attacked by Wolverine, but she manages to evade his attack and slit his throat, killing him. Posing as him when Kitty investigates, Mystique kills her as well, then leads Cyclops and Colossus into a fun house where a series of pre-placed amplifiers increases the power of Cyclops' optic blast, killing Colossus. Mystique then sneaks up behind Cyclops and strangles him. Donning a special suit, Mystique exits the fun house and is attacked by Storm. She absorbs the energy of Storm's lightening attack via the suit, and explodes a nearby fuel tanker, killing Storm. Inside the big top, Mystique is attacked by Rogue, but manages to blast her into oblivion. Mystique is then grabbed by Nightcrawler, who teleports her throughout the tent. Mystique is unfazed by the teleportation, but hesitates when she's about to stab Nightcrawler, who uses the opening to knock her out. Later, Mystique awakens to Destiny tending to her wounds as Arcade enters, congratulating Mystique on her performance against his robot X-Men. Mystique arranges to have Arcade run her Brotherhood through the same program.


Meanwhile, at dance class, Kitty discusses Storm's recent changes with Stevie Hunter while the Starjammers bid farewell to Professor X, Cyclops and Havok before leaving Earth to help Lilandra reclaim her throne. That evening, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty and Amanda Sefton arrive at Lincoln Center for the ballet. As Colossus and Kitty park the car, a nearby building explodes. Kitty goes to call the fire department while Colossus runs inside to rescue any survivors. Instead, he finds Blob waiting, the explosion a holographic illusion. Blob punches Colossus out of the building, where he's grasped in mid air by an enormous fire bird created by Pyro. He struggles with the creature, growing ever hotter, until he's dropped in the middle of a construction site. As Kitty arrives on the scene, Avalanche triggers a small earthquake, sending five nearby tanker trucks filled with liquid nitrogen crashing onto Colossus' superheated form, leaving him little more than a statute of twisted metal.  

Firsts and Other Notables
Mystique and her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants return, making only their second appearance in the title since their debut in "Days of Future Past" (though they have of course appeared elsewhere, prior to this issue most recently in Rom #31). The opening pages of the issue are written with first person captions from Mystique's perspective, the first time we've ever had a look inside her head.

Claremont once again hints at the connection between Nightcrawler and Mystique, having the later unable to kill the robot replica of the former, despite having been able to take out the Rogue robot without hesitation. It's also revealed that Mystique isn't fazed by teleporting along with Nightcrawler. Unfortunately, Claremont will never come back to the Nightcrawler/Mystique subplot, leaving it to later writers to resolve (a resolution which, surprisingly, hews pretty close to Claremont's planned idea).


Doug Ramsey is mentioned within an issue (not just the letters page) for the first time, and Kitty's discussion of the project they're working on together sparks jealousy in Colossus.


Arcade reappears, functioning as a trainer-for-hire for Mystique and her team, which is a rather ingenious use of the villain which allows him to keep his schtick without devaluing it by constantly having heroes escape from Murderworld. 


John Romita Jr. is inked by his dad, John Romita Sr., which gives the issue something of a throwback, Silver Age look. 

This issue was part of "Assistant Editors' Month", and features a one page strip of Eliot Brown measuring the Blackbird for its feature in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (Brown was responsible for most of the schematic/architectural drawings in the series). Otherwise, it's business as usual on the title.


A Work in Progress
While morphing back to Mystique from Wolverine, Mystique is depicted as removing Wolverine's gloves. It's unclear if that's supposed to represent a limitation of her power or something else. 


After months of talking about it, the Starjammers depart Earth in this issue, with Corsair pleased that both his sons declined a life of revolution and space piracy.  


Kitty is still dealing with Storm's transformation, worried that her outward changes indicate the person she knows and love has become some kind of monster. Storm, meanwhile, worries that Kitty may be right.


The X-Men drive Professor X's Rolls Royce to Lincoln Center. 

Colossus once again wonders if he could melt, and comes the closest yet to finding out.


I Love the 80s
Not surprisingly, Kitty's dance attire wouldn't be out of place in the "Physical" music video. 


How odd that Nightcrawler would suddenly question his past at the same time Mystique grappled with some kind of secret connection to him.


Kitty mentions how difficult it's becoming to park in New York City.


Claremontisms
Arcade declares "my game, my rules", one of Claremont's favorite tautologies. 


Artistic Achievements
I have long wondered who the woman on this cover is supposed to be; I'm guessing Kitty, but her look is so generic, and the clothing so awful, it's hard to know for sure. Not one of Romita's better X-Men covers. 

Young Love
Xavier and Lilandra part ways as the Starjammers depart Earth.


Later, Nightcrawler teases Colossus and Kitty about making out in the car. 


The Best There is at What He Does
Mystique is able to kill Robot Wolverine by slitting his throat. Assuming Arcade's robots are fairly accurate, this provides a nifty benchmark for Wolverine's power level at this point, and provides the character with a physical vulnerability despite his power. 


Teebore's Take
With the Madelyne/Mastermind story that served as a sequel to "Dark Phoenix Saga" resolved and in the rear view mirror, Claremont picks up a dangling thread from that story to drive the next one: Rogue's defection to the X-Men. This leads to a confrontation with Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, surprisingly only the second such encounter between the two teams. Unfortunately, that confrontation is mostly saved for next issue, with the Brotherhood appearing only in part during closing pages of the story. Instead, the bulk of the issue is handed over to Mystique seemingly taking on the X-Men one by one. It features some imaginative takedowns of the X-Men (such as Wolverine getting his throat slit), and gives Claremont an opportunity to develop a first person voice for Mystique, but as soon as X-Men start dying, it becomes clear something fishy is going on even before Arcade pops up (there are other hints to the truth as well, such as Cyclops' presence and Storm's old look), and the resultant voice for Mystique fails to rise above the level of generic villainy. As a result, the sequence feels like padding, and one can't help but wonder if some of the pages devoted to her wouldn't have been better served on the eventual X-Men/Brotherhood confrontation instead.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the New Mutants (and the readers) enjoy the fact that Rio is not Nova Roma in New Mutants #12, and next week, the Brotherhood steps up their attack on the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #178.

11 comments:

  1. “Mystique and her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants return, making only their second appearance in the title since their debut in "Days of Future Past" (though they have of course appeared elsewhere, prior to this issue most recently in Rom #31)”

    I’m pretty sure that the Brotherhood appeared in Dazzler after Rom. In Rom, all the male members of the team are defeated and Destiny suggests that they rename themselves the Sisterhood of Evil Mutants. In Dazzler, they appear as the Sisterhood. When Claremont returns to them, he ignores all that and they are simply the Brotherhood again.

    I always got the feeling that Claremont had some sort of agreement with Marvel. Other writers could use the Brotherhood or Juggernaut to boost sales, but Magneto or the Hellfire Club were strictly off-limits.

    “While morphing back to Mystique from Wolverine, Mystique is depicted as removing Wolverine's gloves”.

    Mystique can look like Wolverine, but she cannot replicate his claws, so she is wearing some sort of mechanical glove with claws. Not sure where she is hiding it on the first couple of pages though.

    "How odd that Nightcrawler would suddenly question his past at the same time Mystique grappled with some kind of secret connection to him".

    I’m normally quite relaxed about Claremont’s dangling plot threads, but come on. It must be months since Nightcrawler first met Mystique; and he still hasn’t called his step-mother? I think Claremont would have been wiser not to draw attention to this.

    "I have long wondered who the woman on this cover is supposed to be; I'm guessing Kitty, but her look is so generic, and the clothing so awful, it's hard to know for sure".

    Agreed.

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  2. John Romita Jr. is inked by his dad, John Romita Sr., which gives the issue something of a throwback, Silver Age look.

    Colossus looks downright Peter Parker-ian in those panels.

    I have long wondered who the woman on this cover is supposed to be; I'm guessing Kitty, but her look is so generic, and the clothing so awful, it's hard to know for sure.

    See, I never doubted it was anyone else BUT Kitty...

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  3. @Bernard the Poet: I’m pretty sure that the Brotherhood appeared in Dazzler after Rom.

    Yeah, you're right. I should have been more clear. Rom #31 is the last appearance of Pyro and Avalanche (Blob popped up in an issue of Marvel Fanfare), making it the last appearance of the full Brotherhood, with, as you say, Mystique, Destiny and Rogue as the Sisterhood menacing Dazzler.

    Mystique can look like Wolverine, but she cannot replicate his claws, so she is wearing some sort of mechanical glove with claws.

    That makes sense, though in addition to your point about them not appearing in the earlier pages, I also question how they could contain replicas of his claws; as drawn, they look like little more than gloves with the metal housing on top.

    I think Claremont would have been wiser not to draw attention to this.

    Agreed. Especially given that he resolves none of this in this story (or ever), it seems odd, an unnecessary double-tease (we already have Mystique teasing the connection; there's no need for Nightcrawler to randomly bring it up as well).

    @MOCK!: Colossus looks downright Peter Parker-ian in those panels.

    I was thinking the same thing (and sadly, the Romitas' depiction of Colossus is pretty much one of the few things about the art in this issue I like...).

    See, I never doubted it was anyone else BUT Kitty...

    I shouldn't doubt it, because she's the obvious candidate, but every time I look at the cover, I'm like "that can't be Kitty; it looks nothing like her!"

    (It probably doesn't help that the woman is depicted out of costume, and/or that Kitty hasn't yet really established a consistent costume, which is probably why she's in "normal" clothes on the cover).

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  4. We are now entering a run of issues (#177 - #209) which I've only read maybe twice overall and which I haven't so much as flipped through in probably ten years. So I may have less to say for a while, and/or have more questions than usual!

    But first, I have to say that in my book, you can never go wrong with the Romita Jr./Romita Sr. art team. They also collaborated on the first appearance of the Hobgoblin in Amazing Spider-Man #238, and on other stuff over the years. Romita Sr. is one of my favorite inkers and in general one of my favorite artists ever at Marvel (I may be a weirdo, but I place him above Kirby and Ditko in the pantheon as far as artists whose style I find most appealing -- Kirby and Ditko may have been more imaginitive with their layouts and possibly even more creative overall, but Romita's art just looks prettier to my eye).

    So Cyclops gets a farewell to his dad, huh? I had forgotten about that. But he's still on his honeymoon right now! I know this because he's plucked from the honeymoon to participate in the Secret Wars, which is still a few issues away. I guess he just took a brief break to beam up to the Starjammer? I mean it makes sense, since he has no idea if he'll ever see his dad again.

    "Arcade reappears, functioning as a trainer-for-hire for Mystique and her team, which is a rather ingenious use of the villain which allows him to keep his schtick without devaluing it by constantly having heroes escape from Murderworld."

    I agree, this is a good way to use Arcade. And I still maintain that he's probably killing normal people non-stop in between these stories. He just needs to stop accepting contracts against superheroes!

    "Kitty is still dealing with Storm's transformation, worried that her outward changes indicate the person she knows and love has become some kind of monster. Storm, meanwhile, worries that Kitty may be right."

    They're both right.

    "I have long wondered who the woman on this cover is supposed to be..."

    Count me as another who's always just assumed it's Kitty. The face looks like Romita's Kitty to me, and the clothes are garish enough to be hers. Plus, since Mystique-as-Wolverine kills "Kitty" in the story, it makes sense that it's her.

    Anyway, I have to disagree with you that this isn't one of Romita's best covers. I actually think it's one of his strongest! Wolverine looks so menacing, and I love the shadows.

    "Tomorrow, the New Mutants (and the readers) enjoy the fact that Rio is not Nova Roma in New Mutants #12..."

    I don't like to play "coulda/woulda/shoulda", especially with other people's work (unless we're talking about comic book writers of course), but I just have to say that in light of tomorrow's holiday, you might have phrased this as, "Tomorrow, the New Mutants (and the readers) give thanks for the fact that Rio is not Nova Roma..."

    Mock and Teebore -- I totally agree that Colossus is a dead ringer for Peter Parker here. It reminded me of the review of Web of Spider-Man #74 over at Not Blog X, where G. Kendall called attention to the odd bit where Peter Parker is mistaken for "Peter Nicholas" twice in the issue.

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  5. @Matt: We are now entering a run of issues (#177 - #209) which I've only read maybe twice overall and which I haven't so much as flipped through in probably ten years.

    Which is funny, because a slightly larger chunk of issues (#167-213) represents the single group of comics I've probably read more than any other. :)

    I have to say that in my book, you can never go wrong with the Romita Jr./Romita Sr. art team.

    I generally enjoy Romita Sr., and we all know I'm a big JRjr fan, but for whatever reason, their collaboration on this issue has always left me cold. Some of the Silver Age stylings Romita Sr. brings to the book are appreciated (like the romance book-vibe he gives Colossus), but the generally-smaller figures within panels that Romita Jr. does (like that panel of Lilandra leaving Xavier) remind me of Silver Age art in a bad way.

    I know this because he's plucked from the honeymoon to participate in the Secret Wars, which is still a few issues away.

    Yeah, the fact that Scott gets nabbed from his honeymoon for Secret Wars is all kinds of problematic, as it suggests he's been on his honeymoon for weeks, if not months (I mean, it seems like a fair amount of time passes for the X-Men between #176 and #180).

    I've just always figured it was a more casual, longer term honeymoon, with Cyclops leaving to say goodbye to his dad and whatnot, rather than your traditional week long honeymoon. After all, it isn't like Cyclops has a job to get back to...

    Wolverine looks so menacing, and I love the shadows.

    I do really like Wolverine on the cover. I've just always been put off by the fact that Kitty doesn't look, to me, immediately like Kitty, and that her garish outfit seems in contrast (in a bad way) to the more subdued, shadowed depiction of Wolverine.

    I just have to say that in light of tomorrow's holiday, you might have phrased this as, "Tomorrow, the New Mutants (and the readers) give thanks for the fact that Rio is not Nova Roma..."

    Ha! Definitely a missed opportunity. Honestly, while I'm well aware that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the fact that this week's New Mutants post is going up on Thanksgiving never really occurred to me until you pointed it out, if that makes any sense...

    where G. Kendall called attention to the odd bit where Peter Parker is mistaken for "Peter Nicholas" twice in the issue.

    I remember reading his post on that issue, and being surprised that anyone outside the X-office ever referenced the whole "Peter Nicholas"/post-Siege Perilous status quo.

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  6. Not one of Romita's better X-Men covers. 

    I've always figured that was Kitty. For what it's worth, while it "looks nothing like her" as she appears in the issue, neither does Kitty next to Caliban on the cover of #179.

    The cover is sound from a sketch standpoint — it's an arresting image, and I like the simplicity. Aside from the iffy perspective on the floor tiles, Kitty's face (which is mostly me disliking JRJr.'s style), and the miss on Wolverine's mask points at that angle, the problems mostly lie in the coloring. Pink on Kitty's gloves and boots with red on the drop-block relief of the logo as well as Logan's belt? Really?!? Way to make me want to stab my eyes! Maybe if the pink surrounded the red it would integrate with it better, but as it stands, red on the top and hot pink on the bottom, the tension drives me mad.

    John Romita Jr. is inked by his dad, John Romita Sr., which gives the issue something of a throwback, Silver Age look.

    I had completely forgot that John Romita Sr. inked this story. Like I've said before, I haven't read these issues in a couple of decades. While I wish I could say that it works, their styles don't really mesh — a few faces look like Jr.'s, more look overwhelmingly like Sr.'s, and none of the figures look anything like near the best of either gentleman's. One glimpse at the cover shows how differently the son inks his own work vs. the father, and the panel you show of Wolverine having his throat slashed has a completely Jr. face on it — oddly, showcasing in miniature the aspects of Jr.'s style that I like the best — that's out of place among the Sr. ones.

    Like but unlike the cover — I enjoy the rendering a lot less — the splash page is fine in intent but lacking in execution. Some pages don't look any better than ... at the State Fair of Texas, I'm sad to say. Except for the frequent, jarring Romita Sr. faces the whole thing looks like a meh fill-in from the Cockrum era to me.

    Mystique not only copies Wolverine's body but appears to replicate a stopped heart. I realize that the "Kitty Pryde" who tells us this turns out to be a robot, but I still call frumious bandersnatch on that.

    After months of talking about it, the Starjammers depart Earth in this issue, with Corsair pleased that both his sons declined a life of revolution and space piracy.  

    The last part of that sentence is once again hilariously deadpan descriptive, so congratulations there. The first part of that sentence reminds me just how long the Starjammers have been on Earth; wars can take a while, intergalactic ones especially, but I kind-of want them to get back to Shi'ar space and have Lilandra be told, "Sorry, Majestrix... Everyone you cared about and everyone who was ever loyal to you has been successfully killed by Deathbird except for me."

    How odd that Nightcrawler would suddenly question his past at the same time Mystique grappled with some kind of secret connection to him.

    I believe the proper Internet colloquialism for my reaction here is "LOLZ".

    Since I'd called Claremontism on "My game, sweetheart, my rules" to myself the moment I read it, I was glad you got it in here.

    Matt's probably right that an explanation is needed for Scott's farewell, especially since we're told that the Starjammer is in geosynchronous orbit "literally straight up from Stevie's," which would make it hard to beam anyone up from Alaska or wherever the honeymooners were flying last issue. Just wanting to say goodbye to his dad is reason enough, really, but if you need more I suggest believing that Scott had to pick up an extra pair of ruby-quartz shades from the mansion after losing one battling the squictopus.

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  7. @Blam: For what it's worth, while it "looks nothing like her" as she appears in the issue, neither does Kitty next to Caliban on the cover of #179.

    I get what you're saying, and I don't disagree in principal, but the fact is, I've always known the woman on #179's cover was Kitty, whereas I've always questioned whether the woman on this issue's cover was Kitty.

    I have no real good explanation for that other than to say that the Kitty on #179 has her more Paul Smith-ian hair, whereas the Kitty on the cover of #177 has some weird black hair Kitty has never exhibited. And, of course, the fact that the cover of issue #179 depicts a more obvious plot point (Kitty almost marries Caliban) than #177 (which isn't really about Wolverine killing Kitty, and even when "he" does, it happens in a drastically different setting than as it appears on the cover), but that has no bearing on the actual depiction of Kitty on either cover, of course.

    I realize that the "Kitty Pryde" who tells us this turns out to be a robot, but I still call frumious bandersnatch on that.

    Yeah, I wondered about that too. Though the art doesn't back up her dialogue about Wolverine having no pulse, so maybe she's just...eyeballing it?

    The last part of that sentence is once again hilariously deadpan descriptive, so congratulations there.

    That one, I'll admit, was intentionally deadpan.

    "Sorry, Majestrix... Everyone you cared about and everyone who was ever loyal to you has been successfully killed by Deathbird except for me."

    Right? They've been dallying about on Earth for months now, at least. How long does Lilandra expect this rebellion to wait?



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  8. "Right? They've been dallying about on Earth for months now, at least. How long does Lilandra expect this rebellion to wait?"

    I kind of like this, actually, as a (presumably unintentional) nod to the fact that whilst Lilandra is the least callous and bonkers member of her family, she's still part of the royal line of a galaxy spanning empire, with all the arrogance and solipsism that entails.

    Sure, she won't risk the destruction of the universe in exchange for godlike powers, and she won't usher in a new age of bloodthirsty, pointless conquest. But by God, she's happy to keep screwing an alien she likes the look of for as long as she feels the need, and bollocks to anyone who gets killed in her name in the meantime.

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  9. @SpaceSquid: But by God, she's happy to keep screwing an alien she likes the look of for as long as she feels the need, and bollocks to anyone who gets killed in her name in the meantime.

    Ha! Well said. :)

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  10. Teebore: I have no real good explanation for that other than to say that the Kitty on #179 has her more Paul Smith-ian hair, whereas the Kitty on the cover of #177 has some weird black hair Kitty has never exhibited.

    Oh, I've always hated that Kitty was drawn so "wrong" on the cover, in a costume she doesn't use and with black hair especially*, but the context was never outside of Kitty being drawn wrong as opposed to wondering if it was supposed to be Kitty.

    And of course if covers were disqualified by "This scene don't e'zackly appear in the issue..." comics would be out of business.

    *I'm sure that my copy of this issue, which isn't accessible, has always had dark-grey accents in the color surrounding the figure's mostly ink-black hair and white sheen, but the cover on the issues scanned to CD-ROM from which I'm doing the reread has discernible brown — which I was more than mildly surprised to see. Given that the issues on the disc are clearly scanned, often sloppily in terms of poor orientation, from actual print copies (and obviously not retouched in any way) I assume some if not most printed copies had the brown hair.

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  11. "I have long wondered who the woman on this cover is supposed to be; I'm guessing Kitty, but her look is so generic, and the clothing so awful, it's hard to know for sure. Not one of Romita's better X-Men covers."

    I always liked this cover! Simple, striking design.

    And I always assumed the woman was Kitty.

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