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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #185

"Public Enemy!
September 1984

In a Nutshell 
Storm loses her powers via Forge's Neutralizer. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Romita Jr. & Dan Green 
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski 
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
At the Pentagon, Henry Peter Gyrich leads a briefing on Rogue and unveils Forge's Neutralizer, declaring his intent to use it in apprehending Rogue for killing a SHIELD agent. Raven Darkholme storms in, angry that Gyrich intends to use the untested Neutralizer prototype, but is told that the president has authorized the action. Meanwhile, at Xavier's School, Storm interrupts a therapy session between Professor X and Rachel to declare that Rogue has gone missing. Worried she may be suffering a relapse in the control of her powers, Professor X and Storm go to Cerebro to attempt to locate her, while Rachel, spying Xavier's address book, calls her father, Cyclops. Meanwhile, within a secret chamber at the Pentagon, Raven, as Mystique, consults Destiny for the best course of action regarding Rogue. Raven then informs Forge that Gyrich and his NSA team intend to use his invention on Rogue. Furious, Forge calls the president as he flies off to intercept Gyrich. 


Storm tracks Rogue to a riverbank in Mississippi, a place Rogue used to come as a child, insisting that she has friends now and doesn't need to isolate herself. As a show of trust, Storm willing allows Rogue to absorb her powers and memories. With Storm unconscious, Rogue revels in the new-found perspective gained from Storm's abilities. Just then, Gyrich and his agents arrive and attack Rogue. She whips up a storm that scatters the government agents, but endangers a river trawler in the process. Just as she loses control of the storm, Storm awakens and quells the tempest. They work together to save the crew of the ship, leaving themselves open to another attack. Forge arrives just as Gyrich fires off a full power shot from the Neutralizer. Storm knocks Rogue out of the way, taking the blast herself. In the ensuing discharge of energy, Rogue disappears, presumably taken away by the current. Forge fishes the unconscious and powerless Storm out of the river, angrily admonishing Gyrich for taking the law into his own hands. Meanwhile, a group of Dire Wraiths watch the scene from their scrying pool, and, recognizing Forge's Neutralizer as being similar in design to the one used against them by their foe Rom, declare that Forge must die. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Storm loses her powers as of this issue, taking a full powered shot from Forge's Neutralizer intended for Rogue (depicted via a pretty awesome panel). While the immediate ramifications of this event will be addressed over the course of the next few issues, being powerless will remain Storm's status quo for roughly the next forty odd issues.


Though relative common place by the time Jim Lee gets his hands on her, this issue marks the first time we see "sexy Rogue", as, in the culmination of the gradual visual de-aging of the character, she spends most of this issue hanging around in a bikini (much to the delight of Teenage Teebore).


We also learn that Rogue is originally from Mississippi, and hear for the first time the now-familiar story about how her power first manifested when she kissed a boy named Cody, further strengthening the idea of her powers as a burden.


We learn that Rachel is the daughter of Cyclops (and by extension that her last name is Summers, though that's not made explicit). She hears Madelyne's voice and refers to her as "mom", though, as New Mutants #18 established that Rachel's mother helped train her in the use of her telekinetic powers, at this point it stands to reason that Rachel is merely confusing Madelyne's voice with Jean Grey's (this will be made explicit eventually).

Destiny saws that she's unable to currently see the future due to a rend in the fabric of space/time. It's never made clear whether this is a reference to the events hinted at by Naze to Forge last issue, a result of the Demon Bear story unfolding concurrently in New Mutants, or the arrival of Rachel in the present day.


Storm mentions that she found Rogue and was told about the Neutralizer thanks to Mystique, and a footnote points the reader to a future issue of Marvel Fanfare. That story did eventually see print, some four years later, as a backup story, written by Claremont, in Marvel Fanfare #40. In it, Mystique approaches Storm and informs her of the situation, though she fails to mention that Destiny has foreseen that whomever goes to Rogue's aid will be depowered, making Mystique's action less altruistic. It's also notable for ending with Mystique, as a male Raven Darkholme, dancing with Destiny, perhaps the most overt on-panel hint at Claremont's true intentions for their relationship. 

Though Cyclops' head curiously remains present, Storm's head has been removed from the corner box in this issue, perhaps a nod to her depowerment (though she technically remains with the team).

A Work in Progress
Several little details regarding the nature of Rogue's power are established in this issue. It's said that length of contact correlates to how long she hangs onto stolen powers and memories (meaning she must have touched Ms. Marvel longer than anyone else, and suggesting she could potentially permanently steal someone else's powers and memories). Rogue also believes that because Storm didn't fight against Rogue taking her powers, Rogue was able to more easily handle sharing Storm's emotions and memories with her own, while it's also confirmed that Rogue adopts the diction and voice of the persona she's absorbed.

It's also mentioned that while Rogue ostensibly came to Xavier for help in controlling her powers, she's actually gotten worse since joining the team, a nod to the events of issue #182.

Gyrich's briefing which opens the issue allows Romita and Green to recreate scenes from issue #158, in which Rogue is drawn noticeably younger than she appeared in that issue.


Gyrich also saws that the computer virus the X-Men introduced to the Pentagon in issue #158 erased references not only to the X-Men but mutants in general, though clearly the government has since learned about the presence of the virus and it's effects.


When told Rogue is missing, Professor X notes that he can't sense her thoughts, meaning she's gone outside the greater New York area, giving a range to Xavier's telepathy when unassisted by Cerebro (he's also wearing some kind of weird robe/smoking jacket in his scenes).


Storm notes that Rossi is away on another mission since being rescued by Rogue, offering a bit of closure to his last appearance, though it's never made clear what that mission is, and he has yet to appear in an X-book since.

It's revealed that the headquarters of Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, first seen in issue #141, is actually a room hidden within the Pentagon (which also explains what Rogue and Mystique were doing there in issue #158). While Mystique is a shapechanger and well known at the Pentagon as Raven Darkholme, it's unclear how the other Brotherhood members, such as the not-inconspicuous Blob, come and go.


Mystique notes that Gyrich wants to use the Neutralizer on Rogue to prove that the government doesn't need the help of superheroes like the Avengers to handle super powered threats.


She also discusses with Destiny whether or not it would be better to allow Rogue to lose her powers, a not unreasonable idea.


Claremont continues to sprinkle the book with references to Bill Mantlo's Rom, as Gyrich mentions that SHIELD is busy fighting against the Dire Wraiths, leaving him to confront Rogue with a team comprised of FBI and Secret Service agents. He also sets up an extended appearance by the Wraiths in the issues ahead.

I Love the 80s
It could be entirely coincidental, but the name of the river boat caught up in Rogue's storm is Longshot Annie. A few years from now, editor Ann Nocenti will write a Longshot miniseries, introducing and starring the titular character and future X-Man.

Rachel Summers, Crybaby
Upon hearing Scott and Madelyne's voices on the phone, Rachel promptly bursts into tears (the phone cord serving as the panel divider is a neat trick, though, and also, remember phone cords?).


Human/Mutant Relations
Forge is incensed that Gyrich would use the Neutralizer prototype on Rogue or Storm, noting they were helping save lives when Gyrich fired on them, and that whatever their alleged crimes, they're innocent until proven guilty under the law.


For Sale
There's as ad for The Last Starfighter, one of those seemingly-beloved 80s movie I've never actually seen.


This issue is featured in a Marvel house ad.


It's in the Mail
Madelyne answers the letters in this issue, pertaining to issue #176. She has to deal with an especially hostile crowd, as letters take the book to task for everything from the squid/octopus mismatch (Madelyne says she was too busy fighting for her life to care) to Madelyne's changing bikini colors (she changed swimsuits) to the large gap in the letters page coverage:


Teebore's Take
Picking up where issue #182 left off, this issue continues to further Rogue's development, filling in some details regarding the nature of her power and really putting forth for the fiist time the notion of her power as a curse that doesn't allow her physical contact. It also ties together some of the threads lingering in the book from previous issues, such as the fallout from Rogue's actions in issue #182 and the Raven/Val/Forge material from #183 and #184. But it's truly notable for the significant change it marks in Storm. Just as she and her teammates (and the readers) were coming to terms with her harsher edge, both in terms of personality and physical appearance, she undergoes another transformation that will define her character for the next forty odd issues, making more literal her previous transition from the ethereal goddess to the grounded warrior.

That the transformation is triggered by an attack by the US government is significant. While not quite on the level of the species-wide incarceration and near extinction depicted in "Days of Future Past", so recently brought back to the forefront by the presence of Rachel, it does make clear that, as Forge angrily spits at Gyrich, the government is willing to play judge, jury and executioner when it comes to mutants, in full ignorance of the law. What began as general unease leading into possible legislation has become unilateral action, and while the Neutralizer itself will prove to be little more than a MacGuffin du Jour, Claremont  is continuing to make the world in which the X-Men find themselves darker and more dangerous.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the "Demon Bear Saga" concludes in New Mutants #20, and next week, Claremont teams with Barry Windsor Smith for "Lifedeath" in Uncanny X-Men #186.

12 comments:

  1. I've been waiting for this! Not only is this the first ever issue of Uncanny X-Men I've read, but it's also the first ever Marvel comic, and in fact, the first ever superhero comic in general I came across. So needless to say I was more than a bit confused about pretty much everything upon reading this as a kid, but I was hooked anyway. Great suff!

    Romita especially is brilliant here. I enjoy his later blocky style as well, but somehow this remains his best work for me. I love the page with Storm and Rogue talking on the beach. Simple but very well done.

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  2. @Ugus: Not only is this the first ever issue of Uncanny X-Men I've read, but it's also the first ever Marvel comic, and in fact, the first ever superhero comic in general I came across.

    Ah, there's nothing like the first one. :)

    So needless to say I was more than a bit confused about pretty much everything upon reading this as a kid, but I was hooked anyway.

    That was my exact same experience reading my first issue.

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  3. Wow, I totally forgot to come by here yesterday! I guess that speaks to my (lack of) interest in this era for the X-Men. Anywho...

    I've always liked this cover. Rogue looks sufficiently menacing enough to draw a reader in and get them wondering if she's gone... rogue.

    However, I'm not much of a fan of the status quo set up here. Powerless Storm bugs me almost as much as mohawk Storm. It's weird to me that Claremont seemingly had this agenda where he had to harden her up and then show that she was just as awesome without powers as she had been with them, if not moreso. I get it as a plot for a few issues, but to keep her as the powerless leader of the X-Men for over three years (with the brief exception of her time in Africa) is stretching the premise a bit thin.

    "[Rogue] spends most of this issue hanging around in a bikini."

    I swear Romita drew that exact same bikini on a young lady in one of his Amazing Spider-Man issues, too. He must've liked the design.

    "...at this point it stands to reason that Rachel is merely confusing Madelyne's voice with Jean Grey's..."

    Is this the first time we learn (albeit inexplicitly) that Madelyne also sounds exactly like Jean? Because remember, she's not a clone at this point!!!

    "Destiny saws that she's unable to currently see the future due to a rend in the fabric of space/time."

    Y'know... I just have to say, Destiny is kind of a useless precog. Her vision is always either clouded -- or wrong. It almost seems like the only thing she predicts correctly is her death!

    " That story did eventually see print, some four years later, as a backup story, written by Claremont, in Marvel Fanfare #40."

    I wonder if this is a case of the story being written but not drawn, or totally ready but delayed, or just never bothered with for some time.

    At any rate, I hate when footnotes tell me to wait for a future issue of anything. It seems like a cop-out.

    "It's also notable for ending with Mystique, as a male Raven Darkholme, dancing with Destiny, perhaps the most overt on-panel hint at Claremont's true intentions for their relationship."

    Ohhh, maybe that's why it was delayed. Shooter was apparently not a proponent of homosexuality in Marvel comics. Given that the story saw publication in 1988, within a year or so of his departure, Claremont and/or Fanfare's Editori-Al Milgrom was probably just sitting on it and waiting him out...

    "Though Cyclops' head curiously remains present..."

    I'm pretty sure his head is up there, off and on, all the way up until issue 201. Another sign that to me, Marvel wanted to keep him around even though Claremont didn't.

    "Gyrich's briefing which opens the issue allows Romita and Green to recreate scenes from issue #158..."

    Aww, Romita draws a very nice classic Storm! Makes me wish even more he'd been given the chance to illustrate her regularly.

    And holy cow, that panel of Gyrich speaking at the podium... so many words! This is why people make fun of Claremont.

    "Rachel Summers, Crybaby"

    Awesome. I look forward (?) to many more installments with this title.

    "...the phone cord serving as the panel divider is a neat trick, though..."

    I especially like how Cyclops's side of the conversation "goes dead" (blank) when he hangs up.

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  4. @Matt: Powerless Storm bugs me almost as much as mohawk Storm.

    Whereas I loved Powerless Storm even more than I love Mohawk Storm (though I HATE that she defeats Cyclops in issue #201, but I have a myriad of problems with that issue). I've said before that Storm circa issue #167 through to Fall of the Mutants is pretty much the only time I've ever cared about the character, and powerless Storm is a big part of that.

    It runs the risk of defying logic to keep her leading the X-Men (and I can't begrudge anyone who's bothered by it), but I love the idea of someone who's good enough of a leader that the skill alone is enough to earn a place on a team filled with super powered people (Alpha Flight did something similar with Heather Hudson around this time, I think), and I think Claremont does a decent enough job to sell that idea that I'm able to suspend my disbelief regarding her continued usefulness to the team.

    Is this the first time we learn (albeit inexplicitly) that Madelyne also sounds exactly like Jean?

    I believe so, though you could argue that Rachel isn't so much recognizing Madelyne's voice as being the same as Jean's as she is hearing a female voice in the background while on the phone with her dad and just assuming it's Jean's voice (because lord knows Rachel's not yet done learning things are different in this time and then getting upset about it).

    You could also make an argument that even when we know Maddy is a clone, she wouldn't have the exact same voice as Jean, as, I believe, things like accent, diction and word choice are a matter of environment more than anything physical.

    Then again, Claremont could just be intending to suggest here that Maddy sounds as much like Jean as she looks like her...

    Y'know... I just have to say, Destiny is kind of a useless precog.

    It's not just Destiny; most precogs in comics end up with "clouded vision" or "inhibited perceptions" or some such, except when dramatically necessary. I haven't read much of the Stern/Romita Spidey run, but was Madame Web ever much better?

    Having a character able to see the future with precision seems like an obvious narrative hiccup long term, even if there is a short term gain, so much so that you wonder why writers even bother sometimes.

    At any rate, I hate when footnotes tell me to wait for a future issue of anything.

    The only thing is the footnote that admits to not knowing what its supposed to be referencing.

    And holy cow, that panel of Gyrich speaking at the podium... so many words! This is why people make fun of Claremont.

    It is indeed a lot of words, and indeed something Claremont gets flak for, though I don't really think most of it is warranted. Most of it is exposition, referring to a story that's years old at this point, and none of it is filled with the kind of overwritten purple prose for which Claremont does, occasionally, deserve some flak.



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  5. Teebore -- "I haven't read much of the Stern/Romita Spidey run, but was Madame Web ever much better?"

    I actually don't know. Madame Web was only in one 2-part issue of Stern/Romita. She was a main character in the preceding run, Denny O'Neil and Romita jr. That's pretty much the only major run on ASM that I've never, ever read. I have the Essential volume containing it, but I've always heard such negative things that I've never bothered with it. I'll get to it eventually, though.

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  6. Agree that Powerless Mowhawk Storm is the best Storm. It's a shame it seems that only Claremont was able to give her any personality, as the bland "weather goddess" interpretation seems to have won out.

    As far as Rachel mistaking Maddie for Jean, keep in mind that 1. she's just hearing her on a 1980's telephone, and 2. she's a big crybaby who doesn't bother to confirm or deny who the female voice on the other receiver might be. It's hardly gospel that Maddie and Jean have the same larynx.

    I've read that issue of Marvel Fanfare, and it's worth checking out, if only for the Mazzucchelli art in the A-story, which is a nice little character piece involving Angel.

    Stern/JRJR Spidey is great, not the least because Madame Web only appears in that Juggernaut story and I think one issue of the Hobgoblin storyline in a cameo. O'Neal's stuff was super bland, epitomized by the issue where Madame Web gives Spider-Man vague hints about a person in a "race" being killed and Spidey tries to save a runner instead of the political guy giving the speech at the end of the race because Spider-Man is pretty dull-witted.

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  7. Powerless Storm has something to prove, and that competition with her past self drives her to work harder. She's cut off from the resources of her old life, much like a young adult has to stop living off his or her parents and start to fend for him- or herself. Adolescence is nearing its end, although we still have Ororo's first major relationship and heartbreak to deal with.

    If I were still in college, I could totally get a paper out of Claremont's development of Storm, and get at least a B -.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  8. If that device can track Rogue, it's a good thing that she wasn't at the mansion.

    It could be entirely coincidental, but the name of the river boat caught up in Rogue's storm is Longshot Annie. A few years from now, editor Ann Nocenti will write a Longshot miniseries, introducing and starring the titular character and future X-Man.

    I made just such a note myself. She was apparently working on the premise for Longshot for a while before it saw print, actually just a year to the cover date after this issue, per the character's Wikipedia entry.

    @Matt: Y'know... I just have to say, Destiny is kind of a useless precog. Her vision is always either clouded -- or wrong.

    I was thinking exactly the same thing. Although there is a lot of mind control and spacetime-continuum shenanigans going on.

    @Matt: I especially like how Cyclops's side of the conversation "goes dead" (blank) when he hangs up.

    Indeed. I like the whole thing better in concept than execution, as Scott's positioning is very awkward, but that in particular was a nice touch.

    Also, I just want to say that Powerless Storm would be a hilarious action figure. It' be exactly the same figure as regular Storm but without, like, the cheesy plastic lightning bolt you could attach to her hand.

    @Dobson: I've read that issue of Marvel Fanfare, and it's worth checking out, if only for the Mazzucchelli art in the A-story, which is a nice little character piece involving Angel.

    I have that issue, specifically for the Mazzucchelli story — and zero memory of the Mystique backup.

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  9. My first exposure to powerless Storm was in an X-Men Classic of Life Death II. It's very cool to see the issue where her depowering took place. When I was younger it always struck me as such a cliche thing to do (her being powerless), but having read through these issues from the post-Brood period up until now, I like the steady transition Storm has gone through. Natural character progression seems so uncommon now.

    Regarding sexy Rogue, it's very weird to me that there was a time when she wasn't overtly sexy. Compare the Lee era Rogue to the one before this issue and the contrast is pretty stark. It really drives home the paradigm we all have of characters related to when we were introduced to them. For me, the "real" Storm will always have powers and full long hair, and Rogue will always ooze sexuality in that green and yellow skin-tight suit with leather jacket (circa Adjectiveless 1). That's not to say those styles are better than that of other periods, but they definitely define the those characters for me.

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  10. @Matt: Madame Web was only in one 2-part issue of Stern/Romita.

    Ah, having read the Juggernaut story, I'd always just assumed she was one of Stern's supporting characters, but I guess not.

    @Dobson: Madame Web gives Spider-Man vague hints about a person in a "race" being killed and Spidey tries to save a runner instead of the political guy giving the speech at the end of the race because Spider-Man is pretty dull-witted.

    That sounds unintentionally hilarious.

    @Mike: If I were still in college, I could totally get a paper out of Claremont's development of Storm, and get at least a B -.

    Ha! I believe it.

    @Jay: Natural character progression seems so uncommon now.

    Yeah, you definitely can't say that Claremont didn't earn this turn; he's been developing Storm in this direction for nearly twenty issues, arguably longer.

    It really drives home the paradigm we all have of characters related to when we were introduced to them.

    Definitely. What's weird for me is that because I started reading X-Men Classic shortly after I started reading the regular series, I have wildly different paradigms for certain characters: the Jim Lee era Rogue, which was contemporaneous at the time, and Depowered Storm, which I read (and enjoyed far more than regular bland present day Storm) via reprints of this era in X-Men Classic.

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  11. I love how Storm and Rogue's relationship had been progressing by that point. It's too bad CC back tracks on it later, as during the Girls Night Out issue of Silvestri's run, Rogue is freaking out that Carol's subconscious it taking over her mind more and more, and Storm's reaction is basically "Well, you did a sh*tty thing, and you're deservedly paying for it, so deal with it, bitch". WTF?

    I'll give Rachel a pass on the crying thing this time, since she's still relatively new to this era, and hearing your dead (most likely murdered) father's voice on the phone? I can understand that.

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  12. "...the government has since learned about the presence of the virus and it's effects."

    Oh shit, we can't let the government know about the virus's it is effects! ;)

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