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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #187

"Wraithkill!"
November 1984

In a Nutshell 
The Dire Wraiths attack Forge and Storm. 

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

Plot
Leaving Forge's building in the midst of a thunderstorm, Storm overhears an alarm triggered by a Dire Wraith teleporting into the lobby. Investigating, she's attacked by a Wraith herself but his saved by Naze, who has arrived in response to a prophetic dream he had of Forge being under attack. As Storm calls up to the penthouse to warn Forge, he's attacked by a cadre of Wraiths. In response, Storm and Naze begin to fight their way up to Forge. Storm is chased onto the roof by a Wraith, only to discover that the thunderstorm has become a blizzard. Storm is able to lock the Wraith onto the roof, leaving it to die. Just then, a stunning mental wave envelops Naze, Forge and Storm, briefly linking their souls.


Storm reaches Forge and they fight off his attackers just as Naze arrives, followed closely by Colossus and Rogue. Forge wonders what caused the soul link, but the group is suddenly overwhelmed by a seeming onslaught of Dire Wraiths. During the melee, Naze slips away and enters Forge's sanctum sanctorum, the seat of his magical abilities, and casts a spell. Below, Forge realizes that the majority of the Wraiths the X-Men are fighting are illusions, and creates a holographic simulacrum of the Spaceknight Rom, the Wraiths most hated foe, to expose the real ones. With the remaining Wraiths defeated, the X-Men believe they have won until the fabric of reality tears open and they are engulfed by Shadow Beings.   

Firsts and Other Notables
After his first appearance in issue #184, Naze, Forge's America Indian mentor, returns, drawn to Eagle Plaza by a prophetic dream, and reveals his own magical abilities as well as the fact that Forge is his foster son.


The Adversary, a god-like being who will become the main antagonist of the "Fall of the Mutants" crossover, though unnamed, is first mentioned this issue, described as being "neither human nor alien, both alive and dead, possessing the divinty of a god and the cruel humor of the devil". He will be revealed to be working behind the scenes of next issue, and is considered the threat to which Naze tried to warn Forge in issue #184. He will also be revealed, via a future New Mutants letter column, as the entity behind the Demon Bear.  

Next issue implies that during the course of this issue, Naze is killed off panel and replaced by a Dire Wraith, his death triggering the mental wave and linking of souls experienced by Storm, Forge and Naze in this issue. However, X-Factor #115 will reveal that Naze is alive and well after all, his apparent death at the hands of the Wraith in this issue and his Wraith form's subsequent possession by the Adversary, as seen next issue, all part of a plan hatched by him and guardian of the multiverse Roma to combat the Adversary. 

We'll learn next issue that the unseasonable blizzard pummeling Dallas is the result of the Casket of Ancient Winters being opened in Thor #348-349. 

Forge programs a holographic simulation of Rom and Starshine, the Dire Wraiths hated foes. Marvel, which no longer holds the rights to Rom, is unable to reprint his series, though his one panel appearance here has not prevented Marvel from reprinting this issue.


A Work in Progress
Storm compares the Dire Wraiths to the Brood in terms of sheer evil. 


It's revealed that sometime in the past, Storm received handgun training from Wolverine.


In the course of the Dire Wraith attack, the powerless Storm experience's Yukio's zeal for life in the face of overwhelming odds.


Storm notes that she willing locks a Wraith out in the cold to die.


Later, Storm is somehow able to detect the presence of a magically cloaked Wraith.


It's made clear that Forge possesses some magical abilities, though it's also made clear he uses them reluctantly and is out of practice. 


Colossus learns about Storm's power loss in this issue, while it's confirmed for Rogue.


For Sale
There's a full page ad for Marvel Graphic Novel #12, aka "Dazzler: The Movie". 


Teebore's Take
Set against the backdrop of the Dire Wraith's escalating attack on Forge (thus tying this story in with his buddy Bill Mantlo's ongoing Rom arc), Claremont largely uses this issue as a way to prove that Storm can still be an effective action/adventure character in the wake of her power loss. In addition to her already-established hand-to-hand combat prowess, we here learn that she'd received handgun training from Wolverine in the past and see examples of how her resourcefulness and tactical thinking haven't been dulled (there's also an attempt to vaguely setup some kind of sorceress abilities, but this thankfully remains vague and underdeveloped throughout Claremont's tenure). The result is essentially a big dumb action story, but a well executed one, and a n effective counterpoint to the more maudlin proceedings of the previous issue. It doesn't quite stand entirely on its own nor fit the recent more episodic nature of the narrative as well as previous issues (in fact, it feels a lot like the second part of a traditional three part story), but it's entertaining enough.

Next Issue 
Tomorrow, New Mutants #22 gives us Rahne's fairy tale, and next week we finish up the Dire Wraith/Forge story in Uncanny X-Men #188.

9 comments:

Matt said...

I haven't started reading your review yet. Before I do, I just want to say that for some reason the only real, vivid memory I have of this issue is a dramatic panel of Colossus dropping into Forge's Aerie, shattering the glass as he falls. Did this happen in the issue? Maybe you used it as one of the accompanying images. Maybe I'm just imagining it. I look forward to finding out...

"He will also be revealed, via a future New Mutants letter column, as the entity behind the Demon Bear."

I still think that revealing pertinent plot information on the letters page is cheating. Especially for when the issues are eventually collected in a trade paperback collection without those pages (not that such a thing would've been a concern at the time these issues were produced... but still).

"However, X-Factor #115 will reveal that Naze is alive and well after all..."

Really. I did not know that, even though I'm sure I read it at Not Blog X. Naze was much more important in death than he had been in life. Seems odd to bring him back.

"It's revealed that sometime in the past, Storm received handgun training from Wolverine."

As practical as this is, it also seems really weird for a superhero comic. It's fine that Captain America teaches the Avengers how to defend themselves with rudimentary hand-to-hand combat skills, but Wolverine teaching the X-Men how to use firearms reminds of the line from Mystery Men where Ben Stiller says to a guy, "your super-power is guns??"

I guess it just seems a little too "real world sensible" to me.

Hmm, I didn't see the Colossus panel I was talking about earlier. Did it happen?? It's seriously the only thing I recall about this issue, so I'd like to think it's in there.

Teebore said...

@Matt: the only real, vivid memory I have of this issue is a dramatic panel of Colossus dropping into Forge's Aerie, shattering the glass as he falls. Did this happen in the issue?

Kinda? This is the only panel of Colossus busting into the Aerie in this issue.

I still think that revealing pertinent plot information on the letters page is cheating.

Oh, it totally is. Especially since such admissions usually only occur long after the story in question is over and the writer/editor realizes the ball's been dropped along the way.

Naze was much more important in death than he had been in life. Seems odd to bring him back.

Yeah, and it isn't like he was brought back for much of significance. He was in that X-Factor story, then promptly disappeared again. Kind of a waste.

I guess it just seems a little too "real world sensible" to me.

On the one hand, I appreciate Claremont making an effort to establish Storm's proficiency with a gun, instead of just falling back on the usual "all protagonists are great shots because they're the protagonists" idea, on the other hand, it is kind of random and while sensible, doesn't quite gel with the tonal aesthetics of most superheroes.

Matt said...

Hmm, I figured it out. That is the picture I was thinking of, but in my head I had crossed it with the other picture drawn by John Romita Jr. of Colossus dropping into Forge's Aerie (what are the odds...?).

Needless to say, the whole thing looked a lot cooler in my faulty memory.

Teebore said...

@Matt: That is the picture I was thinking of, but in my head I had crossed it with the other picture drawn by John Romita Jr. of Colossus dropping into Forge's Aerie (what are the odds...?).

Ah, yeah, I had wondered if you were conflating this story with the other time JR Jr. drew the X-Men crashing into Forge's Aerie...

Blam said...


That, my friends, is a really bad cover top to bottom.

Are we honestly supposed to believe Ororo's thought bubble that she's only trying to save Forge so that she can "have [her] vengeance"?

The Adversary, a god-like being who will become the main antagonist of the "Fall of the Mutants" crossover, though unnamed, is first mentioned this issue ...

I'd never known any of that stuff about the Adversary, probably because I've never read "Fall of the Mutants" — although I (and Matt) think the Demon Bear connection being revealed in a letter column sounds kind-of lame. The whole caption that you quote from is a totally bitchin' Claremontism, too.

We'll learn next issue that the unseasonable blizzard pummeling Dallas is the result of the Casket of Ancient Winters being opened in Thor #348-349.

I wasn't really sure why the Dire Wraiths conjured up a blizzard (or how, but they seem to possess magic) so this heads-up was appreciated. You have to give points to Claremont for taking a line-wide continuity bit and using it to help put Ororo in situations — the natural (I think) rainstorm and now this, with her hands freezing to the metal pipe — that drive home to both her and us her new lack of connection to and protection from the elements.

It's revealed that sometime in the past, Storm received handgun training from Wolverine.

This probably should feel like a bit of a shoehorned-in cheat, but doesn't to me, maybe just because it makes sense.

Storm notes that she willing locks a Wraith out in the cold to die.

My assumption was that Naze was the "Dire Wraith" that Ororo locked out in the cold. Even not having read this issue since it came out, I figured that Claremont was telegraphing this when we're told that the "Wraith" just pounds on the door instead of blasting through it; Ororo briefly switching forms with a Wraith soon after seemed to confirm that suspicion.

It's made clear that Forge possesses some magical abilities, though it's also made clear he uses them reluctantly and is out of practice.

Which is why I don't get him having a "sanctum sanctorum" that is "the seat and nexus of his might" in his tower.

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I wonder if the Beyonder was reading this when he took human form (after doing the Steve Rogers thing).

And beyond Dazzler: The Movie, the Bullpen Bulletins checklist includes mention of adaptations of Buckaroo Banzai (which I really need to watch again) and, in comics imitating movies imitating comics, Sheena. Sheena, not to be confused with Ka-Zar's mate Shanna, was published by Fiction House 1937-1953 and played by Irish McCalla in a short-lived but lasting-in-pop-culture-memory TV series 1955-56.

SpaceSquid said...

I'm glad to learn that the Adversary and the Demen Bear were connected (though Matt's right, letters pages are cheating), because otherwise it seems like the Cheyenne have a really crappy time of it. If it isn't demon bears, it's the Adversary, and if it isn't him, then it's the White Man. And to think Thunderhawk thought the Apaches had it bad...

I agree with those present that Naze's return towards the end of X-Factor's first volume
was something of a waste. That said, it's nowhere near top of the list of weird and crappy moves the book made in the mid-to-late '90s...

Teebore said...

@SpaceSquid: otherwise it seems like the Cheyenne have a really crappy time of it. If it isn't demon bears, it's the Adversary, and if it isn't him, then it's the White Man.

Pity the tribe that gets claimed by a writer as his go-to tribe for Native American characters/events. :)

That said, it's nowhere near top of the list of weird and crappy moves the book made in the mid-to-late '90s...

Too true. If anything, the Naze thing's biggest problem is that it's largely forgettable, one of those storylines that after it happened, you wonder why they even bothered since it amounted to so little and never is mentioned again. Bad as that is, the books committed far greater sins in that era.

Teebore said...

@Blam: That, my friends, is a really bad cover top to bottom

No arguments here. It is pretty awful.

Are we honestly supposed to believe Ororo's thought bubble that she's only trying to save Forge so that she can "have [her] vengeance"?

Apparently. It's a good point though. You do have to wonder just how bloodthirsty we're meant to assume that vengeance to be, and/or what Claremont intended for it to be.

I'd never known any of that stuff about the Adversary, probably because I've never read "Fall of the Mutants"

Eh, it's never really made all that explicit, even in that story. I mean, it becomes clear that the Adversary possessed Naze, and there might be a foonote back to this issue or the next, but Claremont never really draws a strong line between this story and "Fall of the Mutants", even in the letters page.

You have to give points to Claremont for taking a line-wide continuity bit and using it to help put Ororo in situations ... that drive home to both her and us her new lack of connection to and protection from the elements.

And I have to give points to you for pointing that out, cuz I totally missed it.

This probably should feel like a bit of a shoehorned-in cheat, but doesn't to me, maybe just because it makes sense

Yeah, while I agree with Matt that the idea of superheroes, in general, using guns just seems off, the fact that Wolverine would have taught Storm for all the reasons he mentions in that panel, doesn't seem shoe-horned in at all.

My assumption was that Naze was the "Dire Wraith" that Ororo locked out in the cold.

That Wraith is returned to next issue, I believe.

Which is why I don't get him having a "sanctum sanctorum" that is "the seat and nexus of his might" in his tower.

Claremont seems to realize this too; If memory serves Forge makes an offhand comment about it in the next issue.

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I wonder what's more preposterous: stuff like the sea monkeys or hypno coins from the Silver Age, or that?

wwk5d said...

No "Claremontism" for Rogue "hoping & praying" that Storm didn't lose her powers? ;)

I wonder if the handgun scene influenced Morrison's "Hardcore, Chuck" scene?

With regards to Naze returning in X-factor...that was during Howard Mackie's tenure. One of the worst runs on any X-title ever.

I wonder how the Naze/Adversary story would have played out had the original Mutant Massacre story happened as CC wanted it to.