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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #192

"Fun 'n' Games!"
April 1985

In a Nutshell
The X-Men battle Warlock's father, Magus. 

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

Plot
In the woods near the mansion, Nightcrawler, Rogue and Colossus play a game of hide-and-seek as an improvised Danger Room session. Suddenly, the night lights up as bright as day as something falls from the sky, crashing into an abandoned house nearby. Meanwhile, Storm, Professor X, Rachel and Illyana wait at the airport for Kitty and Wolverine to return from Japan. As Storm and Professor X discuss a course Xavier is teaching at Columbia University, Rachel's mind wanders. She recalls the moments just before she went back in time, as she and an older Kate Pryde attacked the government's Project: Nimrod facility. Under fire, Kate triggered a post-hypnotic command which sent Rachel back in time. She snaps out of her reverie just as Kitty and Wolverine arrive, and Rachel is surprised to discover that Kitty remembers her from when Kitty's consciousness was in her elder counterpart's body.


Elsewhere, the rest of the X-Men search the damaged house and discover the bright flash was caused by the arrival of Magus, Warlock's evil father. He proceeds to attempt to transform the X-Men into techno-organic beings so they can lead him to Warlock, but they fight back. After a desperate battle, they're able to inflict enough damage on Magus to deplenish his energy and chase him off. They call the other X-Men for reinforcements, but by the time they arrive, Magus has vanished. Nearby, Magus absorbs the energy of a police officer and adopts a human form, and begins planning his next move in light of the powerful allies his son has made. Months later, following a lecture at Columbia, Xavier is attacked by an anti-mutant group, including at least two of his students, and is savagely beaten. After they leave, someone drags the unconscious Xavier into a nearby alley.

Firsts and Other Notables
Wolverine and Kitty return to the book and the team following their prolonged absence due to the events of the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine miniseries. Kitty is sporting the short hair and slightly-edgier look she acquired in the course of that story. 


She also meets Rachel for the first time, and recognizes her from her time in the future during the events of "Days of Future Past", despite the adult Kate Pryde (and thus, Kitty's mind) having been unconscious while the older Kate Pryde's mind was in the present. This marks the beginning of a close friendship between the two girls, one that will carry over from this book to the spinoff Excalibur.

It's revealed that Professor X has taken a position teaching at Columbia University, and following one of his lectures, he is attacked and beaten by an anti-mutant group. The attack and his subsequent efforts to recover from it will limit the effectiveness of his telepathy (already referenced in New Mutants #26) and eventually lead to his departure from the team (and the book) in issue #200. Thus, after his most involved period of time with the team (thanks to his restored ability to walk), this issue marks the beginning of the third (and eventually longest) sustained effort to sideline Xavier.


We learn about the events immediately preceding Rachel's arrival in the present, as Rachel, who apparently had forgotten the details of her time travel trip until this moment, suddenly remembers that she was sent back in time thanks to a post-hypnotic suggestion created by Kate Pryde.


Recalling her trip through time, Rachel says she was "swept away by forces beyond her comprehension" and tapping into "power as primal as creation" which is vast yet "strangely familiar"; it will eventually be revealed that it is the Phoenix Force into which she tapped, and that force is responsible for giving her the power to travel through time.


With Storm depowered (and trying to take a vacation), Nightcrawler is revealed to be the team's new leader, a move that, all due respect to Nightcrawler, has always felt to me like a position he received more or less by default (ie "Wolverine doesn't want it, Kitty's too young, Colossus is too simple. Guess that means you, Nightcrawler!").

Both Rogue and Colossus receive new costumes in this issue, the former trading in her short-lived post-Secret Wars orange costume for a pantsuit variation on her classic green outfit that will be similarly short-lived, while Colossus eschews his current himbo look for a more Soviet-inspired costume that is one of Romita's better designs from this era, and will stick around more or less through Romita's tenure on the title.

Magus, Warlock's evil father, arrives on Earth, and after being nearly defeated by the X-Men, convientantly decides to bide his time before attacking Warlock.     

It's revealed that along with her other powers, Rogue has absorbed Ms. Marvel "seventh sense" of limited precognitive abilities (I'm not sure what her sixth sense is). Here, it manifests as being an instinctive reaction to danger, not unlike Spider-Man's spider sense, though moving forward this ability is rarely referenced and is today largely forgotten. 


The corner cover box returns to normal, featuring the image that appeared prior to the Kulan Gath story.

I believe Steve Leialoha pitched in on inks (his hand is particularly noticeable in some of the panels that close out the Magus portion of the issue), prompting the "special thanks" credit.

The price of the comic rises to sixty-five cents as of this issue. 

The Chronology Corner 
The several-month gap written into this issue between the end of the fight with Magus and the attack on Xavier at Columbia creates a window into which several appearances by the characters in other titles are considered to occur, including several of the issues we'll be looking at in the next two weeks (as well as some we won't).

The full sequence, in case you're interested: Wolverine appears in Alpha Flight #16-17, then along with everyone else in X-Men Annual #8, Rom #65-66, Dazzler #38, then Wolverine in the Wolverine/Nick Fury: The Scorpio Connection graphic novel, then the entire team again in X-Men and Alpha Flight #1-2 and finally the final pages of this issue featuring Professor X, followed by X-Men #193. 

Those final pages are set sometime during the Christmas season; though cover dated April of 1985, this issue was on the stands in early January.

A Work in Progress 
Rogue angrily storms off after Nightcrawler jokes about wanting a kiss from her, and only after she leaves does he realize it was a stupid thing to tease her about.


He also mentions that he hates being wet, something I don't think was as true when he was taking a bath with Amanda.

The relationship between the elder Kate Pryde and younger Rachel in the future is depicted as being similar to the relationship between Storm and Kitty in the present.


Kate and Rachel are shown infiltrating Project: Nimrod in the future, suggesting that the newly-arrived Nimrod from last issue hails from the same future.

Rachel mentions being Kate's last hope to save their future, though at this time, Rachel is well aware she has arrived in an alternate timeline from her own (as all her tears to that effective attest). 

Colossus says that if he's knocked unconscious, his armor will revert to flesh and blood, though it's unclear how he could be rendered unconscious, at least in the manner depicted, considering it's already been established that he doesn't need to breathe while armored up.


For the first time, Nightcrawler teleports away with only part of something, as he tears off a piece of Magus.


As with the Shi'ar in their early appearances, Magus is impressed when he learns that Earth has repelled Galactus.


I Love the 80s
Illyana is wearing a Buckaroo Banzai hat at the airport.


Also, Illyana, as well as Rachel, Storm and Xavier are all waiting for Wolverine and Kitty at their arrival gate, because you used to be able to do that.  

Kate provides a handy refresher on Rachel's past as a hound, just in case, you know, Rachel herself forgot what had happened to her or wasn't able to read issue #189.


Claremontisms
Rogue refers to Nightcrawler as "Nighty" throughout the battle with Magus, a nickname which, thankfully, doesn't stick. 

Artistic Achievements
As Xavier and Rachel overhear ambient thoughts at the airport, the thoughts are depicted in tightly-packed bubbles in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner. 


Young Love
In light of her imminent return, Colossus continues to grapple with his feelings for Kitty, wondering if they have truly changed, while Illyana worries that his inability to face Kitty after breaking up with her will doom even his friendship with her. 


The Best There is at What He Does 
For the first but not the last time, Wolverine says that being leader isn't his style. 


Like a Phoenix From the Ashes
The words which triggered the post-hypnotic command which sent Rachel back in time were "Dark Phoenix".

Human/Mutant Relations
Once again, it is noted that anti-mutant sentiment is at an all-time high thanks to the events of "Dazzler: The Movie", and the issue ends with arguably the most direct expression of that sentiment yet when Xavier is attacked first for being a mutant sympathizer and then because the attackers realize he is a mutant himself. 


For Sale
There's an ad for a limited series starring Rocket Racoon, soon to be appearing in the major motion picture Guardians of the Galaxy, part of Marvel Studios' Phase Two releases.


The back cover features an ad for Marvel's Star imprint, a line of comics geared more towards younger kids.
 

Bullpen Bulletins
Though Secret Wars ended just a month before this issue, Secret Wars II is already being hyped.

Teebore's Take
Like issue #189, this one features a character first introduced in New Mutants and with stronger ties to that book than this one. However, the benefit this issue has is that the ported-over character is a villain, which still leaves room for the main characters. You might get a little more out of this story if you had been reading New Mutants, but "the X-Men fight an alien robot" certainly isn't an impenetrable concept on its own. The important thing is that X-Men are back on center stage, and we get some strong characterization scenes for Nightcrawler, Rogue, Colossus before the fight and some clever action beats (like Nightcrawler teleporting away with a chunk of Magus) during it.   

Meanwhile, this issue features the return of Wolverine and Kitty Pryde to the book after their prolonged absence, marking the end of the somewhat transitional period for the team following issue #183. For the first time since that issue (and really, since before Secret Wars), the entire team, such as it is, makes an appearance. It's changed since then: Storm is powerless (and on her way out, temporarily), and Rachel is on hand as a living reminder of the cost of failure for the X-Men - but it once more resembles the more typical construction of the team. Claremont and Romita Jr. will continue their non-traditional, more standalone "each issue is a chapter in a novel" approach to the series moving forward, but we'll continue to at least regularly see a more traditionally-structured team (beginning in earnest next issue, in an issue deliberately constructed to resemble one of the New X-Men's earliest adventures) leading up to issue #200, when the book experiences it's next big shakeup.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we dive deeper into Legion in New Mutants #27, followed by the eighth X-Men annual next week.

13 comments:

  1. I'm sure it's been discussed before and elsewhere, but did Claremont think Starlin's Warlock/Magus stuff was dead and buried at this point? I'm not sure if this is supposed to be an homage or what, but it was infinitely confusing to me as a pre-teen getting into Marvel comics, since Warlock and Magus were back, front-and-center, and Warlock was this confusing part of New Mutants/X-Force history.

    Last week I joked about Legion being Proteus Mark 2, and then this week Magus shows up, kills a cop and takes his form. Granted, every third X-Men villain kills somebody and takes their form, but I thought that was a funny coincidence.

    I don't really get Nightcrawler's line that Wolverine should be the leader. Based on what? Being the oldest? Being the best? The most advanced tactic he's ever used is having various characters hurl him at the bad guys. I like to think that instead of ever reviewing files and focusing on teamwork, he spends that time drinking and moping about how his past is a mystery to everyone, occasionally pausing to drop to his knees and shout a woman's name super loud.

    I know I'm not the first to connect wrestling and superhero comics, but Nightcrawler's "teleport a piece off something" move is built up into a signature move over the next few months, becoming something like Vision's stand-by "phase arm into thing, then re-materialize" trick. While it works a few times to put the "move" over, it leads up to Nimrod discovering a "counter." Or, to put it in wrestling commentary terms, "he went to the well once too often." Anyway, it's a pretty nifty piece of story, told entirely through action.

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  2. @Dobson: did Claremont think Starlin's Warlock/Magus stuff was dead and buried at this point?

    I know we've discussed it, but I don't think any definitive conclusion was reached as far as whether Claremont was genuinely ignorant of the Starlin Warlock/Magus stuff, or willingly ignoring it and hoping no one would get confused.

    I was never as confused by the Warlocks (since, for whatever reason, I was introduced to Starlin's Warlock as "Adam Warlock" and have always thought of his as such) as I was by the Maguses (Magi?).

    Based on what? Being the oldest? Being the best?


    Both, probably. It definitely doesn't seem like Wolverine has much in the way of qualifications, at least/especially at this point.

    I suppose you could read it as a sign of reluctance on Nightcrawler's part, that he doesn't want the job so much that he's thinking the guy he's had several conversations about not killing people with would be a better leader.

    Anyway, it's a pretty nifty piece of story, told entirely through action.

    Indeed. Thanks for pointing it out.

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  3. Pretty sure it has to be a third option: he was deliberately referencing Starlin's work. There's no way he'd be ignorant of it, considering he was an editorial assistant occasionally getting story credits as early as 1969, so he spent most of the half-decade before he got a regular assignment on Iron Fist (1975) doing fill-in stories and most likely proofing stuff like Warlock (1972). He's also apparently the writer of one of the stories in "Essential Warlock Vol. 1." And while maybe "Warlock" is innocuous enough, as soon as another character called "Magus" shows up, it's obviously not a coincidence.

    Doing a quick google search, some think it's a tribute while others suggest it might have been done to preserve trademark, but 1) Warlock is still a really weak property for Marvel, and the idea that in 1985 they had to do something to protect it seems crazy, and 2) Magus was most likely never trademarked, because he was a villain in a minor 1970's book that never found wide readership. It had also only been a few years after Warlock's death, and I don't think the new Warlock was the name of any comics or merchandise in the 80's, so I doubt it was for commercial reasons.

    Another search of the trademark registration site shows that it took 3 years for Marvel to even bother registering their trademark on the first Warlock (1975), a sign of how little anybody cared.

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  4. @Dobson: Pretty sure it has to be a third option: he was deliberately referencing Starlin's work.

    Yeah, that's probably the case. At the very least, he must have liked Starlin's use of Warlock/Magus for two related enemies, and decided to use it himself.

    Another search of the trademark registration site shows that it took 3 years for Marvel to even bother registering their trademark on the first Warlock (1975), a sign of how little anybody cared.

    Ha! One of the one the things that Marvel Comics: The Untold Story made clear was that for how acclaimed Starlin's Warlock stuff was (amongst fans and especially fellow creators) it never really sold gangbusters.

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  5. I like the splash page a lot better than the cover — although half of that is probably Orz's display lettering; the figure of Colossus on the left side of the next page is nice, too.

    Rachel mentions being Kate's last hope to save their future

    That confused me as well.

    Colossus says that if he's knocked unconscious, his armor will revert to flesh and blood, though it's unclear how he could be rendered unconscious, at least in the manner depicted

    Maybe he would just black out from the pain or the strain.

    Kate provides a handy refresher on Rachel's past as a hound, just in case, you know, Rachel herself forgot what had happened to her

    That was rather eye-rolling. "Also, I understand that you are hungry because it has been too long since you have eaten food, which is what people need to do to maintain their energy and fuel their bodies, and you are a person. I'm Perd Hapley."

    I was pleasantly surprised by how much this issue felt like a good typical X-Men issue, given my general distaste for the era. Whether it's an anomaly or my recollections of this stretch will be turned on their head as I reread more remains to be seen.

    How come Magus gets English fine with all the pronouns 'n' stuff?

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  6. I suppose I should go on record and say that I really don't like using the names Warlock and Magus for techno-organic aliens. Aside from confusing them with other Marvel characters, those are fantasy terms for sci-fi characters. Maybe I just think inside-the-box too much.

    Also, I hate the name Nimrod. I know it's supposed to be "hunter" but all I think of is "idiot." Not very threatening if you ask me.

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  7. @Blam: I like the splash page a lot better than the cover

    Ditto.

    "Also, I understand that you are hungry because it has been too long since you have eaten food, which is what people need to do to maintain their energy and fuel their bodies, and you are a person. I'm Perd Hapley."

    Haha! This makes me want to start a new category called "I'm Perd Hapley" for instances of hideous exposition, but it's probably a joke far too few people would get.

    How come Magus gets English fine with all the pronouns 'n' stuff?

    I honestly have no idea. Maybe it's an age thing? Like if Warlock got to be Magus' age, he'd be able to better process other languages? I dunno.

    @Dr. Bitz: Aside from confusing them with other Marvel characters, those are fantasy terms for sci-fi characters.

    One or the other, on their own, wouldn't be so bad. But as soon you put them together, suddenly, yeah, it becomes obvious you're using fantasy terms.

    Also, I hate the name Nimrod

    Nimrod told me he hates the name Dr. Bitz. He said you're not even a real doctor. :)

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  8. I get that not every character can be a great leader, but it annoyed me that Claremont & co made Kurt ineffectual. Bad enough his role on the team is reduced in this era, they had to make him look bad, too? Alan Davis rectified the situation in Excalibur, only for subsequent writers to make him a poor leader again (although one of those writers was Chuck Austen, so that doesn't count).

    Pretty good issue, though.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  9. This was one of those issues that totally confused me when I was reading Classic X-Men back issues with no New Mutants alongside. The confusion was compounded by the fact that Warlock was deceased in the then-contemporary X-books, so the whole thing made very little sense to me.

    "With Storm depowered (and trying to take a vacation), Nightcrawler is revealed to be the team's new leader, a move that, all due respect to Nightcrawler, has always felt to me like a position he received more or less by default..."

    Yeah, it really wasn't until Excalibur that we got to see him do anything leader-ish. And even then, I don't think Claremont did much with the concept. It was later writers, like Davis and Ellis, who made him an effective team leader.

    "...Colossus eschews his current himbo look for a more Soviet-inspired costume that is one of Romita's better designs from this era..."

    Yes, I actually like this look for Colossus. Not as much as his original costume and its many variants, but it's not bad. Definitely my favorite Romita design of the 80's.

    "The several-month gap written into this issue between the end of the fight with Magus and the attack on Xavier at Columbia creates a window into which several appearances by the characters in other titles are considered to occur..."

    Claremont is one of the few writers to do this. He was even doing it recently during his return to Uncanny in 2006 or so, when most other writers could've cared less about such things.

    "Rogue refers to Nightcrawler as "Nighty" throughout the battle with Magus, a nickname which, thankfully, doesn't stick."

    Don't forget that in the panel right above this one, Kate calls Rachel "Dear Heart"... I hate that phrase.

    Also, I believe that in real life, Dave Cockrum and his wife Paty both called Nightcrawler "Nighty" on a regular basis. At least on the internet, anyway.

    "As Xavier and Rachel overhear ambient thoughts at the airport, the thoughts are depicted in tightly-packed bubbles in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner."

    I'm not a fan of when Claremont does this. I guess it makes sense, but aesthetically I just don't like stream-of-consciousness wording in general. As this run goes on, we'll see more and more of it too, usually when characters are panicking about something (which again, I get, but I just don't like).

    Dobson & Teebore -- Don't forget that during the Claremont/Byrne Savage Land story, Wolverine became the de facto leader in the absence of Cyclops and Banshee. Nightcrawler could perhaps be recalling that occasion.

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  10. @Mike: Alan Davis rectified the situation in Excalibur, only for subsequent writers to make him a poor leader again

    Yeah, Kurt seemed to excel as a leader in Excalibur, both under Davis and Ellis, which makes his ineffectiveness in this era all the odder. Though I suppose it makes sense that he simply grew as a leader as he got older.

    @Matt: Claremont is one of the few writers to do this.

    I love that he does it. I even get the sense that he does it without knowing exactly what issues/stories are going to fit into the gaps, but is wise enough to realize that at this point in their history, the X-Men are going to be making extra appearances outside the main book, and it just makes sense to write in some time for that stuff to occur.

    He was really looking out for all of us that would eventually try to put this sprawling narrative into as much of an order as possible. :)

    Also, I believe that in real life, Dave Cockrum and his wife Paty both called Nightcrawler "Nighty" on a regular basis. At least on the internet, anyway.

    I think Dave and Paty Cockrum could/can call Nightcrawler whatever they'd like, and I have no issue with using "Nighty" for internet shorthand. It's just not a very good in-universe nickname.

    I guess it makes sense, but aesthetically I just don't like stream-of-consciousness wording in general.

    I use a similar method in a chapter of one of the books I've written. If it ever gets published, I'll be sure to steer you away from that chapter. :)

    Don't forget that during the Claremont/Byrne Savage Land story, Wolverine became the de facto leader in the absence of Cyclops and Banshee.

    I *had* forgotten about that. Good point!

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  11. I don't think Nightcrawler was that bad of a leader here. Granted, he's only the leader for what, 2 or 3 missions? Granted, when you are following Cyclops and Storm, most people would wallow in self-pity...which Storm did initially when she replaced Cyclops.

    Of course, he would go on the be a great leader in Excaliber, get's written horribly by Austen, then written again as a good leader during Claremont's second return.

    Put me down as someone who liked the new costume JRjr gives Colossus.

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  12. Also, I think with this issue, the CC/JRjr run really begins to hit it's stride. Whatever problems they may have apparently had behind the scenes, it sure leads to some great stuff, especially from here on out.

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  13. With Storm depowered (and trying to take a vacation), Nightcrawler is revealed to be the team's new leader, a move that, all due respect to Nightcrawler, has always felt to me like a position he received more or less by default (ie "Wolverine doesn't want it, Kitty's too young, Colossus is too simple. Guess that means you, Nightcrawler!").

    Whilst Nightcrawler's my favourite member of the X-Men, I will reluctantly agree with you that it does feel like a default position, although for some reason I like the idea and use of him leading Excalibur.

    Rogue angrily storms off after Nightcrawler jokes about wanting a kiss from her, and only after she leaves does he realize it was a stupid thing to tease her about.


    I don't mind JRJR's artwork nowadays as much as I did a few years ago, but that's a really bad image of Nightcrawler hitting his forehead in frustration. The hand and arm are way too long and it looks almost like he's walked into something.

    He also mentions that he hates being wet, something I don't think was as true when he was taking a bath with Amanda.

    I believe it was mentioned in the Doom/Arcade three-part shortly after John Byrne left the book (#147?)

    @Dobson:I'm sure it's been discussed before and elsewhere, but did Claremont think Starlin's Warlock/Magus stuff was dead and buried at this point? I'm not sure if this is supposed to be an homage or what...

    The problem I've always had is that the names really do stick out too much, given that they say nothing about the characters.

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