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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #194

"Juggernaut's Back in Town!" 
June 1985

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men save Juggernaut from Nimrod

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Romita Jr.  
Finishers: Dan Green & Steve Leialoha
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
A bemused Juggernaut walks the streets of New York as the town reacts to news of his return. Upstate, the X-Men, still recovering from their confrontation with Thunderbird and the Hellions, are awoken to reports of the Juggernaut being seen in New York. Though Nightcrawler is reluctant to send the weary X-Men into a confrontation with the villain, he agrees they're best suited for the job. Meanwhile, at a bush station in Kenya, Storm encounters a hunter assaulting a waitress. She intervenes, fighting off both the hunter and his sister. In New York, Rachel and Kitty keep watch as Juggernaut conducts some legitimate business in a bank. Suddenly, Nimrod, having located Juggernaut, attacks the villain, as well as Kitty and Rachel, whom he identities as members of the outlaw X-Men. Nimrod blasts Juggernaut across town, where he lands at a construction site, dazed.


The X-Men follow and reluctantly intervene in Juggernaut's defense. Nimrod quickly knocks out most of them, while Kitty phases inside him and learns he's a robot. As Rachel telekinetically topples an unfinished building onto Nimrod, Rogue, taking a cue from Kitty, absorbs the powers of most of her teammates. As Nimrod emerges from the rubble with Juggernaut, Rogue attacks him. Damaged and unable to effectively counter so many different powers at once, Nimrod teleports away. Recognizing the fight wasn't started by Juggernaut, Rogue lets him go, telling him not to make the X-Men regret helping him. In Moscow, KGB Colonel Vazhin looks over media reports from America calling the X-Men criminals while hailing Nimrod as a hero. Recognizing that the X-Men have risked their lives to save both the US and the world on countless occasions, he finds this hard to believe. With Magneto believing that any human government will ultimately try to destroy mutants, Vazhin worries that the American government is doing their best to prove him right.

Firsts and Other Notables
Though only their first names are revealed, this is the first appearance of Andrea and Andreas Von Strucker, mutant children of Nazi and Hydra villain Baron Von Strucker (whom Xavier and Magneto battled in the flashback depicted in Uncanny X-Men #161). They will eventually become the super-villains known as Fenris, then join the short-lived, loosely affliated group of villains known as the Upstarts in the early 90s. Much later, Andreas will become the new Swordsman and join the Thunderbolts in the wake of his sister's death.


KGB Colonel Vazhin (spelled "Vashin" here) makes his first actual appearance in X-Men (he previously appeared in X-Men #123 and #124, but that was a robot created by Arcade and used to brainwash Colossus). He'll pop up occasionally throughout Claremont's run, though he rarely rises above the level of "recurring ancillary character" (he won't show up again until issue #263, with the subplot he introduces here largely going nowhere, for example).


Though she has previously absorbed multiple powers at once (notably in her first appearance in Avengers Annual #10), this is the first time that we see Rogue absorbing multiple powers that affect her physical appearance, giving her Nightcrawler's blue fur and tail along with Colossus' armor. It's a neat visual trick that will be used again occasionally in the future.


As the issue ends with the city celebrating Nimrod as a hero, this begins a minor arc for that character in which he is embraced as a superhero, one willing to go further than most superhero in dealing with his foes, by the people of New York. 

Steve Leialoha once again pitches in on inks. 

The Chronology Corner
It's noted that Professor X is gone, called away shortly after the events of last issue, and a footnote points us to New Mutants #26-28.

A Work in Progress
Kitty's alarm clock radio is set to NPR. 

Wolverine has noted Nightcrawler's leadership struggles, saying he's not a natural like Cyclops or Storm, though agreeing with Professor X that he's the best available man for the job (he also believes Kitty has the potential, but is still too young).


Colossus, in the wake of their confrontation in issue #183, is itching for a rematch with Juggernaut. 

Our third issue in a row with a fastball special features Rogue as the pitcher and Wolverine the ball.


Juggernaut is wearing his skullcap, first seen in Marvel Team-Up #150, under his regular helmet.

Kitty uses the term "our age" with Rogue, once again suggesting Rogue is closer to Kitty's age than in her original appearances.

As with Storm in issue #185, Rogue notes that absorbing the powers and consciousness of her teammates is easier than usual because they're allowing her to take them willing. She also finds herself thinking and speaking in their terms.

She repeats Nightcrawler's trick from issue #192 of teleporting away with just Nimrod's arm. 


Rogue lets the Juggernaut go, saying that in this case he's done nothing wrong, and the X-Men are not the law.


I Love the 80s
Nightcrawler has a small portable TV in his room.


Rachel Summers, Crybaby Rachel starts her day angsting over the fact that she won't ever be born in this timeline.


To her credit, she does manage to contain her tears later when Kitty casually mentions Jean Grey.


Human/Mutant Relations
A new reporter notes that despite being portrayed as villains by the government and media, both Spider-Man and the X-Men continue to help a public which fears and distrusts them.


Colonel Vazhin finds it hard to accept the X-Men as villains, and worries that the US government's actions towards them may be proving Magneto right.


For Sale
In a nod to the increasing age of comic books' target audience, the back of the issue features an ad for an acne cream. 

Teebore's Take
Another done-in-one "narrative chapter", this is one of my favorites issues from this era. In a lot of ways, it's a microcosm for what makes X-Men of this time so great. In the opening pages, Claremont deftly introduces each character with a brief snippet that illuminates their personality via their morning routine: Nightcrawler is exhausted from staying up watching a late movie, Wolverine has just completed a ten mile run, Rogue is rocking out in the shower to oldies (Rachel is, of course, moping). There are discussions at various times about how the public views the X-Men as a menace despite their heroic actions, which underscores the X-Men's reluctance to interrupt their quiet morning to go fight the Juggernaut (a sequence that always comes to mind whenever I'm forced to pull myself out of bed on a particularly cold, tired morning, because I am a huge nerd who routinely thinks of bits from X-Men comics in his daily life).   

Then the action hits, and Claremont and Romita Jr. once again craft a clever and energetic fight sequence, hitting on the idea of turning Rogue into a visual "one man band" of X-Men. In the process, the X-Men find themselves defending one of their greatest enemies against an even great threat, one specifically designed to exterminate their species, and in the end, they let Juggernaut go free (not they're in much of a condition to stop him), specifically citing that they have no legal authority in the situation. This reinforces the realignment which occurred at the end of the last issue, which found the X-Men officially cast off the side of law and order and into a place where they must define justice in their own terms. And though the X-Men emerge victorious, the issue ends with another reminder that the public views them with distrust, that despite going out of their way to try to protect the city from a potential threat, they're still met with fear and suspicion. None of this is groundbreaking stuff, nor a significant event in the ongoing narrative, but it does serve as a snapshot both of the nature of the book at this time, with its balance of character, action and narrative progression, and one of the things that makes the X-Men great, their insistence to do the right thing despite being feared and hated for it.   

Next Issue
Tomorrow we get to spend more time with Dazzler in New Mutants #29, and next week Dave Cockrum returns to the X-Men for the Nightcrawler limited series.

12 comments:

  1. Previously, in an appearance in Dazzler, Rogue refused to absorb Angel's powers because of the possibility of winding up a "freak". Was any mention made of that fear in this issue?

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  2. @Anonymous: Not directly, though she does express relief at not sprouting a tail when she absorbs Nightcrawler's powers.

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  3. It just occurred to me -- Juggernaut has to be the most-used "classic" X-Men villain from Claremont's original run, right? He only used Magneto as an outright antagonist about four times (counting X-Men #1-3), and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants only showed up using that name three or four times as well. This is the fourth go-round for Juggernaut (counting the Spider-Woman issues but not counting Louise Simonson's Marvel Team-Up #150), with two more upcoming (one in Uncanny and one in Excalibur). All the other recurring foes were characters of Claremont's creation like the Hellfire Club, Reavers, Arcade, etc.

    I love that the past three times the X-Men have fought Juggernaut, the stories started with him doing something innocuous (drinking in a bar, celebrating his BFF's birthday, and now going to the bank). Claremont really likes to play up the "civilian" side of a lot of his villains -- it's something I really like about his writing -- and Juggernaut got a lot of that treatement.

    Anywho...

    "... this is the first appearance of Andrea and Andreas Von Strucker..."

    I've known about Fenris for years, but it was only relatively recently -- like maybe within the past five years or so -- that I actually realized they were created by Chris Claremont and first appeared in this issue. I guess I had just assumed they were old Nick Fury characters brought back by Claremont.

    "As the issue ends with the city celebrating Nimrod as a hero, this begins a minor arc for that character in which he is embraced as a superhero..."

    I feel like this could have been sold better if Nimrod had guest-starred in a few issues of Avengers or something, to let us see the Marvel Universe's larger reaction to him. In a way, this feels more like "telling rather than showing", not through any fault of Claremont's but simply because perhaps no one else at Marvel was enthralled with Nimrod. Claremont tries make it clear that Nimrod is a celebrated hero in New York, but you'd never know it if you didn't read X-Men.

    In a way, this might be the beginning of the X-Men unofficially separating from the rest of the Marvel Universe, because within a few years it will almost feel like they exist in their own "pocket" continuity.

    "...next week Dave Cockrum returns to the X-Men for the Nightcrawler limited series."

    Ooh, I've never read that, and I've always wanted to. I'll be curious to see your review.

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  4. If I remember correctly, the band Rogue is listening to is "Nasgul," which Claremont will establish in the upcoming Dazzler storyline in New Mutants as Lila Cheney's old band. I always thought that this was a neat way of not just pulling that bit of history out of nowhere.

    I've always liked Vashin, in spite of him never getting any "screen time." Or probably because of it. The idea of Nick Fury's soviet counterpart (plus the fact that he was never a raging cold warrior) was always intriguing to me. He had untapped potential...

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  5. One of my favorite eras... I really enjoy seeing JRJR being inked by not-Dan Green. Partial Steve Leialoha here, P. Craig Russell and Al Williamson step in to ink over the next 12 issues or so, and JRJR's work looks sharper and brighter. (see the upcoming Hellfire Club vs. X-Men vs. Nimrod, Phoenix vs. the Beyonder).

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  6. @Matt: Juggernaut has to be the most-used "classic" X-Men villain from Claremont's original run, right?

    I think so, yeah (aside from Magneto, of course, but like you said, he doesn't really use him as a villain as much). I'd say it's likely because of his connection to Xavier, but Claremont rarely plays up that aspect of the character.

    Claremont really likes to play up the "civilian" side of a lot of his villains -- it's something I really like about his writing

    Agreed.

    In a way, this feels more like "telling rather than showing", not through any fault of Claremont's but simply because perhaps no one else at Marvel was enthralled with Nimrod.

    Definitely, though even Claremont could probably have done more with the idea. It pretty much just simmers in the background for awhile, then disappears outright, then is wrapped up quickly and abruptly. Maybe he was expecting more writers to pick up the idea and use it, which indeed would have sold the whole thing better.

    Ooh, I've never read that, and I've always wanted to.

    I've never read it before either. I'd say I'm hoping it's better than Beauty and the Beast and Iceman, but that's a pretty low bar to hurdle.

    @Chris: If I remember correctly, the band Rogue is listening to is "Nasgul," which Claremont will establish in the upcoming Dazzler storyline in New Mutants as Lila Cheney's old band. I always thought that this was a neat way of not just pulling that bit of history out of nowhere.

    You're correct. I make mention of it in the most recent New Mutants post (though I probably should have mentioned it here as well). I agree that it's neat bit of writing on Claremont's part.

    I've always liked Vashin, in spite of him never getting any "screen time."

    Me too. Though I've always had a soft spot for high level spy characters with mysterious agendas who always seem to be one step ahead of their opponents.

    @Jason: One of my favorite eras...

    Another one! I continue to be glad I'm not alone on this.

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  7. Kitty uses the term "our age" with Rogue, once again suggesting Rogue is closer to Kitty's age than in her original appearances.

    I was really thrown for a loop by that.

    Rachel starts her day angsting over the fact that she won't ever be born in this timeline.

    For me that was notable because she mourns her lost love with Franklin, something I don't recall having been singled out yet. Do we ever get a scene where she awkwardly meets him as a kid, and/or where we see her flirting with or pining for him when he's briefly aged up in (ugh) Fantastic Force?

    A new reporter notes that despite being portrayed as villains by the government and media, both Spider-Man and the X-Men continue to help a public which fears and distrusts them.

    I liked that, although it the on-air editorializing was a little weird. The visuals for that sequence worked nicely, though.

    Claremont deftly introduces each character with a brief snippet that illuminates their personality via their morning routine:

    I really liked that, and the splash page too — not just the script, either, but the art, which means either my tastes have changed or Romita & Green are meshing better than I remembered them doing (or both).

    Rogue is rocking out in the shower to oldies

    Having never heard of Nazgul, I looked it up and it turns out to be the name of a Tolkien creature. Googling it with "music" and "band" shows that there are/were also bands from Italy and Germany using the name, but I think they're more recent and Claremont was just using it as a goof. [You and Chris K end up clarifying this in the comments.]

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  8. You didn't mention the Bullpen Bulletins page, by the way, but it's a strange bit from Shooter about not retiring and throwing a party for the staff. Or something? I'm not sure what's more tone-deaf — calling his administrative assistant "Wench" (even though things definitely weren't as PC back then) or saying how "it's gratifying to be mentioned in the same breadth as Attila the Hun" (just given how many people actively disliked him and the way he ran things).

    @Matt: I love that the past three times the X-Men have fought Juggernaut, the stories started with him doing something innocuous

    Ditto.

    @ChrisK: Claremont will establish [Nazgul] ... as Lila Cheney's old band.

    I wonder, then, if the bands that ended up using it were X-Men fans or just Tolkien fans.

    @Matt: In a way, this feels more like "telling rather than showing", not through any fault of Claremont's but simply because perhaps no one else at Marvel was enthralled with Nimrod.

    @Teebore: Maybe he was expecting more writers to pick up the idea and use it, which indeed would have sold the whole thing better.

    Given that this is probably the case, I kind-of feel bad for Claremont. "I had it snow when the Casket of Ancient Winters was opened... I brought in the Dire Wraiths... I make sure to point out that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man are unavailable when it's just the X-Men showing up on the scene... And this is the thanks I get?!?"

    @Teebore: I've never read it before either. I'd say I'm hoping it's better than Beauty and the Beast and Iceman, but that's a pretty low bar to hurdle.

    Seriously. Nightcrawler was fun if a little precious, from what I remember, but your tolerance for it might be particularly low given that you weren't a fan of "Kitty's Fairy Tale".

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  9. If current X-Men is doing ONE thing right (and I'm not sure that it is), it's presenting a true outlaw X-Men team for the first time in years. As much as I loved Morrison's X-Men, I came to miss the X-Men being an unsanctioned band of outlaws. Who knew the "official" X-Men status we have now would stick for over ten years?

    Such a cool idea, though, and these stories really illustrate that. The X-Men destroying the Pentagon's files was probably the coolest representation of this. They tried to be the good guys, but they also had to cover their asses. I also felt that "hated and feared" was a very insidious threat; ultimately, the X-Men were always too powerful to be thwarted by a mutant hating public of bumbling law enforcement and military personnel, but they still had to be careful. If too many of their oppressors worked together or the team became too public of a threat, the tables could always turn very quickly. It really gave the whole thing some depth and I feel there are still a million story possibilities with such a status quo.

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  10. @Blam: Do we ever get a scene where she awkwardly meets him as a kid, and/or where we see her flirting with or pining for him when he's briefly aged up in (ugh) Fantastic Force?

    Ha! I can't speak to any interactions in Fantastic Force, but I'm pretty sure there's some interactions between her and present day Franklin during the "Days of Future Present" storyline that ran through most of the X-annuals in...1990, I think?

    it's a strange bit from Shooter about not retiring and throwing a party for the staff.

    Shooter's persona in those Bullpen Bulletins bits are indeed pretty odd. I wonder how much of that persona was an act and how much was just Shooter.

    "I had it snow when the Casket of Ancient Winters was opened... I brought in the Dire Wraiths... I make sure to point out that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man are unavailable when it's just the X-Men showing up on the scene... And this is the thanks I get?!?"

    Ha! Yeah, he definitely seemed to throw the over writers a bone far more often than one was thrown to him.

    @Dan: I came to miss the X-Men being an unsanctioned band of outlaws.

    Ditto. There are definitely some interesting stories to tell in the idea of mutants becoming a popular subculture and how that effects the X-Men (and Morrison told many of those stories in his run), but the X-Men as feared and hated outlaws really does feel like the best status quo.

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  11. "Definitely, though even Claremont could probably have done more with the idea. It pretty much just simmers in the background for awhile, then disappears outright, then is wrapped up quickly and abruptly. Maybe he was expecting more writers to pick up the idea and use it, which indeed would have sold the whole thing better."

    maybe this was re-written before his plans for using Nimrod in the Mutant Massacre were re-written?

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  12. I love this era too. It feels very episodic. Was this the issue with Kitty pouring milk into her cereal and missing the bowl?

    While I do miss Storm (it doesn't feel right with her and Cyke gone) this is a great little action story in the tapestry.

    195 on the other hand. Powers kids and Morlocks disobeying Callisto again.

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