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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #200

"The Trial of Magneto!"
December 1985

In a Nutshell
Magneto goes on trial.

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

Plot
In Paris, Magneto stands trial at the Palais de Justice, defended by Gabrielle Haller and Professor Xavier. Watching a news report that recounts Magneto's past and the conditions of the trial, the two hunters who shot Storm in Africa decide the time is perfect to repay their oldest debt. That evening, the X-Men and New Mutants suddenly materialize in Paris, sent to Xavier's side by Loki. A few days later, terrorist attacks are carried out all over the world, declaring that Magneto must be set free and framing the X-Men. Professor X meets with Cyclops, telling him the X-Men must clear their name, and though he tries to conceal the extent, Cyclops is more worried about Xavier's declining health. As Magneto's trial begins, the X-Men investigate the attacks, and though they stop an attack on a children's hospital in Paris, they nevertheless are blamed. At the X-Mansion, Madelyne is visited by Corsair and Lilandra, who has sensed Xavier's pain through their rapport and hopes to save his life using the Starjammers' medical equipment. After directing them to Paris, Madelyne goes into labor. In Paris, Rachel is able to telepathically locate the terrorists, and the X-Men are able to intervene in their latest attack.


However, the twin hunters, the masterminds behind the attacks, use the opportunity to attack Magneto's trial, calling themselves Fenris and revealing that they are the children of Baron Von Strucker, seeking revenge on Magneto, Xavier and Haller. As Magneto defends the judges from Fenris, Xavier realizes their mutant power relies on physical contact, and throws himself between them. The strain, however, proves too much for his heart, and he collapses. The twins trigger a flood in the chamber and escape, but the judges get to safety as Magneto is washed away with Xavier. They emerge in a garden, and a dying Xavier asks Magneto to carry on in his place. Just then, Lilandra and Corsair arrive and teleport Xavier to the Starjammer for treatment, leaving Magneto to wonder if he can live up to Xavier's trust. Later, the X-Men deliver the remnants of Fenris' forces to the Paris police, clearing their name. Though Magneto's trial is incomplete, Rachel determines that the immediate danger has passed, though she can no longer sense Xavier anywhere. In the garden, now alone, Magneto affirms that come what may, he gave Xavier his word, and he will be true to it.  

Firsts and Other Notables
Professor Xavier leaves the X-Men and the New Mutants (and Earth) as of this issue, succumbing to the injuries lingering from his attack in issue #192 and ferreted away by the Starjammers for treatment (next issue reveals that complications arose in what the Starjammers were hoping would be a brief absence for Xavier). This marks roughly the third time Claremont has sidelined Xavier (after sending him into space shortly before "The Dark Phoenix Saga" and putting him in a coma between the two Brood stories), but this one will prove the most lasting, as Xavier won't return to the team until after Claremont's departure.

Stepping in to take Xavier's place, at Xavier's request, is Magneto, who is considered to have joined the X-Men in this issue. He expresses doubts at filling Xavier's shoes, but Xavier tells him he'll never know if he can do it unless he tries.


Andrea and Andreas Von Strucker, the hunters who attacked Storm in issue #197, are revealed as the children of Nazi supervillain and once-head of Hydra, Baron Von Strucker (whom Xavier and Magneto rescued Gabrielle Haller from in the flashback of issue #162), and appear as the costumed villains Fenris for the first time.   


Magneto's "M" costume, which first appeared in New Mutants #29, makes its X-Men debut in this issue. Rogue also gets a new costume.


In the course of her defense, Gabrielle Haller argues that when Magneto was reduced to infancy by Mutant Alpha in Defenders #16, it was effectively the same as killing him, meaning he paid the ultimate price for whatever crimes he had committed prior to this. This leaves the events of Uncanny X-Men #150 (in which Magneto destroyed a (empty) city as well as a Soviet sub that fired on him as the most heinous acts he must account for, and is a rather clever move on Claremont's part to take advantage of a bit of goofy Silver Age plotting and use it to help develop the character.


Alone at the mansion, Madelyne goes into labor.


Sir James Jaspers, England's attorney general who serves as the prosecutor of Magneto's trial, is a character with an interesting history. Possessing the ability to warp reality, an alternate reality Jaspers served as the principal villain of one of Alan Moore's significant Captain Britain stories, written for Marvel UK, and Claremont, as the creator of Captain Britain and a fan of Moore's work, intended to use the Jaspers of the "main" reality as the centerpiece of a long story arc that would find the X-Men battling a merged version of Nimrod and the Fury (a similarly powerful superhuman killing machine created by Jaspers) after it killed most of the Morlocks and the Hellfire Club, a battle that would spin several notable X-Men, amongst them Kitty and Colossus, off into a new book, Excalibur, after which the remaining X-Men would battle Jaspers himself and end up significantly changed as a result (some accounts of Claremont's plan suggest the X-Men's battle with Jaspers would have been Marvel's version of DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths).

Ultimately, Claremont's plans were scuttled due to a dispute between Moore and Marvel over foreign royalties, and the altered version of his plans resulted in the "Mutant Massacre" and "Fall of the Mutants" as we know them. The whole story, including more details about the Moore/Marvel dispute and much of Claremont's original ideas for the prolonged Jaspers/Fury story, can be found here (it's the third legend in the post). As that column suggest, Claremont would eventually get to use Moore's original Jaspers and Fury characters in a later story, after his return to the title in the 00s, meaning that the Jaspers which appears in this issue is not the same as the one that featured in the Captain Britain stories, though no full explanation for his presence in this story has yet to be given.  

During the trial Jaspers argues that despite Magneto's fears, Jaspers knows of no country where it's a crime to be a mutant, no mutant genocide and no mutant concentration camps. Though not yet introduced to the series, the island nation of Genosha will eventually be shown to be just such a nation, one where mutants are enslaved for the betterment of its human population and, retroactively, that country is doing its thing at the time of this story. Future stories will also depict mutant genocide (the Sentinel attack on Genosha in New X-Men #115) and concentration camps (the Neverland Ranch in the Weapon X series).


The Starjammers, including Binary and Lilandra, pop up in order to take Xavier away and save his life.


Neal Conan, an actual reporter for NPR and a friend of Claremont's, reports on the events of Magneto's trial. Claremont will insert Conan into future stories (he actually appears as a character during "Fall of Mutants"), always as a skilled and sympathetic journalist. 

A Work in Progress
The cover corner box now includes Magneto. 

The news report which opens the issue details Magneto's past and lays out the details of his trial.


As promised, Loki returns the X-Men and New Mutants to their mentor, which means they land directly in Paris, complete with a footnote in which Ann Nocenti threatens to strangle Claremont if he ever pulls a scheduling stunt like this again. However, most of the characters' Asgardian attire differs to varying degrees from how it appeared in X-Men Annual #9, with Colossus now in his Romita Jr.-designed costume instead of the Adams-designed one, and Rachel back in her non-costume.


During the trial, Magneto notes that he claims citizenship from no nation.

It's also established that following his reversion to adulthood, he is now physically in his thirties, another clever use of the Mutant Alpha story which allows Magneto in 1985 to be a Holocaust survivor and still relatively young.

After being framed by Fenris, Cyclops notes the X-Men can't go to the Avengers or Fantastic Four for help, as both would be duty-bound to arrest the X-Men on sight.


At one point, Kitty worries that she may need glasses, something which, given the circumstances, seems like the wrong thing to be worrying about at the moment, and an instance of some pretty forced (fist-clenching) angst.


Magneto speaks in his own defense, declaring he has decided he must find another way to save mutantkind, which essentially serves as an explanation of his recent turn towards good.


I Love the 80s
Rachel telepathically covers the X-Men's exit after their arrival in Paris, leaving the crowd to believe that George Lucas is filming some kind of movie. 

"Professor Xavier Cyclops is a jerk!"
In the days following the X-Men's return to Earth, Madelyne wonders why Cyclops hasn't called her, even though several of his teammates have done so.


Human/Mutant Relations
Gabrielle notes the large number of anti-mutant protests that have started in the wake of Magneto's trial.


For Sale
Hey, you guys: remember MASK? There was a year or two there where I was all about MASK; they were like Transformers and GI Joes rolled into one. True story, the Renegade, that motorcycle/sidecar thing in the bottom right corner of the ad, was the reward I received from my mom for winning the Little Mr. Hummel pageant in Sharon, Pennsylvania, back when I was six.


Time for a new round of Saturday morning cartoons, featuring Hulk Hogan.


Regarding promotional tours and research for this issue
"Claremont spent May 1985 with Romita Jr. and Nocenti, doing a promotional tour through France, England, Spain, and Holland, conducting research for X-Men #200, which would be set in Paris and The Hague. They signed comics at events, but mostly enjoyed the fruits of expense accounts - visiting restaurants, strip clubs, and museums."

Howe, Sean. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. p288

Chris Claremont on his favorite issues (thus far) "The graphic novel's ["God Loves, Man Kills"] on the top of the list, the Wolverine mini-series, the X-Titans. It was a hell of a year. You know, then there were a lot of nice issues after that, but those [stand out]..."Lifedeath", the two Barry Smith issues, in my mind, belongs in that [group]. And underneath if, there are a lot of really nifty issues, but the creme de la creme, those four titles are probably it."

Thompson, Kim."Interview with Chris Claremont." Amazing Heroes July 1985: p57.

Teebore's Take
For the two hundredth issue of Uncanny X-Men, Claremont delivers arguably the biggest shakeup to the status quo since the introduction of the all new, all different X-Men: Professor Xavier is out, Magneto is in. This is a development that Claremont has slowly been building towards for several issues, both in setting up Xavier's debilitating condition and by gradually moving Magneto closer and closer to the X-Men's worldview (while also moving the X-Men closer to his). In fact, while this issue's story depicts Magneto's trial before a world court, meta-textually it also serves as a sort of closing argument for Claremont's case that Magneto can work with the X-Men. And really, the scenes of Magneto's trial are where this issue really sings: while the X-Men's various battles with Fenris and their goons are as competent as ever, and feature some of Romita Jr. and Green's best art yet, they ultimately feel rather superfluous and tacked on compared to the drama in the courtroom.

The legal arguments presented therein are, relatively speaking, fairly facile and overly-simplistic in realistic legal terms, but sound plausible enough in the context of the story to seem very clever (and really, when we're dealing with arguments stemming from an artificial being reverting a super-powered being to infancy before he's returned to adulthood by an alien being, we should probably take whatever verisimilitude we can get). Magneto's journey is not over, as neither Claremont nor other future writers are done developing the character (for better and worse), but for the time being, he's reached a stasis point. The Magneto of issue #200, like the X-Men themselves, is a far cry from the Magneto of Claremont's early issues (and even further from the Magneto of the series' earliest issues), and this issue serves as Claremont's final, and most effective, attempt to make that change believable. In terms of that attempt, he succeeds. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the New Mutants return home to find Magneto waiting for them in New Mutants #35, and next week, the X-Men return home to find a baby waiting for them in Uncanny X-Men #201.

10 comments:

  1. Just dropping in with a few quick thoughts on the anniversary issue:

    1. I've always liked that even though he took about 90 issues off in between, John Romita Jr. managed to illustrate both the 200th and 300th issues of Uncanny X-Men.

    2. I think I've made my thoughts on reformed Headmaster Magneto quite clear, so I won't reiterate right now. But suffice it to say, I'm with Cyclops on this point.

    3. Every time I read about Claremont's planned Jaspers/Fury storyline, I'm conflicted. On the one hand, it sounds like it would have made a pretty epic storyline and I like the tying together of the "Mutant Massacre" with "Fall of the Mutants" (I assume Jaspers would've filled the role of the Adversary?). But on the other hand, it feels like a bit of a cheat, basically stealing the excellent Moore/Davis story (which I just recently re-read) to re-tell it with the X-Men. Ultimately I'm glad Claremont was forced to take his own path.

    4. Jim Shooter wrote an entertaining story about the X-team's trip to France on his blog (looks like Dan Green attended as well).

    That is all.

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  2. Yeah, I'm glad we got the stories we did to be honest. If Claremont hadn't been forced to use the Adversary for Fall of the Mutants, would that just have been a dropped plot? Plus I don't want to live in a world without Mr. Sinister and the Marauders. I do have to admit loving to read Claremont's "might have been" stories. He had a lot of interesting ones heading up to Uncanny #300. Having said that, I don't know if any of them sounded as good as what we got in X-Men #1-3.

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  3. Ah...back in 2003 I was in a big fanboyism on CC' X-runs (UXM and NM). When I went to France that winter, I took my copy of this issue (actually a CLASSICS reprint) and explored the areas the story used: The front of the Palais de Justice with the anti-mutant crowds, an empty courtroom where I imagined the Trial was being covered, the side of the palais where Kitty and Rogue realized they were being suckered. However, a lack of funds kept me from entering the park where the X-groups arrived from Asgard. On an OT note, I sang "God help the Outcasts" at Notre Dame Cathedral.

    It's a pity CC decided not to give a final meeting between Xavier and his reunited New Mutant pupils (especially Karma, who probably has a word or two to say to the Prof.).

    Since this will be the last time we'll cover Xavier's injuries, what situation do you think pushed him to his fatal condition? I believe it was the Legion psi-trip.

    Rachel is once again reminded of her Hound past, but doesn't cry about it!

    In the non-Alex Ross sequel to MARVELS, it was noted that the Avengers were in Paris for the Trial.

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  4. I did not realize that the Fenris twins were the hunters from Storm's little episode in Africa until reading your post.

    So that's who James Jaspers is.

    Wow... Doug's French conjugation sucks. Maybe he should feel useless.

    You can quibble about the X-Men not all being dressed like they were in Asgard – I want to 8^) — but Nocenti has a point about the scheduling: The extra-sized #200, plus the X-Men annual, plus the (extra-extra-sized) New Mutants Special Edition, plus the two-issue X-Men and Alpha Flight mini all being released within a couple of months is kuh-ray-zee.

    Rachel's back to the jazzercise gear after the Phoenix costume, and nobody's calling her that either. I've taken appreciative note, by the way, that she always uses "Cyclops" when talking to her (not-)dad, rather that "Scott".

    "I'm an X-Man! I can't need glasses!" is like the best parody of Marvel angst ever.

    Magneto can't be helping his case dressed in that outfit. And he's still not using his (or a) civilian name — not even Magnus? It's "Magneto" at the trial, "Magneto" when Xavier speaks to him with his dying breath; I'd thought that at least "Magnus" was established by now, like in those post-WWII flashbacks.

    Gil Kane's Hulk Hogan has always made me laugh.

    And last but not least...

    the reward I received from my mom for winning the Little Mr. Hummel pageant

    !!!

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  5. @Matt: I've always liked that even though he took about 90 issues off in between, John Romita Jr. managed to illustrate both the 200th and 300th issues of Uncanny X-Men.

    Me too. I always thought it was too bad that couldn't get him involved in issue #400 in some capacity, but that was during the iconoclastic Jemas/Quesada days, so it was just treated as a regular issue.

    Every time I read about Claremont's planned Jaspers/Fury storyline, I'm conflicted.

    I know what you mean; I find myself prone to instantly like the sound of a planned story that never came to fruition, but then I remind myself that it may not have worked out in execution, and of the things that were done instead that we'd have lost.

    I too am happy that Claremont forged his own path.

    And yeah, I've always assumed Jaspers would have filled the Adversary's role in the original version of "Fall of the Mutants".

    Jim Shooter wrote an entertaining story about the X-team's trip to France on his blog

    Thanks for the link.

    @Jeff: He had a lot of interesting ones heading up to Uncanny #300. Having said that, I don't know if any of them sounded as good as what we got in X-Men #1-3.

    Yeah, that's another batch of planned stories where what I've read sounds good on paper, but I remind myself that we can't know how it would have turned out in the end.

    After all, I know Claremont used a lot of those ideas for X-Men Forever and that didn't turn out...great (though there were other factors at play there as well).

    @angmc43: When I went to France that winter, I took my copy of this issue (actually a CLASSICS reprint) and explored the areas the story used

    Okay, that's pretty awesome. I tip my hat to you, sir.

    Since this will be the last time we'll cover Xavier's injuries, what situation do you think pushed him to his fatal condition? I believe it was the Legion psi-trip.

    That's always been my take as well.

    Rachel is once again reminded of her Hound past, but doesn't cry about it!

    Progress!

    @Blam: the extra-sized #200, plus the X-Men annual, plus the (extra-extra-sized) New Mutants Special Edition, plus the two-issue X-Men and Alpha Flight mini all being released within a couple of months is kuh-ray-zee.

    Indeed. And the X-Men/Alpha Flight mini was two double sized issues to boot! Though I do wonder, with those issues, if the scheduling was all Claremont's fault, as they clearly take place before the other stories (what with Madelyne just announcing her pregnancy), suggesting maybe he'd written them much earlier and they got delayed by the art or editorial or something.

    I've taken appreciative note, by the way, that she always uses "Cyclops" when talking to her (not-)dad, rather that "Scott".

    I'd actually missed that. Nice catch! I really like it as well.

    "I'm an X-Man! I can't need glasses!" is like the best parody of Marvel angst ever.

    I know, right? I still can't believe that's played straight.

    I'd thought that at least "Magnus" was established by now, like in those post-WWII flashbacks.

    I'm pretty sure he was "Magnus" in issue #161, so I'm not sure why he isn't at least being called as such by Xavier here.

    !!!

    Yep. I wore a crown and a sash and polkaed with Little Miss Hummel (something that didn't nearly excite me as much at 6 as it would have at 13) and everything. My mom learned early on she could bribe me into doing just about anything with the right toy...

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  6. I thought that the way the comic cuts from scenes of the trial to the X-men were a pretty nice way to tell this story.

    Questions/concerns:

    Why, when the X-men crashed the tour boat and fought the "cannon fodder" goons, didn't one of them just "Thunder punch" Wolverine's head clean off?

    How does Rogue's costume remain unscathed? Don't give me any of that unstable molecules crap either!

    How was storm holding her own/doing any damage at all to the goons on the boat? Especially considering that they were nigh-invincible & even Colossus damn near died fighting them o.O

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  7. @Reese: Why, when the X-men crashed the tour boat and fought the "cannon fodder" goons, didn't one of them just "Thunder punch" Wolverine's head clean off?

    Wolverine for the most part gets some added durability from having an adamantium skeleton, making it harder to rend his head from body.

    How does Rogue's costume remain unscathed? Don't give me any of that unstable molecules crap either!

    Err, unstable molecules. Pretty much all the X-Men's costumes, made from the stuff, are more durable than regular fabric (though of course not entirely invulnerable, as they'll get torn and tattered depending on the whims of the artist).

    How was storm holding her own/doing any damage at all to the goons on the boat?

    How, I'm not exactly sure what she was accomplishing beyond "not dying".

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  8. @Reese: Ok, does Storm have pupils or not? & why are they cat-like in this issue?

    The general convention is that her eyes turn white and her pupils disappear when she uses her powers (like in the movies), though that hasn't always been adhered to rigidly.

    The cat-like thing is an artistic affectation some artists adopt, as Leonardi often does when drawing her.


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  9. "However, most of the characters' Asgardian attire differs to varying degrees from how it appeared in X-Men Annual #9...and Rachel back in her non-costume."

    Rachel is still in her Asgardian costume when they arrive in Paris. She's placed to the left of Brightwind's head. Now, not sure if that's the same costume she was wearing in Asgard, but it does look Asgardian.

    "At one point, Kitty worries that she may need glasses, something which, given the circumstances, seems like the wrong thing to be worrying about at the moment, and an instance of some pretty forced (fist-clenching) angst."

    I kind of find it...endearing, actually. If it had been one of the adult X-men, I'd feel like you do, but despite her maturity and Kitty's age, I think it's an ok reaction from her.

    "How was storm holding her own/doing any damage at all to the goons on the boat?"

    Because Mohawk Storm was just so many levels of awesome?

    I like to think, even though she is seen in a panel taking on an armored goon, she focused on the non-armored ones.

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  10. Ah, MASK... what was Marvel thinking, trying to bring us a Miles M for Spider-Man, after spending the 80s in setting up that MILES MAYHEM is bad news. You remember Miles Mayhem, the leader of... VENOM?

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