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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #201

"Duel"
January 1986

In a Nutshell 
Storm and Cyclops duel for leadership of the X-Men. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Rick Leonardi
Guest Inker: Whilce Portacio 
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The X-Men return to the mansion from France and marvel over Cyclops and Madelyne's new baby. Outside the room, Storm and Madelyne discuss the growing distance between Madelyne and Cyclops, while Cyclops worries whether the X-Men can trust Magneto. Meanwhile, aboard the Starjammer, a recovered Xavier is told that with the ship damaged and hunted by the Shi'ar, it will be a long time, if ever, before the Starjammers can return him home. Back on Earth, the X-Men play a game of baseball while Scott and Maddy argue about their future. Scott insists that, with Xavier gone, Magneto at the school and Storm powerless, the X-Men need him now more than ever, while Maddy says he has a responsibility to his own family. Just then, Storm interrupts, and proposes a duel between her and Cyclops, one-on-one in the Danger Room, with the winner declared the leader of the team.


The duel begins as the X-Men watch (and take bets) from the control room. Storm quickly gains the upper hand over a distracted and overconfident Cyclops, ultimately nabbing his visor. Unwilling to risk accidentally blasting Storm or destroying the room, Cyclops concedes defeat. Dejected, and realizing there's no longer a place for him on the team, he leaves, wondering if, after everything he's said, there's even a place for him with Madelyne. Later, Rachel returns to the Grey home and adds her essence to the holoempathic crystal of Jean, determined to ensure that even if her timelines never comes to pass, she'll be remembered.  

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first appearance of Cyclops' son, who will, eventually, thanks to retcons and the 90s, grow up to become Cable, the mutant solider from the future, which then retroactively makes this the earliest chronological appearance of Cable as well. Though unnamed in this issue, the baby will, after a laughably long amount of time, finally have his name revealed in Uncanny X-Men #239: Nathan Christopher Charles Summers (a mouthful even before you start adding in all the Cable aliases).


Storm rejoins the X-Men as of this issue, and regains her position as team leader after defeating Cyclops in a duel for the title (Nightcrawler, technically still the current team leader as this issue opens, never factors into the discussions over who should lead, quietly bringing to an end his tenure as leader).

Cyclops, having never officially rejoined the team during his recent return, leaves once more for his lengthiest absence yet: slated to star in X-Factor, launching the month following this issue, he won't return to the X-Men until after Claremont has left the title, and won't be a regular feature specifically in Uncanny X-Men until well after Claremont's complete departure from the franchise. This means that, after the brief period following Angel's departure in issue #148, we are heading into the longest period yet in which no member of the original team will be featured in the book.

Feeling neglected by Scott and upset by his desire to remain with the X-Men over his family, Maddy is despondent during his duel with Storm, hoping he'll lose but knowing it will crush him if he does, and saddened that the only way he'll stay with his family is if he's forced to. Later stories will reveal that Maddy, using powers she doesn't yet know she has, subconsciously affected the duel, leading to Cyclops' defeat (there's also a hint, during the duel, that Storm's powers may be returning; this, like Communism, ultimately proves to be nothing more than a red herring).


It is confirmed (at least to the readers) that Professor X will not be returning to the team anytime soon, as he finds himself healed but stranded across the galaxy with the Starjammers, who, at this time, are rebels fighting to overthrow Lilandra's sister Deathbird and restore Lilandra to the throne, leaving them on the run from the Shi'ar Empire and cut off from their usual resources. We'll see him once more in issue #203, and then he'll disappear from the book for a good long while.


Rachel, rather remarkably, manages to interact with her pseudo little brother and not burst into tears (it's also affirmed that as far as Rachel is concerned, Cyclops is still unaware of their relationship), and promises to always be there for him, something we'll actually see in the future: she will respond to his distress during "Inferno", and later, through a convoluted series of retcons, will be established as the driving force behind the group which brings him into the future, saving his life, and putting him on the path towards becoming Cable.  

The issue ends with Rachel repairing the Shi'ar holoempathic crystal she damaged in issue #199, adding a bit of her essence to it, and reaffirming her pledge to do right by the name Phoenix. This is followed by a scene of the Watcher on the moon and a beam of energy, originating from the location of Jean Grey's death, heading towards Earth. It's never been entirely clear what this burst of energy is meant to represent, whether Rachel's formal adoption of the Phoenix Force (though this was meant to occur in #199 and future stories will establish happened even before that), a tie-in to the events that saw the return of Jean Grey in other titles this month (though that suggests perhaps a higher level of magnanimity towards those events on Claremont's part than he's reported to have possessed) or something else entirely.


Rick Leonardi fills in as guest penciller, inked by future Uncanny X-Men penciller and Image co-founder Whilce Portacio, making Portacio the first Image founder to work on one of the regular X-books.

The Chronology Corner
Following this issue, Shadowcat and Wolverine guest star in Power Pack #19 (which we're not covering) before joining the rest of the X-Men in Alpha Flight #33 (which we'll look at next week).

A Work in Progress
Madelyne mentions having survived the crashing of a 747 she was piloting, which remains the most significant detail we've been given about her past. She also says that she gave birth to her son on the floor of the mansion, his birth occurring before the parademics arrived.


In a little throwaway moment I've always liked, Rachel creates a psi-link between Kitty and the baby so Kitty can experience his thoughts.


The X-Men once again play baseball in their downtime, the third time they've done so (and, I believe, the final time they do so during Claremont's tenure).


Cyclops once again mentions his distrust of Magneto, who is seen in this issue training in the Danger Room with the New Mutants and later watching the Storm/Cyclops duel with the rest of the X-Men and New Mutants.


In a continuation of the lamest subplot ever, Storm mentions that Kitty's ophthalmology appointment has been scheduled.


Madelyne, rightly and somewhat hilariously, points out how ridiculous Cyclops' notion that he'll lead the X-Men and she'll stay home with the baby is, considering that between the two of them, she's the one with a job and marketable skills (something which doesn't quite gel with X-Men/Alpha Flight, which suggested that Scott and Maddy were working for his grandparents' airline together). 


I Love the 80s
Sam is seen working on a term paper regarding the Soviet Union on a very 80s computer.


Later, Rogue catches a flyball hit by Colossus that passes by Air Force One, on which President Reagan is seen discussing a meeting with Senator [Bob] Dole and a reception for the New York Mets with his Chief of Staff Donald [Regan]. Oddly, it's said that the Mets' reception is meant to congratulate them on winning the World Series, yet the Mets didn't win the World Series until October of 1986. The 1985 World Series, which the Kansas City Royals won, would have been unfolding when this issue hits the stands in October of 85. All I can assume is that some amount of wishful thinking on the part of one of the creators may be at play here, as the Mets did finish the '85 season only three games behind the eventual National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NL East standings. 


Claremontisms
Rachel thinks, prays that she can repair the holoempathic crystal. 


Artistic Achievements
I don't call out the lettering often enough, but there's an especially clever bit in this issue - as Nightcrawler tickles Rachel, the words depicting her uncontrollable laughter get larger and smaller (and bolder and less bold) relative to the regular font, visually creating the aural sensation of her words getting louder and softer as the tickling continues. It's a neat effect that saves what would be an otherwise all-too-twee bit.


"Professor Xavier Cyclops is a jerk!"
Cyclops' lack of phone calls to Maddy before and after the birth, mentioned last issue, are brought up again, something which, combined with his lack of phone calls during the "the world believes the X-Men are dead" plot in the Claremont/Byrne run, prompted fellow X-blogger Abigail Brady to suggest that Cyclops must have a pathological fear of phones. 

The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
As their duel begins, Cyclops tells Storm that he'll only use "ultra low power" blasts, which seems like something, given what we know of his power, he shouldn't really have any control over.


For Sale
"Mmm...64 slices of American Cheese...."


Instead of a Hostess comic, this issue features one for Cap'N Crunch.


It's in the Mail
The letters page is back, with letters discussing issues #189-#192. 

Teebore's Take
I have never been terribly fond of this issue. Objectively, it's not bad: it's a Classic Claremont Quiet Issue, focusing on character interactions and reactions to recent plot events, and Leonardi proves a capable fill-in for Romita Jr.. It's also certainly a significant issue in terms of the ongoing X-Men narrative, featuring as it does the first appearance of Cyclops' son (and, thanks to retcons, 90s mainstay Cable), the return of Storm, the confirmation of Professor Xavier's departure and the beginning of Cyclops' longest continued absence from the book. But it's the way that last part is carried out that, not surprisingly, rubs me the wrong way about this issue.

"Duel" essentially serves as Claremont's attempt to put Cyclops into position for his role in X-Factor. Leaving aside the ridiculous notion that powerless Storm somehow beat Cyclops (he says pushing his glasses up to the bridge of his nose), on the grounds that it was necessary for larger plot-based reasons (sort of like how the star of a book will always beat a guest star, even a more powerful one), the problem is, as we'll shortly see, in order for the original vision of X-Factor to be met, Cyclops has to be written grossly out of character, as an insensitive jerk (at best). Though not as bad as it will become elsewhere, that depiction of, for lack of a better term, Jerk Ass Cyclops, begins in earnest here.

To be clear, I don't blame Claremont for it: his dissatisfaction with both the return of Jean Grey (after being forced to change his original storyline to kill her) and what it meant for the happy ending he'd given Cyclops with Maddy are a matter of record at this point. And to his credit, he does the best job that he can in a limited amount of space to sell Cyclops' upcoming heel turn: there's an interesting kernel of an idea in the notion that Cyclops is good at little else than leading a paramilitary mutant strike force, as well as in the conflict between what Cyclops feels are his responsibilities to the man he considers his father and his responsibilities to his own son.

But Claremont only has so much room to work with here (learning of Marvel's plans for X-Factor while working on issue #198, that he managed to squeeze in a Cyclops' sendoff amongst his other storylines at all is a testament to his fondness for the character), and as a result, those ideas remain little more than kernels. While Claremont, along with his former editor Louise Simonson, will eventually do what they can to undo what's begun here, it will take several years, a line-wide crossover, and the complete destruction of Madelyne's character to even start the rehabilitation. Which, for a Cyclops fan, makes it hard to enjoy this issue, despite all of the other enjoyable, non-Cyclops-related moments.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the Beyonder and Secret Wars II return in New Mutants #36, and next week, we get another glimpse at Wolverine's past in Alpha Flight #33-34

25 comments:

  1. Claremont definitely seems like he's poisoning the well for Cyclops. He's now a bad husband and a lame leader. All yours, X-Factor!

    I guess they could have had Madelyne die during childbirth or something to give Cyclops a clean break without turning him heel, but that might have been a little too heavy for the book and I get that Claremont liked the Madelyne character. It definitely makes Inferno even more depressing with all the "You're only a copy of Jean" talk. I never realized how meta that crossover was until I read about the backstage stuff going on at the time.

    Also, as a St. Louisan, I implore you not to taint your reviews by mentioning the '85 World Series again. Denkinger!!!!

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  2. Maybe it's Portacio's influence, but this is about the most manga-influenced look we'll see on this book until that up-and-comer from Alpha Flight and Punisher: War Journal takes over for an arc in a few years. I kind of like it, too (unlike most of Portacio's work on X-men books). Don't forget, he's not just an artist: he wrote the books for about a year or two, too. And it was the worst the comic had been since Stan Lee was writing it. I kind of like this issue, (because I hate Cyclops,) but also because it's kind of a nice breather for the team, knowing they're about to go through a series of ringers. As a Nightcrawler fan, it kind of sucks to see him stepping aside without even a conversation about leadership, but again, with hindsight I know things are about to get much worse.

    Maybe it wasn't mentioned, but I seem to remember Storm having a subconscious link to her powers for the next 20 or so issues. I don't think it led to her actually being fixed, but I don't think it was just an idle red herring, either. I might be totally wrong, though.

    Also I kind of like the "anyone can win a fight" kind of mentality that issues like this have when combined with something like #175, in which Cyclops punked out the whole team.

    And Jeff, we Cardinals don't need to worry about losing a world series 28 years ago. After all, we've won even more titles since, unlike basically all of our rivals.

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  3. Claremont definitely seems like he's poisoning the well for Cyclops. He's now a bad husband and a lame leader. All yours, X-Factor!

    I got that impression, too. I like to think that Claremont saw the script Layton wrote where Maddie was written as an OOC shrew and had an "Oh, yeah?" moment.

    The more I look at it, the more I see how much damage the mere existence of X-Factor did to the franchise: It turned one of the founders into a cad, it turned another into a punchline about comic book deaths, it took a background player & made her (and her child) unnecessarily convoluted just to justify her existence in the first place, and it weakened what was the story that put the series on the map by negating its emotional ending. We eventually got some good out of it, but I can't help but wonder how X-Men as a franchise would've been different if X-Factor never happened.

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  4. Man, this post brings back memories. I must've bought this issue around 1999 or 2000 when I was 13/14, mainly because of the Cyclops/Storm duel. But as I got older I became a fan of X-Factor and X-Force, and the seeds for those series were sewn in this particular issue (No X-Factor if Cyclops didn't lose, no X-Force without Cable [Although Cable was already in the comics while baby Nathan was in the present, but still]). For some reason my favorite era for years was the mid-late 80's, and this issue also sets the status quo for that team - Professor X is gone, no original members left, and with their distrust of Magneto they're pretty much all on their own for the first time.

    I also agree with Mela about the repercussions of X-Factor. I've always had a soft spot for the original X-Men (Especially Cyclops and Angel), but to me X-Factor always seemed a bit superfluous. The concept of "mutant hunters" was pretty weak, and the entire thing just seemed like a poor excuse of trying to recapture the magic of the early issues of Uncanny. I've also realized more and more as time goes on that the original X-Men are....well....lame. My favorite aspects of the series were Angel's transformation and Iceman's loss of control of his powers, but these were only done to make them more interesting (Claremont specifically said that he disliked using Angel in X-Men because all he was useful for was flying and catching people who fell). Claremont could've used all the original characters in his run, but when they did appear he only used them sporadically. They just didn't hold up to the all-new team.

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  5. As for Jean coming back to life...I got into X-Men around '92 when I was 5 and the cartoon was out. Jean was on the team then, and to me this grouping of characters WAS the X-Men for me. I see Jean's death and resurrection as nothing more than a bump in the road of her life, since she had been resurrected longer than I was alive.

    But Claremont created some of his best stories dealing with Jean and the Phoenix and her death. Back then death in comic books meant something, and I can't imagine how shocking it was. Issue #175 was particularly powerful - Scott met Madelyne, decided to marry her, and he said goodbye to Jean once and for all, putting to rest a terrible part of everyone's lives. It seems ridiculous to me now knowing Madelyne's story that she goes from average demure girl with a husband and a baby to being an evil clone with crazy powers created by Mr. Sinister who's trying to bring Hell on Earth. And once again, a Jean analog goes through another weird transformation granting her incredible powers......

    As for Cyclops, I'm surprised he's not more fucked up than he is (Plane crash, coma, orphanage, parents and brother are dead, uncontrollable force beams from eyes, brother's alive, dad's alive, girlfriend becomes a God, girlfriend dies, and Mr. Sinister has been manipulating events in his life from childhood). The dude just can't catch a break. It's amazing that his heel turn didn't happen until 201 issues into the series he was an original member of.

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  6. @Jeff: Claremont definitely seems like he's poisoning the well for Cyclops. He's now a bad husband and a lame leader. All yours, X-Factor!

    Definitely. Though I tend to think he's doing it only after catching wind of how Cyclops was going to be portrayed in X-Factor, and even then he's doing it with an odd mix of reluctance and "stick it to the X-Factor guys"-ness.

    I never realized how meta that crossover was until I read about the backstage stuff going on at the time.

    Yeah, I read "Inferno" start to finish several times through the years before I ever encountered any of the backstage stuff that made the whole thing so much more meta.

    Also, as a St. Louisan, I implore you not to taint your reviews by mentioning the '85 World Series again.

    As a Minnesotan, where our last baseball title came in 1991 (heck, that was the last title from any of the four major pro sports, though our WNBA franchise is pretty good these days...), you won't get much sympathy from me. ;)

    @Dobson: Maybe it's Portacio's influence, but this is about the most manga-influenced look we'll see on this book until that up-and-comer from Alpha Flight and Punisher: War Journal takes over for an arc in a few years.

    Good point. I definitely think its Portacio's influence, aided by Leonardi's generally more cartoony style.

    And it was the worst the comic had been since Stan Lee was writing it.

    Good point. And least the Stan Lee stuff had the novelty of lots of significant firsts to buoy it up. In fact, I bet a case could be made that Portacio's stint as writer was the worst on the book up through, what, Austen, at least?

    Maybe it wasn't mentioned, but I seem to remember Storm having a subconscious link to her powers for the next 20 or so issues.

    I don't recall that offhand, but I'll keep an eye out for it moving forward.

    @Mela: We eventually got some good out of it, but I can't help but wonder how X-Men as a franchise would've been different if X-Factor never happened.

    It's a good question. I really enjoy X-Factor, at least once Simonson and then the other Simonson comes aboard, and it gets especially soapy (but I have a fondness for soap opera). But it definitely falters near the end, and rips up the franchise almost immediately once it starts.

    @Ian: I've also realized more and more as time goes on that the original X-Men are....well....lame.

    After encountering them mainly through X-Factor, then going back and reading the Silver Age, I definitely realized that whatever affection I had for that team (including the stuff you specifically mentioned), mainly came from X-Factor.

    I see Jean's death and resurrection as nothing more than a bump in the road of her life, since she had been resurrected longer than I was alive.

    I'll save more of my larger thoughts regarding the return of Jean for post in two weeks, when I cover the issues featuring her return, but suffice to say, I'm ultimately more or less in the same place you are about it.

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  7. this, like Communism, ultimately proves to be nothing more than a red herring


    Bwah-ha-ha!!! Thank you. Thank you very much!

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  8. If X-Factor had never existed then I wouldn't have been annoyed for years that no one ever asked why famous mutant Warren Worthington III was bankrolling mutant hunters.

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  9. Agreed on the "X-Factor bad for X-Men" argument.
    On Leonardi: I see Mike Golden as a major influence on his art. What do others think?

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  10. I'm curious as I search my memory what exactly got me to pick up #201 after I resolved to drop X-Men with #200.

    Was it the cover's promise that Cyclops might be back? Or was it by contrast a curiosity over how he would be leaving the team "for good" as X-Factor launched? I know I got the Amazing Heroes issue featuring the lowdown on X-Factor and the return of Jean Grey, but don't recall when it came out in relation to this issue.

    Was it just the art? I liked Rick Leonardi's Spider-Man, and I've made it clear here that I didn't like JR Jr. & Dan Green, although looking at this issue for the first time in decades I can't say that Whilce Portacio's inks are too appealing over Leonardi's pencils. The figures and the layout are nice — gorgeous at times, in fact; the details, though, faces especially, leave (to my eyes) more than a little to be desired.

    Maybe it was just a desire to have a more appropriate farewell than #200, which sort-of cemented in place the series that X-Men had become, an X-Men that no longer felt like "my" X-Men — and one that I find more intriguing now, in hindsight and with detachment, than I did at the time, preferring the John Byrne and Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith eras.

    On to the issue itself, rather than my issues about it...

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  11. [Cyclops] won't return to the X-Men until after Claremont has left the title

    He's on the cover(s) of the "new" adjectiveless X-Men #1 — not just for show, I don't think, as I remember him being part of the whole Blue/Gold thing. That's right before Claremont leaves, yeah, and I have no familiarity with what was happening in the X-Men titles between Inferno circa 1989 and the first half-dozen or so issues of the new series in late 1991, and I haven't read them since they were published, but still. No? You certainly have more X-Men history in your brain than I do.

    this, like Communism, ultimately proves to be nothing more than a red herring

    I don't have a clue what you're talking about.

    a beam of energy, originating from the location of Jean Grey's death, heading towards Earth. It's never been entirely clear what this burst of energy is meant to represent

    My recollection upon reading this scene again was that at the time I took it to be an event possibly triggered by Rachel's embrace of the Phoenix force (although, like you suggest in noting that it's later retconned/specified to have happened earlier, one would suspect that would occur when she first absorbed the energy/essence in the crystal in #199) and definitely triggering, somehow, the revival of Jean Grey in the shuttle on Earth.

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  12. In a continuation of the lamest subplot ever, Storm mentions that Kitty's ophthalmology appointment has been scheduled.

    LOL. It's funny 'cause it's... not actually funny.

    Rachel thinks, prays that she can repair the holoempathic crystal.

    And "She's never heard her power... sing within her before."

    Cyclops tells Storm that he'll only use "ultra low power" blasts, which seems like something, given what we know of his power, he shouldn't really have any control over.

    Yet it's something that he has to have control over, given that we've seen him using his optic blasts to play billiards without vaporizing the balls or knocking them clean through the wall. I just always figured that something about the visor, in addition to the width of the aperture, let him control the intensity of his beams, and that unless he had controls in the palms of his gloves like Ray Palmer (as I thought I remembered reading at some point) there was a psionic element to the headgear that let him control the visor's opening mentally. We don't ever (or at least don't usually; to repeat, you've read more than I do) see the pane of ruby quartz retreat, window-like, into the visor, equivalent to Scott lifting up his glasses; it's my assumption that Scott is concentrating to get a beam through the ruby quartz. And that suggests that the harder he concentrates the more powerful the beam he can send through. How the control is achieved when he is only wearing his shades, as during the pool-table trick in the D'Spayre issue, is another matter, if only because we're told that the visor allows for so much more finesse.

    as a result, those ideas remain little more than kernels

    Which is such a shame, if not at all surprising given the constraints of the day — and perennially of shared-world, work-for-hire superhero sagas in general. Like I said above, I wanted more of what you say is suggested here and what I frankly barely see suggested — particularly as regards the X-Men as being the only thing Cyclops is or perhaps ever could be good at — not that I can really blame Claremont (for a variety of reasons).

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  13. It says a lot about your analyses, Teebore, and the discussions here (as well as the comments on Jason Powell's posts, which I'm still catching up on in bunches) that when I see certain bits now they bring up so much more than is on the page and possibly more than Claremont even intended.

    Kurt tickling Rachel on Pg. 2 at the time most likely just registered to me as the kind of grace note that Claremont, like Wolfman & Pérez on Titans, gave their characters at rest or play. Now I see echoes of how nervous Kitty was around Nightcrawler when she joined the team, and how by contrast he must be so pleased not to have that effect on Rachel, who in turn is naturally thrilled to be reunited with (versions at least) of the X-Men who helped raise her — thrilled, indeed, just at the very thought of having a happy moment (when she isn't busy angsting over the fact that this isn't her own past, granted, and over the future that it may yet become). At the same time, I should add, I find the quintessentially Claremontian dialogue around that scene much more eye-rolling in its preciousness than I likely did at 15 when the issue came out; the great lettering from Orz, as you point out Teebore, helps save it.

    There's much in Wolverine's admiration of Kitty's fastball — even if I don't buy that Peter would whiff on it — and Nightcrawler's comment, "I thought you wanted to be a dancer," to which Kitty replies, "Who says I can't do both?" It's an almost crazily naive thought, with hindsight, that Kitty might have a career or really an adulthood period.

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  14. Rachel letting Kitty hear the baby's thoughts is a neat, lovely idea, but while I appreciate Claremont's restraint in not depicting those thoughts in any way I think he (or Leonardi) actually glossed over the moment too quickly, having Kitty get back on the topic of the Scott/Rachel drama in the same panel.

    How small is that makeshift baseball diamond? Nightcrawler's standing right next to the pitcher's mound.

    Madelyne has some good points. She calls Scott on him believing he's the only possible man for the job and on not really having any experience with earning a living outside Xavier's walls; plus, there's the whole thing of he's a father now. I certainly wish that at the very least, rather than coming off as absolute, chauvinistic, and distant, we got some indication that he felt renewed dedication to the X-Men so that he could actively work to make the world a better, safer place for his newborn son — who may well turn out to be a mutant, something nobody points out — rather than Scott feeling a filial duty to Xavier, being gravely concerned over Magneto's intentions, and, to put it as charitably as possible, seeming to have cold feet about not just fatherhood but marriage. You can't help wanting a more sympathetic push-pull on the page between his X-Men family and his new family with Madelyne, even if that would be rendered moot by his ditching both families an earlier one in the form of X-Factor.

    Cyclops' visor shouldn't be pulled off his cowl that easily, just as a matter of mechanics. Storm maybe shouldn't beat Cyclops that easily, too, although he is visibly distracted (in the sense that the thought balloons are visible to us). Claremont seems to be rationalizing, if not soft-pedaling, as much as possible the dictated plot machinations of Scott withdrawing from Madelyne and "losing" his leadership role in the X-Men. It's kind-of ironic that those paths are presented in this issue as pulling him in opposite directions when it will be X-Factor that takes him away from both and that has built-in alternatives to both as well: Jean, the original Madelyne (literally, we'll learn later), and the other X-Factor members, the original X-Men.

    I didn't remember that Cap'n Crunch "Where's the Cap'n" strip at all, yet oddly enough I kind-of do remember the larger marketing campaign of Cap'n Crunch going missing. The pencils look like Ron Frenz's work in the panel of Peter Parker talking to Jonah Jameson.

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  15. Great blog Teebore. I stumbled across this blog, accidentally, one day when I was searching for "Storm v.s. White Queen" pics on Google (as I had just read UXM #151..or 152, can't remember). Interestingly enough, I was going to do Vlogs on UXM starting with #150 (I have #150-544), but now that I see people like you, Space Squid, Jason Powell, etc., do such awesome jobs at analyzing these books I think I might just limit myself to leaving snide comments about the sillier things I notice in the issues :)

    Again, great job, & keep up the good work!

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  16. Speaking of Jason Powell (which I and just now Reese have done, at least parenthetically)... Doug M. has cool No-Prize explanation in the comments to the post on #201 of Scott's personality changes having to do with psychic blocks installed by Xavier in Scott's mind.

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  17. @MOCK!: Bwah-ha-ha!!! Thank you. Thank you very much!

    Thank YOU for laughing. :)

    I am incapable of thinking of "red herring" independent of that line.

    @Anonymous: If X-Factor had never existed then I wouldn't have been annoyed for years that no one ever asked why famous mutant Warren Worthington III was bankrolling mutant hunters.

    Yeah, that is but one of several logical problems with the initial idea behind X-Factor.

    @Pete: On Leonardi: I see Mike Golden as a major influence on his art. What do others think?

    I can see that. There's an...openness, for lack of a better term (sorry, I lack the proper vocabulary to discuss art) to his figures that, now that you mention, does seem reminiscent of Golden.

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  18. @Blam: He's on the cover(s) of the "new" adjectiveless X-Men #1 — not just for show, I don't think, as I remember him being part of the whole Blue/Gold thing.... No?

    I chose my word there very careful, on purpose: though Cyclops returns to the X-Men in Adjectiveless X-Men #1, which is of course written by Claremont, he will not return to the title in question (Uncanny X-Men), until after Claremont has left it (halfway through issue #279).

    I don't have a clue what you're talking about.

    "Communism was just a red herring" is a line from the movie Clue, one of my favorite and most quotable comedies. It's filled with great little puns and wordplay like that.

    ...and definitely triggering, somehow, the revival of Jean Grey in the shuttle on Earth.

    I've always assumed as much as well, simply because we later see similar bursts of Phoenix-related energy in Maddie's origin, but I'm not sure what is supposed to be triggering the blast here.

    And "She's never heard her power... sing within her before."

    Good one, I completely missed that.

    there was a psionic element to the headgear that let him control the visor's opening mentally.

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure the diagram in the Handbook suggests that is current visor is controlled mentally - that is, he just has to think about opening the aperture and it does.

    My understanding is that the visor controls the width/height/focus of the beam, but the intensity remains relatively consistent, as much as that doesn't jibe with depictions like in this issue and elsewhere. But I like your idea that he's able to control the intensity by filtering it through the ruby quartz (which still doesn't account for the billiards shooting, as that was done simply by lifting his glasses, sans visor).

    It's an almost crazily naive thought, with hindsight, that Kitty might have a career or really an adulthood period.

    That's a really good observation, and it says a lot about both Kitty's character and the general outlook of the X-Men in general at this time. With the exception of Kitty (and the New Mutants, of course) the current X-Men are all adults; whatever they wanted to be when they grew up, they're X-Men now. Whereas for Kitty, she is apparently thinking of being an X-Man as something she is now, and something she may not be someday.

    I think he (or Leonardi) actually glossed over the moment too quickly, having Kitty get back on the topic of the Scott/Rachel drama in the same panel.

    Good observation (and agreed that Claremont's restraint in not trying to depict the baby's thoughts is for the best).

    You can't help wanting a more sympathetic push-pull on the page between his X-Men family and his new family with Madelyne, even if that would be rendered moot by his ditching both families an earlier one in the form of X-Factor.

    Definitely. That's where I think, had he more time, Claremont might have been able to give us more of that (or if X-Factor had launched with a different creative team in the first place, Claremont or otherwise).

    @Reese: Again, great job, & keep up the good work!

    Thanks! And welcome to the party. Hope you enjoy it. If you decide to go throw with your own X-Men retrospective of some kind, be sure to let me know.

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  19. @Teebore: Cyclops ... will not return to the title in question (Uncanny X-Men), until after Claremont has left it

    Ah. I just thought everyone was in both titles for at least a couple of issues when X-Men Vol. II launched. Like I said, I haven't read those issues since they came out; I only remember them superficially — the split teams, Bishop's intro, Omega Red (whose name I almost literally just plucked from the air to my surprise), and those crazy pouches 'n' trenchcoats 'n' individually drawn clumps of pointy hair. Wasn't for me.

    @Teebore: "Communism was just a red herring" is a line from the movie Clue, one of my favorite and most quotable comedies. It's filled with great little puns and wordplay like that.

    I guess my reply was too subtle.

    @Teebore: I'm not sure what is supposed to be triggering the blast here

    So you don't think it's Rachel's interactions with the holoempathic crystal? I haven't read that Jean Grey issue of FF coming up in decades, but I would expect some explanation there as to what triggered her revival (the bit o' Phoenix force leaving the moon) and what triggered the trigger (presumably, Rachel's assumption of the Phoenix mantle and the stirrings it causes in the entity)

    @Teebore: I like your idea that he's able to control the intensity by filtering it through the ruby quartz

    Until re-reading the issue for this blog, I hadn't even remembered this, but there's that Blackbird fitted with the ruby-quartz windshield that magnified Cyclops' optic blasts. I assume his visor worked on the same principle.

    @Teebore: which still doesn't account for the billiards shooting, as that was done simply by lifting his glasses, sans visor

    I know; believe me, I know. Even worse I think that same issue, if not that same page, was filled with him angsting over his awesome and terrible power.

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  20. @Blam: I guess my reply was too subtle.

    Or simply too thickheaded. Probably the latter. :)

    I haven't read that Jean Grey issue of FF coming up in decades, but I would expect some explanation there as to what triggered her revival ... and what triggered the trigger

    Nor I. I'm excited to read them again just to get refreshed on stuff like that. Especially since I'm fairly certain "Inferno" at least retroactively tweaks by inserting Maddie into the mix.

    I don't think I've every directly connected Rachel becoming Phoenix to Jean Grey waking up before - whether that's because it's explicitly stated somewhere and I glossed over/forgot it, or because it's left unstated I was too dense to make the connection (definitely a possibility), remains to be seen. We'll find out soon!

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  21. I'm a bit late, but I couldn't not comment on this issue. But first:

    "... this, like Communism, ultimately proves to be nothing more than a red herring."

    I always applaud a good Clue reference. Actually, I applaud bad ones, too. I love that movie.

    Also, I love Rick Leonardi's artwork in this issue. He's always a favorite.

    Anyway... As a huge fan of Cyclops, this issue has bothered me for years. I know it was ret-conned, but the fact that Claremont's original intention was for Cyclops to lose without any outside influence really bugs me. Simply being distracted is not enough to cost Cyclops a fight. We've seen him angsting over Jean or worried about Professor X while fighting Magneto or whoever, with no ill effects. One of the things that makes Cyclops such a great leader is that he able to bark orders and come up with masterful strategies even while engrossed in his own inner conflicts. This is about as far out of character as he could've gotten!

    So I agree with the assessment that, in order to set the character up for X-Factor, Claremont has chosen to take him down several pegs. I don't necessarily blame him either, though I think he could've found a better way to do it. Cyclops could have had some other falling-out with the X-Men instead. Just the addition of Magneto might've been enough to make him throw up his hands and walk. Or maybe the X-Men could've just sort of voted him out of the school.

    However, I don't see why the early issues of X-Factor had to play out as they did anyway. Bob Layton's work there is really pretty rough, and a chore to get through. Why did Cyclops have to abandon his wife and child in the first place? I think some interesting drama could have been created by Jean and Madelyne being forced to live and work together. But, what's done is done. I still think they should've left Jean dead and gone with the original plan for X-Factor, having Dazzler fill the token female role. Though personally I would've used Polaris, instead. Her power is even similar to Jean's, especially since early X-Factor Jean was limited to telekinesis only.

    "The X-Men once again play baseball in their downtime, the third time they've done so..."

    I never understand how Rogue gets away with dressing in skimpy clothing when she's "off duty". It's not like her powers stop working when she's out of costume! But here and many more times throughout the years, we frequently see her dressed in Daisy Dukes and a tank top, often out in public. Wouldn't she want to cover a little more skin just in case she happens to accidentally bump into somebody??

    Also, I love that Nightcrawler is playing ball in his costume. It harkens back to the early Cockrum and Byrne days, when he was never seen without that outfit on.

    "... Cyclops tells Storm that he'll only use "ultra low power" blasts, which seems like something, given what we know of his power, he shouldn't really have any control over."

    I was going to talk about the visor here, but I see others have beat me to it. Anyway, for some reason I thought I had read someplace, maybe in OHOTMU or maybe in an issue, that the visor could control the intensity of Cyclops's beams. I could be wrong, though.

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  22. @Matt: I know it was ret-conned, but the fact that Claremont's original intention was for Cyclops to lose without any outside influence really bugs me

    Me too. Like I said, objectively, I can let it go, on the grounds that it was a necessary function of the plot, in the same way that a title character is always going to beat a guest star, even if it logically shouldn't go that way. I like to think that at this point, Cyclops, already pegged for X-Factor, is essentially a guest star in this issue.

    But still. It rankles.

    However, I don't see why the early issues of X-Factor had to play out as they did anyway.

    Ditto. There's a lot of dumb stuff in that initial premise, but a lot of it didn't have to be dumb. I'm sure that's something we'll discuss when we get there.

    I never understand how Rogue gets away with dressing in skimpy clothing when she's "off duty".

    Dr. Bitz and I were actually discussing that offline. As illogical as it is, it definitely is (and stays) a character trait for her (which started when JRjr sexed her up in a bikini for issue #185, but at least there, she thought she was alone). Of all the female characters, she's the one who should dress the most modestly, yet she's the one who most often dresses with the opposite of modesty.

    I suppose that could work as a sort of indicator of her personality (a free spirit who resents the limitations put on her by her powers, or something like that), but it really doesn't, as we know she's genuinely afraid of touching anyone and taking their memories, even at this point in her character development. Which just makes you think, as you say, that she'd probably want at least a little more skin covered...

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

    The scene where Storm walks in on Cyclops and Madelyne was totally awkward. Lucky she intruded at the most opportune moment possible. I mean, What if Cyke and Maddie were having make up sex...? :P

    Also, I like Madelyne so far.

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  24. "I don't think I've every directly connected Rachel becoming Phoenix to Jean Grey waking up before -" It might not be that coincidental. I always suspected that Jean's resurrection was one of the reasons Rachel was written out a few issues later. (Indeed Jean and Rachel have very brief periods of interaction. For instance when Jean takes over the "Phoenix" mantle, Rachel gets put on a bus.) This town this isn't big enough for two Phoenixes apparently.

    And while Cyclops DOES come across as a douche, I kinda admire what this issue does for Storm. It solidifies her bad-ass cred and shows that she deserves leadership (yes Scott's expense' but still...)

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  25. Way late to the party, but...

    It occurs to me, this issue wouldn't really be so bad taken on its own terms, in a world with no X-Factor and Jean return. Claremont's stated aim with Cyclops was basically, he loved and lost, but managed to find love again and get his impossible fairy tale happy ending. Scott marries Madelyne, realizes he is beginning a new chapter of his life, and retires from superheroics. The End. And that was the status quo from Uncanny #176-198.

    Scott's departure was to be the first of many send-offs Claremont wanted to give his long-running characters. We would still see them from time to time, but only as occasional guest stars/supporting characters or when called upon to help out in emergencies. Sure enough, it's the latter that draws Cyclops back to active duty in Uncanny #199, so we're actually still sticking to the prescribed narrative.

    And let's think about how he's used. It's just a cup of coffee, and as the first "return" after an extended absence, Scott's course is actually pretty logical. He's been far removed from the day-to-day activities of the team, in both body and mind. His wife is expecting. He's barely even accustomed to functioning as a civilian, and now he's entering uncharted territory. Then, oh look, a crisis to resolve! That, he can sink his teeth into. That, he's familiar and comfortable with.

    Cyclops doubts his abilities to hack it as a husband and a father, but knows he's up to the challenge of leading a team of superheroes. He tries to slip right back into those old shoes, but finds they don't fit quite the same way and it's really obvious to everyone around him. He plows gamely on and picks a fight with Storm for leadership of the team. Of course he'll beat her. That's not the point. It has no bearing on her qualifications as a leader. So he's thrown up this ludicrous strawman defense to ensure his position prevails.

    But shockingly, Cyclops loses. This is confirmation that he didn't actually want the job after all. His heart really does lie with Madelyne and the baby, but he was too stubborn to admit it until it was spelled out in the most extreme way. Once more, The End.

    Scott's arc from Uncanny #199-201 can best be summed up as "denial." It's a study in a scared, insecure man coming to terms with his new station in life. Presumably, the next time we saw him, he would he much more at ease with domestication (and thus, a lot more sympathetic). Unfortunately, the next team we saw him was X-Factor and it completely derailed the narrative progression Claremont had laid out.

    So. I'm not sure how much Claremont deviated from his own blueprint for the character's future, even with the publication of X-Factor looming. One could make the argument that he should have changed things up in setting the stage for the new series, but stuck to his guns on principle. Do we know when exactly Claremont learned about the plans for X-Factor? Was it after he'd already brought Cyclops back into circulation, or did he bring Scott back only after Ann Nocenti (infamously) broke the news?

    I love Leonardi's art during this era. Felt like he lost a few steps around the Genosha intro, but got it back by the time of Spidey 2099.

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