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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #202

"X-Men...I've Gone to Kill -- The BEYONDER!"
February 1986

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men fight Sentinels in San Fransisco. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Guest Inker: Al Williamson
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Entering Rachel's room, Rogue triggers a holographic recording from Rachel explaining that she's realized the Beyonder is a threat to everything that exists, and has left to kill him once and for all. Rogue awakens the rest of the X-Men, and Magneto is able to use Cerebro to track Rachel to San Fransisco. Rachel confronts the Beyonder on Alcatraz, but despite all her power, she is unable to faze him. The Beyonder takes her on a journey through her past, taking them into the future she hails from, showing her that her fear and rage come from her failure to save her friends in the future. He then gives her a measure of his power and offers her a choice: she may use it to destroy him, or to save her friends, whom he has transported to San Fransisco and beset by Sentinels from Rachel's future.


The X-Men barely hold their own against the robots until Rachel intervenes. Working together, and with the help of Rachel's augmented power, the team is able to ultimately destroy the Sentinels. Rachel returns to the Beyonder, furious, and he explains that he orchestrated the situation in order to help her expunge her guilt so that she could become one with herself, as he hopes to do. Rachel angrily explains that it's not that easy, that such changes must be earned, and that for all his good intentions, all he's ever done is harm.  

Firsts and Other Notables
This another Secret Wars II crossover, once again occurring at a time when the Beyonder is in his "help other people achieve their purpose and be happy" phase, thus leading to him granting Rachel a measure of his power. The Beyonder appears here between Amazing Spider-Man #273 and New Defenders #152 (the final issue of that series, cancelled in part to allow Beast, Angel and Iceman to appear in X-Factor). 

The Beyonder transporting the X-Men to San Fransisco (he's there when he's confronted by Rachel, then proceeds to bring the rest of the team), marks the beginning of the X-Men's continued association with that city (they'll hang out there for the next several issues, then return periodically through the years, most notably during the Utopia era of the series that began a few years ago).

Magneto fights alongside the X-Men in this issue, one of the rare occasions he actually does so within the pages of Uncanny X-Men (for all the hubbub about Magneto joining the X-Men, he ultimately ends up fighting alongside them very rarely, for a variety of a reasons, his presence as a reformed villain instead playing more of a regular role in New Mutants).


Nightcrawler is left behind when the X-Men are teleported to San Fransisco. Though the Beyonder's reasons for doing so will never be made clear, Nightcrawler's reaction to being left behind will be dealt with in issue #204.

While showing Rachel her past in this issue, it's noted that the Kitty Pryde from Rachel's timeline dies shortly after she sends Rachel back in time; future issues of Excalibur will reveal that though badly injured, she survived the attack by Nimrod, and will eventually be merged with Sentinel parts to become Widget. 


The corner box has been updated the reflect the new makeup of the team. Also, the price of the comic goes up ten cents as of this issue, to seventy-five cents an issue. 

The Chronology Corner
Following this issue, the X-Men and New Mutants appear in Secret Wars II #8, in which each team, at different times, rather stupidly and pointlessly attack the Beyonder, rendered in the same bland style we've come to expect from Secret Wars II. That's about it.

A Work in Progress
The X-Men have a holoprojector capable of recording and playing a holographic message, presumably something they acquired from the Shi'ar. 


It's noted that since Magneto monkeyed with the Earth's EM field in order to prohibit long range telepathic contact (as noted in issues #149-150), Cerebro hasn't been as effective, which could be taken as an in-universe explanation for why the X-Men haven't detected/sought out many new mutants in a while (really, since New Mutants launched, and it isn't like Xavier used Cerebro to find any of them).


Chased by a Sentinel, Storm wonders how their sensors read her, still as a mutant, a human or something else. 


The Sentinels from Rachel's future refer to Kitty as Ariel rather than Shadowcat, further suggesting her experiences in Kitty Pryde & Wolverine never occurred in Rachel's timeline.

I Love the 80s
During the X-Men's battle with Sentinels in San Fransisco, one of the bystanders once again wonders if George Lucas is in the neighborhood filming. 

Claremontisms
Storms note that "the responsibility -- and blame" for Rachel's actions are hers, another favorite Claremont sentence construction.


The X-Men's fight with the Sentinels in this issue contains some rather clever bits of power usage, from Storm launching the Blackbird into the upper atmosphere to dislodge a Sentinel, to Magneto creating a magnetic vortex to both safely bring the plane back to Earth and call down super cold air to freeze a Sentinel, to Colossus and Kitty combining their powers to phase a street lamp into a Sentinel, which Rachel then uses as a conduit to blast the robot.


The Best There is at What He Does
During the Sentinel fight, Rachel uses some of the power given to her by the Beyonder to supercharge Wolverine's healing factor, more or less amping it up to the level at which it functions in current stories. 


Human/Mutant Relations
After Rogue crashes into a crowd and accidentally starts absorbing peoples' memories, someone, realizing she's a mutant, cries out to "get her!"  


For Sale
This issue contains an ad for Challenge of the Gobots, the Gobots animated series. Despite my continued affection for the much-maligned Gobots, I must admit that, as slogans go, "They're Awesome!" < "More than Meets the Eye". 


Teebore's Take
Secret Wars II is back, though once again, Claremont keeps the Beyonder on the back burner. After providing Rachel with a power boost (that will play a larger role in the next issue), the Beyonder largely disappears from the pages, and Claremont and Romita Jr. settle in for something of a palate cleansing, traditional slugfest issue, the likes of which the title hasn't seen in several months. The bulk of this issue is the X-Men (including, notably, Magneto, one of the few instances he'll be seen fighting alongside the X-Men proper) vs. Sentinels, a straightforward team vs. antagonist battle that we haven't really seen since issue #194.

Whereas similar efforts to use Secret Wars II to get "back to normal" in New Mutants #36 ended up feeling rehashed and uninspired, that gap in time helps this story feel more refreshing, helped along by Claremont once again showing off his penchant for clever power usage, while Al Williamson's inks mesh well with Romita's pencils and provide a grittiness that lends some tension to the X-Men's battle. Nothing here is groundbreaking, nor terribly significant to either Secret Wars II nor the larger X-Men narrative, but it's a fun and entertaining story in a classical vein nonetheless, one that effectively (and thankfully) manages to avoid the muck and mire that is most of Secret Wars II.    

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the Beyonder wreaks havoc on the New Mutants in New Mutants #37, followed on Friday by the launch of X-Factor #1, and next week, we learn that neither Rachel nor the title is finished with the Beyonder yet in Uncanny X-Men #203.  

11 comments:

  1. According to John Byrne, he plotted "Days of Future Past" in response to Chris Claremont declaring that "Sentinels are lame!" Assuming this is true, Byrne must have really changed Claremont's mind, because he went back to the Sentinel well quite a bit for the rest of his run.

    I believe Al Williamson went on to be JR Jr.'s regular inker on Daredevil, and I like his work over Romita a lot better than Dan Green's around this time.

    "New Defenders #152 (the final issue of that series, cancelled in part to allow Beast, Angel and Iceman to appear in X-Factor)."

    This explanation makes no sense to me. It's not like Angel, Beast, and Iceman were integral to the Defenders' mythos. There had to be another reason, because those three could easily be replaced on the team's roster. I know Shooter was axing books left and right around this time to make way for the New Universe, and I suspect, even though I've never seen it officially stated, that was the real reason for the cancellation of Defenders.

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  2. Hello. I stumbled across this blog a few months back because I was curious to see what the X-Men were up to during their reprint/hiatus days via a Google search. I enjoyed the hell out of your posts, and after a couple weeks of reading through all of your X-animations I can proudly proclaim that I am all caught up. I'm definitely hooked. Keep up the good work, Teebore!

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  3. Yeah, I'm that same Jeremy from CBSG and the one that was bothering Jason Powell for his top 20 list, and I can't believe I'm just not finding these. Will you be doing a lot at Excalibur as well, in like...2014? I'm currently re-reading Claremont's run, I'm in the middle of the Romita years, I need to catch up.

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  4. I have much love for these two SanFran/Beyonder vs. Phoenix issues. Rachel finally gets some spotlight as Phoenix, and Al Williamson dramatically improves JRJR's line work over the (by comparison) muddy JRJR/Dan Green combo.

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  5. I will say that I REALLY do not like Williamson's inks for Romita Jr. I don't like them here, and I don't like them on Nocenti's DD.

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  6. @Matt: This explanation makes no sense to me. It's not like Angel, Beast, and Iceman were integral to the Defenders' mythos.

    I think they were a little more integral to the NEW Defenders mythos (wasn't Angel bankrolling the team?), but I haven't read those issues, so I'm not really sure.

    And besides, I agree - there's no reason the series couldn't have continued without Angel, Beast and Iceman (my comment that it was cancelled to allow them to be in X-Factor was quasi-flippant - I have no real source for that). If Marvel/Shooter really wanted to keep a Defenders book going, he could have. Most likely, the sales were low enough to put it in Shooter's sites, and that combined with the imminent departure of three of its cast members was enough to make it another New Universe casualty.

    @David: I'm definitely hooked. Keep up the good work, Teebore!

    Thanks! Glad you like it, and welcome to the party.

    @Jeremy: Yeah, I'm that same Jeremy from CBSG and the one that was bothering Jason Powell for his top 20 list

    Welcome! Always happy to see someone come over from CSBG and another Jason Powell fan.

    Will you be doing a lot at Excalibur as well, in like...2014?

    I will cover Excalibur in some capacity, in part because I've never actually read any of the pre-"Fatal Attractions" issues. I'm not sure yet if it'll get the same issue-by-issue coverage as X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor, but I'll write about it in some way.

    @Jason: Rachel finally gets some spotlight as Phoenix, and Al Williamson dramatically improves JRJR's line work over the (by comparison) muddy JRJR/Dan Green combo.

    Yeah, these two issues really are the highlight of Claremont's use of Rachel in X-Men - and even better, she stays more or less tear-free throughout!

    Though like Jeremy, I'm not as much a fan of Williamson over JRjr. I like it fine, but I still prefer Dan Green's scratchier, rougher inks.

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  7. Ok, I definitely didn't like JRJR's (whenever I see that I always say "junior junior") artwork in this one, nor Oliver's coloring.

    I have a Mark Jewelers version of this issue. Isn't there something special about these?

    That part where Colossus and Kitty fight the Sentinel was kind of frumiously bandersnatchy. Right? I mean, how does Colossus hold the pole and phase it through the Sentinel at the same time?...there also may have been some sexual undertones to that scene

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  8. @Reese: I have a Mark Jewelers version of this issue. Isn't there something special about these?

    Hmm...I'd never heard of those before. A Google search tells me they were variants sold in and around military bases, with the only difference being a Mark Jewelers color insert that enabled servicemen to order jewelry/engagement rings/etc.

    I mean, how does Colossus hold the pole and phase it through the Sentinel at the same time?

    I'm pretty sure that's just an extension of Kitty's power - when phasing, she can phase anything she's holding (and continue to hold onto it while doing so), so here, she's phasing Colossus, who's holding a light post, so it also gets phased until he lets go of it (after moving it into a Sentinel).

    ...there also may have been some sexual undertones to that scene

    Definitely. Jason Powell actually discusses that in his post on this issue.

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  9. I did a GCD advanced search, suspecting that this might be the first pairing of John Romita Jr. and Al Williamson. The hunch appears to have been right. (Unfortunately the comma makes a difference. First I searched for "John Romita Jr." and got only 38 results; this issue wasn't even one of them. I looked up the issue, saw him indexed as "John Romita, Jr.", and turned up the above list of 110. Who says this isn't the Merry Marvel Age of Modulated Data Manipulation?)

    Why does it make more sense for the rest of the X-Men to go to Storm's loft than for her to meet them in the situation room or anywhere else downstairs?

    The Beyonder transporting advanced Sentinels to the present day is basically Q tossing the Enterprise crew into Borg space — or vice versa, since this came first.

    For ultra-sophisticated robots, I'm not sure the Sentinels' announcing how long it will take them to formulate offensive "internal systems modifications" (Pg. 19) is great design work.

    I have no idea if this was intentional, but I distinctly remember the cover grabbing me on the racks because it echoed the cover of #98, with the team fighting Sentinels during a snowstorm, my first issue of X-Men beyond an older reprint-era one I swapped for or something.

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  10. // Chased by a Sentinel //

    That's a Hallmark movie for the Marvel Universe if I've ever heard one. It'll air on Lifetime after the original telefilm Mother, May I Sleep with Dracula? — or maybe on ABC Family after a marathon of Gamma Gamma Gamma, in which She-Hulk is house mother to a sorority of green college gals.

    // During the X-Men's battle with Sentinels in San Fransisco, one of the bystanders once again wonders if George Lucas is in the neighborhood filming. //

    How come it's always "Lucas filming a movie"? These people live in a world with frickin' superpeople all over the place!

    // Colossus and Kitty combining their powers //

    Pretty cool indeed — and, yes, having of the sexual subtext (with the penetration inverted, as Jason Powell & Co. point out).

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  11. @Blam: Who says this isn't the Merry Marvel Age of Modulated Data Manipulation?

    I've run into similar issues, both at GCD and UncannyX-Men.net, with particular punctuation like that.

    Why does it make more sense for the rest of the X-Men to go to Storm's loft than for her to meet them in the situation room or anywhere else downstairs?

    Maybe because everyone was asleep, and it's easier to go one floor up to Storm's attic then three down to the situation room?

    Or maybe they just find the plants soothing...?

    For ultra-sophisticated robots, I'm not sure the Sentinels' announcing how long it will take them to formulate offensive "internal systems modifications"

    Yeah, you'd think programming the robot to not loudly announce its intentions/thought processes/status reports would be Killer Robotics 101.

    I have no idea if this was intentional, but I distinctly remember the cover grabbing me on the racks because it echoed the cover of #98, with the team fighting Sentinels during a snowstorm

    Nice observation - again, likely unintentional, but there's some nice symmetry to this issue being two issues after a centenary issue, while #98 was two issues before one...

    How come it's always "Lucas filming a movie"? These people live in a world with frickin' superpeople all over the place!

    Lucas constantly being cited as the filmmaker in question is, I'm sure, due to Claremont's being a friend/colleague of the man (they'd eventually write a series of novels together), but you're right that the natural inclination of most people in the MU should be to assume superheroes, not special effects.

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