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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #204

"What Happened to Nightcrawler?"
April 1986

In a Nutshell 
Nightcrawler rescues a woman from Arcade. 

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

Plot
At Amanda Sefton's New York apartment, Nightcrawler broods about his encounter the Beyonder and the fact that he was left behind when the other X-Men were taken to San Fransisco. He admits to Amanda that he was glad to be left behind, so as not to face the Beyonder again, and yearns for the X-Men's old life of simple adventure. Though Amanda tries to help him snap out of his funk, he angrily rebukes her, driving her away. Alone, he spies one of Arcade's garbage trucks capturing a new victim, and follows the truck to Murderworld. Sneaking inside, he stops to adjust the security sensors, rendering him invisible until Arcade physically sees him. Arcade's victim, a woman named Judith, awakens in Murderworld and does her best to survive its traps, but is eventually rescued from a robotic shark by Nightcrawler.


Together, they fight their way through Murderworld until Nightcrawler seemingly abandons Judith. Just as she's about to be attacked by a group of Arcade's robots, Nightcrawler turns up again and saves her. Just then, the X-Men burst into Arcade's control room and overpower him before he realizes they are his own robots, reprogrammed by Nightcrawler during the time he left Judith alone. Nightcrawler and Judith escape, and Nightcrawler escorts her home, his confidence in himself and his role as a hero restored thanks to their adventure. Arriving at her apartment, they find two men waiting for Judith, a state department official and a member of the Ruritanian guard, who announce that she is the queen of Ruritania.  

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first appearance of Judith Rassendyll, the queen of Ruritania, though it barely counts as notable, as she only pops up again in issue #206 (when Nightcrawler bids her farewell), and is essentially little more than a plot device which allows Nightcrawler to regain his confidence. 

Nightcrawler and Amanda more or less break-up this issue, as Nightcrawler wonders whether Amanda is using magic to make him love her, something he quickly regrets while realizing he only said it to hurt her, yet he doesn't call her back or chase after her after she storms out. Though the pair eventually reconciles in future stories, they will remain apart for the foreseeable future.


Arcade and his henchmen, Chambers and Miss Locke, last seen in issue #197, pop up again, effectively relegating Arcade to "fill-in villain" status.

For whatever reason, Cyclops' head is back in the corner cover box. 

A Work in Progress
It's noted that the X-Men will be home soon from San Fransisco, though that won't happen until issue #207. 

Nightcrawer recalls his adventures from his limited series, yearning to once again be caught up in that kind of adventure.


Later, he explains to Amanda how his encounter with the Beyonder has shaken his faith and his role as a hero.


Arcade once again uses a garbage truck to capture his prey, with the old "sflanng" sound effect drawing Nightcrawler's attention.


Nightcrawler notes that after each of the X-Men's tussles with Arcade, they anonymously alerted the authorities to investigate the theme park entrance/exit to Murderworld, but they've never been able to find anything.


In a callback to his technical skills, Nightcrawler notes that while he's not the electronics whiz Kitty is, his work with the Blackbird's systems has afforded him some electronic know-how.


During his battle with Arcade, Nightcrawler waxes philosophical on how the X-Men lately seem to be fighting a never-ending trench warfare, one that is grinding them down and making it difficult to feel like they're doing any good.


I Love the 80s
Judith recognizes 19th century Hussars on sight, as I'm sure all of us could.  


For Sale
This issue contains an ad for the second G.I. Joe Yearbook, that series version of an annual. 


Teebore's Take
I've never been a terribly big fan of this issue. Though a case can be made that it's not a fill-in issue (it deals with the fallout from the X-Men's encounter with the Beyonder, Claremont's been on a kick of standalone issues starring solo X-Men of late, few of the stories in the Claremont/JRjr run are set in traditional story arcs anyway), this has always nonetheless felt like a fill-in. Part of that, granted, is the absence of Romita Jr., making the art, at the very least, a technical fill-in (though it is rather enjoyable). Though similar in style to the other solo stories of this era, this issue lacks the something the others have: issue #182 delved into Rogue's mental condition, issue #197 dealt with Colossus and Kitty's relationship, something that's been around longer than Nightcrawler's Beyonder-inspired crisis of faith (also, even though it had JRjr on art, frankly it is the issue that comes closest to matching this one's fill-in feel), issue #198 was a thematic sequel to "Life Death" and featured impressive art, and issue #205 is just really good.

This issue, meanwhile, features Arcade (again), any threat he once posed effectively eliminated by this time, and a one-off supporting character that barely rises above the level of a generic damsel in distress. Aside from Nightcrawler reclaiming his heroic mojo, nothing of significance to the overall development of the characters, themes or plots of the book occurs. To be clear, this isn't a bad issue, by any means (it's head and shoulders, in terms of the writing, art, and characterization, above any contemporaneous issue of X-Factor, for example), and it effectively sells the idea of Nightcrawler being reinvigorated by a sweeping, swashbuckling but relatively straight-forward adventure. It just feels very inconsequential, the first issue of X-Men in a long time that you could skip without missing out on either any significant narrative developments or a really good story. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the New Mutants acquaint themselves with their new school in New Mutants #39, while on Friday Beast undergoes a transformation in X-Factor #3. Next week, Wolverine gets the spotlight in Uncanny X-Men #205. 

13 comments:

  1. I'm not a fan of June Brigman. I've seen her art elsewhere, and it's way too plain for me. Everyone looks like normal people, rather than super-people. Would've been cool to have Dave Cockrum do the fill-in for this one.

    As for the issue, I tend to always forget it exists, so I don't think that says much about Claremont's story, either.

    "For whatever reason, Cyclops' head is back in the corner cover box."

    I was going to point that out. Weird. He appeared up there on several issues during his "retirement", but now that he's a headlining character in a different series, it seems especially odd.

    "Nightcrawer recalls his adventures from his limited series..."

    Holy cow, I just realized you reviewed this while I was away from reading and commenting. I need to go back and take a look when I have a moment!

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  2. @Matt: As for the issue, I tend to always forget it exists, so I don't think that says much about Claremont's story, either.

    Oddly enough, the one thing I usually remember about this issue is just how forgettable it is.

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  3. Have to agree on this being a forgettable issue, in that I know I read it four years ago and I've literally no memory of anything you describe in your post.

    Robot sharks, though. Those are cool.

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  4. @SpaceSquid: Robot sharks, though. Those are cool.

    Yes, yes they are. These issue (most issues?) definitely needed more.

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  5. Just thought I would add that Ruritania comes from the 1894 novel, 'The Prisoner of Zenda' by Anthony Hope. The story concerns Rudolf Rassendyll, an English tourist, who impersonates the King.

    No doubt, Claremont just wanted to highlight Nightcrawler's devil-may-care nature by linking him to such a famous swashbuckler, but it explains why Judith Rassendyll has never been seen again.

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  6. I think you're selling this issue a bit short. Claremont's got more plates spinning than is immediately apparent. Nightcrawler "gets his confidence back," but even Judith sees it's escapist nostalgia, not any real clarity. It's Nightcrawler missing the "good old days" and Claremont's acknowledgement that a fun character like Kurt doesn't really fit into where the X-Men are going in the near future. My biggest complaint is that it's using Arcade as a distraction to develop character for the second time in 8 issues, which is a bit too much Arcade. I love the character, but Claremont probably could've used some other mort to tell a story like this (bring back Mesmero!).

    Also I felt like it was kind of a shame how little Amanda Sefton was used. She should've been a "reserve X-Man" on a regular basis, instead of a character that gets forgotten about for years at a time.

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  7. @Bernard the Poet: Just thought I would add that Ruritania comes from the 1894 novel, 'The Prisoner of Zenda' by Anthony Hope. The story concerns Rudolf Rassendyll, an English tourist, who impersonates the King.

    Ah, I did not know that. And it does probably explain why nothing ever comes of Judith. Thanks!

    @Dobson: It's Nightcrawler missing the "good old days" and Claremont's acknowledgement that a fun character like Kurt doesn't really fit into where the X-Men are going in the near future.

    That's a good point - especially since he ultimately writes him out, then puts him into the fun/whimsical book. And I probably wouldn't argue too hard with the notion I may be selling this issue short.

    My biggest complaint is that it's using Arcade as a distraction to develop character for the second time in 8 issues, which is a bit too much Arcade. I love the character, but Claremont probably could've used some other mort to tell a story like this (bring back Mesmero!).

    Honestly, the repeat of Arcade is probably my biggest issue too - especially since it lends so much to the fill-in feel of the book since we JUST had him in the same kind of story a few issues ago.

    Also I felt like it was kind of a shame how little Amanda Sefton was used. She should've been a "reserve X-Man" on a regular basis, instead of a character that gets forgotten about for years at a time.

    Agreed.

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  8. Judith's story got an end in Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem. It's a minor part of the comic, but it's there.

    As much as I like Nightcrawler, this issue isn't great. Friggin' Arcade. June Brigman's art, however, worked for me. She drew a great Nightcrawler and her storytelling's strong. I've always thought she's an underrated artist.

    So, long time no post. How's things? Good? That's good.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  9. Actually ...

    (Lord, I'm being such a pedant on your blog today, Teebore, I apologize...)

    ... the reason Judith never comes back is because Claremont changed his mind about doing the story. Which is a bummer, because the story he was going to do was the long-awaited "full origin of Nightcrawler."

    It was going to be called "The Last of the Rassendylls," and this issue was the prequel to that arc.

    According to at least one interview, Claremont and Nocenti spent some significant amount of time hashing it all out, before deciding it wasn't working, and just ditching it.

    Hence the abrupt termination of the storyline in issue 206. (But it is nice that Judith got a little epilogue moment in "Mojo Mayhem.")

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  10. @Mike: Judith's story got an end in Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem.

    Ah, I haven't read that, so that's how I missed that.

    Welcome back (even though I've already responded to more recent comments you've left...)!

    @Jason: Lord, I'm being such a pedant on your blog today, Teebore, I apologize...

    No apologies necessary. If you can't be pedantic on a comic book blog, where can you? :)

    the reason Judith never comes back is because Claremont changed his mind about doing the story. Which is a bummer, because the story he was going to do was the long-awaited "full origin of Nightcrawler."

    Wow, I had no idea this was intended to be a beginning to a Nightcrawler origin story. That is a bummer. Any idea if Mystique was going to be involved (as Claremont had previously hinted), or if his inability to do the Mystique/Destiny relationship had scuttled whatever plans for a Nightcrawler/Mystique connection he originally had?

    According to at least one interview, Claremont and Nocenti spent some significant amount of time hashing it all out, before deciding it wasn't working, and just ditching it.

    Any chance you recall the source of that interview? Not that I doubt you, but because I'm always looking for new interviews/sources to pull quotes from.

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  11. I've always hated it when the highlights of Nightcrawler's bodysuit are colored blue. That's partly because it just doesn't look good — solid black or a dark grey if relief is necessary are preferable — and partly because it suggests that the blue areas are his skin and he's actually wearing a skimpy costume, which is reinforced by him shaking himself dry in the bathroom.

    And that's all I really have to add about this one.

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  12. "Any chance you recall the source of that interview? Not that I doubt you, but because I'm always looking for new interviews/sources to pull quotes from. "

    It will sound a bit smug, but it's from some footage that very few people have seen. :)

    Patrick Meaney has filmed a bunch of interview footage for his forthcoming Claremont documentary. Since he's a friend and he knows I am Claremont-obsessed, he shared the uncut stuff with me. I doubt the part about "Last of the Rasindylls" will make the final cut, though. But trust me, it's in there!

    I googled for some online corroboration. I thought at some point in the past I had found some. But this time, no dice. There may be something online that confirms it, but I didn't find it in my most recent Google search. Sorry. :(

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  13. @Blam: and partly because it suggests that the blue areas are his skin and he's actually wearing a skimpy costume

    Yeah, that's the reason its always bugged me as well.

    @Jason: Patrick Meaney has filmed a bunch of interview footage for his forthcoming Claremont documentary.

    Ah, yeah, I remember you mentioning that during your retrospective. No worries, I was just curious (and remain eager for that doc). :)

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