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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #206

"Freedom is a Four Letter Word!"
June 1986

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men battle Freedom Force in San Fransisco. 

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

Plot
In San Fransisco, Storm stops a mugging, to much appreciation from both the victims and the arriving police, including Lt. Bree Morrell. Storm returns to Jessica Drew, the former Spider-Woman's, house as Kitty leaves on a date with Jessica's friend David Ishima. Meanwhile, on a flight bound for Los Angeles, Amanda Sefton questions the state of her relationship with Nightcrawler in light of their recent fight. Back in San Fransisco, Kitty returns from her date just as Freedom Force attacks the X-Men. The X-Men do their best against their old foes, but splitting their focus to help the bystanders caught in the middle of the melee causes them to be overwhelmed, especially after Rogue tries to absorb Spiral's powers but instead finds herself taken over by Spiral.


Just as Freedom Force attempts to take the defeated X-Men into custody, the police arrive, led by Lt. Morrell. She asks to see Freedom Force's warrant for the arrest of the X-Men, and when they admit they don't have one, she tells them that the X-Men have committed no crimes in San Fransisco and are considered civic heroes. Reluctantly, Freedom Force leaves, promising to return with the proper documentation. Morrel suggests the X-Men leave town before they return, and though rankled by the injustice of it, they agree. Meanwhile, at San Fransisco Memorial Hospital, an unconscious Madelyne, lacking any identification, is admitted as a Jane Doe, having suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Back in New York, Nightcrawler bids farewell to Judith as she leaves to take her crown, re-energized by his adventure with her. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue ends the X-Men's brief San Fransisco sojourn, which began when the Beyonder teleported them there in issue #202, though it won't be the last time the team hangs its hat in that area. 

We check in with Madelyne for the first time since X-Factor #1, as we see her admitted to a hospital in San Fransisco with multiple gunshot wounds. The mystery of what happened to her between her last appearance and this one will unfold in future issues, and it will eventually be revealed that the soon-to-debut Marauders attacked and shot her on the orders of their leader, Mr. Sinister (an event which occurs between X-Factor #1 and #2, explaining Cyclops' inability to reach her on the phone in issue #2).


The second Spider-Woman, Julia Carpenter, who first appeared in Secret Wars, is revealed to have joined Freedom Force as of this issue. Future stories will reveal a connection between Carpenter and Val Cooper (Freedom Force's government liaison), while in this issue Spider-Woman is already questioning the brutal tactics of her teammates, setting up her eventual betrayal of the team to save the wrongfully-imprisoned Avengers in Avengers Annual #15.


For the third time, following issues #122 and #180, Storm faces off against a group of muggers. While her first encounter highlighted her relative naivete and the second underscored her then-recent punk transformation and the state of human/mutant affairs, this encounter is used to illustrate just how welcoming San Fransisco is to the X-Men. Where the victims in issue #180 were as scared of the mutant Storm as they were the muggers, here the people Storm rescues are genuinely thankful, and when the police show up, even they are appreciative of the help. 


While Wolverine will be shown recovering from the injuries he sustained in the previous issue next issue, oddly enough, no mention of his absence is made by his teammates here, nor any additional explanation regarding how he went from San Fransisco to New York for the events of last issue. 

In a brief subplot scene, Amanda Sefton is shown wondering about the state of her relationship with Nightcrawler -  it'll be awhile before we find out, as Amanda's next appearance comes in issue #253 (and Nightcrawler won't even be a part of the book at that point).

A Work in Progress
A handful of characters from Spider-Woman's cancelled series make appearances in this issue, including Jessica Drew, the former Spider-Woman herself, Jessica's private investigator partner Lindsay McCabe, her ex-boyfriend David Ishima, and police lieutenant Bree Morrell.

Kitty and David are going to a Lila Cheney concert when Freedom Force attacks.


The X-Men receive a notably old postcard from Scott and Maddy, one which was obviously sent prior to X-Factor #1, though its unclear how their mail found the X-Men in San Fransisco (probably the same way they got mail on a mysterious island in the Bermuda Triangle).


Rogue notes that she came to terms with having Carol Danvers' memories and personalities in her head in issue #203.


Freedom Force is unaware of Storm's power lose, though Spiral is able to sense the absence of her powers.

The issue ends with Nightcrawler bidding farewell to Judith Rassendyll at the airport, wrapping up his story from issue #204 (though Judith will make one additional appearance in an Excalibur one shot).


Artistic Achievements
During the battle between Freedom Force and X-Men, Spiral casts a spell that makes Kitty phase in place, an act which is described as being like an image smeared along a sheet of paper, and, appropriately and metatextually enough, that is how the result is depicted on the page.


Rachel Summers, Crybaby
In a continuity snafu, Rachel freaks out over the prospect of meeting her father in this timeline, even though she already has, on several occasions.


Human/Mutant Relations
Fearful of being arrested by Freedom Force, Rachel notes that its a short road from a prison to a death camp.


For Sale
There's an ad in this issue for the Star Wards Droids tie-in book. 


It's in the Mail
In letters covering issue #195, one writer calls Claremont on Kitty's assertion that Katie Power would too young to be a mutant (pointing out there have been several mutants Katie's age already), while an editorial response to another letter announces Louise Simonson as the new writer of X-Factor, saying that Bob Layton is leaving to work on a Spider-Man graphic novel. 

Teebore's Take
Though it's been only two issues, it seems like it's been forever since we've seen the X-Men together in their own book. This also marks a return to Claremont's "narrative chapter" approach to the series, as this issues tells an essentially done-in-one story that still connects to larger plot and thematic threads. It is, in fact, the last such issue in the Claremont/Romita Jr. run, as next issue kicks off the more traditionally-structured multi-part Nimrod/Hellfire Club story that carries the series into "Mutant Massacre", at which point all kinds of things change. But before Claremont can thoroughly upend the status quo, he must restore it from the minor deviation of the last five issues.

So to shake the X-Men free of their West Coast idle, Freedom Force shows up to run them out of town. In addition to forcing the X-Men back to New York (where they will be reunited with the missing Wolverine and Nightcrawler), this reemphasizes the change in political status quo that was finalized in issue #199, as the former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are now technically "the good guys". Though the X-Men are saved at the end by a technicality (in a bit I've always loved, the newly empowered federal agents have overlooked things like warrants, due process, or official identification), the meaning is clear: the villains are the establishment now, and the establishment is out to get the heroes.

Of course, all that thematic stuff is couched in some great comic book spectacle. Whether the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants or Freedom Force, these villains make for great antagonists, with visually exciting designs and/or powers, and Claremont and Romita Jr. rise to the occasion to depict a good old-fashioned comic book slugfest. In a way, it is a last gasp of the classic (the latest incarnation of the X-Men vs. the latest incarnation of their first super-villain team) before everything gets shaken up.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Dani gets the spotlight in New Mutants #41, followed on Friday by X-Factor #5, Bob Layton's last issue on the title. And next week, the X-Men return to New York in Uncanny X-Men #207. 

15 comments:

  1. Nothing really to say about this issue, except that the Spider-Man graphic novel Layton left X-Factor to write was never published, apparently due to the fact that it involved Spidey having an affair with the wife of a mobster. Comic Book Legends Revealed recently ran an article covering it. Paul Smith was going to draw it! And Barry Windsor Smith was going to ink it!!

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  2. @Matt: the Spider-Man graphic novel Layton left X-Factor to write was never published

    I'd wondered about that, as I couldn't recall a Layton-penned Spidey GN (then again, my Spider-Man knowledge is less-than encyclopedic, so I wasn't sure). Somehow I missed that Legends Revealed post - I'll have to check it out. To bad the book never was published: Smith and Windsor Smith on Spider-Man would have been something to see!

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  3. At the time, I never realized the person admitted into the hospital was Madeline. Presumably, the earlier sequence with the postcard would have made it obvious, but that orange haired woman didn't look like Maddy to me.

    Chris

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  4. I thought it a cool scene where Jessica gets PO'd about a new Spider-Woman.

    I think the problem is not so much Rachel meeting her father again, but finally revealing the truth. Earlier stories do have her feeling that Scott knows, but she probably also thinks it's just wishful thinking to avoid the issue.

    As for the postcard, I think the New Mutants knew where the X-Men were staying in San Francisco. The letter arrived at the school, and Karma- as secretary- sent it to San Fran.

    If I recall, the Thanksgiving issue of POWER PACK that time had Logan and Kitty commenting about the Summers separation, which contradicts this issue's idea that they were in the dark.

    The end of the issue implies the X-Men will be visiting Anchorage. I did write a fanfic about it, saying the X-Men went there and confronted the same problems Scott will have in upcoming X-F issues, but more stressing problems forced the team to return to New York, with Rachel staying behind to find out the truth (and then I incorporated UXM ANNUAL 10 into the story). Rachel returns to get help in the search, and then the whole 207-209 story happens.

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  5. Huh. I never read this issue, but reading this makes the whole "X-Men move to the welcoming city of San Francisco" turn a few years back make more sense. I'm surprised that no one has run with SF just being a mutant-happy city, since you could argue this issue sets a precedent for it.

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  6. It was this issue I noticed just how often the X-Men fought Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Claremont seems to either have them or the Juggernaut on hand when he needs to fulfill his genre superhero requirements. Luckily, he's gotten rather good at still making them creative(love the Storm fake-out and the Spiral/Rogue business), and Romita/Green are still as talented as ever at depicting it. For the first time in a few months, it feels good to have a classic X-Men vs group of bad guys, and all just a warm-up to the great Hellfire Club/Nimrod story coming up.

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  7. @angmc43: I thought it a cool scene where Jessica gets PO'd about a new Spider-Woman.

    I liked that too. I probably should have pointed it out.

    I think the problem is not so much Rachel meeting her father again, but finally revealing the truth.

    Ultimately, yeah, the issue ends with Rachel deciding to tell her father the truth (even though she actually won't for awhile yet), but before that, she specifically says she's not ready to meet her father yet, even though she already has on multiple occasions.

    As for the postcard, I think the New Mutants knew where the X-Men were staying in San Francisco. The letter arrived at the school, and Karma- as secretary- sent it to San Fran.

    I'm not exactly sure how the timing of this issue fits with the timing of the "New Mutants as Hellions" story, but I like this explanation nonetheless, largely because it does something with the idea that Karma was supposed to be the school's secretary. Your No-Prize is in the mail. ;)

    If I recall, the Thanksgiving issue of POWER PACK that time had Logan and Kitty commenting about the Summers separation, which contradicts this issue's idea that they were in the dark.

    I think I have to give the edge to this issue - not only because it was written by Claremont, but given how separate the X-Men are meant to be from X-Factor at this time (and for awhile), it makes more sense that they wouldn't know than they would (unless Maddy called them, which doesn't seem to be the case given later stories, and would further stretch the creditability of the X-Men not checking out X-Factor sooner).

    @Chris: Presumably, the earlier sequence with the postcard would have made it obvious, but that orange haired woman didn't look like Maddy to me.

    Yeah, I think the postcard was meant to put Maddy into the readers' minds, but I never got that was Maddy until future stories got into the whole "shot and left for dead by the Marauders" thing, which retroactively made it more clear that its Maddy in this issue.

    Again, like with Maddy's first appearance, it's an example of the limitation of comic art in depicting non-costumed characters in a way that suggests their identity.

    @Mela: I never read this issue, but reading this makes the whole "X-Men move to the welcoming city of San Francisco" turn a few years back make more sense.

    Yeah, one of the neat things about that story was how it was built on the precedent set by this one. The X-Men'll even go back to San Fran between this story and that one, briefly using Alcatraz as a base of operations for a few issues prior to "Fall of the Mutants".

    @Jeremy: For the first time in a few months, it feels good to have a classic X-Men vs group of bad guys, and all just a warm-up to the great Hellfire Club/Nimrod story coming up.

    Definitely. I've always really enjoyed Claremont's X-Men/Freedom Force/Brotherhood fights, and this one plus the upcoming Nimrod/Hellfire Club fight is just a great bit of classic superhero comics before everything gets shaken up.

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  8. First of all, god damn, Rachel was such a "Scrappy" wasn't she? I'll delve into this further around issue 209 and 210, but it seems like even her teammates are tired of her.

    About Madelyne and the postcard: as much as I agree with Claremont's general assessment of Scott's/X-Factor's/editorials treatment of Maddie, I have to call BS on the "happy couple" image. Besides the fact that Claremont himself have the couple departing this series while having a big argument, Scott marrying a woman who looks just like his ex-girlfriend is going to end up more "Rebecca" than romantic.

    By the way, you forgot to put Kitty's "hip" date outfit in the "I love the 80's" column! (Boy JRJR must really love him some torn fishnets, such he ends up giving Typhoid Mary the same look.)

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  9. Completely off topic here Teebore, but curious...

    Do you own copies of all the issues you've covered? If not, are you pulling scans from certain trades or reprints? Digital? Always wondered where it all comes from. Don't be pressured to reveal your secrets, though.

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  10. @Jonathan: Rachel was such a "Scrappy" wasn't she?

    Ha! Well said. I never thought of it in those terms before, but yeah, she really was.

    y the way, you forgot to put Kitty's "hip" date outfit in the "I love the 80's" column!

    Good catch! That definitely belongs there. Good catch on the fishnets too; Kitty almost looks like a proto-Typhoid Mary in that getup.

    @Dan: Do you own copies of all the issues you've covered? If not, are you pulling scans from certain trades or reprints? Digital?

    I own physical hard copies of pretty much every issue I've covered, barring some of the original 60s issues and a few of the limited series (I don't think I have every issue of Iceman's limited series).

    I own a complete run of Uncanny from issue #97 to present, along with a scattered assortment of probably half of the issues from #1-96 (the oldest issue I own is #12, and I'm actively trying to fill in that run), and I have complete runs of pretty much all the various spinoffs up to about the mid-2000s (for example, I have all of the first volume of Wolverine's solo series and very little of the subsequent volumes).

    A lot of the more recent spinoff series I have in trades, or I just read via my Marvel Unlimited subscription (which, for anyone who has any kind of tablet or likes to read comics on their computer, I highly recommend), having (slowly) started to kick the feeling of needing to own all the issues of every series.

    As for the images in the posts, all the ones in the main X-Men post come from the DVD-ROM Marvel released a few years back containing every issue of the main series up to that point (it was part of a series of DVDs Marvel released around that time featuring scans of complete runs of many of their classic series), the acquisition of which is what inspired me to start this project.

    The images in the New Mutants, X-Factor, etc. posts come mainly from...other sources, though some are scans of my own.

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  11. The 'Frisco thing is completely weird.

    At the start of the issue, when Storm talks to Lt. Morrell, it sounds like we're having a potential new status quo teed up, but the rug's pulled out from the whole deal at the end when Morrell says, basically, "You remember how I said we were happy to have you? If you want to do everyone a real favor, leave."

    Not that this isn't quintessentially and bizarrely Claremont. So many series have plot threads, even major changes to their entire premise, set in motion by one writer only to be altered by a turnover in creative team (or editorial overseer) either intentionally or simply because the new boss didn't know where the old boss was going. Claremont does this to himself. We also get adjustments (to put it kindly) dictated from above, true, and Claremont was no stranger to that, yet he's the poster child for introducing elements, including new headquarters (well hello there Bermuda Triangle), that one expects to have short-term and/or long-term payoffs but end up either not pursued down the road or abandoned nearly as suddenly as they're introduced. Teasing San Francisco as a potential fresh start / home base for the X-Men in the opening pages only to nix the idea before the letters page rolls around is totally confounding, at least as presented, because there isn't even any real narrative rug knitted to be pulled out from under the reader in a clever way.

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  12. @Blam: So many series have plot threads, even major changes to their entire premise, set in motion by one writer only to be altered by a turnover in creative team (or editorial overseer) either intentionally or simply because the new boss didn't know where the old boss was going. Claremont does this to himself.

    You know, I've never really thought of it that way (probably because this brief San Fransiscan sojourn has always been a thing that just was, for me), but it definitely does seem like something where Claremont was trying to setup a new status quo then was forced to quickly reassess due to editorial mandate.

    But, as far as I know, that wasn't the case. It's similar, as you suggested, to what was ultimately the Bermuda Triangle Base Feint, though in that case, theoretically, the creation of New Mutants is what led Claremont to scuttle his plans.

    I suppose a case could be made that Claremont was intentionally setting San Fransisco up as a safe haven for the X-Men, especially in light of what was coming in "Mutant Massacre" (he does return the X-Men to the city after they've effectively abandoned the mansion for being unsafe), even while he was unable/unwilling to relocate them permanently, but even I have think that's a bit of a stretch.

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  13. @Teebore: // It's similar, as you suggested, to what was ultimately the Bermuda Triangle Base Feint //

    My point, though, is that it's not even a feint. We don't get significant drama out of the potential move and then dashed hopes; the idea that X-Men or mutants in general just can't catch a break isn't really played up. There is zero narrative arc to the change in locale within the space of this one story. It's just something that doesn't pan out, which unlike Atlantis/Lovecraft Isle wasn't even toyed with and then nixed over the course of a few issues.

    I'm not exactly dragging Claremont over the coals here, mind you. For some reason this just struck me as notably strange. And like I said we do know that real-world behind-the-scenes machinations could affect the content of an issue literally in the course of its production, not that I recall ever hearing about a prolonged move to SF planned then shot down at this time either.

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  14. @Blam: And like I said we do know that real-world behind-the-scenes machinations could affect the content of an issue literally in the course of its production, not that I recall ever hearing about a prolonged move to SF planned then shot down at this time either.

    I do wonder if something was going on behind the scenes - you get a sense, in hindsight, that Claremont was going to setup a permanent move to SF, even if he ultimately didn't even get as far as a feint, with the declaration in #203 of how San Fransisco seems more welcoming to the X-Men, and how much the X-Men are liking San Fran.

    That makes it seem like maybe he was setting up the move, but then got reminded that he couldn't have the X-Men actually be in San Fransisco that long, so even before he set it up he had to dash the idea in this issue.

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  15. It would have bugged me more had this been the X-men's first issue in SF. As it is, it doesn't really seem like he was setting up a shift in status quo. Just a random idea that was brought up and then gets sh*t upon because they're mutant outlaws who just can't catch a break.

    On the other hand, tt could also be that Claremont had his original Mutant Massacre plot derailed, toyed with moving them to SF, the scuttled that idea as he decided to move ahead with the MM plot anyway. Isn't Maddie showing up at the hospital the first post #200 sub-plot we see regarding the MM?

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