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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #215

"Old Soldiers"
March 1987

In a Nutshell 
Storm runs afoul of three World War II-era superheroes. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The X-Men, including new members Dazzler and Longshot, as well as Callisto, prepare to leave for Muir Isle with the wounded X-Men and Morlocks. Leaving Rogue in charge, Storm and Wolverine head upstate. Meanwhile, in San Fransisco, the red-haired Jane Doe awakens and tells the doctors her name is Madelyne Pryor. In New York, Storm and Wolverine arrive at the home of Sara Grey to find it burning, victim of a fire bomb. Checking the wreckage for clues on the culprit, Wolverine detects first the scent of Cyclops, then Jean Grey - the later of which causes him to go berserk and accidentally knock out Storm. To the east, as the Blackbird races towards Muir Isle, the ghost-like Kitty visits her teammates, though Longshot is able to sense her presence. Elsewhere, Storm awakens shackled in a dungeon. Easily picking the locks, she escapes her cell and finds herself in some kind of hunting lodge.


She is soon confronted by three former superheroes who fought in World War II: Crimson Commando, Stonewall and Super Sabre. She tries to escape them, but they manage to overpower her. The three former heroes explain how, in light of the decline of society, they've decided to hunt and kill criminals for sport, in order to rid the world of their evils. Having found Storm unconscious in the remains of Sara Grey's house, they believe her to be at worse an arsonist and at best a looter, and release her into the woods surrounding the lodge along with Priscilla Morrison, a drug dealer they previously captured, telling the women they have until sundown to get out of the forest until the three old soldiers come after them. 

Firsts and Other Notables
A trio of new villains make their first appearance in this issue: Crimson Commando, Super Sabre, and Stonewall, three World War II-era superheroes who, in their retirement, have decided to make the world a better place by hunting down crooks and criminals, Most Dangerous Game-style. The three will shortly hereafter become members of Freedom Force, and remain with that team for most of the duration of Claremont's tenure, then linger on the fringes of the X-books into the 90s. 


Longshot appears as a member of the team for the first time in Uncanny X-Men itself, with no indication of where he's been since Annual #10.Colossus, Nightcrawler and Shadowcat are considered to officially leave the team as of this issue, and it will be awhile before we see them again in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.


A Work in Progress
It is revealed that the Marauders were sent to kill Maddie, but she fought them off and escaped before landing in the San Fransisco hospital at which we saw her in issue #206. Why the Marauders were sent to kill her remains a mystery for another time. In the present, she regains consciousness, telling the doctors her name.


Alan Davis appears to draw Wolverine's mask similar to John Byrne, as a solid helmet-like piece.


Wolverine and Storm arrive to discover Sara Grey's house still burning from the fire bomb, apparently arriving not long after Scott and Jean left in X-Factor #12.

This leads to Wolverine detecting Jean's scent, this time, unlike in the Morlock Tunnels, unmistakeably so, causing him to freak out and accidentally knock out Storm. Claremont also uses this as an opportunity to integrate a retcon he established just a few months before in the first Classic X-Men back-up story, by having Wolverine note that Jean was his first friend on the team after he joined.


Before getting clunked by Wolverine, Storm ponders the idea of the X-Men being proactive, then wonders about Forge's safety in the wake of the Marauders recent attacks, and finally wonders if she should swallow her pride and ask Forge to help her regain her powers, all of which is setup for future stories, while also reminding readers about Forge.


I Love the 80s
The doctors who attend Maddie are named and modeled after Julius Schwartz, longtime DC editor, and Diane Duane, acclaimed sci-fi novelist.


Claremontisms
The opening page of this issue, detailing the plane crash from which Madelyne walked away alive, the sole survivor, provides Claremont an opportunity to indulge his inner airplane geek. 


Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
As Maddie emerges from the wreckage of her crashed plane, an event which occurred at the same time as Phoenix, masquerading as Jean Grey, died on the moon in Uncanny X-Men #137, the Phoenix firebird effect is seen above Maddie, further linking the two women. 


Scott Summers, Husband of the Year
After being captured by the Marauders, Maddie awakens and wonders where Scott is, recalling that he's the reason the Marauders gave for trying to capture her.


For Sale
There's a house ad for Fallen Angels, the upcoming limited series that was once advertised as The Misfits


It's in the Mail
The letters page in this issue openly acknowledges how far behind the column has gotten, blaming a desire to run more pages of story in lieu of the letters page, then declares that they're jumping ahead and running letters discussing more recent issues to get back on schedule. 


Teebore's Take
This issue essentially deals with three things: introducing the post-X-Factor Madelyne Pryor, transistioning the X-Men out of the mansion, and setting Storm and Wolverine off on their own brief adventure (the bulk of which will be handled next issue), introducing a trio of new and self-consciously retro villains in the process. As a result, this issue reads as something of a jumble, a necessary but rough transition issue that sets up an almost-fill-in level story - one that I nonetheless quite enjoy, for reasons I'll get into next issue. Thankfully, the Alan Davis art in this issue is, not surprisingly, quite nice, and helps hold everything together.

But while the "old soldiers" element is borderline fill-in, the other elements are nonetheless significant. The first, answering the question of how Maddie ended up in a San Fransisco hospital (she was attacked by the Marauders) with another question (why did the Marauders attack her?), kicks off Claremont's attempt to do something with Maddie in the wake of X-Factor, one month after Louise Simonson began similar efforts with Cyclops in earnest on that title. To that ultimate end, he makes explicit something previously implicit: the involvement of Phoenix in the life of Madelyne, something which will become significant in the book's future.

Meanwhile, with the departure of the X-Men from the mansion and Wolverine and Storm from the rest of team, we have Claremont explicitly acknowledging the fact that Wolverine and Storm, the two most senior members of the team and the sole holdovers from the "New X-Men", have become the core of the team. In much the same way that the New X-Men were built around the core of Cyclops, the lone original X-Man, this new post-"Massacre" assemblage of newer X-Men has been built around Storm and Wolverine. Thus, "Mutant Massacre" continues to act as the marker of an end of an era, and the setup for Claremont's biggest experiment yet with the team. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the New Mutants reunite in New Mutants #50, and Friday, Cyclops battles Master Mold in X-Factor #14. Next week, Storm faces off against some old soldiers in Uncanny X-Men #216.

3 comments:

  1. I don't like the next issue, as the plot seems pretty filler-ish, and the artwork is... not great, to put it nicely, but I always rather liked this one, even the old guard bits. The way they're introduced here in what looks like a safe enviroment of the house, we're in Storm's shoes; we have no idea who they are, what their powers are, what the heck is going on. And Alan Davis nails all the action beats as only he can. I also really like Storm and Wolverine's dynamic. Like you said, they're the last bastions of the Claremont/Byrne years, and they have so much history together since that day she misjudged him for hunting animals. When she says, "There's no one I trust more than you", it feels genuine. I always secretly shipped these two, and it brings me endless fanboy joy that they're actually seeing each in current comics.

    BTW, do you read any of the current comics? I was just reading this week's Wolverine and the X-Men, and its a really fun book.

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  2. As Maddie emerges from the wreckage of her crashed plane, an event which occurred at the same time as Phoenix, masquerading as Jean Grey, died on the moon in Uncanny X-Men #137, the Phoenix firebird effect is seen above Maddie, further linking the two women.

    I'm not sure whether I never noticed the Phoenix effect in the flames or whether I noticed and simply forgot about it, but I was legitimately surprised by this. I wonder if Claremont was consciously trying to set-up a retcon for the character (now that Jean's been resurrected) or whether this was just an artistic flourish that he decided to run with.

    In much the same way that the New X-Men were built around the core of Cyclops, the lone original X-Man, this new post-"Massacre" assemblage of newer X-Men has been built around Storm and Wolverine. Thus, "Mutant Massacre" continues to act as the marker of an end of an era, and the setup for Claremont's biggest experiment yet with the team.

    I know you've written a lot about how "Massacre" doesn't follow the standard crossover / event structure because, in fact, it was the first crossover event. But I have to say that "Massacre" feels like a gigantic event largely because it is so unstructured -- It comes out of nowhere and it's over so quickly that it's like the creative team did a drive-by on the readers, which is effective since the events are meant to have the same effect on the characters as a drive-by would.

    Also, the ramifications of "Massacre" play out in so many ways for so many issues after its end that it feels like a genuine event in these characters' lives -- unlike the crossovers from the 90s forward, where the ramifications were played off by having a character work through his or her issues off-panel for a while (see: Havok after X-Tinction Agenda) or characters had non-threatening injuries to recover from (see: Rogue's temporary blindness or Polaris's broken jaw after X-Cutioner's Song).

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  3. comment from Blam:Really, Storm? A green sweater with leather pants and under a leather vest? Seriously?

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