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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #220

"Unfinished Business"
August 1987

In a Nutshell 
Storm, hoping to regain her powers, sets off in search of Forge. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Finisher: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In the Rockies, Storm meets with Wolverine, telling him she has decided to seek out Forge's help in restoring her powers. She asks Wolverine to lead the X-Men in her absence, but he refuses. She insists, and eventually he reluctantly agrees. Later, Storm stands outside Forge's home in Eagle Plaza, in Dallas. Entering, she finds it deserted and the entire building without power, forcing her to take the stairs to Forge's penthouse. As she climbs, Naze, Forge's one time mentor, senses her presence, and prepares a welcome. Storm emerges into Forge's penthouse to discover his holographic systems and defenses have been activated. She fights her way through the building as scenes of Forge's past, including his time with Storm, play out around her.


Reaching his control room, she discovers a disheveled Forge hooked directly into his machines, but this too turns out to be an illusion, and Storm deactivates the system. Naze then appears, telling Storm he activated the defenses to ensure she hadn't lost her edge, then explains how Forge's love for her, and her rejection of him, has turned him insane, making him prey for the Adversary, the evil being whom Forge was trained from birth to combat. He begs for Storm's help in finding and saving Forge. The next morning, Storm accepts that she holds some responsibility for Forge's condition, and is honor bound to help him. She tells Naze she will stand with him until the end, words which bring a sinister smile to his face.

Firsts and Other Notables
Storm takes a leave of absence from the team this issue to hunt down Forge, having decided to swallow her pride and ask for his help in restoring her powers (which will make her a more effective leader), though she isn't considered to formally leave the team.


She taps Wolverine to fill-in for her as team leader, and though he gives the usual argument about not being much of a leader, she insists, pointing out that nobody else on the young (in terms of how long they've been X-Men) team is fit for the job, and he ultimately accepts, beginning one of the only tenures in the book's history in which Wolverine is leader of the X-Men (at least, until he leads an iteration of X-Force and then starts his own school, but that's a ways off).


Naze, last seen killed by a Dire Wraith who took his form, only to have that form usurped in turn by the Adversary in issue #188, returns. He convinces Storm to help him track down and rescue Forge before he's claimed by the Adversary, calling in the debt she owes him for saving her life in issue #187. Of course, Storm doesn't realize Naze is actually the Adversary and that he's setting her up to kill Forge before he can move against the Adversary, a tension that will continue to play out over the next several issues. 


Marc Silvestri returns to pencil this issue, and if you don't consider issue #218 to be the start of his run on the book, then it begins here, as he will remain the book's regular penciller for the next few years (albeit with frequent fill in artists).

The cover corner box heads have been updated, removing Nightcrawler, Colossus and Shadowcat, though Dazzler is still missing and Magneto's role on the team is more or less over at this point. 

The Chronology Corner
Between this issue and the next, Wolverine appears in Daredevil #248-249 and Alpha Flight #52-53, none of which feature enough significant action/developments involving Wolverine or the X-Men to warrant their own posts, though the events of Alpha Flight #53 do confirm for Heather Hudson that her husband wasn't involved in the creation of Wolverine, and also features some early Jim Lee art. 

A Work in Progress
Storm mentions that she tried calling Forge, prior to going to Eagle Plaza, but the phone was disconnected, suggesting at least one X-Man knows how to work a telephone. 

While watching a holographic flashback of Forge's time in Vietnam, Storm notices there are somehow demons present, a bit of foreshadowing regarding Forge that will be revealed in "Fall of the Mutants".


I Love the 80s
Storm tells Naze he can go to "Hades", rather than Hell, a popular swap made in comic around this time, presumably to make them more kid-friendly (the Classic X-Men reprints of the old Claremont/Byrne issues published around this time would frequently make that change in the reprinted story).  

Bullpen Bulletins
The Bullpen Bulletins pages around this time started running profiles on different staffers each month. The first up is, of course, Jim Shooter. 


It's in the Mail
The letters page is back, discussing issue #213 and annual #10.

A letter response confirms that annual #10 takes place before "Mutant Massacre", suggesting that Longshot was away during the massacre due to events that will be detailed in a future story (to my knowledge, that story has never been told). An 80 page graphic novel follow-up to Longshot's miniseries, fully painted by Art Adams, is also mentioned, but I don't believe that ever saw print either.

Finally, Marc Silvestri is formally announced as the book's new regular artist.

Marc Silvestri on being assigned Uncanny X-Men
"They offered me that gig and right away I said, 'sure, I'll take it.' I jumped at the chance. That was when X-Men was still Mount Everest. If you got to do X-Men, you were at the peak of your career. Spider-Man and Hulk might have been better known titles, but everyone in the business knew that X-Men was the comic you wanted to be on. I felt great. I thought, 'wow, I've made in comics.' It was like I joined this exclusive club, the same club John Byrne had belonged to, and I was working with Chris Claremont. At the time, you're working with Chris, you're working with the best guy out there, right? He was certainly the number one writer in comics in those days."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p160

Teebore's Take
This issue sends Storm, finally willing to swallow her pride, in search of Forge and allying her with Naze along the way. In the process, it begins Storm's quest to find Forge and with it, the book's march towards its next big storyline, "Fall of the Mutants". It also marks the debut of Marc Silvestri as the book's new regular penciller (at the very least, it is the beginning of several consecutive issues drawn by him), and that, along with Storm's story, mark an unofficial ending to the period of relative (and intentional, at least story-wise) disarray that has existed in the book since the conclusion of "Mutant Massacre".

But that feeling of the book having turned a corner, narrative-wise, only comes via hindsight; for the moment, there's not much to this issue. Storm puts Wolverine in charge of the X-Men then goes to Forge's house, takes a trip down memory lane thanks to Forge's holograms and meets up with Naze. It gives Silvestri a chance to show off his chops by rendering some moments from Storm and Forge's past (mostly culled from "Lifedeath") and it kicks off a new storyline for Storm, but that's about it, at least until we see how the story started here plays out.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Louise Simonson and Bret Blevins come aboard in New Mutants #55, followed by the debut of Apocalypse's Horsemen in X-Factor #19. Next week, the Marauders return in Uncanny X-Men #221.

16 comments:

  1. well, this one is...interesting. On the surface, it doesn't seem to have much going for it, but it does have some decent foreshadowing which does pay off later.

    I always wondered how the Adversary storyline would have been played out, had CC not restructured the series due to the original Mutant Massacre plans being changed...

    Silvestri's early work is nice to look at, and strikes a good balance between cartoony fun and cheesecake T&A. But man, for the next year or 2, we're going to see some of the shittiest covers we've seen on this title since...the Silver Age.

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  2. @wwk5d: But man, for the next year or 2, we're going to see some of the shittiest covers we've seen on this title since...the Silver Age.

    There's a handful of decent ones sprinkled in there, but pretty much just one iconic one (#243).

    #221 & #224 do some interesting things with perspective, #229 isn't bad, #232 & 234 are attention getting if not terribly complex and #236 is pretty great.

    But yeah, definitely more "blah" than "exciting" on the average.

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  3. I never really considered the quality of the cover art. At the time, I was just happy to see Silvestri's work as I increasingly became familiar with it, and happy to see anything involving Wolverine. As such, I remember being happy that he was now chosen as the team leader, as short-lived and ultimately inconsequential as that turned out. Otherwise, this issue featured a lot of stuff I wasn't familiar with, considering how far back some of the references go.

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  4. Perhaps Storm should have just remembered that any time the X-Men are left leaderless, Wolverine pretty much always steps in to take charge whether he likes it or not. She should've just left without asking to avoid the unnecessary argument.

    I've said it before, but I have a weird relationship with this era of the X-Men. I'm not a fan of this iteration of the team or their status quo at all, but I can't argue that Claremont's plotting is compelling, with Storm's search for Forge and the X-Men vs. the Marauders and then Freedom Force all leading very nicely up to "Fall of the Mutants". I consider the run from "Mutant Massacre" through "Fall" -- and especially this issue through "Fall" -- to be possibly Claremont's strongest solo serialized storytelling from his first run (I think the stuff with Byrne is better, but that obviously wasn't plotted solo).

    I never thought much about these covers either. They all look fine to me. In particular I like this issue (word balloon on the cover FTW!) and #225 a lot, but I don't really see anything wrong with any of them. They look like... comic books.

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  5. But as much as I like covers with word balloons, this one just seems...wrong. I think it might be the placement of the word balloons themselves; the bottom right hand side corner of the cover just doesn't look good at all.

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  6. It's actually... interesting see these issues been gone through like this issue-by-issue when I myself read them from the Finnish X-Men book that was 36 pages at the time and printed issues from #177 to #224 one and a half per book. So if you guys think it was like reading one continuous story to you... :D Had to mention, because the instant transitions like from the last page of this issue to the Sinister's first appearance in the next one really felt as smooth as the normal Claremontian "Meanwhile..." transitions within-issues.

    Other than that, I gotta wonder if issues like these had some of that clip-show feel to readers who had been along long enough to have read for example issue #186 already back in the day? Personally my first issue was #199 which had some nice flashbacks from the Dark Phoenix Saga and this issue was my first dip into the Forge business and when I finally managed to hunt down the books with the original scenes from the second-hand book stores and god knows where it was like there was an extra layer to the whole thing - and tremendous feeling of satisfaction.

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  7. I think my least favorite cover coming up is Storm vs giant snake on issue #223. Nothing about that cover would make me want to read the issue.

    Is this really the first issue where Claremont uses illusions or hallucinations to recap past stories and foreshadow future ones? It becomes really common during this era (251 & 256 are the main ones, but I know I'm missing some more). It's creative and different, but it doesn't always make for the most satisfying issues. Sometimes what he's trying to convey is almost impenetrable.

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  8. @Anonymous: Otherwise, this issue featured a lot of stuff I wasn't familiar with, considering how far back some of the references go.

    Yeah, with stuff going back nearly forty issues, to #185 and so, this features some pretty deep cuts, especially in the pre-digital/ trade/LCS age.

    @Matt: She should've just left without asking to avoid the unnecessary argument.

    Ha! Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

    @Teemu: I gotta wonder if issues like these had some of that clip-show feel to readers who had been along long enough to have read for example issue #186 already back in the day?

    I can definitely see how someone could get a clip show vibe off of something like this.

    @Jeff: Is this really the first issue where Claremont uses illusions or hallucinations to recap past stories and foreshadow future ones?

    Nah, as Teemu said, #199 has some DPS flashbacks in it via Rachel's hallucinations, and of course there's #138 (which isn't really the same thing, but similar). There's probably others I can't think of offhand, but you're right that it seems to become a more common device moving forward.

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  9. @wwk5d "But as much as I like covers with word balloons, this one just seems...wrong. I think it might be the placement of the word balloons themselves; the bottom right hand side corner of the cover just doesn't look good at all."

    I think the placement is fine. It makes it readily apparent that Storm is forming the sounds of the words via armpit farts.

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  10. You didn't want to mention the precious 3-page prologue starring eagles representing Forge and (complete with mohawk-like white crest) Storm "in the realm of imagination" before the story picks up "in the realm of 'reality' [sic]"?

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  11. Gonna assume you meant #234 for iconic covers, and I think you gotta get give a shoutout to #251 as well.

    Silvestri's covers on average were better than Romita Jrs, from my reading

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  12. @ Jeremy: Silvestri's covers on average were better than Romita Jrs, from my reading

    A massive 'no' on that one. The iconic ones on 207, 210, 211 alone raise the average of JRJR high enough and that's not counting the action-packed and yet not restless 184, 191, 192, 202, 209...

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  13. ^See, I really don't like a lot of those. A lot of them feel like bad splash pages than covers, #192 in particular worked a lot better in the book then outside it, IMO. Doesn't help that you got Romita Jr's awful, awful lookin' costumes against the slick pop sexy of Silvestri. And I saw that as a big fan of Romita Jr.

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  14. @Blam: You didn't want to mention the precious 3-page prologue starring eagles representing Forge and (complete with mohawk-like white crest) Storm "in the realm of imagination" before the story picks up "in the realm of 'reality' [sic]"?

    Ha! Yeah, there was no really good way to work it into the plot recap, taking place in the realm of imagination as it does, and it doesn't really factor into the progression of the overall narrative much, so I ignored it.

    In hindsight, I probably should have mentioned it, just for the sake of completion.

    @Jeremy: Gonna assume you meant #234 for iconic covers, and I think you gotta get give a shoutout to #251 as well.

    Yeah, #234 is probably pretty iconic. And #251 definitely is, but I stopped my cursory glance at the covers on the GCD when replying to the post at "Inferno".



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  15. @ Jeremy: A lot of them feel like bad splash pages than covers, #192 in particular worked a lot better in the book then outside it, IMO. Doesn't help that you got Romita Jr's awful, awful lookin' costumes against the slick pop sexy of Silvestri. And I saw that as a big fan of Romita Jr.

    Ah, so there's our problem just there. I positively feel the cover should very much be like a (bit stylished) bad splash page ripped straight out of a climatic moment of the book in question.

    And yes, I may be a teensy bit biased towards the JR Jr. era which to me is and always has been the quintessential look of the X-Men. Rachel Summers is a Very Important character in the X-verse and the main purpose of the Avengers is to rehabilitate former villains like Mantis and Swordsman (I first misspelled 'Rachel' without 'l' which should give a chuckle to everyone who know their Sherlock Holmes).

    Everyone is free to not believe but I didn't think anyhing much of Jim Lee when he started on the book. And my instant reaction to McFarlane Spider-Man was hate. I have my tastes cast in bronze.

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  16. @Teebore: // Yeah, there was no really good way to work it into the plot recap, taking place in the realm of imagination as it does //

    Claremontism! 8^)

    What really got me were the quotes in the caption around the word "reality", suggesting that the X-Men's actual storyline had no greater (and in fact perhaps less) claim to validity even within the fictional narrative than the allegory-wank of the eagles.

    @Teemu: // Everyone is free to not believe but I didn't think anything much of Jim Lee when he started on the book. And my instant reaction to McFarlane Spider-Man was hate. I have my tastes cast in bronze. //

    My initial (and persistent) reaction to McFarlane Spider-Man is hate, too, and honestly I never really cared for Jim Lee's art, either; compared to McFarlane and Liefeld he's a master, but otherwise meh.

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