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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #224

"The Dark Before Dawn"
December 1987

In a Nutshell 
Storm reaches Forge as the X-Men set out in search of Storm.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Guest Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the Rockies, Storm and Naze reach the base of Forge's mountain aerie, and Naze sends Storm up the mountain to defeat Forge, saying Forge's enchantments would be geared to detect Naze. In San Fransisco, Val Cooper holds a press conference alongside Freedom Force at the hospital damaged in the fight between the X-Men and the Marauders, announcing Freedom Force's mandate to capture the X-Men. Nearby, Rogue is visited at a gym by a disguised Mystique, who warns her about Destiny's vision of the death of the X-Men should they go to Dallas, but Rogue insists on staying with her friends. As Dazzler performs at a local club, Longshot and Havok leave a movie and encounter a mugging gone bad. As Longshot rescues a woman taken captive by the thugs, Havok melts their car as the police, including Lt. Morrell, arrive on the scene.


Morrell thanks Havok for his help, and warns him about Freedom Force. On Alcatraz, the X-Men gather and discuss Destiny's vision. With Destiny saying Storm is the key to it all, Wolverine proposes tracking her down, starting in Dallas. The rest of the X-Men, including Madelyne, agree to accompany him despite the danger. Meanwhile, as Storm climbs Forge's mountain, she's attacked by demons until suddenly, she's at the top and face-to-face with Forge. Without hesitation, she plunges her knife into Forge, who collapses in her arms, telling her he wasn't trying to destroy the world, but to save it. He then pushes them off the mountain, their souls entering the portal he was trying to close just as Naze destroys the mountain from below. With the two people capable of stopping him gone, he declares the world his, for as long as it lasts. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The Mutant Registration Act, which requires all mutants to register with the government, is confirmed to be law in this issue (there has been some confusion on the matter, with X-Men #188 suggesting the act had already been signed into law while X-Factor #1 suggested it was still in the proposal stage). The act will be referenced occasionally in future issues and even in titles like Daredevil and Captain America. Eventually, a Superhuman Registration Act (which would extend the Mutant Registration Act to all super-powered individuals, not just mutants) will be proposed circa "Acts of Vengeance", though that will eventually be shot down, in large part due to testimony against it by Mr. Fantastic.


As far as I know, the Mutant Registration Act is another one of those things that gets lost in the shuffle of Claremont's departure, and is never formally rescinded or mentioned after he leaves the book, including when another superhuman registration act is passed and used as the kick off of Marvel's 2006 event series Civil War, which even features Mr. Fantastic as a staunch supporter of registration despite having argued against a similar law earlier. 

As part of a contest to promote "Fall of the Mutants", this issue (and the other X-books on sale this month) come with a post card that can be filled out with the name and abilities of a mutant and sent to Marvel (or returned to a local comic book shop and then sent to Marvel) for "registration", in compliance with the Mutant Registration Act. According to the contest rules, from amongst the submissions Marvel will select the character they like best to appear in a future issue of New Mutants (in actuality, the winning character, Alchemy, will appear in issues #41 & #42 of X-Factor).

X-Factor inker Bob Wiacek fills in on this issue. 

A Work in Progress
Via Naze's exposition to Storm, we get some sense of the Adversary's motivations.


For those who care about such things, this issue establishes that Rogue is at least capable of lifting around fifty tons, using some weight lifting equipment designed for the Fantastic Four's Thing.


Professor Xavier's inability to help Rogue control her power such that she can touch other people is noted by Mystique.


Havok and Longshot see Raiders of the Lost Temple, the movie for which Longshot did stunt work in the second issue of his limited series (the cover of which is the movie poster Longshot leaps over) and was the title of the Kulan Gath story in issue #191.  He even notes that one of the stuntmen has the same name as him (something which a distracted Havok ignores), not realizing he did the work due to the memory wipe he received from Mojo between the end of his series and X-Men Annual #10. 


Lt. Morrell is on hand again, and warns the X-Men about Freedom Force being back in town and gunning for them.


Madelyne insists on going with the X-Men to Dallas, and Rogue notes that at least now the X-Men have an actual pilot to fly the Blackbird.


In reaching Forge, Storm realizes that she had once relied too heavily on her powers, at the cost of her other skills, and that she must merge all her skills to be the best. 


Claremontisms
In an effective bit of prose, Claremont describes what Dazzler's singing voice sounds like, the sort wordiness his critics like to ding him for but which is called for here, as the art can't depict her voice and we can't hear it.


Young Love
Rogue refers to Destiny as Mystique's partner, which was likely let through at the time because it's true (they are partners in Freedom Force) but can also be read, in light of Claremont's intent for their personal relationship, as an acknowledgement of that relationship, whether he intended that implication at the time or not.  

Storm notes that she loves Forge, and probably always will, something we continue to be told is the case more often than we're shown it to be.

Human/Mutant Relations
At Val Cooper's press conference, a reporter questions the logic of sending mutants to capture other mutants, likening it to letting a fox guard the chickens, to which Val counters that it's more like sending a fox to catch other foxes. Whether you agree with her logic or not, I've always liked that little rejoinder.


Val goes on to say, regarding the criminal records of Freedom Force, that America was in part founded by convicts and outcasts (which is an oversimplification at best) and insists the Registration Act isn't meant as a threat to anyone, which a gym patron watching the conferences likens to something the Nazis likely said to the Jews.


For Sale
This issue features a great full page ad for "Fall of the Mutants", drawn by Alan Davis.


It's in the Mail
The letters page in this issue features letters about issue #217, and the response to one reveals that the Morlock Healer has returned to the Morlock Tunnels to live with the surviving Morlocks there.

Teebore's Take
Like last issue, this one is chiefly concerned with moving the characters into position for the start of "Fall of the Mutants", in and around assorted character vignettes. Rogue and Mystique get a nice scene together as Mystique warns Rogue (and through her the X-Men) about Destiny's prophecy, the purpose and nature of Freedom Force gets some page time, Havok and Longshot take in a movie and stop a mugging, and Madelyne affirms her place with the X-Men as Wolverine does the classic "I'm going to do this but I won't force anyone to come along" bit, prompting the X-Men to, of course, throw in with him despite the risk.

This issue succeeds in rising above the fill-in feel of last issue in part because Silvestri is back on pencils, but more importantly, because Storm finally reaches Forge, confronts him, and realizes (too late) that Naze has been playing her for a sap the entire time (the page or so of Freedom Force material, meanwhile, is the most intriguing part of the issue, concerned as it is with questions of security vs. civil liberties, a loaded issue that has even more resonance today than it did in 1987). Of course, reaching Forge requires Storm to first fight through more generic demon (which is tiresome, though Silvestri's presence again helps elevate it somewhat), but what matters is, by the end, Storm's journey is over. The X-Men are en route to Dallas, Forge and Storm are off the board, the Adversary looks to be triumphant: "Fall of the Mutants" is ready to begin.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the X-Men arrive reach Dallas in Incredible Hulk #340 and Friday, X-Factor faces off against Hodge in X-Factor #23. Next week, "Fall of the Mutants" arrives in Uncanny X-Men #225.

20 comments:

  1. Storm really was a badass here, wasn't she? Well, except being duped by the Adversary ;)

    Speaking of badasses...grumpy Havok sure is more interesting than whiny Havok.

    "Storm notes that she loves Forge, and probably always will, something we continue to be told is the case more often than we're shown it to be."

    I think the Storm/Forge relationship would have played better at this point had it just been portrayed as an intriguing fascination, or something along the lines of them really liking each other, being attracted to each other, etc, but just falling short of love. There could still be some angst involved, cruel fate not letting them be together, Forge ironically being the reason Storm lost her powers, his betrayal being bitter because she was finally opening herself up emotionally that way, etc. But otherwise, chill, Storm, it wasn't even a one night stand...

    It makes more sense if - SPOILER ALERT!- Storm feels the way you mentioned *after* they have spend a year shagging each other on that empty world the Adversary sends them to.

    All in all, a good issue setting things up for FOTM.

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  2. And man, I love that full page ad by Davis...as a kid and now, but for different reasons.

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  3. It's funny -- I knew that Longshot had a limited series, and I figured the hints dropped here had to be some reference to it... but my extreme dislike of the character have never made me want to read the series to see exactly what went on there. I mean, I really can't stand Longshot. At all.

    Anyway -- I like this issue, as you say, Teebore, for its mission of moving everyone into place. There were a lot of "moving the pieces" around issues in the nineties, and those were often my favorites, even if the movements didn't always result in anything worthwhile.

    "...Rogue notes that at least now the X-Men have an actual pilot to fly the Blackbird."

    I guess Claremont either forgot or is ignorning that when he first introduced Betsy Braddock, she was a charter pilot in the U.K.

    "In an effective bit of prose, Claremont describes what Dazzler's singing voice sounds like, the sort wordiness his critics like to ding him for but which is called for here, as the art can't depict her voice and we can't hear it."

    I'm one of those critics. Claremont does this way too often, between Dazzler and Lila Cheney, and though the words are pretty and flowery, they just look silly to me when describing what music or a voice sound like.

    "The letters page in this issue features letters about issue #217, and the response to one reveals that the Morlock Healer has returned to the Morlock Tunnels to live with the surviving Morlocks there."

    I think he's back on Muir Island during the Cyclops "Retribution Affair" serial in Marvel Comics Presents, isn't he? He's the one who finally cures Banshee of (forgive me, Blam) injuries suffered in X-Men #119.

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  4. @wwk5d: Storm really was a badass here, wasn't she? Well, except being duped by the Adversary ;)

    Yeah, one could gripe that Storm shouldn't have been fooled for as long as she was, but I think Claremont did a nice job balancing her being duped with the skill she showed in the course of her journey.

    Speaking of badasses...grumpy Havok sure is more interesting than whiny Havok.

    Indeed. I kinda like the mopey, disinterested Havok Claremont writes in this era.

    It makes more sense if - SPOILER ALERT!- Storm feels the way you mentioned *after* they have spend a year shagging each other on that empty world the Adversary sends them to.

    Definitely. I'm fine with their relationship post-exile, even if its a huge case of telling-not-showing (since we can't reasonably be shown them shagging for a year), but prior to that, it seems like they both blow their barely-there one night stand WAY out of proportion.

    @Matt: I mean, I really can't stand Longshot. At all.

    I like him well enough here, even if he doesn't quite fit and Claremont leaves before doing anything significant with the character, but if you already dislike the character, there's certainly nothing in his limited series that is going to change that opinion, and very little of it has any barring on his time with the X-Men.

    There were a lot of "moving the pieces" around issues in the nineties, and those were often my favorites, even if the movements didn't always result in anything worthwhile.

    Ditto. Frankly, the "moving pieces into place" and "deal with the ramifications" issues that preceded and followed the big events probably constitute the vast majority of my favorite issues from the 90s.

    I guess Claremont either forgot or is ignorning that when he first introduced Betsy Braddock, she was a charter pilot in the U.K.

    I'd guess the former (it had been awhile since he'd first introduced it, and I'm willing to forgive Nocenti for not being familiar with Marvel UK issues from the 70s), but it's also possible he chose to ignore it to strengthen her whole "wanting to be a warrior" arc and give Maddie something to do, pre-Outback computer system.

    I think he's back on Muir Island during the Cyclops "Retribution Affair" serial in Marvel Comics Presents, isn't he?

    I've never actually read it, so I can't say. But I will be reading it eventually, so we'll have to see. If so, it does beg the question of why it took him so long to heal Banshee, but I suppose that question opens up a whole can of worms best left sealed.

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  5. Yes, the Morlock Healer is back on Muir Isle for the MCP story, as well as when the Reavers assault the island too (he dies during that storyline, I think?).

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  6. "Yeah, one could gripe that Storm shouldn't have been fooled for as long as she was, but I think Claremont did a nice job balancing her being duped with the skill she showed in the course of her journey."
    But that's the point- Storm was duped BECAUSE she was too proud to realize, for example, that there was no way she could have defeated all those demons on her own.

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  7. "which even features Mr. Fantastic as a staunch supporter of registration despite having argued against a similar law earlier."

    ***Mark Millar wrote that, right? I'll confess I didn't read that panel in context, only saw it posted on a forum, but I found it so awful.

    "in light of Claremont's intent for their personal relationship, as an acknowledgement of that relationship, whether he intended that implication at the time or not."

    *** Had to be intentional. I'd bet money on that one.

    "I guess Claremont either forgot or is ignorning that when he first introduced Betsy Braddock, she was a charter pilot in the U.K." / "I'd guess the former ..."

    *** I was gonna guess the latter! Only because later writers on the original Captain Britain serial retconned Betsy's career from pilot to fashion model, and Claremont tended to play by the rules and incorporate retcons other people did of his own stuff. (Not that Betsy couldn't be both a pilot and a model, I suppose.) Also, when Claremont had Captain Britain in "Marvel Team-Up," he did incorporate all the changes to Brian's status quo that his successors on the British title had made.

    "I kinda like the mopey, disinterested Havok Claremont writes in this era."

    *** Totes. Mopey Havok is rad.

    "Claremont does this way too often, between Dazzler and Lila Cheney, and though the words are pretty and flowery, they just look silly to me when describing what music or a voice sound like."

    *** You are wrong, and a bad person.


    *** By the way, I won't vainly link to my own review of this issue, but I will link to this one because I actually just discovered it myself two weeks ago and I love how affectionate it is:

    http://sequart.org/magazine/30025/accessibility-and-the-x-men-a-2-part-look-at-my-first-comic/

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  8. To be fair, it's possible that Betsy hasn't flown in a while and her piloting skills are rusty.
    The weird thing is that Rogue is described as a poor pilot in this issue while Carol Danvers is usually written as a good pilot. I've never understood how it's supposed to work when Rogue absorbs LEARNED skills (as opposed to super-powers). Sometimes it seems like she's as good as the person that she absorbed the skills from, other times it seems like she has only a fraction of their skill.

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  9. Oh that set of panels where Maddie insist. You can just read of Wolverine's impression: "Summerses..."

    That actually was the last page in the Finnish X-Men book's issue of Dec/1988. Up to that point they were doing 32-pages "one and a half American issues" book in cooperation with Holland, but changed for cooperation with Scandinavian partners who were a bit behind us in publication, effective of the beginning of 1989.

    So we got Betsy telepathically calling for Storm in Dec/89 and then waited until Jan/1991 to see Storm climbing at mountainside and pause a bit thinking like someone was calling her, while having spent two years in Limbo with some hitherto unpublished X-franchice stories.

    ... and hilariously, exactly at this point I realize the story starting in the very next issue was UXM 160, the one with Belasco and Illyana. Talk about meta.

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  10. To be fair, it's possible that Betsy hasn't flown in a while and her piloting skills are rusty.
    The weird thing is that Rogue is described as a poor pilot in this issue while Carol Danvers is usually written as a good pilot. I've never understood how it's supposed to work when Rogue absorbs LEARNED skills (as opposed to super-powers). Sometimes it seems like she's as good as the person that she absorbed the skills from, other times it seems like she has only a fraction of their skill.


    For a no-prizer I would offer that Betsy's experience as piloting small charter planes doesn't give her too much help to fly SR-71.

    Carol Danvers of course would be a fine pilot, if it wasn't that at this point Rogue's two personas hadn't made that deal with each other and leaning on a Carol-specific skill also pushes Carol persona forward to clash with that of Rogue's which makes Rogue a bumpy ride and quite possibly a health hazard, in flight safety sense.

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  11. @wwk5d: Yes, the Morlock Healer is back on Muir Isle for the MCP story, as well as when the Reavers assault the island too (he dies during that storyline, I think?)

    Yeah, now that you mention it, I think he does die during that assault.

    @Jason: Mark Millar wrote that, right?

    Yeah, Millar wrote Civil War, though plenty of other writers were involved in depicting a pro-registration Reed Richards before, during and after.

    I will link to this one because I actually just discovered it myself two weeks ago and I love how affectionate it is

    Thanks for that - it's a great piece. I've long railed against the idea that "big numbers" and extensive continuity is a turn off to readers - as I've often said, I got into the X-Men (and comic books) at perhaps the most insular, complicated and messy time ever, and there was still enough *there* there to ensure that whatever I didn't know or couldn't understand, I wanted to find out (a feat that was a hell of a lot harder back then than it would be today, what with trades, digital comics, Wikipedia).

    I don't really need to get that discussion going again; just wanted to say I agreed with the premise of that article, and thanks for sharing it. :)

    @Teemu: So we got Betsy telepathically calling for Storm in Dec/89 and then waited until Jan/1991 to see Storm climbing at mountainside and pause a bit thinking like someone was calling her, while having spent two years in Limbo with some hitherto unpublished X-franchice stories.

    Holy crap, that's a hell of a wait for such an incidental cliffhanger!

    Carol Danvers of course would be a fine pilot, if it wasn't that at this point Rogue's two personas hadn't made that deal with each other

    Yeah, shortly after this we'll start to see Rogue and Carol trading off control of Rogue's body, but I'm pretty sure that when Rogue is in control, she doesn't have access to Carol's skills (flying, espionage, etc.), just her powers.

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  12. More Claremontisms:
    "Ah can't -- ah won't -- walk out on 'em."
    "I was wrong." "You were tricked." "Forgive me." "Always."

    // Nearby, Rogue is visited at a gym by a disguised Mystique //

    I like the mention that Rogue has lost her edge when it comes to recognizing Mystique in another form. What felt wrong: It's one thing for Mystique to call Rogue "Rogue" since as far as we know that's the only name she's ever known, but it's weird to see Rogue call Mystique "Mystique" instead of "Raven" or even "Mom".

    // This issue features a great full page ad for "Fall of the Mutants", drawn by Alan Davis. //

    Mutant Beach Party!

    I do really like the original ad, though.

    // At Val Cooper's press conference, a reporter questions the logic of sending mutants to capture other mutants //

    I like the rejoinder as well, and it's nice to get a scene like this in the story to make the reader aware that the author is aware of how the whole scenario might play to both readers and the world at large within the story. These are criminals, however, and criminals who have murdered, and by the way criminals who in their first published appearance as the Brotherhood led by Mystique attempted to assassinate a United States Senator. I guess the whole deal just would sit better with me if Freedom Force had done something like the Thunderbolts did (or even like X-Factor did to an extent, or the Legion of Super-Heroes about a decade later) in terms of getting new costumes and codenames as cover.

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  13. @Matt: // I guess Claremont either forgot or is ignorning that when he first introduced Betsy Braddock, she was a charter pilot in the U.K. //

    @Jason: // Claremont tended to play by the rules and incorporate retcons other people did of his own stuff. //

    There's a veritable dissertation to be written about how like or unlike he is to Byrne in this regard.

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  14. It occurred to me last night, after I started the whole "Claremont forgot or ignored..." thing, that maybe he didn't. Maybe Rogue is just unaware of Psylocke's past as a pilot, and Psylocke had not, to this point, volunteered that information.

    I know, it seems unlikely that Claremont wouldn't have paid some lip service if he remembered, even if only through Psylocke's thoughts in the very next panel -- but that's my No-Prize attempt, anyway.

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  15. That Mutant Beach Party is awesome.

    "Yeah, shortly after this we'll start to see Rogue and Carol trading off control of Rogue's body, but I'm pretty sure that when Rogue is in control, she doesn't have access to Carol's skills (flying, espionage, etc.), just her powers."

    My fanwank is that while Rogue doesn't have access to Carol's skills or experience...she does have access to Carol's memories of how to fly a plane. Which would mean she would know technically how to do it, but without much experience herself, it would lead to some rough flying.

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  16. I think Mystique had a pretty solid point about Rogue leaving her but staying loyal to the X-Men. Rogue seems pretty cold about the whole situation, though...almost like she's married to the X-Men and putting Mystique in the friend zone.

    Dazzler showed a little psychological egoism in this issue when she was telling Wolverine why she was down to ride with to Dallas...I liked it

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  17. Your guys's comments sections are so conversational and well thought out. Where's the racism?

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  18. We judge folks by their deeds here, Keith. ;)

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  19. What Teemu MEANT to SAY was that WE judge folks by THEIR deeds!

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  20. @Blam: it's weird to see Rogue call Mystique "Mystique" instead of "Raven" or even "Mom".

    Yeah. I suppose we could chalk that up to the times, in that Claremont didn't want to confuse readers with too many names.

    On the other hand, "mom" isn't confusing, and Claremont NEVER had a problem risking reader confusion by tossing out a lot of names for one character. :)

    Oddly enough, Rogue referring to Mystique as Mom isn't something we ever see much of - it happens, but not for awhile, and then, not frequently.

    These are criminals, however, and criminals who have murdered, and by the way criminals who in their first published appearance as the Brotherhood led by Mystique attempted to assassinate a United States Senator.

    This is admittedly just me fanwanking, but I could totally buy that Val Cooper/some element of the government has retroactively assigned sole blame for the attack on Kelly to the X-Men, in an effort to tarnish their image and clean up Freedom Force's at the same time - one of those things where obviously anyone there knows the truth, but the "official" record says otherwise, and it's easy enough to get the general public to believe that record.

    That said, yeah, new codenames/costumes for Freedom Force would have been nice.

    @Reese: Rogue seems pretty cold about the whole situation, though...almost like she's married to the X-Men and putting Mystique in the friend zone.

    Heh. Yeah, it really does sell the idea that the X-Men are her family now.

    @Keith: Your guys's comments sections are so conversational and well thought out. Where's the racism?

    Don't forget the casual misogyny, blatant homophobia and cultural ignorance that pervades so many other sites' comments sections! :)

    I credit it to having really smart readers who care about what we write about, and not being popular enough to attract trolls.

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