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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #234

"Glory Day"
Late Septemeber 1988

In a Nutshell
The X-Men defeat the Brood.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Guest Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Denver, the X-Men continue to battle the Brood-infected mutants, though Rogue and Psylocke remain under their control. In Australia, Madelyne dreams of meeting S'ym, and accepting from him power enough to hurt Scott, though S'ym tells her this is no dream. At the Red Rocks amphitheater, Reverend Conover's wife Hannah, suffering from arthritis, is tended to by Josey Thomas, Harry Palmer's paramedic partner. Meanwhile, the Brood and a hoodwinked Rogue, zeroing in on the theater, are attacked by the captured Wolverine, fighting the Brood egg implanted inside him. Nearby, the X-Men target a car carrying more Brood and Psylocke, freeing her. As Reverend Conover begins his service, Wolverine lands on the stage, in the midst of transforming into a Brood.


The Brood briefly takes control, attacking Conover, but he attempts to exorcise the demon just as Wolverine regains control and the rest of the X-Men and Brood-mutants arrive. The X-Men gain the upper hand until Harry takes Hannah hostage, but Wolverine is able to sneak up behind him, separating Harry from the woman. The Brood briefly allows Harry's personality to resume control, hoping Wolverine will spare him, but Wolverine doesn't hesitate, killing the man and the Brood inside. In the aftermath, Reverend Conover and Hannah, her arthritic hands miraculously cured, tell the media he and his congregation were saved by mutants as Josey walks away, smiling. Meanwhile, the X-Men return home, celebrating their victory, as an unconscious Madelyne lies transfigured by a dream that will soon become reality. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The threat of the Earth-bound Brood is seemingly ended this issue, with the X-Men killing Harry Palmer and all of the mutants he infected with Brood eggs, though it's heavily implied that Harry's paramedic partner Josey infected Reverend Conover's wife Hannah with a Brood egg off-panel; this narrative thread won't end up being resolved until the two part X-Men vs. Brood: Day of Wrath minseries (featuring early Bryan Hitch art) in the 90s.


This issue, Madelyne experiences what she believes to be another creepy dream/vision, in which she interacts with S'ym and makes a deal with him for the power to get revenge on Cyclops, though S'ym suggests their interaction is more than a dream but actually happening (he's right), all of which is more "Inferno" setup. We also see Madelyne in her future Goblin Queen attire for the first time. 


Joe Rubinstein fills in for Dan Green on inks, and it seems like some of the edginess and horror atmosphere is lacking in the art as a result.

A Work in Progress
In a subtle testament to just how much the X-Men have changed, at one point in this issue Colossus comes up behind one of the Brood and snaps his neck, killing him, which passes without comment from Colossus or anyone else. 


Havok, however, who is now firing killing blows at the Brood, at least acknowledges how much easier it's become for him to kill since last issue.


X-Factor's Trish Tilby reports on the events in Denver.

Human/Mutant Relations
Reverend Conover considers "mutie" akin to any other racial slur, and won't abide them. 


For Sale
The inside cover has an ad for an assortment of mail-away GI Joe figures and vehicles, which, back in the day, was one of the few opportunities kids had to get a hold of older figures no longer carried by toy stores (I'm pretty sure I got my Bazooka figure from this mail away offer, though I have no idea why I didn't also get Major Blood, whom I never had but always wanted. Maybe I didn't have enough Flag Points...). 


We also get a full page ad for Wolverine's upcoming solo series.


Teebore's Take
And with that, "Earthfall" comes to a brisk close. Built as it is on a horror-movie atmosphere and the moral quandary that comes along with the Brood, it's relative brevity is what allows this three-parter to succeed. Neither of those elements are given the time to become turgid or tired, and are heightened for how quickly this story unfolds (in terms of passage of time, the entire story unfolds more or less in a single evening; a far cry from the weeks the X-Men spent in space during the last Brood story).

As a showcase for the X-Men's new "take no prisoners" attitude, the pace of this arc helps, too: last issue, Havok struggled with the morality of killing Brood-possessed mutants who are otherwise innocent. After Storm emphasized that the hosts died the instant they were infected, Havok, along with the rest of the X-Men, is seen striking killing blows throughout this issue, with only Havok noting with concern how quickly he's taken to the idea of killing his foes. Despite the moral question at its core, this isn't the deepest or most complex X-Men story, and it suffers some routine beats in its middle chapter. But for its atmospheric setting, fast pace, and depiction of an X-Men team ready to take the fight to their enemies and kill if necessary, it's an entertaining and effective first look at the darker, edgier X-Men of the Outback Era.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the X-Men return to the Savage Land in X-Men Annual #12, and Friday, Wolverine kicks off Marvel Comics Presents. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #235 finds the X-Men visiting a green and pleasant land.

16 comments:

  1. I don't like how easily the X-Men start killing Brood in this story. I have no problem with the Brood dying and I have no problem with the X-Men killing them -- I just don't like that it's their first tactic. I would've liked to see some debate and/or internal angst about it beyond just Havok. What do Rogue, Psylocke, Dazzler, and Longshot think about this?

    I also don't buy Colossus as a cold-blooded killer. He was distraught after killing Proteus, and Riptide was an act of rage. But his murder here is premeditated and cold-blooded, not at all something I would associate with any iteration of the character.

    The Rubinstein/Silvestri combo here is much more appealing to me than that X-FACTOR fill-in they did a while back. Rubinstein is allowing Silvestri to look like Silvestri rather than overpowering him like before.

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  2. I was surprised by, and kind of loved, the really black humor of the Brood infections making it appear that Conover is a real faith healer to him and his followers. I guess Claremont manages to make it a little less cynical since Conover is a decent guy and not an intentional con man, but it's still a pretty great, darkly comic beat. Has anyone read that 90s follow up? Now I'm curious if it's any good.

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  3. @Matt: I would've liked to see some debate and/or internal angst about it beyond just Havok.

    Yeah, the one place the brisk pace of this story betrays it is that. While Storm's rationale to Havok is good enough, and while I wouldn't want a six part debate on the morality of killing the Brood, at the very least, some reaction from the other rookie X-Men, as you say, would have been nice. The Genosha arc easily supports four parts; this probably could have too, without losing much.

    Also, since I'm way behind on comments, allow me to say "congratulations!" on your marriage here rather than in last week's post. Congrats!

    But his murder here is premeditated and cold-blooded, not at all something I would associate with any iteration of the character.

    I chalk it up to him being one of the veteran X-Men when it comes to the Brood. He knows and has accepted what Storm told Havok last issue. That, along with his hardened post-Massacre outlook, is enough for me.

    The Rubinstein/Silvestri combo here is much more appealing to me than that X-FACTOR fill-in they did a while back.

    Even though I missed Green this issue, I do like their work together here much better than their X-Factor fill-in.

    @Jeff: I guess Claremont manages to make it a little less cynical since Conover is a decent guy and not an intentional con man, but it's still a pretty great, darkly comic beat.

    Good point. And I do really like that Claremont makes Conover a genuinely good guy, something I probably should have made more a mention of. So often in genre fiction, you see the religious preacher type as an ignorant bigot, it's nice to see a different take on that character type.

    Has anyone read that 90s follow up? Now I'm curious if it's any good.

    I haven't in a really, really long time, and don't remember much of it. I think I even read it before I first read this story, so it probably didn't mean as much to me then.

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  4. Note that this issue Gateway knows that what Maddie is experiencing isn't a normal dream and chooses not to warn her. Annoyingly, the reasons why are never explained, yet Claremont expects us to Take His Word for It that Gateway is not a bad guy.

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  5. The Mile High Diner is totally a hipster joint

    I thought that was Pretty Boy smashing through the diner window with Dazzler on the opening splash...I was about to say!

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  6. +1 to it being Pretty Boy crashing through the window with Dazzler. Which one of the Brood that was supposed to be though? Some say it's stupid for the Brood to have codenames, I on the other hand feel robbed as there was no big panel anywhere in the arc where everyone would have been presented and properly annotated.

    Other than that, "they were killed the minute when they were infected". Yeah, didn't all the X-Men also get infected in the first time? Doesn't Wolverine get infected every time? And, Charles Xavier.

    So despite them being in possession of Siege Perilous, in a world where cloning technology is waaaay too available, and where Acanti Prophet Singer quite likely still owes them one, let's just put them down with hot plasma?

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  7. "Wolverine lands on the stage, in the midst of transforming into a Brood."

    Which, he should not be able to do. In the first Brood story, it wasn't just his healing factor that saved, it was also due to the fact that while the Brood embryo could turn Wolverine's body into a Brood, it couldn't affect his adamantium bones. Sorry, Logan, no Brood teeth and hentai tentacles for you!

    "Madelyne experiences what she believes to be another creepy dream/vision, in which she interacts with S'ym and makes a deal with him for the power to get revenge on Cyclops"

    Well, at least we can fall back on this and say Maddie wasn't a total attempted baby-killing bitch, it was S'ym all along.

    "Havok, however, who is now firing killing blows at the Brood, at least acknowledges how much easier it's become for him to kill since last issue."

    Well, when they look like the Brood, sure ;)

    "Joe Rubinstein fills in for Dan Green on inks, and it seems like some of the edginess and horror atmosphere is lacking in the art as a result."

    For what it's worth, I always preferred Rubinstein (and others like Bob Wiacek) over Green. While his scratchy style meshed well with Silvestri, I definitely prefer the smoother thicker line of inking.

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  8. Teebore -- "Congrats!"

    Thanks!

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  9. Maybe it's a topic best left to later on in "Inferno," but what are your opinions on the Goblin Queen design that we see here for the first time? Personally, I think it's a bit much (or, not enough?). Obviously female comic characters have been sexy before this, but I feel like this is where it crosses over into looking like it was screencapped from a late night Skinemax movie. I guess it's not even so much just the costume (although it's still ridiculous) as it is the scene, which is so overtly sexualized it makes White Queen being in a corset while she tries to body-swap with someone seem tame by comparison. I never had a problem letting my younger sisters read my comics, and stuff like this would always give me pause, because it would become pretty clear that they weren't the intended audience.

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  10. I love that they don't angst/handwring about killing the murderous/evil/terrible/no-good-very-bad aliens. Just kill them, please.

    I also love, love, LOVE the Preacher/Wolverine healing sequence. Its nice to see a man of faith portrayed in a positive, likable light after the one dimensional caricature that was Rev. Stryker from Days of Future Past, who all but admitted to eating mutant babies for dinner.

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  11. Dobson -- "...what are your opinions on the Goblin Queen design that we see here for the first time?"

    Sometimes I think we give kids too much credit for noticing things. I saw those "Inferno" issues when I was about ten or eleven years old and I thought nothing of Madelyne's outfit. It was just another costume. I would've only thought it inappropriate or wrong if an adult told me think of it that way.

    However, I was a boy. A girl might have had a different impression, as you indicate. I certainly thought differently of it by the time I was a teenager.

    In any case, as a currently childless adult, I have no problem with it. Though it should be noted that a few years ago, Bowen Designs made a Goblin Queen statue and the Marvel licensing people made them completely cover her breasts, even though the statue as originally sculpted and painted was completely faithful to the artwork (and this was, I believe, before the Disney acquisition).

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  12. I loved Wolverine quoting Ben Franklin to Harry just before giving him the old knuckle-knives.

    Also, it gets mentioned in a lettercol down the road, but Rev. C attributes "a house divided against itself cannot stand" to Abraham Lincoln. While Lincoln did say it, he was quoting Jesus. You'd think the Rev would go to the original source.

    "I have no idea why I didn't also get Major Blood, whom I never had but always wanted. Maybe I didn't have enough Flag Points...)."

    Or maybe they were pedantic, and didn't give it to you because you didn't spell Major Bludd's name correctly.

    @Teemu: "+1 to it being Pretty Boy crashing through the window with Dazzler. Which one of the Brood that was supposed to be though?"

    That was Spitball, the firebreathing lawyer. He gets another intro on the next page of this ish.

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  13. "Maybe it's a topic best left to later on in "Inferno," but what are your opinions on the Goblin Queen design that we see here for the first time?"
    The problem isn't *just the costume*- it's that a female character in a job that commanded authority gets turned into a half-naked bad girl by trickery and it's treated like it's what she really wanted.

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  14. Dobson: "Maybe it's a topic best left to later on in "Inferno," but what are your opinions on the Goblin Queen design that we see here for the first time?

    I think this is the perfect time. It's there right now, it's not like someone is stealing in the start here.

    Like Matt, I thought nothing of it when I was eleven/twelve. It certainly was no "worse" than that of Selene in terms of explicity.

    Thinking about it now, it was just over the top really, because:

    anonymous: The problem isn't *just the costume*- it's that a female character in a job that commanded authority gets turned into a half-naked bad girl by trickery and it's treated like it's what she really wanted.

    The awesome thing is that we had then and have now boys of every age complaining about that. It's not just any plane pilot lady, it's Madelyne Pryor and we all were secretly in love with her and hate Cyclops mostly because of yealousity really.

    Is it because she's the normal person stand-in for the reader who gets to hang out with the X-Men and doesn't freak out when a Chicago teen girl puts a dragon in her custody? Is it because she's Jean Grey without massive powers and with a personality?

    In any case, in hindsight, this whole thing reads like Chris Claremont shouting at the skies in beating storm on a mountaintop towards the editors who mandated Jean's resurrection: "Is this what you really want? Is this it?!" And calling Silvestri: "Marc... release the underboob."

    It's the haunting dream sequence where the meta-message is sent. Afterwards what surfaces has nothing but a backstory common with our Maddie. She's but S'ym's trickery. The real Maddie is sleeping in a cocoon somewhere.

    Like Maddie explicitly aid in the dream and most everyone said afterwards, the half-naked bad girl is something that no one wanted.

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  15. Oh, unrelated but a have-to: a couple of issues back Harry Palmer did the Claremontian classic "what did the first Cro-Magnon do to the last Neanderthals". Funnily, since then the science has found out that the portion of human race that's descended from those who left Africa back in the earliest day carry 1-4 % of Neanderthal DNA in them. Which puts Harry's worry into a somewhat peculiar light.

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  16. A nice cover with great coloring that totally does its job.

    I take it Claremont liked The Mile High Diner (and probably wrote the visit off on his taxes after this issue).

    No surprise, I'm totally preferring Rubenstein's inks to Green's again — they're way more flattering to Silvestri's pencils for my money. I love the zoom on Pg. 9 as we get sunrise over the X-Men's little Outback town into their headquarters and then underground where Maddy is.

    That lizard S'ym picks up reminds me of the little tokagé creatures scurrying around in Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo. Given S'ym's origins they could easily be another homage on Claremont's part.

    Reverend Conover thinking that he'd healed Wolverine of demonic possession, and then his own wife of her debilitating arthritis, through prayer could easily have come off as dismissive of not just his faith but faith in general, yet it doesn't read that way to me at all, in large part I think because of the way Claremont has established the character. There's really no reason why the man would know about the Brood and every reason for him to jump to the conclusion he does. Furthermore it's less hubris in my eyes than his belief in a God who is just merciful enough, often enough, to make acting in God's name worthwhile, as Conover would less credit himself than be grateful that the supreme being in which he believes had chosen to answer his prayers.

    I call frumious bandersnatch on Trish Tilby popping up in Denver. She's a local New York reporter. She even has a 7 on her microphone while reporting this story.

    Great comments, everyone, and my apologies for falling behind again while stalking Matt on his honeymoon.

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