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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #245

"Men!"
June 1989

In a Nutshell 
The male X-Men repel an alien invasion. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Rob Liefeld
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Master Bomber: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In orbit above Earth, an alien coalition prepares to launch its invasion of the planet as an archivist discovers humanity's success against other alien foes. In Australia, a morose Havok observes his teammates through the town's computer system before getting into an argument with Storm and Wolverine over their use. Suspecting what worked for the women would help the men as well, Wolverine suggests a boys night out. In space, the invasion leader is shown the Jean Bomb, a weapon in the form of a red-headed woman with the power to destroy all bonds. Just then, the archivist tries to warn the leader about Earth, but is gunned down for getting too close. In Sydney, Wolverine leads the male X-Men into a bar, where Longshot proceeds to dance with all the women while the rest get drunk.


Eventually, they're drawn outside by the sound of the invasion attacking the city. Most of the city's denizens seem unperturbed by the presence of the invaders, with the mayor even offering his seat to the leader in order to finally go on vacation. At the bar, Colossus gets into a brawl with a group of shock troops, while Longshot is accosted by a team of winged female commandos whom he eventually charms. Infuriated by the failures of his forces, the leader orders the detonation of the Jean Bomb as Wolverine bluffs his way to a win in a game of poker against the strike force's commander. Outside, the leader's ship departs as it prepares to drop the bomb, but Havok blasts it, destroying the ship and the weapon, ending the invasion. The X-Men return home, all the better for their night out. Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Tessa investigates a massacre at a Shaw Industries facility, and learns that Donald Pierce has escaped.  

Firsts and Other Notables
The plot of this issue loosely parodies DC Comics '88/'89 crossover event series "Invasion", in which a coalition of alien races from around the DC Universe, led by the Dominators (who resemble the leader aliens in this issue), attack Earth, using Australia as their beachhead/initial invasion point. Their stated goal is to eliminate the threat posed by Earth's metahuman (ie superpowered) population, but the Dominators are secretly hoping to harness the metahumans and create their own breed of superpowered beings. In the course of the event, a "gene bomb" is detonated which targets the metahuman gene and ultimate creates several new superheroes or expands the powers of existing ones. The series, comprised of three oversized issues (the first two of which were drawn by Todd MacFarlane) and a ton of tie-ins from regular DC series, introduced the idea of the metagene as an explanation for super-powers in the DC universe (basically, creating an analogue to Marvel's mutants) and paved the way for, amongst other things, Grant Morrison's seminal Doom Patrol run.

The Gene Bomb is most overtly parodied in this issue as the Jean Bomb (which has the power to destroy relationships *rimshot*), and its depiction (as essentially a naked Jean Grey) created something of a stir back in the day, when anything, including random/accidental nudity, was used to inflate the prices of back issues during the heyday of the speculator boom. Personally, while Tween Teebore didn't mind what was seemingly a naked Jean Grey in this issue, I remember thinking even back then it was either a coloring error or a flesh-colored bodysuit, rather than "actual" nudity.


The final page of this issue shows Tessa and a group of Hellfire Club soldiers learning that Donald Pierce, last seen menacing the proto-New Mutants in Marvel Graphic Novel #4, has escaped from a Shaw Industries holding facility (in Cumberland, Kentucky, a nice detail given that's where the climax to MGN #4 took place). Shaw's recent ouster from the Inner Circle (as seen in New Mutants #75) is referenced, though it's unclear where Tessa's loyalties lie (her dialogue suggests she remains with Shaw and doesn't care if Pierce targets the rest of the Inner Circle, yet she's leading a group of Hellfire Club soldiers, suggesting she's still connected to the club).


Dazzler notes that her natural brightness has recently started to upshift the spectrum from yellow to white, and worries what that might mean for her, something that I don't believe ever gets paid off.


One month after his Marvel Comics and X-Men franchise debut, Rob Liefeld drops in as guest penciler for this issue (his name is misspelled in the credits), making him the third future Image Comics co-founder to work on the series (after Whilce Portacio (who inked issue #201) and Marc Silvestri). Regular series inker Dan Green remains on hand, and seems to curb some of Liefeld's more Liefeldian tendencies (though the art is still plenty Liefeldian). 

The Chronology Corner
Wolverine's appearance in this issue occurs after issue #16 of his regular series.

A Work in Progress
Earth's unique ability to repel Galactus is noted once again, along with a whole host of details that make a lowly archiver question the sanity of attacking the planet.


Alex is angry and stubblely in the wake of Maddie's death, and Storm points out he's lost two women he cars for since rejoining the team.


He also says his experience with cybernetics makes him the natural choice to takeover the running of the old Reavers' computers; what experience is that, exactly?

Wolverine's frequent absences are noted by Storm, a reference to his ongoing series.


Colossus is unable to transform back to flesh, forcing Dazzler to use makeup to make his steel skin appear like regular skin.


Rogue is back in control of her own body this issue, without comment.

Colossus humorously points out that the last time Wolverine took him to a bar, he ended up fighting Juggernaut, a reference to issue #183.

Alex mentions an island named Madripoor he's about, where anything goes, which is, I think, the first reference to the setting of Wolverine's solo series in Uncanny X-Men.


I Love the 80s
As the alien invasion begins, a local suggest another shrimp needs to be thrown on the barbie, then suggests that Hogan's ads are working, a reference, I assume, to Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame.


The Reference Section
In addition to the "Invasion" parodies, there's a ton of references sprinkled throughout this issue. Thanagarians (ie Hawkman), Alf, E.T., the xenomorph from the Alien films, Yoda and Jabba the Hutt are all part of the alien coalition, along with many more.


Most of the action takes place inside a bar named Muden's, which is the bar and chief location in the GrimJack series (previously referenced in New Mutants #50), and the bartender is named Ostrander, a reference to John Ostrander, who created Grim Jack.


Later, the Daily Planet TV station, complete with Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and Clark Kent analogs, is shown, but the invasion story is bypassed in favor of covering the inauguration of Bush the Elder and Dan Quayle.


We get another "shzam" sound effect.


Teebore's Take
Though not entirely disconnected from the larger narrative (what with the last page epilogue, the tease of Dazzler's developing power and the general post-Inferno malaise of the team), this issue is much more of an overt comedy issue than even the last issue, continuing the gender split to showcase the men fighting off an alien invasion inspired by DC's "Invasion!" in the most haphazard ways possible. For the most part, this works, with Australia's shrugging reaction to the invasion being the comedic highlight and the lighter, more winking, tone a nice break from the grimness that permeated "Inferno". It's also nice to see Claremont have a little fun at the series' expense, as both Longshot's ladies man aura and Wolverine's tough guy persona get lampooned a bit (even while those elements play into the plot). Even with the snippets of story that connect to the larger narrative, this is hardly essential reading, but pairs nicely with the previous issue as a bit of a palate cleanser between "Inferno" and the start of Claremont's next big plot arc.  

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the New Mutants go for a swim in New Mutants #76, and Friday, X-Factor meets a new mutant in X-Factor #41. Next week, Atlantis attacks in X-Men Annual #13.

16 comments:

  1. Liefeld's art still looks pretty good here, to me. Especially the scene where the guys are looking into the bar through the window.

    It would be cool if Longshot was a Timelord (or even better, The Doctor himself!). He DOES have two hearts and the ability to make the women around him fall in love :)

    This issue definitely kept a smile on my face...I wish I could name all the aliens featured in it, but I know for sure I saw Darth Vader.

    So, is this comic insinuating (with that Daily Planet scene) that the Marvel & DC universes are actually the same universe, just half a world away?

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  2. McFarlane penciling about half of Invasion! makes, in retrospect, an interesting parallel to having Liefeld on this issue.

    I guess.

    // a morose Havok observes his teammates through the town's computer system before getting into an argument with Storm and Wolverine over their use //

    What I found hilarious here is that first Havok and Wolverine accuse each other of spying, then a disapproving Storm pops in to say "Psylocke telepathically informed me of your exchange" without any hint of irony.

    // Longshot proceeds to dance with all the women while the rest get drunk. //

    He's up all night to get lucky.

    // the Jean Bomb (which has the power to destroy relationships *rimshot*) //

    At the risk of falling down a metatextual rabbit hole, I think the very way this issue is overtly humorous and self-referential is part of its homage/parody of Invasion! particularly and the Giffen/DeMatteis style introduced in Justice League more generally, although it's Bill Mantlo who dialogued over Keith Giffen's plots on Invasion! rather than J.M. DeMatteis. The chatter in that double-page crowd scene you showed and the banter throughout the issue apes that style, which at first was fun and got to be a bit too much after not too long. Something as obvious as the Jean Bomb, in both the pun of its name and the joke of how she operates, is right up that alley.

    // Dazzler notes that her natural brightness has recently started to upshift the spectrum from yellow to white //

    I wondered if that was supposed to explain her skin getting darker, except (a) it's back to a normal color this issue and (2) without understanding exactly what she means it sounds as if her skin would get lighter, albeit perhaps in luminosity rather than pigment, not darker.

    // He also says his experience with cybernetics makes him the natural choice to takeover the running of the old Reavers' computers //

    Every hundred demerits, Xavier used to make him clean Cerebro.

    The panel you used above that, by the way, with Ororo and Logan discussing Alex, is a really nice shot that I can't help thinking looks familiar and was probably swiped.

    // Wolverine's frequent absences are noted by Storm, a reference to his ongoing series. //

    He replies with the Claremontism, "My time, Ororo. My life. My business."

    // a ton of references sprinkled throughout this issue //

    The most relevant ones, rather than the random Star Wars characters and such, include Thanagarians like you say, who were prominent in Invasion!, and the vaguely canine humanoid Green Lantern known as G'nort, seen in that double-page crowd scene. There's also a reference to Revlon from Dazzler, who then calls herself a marvel, winking at the recent acquisition of Marvel by the holding company that owned the cosmetics giant. Havok gets in another Crocodile Dundee reference at the end, too, with the line "Those aren't blasters. This is a blaster."

    I don't know whether it was intentional on Liefeld's part, but that crowd scene itself reminded me of similar ones drawn by Dave Cockrum and John Byrne during the early Shi'ar Imperial Guard appearances. Which again introduces a possible gag of a gag since Terry Austin snuck Popeye into one of those, a needle in haystack compared to the barely hidden Easter eggs seen here.

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  3. "Dazzler notes that her natural brightness has recently started to upshift the spectrum from yellow to white, and worries what that might mean for her, something that I don't believe ever gets paid off."
    Claremont has said that Ali was originally intended to die in issue 247, so presumably it had something to do with that.
    Note that Wolverine says the Marauders' computers corrupted Maddie, something which seems to contradict Simonson's "Maddie was Evil All Along" idea.

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  4. @Reese — We got unofficial Marvel/DC crossovers long before this, and in much less of a parodic context, most notably in the Rutland, Vermont, Halloween-parade adventures. There were also creators who opined, early on, that the characters all lived on the same Earth and just hadn't bumped into one another yet, never mind that such a thing is patently unbelievable for a myriad of reasons (although we mostly forgave it when the excuse was used in the official crossovers in the late '70s and early '80s). Continuity guru, longtime fan, and Marvel writer/editor Mark Gruenwald, by contrast, worked up the Omniverse theory, which explained exactly where and how various fictional universes, indeed fictional multiverses, branched off at different points from the Big Bang all the way up to the 20th Century, and I believe there was something in there about why the DC and Marvel multiverses each contained doppelgangers of the other.

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  5. "her dialogue suggests she remains with Shaw and doesn't care if Pierce targets the rest of the Inner Circle, yet she's leading a group of Hellfire Club soldiers, suggesting she's still connected to the club"

    It seems like a mix-up between Liefeld and CC. Also, Liefeld seems to be drawing Selene, not Tessa?

    "Dazzler notes that her natural brightness has recently started to upshift the spectrum from yellow to white, and worries what that might mean for her, something that I don't believe ever gets paid off."

    Not only that, but Wolverine calls her Lightengale too!

    "Colossus is unable to transform back to flesh, forcing Dazzler to use makeup to make his steel skin appear like regular skin."

    I wonder how many kilos of makeup she had to put on him?

    Why does Colossus look like a deformed hunchback? Because, Liefeld!

    Why does naked jean have a disproportionately tiny head, but hair that is beyond huge? Because, Liefeld!

    Sorry, but the art just sucks so much ass. Dan Green's inks do make it as good as it can look. But it can be excused for being early Liefeld, and he does get better as time goes on, right? Right?

    Oh well. At least the writing is good.

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  6. @Reese: Liefeld's art still looks pretty good here, to me. Especially the scene where the guys are looking into the bar through the window.

    Yeah, there's still a few missing backgrounds and some wonky anatomy in places, but nothing worse than what plenty of other artists have done on occasion.

    So, is this comic insinuating (with that Daily Planet scene) that the Marvel & DC universes are actually the same universe, just half a world away?

    What Blam said. :)

    @Blam: McFarlane penciling about half of Invasion! makes, in retrospect, an interesting parallel to having Liefeld on this issue.

    It's one of those neat little connections history creates retroactively.

    He's up all night to get lucky.

    Thank you for getting *that* stuck in my head all night...

    Something as obvious as the Jean Bomb, in both the pun of its name and the joke of how she operates, is right up that alley.

    Definitely. I've never read "Invasion", but I have read some of the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League, and this issue certainly seems to fit the style, at least, of their early issues on that series, which I assume could also be found at least in the central Invasion! miniseries.

    There's also a reference to Revlon from Dazzler, who then calls herself a marvel, winking at the recent acquisition of Marvel by the holding company that owned the cosmetics giant.

    I completely missed that, and I should have gotten it, given that I not-too-long-ago read the Untold History of Marvel Comics, which obviously discussed that acquisition.

    Havok gets in another Crocodile Dundee reference at the end, too, with the line "Those aren't blasters. This is a blaster."

    And that reference I should have gotten, not for the Dundee reference but for the parody of it in "Bart vs. Australia", one of my all time favorite Simpsonsgags.

    Aussie: That's not a knife, *this* is a knife!
    Bart: That's not a knife, that's a spoon.
    Aussie: Ah, I see you've played knifey-spoony before!

    Seriously, say the word "knife" around me and I almost automatically will parrot back "I see you've played knifey-spoony before".

    @Anonymous: Claremont has said that Ali was originally intended to die in issue 247, so presumably it had something to do with that.

    Ah, that's right. I'd forgotten about that. I'd have thought, two issues out, those plans would have already been scuttled by now, but maybe not. Or maybe he just missed removing this reference to a storyline he'd already otherwise changed.

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  7. @wwk5d: Also, Liefeld seems to be drawing Selene, not Tessa?

    Maybe? Some of the confusion can be chalked up to Liefeld, but let's be fair: they're both dark haired women wearing bustiers, thongs and cloaks. There's only so many ways even the best comic artist could drawn them differently (I'm pretty sure the only reason JRjr gave Tessa that weird mask during the Nimrod battle was to visually distinguish her from Selene, in addition to her bun).

    Not only that, but Wolverine calls her Lightengale too!

    Hopefully she just did his hands and face. Or just the face, and gave him gloves.

    Why does naked jean have a disproportionately tiny head, but hair that is beyond huge? Because, Liefeld!

    That one doesn't bother me too much. As I've said, I'm an avowed fan of Liefeld's gigantic hair.

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  8. "but let's be fair: they're both dark haired women wearing bustiers, thongs and cloaks."

    I know, but a few posts back we were talking about keeping characters on model, and Selene-on-model equals long hair and sometimes carrying a whip, Tessa-on-model equals hair tied up in a bun, even before Selene came along.

    "Hopefully she just did his hands and face. Or just the face, and gave him gloves."

    I do remember Roy Thomas doing a story about the Outback-era X-men fighting the Sentinels...I think he just had Colossus wear some type of full mask.

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  9. Teebore: Maybe? Some of the confusion can be chalked up to Liefeld, but let's be fair: they're both dark haired women wearing bustiers, thongs and cloaks. There's only so many ways even the best comic artist could drawn them differently (I'm pretty sure the only reason JRjr gave Tessa that weird mask during the Nimrod battle was to visually distinguish her from Selene, in addition to her bun).

    Doesn't Tessa usually (during Claremont's run at least) wear a one-piece corset while Selene always sports her tiny thongs ensemble? Other than that, I think at least Paul Smith drew his Tessa very unconfuseably.

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  10. Oh, right, there's this comic too. I never got to read this issue. For some reason my native publisher skipped this one without giving any explanation. Later same year they skipped some other issues because the explicitly stated reason of crappy artwork (Jaaska, Collins), which all things together kind of brings smile to one's face. So, as far as I'm concerned this is non-canon. Carry on.

    Of course this does mean for me Donald Pierce will come from out of nowhere couple of issues forward, which brings back the discussion about Naze popping up after Mutant Massacre a little while back, but it didn't really matter and they never showed how he did bring togerther the new Reavers anyway.

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  11. @Anonymous: I know, but a few posts back we were talking about keeping characters on model, and Selene-on-model equals long hair and sometimes carrying a whip, Tessa-on-model equals hair tied up in a bun, even before Selene came along.

    Oh, definitely. It's certainly seems like a mistake. It's just an understandable one, to me.

    @Teemu: Doesn't Tessa usually (during Claremont's run at least) wear a one-piece corset while Selene always sports her tiny thongs ensemble? Other than that, I think at least Paul Smith drew his Tessa very unconfuseably.

    Tessa is definitely more conservatively dressed than Selene (as much as that's possible). And yeah, Paul Smith was always very good at distinguishing characters beyond their costumes, but it's tough to beat Paul Smith.

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  12. "Ah, that's right. I'd forgotten about that. I'd have thought, two issues out, those plans would have already been scuttled by now, but maybe not. Or maybe he just missed removing this reference to a storyline he'd already otherwise changed."
    Apparently, Claremont only changed his mind after the first few pages of issue 246 had been done, since they feature the Siege Perilous projecting an image of Ali's death.

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  13. @Teebore: // it's tough to beat Paul Smith //

    And even if you do, there's now a decent chance that the NFL will bench you.

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  14. This is another example of Claremont being a great collaborator, as this just isn't the sort of story he would've ever done with JRjr but seems to suit Liefeld's extremely loose style. I always find it a bit funny when young readers get turned off by recognizing how blatantly Claremont swiped Alien, Terminator, Ghostbusters (even more blatantly than the original X-Factor premise) or forgettable DC crossovers, but I think it's part of his charm, especially since for the most part, they're not references that are dependent on the outside material to make sense. The "Jean Bomb" is a decent joke if you're even an occasional X-Men fan, and miss the DC connection.

    This issue isn't a great one, obviously, but I really like the work that's put into this cast, which is a shame because it all gets forgotten a couple years later to better fit the cartoon and the revisionist feel of the comic once Lee and editorial are handed the reigns.

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  15. Ooops... I saw the "State of the Blog" post but never scrolled down past it to see this! I just figured the X-MEN post was running late this week.

    I've always thought this issue was way funnier and more entertaining than 244. It's a rare case, for me, of Claremont's comedy actually working consistently all the way through. The Jean Bomb cracks me up every time.

    Being primarily a Marvel person, the vast majority of the references here have gone straight past me for the past two-plus decades. I did not know until this very day, for example, that the story is a parody of the "Invasion!" crossover, which I know of but know nothing about.

    P.S.: It seems to me that Shaw was shown many time with Hellfire uniformed goons after his couple of ousters from the Club. Shaw Industries probably supplies the uniforms, so it would make sense.

    Also, I agree that Liefeld really seems to have drawn Selene into that final scene.

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  16. @Blam: And even if you do, there's now a decent chance that the NFL will bench you.

    Heh. :)

    @Dobson: but I think it's part of his charm, especially since for the most part, they're not references that are dependent on the outside material to make sense. The "Jean Bomb" is a decent joke if you're even an occasional X-Men fan, and miss the DC connection.

    Agreed all around. Heck, while I could tell this had to be parodying *something* the first time I read it, I didn't know about the "Invasion" connection for years. And I still haven't read the whole thing, but get plenty of enjoyment out of this issue.

    @Matt: I've always thought this issue was way funnier and more entertaining than 244

    Ditto. #244 has always felt like its straddling the line between being a "regular" issue and a purely comedic one, whereas this one just goes all in on the comedy, and works better as a result.

    It seems to me that Shaw was shown many time with Hellfire uniformed goons after his couple of ousters from the Club. Shaw Industries probably supplies the uniforms, so it would make sense.

    That's a good point.

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