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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #249

"The Dane Curse"
Late September 1989

In a Nutshell 
Zaladane captures Polaris

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

Plot
Beneath the X-Men's town, Havok watches as the computers replay the events of Storm's death and funeral. Angry, he lashes out, knocking himself unconscious just as Lorna Dane, growing increasingly more independent of Malice, calls him from Punta Arenas. When he doesn't answer, Malice taunts her, causing her to destroy the phone booth and draw the attention of a local fisherman. Back in Australia, Colossus is unknowingly stalked by a group of Reavers performing recon. Later, Havok awakens in his bedroom, someone having moved him there and left him a note about Lorna's call. Havok and Psylocke trace the call, and Havok insists that the X-Men go to help her. In Punta Arenas, the fisherman tends to Lorna's wounds at a local tavern, when suddenly a group of primitive soldiers riding dinosaurs burst in, seeking Lorna.


The X-Men arrive shortly thereafter and run afoul of the dinosaur riders, learning they're from the Savage Land. Just then, the Savage Land Mutates attack, and though they initially have the upper hand, the X-Men work together to beat them. As Zaladane, the leader of the Savage Land army and captor of Lorna, addresses the townspeople, Psylocke, Dazzler and Colossus interrupt with the captive mutates, claiming there are more X-Men with them. They trade the mutates for the lives of the townspeople and Zaladane's withdrawal. She leaves for the Savage Land, still in possession of Lorna, whom she believes to be her sister, a fact which surprises Havok, now disguised as a member of Zaladane's horde. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Polaris reappears in this issue, growing more independent of (but not yet entirely free of) Malice in the wake of Mr. Sinister's apparent death and the dismantling of the Marauders. Starting with this issue, she'll have an increasingly large (though never quite regular) role in the series heading into the big reshuffling in '91 (when she'll join the revamped X-Factor). She calls the X-Men looking for Havok's help, though I have no idea how she got the number (or that the Outback X-Men even have a phone number...).


Zaladane, one-time priestess of Garrok and later assistant to the High Evolutionary, reappears, now leading the Savage Land mutates and an army of natives, claiming Polaris is her sister. At this point, I honestly have no idea if their relationship (which seems to stem simply from the fact that Polaris' last name matches the last four letters of "Zaladane") has ever been confirmed, but from this point forward Zaladane certainly believes it to be true.


Amongst the Savage Land mutates she's leading is Whiteout, who appears here for the first time. She's basically a replacement for Vertigo, capable of creating blinding light effects (like a whiteout in a blizzard). Though considering the Mutates were initially creations of Magneto, I'm not sure how new ones come about without him down in the Savage Land mutating natives.  


In the absence of Storm and Wolverine, Psylocke steps up and essentially becomes the team's leader this issue, a role she'll perform only through issue #251.


At one point, the X-Men wonder if Gateway is the person who helped Havok, musing it would be funny if he turned out to be taking care of them all along, just like Professor X used to. One of Claremont's aborted ideas for the series was to permanently kill off Professor X and position Gateway as the new mentor figure for the team


The Chronology Corner
Between last issue and this one, the remaining X-Men appear in Wolverine #21 (which won't be on sale for roughly another six months after this issue.

A Work in Progress
Havok has taken to crossing off the missing/dead teammates from the X-Men's meeting table, a table that is said to have been made by Madelyne, but this is the first we're seeing of it (the star logo, of course, has been seen before).  


Between last issue and this one, the X-Men buried Storm, an event replayed on the computer monitors.


Havok gets angry at Madelyne and the absent Wolverine. 


The Reavers old computers continue to act mysteriously, playing back the footage of Storm's funeral on their own, and later repairing themselves, a tease that never really pays off.


The Reavers are seen performing recon on the X-Men.


Later, we get a bit of motivation for them (beyond pure revenge), with Pierce saying they're humanity's last defense against mutants, a motive that he's foisting on the group more than anything.


Though never outright stated, Jubilee moves thhe inured Havok into his bedroom and leaves him flowers.


Psylocke later does a full psi-scan of the town but finds no trace of Jubilee, meaning Jubilee's unexplained immunity to telepathic detection remains.

Psylocke "reminds" the X-Men that Gateway can only teleport them home from the location at which they arrive, the first time I recall that stipulation of his power being mentioned.


Havok admits he should have done a better job of studying the files on the X-Men's villains.


Claremontisms
Havok tells a captured Savage Land goon it's "your choice, your funeral" whether he talks.


Teebore's Take
I've never been a terribly big fan of the little two-part Savage Land story set within the larger "Dissolution" narrative that kicks off this issue. Part of that, I'll freely admit, is down to a general aversion to Savage Land stories (most of which I find terribly blah). But part of that is also that after three consecutive issues stripping away one member of the team after another, this story hits pause on that in order to circle back around and check in on a lingering supporting character while teasing (yet again) the mystery of Zaladane, who is, at best, a C-level villain at this point.

Granted, I don't want to begrudge Claremont making the effort to tie up some narrative threads, and Polaris, both for her history in the series, her connection to Havok, and the role she'll play (albeit mostly in the background) of the upcoming Muir Isle/Shadow King arc, deserves to be rescued from the narrative limbo into which the end of the Marauders dropped her. But that effort comes at an inopportune time for the larger story, deflating the tension built up over the preceding issues at the moment when it's meant to be perhaps the most severe (the wake of Storm's death) for what ultimately feels like a side quest into a much less interesting story.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the New Mutants split up in New Mutants #80. Friday, more alien shenanigans in X-Factor #45. Next week, Savage Land shenanigans in Uncanny X-Men #250.

22 comments:

  1. In the absence of Storm and Wolverine, Psylocke steps up and essentially becomes the team's leader this issue, a role she'll perform only through issue #251.

    It's cruel that she also once became Captain Britain only for a short while and that wen't better.

    causing her to destroy the phone booth

    *approving nod*

    A couple of issues forwards Moira will give her professional Nobel-winning opinion that Lorna and Zaladane really should be sisters for the power transfer to have worked in the first place like it did.

    The other teams/heroes don't seem to have such a vast and diverse recurring supporting world with them like the X-Men have with their Shi'ar and Savage Land and whatnot?

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  2. Polaris having a phone number for the X-Men is dumb. Zaladane being her sister is dumb. Zaladane's costume in this story is exceedingly dumb (A humongous "Z" on her chest??). Overall, this entire story is dumb. I really can't stand it.

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  4. I really like the art in this issue on the whole, probably the best of Silvestri's run to date. Alex's hangdog face looks a bit too photo-referenced and Lorna still looks ridiculous, but the figure work in the action scenes especially is quite nice.

    // Psylocke steps up and essentially becomes the team's leader this issue //

    Alex gives her some grief about this. Maybe because he's the longest-tenured X-Man in the group if you don't count that he's been off the regular roster more than on it, or because he's sick of living in Scott's shadow, or because he's chauvinist, or because he's just in a pissy mood. Betsy taking charge in battle with her telepathy guiding the team when everyone's blinded, however, is great stuff, regardless of whether you think she should be in charge of overall tactical decisions.

    // the X-Men buried Storm, an event replayed on the computer monitors //

    It really bugs me that the dropshadow on the letters being engraved by Dazzler's laser blast is 180° wrong vs. where it should be.

    // Havok gets angry at Madelyne and the absent Wolverine. //

    What a face. "The role of Alex Summers in this issue will be played by John Constantine."

    // The Reavers old computers continue to act mysteriously, playing back the footage of Storm's funeral on their own //

    For whatever reason the art was clearly not doing the heavy lifting that Claremont needed, making for awkwardly expository balloons over and above the fact that Alex is narrating his thoughts out loud in the first place. Even apart from that it's just a very meta sequence.

    // Jubilee moves the inured Havok into his bedroom and leaves him flowers //

    I wondered about that but since Lorna starts off by saying she's so glad it's Alex who answered I figured that at the very least it had to be a male voice on the X-Men's end. During the earlier scene I assumed that it was the Reavers breaking in, ambushing Havok and then answering the phone. Then with the flowers and note I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be creepy of the Reavers to put Alex to bed or if Jubilee had simply observed the scene and helped Alex once the Reavers had left.

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  5. "The Reavers old computers continue to act mysteriously, playing back the footage of Storm's funeral on their own, and later repairing themselves, a tease that never really pays off."
    IOW, very similar to what they did with Maddie in issue 232.
    "Though never outright stated, Jubilee moves thhe inured Havok into his bedroom and leaves him flowers"
    I've heard several readers argue that it was supposed to be Gateway and not Jubilee, since we saw in the Annual that Gateway could talk.
    "Psylocke "reminds" the X-Men that Gateway can only teleport them home from the location at which they arrive, the first time I recall that stipulation of his power being mentioned."
    Even worse, during Inferno, the X-Men find out the mind-controlled Lorna is in Manhattan, but Gateway teleports them home from Westchester. If we believe what Betsy said, then Gateway must have teleported them TO Westchester. I guess the X-Men figured that since Lorna gets mind controlled so often, they might go do some sight seeing before rescuing her.

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  6. "Alex gives her some grief about this. Maybe because he's the longest-tenured X-Man in the group if you don't count that he's been off the regular roster more than on it, or because he's sick of living in Scott's shadow, or because he's chauvinist, or because he's just in a pissy mood. Betsy taking charge in battle with her telepathy guiding the team when everyone's blinded, however, is great stuff, regardless of whether you think she should be in charge of overall tactical decisions."
    I think the idea is supposed to be that he doesn't trust Betsy because of the previous occasions (issues 219 and 229) where she's suggested killing people (Tyger Tiger and Alex himself) for little reason. This foreshadows Betsy's betrayal of Alex's trust in issue 251.

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  7. This is probably my favorite issue of the Outback run. Probably my favorite Psylocke issue of this time overall.

    Even though she gets knocked around quite a bit. This issue shows that she had potential to be a great tactician, something she's shown hints of in past issues, and other specials. Using her powers at range gave her the ability to do battlefield placement, and move the team around. Something a role given to her by Storm. it makes her change into an "Action Junkie" trope the more stupid.

    She was becoming a warrior without the needed change into a nimbo. Not an ass kicker, but a general or LT at the least.

    It's probably why my fanfictions of her end with them staying in the savage land, and her taking control of the team for a year.

    Havok in this issue is a complete mess, and it was fun to see his change from 30 issues ago to now.

    Colossus yet again has nothing to do except get tossed around and punch stuff. But the way Psylocke coordinated the team was great work. Something she hasn't done since.

    I do hate however that the team was basically dead to the world, yet somehow everybody knew where they lived.. that drove me nuts.

    In an alternate universe Claremont got to finish this tale, and Jim lee never got his hands on the book. :)

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  8. Hey, we made it. X-aminations has, finally, made it to my first issue of X-MEN. Probably not the first issue I ever read, but, definitely, the first issue I owned. I got it in one of those 3-packs of comics you used to be able to buy in places like Toys-R-Us for a $1.99 or something, which made it one of the more unique purchases of my early comics buying years. I remember it being packaged with an issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA and an issue if INCREDIBLE HULK. I'd get sporadic issues of the book over the next couple years. I, finally, became a "regular" around the time Jim Lee took over. And I've been buying the book ever since.

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  9. Matt: Polaris having a phone number for the X-Men is dumb. Zaladane being her sister is dumb. Zaladane's costume in this story is exceedingly dumb (A humongous "Z" on her chest??). Overall, this entire story is dumb.

    Re: humongous letters on costume, Clark Kent called and said 'hi'.

    Re: Polaris's sister, it maybe makes the Lorna-Magneto connection a bit hazy, but adds an curious layer to how Zaladane's arc eventually ends.

    Re: phone number, the X-Men have probably had the computer rig their former phone numbers to be turned to their Oz base, like the X-Mansions (and then not answer, what with being dead to the world and all, but...). Lorna might even be calling to her and Alex's old home number here, and automatically think it's Alex upon someone picking up the phone.

    I doubt she has a number with the proper Aussie country code, though it's not totally unconceivable that she or Mr. Sinister wouldn't have somehow tracked down their location. Hey, maybe Goblyn Maddie had told him and in her hatred for Marauders even taunted Malice-Polaris about Alex having been fucking her in Australia. "Poor Lorna, instead of finding you he's been pounding me on the other side of the globe!" You'll note that Malice is aware of that in the panels posted.

    I kind of like the story myself, for all it's faults. I have recently been in a situation allowing me to access and read through my X-Men issues from the era, and the whole Dissolutions arc feels a smooth and seamless read maybe even more than the pre-massacre era issues. This Savage Land bit fits nicely there betwixt and the developments here build up nicely for Rogue and Mags to riff on them later on, bringing Lorna back, etc. It's sad that Claremont's Shadow King plans didn't in the end realize as they should've as some of the build-up in this arc with Lorna will be downplayed.

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  10. I kind of agree with Matt, there's something about this story that feels "dumb" and (to me) vaguely Silver Age. From the logic holes about the phone to the faces on the table to the involvement of the Savage Land, it feels like a weird throwback at a time when the book was in its darkest era.

    "I wondered about that but since Lorna starts off by saying she's so glad it's Alex who answered I figured that at the very least it had to be a male voice on the X-Men's end."

    I wonder if this was supposed to be part of that "Jubilee is boyish" thing from her early appearances & it just wasn't conveyed clearly.

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  11. "She calls the X-Men looking for Havok's help, though I have no idea how she got the number (or that the Outback X-Men even have a phone number...)"

    Er...they're listed under the Plot Contrivance Yellow Pages?

    "Though considering the Mutates were initially creations of Magneto, I'm not sure how new ones come about without him down in the Savage Land mutating natives."

    My fanwanky no-prize is that she might have picked up a skill or 2 from her time as the High Evolutionary's assistant. Or he created Wipeout himself. I mean, they're still using his ships for transportation, so why not?

    "Psylocke steps up and essentially becomes the team's leader this issue"

    And still keeps the Silvestri Sexification as well.

    "One of Claremont's aborted ideas for the series was to permanently kill off Professor X and position Gateway as the new mentor figure for the team."

    Interesting, as I've also read he had plans to the same but with Magneto. If we're going to go by dropped CC plotlines, I definitely prefer that one.

    "a table that is said to have been made by Madelyne, but this is the first we're seeing of it"

    They could've just conveyed the same idea by having Maddie had painted a mural on a wall. I mean, can anyone picture the X-men, of all teams, having formal meetings at a table with assigned seating? Though it could have been fun seeing Storm trying to enforce the seating chart ("By the blessed Goddess, Alison, for the fifth time, yes, you MUST sit next to Rogue!").

    Of course, not sure why Maddie drew Mohawk Storm and Super-Tanned Dazzler together. I guess she really was crazy all along.

    "The Reavers are seen performing recon on the X-Men."

    I love how they're able to get thisclose to the team, and despite seeing how much a shambles the team has become, decide not to waste them, because, plot contrivances.

    "meaning Jubilee's unexplained immunity to telepathic detection remains."

    Fanwanky no-prize #2: Each time Psylocke has tried to scan for Jubilee, she's always in the tunnels underneath the Outback complex which, like the Morlock tunnels, have some type of telepathic jamming element to them.

    "Claremontisms"

    I would also add the "You defy me at your peril!" variation used here as well.

    Overall, I like this issue. Maybe it's because I don't hate stories set in the Savage Land. It might also be because this was the era when I fully began buying the title on a regular basis, so nostalgia goggles maybe factor in. I remember being drawn into the general what-the-fuckness of it all at the time (Storm's dead! Longshot and Rogue are gone! The Reavers are stalking the X-men!), but it did make me want to know what was going to happen next. And it still holds up to me pretty well.

    And I don't mind the slight change of pace. We already lost 3 team members in the span of 2 issue, and will lose 4 more a few issues later. So one last traditional team story works for me.


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  12. "Hey, maybe Goblyn Maddie had told him and in her hatred for Marauders even taunted Malice-Polaris about Alex having been fucking her in Australia."
    Except that Lorna never met Goblyn Maddie. And Sinister didn't seem to realize the other X-Men were alive when he encountered Maddie.
    "I wonder if this was supposed to be part of that "Jubilee is boyish" thing from her early appearances & it just wasn't conveyed clearly."
    In Wolverine 70, written by Hama, Jubilee is mistaken for a boy. So clearly Hama thought that it's possible to mistake Jubilee's voice for a boy's voice. What's not clear is whether Claremont felt something similar.

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  13. ""Though considering the Mutates were initially creations of Magneto, I'm not sure how new ones come about without him down in the Savage Land mutating natives.""
    I think we're overlooking the obvious explanation- since Brainchild's power is super-intelligence, that includes the ability to create devices to mutate natives.
    "Of course, not sure why Maddie drew Mohawk Storm and Super-Tanned Dazzler together. I guess she really was crazy all along"
    Considering that she was just starting to draw the sigil before her encounter with S'ym, I think we're supposed to assume she drew the table after she became Goblynized.

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  14. One thing i've think can make up for Polaris and the phone call is, maybe the X-men routed phone calls through the Outback computers. That's the only thing I can come up with. With a computer that advanced and futuresight (plot based tech envisioning.) That's what they did.

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  15. @Anonymous: // I think the idea is supposed to be that he doesn't trust Betsy because of the previous occasions //

    That makes sense. I'm reading this stretch for the first time, so not only don't I know what's coming in many respects but I can't say its callback nuances and subplots are necessarily sticking with me.

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  16. Dr. Brave doesn't just have a cell phone, he has a cell pheno. The future is here!

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  17. @Teemu: It's cruel that she also once became Captain Britain only for a short while and that wen't better.

    Hm, good point. That's an interesting connection.

    The other teams/heroes don't seem to have such a vast and diverse recurring supporting world with them like the X-Men have with their Shi'ar and Savage Land and whatnot?

    Offhand, I'd say the Fantastic Four are in a similar boat, what with the Skrulls, Kree, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, Inhumans, and the Negative Zone (and it's assortment of characters) all coming from their book/having some connection to it.

    The Avengers suffer a bit, mainly glomming onto the established Kree, Skrull and (eventually) Shi'ar races, but they also have Jarvis and their support staff at various times, and the size/history of their roster makes a lot of characters de facto "Avengers" characters even when they appear elsewhere.

    @Matt: Zaladane's costume in this story is exceedingly dumb (A humongous "Z" on her chest??)

    I think that came from Adams? She was wearing it in the annual, right?

    That aside, I have no defense of your criticisms. I'm right there with you.

    @Blam: I really like the art in this issue on the whole, probably the best of Silvestri's run to date.

    If memory serves, I believe this is the last really good Silvestri issue. After this, he gets paired with an assortment of different inkers and that, combined with, I assume, the rigors of drawing two issues a month (though there are a few fill-ins coming up) take their toll on, if not the quality, certainly the consistency of his art.

    @Anonymous: I've heard several readers argue that it was supposed to be Gateway and not Jubilee, since we saw in the Annual that Gateway could talk.

    I could see that. Claremont was definitely setting up Gateway for more than we got. FWIW, I attributed the act to Jubilee since that's what the Marvel Index does.

    @Tazirai: Havok in this issue is a complete mess, and it was fun to see his change from 30 issues ago to now.

    In the same way that I enjoy the brief "Take Control" Psylocke, I also really get a kick out off grizzled, angsty Havok in these few issues. I don't think he wears his mask at all from this point forward, which I think is a great visual indication of just how "I don't effing care anymore" he is about things.

    One thing i've think can make up for Polaris and the phone call is, maybe the X-men routed phone calls through the Outback computers.

    That could be, though at this point the mansion (and the accompanying phone line) is destroyed, something Lorna would know, since she was there when it blew.

    Unless the routing mechanism is in place even though the location assigned to that number is no more.

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  18. @Cerebro: X-aminations has, finally, made it to my first issue of X-MEN.

    Huzzah! We're still a ways from mine, but these are important milestones for every fan.

    @Mela: . From the logic holes about the phone to the faces on the table to the involvement of the Savage Land, it feels like a weird throwback at a time when the book was in its darkest era.

    I think there's definitely something distinctly Silver Age about the Savage Land. Even when Claremont and Byrne did their Savage Land story, it was the most traditionally super-heroic of their "World Tour" run.

    I wonder if this was supposed to be part of that "Jubilee is boyish" thing from her early appearances & it just wasn't conveyed clearly.

    I'd never considered that, but I can see it.

    @wwk5d: My fanwanky no-prize is that she might have picked up a skill or 2 from her time as the High Evolutionary's assistant. Or he created Wipeout himself.

    Either of those work for me.

    Interesting, as I've also read he had plans to the same but with Magneto.

    According to the Legend Revealed I linked, it sounds like his plan was to setup both Magneto and Gateway as mentor figures at one point.

    "By the blessed Goddess, Alison, for the fifth time, yes, you MUST sit next to Rogue!"

    haha! :)

    Each time Psylocke has tried to scan for Jubilee, she's always in the tunnels underneath the Outback complex which, like the Morlock tunnels, have some type of telepathic jamming element to them.

    I like that too.

    @Anonymous (two?): I think we're overlooking the obvious explanation- since Brainchild's power is super-intelligence, that includes the ability to create devices to mutate natives.

    That's a good explanation as well. In fact, I think at some point (maybe in an issue of Wolverine's series) that Brainchild is creating new Mutates).

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  19. One thing i've think can make up for Polaris and the phone call is, maybe the X-men routed phone calls through the Outback computers.

    Perhaps, but it still makes me laugh. If I ever decide to fake my own death remind me not to turn on call forwarding.

    Betsy taking charge in battle with her telepathy guiding the team when everyone's blinded, however, is great stuff, regardless of whether you think she should be in charge of overall tactical decisions.

    It always has felt to me like Claremont was trying to develop Psylocke as a badass bitch with a totally different set of morals than her pretty pink pajamas would suggest. (Psylocke's suggestion that they kill Havok in #219 was shocking to me at the time! Not that it made a lot of sense.)

    This side of Psylocke makes her kind of a new type of character for the team-- the closest analogue is Wolverine, but he's also kind of the opposite in that he's tough on the outside but has something of a gooey center. Plus he's a boy. I guess one could compare her to some versions of Storm too, but in the end I feel like Storm's Goddess Mother instincts always win over her stab a bitch in the stomach side.

    At any rate, I always wished the steely, take-no-prisoners aspect of Psylocke had been given more room to develop. (I feel like character development in general gets short shrift during the outback era as the team runs from crisis to crisis.) The later decision to turn her into a warrior/action junkie/bethonged homewrecker is related but not quite the same.

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  20. Teebore -- "I think that came from Adams? She was wearing it in the annual, right?"

    Oh yeah, you're right. And it does look more like an Adams design, too. Though why they felt a need to change it in the first place is beyond me. Zaladane's original costume was really cool-looking! Though I don't mind the green-and-black design Jim Lee gives her in the 270s either -- but her original red outfit was the best.

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  21. Ha... I just went to your review of UXM ANNUAL 12 to see if I said anything about Zaladane's costume there, and to my surprise I said then practically exactly the same thing I just said here:

    "Also, I can't stand the silly costume Adams has given to Zaladane. Why would a priestess in the Savage Land wear a supervillainess costume complete with a big letter "Z" on her chest? I much prefer her original red outfit, which was pretty much perfect, but I'll also take the green Jim Lee costume from a few years later. Either is preferable to this monstrosity."

    That was only seven months ago. I'm surprised I forgot about it!

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  22. "The Reavers old computers continue to act mysteriously, playing back the footage of Storm's funeral on their own, and later repairing themselves, a tease that never really pays off."

    I've always suspected that the Reavers complex was actually an incarnation of the Master Mold after having gone through the Siege Perilous. Its prolly the first thing I would ask Claremont.

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