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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #261

"Harriers Hunt"
May 1990

In a Nutshell 
The first (and last) appearance of Hardcase and the Harriers. 

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

Plot
In Lowtown, Madripoor, Hardcase, the leader of a group of ex-SHIELD agents named the Harriers, briefs his team on their latest mission: the abduction of Wolverine, Jubilee and Psylocke. Elsewhere in Lowtown, the trio is having dinner, and Jubilee expresses her continued distrust of Psylocke to Wolverine. Just then, the Harriers burst into the restaurant and capture Wolverine. Meanwhile, Banshee and Forge check out the subbasement of the X-Mansion, and spot the arrival of Jean Grey on the grounds, who is promptly attacked and captured by a group of Morlocks. In Greece, Donald Pierce offers the grievously injured Cylla Markham the opportunity to be transformed into a cyborg. In Madripoor, Psylocke tells Jubilee she's located Wolverine, and that she intends to spring what is most likely a trap while Rose Wu rallies Wolverine's local friends to his aid.


Later, Jubilee enters the Harrier's warehouse base of operations posing as pizza delivery boy while Psylocke sneaks inside. When Hardcase orders Jubilee to be removed from the building, she and Psylocke attack, with Jubilee freeing Wolverine from the cage in which the Harriers imprisoned him. They hold their own against the Harriers, but are eventually overwhelmed, at which point Wolverine and Hardcase reveal they're friends, the entire kidnapping scenario actually a training exercise for their respective teammates. As the two groups bond over pizza, Rose Wu bursts in with reinforcements, and Wolverine invites them all to grab a slice, thinking that his friends should enjoy the fun while they can, cuz next time, it'll be for real, and keeps.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is Marc Silvestri's last issue as the official regular artist on the series, as he leaves the book to take over Wolverine in a few months' time. His departure puts the book into a bit of a talespin, artistically, as the next half dozen issues (including the series' return to summer bi-weekly publication) are handled by an assortment of fill-in artists (of varying, though usually low, levels of quality) before Jim Lee takes over with issue #267.

As the cover touts, this issue also marks the debut of Hardcase and the Harriers, a group of ex-SHIELD agent mercenaries, though technically two of their number (Axe and Shotgun) appeared previously, in Wolverine #5 (an appearance referenced in this issue), while Hardcase was mentioned in that issue as well. He is, of course, another heretofore unknown buddy of Wolverine's, and will appear once more later in Wolverine, but otherwise, this issue is pretty much all she wrote on the Harriers, despite their big introduction.


Forge and Banshee stop off at the subbasement of the destroyed X-Mansion (which Moira sent Callisto to lockup in issue #253, leading to her capture by Masque, and which was most recently used by Excalibur post-"Inferno"), ostensibly on their way to Hollywood to find Dazzler. Banshee expresses his suspicions that Moira set them up to be killed on Kyrinos last issue, and given that no other information on the matter will ever be provided, it's probably safe to assume Banshee is right.


While at the X-Mansion, Forge and Banshee spot Jean Grey arriving amidst the ruins. She is attacked and captured by a group of Morlocks masquerading as the X-Men (and her), kicking off a little four issue guest appearance run for her in Uncanny.


The injured Cylla Markham (Banshee & Forge's pilot from last issue) is approached by Pierce and offered to be transformed into a cyborg, an offer she accepts.


Jim Lee once again provides the cover art. 

The Statement of Ownership lists the average number of copies sold during the preceding 12 months as 408,925, with the actual number sold of the issue nearest to filing date as 436,200, compared to 432,705 and 392,750 in the last Statement.

The Chronology Corner
Between issue #258 and this issue, Wolverine appeared in Alpha Flight #87-90, which we'll look at it in a few weeks. 

Jean's appearance in this issue occurs after X-Factor #54.

A Work in Progress
SHIELD had been disbanded at this point in time, per events in Nick Fury's ongoing SHIELD series of the time.

One of the Harrier's real names is Bobbi Chase, which is probably a reference to the Marvel editor of the same name.

Wolverine continues to use the Patch identity, despite seemingly giving it up in Wolverine #23.
 

Rose Wu, who appeared in issue #257, helps marshall Wolverine's friends to his defense, though Jubilee notes that Rose was setup in Hong Kong previously, yet now seems to have a place in Madripoor as well.

It's noted that Jubilee can detonate her fireworks on cue.


Psylocke, who previously was unable to read Jubilee's mind, can do so now. Obviously, it's now plot-beneficial for Jubilee to be read telepathically whereas previously it was not, but I suppose a No-Prize explanation could be that Psylocke's trip through the Siege Perilous and/or her transformation by the Hand has somehow enabled her to access Jubilee's mind when she couldn't before.

In a clear case of "build up the new guys by comparing them to the old ones", the Harriers are said to be capable of taking on the Avengers. 

The Reference Section
Shotgun is seen reading issues of Marvel's What The !? humor comic in this issue. 

McBurgers, the Marvel Universe McDonalds stand-in, is mentioned again.

Claremontisms
"Bang, you're dead" gets a variation this issue: Shotgun tells Jubilee "bang, sweetie baby cutie-pie, you're toast!" 

"Harriers" is another name derived from aircraft.

"Professor Xavier Wolverine is a jerk!"
The whole "I pretended to be captured and let you believe these people are villains in order to train you!" is pretty blatant ripoff from the old Professor X playbook, calling it a makeshift Danger Room session. 

It's in the Mail
A response to a letter in this issue's letter column insists a Longshot solo series is coming, not this year or the next, but eventually. However, it never does come to fruition. 

Teebore's Take
Marc Silvestri's run, which stretches all the way back (including semi-regular fill-in stints) to either issue #218 or #220 (depending on when you consider him to have become the book's regular artist), comes to an end this issue. It's a shame he isn't given better material for his swan song, instead of an issue that reads like a backdoor pilot for a new series starring a bunch of one-dimensional GI Joe knockoffs. Of course, it's entirely possible that Silvestri and/or Claremont were treating this as a proving ground for some new characters, in the hopes that they'd take off and perhaps get their own series (the pair gets a "created by" credit for the group in this issue, suggesting they may have had a larger financial interest in the success of the characters). Nevertheless, that didn't happen, and so we get an issue in which time is split between Wolverine, Jubilee & Psylocke and a bunch of characters who are getting a big introduction but never turn up anywhere, ever again, as of this writing. The end result is an issue that feels like a waste of time, even though it does do some effective and necessary work solidifying the Wolverine/Jubilee/Psylocke sub-team dynamic following "Acts of Vengeance" and Psylocke's transformation.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Cable meets the New Mutants in New Mutants #89. Friday, Peter Nicholas meets X-Factor in X-Factor #54. Next week, Freedom Force meets the Incredible Hulk in Incredible Hulk #369.

Collected Editions

13 comments:

  1. Man, I always assumed Jim Lee was the regular artist for much longer than about a year. I know he did covers during Silvestri's run and some fill-ins, but I honestly thought his tenure started much earlier. He must've taken off like a rocket, though, seeing as X-Men Vol. 2 was essentially a book created just for him, much like Spider-Man and X-Force were created for McFarlane and Liefeld, respectively.

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  2. Hardcase did make one more appearance in WOLVERINE in the late '90s (during Erik Larsen's run, if memory serves). The rest of The Harriers...zilch. Claremont and Silvestri clearly wanted them to be bigger characters than they actually became.

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  3. "The Statement of Ownership lists the average number of copies sold..."

    I'm very curious to see just how much of a boost in sales Jim lee gave the book. The book was already selling +400k copies, so much more could he add to the title to gain control of it?

    "...Rose was setup in Hong Kong previously, yet now seems to have a place in Madripoor as well."

    Doesn't she pretty much become a permanent fixture in Madripoor after this?

    "the Harriers are said to be capable of taking on the Avengers."

    Who says CC can't do comedy?

    Interesting issue for Silvestri to end on.

    While the Harriers stuff is a bust, the stuff with Wolverine/Jubilee/Psylocke is actually pretty good. The subplots feel like things are moving along, even if some of it is incrementally.

    Were CC and Silvestri hoping for some kind of spin-off for the Harriers? I mean, they're mostly tropes, but I imagine a decent writer could make them work in their own title. Just, keep it street level...none of this "taking on the Avengers" crap.

    Incidentally, the issues around this time were solicited as having Dazzler being involved as well. I wonder what happened BTS.

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  4. The whole "I pretended to be captured and let you believe these people are villains in order to train you!" is pretty blatant ripoff from the old Professor X playbook, calling it a makeshift Danger Room session.

    Still better than the "screw my young wards, I'm off to some quality time with my gal" page the other guy took. (;) )

    One of the Harrier's real names is Bobbi Chase, which is probably a reference to the Marvel editor of the same name.

    That was off-putting to note back in the day, much more than noting that the Karate Kid doing some editing for Marvel. She was the slippery girl, I wonder if the real Bobbi was hard to catch at the offices.

    In a clear case of "build up the new guys by comparing them to the old ones", the Harriers are said to be capable of taking on the Avengers.

    ... by Hardcase the marketing chief. And, he does not look too impressed when thinking about it, with the gang being concurrently run circles around by two and a half mutants. It's possible though that they went on to have awesome off-panel adventures of the group of one-military-gimmick-and-the-name-to-go-with-it kind.

    Publicationally, of course, it was the other rugged middle-aged former government black-ops dude turned into mercenary and having a scar over the eye who made it big.

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  5. Oh oh... and, also about the makeshift Danger Room sessions, Wolverine has been constantly doing those to his less experienced team mates ever since Storm left him in charge after Mutant Massacre. It's been said of the era that it's Wolverine who takes on the business of putting the dissoluted X-Men back together. It couldn't be more canon.

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  6. One thing Teebore forgot to mention: Wolverine is still interacting with his Carol Danvers and Nick Fury hallucinations. Was this the last time, or do they show up again in the team-up with Captain America and the Black Widow?

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  7. "SHIELD had been disbanded at this point in time, per events in Nick Fury's ongoing SHIELD series of the time."
    Actually SHIELD has been reactivated by this point, and in fact appeared in the Punisher and Damage Control issues of Acts of Vengeance. Maybe Nick decided not to rehire the Harriers. Or maybe the guy he sent to contact them couldn't stop laughing when they claimed to be capable of defeating the Avengers.
    "While at the X-Mansion, Forge and Banshee spot Jean Grey arriving amidst the ruins. She is attacked and captured by a group of Morlocks masquerading as the X-Men (and her), kicking off a little four issue guest appearance run for her in Uncanny"
    Are these supposed to be the same guys using masks to masquerade as the X-Men last issue? If they are, then why did they use masks last issue and have Masque's powers change them this issue?

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  8. "One thing Teebore forgot to mention: Wolverine is still interacting with his Carol Danvers and Nick Fury hallucinations. Was this the last time, or do they show up again in the team-up with Captain America and the Black Widow?"

    Nope, this is it for them.

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  9. This issue is pretty bad. Banshee and Forge's one page cameo is probably the best part.

    Looking back after knowing that a lot is made over the Jubilee/Wolverine and, to a lesser degree, Psylocke team, it is nice to see a bit of that teamwork in play.

    Having the same Jubilee pizza stunt in the next trio story, which is much better, and having antagonist-type characters that never again show their faces lessens the impact though.

    Also, seeing that we have two issues after this with really bad tentacle-arm Garbage Pale kids, my enthusiasm is Masqued quite a bit.

    IRL I could only muster a skim through. I can't wait for Genosha!

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  10. The Harriers have photos of Asian Betsy. How is that possible?

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  11. I’m with Nathan. Who got Jubilee, Psylocke, and Wolverine to stand for those full-body portraits in the splash-page dossiers? At least Betsy’s a former model; Logan, hand in the pockets of those baggy chinos, is just hilarious.

    “Hardcase and the Harriers” actually rang a bell for me when I saw the name, so I’m surprised to hear that they never spun off. I must’ve read about them in a promo something somewhere and the name just stuck. Funny enough, especially since Marvel later absorbed it, Malibu’s Ultraverse launched with a Hardcase who was also a blond-crewcut fella a few years after this.

    I can’t say this issue did much for me. At this point the Claremontisms are well into unintentional self-parody and Orz is a serious enabler.

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  12. Hi All. I was/am a big fan of Larry Hama's 'GI Joe' book, and I've always wondered if Hardcase & the Harriers weren't a CC tribute to Hama's version of GI Joe here? Bobbie Chase was editing the 'Joe' book at this time, and the "Harrier Bobbi" bares some resemblance to female soldier 'Lady Jaye', who was spotlighted often in Hama's stories.

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