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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #262

"Scary Monsters"
June 1990

In a Nutshell 
The Morlocks capture and maim Jean Grey and Banshee. 

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

Plot
Forge and Banshee track Jean Grey into the Morlock Tunnels, fighting off the Morlocks who've captured her, who then teleport away. Taking her back to the mansion's subbasement, Jean admits that the X-Men are still alive while Forge and Banshee fill her in about the threat of the Reavers, but then both Jean and Banshee are nabbed by the Morlock teleporter when they step out of a shielded area. In Washington DC, the Secretary of State and Val Cooper meet with Genoshan officials, who are applying pressire to get Phillip Moreau and Jenny Ransome turned over to them. Back in New York, Forge sets off into the tunnels after Banshee and Jean.


In Soho, Peter Nicholas spots the model who has been haunting him outside his gallery, but when he chases after her car, he discovers it to be completely empty. Later that night, she turns up at his apartment, along with Masque, and all three are teleported away. In the tunnels, Forge is attacked by a group of grotesque Morlocks who resemble the X-Men. He fights them off, unintentionally killing the one who resembles Storm, but Jean emerges from the shadows, telling him that isn't Storm, and cautioning that she and Banshee have experienced some changes since last he saw them: Jean's arms have been replaced by a writhing mass of tentacles, while Banshee no longer has a mouth.

Firsts and Other Notables
Jean Grey's guest star stint continues in this issue, coinciding with her leave of absence in X-Factor. After being rescued from the Morlocks who captured her last issue, she dons one of the new X-uniforms, and by the end of the issue, she's had her arms replaced by a mass of tentacles (by Masque, we'll learn next issue), a condition that persists through to the end of the story. I have things to say about Tentacle Jean Grey, but we'll get to that next issue, when she's more heavily featured.


Forge and Banshee learn the X-Men are alive in this issue, as Jean Grey quietly admits as much to them (though it's worth noting they think the X-Men are dead because of what happened in Dallas during "Fall of the Mutants", not because of their trip through the Siege Perilous; similarly, Jean knows they survived Dallas, but is equally ignorant of the changes wrought by the Siege). In a clever bit, Jean defends the X-Men's ruse shortly after Banshee and Forge ask her to keep their continued survival a secret, saying the X-Men did the same thing for the same reasons.


Chief Magistrate Anderson, along with a new Genoshan official, pop up in this issue, working with Val Cooper and the Secretary of State to get Phillip Moreau and Jenny Ransome back. They play a bit of hardball, prompting the US officials to wonder if the Genoshans are trying to start a war. In the short term, this is all setup for issue #264; in the longer term, it's likely setup for the aborted "Mutant War" storyline and, ultimately, the Genosha-centric "X-Tinction Agenda" crossover that sees print in its place.


The Reavers are shown attacking a business owned by the White Queen, which is, I believe, just part of Pierce's larger "get revenge on the Inner Circle" goals.

 

The revolving parade of artists, killing time before Jim Lee comes aboard, begins this issue with Kieron Dwyer, who recently contributed the fill-in X-Factor #47. His work is probably the high point of this next batch of issues.

A Work in Progress
A lot of this issue is built on the fact that Forge and Banshee have never dealt with the Morlocks before, something which, in a nice touch, isn't really pointed out but is nonetheless accurate.

More commentary on the new X-uniforms, including Banshee's now-familiar cracks about modesty, despite, as we've mentioned, the uniforms not seeming all that different from anything else he's worn.


Forge notes that Freedom Force paid a price for defending Muir Island from the Reavers, with two dead and one crippled (presumably meant to be a reference to Avalanche).

Jean suggests moving the rest of the Muir Island residents to Ship, where they'll be safe from the Reavers, a sensible suggestion that, while I understand why it can't happen out-of-universe, it's still nice to see the prospect acknowledged, as it makes sense in-universe for Jean to make the offer.


Genosha is said to be a staunch ally of the United States, and it's later revealed that the country holds about $35 billion of the United States' debt.


Forge notes that the name of his platoon in Vietnam was the Marauders.

Jenny Ransome's speech is oddly clipped in this issue, though she spoke normally in previous issues.


Peter Nicholas sometimes draws a different, more scarred face when drawing the mysterious model who's captured his attention.


For Sale
There's an ad for the Dick Tracy movie in this issue, one of those movies with which I was briefly obsessed as a kid (though I still rather like it to this day).


Bullpen Bulletins
Marvel apparently was promoting a group of heroes as the "Heroes of the 90s" around this time.Also, the upcoming "Days of Future Present" annuals are teased, though I think we're still a few months away from their release at this point.


Teebore's Take
This issue kicks off what is probably my least favorite run of issues during Claremont's entire tenure on the book, as a revolving door of lackluster artists illustrate some relatively middling stories (I'm not much of a fan of the previous issue, but it does at least have Silvestri on art). Case in point, the next two issues bring the Morlock subplot to the forefront while putting Forge in the spotlight, expanding on his backstory now that he's a semi-regular character in the book. His flashback scenes in this issue are fine, and it's definitely a good idea to spend some time with a former supporting character who has essentially been elevated to one of the series main characters at this point (Banshee, at least, has his tenure with the team during the early Claremont/Byrne run to fall back on) but most of the back story we get here (building off what was established in "Fall of the Mutants") isn't all that far removed from the cliche "idealistic youth becomes jaded by the realities of war in Vietnam" routine, so it's hard to get too excited about it. Which is pretty much this batch of issues in a nutshell: we'll encounter some stuff that is outright bad soon enough, but for the most part, the biggest sin is that nothing here is worth getting worked up over, for good or bad.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the New Mutants move in to the new (old) home in New Mutants #90. Friday, an old friend returns in X-Factor #55. Next week, the spotlight is on the Starjammers in Spotlight on the Starjammers #1-2.

Collected Editions

14 comments:

  1. In Soho, Peter Nicholas spots the model who has been haunting him outside his gallery

    You know, I did make a joke about me at some point probably losing Friends and going for Sex in the City as my NY-go-to reference fiction, but come ON, it was a joke! I certainly needed no "trendoid glitterati" going at the gallery openings of the hottest new painter on my UNCANNY!

    The Reavers are shown attacking a business owned by the White Queen, which is, I believe, just part of Pierce's larger "get revenge on the Inner Circle" goals.

    ... and certainly nothing to do with Shadow King, Nathan, you hear us? ;)

    So, yeah. First of the three issues set they didn't publish for us back in the day. Subpar arts, they said. Though now I'm suspecting a part might have been because they knew they'll skip X-Tinction Agenda too, and felt the subplot developments here were unneeded for us. I can't hate it, it's a piece of semi-secret unread Claremont for me. Once more I'm treated with a back issue treat of my back issue hunt era kind. Forge's totally my favorite Vietnam vet of the 80's.

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  2. @Teemu: Must I point you to X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001!

    I'm wondering where on the comments I should drop my bombshell theory that Lila Cheney is the daughter of Callisto too;)

    And yes here we start to learn that Forge's Vietnam unit were dubbed the Marauders. Odd to reveal that in a story where he is similarly in Morlock territory!?

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  3. This run of issues feels like the nadir of Claremont's run, and, as you mentioned in your review, the revolving door of subpar artists doesn't help. It seems odd that such a high profile and best selling book like Uncanny would flounder in the art department for so long. Then again the same thing happened to the title between the end of Byrne's run and the second Cockrum run and again between JRjr and Silvestri, but this period seems egregiously poor. If I'm not mistaken most of this present period of fill-in artists fell during the summer months when the book was double shipping. Leonardi had been the go to guy in the past, but I guess he was busy working on True Friends at the time? Oddly enough we also had the Silvestri fill-in on X-Factor and he'll also wind up becoming the regular artist on Wolverine following that title's string of fill-ins (and the forgetable Lazarus Project 4-parter), although I guess Jo Duffy is as close to a regular writer as Wolverine will have until Hama comes aboard.

    Aside from Simonson-Liefeld on New Mutants, the entire X-Office feels like it's in a state of flux and somewhat directionless until Lee takes over the art chores on Uncanny X-Men and the Hama-Silvestri run on Wolverine commences. At the time I hated Bogdanove's work on X-Factor which was also just about to get started and would take the book through the X-Tinction Agenda crossover. If I'm not mistaken Portacio fills in on Uncanny the issue before Lee takes over, but was his Punisher gig still ongoing? Was that what kept him from doing more work for the X-Office at the time?

    Weird times. Did they just want some journey en freelance artists to share in some of the royalties of the company's best selling books? Was the double shipping scheduling crunch a factor in who was available? Or was Harras unable to get his shit together for some reason? Love to know what was going on behind the scenes during this period.

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  4. Just to add to my comment, Wolverine was also double shipping that summer. Was Harras just burning inventory stories to give Hama and Silvestri a chance to get ahead on the book?

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  5. "she's had her arms replaced by a mass of tentacles"

    Hentai tentacles. Almost a Claremontism. A very minor one, I guess.

    "In a clever bit, Jean defends the X-Men's ruse shortly after Banshee and Forge ask her to keep their continued survival a secret, saying the X-Men did the same thing for the same reasons."

    I love how even after that Banshee is still throwing a fit, and Forge is telling him to chill out, since at least Forge seems to get how it is a bit hypocritical of them to complain about the X-men's actions.

    "wonder if the Genoshans are trying to start a war"

    Were they really worried the Genoshans would win? I know Genosha is advanced by Marvel Universe standards and has mutates, but the US is much much larger, and, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and pretty much full of other spandex people who would probably fight for the US.

    "His work is probably the high point of this next batch of issues."

    He isn't the flashiest artist, but he does have a couple of nice touches here and there (like Jean using her TK with the hand mirror, towel, and comb while getting changed).

    "More commentary on the new X-uniforms, including Banshee's now-familiar cracks about modesty, despite, as we've mentioned, the uniforms not seeming all that different from anything else he's worn."

    Maybe it was a crack from CC alluding to how the costumes were starting to be drawn at that point? The artists, not just the Image people, seem to be drawing the bodies of the characters with much more detail and definition. The musculature is much more apparent where they look like their costumes are painted on...while in the past, certain artists made them look more like costumes. Does that make sense?

    "Then again the same thing happened to the title between the end of Byrne's run and the second Cockrum run and again between JRjr and Silvestri"

    It wasn't that long of a stretch between Byrne and Cockrum (one issue by Brent Anderson). And while the period between JRjr and Silvestri was longer, you had a much higher caliber of artists doing the fill-ins (Alan Davis, Barry Windsor Smith, Rick Leonardi, Jackson Guice). I'm surprised Marvel couldn't someone more prolific to fill-in.

    "the entire X-Office feels like it's in a state of flux and somewhat directionless until Lee takes over the art chores on Uncanny X-Men and the Hama-Silvestri run on Wolverine commences"

    The art stabilizes, but the BTS drama will still leave a mark on the narrative of some of the titles...

    This era is interesting. Not the best, but interesting. The Morlock issues are ok, but the issue with Charlotte Jones I do remember liking. And then...Gambit!


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  6. Claremont, step AWAY from the anime!

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  7. @wwk5d

    In one of the next couple issues I think Val clarifies that it's not necessarily a worry that the US or its super teams would lose, but rather that a conflict including super powered beings could be very destructive. Of course, there is also a need to build up the next big villain.

    I really like the Genosha bit. The rest of this issue is lackluster at best. The get to know Forge stuff would be decent if we hadn't already seen the same Vietnam angst. Issue 264 does a much better job of highlighting the character I would say.

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  8. The Forge bit works for me. Yes, it is your clicheic 'Nam story about someone who left his "leg and little bit something else too" (or how did Wolverine put it?) there, and there's not anything we needed to see or didn't already know, but then again it's obviously meant to be read like a Greek tragedy from the get-go where the reader already knows it will inevitably end up to Forge using the souls of his fallen comrades to open up the demon portal.

    It's a bit of X-lore. On Forge's first outing we saw then-incomprehensible holograms of demons in Vietnam war jungles, and the meaning of them and the history was opened only during Fall of the Mutants. It may not strictly need a revisitation, but I can appreciate if it happens like this.

    Harry Malone popping up there though... well, you know my feels about hitherto-unknown gruffy military types suddenly having a back-history with the established X-cast.

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  9. That final panel with Jean and Sean freaked the hell out of me as a kid.

    @wwk5d
    not if Le Peregrine goes to the Baxter building or Avengers mansion to lecture them about starting international wars !

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  10. Story named after Bowie's hit song. And we all know what that song was about don't we;)

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  11. I recall if you squinted at the discussion about the X-Men’s survival between Banshee and Jean, you could see that the dialogue bubble from Banshee about X-Factor being in space may have been re-scripted. I wonder what Claremont had originally written!? "Last we heard, we still thought you were …"?

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  12. Given their styles, I’d expect Rubinstein to be a very simpatico inker for Dwyer. So I’m a little disappointed. I found the Dwyer/Bulanadi art in Captain America #367 wildly uneven — better and worse than this, at different points — whereas Dwyer/Milgrom in X-Factor #47 was well above both.

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  13. I like Kieron Dwyer, but I agree with Blam that Rubinstein is not a good match for him here.

    Otherwise, I find this storyline to be a waste of the promising Forge/Banshee partnership.

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  14. Normally I am one of the last to complain about super-heroines drawn to be sexy, but I am surprised no one commented that Jean's new X-Men uniform has HIGH HEELS!!! Why would an outfit/costume/uniform designed for practicality have high heels?

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