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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #265

"Storm"
Early August 1990

In a Nutshell 
Storm attempts to evade the Shadow King. 

Story: Chris Claremont
Art: Bill Jaaska & Joe Rubinstein
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Mike Rockwitz
Flotsam: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In outer space, the champion of the P!ndyr race falls back to his planet, defeated in single combat by the Shi'ar champion, telling his lifemate that in the face of such power, their people don't stand a chance. On Earth, Storm steals from the head of a local drug cartel, then uses her nascent mutant powers to trigger the alarms, leaving him for the police as she escapes. However, her powers draw the attention of Nanny, who is plotting to bring Storm back into her fold, having already reduced her to childhood. In Washington DC, the Shadow King, in the body of FBI agent Jacob Reisz, meets with Val Cooper, and telepathically ensnares her just as he has Dr. Lian Shen.


Back in Illinois, Storm dreams of her childhood, the memories shifting into visions of being hunted by Nanny and the Shadow King, as her mind struggles to remember her time with the X-Men. Meanwhile, the Shadow King has set a trap for Storm, using Reisz's deductive skills to determine Storm's next likely target, a house containing several stolen paintings. As Storm breaks into the house, she's attacked by its residents, whom the Shadow King has mentally transformed into his Hounds. Storm tries to escape, but is overwhelmed before finding herself face to face with the Shadow King.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue reveals that Kid Storm is, in fact, the real Storm, reverted to childhood by Nanny off panel during the events of Uncanny X-Men #248, the idea being that Nanny wanted to save Storm from the Reavers but, as she only helps child mutants, she was forced to make Storm a child in order to protect her. Storm herself, however, remains unaware of this, and only possesses the memories she had from when she was originally a child of the same age, and as such is getting by via stealing, as when she was originally a child, though she is only stealing from criminals.


Val Cooper comes under the thrall of the Shadow King in this issue, just as Colonel Vazhin warned in the previous one, and Mystique is set up as his next target.


Shadow King has a group of enthralled individuals serving as his henchmen, called Hounds. What exact relationship, if any, these Hounds have to the futuristic Hounds of Ahab, as seen in "Days of Future Present" and who once counted Rachel Summers amongst their number, has yet to be definitively established (it's also not established where he gets the Hounds' leather bodysuits). 


We get a brief hint at just why Shadow King is so obsessed with Storm, as he mentions that she was "once promised to him". I don't believe we ever get much in the way of follow-up to that cryptic note, though.

This issue opens on members of the alien P!ndyr, one of whom is sent forth to battle with the designated champion of the Shi'ar Empire, who turns out to be a powerful telepath, all of which is setup for the post-"X-Tinction Agenda" Shi'ar story that runs through issues #274-#277.
 

Creator Central 
Bill Jaaska returns to draw this issue, his final fill-in work on this series. The alien/space stuff actually features some nifty panel layouts, but the rest of the issue is fairly ho-hum, and features the same quasi-grotesque figure work found in issue #263 as well.

Future X-Men penciller Andy Kubert provides the cover, the same month he also fills-in on X-Factor.

A Work in Progress
Kid Storm is continuing to develop her powers, but they remain raw and hard to control. 


Claremontisms
Storm's current residence is inside an old airplane at an airplane junkyard, which is just so Claremont it hurts.



For Sale
There's an ad for the movie Arachnophobia in this issue, which is one of those movie posters that always caught my eye as a kid. 


It's in the Mail
Jim Lee's upcoming return to the series as the book's regular artist is announced in this issue's letter column, and though it says he'll be joining the team with issue #268, he actually starts with #267. 

Teebore's Take
Bringing the Kid Storm plot thread back to the forefront after leaving it simmering since issue #255, this issue once again suffers under that most familiar refrain from this era, lackluster art. But the three issue arc that kicks off here also isn't helped by the fact that Kid Storm, while not a terrible idea, is a somewhat misconceived one, and certainly neither as great nor compelling an idea as Claremont seems to think it is (so much that he returns to it, and doubles down on it hard, in his X-Men Forever series years later). It's not a suspension-of-disbelief-breaking premise on the level of Tentacle Jean Grey (in that there's at least some thematic and character resonance in the idea of Storm being reduced to an amnesiac child discovering her powers for the first time), but it comes really close. It's a very "only in comics..." kind of development for the character, and not in the good way that phrase can sometimes imply.

It also doesn't help that the culprit behind Storm's transformation, officially confirmed as Nanny in this issue, isn't exactly setting the world on fire in terms of X-Men villains, and while Nanny's whole schtick certainly fits as an explanation for why Storm is now a kid, Nanny as a character doesn't really have much of a connection to the X-Men or their larger themes. So two already-dubious elements are made the worse by their proximity to each other: Kid Storm is a questionable development for the character, made moreso by Nanny being cause of her condition, and Nanny, who can work fine as a one-off antagonist in the right story, suffers under the weight of expectation when she's linked to a larger story that effectively sidelines, then significantly transforms, one of the book's main characters for dozens of issues. Take all that and render it via some unremarkable art, and the end result isn't exactly one of the series' finest hours.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Rob Liefeld takes a break for New Mutants #92 and Friday, more fun with the Ravens in X-Factor #57. Next week: Gambit!

Collected Editions

18 comments:

  1. By this time I feel like Storm's story is pretty much told- which is supported by the fact that know one really knows what to do with her anymore. I see regressing Storm to a child allows him to continue doing stuff with her without technically undoing all of her character development.

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  2. I was prepared as soon as the P!ndyr were described as “the best natural warriors in known space” for… well, I dunno, whatever it’s called when you introduce a new character or entity like that out of nowhere only to have them bested by someone familiar just to pump up said familiar someone in kind-of hollow fashion. A reverse Mary Sue, perhaps? Yet while the jury’s still out, since we haven’t even seen the Shi’ar champion on-panel, I can at least tentatively accept it given how far from Earth proximity this is supposed to take place.

    // Storm's current residence is inside an old airplane at an airplane junkyard, which is just so Claremont it hurts. //

    Ha! Except it works for me as a touch of color to her location and an indication of her being resourceful; it’s not like her inner monologue is giving us ridiculous specs of where she’s bunked down.

    I don’t love the actual finished art, but the body language is nicely expressive — Jason calls it out in his post, and I suppose I have to agree that it even (for him, especially) works in our glimpse of Nanny and Orphan-Maker in its own cartoonish way, despite how much I dislike Nanny and Orphan-Maker.

    One thing unmentioned here is the interlude where the reporter checks in with his police sources at the mall, in which the spate of burglaries committed by Storm and their fallout are discussed. Storm is eating one table over from the confab, in the foreground, and past her we see a camerawoman shooting right at Storm/us. I figured we were about to get either a mention of Storm not showing up on the tape or some indication that Claremont had forgotten she shouldn’t be showing up on the tape; instead, the camerawoman just puts down her equipment. Maybe the idea behind the camerawoman’s business is that she’s trying to get the reporter’s attention out of disbelief and checking her stuff to make sure it works, although it doesn’t read that way.

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  3. I agree with the assessment of the Storm plot. However I do think it becomes a bit more interesting once Gambit (and Jim Lee come aboard.)

    One other noticble aspect is that these issues are getting more "fetish-y" than ever. I mean the scene between the Shadow King, Val Cooper and Dr Shen (who herself is becoming more and more waton every progressing issue) is full of the Claremont mind control tropes of psyedo-erotic action. Check out the...body language between Dr Shen and Val Cooper. This is on addition to Psylock practicing the fine art of "thong-fu", Moira Mactaggert wearing "science" frocks from the "Dr Chistmas Jones" collection, Hentai Marvel Girl, and later on we'll see Dr Shen (in even skimpier clothes) in some very S&M poses with some hounds.

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  4. > We get a brief hint at just why Shadow King is so obsessed with Storm, as he mentions that she was "once promised to him". I don't believe we ever get much in the way of follow-up to that cryptic note, though.

    No doubt, a plot point that got lost in the shuffle when Claremont left. I imagine he'd've followed up on that had he stayed on the book and continued the massive Shadow King storyline that he had planned up to issue #300.

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  5. I never thought about it, but I always figured bringing Professor X back was Jim Lee's idea, based on the fact that Claremont wrote him out years earlier and seemed to be done with him, then the big Shi'ar epic took place around the time Lee supposedly began to assert himself with regards to plotting -- but the tease here for the upcoming storyline comes while Claremont still has some degree of control over the series. So maybe it was Bob Harras's suggestion? Or perhaps Claremont simply decided it was time to bring Xavier back, considering he planned to kill him off in #300.

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  6. A whatwhat? We post the actual panel where it happens, but award no mention whatsoever to Reisz famously calling Destiny a leman of Mystique's? And straight out of the Gay Pride week, no pun intended.

    (accepted answer: "the nature of their relationship was obvious since the Paul Smith era issue, it can hardly be news here")

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  7. As a kid who hadn't read all the back issues yet, I remember being confused by this whole SK subplot, starting with Jacob's heart attack scene from a few issues back (Is he dead or not ? Possessed) "What does he want, am I supposed to know him or what ? Why are the women drawn so weirdly and actng like dogs? Are they related to Rachel ? Does every spymaster have to have an eyepatch ?" and so on...
    Only later did I get that it was the same character as the fat guy with a funny hat that Xavier met in Cairo.

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  8. Matt, From what I heard, bringing Professor X back was both Lee's and Bob Harras's idea, since they were the main proponents about returning the X-Men "back-to-basic." Indeed Claremont wanted to "move-on" from Professor X (and let's remember that his Magneto-as-headmaster was derailed by someone else. There was no indication that Claremont ever had plans to change that status.) Meanwhile Lee and Harris were fans of the "classic" set-up (or at least a very "90's" version of it.)

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  9. @Branden: I see regressing Storm to a child allows him to continue doing stuff with her without technically undoing all of her character development.

    That's definitely true, and there is some potential in the idea, and you're definitely right that once Storm got her powers back, that was pretty much it for her development, but I still think it's a wonky idea. Maybe if Claremont had been able to stick with it longer (I assume Lee and Harras pushed for him to bring back the old Storm) I'd have warmed to it, but as is, it just feels very gimmicky in an unnecessary way.

    @Blam: Except it works for me as a touch of color to her location and an indication of her being resourceful; it’s not like her inner monologue is giving us ridiculous specs of where she’s bunked down.

    To be clear, it works for me too. I just can imagine Claremont writing that scene while wishing *he* could live inside the cockpit of a plane in a giant airplane junkyard. :)

    I suppose I have to agree that it even (for him, especially) works in our glimpse of Nanny and Orphan-Maker in its own cartoonish way, despite how much I dislike Nanny and Orphan-Maker.

    Orphan Maker's arms cross/hip cocked post *really* bugs me. I get it; Jaaska is selling the idea that he's a big kid, and he does sell that idea well. But something about having a character in full body armor able to even be that expressive with their body language seems...not right.

    I figured we were about to get either a mention of Storm not showing up on the tape or some indication that Claremont had forgotten she shouldn’t be showing up on the tape; instead, the camerawoman just puts down her equipment.

    I too thought we'd be getting some kind of "I can't record that kid!" moment. Possibly a disconnect between writer and artist?

    @Jonathan: However I do think it becomes a bit more interesting once Gambit (and Jim Lee come aboard.)

    I'll touch on it in a bit in a future post, but of this three issue story, this part suffers the most in part for being only about the story, and not having the novelty of Gambit's first appearance and the first regular Jim Lee issue to buoy it up.

    One other noticble aspect is that these issues are getting more "fetish-y" than ever.

    This definitely seems like the high-water mark for Claremont's fetishes. I mean, Lian and the Hounds are almost literally writhing all over Shadow King throughout this issue. It always creeped me out as a kid, when all the S&M themes were flying right over my head.

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  10. @Cerebro: No doubt, a plot point that got lost in the shuffle when Claremont left. I imagine he'd've followed up on that had he stayed on the book and continued the massive Shadow King storyline that he had planned up to issue #300.

    True. Had the SK plot unfolded as planned, I'm sure we would have learned a lot more about him, his motivations, etc.

    @Matt: So maybe it was Bob Harras's suggestion? Or perhaps Claremont simply decided it was time to bring Xavier back, considering he planned to kill him off in #300.

    I definitely Claremont had the idea to, if not bring Professor X back yet, at least remind readers about him, in anticipation of his build-up to issue #300. It's entirely possible he had no intention of following up on the P!ndyr tease in this issue for dozens of issues, originally.

    Then again, it's also possible, as Jonathan says, that Harras and Lee are already exerting their influence. It sounds like Lee's gig as regular penciller was established well before he actually started (possibly to give him a head start, possibly just a quirk of scheduling with the bi-monthly run). I'm pretty sure he's credited as Gambit's co-creator (or at least contributed to the design) even though he doesn't pencil his first appearance, suggesting he was working on stuff in the X-office even before he began his run formally.

    @Teemu: We post the actual panel where it happens, but award no mention whatsoever to Reisz famously calling Destiny a leman of Mystique's?

    Well, that you can chalk up to me apparently not knowing what "leman" meant all these years, having erroneously believed it simply meant someone who was a partner/underling to someone (like the opposite of a "liege lord"), an incorrect definition I probably acquired via context from this issue, the only place I've encountered the word, where, as a kid, the whole Mystique/Destiny relationship certainly was just subtext, of which I was completely unaware.

    accepted answer: "the nature of their relationship was obvious since the Paul Smith era issue, it can hardly be news here"

    Er, uh, yeah, that's it. Totally not because of my own stupidity... :)

    @Frenchie: The connection between this guy, the guy the X-Men fought right before the 91 reluanch, and the dude in the Fez I was aware of, thanks mostly to the trading cards and the benefit of reading "The Muir Island Saga" before these issues. All your other questions, though, I was right there with you as a kid.

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  11. Teebore: Well, that you can chalk up to me apparently not knowing what "leman" meant all these years, having erroneously believed it simply meant someone who was a partner/underling to someone

    There is of course always the possibility that I myself have overestimated the perceived importance of the word choice here. Tvtropes makes kind of big deal of it under the headline "getting crap past radar", and it is likely the case that the editors fell for it too just like yourself thinking it meant something else.

    I would say though that, what with the Iceman flying in his squadron nowadays and all, the instance here may be getting some added importance in the comics history from nowadays on, being Rogue's mommas' first direct acknowledgement by the creators and all that.

    But, now I feel bad making a deal out of it myself, when there still actually is a comics blog that's not primarily about that kind of stuff. I'm in it for plasm and shtuff, I'll have to do better to carry meself accordingly.

    But, Arachnophobia! Back in the day my cousin was explaining the plot and happenings in the film for me, but she got it somehow conflated with Evil Dead (I believe), Jeff Daniels axing his own arm off after being bit and visibly poisoned on it and all. I liked her version better.

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  12. Correction: venomed, that's what animals, and especially spiders, do. Not poisoned, that stuff is for plants. I'd have let it pass otherwise, but it's unacceptable on a Marvel blog.

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  13. @Teebore: // I just can imagine Claremont writing that scene while wishing *he* could live inside the cockpit of a plane in a giant airplane junkyard. :) //

    Oh, definitely.

    @Teebore: // you can chalk up to me apparently not knowing what "leman" meant all these years //

    As I wrote in a comment on Uncanny #208, “I learned a new word: Selene refers to Tessa archaically as Shaw's ‘leman’ — an illicit lover; a mistress.” Which is a nice throwback to the days when comics were teaching me all sorts of words (that I often ended up pronouncing wrong due to not having heard them out loud, something we discussed on my blog several years back). Despite Teemu’s instructive web-surfing, I haven’t come across “leman” in other books or TV since reading that issue, not that I recall anyway, so it really must be an archaic pet phrase of Claremont’s, although there was a time there in my teens when I would learn a new word while reading and suddenly I noticed it everywhere including things I had read before. I don’t learn new words much anymore, technical jargon and slang aside.

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  14. I always get a bit sad when this learning new words from comic books thingy comes up, having read mine all translated back in the day and obvious to now having been missing a whole layer of the comics reading experience. Obviously the leman thing here was a non-thing for me back in the day, as the subtextuality necesssarily got lost in translation. Can't even remember what choice of word they used. Might've been "partner", though I'm pretty sure in this case the translator might've had actually check it up. Though, that particular word choice would have been kinda subtext-y too.

    Kind of same thing with lettering. It always was a machine work for us, with a very type-write-y font originally. Got switched for more hand-writey-like 'Tiresias' font sometime in the 90's. I remember first reading the original American flimsies and thinking that the hand-written lettering looked needlessly sloppy. Of course, on the other hand the typewriter one may make the character interactions feel monotonous. Which of course may in the end work just finely for folks for whom the "own son" Kaurismäki is a well-loved director. Now imagining: Wolverine going Dirty Harry at the Hellfire goons, played by Robert DeNiro, directed by Aki Kaurismäki.

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  15. The P!ndyr speak English, although they're "unimaginably far from the world we call home..." weird o_O

    Who's this Achmed Storm refers to? Was he mentioned previously?

    Has it always been established that Storm was Egyptian? Could've sworn she was Kenyan or something...

    What is "muzak"?

    I think that the coloring in this issue is worse than the pencils. On one page Dr. Shen's hair changes from brown to black...maybe it was intentional, but I doubt it

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  16. @Teemu: Jeff Daniels axing his own arm off after being bit and visibly poisoned on it and all. I liked her version better.

    Yeah, that's definitely a case of expectations not being met. :)

    @Reese: The P!ndyr speak English, although they're "unimaginably far from the world we call home..."

    There's no footnote to the effect, but we can probably safely assume they're talking in their language, and we're simply reading in English.

    Who's this Achmed Storm refers to? Was he mentioned previously?

    Achmed is the master thief of Cairo who took Storm in after she was orphaned and taught her to be a world-class thief. He was first mentioned, I believe, in X-Men #113, when the X-Men were captives of Magneto, and he's appeared briefly in flashbacks a few times.

    Has it always been established that Storm was Egyptian? Could've sworn she was Kenyan or something...

    She's technically Kenyan-American. Her mother was from Kenya, her father an American photo-journalist who moved the family from Harlem to Cairo when Storm was young, and it was there that her parents were killed and she was taken in by Achmed. So she's kind of Egyptian, in terms of culture/upbringing, if not race.

    What is "muzak"?

    Muzak is another term for elevator music, that is, usually instrumental easy listening music that can be pipped into public places (like malls, elevators, doctors offices) and put on a loop such that nobody really notices its looped, and can this run unobtrusively in the background for a long time.

    I think that the coloring in this issue is worse than the pencils.

    I tend to single out the pencils when talking about the art (and with these issues, how bad/unexciting that art is) but you're right: the coloring is not treat either (nor is the lettering at times). It's not just that the penciller in this batch of issues is rotating/lackluster, the entire artistic team, including Glynis and Orz, are intermittently missing issues or parts of issues, and that doesn't help either.

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  17. I just looked up “leman” again to confirm its pronunciation and it turns out it’s “lee-mun” rather than “lih-mahn” as I’d been saying in my head. For the curious.

    When you’re watching a movie and the action keeps cutting from a fight scene or a ticking bomb to someone waiting impatiently or obliviously in an elevator to the strains of an instrumental version of “The Girl from Ipanema”, that’s Muzak, which is actually a registered trademark of the company that introduced it.

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  18. The Hounds aren't related to the DoFP timeline from which Rachel Summers hails. They're just humans who the Shadow King has under his control. That's how he mind-controls people: Instead of using his telepathy to control their every action like a puppeteer does with puppets, he reaches into the person's psyche and manipulates their desires and personalities so that they actually want to serve him and think as he wishes. People corrupted and acting evilly of their own volition need less guidance that outright puppets.

    With Dr. Shen, he brought out her latent "bad girl". With the rich people whose house he occupies in this issue, he stripped them entirely of their humanity, making them nothing but animals responding to his will.

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