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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #267

"Nanny: Into the Fire"
Early September 1990

In a Nutshell 
Storm regains her memories as Jim Lee begins his run as series artist. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Homage Studios (Lee, Portacio & Williams)
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Dr. Shen leads the Hounds in an attack on Storm and Gambit at the airplane junkyard, prompting Storm to use her power to lift her plane into the air. A pair of Hounds leap aboard, but Gambit fights them off. Just then, their plane is targeted by Nanny's ship. The encounter with Nanny shakes some of Storm's memories, but Gambit manages to blast Orphan Maker, forcing Nanny to retreat. Later, Storm awakens from nightmares of being captured by Nanny in New Orleans, having learned the city in the intervening weeks from Gambit. Together, they act as a pair of Robin Hoods, robbing from the rich to give the poor, until Nanny catches up to them once again.


After Orphan Maker captures Gambit, Storm steals aboard Nanny's ship, where she finds herself powerless. However, the surroundings further jog her memory, and she remembers everything about her past, including Nanny transforming her into a child. Donning the suit of armor Nanny intended her to wear, she defeats Orphan Maker and frees Gambit, who triggers an explosion which sends the ship crashing into a swamp. Emerging from the water, Gambit assures Storm there's no chance Nanny and Orphan Maker could have survived, while noting that she suddenly sounds older. She agrees that she's no longer quite the girl he befriended, then asks if he's ever heard of a band of mutant heroes called the X-Men.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks Jim Lee's return to X-Men (following his fill-in on issue #248 and pseudo try-out in issues #256-258) and the beginning of his regular run on the series, which will last through issue #277, after which he'll help launch the second regular X-Men book, which he'll draw through issue #11, before leaving to co-found Image Comics.

For anyone who hasn't already read X-Men Annual #14, this issue depicts Storm fully regaining her memories after encountering Nanny aboard her ship, the sight of Storm's initial transformation, though she remains trapped in the body of a child.


This issue also depicts the way Nanny fooled the X-Men into believing Storm is dead, revealing that the body they buried in issue #249 was that of Life Model Decoy configured to look like Storm.


Her actual transformation into a child is also depicted via flashback later in the issue.


Gambit uses a playing card as a weapon for the first time this issue, which will become his celebrated weapon moving forward. His power is still being depicted as coming from his eyes, though it's noted that he releases stored up force to make things explode.


Also, there's a scene in this issue in which Gambit uses a broomstick like a bo staff, likely either a hint at or the genesis of his future regular use of a staff.


Gambit's connection to New Orleans is established this issue, as he and Storm flee there after the Shadow King's attack, and Gambit shares his knowledge of the city with Storm.


This marks Nanny and the Orphan Maker's final appearance for awhile; they'll next pop up in early issues of Generation X.

The corner cover box is updated to reflect the heads of three different factions of X-Men at this point (Wolverine/Psylocke/Jubilee, Forge & Banshee, and Storm & Gambit), the group that will comprise the re-structured team coming out of "X-Tinction Agenda".

Creator Central
Whilce Portacio, who will take over penciling duties on Uncanny after Lee leaves to launch adjectiveless X-Men, provides the cover to this issue, with Lee inking it. Inside, Portacio inks Lee, along with Lee's longtime collaborator Scott Williams (who will stick around as Lee's regular inker on the series), with the trio credited as Homage Studios (which is the name they'll take to Image Comics, as well).

The Chronology Corner
Gambit and Storm next appear in X-Men Annual #14, where they are considered to join and rejoin the X-Men, respectively, before returning to the series proper in issue #270. 

A Work in Progress
The Shadow King's Hounds, as drawn by Lee, are significantly more savage in demeanor than in the previous issue.


Storm remembers being attacked as a child on her way to Kenya, a detail of her past that I don't believe had been previously established.


Claremontisms
Storm throws a knife with a "speed that defies description".


The Best There is, Mon Ami 
A splash page in this issue features an image of Gambit using his power that becomes fairly iconic, and gets picked up for use in licensing/merchandise material.


Gambit's ultimately-aborted charm power is also featured again this issue.



Teebore's Take
Our long artistic nightmare is finally over. After five months of rotating, middling artists, Jim Lee's run begins here, a run which will see the book's already huge popularity skyrocket, leading to the creation of a second X-Men book, and come to define this era of the X-Men, long after both Claremont and Lee himself have left the series. Regardless of your opinion on his work, there's no denying that the arrival of Jim Lee brings a jolt of much needed consistency and energy to the series, and it's certainly possible that, though Lee was already a popular artist following his work on the Punisher and his previous X-Men fill-ins, that consistency and energy is what readers responded to initially when he came aboard: after the desert of Jaaskas and Collins and Dwyers, Lee was a refreshing gulp of water.

Significant artist debuts aside, this is something of an odd issue. Ostensibly the conclusion to the Storm/Shadow King story arc and notable for bringing to an end the amnesiac Storm subplot (though notably not the Kid Storm one), it's split more or less down the middle, with Storm and Gambit escaping the Shadow King's Hounds (rather perfunctorily) in the first half, then dealing with Nanny and Orphan Maker in the second half. Obviously, this isn't the last we'll see of the Shadow King, and Nanny's larger involvement in the story had been teased in the previous two issues (and, of course, her involvement serves as the vehicle to get Storm back to normal, mind-wise, at least). But given how much Shadow King was built up as the direct, immediate antagonist in the first two chapters of the story, it seems strange that he's not present for the conclusion of the arc, abruptly returned to the back-burner just pages before the story that moved his long-simmering subplot to the foreground concludes.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Cable battles Wolverine in New Mutants #93. Friday, the conclusion to the Ravens storyline in X-Factor #58. Next week, Alpha Flight #87-90.

Collected Editions

18 comments:

  1. What is the debt between Lian Shen and Gambit referred to by the doctor here?

    While most think it was a result of his attempt to "charm" her in the previous issue, she refers to him as "The Boy" in this issue, suggesting she knows of Claremont's intent for him to be "young Nate" from the State Home for Foundlings.

    Just how a Chinese National, who was suggested to have fled Tiananmen Square, came to know of the young Nate from the State Home for Foundlings when she was only a recent arrival to the US of A is beyond me!?

    Is it that she perhaps acquired a job at "his" Orphanage upon defecting to the US?

    If so, it's interesting that the "good doctor" is first introduced working at the hospital where Ororo first shows up as a child in Uncanny X-Men #253.

    Did "young Nate" have doctors located at hospitals across the US to identify for him young mutant children that came in which he would then organise for transfer to his "orphanage" in Nebraska?

    So let me get down to resolving this in one fell swoop as it were:
    You'll recall in addition to Chris Claremont intending Mister Sinister to be a "super-villain" vessel through which young Nate (from the orphanage) operated with the adult world, he initially intended Gambit to be the "super-hero vessel" young Nate operated through the adult world in.

    I then made the connection from there, since as mentioned above how does a Chinese National (which Lian Shen was, Claremont mentioning her having fled Tiananmen Square) know Gambit is a "BOY"? Gambit had not been operating for very long at this point (at least by what Claremont had shown by this point).

    The link to me is her being a doctor.

    And how would a doctor know about young Nate, given he never left the orphanage as far as Claremont's stories showed up to that point!?

    So perhaps her initial job upon arriving in the US was as a doctor there, after which he sent her out to identify young mutant children in public hospitals that could then be transferred to "his" orphanage.

    Since how else did young Nate get the orphanage filled with mutant children in the first place? He had to have doctors working on his behalf, and this must be how Scott got transferred to him, since both he and Alex would've ended up in a public hospital first after their parents' plane went down.

    And a doctor there must be who young Nate organised the transfer through.

    I believe Claremont's introduction of Dr. Lian Shen was the clue intended to finally reveal how young Nate pulled off getting Scott and subsequent mutant children to the orphanage he had taken control of. And Lian Shen was his most recent "dupe doctor" before the Shadow King got control of her.

    To further back this up, recall how after FBI Agent Jacob Reisz brought the de-aged Storm to Cairo Memorial Hospital, Dr. Shen's first deduction to Ororo not registering on any of their medical or video equipment is that she is a mutant. Why would that be her first conclusion?

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  2. Storm remembers being attacked as a child on her way to Kenya, a detail of her past that I don't believe had been previously established.

    Hadn't? Didn't Claremont pretty early on bring up Storm's strict no-killing policy and that it had basis in this sort of incident in her past? The policy was a pointer in the Storm vs. Callisto knife fight. The incident gets fleshed out here but it's not a "new" detail.

    Nathan again is making a good case here, one that can be seen stocked up by the fact that Shadow King's astral form that he uses to contact Dr. Shen looks pretty Sinister with its white skin and red eyes. Addressing her mockingly in her real bosses guise, like Mystique did back in the day to Dr. Cooper?

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  3. Oh, and Nanny, who we best remember from Inferno stealing/rescuing kids from the sub-basement of the Nebraskan orphanage. The arc seems to be really loaded with hints of the Sinister/Gambit connection, only the Marauders are left out, possibly for the shock reveal that's in the works.

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  4. > Inside, Portacio inks Lee, along with Lee's longtime collaborator Scott Williams

    Er..not exactly. I'd say the penciling is split between Portacio and Lee with Williams inking. Several of the panels you posted are, undoubtedly, Portacio panels...particularly the Shadow King's hounds panel that you credited to Lee. Portacio's faces are pretty distinctive. Next issue (#268) is really the "proper" debut of Lee as the new artist.

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  5. @Nathan: suggesting she knows of Claremont's intent for him to be "young Nate" from the State Home for Foundlings.

    Has Claremont ever actually confirmed that particularly intent? I've heard that story, and told it myself a few times, but when I went looking for some documentation of it for Gambit's first appearance, all I could find was Claremont talking about his intent to reveal Gambit as a villain working for Sinister, nothing about him being an aspect of Sinister.

    @Teemu: Didn't Claremont pretty early on bring up Storm's strict no-killing policy and that it had basis in this sort of incident in her past? The policy was a pointer in the Storm vs. Callisto knife fight. The incident gets fleshed out here but it's not a "new" detail.

    Maybe in a vague "ever since my childhood, I swore never to take a life" kind of a way, but I don't remember any reference to an attempted rape as she hitchhiked her way to Africa prior to this.

    @Cerebro: I'd say the penciling is split between Portacio and Lee with Williams inking. Several of the panels you posted are, undoubtedly, Portacio panels...particularly the Shadow King's hounds panel that you credited to Lee.

    Yeah, to be fair, I was simply sticking to the "official" credits (per the Marvel Index) which have Lee as the penciler and Portacio & Williams as his inkers (and of course, the issue's printed credit just attributes the art in general to all three). But you're right that if Portacio isn't drawing some of these pages outright, his inks are really, really overpowering. Another one that struck me as likely Portacio's work was the sequence of the Storm LMD being created.

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  6. Teebore: Maybe in a vague "ever since my childhood, I swore never to take a life" kind of a way, but I don't remember any reference to an attempted rape as she hitchhiked her way to Africa prior to this

    There is the bit in #150 when she contemplates on slitting Magneto's throat, and lets on that she's done it once before to save her life. Then in following issues her swearing never to do it again it gets a lot of lip service. In #169 when Callisto is toying Angel she tells Peter it's not love but desire, and goes on to think: "I was twelve when I saw a man so gaze at me -- a prize to be won, an object to be possessed. My emotions, my wishes, meant nothing. Had I fought, my spirit would have been broken. I would have been used. Then slain. So, instead, I ran away, from all that I knew and loved, never to return."

    You'd think that she's talking of escaping from a physical location, maybe Egypt, and someone close to her there. But it's part of the arc that ends with Storm stabbing Callisto in heart, so maybe the "all she knew and loved" she points at was the killing-free way of life, and 'fighting' was the incapasitating sort of fight she knows she would have lost, and her 'running away' was the surprising killing strike.

    Not obvious from #169 maybe, but the scene depicted in this issue so totally is about the same incident. Age matches and everything. I told ya, Claremont's harvesting like mad from that era now.

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  7. @Teemu: "I was twelve when I saw a man so gaze at me -- a prize to be won, an object to be possessed. My emotions, my wishes, meant nothing. Had I fought, my spirit would have been broken. I would have been used. Then slain. So, instead, I ran away, from all that I knew and loved, never to return."

    Yeah, that line definitely does seem to fit what's depicted here. Whether Claremont had the latter scene in mind specifically when he wrote the first line or just remembered the line when writing this scene, who can say, but they definitely seem like they're connected. Good catch. I'd forgotten the specific wording from #169.

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  8. @Teebore: Claremont confirmed this in an interview that was printed on the Gambit issue (#35) of Classic Marvel Figurine Collection which I've presented below:

    Remy LeBeau may well have been one of Marvel's most popular mutants for the past 15 or so years but writer Chris Claremont had a different fate in mind when he conceieved the Cajun master of bio-kinetic energy.

    If Claremont - the man, who, more than any other, is responsible for the X-Men's long-lasting popularity - had had his way, Gambit, as LeBeau is better known, might never have been a hero, let alone a highly-regarded member of the mutant team.

    "Originally the idea was I wanted to set up an extended new villain for the X-Men, I was tired of just going back to Magneto and the Brotherhood (of Evil Mutants) and the same old same old. Dave (Cockrum) and I were over ideas and what we were coming towards was a mysterious young boy - apparently an 11-year-old - at the orphanage where Scott (Summers aka Cyclops) was raised, who turned out to be the secret master of the place. In effect what we were setting up was a guy who was aging (proportionately) over a lifespan of roughly a thousand years. Even though he looked like an 11-year-old, he'd actually been alive since the mid-century at this point - he was actually about 50," stated Claremont.

    Sinister Origins
    Drawing pararells with Claudia from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles (the role played by Spider-Man's Kirsten Dunst in 1994's Interview with a Vampire) the man they call the X-meister continued, "He had all the grown up urges. He's growing up in his mind but his body isn't capable of handling it, which makes him quite cranky. And, of course, looking like an 11-year-old, who'd take him seriously in the criminal community?"

    "So he built himself an agent in a sense, which was Mr. Sinister (inrtoduced by Claremont in Uncanny X-Men #221 in a story drawn by Marc Silvestri and Dan Green)," added the writer. "That was, in effect, the rationale behind Sinister's rather - for want of a better word - childish or kid-like appearance. The costume... the look... the face... it's what would scare a child. Even when he was designed, he wasn't what you'd expect in a guy like that."

    "The problem was that, as he's monitoring the X-Men, he sees and falls for Rogue and wants to win her," added Claremont, a writer lauded and criticised in equal measure for his intricate subplots and long-term plotting. "But he can't approach him as himself; he's too young and won't be old enough forever - as far as Rogue's concerned. He can't approach her as Sinister obviously."

    The nameless villain's solution, explained Claremont - who stressed that this was his original concept for the Cajun mutant - was to grow an older version of himself... namely Gambit. As originally conceived, Gambit was a bad guy. "He was supposed to come in, meet Rogue, Rogue was supposed to fall in love with him, the act of falling in love develops a humanity in him that separates him out from Sinister or rather Sinister's human half. So in a sense, we have a love triangle between a now 60-year old mind in an 11-year-old body, the young Gambit, and Rogue. One's good, one's bad. Originally he was a bad guy pretending to be good but then he would discover that maybe he liked being good more and he was torn one way or the other. Ultimately there would be a conflict between Gambit and his creator, his true self." That was pretty much Claremont's intent, but as John Lennon once sang, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

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  9. @Teebore, I'd make the case this is what Claremont was more or less meaning from the beginning with Ororo. It can of course have been only a regular dangler how she in #150 for the first time lets on she's killed, once, as a child. That far her origin story as told in #102 hadn't mentioned anything of the sort and stated that something drew her to go south when she was 12 (so she wasn't running because of the incident told in #169). But, IF Claremont was addressing the #150 dangler, hardly a more suitable place could be found than the #169-170 story.

    Moreover, in the current arc she's reliving her Cairo childhood so I think Claremont might feel a bit bound by what's been told of it earlier (or what he has been thinking even if it wasn't exactly obvious to us). In regards to Gambit's intended role, it's a nice touch that in this reliving he's the one playing the role of that someone who carries Ororo away from Cairo (and Farouk's clutches), but (as she was to learn, again) not out of the goodness of his heart.

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  10. So, even if one may think there could have been more done with Kid Ororo, as a retelling of Ororo's childhood it came to a timely and fulfilled end, as there really wasn't anything more to tell from her years before time as the Kenyan rain goddess.

    Except of course for the fact that we were ultimately denied of the childhood-ending betrayal by Gambit. There would be lot to say how Ororo's knife didn't protect her this time, as the smiling cajun too easily snapped it from mid-air, otherwise.

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  11. The best issue in some time now.

    // Whilce Portacio, who will take over penciling duties on Uncanny after Lee leaves to launch adjectiveless X-Men, provides the cover to this issue, with Lee inking it. //

    I’m not sure how to parse the cover signatures, but inker Bob Wiacek is on there. Question is, Did he ink both Lee and Portacio, one penciling the foreground and one the background, or is it all penciled by Portacio with Lee and Wiacek each inking a part?

    Although I find quite a bit to like in the interior art, the cover does nothing for me — it feels designed to appeal only to fans of the book (and perhaps also to readers intrigued by a bare-midriffed brunette in fishnets holding a champagne flute) rather than designed to hook new readers. I’ll admit that it reflects the issue’s story; if you had any general sense of the X-Men and saw this on the racks, however, you wouldn’t even recognize most of the corner-box heads let alone the main character. Maybe I’m just letting my disinterest in the art show, or failing to successfully transpose my inner kid to that era.

    Everything looks and reads better with Orz lettering, that’s for sure, as I’ve said before and can hardly be repeated enough. Glynis Oliver does a nice job with a mostly limited palette of purples and blues, too, keeping things moody.

    // Storm throws a knife with a "speed that defies description".  //

    And Gambit snatches it out of the air, by the blade. Unless his mutant power extends to instantly absorbing kinetic energy as well as charging things up with it — very possible, and something I’ve seen used elsewhere — I call bandersnatch on his fingers not being shredded.

    One moment that stood out to me was Gambit showing Li’l Stormy a photo of her adult, leather-clad mohawked self and remarks on the “blue eyes, silver hair” that Stormy and the woman in the photo have in common. His possession of the photo and Li’l Stormy’s utter lack of recognition or connection to the image are both worth noting; less so, possibly, is this goof: Photo Storm’s eyes are powered-up, pure white, and pupil-free — like those of Li’l Stormy flying the plane, at that moment, which’d actually have been a more notable connection/observation for Gambit to make.

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  12. @Blam, kid-Storm spent better half of the issue with whitened eyes herself, so it's not THAT big a deal for Gambit to make that assumption of the pic-Storm, especially when the blue eyes white hair thing go as a pair in these shenanigans. Plus, of course, Kitty in the pic is wearing her blue Shadowcat costume, which she got only after Storm had lost her powers, so she really can't have her eyes powered up in the pic. Pah, these Image artists...

    Didn't Gambit find the pic from the plane just two pages earlier, like it had been in Kid Storm's belongings, along with the knife?

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  13. @Teemu: // Didn't Gambit find the pic from the plane just two pages earlier, like it had been in Kid Storm's belongings, along with the knife? //

    Um… Yep. So forget the part about it being interesting that Gambit had it; the goof stands.

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  14. Hey. We didn't yet mention the arc's titles, did we: "Storm", "Gambit: Out of the Frying Pan" and "Nanny: Into the Fire". Nice, I guess.

    Also, it'd be redundant to keep mentioning Gambit's smoking under "Grim n' Gritty 90s", but I'd say the way he leaves his cig hanging in the air while he goes to catch the knife and then snaps it back between his fingers before it drops would leave your modern day Surgeon General screaming. Wolverine at least had he decency to mention that his healing power takes care of it.

    What they would need now is a Graphic Novel where Gambit dies to lung cancer and all the heroes, and a skrull and Thanos come to his deathbed to berate him, and Spider-Man has to leave room because he can't cope with stupid.

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  15. @Teebore: Did my reply address your query, and any response?

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  16. Look, no character who kills Nanny in his second appearance can be all bad.

    In all seriousness, while I realize a lot of it is probably nostalgia, I still like Gambit.

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  17. I wonder if Gambit's charm power was phased out because writers began to realize the negative repercussions of such a power (similar to the one modern creators began to have about Starfox.) Particularly on a character who (by design) was always kinda sleazy and sketchy and especially when he started up a romance.

    Nevertheless, as much as I don't like the "kid Storm" arc, I actually like the camaraderie between Storm and Gambit. It's kind of too bad their friendship wasn't explored more after the big team reshuffle of '91. I actually would have read a miniseries with this team-up.

    Boy Lian Shen sure has been Jim Lee-ified huh? (And I have never seen such a minor character have a completely different appearance each issue she's in. Dr. Shen must have a plastic surgeon on speed dial.)

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  18. The bit Storm references, about being attacked on the road to Kenya -- wasn't that story told in the Claremont/Byrne Storm/Black Panther backup from MARVEL TEAM-UP #100? I actually have never read the story, as it was not collected in anything until fairly recently, but that's always been my impression.

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