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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #289

"Knots"
June 1992

In a Nutshell
Forge proposes to Storm.

Writing: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Whilce Portacio
Inks: Scott Willaims
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Coloring: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Storm continues Bishop's orientation while Bobby nervously prepares for a date with Opal, during which she'll be meeting his parents for the first time. Meanwhile, Hiro is keeping watch on Iceman's parents from afar. Back at the mansion, Mystique, staying at the school at Wolverine's request, taunts Warren about his life pre-Archangel, drawing the attention of both Storm and Forge. This leads to Forge and Storm arguing, with Forge taking Storm to task for putting her responsibilities with the X-Men over their relationship. He tells her that he knows she is more than her cool, detached "Goddess" persona, but Storm isn't so sure. Forge declares he'll prove it to her, and asks her to marry him. Meanwhile, Bobby & Opal meet Bobby's parents for dinner, but Bobby's dad is blatantly racist about Bobby dating an Asian woman. Just then, Hiro interrupts, saying they're about to die, but that he is there to rescue Bobby and his family. As Bobby asks from who, Hiro's fellow cyber-ninjas suddenly appear, declaring that in order for vengeance to be exacted, Bobby's parents must die!

Firsts and Other Notables
After taking her to task for essentially ignoring him since she returned to adulthood during "X-Tinction Agenda", Forge proposes to Storm this issue. For the most part, this Forge/Storm relationship stuff is coming out of nowhere, since their feelings for each other haven't really been referenced since Forge was motivated to find the missing X-Men way back in the "Non-Team" Era, but that's also sort of Forge's point. I'm not sure Lobdell meant for this all to come across as metatexually as it does, but it definitely can be read that way. And I appreciate their relationship finally being addresses again in some way.


Opal is back, which means, unfortunately, Hiro and those stupid 90s cyber-ninjas from X-Factor #63-64 can't be far behind. Hiro shows up this issue watching Opal from afar, before the cyber-ninjas attack during the meeting with Bobby's parents at the end of the issue.


Iceman's parents both appear in this issue, and while both have appeared before, this is the start of the "Bobby's dad is racist!" characterization (here, he's down on the idea of Bobby dating an Asian women; later, his bigotry will extend to mutants as well), which becomes a minor running plot, for Iceman at least, throughout the 90s. Also, Iceman refers to his father as a seventy year old man, which seems to suggest that Iceman, youngest of the original X-Men, is older than he's probably meant to be at this point.


Mystique is on hand for this issue, and we find out she's staying at the mansion as a favor to Wolverine, following the events of Wolverine #51-53.


Bishop's head is added to the corner cover box with this issue.

Scott Lobdell is credited as the writer, and Whilce Portacio only as the penciler, thus marking the start of Lobdell's long tenure on Uncanny X-Men as a full writer (and not just scripting over Portacio and/or Jim Lee's plots)

This is the first issue of Uncanny X-Men I ever bought and read. I probably bought it at the same time I bought X-Men #8, but I remember reading X-Men #8 first, so I consider that one my first X-Men issue over this.

Collection Recollection
While I have been routinely terrible during the course of these reviews to note price changes throughout the years, I want to take a moment to point out that standard comics are, at this time, priced at $1.25 each. Because this was the price point when I first started buying comics  regularly, it is the baseline against which I have compared all future price. Also, with my $5 a week allowance at the time, $1.25 meant I could buy four issues a week (I'm pretty sure mom and dad were always willing to cover the tax). As a result, I also tended, through the years, to think of comic book prices in terms of "how many issues can I buy for five bucks?" (back then, four. Today, one. Maybe). This is also probably why I didn't start regularly reading Excalibur & Wolverine right off the bat - at $1.75 a piece, they ruined my whole "four for five" philosophy.

A Work in Progress
Amongst the various pictures of the X-Men through the ages is a large portrait of Magneto amongst some of the New Mutants pics, a nice nod to the history of the franchise and Magneto's role in it.


Following through on her concerns from X-Men #8, Jean attempts to have a heart-to-heart with Xavier, but he's not opening up much.

More angst from Archangel this issue, as he cries when Iceman reminds him of his previous life as playboy Warren Worthington, then gets mad when Mystique confronts him in his previous form saying he should be over his transformation by now, to which he replies that Apocalypse took everything from him in a single night (which isn't quite true; Cameron Hodge took everything from him, over a series of many days and nights, the the Marauders took his wings, and Apocalypse only got involved after Warren tried to kill himself).


Also, I'm not sure if this panel of Archangel ignoring Xavier and mentally flying off is a deliberate homage to the time he quit the X-Men over Wolverine's behavior, or just a coincidence built on the fact that having him fly off from the mansion is a preferred artistic choice.


Forge snarks at Storm that she might have noticed what was wrong with Archangel if she hadn't been spending so much time fawning over Bishop, and, I mean, he's not wrong. She's spent three solid issues at this point on his orientation.


Artistic Achievements
If Portactio wasn't already officially out the door when he worked on this issue (next issue will be his last), he must be pretty close to it, since there's a distinct lack of backgrounds all throughout the issues, with panels just floating on a stark white background (not unlike the cover).

Also, there's a pretty blatant coloring error in one panel.


Austin's Analysis
This is the first issue of Uncanny X-Men I ever read, and like X-Men #8, it features a lot of the same stuff that got me hooked on the X-Men and comics in general, chiefly, a focus on characterization and character interaction. There's no real plot to speak of to this issue; rather, it's a series of interactions between characters. More Bishop orientation. Archangel & Iceman, Archangel & Mystique. Jean Grey & Professor X. Storm and Forge arguing, then Forge proposing, while Iceman & Opal meet his parents and are attacked by cyber-ninjas (in the two closest things to a narrative plot this issue has). Once again, it stresses the idea that these characters are people first, superheroes second.

The other thing that really stands out about this issue, even moreso than in X-Men #8, is how steeped in history it is. There are footnotes galore in this one, referencing everything from recent issues of Wolverine to "Fall of the Mutants", and there's stuff like Hiro and the cyber-ninjas and the transformation of Angel into Archangel that are references to past stories without getting a specific footnote. Once again, this creates the impression of a larger world, of a rich history and backstory to this world. Reading this for the first time, each one of those footnotes was like a tease to a whole nother story. It made me want to read those issues, to learn first hand the context of the events being referenced. Thus this issue, even moreso than X-Men #8, is really responsible for getting me excited about the history of the series, of ensuring that in between new issues of the series, I'd be reading as many old ones as I could get my hands on.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the truth about Domino in X-Force #11. Friday, the debut of Rhapsody in X-Factor #79. Next week, the X-Men arrive in the Big Easy in Ghost Rider #26.

22 comments:

  1. "Forge proposes to Storm this issue"

    They really dropped the ball on the Storm and Forge relationship. Rather than ignoring it, I'd much rather they addressed it as a subplot once the reboot started, and then have him written out because he and Storm couldn't work it out. Instead, we get this weird 2 issue subplot.

    "Hiro and those stupid 90s cyber-ninjas from X-Factor #63-64 can't be far behind"

    I'm surprised Portacio didn't get a writing/plotting co-credit this issue.

    "Iceman's parents both appear in this issue"

    The idea of a mutant having a bigot for a parent is an interesting one. Sadly, Lobdell writes it with all the subtlety of a shovel to the face. And if Bobby's dad is such a bigot, why'd he even agree to the dinner in the first place?

    "we find out she's staying at the mansion as a favor to Wolverine"

    I know Mystique was pardoned for her crimes, so the X-men can't turn her in, and she did team up with them during FOTM and fought to save Muir Island and against the Shadow King and Wolverine recently, but...aren't they all (with exception of Storm) just a bit too blase about having her at the mansion?

    "when Mystique confronts him in his previous form saying he should be over his transformation by now"

    Interestingly, she says it happened months ago. Which means everything that happened since the Mutant Massacre till this issue happened in just the span of a few months? Interesting.

    "just a coincidence built on the fact that having him fly off from the mansion is a preferred artistic choice."

    At least he is wearing clothes this time!

    "Forge snarks at Storm that she might have noticed what was wrong with Archangel if she hadn't been spending so much time fawning over Bishop"

    Talk about setting a romantic triangle that goes nowhere. At least this only lasts one or two issues, unlike the Jean/Scott/Betsy nonsense.

    "since there's a distinct lack of backgrounds all throughout the issues, with panels just floating on a stark white background"

    I kind of like it. Given that it's something of a character driven issue, I don;t mind that he's focusing on the characters via non-traditional paneling. Even if it is the result of him rushing things to move onto Image. And yikes, do we get quite a few pony-tails and mullets this issue. Still, it could have looked worse. I kind of found this to be one of his better issues.

    And I do kind of like the cover too.

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    1. Mystique is talking of comic book "months", the measure of time used when you don't want/can't commit to more specific time scale. "Months" can be 36 months, for example.

      I liked the Forge/Storm/Mystique thing becoming alive at this point, for reasons that will come up in the next issue.

      Let's hope Bobby finds a nice American boy his dad will feel comfortable with.

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    2. "And if Bobby's dad is such a bigot, why'd he even agree to the dinner in the first place?"

      As someone with racist relatives, some of them relish the chance to be loud & proud in their bigotry. I can't think of any other reason besides enjoying being utter jerks, but I've seen it in action, and Lobdell might not be subtle but he's not inaccurate. (Also, kind of explains why Bobby stayed in the closet & faked it as long as he did. When you've seen it in action against others, you don't want to be the next target.)

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    3. I'm surprised Portacio didn't get a writing/plotting co-credit this issue.

      Me too, especially since he's clearly still pitching (or had pitched) ideas, like the Mikhail stuff in the next issue.

      but...aren't they all (with exception of Storm) just a bit too blase about having her at the mansion?

      Probably, but also Rogue is there, and they just took in the (from some perspectives) murderous Bishop, and Mystique is at least a known element, and also Magneto ran their school for awhile, and in the years ahead we'll be seeing more and more villains brought onto the team. So while it may not make much sense, it's at least consistent.

      Which means everything that happened since the Mutant Massacre till this issue happened in just the span of a few months? Interesting.

      Given Marvel's Sliding Timescale, all those events probably all happened in the span of a few days at this point.

      Given that it's something of a character driven issue, I don;t mind that he's focusing on the characters via non-traditional paneling.

      I'd like it more if I was more convinced it was a legit artistic choice and not just born of laziness.

      I do like the cover though, and next issue's as well.

      @Mela: Also, kind of explains why Bobby stayed in the closet & faked it as long as he did.

      Good point!

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    4. The “it’s been months” remark from Mystique surprised me too, just the way such references always do, although often I’m left wondering exactly what longer amount of time would really make sense. And then I got whiplash as Forge said mere pages later that he’d known Storm “for years” — even if that’s ameliorated somewhat by the year of subjective time they spent together, which he does also mention, on the Adversary’s world.

      Bobby’s dad being 70 threw me for a loop as well.

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    5. "They really dropped the ball on the Storm and Forge relationship. Rather than ignoring it, I'd much rather they addressed it as a subplot once the reboot started, and then have him written out because he and Storm couldn't work it out. Instead, we get this weird 2 issue subplot."

      To be fair, this is an abridged version of what you just described.

      About Mystique, keep in mind that she was supposed to be mentally ill at this point (although later stories suggest she was totally faking it), which might make the team a bit more sympathetic to letting her stay. And don't forget that in a few years time, they'll be letting the much more unstable Sabretooth stay at the mansion.

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    6. Though they kept Sabretooth locked up in the Danger Room for his entire stay, as I recall -- and when he did get to go out, he usually had his Hannibal Lector accoutrements on. Mystique seems to have the run of the place in this issue with no supervision.

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    7. "To be fair, this is an abridged version of what you just described."

      Not really, it isn't. My point was to have Storm and Forge interact with each other once the reboot started, and them coming to the realization that they just couldn't make the relationship work. And then he leaves. What we got instead was no real scenes between the two of them until this issue and the next, and...it's just a badly written mess.

      Also, aren't they unaware that Mystique is "mentally ill" until she starts acting weird next issue? And as Matt points out, they're letting her run around the mansion unsupervised. If they know she's insane, that makes their decision to do so even more strange.

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  2. Yeah, this or the following cover might be Portacio's best for the series. It's striking, at least.

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    1. Next issue's is pretty striking. I like it.

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  3. "Also, Iceman refers to his father as a seventy year old man, which seems to suggest that Iceman, youngest of the original X-Men, is older than he's probably meant to be at this point."
    Not necessarily- if Bobby's dad had him at the age of 46, Bobby would be 24 right now.

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    1. Oh yeah, it's not impossible, and Bobby could certainly have been born when his dad was in his 40s, but on average, I think most people would assume he was born when his dad was late 20s/early 30s (at least I did), which would put Iceman closer to 40 than I imagine was intended.

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  4. This is a strange issue because it does get something right about Storm (she has no life outside of the X-men) but Lobdell, Waid, Fabian, and everyone else that followed Claremont couldn't figure out what to do with her and never understood the tension in her character.

    For me, Storm is the most interesting leader of the X-men because she struggled in that role. Cyclops never questioned his own actions and most of the tension in his character centered on his relationship with Jean. Cyclops and Storm become boring characters during this era, while Wolverine, Bishop, Gambit, and Rogue get all of the attention.

    Even Archangel, who might ironically be the bright spot of the original X-Factor run, becomes boring. This is one of the few times he deals with his transformation, then there's X-Cutioner's song, he starts dating Psylocke, and he gets his original wings back. There was so much they could have done with his character during this era.

    So much wasted potential.

    CR

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    1. The big problem with Storm is that, when you're defining characteristic is "no life outside the X-Men", it's hard to do any kind of stories with her that aren't X-Men stories. Which is, I think, one of the reasons she suffers more than most in the decade ahead.

      Cyclops can always have relationship drama with Jean (and his brother, and eventually Cable), Bishop is from the future, Wolverine and Gambit have the whole mysterious past thing, Rogue the "don't touch me!" angst, Psylocke the "man, my character's gotten pretty mangled and everyone seems to think the best way to fix it is to mangle it some more" thing, etc. Storm's got the "I am a leader of the X-Men" thing, which doesn't really open doors to many stories beyond the ones where she's leading the X-Men.

      That's why I love the Mohawk/Powerless Storm era so much; it's really the only time she gets to do something other than be a quietly efficient superhero (Iceman has this problem too, but the 90s solve it by hitting the "not living up to his power's potential" well a few dozen times).

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    2. There could have been some tension with her and Cyclops or Professor X over leadership of the X-men. It still revolves around the X-men, but it's there and there was some stuff there in the Claremont run.

      I assume Gambit was originally going to be her love interest and there would be a triangle with Forge. Reread his dialogue from X-tinction Agenda after Storm turns into an adult.

      "Storm's next kiss should be mine." I'm paraphrasing.

      She was also the former/current leader of the Morlocks, but we know that gets wrapped up in a couple of issues...but there is the Marrow stuff at the end of Lobdell's run.

      CR

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  5. Sadly Claremont set the foundation for the Ororo/ Forge split here, not only with Destiny's inference to him in #255 of his and Raven's futures being intimately entwined, but Jean's subtle flirting with him in #263-4. Interesting on this last point with Lobdell having Jean here then be the one casting the doubt on their relationship here that is the catalyst for the break.

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  6. Now we're getting into a chunk of issues I have little recollection of. I think I mentioned before that I bought the full stack of 281 - 288 at our local convention a couple years after the fact, probably around 1993 or so. I didn't start reading UNCANNY regularly until another couple years later, though I did get the random issue as part of a crossover. The first issue I bought off the stands was 294, part one of "X-Cutioner's Song" -- and I think I've only read 290 - 293 once, maybe twice, in my life.

    Interestingly, I did read UNCANNY for the full stretch of 294 - 300, then I dropped it again. I picked up 304 for "Fatal Attractions" and randomly bought 305 as well, then dropped it again. I suspect I was turned off by John Romita, Jr.'s artwork back then, since most of the issues I bought were drawn by Brandon Peterson or fill-in artists. Issue 316 was my first as a regular, ongoing reader -- nearly a year and a half after I'd started reading X-MEN on a monthly basis with #20 -- and the main draw for me at that point was Joe Madureira (and his fill-in knock-off, Roger Cruz).

    "(I'm pretty sure mom and dad were always willing to cover the tax)."

    I remember when comics weren't taxable, at least in California! Back when the cover price was one dollar, I could go into a store with exactly a buck and come out with a comic. I think that changed around 1991 or '92.

    Though I had read many comics over the years when they were 65 or 75 cents, $1.00 was my "entry level" price -- but I think they raised it to $1.25 not long after. I distinctly recall all the increases up to $2.50, I think, then I started to lose track. I can't believe what the things cost nowadays. I feel like inflation has hit comics a lot harder than almost anything else I buy. Back when they were $2.50 and I was a starving college student, I was still able to pick up pretty much everything I wanted to read. Nowadays in that position, I'd feel screwed.

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    1. I remember when comics weren't taxable, at least in California!

      That's pretty cool. We have no sales tax on clothing here in MN (or groceries), which is one of the reasons we also have the Mall of America, but I'd much prefer no tax on comics. :)

      Back when they were $2.50 and I was a starving college student, I was still able to pick up pretty much everything I wanted to read. Nowadays in that position, I'd feel screwed.

      Ditto. I mean, I buy less now, as a grown adult with a big person job, than I did as a starving college student, despite my increased earning power. Obviously, I also have greater demands on that income than I did back then, but the ratio of comics to disposable income is just all out of whack nowadays, sadly.

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    2. Yeah, that's kind of what I was getting at. In college I made peanuts, but I was still able to pay for gas, food, and most of the comics I wanted to read! Nowadays, if I was making the current equivalent of what I made back then, there's no way I could afford the number of comics I bought during that period.

      I don't condone piracy by any means, but given how the price of comics has skyrocketed relative to what younger people make, it's not hard to see why so many go that route when it's an option.

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  7. I want to know who was taking all of these photos of Xavier and the original X-Men. Fred Duncan? There aren’t many options in terms of folks who knew about the whole setup at the mansion back then. Maybe the Professor would call in the paperboy and then mind-wipe him. What really gets me is that Xavier is laughing; I’m guessing Portacio wasn’t actually too familiar with that era.

    // while Bobby nervously prepares for a date with Opal //

    So nervously that he only brushes his teeth after he’s put on his suit and finally tied that necktie.

    Mystique staying at the mansion is a considerable favor on Xavier’s part, all things… um… considered. Which makes her confronting Warren in the guise of his old self even more of a schmuck thing to do, and I’m not entirely sure whether we’re supposed to buy that she really thought she was helping or not.

    All told Lobdell’s script is once again better than I had expected given the general impression of his stuff I recall having when reading the Fatal Attractions era off the racks while working at a comics shop, so I should probably stop being surprised. I’m unlikely to love what he does, sure, but I do appreciate the sense of history on display in contrast to the relaunch’s immediate wake.

    I also like the cover; the interior art, much less.

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    1. 'I want to know who was taking all of these photos of Xavier and the original X-Men. Fred Duncan? There aren’t many options in terms of folks who knew about the whole setup at the mansion back then. Maybe the Professor would call in the paperboy and then mind-wipe him. What really gets me is that Xavier is laughing; I’m guessing Portacio wasn’t actually too familiar with that era.'
      Well, let's not forget the graduation scene from X-MEN#7 V1 was done without a person, and one of the members was telekinetic.

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    2. When you're right, you're right.

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