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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #30

"The Ties That Bind"
March 1994

In a Nutshell
The wedding of Cyclops & Jean Grey

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Matt Ryan
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As she finishes getting ready for the ceremony, Jean reads a letter Wolverine sent to her & Scott in his absence. Meanwhile, Hank, Warren, Bobby & Alex struggle to tie Scott's bow tie, before Professor X arrives to finish the job, and lead them all outside. Shortly thereafter, the ceremony begins as Jean walks down the aisle, and then she & Scott are married. As the reception begins, Sabretooth ponders causing trouble, but is dissuaded by an unseen figure. Later, the assorted friends & family members of Scott & Jean mingle and catch-up amid the assorted wedding traditions. As the evening winds down, Jean pulls Professor X onto the dance floor and uses her telekinesis to share a dance with him. Later, with the guests having retired to bed or Harry's Hideaway for a night cap, Scott says goodbye to Xavier on his way to the airport, thanking him for the life he gave him, and telling Xavier that he loves him. As Scott leaves, Xavier finds himself, in the wake of the wedding, looking at the work still before him, and the people around him, with new eyes, just as he opens his own letter from Wolverine, telling him simply to lighten up.

Firsts and Other Notables
After several months of build-up, Cyclops and Jean Grey are married in this issue, a marriage that will last until 2003 (real world time), when Jean dies once again in the penultimate story of Grant Morrison's run on this series. For the most part, barring a brief period in which Cyclops is believed dead and the later psychic affair between Cyclops & Emma Frost that shortly precedes Jean's death, the couple will be depicted as happily married (ie writers don't dick the couple around and mostly allow them to just be a happy together) from this point forward.


Though this issue opens with a Jean reading a letter sent to her and Scott from Wolverine in lieu of him attending the wedding, it's later implied that he did in fact make it (and just watched from afar without making his presence known), when Sabretooth, out on the grounds in his manacles & muzzle, considers making trouble, only to find a message written in the snow warning him not to even think about it (and the MCP and Official Index list him as appearing in this issue).


There's a double page spread as anticipating Jean's walk down the aisle, which showcases the various guests attending the wedding. Notable attendees, aside from various members of the X-teams (it's hard to tell if they're all there), include Artie & Leech, Joey and Gailyn (Jean's niece & nephew), Scott's grandparents (I think that's supposed to be them next to Artie & Leech), Quicksilver, Crystal & Luna, with Banshee & Moira (I believe) behind them, and Stevie Hunter (way in the back). The GCD lists Ka-Zar & Shanna being there as well; maybe they're the pair behind Cable & Boomer?


Storm is Jean's Maid of Honor (Havok is never explicitly called out as being Cyclops' best man, but he's clearly serving that role), while Lila Cheney provides the music for the ceremony and the reception.

Their first dance is done to U2's "One", which...isn't a great first dance song (it's nominally inspired by the reunification of Germany and the fracturing of the band at the time it was recorded), but not as bad as having something like the Police's "Every Breath You Take" be your first dance song.


Rogue catches the bouquet, while Gambit (of course) gets the garter, though both use their powers to do so, which seems a bit like cheating.


At the end of the issue, as Xavier ponders the work still ahead of him, he's holding paperwor for the Massachusetts Academy, foreshadowing he eventually resurrection of that institution as a school for mutants in Generation X. There's also a letter on his desk with a note form Moira suggesting Cable may be the key to developing a vaccine for the Legacy Virus. Like most "curing the Legacy Virus" hints, this one will come to naught.


This issue has a wraparound cover.


Collection Recolletion
When my wife and I got married, we wrote our own vows, and when I sat down to write mine, for inspiration (in terms of verbage and whatnot), I revisited a handful of fictional weddings, including this issue. I believe I ended up incorporating the "in passion and pain" dichotomy (I also made sure "poorness" was underlined).

The Chronology Corner
For X-Factor, this takes place between issues #100 and #101. For X-Force, it immediately follows the "Child's Play" crossover, while Cable fits in the events of issues #9-11 of his solo series as well as his appearance in Uncanny #310 between "Child's Play" and this issue. For Excalibur, this fits between issues #74 and #75, and Wolverine's "appearance" occurs between issues #78 and #79 of his series.

A Work in Progress
For those of you keeping track of such things, it's said here that its January (with Storm adjusting things so the weather is unseasonably nice, which probably shouldn't also mean the grass is green and the trees in bloom, unless she's been keeping winter at bay for months, but whatever). So if anyone is looking to celebrate Scott & Jean's anniversary, mark January 7th on your calendars.

As the finishing touches are put on Jean and her dress just before the ceremony, she and Rachel have a nice conversation, following up on their reconciliation in Excalibur #71.


Xavier's narration mentions the last time Cyclops got married (as he wonders if Cyclops is reflecting on it, and what a tragedy it was, which is a bit of an understatement), the only reference (however oblique) to Madelyne in this issue.


None of the male X-Men (including upper class clothes horse Warren Worthington) can tie a bow tie, leaving it to Professor X to get the job done (though I'm not sure you can actually tie a bow tie for someone else without standing behind them and tying it directly around their neck).


In anticipation of guests being present at the wedding who don't know Xavier is a mutant, the founder of the X-Men, and in possession of advanced alien technology, he switches to a regular wheelchair from his usual hoverchair before going outside for the ceremony.

At the reception, Lorna complains to Alex about being constantly asked when she's getting married, a wedding phenomenon I've both experienced and witnessed countless times.


Sam, Rictor & Rahne share a brief one-panel reunion, in which Rahne's former teammates acknowledge her recently-restored ability to turn fully human once again.


Cable bumps into Val Cooper and the pair laugh about him being a federal fugitive.


There's one quick, silent panel in which Cable & Rachel look on at their now happily-married "parents".


The reception ends with Jean using her powers to share a dance with Professor X, with her waving off his concerns about protecting the X-Men's identities (saying that while the world doesn't know Xavier is a mutant and may not know she's one of the X-Men, she's made secret of the fact that she is a mutant, and nothing she's doing implicates Xavier directly).


After the wedding is over, Cyclops mentions that he received a message from his father. He also acknowledges that Havok has been putting up a brave front on his behalf, despite being broken up by Madrox' death (which is an appreciated way of bridging the gap between the genial "brother of the groom" presented here and the wracked-with-grief Havok we'll see in subsequent issues of X-Factor).


Then, on his way out to his honeymoon, he thanks Professor X for taking him and giving him the life he has, telling him that he loves him (which, while a sweet moment in and of itself, is also a nice coda to the bit in X-Men Unlimited #1 where he struggled to call Xavier by his first name).


Young Love
Both Beast and Iceman are dateless for the wedding, their X-Factor-era sweethearts being unavailable/uninterested.


Austin's Analysis
Like Uncanny X-Men #308, I have a hard time being objective about this issue, as I absolutely adore it. Superhero weddings aren't necessarily rare (heck, this is the second time the X-Men have gathered to watch Cyclops marry a woman who looks like Jean), but it is rare to see them presented this way, in an issue devoted entirely to the wedding itself, without any super-villains crashing the party or cosmic beings presiding over the ceremony, or without being a brief coda to more traditional, action-orientated events earlier in the issue. Here, Nicieza, Kubert and company simply fill the pages with scenes from a wedding, from the bride & groom getting ready, to the bridal march, to the exchange of vows, to the dance and reception. It is presented, for all intents and purposes, as just a regular, "normal" wedding, albeit one involving people who happen to be super-powered mutant superheroes.

The entire issue, in terms of narrative captions, is written from Xavier's perspective, rather than from Scott or Jean's, which adds to the "normal-ness" of it. Like the readers, he has watched these characters grow and develop over the years (/decades), and thus, his reactions to finally seeing Scott & Jean get married reflect our own. And like the readers, he is a spectator, rather than the subject, of the ceremony as well, so making him our window into the wedding makes us feel like we're there beside him, sitting on the mansion grounds as the couple exchanges their vows or Beast walks away from the buffet with several plates full of food, creating an intimacy & solidarity that would be lacking if the story were written from the perspective of an omniscient narrator or one of the newlyweds (whose experiences & feelings expressed via internal monologue would have to be very different from everyone else's).

Of course, it's easy to read something like this, in which the entire issue is nothing but character-driven moments and nearly the entirety of the larger X-universe is crammed into one issue, and lament the missed opportunities, the interactions between characters we didn't see or callbacks to previous events which went uncalled back upon (I for one would have loved to see a more direct interaction between Cyclops & Cable, in the wake of Uncanny #310, as well as a more overt acknowledgement of Scott's previous marriage), but it's worth appreciating the moments we do get, especially the ones like Cannonball & Rictor acknowledging Wolfsbane's ability to turn human again, or Gambit catching the garter in the most over-the-top way possible (Lobdell & Nicieza have to be writing him as a quasi-parody of himself at this point, right?). Or the beautiful moment at the end where Jean uses her power to dance with Xavier, secret identities (as much as they exist anyway for a character who doesn't even have a codename at this point) be damned. There's certainly plenty such moments we didn't get to see, but most of the ones we did are pretty fantastic.

Re-reading this for the review, it was the first time I'd revisited the story since I myself was married. And it's interesting how that has changed my reaction to it a bit. As a kid, I was such a devoted Cyclops/Jean shipper that I agonized over the state of their relationship, and this issue felt like a successful victory lap, a chance for me to relax, safe in the knowledge that the X-Men's OTP had safely & successfully gotten married. Reading it now, I'm less captivated by the story as a culmination of their romantic relationship, and more enthralled by the entertaining depiction of the little, all-too-realistic moments inspired by their wedding, like Polaris lamenting the barrage of "when are you getting married?" questions, or Jean's mom fussing over her dress, or the mixture of pride coupled with sorrow that Xavier feels seeing two of his "children" getting married.

Everything comes together to sell the idea that, for all the evil clones and alternate realities and grandiose powers, these people are all a family, and we, the readers, are part of that family too, gathered to celebrate an all-too-rare moment of happiness in this family's life. That's a remarkable achievement for any story to accomplish, let alone one that's part of a serialized action-adventure narrative at the height of its commercial success, in an era when big guns and teeth-gnashing violence and moral ambiguity usually win out over quiet, character-driven drama, but it's this kind of stuff, juxtaposed against the more usual, louder, super-heroics, that entranced me back then, and keeps me reading today.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, things get louder as the "Child's Play" crossover begins in X-Force #32, and Friday, Excalibur says goodbye and hello to one of their own in Excalibur #75. Next week: X-Men Unlimited #4.

Collected Editions

13 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I adored this issue and still do. I especially loved the spread of the guests in attendance. The tension that is so obvious in Crystal's expression, the playful daddy daughter thing Cable and Tabitha have going on. I did always think it odd that Polaris wasn't part of the wedding party and that Psylocke was in the front row looking on with apprehension. I also was mildly irritated that there are some guests I simply can't identify.

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  3. Great write-up of a great comic. I began reading in earnest less than a year before this hit the stands, and both this issue and Uncanny X-Men 308 remain two of my favorites from from this era. Jean's line about how Xavier was the one who brought her to the dance; Scott's words to Xavier before he leaves. Absolutely great stuff. I wish we had more of this side of Lodbell.

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  4. “When my wife and I got married, we wrote our own vows”

    While I take some minor pride in my writing abilities, and feel confident I would’ve risen to the occasion, I confess to having felt no small amount of relief when my fiancee said she loves the traditional vows, and the idea of speaking the same words that so many of our ancestors have spoken. Really takes the pressure off.

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  5. It would have been funnier if Bobby Drake was the one who managed to tie a bowtie, even though nowadays people would assume it was an early hint to him being gay, as opposed to being just a joke based in unexpectedness. I hated the complete dearth of Avengers and 4F in the wedding, Crystal aside. If you have Cap's number you invite him

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  6. I too adore this issue, but on the odd occasion I dig it out, I always cringe when I get to the bit where Cyclops tells the Prof he loves him. Both characters have been turned into such arseholes with so much hate festering between them that I can't really believe such a sweet moment could be true anymore. The burdens of serial storytelling I guess.

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  7. That’s not Ka-Zar and Shanna, but Captain Britain (er, “Brittanic”) and Megan. I’m quite sure that the MCP also misidentified them.

    I read the book when I was 10 years old and I really enjoyed it as the time. However, the marriage became a source of annoyance because Scott and Jean from that moment could never be depicted on their own. They never appeared again on different teams, missions or adventures. They became one person for all purposes and I think that was a mistake.

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    1. Kazar and Shanna make sense since they have a history and Captain Britain was lost in the time stream at this point and Meggan was on Muir Isle.

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  8. I always liked this issue (even if that style of super-fitted wedding gown is not to my tastes, having soured on it even harder thanks to it being the design of choice for bridal reality shows), and I liked that for so long Scott & Jean were a functional couple. There's a lot I like about Morrison's run and about Scott with Emma, but taking what had been the biggest refutation of comics' insistence that married superheroes are boring always bummed part of me out. Scott & Jean were interesting before their marriage, they were interesting after, and they were interesting together.

    I agree with Daniel that it strikes me as odd now to not see any other Marvel universe representatives at the wedding. Scott & Jean have worked with everyone at some point, so you'd think they'd at least invite token guests from the Avengers or the FF. Maybe it was an editorial thing.

    I've heard people argue that the choice of wedding song was a "protest" by Nicieza, but he's never really confirmed that to my knowledge. And sadly, there are worse first-dance songs out there than even the Police.

    Did you include the passage in your vows about the monkey-powered hovercraft?

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  9. Grr-Argh. Its ironic: I've been waiting forever for y'all to write this issue up and had been checking the site obsessively once you hit the hone stretch. Then I nearly miss it the one time I'm lax about checking.

    As a teenaged X-Reader, Jean & Scott were THE couple I was invested in. So like everyone else whose commented, this issue is a Polaroid of nostalgia for me.

    This cover, along with the Rogue & Gambit cover from issue 24, is my absolute favorite of Kubert's cover work from this era.

    Although I loved that the issue had no Reed/Sue type of wedding shenanigans, I remember feeling that the magnitude of the event necessitated it being double-size. For example, Wonder Girl's wedding in DC's The New Teen Titans was focused solely on the minutia of the wedding, and was successfully double-size. I had wanted the Grey-Summers nuprials to have a similar sense of scope in it's telling.

    I've seen people online (rightfully) call out the absurdity of 'camoflaging' Xavier, considering the presence of (Brothers in Blue) Beast *and* Angel, the perfect weather despite it being January, that guests Cable & X-Force have been aggressively televised as mutant terrorists and fugitives and would be instantly recognizable, and (most spectacularly) Rogue & Gambit going all 'Space Jam' on everyone solely to collect the bouquet & garter.

    I really dug the small character beat of having Jubilee discourage Jean's niece & nephew from pointing & gawking at Leech & Artie.

    At the time of the issue's release, I wasn't familiar with the song 'One' (Sidebar: Mary J. Blige's duet version with U2 helped give that song new life to a much wider audience). I remember when I first heard it, I was incredibly disappointed by the distinct lack of romantic feeling to it. But as adult, the song's soberness feels incredibly appropriate for them. Considering their romance had become increasingly non-traditional via the obstacles they encountered, the song serves as a celebration of them surviving those experienced with their love for each other intact.

    Lastly, I also co-opted a detail for use in my own wedding. I thought the sash tied 'round their wrists was incredibly romantic and convinced my husband to use it in our ceremony.

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  10. I feel like the wedding should have appeared in UNCANNY and the bachelor party in X-MEN, only because Andy Kubert would've been better suited to Cyclops and Cable vs. X-Cutioner. His Jim Lee impression just doesn't work very well here. But, Nicieza's writing picks up Kubert's slack, and as a result, this turns out to be a great issue anyway -- I just think it could've been that much better if John Romita Jr. had drawn it!

    I agree that it's nice to see a super-wedding without any knock-down fights involved. There's not even a costume in sight here! (I wouldn't be at all surprised if Nicieza were somewhat influenced by the Troy/Long wedding from NEW TEEN TITANS mentioned by J. Mays above.) Were I a few years younger when I first read this one, I'm sure it would've bored me to tears -- but as a teenager, I really enjoyed it. And Wolverine's note to Xavier is the perfect way to cap things off, after he's spent the entire issue on a somewhat melancholy internal monologue. The professor reading the note and breaking out laughing gets me every time. It's funny and touching, too.

    One thing to note -- I've read before where Fabian Nicieza said that writing this issue was his only positive experience while on X-MEN, or something to that effect. It was in a message board post he made after he turned in his final script. I really hope he was exaggerating, because I love a ton of his issues.

    I admit I haven't read many comics with Jean's parents in them, my main exposure being Dave Cockrum's take in UNCANNY #105 and John Byrne's during "Dark Phoenix" -- but it occurs to me that John Grey here looks absolutely nothing like he used to. Sure, he could've shaved his mustache, but he previously had gray/white hair, not brown!

    "For those of you keeping track of such things, it's said here that its January."

    Mike's Amazing World says this issue was on sale January 18th, about a week-and-a-half after that date. Makes sense they'd want the issue to take place in the month it was released. Only thing is, it appers there was no Saturday, January 7th in 1994. You'd think that, going out of their way to mention a specific month, day, and date, they might have looked at a calendar to make sure it all synced up! But given how Marvel Time works, I guess there's no telling what a 1994 calendar looked like in the X-Men's universe.

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    1. Plus JRJr drew Scott and Maddie's wedding. So that would be a thing...

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  11. I'm late to the party, as always. I too absolutely adore this issue, and depending on which day you catch me, it may be the best quiet issue of this era. I think "One" is actually a perfect choice for the dance. Bono won't go into the specifics of the lyrics, other than the circumstances under which the song was initially conceived. A lot of U2 lyrics from this era are well disguised (Until the End of the World is written from Judas Iscariot's point of view, which is far from how I orginaly interpreted it), and I read somewhere that Bono's inspiration was a gay man dying of AIDS coming to terms with his estranged father. Regardless of the actual meaning, most people interpret that song to be about people who separated by differences acknowledging that they are nonetheless united in their shared humanity. I think Nicieza was thinking of not only Jean and Scott's relationship, but the overarching X-Men mythology as well when he selected that song, and I, for one, could not agree more with his perogotive.

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