Wednesday, December 5, 2012
X-amining Uncanny X-Men #179
In a Nutshell
Kitty is captured by the Morlocks in order to wed her to Caliban.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Romita Jr. & Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
In the tunnels beneath Manhattan, the Morlocks prepare Kitty for her wedding day. Meanwhile, at Bellevue Hospital, the X-Men arrive to identify the body of the young woman found dead at the Baxter Building. Although she looks exactly like Kitty, Wolverine realizes its not her because the scent is wrong, at which point Storm begins to suspect where the real Kitty may be. Back at the mansion, Nightcrawler tends to Colossus, but is unable to determine if he's even alive or dead. As Professor X attempts to probe Colossus' mind, he's once again hit by a powerful psionic scanning wave, rendering him unconscious. Elsewhere, Kitty, bewitched by one of the Morlocks, is about to marry Caliban when the illusion falters for a moment, and Kitty realizes what's happening. She tries to run, but Callisto reminds her she promised to stay with Caliban if he helped her save the X-Men, which he did. Remembering Colossus' injuries, Kitty begs for Callisto to allow her to leave to help him, but when Callisto questions how they can trust Kitty's promise to return, she runs off into the tunnels.
Lost and alone, Kitty realizes she has to honor her promise to Caliban. Just then, the Morlock Leech arrives and leads her back to the others. Callisto agrees to help Colossus once the ceremony is complete, but as Kitty once more prepares to marry Caliban, the X-Men arrive and attack the Morlocks. Kitty stops the fight, admonishing the X-Men for looking for a fight and telling her teammates she's there by choice. Back at the mansion, Rogue and the Morlock Healer combine their powers to remove Colossus from his frozen state and heal his wounds. The next day, Kitty says goodbye to Illyana and returns to the tunnels to honor her agreement with Caliban. But Caliban realizes it is wrong to force her to stay with him, and when she admits she doesn't love him, he releases her from her vow. They part as friends, with Caliban asking her to remember him not as a monster, but a prince.
Firsts and Other Notables
A pair of Morlocks, Leech and the Healer (often referred to as "the Morlock Healer"), make their first appearances. The Healer, who we learn is responsible for saving Callisto, behind the scenes, of the knife wound inflicted on her by Storm in issue #170, will pop up occasionally up through "Mutant Massacre", though he rarely rises above the level of plot device.
Leech, on the other hand, will go on to become a relatively significant supporting character, here and in spin-off titles X-Factor and Generation X (and even kinda make an appearance in the third X-Men movie). He has the ability to nullify the powers of anyone within close proximity (ie to leech the powers). In future issues, his physical appearance will change slightly, keeping the green skin but becoming slightly more human looking. He'll also become slightly more erudite over time, and it's eventually confirmed he is still a child.
Dan Green comes aboard as the new regular inker; he'll remain on the title through the 260s, contributing artistically to more issues than either Dave Cockrum or John Byrne.
A footnote directs us to the Magik limited series, which we'll cover tomorrow.
Chronologically, the events of New Mutants #13 follow this issue.
A Work in Progress
As he was absent during their first encounter, this is the first time Wolverine comes face to face with the Morlocks (it also factors into the X-Men discovering the plan - the Morlocks never met Wolverine, so they never considered the need to disguise Fake Kitty's scent).
Nightcrawler does his best to tend to Colossus' injuries, though it's made difficult by the unknowns of Colossus' physiology while armored.
Professor X is hit by the psionic scanning wave again, and he now recognizes it as being extraterrestrial in origin.
Kitty willingly returns to the Morlocks because she refuses to break her promise and turn her back on her fundamental beliefs, the way she believes Storm has done.
Leech, as presented in this issue, is arguably the most physically "non human" looking mutant yet.
In a terrifying little sequence, Masque uses his power to alter Kitty's features. Worth noting, given the permutations he puts her through, making her look like Storm bothers her the most.
Masque's offer to alter Kitty's face, symbolizing her rejection of the surface world, suggests some of the Morlocks' physical appearance may have been willingly altered by Masque.
Rogue mentions that she's avoided using her power on people with physical manifestations of their powers, like Nightcrawler, uncertain what would happen to her.
Storm believes that, whatever her past sins, Rogue's efforts to help Colossus at considerable pain to herself earns her place on the team.
The Healer's power is depicted, via narration, as gradually restoring Colossus' life, first in terms of minutes, then years, until his full alotted lifespan is reached, which is an interesting way of describing the power.
Even though we know Kitty ultimately won't end up living as a Morlock, her resignation to that fact is still rather touching. She even writes letters to Colossus and her parents, explaining the situation.
I Love the 80s
Twice in this issue there's exposition explaining what happened to Colossus in issue #177 (he was super heated then cooled way down really fast. We get it).
The issue ends sweetly, with Caliban releasing Kitty from her vow, realizing she doesn't truly love him and belongs on the surface, but hoping someday she'll come to love him and he'll find the strength to return to the surface, and they part as friends.
We get a couple He-Man ads in this issue, one for a pair of model kits (which, as a kid, bugged me, because they weren't as sturdy as the actual vehicles) and a Masters of the Universe video game.
There's also an ad for a bizarre spaceship, which, if I'm understanding the add correctly, is most likely a couple pieces of strong cardboard or weak balsa wood with stickers on the outside, the kind of "too good to be true" type of product we haven't seen advertised in these pages for a while (remember the "working" submarine back in the 60s?).
It's in the Mail
Rogue tackles the letters page this month, most of which pertain to issue #171 and question her placement on the team. It's almost like Kitty is asking the X-Man most-involved in the issue being discussed by the letters to respond...
For a variety of reasons, this issue, moreso than #176, has always felt like the true start of the John Romita Jr. run. In part, it's the arrival of inker Dan Green, who will remain on the book for the duration of Romita's run (and beyond). Additionally, following the more traditional two-part Brotherhood story (which helped setup this one), this issue kicks of a string of issues featuring self-contained plots (between now and the beginning of "Mutant Massacre" in issue #210, we'll have precisely three multi-part stories), with the connective tissue between issues formed exclusively by character and subplot development (often weaving back and forth between X-Men and New Mutants), thus fully embracing the "day in the life" approach begun in issue #167, with each issue functioning as a snapshot look into the lives of the characters.
Finally, as Jason Powell asserts in his post on this issue, this also marks the beginning of the darkening of book's tone and the political repositioning of the X-Men. Though it follows from a dangling thread in a previous Claremont/Smith story, the depiction here of the Morlocks and their tunnels is suitably darker than before, the circumstances surrounding Kitty's situation infusing the proceedings with a sense of unease and simmering creepiness. Recognizing the twisted politics of the original Morlocks story, Claremont has the X-Men chastised, first by Callisto (to Kitty) and then by Kitty herself for their treatment of the sewer mutants. He only takes it so far (the Morlocks remain in the sewer, and Kitty is ultimately released from her vow, conscious-free), but it shows a willingness to question, even unfavorably, the X-Men's politics, foreshadowing the gradual upending of the X-Men's political status quo that will unfold over the course of Romita's run.
Tomorrow, we follow the footnote and learn more about Illyana's time in Limbo in the Magik limited series, and next week, the X-Men go small in the X-Men and the Micronauts limited series.