Wednesday, January 8, 2014
X-amining Uncanny X-Men #219
In a Nutshell
Havok re-joins the X-Men while Polaris is possessed by Malice.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Bret Blevins
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorists: Glynis Oliver & Petra Scotese
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
In New Mexico, Alex awakens from a recurring dream in which he visits the X-Mansion only to be hunted and killed by the X-Men. Having experienced the dream every night since he returned from checking in with the X-Men in New York, he resolves to return there and confirm everything is still okay. The next morning, Lorna takes him to the airport as the Marauders watch. In New York, Alex finds the mansion deserted and, seeing an entry in Magneto's diary for that afternoon, decides to visit him at the Hellfire Club. Back in New Mexico, the Marauders attack Lorna. At the Hellfire Club, a distrustful Alex meets with Magneto, who tells him that if he needs to contact the X-Men, he can do so through Magneto, prompting Alex to angrily storm off. In New Mexico, Lorna fights back against the Marauders, trapping Sabretooth in rock before being hit by an energy blast from Scalphunter's gun. In New York, Alex tails Magneto as he enters the Morlock Tunnels, and comes across a meeting of the X-Men, at which point Alex is discovered.
In New Mexico, Lorna suddenly turns the tide against the Marauders, capturing Arclight and Scalphunter in addition to Sabretooth. In the Morlock Tunnels, the X-Men discuss what to do with Alex, revealing that Psylocke altered his memories of his last visit to protect him, with his recurring dreams being attempts by his mind to deal with those altered memories. When he's told about the Marauders and their attack on the Morlocks and the X-Men, Alex realizes he has a responsibility to help, and rejoins the team. Back in New Mexico, a triumphant Lorna gloats over the captured Marauders, revealing herself to have been possessed by Malice, her fight with the Marauders devised by Mr. Sinister to test Lorna's abilities under the control of Malice. Having emerged triumphant, she declares herself the leader of the Marauders.
Firsts and Other Notables
Havok re-joins the X-Men in this issue, marking the beginning of his second (and lengthiest) tenure on the team, following his brief original stint towards the end of the book's Silver Age run. His motivation for returning is fairly routine (learning of the threat of the Marauders and realizing the sorry state of mutant kind, he recognizes he has a responsibility to use his power to make things better and joins up), though no mention is made of the Brood ship he and Lorna encountered in the previous issue (presumably, it accounted for his initial visit to the X-Men, the one that got mind-wiped out and triggered his nightmares, though one wonders why Lorna didn't bring it up before he left again, or why, if he told the X-Men about it during his initial visit, they did nothing about it).
Meanwhile, Polaris gets possessed by Malice and joins the Marauders, assuming the position of their field leader, a status quo for the character that will last until shortly after "Inferno". This marks the third time in the character's history that she's come under the sway of a villain, having arguably spent more time that way than as a hero at this point. Mr. Sinister, as the overall leader of the Marauders, gets another mention two issues removed from his first appearance.
Though he remains the headmaster of the school for awhile yet (and thus a fixture in New Mutants), this marks the last time Magneto appears as a member of the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men. Though he chronologically appears as a member of the team in the ensuing "versus" series, the next time he appears in Uncanny will be issue #230, a point after which his connection to the X-Men is considered to be severed following their "deaths" in issue #227. This issue also reveals Magneto's adoption of the "Michael Xavier", Professor Xavier's older cousin, identity to anyone who only reads Uncanny X-Men and not New Mutants.
Havok overhears Storm discussing a plan to fake the X-Men's death in order to protect their loved ones and associates from the Marauders; this will eventually be established as the "Plan Omega" to which Storm alluded in New Mutants #51, and will be put into effect, in a manner of speaking, in the wake of "Fall of the Mutants".
After Havok tracks the X-Men down for a second time, proving himself immune to Psylocke's attempts at mindwipes, Psylocke suggests the X-Men kill him, better he be dead than potentially possessed and used against them. Even putting aside the faults in this logic (mindwiped, he could still be possessed by Malice, and even if he was possessed, the X-Men have proven it's possible to break free of her control), it also inadvertently underlines the fact that for all the X-Men's talk of protecting their loved ones and associates from the Marauders, nobody bothered to check on Havok and Polaris in the wake of the massacre. Dazzler, yes, Sara Grey, yes, Havok & Polaris, no. Granted, the X-Men may have assumed that, as former members of the team, they could take care of themselves, but a heads up phone call about the Marauders' existence was probably in order nonetheless.
Art in this issue comes from Brett Blevins, just a month removed from the beginning of his tenure on New Mutants, making him the eighth penciller to work on the book in its last nine issues. Fortunately, the constant stream of artists comes to an end next issue.
The Chronology Corner
The gap between this issue and #220 is another one of those gaps into which a lot of ancillary material fits (mainly because Havok rejoins the team in this issue but appears as a member in much of that ancillary material). In addition to the two limited series and the annual we'll be looking at over the next couple weeks, Wolverine, between this issue and Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1, appears in the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one-shot, followed by Web of Spider-Man #29 (which follows on from the one shot). As that story is more Spider-Man-centric than Wolverine-centric (dealing as it does with the death of a long time Spidey supporting character as well as the ongoing Hobgoblin mystery), I'm not reviewing it, but this is where it fits, chronologically.
Magneto's appearance in this issue occurs after New Mutants #54.
A Work in Progress
The cover of this issue gives us a variation on the old "Welcome to the X-Men ____, hope you survive the experience!" line.
Havok, recalling in his dream his first visit to the mansion, notes that Cerebro has been destroyed. He also notes that he hardly knows these current X-Men.
Further suggesting a connection between the characters, Sabretooth uses the words "skirt" and "frail", just like Wolverine.
Unable to locate the X-Men and suspicious of Magneto, Havok tries to contact the Avengers but discovers their mansion destroyed, due to the events of the "Under Siege" storyline, in Avengers #270-277.
Similarly, he calls Moira (the narration suggests he can't remember her name, though he lived with her for a good long while prior to the "Dark Phoenix Saga") for help but reaches instead an unhelpful Callisto. When he asks her about Cyclops (suggesting he hasn't spoken to his brother in awhile), a bus with an X-Factor ad on the side drives by behind him.
Reaching the Morlock Tunnels, Havok notices that the walls of the tunnels have been scoured by some kind of energy blast, a reference to the blast triggered by Thor in Thor #374.
There's several neat little touches involving Havok and Polaris' powers in this issue. After waking up from his dream, his body bristling with energy, he runs outside to release it, blasting into the sky, thankful the shuttle isn't in space at the time and hoping no jets are passing overhead, and the heat from his blast turns the ground beneath his feet into glass.
Later Polaris notes that one of the reasons she and Havok live where they do is due to the high iron content in the local rocks, enabling her to use them against the Marauders.
This is a bit of an odd issue. It's purpose is to re-introduce Havok and Polaris, whom Claremont has little used thus far in his run, giving the former a place on the new post-Massacre roster and setting up the latter as a new Marauder. In that regard, the issue does its job. Beyond that rudimentary success, though, the issue feels very much like a fill-in. Some of that comes from the art: though inconsistent art is one of the few consistent things in this run of Uncanny X-Men, wedged as it is between Marc Silvestri's first work on the title and the beginning of his extended run, the art in this issue feels like more of a fill-in than the art in the previous issues.
Beyond the art, though, Claremont seems to have a loose handle on Havok's character and history, which further adds to the fill-in feel. While he rounds out (for now) what is the full post-Massacre roster, his joining feels almost like an afterthought (aided, in part, by the fact that Havok has already appeared elsewhere, in terms of publication dates, in stuff like the Fantastic Four vs. X-Men series). Even putting aside the way this issue inadvertently points out that the X-Men largely ignored Havok and Polaris prior to this issue, it comes several issues after Psylocke, Dazzler, and Longshot joined up, and immediately after the issue in which the purpose of the story therein was to start these new recruits on the path towards becoming a team, making his arrival feel more like a forgotten add-on to an already-complete roster than the final piece of said roster.
Additionally, Claremont writes Havok as though he was a longstanding member of the original team (Havok mentions bad memories of being at the school, and shares the original five's distrust of Reformed Magneto), despite the fact that he was a member for all of a handful of issues (and never battled Magneto himself). Then, of course, there's the whole dropped Brood storyline, which doesn't get a mention despite Claremont setting it up just last issue. So while this issue is notable for re-introducing Havok and Polaris, two characters who will, from this point onward, consistently play a significant role in both Uncanny X-Men and the greater franchise for years to come, it reads like it was written by a different author, which, combined with some ill-timed guest art, makes the whole thing feel more like a fill-in than it probably should.
Tomorrow, Chris Claremont bids farewell to the New Mutants in New Mutants #54, followed on Friday by more Scott freakouts in X-Factor #18. Next week, the X-Men battle the Fantastic Four for the life of Kitty in Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1-4.