Wednesday, April 9, 2014
X-amining Uncanny X-Men #229
In a Nutshell
The X-Men relocate to Australia and fight some cyborgs (as you do).
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
In Singapore, the Hoan International Bank is suddenly attacked by the Reavers, a group of cybernetic criminals. After looting the vault and slaughtering most of the people in the bank, they take Jessan Hoan captive, impressed by her guts and financial accumen, and return to the Australian town that serves as their headquarters via the teleportation abilities of a mute mutant named Gateway. As the rest of the Reavers celebrate their latest acquisitions, Pretty Boy begins brainwashing Hoan in order to remove her scruples and make her a Reaver. Just then, the X-Men attack the town, with Longshot and Dazzler interrupting Hoan's reprogramming as the rest of the X-Men take apart the Reavers. During the melee, Pretty Boy, Skullbuster and Bonebreaker manage to escape, telling Gateway they'll release him from his servitude if he teleports them to safety.
In the aftermath of the attack, the X-Men wonder what to do with the defeated Reavers. Havok jokingly suggests killing them, but Wolverine suggests it seriously. Just then Roma appears, offering the X-Men an alternative: the Siege Perilous, a mystical gateway to a realm where the Reavers can be judged and punished accordingly. Storm offers the Reavers a choice: the Siege, or Wolverine, and the Reavers enter the portal. Roma then teleports Hoan back to Singapore, then reveals that the X-Men are invisible to detection by all but the naked eye and the devices of the Reavers' base, their new home. She also gives them the Siege Perilous to use as they see fit, and tells them they now hold the future of their world in their hands.
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the beginning of what is commonly called the book's Outback or Australian Era, as the X-Men adopt an abandoned town in the Outback as their new headquarters.
They claim said town from the Reavers, a group of cybernetically enhanced criminals making their first appearance in this issue. Most of the group is defeated by the X-Men and sent through the Siege Perilous. Three notable members of the group do escape: Skullbuster, Pretty Boy and Bonebreaker. These three will eventually join up with the similarly-cybernetic Donald Pierce, Lady Deathstrike and Cole, Macon & Reese (the surviving Hellfire Club mercenaries from issue #133) to reform the Reavers and bedevil the X-Men later in the Outback Era.
This is also the first appearance of Gateway, a seemingly-mute aboriginal mutant with the ability to open teleportation portals via his bull roarer. Gateway is introduced here as an unwilling servant of the Reavers (they threaten to destroy a holy site if he doesn't do as he's told) and he remains a willing ally of the X-Men after they defeat the Reavers and move in. It's unclear if he's considered a member of the team or just an ally (different sources consider him in different ways), and his past/motivations remain one of the more obvious unresolved plots of Claremont's tenure, as he never really gets around to fleshing out the character (though commenter Nathan Adler has some thoughts on where Claremont might have been going with the character, which you can read here). Gateway will later briefly become a member of the Generation X supporting cast, and eventually revealed to be the great-grandfather of future X-Man Bishop.
Inspired by the Arthurian legend of the seat reserved for the finder of the holy grail, the Siege Perilous, a large jewel that expands into a portal to a metaphysical realm in which all who enter are judged and then reborn, makes its first appearance in this issue (at least in American comics, in this form; it previously appeared in Claremont's Captain Britain stories, though was a little bit different there). It is given to the X-Men by Roma, as further reward for their sacrifice against the Adversary. Here, it is used as an alternative to killing the captured Reavers outright, though Roma also mentions it can be used by the X-Men themselves whenever they're ready to retire to a better life. In fact, a portion of these X-Men will eventually go through the Siege Perilous, emerging from it changed in various ways.
It is established this issue that the X-Men (presumably since their resurrection by Roma in issue #227) are now invisible to all but the naked eye and the devices of their new base - they cannot be recorded by video, captured on film, etc. Claremont will work this condition into various stories moving forward, but will never outright remove it before leaving the series, and later writers will simply ignore it. So technically, this group of X-Men should still be invisible to all measure of electronic detection, but they're not.
Jessan Hoan makes her first appearance in this issue as well. The daughter of a Singapore banker, she is captured by the Reavers in this issue and partially brainwashed. She will eventually return in Wolverine's Marvel Comics Presents serial and his solo series, taking the name Tyger Tiger and becoming a crime lord in Madripoor.
The cover price increases to $1.00 as of this issue.
We've come around quickly to the Statement of Ownership again, with the average number of copies sold per month in the preceding year listed as 430,158, with the total number of issues sold in the month nearest to the file date being 461,011, down a bit from the ~630,000 reported last time, but still huge numbers, especially compared to today.
A Work in Progress
It's noted that Pretty Boy's attempt to brainwash Jessan Hoan enrages Longshot because something similar happened to him.
I Love the 80s
Two Reavers seen entering the Siege Perilous are named Stan and Ollie, presumably a reference to Laurel and Hardy.
Pretty Boy threatens to make Dazzler a Reaver "body and soul".
A column by EiC Tom DeFalco explains the recent price increase, saying that Marvel decided to increase the price higher on their most popular titles at the time (which makes for an interesting list: all Spider-Man and X-Books, plus Punisher and Silver Surfer) than raise the price on everything.
It's in the Mail
The letters page runs letters discussing issue #218. The upcoming Excalibur series is discussed, teasing a sixth member that I don't believe materializes (at least not within the timeframe of this letter col), Gateway's mysterious background is teased, and both the Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine serial and his solo series are announced.
Even moreso than issue #227, this one is chiefly responsible for setting up the X-Men's new status quo. It introduces a new group of villains, the Reavers, who will essentially function as the defining villains of this era of the title, a new supporting character/team member/mystery in Gateway, who is also established as the group's new means of transportation, and a new headquarters, the Reavers' former base in an abandoned town in the Australian Outback, thus giving this era the name by which its commonly known. The story itself also lends itself to being a great primer on the current X-Men, who they are and what they can do, as the battle between the X-Men and the Reavers is more about showcasing each of the individual X-Men than the battle itself (the Reavers, at least in this iteration, don't pose much of a threat to the X-Men yet, and the long-promised harsher, battle-ready X-Men are on display as they cut through the cyborg criminals with relative ease).
Roma is also on hand to give the X-Men the Siege Perilous (which becomes important to the course of the narrative further down the line, when it essentially leads to the end of this era) and once again establish the new purpose of the team: to strike out from their new base to battle injustice, invisible to all but the naked eye, growing the legend of the X-Men. In that, this tightly-constructed done-in-one reads very much like the premiere of a new season of an X-Men TV show, introducing the new setting and Big Bad while reminding the audience and new viewers who the main characters are. A strong start, then, to the book's new era.
Tomorrow, New Mutants #63 features another fill-in, while Friday, Apocalypse's ship lashes out in X-Factor #28. Next week, the X-Men celebrate Christmas in Uncanny X-Men #230.