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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #252

"Where's Wolverine?!?"
Mid November 1989

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine and Jubilee escape the Reavers. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Rick Leonardi
Guest Inker: Kent Williams
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Overlord: Tom DeFalco

As the Reavers search the town for the missing Wolverine, Jubilee uses the tunnels to evade the villains as she steals food and medicine for the badly injured Wolverine. She returns to her hidden room as Wolverine is hallucinating Carol Danvers and Nick Fury, and, not recognizing Jubilee, he attacks her, even though both Danvers and Fury tell him to stop. Using her fireworks to defend herself, Jubilee knocks him out. Meanwhile, Bonebreaker and Pierce attempt to use the town's computer system to locate Wolverine, while Lady Deathstrike acquires the Honor Sword of Clan Yashida from Wolverine's room. Unable to locate Wolverine on the computers, Pierce turns to a trio of cybernetic dingoes to track him down.

Later, Jubilee gets pulled into Gateway's dreamtime along with Wolverine, but is snapped out of it by Wolverine, who has sensed the presence of the Reavers. He proceeds to trick the Reavers into blasting open the wall of one of the tunnels, letting water from the lake rush in, while Lady Deathstrike finds Jubilee's abandoned room and leaves the Honor Sword to be claimed by the victor of her battle with Wolverine. Elsewhere in the tunnels, Pierce and his dingoes locate Wolverine, who manages to destroy the robotic dogs. Before Pierce can attack Wolverine, however, Jubilee appears, using her fireworks to bring town the tunnel ceiling, cutting off Pierce. As the pair make their way out of the tunnels, Wolverine tells Jubilee that if she sticks with him, she'll be marked, but Jubilee resolves to continue helping him anyway.

Firsts and Other Notables
In the wake of his torture at the hands of the Reavers, this marks the beginning of an era in which Wolverine, his healing factor overworked, becomes much more vulnerable and a somewhat less effective fighter, a condition that will continue all the way into the line-wide relaunch in 1991, but which will be quietly dropped after Claremont leaves the series. As detailed in the second half of this legend, this was all setup for Claremont's ultimate plan of killing Wolverine and then resurrecting him as a brainwashed assassin of the Hand (something we'll see done to Psylocke shortly, in another bit of setup), a storyline Claremont never finishes (but which, via an abbreviated form, is later done by Mark Millar in Wolverine's solo series).

Wolverine's hallucinations continue, with him interacting with images of Carol Danvers and Nick Fury, both of whom will stick around in hallucination form for awhile. The Carol Danvers hallucination marks the third different iteration of the character to appear in the series: the original Carol Danvers (currently with the Starjammers as Binary), the Carol formed from the memories stolen by Rogue which lived in Rogue's head and could occasionally take control of her body, and this hallucination of Wolverine's.  

This issue marks the first significant interaction between Jubilee and Wolverine as she nurses him back to health, and we see that she's less willing to take his typical lone wolf noir tough guy routine (in part because of how banged up he is). Now that's she interacting with other people, we also start to get a better sense of Jubilee's characterization, particularly the way she puts up something of a false front of braggadocio as a defense mechanism, which will be a consistent trait for her moving forward.

Lady Deathstrike takes the Honor Sword of Clan Yashida from Wolverine's room and ends up leaving it in Jubilee's room, to be claimed by whomever survives her expected confrontation with Wolverine. However, that confrontation never materializes, and the next time we see the sword, it is back in the possession of Mariko without explanation.

Unofficial co-penciler Rick Leonardi fills in on this issue, his first fill-in work since issue #237 and his last work on this series to date (we'll see him a few more times on other books, though).

Jim Lee provides the cover to this issue. A narrative caption above the credits declares it to be a "tale of the last of the Uncanny X-Men".  

A Work in Progress
Pierce is erroneously referred to as the former White King of the Hellfire Club once again, this time by a narrative caption.

Pierce has noted that Lady Deathstrike's cybernetics are far more advanced than what he's done for the Reavers, and Deathstrike tells him she acquired them via a deal with the devil, a reference to Spiral and issue #205.

The Reavers discuss the X-Men's disappearance into the Siege Perilous, having learned what it does from Pierce. But how does Pierce know what it does?

Jubilee says she was in Girl Scouts as a kid, where she learned first aid.

Bonebreaker tells Pierce that the town's computer system has seemingly evolved on its own, to the point where he can't use it to track Wolverine.

Teebore's Take
If last issue was the climax of the dissolution phase of this storyline, then this issue is the denouement, as it does the necessary work of following up on Wolverine's condition following his torture at the hands of the Reavers, developing his relationship with Jubilee, and putting the pair of them (and the book) on the path away from the Outback (this is, in fact, the last time we'll see any of the X-Men in their Australian home for quite some time). As a result, this issue is decidedly less intense than the previous issue, but that's mostly by design (less by design is the step down in art; I like Leonardi's work, but it's too cluttered and messy here, possibly due to the inking).

One bit of intentional drama that doesn't work are the cybernetic dingoes featured on the cover and in the issue's climax, an obvious nod to genre conventions that ultimately falls flat. The real drama in this story comes from the budding relationship between Wolverine and Jubilee and the tension of the ever-looming Reavers in the face of Jubilee's inexperience and Wolverine's weakened condition. The X-Men, what little are left of them, are at their worst, dead, lost, scattered or grievously injured, and the story doesn't need robotic dogs to make that clear.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Excalibur lands in a new world in Excalibur #14. Friday, "The Gehenna Stone Affair" concludes in Wolverine #15-16. Next week, the Excalibur story in Marvel Comics Presents #31-38.


  1. A narrative caption above the credits declares it to be a "tale of the last of the Uncanny X-Men".

    Remembering how Cyclops is often referred as "the first X-Man", it rings nicely with the continuous competition between the two.

    Pierce is erroneously referred to as the former White King of the Hellfire Club once again, this time by a narrative caption.

    ... Pierce has been torturing the narrator kingsworthy too so he has! Which is a harsh notion when factoring in the interpretation of the Reavers as the editorial interference and how things will be turning out. It's the Reavers really who made the X-Men leave their Outback base, I wonder how much there was editorial influence there was for that.

  2. "The Carol Danvers hallucination marks the third different iteration of the character to appear in the series"

    CC really just couldn't let go, could he?

    "Jim Lee provides the cover to this issue"

    IIRC, the first of many before he becomes the regular artist.

    "Pierce has noted that Lady Deathstrike's cybernetics are far more advanced than what he's done for the Reavers"

    I wonder if he also admired and praised the Triplets before trying to make out with them as well...didn't they also get an upgrade from Spiral?

    "But how does Pierce know what it does?"

    I'm guessing he likes to research Obscure Arthurian Legends when he isn't plotting to kill Mutants...

    "less by design is the step down in art; I like Leonardi's work, but it's too cluttered and messy here, possibly due to the inking"

    Which is exactly why I like it. The cluttered and messy look fits in with current overall tone of both the individual story and the tone the series is taking. Even if it's just for this issue. And I wish Leonardi had been the fill in artist when the books hits the 260s...

    I'm not too bothered by the Dingos, since they barely figure into the story. And I love how snarky Wolverine gets with Pierce once he dispatches them without breaking a sweat.

  3. "But how does Pierce know what it does?"
    Claremont has said in interviews that the Shadow King appearing in the "ghost town" in Forge's dream in issue 253 was supposed to indicate that the Shadow King was telepathically manipulating Pierce- helping him with his revenge plan without Pierce realizing it. (Did anyone get that when they first read issue 253?) So presumably the Shadow King read Wolverine's mind and then planted the knowledge in Pierce's head.

  4. Ah. So it's Shadow King's and Pierce's high opinion of themselves that is feeding from each other and radiating to near vicinity that Pierce is/should be a king. Influencing everyone including the narrator.

    Was it Excalibur 21 appearing around this time where the London branch of Hellfire Club of alt dimension has already succumbed to the rule of one King?


  5. I was not prepared to see Kent Williams aboard as guest inker. Crazy. And on the whole really cool, to my eyes. Maybe some isolated bits are a skitch too loose, but that's often the price one pays for working on that edge. I'm not sure I've ever seen Williams ink other artists before, so gold star to whatever plan or accident of fate led to pairing him with Leonardi here. The end result reminds me in spots variously of Ernie Col√≥n, Bill Sienkiewicz, and contemporary Frank Miller, which only adds to the Dark Knight feel of the relationship between Jubilee and Wolverine — making the Reavers stand-ins for, ironically, the "Mutants" of that story. We also get repeated worm's-eye nostril shots worthy of Gil Kane.

    Glynis Oliver's colors are particularly nice this issue, on a par with the last couple of Wolverines you've covered done by her and Gregory Wright. Nearly the entire issue is draped in atmospheric blues and browns, with only intermittent drops of red coming via Deathstrike's accessories and the occasional accent to a panel background or display lettering (story title included). It's always a relief for me to see Orz is on duty with art this good, tying everything together with his eerily perfect letterforms.

    Reading your and Jason Powell's analyses of these issues, I'm constantly impressed by how much Claremont seems to be calling back to earlier work even if I don't have a high level of confidence that all of it's conscious. The repetition of motifs for emphasis, ironic juxtaposition, and narrative or artistic symmetry for its own sake are all things I enjoy, but since I've never read these latter-day issues before — nor read anything about them — I'm largely dependent on your posts and the comments for such perspective, especially when it comes to big-picture stuff involving material yet to come.

    Although I didn't notice anyone mention yet how this issue once again involves Pierce, the Hellfire Club / Reaver goons, Wolverine, and sewers, echoing yet switching things up from the iconic moments in #132-133. Nor did anyone bring up the utterly confusing panel of Wolverine's masked head lurking in pipes above one of the Reaver search parties (on Pg. 18 of the story, Pg. 24 of the original issue). If it's supposed to be a decoy set up by Jubilee or even by the enigmatic, possibly semi-sentient computer system itself to fool the goons into firing and thus causing the flood that ensues, which is the only possible explanation I can muster short of a time-travel loop that will be initiated in a later story, I missed the setup completely.

    For me the lame name-checking of movies by the Reavers and Jubilee early in the issue — all the sillier for how the titles are in quotes, somehow — is much worse than cybernetic dingoes.

    I get that the lack of chronological sync between Uncanny and Wolverine starts to become problematic, but in addition to being thankful that at least there's still an effort at this point to make them work at all I'm also impressed that the series can still be read individually. We're not far off now from the point that you'd have to pick up Wolverine for this chapter in the "Dissolution and Rebirth" line-wide crossover. "Inferno" was still a rarity and the actual back-and-forth only involved buying one more title to get the whole story if you weren't reading X-Factor already.

    I really liked the sequence of panels with Jubilee ranting as she paces a circle around the sitting Wolverine and Gateway while their bodies cast shadows indicating sundial-style the rapid passage of (dream)time.


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