Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UNCANNY X-MEN #282 – November 1991


Payback

Credits: Whilce Portacio (plotter, penciler), Art Thibert (inker), John Byrne (scripter), Dana Morseheaad (colorist), Tom Orzechowski (letters)


Summary
The X-Men return home with Jean’s dead body. Professor Xavier detects that Jean’s mind is actually still alive, and inside the White Queen’s body. They trace Fitzroy to Antarctica where he is absorbing energy from the Hellions and using it to open time portals. Jean Grey awakes inside the White Queen’s body, and the X-Men battle Fitzroy and the thugs coming from his time portals. Out of one portal, Bishop appears, grabbing Fitzroy by the throat.


Continuity Note
This is the first appearance of Bishop, although he only shows up on the final page.


Review
Another rushed, chaotic issue of Uncanny. Portacio is listed as the sole plotter of this issue, and you have to wonder what Marvel was thinking when they gave him this assignment. Did he have any writing experience before taking this job? I don’t have a problem with artists (or letterers or colorists) moving into writing, but giving someone Marvel’s traditional top seller since the early 1980s as their first writing assignment is insanity. I can understand an artist’s frustration with unclear directions from writers, or with being given tedious scenes to draw, so I'm certainly not opposed to artists having a least some plot input. But having a neophyte writer take over the direction of your top book, regardless of his artistic talent, probably isn't going to work. But, this was the early ‘90s, and the feeling at Marvel seemed to be that artists were the true selling point. I don’t really know when this idea originated, and it seems to contradict the culture of 1980s Marvel where editors were groomed to also become writers. The massive success of Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane in the late 1980s obviously played a part, but it feels like this change happened almost overnight. Portacio didn’t have the massive popularity of Lee, McFarlane, or Liefeld, so I wonder if Marvel was grooming him for the same superstardom by giving him this title.


It’s hard not to notice the weak plot elements in this issue. The first scene tries to explain away last issue’s sloppy ending and doesn’t pull it off. It goes downhill from there. Why are there suddenly two dozen Hellions for Fitzroy to feed off of? How does Jean have access to her own powers if she’s stuck in the White Queen’s body? Why are the X-Men now suddenly able to defeat Fitzroy’s super-powerful Sentinels so easily? Even a scene that’s meant to be charming, Forge blocking Xavier’s telepathic power during their chess match, doesn’t work. Why would Forge do this while the X-Men are away on a mission? Isn’t that pretty dangerous?


There is one scene that I do like and it has always stuck with me. To claim leadership of the Upstarts, Fitzroy cuts off Shinobi Shaw’s finger to steal his ring. It’s a disturbing scene that creeped me out as a kid. For whatever reason, this actually made Fitzroy’s sadism more real than killing dozens of people did.

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