Thursday, February 28, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #308 – January 1994

Mixed Blessings
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Dan Green & Al Vey (inkers), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Steve Buccellato (colorist)

Scott and Jean reflect on their past together while the rest of the X-Men rake leaves and play football. Jean tells Scott about a session with Professor Xavier, where she learned that her teenage desire to reach out to Scott caused the psionic safeguards Xavier placed in her mind to weaken. They also reflect on the first time Jean learned Scott’s real name, Dark Phoenix’s death on the moon, and meeting Rachel Summers for the first time. Jean asks Scott to marry her, and they announce their engagement at Thanksgiving dinner. Meanwhile, a man leaves his family to join a group of people in a van labeled “Phalanx”.

Continuity Notes
Bishop claims that he spent his childhood with his sister in “constant flight from the ‘Emplates'”, fearing that they would “suck the marrow” from their bones. Later, the Generation X series would introduce a villain named Emplate. Both of these stories are written by Scott Lobdell, so I assume this isn’t a coincidence.

Production Note
One of the word balloons during Jean’s proposal scene is totally blank. I believe it’s supposed to say, “I’ve been waiting”. It’s a pretty big screw-up for such an important scene, and there’s a correction in an upcoming letters column.

This is one of the better “quiet” issues of the era. The goal of this issue is obviously to set up Scott and Jean’s wedding, which is a few issues away (and already being promoted by ads running in all of Marvel’s books). There’s no compelling reason for the pair to suddenly get married, as Jean just decides that she’s tired of waiting and Cyclops agrees. Considering the characters’ long history together, which stretches back to the earliest issues of the series, that’s convincing enough, really. It is strange that Scott and Jean are getting married so soon after a year-long subplot had Scott lusting after Psylocke. It almost seems as if Marvel realized that pairing the characters with other love interests was a tough sell, so they decided to finally marry them instead. Some of the dialogue in the story suggests that the marriage was done as a positive story to counteract a year’s worth of depressing storylines. I never had a problem with the pair getting married, and since it didn’t alter the dynamic of their relationship at all, it mainly served to confirm their role as the stable love story in the X-mythos.

Lobdell invents two brief flashback stories for this issue, which serve to provide some context for their relationship. Cyclops was so firmly established as the confident leader of the team by this point, a lot of readers probably didn’t know about the skinny, awkward Cyclops of the Lee/Kirby issues – the guy who was so shy he couldn’t even speak to Jean. Jean was the confident, pretty girl who didn’t understand why her classmate was so insecure. Lobdell captures this dynamic with a short flashback scene set in the Danger Room. Romita does a great rendition of the original Cyclops and Marvel Girl, capturing Cyclops’ thin physique and even remembering to keep the black areas of the costumes black and not blue. The other flashback ties into a retcon established during the Claremont years, the idea that Professor Xavier had to limit Jean’s powers before she joined the team. It’s a sweet scene that realistically shows how a teenage crush could affect someone with psychic powers. The rest of the flashbacks are spent on established stories, like the Dark Phoenix Saga. This flashback makes a vague reference to Jean actually being in a cocoon when the story’s taking place, but doesn’t actually explain what they’re talking about. I can understand not wanting to get into the tangled Phoenix continuity, but claiming that Jean wasn’t really there as the characters flashback to a scene actually featuring Jean was probably more confusing to new readers than a brief explanation of the Phoenix would’ve been.

The rest of the issue is devoted to small character scenes with the other X-Men. Most of these scenes aren't bad, but Bishop comes across as an annoying man-child during his moments. Within the course of a few pages, we learn that he doesn’t know what scarecrows or footballs are, and has to have the concepts explained to him like a small child. Is Bishop a hardened soldier from the future or Jessica Simpson? Other than that complaint, the character moments in this issue are nice and I think that Lobdell does a good job of creating a family feel for the team.


Teebore said...

Being a huge Cyclops fan and JRjr, this was always one of my favorite "quiet" issues, made all the quieter by all the crazy crossover stuff going on, seemingly nonstop, before and after it.

Anonymous said...

As a young fan first reading this issue, the character moments between the X-Men playing football/around the dinner table were really special and integral to me feeling so close to these characters. I also loved seeing people like Stevie Hunter at the Thanksgiving dinner.

The rest of the issue works well too. I agree that, in the grand scheme of things, the proposal does come out of nowhere. But in the context of Scott and Jean reflecting on recent losses while watching their teammates play around in the leaves, it works.

The art is beautiful and the flashback scenes are touching. Not perfect, but one of the best quiet issues Lobdell wrote. And the teaser for the Phalanx plot is actually pretty effective, at this point.

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