Monday, July 29, 2013

UNCANNY X-MEN #273 - February 1991

Too Many Mutants! (Or Whose House IS This, Anyway?)
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Whilce Portacio, Klaus Janson, John Byrne, Rick Leonardi, Marc Silvestri, Michael Golden, Larry Stroman, & Jim Lee (pencilers), Scott Williams (inker), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)

Summary:  Following the Genoshan battle, the united X-teams regroup in the underground complex beneath Xavier’s mansion.  Storm, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl debate what to do next, while Cable makes his case for leading the united teams.  Later, Marvel Girl uses Cerebro to locate the missing X-Men.  She’s ambushed by the Shadow King and narrowly rescued by Psylocke.  Eventually, the X-Men emerge in new uniforms, ready to follow Storm.  Shortly after Cyclops and Marvel Girl say goodbye, Lila Cheney arrives and teleports the team away, claiming Xavier needs their help.

Continuity Notes
  • Gambit “officially” joins the X-Men this issue, in the sense that Storm refuses to leave with him, so he decides to stick around.  At the end of the story, he’s wearing an X-uniform with the rest of the team.  Gambit’s casual decision to stay probably ties in to Claremont’s rumored original plan to reveal Gambit's a spy for Mr. Sinister.
  • This is the issue that ignited the long-running fan speculation that Gambit was a reincarnated Longshot.  While Wolverine and Gambit are sparring in the Danger Room, Wolverine remarks that his moves are similar to Longshot’s.  On the next panel, a hologram of Lady Deathstrike emerges and attacks Wolverine.  In an altered word balloon, Jubilee questions who turned that sequence on.   The scene then cuts to Gambit smiling with his left eye glowing, much like Longshot’s.
  • Wolverine is barely able to keep up with Gambit during their duel, which continues Claremont’s subplot regarding Wolverine’s slow recovery after the Reavers’ attack in Uncanny X-Men #251.
  • Marvel Girl, yes still “Marvel Girl” at this point, only has telekinetic powers and must rely on Psylocke to rescue her from Shadow King.  Her telepathy will return a few months later in X-Factor.
  • Wolfsbane and Havok are still in Genosha following “X-Tinction Agenda.”  Forge is working on a way to reverse the “Mutate transmodation” Wolfsbane’s endured.  He speculates that the longer she’s a Mutate, the harder it will be to cure her.
  • Psylocke says the Hand used “magic as well as science” to physically alter her into their assassin.  The readers will receive a much, much more complicated explanation years later.

Creative Differences:  With eight pencilers, it’s not surprising to learn this issue had deadline problems.  John Byrne had this to say on his website years ago:
"Bob Harras, then the X-Editor, called and asked if I could do six pages for this issue. I was up to my eyeballs in work, so I declined. So he asked if I could do three. I agreed, and they sent me a plot. I drew the three pages
and sent them in. Then Bob called and said 'You drew three pages! That plot was for one page!'

Woulda bin a real time saver if they'd updated me on that before they sent me the plot! "

Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  When Marvel Girl takes a shower (right in front of Psylocke), Joe Rosas colors in the steam to match the contours of her body.  This is the first time I ever saw a colorist attempt to make comic art racier than originally intended.  Within five years, colorist-added nipple pokes will be all the rage.

Review:  Is this the first “quiet” post-crossover X-comic?  I believe it is.  Just think of all of the variations of this issue the X-office published in the ‘90s following Claremont’s departure.  Everyone knows that the numerous subplots and mysteries were inspired by Claremont’s work, but it’s easy to forget that even the downtime issue that followed almost every crossover has its genesis in Claremont’s initial run.  I can’t imagine Claremont thought he was starting a trend; he was probably just looking at the cast following “X-Tinction Agenda” and asking the same question the characters ask this issue -- what to do with all of these mutants?

I thought it would be interesting to look back at the era post-“X-Tinction Agenda,” as it paves the way for the 1991 revamps of the titles (the revamps that nudged me towards X-completism).  What stands out about this issue is Claremont’s ability to write the characters as rational adults, people capable of having a thoughtful conversation about how they’ve reached this point and how to go forward.  Storm acknowledges that faking the X-Men’s death was likely a mistake.  Cyclops is bothered that no one’s truly replaced Xavier and mentored the third generation of mutants.  Marvel Girl is concerned that Magneto has apparently reverted to villainy (not that she ever bought his conversion.)  Cable’s annoyed that the others can’t see that they’re in the middle of a war, and throws his hat in for leadership of all of the X-teams.  And as absurd as this might sound in a recap, Claremont handles the scene remarkably well.  Claremont writes Cable as more of a grouch than Louise Simonson has so far, but he's still rational, falling in more with Claremont’s “noble warriors” than the cheap Punisher clone he’ll soon turn into.  Cable’s position doesn’t come across as unreasonable at all, and even Storm questions if he’s right.

When the story isn’t focused on the main philosophical debate, Claremont has some fun with the rest of the cast.  Iceman and Boom-Boom get into a prank war, Archangel and Cannonball introduce the Danger Room to anyone not around since issue #225 or so, Gambit gets to outmaneuver Wolverine (something that almost never happened in these days), and a few of the ongoing subplots get touched upon.  As much as this issue might be remembered as “downtime,” there are three action sequences and a cliffhanger ending.  Two of those action scenes even advance ongoing subplots, which is a reminder of just how tight a plotter Claremont can be.  And even the pages that don’t tie in with the dozen or so subplots Claremont’s juggling are entertaining in their own right, as he’s clearly having fun writing characters he hasn’t touched in years.

Regarding the artist jam, the pages do have some level of consistency, since Scott Williams was somehow able to ink the entire issue.  I definitely thought this was a strange looking issue as a kid, but I never thought it looked rushed or shoddy.  The oddest pages to me were Michael Golden’s Gambit/Wolverine fight, although today they’re my favorite.  It’s also cool to see Scott Williams giving Rick Leonardi and Marc Silvestri highly polished inks, considering how rarely they’re inked in that style.  Compare this comic to some of the jam issues the ‘90s will later bring us and it’s practically art.  This is an issue that could’ve easily been a mess, but I enjoyed it a lot as a kid and I think it holds up very well.


Teebore said...

Like many issues of this vintage, this was like the Holy Grail for me for years, early in my collecting days. Because of Jim Lee's involvement (and possibly because of the other jam artists) it also seemed to be a more expensive back issue than others, one of those my comic shop had "up on the wall", where it placed its priciest back issues.

Even worse, it wasn't reprinted in the "X-Tinction Agenda" trade paperback (which is how I finally got to read those similarly high priced issues back in the day), so it took forever before I finally got to read the issue (and, as a fan of these post-crossover quiet issues, I generally enjoyed it).

Is this the first “quiet” post-crossover X-comic? I believe it is.

I think you may be right, at least as we think of them today.

All the post-"Mutant Massacre" stories went right into something new. Uncanny #230 kinda fits the bill, but that came out two issues after the last "Fall of the Mutants" issue. X-Factor #27 is definitely a quiet issue, but #26 was more concerned with post-FotM fallout, and it was considered part of the story.

In terms of "Inferno", there's X-Factor #40, but there's really more about a fight w/Nanny and the Orphan Maker, while Uncanny #244 is definitely a downtime issue, but is more about the introduction of Jubilee and the X-gals going shopping than dealing with the fallout from "Inferno".

Mela said...

This is the first I've heard of the "Gambit is Longshot post-Siege Perilous" theory/hints. That actually sounds like an interesting twist, since a lot of Gambit's earlier appearances hinted that he might not be too heroic. It also makes me wonder where either character's reputation would be today if it had been followed through - at the very least, we'd have been spared countless terrible Guild stories.

Scott Church said...

Man I had to hide a lot of these X-Men issues because of the skin that was shown. Once Jim Lee came on, the title got really sexualized with lots of near nudity and I remember hiding issues 269 through around 279 and the Inferno issues from my parents.

Teebore I had the same problem trying to get these early Jim Lee issues, I got into X-Men starting with issue 280 and then started searching out back issues and they were pricey back then.

One of the best places to get those hard to find back issues though was Sears catalog, they had 25 issues for around $15 dollars through their catalog - you ordered it and picked up a small box at a local sears that had 25 random Marvel issues in it but they almost always had 2-4 X-Men era issues and a lot of Amazing Spider-Man. I got almost all of X-Tinction Agenda this way as well as early Rob's New Mutants, early Jim Lee and Whilce X-Factor and lots of Eric's Amazing Spider-Man which I loved at that time. I bought maybe 6 of these and got lots of great stuff, that was a great way to get back issues if your town didn't have a store at the time.

wwk5d said...

"Wolverine is barely able to keep up with Longshot during their duel"

Er, you mean Gambit, right? ;)

I loved this issue as a kid, and it still holds up really really well. Yeah, it was a great downtime issue and a great stick taking issue as well, back when the franchise was only a handful of titles. And with the exception of Sunspot and Rictor, Claremont really juggled the whole casts of the 3 teams rather well and gives each of them something to do. And the art flows together rather well, despite all the different artists and their styles.

@ Scott - The title began being more and more sexualized long before Jim Lee, it began during Silvertri's run, I believe.

wwk5d said...

One other thing...I never bought the Longshot-is-Gambit-post-Siege-Perilous theory as a kid since Longshot never went through the SP...the only ones who did the second time were Rogue, Dazzler, Colossus, Psylocke, and Havok.

Teebore said...

@Scott: I got into X-Men starting with issue 280 and then started searching out back issues and they were pricey back then.

Yeah, my first issues were #8 of Adjectiveless and #289 of Uncanny, so when I went back to fill-in back issues, there quickly developed a sizable chunk consisting of most of the Claremont/Lee issues from my collection, simply because they were all priced way outside my meager allowance at the time.

To this day, I think I still carry a lot of affection for the original iteration of X-Factor simply because, as the least-liked and buzz worthy of the spinoffs, it was one whose back issues were the most affordable and thus easiest for me to read.

I was also completely unaware of that deal through Sears, which sounds pretty sweet (I did get a decent number of harder-to-find back issues thanks to those three packs they used to sell at Toys R Us).

G. Kendall said...

"Er, you mean Gambit, right? ;)"

Oops. Fixed it.
And I guess I'm lucky I bought this issue off the stands. I didn't know it was that much of a collectors item; I assumed that the sparse amount of Jim Lee pages would've made it one of the cheaper issues from the era.

J said...

Oh shit, we're back to early 90s X-Men comics. I think I just got a little nostalgic :).

The next two issues (274 and 275) are the peak of the Claremont/Lee collaboration IMO

six blocks east of mars said...

I loved this run of X-Men. So nostalgic for me, and Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio and Chris Claremont could do no wrong. Your review is spot. Thanks for taking me back with this.

Scott Church said...

wwk5d - it did get more sexual with Silvestri but it wasn't so Vavoom as Lee who did a lot of shower/undress scenes, Silvestri was probably at his most titillating during Inferno but it really fit with the storyline, where as Lee's work was saved by steam or smoke from showing full boobs most of the time.

Silvestri is probably my favorite all time artist but it is sad when you see an artist later in their career and you feel like they lost their mojo. Silvestri's current art doesn't do it for me while Lee's looks exactly the same and is probably tied with second to me with Art Adams.

This Space adventure is really epic, I loved it so much and it is still one of my favorite X-Men pieces. I'd say issue 282 was when X-Men stopped being great for me and it has never captured the Magic it had during Silvestri and Lee's runs on it. The writing was so great during Chris's tenure and then to go to Lobdell, it was like going from eating steak every day to eating frozen .99 meals at the grocery store.

The original X-Factor was great, I did an amazing deal when I was 13/14ish and wanted to get all the X-Factor issues, I found a Walmart that had all their Aliens toys on sale for .23 each, I bought all of them. I took them to Toys R Us who had not discounted them and it was before the days of only being able to take back one or two things. I turned them all into a Toys R Us for $5.00 each. I got around $400 in store credit at TRU and bought some video games and they had a 2 for $5 deal on X-Men figures at the time, so I bought around $200 worth of X-Men figures, so I got 80 figs and traded them to my local comic store for $4 a figure, I got the whole X-Factor run from 1-whatever number it was at the time and had left over credit for my monthly books.

This was an epic deal. I turned $20 bucks into the whole run of X-Factor, a few months of comics and around 4/5 video games.

Anonymous said...

Finally going back to this period, eh? lol I've been looking forward to this for a while since you mentioned you were going to go back and do some of the older issues. I just recently started reading this era of UXM, and I have to say that despite falling off a bit from, what I personally believe, was his peak during the outback era, Claremont was still pretty good by this point despite Lee constantly trying to usurp control.

This is probably my favorite issue of the post-X-tinction Agenda Claremont issues for all of the reasons you've stated - the jam actually WORKS, he's able to not only keep some subplots going but also juggle the cast of three books pretty well, etc.

It's also weird that you brought up Claremont's future plans if he'd stayed on the book plus Wolverine still recovering from the Reavers, since I think the point of showing Gambit getting the drop on Wolverine in the fight was also part of Chris's long-term plan to show that Wolvy was losing his mojo as his body was supposed to also be trying to flush out the adamantium (which was why it was now taking him so long to recover from wounds)before Chris ultimately killed him off and subsequently resurrected him minus his adamantium.

Anonymous said...

Yes. That was a problem, I think, later, when you read the comic without realizing the point Claremont was trying to make.
Due to Claremont leaving the book before the "Wolverine is losing his healing factor" plot was developed, it makes it look like Gambit was being built up as this super-cool character.
"Oh, look! This brand new guy who acts so cool is tougher than Wolverine!". I think it led to a lot of Gambit hate, especially with where the character was taken after Claremont.
He looked like the epitome of early-90s superhero characters.
Claremont had different plans for Gambit as well.

wwk5d said...

I guess Lee upped the Vavoom factor, but I still it starting with Silvestri...scenes like Psylocke posing nude for Colossus, Dazzler's outfit becoming skimpier, Rogue's outfit being shredded after every fight she was in, etc. Plus it seemed all the characters started sleeping in the skimpiest outfits, even the guys. Different mileage for different people, I guess.

Wolverine losing his healing factor may not have been fleshed out to Claremont's final goal before he left, but Claremont gave us plenty of hints and comments by other characters so that it was very obvious to us, the readers, that something was up.

I don't think the Gambit hate starts until well after Claremont is gone and the characters gets dragged down in the horrible Guild back story and the never-ending Rogue relationship angst drama.

wwk5d said...

Oh, and FYI...the Jean Grey shower scene? Those pages were drawn by Silvestri ;)

Jason said...

I approve of the positive words about Claremont in this blog post.

I reviewed this issue a few years back, and said this:

Put simply, I think the argument between Cable and the others can be looked on as having a further significance beyond what's in-story. Cable is a stand-in for the new generation of narrative voices that are taking over from Claremont (whose stand-in is Storm, and to a lesser extent Scott and Jean, although they can also be seen as representatives for the pre-Claremont period).

When Storm asks, "Are we fit caretakers anymore ... ?", I argue that it can be read as Claremont realizing his time as the X-Men's "caretaker" is coming to an end.

Mela said...

One other thing...I never bought the Longshot-is-Gambit-post-Siege-Perilous theory as a kid since Longshot never went through the SP...

This is the first I heard of it & that was the exact same thing I thought. A writer would have to do some serious tap-dancing to explain the Longshot = Gambit thing, but that's sort of a requirement for the X-books.

Anonymous said...

When Storm asks, "Are we fit caretakers anymore ... ?", I argue that it can be read as Claremont realizing his time as the X-Men's "caretaker" is coming to an end.

Claremont's scripts -- coinciding with periods of professional grievances -- is so rich with metatextual messages. As such, his latter day X-Men issues are just bursting with his personal musings and gentle criticisms. They read like a writer who knows the sun is setting on his tenure, but wishing he had the chance to finish saying everything he wanted to say. With the attachments formed to these characters and concepts over the course of 17 years, there had to be a sense of personal loss. Though he didn't get much in the way of a proper send-off, I'm glad that Claremont indulged in the opportunity to work through some of his grieving in these pages. Uncanny #279 and X-Factor #68 (and to a lesser extent, X-Men #1) stick out in particular as markers of this process; namely, Claremont's reluctant acceptance that he must break with the past and chart a new course for himself. They aren't the coda he deserves, but are utterly fitting for the time.

I usually hate this kind of excess. But after everything Chris Claremont had given to the franchise over the years (that is to say, he built it), he was entitled. And if that's what it took to remain passionate about what he was doing, I think the books were all the better for it.

On the other side of the coin: Jim Lee. I actually feel a little bad for him that the closest he got to doing the "iconic" X-Men stories he really wanted to was the transitional X-Men #1-3. I mean, he came on to the book with the Dissolution and Rebirth arc - the height of Claremont's sprawling, "Russian novel" take on the series. I'm sure he enjoyed drawing loads and loads of cool characters in X-Tinction Agenda, but that wasn't a traditional meat and potatoes X-Men story. Here, he does get to do a space opera, but the reconstructed team is a pretty wonky one. Storm, Gambit, Psylocke, Wolverine, Jubilee, Forge, Banshee. That can't be what he was hoping for (evidenced by fact that three of them get jettisoned once he takes over fully, despite having two teams to fill). Lee's visual contributions are fondly remembered, but his actual stories less so. Though I would argue this wasn't entirely his fault.

Anyway, glad to see this prelude to the Chromium Age get some play! Like Liefeld's New Mutants, they really are critical in setting the stage. Hope the Portacio X-Factors are explored too. (There were only two X-Factor issues in the Muir Island Saga, so you might as well cover them. Even though that last one was an epilogue drawn by somebody else. But you wouldn't want to leave any holes in the reviews. And if those two are featured, you might as well do the entirety of Portacio's brief X-Factor run. Right? Right?)

Anonymous said...


I'd like to second the Portacio X-Factors. I know G. isn't a fan of Portacio's pencils, but I thikn his X-Factor work is some of his better stuff, plus the Iceman two-parter is kinda fun, the Apocalypse four-parter is a solid action story, and the Muir Island saga, to me, is fascinating because of how differently it could have turned out and all of the behind-the-scenes stuff involved. Plus, Portacio's Wolverine isn't bad imho

Jason said...

I like you, Cyke68

wwk5d said...

@ Mela

Some people had a theory Cable was Longshot!

Jef Willemsen said...

One of my favorite later day Claremont issues... Reading your post inspired me enough to shamelessly revisit the issue for my own blog.

Call it an homage ;)

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