Wednesday, February 12, 2014

UNCANNY X-MEN #278 - July 1991

The Battle of Muir Isle
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Paul Smith (penciler), Hilary Barta (inker), Joe Rosas (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)

Summary:  Professor Xavier hijacks Excalibur’s Blackbird from WHO’s headquarters.  He travels to America to use Cerebro, while the X-Men investigate Muir Island.  The team is soon attacked by the occupants of the island, who are now under the Shadow King’s control.  In America, Xavier encounters Stevie Hunter, who is being chased by Colossus.  Shadow King reveals himself, boasting that Colossus is now his.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Since their previous appearances, Rogue and Guido have arrived on Muir Island.  Shadow King is apparently using his powers, combined with Legion’s, to draw mutants to the island.  Rogue is surprised to discover just how intense the mutants train in “The Arena,” Moira MacTaggert’s new replacement for the Danger Room.  
  • We’re told that Excalibur is missing at this time, but no footnotes point to any Excalibur issues that explain why.
  • Xavier speculates that the worldwide psychic static he senses is caused by the Shadow King, although this should be beyond his abilities.  Later, in a chapter not written by Claremont, we’ll discover Polaris is the cause.

Review:  And this begins “The Muir Island Saga,” the crossover that will soon mark Chris Claremont’s departure from Uncanny X-Men.  In retrospect, probably the only significance of the storyline lies in the behind-the-scenes drama.  “The Muir Island Saga” does have its moments, but too much of the story consists of heroes fighting brainwashed heroes.  As a reader at the time, it was kind of exciting to see this long-running Shadow King subplot paid off, and to have Rogue and Colossus reunited with the team, but I can definitely recall being ready for the crossover to just end at a certain point.  

The first chapter reunites Chris Claremont with Paul Smith, who is about as far away from Jim Lee at this stage as you can imagine.  He isn’t really recognizable as the Paul Smith from the early ‘80s, either, as he’s dropped most of his oversized, bold figures and cartoony expressions.  This is a densely packed issue, filled with the large cast of X-Men from this era and the large cast of B-listers relegated to Muir Island, so it’s arguable he simply didn’t have the room to show off this time.  Most of the issue consists of six to ten-panel pages, mainly concerned with getting characters to where they need to be and then putting them in a fight scene.  

There are nice little moments, the ones Claremont can be counted on even during a cramped crossover, such as Banshee and Siryn’s confrontation, or seeing how Xavier responds to someone like Gambit having joined the X-Men in his absence.  And it is enjoyable as a fan to see the X-Men actually be proactive for a change and investigate a threat, rather than wait around to be attacked.  However, the majority of the issue just feels rushed, which isn't a good sign in the very first chapter in a crossover.


Cerebro said...

And this begins “The Muir Island Saga,” the crossover that will soon mark Chris Claremont’s departure from Uncanny X-Men. In retrospect, probably the only significance of the storyline lies in the behind-the-scenes drama.

Some of that behind-the-scenes drama is detailed, here:

Evidently, Claremont intended for the Shadow King storyline to be a much bigger arc, an arc that would've run until UNCANNY X-MEN #300 and culminate in the defeat of the Shadow King and Professor X's death. Naturally, that all changed when Claremont quit the book.

Austin 'Teebore' Gorton said...

Nice! I was hoping you'd cover this.

This is definitely a funky crossover. The art (and writing, with Claremont leaving midway) is inconsistent and clunky at times, yet it still feels somewhat momentous, paying off the long-running Shadow King/Muir Isle subplot while transitioning into the big back-to-basics/"these future Image guys are awesome!" relaunch that accompanies the release of Adjectiveless X-Men.

So it's a story whose gravitas comes mainly from its timing moreso than its execution or actual content, which is pretty unique.

wwk5d said...

Funky cross-over indeed! Just try keeping track of all of Rogue's costume changes in between each issue.

The format of the cross-over itself is also unsual. Instead, of say, parts 1 and 3 being in Uncanny and parts 2 and 4 being in X-factor, we get parts 1, 2, and 4 in Uncanny and part 3 and an epilogue in X-factor.

Between that and the various art mistakes, characters disappearing and reappearing for no reason (and some disappearing all together with no explanation), and CC leaving in the middle of part can only wonder what was happening behind the scenes at this time.

As a kid, I ate this all up and thought it was exciting as hell. Looking back now? A very apt transition between the 80s era X-men and the 90s era X-men...and a sign of things to come.

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