Friday, February 14, 2014

UNCANNY X-MEN #279 - August 1991

Bad to the Bone
Credits:  Chris Claremont & Fabian Nicieza (writers), Andy Kubert (penciler), Scott Williams (inker), Glynis Oliver (colors), Tom Orzechowski and Lois Buhalis as “Team Append-X” (letters)

Summary:  Xavier and Stevie try to escape Colossus in the mansion’s underground complex.  Inside the Danger Room, Xavier sets a trap.  As Colossus continues to resist, Xavier realizes that the only way to break the Shadow King’s hold is to reach into Colossus’ mind and revive his memories of the X-Men.  On Muir Island, Forge attempts to place a neural inhibitor on the X-Men in order to block the Shadow King’s influence.  When Rogue attacks, he’s forced to fight back.  In New York, Xavier stops a Shadow King-possessed mob from killing a child.  He then proclaims that he must call on X-Factor for help.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Colossus, at this point in continuity, was living as artist Peter Nichols after having his memory erased by the Siege Perilous.
  • In-between chapters of the story, the X-Men on Muir Island have regained consciousness and begun fighting each other.  Rogue is also wearing a new costume that’s appeared with no explanation.
  • Wolverine warns Gambit not to throw any more of his "psyche-charged knives" at him, as Gambit’s knives make perhaps their final appearance.  (Although the art is so unclear, you could just as easily say that Gambit threw playing cards at Wolverine.)  This is also the only time Gambit’s powers are referred to as "psyche-charged,” which I can only assume was a mistake made by Nicieza, who had never written the character before.

Creative Differences:  This issue marks Chris Claremont’s final issue of the series, although there are no editorial remarks regarding his departure.  As Claremont explained in previous interviews, "The editor (Bob Harras) at that point made the decision that I should no longer plot the book," Claremont told "And when he made that decision I made my decision, which was that I wasn't going to stay on it if I wasn't plotting it and left. The transition occurred on page 12 of Uncanny X-Men #279 (in 1991). That's the last page I wrote."  Source:

Review:  I don’t think anyone imagined Chris Claremont’s UXM exit happening like this; no double-sized farewell, no poignant look back on the past, no career retrospective.  He just leaves in-between pages eleven and twelve, replaced by a writer that was still largely unknown at the time.  And, let's be honest, that second half of the issue is kind of terrible.  I have no idea if Claremont left any concrete plans for the rest of the issue, or if he even plotted all of the issue and Nicieza was left only to script it, but it reads as flagrant time-killer.  The X-Men, magically recuperated since last issue’s cliffhanger, waste most of the final twelve pages getting into pointless fights, on a Muir Island that suddenly resembles a South American jungle for some reason.  Jubilee runs off in a huff to join the female half of the team, while Gambit and Wolverine have a half-hearted rematch of their fight in UXM #273.  And of course the speech patterns are all wrong.  The dialogue brings us classics like “Pitstain Potpourri!  Wol-VER-ine!  Do we have to be stinkin’ an’ sweatin’ out here?!” along with some melodramatic posturing from Wolverine about “hunters” and “prey.”  

Let’s not dwell on the negative, though.  The first half is a dramatic chase sequence, with Claremont doing a fine job scripting Xavier’s first-person narration, reminding me of the work done to save his final issue of X-Factor.  Having Xavier revive Colossus’ memories of the X-Men is a bit of a copout, an editorial necessity that has to be executed before he rejoins the team, but Claremont’s script actually makes you feel for both Xavier and Colossus during the moment.  (As Xavier points out, he’s effectively ending the only peace Colossus has known in his adult life.)  And Andy Kubert, making his debut as a fill-in artist, does a decent job of following the Jim Lee style without turning into a copycat.  You can see some early examples of his aversion to drawing feet, but overall, Kubert is able to emphasize just how scary Colossus could actually be and add some excitement that was missing from the previous issue.  With the help of Scott Williams’ inks, he also keeps the cast “on-model,” even giving Stevie Hunter that unique look that didn’t exist until Jim Lee got his hands on her. 


Matt said...

Hmm, I never realized Kubert had an aversion to drawing feet! Now I need to go back and look at all my X-Men issues to see what you're talking about.

wwk5d said...

Hmmmm...I never saw it as the X-men fighting against each other. I always saw it as they were hunting down Forge, the one guy wasn't defeated from the last issue. Wolverine wasn't quite under the influence as much as the others for the most part, but the Shadow King still had his hooks in him. I mean, that's what I also got by what Jubilee meant when she said she was going to join Rogue's hunting party.

And yes, God only knows why Muir Island is being depicted as a semi-tropical island.

The cross-over had a decent start last issue, and this issue does start out strong...but it goes downhill after this point. And it's too bad CC didn't get *any* kind of recognition for his work on Uncanny, or this being his final issue. What a slap in the face.

Cerebro said...

As I recall, Louise Simonson quit under similar circumstances --> editorial mandate that the "hot" artist plot the series. In her case, Rob Liefeld (NEW MUTANTS) and Whilce Portacio (X-FACTOR). Harras really knew how to make friends...

I, too, found it odd, at the time, that Claremont would drop off the book mid-storyline without any sort of recognition. The first three issues of X-MEN, however, definitely felt more like a proper send-off for him and a nice cap on a 16 year run. So, at least we had that. (G. Kendall...I do hope you'll be reviewing those issues, since you skipped them the first time around.)

Formiga At├┤mica (Cesar R. Pontual) said...

Cerebro wrote: "(G. Kendall...I do hope you'll be reviewing those issues [X-Men #1-#3), since you skipped them the first time around.)"

I'm hoping too. I think that Claremont's farewell deserves a proper review.

wwk5d said...

Plus, even though it happened in 1991, Claremont's final 3 issues on X-men would be a great way to close out the 80s and transition to what we consider the '90s era' X-men...

Austin 'Teebore' Gorton said...

Like Cerebro, I've always considered X-Men #1-3 as Claremont's proper goodbye to the X-Men, as at least he gets a chance to write a "classic" feeling story an write out both the team's biggest villain and his most accomplished character. Plus, from what I hear, getting a chance to write the best selling comic of all time turned out to be a pretty great severance package financially.

Of course, some acknowledgment of his departure from the title he shepherded for over 15 years, which he put on the map and turned into Marvel's cash cow in the title itself would have been nice.

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