Month: November 2017

(Re-)Reading Uncanny X-Men: Old Soldiers and Charge of the Light Brigade

Reading the entire Uncanny X-Men comic book series really illustrates how the team and its characters have evolved over time, and how they both reflect and influence comics of the time.

I’m now up to 1987, right after the first official X-Men crossover event Mutant Massacre, and the fall-out of that story sees a darker shift toward paranoia and a grim chance at a hopeful future for the characters. The specter of death and doom hangs over them more heavily now, and it’s affecting how they act. The art is also becoming more moody and intense with darker colors.

The industry as a whole was responding similarly to the previous year’s surprise hits, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. They redefined how comics creators approached telling superhero stories. While those two stories took a more dark and grim approach to superheroes, it was a tone used to enhance specific themes and devices that really made those two classic comics resonate. Ultimately, I think the industry learned the wrong lesson and replicated the wrong elements from these milestone works. Some creators got it, but too many devolved their stories into gritted teeth and anguish, mistaking it for realism, with no real foundation of character, thematic exploration or even structure. In improv comedy, players are encouraged to “play to the height of your intelligence,” and I think too many writers and artists did not write or draw to the height of their intelligence during this period. In the 1990s, the comics industry nearly drowned from this content. While Marvel’s X-Men franchise was far from the most guilty, it had its fair share of going for the low-hanging fruit. Fortunately X-Men as a concept and its classic stories were strong enough, and enough quality creators added worthy stories to carry the book through this period.

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Storm looks awesome (Davis/Green)

This batch of issues, Uncanny X-Men #215-219, definitely reflects a transition into this darker era. Being a transitional period, there are a number of fill-in artists and new characters as we move toward settling into a new status quo.

The first two-parter focuses on Storm and Wolverine, the only two members of the team still in the line-up since X-Men was re-launched in 1975. The story is a bit odd because while trying to deal with the threat of the Marauders, Storm is kidnapped by a trio of old World War II superheroes-turned-vigilantes. So it kind of feels like a distraction from the main story of the Mutant Massacre aftermath. At the same time, it’s probably more realistic that the rest of the world is still happening and the X-Men are bound to run into unrelated threats. I like how Storm is conflicted over working with another person that’s been kidnapped who is clearly not a very good person. She also wrestles with how far she’s going to go to escape, and whether she’ll take a life to do it. Storm originally held life to be precious, but then following the Brood Saga went through an evolution where she embraced a darker side of herself where she was willing to kill. Now she seems to be looking for a balance between her original naivete and her more recent cynicism. This kind of nuance perhaps shows a rejection to the simplistic death wish mentality that will permeate the ’90s, and maybe reflects Claremont second-guessing his own contribution to this trend.

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Wolverine doesn’t kill (Guice/Green)

Even Wolverine, who is again struggling with his animalistic regression during this two-parter, doesn’t kill when he has the chance in this story. In fact, since Wolverine’s battle with Lady Deathstrike, he’s being drawn to look older and more tired, and it’s reflected in the script. His transition into the wise old samurai is really taking shape now, and it’s interesting to now see what triggered this transition in the character. Wolverine will eventually be revealed to be extremely long-lived, with his healing power dramatically slowing his aging. Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns starred an old Bruce Wayne many years in the future coming out of retirement as Batman, and it’s possible this is where the Wolverine as a veteran superhero concept came from. Also interesting is that years later, this idea is carried further by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan (and this year’s movie Logan), where an even older Wolverine roams the future Marvel Universe.

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Storm and Wolverine question the team’s next steps (Guice/Green)

At the end of this two-parter, Storm is still reflecting on the attack from the Marauders and decides the X-Men need to take a more proactive approach. This more revolutionary or militaristic angle to superheroes will become the modus operandi for several comics in the future, including the X-Men spin-off title X-Force. The Avengers and Justice League comics will also sometimes take this approach, and it’s another concept I associate with the advent of this dark and gritty era.

The three World War II heroes are presented as ultra-conservative and some of the language particularly used by the Crimson Commando eerily echoes modern nationalistic messaging.

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Crimson Commando justifies it all (Davis/Green)

Madelyne Pryor shows up in a subplot. She was seen, although not explicitly identified, several issues back being brought into a hospital as an unidentified Jane Doe. Through some flashbacks, we find out that she might’ve been one of the Marauders’ first targets, and after being in a coma for some time, now wakes up. In the interim, over in the pages of X-Factor, her husband Cyclops has left her to go back to superheroing. While editorially mandated so the original X-Men could be back together again, it will be a black mark on the character for a long time.

Alan Davis shows up against for the first half and is just wonderful. I especially love how he draws Storm here, which is good since she’s the central focus of the story. It really is too bad he wasn’t brought on as the main artist at this point but I think he was also working on Detective Comics at DC Comics at this point. Jackson Guice jumps in for the second part, as well as the first part of the next two-parter. He’s not as strong or distinct here as Alan Davis before him or the artist that comes next (more on him later). Guice is a fantastic artist but the first of two might’ve been a bit rushed or maybe not the best pairing with the inker. The second is good but he goes on to do much stronger work in his career (persona favorite: Ruse).

The next two-parter features the rest of the team, now relocated to Muir Island, a fictional location just northwest of Scotland. We’ve seen this place before, most prominently during the Proteus Saga from 1979. It is the site of a research and medical facility run by Dr. Moira MacTaggert, a scientific colleague and ex-girlfriend of the X-Men’s former mentor Professor Xavier (still presumed dead from mortal wounds when he was rushed off into deep space with his space girlfriend and her space pirate friends). All of the injured X-Men and surviving Morlocks from the Mutant Massacre were moved here for treatment. Moira is dating Banshee, who was a part of the X-Men before he lost his mutant powers of hollering. He never really resonated with me during his time on the team, in part because writer Chris Claremont went overboard with phonetically spelling his accent. But I liked him here, where he’s serving as a trainer for the new X-Men. It’s a brief appearance, so maybe that helps too.

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Longshot eats “burned animal flesh and unborn baby birds” (Guice/Leialoha)

The new X-Men are training while Storm and Wolverine are off doing their thing. The new recruits have a lot of catching up to do. Rogue is the senior member, as she’s been around since 1983. The new members are:

  • Psylocke – the telepath Betsy Braddock just joined toward the end of Mutant Massacre after surviving an attack from Sabretooth
  • Dazzler – the pop singer Alison Blaire generates light and lasers out of sound, and while she’s been a friend to the X-Men since 1980, she finally joined in the Mutant Massacre epilogue when her career and reputation were destroyed by the possession of Malice
  • Longshot – an extradimensional oddity who just joined in an Uncanny X-Men Annual that I don’t have
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Cool sequence of Dazzler absorbing background noise to recharge (Silvestri/Green)

These three members replace longtime X-Men Nightcrawler, Colossus and Shadowcat, who were seriously injured during the Mutant Massacre. Psylocke was a supporting character in British Marvel comics but was largely unknown in the United States until her introduction in a recent New Mutants Annual story. Dazzler had a solo series of her own that ran for 5 years, but while the character first appeared in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, there didn’t appear to be a lot of readers that followed the character into her own adventures. Longshot had only been seen in his mini-series by Ann Nocenti (coincidentally, editor of Uncanny X-Men) and Art Adams (who is the cover artist of the second part of this two-parter), released in 1985. While these characters aren’t complete blank slates, it’s not unrealistic to assume these are complete strangers to readers. It’s a big gamble to jettison half the cast all at once, and this two-parter is dedicated to winning readers over on the new members, especially Dazzler.

Callisto is still around too, but mainly as a device to get Dazzler to storm off in a huff. She shows up in the last issue of this batch to be grumpy again, which seemed a little forced. But I guess if I lost all of my friends to a band of murderers, I’d probably be a little grumpy too.

It’s a bit odd that Dazzler gets the spotlight, as she and Psylocke were heavily featured revery recently when they joined the team. Longshot is the biggest stranger and since these issues are the first time he’s being seen in the main book, it’s strange how peripheral he comes across. I was largely won over by Psylocke last time, and while previously ambivalent, here I’m mostly won over by Dazzler. As you might expect from a one-time celebrity, she’s a bit of a diva, prone to tantrums, and really only on the team because she has no other options. It’s a unique approach to a superhero team member’s inclusion. She’s certainly not the first reluctant superhero or reluctant member of a superhero team by any means, but because of the higher calling intrinsic in the mutant rights aspect of being an X-Man, there is an extra layer to it that feels unique within these pages. It’s also funny that she runs into the Juggernaut (even if her recognizing him out of costume as he speeds by in a car is a little much), who happens to be a huge fan of hers.

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Juggernaut is a closet Dazzler fan (Guice/Leialoha)

Of course, the four come together in time to defeat the Juggernaut and save some locals in Scotland. It’s a fun story that doesn’t feel incredibly consequential other than establishing these characters. Again, it feels a bit like a distraction from the impending Marauders threat, which is now starting to feel like maybe their attack on the Morlocks was it and the X-Men are just imagining that they’re still in danger.

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Longshot vs. Juggernaut (Silvestri/Green)

More noteworthy is the second half of this two-parter being drawn by Marc Silvestri. After one more fill-in artist, he will become the new regular artist on Uncanny X-Men, which has been rotating through a stable of fill-in artists since John Romita Jr.’s departure not even halfway through the Mutant Massacre. Silvestri is the first of a generation of artists that would become rock stars in the late 1980s and early ’90s, so I suppose it’s fitting in a way that his first issue of Uncanny X-Men focuses on the rock star Dazzler. Along with later stars Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Whilce Portacio, Erik Larsen, and Jim Valentino, Silvestri will eventually help form Image Comics, a huge force in establishing creator-owned comics as a viable publishing strategy. As part of Image, he launched Cyberforce and eventually formed his own imprint, Top Cow Productions, which had huge success in the mid-’90s with Witchblade and The Darkness. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here, Silvestri brings a refreshing look to the characters. There is a degree of fun to his layouts and characterizations that help counter the darker tones seeping into the book post-Mutant Massacre. He also has a sleek and sexy edge that prevents it from tipping into too silly. Maybe for the first time since John Byrne and Paul Smith, the characters just look cool doing what they’re doing. They’re expressive, dynamic, and it looks exciting. Really, his arrival is probably the best part of this batch of issues, although probably more for the promise of what is to come.

The last issue in this set brings Havok onto the team, which you’d think they would’ve done before the team-building two-parter with Juggernaut. Havok is Alex Summers, the younger brother of Cyclops, the first X-Man (retcons aside). Alex was first introduced way back in 1969, a couple of issues before the arrival of the legendary artist Neal Adams attempted to save the beleaguered original X-Men series from getting cancelled. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work, and the book was put on hiatus about a year later (and then successfully relaunched in 1975). But during that time, Alex was revealed to have the ability to convert ambient cosmic energy into cool looking blasts of concentric circles. Like his brother Alex, he has poor control over his powers. While he briefly served as an X-Man, he has mostly wanted to try to live a normal life. His girlfriend the green-haired Lorna Dane is also a mutant. Of course the two invariably get sucked back into mutant shenanigans and that’s exactly what happens here.

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Suspicion and paranoia (Blevins/Green)

A few other odd things happen (or don’t happen) in this issue. First, the issue right before it ends on a cliffhanger of Alex and Lorna discovering one of the big fish that serve as the spaceships for The Brood (last seen during the Brood Saga). If the Brood are back, that is seriously bad news, and Alex and Lorna acknowledge this. Then, in the next issue, no mention of this is made whatsoever. It’s revealed during this issue that Alex’s memories were tampered with by Psylocke (more on that soon!) so it’s entirely possibly his memory of why he was going to visit the X-Men was erased too. But Lorna makes no mention of it either. Apparently this whole plot point is left dormant for years, which is crazy to me. Why introduce it the way it was if nothing is going to be done with it? Alex could go visit the X-Men for any number of reasons that lead to him joining. To me it is indicative of how Chris Claremont isn’t quite on top of things as a plotter as he once was. Smaller clues suggest that Claremont’s awareness of the character’s history, even history that he himself wrote, is not very strong. Again, this could be chocked up to Psylocke’s mind-wipe, but it seems like a convenient excuse rather than a choice made for the story.

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Havok twists and turns through his own paranioed confusion (Blevins/Green)

Despite this, the use of Alex’s narration and his discovery of his own former teammates’ treachery at altering his memory present a good tale of paranoia and increasing anxiety that also play into the post-Mutant Massacre tone the book is taking. Fill-in artist Bret Blevins provides a suitably creepy, twisted and unsteady style that really serves the story here. The X-Men gather in the abandoned tunnels of the Morlocks to plan how to fake their own deaths so the Marauders will leave them and their loved ones alone. This makes it seem like Storm might’ve changed her mind after deciding to be more proactive a few issues earlier. Although I guess there’s no real reason why both plans can’t still be in place.

Meanwhile, in case we forgot that the Marauders are still a threat, Lorna is being attacked by them, and is eventually taken over by the mind-controlling Malice. Ultimately, story is showing both Alex and Lorna as they’re forced back into the X-Men’s world, but end up on opposing sides. Neither is entirely making their choice of their own free will. One is straight-up mind-controlled, and the other is somewhat coerced and somewhat left with no other option.

Speaking of lack of free will: the mind-wipe. Years later, DC Comics revealed a similar mind-wipe among teammates in the pages of Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales. This was a big event for DC, and an extremely controversial moment. Here, it’s kind of brushed aside as a failed attempt to keep Alex safe and everyone moves on. It’s quite bizarre and reminiscent of Professor X’s ethically dubious use of his telepathy back in the very beginnings of the X-Men comic. This is a big red flag that the X-Men are losing their way without their mentor (who eventually took a more ethical approach to his powers).

Another controversial moment comes from Psylocke when she suggests killing Alex when Storm asks for any additional alternatives of what to do with him. From what I understand, this got a lot of angry letters but this didn’t ring as troubling for me. First, the story is told from Alex’s perspective and he’s obviously pretty suspicious and shaken. There’s always the unreliable narrator factor, and it’s clear his state of mind is frazzled and panicked, clouding his judgement and clarity. I don’t think the option was as seriously considered as he feared. Second, he’s only recently met Psylocke. Even Storm isn’t a close friend to him. So it’s very possible he’s misreading them. I think it’s more likely Psylocke is offering it as an improbable alternative to highlight that they really have very few options.

But even if she didn’t propose it as a genuine option, this is still another hint at what Psylocke will eventually become. Even in her previous encounter with Sabretooth, she longed to be tougher, and demonstrated a willingness to risk Wolverine to get information out of Sabretooth. There is a cold-bloodedness to her that is easily missed because of her pink costume and prim British appearance. So while I don’t think Alex was in any real danger of being murdered by the X-Men, it is a clue of what Betsy will become.

That kind of disciplined foreshadowing is what makes writer Chris Claremont impressive. But at the same time, plots get away from him, and juggling the hints and mysteries he’s setting up can clearly get away from him. There is something to be said for clarity and straightforward storytelling without all of the winding diversions and distractions. This batch of issues was a mixed bag of his strengths and weaknesses colliding.

Amid this transitional period, letterer Tom Orzechowski and colorist Glynis Oliver continue to be the bedrock of the series. As artists come and go, they have held down the fort for years now. Orzechowski has been on the book since 1977 and Oliver since 1978 with only occasional interruptions. With about a decade on the book each, they’re both only surpassed by writer Chris Claremont’s legendary duration. Just look at the colors above that add to Blevins’ bug-eyed delusions, and the lettering that sells the scene of Dazzler using countryside sounds to recharge herself. Those are some of the more obvious displays of their talent, but they are continually serving the stories and characters well with their skills.

Next time: Marc Silvestri officially settles in as the main artist in the build-up to the next crossover event.

(Re-)Reading Uncanny X-Men: Mutant Massacre

What? Another post so soon? Yes!

I continue my epic read-through of Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men comic book series, which started all the way back in 1963. I’m up to the end of 1986 and the very start of 1987 with the very first crossover event for the X-Men titles, Mutant Massacre.

Marvel had done events and crossovers before, notably with Secret Wars and its sequel Secret Wars II, but this was the first event where it was mostly centered around a family of titles. Also unique was that there wasn’t a mini-series or other comic released as the main narrative. There are no comic books titles Mutant Massacre, the whole story is told as part of regular issues of ongoing comic book series.

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Uncanny X-Men #210: one of the more effective scenes of the X-Men encountering an anti-mutant mob

It was such a hit that the X-Men comics franchise would refine and recycle this publishing strategy every year for a long time. For a while, it was like clockwork.

In some ways, this was the first big step toward the bloated X-Men line with its convoluted interconnected storylines that eventually became impenetrable for more casual readers. It’s the beginning of a slippery slope, but what’s actually here isn’t as bad as what comes of it. Mutant Massacre is well constructed from an accessibility standpoint. Each comic book series looks at their own characters’ perspective of the event and largely stays in its lane. I only read the Uncanny X-Men issues. While it drops in acknowledgements that there are things happening elsewhere (in issues of X-Men spinoff titles X-Factor and New Mutants, and less X-Men-centric titles like Power Pack, Thor, and Daredevil), it wasn’t a disruption and it largely read well.

Another peculiarity to this event is that it isn’t clearly branded. In the first part of the event there was a guide of what issues to read but that’s basically all you got. The event isn’t referenced by name on the cover. There’s no “Part 1 of 4” language used anywhere. Even the structure of the plot is somewhat ambiguous in its conclusion. The main action happens fairly early on and the rest is mostly aftermath. There’s no big climactic conclusion, the characters just continue on the best they can. This soft ending is reinforced by some printings of collected editions disagreeing on the final chapter of the event. For the sake of my reading, I’m including Uncanny X-Men #210-214, which matches more recent collected edition reprints. Even though the original promotion for the event had it finishing with 213, I think the whole thing reads better by adding 214.

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One of the more brutal attacks: Riptide’s flying weapons

Many events in the future will brag that “nothing will ever be the same again” but before that became a marketing cliche, this event actually did it without really saying it was going to do it. The title’s status quo and cast get seriously altered and won’t really get restored until the ’90s, and in some cases, not until the 2000s.

The big inciting incident is that a brand new band of villains called the Marauders slaughters the majority of the Morlocks, the mutant civilization living in abandoned subway tunnels under Manhattan. They’re basically a band of homeless squatters and only some of them have any notable mutant powers to speak of. There’s no real explanation of why, except that the Marauders’ mysterious boss considers them an unknown quantity and wants them removed. Since Storm is supposed to be the leader of the Morlocks, the X-Men go to help. They assist the escape of several surviving Morlocks, and get pretty beat up in the process. They’re followed back to their home, the Xavier school, and are left pretty defenseless.

It’s some of the most death the comic has seen so far. Hundreds of Morlocks are seen dead. Wolverine and Nightcrawler were already in poor shape from recent adventures. Colossus and Shadowcat also get seriously injured. Of course Wolverine heals because that’s what he does, but it’s clear he’s still struggling and not in the best shape. That really only leaves Storm, still with no powers, and Rogue. With half the team decommissioned, the event ends with two new recruits, the British telepath Psylocke and the laser-light generator Dazzler, who after several past recruitment attempts finally joins the team for real.

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Colossus loses any innocence he had left

The carnage clearly leaves the characters rattled.

Storm seriously considers quitting as X-Men leader due to the losses. She’s talked out of it by her rival Callisto, the previous leader of the Morlocks. Callisto and Storm have had a begrudging respect for each other for some time and this nicely builds on that. I was really hoping that Callisto would join the X-Men. At this point, she’s one of my favorite recurring characters of the series. Storm remains one of my favorite X-Men and she continues to be the glue holding the team together through some pretty rough times.

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“Logan old son…”

Wolverine finally has his milestone encounter with Sabretooth. They’re establishing as longtime rivals. The mysteries of Wolverine’s past are starting to stack up and it’s a bit obvious in retrospect that they often had no idea what half of this stuff actually meant. Whatever makes him seem cool, just throw it on the pile. From interviews of the time though, we know that Sabretooth was meant to be Wolverine’s father. Some of Sabretooth’s dialogue in these issues makes this pretty clear too. But as with too many of Claremont’s long percolating plots, he never got around to confirming it. After all, he only had 15+ years writing Uncanny X-Men and many of its spin-offs to get around to this stuff. Later writers naturally wanted to put their own stamp on things so they did something different with the hints. Usually this results in retroactively causing some dialogue in the older stories to be a bit discordant with what is to come. It doesn’t outright contradict but it doesn’t quite line up either.

Rogue doesn’t seem to do too much in this story, emotionally. She’s around a lot to use her powers but she doesn’t get a lot of character moments.

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Shadowcat fading away

During the initial battle with the Marauders, Shadowcat’s powers are disrupted somehow, causing her to slowly fade away. She eventually can’t even talk and we don’t even get any thought bubbles from her, making it extra creepy and sad. She’s put in some kind of container, although it’s not made clear exactly what it’s supposed to be doing since she could theoretically pass right through it. Nightcrawler also gets seriously injured and ends up in a coma. The two characters, along with Rachel Summers, who was written out in the last set of issues, will all star in the spinoff series Excalibur, although it doesn’t launch for another year.

Colossus sadly snaps during the fight and actually kills one of the Marauders. This is one of the most memorable moments of the story and really drives home how grim things are getting in the midst of the massacre. While he makes it out of the Morlock tunnels, it’s discovered that his injuries are actually worse than they seemed and he ends up being paralyzed. He’ll vanish from the series for a time too. Apparently he was also intended to be in Excalibur but during the development of that series, Captain Britain took Peter’s spot as the strong guy. So he’ll eventually return but it’s too bad we don’t get to see him dealing with his actions during the fight.

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Psylocke’s first knife, not the focused totality of anything

Betsy Braddock is a semi-new character. She was new to American readers, but she first appeared about ten years earlier in Marvel’s UK comics. She gained the name Psylocke in her first US appearance for New Mutants Annual #2, where she is kidnapped and given bionic eyes so she can be an unwitting spy for the extra-dimensional villain Mojo. She hangs around the Xavier school for a few months as everyone, including herself, debates what to do with her. While clearly older than the teenaged New Mutants cast, she’s considered for that team instead of the X-Men. But when Sabretooth invades the mansion, Psylocke proves herself and she earns a spot as an X-Man. This issue was really interesting because I mostly know the character in her ninja guise she’s given later. It always seemed like a random juxtaposition between the two versions of the character, but there are a lot of clues in this issue that indicate Claremont might’ve actually planned the transformation all along. She tries to use a knife in self-defense (she’ll later have a psychic knife), and her own narration has multiple references to her wanting a darker side to her prim exterior. This fight with Sabretooth gets a sequel years later. I’ve read that issue and never knew the characters had a history like this.

Dazzler was outed as a mutant a couple of years ago, which ruined her singing career. A subplot in these issues shows her taking a job as a musician in Lila Cheney’s band. Lila is a character that only had a few appearances in New Mutants up until now. This is her first appearance in Uncanny X-Men and she probably could’ve been introduced a bit better. There’s nothing to indicate that she knows the X-Men until they get a call from her letting them know Dazzler is acting weird. But anyway, what seems like an unrelated incident ends up being another of the Marauders mind controlling Dazzler. They eventually free her but now her career is completely ruined, so without really any other options, she agrees to join the team.

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A mind-controlled Rogue isn’t helping the X-Men’s already bad reputation

Speaking of the Marauders, aside from Sabretooth and the mind-controller Malice, we don’t get a lot on them. They’re obviously brutal but they’re mostly just different flavored foot soldiers serving someone named Mr. Sinister. It seems like most of them are mutants but other than their boss vaguely wanting to get rid of “wild cards,” there isn’t much explanation for why this is all happening. And since this is mostly mutants killing mutants, it’s not really furthering the building theme of the growing anti-mutant hysteria. From what I’ve heard, the original plan for this story was that Nimrod was going to be the main villain slaughtering the Morlocks. This probably would’ve been better thematically. Of course, there was just a big battle with Nimrod, but I assume if the original Mutant Massacre plans held, those issues would’ve played out differently.

On the art side of things, it’s a bit inconsistent, averaging one artist per issue. After three years as the main artist, John Romita, Jr. departs. He’ll return to the series in 1993 for another stint, at which point his distinctive style will be firmly in place. Bret Blevins steps in for several pages on Romita’s last issue. He will later show up for a run on New Mutants. Rick Leonardi, who wonderfully handled Cloak and Dagger, does a fill-in. Alan Davis arrives for a fill-in issue as well, and his issue looks wonderful. I wish he took over as the regular artist but his style may not quite fit the darkening tones. Barry Windsor-Smith shows up again for his fourth issue of the series. Although here he only does pencils, the first time he didn’t also handle inks and colors. It was strange to see him hop in on something more conventional but it still looks great. Those are all fantastic artists but their styles vary somewhat, weakening the cohesive unity of the overall story. As w get to later crossover events, this will become more of a problem. Here it seems like Romita was maybe removed from the book before they had a new regular artist in place, causing a bit of a scramble.

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Wolverine demonstrates just how rattled they are

While the X-Men are trying to rebuild, they are both physically and emotionally battered, both individually and collectively. While there have been harrowing moments and the threat of danger hanging over the series for a long time, this is among the most permanent repercussions they’ve had to face. Half their team is medically unstable, the mansion is serving as both a morgue and trauma unit for the Morlocks, their mutant-detecting equipment Cerebro is beyond repair, and they are in no shape to defend themselves from an attack, which they expect could come from the Marauders any day. In many ways, the series had been coasting on the momentum of the classic John Byrne era of 1978-1981. This seems like the strongest step toward bringing the book into a new era.

While I’m sad to see this era of the X-Men end and some of these characters move on, I have to admit some elements were getting a bit tired. Most of the characters getting removed were directionless for awhile, as if Claremont had run out of things to say with them, so it seems like a good move. I’m liking Psylocke more than I expected already. Dazzler I can take or leave so far but we’ll see. This kind of deck clearing is rare in any kind of franchise, so I appreciate the bold move and am excited to see what happens next.

Next time: More new characters, and moving out of the X-Mansion