Tag Archives: Uncanny X-Men

Today’s Super Comic — The Uncanny X-Men #201 (1986)

Many superheroes have lost their powers in various storylines, and that includes many X-Men. Usually, it’s presented as an obstacle interfering with an immediate goal, and it’s a solid trope—it shows the hero is more than his or her powers. But the best examples of the trope have also used it to further develop characters, to provide consequences beyond the immediate short story.

Storm lost her powers for a few years’ worth of X-Men comics. She took the bullet for Rogue and then had to figure out how to reinvent herself without the abilities that had defined her for so long. More than most X-Men, her powers affect her personality; in earlier days, she would often repress her emotions because of how her feelings affected the weather around her. She was already beginning to loosen up before this event (see the mohawk), but this pushed her further into new territory.

By Uncanny X-Men #201, she was ready to return to the X-Men, despite the continued absence of her powers. Meanwhile, new father Cyclops isn’t quite ready to leave the team. He obviously should leave to concentrate on his young family, but Professor Xavier’s recent departure and Magneto’s recent arrival as the New Mutants’ new headmaster give him an excuse to try to cling.

But Storm knows Cyclops is in no shape to lead the team at the moment, so she challenges him to a Danger Room duel, with the stakes being leadership of the X-Men. And she prevails, demonstrating the better wisdom, temperament, and physical fitness for the job, even without the aid of powers, and she reminds us why she’s perhaps the X-Men’s most formidable leader.

Storm’s power loss did prove her skills beyond controlling the weather, but it also humanized her. She could no longer be the aloof goddess of her earlier appearances, and her disconnection from the weather put her more in tune with the people around her. And when her powers inevitably did return, those lessons remained in effect.

The X-Men’s success isn’t hard to figure out. The characters grew over time, and their growth kept things interesting and fresh. The Storm and Cyclops facing off in issue #201 aren’t exactly the same people who first met ten years earlier in Giant-Size X-Men #1, but they’re10 consistent with everything that’s come before.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: Rick Leonardi

Inker: Whilce Portacio

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Essential X-Men Vol. 6 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Uncanny X-Men #319 (1994)

Here’s an excellent example of a mid-‘90s X-Men comic, one of the sort that writer Scott Lobdell excelled at.

Uncanny X-Men #319 features three conversations, each featuring a pair of X-characters and each different in nature. And there’s little in the way of comic booky action.

The cover story is Angel (then Archangel) and Psylocke on a date. Meanwhile, Rogue accompanies Iceman on a visit home to his parents, where he clashes with his bigoted father. And on the astral plane, Professor X chats with someone who appears to be Magneto…or is he????

So these three vignettes entail, respectively, a soapy romance, a message of tolerance, and the setup for the next big storyline. All three are essential ingredients to X-Men comics, but each conversation does something a little different than usual.

The budding Angel/Psylocke romance is refreshingly free of drama at this point, just two teammates growing closer in an organic way. Iceman’s father isn’t building any Sentinels. His bigotry is borne of ignorance rather than evil villainy, and as with most bigoted people, it’s not so simple as labeling them wholly “good” or “evil.” Also, Iceman and Rogue had seldom been paired up before this issue, but they had a good enough rapport that the movies later picked up on what started here. And the usual Professor X/Magneto discussion acquires an interesting subtext here once the twist is revealed.

All good stuff.

Writer: Scott Lobdell

Artist: Steve Epting

Inkers: Dan Green and Tim Townsend

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Men #98 (1976)

Allow me to pinpoint the issue where Chris Claremont’s legendary X-Men run started getting great:

X-Men #98. The preceding issues show lots of promise, but here’s where the momentum and excitement begin to kick in.

It opens as many great X-Men stories do—with the team enjoying some downtime, just trying to live their lives, until the world’s fear and hatred get in their way. In this case, that fear and hatred manifest in the form of the robotic, mutant-hunting Sentinels.

(Coincidentally, one of the strongest ‘60s X-Men stories was the Sentinels’ debut, and here their return coincides with the book’s tremendous increase in quality. Makes sense, then, that the ‘90s cartoon used them in the pilot episode.)

The Sentinels capture Jean Grey, Wolverine, and Banshee, who then must fight their way through bigots and robots. They’ve been abducted to a facility at an unknown location, and when they learn exactly where they are…yeah, that’s going to pose some new challenges.

Part of the X-Men’s success has involved mixing and matching great characters and watching them play off each other. This issue gives an early example of that by pulling together three X-Men who had hardly ever functioned as a team, and certainly not with just the three of them.

It’s especially interesting to read this early-draft version of Wolverine. He’s acquired quite the convoluted backstory over the years, but none of that’s known at this point. He’s basically an irritable mystery man, and the script hints that there’s more to his past than we may suspect. It’s even suggested he might not be a mutant, and Cyclops questions whether he’ll work out as an X-Man. Both of those proved to be absolutely wrong, but one thing that did take hold—we get some of the earliest signs of Wolverine’s burgeoning crush on Jean.

The X-Men are definitely in their formative years here. The best is yet to come, but this issue offers up a great start.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: Dave Cockrum

Inker: Sam Grainger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Essential X-Men vol. 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #211 (1986)

uncanny_x-men_vol_1_211Mutant Massacre, the title of a classic X-Men crossover, sounds dark and violent…and it is. Pointless murder, defeat, and critical injuries all occur. But it’s less about that and more about fighting to overcome such darkness, no matter how bleak the situation gets.

We don’t see graphic images or gore (it was a more kid-friendly era of comics). But, particularly in Uncanny X-Men #211, we do see the X-Men risking their own lives to protect the innocent Morlocks from the vicious Marauders, and doing so despite their own preexisting injuries. Things actually go pretty poorly, and how they handle defeat shows us how heroic the X-Men truly are.

It’s one of their worst days, but because of the goodness they demonstrate along the way, we continue rooting for them. A fine example of how to balance hope and darkness.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Pencilers: John Romita, Jr. and Bret Blevins

Inker: Al Williamson

Cover: John Romita, Jr. and Bob Wiacek

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in X-Men: Mutant Massacre (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #183 (1984)

uncanny-x-men-183One of the nice things about comics—if a character acts like a total jerk, someone like the Juggernaut comes along to beat him senseless.

Uncanny X-Men #183 expertly blends soap opera and comic book sensibilities into a memorable outing. Colossus breaks Kitty Pryde’s heart (though seriously, that was a creepy relationship—he was 19 and she was 14…creepy), so Wolverine takes him out to a bar to chat man-to-man (with Nightcrawler tagging along/chaperoning). And by sheer random happenstance, the Juggernaut is there and Colossus bumps into him. Barfight ensues.

A nice touch on writer Chris Claremont’s part is having Wolverine decide to keep himself and Nightcrawler out of the battle—let Colossus endure the punishment he deserves for his heartlessness and maybe learn a lesson in the process.

It’s a classic issue, and the sort the X-Men excel at. Not every battle is about good vs. evil.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: John Romita, Jr.

Inker: Dan Green

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Essential X-Men vol. 5 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #161 (1982)

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_161Comic book mythologies are often created on the fly, particularly those involving the classic superheroes. It’s a fun, if also perilous, aspect of the medium. A writer and artist will introduce the core concept, and over the years other writers and artists will build on the established canon, making connections and finding opportunities their predecessors hadn’t thought of. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, etc.—none were introduced with any grand multi-year plan in mind.

The X-Men movies have gotten lots of mileage out of the past friendship between Professor Xavier and Magneto, which for many years has been an essential component of X-Men comic book continuity. But not all the years.

Magneto debuted as standard-issue raving super-villain bent on humanity’s destruction. He had neither backstory nor nuance in 1963, and certainly no previous ties to Xavier.

Even as late as Uncanny X-Men #149, Xavier was recapping the X-Men’s battles with Magneto as if the man was some stranger of mysterious origins. But by #161, writer Chris Claremont figured out that a past friendship between the X-Men’s leader and most persistent foe would add much-needed depth to the villain. And he was right. It was a brilliant move, and worth ignoring any contradictions in previously established continuity.

In #161, Xavier flashes back to twenty years earlier, when he meets a Holocaust survivor named Magnus who’s volunteering in an Israeli hospital. They become friends as they work together helping a patient, Gabrielle Haller (this is also the first time we meet the mother of Xavier’s son, David Haller a.k.a. Legion, though he was still a few years away from his debut—another example of retroactively building continuity).

It’s a solid issue, complete with young Xavier and Magneto teaming up to battle Baron Strucker and Hydra, but most interesting is watching the beginning of the ideological divide between the two, which would be revisited and fleshed out in multiple mediums over the next few decades.

Magneto would be many things in the years to follow—antagonist, head of Xavier’s School, brain-dead focal point of a cult, depowered former mutant, repowered mutant, subordinate to Cyclops, and so on—but he was never a standard-issue raving super-villain again.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: Dave Cockrum

Inker: Bob Wiacek

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Essential X-Men vol. 3 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #297 (1993)

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_297Some of Scott Lobdell’s best X-Men comics were the issues that excluded fisticuffs and super-villains altogether, and Uncanny X-Men #297 is a superb example. Twenty-two pages of human interaction (well, mutant interaction) featuring three pairs: Beast and Archangel (for our entertainment), Rogue and Gambit (to fill the soap opera quota), and Prof. X and Jubilee (to provide the heart of the issue).

The issue serves as the epilogue to X-Cutioner’s Song, the big noisy crossover event that consumed most of the X-titles for the previous few months, so the X-Men were due for some quiet time. In that crossover, Xavier was critically wounded in an assassination attempt, but his recovery grants him a temporary side-effect. For a little while, at least, he gets to walk again.

Granted, poor Xavier has been in and out of a wheelchair so many times over the years, it’s kind of cruel. That’s due to the habit of comics to revert to the most familiar status quo after a while, but this particular story works great because both the reader and Xavier know it’s temporary from the start. He gets to enjoy the use of his legs for an evening or so, and then it will be back to his chair for probably the rest of his life. Very bittersweet.

So how does he spend this precious time? He spends it with Jubilee, whom he has the least in common with and hardly even knows at this point. Jubilee joined when Xavier was off-planet with his space wife (yeah, that was a thing), and he hasn’t been back for all that long by this issue. They bond over roller-blading, and it is fantastic. Jubilee was created to be the Robin to Wolverine’s Batman, but it turns out the character works best as a youthful foil to the very adult and disciplined Charles Xavier, allowing us to see a different side of him.

Wonderful issue, and the ending is rather touching.

Writer: Scott Lobdell

Penciler: Brandon Peterson

Inker: Dan Panosian

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Marvel Unlimited

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #173 (1983)

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_173Even though it came out the year I was born, this is the issue that got me hooked on X-Men comics, and I hadn’t even realized what a pivotal issue it was.

The 1990s cartoon had already reeled me in, but the first couple of early ‘90s X-Men comics I tried left me cold. Then I came across this issue reprinted in ­X-Men Classic, and it did the trick.

Most of the focus is on Wolverine and Rogue while the rest of the team is incapacitated. Though Rogue had officially joined the team a couple of issues earlier (while Wolverine was away in his own miniseries), the others didn’t readily accept her, on account of the fact that as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants she had drained the memories and powers out of their friend Carol Danvers (the original Ms. Marvel and current Captain Marvel). Understandable.

But here, Rogue has the opportunity to do something heroic for possibly the first time in her life, for the one person who was treating her with kindness. And the moment Wolverine shows he accepts her as an X-Man should look familiar to anyone who’s seen the first X-Men movie.

Chris Claremont has written many years’ worth of X-Men comics, but this storyline ranks among his best writing. And he’s aided by the clean, dynamic pencil work of Paul Smith.

An X-Men classic indeed.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Paul Smith

Inker: Bob Wiacek

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Essential X-Men vol. 4 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Men #111 (1978)

x-men_111Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s collaboration on X-Men got off to a solid start several issues before this, but this is the point at which it became consistently great. The best was still to come, but in retrospect, as offbeat as it is, #111 feels like the start of something special indeed.

The story drops us right into the middle of a mystery and places us in the point of view of a character who has been out of the loop for a while—Hank McCoy, the Beast. He has been busy avenging with the Avengers and hasn’t gotten a chance to personally meet the new X-Men yet. So imagine his confusion when he finds people who look like dead ringers for Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus performing as carnival freaks. (Well, you don’t have to fully imagine—Byrne renders Beast’s bewilderment rather vividly on the opening splash panel.)

Three X-Men Hank does know—Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Banshee—are also part of this carnival, but they aren’t acting like themselves. Complications ensue as the Beast attempts to unravel this mystery, leading to a terrific final-page reveal that basically commands you to read the next issue.

And that was part of the trick Claremont and Byrne accomplished in this run—incredible storytelling momentum carried directly from issue to issue. Events happen, and they have consequences that don’t get tidied up within twenty pages, thereby setting up the next issue. But this isn’t just one long tease to leave readers salivating in anticipation of some eventual grand payoff. No, each issue provides its own payoff in one way or another. Serialized storytelling at its finest, and X-Men #111 serves as a great starting point.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: John Byrne

Inker: Terry Austin

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Marvel Unlimited; included in Essential X-Men vol. 1 and other collections

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up