The last time I got a wild hair to read X-Men I left off with #110 knowing that #111 is a good jumping on point. #111 begins in medias res, but I’m reading in conjunction with the supplemental material from Classic X-men, so let’s start with #17 of that series.

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Sounds like Mystique was pulling a Batman.

X-MEN CLASSIC OMNIBUS: When Classic X-Men first started, it consisted of reprints with new sequences added, plus all-new back-up features, originally by Chris Claremont and John Bolton. The omnibus reprints all of the new sequences and back-ups, plus other editorial changes, as well as the original and the new covers as well as pin-ups. Eventually, the new material and edits were dropped, but the reprints continued. In addition to including all the new covers, the omnibus also includes covers for other X-Men reprints series such as Amazing Adventures, X-Men: the Early Years and others.

X-Men Classic Omnibus is like a book of DVD deleted scenes. The thing is, most of the scenes deleted from movies were cut for a reason. In the case of Classic X-Men, the back-ups were added after the fact and are largely superfluous. Some of them (too few) are very good, but most of them are fat deserving of being trimmed. Reading them in conjunction with the originals as I have been doing is, frankly, distracting. Rather than adding depth, the new features, conversely, detract. If I ever read them again, it will be by themselves, and I may try to assemble them in strict chronological order. I really can recommend this omnibus to anyone who is not already very familiar with the originals, familiar enough to read the new material on its own and know what’s going on.

X-MEN #139 / CXM #45:

COVER COMPARISON: Before I re-read the story, I was going to give the nod to the original. This being (more or less) Kitty’s introduction to the team, she’s not even pictured on the reprint. But that scene is only a small part of the multiple plots running through this issue, so I’ve got to go with the Lightle cover.

#139: John Byrne is given full plot credit this issue.

“Welcome to the X-Men, Kitty Pryde—Hope You Survive the Experience!” As I mentioned, Kitty’s introduction to the team’s workout sessions is only one of many scenes this issue. In the annual she appeared in civilian clothes and did not accompany the X-Men on their mission. In this issue, she’s dressed in the school uniform, but plays the role of an observer in the control room with Xavier; she does not participate in the training session in the Danger Room itself.

Angel is training with the team (he’s been around since #136), and is depicted in the cover corner box for the first time. He is out of training and his lack of teamworks disrupts the session and endangers Nightcrawler. Kitty is jumpy around him. Professor X suggests “Ariel” as her code name but she doesn’t like it. She’s more amenable to Storm’s suggestion: Sprite. Wolverine dons a new earth-tone costume. Xavier sends Wolverine and Nightcrawler to Canada to clear up the matter of Wolverine’s resignation from the Canadian Secret Service. Later that day, Ororo accompanies Kitty to Stevie Hunter’s dance studio in Salem Center.

The next day, Wolverine and Nightcrawler arrive at James and Heather MacDonald Hudson’s place in Ottowa. Wolverine was once close friends with them both, and Nightcrawler learns that Wolverine’s name is “Logan.” Alpha Flight’s Aurora, Northstar and Sasquatch are in the States (Machine Man #19), and while Vindicator is on a mission with Shamen and Snowbird up north in Hudson Bay.

They are looking for the family of a man who had been killed and apparently eaten. Wolverine arrives and identifies a plaster cast of a footprint as belonging to the Wendigo, and he recaps the events of Hulk #180-181. In a full page panel on the last page, the Wendigo itself attacks Nightcrawler.

Wolverine's costume was coloured yellow on the original cover, but I think Byrne drew the new version, as the art has no shoulder-stripes.

I think the cover was the first appearance of the "Welcome... hope you survive" line.

Uncanny X-Men #139-140 and Machine Man #19 were the first time that I saw Alpha Flight though I did have #109 with Weapon Alpha.

Never saw them as a complete team until Alpha Flight #1 and then they were separated again!

X-MEN #140 / CXM #46:

COVER COMPARISON: Note that the title of the reprint comic changes from “Classic X-Men” to “X-Men Classic” with this issue. This is so that retailers will shelve it alphabetically with the concurrent issue of the regular series. Around this same time, “West Coast Avengers” changed its title to “Avengers West Coast” for the same reason.

SUMMARY: Part two of the Wendigo story. John Byrne is again listed as plotter. I neglected to mention it previously, but Storm has been promoted to field leader since Cyclops’ departure. The Kitty/Ororo/Stevie triangle is further explored. Angel does not like Wolverine. Alpha Flight is disbanded in the wake of this issue. Blob escapes prison with the intent of joining the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

COMMENTARY: This issue’s splash page is an often-cited example of the friction between Claremont and Byrne. Colossus is struggling to pull a stump from the ground. Or is he? His thought balloon certainly seems to suggest so: “By Lenin, either my heart will burst and my steel body crack…” But the illustration depicts the stump already pulled free. It is this kind of discrepancy between script and art that Byrne objected to.

I had read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics before I learned of Byrne’s objection. After having read that book, I determined the dialogue placement and action of the panel was designed to mimic motion on a static page. The reader’s eye would read the thought balloon on the left first, then scan to the right to see the stump breaking free. Voila! Although I see Byrne’s point, the first panel on the second page also depicts the stump breaking free.

In a flashback to Wolverine’s backstory, he says, “These claws… change everything!” I suppose it could be argued that he was referring to his adamantium claws specifically, but I choose to interpret it per the original intent: no “bone claws” (which I think is an unbelievably stupid concept). Wolverine also comments: “I have been two things in my life: a soldier and a secret agent.” Hmm…

OTHER: A letter from the president of the New York City Council which plainly states, “NO SHOTS, NO SCHOOL!” was published.
X-MEN #141 / “Days of Future Past”:

Everything I’ve covered so far can be said to have taken place in the original timeline. In the “original timeline,” Senator Robert Kelly was assassinated on the floor of the U.S. Senate by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants on October 31, 1980 for pushing an anti-mutant agenda. In 1984, an unnamed rabid anti-mutant President, who pushed through the first Mutant Control act, was elected to the White House. The first act was overturned by the Supreme Court, but it lead in turn to the reactivation of the Sentinals in 1988. By the end of the century, most super-heroes, including non-mutant ones, have been wiped out. Eventually, with the help of a telepathic mutant named Rachel, 46 year-old Kate Pryde sends her psyche back to the 13 year-old self on the day of the assassination in order to prevent it. Kate is one of the few surviving X-Men, and the only one who, in 1980, had not yet been trained to such resist psychic contact.

When the Brotherhood attacks, the X-Men are there to oppose them, but the whole thing is really a lose/lose situation. If they do nothing (or if they fail), Kelly is assassinated bringing about a dystopian future. But if they succeed, Kelly will become more determined than ever to combat the so-called “mutant menace.” It’s been a while since I read “Days of Future Past” and I had forgotten that the dystopian future was set in a particular year: 2013.

Thank Krakoa for budget cuts that spared us from the Sentinels. Or something.

For me the two covers for the Wendigo story have about the same impact. The #141 cover is a classic, but that collection's cover is rather good too.

X-MEN #142 / GRAND DESIGN:

It’s interesting that Uncanny X-Men #141-142 were not reprinted in Classic X-Men. The reason is not because they wanted to avoid the alternate, “original” timeline (although it kind of works out that way), but because of the then-recent publication of the “Days of future Past” collection posted above yesterday. There is, however, a very deliberate skip of that storyline in the mini-series Grand Design. After the “Death of the Pheonix” storyline, Grand Design skipped over #141-142 in its retelling in order to concentrate on what I referred to yesterday as the “original timeline.”

At the end of Grand Design, the story follows Kate Pryde back to the past, then the POV stays there to follow the stories we’re more familiar with. By the end of X-Men #142, the former Avengers liaison Henry Peter Gyrich (pronounce gear-ick) has been appointed to lead the newly established Project: Wideawake in the wake of the assassination attempt of Senator Robert Kelly.

While I’m here, I would also like to point out page 18, panel one of #142. In the dystopic 2013, after all organic matter has been burned from Wolverine’s skeleton by a Sentinal, a bionic housing is clearly shown to have been implanted in one of his forearms, then disproving any possibility of so-called “bone claws.”

I did not mean to abandon this discussion for so long. My original intention had been to take it to issue #200, but it doesn’t look as if that’s going to happen, at least not for a while, because my interests have turned elsewhere. “Days of Future Past”/Grand Design is a good stopping point, though, so I’m now officially placing this discussion on “temporary hiatus.”

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