Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Uncanny X-Men #98

Uncanny X-Men #98
December 1975
"Merry Christmas, X-Men..."

Chris Claremont (writer), Dake Cockrum (pencils), Sam Grainger (inks), Joe Rosen (letterer), Janice Cohen (colorist), Marv Wolfman (editor), Gerry Conway (editor-in-chief)

Cyclops, Banshee, Storm, Jean Grey, and Banshee are in their civilian guises and celebrating Christmas in Midtown. Suddenly Cyclops and Jean are attacked in Rockefeller Plaza by the Sentinels. Despite the ambush the X-Men are able to destroy all the Sentinels except one that escapes with Jean in tow. A Sentinel also attacks Professor Xavier, who is vacationing with scientist Peter Corbeau in the Bahamas, and ends up capturing him. Steven Lang explains to a restrained Jean Grey and Wolverine that he considers killing the X-Men a crucial first step toward destroying the mutant species. Angered by Lang slapping Jean, Wolverine manages to free himself and the others. They are on the brink of breaking out of Lang's headquarters altogether, only to discover that his base is orbiting the planet.

What's Important?

Quite a bit, actually. Most importantly, one can argue that this is the thematic start of Chris Claremont's run. While Claremont wasn't actually the first writer to treat mutants as a metaphor for persecuted racial minorities (and, perhaps even at that point, gay people as well) - that theme can be traced all the way back to Stan Lee's stories - he made it a centerpiece of the franchise. In fact, this approach would dominate not just "Uncanny X-Men" but the entire franchise until 2001, when Grant Morrison broke with the then 30-year old pattern in order to treat mutants like an actual science-fiction concept and explore the implications of a new species of humanity rather than continue using the idea as a metaphor.

It's also the first issue that both hints at Wolverine's attraction to Jean Grey, as well as Storm's friendship with the latter. There's also a blink-and-you'll-miss-it debut by Amanda Sefton (a.k.a. Jimaine Szardos), Nightcrawler's on-and-off girlfriend and foster sister (eeeew). It turns out later that she had been secretly following Nightcrawler since he relocated to the United States.

Addendum: My friend Steve reminds me that it's also the first issue that spells out that Wolverine's claws are a part of his body, which of course leads up to him also having a metal skeleton.

It's The '70s...

Throughout this and coming issues, Jean Grey is sporting a giant gold medallion/necklace which was quite fashionable in 1975. When in the '80s it turned out that the Jean from these issues had been secretly placed in suspended animation (we'll get to all that later), she still had on that necklace, which even just a decade later looked like a bizarre fashion artifact.


Page 1, Panel 1 - I'm probably going to lose geek credentials here. Among the crowd of bystanders walking past the X-Men, I can make out Matt Murdock and Nick Fury, who are pretty obvious, but I honestly can't tell who the others are supposed to be, if anybody significant. Perhaps the bearded man standing in front of Nick Fury is Dave Cockrum?

Page 3, Panel 1-2 - More cameos! Of course, these men are Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Page 10, Panel 2-3 - There's a bit of a flub here, as Xavier, at least under contemporary "rules", shouldn't be able to attack a Sentinel with his telepathy. Under modern continuity it's become more or less a rule of thumb that telepaths can only affect organic minds.

Page 12, Panel 3 - Steven Lang's discovery that his sensors don't register Wolverine as a mutant is foreshadowing for a storyline that never saw the light of print. Originally Wolverine was supposed to be revealed as...an actual wolverine evolved into a humanoid form by the High Evolutionary. Needless to say we're all better off.


Insane Reviewer said...

Er, Grant Morrison started New X-Men in 2001, not 1999.

Back Alley Literatus said...
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VintageSpandex said...

You're right. I should have remembered, not just because it's my favorite X-Men run, but also because of how the story about the attack on Genosha preceded 9/11...

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Actual werewolf?