Monday, August 10, 2009
Uncanny X-Men #112
Chris Claremont (author), John Byrne (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), Bruce Patterson (letterer), Mary Titus (colorist), Jim Shooter (editor)
The X-Men prepare to fight Magneto, but that idea is quickly vetoed when they discover that Magneto is using his powers to fly Mesmero's office/caravan. Magneto denies being involved with Mesmero's scheme, claiming that he never even met him before, and says he would have freed the X-Men from Mesmero's brainwashing if the Beast didn't do it for him. Unceremoniously Magneto ejects Mesmero from the caravan, stating (rather unconvincingly) that Mesmero will land on the ground virtually unharmed. When the caravan lands, the long-awaited battle begins, but only Jean proves to be a match for the rejuvenated Magneto and her powers give out at the worst possible moment, as if she hit an absolute limit. Later the X-Men find themselves strapped to mechanical chairs, unable to speak and barely able to move, and being tended to like infants by a robot named - and looking the part of a - Nanny.
Really I think this is where the Claremont/Byrne run really hits the ground running, in terms of both the art and the writing. The design for Nanny is quite inspired, like something out of a Douglas Adams novel, and Byrne at his best can draw one fantastic action scene. And while it is a cliche to praise a superhero comic from the pre-"Watchmen" era by referring to any "dark" and "mature" turns, there is something really striking about how it's basically a story about the good guys being kidnapped and brutally tortured by a villain - and not so they wouldn't be around to stop their latest evil scheme, but just out of pure hatred. Plus Magneto's idea for vengeance is downright disturbing, even in an era when mutilation and sadism in superhero comics are de rigeur.
It's been pretty obvious since the "reboot" that, apart from Magneto, Jean, and Cyclops, Claremont wasn't all that interested in the X-Men's Silver Age adventures, so it's a little off-putting when the continuity is referenced here. Anyway, the big deal is that originally Magneto was working with Mesmero in X-Men #48-51 in a convoluted plot to raise a mutant army and get Lorna Dane/Polaris to believe that she was Magneto's long-lost daughter (decades later, she actually does turn out to be Magneto's biological daughter, but that's another story...), but a retcon in #58 showed that the Magneto from that story was a robot - with no explanation. As happens more often than you might think in comics, "The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #7" wrote the whole thing off as a scheme by Starr Saxon and called it a day.