Friday, December 25, 2009

The Birth of Phoenix, Part 4: X-Men 100

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, from Karen and Doug!!

X-Men #100 (August 1976)
"Greater Love Hath No X-Man..."
Chris Claremont-Dave Cockrum (pencils and inks)


Doug: This is it, mutant-lovers -- the penultimate chapter to the very exciting conclusion to our first foray into one of the best runs in Bronze Age history, the A
ll-New, All-Different X-Men (yeah, so mark me off for a run-on sentence...)! Our first note today is a huge kudo to Dave Cockrum for the fantastic cover -- this one about knocked me over when I saw it on the spinner rack at the Osco Drug back in the summer of '76. It's a motif that's been used often, and quite successfully:

Doug: Let's get this rolling -- As you'll notice above, Cockrum inks himself in this issue and the results are impressive. It's my opinion that the art in the past few issues, even from panel to panel, was somewhat inconsistent. However, this is vintage Cockrum and there's a pay-off immediately with an outstanding first-page splash followed by a double-page spread featuring 12 X-Men in pitched battle. It's poster-worthy, folks (how's that for being Seinfeldian?)!!

Karen: I really like Cockrum's inks. It's far less sketchy than w
hat Grainger did.

Doug: The next several pages are full-on action as the two teams divide based on powers and personal dislikes. Despite the fact that the new team is taken aback by the fact that these X-Men had all fought together only months ago, there is little quarter offered. The highlight is our inaugural look at the Fastball Special, as Colossus and Wolverine combat Angel, only to be assaulted by Havok. We commented a couple of issues ago how much we liked Cockrum's pencils on the energy-wielding mutants, particularly Havok. Alex Summers' attack on Colossus is beautifully rendered -- powerful and savage.

Karen: Oh I agree, it's a great image. Cockrum really shines here. You know, when Cockrum returned for his second stint on X-Men, I really didn't care for his artwork. It had obviously changed some, but it's hard for me to say exactly what it was I didn't care for. But I thought it was no where near as good as what he did in this issue.


Doug: Of course, Storm attempts to reason with Jean, but Polaris ends that conversation. Banshee stems that tide, and Wolverine battles his way across the room to Xavier. I think this is the issue that made Wolverine a star. Marvel had long been way out in front of DC in terms of taking chances with characters. Wolverine's encounter with Xavier and then Jean Grey showed not only the extent of his mutant abilities not being his claws, but that he could rely fully on those abilities.

Karen: It's a nice show of Wolverine's ferocity; he was a real wild card back then. If I had to pick his star moment though, I think I'd go with issue 133, where he goes after the Hellfire Club. But this issue clearly illustrates the anti-hero nature of the character, which was still pretty unusual back then.

Doug: Cockrum follows the revelation that the original team was really comprised of high-tech lookalike Sentinels with another two-page spread. I think the best aspect of this are the looks of horror on the faces of the real Jean Grey and Scott Summers, captured and "stored" in giant test tubes. What was going through their minds? That Lang had the technology to create such able dopplegangers, or that Wolverine had carved the Marvel Girl Sentinel without a second thought?

Doug: Cyke is able to blast his way out of his restraint, and immediately frees Jean, Corbeau, and the professor. Lang of course flees, hopping into a small shuttle craft. Jean takes over the controls of Lang's little ship and he crashed it, allegedly killing him. As the carrier is now badly damaged, the X-Men and Corbeau scramble to find a way out. The only way is aboard the space shuttle they'd come in on, which is itself damaged.

Karen: Yes, the space shuttle with the big gaping hole in the hull. Oh boy!

Doug: It's determined that Jean will fly it, using her telekinesis to keep out any radiation, as well as to hold the ship together. Do you remember when I remarked in our review of issues 97 and 98 that I thought she was depowered, and mused that it could be a way to show how powerful she would become as Phoenix? Well here it seems like Claremont amped her up as a plot device to get her to the point where she could be transformed. As an aside, I'd also like to say that the Claremont/Bolton second story in Classic X-Men is spectacular. It shows the interaction between Jean and the Phoenix-force aboard the shuttle in the last minutes before the Phoenix assumed Jean's identity. It's a very moving tale of a young woman's love for a man, and of her sacrifice to save that man. As we'd find out much later, to some extent it became a deal with the devil...

Karen: That last page, with Jean telekinetically holding everything together, was pretty awesome. I like the way Cockrum made Jean's powers more visual -even if that really didn't
make sense!

Karen: More than anything though, these issues moved the Scott-Jean romance into the legendary category. These were two people who would do anything for each other. It made it gut-wrenching when Jean died. The first time, I mean.

3 comments:

CLIFFORD METH said...

I represent Dave Cockrum's personal comics -- sales benefit his widow and The Dave and Paty Cockrum Scholarship at The Joe Kubert School for Graphic Art. Please share this info with the readers of your blog. Visit www.thecliffordmethod.blogspot.com for more details

Edo Bosnar said...

I only started reading X-men when Byrne was well-established as penciller, but I did read some of these earlier issues either by borrowing them or in reprints. And I defintely agree, Cockrum's art in his first run was somehow incomparably better than in the second run. These panels you've been posting here are just gorgeous. And once again, thanks for the enjoyable summaries and analysis.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, my favorite comic book of all time. Cockrum was a fantastic inker -- maybe even better an inker than an illustrator. Check out his inks on Bob Brown and John Buscema in Avengers. Great stuff! There are a couple of reasons Dave's work during his second tenure suffered in comparison to his first run. Dave was admittedly a slow artist, but he had to keep to a monthly schedule upon his return. Also, he tweaked his style -- going for a more realistic take as opposed to his classic majestic sensibility. I think his Futurians work is much closer to his earlier X-Men (and Legion) work. But that series folded too soon...

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