Monday, September 27, 2010

X-Men 103: It Was A Dark and Stormy Night....

#103 (February 1977)
"The Fall of the Tower"
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Sam Grainger

Karen: We're back with the next part of our X-Men review. Last issue, Juggernaut and Black Tom had rather handily defeated the all new, all different X-Men (minus Cyclops). All of the team except Nightcrawler were captured. Kurt was whisked away by- wait for it - leprechauns. I don't know why, but I still find myself irritated by the leprechauns. They just seem sort of unnecessary and kitchen sink-like.
Doug: Yeah, I know we commented on the little fellows last issue. And I'm like you -- trolls and elves in the pages of The Mighty Thor, all sorts of Inhumans, aliens, etc. But my first impression when I read last issue was "What the...??"

Karen: Kurt meets Eamon O'Donnell, the caretaker of the castle. He explains that Juggernaut and Black Tom are holding the rest of the little people captive, and he's been unable to act against them. In the meantime, Black Tom has taken the other X-Men to the laboratory (do all castles have one?) and is about to torture them.

Doug: Laboratories, yes -- but I did not, however, notice any spying-eyes portraits like ol' Doc Doom has!

Karen: Nightcrawler gets a chance to shine here, as he uses his "image indu
cer" to appear as Xavier and strike out at the villains. I think it's pretty well known that Nightcrawler was Cockrum's favorite X-Man -and later artist Byrne's least-liked character. I often wonder how popular Nightcrawler might have become if Cockrum had stayed on the title, and what would have become of Wolverine?

Doug: It's a great "what if?", isn't it? The Cockrum issues really showcased Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus. Wolverine was a player, but certainly took a backseat to the other three new heroes. I always thought the image inducer was a great tool for Kurt, and really helped to humanize him lookswise. The situation was somewhat akin to what Ben Grimm was experiencing at about the same time with his exo-skeleton. He was able to be human, yet do his thing when necessary. I wish, in both cases, those particular plotlines had been continued longer.

Karen: Kurt has a good go but eventually the two bad guys figure out what's going on. However, the fracas does create a hole in the castle walls, which brings Storm out of her claustrophobic funk. She summons a tremendous hurricane and breaks free. This also frees up Colossus and Wolverine, who are still bickering with each other. However, Black Tom and Juggy escape to one of the castle ramparts and take Banshee with them.

Doug: Storm's powers and power levels were really being explored in these early issues, weren't they? Had Phoenix not come along, it's interesting to think about just how much more status she'd have been given.

Karen: I think Storm was probably the most powerful heroine at Marvel at that time. Claremont certainly made it clear that she was a force to be reckoned with! We get a couple of nice pages of the team trying to get to the villains -I especially liked when Colossus threw Wolverine up to the top of the tower! When he lands, he runs into one of the leprechauns. There's an interesting exchange here, where the leprechaun tells Wolverine he "doesn't believe in talking Wolverines" - while it could be a joke, I wonder if Claremont and Cockrum were still thinking that our lovable psycho was actually an evolved, mutated wolverine? I've read in several different interviews that this was one of the original concepts for Wolverine's origin.

Doug: Didn't you love the exchange, after Storm had dumped Wolverine and Peter on their heads, when Wolverine referred to her as a broad and Colossus threatened him to never use that term again... and then called Wolverine "shorty"?? I also thought it was a nice touch, and one
Claremont and Byrne would touch on later, to show Storm's lockpicking abilities. A couple of questions, and I'm asking simply because I don't have my X-Mens in front of me: Was that the first instance of a "fastball special", and also -- was it the first time we learned that Wolverine's real name was Logan? Oh, and one more thing about Wolverine's encounter with ol' Paddy the leprechaun -- just an observation about the "mutated wolverine" idea: Byrne tended to draw Logan with much hairier arms than Cockrum ever did.

Karen: That might have been t
he first fastball special, although it was a vertical one! I'm pretty sure it was the first time the name "Logan" was used with Wolverine. I loved how Claremont just kept feeding the readers little bits of info, issue after issue. This is how you write a team book! Back to the story -Banshee is freed, Nightcrawler makes it to the top of the castle, and we have a splendid free for all going. But when Banshee knocks Tom over the castle wall and into the sea far below, Juggernaut freaks out and jumps over the castle wall to try to save his friend. As the raging sea swallows them both, it appears that things will get back to normal -whatever that is for the X-Men! However, the last panel shows that all of these events are being watched by a mystery figure, one who promises to bring the X-Men's "oldest, deadliest foe" back into the picture. Can you say...Magneto?!


Andrew Wahl said...

You know I love me the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne X-Men. You know I do. But leprechauns? Really? I think this was the first time Little Me experienced being drop kicked out of a story as suspension of disbelief went out the window! (It didn't stop me from coming back for more, thankfully!)


J.A. Morris said...

I dissed the leprechauns in your review of #102, so I won't go there again.

But I wonder if Claremont himself had second thoughts about putting leprechauns into the X-universe,since they never returned during his long run on the title.
Just about every other character introduced during the Claremont era made at least two appearances. Even S'ym,Garok and the N'Gari had multiple appearances. Plus,he even had a bunch of characters he created in Iron Fist & Ms. Marvel even showed up in X-men stories.
Or maybe the leprechauns were all Cockrum's doing, who knows?

Robert McKinney said...

There was an earler Fastball Special in # 100.

Doug said...

Yep, Robert --

I went back and looked at our very own review of #100 and there it was!! Shame on me for being lazy.

No-prize to you!


Fred W. Hill said...

Doesn't that leprechaun look an awful lot like Gerber's killer elf?
As for Nightcrawler, I believe he was one of Cockrum's creations from even before he started working for Marvel, explaining his particular affinity for him, and he provided him with a touch of swashbuckling swagger, with a good sense of humor but a serious side as well, somewhat similar to the Beast as he was characterized in the Avengers during this period. Personally, I don't think Kurt would have become as wildly popular as Wolverine became even if Cockrum had stayed on the title. Byrne's version of Wolverine caught on as part of a growing trend for darker, more violent stories in comics, as also exemplified by Miller's version of Daredevil (and, later, Batman). Nightcrawler didn't quite have the personality to be a big player in that trend, but a guy with a short temper and huge claws that could cut through just about anything? He was going to join in sooner or later.

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