Wednesday, December 8, 2010
One-Off Wednesdays: X-Men 110
X-Men #110 (April 1978)
"The 'X' Sanction!"
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Tony Dezuniga (assist by Dave Cockrum)
Karen: That's right, we're back with another one of those "one off" X-Men stories, and it is yet another fill-in issue. Just four issues after the last one! But sadly that was not unusual for Marvel back in the 70s; the "dreaded deadline doom" seemed to strike frequently.
Doug: I will confess here in front of God and everyone (all of our faithful readers!) that this series of posts was largely my idea. And I'd like to respectfully request that this be the last one we do! Man, these are getting progressively painful... please, Karen, don't suggest that we do the "Assassin" 2-parter from Avengers #145-146!
Karen: I'm with ya, partner. It's no fun to do a series of bad reviews! Although this issue wasn't horrific, just sort of lame. This story opens up with the X-Men playing baseball, and one has to wonder if Chris Claremont ever actually watched a baseball game before writing this issue! Or maybe it's the way the story was drawn. Peter is up at the plate and sends the ball deep, until Jean snags it telekinetically. She apologizes for using her powers but reminds Peter that last time he broke the windshield of a plane flying at a thousand feet -now mind you, this is Peter in his human form, not as Colossus. In any case, Jean throws the ball to Wolverine at first base -Pete's out right? Well, maybe the Russian doesn't understand the rules, because even though he's clearly out, he charges at Wolverine, who then pops his claws, and then Peter turns into Colossus...you can probably see where this is going.
Doug: Let me go on record as saying how much I loathe comics characters playing sports. Well, I suppose I don't have an aversion to them playing sports -- but in their costumes and with their powers? Yeah, I know Wolverine was the only one in his fightin' togs, but c'mon. This reminded me of that Avengers or West Coast Avengers Annual where the two teams were squaring off in Shea Stadium. Just silly... It's where my "suspension of disbelief" ends.
Karen: Since this was back in the days before Wolverine became Marvel's number one bad ass, Peter winds up sitting on him and forcing him to sheathe his claws, all while Wolverine grumbles. I don't think you'd see this happen today.
Doug: Going through all of these early X-Men stories really allows the reader to see just how a) annoying, and b) somewhat insignificant Wolverine was back in these days. Does this go to show that it was Byrne, and not Claremont, who made him a star?
Karen: Oh yeah, I think so. Byrne was definitely more interested in the character than either Claremont or Cockrum had been. Since this was also the days of thought balloons, we get a few panels of Wolverine watching Jean and Scott and thinking romantically about Jean. It's pretty funny, because Wolverine looks especially unappealing as drawn by Dezuniga!
Doug: Claremont addressed this subplot even further in the vignettes that ran in the back of the Classic X-Men reprint series. Personally, I never saw it myself -- didn't really think it was a good idea. There was already the sometimes-love triangle with Ororo, Kurt, and Peter (early on at least), so what was the point in having another? And you mentioned Dezuniga's art -- not so good. I'd argue that Bob Brown's work on #106 was better. After a steady diet of Cockrum and then a couple of Byrne/Austin issues, this book stood in stark contrast to the quality that had come before.
Karen: In the middle of their little picnic, Moira MacTaggert goes back to the mansion to meet a phone repairman. Yes, that's what I said. Unfortunately for her, he turns out to be a bad guy who shoots her with a tranquilizer dart. The baddie, called Warhawk, seems to be under the mental control of a mysterious master, who can cause him great pain.
Doug: No pay-off at the end of this one concerning "the master". I can't say that I was disappointed, as it was obvious even before I read the lettercol that this was a fill-in (again). I just wasn't made to care about Warhawk.
Karen: The X-Men return to the mansion and head to the Danger Room, while Professor X and Jean head upstairs. They are ambushed by Warhawk, who is able to take out even Phoenix, although it takes a couple of darts to do so. Jean contacts Scott telepathically as she blacks out, and then it's fun time. Warhawk has taken the safeties off the Danger Room, so the X-Men are now fighting for their lives!
Doug: Gee, what a novel idea! And it had worked so well just two issues prior! Claremont's plots were really in recycle-mode in this era.
Karen: OK, overall it was nothing new. But there's an interesting sequence here, where Wolverine sees that Cyclops is about to be hit by razor sharp blades. He thinks, "If I just butt out -presto! I got a clear track to Jeannie!" But the small fry decides against it; when the time is right, he wants to face Cyke man to man. He knocks Cyclops out of the path of the blades, yelling "Down dummy!" Seriously!
Doug: Even though I thought of Frank Miller's later ninja characterization of Wolverine and how silly this scene seemed, I was at least glad that here he ended up acting on his honor and not his instincts. But again, I just wasn't digging the Logan/Scott rivalry. For leadership maybe; for Jean, nah.
Karen: I just never saw it as anything more than wishful thinking on Logan's part. Nightcrawler takes Wolverine and teleports outside the room, hoping to shut it down, but the shock of the teleportation momentarily knocks both men out. Meanwhile, Storm is trapped inside a cabinet, and Banshee reveals to Cyclops that Storm is a claustrophobe -I guess it hadn't come up yet since the team faced Juggernaut (issue 103).
Doug: In spite of my other derision of this story, Claremont did take the time to further (or at least catch up the new readers) characterization and for that he gets a high five. Authors today, take heed!
Karen: Wolverine destroys the control panel to the Danger Room, and is then attacked by Warhawk. I thought this was a pretty weak character design -he actually looked a lot like Colossus, in that he has metal skin. And apparently, pretty tough skin, as Wolverine's adamantium claws can't cut it. The two dance around a bit, and then the team breaks out of the Danger Room. We then get a lot of expository thought balloons from Warhawk, about how he doesn't have the power to face them, but he has gas bombs, blah blah blah. Unfortunately for him, Nightcrawler has snagged his bombs, which makes him pretty easy pickins for the team. It's really a very weak ending.
Doug: That was a very detailed explanation to arrive at the word "dumb". It was a dumb story. Why didn't Warhawk look different? He mentioned that his skin was organic steel -- so is Colossus'. No one felt like that ought to be investigated, pursued?
Karen: Well, honestly, I could've just written the whole story up in one paragraph, but I'm trying to give the people their money's worth! Warhawk is taken away by the police -he's wanted on a federal charge apparently. We never do find out who sent him! Did we ever? I can't recall. The book ends with Jean disturbed about how easily Warhawk took her down -and she should be disturbed about that! She tells the professor she's returning to the team. We end with Wolverine uncharacteristically acting like the team cheerleader, saying the X-Men are ready to take on anybody. O-kaaay.
Doug: To my knowledge, this Warhawk dude never returned. He could have been Piotr's brother, or brutha-from-anutha-mutha, or whatever. We'll never know. And yeah, that last panel was not good.
Karen: This story was slightly better than the previous fill-in, with the phantom X-Men, but not that much better. I personally really disliked the art. Dezuniga was fine on things like Conan but I don't care for his super-hero work. However, there were some nice tidbits in the book, like Wolverine's attraction to Jean, and Jean worrying about her powers, that made the story worth reading. Just barely though.
Doug: Yes, as I said, it wasn't a total loss. There was enough meat to move things forward, and some plot devices that could be built on. But overall, my boat wasn't floating on this one! And we got one more Dave Cockrum cover, too.