Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time for a Rematch: X-Men 113

X-Men #113 (Sept. 1978)
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin

Karen: First things first: another awesome, memorable cover, by John Byrne and Bob Layton. You can just feel the danger -not to mention the heat! Our story starts with a news report showing Magneto attacking research bases in Australia and New Zealand. What he's stealing from them -if anything -is not immediately clear. We also get a quick trip to Greece, where Charles Xavier and his lady love Lilandra are finding some relaxation. Well, Lilandra is -Xavier is worried because he's lost his psychic rapport with the X-Men.
Doug: I loved the humongous doo-rag that Lilandra stored her feathers in while out in public. At first I thought she just had her head wrapped in a towel, but then I concluded that there was a more practical explanation -- at least, that's what I'm thinking. In regard to that awesome cover, which it is -- personally, I see more John Byrne under Layton's inks than I tend to see under Terry Austin's inks. Yet, when we've looked at Layton's Iron Man, we both agreed that he made the John Romita, Jr. pencils much better; slicker. So I guess my point is, was Austin exerting somewhat of a Sinnott-like influence over Byrne?

Karen: Oh definitely. I only real
ized how great an influence it was when I saw some of Austin's own drawings of the X-Men -which looked an awful lot like what we saw in the book! Now, back to our story: Xavier's students are trapped in their own bodies, more or less, as Magneto has managed to reduce their physical abilities and control to that of when they were 6 month-old infants. They still can think just fine -but they can't speak or control themselves physically. All, that is, except for Storm. We are told that she had the coordination of a young girl at the age of 6 months -OK, I guess we just have to accept that on face value! She's been focusing herself for one task: to dislodge her tiara. Why is that so important? Because on the underside of it are her lockpicks! Yes, Storm, the most regal of the X-Men, apparently had a career in crime. This was the first indication we got of a much deeper history for her.

Doug: I think you hit it right on the head when you said a "deeper history". This was early, and although somewhat of a big reveal, it's not a retcon. It just gets my goat how modern writers continue to perpetrate revisionist history. It smacks of a lack of creativity on their part, and denigrates the stories of the readers' pasts.

Karen: Storm manages to grasp a lockpick between her teeth and works
on her manacles, but unfortunately drops the tool. Nanny, the super-sweet robot guardian of these helpless mutants, comes in and tells Storm she'll find some pins to hold that tiara in place. There's a nice panel here of Storm starting to cry.

Doug: I'm sorry. I just wasn't buying that business about being as coordinated as a young child when she was six months old. How in the world would a person know that? Cognitively, she wouldn't have a) known that back then, and b) it's just not happening. A six-month old generally is just crawling -- not even pulling up yet. So manipulating lockpicks? Uh uh.

Karen: Maybe it's a part of her mutant abilities? Not buying that? On the edge of space, we see a huge orbiting asteroid. It is Magneto's home base, Asteroid M (not very clever!) which he has rebuilt and from which he'll "teach all mankind that
Magneto is truly master of the world!" It seems to me that at this point, Magneto's motivations were still very much like a Dr. Doom's or Red Skull's: World domination! It seems only later would we see him as caring much at all about mutants.

Doug: Well. So I complained about retcons above. Yet, I have to think that the addition of Magneto's Holocaust-era background has really enhanced his motivations; the summer film X-Men: First Class did an excellent job of playing this up. Yet, as with the time-troubles we've mentioned in regard to Reed Richards' and Ben Grimm'
s WWII service, anchoring any character in a real-world event becomes temporally problematic. But you're right -- here he's just dangerous. No moral motivations, just conquest for the sake of a thirst for power.

Karen: He gets a signal that something is amis
s at his Antarctic base -you know, the one where he has the X-Men imprisoned? This very powerful Magneto flies down from space to the frigid base below, passing through the lava that surrounds it, only to find his robot Nanny rolling in a circle. Even though he is prepared for the X-Men's attack, he gets hammered by blasts from all sides!

Doug: There was no one on staff at Marvel then (or now) who could give a plausible explanation for the myriad workings of Magneto's powers. Ya think? The panel where the X-Men bring it was great. I like the different power stamps hitting Magneto from all sides.

Karen: Magneto is knocked down, but not out. As the feisty Wolverine prepares to charge in, Cyclops (who is telepathically linked to the team by Phoenix) remi
nds him to hang back -and Wolvie listens, although he doesn't like it. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the X-Men actually have a plan! While Storm draws all the humidity away from Magneto, Banshee blasts him, and Wolverine is given the go-ahead to attack -which he does, drawing some blood with his claws! I have to say, that was startling way back when, as heroes almost never caused someone to bleed, not even those characters who used swords.
Doug: This was a great scene. Last ish, we lamented the team attacking singly, but here it's a coordinated assault that pays immediate dividends. I thought the attack by Wolverine was indeed a bit shocking; where we'd seen him cut loose back in #96 against the demon, there's just something different about that action involving a mythical creature. Against another human being was indeed a bit unsettling. And, although we've not looked at #109 yet, do you recall the scene in that issue when Wolverine was stalking the whitetail, and was admonished by Storm for hunting for sport? I'll never forget Wolverine's response, that his version of hunting was being able to get close enough to the doe to touch her without spooking her first. So his berserker qualities were at least able to be partly muffled at this point; but not in this case, against Magneto.

Karen: Magneto magnetically flings Wolverine away, but then it is
Phoenix's turn, and she lets loose with a tremendous blast. Magneto has his shields up but he's straining. However, Colossus can't stand being on the sidelines and he runs in and starts pounding on Magneto! Cyclops is upset, but when he sees he's holding his own, orders Beast and Nightcrawler to give him a hand. Nightcrawler manages to remove Magneto's helmet. Things come to a halt though, when the foes realize that lava is leaking through the roof! It seems the fight has damaged the control systems and the dome is opening. Everyone is scrambling to get away from the lava. Cyclops is unsure what to do. Nightcrawler suggests forcing Magneto to take them out in a force bubble, but the villain escapes on his own. He bursts out of crumbling volcano, which appears to have caved in on the base. It appears that he is the only person to escape. However, moments later, a gigantic fiery bird appears over the ice -it is Phoenix, along with the Beast. She was able to blast them out, but not the other X-Men. The strain is too much for Jean and she passes out, leaving the Beast to try to carry her through blizzard conditions to safety -but they're in the middle of nowhere. The Beast soon collapses, leaving us to wonder, how can any of our team survive this?

Doug: You gave an excellent summation -- couple of thoughts: I perceived that Magneto's personal force field was down when he fought Colossus. Man, he too
k some abuse, which he does reference when leaving the volcano. My question is, how did he give it back? I'm not aware that Magneto has super strength. The escape scene involving Hank and Jean was very dramatic, and the quick ending gave a big "Whoa, what?!?" Thank goodness the book was now shipping monthly!

Karen: This was one of the most memorable books of my young comic collecting days. From start to finish, it's packed with excitement and suspense. The visuals are spectacular - I can see so many images from this book (and the other issues from around this time) very clearly in my mind's eye. One of the greatest runs in comics history was underway.


dbutler16 said...

I though 6 month old Storm being coordinate was pretty ridiculous, too. To be honest, if one X-Man should be unusually coordinate at 6 months, it would probably be the Beast, since coordination is one of his powers, anyway, but I’m not even buying it from him.

Magneto seems to have a Hulk-like ability to take punishment, doesn’t he? Marvel just seemed to give him extra powers without any real explanation. I remember at one point in the 70s he could actually control people’s minds for a while. Now, that’s just a bit too much.

As I’m starting to pay more attention to the inkers now, I see what a big influence they can have. I’m reading through all my old X-Men, and I’m up to the Romita jr. era. He’s not really my favorite penciller, to be honest, but in #189, with Steve Leialoha inking, the art is godawful. It looks very much like Annual #8, which was penciled & inked by Leialoha. Then, #190 has Dan Green inking, and the art is MUCH better.

I agree 100% with Doug on the lack of imagination of modern writers leading them to retcon histories we’ve grown to know and love over the years. I do find it an insult to what previous creators have done, and I hate thinking that all of my old comics “didn’t really happen” which is one thing that drives me crazy about DC’s take on continuity.

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks, another excellent post by you two.

I always wondered the same thing about Magneto's ability to take punches & slug it out with Colossus in this issue.

I love that panel where Magneto is hit by blasts from Cyclops,Phoenix, Storm & Banshee. It made me think of Dave Campbell's "F*@% Yeah" moments:

William said...

Great article! As usual.

This was actually the first X-Men comic I ever bought. I didn't really know who anybody was except for the Beast, who I knew from the Avengers. I might have known who Cyclops was as well, but I'm not 100% on that. (It was a loooong time ago).

I also didn't know what the heck was going on (since I hadn't read the preceding issue), but it didn't matter. The art was so awesome and the characters were so cool and the battle with Magneto was so epic that I really didn't care what got us to this point. All I knew was I liked it… a lot. After this issue, I was hooked on the X-Men and John Byrne's art. After Byrne left the book however, I only read X-Men sporadically. But I continued to buy anything that was drawn Byrne.

Fred W. Hill said...

I'd rate this as the best Magneto story ever, and for once the old canard of putting the heroes in supposedly escape-proof traps rather than killing them outright made some sense. Of course, it could be retconned that subconsciously Magneto really wanted to control them rather than kill them. Anyhow, despite oddities like that bit with Storm's adeptness as an infant and Magneto being able to take even one punch never mind several from Colossus without being knocked out I don't think Magneto was ever previously shown to be much stronger than an average athletic person -- maybe on par with Cyclops but certainly not Colossus. Well, maybe being the master of magnetism and all he can somehow fortify his body with extra iron!

starfoxxx said...

Wow, I've NEVER seen that cover before. Nice! It just brings up the point i'm always yammering about on the AA boards......the new, "posing" covers that give you no idea about the story stink!

Karen said...

Starfoxxx, sometimes I wonder if they just have a big pile of covers now, and the editor pulls one out randomly each month. The cover should be the selling point of the book and should give the reader some idea of what the story is about. That's pretty much how I used to buy all my books when I first started reading comics -by what was on the cover. Today's covers are so non-memorable, I often get confused as to whether I've already bought a book or not. Although my list is down to about 6 titles now. And may be completely gone after this weekend...

As for Colossus and Magneto exchanging blows, I guess I assumed that Magneto had to have some sort of force field up. Otherwise, it makes no sense!


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