Thursday, August 11, 2011
Return to the Savage Land: X-Men 114
X-Men #114 (Oct 1978)
Chris Claremont -writer, co-plotter
John Byrne - artist, co-plotter
Terry Austin -inker
Karen: This may be my favorite cover from the early days of this run. It is so solemn, and speaks volumes.
Doug: You know what I really love about this cover? The scale of the X-Men. As we all know, Wolverine is supposed to be 5'3". This cover is about the only place where you'll find that to be even remotely true. So that's a cool element to it. The B&W silhouettes of the team are eerie, and the somber looks on the faces of the three characters in the foreground adds to the overall mood. I'll say, after a stellar run of covers by Dave Cockrum (even after he'd left the pencilling chores), John Byrne hit the ground running with his own covers in this series we're currently looking at.
Karen: Last time around, the X-Men were fighting Magneto in his volcano-lair, when the dome ruptured and lava began flooding the chamber. Magneto escaped, and then the Beast and Phoenix appeared, but the other X-Men were nowhere to be seen. Phoenix passed out and the Beast began carrying her through a blizzard, when he too collapsed. With this issue, Hank is back on his feet, but a storm still rages around him and Jean. I like the way the art team portrayed this, with snow and ice clinging to his fur.
Doug: You are absolutely right! How about the splash page to this one? If that doesn't look like one frosty Beastie... For this young reader, I loved that Claremont referred to Hank as an Avenger; that's all, at this point, I'd known him as.
Karen: Jean and Hank luck out, as a Navy helicopter comes by and Jean wakes up in time to go bananas with her cosmic powers, making quite a display.
Doug: I thought it was weird how Jean reacted when she woke up. Of course, I don't like that everything I read is now colored by my knowledge of how the whole Phoenix Force fiasco played out. I'd love to think it's Jeannie reacting, but we all know that any weirdness isn't her at all.
Karen: As far as I'm concerned, it is Jean. That's what they had in mind when they wrote it, so that's what I'm going with! Of course, Jean is all in a panic to free Scott and the others until Beast tells her it's too late. The two long-time X-Men are taken to safety. But what happened to the rest of the team? Were they indeed killed by the lava, as Hank said? Of course not! While Jean and Hank blasted their way up and out, Cyclops and his team blasted their way through rock and earth, only to emerge in the hidden valley of the Savage Land! While relieved to find that they haven't walked into a blizzard, the X-Men (except for Cyclops) are puzzled. But Cyke, having spent some time here before, explains the situation to them. Storm, whose claustrophobia made their underground trek particularly difficult for her, takes Banshee's advice and the two take to the air, enjoying the wide open skies. Open that is, except for the pterodactyls who soon notice them and nab Banshee!
Doug: Didn't someone say they'd blasted through over a mile of earth? Wow. But we've seen this team's firepower before. I guess they'd had some time to debrief on their journey, but it seemed like no one was too upset about what had gone on just prior. But, when you look at the litany of events this team had gone through already up to this point, I suppose turmoil equalled normal. By the way, I liked the narrative box that very succinctly told us how Storm had saved the team in Magneto's lair. We didn't need any long recap, nor to be shown. The text box did it all.
Karen: Yeah, wasn't that cool? I sure miss those narrative boxes; it's a great tool for the writer. While everyone looks on, trying to figure out how to help Banshee, Wolverine tells Colossus to give him a Fastball Special, and the pugnacious Canadian is launched skyward, where he begins carving the pterodactyl up. This was another good example early on of Wolverine's love of battle, and how much he differed from his team-mates. Of course, when the flying dinosaur comes crashing down, Cyclops gives Wolvie an earful about taking off like that- these two were always fighting! It was reminiscent of how Cap and Hawkeye used to go at it in Avengers - only I don't think Wolvie ever had any respect, not even grudging, for Cyke!
Doug: Yup -- Byrne is ever-so-gradually making Logan the star of this book. Think about this issue -- Cockrum's pet, Nightcrawler, basically does nothing. Wolverine gets this star-time, as well as a scene later (which we'll talk about momentarily). And Claremont begins to write dialogue allowing the rest of the team to feed off of and in to Wolverine's personality. And isn't Cyclops just a tight-a$$? Man, mellow out once in awhile. Yeah, yeah, I know every instant could bring death (Thunderbird, right?), but a wee bit of celebration could only build morale, couldn't it?
Karen: I can only imagine that Cyclops had constant neck and shoulder pain from all that stress of leadership he was carrying around. He's sort of like the eldest kid in a big family who's been expected to take care of all the rest. You're right though, Byrne's influence is bringing Wolverine to the forefront. Back in the States, Hank and Jean return to the mansion. Jean goes upstairs to Xavier's study to tell the Professor what has happened. There are very few words in this scene, and it's just as effective as the cover.
Doug: I was shocked when Jean called the Professor "Charles". That as much as anything over the previous 20+ issues said to me that this X-team was way more mature than their predecessors. Now, the cynic in me wondered why the Professor couldn't have read Hank's mind; I understand why Phoenix could cloak her own thoughts, but not the Beast - no psychic shields there.
Karen: The students had grown up. That was something I enjoyed about this set of X-Men -and all the more reason for Marvel to bring in some younger mutants who did need guidance and training. Back to our story: about a week has passed for the X-Men, and they've been hanging out in a native village, resting and recovering from their ordeal. Cyclops realizes that with his mustache and headband he looks a bit like Corsair. Suddenly, he recalls that Corsair spoke with a Nebraska accent (is there such a thing?) and starts putting two and two together, when Storm interrupts his thoughts. She says she wants to help him in his grief for Jean, but he says that he isn't feeling anything . He talks about how Jean changed after she came back from the shuttle crash. Honestly, I thought this was a dumb direction for them to go with Scott. It just made him appear callous -especially a few issues later, when he starts getting interested in Colleen Wing. Storm doesn't like it either and chastises him. She then goes off to enjoy a swim. Meanwhile, Wolverine is mooning over a picture of Jean and thinking about how she was the only 'frail' he ever cared for. The thing that is hard to remember, after the films and Ultimate X-Men, is that Jean never reciprocated interest in Logan. There was no love triangle. There was just Logan in lust with Jean.
Doug: Do I recall in the Classic X-Men series, with the "untold tales" by Claremont and artist John Bolton, that this may have been played up more? And hey -- did you think they really sexed Storm up in this issue? Her clothing, if you could call it that, set Banshee on his ear, and then one could certainly construe some hints at sexuality in her offer to help Scott through his grief. That was not, by the way, my first impression when I read it as a kid, nor was it when I read it for this review. But it is there with only the slightest imagination necessary. And I'll stand by my comments above about Scott; ol' boy lives in the No Fun Zone.
Karen: Oh yes, Storm was a walking Cheesecake Factory in this issue! There are many shots of her in her little barbarian bikini. Banshee's reaction was classic. As for Classic X-Men, I did read it, but honestly, I don't remember anything from those books, so I can't comment on what they might have done with Logan/Jean (anyone else care to?). Ororo is enjoying a lovely swim, but she's secretly being watched. The observer senses her great power an "hungers." We see a pair of arms outstretched to grab her, and then a blinding release of energy, as the stalker absorbs power from Storm.In her struggles, she launches a lightning bolt upwards, and this alerts the X-Men that there's something wrong. They race to help her, only to confront a bizarre half-man, half-pterodactyl being crouching over her. Scott recognizes him from his previous Savage Land jaunt -it's Sauron!
Doug: Admittedly, I was a tabula rasa in regard to X-history. I knew nothing of their first visit to the Savage Land, and I'd not ever heard of Sauron (not even in literature, at the time of my first reading). But this dude sure was threatening, and what a great villain last-page reveal... I love those!