Saturday, December 15, 2012

“Back in the Day” review: Uncanny X-Men #205

Uncanny X-Men #205 (May 1986)

Thanks to Spiral’s Body Shop, Yuriko has been transformed into the living weapon, Lady Deathstrike. With a few cybernetic mercenaries at her side, she unleashes her new abilities on Wolverine. Injured and disoriented in the South Street Seaport during a blizzard, he runs into an ally who will help him stave off a berserker rage and claim victory:five-year old Katie Power, also known as Energizer of Power Pack. Katie becomes separated from the woman (Teacher? The story never says) taking her to see a choir when the mercenaries run through knocking the woman down during a blizzard.

Wolverine has been hurt so bad he’s reverted to an animal state so Katie has to keep him out of Lady Deathstrike and her mercenaries’ grasp long enough to get his mind back. Thanks to Katie and his healing factor, Wolverine snaps out of it and takes the fight to his enemies.

Back when Chris Claremont was writing the X-Men, he focused on character-driven stories and this issue is a good example of that. He takes time to define Lady Deathstrike and her mission before putting her into action. Katie Power's inner and outer dialogue is as detailed and random as you'd expect from a 5-year-old but he also shows the side of her that belongs to a superhero. With Wolverine, he shows him doing what he does best while relating to and protecting Katie from seeing it. Then there's the confrontation between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike where they argue their differences. Three distinct characters (Lady Deathstrike, Katie Power, and Wolverine) and Chris Claremont does a wonderful job with all three.

Barry Windsor-Smith did the pencils, inks, and color for the entire book. Sometimes I have a problem with the cover showing something that doesn't actually happen on the inside. But in this case, the cover of what it may have looked like (this book was before the Weapon X mini series in Marvel Comics Presents) when Wolverine got his adamantium mirrors the first few pages of the book where Lady Deathstrike and her mercenaries are getting their cybernetics added. This reminds readers that Wolverine has been through what they've gone through and that the fight is more or less even. Once Wolverine regains his mind and takes the fight to the enemies, the action panels convey all the skill and savagery Wolverine brings to a fight and doesn't pull punches. The gorgeous action scenes that Windsor-Smith draws are hard not to stare at.

The Wolverine/Katie talk at the end of the book is one of the best Wolverine moments. He's known for straight talk and he doesn't lie but he softens the delivery for her benefit and is able to impart some wisdom at the same time. When this issue came out there was no Wolverine series so a solo adventure was rare. This one issue adventure serves to introduce a powerful new foe, show Wolverine doing what he does best, and show the unlikely bonding between Katie and Wolverine.

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