Saturday, January 19, 2013

“Back in the Day” review: Uncanny X-men #167

Uncanny X-men #167 (March 1983)

The X-Men have been lost in space for months (the entire saga was about 10 issues long) fighting the Brood. Presumed dead, Charles Xavier recruited a new team, The New Mutants. Having survived all the Brood had to dish out they discover one more embryo may be in play and that Professor Xavier could be its host. So the X-Men return to earth with a vengeance, desperately trying to get to Professor Xavier before it’s too late. After a short battle with The New Mutants, they discover they are too late – Professor Xavier is a Brood Queen.

I am a huge New Mutants fan and when this issue came out, I was excited. Finally the New Mutants and the X-Men meet. And, of course, they fight. Unlike most first superhero battles over a misunderstanding, the X-Men realize that the New Mutants aren’t the enemy but they don’t have time to explain. While the two teams mix it up below, Kitty tries to get close enough to zap Professor X with a blaster she's carrying but hesitates when she sees him looking normal and asleep. But she comes to regret that decision immediately - the Brood Queen is already in control.

Then the X-Men and New Mutants watch as Professor X makes the metamorphosis from human to Brood. The X-Men manage to bring the queen down but Cyclops and Wolverine argue over what to do with it. Wolverine's solution: kill it. The irony of course is that 30 years later, Cyclops will kill Professor X during the "Avengers vs X-Men" series and it will be Wolverine who looks down on him for killing. Actually, I don't know if that's may just be weird.

With the Starjammer in orbit, the X-Men and New Mutants are all brought up to await news about Professor X's condition. They can't reverse the metamorphosis but they do have a genetic sample so they're able to clone a new body for him and drop his consciousness into it. So Professor X not only survives being turned into a Brood, but gets a new body that can walk!

Chris Claremont wraps up the Brood storyline with a lot of twists, turns, and payoffs. In one issue we get the X-Men’s return to earth, the first time the team meets the New Mutants, Professor Xavier transformed into a Brood Queen, and his consciousness being transferred into a cloned body…that can walk.

Paul Smith’s art is as clean and beautiful as I remember it. Each of the characters has their own unique look and, thanks to Claremont, unique voice, something that currently gets lost when month after month there are several writers putting their own stamp on each character. When this issue came out, Wolverine was only appearing once a month but now he’s a regular in three or more. This issue shows the team strong and in action but also shows some of their weaknesses: Nightcrawler fears that the New Mutants will not accept him and Storm feels replaced by Kitty's affection for Peter and Illyana. It also shows great character moments between Scott and his father.

There's also a nice moment when Gladiator shows up to deliver the news that Galactus was dying and the Fantastic Four saved him and how angry she is. She delivers a hologram message to the team in the middle of the night to tell them that they just saved an entity that destroys entire worlds just to sustain itself, to remind them that they aren't the only people in the galaxy, and to brand them as criminals. It reminds you that the Marvel Universe has a lot going on in it without going overboard with confrontations. That practice of checking in on other heroes in other titles continues today and maintains the illusion of a cohesive universe.

At the end of the book, with everyone safe and the X-Men and the New Mutants under one roof, Professor X decides Kitty should be on a team with members closer to her age and makes her a New Mutant. Of course this leads to one the best in-jokes: Professor X is a jerk!

My only complaint, reading this issues after all these years, is how slow Wolverine is getting up the stairs. He's starting up the stairs when Sunspot jumps at him and is swatted away. Then there's enough time for Wolverine to stand there while Sunspot composes himself and jumps on his back. Chris Claremont is a great writer but he doesn't let anything interfere with a good setup. Still, it's one of my favorite X-Men issues.

The X-Men bust into the mansion while The New Mutants are enjoying a little downtime.

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