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[WIR] X-Men II: Focussed Totality Is A Song Within Her When Ah'm Blastin'!

JJ Hall

Last Red Hot Swami
Validated User
Link to the first thread.

August 30, 1983

At the movies:


On the radio:


Magik 1 of 4

We open on Illyana watching the sunrise outside the mansion on the day she turns fourteen. She reflects on how half her life she was a prisoner in Hell, 'where I was consort to a devil,' and what that was like for her:



As we saw previously, Belasco evades the elder Ororo and snatches Illyana away. They vanish, and though old Ororo pursues and tries to stop him, the demon succeeds at drawing out an astral form of the child and corrupting it. The narration is inconsistent all through the comic -- it's always from Illyana's perspective, but sometimes it's from a "present-day" point of view, other times from "in-the-moment," as here:



She experiences her astral self gaining red eyes and sharp fangs, and laughs along with the villain as he reminds Ororo that he did the same thing to her. He turns the astral image of Illyana, which he calls a "piece of [her] soul," into a bloodstone as the first step in his latest effort to bring back the Elder Gods:



He's in a pretty good mood, but a throwing star slashing his face sours it again. The woman who threw it drops down, sword drawn and costume silly-looking:



Given Ororo's advanced years, this version of Kitty, called Cat, is probably around the same age as Kate Pryde from Days of Future Past, though she's obviously quite spry by comparison. She can actually deflect Belasco's energy bolts, but he disapparates when she gets in close. Ororo transports herself and the other two to her sanctum and puts Illyana to bed while the former X-Men talk. Cat admits to resenting the kid for what's happened to her -- in their timeline, they managed to send Illyana back home, but the X-Men were trapped in Limbo in her place, to be killed, corrupted, or both. Ororo is not in great shape at the moment, after the day she's had, but knows she can't delay -- she needs to purge Illyana's soul of Belasco's enchantment before it has time to take root. It doesn't go well:



They fight, and the corrupted Illyana persona has a clear advantage. Ororo barely escapes back to her own body, so she's going to have to think of something else. She ponders teaching the kid sorcery, to combat her corruption as Ororo does her own, but Cat points out that will just do Belasco's work for him. She advises killing her, and their argument gets heated:



The next day Ororo shows Illyana around her garden and explains that that awful "dream" she had was sort-of real. She avoids answering when the kid asks if that older, "nasty" girl was really her, instead changing the subject to how she started learning magic:



Ororo begins Illyana's lesson by drawing her astral self out and showing her things they can't see with their eyes, like the Force energy that permeates all living things. The child points out some blackened flowers, which Ororo explains is a sickness that comes from "the fundamental evil of Limbo." She thinks the plant can still be saved, so she heals it of the corruption, which excites Illyana. She asks if she can learn to change things like that, and is upset when Ororo grabs her and yells at her that she mustn't think like that: "Belasco never hurt me. He gave me a present. He said he loved me!" Ororo calms herself and tries to explain that using magic to satisfy whims is a dangerous temptation, and they have to be careful to "act in harmony with Nature, shape its forces gently to your will, not ride roughshod over them."

They return to their bodies, and Illyana is shocked to find herself bigger -- a year passed physically while they took in the astral sights. They leave to eat, having built up an appetite the last year/morning, neither noticing that the shrub Ororo attempted to heal is dead now -- she was unsuccessful in saving it.

That night Ororo senses Cat entering her sanctuary; she calls to her, but her friend's not here to chat. She subdues Ororo with a bola, then goes to Illyana and wakes her up. She isn't there to kill her, though; now she wants to send her back home, now, as she is. Ororo wanted to train her before trying that, but Cat worries that her corruption will worsen the longer she stays in Limbo. She explains this to the kid, and Illyana goes with her, wanting to return home.

Belasco watches all this in a scrying pool, confident that his ultimate victory is assured.

Script: Chris Claremont
Pencils: John Buscema
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter



So things don't look great, to say the least. Illyana's protectors are deeply traumatized by the experiences they've suffered in their prison world, the villain seems like he's got a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose position, and our heroine isn't even all that convinced he's really the bad guy at all. Claremont clearly relishes the opportunity to dwell on an innocent young girl preyed upon by a sinister male villain, but keeping the focus on the women helps the exploitation go down, and I appreciate that even the older, evil Illyana is not drawn "sexy," despite her dialogue.

Next Time:

 

Grymbok

Licensed to Ill
Validated User
Never read the Magik LS. Some of those panels look good, but a few of them (like the left hand side of the first splash) look a bit like Buscema’s “layouts” consisted of telling Palmer on the phone what he was thinking of drawing...
 

Wakshaani

Cheesey Goodness
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Never read the Magik LS. Some of those panels look good, but a few of them (like the left hand side of the first splash) look a bit like Buscema’s “layouts” consisted of telling Palmer on the phone what he was thinking of drawing...
It gets … well.

You'll see.
 

JJ Hall

Last Red Hot Swami
Validated User
September 6, 1983

At the movies:


On the radio:


Uncanny X-Men 176

Scott and Madelyne fly a seaplane toward their South Pacific honeymoon destination. Scott is uncharacteristically cheery and playful, even convincing the new Mrs. Summers to turn on the autopilot and join the mile-high club with him. This is fine with me -- my favourite part of #175 wasn't any of his badass moments, but rather when Scott cried over Jean's loss -- but does he have to wear jorts?



Scott's still mulling over his dad's offer to join him on the Starjammer, torn over maybe never seeing him again vs. never seeing Earth again, when they fly into a storm and are struck by lightning. They're forced to make a sea landing -- the engines need repairing, and soon, as that was merely a line squall heralding the arrival of a much larger storm behind it. Madelyne offering motivation for her hubby to get on that provides us a disturbing glimpse at what Scott's "kissy face" looks like:



Scott slips and almost falls into the water, which would be a problem:



The stunned shark drifts downward, helpless to save itself when a sea creature somehow large enough to make a meal of it grasps the fish in its tentacles.

The couple keep working on repairs as the downpour from the storm descends, Madelyne quipping that it's too bad she didn't turn out to be Phoenix, as her power would be pretty useful right about now. Scott's response shows that his earlier sunniness doesn't mean he's changed; he's still the same old grouse he always was when the chips are down:



She's not offended or intimidated, though, and reminds him she knows plenty about death and destruction, deftly turning that around to a point about miracles, and how she thinks of Scott as one. They finally get the engines going, but when Madelyne starts hauling in the sea anchor the giant cephalopod grabs her. Scott rushes to the rescue, but is soon defending himself:



Scott loses his glasses fending off the "squid" (Romita's clearly drawn an octopus) so Madelyne guides him back to the plane, where he puts on his costume visor and gets the machine in the air. Madelyne points out their instruments are fried and they have no radio, but Scott's too jazzed from making it out of there to care. He's also made his decision about whether to go to space:



It's cute how Scott thinks he can have a normal life mere seconds after a harrowing experience in which storms, ocean predators, and his own eyes pose deadly threats to himself and his lover while taking a damn vacation. Enjoy your "normal" life offpage as you spend most of your days defending your home from preternaturally aggressive bears and rogue science experiments, buddy.

It's Not You, It's Me

Mariko wakes up in her bed to find Logan standing over her; what, no explosives this time? He's there to ask why she sent back her clan's sword to him, which she explains is because she can see that he's worthy of it again. Mastermind's influence having dissipated, Logan wants her back too, but Mariko insists that things have changed:



The way Mariko sees it, she's no monger worthy of her love, and this act of penance, extricating her family from the mob, will restore her to grace and let them be together again. Logan reluctantly accepts that.

National Insecurity

Agent Gyrich is summoned to a meeting in Washington with 'representatives of every critical military and civilian security department in the government.' The president's national security advisor, a judge named Petrie, has brought everyone together, and they started without Gyrich, which he notes to himself is a bad sign. He sits down as readers are reminded of the speaker goes over the events of issue #150, reporting that as far as they've been able to determine, Magneto just stopped making threats and disappeared after destroying the Siberian city Varykino. He concludes by pointing out that had he not chickened out or changed his mind, their research shows he'd almost certainly have been successful in conquering the world. He then turns the podium over to a member of Judge Petrie's staff, Dr. Valerie Cooper, who believes "the problem, Judge, colleagues, is mutants":



Someone should ask Romita to chill out with the women's cheekbones, I think. Cooper continues that with the mutant population growing everywhere in the world, actors both state and private are beginning to put mutant abilities to work for them, potentially leaving the United States behind:



Hmm. As recently as Uncanny #94-5, the X-Men worked with the government pretty much as Cooper says she'd like, and in the second Sentinels story from '69, #98-100, and Days of Future Past the government is imagined as a morally neutral weapon/tool that can be suborned by those with cruel intent. This seems like a significant shift -- an adversary is presented, not as a conspiracy theorist or bigot secretly subverting the workings of legitimate government, but as a part of an ordinary political process, thus framing the "normal" state of affairs as hostile to mutants. If it's natural that the U. S. Government should view superpowered individuals through a lens of national security, then mutants -- born with their powers, created the same way anyone else is without any special circumstance or expertise -- will inevitably be monitored and exploited, or worse, and that's just to be expected.

Only the Lonely

Caliban returns to his living space and finds Callisto waiting for him. She and her shitty friend, Masque, have noticed him behaving more depressed than usual (Sunder is also there, but doesn't speak or look like he's aware of what's going on) and say they're worried about him. Masque sneers that he's "mooning over Prettkitty," which hits him where it stings:



She promises that if he'll do as she asks, she'll make sure he'll have his "heart's desire," and that if Ororo doesn't like it, Callisto will get hers, too.

Script: Chris Claremont
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Okay, Maddie's awesome. She wins me over here in a way Lee never really did, coming across as kind, clever, and self confident.

Looking back on the experience years later, Romita presents his assignment to X-Men as rather mundane and seems to indicate that Claremont viewed his work as inferior to that of others he collaborated with:
The editors wanted someone to fill the gap temporarily until they brought in another regular artist. They thought I could handle it from my previous work at Marvel and asked me to fill-in. I filled the gap and ended up staying on for a pretty lengthy run.

Chris had worked with John Byrne and now Paul Smith and Dave Cockrum and I was relatively inexperienced compared to these guys. I'm sure Chris, without any malice in his heart, just preferred other people. It's funny, but now that Chris and I are friends I don't think of it in any bad way. I'm sure at the time I probably gritted my teeth a little bit, maybe took an extra shot of whiskey at night [laughs]
Claremont himself pretty much confirms this as politely as he can:
I think Johnny, at the point he was drawing the book, was still a work in progress, He was evolving into the Johnny we know today...While his term on X-Men was successful, I think it was more along the lines of refining his craft and planting the seeds of what was to blossom into something really magnificent on other books. We were sort of like Johnny's farm team.
I don't disagree -- Callisto and Caliban seeming to do the Hammer Dance is a notable bit of awkwardness, and it's not alone -- but on the other hand Romita's pouring rain looks good, so that's promising. No more jorts though, if you please.

Next Time:

 

FrivYeti

Yeti On The Lam!
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Huh, I thought Gyrich's whole thing, traditionally, was distrusting superheroes of all stripes, but here he's the voice of reason for not alienating mutants. Did he have an ephiphany at some point, or did he get worse later?
 

Spatula

More Ideas Than Time
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Huh, I thought Gyrich's whole thing, traditionally, was distrusting superheroes of all stripes, but here he's the voice of reason for not alienating mutants. Did he have an ephiphany at some point, or did he get worse later?
I dunno that he's going that far, it seems to me he's more poking holes in Dr. Cooper's proposal because he doesn't agree with it. And I imagine he doesn't agree because he distrusts supers and doesn't think the government should be recruiting more (this was before or after his stint as Avengers liason?).
 

ogier300

Registered User
Validated User
JRJ's art really did take a little bit to find its stride. It's interesting, though, to see in it the hints of Lee, Liefeld and Silvestri in this early work. After Byrne, Cockrum, and Smith, it turns out the JRJ's work is probably the look that stuck with the X-Men the most.

And this would definitely be after Gyrich's stint as Avengers liason, which was in the '70s.
 

Wakshaani

Cheesey Goodness
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Jr stayed on the book for a LONG, long time, I believe. Five years? More?
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
Validated User
JRJ's art really did take a little bit to find its stride. It's interesting, though, to see in it the hints of Lee, Liefeld and Silvestri in this early work. After Byrne, Cockrum, and Smith, it turns out the JRJ's work is probably the look that stuck with the X-Men the most.

And this would definitely be after Gyrich's stint as Avengers liason, which was in the '70s.
Oh right, that's why Gyrich hasn't been around much. I keep forgetting he has other franchises to hate.
 
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