X-Tra Sauce is back and more Brood are on the menu here with Uncanny X-Men #233 by Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, Dan Green, Tom Orzechowski & Glynis Oliver. Last we left our beloved Mutant team they were surrounded in an alley by the monstrous Brood led by changeling leader Harry Palmer. Issue 232 was a straight up horror flick while this one goes back to the usual genre conventions of the superhero medium. How does a story about the terrifying Sleazoids qualify as a superhero battle comic, you ask? Let’s allow Wolverine to take this one:
That’s right Wolvie!! Not only do the X-Men have to battle an invasion of the Brood on Earth, they have to battle a systematically planned out infestation of Brood consumed mutants!! It’s a bold NEW take on the X-Men villains and it’s just such a genius “all-in” move to engage the readers. More of Claremont’s NEW theme I feel is inside every issue of this run. It’s startling to say the least to see the Brood acclimate to their new powers and characteristics of their human hosts. Something about a Brood using the term “Bunkie” is just so unsettling.
Before we get too far into this issue, let’s take a look at the opening splash page and just marvel at the amazing art team of Silvestri/Green. Pound for pound, this team is arguably in contention for best ever in the industry. I’m serious. That’s how much I love them.
God, that’s a great image. Silvestri doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his amazingly expressive faces and such a simple, clean way of drawing different poses and body language. The real strength of this art team is Green though. I hope he got paid extra to ink Silvestri because he goes above and beyond with all of Marc’s trademark scratchy lines. Look at this hard work. The inking on that Brood alone!!
The Brood are quickly humanized as each one reveals their spiffy supervillain name. It makes you wonder if these civilian mutants gave themselves names or the Brood simply have a flair for the dramatic. Either way it’s equally parts charming and stupid. You have to give it to Claremont with the name “Brickbat”. That taps into some pure comic book dumbness I really enjoy. One such mutant Brood is named Temptress and she is a wonderful amalgamation of classic Claremont-isms. She’s a host of fetishes all in one. A pheromone mind controlling woman with Brood hentai tentacles and a seeming penchant for femdom play, she attempts to take Storm out of the game early before Storm FREAKS and bolts to the skies.
During the fracas, we become prviy to why Havok, Alex Summers, is going to be referred to as The Worst from here on out. He just whines and mopes about how he could kill one of the ravenous invading aliens and it sucks so much. Silvestri gives him the most punchable faces here too, really driving home how much of a dork he is. Alex’s suffering unfortunately becomes one of the main themes of this issue. There is no magnificent pathos here, only an ineffectual dweeb. Pshhh, “Holy Cow, Wings!?” he says! DO SOMETHING ALEX!!
The fun thing is we go immediately from the worst member of the team to the best member of the X-Men ever in Rogue. She shows why she is the best by calling out Alex for his milquetoast actions and tells him to go fuck up some Sleazoids. (I love her so much!)
Man, Silvestri is good! Look at Longshot being bear hugged, trying to kick off the torso of that Jeans Ad Model Brood back there. Silvestri didn’t have to add anything else there but he does because he’s the best. Look at Wolverines leg there. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone compare Marc Silvestri to Jack Kirby but I see a lot of similarities in their work. The Silvestri muscle squiggles sure do resemble the King’s. And again, that’s the inking prowess of Dan Green making it all possible.
Sadly Temptress gets a tentacle on Rogue’s bare skin and she absorbs her mind, which then subsumes Rogue completely. Temptrogue then mind controls Psylocke and two of our best X-Men are on the Sleazoid’s side.
It sucks that Rogue gets taken over but it actually makes story sense. What really rustles my jimmies here is how quickly a powerful telepath is mind controlled by Temptrogue. Claremont hasn’t done enough to really show us WHY Psylocke is so great just yet. Sure, sure we had her narrowly avoid getting killed by Sabretooth but his main characterization for her has been showing how out of her element she is, how weak she feels, to the point of literally putting her in a suit of armor in this storyline. The disservice continues here as she doesn’t even put up a fight before a Xerox copy of a Brood diluted mutant can pheromone whammy her. Betsy is better than this.
The fight continues as the now turned gals try to incapacitate Wolverine. The Brood know the guy isn’t afraid to gut his own teammates so they make him priority A#1. Brickbat and Colossus continue their path of rampage across thee city and I just love it. Look at this sound effect panel of them just bashing each other. This is such a cool storytelling technique by the creative team and remains one of my favorite, unique things you can only do in this medium.
Midway through the issue we are introduced to a big old stage being prepared for reverend William Conover, who will be giving a big deal “Righteous Gemstones” sermon. We see him and his wife, Hannah talk over mutants when the X-Men’s fight is touched on by a radio news broadcast. I am pleasantly surprised how multifaceted Claremont makes this guy. I personally, am not a religious guy whatsoever. I groan and roll my eyes at all of it and often admonish all who will listen to my hot air about the shady underbelly of religious organizations. I’m one of those annoying people. Refreshingly, Claremont plays this dude as just a super solid guy. He wishes he was a mutant just to be able to empathize and understand. He is able to see the hate and fear thrown their way is the misplaced fear and aggression of the human race fearing the future and evolution as they eventually die out. It’s all done really well in two pages and the reader is instantly endeared to this guy. His poor wife, Hannah is shown to suffer from extreme arthritis and he wishes he had some mutant powers to help her. As a husband to a strong woman with too many to count chronic health problems, I’ll admit this shit gets me hard. Claremont got me with these two, the old horny bastard.
We see later an air battle between the winged Brood Havok just watched track down Storm and have an air battle with the Sleazoid even mentioning Top Gun. It’s fun, it’s dumb and it’s silly as the Brood tries to destroy an airplane to distract Storm for capture, but she gets a real “Queen” moment as she uses her powers masterfully to bring the plane down safe.
THAT LAST PANEL IS AMAZING!!! Silvestri is an underrated master of body silhouettes. That he can do them almost any size ranging from teeny tiny to splash page focus AND make the character’s whole personality so emphatic in just a pose will always astound me.
We get one of our first instances of the X-Men being invisible on camera when a local newscrew tries to film the Colossus slugfest. It’s a little clumsy but I appreciate Claremont showing us this new magic plot element.
This storyline serves as one of my favorites for Colossus. He gets a lot of great fight moments without some of the more annoying speeches he’d end up prone to spouting off. In this he is the action movie heavy. One of my alltime favorite sequences for the ol’ Russkie is this one of him sauntering out of the wreckage to toss the beaten body of Brickbat forward to tell us he very decidedly won their fight. Tell me that doesn’t remind you of peak Arnold right there. If there was an X-Men movie made back then, Arnold would almost HAVE to be Colossus, right?
The Worst (aka Havok), finally gets off his ass and zaps a Brood when they get ready to pop a Brood Queen egg into Storm ( Even the Brood know how much of a Queen Storm is). He starts babbling about how it’s ok he killed him because he was gross looking and he didn’t have any better ideas. That’s when the Brood reverts to human form and The Worst falls to his knees and whines some more until Storm tells him to shut it and buck up. She makes it known it’s time to kill them all or Earth is fucked as this issue ends. Storm sure is amazing. Claremont always gives us the best stuff for Storm.
In the middle of the issue, in between the Brood fights, we get more of poor passed out Madelyne Pryor after she freaked out and attacked the mysterious Outback base computer system. She is in what appears to be a joyous, amazing dream where she’s flying around, satisfying all the desires she’s had in life to fly above everything, to really be someone. It soon turns into a nightmare though. I’ll post the whole thing here as I think this is one of the most memorable and powerful sequences in Claremont’s entire run on the title.
OOOPH!! It is a chilling, haunting sequence that does so, so much. It serves as a great character examination of Maddy but also as a meta commentary from Claremont himself on how the changes from what he originally envisioned for Maddy have been forced on him. This is a horrifying, gross violation for the character personally as well as for the creator. As we know from Claremont’s mouth himself, Maddy was always meant to just be a normal girl that looked like Jean. She was to marry Cyclops, be the impetus for him to retire and move to Alaska to raise a family. Against his wishes, the Jean return story happened and Cyclops abandoned her to star in X-Factor. Character massaging from both Claremont as well as new X-Factor writer Louise Simonson, could only do so much for poor Maddy and now pretty much unredeemable Cyclops. This is the first gruesome hint that there is a secret to Madelyne. That she maybe isn’t a real person. Only a blank slate that borrowed Jean’s characteristics and life with Scott until she came back. The implications are mind blowing and simultaneously heartbreaking.
Cyclops macking with the featureless mannequin then forcibly ripping away Maddy’s features to paste onto it is by far one of the most striking visuals the book has ever had. Silvestri’s mastery of the human form and face REALLY make this some of his best work. Thank God it’s Dan Green here instead of Rubinstein. This is pure, unleashed Silvestri and all his trademark stuff enhances the hell out of this sequence. The linework, the eerie changes to body and costume and hair. Madelyn’s bright, wide eyes, tears starting to flow as Cyclops takes them off – it’s all a true work of art and I think a highlight of Claremont, Silvestri and Green’s careers.
Gateway also mysteriously appears in this nightmare as well as by her side in the computer lair. Like I said last article, I feel this is Claremont trying to connect Gateway to the Dream Lands as well as the computer system. We rarely ever have the character come into the Outback base, but there he is checking on Maddy, deep underground with the computers looming. How did he know Maddy was unconscious and in trouble? We’ll never know for sure, but it’s easy to theorize he either sensed her dream with his supposed Dream Time powers or is linked to the computer system which seemed to, on purpose, put Maddy into this state for some unknown reason. It’s all rather intriguing stuff that Claremont never fully got back around to.
Lastly, this sequence also serves as rather bleak metaphor for women in comics. Maddy was always a very fun, refreshing, empowered woman in the X-Books. We see that men, both in the comic itself, as well as the male writers and editorial that engineered events to bring Jean Grey back and force this story upon the character, all have a very destructive influence on the character. Rather than let her be justifiably angry and human, a story is forced on the character to make her the “evil” woman, the “Goblyn Queen”. Eventually she’s killed off and her essence magically pops into Jean so we can all keep publishing comics where Cyclops appears and not feel icky rooting for him. It’s sad, it’s annoying and it contributes to the ridiculous hysterical woman trope as well as the fridging women for the benefit of male characters. We’ll get to it more when Inferno hits, but even Claremont, who famously pushed an empowering, if not perfect, feminist influence on comics, fails to give Maddy everything she deserves as a multidimensional unique character. Seeing it start here in such a crushing sequence really makes you feel for poor Madelyne Pryor. Fuck those “Cyclops Was Right” shirts, where’s my “Maddy Was Right” shirt? I’ll wear that till the day I die.
Speaking of male editorial having a bad influence, Bob “Look the other way when a woman reports abuse” Harras becomes sole editor this issue. Isn’t that poetic that this famous sequence happens at the same time this sexist force in comics starts his undeserved reign on the same issue? Poetic and deeply depressing. The Bullpen Bulletins of this issue show a lot of the Marvel Editorial shakeup.
The letter column lets us know that Uncanny is going to now release on a biweekly schedule for the Summer. Kids are off school and Marvel wants their sweet, sweet pocket change. Honestly a genius move by them. It’s crazy to think of these creators putting out such legendary work at such a fast pace though. Silvestri nowadays has been working on a Batman story for over a decade but in June 1988 he was popping this shit out fast. Wild.
The next issue box talks all about the connecting plot threads to Maddy and her baby. Inferno is BLAZING on the horizon as they tease “Wait until you see what’s coming this fall…” Ignore the Gossamer blurb, we don’t talk about Gossamer here.