Sunday, September 11, 2011

Marvel Masterworks vol 24

Right, well, we're back to classic Uncanny X-Men. I enjoyed the other 2 volumes that covered Giant Size X-Men 1 through Uncanny X-Men 110 so much that I actually splurged and bought this one at cover price. When I started on this ride through these old tales I hadn't read I was a bit concerned I'd be in it for the nostalgia more than anything else, but the quality of the stories has really held up.

This collection actually includes two issues, 114 and 116, that I've read previously. In its entirety it's issues 111-121, which takes me close to the more sustained run I have that started with 125. In fact, my gap is down to 123 and 124. Of course, 114 and 116 were issues I'd picked up in the old 3 for 50 cents packs where the covers had been ripped off the issues. As a result, this trade is the first I'm seeing those covers in my hands. I do remember the covers from other publications or ads, especially 114 with its somber "The Day the X-Men Died".

Hinging all these stories is the great battle with Magneto at his Antarctic base, so that through most of the issues Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Banshee, Nightcrawler, and Colossus believe that Beast and Phoenix are dead, while everyone back at Xavier's school (which would only be Xavier, Beast and Phoenix, as this was in the days before the place was packed to the gills with mutants) thought those six were dead. By issue 121 the two groups still have not met up to rectify their misconceptions, but at least the larger group has made it to North America.

Along the way we have battles against Sauron and the Petrified Man in the Savage Land (with Ka-Zar along for the ride, of course), Moses Magnum in Japan (bringing Sunfire into the picture and introducing Mariko), and Alpha Flight in Canada. A lot of what's enjoyable about these stories is how the characters are still developing at a reasonable pace. We're getting to know Storm's claustrophobia and skills with lock picking, Nightcrawlers's jocularity, Colossus's fear of failure, and Cyclops's issues with his leadership and his feelings for Phoenix. It doesn't hurt that none of the nonsense that Phoenix wasn't actually Jean Grey has come about yet, either. Claremont and Byrne are co-plotting and they work extremely well together.

In the battle in Japan Banshee loses his voice and his powers, something that continues for a long time in the X-Men world. He regains his voice shortly enough but not his powers. Truth be told, I don't know what his status is these days and I'm probably better off not knowing.

Xavier decides to leave Earth to spend time with Lilandra on the Shi'ar homeworld, too. Lots going on and lots of great character work.

However, one thing took me out of the enjoyment of the run. Jim often talks about Marvel's sliding time scale that puts everyone's story start about 10 years prior to whenever the story being read is told, but in issue 117 Xavier is featured in a story about his first encounter with another telepath in Cairo. A lot of Xavier's history is laid out in this issue, and even within its own context it makes no sense.

Xavier is deeply in love with Moira MacTaggart but is drafted into Army service for the Korean War. He spends 1950-1953 in the service and receives a Dear John letter from Moira during that time. He then bums around the Middle East for awhile, winding up in a telepathic battle with Amahl Farouk (something that I knew about from a later New Mutants story). Before he engages in this battle to the death (which ends up not being a death, in truly disappointing comic book form), a street urchin attempts to pick Xavier's pocket. This street urchin is Storm, somewhere around 7-10 years old.

Here's the thing. This issue came out with a publication date of January 1979, which means it came out in late 1978. Storm is in her early 20s at this point in the stories set in the present. The story in Cairo is set before Xavier founded the original X-Men. That means the story is told between 1953 and 1963. From my reading of the issue, I'd say it's supposed to be closer to 1953 than 1963. This means that the story in 1978, 25 years later, should feature a Storm in her 30s, maybe even pushing 40.

It's a needless effort to put Storm into this story of Xavier's past when it's entirely unnecessary to do it. Maybe someone else used that as a point for another story years on down the road, but I don't recall Claremont using it in any of the stories that were told in the next several years. Guess we'll find out as I work through those stories, but if I don't remember it, then it probably wasn't worth this tinkering with time.

A minor point, though. Love these stories on the whole, and the Xavier story can be ignored in favor of the rest of them.

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