The Small Lebowski:
Uncanny X-Men #196
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #196
Xavier calls together the X-Men and Magneto, who's been with the group since Secret Wars II #1, to get help finding the would-be killers. There's some distrust going around the table; Magneto is not fully accepted, and the team is also wondering why Xavier isn't coming clean about the extent of his injuries, which are preventing him from just telepathically finding the culprits.
The planning session is cut short when Rachel Summers detects the presence of the Beyonder. He's trying to figure out what this food business is all about.
This is the first we've seen of this kind of thing. So far in SW II #1 and the tie-ins, he's been a mostly-silent observer. The idea that he's some sort of cosmic idiot who never saw anyone eat food before is a bit of a stretch. And it's pre-dating Shooter using the Beyonder in that manner in the actual Secret Wars II series, although i assume the tie-in writers were given guidelines on how the character should be used, so i'm not blaming Claremont.
Anyway, he fades away without major incident and the X-Men go back to looking for the murderers Xavier detected. It does turn out to be the group of students that attacked Xavier previously. Rachel Summers ends up wiping their minds of the X-Men (something she says she knows Xavier wouldn't approve of, as if he hasn't done the same a thousand times).
This is really the first time that Claremont has the opportunity to write Magneto with any depth since he joined the X-Men due to the events of Secret Wars II, and he handles him very well. Rachel is initially enraged by the anti-mutant students, especially after Kitty is hurt, and Magneto has to stop her from killing them.
Talking Rachel down, Magneto notes that when he behaved the way Rachel wants to act, his name has became a synonym for madness and evil, and his own children disowned him. To acknowledge all of that, this is a very changed man. It's good growth for him; it was a well designed scenario.
Nightcrawler is very disturbed by the omniscience of the Beyonder, and he goes to Father Bowen (originally the guardian of Karma and her siblings) for guidance. How can God allow a seemingly all-powerful being like the Beyonder to exist? Or is the Beyonder actually God? Either way, Nightcrawler's faith is disturbed. This is an early indication of how serious his religion is to him. We saw in Uncanny X-Men #159 that he believed in the power of the cross to repel Dracula. And in Uncanny X-Men #165 Wolverine walked in on him praying. But i'd argue that it's here that we really see how deep Kurt's religious beliefs go. The cross thing is pure horror/fantasy stuff. And in issue #165, he admits that he's rarely seen in a church, so praying while facing his death could have been a rare occurrence.
Hot on the heels of the "controversial subject matter" in Fantastic Four #278, the N-word is used again here.
Without taking anything away from the FF stories, i think Claremont's use of the word is more natural since anti-mutant discrimination is an obvious metaphor for other, real-world, kinds, and Kitty's retort is entirely valid.
There are two comments by ordinary people (both staff from the cafe that the X-Men are at in the beginning of this issue) regarding how great a guy Nimrod is. I like the idea that to regular people who have no idea that Nimrod is a mutant-hunting robot from the future, he would seem like a regular (if extremely violent, from what we've seen so far) super-hero.
That said, the lines come a bit out of nowhere and are a bit close to each other, making it feel like a deliberate set-up.
There's a cute scene with Kitty trying one of Wolverine's cigars while they're on stakeout.
It might have a bit of a PSA feel ("It's ok that Wolverine smokes, but don't try this at home, kids.") but i think it's done well. I think the dangers of second-hand smoke weren't fully realized at this point, though.
In a subplot scene, Storm is tracked down and shot by the two South African (?) hunters that she annoyed last issue.
All told, a dense and multi-layered single issue story.
The lettercol announces a "future" Storm and Forge limited series written by Claremont and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith. The series never happened, and according to the UHBMCC, the plot was later merged into Uncanny X-Men #220-227.
One thing i'll say about these initial Secret Wars II tie-ins is that it seems all the heroes got the memo that this Beyonder thing was going to be going on for a while and there's no need to get too worked up about it. In the lead-up in New Mutants and in Secret Wars II #1, there was a great sense of urgency about the Beyonder's arrival; Xavier was in a state of extreme panic and even put his team under the direction of Magneto, who felt it was necessary to go pick up all the stray New Mutants (and overlook the Gladiators' mutant exploitation). Captain America upset the travel plans of a plane-full of passengers to head straight to LA. But after the initial kerfuffle with Thundersword, everyone just went back to doing their regular thing. Cap spends two hours looking for the Beyonder and then decides it's time to go home. The New Mutants abandon the X-Men to go looking for Karma (reasonable in its own right). And, Professor X goes back to his day job! It's almost like someone told them, "Look, this is going to be a sprawling nine issue event that will only tangentially touch on your lives; don't worry about it too much.".
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: We last saw the X-Men getting teleported away by the Beyonder in Secret Wars II, and then heard in New Mutants #31 that they were ok. This issue starts with them back in New York, and Xavier somewhat amazingly lecturing at Columbia. Xavier was in very bad shape the last we saw him in SW II #1, but there's also the end scene in New Mutants #28 after he woke up, so we've now caught up with that flash-forward. Presumably he rushed back to New York, but it's somewhat surprising to think his first action would be to go back to school, or, if Xavier was no longer so concerned about the Beyonder, that Magneto would still be hanging around. Still, that's clearly the intention and there's no reason to break with it. The Beyonder is in his Captain America-clone form, placing this after Captain America #308.
Crossover: Secret Wars II
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
If you had told me that an X-man dropped the N-bomb, for some reason I'd have thunk it was Wolverine. Never would have thought sweet, little Kitty Pryde. But as you point out, it is to make a relevant point.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | July 1, 2012 10:00 AM
Kitty did it twice, I believe; I think she said the same thing to Stevie Hunter in God Loves, Man Kills.
Posted by: Paul | July 2, 2012 8:16 PM
One thing you didn't mention was the presence of the "psi-scream" (I think it was called that, can't remember) the anti-telepathic device built (invented?) by the anti-mutant bigots/would be murderers at the university. At the time, I thought it foreshadowed an escalating anti-mutant/superpowers response by ordinary people that might lead to some new villains which I thought would be very interesting. But it - and any other similar devices - would not be mentioned again.
Eventually, something like that would happen in X-Factor, but still no reappearance of the psi-scream.
Posted by: Chris | July 2, 2012 9:22 PM
Oh man I love that scene between Magneto and Rachel!
Posted by: David Banes | November 11, 2013 1:59 PM
I guess using the word kaffir (like Andrea Strucker does) is less controversial because many comic book readers don't know what it means.
It probably didn't get a peep of protest back in the day.
Posted by: A.Lloyd | October 9, 2014 1:39 AM
At this point I was pretty much "hate reading" this book, but this issue was really good. Spot-on character studies, insightful little scenes, and the bullet thing was awesome.
Posted by: Andrew | March 24, 2015 12:03 PM
Now this was what Marvel really could have used out of Secret Wars II - pulling people into a book that they might not be reading and then giving a hell of a good story. The Magneto / Rachel interplay is fantastic, it was great to learn that Wolverine's healing power negates the smoke, Kitty's reaction to the word "mutie" is well (and realistically) handled, especially given her age and we find out more about the type of person Kurt is. Overall, a very good issue. Hopefully some people who came in for SWII ended up sticking around.
@ Andrew - out of curiosity, what on earth is "hate reading"?
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 28, 2015 11:46 AM
I think Andrew is making an allusion to "hate watching":
Posted by: Michael | May 28, 2015 11:54 PM
So, neither Marvel nor the Comics Code had problems with the use, in extremis, of the n-word, while over at DC, Roy Thomas introduced a 1940s African-American superhero ('Amazing Man') only to pussyfoot around the ever-present, virulent racism such a character would encounter.
Posted by: Oliver_C | March 4, 2016 8:02 AM
I must be in the minority. I reread this issue (having first read it over 20 years ago when the X-Men Classic version was newly released, as I was a kid and rather new to comics then) a couple of months ago as part of a long '80s/'90s X-Men reading project...and I really didn't enjoy this issue. I have rose-colored memories of the X-Men Classic run I read as a kid (starting at XMC 85/UXM 181 and ending with XMC's final issue, 110/UXM 206), but when I got to that run of issues again recently, I was kind of taken aback at how disjointed so many of them feel. Overall, the quality is inconsistent and there's a lot of weird stuff going on. And I think this issue might be my least-favorite of the entire run, because it really doesn't continue at all from the previous issue and I had a lot of trouble understanding it because I didn't have the issues of New Mutants and Secret Wars II that came in between 195 and 196. In short, I felt it had way too many new story elements introduced in other titles.
Posted by: J-Rod | February 20, 2017 2:41 PM
Maybe it's just the limitations of my current project (which, in part, is defined by the current state of my collection). I'm not doing Secret Wars II (it would take a lot of acquisitions, as literally the only pieces I have are the X-Men and Avengers tie-ins, plus I've always heard it was generally not worth reading). And I'm not adding New Mutants until after Inferno, largely because I would have to add a LOT to my collection (I really only have a few isolated issues and annuals). Maybe with all the context, I'd love this one. But in my current context, as an installment in the UXM series, 196 fails spectacularly, IMO. I can move past it (and I have; currently rereading Mutant Massacre after a bit of a break during Bob Layton's boring issues of X-Factor), but man, this issue left me scratching my head. No wonder Claremont didn't like being swept up in crossover events.
Posted by: J-Rod | February 20, 2017 2:44 PM
@J-Rod: I'm going to go against consensus opinion here and say that Secret Wars II is actually quite good, *if you realize what you're getting into.* Namely, it's an examination of the possibilities and limitations of being God.
Posted by: Thanos6 | February 20, 2017 4:45 PM
@Thanos6: I must admit to being intrigued by it despite what I've read, but I'd have to buy a bunch of stuff to get it. Ultimately, though, regardless of the quality of the event, the three UXM tie-ins feel very disjointed, especially this one.
Posted by: J-Rod | February 20, 2017 4:55 PM
@J-Rod: Oh, I won't argue that some of the tie-ins are badly done, especially most of the X-ones. But others are done much better (Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Thor, Avengers), and I'm a fan of the main series.
Posted by: Thanos6 | February 20, 2017 6:46 PM
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