Uncanny X-Men #201
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #201
The problem is compounded by the art, with Rick Leonardi filling in for John Romita Jr. on pencils, and Whilce Portacio on inks. While Whilce Portacio will be recognized as one of the more talented of the artists that came to prominence in the 90s, i'm not really a fan of him or that wave of art in general. As an inker, he worked well with Art Adams on Longshot. His pairing with Rick Leonardi here is less of a fit, a weird mishmosh of proto-90s and Leonardi exaggerated semi-cartooniness (which is usually cleaner looking).
Regarding that crowding in the story, we start with the X-Men visiting Madelyne and the baby.
From Scott's scowling and the fact that we don't get a single word or thought from him in the first five pages, there's clearly something wrong here. But the story devotes time to a tickle-fight between Nightcrawler and Rachel and Kitty getting comfortable holding a baby, with everyone seemingly oblivious to Scott. The intention may have been to add levity to a scene but it puts the focus on the wrong thing and feels discordant. Possibly a different art team could have pulled it off better but it was a lot to try to fit in regardless. A page and a half is then devoted to Madelyne confiding in Storm about Scott's neglect of her, which she admits was largely a matter of circumstance - the complaint is that he didn't find time to even call while he was whisked away to Asgard and then France recently. There's nothing wrong with taking the time to develop the problems between Madelyne and Scott, but despite using a lot of panels and many, many words, Claremont doesn't really allow Madelyne to develop a coherent complaint about Scott.
When we finally get to look in on Scott, however, we find that he really is not focused on the birth of his kid at all. Of the three panels we get for looking into Scott's side of things, a panel and change is devoted to him reminding us that he has to be careful while switching from his optic visor to his sunglasses. And what's left is worrying about Xavier's departure and replacement with Magneto.
What's really going on here is that Claremont is laying the groundwork for Cyclops leaving Madelyne in the upcoming X-Factor series. That move, and especially the execution of it, was out of Claremont's control and it will unfortunately do lasting harm to Cyclops' character. But Claremont had the opportunity to set it up in a way that made it seem more natural. Cyclops is a new father - despite being the most responsible X-Men, maybe he's not prepared for the responsibility of being a father. Maybe his sheltered life with Xavier didn't prepare him for the emotional responsibilities of being a parent and a husband. Maybe he's really not over Jean, and the birth of the baby has really hammered home for him that he's gotten in too deep with someone that he was really with due to superficial similarities with her. In fact, all of the above is true and available to us as subtext (despite Claremont's earlier intentions to the contrary on that last point), but it's unfortunately not developed here at all. Both Madelyne and Scott's dialogue and thoughts in this issue, despite their length, dance frustratingly around the point, and so much of this issue is devoted to baby cutesiness, a look in on Xavier and the Starjammers...
...a (fun in its own right) X-Men baseball game...
...Kitty helping Cannonball with a crashed computer, etc.. The ability to juggle a huge cast (which in addition to the X-Men and the Starjammers, also includes the New Mutants this issue) has always been one of Claremont's strengths, but it's all kind of imploding in the first half of this issue.
Fortunately, the focus narrows for the second half of the issue, which begins with Scott and Madelyne finally communicating with each other. Not communicating well, mind you, but that may just be realism. The sticking point that Claremont uses is Cyclops' distrust of Magneto. That's logical in its own right, but it's not helpful in terms of laying the groundwork for X-Factor; it's not like the idea is that Cyclops sets up that team as a way to keep tabs on his former enemy. There is a more natural conflict between Scott's desire to stay on the X-Men and Madelyne's desire to continue her own life in Alaska. Scott (irrationally but again realistically) says that he thought the baby "changed all that", and Madelyne rightly sets him straight on that front.
Storm jumps in to help settle things and challenges Cyclops to a duel for the leadership of the X-Men. In the subsequent fight, Cyclops loses. So Cyclops is not going to be returning as leader, but since it wasn't really his own decision, it doesn't settle things between him and Madelyne.
Again, you can supply your own background motivations for Scott and Madelyne, and in broad strokes this is definitely a set-up for the marital strife between them. The problem is there's really nothing in the script that makes it clear what the real problem is, not in a way that justifies Cyclops' upcoming actions.
That said, the Cyclops/Storm duel is an iconic moment in X-Men history.
And there are a lot of other fun moments in this story as well.
During the duel, Madelyne notices that in the real world, the weather suddenly goes dark and stormy, as Claremont continues to tease the eventual return of Storm's powers.
It'll also later be said that Madelyne has a "daydream" during this sequence where she subconsciously manipulates the fight so that Scott loses.
In defense of Cyclops losing to a powerless Storm, i do want to get a little fanboyish (ha!) and point out that Cyclops could have beaten Storm if it weren't for his own self-imposed restrictions. Before the duel starts, he tells Storm that he'll keep his optic blasts on ultra low power. And the setting for their battle is an abandoned war-torn city (generated by the Danger Room). Storm thinks to herself that the setting is to her advantage, but the truth is that if Cyclops hadn't been restraining himself, he could have easily just opened up his optic beams to their maximum capacity and just blown away the entire landscape, Storm included. With no civilians and no need to worry about property damage, he shouldn't have been pulled into a cat and mouse game in the city's ruins.
An epilogue that would seem unrelated to the story if we didn't know about the upcoming resurrection of Jean Grey shows Rachel Summers visiting the Grey household in the middle of the night, restoring the Shi'ar holempathic matrix crystal that she destroyed two issues ago when she was claiming the power of the Phoenix. She adds an impression of herself to the crystal while she repairs it. The Watcher, observing from the moon, sees activity originating from the spot where Jean Grey (or, as we'll soon learn, "Jean Grey") died, and says "It begins. But as to the ending -- who can say?".
It's worth pointing out that, accepting Magneto's reformation, there are no super-villains in this issue (unless you count Ronald Reagan, who watches Rogue catch a high fly ball from Air Force One). The conflict is entirely internal. The issue is a bit unwieldy, but Claremont is definitely able to draw conflict entirely from his cast without also adding an external threat.
A really intriguing little bit is when Rachel uses her mental powers to share the (as of yet unnamed) Summers baby's thoughts with Kitty.
Man, i'd love to actually see those thoughts. It would be a real boon to developmental psychology if the X-Men could share that kind of stuff with the world.
My copy of this issue is the X-Men Classics reprint, and there are a bunch of obvious typo corrections. Misspellings of reconnaissance and ophthalmology (Kitty is apparently going to need glasses), Madelyne saying "my commitment to you precludes everything" changed to "my commitment to you supersedes everything", and the holographic crystal "reforming" is changed to "re-forming". Anyone reading my posts knows i'm no proofreader, but seeing the blatant re-lettering in the reprint adds to the clutter of Claremont's overly dense plot and Portacio's busy inking.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Madelyne went into labor in issue #200 and she's out of the hospital with the baby here, so at least a little time has passed. New Mutants #35 takes place between last issue and this one. I should note that I am tagging Nathan Summers as a baby separately from adult Cable (who is a time traveler that has already visited this time period during the Silver Age), but it's actually not different than the way i handle some other time traveling characters).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: X-Men Classics #105
Inbound References (9): show
I thought Maddie's complaint was pretty coherent- Scott was too obsessed with X-Men stuff to call her and talk with her while she was pregnant and alone, like an actual human being would have.
Posted by: Michael | October 13, 2013 1:07 PM
I guess my problem with Madelyne's complaint is that there's 8 lengthy panels of her explaining to Storm that everything was ok until Scott made this one easily rationalized mistake, and now she's re-evaluating their entire relationship. Claremont had plenty of space to set up that maybe Madelyne had been realizing over time that Scott was a bit more distant and emotionless and perhaps unhappy about his semi-retirement, but he doesn't use it. If not calling during the France crisis was the culmination of a series of affronts, i could see it being a problem more. Madelyne has been a rational character and she knew what she was getting into with Scott and the X-Men, so her turn her just feels forced to me (which it was, thanks to the upcoming X-Factor series, but i just think Claremont could have done better with it).
Posted by: fnord12 | October 13, 2013 1:24 PM
Except that Maddie's previous experiences with the X-Men haven't been happy ones- Mastermind kidnapped her, tricked her into kissing him, tried to trick the X-Men into killing her and Storm almost drowned her stopping him, Scott disappeared for a week during her honeymoon and unlike Sue or Bobbi, she had no one to talk to and Loki forced her into a situation where people would die no matter what decision she made. Keeping those experiences in mind, Maddie's behavior is entirely understandable.
Posted by: Michael | October 13, 2013 1:52 PM
See Michael? If Claremont had just written some of that into the script, i would have been thrilled. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | October 13, 2013 2:09 PM
Don't give the baby a gun! The baby will go on to top level baby asassin with an eye patch. That's gonna be won cool baby.
Posted by: doomsday | October 13, 2013 2:09 PM
Geez, the bottom of Rogue's outfit in the baseball game. She's flossing with that thing. I guess most of the teenage-male demographic was getting good value for its 65 cents. And there's Colossus for the rest of the teenage-male demographic.
Loved "Unless you count Ronald Reagan," fnord.
The bit with the baby's thoughts being so "beautiful" was a bit of Claremont squish that I really loved. I imagined that it wouldn't be sophisticated "thoughts" the way an older person's would be, more an inchoate warmth and innocence.
Posted by: Todd | October 15, 2013 2:44 AM
Aww...look at cute little Nate. Keep him away from ancient mutants, time travel and heavily disfigured Canadians who speak through yellow text boxes and he'll turn out fine.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 16, 2013 6:54 PM
Ataru320 I respect you so much now that you improved my previous comment joke on baby Cable.
Posted by: doomsday | October 26, 2013 4:26 PM
Uncanny X-Men 94-143 may be one the greatest stretches in comic book history. Two of the biggest reason were Dave Cockrum and John Byrne. After JB left in issue 143(?)there was IMO a drop in quality (but not sales!!!) on the X-Men. The nadir of the drop in quality is X-Men 200. Magneto (Magneto!!!) is the head of the school, Scott leaves again, Maddy Pryor is a joke, Storm is powerless and the various fill-in artist start to take over. It wouldn't be long before crossovers would dominate this book, the school aspect of the title would go away,Wolverine would become the center of the book, and we'd have an island full of mutants (Genosha).
Posted by: A.Lloyd | March 4, 2014 2:28 PM
Of course that's your opinion. Others think the book (story-wise) improved after the period you love. Hence, why sales were so good.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 4, 2014 4:26 PM
I think this issue was really why I was never a Storm fan. I was (and am) a big Cyclops fan and was irritated that he lost. Granted, there are good in-story and out-of-story reasons for that, but it didn't make me like it any more.
That psychic link will become important during Inferno - way to pick up a loose end several years later.
But somebody take note, the Watcher appears and he's actually just watching!
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 4, 2015 6:28 PM
Fnord, you misspelled "proforeader."
Yes, Scott could have easily beaten Storm if he cut loose, but that was the whole point. The ability to not destroy buildings and cities is actually kind of important if you're going to lead the X-Men.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 1, 2015 5:26 PM
That scan above just made me realize that there is a lot of the Binary costume in Carol's current Captain Marvel look. I think it's the shoulder design.
Posted by: Jeff | January 18, 2017 5:29 PM
There are many X-Men good stories and characters, some of them still by Claremont, but I feel that with Cyclops character destruction and Phoenix returning, it just stopped being purely Claremont story and started being far more corporate and muddled.
Still, there are some good stories ahead, but not the best.
Posted by: Karel | April 15, 2018 8:05 PM
Wasn't it always Claremont's intention to have Cyclops retire with Maddie and Nathan? So his "character destruction" here wouldn't have been editorially mandated rather than Claremont doing what he wanted to do. The real character destruction of Cyclops due to corporate interests would only happen with X-Factor, and that was something Claremomt opposed.
Posted by: Tuomas | April 16, 2018 1:46 AM
It was Claremont's intention that Cyclops be available for special missions, not that he ignominiously fight Storm for X-Men leadership to stay at the mansion. This issue breaks Scott's membership with the current team as well as stirring acrimony with his marriage to Madelyne. Claremont intended them to live happily ever after together. This issue sets up X-Factor #1, not Chris's intended plans for Cyclops. It's Cyclops' actions in X-Factor #1 that have been problematic for fans. We can argue how well it did, but clearly this was as far as Chris was willing to go at the time.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | April 16, 2018 2:03 AM
Someone may need to start a "Cyclops: Bad Father" thread in the forum.
Posted by: Andrew | April 16, 2018 6:36 AM
Comments are now closed.
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