Uncanny X-Men #212
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #212
I mention all of the above not just to demonstrate that i'll spare no (minor) expense for this project, or just as an illustration of how the comic market has changed, but also to show that this issue and its sequel in #213 were considered pretty hot shit at one time. And for good reason. It is the first fight between Wolverine and Sabretooth, establishes that the two know each other, and is just a pretty damn cool (some might even say "kewl") set of battle issues.
It's actually pretty amazing, considering their similarities and the fact that Sabretooth is a Claremont/Byrne creation, that the characters haven't met before (it's worth noting in passing that Claremont did briefly use another Iron Fist villain, Warhawk, in his X-Men series). According to John Byrne, it had already been determined that Sabretooth was Wolverine's father. But despite two Wolverine mini-series in addition to the regular X-Men book, this is the first use of the character in X-Men, and, with one caveat (the unpublished Ms. Marvel #24), Claremont's second use of the character. In the meantime, under other writers, the character has developed into a ferocious (if easily defeated) sociopath compared to his first appearance where he's in control enough to lead a team of human mercenaries. That actually sets things up really well for him to play as a dark shadow of Wolverine, which is exactly what Claremont uses him for here.
At this point in the Mutant Massacre, the Massacre itself is pretty much over, with the Marauders seemingly hanging around for mop-up. Storm has left Wolverine in the tunnels to capture a Marauder for questioning. We saw in the Power Pack issue that Wolverine had actually been tracking Sabretooth, although he seems a little less certain that he was going to run into him here.
To set up that contrast between the two characters, Claremont has Sabretooth about to kill the Morlock Healer when he crosses paths with Wolverine.
Since Wolverine realizes how important the Healer could be to the recovery efforts back at the X-Mansion, he has to restrain his own ferocious side but without letting Sabretooth realize that Wolverine cares about the Healer. At the end of the fight, after caving in a section of tunnel wall to separate himself and Healer from Sabretooth (there have been so many cave-ins in these tunnels we are lucky Manhattan didn't collapse), Wolverine makes it clear how far he's come.
In the middle, we get a great battle between the two feral mutants. John Romita has left the book, so this issue is a fill-in by Rick Leonardi. Leonardi has done mostly fill-ins for Marvel at this point, although he's also been the regular artist for Cloak and Dagger. His art is somewhat sketchy and sometimes a little awkward...
...but he lays out a good fight.
During the course of the fight, the name of the man who hired the Marauders comes out: Mr. Sinister.
Not a good name and not, i think, a character that Claremont had really fleshed out yet, due to the fact that his original plans for the Massacre had to be changed. Although Wikipedia has a quote from Claremont saying that he had worked Sinister out with Dave Cockrum (Wikipedia's source is link-rotted), which suggests that he was developed earlier.
Prior to the fight, Wolverine detects the scents of X-Factor again, and is again unable to bring himself to believe that Jean Grey is among them.
This issue is largely about Wolverine and Sabretooth, but there are a few other important threads, too. The first is a set-up for Psylocke joining the team next issue. We saw last issue that the X-Men weren't really ready to accept her, and that's more explicit from Wolverine this issue, who discounts her concern about Storm (see below) with "You're a stranger, girl. You've only just met the X-Men. Speak up when you know what you're talking about", and dismisses her as a "high class babe". Due to a mental barrier around the Morlock tunnels (which explains why Xavier never detected them), Psylocke is only able to contact Wolverine while she's connected to Cerebro, making her unavailable during the fight with Sabretooth.
Regarding Storm, as leader of both the X-Men and the Morlocks, she is beating herself up over the injuries to Nightcrawler and Shadowcat and course the slaughter in the tunnels.
She runs from the Mansion and has to be tracked down by Callisto, who, after a fight and a pep talk returns the leather vest that Storm gave to Rogue last issue and signifies Morlock leadership.
It's a low point for Storm making me wonder if maybe trial by combat wasn't the best way to establish leadership of either the X-Men or the Morlocks, but it's a natural reaction for Storm to have. It does raise the question of whether or not maybe Storm should have been doing something for the Morlocks since winning leadership of the group from Callisto some 40 odd issues ago, but of course she isn't responsible for the Massacre.
The other big news is the addition of Colossus to the casualty list. We saw him get injured by Harpoon and Riptide last issue, and he's remained in his armored form since then. It turns out that he's been leaking energy, and he helpfully collapses on Psylocke. No worries, though. We've got Magneto on the team, and if anyone can fix a metal man, it's him.
Except something goes wrong, and Colossus is stabilized but unable to move.
Finally, here's Tom Corsi, who has gone the full Rambo while taking up a guard post on the X-Men's entrance to the Morlock tunnels.
I have to imagine he'd be slaughtered if any Marauders actually showed up. In realtime, i may have encountered Corsi previously in the New Mutants, but he never left an impression on me, and when i saw him here i had no idea who he was but assumed he was a badass soldier of some kind. When Hardcase and the Harriers showed up in X-Men years later i was sure they had something to do with this guy.
The impact of this fight is somewhat dimmed by the constant rehashes and revisions to origins and such but it's still a nice battle issue and if you can put yourself in the right context, it's still pretty kewl.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Standard disclaimers for the Mutant Massacre placement apply; see previous entries for details. Wolverine mentions having met Power Pack and sent them home (or so he thought), and at the end of the issue detects the scents of the New Mutants as well. Then the blast from Thor's lightning-cleansing occurs. The next issue blurb on the lettercol directs us to Daredevil #238 "to see how [Sabretooth] builds his bloodlust and gets in the mood" for his rematch with Wolverine in #213.
Crossover: Mutant Massacre
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showCallisto, Colossus, Healer, Magneto, Moira MacTaggert, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, Rogue, Sabretooth, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Sharon Friedlander, Storm, Tom Corsi, Wolverine
Now Wolverine is getting sliced up by Sabretooth because he's surprised that Jean is alive- we're officially past the point where X-Factor not telling the X-Men that Jean was alive makes any semblance of sense whatsoever.
Posted by: Michael | February 10, 2014 9:11 PM
Claremont couldn't use Sabertooth before now because he was considered by editorial to be an Iron Fist, and subsequently PMIF, character. Claremont reappropriates him pretty quickly once PMIF isn't around any more. Presumably Claremont could have used Sabes as a guest villain, but considering how integral to Wolverine's back story he wanted him to be, a guest-shot wouldn't have suffice. Plus he'd have to watch Saberooth keep losing in PMIF.
I think Claremont knew exactly what he wanted Sinister to be all along. The campy name is actually proof--well, evidence--of that.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 10, 2014 10:46 PM
This issue is another reason I was never impressed by Storm's leadership. From the time Claremont made her leader to now, she's shown very little of it. The only exception is Wolverine inexplicably accepting her leadership and never challenging her the way he did Cyclops.
The non-leadership of the Morlocks is another strike against her. If Claremont did not intend Storm to provide guidance to them and become involved in Morlock issues, then he never should have resolved the X-Men:Morlock conflict that way.
I know many fans give Claremont kudos for writing strong female characters, but I've always been conflicted about that. He writes too many females the same way for one, and the other is that he often slow balls the pitches and rigs it in favor of them.
I do like the concept and art of how Colossus "bleeds". It's innovative and makes sense.
Posted by: Chris | February 11, 2014 8:53 PM
This is one reason I was never a big Storm fan. Claremont seemed to want us to see Storm as a born leader, but he didn't dramatize it effectively. He just kept telling us she was one. I wish I had a tally on the number of times Storm said, "*I* lead the X-Men now."
Posted by: Todd | February 12, 2014 3:17 PM
As we'll seen in 1987-1989, Storm's leadership skills were *horrible* despite what Claremont tells us. She almost gets Lorna killed by having Betsy wipe Alex's mind without his permission and insists that the team accept Gateway despite his role in what was done to Tyger Tiger, resulting in Maddie becoming the Goblin Queen. And she never pays for it.
Posted by: Michael | February 12, 2014 8:10 PM
It's funny that you talk about the trades, because I swear that one of those images you posted (the "Goddess, Tell me why?" scene) is NOT in my Mutant Massacre trade. What's up with that?
And to be fair, some of the other x-people DO start letting Storm have it over her poor leadership decisions around X-Tinction Agenda.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | May 7, 2014 12:19 AM
It was at Xmas of 1986 that Claremont was approached at a party by a DC staffer with the offer to take over "New Teen Titans" due to DC's annoyance with Marv Wolfman over his involvement in protesting DC's cover labeling plans. He refused immediately.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 2, 2014 1:39 PM
Jon, I have the trade too. It was cut from there. I'm sure there were other scenes that were changed or cut as well.
Posted by: clyde | November 2, 2014 3:27 PM
Yes, it's established here that the Morlock Tunnels have psionic barriers surrounding them... which presumably also explains why neither Xavier nor Cerebro detected the Morlocks prior to the X-Men's first encounter with them. But how?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | December 19, 2014 12:20 AM
"Yes, it's established here that the Morlock Tunnels have psionic barriers surrounding them... which presumably also explains why neither Xavier nor Cerebro detected the Morlocks prior to the X-Men's first encounter with them. But how?"
Since it was ret-conned that the Morlocks were a failed experiment of the Dark Beast, it's possible he put up the psionic barriers to "cover his tracks". He did have advanced knowledge of technology from the "AOA".
Posted by: clyde | May 29, 2015 4:22 PM
X-Men #112 & #113 definitely are awesome X-Men keys. Really loved the first published battle between Wolverine and Sabretooth in #112, and their 2nd bout in #113. Just wanted to say I love the site, man! Keep up the great work!
Posted by: Total Comic Mayhem | May 23, 2016 10:23 PM
Oops, meant #212 and #213. Damn fingers...
Posted by: Total Comic Mayhem | May 23, 2016 10:25 PM
This was the 2nd ever Marvel comic issue I read, and first time I saw Sabretooth, my favourite in Wolverine's rogue gallery. This scene really builds them up, both separately, and having common history.
Here also Magneto is defined with few narrative strokes, telling a story of redemption from destroyer to teacher. Strong stuff, and of course colours everything else I've since read.
Certain parallels with all three characters: they all have really dark past, of suffering and dealing violence. Their attempts to handle that past varies greatly, and the results even more. But most importantly, it immediately painted for me a picture of a changing world, were history mattered and future was uncertain.
Posted by: Catherine | April 22, 2017 11:16 AM
I have the second printing of the 2013 edition of the Mutant Massacre TPB
And also in this editon they place X-men 212 AFTER Thor 374
It also includes Daredevil #238
Posted by: Brian | October 4, 2017 1:56 AM
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