Uncanny X-Men #221-222
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #221, Uncanny X-Men #222
That said, we do have some significant progress this issue, with the first appearance of the Marauder's boss, Mr. Sinister.
He shows what a badass he is by easily dispatching Sabretooth.
Notice that he claims responsibility for wiping out all record of her existence, as we saw in X-Factor #13. But there's no clues on his reason for doing that. In any event, he now sends the Marauders to kill her.
I've always felt like Mr. Sinister borrowed a lot from Colossus and Warhawk, but i guess only in superficial ways. I've also read that Claremont intended Mr. Sinister, with his obviously villainous name, as a commentary of some kind, either on super-villains or as a kind of protest to how his Mutant Massacre story was changed. I can't source that, but let me quote this passage from Wikipedia (which i've linked to before):
Dave Cockrum and I went over ideas, and what we were coming towards was a mysterious young boy - apparently an 11-year-old - at the orphanage where Scott (Cyclops) was raised, who turned out to be the secret master of the place. In effect what we were setting up was a guy who was aging over a lifespan of roughly a thousand years. Even though he looked like an 11-year-old, he'd actually been alive since the mid-century at this point - he was actually about 50 [...] He had all the grown up urges. He's growing up in his mind but his body isn't capable of handling it, which makes him quite cranky. And, of course, looking like an 11-year-old, who'd take him seriously in the criminal community? [...] So he built himself an agent in a sense, which was Mister Sinister, that was, in effect, the rationale behind Sinister's rather - for want of a better word - childish or kid-like appearance. The costume... the look... the face... it's what would scare a child. Even when he was designed, he wasn't what you'd expect in a guy like that.
We do get to see the orphanage scenes in Classic X-Men #41 and Classic X-Men #42. In any event, he's played perfectly straight here, no indication that he's anything other than your typical arch-villain character.
Meanwhile, Dazzler is fighting what turns out to be a Danger Room hologram of Rogue. I like (not real) Rogue's "Lightengale" nickname for Dazzler...
...but i do wonder at Dazzler's "hussy" slur.
Thanks to her powers, Rogue does everything in her power to avoid being a "hussy". I guess it's the "throw any insult that'll hurt 'em" strategy, except she's fighting a hologram.
Also note that Claremont is framing the X-Men as "standing alone like the Spartans at Thermopylae against the modern equivalent of Xerxes' Persian horde". For reasons i list above (and more: like, they're only "standing alone" because they refuse to contact X-Factor even though they know that they were also in the Morlock tunnels fighting the Marauders), i don't feel like Claremont has actually established that characterization, but it's still useful to see how he's thinking about them.
Speaking of hussies and also the 90s, i guess it's time for me to start tracking the porn poses that are going to start creeping into comics.
This could be a lot worse (and Mark Beachum has already been a lot worse, and every generation of artists pushed the envelope a little further than the last), but as with Claremont's plotting style, it's worth noting where this stuff starts.
The real Rogue shows up to wonder why Dazzler is still using her as a punching bag. They've been teammates for a while, Rogue has apologized and explained that she was "crazy" back when she was a villain, and the antagonism between them isn't good for the team. But before anything is resolved, Psylocke notifies them that they've gotten a call from Madelyne Pryor. The X-Men arrive in San Francisco just as the Marauders have infiltrated the hospital she's being held in. Rogue gets a mini-rematch with Sabretooth...
...but she's easily blown away by Scalphunter.
Luckily, Madelyne Pryor turns out to be able to defend herself rather well (i was willing to write off her previous fight with the Marauders as a dream sequence; and i guess here she just has the element of surprise and things wouldn't have worked out so well if Dazzler hadn't blasted him).
Vertigo attacks next. Interesting to see her very colloquial speaking style ("X-Dips", "Aw, gee") considering she grew up in the Savage Land.
Another point of interest is seeing some belated respect for Cyclops from Wolverine, in comparison to Cyclops' brother Havok. At least it isn't just Dazzler that Claremont is showing to be ineffectual.
Here's Madelyne again.
The X-Men aren't exactly winning but they are holding their own, and Rogue manages to get Madelyne out of the hospital. But that's when the X-Men find out who the Marauder's field leader, Malice, has possessed.
Malice's attack allows for Dazzler and Rogue to bury the hatchet. Rogue is trapped under some metal girders in the San Francisco bay, and Dazzler puts herself at risk rescuing her.
The location also recalls Spider-Woman's rescue of Ms. Marvel after Rogue attacked her in Avengers annual #10.
The fight next takes them to the beach, where we see someone reading a book from George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards series (which Claremont would later write for)...
...and the Japanese kids from issue #181.
Dazzler causes a scene by absorbing all the sound on the beach to recharge her powers, something that is characterized as a rookie mistake on her part.
My copy of issue #222 happens to be a reprint. And there are several bits of dialogue, all related to Havok blasting Malice/Polaris from afar, that look like they were rescripted. I thought something was changed for the reprint, but the dialogue is the same in my GTF PDF of the original. The fact that the text is rescripted may be difficult to see in the scans below, but it's very evident in the reprint due to the different production quality.
The old adage about how the best letterers are the ones you never notice (i've heard the same said about bass players, but i don't agree with that!) comes to mind here, although i'm sure the problem isn't Tom Orzechowski; it seems like a last minute editorial change. I can't guess what the change might have been. My initial thought was that Claremont had forgotten that Havok and Polaris were a couple, but the plot and art are clearly set up to shock Havok with the revelation that Polaris is leading the Marauders, so that can't have been it. See how bad lettering takes me out of the story?
Psylocke manages to restore, Polaris' mind, but only briefly.
Then the battle continues.
In the end, the X-Men escape with Madelyne. Battling Havok, Malice gives him the choice of letting her leave or blasting his beloved out of the sky. Havok chooses the latter, but finds that she's able to repel his blast anyway.
Storm isn't with the rest of the X-Men because she's off with Naze (who is secretly the Adversary). Claremont goes into an unusual direction with these scenes, something that as an advocate of the connected Marvel universe i'm actually quite pleased about even though it's way off from any X-Men themes. "Naze" takes Storm to the Grand Canyon, and tells her that it's a place where the Adversary is strong thanks to the fact that it's where Dormammu crossed into our dimension back in Doctor Strange #9.
And then next, Storm and "Naze" are attacked by the Eye Killers from Doctor Strange #38. That issue was written by Claremont, making their use a little more less left-field, but only barely.
The attack only serves to solidify Storm's trust in the fake Naze while priming her to attack Forge on sight.
All in all, a really fun set of battle issues. I really like Silvestri's panel-driven, sequential battle sequences. He's a good replacement for Romita. I wish every issue of the X-Men were like these.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 417,350. Single issue closest to filing date = 417,400.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Sabretooth Classic #15 (issue #221 is an original)
Inbound References (9): show
We never do get a clear explanation of what Dormammu had to do with this.
Posted by: Michael | April 15, 2014 9:58 PM
The Eye Killers were actually from southwest Native American lore.
I don't think the Eye Killers were in Dr. Strange #59, so I may be misunderstanding something.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 15, 2014 10:23 PM
I'm glad to see your shout out to Tom Orzechowski. He's definitely one of the most gifted letterers out there, second only to John Workman, perhaps. This issue really illustrates his talents well - giving Malice a unique voice by using only italics. Present computer letting would have just slapped another color on the word balloons or shifted to another font, but remember that Orz was doing all this by hand!
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | April 15, 2014 10:38 PM
By the way, useless trivia time:
Also, you are about to finally leave the Shooter era - #223 is the first one credited with Tom DeFalco as EIC.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | April 15, 2014 10:43 PM
A couple funny things I've noticed: Harry Callahan as the cop in San Francisco and Naze tells Storm she could have blown the Eye Killers away with her wind - that's one hell of a fart (sorry).
On a side note: I'm not looking forward to leaving the "Shooter Era". Although Tom DeFalco carried on some of the editorial ideas that Shooter had, the quality of the comics declined by 1990. Then we get the style over substance era.
Posted by: jsfan | April 16, 2014 3:48 AM
Wild Cards had a trilogy based on an idea by Claremont, according to a RPG supplement of the time. The timing implies that it was the Jumper trilogy, which was really a low point for the series (and has a remarkable concept similarity to this story's Malice); of course, Claremont is famous for his affinity to mind control themes.
@Michael: I understand that it is simply that Dormammu's previous efforts "weakened the dimensional barriers" and made the place convenient for further dimension travel. We had a similar plot point in the issues leading to Defenders #100.
@jsfan: I feel your pain.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 16, 2014 6:06 AM
Am I correct in thinking those circulation figures are at least 100K beyond what any other Marvel title is pulling down at this point? Byrne's FF in its last year was getting about 250K. Avengers may have been doing a little better, but I'd be surprised if it ever got much over 300K in the '80s. Maybe ASM is close to X-Men?
It's easy to forget, in light of how acclaimed runs like Miller's DD and Simonson's Thor are, just what a singular powerhouse Claremont's X-Men was. DC may have had so e good numbers with the Superman relaunch and Miller's Batman, but I wonder if even they could touch X-Men on an annualized basis.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 19, 2014 12:10 AM
I don't think so. Batman was the only really hot seller DC had at this point. Superman's sales started to fall off fairly quickly. Justice League wasn't all that hot, because some fans were put off by the lack of seriousness.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 19, 2014 12:19 AM
This website has Spider-Man sales figures:
Posted by: Michael | April 19, 2014 9:06 AM
I'm not sure that any of us reading at the time could have guessed that when the team casually leaves the mansion to go rescue Maddie in SF that they won't settle down again in the mansion for another sixty issues!
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 22, 2015 6:39 AM
Anybody out there gets the impression that Claremont really didn't care much for the original X-Men (Cyclopes, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, Angel, Havok, and Polaris), even before X-Factor came about?
Posted by: D09 | February 5, 2016 8:25 PM
Claremont liked Scott and Jean, at least before X-Factor. He was willing to let Angel come back(well, fill space) for about a year, but had Warren cop off and fly away. His treatment by Calisto kind of treats him like a McGuffin instead of a breathing, talking person. Beast was always either an Avenger or Defender, so he never had the chance to get him back, but Nightcrawler displaced him as team acrobat. And Iceman should have been in the Dark Phoenix Saga. Iceman did help the team out in the Murderworld/Dr. Doom story, but it was like the Legion of Substitute X-Men. So whatever love Claremont had for the original X-Men wasn't enough to bring them back. I'd like to think, if X-Factor hadn't ever existed, then Claremont would have brought them back for the search for the X-Men. It would have been a big shot in the arm for that storyline, instead of just Forge and Banshee.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | March 17, 2016 2:19 AM
Why does the guy reading the Wild Cards book think it has a "crazy premise"? He lives in a world where superheroes are real, they save lives every day, and there are even government-sanctioned superhero teams. No way could anyone be ignorant of their existence.
Posted by: Tuomas | January 19, 2017 4:11 AM
Loved reading these issues.
Looking at the Marauders in these issues and the Massacre, one wouldn't guess they would quickly become cannon fodder in years to come. At this point they're represented as a very serious and deadly threat.
Posted by: Bibs | November 6, 2017 1:43 PM
Bibs - great point. Inferno seems to be the last time that the Marauders are seen as deadly and powerful threats. They get dispatched quickly and methodically in their battle with the demonic influenced X-Men. Then once Polaris/Malice and Sabretooth depart from their ranks, they seem to no longer be a top villain threat.
Posted by: Mark Black | November 6, 2017 3:53 PM
I almost wonder if Claremont regretted creating the Marauders, who were basically positioned as an opposite number to the X-Men: A team of internationally recruited sociopaths working for the long-term goal of a mysterious mastermind (as opposed to "Xavier's dream"). Yet they had barely any use at all beyond "Mutant Massacre" and "Inferno". And apparently Scalphunter couldn't be used in other media for obvious reasons...
Posted by: iLegion | November 7, 2017 2:55 PM
Definitely at this time the Marauders seemed like a huge threat. Thematically, they are filling the role the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants should be filling for X-Men. The characters actually seem more interesting than the actual members of the Mystique Brotherhood whose role as Freedom Force I never really liked. Marauders have both numbers and a variety of powers. They should have appeared a few more times before Claremont left, but his creativity and lack of discipline prevented that. He was moving to other things, not always good - instead we got issues with Hardcase & the Harriers, the Morlocks (again), and a lot of other substandard stuff in the post-Inferno/Siege Perilous issues.
The revised Reavers (comprising of the original group's survivors, Lady Deathstrike, and Donald Pierce's cyber goons) were also a pretty good threat before they were disposed of post-Claremont. They were an excellent addition to the rogues gallery and one of the few highlights of the post-Inferno era. They should have been a keeper.
Posted by: Chris | November 7, 2017 5:40 PM
Werent the Nasty Boys created to sort of replace the Marauders? I have vague memories of reading some x-factor issues with them and I recall hating their design
Posted by: Bibs | November 8, 2017 2:54 AM
If there had to be a No Prize for explaining the Nasty Boys, I'd guess Sinister recruited them as a temporary replacement for the Marauders while he attempts to make new clones of them. Since he's been naming his gangs of henchmen "Marauders" since the 19th century, he probably considered the Boys a B-team.
Posted by: iLegion | November 8, 2017 11:14 PM
From the wiki page on Nasty Boys - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasty_Boys
"They are the personal strike force of X-Men and X-Factor nemesis Mister Sinister. The Nasty Boys can be distinguished from the Marauders, who were a group of mercenaries brought together by Mister Sinister to specifically kill the Morlocks."
That may or may not be accurate.
Posted by: clyde | November 9, 2017 10:28 AM
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