Uncanny X-Men #265-266
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #265, Uncanny X-Men #266
His species is called P!ndyr (personally i pronounce the exclamation point as an eye, but shout the first syllable: PIN-der!). No word on whether or not they are related to the Makluans (Fin Fang Foom's people). The story is that this P!ndyr was fighting a duel to prevent the assimilation of his people into the Shi'ar empire. Where it gets surprising is that the duel was a psychic one, and the Shi'ar's champion sounds a lot like Professor X.
We won't come back to this plot for almost a year.
The main story in this arc focuses on Storm, and introduces a new character named Gambit. But we won't meet Gambit until issue #266. This story brings to the forefront the subplot with Storm and the Shadow King that's been going on since she was seemingly killed during the battle with Nanny and then resurfaced as a child.
Issue #265 begins with Storm - still a child, and thinking to herself in the Egyptian language, referencing Achmed El-Gibar, the man that taught her to be a thief - as she engages in some heroic thievery, raiding the home of a banker working for a drug cartel and triggering the alarm so that the police come to investigate his house. Her powers are working spottily.
When she does use them, Nanny and Orphan-Maker are able to detect her location, but that's set-up for next issue.
This issue's villain is the Shadow King. Despite the warnings from Colonel Alexei Vazhin in previous issues, Val Cooper is shown to now be under his thrall along with the doctor, Lian Shen.
Shadow King orders Cooper to kill off Mystique .
Artist Bill Jaaska is pretty unsubtle about depicting the sexual nature of Shadow King's mental domination of Shen.
Storm, meanwhile, has a dream about her parents that turns into attacks by the Shadow King and then Nanny. She's also having visions of the X-Men, including herself as an adult, but she doesn't recognize them.
She then decides to raid another mansion. But this time, it's a trap set by the Shadow King. He's already invaded the house and turned its residents into "hounds".
The similarity between these "hounds" and those of Rachel Summer's dystopian future are notable, but around this same time in the Days of Future Present annual event (one of which was written by Claremont), we'll see those hounds being created by Ahab's harpoon. If there's a connection between these two types of hounds, it's not specified in either story.
As for the Shadow King's interest in Storm, we do know that she was around at the time of the flashback that first introduced the Shadow King, in Uncanny X-Men #117. And here, the Shadow King does talk about waiting a human life time to possess her. But he also says that Storm's mentor, "Charles Xavier... came as close as any to destroying me. I do not forget. I do not forgive. If I cannot be revenged on the man himself -- then most assuredly -- on those he holds most dear!".
I noted the similarity between these hounds and the hounds of Days of Future Past. It's even more the case in issue #266 when the art changes from Jaaska (in #265)...
...to Mike Collins.
Storm manages to evade the hounds and avoid getting possessed by the Shadow King ("kiddo?")...
...but to escape she has to jump out a window, and her powers fail her again so she lands in a pool. As she drags herself out, someone else approaches.
Note that although Storm has no memories of the X-Men, she is aware of "stories" saying that the Shadow King can never die, which probably indicates that the memories are from her time as a child in Egypt. On the other hand, note that the translation brackets surrounding her thought bubbles are gone this issue.
Another character that is aware of the Shadow King is Nanny.
Nanny says that the Shadow King's hounds are "the future" unless Nanny is able to save Storm and other mutants.
While the Shadow King demonstrates the ability to heal the body that he's posessing, we see Storm in the mansion's vault with Gambit.
He doesn't say much until a hound attacks, and then we see his ability to charge up a throwing spike, causing it to explode when he throws it.
That, of course, is Gambit's mutant power. But, interestingly, in this first appearance he also seems to have some kind of charming ability.
In fact, the Shadow King seems to think of that as his primary talent.
But it's the charging ability that lets him and Storm escape the Shadow King's mental grasp.
They still have to get past Lian Shen and the hounds, and in that they're aided by Storm's wind power. But note how Shen describes Gambit's "charm" ability as something that was partially sexual in nature.
Gambit and "Stormy" (as Gambit calls Storm, who only thinks of herself as Ororo at this point, although Gambit recognizes her as a child version of Storm) then escape.
My issue of #266 is a reprint that cut out all of the subplot scenes, including the second appearance of Nanny and Orphan-Maker. And it ends with a scene of Val Cooper confronting Mystique.
Even with those subplots added back in, these issues benefit from some streamlined story telling. We don't learn everything about the Shadow King, but we learn enough that he's not a random and vague mysterious threat. His motivations, as given here, are very simple. A basic revenge villain. As much as i don't know that he ever needed to return, using him like this is straightforward enough. Of course the fact that it's combined with Nanny's prediction and other hints that he's the world's greatest evilest threat ever puts a different spin on things, but for this issue he seems like just the right power level for child Storm and the new mysterious thief character to deal with. The art by both Bill Jaaska and Mike Collins, while not flashy, and more traditional than Marc Silvestri or Jim Lee, is clean enough with clear storytelling. Sadly, the first hurdle for me when reading Claremont's X-Men at this point in time is that it be comprehensible. When that happens, as with these issues, the result is quite good. Jim Lee becomes the regular artist next issue.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Gambit and Bishop: Sons of the Atom Genesis #1 (#265 is an original)
Inbound References (6): show
X-men is my all-time favorite comic growing up. When silvestre left, I was gutted. I loved his art more than cocrum, byrne, smith and especially JRJr (his work on x-men is terrible IMO).
Inferno was the end of my beloved x-men. Afterwards, Claremont was just....off. All these issues are a tragedy I'd rather forget. Reading these reviews makes me sad for some reason. Jim Lee doesn't make it better, but I anxiously await your take on the Muir Island saga.
Posted by: Tabe8 | May 17, 2015 3:33 PM
Note that it's stated that part of Lian Shen's mind likes being the Shadow King's sex slave- and Lian Shen was a doctor. Claremont's basically saying that female professionals secretly want to be sex slaves.
Posted by: Michael | May 17, 2015 4:49 PM
One weird thing about this story- it was supposed to be Gambit's first appearance but X-Men Annual 14 actually came out a few weeks earlier.
Posted by: Michael | May 17, 2015 5:14 PM
The codename Gambit suggests that his charming power was supposed to be primary as well.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | May 17, 2015 5:17 PM
I agree with Tabe8. The Silvestri era post Mutant Massacre to Inferno was a highlight run that contained many great stories. After Inferno, the book tanked. It had a few decent issues afterwards, but as soon as the team was broken up with fake deaths and everyone entering the Siege Perilous, there is nothing redeeming. This is like a two year run that is just awful.
There are some intriguing ideas here, but it goes on far too long.
Was it ever explained how Storm could be transformed into a girl when she was "killed" instead of entering the Roma's portal?
Posted by: Chris | May 17, 2015 5:49 PM
Patience, Chris, Storm's transformation will be explained next issue. Give fnord time. :)
Posted by: Michael | May 17, 2015 6:21 PM
Michael, I don't know that it is necessarily fair to extrapolate that Dr. Shen enjoying what was done to her means that Claremont thinks ALL female professionals secretly want to be dominated sex slaves. It is something he is saying about this particular character, not all women in general.
That said, Claremont does revisit themes of domination and people taking pleasure in being dominated on several occasions--but that may say more about his own personal kinks and fetishes than it does about his attitudes towards women. After all, he sometimes shows male characters as the ones being dominated.
Perhaps Lian Shen's situation unlocked all sorts of repressed aspects to her sexuality. In that first set of scans, the way she is caressing Val's face while wiping her tear away seems a bit sensual too.
On a different note, its interesting that Shadow King uses the phrasing that Gambit could possibly "seduce" him. That, along with the implied sexual aspect to Gambit's hypno-charm power (which writers still refer to here and there) may provide some circumstantial supporting evidence for the fans of the "Gambit is bisexual" speculation.
Posted by: Dermie | May 18, 2015 1:35 AM
@Michael & Dermie: There’s a point about Claremont’s recurrent use of slavery and rape and child abuse that has never quite been pinpointed by the fan population. I don’t think he uses those motifs deliberately for political or social commentary, and I don’t think it happened entirely because he imported large chunks of Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley into the Marvel Universe. (Pretty shrewd of him to do that, too, because there was a large potential audience for Marvel superheroes among SF readers who liked McCaffrey and/or Darkover yet didn’t see anything at Marvel that was inviting them in until Chris came along. But I digress.)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 18, 2015 2:36 AM
To expand on what Michael says, Claremont explained in a convention interview around the time of X-Men Forever (or maybe around the time it was ending) that Gambit was originally intended as an artifically aged clone of "Nathan," the slow-aging mutant behind Mr. Sinister. Gambit is what Nathan would be once he hit early adulthood, perhaps with some power adjustments.
It's in "True Friends," which was supposed to be two 1990 Excalibur specials, that the Shadow King not only encounters Mystique, Destiny, Wolverine, and Shadowcat, but also Rachel Summers, from whom he learns about the idea of "hounds." Clatemont was going for a time-loop at this point. But he'd previously seeded other explanations for the hounds: in Excalibur, Tullamore Voge's race of slavers have hounds, and even earlier there's something hound-like about the werewolf-ish transformation Selene induces in von Roehm.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 18, 2015 3:22 AM
@Walter: Claremont took his Hound idea and even the mutant camps of Days of Future Present, from the work of Andre Norton’s Witchworld!
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 18, 2015 3:57 AM
Hi guys, when does Gambit start using playing cards as weapons? Does this happen in the book or is it something the animators came up with?
Posted by: JSfan | May 18, 2015 8:17 AM
"Hi guys, when does Gambit start using playing cards as weapons? Does this happen in the book or is it something the animators came up with?"
IIRC, playing cards were something Remy could carry a lot of, that wouldn't take a terrible amount of space.
Just imagine if Jim Lee had penciled this issue!
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | May 18, 2015 8:25 AM
@JSfan: Gambit is shown using cards as weapons when the team are in Shi'ar space during Claremont and Lee's Uncanny run, before the animation series.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 18, 2015 8:42 AM
Playing cards coming next issue!
Posted by: fnord12 | May 18, 2015 8:43 AM
Hi all, thanks for the quick replies. I look forward to the next ish, fnord12.
Posted by: JSfan | May 18, 2015 8:52 AM
Hey Nathan, interesting that Andre Norton's Alizon hounds from Witch World inspired the X-Men Hounds. The concentration camps must have been inspired by the Kolder turning people into zombie slaves? It's a bit of a stretch but interesting if that's the case.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | May 18, 2015 1:52 PM
A general observation: man, these UXM issues were awfully dark...
I haven't read most of the X-Men stories from this period, just the summaries on fansites. This site is the first time I'm getting a closer look at these issues and... wow. Seriously, the comic has been growing darker ever since the Mutant Massacre, but things got really creepy around #250 and went downhill from there. Nightmarish visions! People made into animalistic slaves! Jean Grey with tentacle arms! Claremont really was exploring some unpleasant territory there... UXM in this period seems be moving into overt horror movie territory.
I'm wondering if Claremont planned all of this to be just a phase (related to the ongoing Shadow King plot, perhaps?), or if he wanted to keep the book that way...
Posted by: Piotr W | May 19, 2015 8:46 AM
Er...I think tentacle Jean is an exploration of a....different genre.
Nothing to say about Gambit, fnord? I"m just saying that usually for first appearances, you talk a bit about how you feel about the character and his relation to thelot, and how effective the issue was at introducing him. Especially for an "important" (yet base-breaking) character like Remy.
By the way, are these the issues that confirm that, yes, Mystique and Destiny were lovers and not just "very special teammates"?
Posted by: Jon Dubya | May 21, 2015 1:13 AM
I think Gambit was introduced well enough in these issues. The "charm" thing seems to be the most interesting misfire. Beyond that he seems a lot like the Gambit that i know.
I don't have strong opinions about Gambit. He was such a mainstay of the cartoon show that he feels like a legit X-Man to me even though i know a lot of fans don't like him. He's also one of the few X-Men that Claremont actually created. And he gets his own series, which is pretty rare for an X-Man that isn't Wolverine.
I guess the reason i didn't really talk about him yet is because he's initially introduced as a kind of mystery character and i want to watch that unfold.
As for Mystique and Destiny, it's hard for me to say because it's always been "obvious" with hindsight. The fact that she's the one that took it so hard and therefore wasn't around during Acts of Vengeance would have been a signal that there was something more to their relationship prior to this.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 21, 2015 2:10 PM
Oh yes the fourth main male of the X-Men cartoon. The kids on the playground loved Wolverine because of the claws and he was as bad ass as you could get in a kid's cartoon. Beast was the funny guy but still nice. Gambit was also the cool one but more in a smooth chill way with explosive cards, well something like that. Oh and Cyclops but no one liked him since he was boring. Naturally I was the one kid on the playground who liked Cyclops. Of course I also liked Leonardo from Ninja Turtles. Guess I just like responsible leader types.
Posted by: david banes | May 21, 2015 2:16 PM
If the dragonish aliens are a warrior race, mightn't the ! be an "L" instead of an "i" meaning they'd be the Pl(u)nder? Tacky, I know but probably what they were going for.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | May 21, 2015 5:43 PM
Heck, maybe even P(ou)nder. This is the beginning of the '90s era after all...
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | May 21, 2015 5:47 PM
Fnord, I'm not with you on the art in this issue. Lian Shen is drawn so badly I couldn't recognize her as the same character as before. This series desperately needed Jim Lee to become the regular artist.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 27, 2015 11:41 AM
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