Monday, November 23, 2015


An adventure of the Uncanny X-Men by
Writer: Chris Claremont | Penciler: Art Adams | Inker: Bob Wiacek
Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: Tom Orzechowski | Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: Storm goes nuts and flies south, pursued by Rogue. The rest of the X-Men follow and find themselves in a barren wasteland that was once their occasional stomping ground, the prehistoric Savage Land. An armored behemoth called Terminus appears, grabbing the visiting High Evolutionary, but the X-Men save him and knock Terminus out. The Evolutionary returns to his citadel with Havok, while the rest of the X-Men locate another dimensional realm, where many of the Savage Land's people have been hiding since the destruction of their home.

The X-Men return to Earth and defeat Terminus, revealing Garokk the Petrified Man inside the armor. The High Evolutionary explains that he can restore the Savage Land with the help of a mutant connected to its life-force, and Garokk agrees, sacrificing himself. The Savage Land returned to normal and the X-Men depart.

Continuity Notes: Though not footnoted in this issue, the Savage Land was destroyed by Terminus in AVENGERS #257.

The High Evolutionary has taken Zaladane, one-time X-Men foe, as his assistant, along with Magneto's former henchmen, the Savage Land Mutates.

Storm discovered the strange parallel universe during her first trip to the Savage Land, in a backup story from CLASSIC X-MEN #22.

Colossus is reunited with Nereel, one of two girls with whom he shared a threesome during that same visit. Unbeknownst to him, Nereel has since given birth to Colossus's son and named him Peter in honor of his father.

Storm references her failure to save Garokk's life in X-MEN #116.

This issue features the first appearance of the unnamed Adam Plunder, son of Ka-Zar and his wife, Shanna the She-Devil.

Circa 1988: The X-Men are living in an Australian ghost town once occupied by their enemies, the Reavers, and the team consists of: Storm, Wolverine, Dazzler, Longshot, Psylocke, Colossus, Havok, and allies Madelyne Pryor and Gateway.

The High Evolutionary's Plot: There's no discussion of his plan to cull and evolve humanity here; instead all he wants to do is restore the Savage Land to normal. Chris Claremont portrays the Evolutionary in a much more benevolent light than any other writer in the crossover so far. Also, the X-Men are the first heroes in the "Evolutionary War" to come face-to-face with the villain of the piece.

My Thoughts: This issue is a microcosm of nearly everything I dislike about Chris Claremont's latter period on UNCANNY X-MEN. But first, let's be clear: I love his early stuff on this title. Some may recall that I ranked UNCANNY X-MEN issues 94 - 176 in first place on my Twelve Favorite Marvel Runs of All Time. Heck, let's not forget how much I recently enjoyed his IRON FIST and MARVEL TEAM-UP runs, too!

But around the time he wrote Cyclops out and turned Storm butch, he began to lose whatever it was that appealed to me. (Personally, my theory is that he started to buy into his own hype.) And by this point, it's gotten pretty bad. To wit:
  • The X-Men live in Australia, not in their mansion.
  • They're missing some of their most important members (Cyclops, Professor X, Banshee*) and instead have boring characters such as Longshot and Dazzler on the team.
  • Wolverine never once wears his mask in this issue. Neither does Havok. (Though to be fair, this could be blamed on Art Adams.)
  • Some of the dialogue is just too cute for its own good. For example, Storm tells Garokk, "Once, O man, I failed to save you." Who talks like that, in either real life or fiction?
  • Claremont just can't leave well enough alone:
    Garokk had a perfectly fine death in UNCANNY X-MEN #116 and he wasn't important enough to warrant a return, but he came back in issue 149 and again here.
    Colossus once had sex in the Savage Land, so naturally that means the girl with whom he hooked up is Special by association, so she gave birth to his child and became the chief of the Savage Land's Fall People tribe. One of these I could take, but both is a stretch. And beyond the above, she soon becomes the chief of all the Savage Land's United Tribes, which takes the absurdity far beyond acceptable levels.
  • The CLASSIC X-MEN #22 backup story was idiotic when it was printed and should have been immediately disavowed. Storm had a secret adventure while in the Savage Land which we never knew about for several years? Dumb, dumb, dumb. Mind you, I might not have minded if the adventure was more Savage Landy, and didn't involve her stumbling into another universe and becoming the surrogate daughter to a female warlord who lives in a boat strapped to the back of an enormous wolf. It's too surreal and doesn't fit in with the relatively grounded nature of the Claremont/Byrne run into which Claremont has tried to shoehorn it.
  • Since when is Garokk A) a mutant, and B) benevolent enough to sacrifice himself for the Savage Land? Now you're just making stuff up, Chris.
I could go on, but it would devolve into another petty tirade like my screed against Steve Englehart last time, and I really don't want to go there because I like Chris Claremont a lot. I think he did some great work in the seventies and early eighties, and I think he still had his moments as the eighties went on. I've even liked some of his stuff since his return to Marvel around 2000, most notably his return to UNCANNY X-MEN with Alan Davis on art.

But this... this is just bad. The less said about it the better, and that goes for the entire X-MEN "Outback era". I've said before that I don't think the stories in X-MEN were bad at this point -- they comprised an ongoing epic with tons of long-term plotting and interesting characterization. Claremont did some excellent stuff. I just think these were bad stories for the X-Men, who for me work best in their traditional roles as a band of mutant outlaws secretly headquartered in Westchester county, led by Cyclops and Professor X.

(But at least the Art Adams artwork is pretty. Bob Wiacek inks him better than almost anybody else.)

* Yes, Banshee.


  1. Colossus once had sex in the Savage Land, so naturally that means the girl with whom he hooked up is Special by association, so she gave birth to his child and became the chief of the Savage Land's Fall People tribe. One of these I could take, but both is a stretch.

    Colossus had sex with a gal from a hunter-gatherer society. The lifestyle can support only relatively small tribe in an area, so external gene flow is a welcome thing, especially from a bulky warrior like Colossus. Her NOT becoming pregnant would have been a disappointment. Nereel may have been quite high-ranking among the bachelorettes of eligible age (among the other girl) to be the one(s) to score him, real future chieftain's wife material, except that after the great fire they've been really scraping the bottom of the vat and are lucky to get even her as a chieftain. The expectation may be that her son may in time grow up a mighty warrior himself, which would be good thing for preventing any possible disastrous future leadership squabbles within the tribe.

    microcosm of nearly everything I dislike about Chris Claremont's latter period on UNCANNY X-MEN

    I just got a first-hand feel how Prof X and Mags must've felt around the era depicted in #161, both men still seemingly friendly at each other but both knowing that their differing views will unavoidably make them find themselves as adversaries some non-far future day.

    1. Teemu, I will be honored to be the Xavier to your Magneto. (I'm assuming you're the villain here, right?)

    2. Well, now it turns a bit awkward, because my Magneto is of course the JRjr era tortured hero with a big M on magenta overalls. I see the merits in Xavier's way, but I have hard time with living according to it all the time, because the considerations of realism seep in. "It is a school, they are the students", it's all fine and dandy, but the X-Men have long since been past the point when they need to be teached how to use their mutant powers. When there are teenage New Mutants around, we do see the point on-panel, but if it's the X-Men who are supposed to be the students... Claremont gave the editorial well-earned ten demerits for that sort of calls very early on his run.

      I do love them at the mansion, of course, but why they are there should be handwaved away rather than tried give actual rationalizations, because at some point the X-Men start looking bad if they just stay in school forever and ever without ever learning an actual useful real life skills cos they've been too busy saving the world all the time. We know that type.

      Not that I'd particularly want to see them moving into SoHo either and running The X-factor cafeteria there between all the saving of the world.

  2. The Outback era used to be my favourite period of X-Men, but after a recent re-read of Claremont's run, I decided that it his run with Romita Jr. which was my favourite, with the Outback era a close second.
    I had no problem with the idea of getting rid of Professor X. He wasn't necessary for the direction Claremont was taking the book, and I think he worked better as the originator of an idea, whose ideals were being carried by his former students.

    Plus, the "mutants as outlaws" role never changed. In fact, the idea didn't really come to be their main direction until the Romita Jr. period, I'd argue.
    The Outback era worked very well for that, considering they were a group of mutants hiding from the rest of the world.

    1. +1 on JRjr era. Because of the rest of the fandom I have found myself constantly questioning if I love it only because that was the X-Men I met first, but I'm glad to report that I'm winning that wrestling match.

      JRjr era is the peak "80's bleak" X-Men ever got. I hope the term does not exist, because I'd sure love being the one to coin it. It's zeitgeisting on the same sensibilities by which WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS will soon enough rock the whole comics scene, but instead of intended epicness it's just very competent day-by-day superheroics. As witnessed by the movies of the era like Terminator, the dystopic future and atom war awaits and a curtain of hopelessness hangs on everything. There's really no supportable ideology to root for, but only a plethora on unsupportable ones and the uber-self-interested yuppies coining it for themselves in betwixt. The heroes are ever so needed to fight back that hopelessness, even if they themselves have semi-given up and them and the readers alike have to come into terms with the fact that Professor Xavier is a jerk.

    2. Wow! We do think alike on our X-Men! My exact words after finishing the JR Jr era on X-Men was that, when Claremont was at his best, it ranked near Watchmen and DKR!
      Unfortunately, I think Claremont lost his way a few too many times, probably the nature of a monthly book as opposed to a limited series, for it to stand at the same level.
      It certainly does have the feel of the "bleak" 1980s, like no other period in X-Men history. I really liked that time in comics, myself.

    3. It may not come as a surprise that I'm not a big fan of the Romita Jr. era either, though it's closer to the traditional status quo that I like. But the reason I'm not a fan is exactly why you guys apparently like it: it's a bit too gritty for me. I like my superheroes to be fun and optimistic, and while the X-Men of that period are occasionally both those things, they're all too often boring and bleak.

    4. Like Anomymous, I liked that time in comics too. The X-Men works to me especially in contrast to the other superheroes of the era, who are popular, to an extent, among the general population and who also know the true measure of the X-Men, unlike the general population. On many occasions I'd be happy to see the oppressed minority thingy toned down a bit, but here it works massively well weaved into the very fabric of the whole setup.

      I oppose the term gritty, btw: yes, there is a mutant massacre, but at least it is treated as an extremely momentous event. Compare to the 90's sensibilities and Liefeld killing a whole reservate in his second plot just to excuse bringing Thunderbird in. The 80's were maybe bleak with folks merely drifting like shades around events, but the events still weren't objectively as horrible as those in the 90's that the folks were feeling optimistic about.

    5. On the delivery part I wouldn't compare mid-80's X-Men to Watchmen or DKR, not only for the on-going vs. Very Special limited series point of view that you mentioned, but also because X-Men in its core is still very standard and established main-timeline superheroics for the time while the two others are essentially What Ifs on drugs. But somewhat extended Days of Future Past in a prestige format and never ever returned to on main series (yes I know, fat chance) would have nothing to be shamed about in comparison.

  3. Also, the X-Men are the first heroes in the "Evolutionary War" to come face-to-face with the villain of the piece.

    Huh. I certainly noticed this Evolutionary seemed more benevolent than the others, but having not read all the intervening chapters, I never realized this was the first time any of the title characters actually interacted with the High Evolutionary. What a weird, weird, storyline...

    So you and I have talked a lot about the Outback Era vs. the Classic Setup, so I hope you know this questions is going to sound way more snarky than I actually mean it to, but when you say that your preferred X-Men are a "band of mutant outlaws secretly headquartered in Westchester county, led by Cyclops and Professor X.", does that mean you'd prefer them to just be that, all the time, for the entirety of their 50+ year history?

    I mean, that's my preferred default state for the X-Men as well, the "classic" status quo that every other status quo should be set up in relation to, but at the same time, I appreciate changes to it, like the Outback Era, or the Morrison run, both for the changes themselves and for the contrast they provide when the classic status quo is eventually brought back to the fore.

    Which is to say, I wouldn't have wanted the Outback X-Men to be the new status quo forever...but I also wouldn't want nothing but X-Men stories where Professor X has Cyclops leading the X-Men into battle from their mansion headquarters.

    1. Look at this way. Had Claremont had his way and let Cyclops stay retired, we would have avoided the mess of the "Cyclops as psycho" mischaracterization of the past number of years.

      This is partially written in a humourous manner, but only partially.

    2. No worries on the question, Teebore. I know what you mean. To answer, I don't need the X-Men permanently locked in the classic status quo forever. I don't mind roster change-ups and changes in scenery, and I don't need Cyclops and Xavier there 24/7. I like the period during Claremont/Byrne where Xavier is in space, and I like the era post-"Onslaught" where he leaves the team. I also don't mind Wolverine's absence after "Fatal Attractions" or Cyclops's departure during the Seagle/Kelly/Davis runs, or -- in theory if not execution -- the "Utopia" set-up of a few years ago.

      I think my dislike for the Outback period is twofold: Partly, it's due to the fact that Claremont seemed to intend the change to be permanent. Whether he would've kept the X-Men in Australia forever I don't know, but it really seems evident he didn't plan on ever restoring a traditional status quo, which seems a little presumptive to me.

      But more than that, it has to do with the way Cyclops was written out beforehand and the way the X-Men view X-Factor acrimoniously during much of that period. This is clearly Claremont working through his issues over the way his characters were treated, and/or usurped from him, but due to my knee-jerk tendency to side with traditionalism over progressivism in almost any situation, I tend to dislike the Outback group simply because they aren't really acting or dressing like I think X-Men should. I don't like Morrison's stuff for much the same reason: they may be living in the X-Mansion with Professor X and Cyclops, but they're nothing like the X-Men I want to read about.

      It occurs to me that if I break up the X-Men into eras and rank them, my tastes are pretty evident (with regards to status quo and team line-up, not necessarily quality of story and art):

      1. Seventies/early eighties Claremont/Byrne/Cockrum/Smith
      2. Nineties Lobdell/Nicieza
      3. Nineties Seagle/Kelly/Davis
      4. Sixties Thomas/Drake/Roth/Steranko/Adams
      5. Eighties Romita Jr.
      6. Sixties Lee/Kirby
      7. 2000s post-Morrison Claremont/Milligan/Brubaker/Carey
      8. 2000s Morrison/Casey/Austen
      9. 2000s San Francisco/"Utopia"Fraction
      10. Eighties "Outback"/"Non-Team" Claremont/Silvestri/Lee

      (I haven't read anything beyond partway through Fraction, so that's as far as I can go.)

      Now, if we were to look at my thoughts on the stories in a vacuum, irrespective of them being about the X-Men, the list would look different. The #1 spot would still be the same, but Morrison and the late-eighties Claremont would be closer to the top because I think they both did really good work. I just thought the stories they wrote were inappropriate for the X-Men.

      All that said, my dislike for the Outback era is also colored partly by Claremont's scripting. By the late eighties he's too flowery and cute for his own good. I love his purple prose of years earlier, but by this point his tics are in full effect and it gets really irritating for me.

      Hopefully that all makes some sense! My mind is a difficult nut to crack sometimes, even for me. I can't always explain why I like what I like, but I do know what it is that I like.

    3. it really seems evident he didn't plan on ever restoring a traditional status quo, which seems a little presumptive to me.

      Yeah, what does Chris Claremont know of the All-New, All-Different X-Men?

      No, really, it's a joke but it's way too easy to imagine yourself as a mid-80s Marvel bigwig thinking "Oh bloody hell, let the mofo keeps his toys and do what he will, the book sells well enough. But THE X-MEN is about schooling mutants with their powers, we'll bring the original team back to do just that."

    4. I'm sure Claremont would have left the books eventually. I wish that Claremont would have gotten to stay until, at least, issue #300 to fulfill most of his dangling plot threads.

      No. I don't see the Outback era lasting forever. I'm sure based on Claremont's propensity to shake things up, so he didn't have to keep writing the same stories over and over, that he would went in a new direction, at some point.
      He did have some major plans to really mess with the status quo by issue #300 though, based on what I've read of his aborted plans.

      Here's the thing. I'm not a fan of the 1990s X-Men core titles, like some other readers seem to be. The Claremont years are why I love the X-Men. It was my first Marvel comic book and will always hold a special place, but outside of the Morrison run, I haven't really enjoyed the core X-Men books since Claremont.
      It seems like it just reverted to doing the same thing over and over again after Claremont, nevermind that I thought a lot of the writing and art was sub-par in the 1990s as well.

      OK, so what I like is the idea of Claremont getting his way and messing with the status quo enough that the next creative team wouldn't have been able to just come and start from the comfortable same old, same old again.

      I think it would have stretched the creativity of the next creative teams more, had they been forced to deal with Claremont leaving behind something more experimental and different.
      Those are just my feelings.

    5. I would've been happy to see him stay to 300 too, since that's a nice round number to go out on, and he was so close!

      I disagree with you on him messing things up for the next creative team, though. I'm a firm believer that all writers should "put the toys back" for their successors, unless they speak with said successor first and figure out if they want things messed up. But otherwise it just seems common courtesy to restore the status quo as best you can before you leave.