Monday, January 11, 2010

1983 - The Uncany X-Men

The Uncany X-Men #165-175
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist(s): Paul Smith/Walter Simonson/John Romita Jr./Bob Wiacek

Paul Smith will always be one of my favorite X-Men artists despite having only drawn eleven issues. His unique style, that oddly seemed both simple and detailed, captured defining look for the X-Men. Bob Wiacek’s inks were well balanced with Smith’s pencils and their end product rivaled the work of John Byrne and Terry Austin. Paul Smith’s relatively short run on The Uncanny X-Men revitalized the series and sparked Chris Claremont’s storytelling and creativity as writer.

When the Brood saga was wrapped up, Claremont steered away from the multi-issue story lines. Plotting wasn’t Claremont’s strength and it suffered without Byrne’s collaboration. To his credit, Claremont did turn to his strength: characterization. Rather than set a plot and have his characters go through the paces, he focused on the characters and had them drive the action.

Writing a team book didn’t seem like an ideal place to focus on characterization; however, Claremont pulled it off. While he juggled the cast of characters he also took the time to put characters into the spotlight.

Claremont was obviously keen on Storm, a young woman with mutant powers that allowed her to control the weather. She went through a slow, unfolding character development that actually spanned several issues. Her life, like any in the real world, was constantly changing. Claremont’s characters evolved as events in their life changed their perspectives.

Storm went through an intense period of inner turmoil until she drastically adjusted her identity to deal with her new responsibilities as X-Men’s leader. She changed from a soft, innocent girl in touch with Mother Nature to a tough, confident woman with a Mohawk and wearing leather.

Claremont also devoted a lot of attention to Kitty Pryde. My early impression of Kitty was that she filled the role of team sidekick. She was a bumbling kid who was often used as comic relief. However, The Uncanny X-Men #168 marked a turning point in this character’s life.

Professor X decided to “demote” her from the X-Men so she could join the New Mutants and be with kids her own age. However, Kitty proved to Professor X that she was no longer the naive thirteen year-old kid that she had been when she joined the X-Men, but was becoming a young woman that had earned her place among the X-Men. To check this, I flipped back through a dozen or so issues of the X-Men and realized that Claremont had been letting this character grow and become a young adult.

During this run, Marvel launched a spin-off title called The New Mutants featuring a group of young kids who would be the next generation of X-Men. Claremont’s writing never suffered from juggling both The Uncanny X-Men and The New Mutants. This new series marked the X-Men family of books and the beginning of a broader X-Universe. Wolverine’s popularity continues to soar and earned him a four-issue miniseries.

This year also saw the X-Men add to their roster. Rogue, who made her debut in Avengers Annual #10 sought out the X-Men to help her control her mutant ability. She was cursed with the power to absorb a person’s powers, thoughts, and memories with the slightest flesh contact. She was reluctantly allowed to join the X-Men, but quickly earned her place.

The year’s final next story line introduced a young woman named Madelyn Pryor who looks exactly like Jean Grey. Scott (Cyclops) Summers fell in love with her and learned that she’s the sole survivor of a plane crash that occurred on the same day that Jean died. As it turned out, their old foe Mastermind used his illusion generation powers on Madelyn and made her the reincarnation of the Dark Phoenix. Once the dust settles, Scott finally came to terms with his grief for Jean and married Madelyn.

Issue #175 was Paul Smith’s last issue and the first X-Men issue for John Romita Jr who would really make a mark for himself over the next couple of years.


  1. one of my favorite eras of the title and issue #168 has got to be one of my all time favorite issues of any series.

  2. I couldn't believe Paul Smith only drew 11 issues! His run on the series was the only time I read it regularly.

  3. Paul Smith was great but those stories were awful. Characterization is Claremont's weakest suit: endless reiteration of characters telling each other what their powers are, and dialogue interchangeable, everyone uses the same syntax and word choices: check for use of "butcher" and "beastie." also repetitious nonsense where they say the same thing multiple ways. Yeah, it's bad. And Rogue's Southern dialect reads like it was written by a northerner born in the UK. Oh wait, it was.

  4. If memory doesn't fail me, the telling/showing of what their powers were in every issue was a Marvel mandate because every issue could be the 1st one for a new reader.



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