Tuesday, May 24, 2011

X-men Marathon: Uncanny X-men #297

Today I'm going to talk about the first X-men comic that I ever read. It may not be exactly what you are expecting, but it is largely related to what I love about the X-men. Uncanny X-men #297 was the epilogue to the crossover "X-Cutioner's Song." Not the most loved or notable of crossovers, it was the one in which the Cable/Stryfe relationship was explained. As someone who has never particularly cared for Cable, I can't say I care for it too much either. About the only thing worth mentioning is that at the very end of the crossover, the legacy virus is released into the world. I'll talk more about that in tomorrow's post.

It was really just luck of the draw that I stumbled upon this issue. My brother and I looked for X-men comics while at the grocery store, and this was the one available. I'm extremely glad we did.

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The cover is extremely misleading, but I like it.

There are three stories going on in this issue. Beast and Archangel rebuild Harry's Hideaway, a bar where the original X-men would frequently hang out and was destroyed in the middle of the crossover. Professor X has temporarily regained the use of his legs, and Jubilee decides he needs to maximize that time by learning how to roller blade. Rogue has been blinded during the battle, but Gambit volunteers to take care of her, showing that his flirtatious nature is just a mask for his true feelings for her.

So essentially we've got two old friends working and reminiscing, a teenager and her mentor having a bonding moment, and the beginnings of a romantic relationship. No fighting or real conflict to be found, just one hundred percent true character development. The writer of this issue, Scott Lobdell, really excelled at these kinds of moments.

Of course, my absolute favorite of the three is the exchange between Rogue and Gambit.

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Imagine you're an 11 year old girl who a single boy hasn't so much as even noticed yet, and tell me that you wouldn't immediately fall in love with this character.

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I have nearly this whole exchange memorized. I'm pretty sure I used to pull out this comic and read it over and over again, the way some girls read romance novels. I just love it.

It's tempting to scan the whole thing to show you, but I don't want to get into trouble. Suffice to say that Rogue pours her heart out to Gambit, expressing her frustration that all she really wants is someone to hold her and tell her everything is going to be okay, but that's never going to happen. She also says that, "more than anything," she wants that someone to be him. He leaves her alone for a bit but then:

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And my heart is melted.

The exchange between Beast and Archangel is a lot of fun, though it probably didn't mean as much to me when I was a kid. Beast is bothered by the phrase "good as new" which leads to them talking about feeling old, which is something I can definitely appreciate a lot more now. They also discuss the way both of them has changed since the days of the original team - Hank now being blue and furry and Warren now blue skinned with metal wings. There's also a really fun comedic moment as they reminisce:

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Stuff like this is why I love Beast.

I really like the Jubilee and Professor X interaction, and I think it works so well because the two of them really are polar opposites.

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While the coloring in this issue is a little weird, I do enjoy the art by Brandon Peterson.

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I think the bottom panel here is my absolute favorite of the whole issue. Click to see it bigger if you need to.

Those of you who first learned about the X-men from movies may be hearing the Professor's words above in Patrick Stewart's voice, and that's okay. Because most of us were already casting him as such long before the movies were made, and not just because they are both bald.

While this scene is originally played for humor, it takes a turn into heartfelt and ends beautifully.
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This sequence is a large part of why I love comics as a medium. While you could easily tell this story as prose, animation, film, or just about anything else, it is the sequence of images as the professor struggles that hit home in a way that I think watching a man actually wobble on his legs in full motion would not. The narration boxes drive the point across of the emotional weight of what is happening, but the lack of dialogue allows us to focus more clearly on the images.

I could see that someone could think of this as possibly being a little too sentimental or too boring if they were hoping for some action to happen in a superhero comic. But for me it is just perfect and will probably remain one of my favorites forever.

Tomorrow's post will feature another comic that is not your usual superhero story.

6 comments:

  1. Oh man, that's a wild coincidence. This is also one of the first comics I ever bought for myself. And you're on the money - the scene between Rogue and Gambit is what sold me on the couple. It's a great stand-alone, which I think is something comics need a lot more of these days. Honestly, I'm getting a little tired of event after event after event.

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  2. Doing these reviews has made me miss reading comics in the worst way. So many great stories and characters.

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  3. +JMJ+

    The very first X-men comic I read? I don't remember the line, but I'm fairly sure it was #27--the one in which Rogue and Gambit go on a date. (Yeah, I read that one over and over too, as if it were a Romance novel! LOL!)

    I had some Uncanny X-men comics, too, but since they were in the 100s when I finally discovered them, I didn't feel very encouraged about starting them.

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  4. I noticed #27 when I was pulling out these various comics for reviews, and made a mental note to re-read that one. The cover alone brought back a lot of memories. :)

    That's interesting. Looking back my memory tells me that trying to read only one of the two concurrent X-men series would be missing a lot of information - but then this was also the time that the X-men were split into gold and blue teams, so maybe they were more separate than I remember. If I get around to doing the full re-read I would like to of my comics, I may have to try to read Uncanny and "regular" separately to see how well they stand alone.

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  5. +JMJ+

    Well, I started collecting only one series, but I also borrowed a lot of other comics from different series from a friend whose brother seemed determined to buy every single issue of every single X-men series, including spin-offs. (I still miss that old grade school friend . . .)

    Of course, I can't say I got all the information I ever needed, and I'm sure my completely self-centred mindset was, "Regular should stand alone . . . but Uncanny makes good 'reruns'!" (Sigh!)--but I hope I got some decent bases covered, nonetheless.

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  6. You may be right. I feel like they used to run the same story through both series, basically trying to force you into collecting both. But that may differ depending on what time period you're looking at. I'm going to have to go back and see.

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