• Review - Uncanny X-Men #139

    Uncanny X-Men #139
    Writer : Chris Claremont
    Art : John Byrne
    Inks : Terry Austin

    ...Something Wicked This Way Comes!

    Story : The story starts with the X-Men going through their paces in the 'Danger Room'. When the session has finished (which hasn't gone to well for the newly returned Angel) Wolverine tells Professor X that he thinks he should return to Canada to try and resolve the ongoing issues he has there.Professor X suggests that he should not go alone and Wolverine agrees, asking Nightcrawler to accompany him. Kitty Pride goes off with Storm to do some dancing, as you do.

    We cut to Laurier Drive and see Heather Hudson unloading her shopping. Through text boxes and thought balloons we learn who she is, who she works for and the fact that she refers to Vindicator/Hudson as Jamie. As she approached the door to her apartment, she realises her door is open. As she enters the apartment, she hears a burp coming from the kitchen.
    Blue furry fella with a tail, snarling feral fella with claws get into her apartment, obviously no neighbourhood watch here. Heather enters the kitchen and see's Wolverine, it's here that we learn one of his names is Logan (or not). Heather informs Wolverine that Hudson is near Hudson Bay on a mission for Department H.

    Smooth transitional panel change to Hudson Bay.
    Vindicator is flying above a cabin in which we have Michael Twoyoungmen and Anne Mackenzie. Vindicator enters and there's some discussion about the creature they are hunting. Shaman states that his magicks suggest that the creature is nearby ( Vindicator probably got the same impression from the body parts and general carnage this creature leaves). At this moment, Shamans mystic intruder alarms warn him that something is approaching. So the team prepare by donning uniform. This is when we see 'Shazam Shaman', he brings his mystical wrist bands together to change. (I'd actually forgotten about these until I reread this issue). Snowbird transforms into a polar bear and goes out the back door, the two X-Men come in the front door and there's some macho posturing between Vindicator and Wolverine. Snowbird/polar bear comes in the front door and Nightcrawler jumps onto Wolverine (classic moment).

    Vindicator then relates the reason for the mission. This involves missing campers, monster attacking tent and a giant plaster cast of a non human foot. Vindicator says that at the moment they are unsure as to the nature of the creature, Wolverine relates the story of his first mission for Department H and how he went after the 'Hulk' and found him fighting the 'Wendigo'. Wolverine offers his and Nightcrawlers help to Vindicator. Wolverine says that they are going to need their gear and Nightcrawler bamfs to the vehicle to get it. He is unaware he is being watched as he reminises about Jean Grey and her demise. Wendigo attacks.

    View : Maybe I'm being an old romatic, but imho, this is how comics should be written. So much packed into so few pages. X-Men danger room session, a little more insight into Kitty Pride (a relatively new character at the time), introduction of Heather Hudson, X-men - Alpha Flight angst, comedy moments and a monster. The location and villian selection sets this tale firmly in Canada, unlike others that only tell you the tale is taking place there. Character interaction seems natural and the people not their heroic alter ego's are more prevelant. Probably one of my favourite Alpha appearences outside their own books.

    Art: John Byrne is probably my favourite Alpha artist, I really cannot think of anyone who has drawn them as good as him. Colours and inks just enhance how good his Alpha is.

    X-Men Characterisation : Wolverine and Nightcrawler are the main characters in this and the way they interact is natural. Probably somewhere there's a Wolverine - Nightcrawler limited series (?), but I would guess that it has nothing like the characterisation we see here.

    Alpha Flight : Hudson is an excellent leader, self assured and confident. The aspect of his character that 'never wanted to be leader', 'didn't want to be a hero' just doesn't equate. he seems so comfortable in that role. We get to see a fair amonut of the Anne Mackenzie personna that future writers seem to ignore. Yeah she is a demi godess, avatar of the Northern Gods etc, but the Anne Mackenzie aspect should really be explored more. Luckily in this issue we get to see a lot of that side of her. Shaman remains some what two dimensional. In this and his two previous appearences we don't get to learn a lot about him apart from the fact he is the chosen of his tribe to be Shaman. Well versed in history and myth, he must have skipped the chapter on the legend of the Wendigo.

    Story 8/10
    Art 9/10
    Alpha Flightedness 8/10
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. Flightpath07's Avatar
      Flightpath07 -
      nice review!
    1. Phil's Avatar
      Phil -
      I've always liked this issue (& #140) because it doesn't seem quite as action packed as #120-121.
      Reading Claremont's classic X-run a lot of my favourite moments were the downtime bits, when there wasn't a massive battle with villain of the month, and the characterisation was allowed to grow.

      The Claremont/Byrne Wolverine & Nightcrawler is probably one of my fondest memories from the run (after AF, naturally) and this issue really works for me. The panel Del highlights is a great example of that. They work together so well.

      The introduction of Heather is great and the family aspect of the team really begins to shine through already.

      I'm pretty sure I'd read Machine Man #18 before reading this, so while Shaman & Snowbird aren't my favourites from the team it was good to see the more mystical elements of the team together in this issue. And a well written Wendigo is always a good, fun tale.

      The start of the Raab/Cassaday X-Men/Alpha Flight series really reminds me of the Kitty aspects of this issue. I always hoped that was intentional.
    1. Le Messor's Avatar
      Le Messor -
      Yeah, I'd forgotten about Shaman's bangles, too! Maybe if he spent more time walking like an Egyptian?

      Didn't Snowbird drop Anne McKenzie after #6?

      As you say, there's never a better AF artist than Byrne.

      Quote Originally Posted by Phil View Post
      Reading Claremont's classic X-run a lot of my favourite moments were the downtime bits, when there wasn't a massive battle with villain of the month, and the characterisation was allowed to grow.
      I think of it as 'come for the action, stay for the character'. I've always loved that they have those moments, and entire issues where there's no battle - though, of course, I wouldn't want the whole thing to be done that way.
      That's kind of coming back in a little lately, btw. Not as well done, but what is?

      - Le Messor
      "I would sooner be notorious than unknown."
    1. DelBubs's Avatar
      DelBubs -
      I just had a quick glance through #6 and there is nothing there that suggests that she was going to drop the Anne Mackenzie personna. She just stopped. I personally think it may give her character more depth if that side of her was used more.
    1. Flightpath07's Avatar
      Flightpath07 -
      Remember when Oeming wanted to do a private persona for Beta Ray Bill in Omega Flight? And due to cutbacks and interference, he had to all but drop it?

      I'm not drawing any parallels (if I were, they'd look like this; = ), this part of the conversation just made me remember that.
    1. DelBubs's Avatar
      DelBubs -
      I think with Snowbird it's more likely the case that after #6 Byrne never found a need to use her Mackenzie personna, it's not like she could go back to being a Mountie, and writers after that just saw her as Snowbird nothing else.
    1. cmdrkoenig67's Avatar
      cmdrkoenig67 -
      ...But remember Anne Mackenzie was also a falsehood, a creation of Mac Hudson, Dept H and Narya...I doubt there was much to her anyway (only enough to satisfy her superiors in the RCMP). Mac thought she needed a civilian identity, so he and Dept H created one for her.

      Good review, Del.

    1. DelBubs's Avatar
      DelBubs -
      Thanks Dana.

      That's probably where my view is coming from. At the time the Alpha characters hadn't had their origins fleshed out. We have Aurora in 120-21 being fun loving and upto her origin issue Snowbird could well have been Anne Mackenzie who just happened to have super powers. To be honest I'd forgotten about the invented personna to hide her true identity, good memory.
    1. Le Messor's Avatar
      Le Messor -
      What I was thinking of was:

      Quote Originally Posted by Snowbird, thinking: View Post
      But Anne McKenzie is fast becoming a liability to...
      (#6, p5.)

      Then her conversation with Doug in #15 reads like a goodbye; both to him and to Anne. (No, not Buffy Anne, Narya Anne. Nar-nar, Narya-Anne... now I'll play the ashtray!)

      By #16, she's returning to Doug with no sign of her being Anne (though he does keep calling her that).

      So, that's my version of logic.

      - Le Messor
      "I would not allow this employee to breed."
      ~ alleged evaluation