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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 121: Uncanny X-Men #467

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This quasi-week: Chris Claremont. Today’s page is from Uncanny X-Men #467, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 2006. Enjoy!

Hard core!

Claremont returned to Uncanny X-Men in the 440s after a hiatus of some years, and he even reteamed with Alan Davis for a good deal of it. I didn’t read those issues, and it appears that it’s been largely forgotten, but I did get issue #467, mainly because Claremont goes for a clever storytelling technique – he attempts to tell a story that lasts only 24 seconds. It doesn’t really work – Claremont can’t help himself in regard to writing TONS of dialogue – but it’s a damned fine issue, even if it’s a bit bloody. Claremont explains who the Shi’ar are – a “galaxy-spanning extreterrestrial empire” who really don’t like the Phoenix. The narrator, Rachel, explains that Jean Grey became the Phoenix (sort of), and even though Jean is dead, Rachel is (duh) still alive. We still don’t know what’s going on in the final three panels, but at least we have a background about Rachel and, as it turns out, the bad guys. Then Claremont dives into the dialogue, and from it, we can deduce the speaker is either an alien (given that Claremont name-checks the Shi’ar) or a robot. They are looking for the “prime target,” but can’t, so someone (-thing?) else says to “take the secondary.” Down goes some dude!

Chris Bachalo draws this issue, and as I am a fan of Chris Bachalo, I like the art on this issue. However, he’s inked on this by nine (9) people, which means he was probably rushing it a bit. We can see his strengths and some of his weaknesses on this page. The first panel, obviously, doesn’t have much, but Bachalo presumably draws the banner (Joe Caramagna letters this book, but this is not really lettering, it’s part of the art). The strange symbol on the bottom left that looks vaguely like a phoenix is explained (sort of) at the end of the issue, in case you’re interested. Bachalo gives us a somewhat large panel for #2, with the target in the background and the giant gun on the right side leading our eye toward the dialogue. Something called Studio F did the colors, and it’s a bit murky in this panel, and Bachalo’s penchant for drawing giant snowflakes doesn’t help (what is it with him and giant snowflakes?). The third panel is a gathering of people shown through a scope, and presumably those are supposed to be heat signatures, given the coloring. Obviously, the target is the one who explodes in the fourth panel, but here’s where it gets confusing: the heat signatures don’t show whether the targets are inside or outside, and in the fourth panel, it’s clear the victim is outside. Is he talking to anyone? In the third panel, it appears he’s interacting with other people, but in the fourth panel, he appears alone (although the focus is so tight it’s not clear). It’s a dramatic page, leading to the blast that tears the dude apart and makes us want to turn the page, which gives us a double-page splash of the antagonists. However, the storytelling is a bit wonky, especially because after the double-page splash, the people at the gathering don’t seem to have noticed anything is going on. While the page does ratchet up the tension, it does leave us with some questions about what’s going on. In this case, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

So that’s the end of our examination of Claremont’s first pages, and the end of this themed month. I appreciate everyone voting for these four writers, and I hope it was interesting looking at the way they write pages and give their artists things to do. Tomorrow, we’re back to random comics! I already know what the theme is for next month, and it’s not something I need votes for. Sorry! And be sure to check out the archives, in case you’re interested in those sorts of things.

9 Comments

Eh, it’s just like a whole season of 24 could never happen in 24 hours. But dammit, Kiefer tried his hardest to made us believe.

Chris Bachalo draws this issue, and as I am a fan of Chris Bachalo, I like the art on this issue.

I used to be a fan of Chris Bachalo, back when he was working for DC / Vertigo. But in the last decade, his storytelling has become more and more murky, and often times it is very difficult to discern what is taking place on the page. That was certainly my opinion of his work on X-Men. Sorry, Greg. Glad you enjoyed it, at least. But for myself, going from the crystal-clear sequential art of Alan Davis to Bachalo was a very jarring transition.

Too bad you didn’t do any Sovereign Seven pages. That was an interesting series, to say the least. Lots of Claremont-ish tropes and purple prose, but if you could get past that, it was enjoyable. At least, I found it fun. Your mileage may vary.

Well, at least it wasn’t Claremont’s JLA. I didn’t like any of his DC work, but man, that was beyond terrible.

Ben: Fair enough. I agree that Bachalo’s storytelling has gotten worse, and it’s too bad. But I still like his work, and I think, weirdly enough, that when he has more inkers (and therefore is under more deadline pressure?), he tends to be clearer. It doesn’t always work that way, but it correlates more often than not. I do agree with you that early Bachalo tends to be better, unfortunately.

I own only one issue of Sovereign Seven (the first one), and it has a lousy first page. I wanted to use that series, but I wasn’t impressed with the first issue back in the day, so I never bought another one. Oh well …

buttler: So I’ve heard. I wisely stayed away from it!

It’s funny but if you did not mention Claremont’s name I would had assumed this was some other writer because of the economic use of words in this issue.

I’ve actually been buying up a lot of X-title back issues from the late 90s lately, as I’ve found the 3ish years between Operation:Zero Tolerance and Morrison’s start was a quite good and underrated era. There were a lot of good creative teams who were reasonably well left alone without much in the way of major crossovers to worry about besides the gigantic Apocalypse: The Twelve (even if those creative teams did tend to switch around a bit and leave story tangents unfinished).

Anyways, the reason I bring this up is because I just read Wolverine 125-128, which I believe was Claremont’s first mutant story since leaving the books in 1991. I really thought the story was pretty good. Even though it sort of shifted gears in the middle and had inconsistent art in the latter half, it still felt like the Claremont of old, and he seemed to be having fun with it.

And even though I haven’t read it in probably 15 years, I remember thinking that Wildcats 10-13 were amazing back in the day.

I’ve been interested in checking out Claremont’s FF run from the late 90s, as my LCS has most of the run available for cheap. What do people think of it? And in general, what post-1991 Claremont stuff do people recommend?

A series on artists who were BETTER when they were new-er to the business would be interesting. A while ago I was reading some random early Birds of Prey back issues and really digging the art. So I checked the artist on the cover and almost fell out my chair when I saw it was Greg Land.

A wide variety of expressive faces and body types combined with natural expressions and strong motion are NOT the things I associate with Greg Land. But his earlier stuff is exceptional.

I love 90s stuff. I love Chris Bachalo. But I read Wolverine in the x-Men #8 the other day and was bewildered by it. It’s not a Steampunk level of confusion, but it was harder to get through than other comics.

This is the issue where aliens kill the Grey family, if I’m not mistaken.

Lex: Indeed it is. It’s quite the bloodbath!

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