X-POSITION: Bennett Crafts A War-Torn Coming of Age Story in "Years Of Future Past"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. As it’s now December, I will be examining the LAST pages of random comics, so watch out for SPOILERS! Today’s page is from Uncanny X-Man #213, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated January 1987. Enjoy!
Betsy Braddock is one of my favorite comic book characters, and so this issue, where she joins the X-Men, is a particular favorite of mine. The fact that it’s drawn by Alan Davis, who drew her best early adventures, written by her creator, Chris Claremont, and is part of the incredibly intense “Mutant Massacre” story arc helps, too, of course. Another one of my favorites, Rogue, is in this issue, too, and yet another one of my favorites, Dazzler, gets a brief page to herself, setting up the next issue’s story. It’s like it was written just for me!
In this issue, Betsy proves her worth to the X-Men – who are somewhat dismissive of her at the beginning of the issue – by fighting off Sabretooth for a few pages when he invades the mansion looking to kill the survivors of the Massacre and then, when Wolverine starts fighting Sabretooth, Betsy manages to get into the villain’s mind and discover more about the Marauders, who perpetrated the massacre. Betsy is narrating this issue, so the caption box on this page says “We” because she and the X-Men were looking for Sabretooth, who managed to escape. Claremont does his usual plot-forwarding on this page, as the X-Men decide the Morlock refugees might be safer in Scotland – a plot point that comes up about 40 issues later – and then Logan admits that Betsy is tougher than he thought she was. Throughout the issue, Betsy has been thinking about how she can show the others how tough she is, and she finally has, so she definitely wants in with the team. The smudged dialogue reads “Wolverine speaks for us all, Elisabeth,” and so Betsy becomes an X-Man. She probably would have been better off staying in England.
Davis doesn’t do a lot of interesting stuff with the layout of the page, but it’s typical Davis artwork, which means a lot of people smile and characters hold their middle finger and their ring fingers together a lot. What’s up with that, Mr. Davis? In Panel 2, the X-Men are cleaning up Storm’s loft after Sabretooth and Betsy fought there, which is why Ororo is putting the knife back on the wall and Logan is setting the plant on the table. Davis draws the characters so very 1986, with Ororo’s magnificent Mohawk stretching into a tail down her back, Callisto and Rogue’s hair going all frizzy, and Betsy with that terrible helmet-hair that she had for far too long. Logan, weirdly, is smoking a cigarette, not a cigar, but I guess that’s just how he was rolling in 1986, man! Betsy’s costume is terrible, but it would get tweaked almost immediately, and soon enough Betsy would turn Asian and start wearing that other awful leotard that had the advantage of being sexy. It’s okay if it’s ugly as long as it’s sexy!!!! The drawing of Betsy is somehow odd, too – her hips look a bit too big for her torso, and her legs look disproportionately long. Davis always draws women with long legs, but I think the width of the hips is making it more obvious in this case.
The fashion of the time notwithstanding, Davis and Claremont do something crucial on this page – the dialogue and the body language make it clear that these people actually like each other. In a lot of team books these days, it seems like none of the characters even like each other, even Betsy and Logan, who have a very long history together. This is why Claremont was so good – he created characters that acted like they enjoyed being on a team, so when they acted contrary to that, there was a good reason (usually) and the reader wanted to know why. It’s just nice to see a moment like this, where the X-Men actually act like a family. Or maybe I’m just overly sentimental.
Next: After a brilliant beginning and a tragic second act, many people think this comic should have ended. But it kept going, and the final issue makes a lot of the previous issues worth it, and the final page is simply wonderful. It’s one of my favorite comics ever! You can even find a different issue of the series in the archives!
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