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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 363: Uncanny X-Men #213

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!

Who doesn't love Psylocke?

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!

11 Comments

Greg, You have the same blot i do have on the ororo sentence ;)

(that’s one of the first X-men i bought in english, all those years ago … , switching my collection from french to english)

On note about the body language, note Calypso and Magneto are kinda standing to the side, out of the moment. Calypso’s relationship with Storm has been an interesting one for years at this point, but she wasn’t an X-Men, so she’s kinda away from the group. And Magneto, try as he might to fulfill Xavier’s wishes from #200 to take over the school, just never really fit into the role and is left as a bystander to this entire scene. He would keep this charade up for awhile, until that great Savage Land story when he realizes he just can’t be Charles Xavier, and leaves the team in dramatic Claremontian fashion.

I always liked Wolverine’s brown and gold uniform better than his blue and lemon yellow one and that Magneto costume is really only bad in that it’s not his iconic original look, but man, the 80s weren’t kind on the X-Women were they? I think it’s because they tried harder to make them “fashionable” – with the belts on top of belts and everything that isn’t skintight being poofy or dangly – while the men just got recolored or put in different variations on timeless (if not always attractive) generic “superheroey” looks. Although the 90s would end up being a bit rougher on male heroes’ fashions.

(By the way, Jeremy, it’s Callisto, not Calypso. She’s named after the nymph from Greek mythology who’s also a moon of Jupiter, not the nymph from Greek mythology who’s also a style of music.)

Alan Davis rules

Loved this issue. It was also one of my first comics – I think my very first was Uncanny X-Men #210. I agree that the art and story made the characters and relationships very clear. Even though it was one of my first issues of the title, I felt like I understood everything and how it all worked. The last panel, as Jeremy points out, underlines the outsider/insider status of Callisto and Magneto. The body language of the characters throughout the page means something too.

Claremont and Davis gave us a lot of information on this page and I like that. These days, too often the final page is a splash page cliffhanger or three or four panels of cliffhanger or wrap-up and it always feels very abrupt. But that’s a natural result of writing for the trade.

Jeremy: Excellent point about the body language. Thanks for mentioning it!

God , I love this era. I sort of count the Mutant Massacre as the beginning of the Outback Era (I’m not sure that’s how most fans see it though), and this, to me, is a great kick-off for it. That third to last panel is pure Davis awesomeness. To build off your question Greg, I also can’t imagine why anyone would not love Psylocke. She’s had some particularly weird moments (some might say she’s got more of those moments than most characters), but they’ve only added to her character. Except the Crimson Dawn; I wouldn’t say it was bad, just really, really weird, even for her.

And this was where I had basically lost interest in the series but was still collecting it for a few more issues–I know I finally gave up on all the X-bookewduring the dead-in-Australia arc. It’s always strange to me to be reminded that I had actually been introduced to Psylocke in X-Men before I stopped reading, because I don’t remember her at all. And by the time I started reading X-books again a few years ago she’d been dead for a while, so I’ve basically never seen her do anything; since she came back she’s just been another body in Scott’s army in huge battle scenes.

Whoops! That should be “X-books during” rather than “X-bookewduring,” of course.

Too Late Comment – Fantastic issue :Alan Davis at his best, the *real* Betsy Braddock before her transformation into thonged-up faux asian Ninja (fuckin’ ninjas – the eighties and Michael Dudikoff [sp.?] have a lot to answer for, as does Frank “The Tank” Miller!) Psylocke, the best Logan (none of that James Hewlett crap here, bwoy!) versus Sabretooth fight bar none, and a turning point for Uncanny (plus it was a staging post on the way to your beloved Australian era). All good stuff.

I also look at this as the Beginning of the Outback Era. The team was VERY mobile during this time, jumping from place to place, not just in and around New York state.

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