Reviews of Old Comics: Uncanny X-Men #152

 

UNCANNY X-MEN #152

December 1981

__hr_CoverThis is one of the first X-Men comics that I can remember buying, although not the first. That honor goes to the issue before this one which sports a classic “Kitty leaving Xavier’s school crying” cover. I remember buying this and taking with me to read while my mom did the laundry at the laundromat. I got other comics as well, including an issue of Adventure Comics, but to save the life of me, I don’t recall anything else.

SYNOPSIS:

Storm is chasing a red sports car driven by the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, Emma Frost, throwing lightning at it, unable to stop it from going off the curvy mountain road. Inside the car, Kitty wakes up and phases out the car door, as Emma tries to grab her, she loses control and goes off the edge of a cliff, crashing and erupting into flames. Storm panics and flies away haphazardly on a gust of wind. Kitty is fine from the crash, and remembers being taken by Storm to Emma Frost’s Massachusetts Academy by Storm until she was kidnapped by a panicked Emma Frost. She sees that Emma was thrown clear of the crash and against her baser instincts, decides to rescue her.

Storm returns to the X-Mansion, to find Sebastian Shaw of the Hellfire Club waiting, and revealing to a new reader that Emma Frost switched bodies with Storm using a “Persona Exchange Gun.” Kitty gets this same information relayed to her by Emma. (NOTE: from here on out,  I will refer to them by their true identities, but just assume that they are in each other’s bodies.)

The X-Men have been captured and their powers neutralized by the Hellfire Club. Emma puts on the front that Storm betrayed the X-Men and joined the Hellfire Club. The Hellfire Club’s goons want to get even with Wolverine for injuring them so badly that they’re now cyborgs. While Professor X pleads with Shaw to stop, Nightcrawler tries to plan around his girlfriend Amanda’s magical powers.

Outside, Storm and Kitty have recruited Storm’s friend Stevie Hunter to sneak them close to the Mansion. When Kitty phases outside of the car, Storm scolds her, further convincing Kitty that Storm is trapped in Emma Frost’s body. As Storm and Kitty sneak off, Stevie is surprised by Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost who want to know why she’s there.

Back in the mansion, Wolverine gets the better of the Hellfire Club goons and charges Harry Leland who exercises his power to increase mass, to increase Wolverine’s mass to the point it apparently kills him. He tells this to the X-Men, while Amanda Sefton silently casts a spell.

Kitty’s scouting has revealed an electronically locked door that needs to be unlocked. Using Emma Frost’s mental powers, Storm creates a rapport between them that lets her guide Kitty through picking the lock. While doing this, Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw sneak up on her but are momentarily distracted by the fact that she’s still alive for Kitty to open the entrance and let Storm escape. Kitty sneaks further into the mansion where she is met by Wolverine who escaped because of Amanda’s spell made him appear dead. Wolverine tells her the plan to defeat the Hellfire Club.

Kitty phases through the X-Men’s shackles, freeing them to use their mutant powers. Nightcrawler neutralizes Harry Leland by teleporting on top of him where Leland’s powers do more harm than good. Wolverine rejoins he X-Men taking out the goons, refusing their pleas for him to kill them, so they can no longer suffer being cyborgs. Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost storm the room, but the X-Men’s teamwork sends Shaw into the nearby lake and Emma’s lack of fine control over Storm’s powers incapacitates him with a stray lightning bolt. Emma panics, and Storm struggles with her to control the storm, but Emma takes their struggle to the sky where Storm reverses the body switch with the same gun that Emma first used. Storm rescues Emma, who attacks, Storm begins to lose control in a blind rage that Wolverine stops, saving Emma Frost’s life. The X-Men cannot turn in the Hellfire Club without revealing themselves, so Emma Frost tells them that they have a truce until Sebastian Shaw  recovers, if he even recovers, but her thoughts plan revenge against the X-Men.

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REVIEW:

Story-wise, this is still Chris Claremont at his strongest. There are no crossovers to coordinate and the story spotlight on Wolverine builds some morality into his character. Storm and Emma Frost are written more as caricatures of the hero and villain archetypes, and only in the end do we see any real depth added to them. Storm is ready to kill Emma Frost, and Emma shows real concern for Sebastian Shaw. The other characters are there to support them, especially Kitty.

One problem I have is with key plot points having to be explained with captions. The ideal of a comic book story is that it’s a balance between words and pictures, but when one doesn’t compliment the other, then it’s a bit of a failure.

Bob McLeod does an admirable job on the artwork, although there are problems with some consistency. Wolverine is 5’3″ but he’s drawn at times here as if he’s 6’1″. It’s a problem a lot of artists have. I also have a problem with Bob McLeod’s rendering of men’s likenesses. At heart, all of his men seem to have the same face, but when you analyze it it seems that he relied on stock, facial features wherever a character’s unique traits had not been firmly established. It doesn’t make him a bad artist, it just doesn’t make him an exceptionally groundbreaking one.

Finally, there’s the cheesecake factor and in the 1980s, Storm being naked was an X-Men cliche that seemed to happen way too often. Pairing that with the White Queen, we get way too many butt, crotch and cleavage shots. I don’t mind cheesecake, just have a reason for it.

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NOTES:

This issue has been collected in numerous collections, including the upcoming Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 2. Also look for it in the Uncanny X-Men Marvel Masterworks Vol. 7 and the Uncanny X-Men Essentials Vol.3. You may also be able to locate a digital collection called 40 years of X-Men. Looking for it in back issue bins can get pricey and I would consider finding a copy for $5.00 a bargain. Do not expect to find a decent copy in bargain boxes, although a reading copy might make it’s way into there among all the 90’s comics cluttering it up.

FINAL RATING: 7 (out of a possible 10)