Unbagging Uncanny X-Men #205
Uncanny X-Men, Vol. 1
Release: May 1986
Cover: May 1986
Katie Power is in Japan, and she meets Wolverine in a nearly mindless state. She helps him buy time to recover himself before Lady Deathstrike and her team of assassins can catch up.
|Plotter||Chris Claremont | Barry Windsor-Smith|
|Cover Artist||Barry Windsor-Smith|
|Editor in Chief||Jim Shooter|
As a comic reader who primarily favored DC over Marvel, I was a bit late to the party when it came to the X-Men. I mean, obviously, I was going to be late no matter what, given that I wasn’t around at the start and was only 3 at the time of the new start, but beyond that, I started picking it up a while after the hype of The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past.
Not to denigrate the comics of the era in which I did finally start reading the adventures of Marvel’s Merry Mutants, as I jumped in at a point when a lot of big things were happening.
I had picked up a few comics featuring some of the X-Men here and there, such as a back-to-back issue of Marvel Team-Up, which featured Spider-Man joining forces with first with Wolverine and then with Professor X.
I actually got into a bit of a discussion of my early history with the X-Men in a post back in 2021, so if you’re interested, you can check it out via the link below.
Related: Nostalgic X-amination
And that’s really all there is to it. Some comics made me think about the process by which I started reading a particular series and I thought it might be fun to write those thoughts down. I’m not getting into the stories contained in the comics I bought, or really even examining – or X-amining, despite the post’s title – the nature and power of nostalgia. Just talking about stuff that happened a long time ago, Grandpa Simpson style. (I did not at any point back then have an onion tied to my belt.)
But to get to the point of this post, as of issue number 163, I started picking up Uncanny X-Men on as regular a basis as I could, all the way up through number 197.
Why did I stop there? I didn’t. At least, I didn’t stop on purpose. For whatever reason, my erratic and unpredictable access to comics became even more erractic and unpredictable when it came to Uncanny X-Men, as I went for months without being able to find an issue of it anywhere. (I was still able to find New Mutants, however.)
Then one day my parents randomly picked me up early from school and we went to town. I’m not sure why, though I would assume it had something to do with my grandmother, who would have been pretty close to the end of her life at that time. But whatever the case, the change of timing may have made a difference, and I was able to finally find an issue – this issue – of Uncanny X-Men at the grocery store.
While I hated having to go such an extended period of time without any X-Men in my life – especially given that I learned, via other comics – that I was missing out on some big developments, If I had to do without for months before finally getting a new issue, this was very much the new issue to get.
Because man, what an issue.
It was a Wolverine-focused story back when that was just starting to become a common occurrence but well before Wolvie reached the saturation point. It had special guest appearances in the form of Spiral, most recently seen by me at the time in Longshot (a mini-series written by X-Editor Ann Nocenti), and Katie Power of Power Pack (who, despite what it says in the description pulled from CLZ, was not in Japan), and it had Wolverine’s past coming back to haunt him.
Because the past has a tendency to do that, especially when it’s a past like Wolverine’s.
Oh, and did I mention the amazing artwork of Barry Windsor-Smith? Because look:
The story itself is a simple one: a woman named Yurika Oyama has sacrificed her humanity in her quest for revenge against Wolverine, having visited Spiral’s “Body Shop” to become a living weapon. She’s teamed up with three men who, like her, are cybernetically-enhanced and have an intense hatred for the man called Logan. (The reason the three men are cybernetically-enhanced is also the reason they hate Wolverine; during The Dark Phoenix Saga – which I had read by this time – Wolverine had ripped them to shreds.)
After the setup, we cut to a very snowy Manhattan where young Katie Power and the rest of her class are out engaging in some caroling. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a commotion, and Katie gets separated from her teacher. Fortunately, despite her youth, Katie is a bona fide superhero, and the cause of the commotion is someone she knows.
Unfortunately, Wolverine doesn’t seem to know her, or even himself, as he’s being pursued through the city streets by Yuriko – AKA Lady Deathstrike – and her cyborg compatriots, and the savagery of their assault on him has left him nearly mindless, his pain and rage making him little more than an animal.
Poor Katie can’t help but be frightened. And angry; he’s kept her from being able to join in with the caroling, after all. However, like a true hero – who isn’t a baby – she overcomes her fear and anger and does what she can to try to help her friend.
However, they don’t seem to be able to escape Wolverine’s pursuers or get to anyone who can provide help, but they do get a brief respite, and it seems to be enough for Wolverine to regain a bit of himself.
Once he’s more fully himself – at least enough to start speaking English rather than Japanese – he has Katie go into hiding so that he can go about doing what he does best, which, as is often noted, is not very nice. Certainly not the sort of thing a five-year-old girl needs to see.
Having had a chance to get some distance from his pursuers, he circles back and makes short work of the three men, before finally facing off against Lady Deathstrike herself.
It doesn’t go the way she hoped it would, though with the BWS art, it is a sight to behold.
Despite his anger at his opponent, and her own pleas for him to end her twisted new life, Wolverine walks away without killing Lady Deathstrike.
After all, he has more important matters to attend to.
While there is a fair amount of depth, particularly in the exploration of Logan’s past and his animalistic nature, which is made even more interesting by having Katie serve as our POV character, it’s not a particularly complex story.
It is, however, action-packed, and beautiful to look at, and, again, it has a special place in my nostalgia center given how significant finding any issue of this series was at the time, let alone one as wild as this.
A couple of years later, Barrry Windsor-Smith would bring this same wildness to a story called “Weapon X,” which appeared in the anthology series Marvel Comics Presents.
I didn’t pick it up at the time, as MCP came out every two weeks, and as noted, I had a hard enough time picking up most monthly books on a regular basis. (I did, however, recently acquire a collection that reprints the story, as can be seen here)
The fact that this issue focused on Wolverine made it significant as well, as I was in the middle of a period of being really into the character. In time, my interest would fade, particularly as he started becoming ubiquitous and less mysterious, though I do still have a fondness for him. Particularly in stories like this one.
Lady Deathstrike and her creeps, as Katie put it, would pop up again over the years, as would Spiral and her “Body Shop.”
In fact, a version of Lady Deathstrike, played by Kelly Hu, appeared in X2.
Obviously, I enjoyed the art in this issue, but it’s also a well-written story, which is no surprise, given that Claremont is a master of the craft and was very much in his prime. What I found especially interesting about it is that it reveals so much about Wolverine and does so more through what we see than what he says, but ultimately reveals nothing at all, leaving him as much of an enigma as he was throughout most of this period in X-history.
That said, I do have some complaints, particularly in terms of the dialogue. Wolverine may not say much -at least, prior to the end of the story – but there is honestly a lot of dialogue in this issue, with the bulk of it being some narration from Lady Deathstrike and Katie’s ongoing inner monologue.
The latter is the part that is most troubling, as Claremont’s attempts at capturing the thoughts of a five-year-old girl are…well, I can’t say that they’re inaccurate, because how would I know, but they seem to be based entirely on a stereotype, with the notion that not being perceived as being a baby is the most important thing in the world.
In fairness, that was often how Katie was characterized by her creator, but here it stands out because it’s coupled with Claremont’s idiosyncratic dialogue. No one anywhere – in the real world or in other comics – talks the way characters written by Chris Claremont do.
Look at that last page, and imagine a five-year-old – or anyone, really – saying, “An’ so, Mr. Logan, will you.”
Consider also: “I’m a hard man–given to hard ways–when I fight, it’s to win.”
That’s…that’s weird thing to say to a kid, Logan. It’s not really in the neighborhood of, “Do you like movies about gladiators?” but it is damned odd.
There are also copious amounts of expository dialogue, which is both a strength and a weakness of comics of this era, whether they were written by Claremont or not.
The strength of it is obvious: someone who was as unfamiliar with the X-Men as I had been a few years prior to this issue could have picked it up and quickly gotten the gist of what’s going on, getting some understanding of who Wolverine is and how his powers work, with the same being true for Katie. You might not even know that the Power Pack exists, but thanks to the – rather clunky – explanations provided, you’d know that it’s a team that consists of Katie and her siblings, and you’d know that she uses the code name Energizer, and that she has the power to disintegrate objects, absorb their energy, and then discharge that energy as destructive energy blasts.
The weakness is equally obvious, in that oh my god I already know all of this!
Still, while it was often annoying for veteran readers – and nowhere moreso than in Claremont’s books, because damn – it is something that I wish could find its way back into modern books to some extent. Not in such a heavy-handed way, but in a way that makes any given issue a bit more friendly to new readers and eliminates the need for creating “jumping on points.”
Of course, that sort of new reader friendliness was very much a product, born out of necessity, of the times when comics were a bit more ubiquitous – unless they were Uncanny X-Men numbers 198-204, anyway – and any given issue could easily become someone’s first issue as the result of an impulse buy at the local drugstore or 7-11.
I don’t know, I guess the point is I’m old.
The other point is that this was a great issue with a great story and great art from a great – if sometimes irritating – era, and it’s one that remains significant in my nostalgic reflections. I should note, too, that after I found this issue, the Uncanny X-Men drought came to an end, and from this point on and for the next several years it showed up in all of the old familiar places just as often as it used to, which is another aspect that makes it significant to me.
And given that I recently saw the cover pop up on Comics Twitter, I thought it was worth giving this significant comic an Unbagging.
Hopefully, you agree.
After all, I don’t want to have to make a deal with Spiral so that I can gain the power to hunt you down to seek revenge.
Born and raised in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jon Maki developed an enduring love for comics at an early age.
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