70: UXM 265 - 269 (Gambit)

What’s Covered?

UXM 265 - 269, X-Men: Spotlight on Starjammers # 1 - 2


Roster Watch


Synopsis


The first 3 issues focus on baby Storm and Gambit running from Nanny and the Shadow King while doing their best Robin Hood impression. Separately from this, there is a Val Cooper/Mystique side story being told which I'll break out. We then get a fun solo story with the Madripoor Trio (Wolverine, Psylocke, and Jubilee) while Wolverine reflects on a mission from 1941 that includes Captain America and Black Widow. I'll break these two stories up as well to keep the storytelling easier to follow for you all. Finally, #269 shows us Rogue (finally) in the Savage Land. This is by far my favorite issue of this bunch and starts to show us a bit more of what we can expect moving forward. Let's dive into it!



UXM #265 - 267: Baby Storm and Gambit

Writer - Chris Claremont

Penciler's - Bill Jaaska (265), Mike Collins (266), and Jim Lee (267)


You can really see the art take a million steps forward in #267 when Jim Lee takes over. While I think the story is weak, you can't help but stare in awe at his art.

So baby Storm (I'm calling her Baby Storm even though she's really a pre-teen. Baby Storm helps me express my annoyance with this plot) has recently escaped the hospital and the Shadow King's goons. She has her powers, but she is really testing them out for the first time. She has no memories of her time as an X-Man, however she does appear to have memories of her earlier childhood.

Storm overhears some guys talking about a man (obviously Gambit) who is stealing from villains.

This is Jacob Reisz (a government agent), and Dr. Shen (a doctor from the hospital baby Storm was being held at), both of whom are controlled by the Shadow King and on the lookout for Storm.

Dr. Shen asks why the Shadow King is so obsessed with Storm. He says she was "promised to him." Gross! I'm pretty sure their only run in was from when she was a pre-teen thief in Cairo. How the fuck was she promised to him. What a creep.

Baby Storm practicing how to fly.

The Shadow King sends mindless "hounds" after baby Storm. This is really confusing to me. Hounds, especially ones wearing Rachel's costume, are used by Ahab in the future. Why is the Shadow King using the same aesthetic. I really wonder if this was a mistake and they weren't supposed to be drawn this way.

Storm runs into Gambit. He looks dumb here. Too bad Jim Lee wasn't drawing this issue.

In his first issue, we see that energy leaks out of his eyes to the objects that he charges. This will be dropped after this issue. He's also not using his iconic playing cards at this stage.

Ahhhh, there's my Jim Lee art. Now I can breath easier. Dr. Shen (of course sexied up) has a collection of hounds being used to track down Storm. They are still wearing the Rachel outfits, so I guess that wasn't a mistake in the last issue.

Storm has been living in an abandoned airplane. If you haven't noticed yet, Claremont fricken LOVES airplanes. She actually uses her wind power to get the plane off the ground and fly away from Dr. Shen and the Hounds.

Now we're getting to the Gambit visuals I'm used to. He's using his playing cards and this circular art with the cards careening out of his hands will be used for quite some time.

Nanny and Orphan Maker (boring!) hijack the airplane and attempt to take Storm back.

This is where we learn that Nanny created a fake body to leave behind so the rest of the X-Men thought she was dead. This leaves her free to play with Storm without being chased. This really takes me out of the story. Nanny is a "scientist" so she can do anything! Apparently she can just create fake bodies too because...comics.

We also learn that Nanny is the one responsible for de-aging Storm. It makes sense that Nanny typically captures young mutants, so she would want to de-age Storm so that she was less dangerous and fit the age range she likes to play with. BUT, again, this is a stretch. So Nanny is such a "smart scientist" that she can also de-age people. That seems hard to do. I don't know why I'm getting caught up on this. I don't know why I have such hate for this arc, but I do. I'll try to stop being bitter.

Look at that gorgeous display by Gambit. Jim Lee really should have drawn his first appearance. I'm skipping over a long stretch of time (months, maybe) where Baby Storm and Gambit partner together as thieves, raiding crime lords and giving their proceeds to the poor (or something). Regardless, these two become incredibly close during this time. I read a lot of 90's X-Men and I don't recall ever getting the impression that these two were close, so I'm interested to see if this gets dropped or if I just didn't catch it when I was 10 years old (likely).

Nanny once again captures Storm and Gambit. This time Storm puts on armor (similar to Orphan Maker) and fights back.

Storm beats Orphan Maker and Gambit explodes Nanny, sending her spaceship careening into a nearby lake. Storm and Gambit obviously escape, but this is FINALLY the death of these two characters. She won't appear next until 1995, so I think it's safe to say that she will stop showing up and wasted pages in any of the 3 X comics. Phew.


Checkin' in with Mystique and Val Cooper

So the first story here, which actually started way back in #263, focuses on this Russian spy named Colonel Vazhin. I don't fully understand his importance yet, but I get the impression this is going to pay off at some point. Lol either that or it gets dropped and I wasted my time including it.

So to make a long story short, he sees a war coming between mutants and humans. He doesn't appear to be an instigator, but more hoping to align Russia with the USA via Val Cooper (since she runs the mutant concerns for the government). He also officially makes her aware of the Shadow King, which is a story that will touch her soon. Perhaps this is also a lead in to the re-organization of X-Factor into a government run mutant team (replacing Freedom Force).

So I'm actually a bit confused about this. Jacob Reisz and Dr. Shen (who he can't ever keep his hands off) are convincing Val to kill Mystique. I don't understand why she agrees so readily. At first I thought she was really Mystique and this was a way for her to fake her own death, but based on the next few panels this really is her. I'm also wondering if this is supposed to show the Shadow King taking control of her? I'm not sure.

At this point, Destiny is dead and Mystique is still grieving. For those keeping track at home, this is another example of these two being in a relationship being pretty explicit. It's also cool because it puts a thought front and center which I always expected, but never stopped and thought about it. Mystique is obviously really old but can hide it since she's a shapeshifter.

So Val Cooper does come ready to kill Mystique. Again, I'm not sure if she is possessed by the Shadow King or not. It appears as though Destiny saw this coming and warned Mystique. This panel leads us to believe that Val killed her, however we'll soon learn that that Mystique is impersonating her. So I'm not sure what happens here because Val comes back and serves as the handler for the new version of X-Factor. So I'm not sure what the "BLAM" is for since neither actually die here. Lol, I'm obviously really confused here.


UXM # 268: A blast from the past

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencilier - Jim Lee


UXM # 268 in 1941

This comic is split into two parts. It keeps bouncing back and forth between 1941 and present day. In 1941 we give Jim Lee a chance to draw Captain America...amazingly.

Captain America meets Logan (pre-claws) in 1941 as the two of them take on the Hand, working for the Nazi's.

Love this.

More Nazi bashing.

Even more Nazi bashing.

We see a young Natasha Romanov, AKA the Black Widow. She has been brainwashed and is being encouraged to cut off the head of a traitor. Wolverine shows up at the last minute with a sword and saves her from needing to do this.

Once again, Wolverine and Captain America fight some ninjas and Nazi's. What a fun time.

This freed Black Widow from captivity and is the start of a friendship between him and Natalia, which is carried out in present day:


UXM # 268 in Present Day

The Black Widow, Wolverine, Psylocke, and Jubilee are working together to fight the Hand in present day.

Jubilee commenting on Wolverine having a relationship with everyone, and all his old pals happen to be beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, Jim Lee uses the excuse to draw Psylocke and Black Widow sexy as they infiltrate a Hand stronghold. Lol, meanwhile Jubilee is posing as a male pizza boy.

They succeed!


UXM # 269: Rogue is finally back!

Writer - Chris Claremont

Penciler - Jim Lee

Unlike the rest of the team popping out of the Siege Perilous in random locations, Rogue plops out naked in the Australian base months later.

Rogue hears that Mystique is dead and so she jumps out a window calling for the X-Men...

She has been reborn without Carol Danver's powers so she can't fly.

Ut oh, the Reavers have taken over the base and Rogue is captured.

Remember that pilot who was recruited after Banshee and Forge's plane was blown up. She's still being built.

Pierce gives the order to kill Rogue, but she is saved by...Ms. Marvel? Apparently she's back alive now. Not sure how this works with Carol in space with the Starjammers as Binary.

Together they escape, but Carol is going after Rogue.

Rogue steals the powers of Gateway and opens up a portal. Both get sent to the Savage Land for some reason.

An excuse to draw Rogue looking sexy. It looks as though she spent months here surviving on her own.

Carol gets sent to officially evil Moira who is being served by Amanda Sefton (also corrupted) and a captured Polaris. These 3 actually haven't been seen since this scene so I'm not positive what's up with them.

A decaying Ms. Marvel starts beating up Rogue.

It appears that the two of them are sharing the same life force. Only one of them can survive.

A beautifully drawn Magneto shows up and chooses to save Rogue. Ms. Marvel is killed and Rogue lives. She will eventually get her powers back, but we've got a long way to go. I also wonder if this marks the end of Carol's personality living inside of Rogue. We'll have to keep our eye on that.


X-Men: Spotlight on Starjammers # 1 & 2


The Starjammers first appeared in Issue # 107 in 1977. While Dave Cockrum created them, he had actually left the X-Men by the time they were officially introduced. Claremont felt that if they ever got a spotlight on them, it should be by Cockrum, so in 1990 Cockrun got to create this two issue feature on the Starjammers. They weren't exactly the same team he created because Claremont had added Lilandra, Binary (Carol Danvers), and even Charles Xavier to their roster over the years.


This two part series isn't hugely influential on the overall narrative, but it's a pretty good story. Basically the Starjammers split up and search all over the galaxy for a McGuffin that could help Lilandra take back her empire. Eventually the artifact is revealed as being Rachel Summers herself. That's it in a nutshell!


My Connections

Hello, Gambit. I've always liked Gambit. I've never been a leading member of the Gambit fan club, but I consider him part of "My X-Men" so to see his introduction is fun. The problem is that I don't like the story that's going on during his introduction. This makes me think of a comment Louise Simonson once said about X-Factor's Judgment War run :"I have to say that I think I made a mistake. I now think that you shouldn’t have major characters away from Earth for more than three issues max. I think that readers like to have that contact with the familiar."


I think she is really onto something here. Let's talk about Storm for a second. I'm fine with Storm losing her powers. That's a really interesting story arc, but boy did it get dragged out way too long. She lost her powers, and then the comics went for years where she was part of the team without powers. Yes, this established that she is a badass, but it just seemed unnecessary. Now Storm has been de-aged. I actually don't like this story at all, especially after I feel like she just finally got her powers back. Now she has another thing stopping her from being normal? It seems lazy or tired. And this is going on way too long. It could be a cute story for it to happen for a few issues, but then end it and let's move on.


I feel the same with this whole disbanded X-Men theme. I get that Claremont is sick of the typical team dynamic so he's using this as a way to tell more separate stories and to give more attention to characters who are typically more in the background. I get that, but I think Simonson is right that this is ok, but we shouldn't stray too long from the core formula. I love the team dynamic of the X-Men so I'm ok with taking some chances of telling stories in new formats, but you need to head back to home base. .


Creators

I know we are getting close to Jim Lee coming on board and wanting to dip back into classic themes. Lee wanted to bring back the core team (including Xavier and the founding members), go back to the mansion, more focus on classic villains like Sentinels and Magneto, etc. Claremont felt like he had already done that and wanted to do brand new things. A few months ago (or a few years in publishing) I was thinking about how much I loved the Claremont run and that I can't believe Marvel would turn their back on him. However, I actually feel like I'm yearning for some of that normalcy, especially after this 1989/1990 run has been so disjointed. I fricken LOVED Inferno when the two teams were together, but instead of sticking with that momentum, each of the comics went in the opposite direction.


My Rating - 7/10


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