Every Wednesday we take turns to delve into our trusty longboxes, pluck out a dusty back issue, and give you our thoughts. We’ll also try and place it in the context of the time it was originally published.
Despite over twenty years’ worth of work on various X-titles, Chris Claremont was curiously selective in his use of characters, to the point where it’s possible to anticipate the writer’s arrival by a mysterious disappearance from Professor Xavier. Although Scott Summers featured in much of Claremont’s early work on the franchise, he took a back seat after the conclusion of the Phoenix storyline, with this issue forming one of his occasional returns to the team.
Several issues of seeding, the writer here uses Mastermind to present what’s effectively a sequel to his most acclaimed storyline. Having initially tricked Cyclops into thinking that his fiancé was a resurrected Dark Phoenix, the illusionist has now transferred this identity to Scott himself, pitting the entire team against him. After an opening which (as usual) removes Xavier from the plot, the bulk of the plot concerns Summers’ attempts to expose Wyngarde, taking down the remainder of the X-Men as he goes. With a long-running plot evidently intended to produce this scenario, the writer relishes this moment, focussing entirely on characterisation. With the exception of Rogue (the newly-joined rookie, in contrast to a battle-hardened Shadowcat), the team is well-established, and Claremont appears to be using Summers’ outsider perspective as a method of taking a fresh look at his long-serving cast.
Paul Smith’s pencils play a considerable role in the success of the issue, perfectly capturing the essence of each character in a surprising small number of lines, with consistency of colouring ensuring that John Romita Jr’s wedding scenes don’t jar on first reading.
Yes. Wedding scenes.
In contrast to the more soap-orientated format introduced in the early 1990s, here we have the marriage of a major character not only undertaken with little fanfare, but not even being the primary focus of the issue in which it features. Reading without hindsight, Cyclops’ marriage to Madelyne Prior seems to be the perfect way to remove him from the book, with this issue’s performance a lap of honour. Attention-grabbing cover aside, Uncanny #175 is a curiously gentle piece, from creators absolutely in their element.