Was she right, though, Stevie? Honestly, I have to say that the shock value alone of what Kitty said kinda makes the entire rest of this story somewhat… secondary. And I’ll say it’s really… brave? bold? audacious? of Chris Claremont to have a Black character react this way, when he himself is a White man. I dunno. Your mileage may vary, but I’m still on the fence about the whole thing these years later.
But the story continues on. Good ol’ George and… let’s call him ‘Sam’. I don’t believe the story ever really addresses how these guys got on to the X-Men in the first place. And as paranoid about discovery as they were at this time, you’d think our favorite mutants would have noticed they were under surveillance the whole time, right?
Ah, Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters. As someone who’s tried to draw it himself, I’m always happy to see it rendered with such atmosphere.
Okay. First, I’m not crazy about Anderson’s art. It’s clear that once Neal Adams had left the project, they tried to find another artist who worked in a similarly realistically-proportioned style. But Brent Anderson’s lines just seem kind of haphazard to me.
Regardless, this is somewhat uninteresting banter until we get to Wolverine’s final line of the panel, ‘That all there is to it?’. This is pure Claremont. Wolverine’s probing with that question, and a conversation about manners and morality is sure to ensue, even though we don’t get to it in this installment. That’s what I loved about Claremont’s writing. He was always injecting some kind of value-driven meaning that went farther than the usual superhero good-and-evil starkness.
Claremont, perhaps more than any other comics writer, approached the subject of mutants with some sense of the complexity of the issues, trading, as they did, on the similar race relations controversies America underwent at the time. He made it clear what side we were supposed to be on, but he also gave some weight to the arguments of the other side, which I always appreciated.
Even the term ‘homo superior’ is loaded… perhaps more than Stan Lee originally meant it to be, but Claremont uses it to great effect. Also, you really don’t see ‘non-player characters’ get as much dialogue as Claremont tends to give them.
Feeling uneasy about things, the team suits up for a nice relaxing session in the Danger Room, a training area designed to test their powers and their ability to operate as a team. Just a few observations about the individual panels:
It’s a little of-the-time for some very light sexual objectification of Kitty in that first panel. But also notice her poster on the right: it’s a saber-toothed tiger named Zabu, who Marvel Comics readers will recognize as being the sidekick of Ka-zar of the Savage Land. It’s a funny little nod to the X-Men’s adventures there and honestly, I never noticed it before working on this installment of UNEARTHED.
Nightcrawler’s in what I presume is his room, which seems to be full of gymnastics equipment. Which means that Xavier would have to have spent some cash just to give Kurt the apartment of his dreams, which is weird.
Meanwhile, Cyclops and Storm are watching Xavier presumably losing his debate. This woman bumps into them for no reason. She’s not trying to plant something on them, and she certainly doesn’t want them to suspect anything. So why does she do it? Claremont could just as easily have had her give her readiness report to Stryker from the shadows. Weird. Again.
This is the kind of stuff in the X-Men that I miss, and which is largely missing from them these days. I feel like the idea of a superhero team training has mostly gone by. But I always loved this stuff.
This is a big part of why I love Danger Room sessions: you get characters thinking about how to use their powers tactically. I know a lot of people deride the comics trope of “I’m saying aloud what you can already see I’m doing!” method of writing, but nobody did it like Claremont. Also, I love Wolverine sticking his tongue out as he concentrates.
And here’s something else that’s cool: Claremont would frequently show his characters dealing with failure. His heroes weren’t perfect. They made mistakes and misjudgments and it made them much more interesting than, let’s say, Batman or Superman.
And Claremont also knew it’s important to strike a balance between narrative and action. This Danger Room session means nothing to the plot, but it’s just cool to have.
This is the kind of superhero writing people make fun of. Realistically, someone wouldn’t think to themself “I’ll use my hand to open that door!”. But at the same time, Claremont knew that every issue of the X-Men was potentially someone’s first, so having characters state how their powers work just makes good sense. Also, you get to see how Scott reacts to a situation; he’s a tactical thinker.