Wednesday, June 13, 2007

THE UNCANNY X-MEN #268 Marvel Comics, 1990

This issue of Uncanny X-Men is probably memorable to a lot of comic readers my age for a few things: the Jim Lee art, the decades-spanning storyline stuffed with ninjas, guest stars Black Widow and Captain America, and the fact that this issue broke the title out of a long creative rut.

It was the first halfway decent X-Men comic we had seen in like, a year, and it proved that given the right elements (Wolverine/ninja/Jim Lee/babes) the X-Men could actually be… cool.

I say “cool” in a superficial sense, because the addition of superstar artist Jim Lee to the mutant books really just added a fresh sheen of glamour and style to the tired old X-Men template. Longtime writer Chris Claremont learned to cater to Jim Lee’s strength and over the course of their collaboration on the X-Men books, Lee got to draw Rogue in a jungle bikini, Nick Fury, helicarriers and super-submarines, dinosaurs, chic new villains, and just a lot of people striking tough poses while festooned with gear and ammo and pouches and knives and shit. Lee made the X-Men books a sexy high-tech militaristic fashion show and brought a certain action figure sensibility to the comic that endures to this day. The X-Men were hot again. The word that perfectly describes the Jim Lee Era on X-Men and all its early-Nineties goodness is “radical,” and I mean that in the colloquial sense, as in “tubular” or “wicked @wesome.”

So here’s the story: during one of the most meandering and unfocused periods of X-Men history, the team had been broken up and Uncanny X-Men followed all the different X-Men and minor characters doing their own things all over the world – for like, a year and a half. This particular issue features Wolverine, Psylocke, and (shudder) Jubilee with guest star The Black Widow in a ninja-packed adventure in the modern-day Orient while flashing back to an equally ninja-infested adventure in 1941 with young Captain America and young Logan (Wolverine). That’s all you need to know.

The three X-Men save The Black Widow from an army of ninja from Marvel's preeminent ninja sect, The Hand. They color The Black Widow's suit with zipatone for the entire issue, and it's a great effect. Plus, I'm a fan of the Widow's short-hair big-collar grey-suit look.

Man, there are a lot of ninjas in this book. You have to understand, back in 1990, we weren’t sick of ninjas yet, not by a long shot. Don't judge us, we were young.

So the story alternates every few pages between the Widow storyline and the 1941 storyline, when Captain America and Wolverine meet for the first time. I have to say, from a pure fanboy perspective, Jim Lee draws a fantastic Captain America.

Check that out over there, plunging into a bunch of ninja blades like a star-spangled bird of prey! CAAAW!!! He looks bad-ass, you have to admit.

Claremont's writing style is so distinctive that you never forget you're reading an X-Men book, even with the new paint job. Here's a typically wordy panel where Jubilee spies on Wolverine and Black Widow having sex:

I'm just joking, kids. They weren't having sex. Wolverine doesn't have a penis.

This story may not have sex, but it's got lots of foxy superheroines and lots of violence and lots of Claremontisms:


Is Wolverine shooting somebody with heat vision in that panel? That would be so cool.

So let's see - Jim Lee art, ninjas, zipatone costumes, Claremontian dialogue, Captain America... It was 1990. How could I not love this comic?

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dave, why do you tease us so?

Don't tell me you're really going to post those panels and leave it to us to mock Jubilee, Wolverine's red eyes or that guy's mustache?

Tony-O said...

I have to agree that this set the X-Men on an exciting road, but Silvestri will always be the guy I remember most. I came into comics in '86 and ever since, he's been my X-Men artist.

Although, I have seen a friend of mine through a dinner roll at Jim Lee's head (long story).

Tony-O said...

Actually.....make that "throw". Thanks!

Allen said...

Man, I hadn't looked at that issue for a long while... that there's good stuff. And it's especially easy to see in Lee's relatively early stuff how much of an influence Art Adams was on him.

spacekicker said...

"like a star-spangled bird of prey! CAAAW!!!"

That had me laughing pretty hard lol

The Mutt said...

"I'm the best there is at what I do, and what I do is not have a penis. Damn you, Castle!"
~Wolverine

Doola! said...

Yeah, the Jim Lee art was nice and it was a fun story, but it still took another year after this for the X-Men to come within shouting distance of coherence. Of course, it didn't last long and it was the last known time that the X-Men were even on the same planet as coherence, in comics form anyway.

Will said...

My favourite bit about all this? When the four of them go undercover on Matsuo's yacht (I'm fairly certain there's an extra apostrophe in Matsuo, but I'm not even going to try). Psylocke and the Black Widow dress up in fancy dresses and strut on. Jubilee dresses up as a delivery boy. And not for the first time.

Matt Chaput said...

(sniff) I was sick of ninjas in, like, '85.

yerfatma said...

Still love this issue, but they lost a lot of my goodwill when the next issue (or the one after that) had a Jim Lee cover but some crap artist inside.

Andres said...

i love this comic and this whole run, I've had them custom hardcover'ed.
great comics.

Baal said...

What I recall of this issue is that it then made it necessary to explain how Black Widow could look in her twenties and yet be a child during WW2. Not a fond memory...

ghostman said...

Good god, did Jubilee suck donkey balls. And only the donkey was happy about it.

Anonymous said...

How can you NOT mention the most radical action scene in the entire comic? A carload of Nazis tries to run Logan down, and he JUMPKICKS THROUGH the windshield and knocks them all out.

This comic was so well-remembered that the X-Men animated series did a version of this story.

Songino said...

Two things:

1) Please don't ever plant in my head the mental image of Wolverine having sex. Uggh.

2) If you insist on ignoring point number 1, at least don't have the girl be Black Widow. She doesn't have NEARLY enough syphilis to be Wolvy's kind of girl.

West said...

It was an awesome issue.

Swinebread said...

This came out right before I quit the X-men for good

Jack Potts said...

Don't forget that that shot of Captain America jumping off the crates has become one of the most iconic, and most frequently homaged (is that a word?) images of the late Captain.

It seems like everyone from Ron Garney to John Cassady to Steve McNiven has done their take on it.

Anonymous said...

Best moment in the issue: Wolverine spilling beer on Nazis, later toasting them with "L'chaim!" Snarky Logan FTW.
-JG

Jason said...

I recently grabbed the 40 Years of the X-Men CDROM and it's fascinating to see how the addition of some artists just shifts the book into a different gear.

Neal Adams, John Byrne, Paul Smith, Jim Lee all had a definite impact on the book.

And this issue is one of my favorites, mostly for its Cap appearance.

I think the zip-a-tone effect on the Widow was trying to replicate the Miller-era Daredevil, which is appropriate, given all the ninja.

Stephanie said...

Wow. I actually owned that comic. I may still own it. Along with way too many Todd McFarlane Spider-Mans and the first ten issues of the Howard Mackie Ghost Rider.

ohgodthe90s.

SanctumSanctorumComix said...

So... "Little Uncle" is Natasha's pet-name for Logan's wang?

Too much info.

;-)

~P~
P-TOR

Austin said...

This issue came out shortly before I really got into X-Men, at the height of Jim Lee mania (shortly before the Image Exodus). As a result, as I worked my way backwards grabbing up back issues I painfully had to pass over this one as it was always so bloody expensive. Once I finally got it, it was twelve kinds of ninja butt kicking excellence.

And man, that was quite a period of meandering for the X-Men, wasn't it? There was no "team" to speak of for a good 20 issues or so

ERH said...

I loved this issue, I always thought that Ultimate Cap's comment to Ult. Wolverine in Ultimate Secret was a nod to this issue.

Travis said...

I was always partial to the post-Mutant Massacre Australian Outback X-Men, the ones that lacked the resources of X-Manor, were invisible to cameras, and had Longshot on the team. That's good times.

Although the last couple of issues of X-Men (not Uncanny) have been really good, imo.

Augie De Blieck Jr. said...

And don't forget Tom Orzechowski's glorious hand lettering! There's more character in those balloons than in most comics today. . .

xrundog said...

I got interested in comics again for awhile because of Lee. I bought a pretty good run of various X-Men titles during this period. Then came the cross-overs and the splitting of titles into...into...I don't know what and I gave 'em up again.

Brian Cronin said...

Yeah, HAS an image from inside a comic book (as opposed to a cover or a poster) been as big as that Lee drawing of Cap since?

SRH said...

This is one of my favorite issues of the early 90's X-men. It was really all about being fun. Wolverine played off of Cap and vice versa. It was also going on at the same time as Byrne's Wolverine series and was the first X-men issue to be set in Madrapor (if I remember that ilsand's name correctly). There are just soooo many good things associated with this issue

Lar said...

real talk, i LOVED this issue. one of the best Jim Lee issues of anything- it's gorgeous. and i liked #269 too- as it had Whilce 'WetWorks' Portacio on guest-pencils...Gambit be damned.

LAS said...

Oh! I was hoping you would reprint my favorite panel sequence from this issue, which was Jubilee looking from the Black Widow's rack to one side, to Psylock's rack on the other, down her own shirt, and then pouting. Cracked me up.

Jack said...

I know I'm probably FAR in the minority here, but I LOVED the meandering, team-less X-men of the early nineties. I loved the team in the Outback, mansionless, danger-room-less, it seemed really broken down. Then I loved when the team got even further broken down, and the focuses on the travails of the individual characters post-Siege Perilous. The team got broken down and then built back up, which was a very enjoyable process for me.

Ammoniac said...

For some reason, my brother cancelled his subscription to X-Men right when The Outback-thing started with the X-Men. I just recently read those and they seemed like some of the most interesting X-Men I've ever read. The team is in shambles, crumbling from the inside out and nobody really knows where they are going. While it was a dramatic decision how they disassembled and went through the Siege Perilous and a nice ending to the era, the scattered X-Men that followed just didn't cut it. It lost coherency, the Dazzler storyline I didn't care for at all, Psylocke got dumbed down, Jubilee got added etc.

Dani said...

Hello,
I found your blog and was wondering if you could help me. I recently had some water damage to our stuff and included my brothers entire collection of his marvel comic cards from 1990 including the hologram cards. It is the whole collection on perfect condition but I am having trouble finding out value as no one seems to offer the whoe thing. Can you tell me where I could find out value or do you know how much that is worth?

thanks!
Dani

MartyCali said...

First comic I ever read. Can you believe how lucky I was!?

Anonymous said...

First comic I ever read. Can you believe how lucky I was!?

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Anonymous said...

I would love to see Jim Lee do a Spider-Man and Black Widow team-up adventure that takes place after Marvel Team-Up #85. She and Spider-Woman would make for great alternate crime fighting partners to the Black Cat. Don't you agree?