Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 121: <i>Uncanny X-Men</i> #467

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This quasi-week: Chris Claremont. Today's page is from Uncanny X-Men #467, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 2006. Enjoy!

Claremont returned to Uncanny X-Men in the 440s after a hiatus of some years, and he even reteamed with Alan Davis for a good deal of it. I didn't read those issues, and it appears that it's been largely forgotten, but I did get issue #467, mainly because Claremont goes for a clever storytelling technique - he attempts to tell a story that lasts only 24 seconds. It doesn't really work - Claremont can't help himself in regard to writing TONS of dialogue - but it's a damned fine issue, even if it's a bit bloody. Claremont explains who the Shi'ar are - a "galaxy-spanning extreterrestrial empire" who really don't like the Phoenix. The narrator, Rachel, explains that Jean Grey became the Phoenix (sort of), and even though Jean is dead, Rachel is (duh) still alive. We still don't know what's going on in the final three panels, but at least we have a background about Rachel and, as it turns out, the bad guys. Then Claremont dives into the dialogue, and from it, we can deduce the speaker is either an alien (given that Claremont name-checks the Shi'ar) or a robot. They are looking for the "prime target," but can't, so someone (-thing?) else says to "take the secondary." Down goes some dude!

Chris Bachalo draws this issue, and as I am a fan of Chris Bachalo, I like the art on this issue. However, he's inked on this by nine (9) people, which means he was probably rushing it a bit. We can see his strengths and some of his weaknesses on this page. The first panel, obviously, doesn't have much, but Bachalo presumably draws the banner (Joe Caramagna letters this book, but this is not really lettering, it's part of the art). The strange symbol on the bottom left that looks vaguely like a phoenix is explained (sort of) at the end of the issue, in case you're interested. Bachalo gives us a somewhat large panel for #2, with the target in the background and the giant gun on the right side leading our eye toward the dialogue. Something called Studio F did the colors, and it's a bit murky in this panel, and Bachalo's penchant for drawing giant snowflakes doesn't help (what is it with him and giant snowflakes?). The third panel is a gathering of people shown through a scope, and presumably those are supposed to be heat signatures, given the coloring. Obviously, the target is the one who explodes in the fourth panel, but here's where it gets confusing: the heat signatures don't show whether the targets are inside or outside, and in the fourth panel, it's clear the victim is outside. Is he talking to anyone? In the third panel, it appears he's interacting with other people, but in the fourth panel, he appears alone (although the focus is so tight it's not clear). It's a dramatic page, leading to the blast that tears the dude apart and makes us want to turn the page, which gives us a double-page splash of the antagonists. However, the storytelling is a bit wonky, especially because after the double-page splash, the people at the gathering don't seem to have noticed anything is going on. While the page does ratchet up the tension, it does leave us with some questions about what's going on. In this case, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.

So that's the end of our examination of Claremont's first pages, and the end of this themed month. I appreciate everyone voting for these four writers, and I hope it was interesting looking at the way they write pages and give their artists things to do. Tomorrow, we're back to random comics! I already know what the theme is for next month, and it's not something I need votes for. Sorry! And be sure to check out the archives, in case you're interested in those sorts of things.

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