Thanksgiving is a holiday filled with tradition. There are the family gatherings, the parades, the football games, the “Friends” marathons and — of course — the food. If you’re an X-Men fan, then rereading the modern classic “Uncanny X-Men” #308 might also be one of your annual traditions, possibly enjoyed while you wait for one of your many casseroles to finish cooking.
“Uncanny X-Men” #308, originally published in time for Thanksgiving 1993, was written by Scott Lobdell and features art by John Romita Jr. and inkers Dan Green and Al Vey. The issue hits at a rare quiet time for the X-Men in the ’90s, coming right after the traumatic gauntlet of the “Fatal Attractions” crossover. Holiday issues of superhero comics are a surprisingly rare occurrence, which is what makes this Thanksgiving issue of “Uncanny X-Men” all the more special. Here are the 15 things we’re most thankful for when it comes to this x-ceptional holiday read.
15. The Cover
Listen, this is a much bigger deal than you’d think. Comic book covers aren’t always close to accurate; sometimes they include characters that aren’t in the issue or depict events that don’t even happen. For a stretch of time in the ’00s, pretty much every Marvel cover was an action shot of a hero — usually one with no bearing on the issue’s contents. That’s why we’re thankful for this cover, which, while not the flashiest around, actually gives you an idea of what the issue’s about with just a quick glance. There’s Cyclops and Jean Grey, rocking their Jim Lee duds, flying into action together. This is contrasted with the ghosts of their younger selves, who appear behind them. Yep, this issue’s going to tackle Scott and Jean’s relationship head-on, going all the way back to their first appearance. So thank you, cover, for letting us know what we’re in for!
14. The Colors
This issue just wouldn’t feel Thanksgiving-y if it had a neon palette or was done in somber gray tones. One of the main reasons why “Uncanny X-Men” #308 resonates with readers over 20 years later, specifically around Thanksgiving, is because of Steve Buccellato’s colors. Just look at them on the leaves, the clothes, the sky — everything! The entire issue feels like a warm blanket next to a fire — which, not coincidentally, might be where you reread this issue every fall. The leaves are all warm shades of orange and brown, the cast’s colorful outfits are toned down in a warm afternoon light, the sky is a cold gray — this issue just feels like fall, thanks to Buccellato’s work. Pulling that off in an issue where people, well, wear what the X-Men wore in the early ’90s, had to have been hard. Buccellato pulled it off and helped make this a Thanksgiving classic in the process.
13. Those Romita Jr. Mugs
As great as Steve Buccellato’s colors are, John Romita Jr.’s pencils are too. This issue comes towards the end of JRJR’s second stint as penciler on “Uncanny X-Men.” He originally pushed his pencil around for the X-Men alongside writer Chris Claremont in the mid-’80s, back when his style was leaner. His return in the ’90s came as his art beefed up a bit, as his style evolved to evoke the extreme attitudes of the time. He got to show off that side of his style in previous issues that put the team up against the Acolytes and Trevor Fitzroy. This time around, though, Romita Jr. got to show off his fantastic storytelling and emoting skills with this quiet holiday issue. Look at the faces in those flashback panels, which depict the first time that Cyclops and Jean Grey really fell in love as teens. You get all that right there, in those two faces. Scott’s sheepish smile, the look in Jean’s eyes — that’s teenage love right there. Contrast it with the adult versions of Cyclops and Jean, who also look like adult versions of those teens, and you get the real scope of Romita Jr.’s talent.
12. Hot Coffee!
Okay, there’s also plenty of comedy in this issue, most of which comes courtesy of the Beast. Hank McCoy’s a superhero with two contrasting personalities: he’s a brainy scientist and he’s also a jovial jokester. When he’s with the Avengers, a team populated with plenty of big brains, Hank’s able to cut loose a bit. When he’s with the X-Men, a team filled with more attitude than smarts, he has to put on his lab coat and get to work. That was particularly true at this point in time, as Beast was furiously searching for a cure for the Legacy Virus. This issue shows a side of Beast that X-readers rarely got to see: Fun Beast. Of course Fun Beast is paired up with Jubilee, making for one of the greatest one-off partnerships ever. These two rarely interact, but seeing them together here makes so much sense. Plus, Romita Jr.’s art conveys both the momentum and glee in the panel expertly. It’s also worth pointing out that, uh, Beast is shouting about how coffee makes you go to the bathroom. “My own preferred path-clearer,” indeed.
11. Angry Storm
As if it wasn’t humorous enough imagining one of the most powerful X-Men of all time raking leaves by hand, Beast had to go and wreck Storm’s pile. The fury Storm unleashes at this (“By the goddess, Henry — NO!“) is downright delightful. This moment is even greater if you imagine Storm shouting it in her righteous voice from the ’90s animated series. You hear it, right?
Storm’s right about raking leaves being therapeutic — and Forge and Banshee were right about Storm needing to exercise some self care. The X-Men had been through some tough stuff at this point, particularly Storm. In addition to breaking up with Forge a little while prior to this issue, the “Fatal Attractions” event pulled two of her dearest friends away from the X-Men. Colossus, grieving the death of his little sister Illyana, left the X-Men. Right after that, Magneto gravely injured Wolverine by pulling the adamantium off of his bones. This is a Storm that is stressed out, so no wonder she doesn’t take too kindly to Beast wrecking her leaves.
With its expansive cast of characters from all over the country and all over the world, the X-Men comics have always been home to plenty of… interesting… phonetic accents. There’s Rogue’s “shugah” and Nightcrawler’s German exclamations (“Mein Gott!”) and all of Gambit’s French Cajun talk (“mon ami”). Now, thanks to the Ragin’ Cajun himself, you can add another turn of phrase to the list:
Yep, Gambit’s thick Cajun accent turns the fall holiday into one that sounds like it should probably be celebrated on the twentieth day of April. Feel free to quote Gambit during Danksgivin’ dinner. This panel also features Rogue, Iceman and Bishop — two members each from the X-Men’s Blue and Gold teams. As Thanksgiving’s a time for family, the entire X-Team — no matter their strike force membership — all came together to make scarecrows and listen to Gambit mumble his way through more conversations.
9. Buzzkill Bishop
What do you get when you mix the unrelenting military mind of Worf with the befuddlement of Data? You get Bishop, the X-Man who has no idea what a scarecrow or football is. At this time, Bishop was one of the newest characters around, and he’d definitely traveled pretty far during his journey to a spot on the X-Men’s Gold Team. Bishop comes from around 80 years in the future, a trainwreck of a timeline wherein the X-Men had been betrayed by one of their own and all of society had fallen on harsh times. That’s what Bishop’s getting across to his teammates while they’re going on and on about scarecrows.
“I spent my childhood in constant flight from the Emplates, Robert…for fear they’d suck the marrow from the bones of my sister and me!” Yikes, yeah, those are some intense visuals for Danksgivin’ Day, Bishop. This entry also needs to cover Iceman’s makeshift Doctor Doom ice-scarecrow, which Bobby whips up in a jiffy of leaves and ice. Of course Bishop, being the buzzkill he is, doesn’t really get what Iceman’s doing.
8. Poignant Flashbacks
As it focuses on the then-thirty-year history of Cyclops and Jean Grey, this issue is packed with plenty of poignant flashbacks to major moments in Scott and Jean’s history. We previously saw them back when they were teens new to the X-Men, and this flashback takes readers back a few decades to the classic “X-Men” #137 from 1980. Of course that issue’s events had been retconned by the time this comic came out; instead of Jean Grey dying on the moon at the end of “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” it was revealed that the real Jean was in a cocoon at the bottom of a bay. The character that died at the end of issue #137 was, in fact, a facsimile of Jean created by the Phoenix Force that truly believed herself to be Jean.
The flashback in this issue walks a delicate tightrope between acknowledging the power of that moment while also making it still relevant, despite it not actually being Jean. It pulls it off well, stating that the goodness within Jean that the Phoenix Force emulated gave the copy the strength to stop herself from killing the universe. Way to successfully make it all about Jean!
7. Gambit’s Outfit
You can’t flip through an early ’90s issue of any X-Men comic without seeing some truly gnarly, awesome, totally radical and/or bodacious threads. This issue is no exception as its totally casual nature means that all the heroes are sporting their street clothes. In this panel, Bishop and Forge both look totally normal; that’s actually an accomplishment for Bishop, the time-traveler who probably had to be told what a “sweatshirt” was when he was handed the garment. Iceman and Rogue look fine, too, although Bobby’s vest is definitely a statement piece.
Then there’s Gambit. There’s always Gambit.
Gambit’s playing football in bright yellow bike shorts and a massive, oversized crop-top black and yellow sweater. Listen, Gambit’s arms get very cold but his tummy is just too hot to cover up! Remy LeBeau then topped off his bumblebee ensemble with a bright red baseball hat (backwards, of course) and a cool pair of shades. Oh yeah, and he’s chewing some bubblegum, because the rest of his look wasn’t cool enough already. In addition to adding “Danksgivin'” to your vocabulary, we suggest rocking this look to your family football game on Thursday.
The X-Men love playing games together, although usually the preferred game is baseball. The X-Men’s baseball games were featured in a number of issues in the ’80s, but baseball is decidedly not the Thanksgiving sport. That sport is football, and the X-Men follow suit. As with their baseball games, the X-Men instituted a “no powers” rule for the football game to try and even things out — although it’d be hard to really figure out just how agile a guy like Beast is supposed to be without his powers. That “no powers” rule has to have some loopholes — and Archangel flew right through them. We’re thankful for cheating because it gave us this awesome panel of Warren Worthington III doing what he apparently does best: intercept footballs.
This is also one of the rare times you’ll see Archangel smiling during this time period. The guy was still not entirely over the whole “remade in Apocalypse’s image as the Horseman of Death” thing, and he even killed a bad guy during the “X-Cutioner’s Song” crossover. On top of that, his relationship with the police officer Charlotte Jones was on the rocks. He’d soon find love with his teammate Psylocke, but their hook up is still one literal apocalypse away from happening. Cherish this small moment of joy, Warren!
5. This Panel
If you read this issue a bunch as a kid, then odds are this is one of the panels that stuck in your mind over the past few decades. Look at how happy these mutants are! You rarely see the X-Men this happy. Need we remind you where the franchise is at right now? An event morbidly called “Death of X.” The X-Men don’t smile much right now, and honestly they didn’t smile that much back in 1993, either.
X-Men is a franchise built on strife and setbacks and struggles. All that melts away in this moment in this issue as Gambit, Beast, Jubilee and Archangel all dive after “the pigskin in question.” John Romita Jr.’s gift for facial expressions comes into play again right here, as all four of them are clearly having the time of their lives. This sense of carefree fun is really what makes this issue special — although, in true X-Men fashion, the moment also has a calamitous conclusion.
4. Xavier’s Resilience
Yeah, an X-Man gets the football — and it’s not Beast, Gambit, Jubilee or Archangel. Instead, the football lands in Professor Xavier’s lap and none of the X-Men can course correct before crashing into him. All Chuck wanted to do was let everyone know that dinner is ready! This is such a wonderfully slapstick moment, as Chris Eliopoulos’ sound effects crash into the next panel and signal the less than delicate tackle. Cyclops’ curled lip expression is also one to be thankful for, as it tells you pretty much everything you need to know about what’s going on just off panel. Professor X is fine, of course, as he’s a superhero in his own right and has survived plenty worse than a family football game gone wrong. It also helps that the X-Men have plenty of special medical equipment and a super doctor like Beast around just in case, you know?
3. The Proposal
This right, here is what this issue is remembered for — the beginning of Cyclops and Jean Grey’s engagement following years of dating. Cyclops actually tried to propose to Jean Grey just a year or so before towards the end of their run as the leads of “X-Factor,” but — as Jean points out on this page — she wasn’t ready then. During the course of this issue, the couple has walked the grounds of Xavier’s estate and reminisced about everything from her alien imposter’s death to the children they have via alternate futures and clones. These two have been through a lot, and Jean’s totally right to not want to wait anymore. The two would have a quick engagement, as they’d be married two months after this issue’s release in “X-Men” #30.
If you bought this issue when it came out, then you might remember that a mistake in the first printing of this issue actually left one of the word balloons (“I’m tired of waiting, Scott”) totally blank. That made reading this scene, arguably one of the most important in X-history, a little confusing. Thankfully it’s been fixed with reprints.
2. The Thanksgiving Spread
You can’t have a Thanksgiving anything without a big shot of the meal. Romita Jr. doesn’t disappoint towards the end of the issue, giving fans a long panel showing off the gathered X-Men (and their friends and family) as well as the X-Feast itself. Multiple turkeys, a basket of rolls, a big bowl of mashed sweet potatoes, some… is that french fries? And a plate of… um… tortillas maybe? Okay, drawing food isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Just in case you’re wondering exactly who drove out to Westchester to spend Thanksgiving with the X-Men, here’s a roll call from left to right: Iceman and his parents, Psylocke, Bishop, Archangel, Forge, Storm, Professor X, Moira MacTaggert, Banshee, Jubilee, Beast, Beast’s girlfriend Trish Tilby, Psylocke’s quasi-doppelganger Revanche, Rogue, Gambit and ex-X-physical trainer Stevie Hunter. Of course there’s also room for Cyclops and Jean Grey at the table, as they’ve not arrived yet.
Oh — and Sabretooth is also chained up somewhere in the basement of the X-Mansion.
1. The Drama
After Cyclops and Jean Grey come in and tell everyone of their engagement, they’re met with uproarious applause and congratulations. Professor X, on the other hand, remains silent. He stays firmly planted at the head of the table, sipping from his glass and downright glowering at his students as they celebrate. The captions explain that he “has some reservations about the decision made here this day,” which is about par for course when it comes to Thanksgiving dinners. Family members are always going to have reservations about something their kids or cousins or parents have done. Unlike a lot of those disagreements, though, Professor Xavier actually keeps them to himself! He doesn’t cause a commotion and chooses to keep all his thoughts internal (for once).
His bad attitude might also be because he just mind-wiped Magneto and unleashed the darkness that will grow into the massive supervillain Onslaught within his own psyche. Things are never simple with the X-Men, and Thanksgiving is no different. Then again, who can’t say that about their family during the holidays?
Share some of your favorite Thanksgiving moments from comics in the comments!
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