RETRO REVIEW: Uncanny X-Men #183 (July 1984)

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Or – “When You Boil It Down, Much Of The Marvel Universe Is About High School…”

There is a theory I’ve heard that ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ was popular not because of its supernatural overtones, but that because the series itself was a metaphor for growing up.  I’d have to say that there’s a grain of truth in that (though there are episodes where they try far too hard to hammer that point home, notably much of Season 6) but I don’t think that they’re alone in that department.  The X-Men, significantly, have gotten a lot of mileage out of using the mutants plight in a world that hates and fears them as a microcosm for any disenfranchised group of people.  Then, there are issues like this one, that are universal, dealing as it does with the end of a romance, something that the majority of people have or will eventually live through.  (Turns out it’s a bit more flashy with super-powers, though.)  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review awaits!

UNCANNY X-MEN #183
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Romita, Jr. (breakdowns); Dan Green (finished art)
Inker: Dan Green
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 60 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $5.00

Previously, in Uncanny X-Men:  The X-Men were originally founded by the (currently) late Professor Charles Xavier to teach young mutants how to use their powers and cope with life as a member of Homo Superior.  Of course, by putting hormonal young teens together in close quarters, you’re bound to have a little bit of “bonding” going on.  (I lived in a co-ed dorm, folks.  I know these things happen.)  So it was that Colossus and Ariel started a strange little romance in the ranks of the Uncanny X-Men.  The events of the Secret Wars (a moment where the alien Beyonder teleported most of the major Marvel heroes away to spend a week endlessly fighting on his Battleworld) left Colossus with a new crush, and the teenage hero has now returned home to his girlfriend to prove that long-distance relationships are often doomed…

Not big on the subtlety, our Piotr Rasputin…  As Ariel reels from his sudden revelation, he tries to explain himself, only making things worse and worse for both of them.

Ouch.  As a teenager, when I read this, I found myself mad at the universe for putting a wedge between the perfect love of Colossus and Ariel.  Now that I’m no longer 13, I am just annoyed at Peter for being such a yutz.  The “perfect lost love” that he’s mooning over was part of his life for less than 2 days (although the full story of the Secret Wars wouldn’t get told for nearly a year after this book came out) and didn’t even speak his language.  It was, to put it bluntly, a brief crush, and he’s being an idiot about it.  Of course, you have to also admit that his foxhole relationship with Kitty is pretty much equally idiotic given their difference in age, origin, intellect and emotional maturity levels.  Kitty takes the end of her first romance pretty much how one would expect a 14-year-old to take it…

After seeing the emotional havoc that Colossus has wrought on her “little sister,” Storm actually opines that she would rather have seen him DIE on Battleworld than to come home and create such turmoil.  (These X-Men, they do love their melodramatic pronouncements.)  Wolverine seems to have an equally low opinion of Colossus’ actions…

While Kitty and Storm talk out her feelings and hug it out, the male X-Men end up in a dive bar of Wolverine’s choosing, the better to drop a little knowledge on their Russian pal’s square little head.  Nightcrawler, who came along to play chaperone and keep his berzerker friend on a leash, urges caution, but Wolverine isn’t hearing excuses.

It’s easy to see why this title quickly became the talk of the industry, as John Romita puts tons of expression in every panel, while Claremont’s dialogue hasn’t yet reached the point where it becomes a parody of itself.  Wolverine’s (absolutely correct and adult) view of the situation is that Colossus is being both ridiculous and hurtful, and chides him strongly for hurting both Ariel and himself needlessly.  Wolverine flat-out tells Colossus that what he felt for the Zsaji wasn’t love, and that he’s using the memory of her to avoid the reality that his relationship could lead somewhere real.  It’s a great example for me of Wolverine handled really well, the gruff uncle who nonetheless knows all about matter of the heart and isn’t afraid to slap the stupid outta your mouth when you start spewing poetic nonsense…

Enter: Cain Marko.  These days, we known him better as the Juggernaut, former avatar of the god Cyttorak, but back in the summer of ’83, he was just a guy in a khakis and a sweater, macking on a random bar chick in the hopes of a good time.  Wolverine decides it’s time to get gone, but a tipsy Colossus is at the aggressive slap-fighting stage of drunkenness…

It’s never explicitly stated, but I maintain to this day that Wolverine did that on purpose, intentionally putting Colossus in the path of the Juggernaut to teach him the lesson that Wolverine himself was about to deliver.  Either way, the two superhumans start brawling away, as the patrons look on in amusement.  It isn’t until Juggernaut picks up the entire oaken bar and smashes it over Colossus’ head that the stakes get dangerous, and the crowd splits, save for Nightcrawler and Wolverine.  Logan smirks as he watches his partner take a beating, advising that he will pay for the damage himself if the insurance doesn’t.  As for Colossus, things end up going poorly for the Collective’s favorite man of steel, as Juggernaut is not a man to take lightly…

Heh.  The testosterone got a little bit thick in that last panel, but this is once again a wonderful Claremont X-Men moment.  Juggernaut throws Wolverine a wad of bills to help pay for the damage he caused, exiting with an ominous warning that they’ll all meet again.  I love the fact that they characters had lives outside of their costumes at this point in time, and that Cain had things he wanted to do more than rumble with the X-Men.  As Piotr rises from the wreckage, Wolverine finally hammers home the point of today’s lesson…

It’s a great ending, one that has a trademark Claremont twist as we discover that Juggernaut’s potential girlfriend is none other than Selene, an ancient priestess who drains the life-energy from people.  Wolverine’s actions, unbeknownst to any of them, probably saved the Juggernaut’s life and saved the X-Men from having to face a Selene super-charged by his immense alien magically-fueled life energies.  Chew on THAT, Uatu.  Either way, this issue is a gem of Claremont’s run, serving as it does to really sell the after-effects of the Secret Wars (which Marvel EIC Jim Shooter promised would have lasting, meaningful consequences) and also to deepen the characters of Colossus, Ariel and Wolverine in pretty cool ways.  This event spiraled outwards, leading Kitty to go home and get possessed by a ninja or something, leading Colossus to his eventual alienation and short-term death, and leading Wolverine to be more Wolverine-y in six to ten books per month.  Uncanny X-Men #183 is a goodie, one of the most memorable issues of its time-period, and features a couple of young creators meshing their story-telling prowess in ways that each would find themselves straining to recapture for years afterward, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  If you’re looking for a way to get into X-Men, this issue is a damn fine place to get started…

Rating: ★★★★½

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