Retro Review – Uncanny X-Men #268
By Kevin McVicker
Original Release Date: September, 1990
Story by Chris Claremont & Jim Lee
This issue is not just a classic for being part of the fan-favorite run on Uncanny by Claremont and Lee, but in continuity terms, this issue shows the first meeting of Captain America and Wolverine (Logan as he wasn’t Wolverine yet). Another interesting continuity impact is that in the flashbacks, Captain America is basically helping the people who were going to be holding Bucky as The Winter Soldier. Although that wouldn’t be a story for two decades, this issue doesn’t appear to have been disregarded by any future continuity.
The story takes place in Madripoor, August of 1941. Captain America is in mid-dramatic-launch as he fights off a group of ninjas he’d soon learn are called The Hand. He is fighting alongside Ivan Petrovitch, and both are seemingly overwhelmed.
Into the fray jumps Logan who turns the odds against Genin of the Hand. The ninjas are defeated and Logan lights up a smoke (smoking is bad kids, and even though you’ll look cool as Logan, you shouldn’t do it). Cap and Logan are introduced to each other for the first time.
We jump 49 years in the future, and for those of you slow at math that means we’re in 1990. The Black Widow is fighting the Hand and like Captain America 49 years prior she is overwhelmed by their sheer numbers. She attempts to flee but is trapped. Suddenly the ninjas are struck with fear by one onamonapia: SNIKT. Jubilee rushes in and blinds the ninjas with fireworks. Psylocke jumps in and does her ninja thing using her psychic powers to attack even though blinded by Jubilee’s attack. Wolverine jumps in and finishes the rest of their ninja foes.
Claremont does his best impression of how he thinks kids talk with Jubilee which was not how kids talked at all. Psylocke tells her to shut up. Black Widow is thankful for the help, but succumbs to exhaustion and blacks out.
Back in 1941, Logan is at Seraph’s bar when he purposefully runs into Baron Strucker to gain his scent to track him later. Logan almost gets into a fight with him and his lackey, but the bar’s owner, Seraph (duh) comes over and break things up by climbing onto a table to get at everyone’s level eyesight. She’s tiny but more than makes up for it in personality. She’s like Edna from The Incredibles. Logan goes back to sit with Steve Rogers and Ivan and tells them that he can track Strucker. They want to do this because he has kidnapped a child named Natasha Romanoff, which Ivan has enlisted Captain America to help him find. Logan tags along because he’s bored.
Returning 49 years to the present, Black Widow wakes up in a bed scantily clad because Jim Lee drew this. She thanks Logan for saving her. Jubilee peaks in on them showing her jealous streak and also comments on how much she still distrusts Psylocke, who is minding her own business and drinking a mojito. Black Widow tells them she is there after the Strucker Twins as they are doing business with the former head of The Hand. Logan and his ladies were in the area looking for the Hand so they pool their resources and decide to work together.
Back in 1941, Logan, Cap, and Ivan ambush a Nazi car by having Logan jump through the windshield. They fight the Nazis. Logan throws his body over the young and frightened Natasha and a Nazi Soldier sprays bullets into the car where she cowers. He takes the shots and is believed dead, but Ivan and Captain America are grateful for his sacrifice. Cap and Ivan take the girl to the American Consulate, but it turns out he is working for Strucker.
Returning to 1990, Widow and Logan are gathering clues on where to find the Strucker twins and the head of the Hand.
Back in 1941, Strucker is working with the Hand in Madripoor along with the Americans in an attempt to split the world into thirds in terms of who rules the various areas. Strucker wants Natasha Romanoff since she is a descendant from the Romanoff dynasty (who were killed when the Communists came to power in Russia), and finds the irony of her destroying the Communist regime to be classy.
In 1990, Psylocke and Natasha dress like prostitutes (not entirely just because this was drawn by Jim Lee), and board the ship as entertainment for the Strucker Twins and the head of the Hand. Jubilee dresses like a delivery boy and sneaks to the engines, which she blows up with her fireworks. Wolverine then ambushes the guards on the deck, while Psylocke and Black Widow kick a bunch of butt.
Back in 1941, Logan isn’t dead. He takes the sword from Natasha that the then head of the Hand was making her kill Ivan with. Logan decapitates the head of the Hand and sets Cap and Ivan free. The three then go beat the crap out of zombie/demon ninjas and Nazis, who are two types of people even the Comic Code of Authority was cool with killing.
They then get Natasha to a plane with the help of Seraph. Captain America and Logan obviously have man-crushes on each other. Cap and Ivan get on a plane with Natasha.
Finally, in 1990, in turns out the Strucker Twins and the head of the Hand knew the four heroes would be coming and put look-alikes in their place on the boat. The four aren’t happy, but they’re at a dead end. The three they were after look on from somewhere far away and toast to the heroes’ failure.
This is a fun and frenetic comic. The time jumps between the two eras create a great pacing and Claremont does a wonderful job allowing the back and forth scenes to if not mirror each other, push each plot forward at the same rate. The writing is really flawless in this regard, and one would think to pack this much story in one standard sized issue, it could easily get jumbled. But Claremont expertly makes the stories as lean as possible, giving us non-muddled plots.
The writing also isn’t too bogged down in needless exposition, but is enough that you feel you’re getting your money’s worth of story. I think even someone only familiar with modern comics would still be able to enjoy this issue. It is no more than two issues by Bendis more efficiently scripted to fit in one comic.
The art is great. Jim Lee is art classic for a reason. I often feel that he is a better superhero artist than an actual storyteller, but this issue rides a fine line between those two and I think is some of his best work. His lines are crisp and the characters are always in bold and heroic stances, in the greatest tradition from Kirby. He doesn’t get in his own way doing that and forget to tell a story (as I feel some of his more recent work… and even some Image books suffer).
If not for Claremont’s skill at characterization though, on the surface this issue does appear to just be buxom, half-dressed babes and muscular dudes. As I get older the more I see everything my mother wasn’t thrilled about a prepubescent boy reading this issue and others like it. Anyone who wants to criticize it over that has a slight leg to stand on, but if you actually read the issue, again, Claremont is doing more with these characters than the superficial.
This is a classic issue, and a must read for fans of Captain America and Wolverine. This is a wonderful example of 90’s comics before the pouches, colors, and characters became an exaggeration of an exaggeration. It is issues like this that drove readers back to comics even before the collectors boom hit with X-Men #1 and X-Force #1. Go read this issue.
4.5 out of 5