Uncanny X-Men #462–465 and Secrets of House of M by Chris Claremont, Alan Davis and Chris Bachalo
My comic book reading is inherently linked to the writing of Chris Claremont – my development in the world of mainstream superhero comic books is The Uncanny X-Men, The New Mutants, Excalibur, Classic X-Men; basically Claremont’s output at the height of his powers. I still own more individual comic books written by Claremont than any other author. For this reason, even though I know he was never the same after he was edged out of the X-Men books by the pre-Image artists domination, I still have an inexplicable urge to read his superhero work.
This collection of comics is a four-part story of what Captain Britain (possibly one of my favourite characters) and Meggan got up to during the House of M, involving the alternate reality stuff from the Excalibur days. This allows for illogic – Psylocke (Captain Britain’s sister) and Rachel (the alternate future daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey) somehow survive the transition to the new reality; James Jasper (an Alan Moore-created Captain Britain villain usurped by Claremont) gets blended with the Fury, another alternate world villain from Moore’s Captain Britain days; there’s a throwback to an early Excalibur story about Captain Britain’s then-girlfriend being killed and replaced by an other-dimensional tyrannical empress. Claremont does like using his own characters and using them in the same way, over and over again.
Claremont can’t let go of certain tropes – he repeats dialogue ticks (which is actually rather annoying in a trade paperback, when their occurrences are more apparent); he tries to show women being strong by having them thinking tough and intelligent expositional thoughts; people make strange speeches when they are doing something noble and heroic. It’s all rather silly and inconsequential, given the state of the crossover, although he does use it to put Meggan out of the picture – but that was standard Claremont when he wasn’t doing his normal soap opera stories or sci-fi excursions into space.
The upside is that the art looks great – Davis is one of my favourite artists and draws fantastic superhero comic books, and he is the definitive Captain Britain artist; he throws in some Excalibur-specific references from his old days on the book due to the alternate dimension stuff. Bachalo tones down his overly detailed and obscure aspect in order to draw some good superheroics, although he is a little slack sometimes, such as the last page that has a rather fat Captain Britain in the distance. However, the fancy pencils from both artists are not worthy of the material – Claremont’s stories feel like a shadow of his former work, lacking the sparkle of his old days. Yet still I can’t top reading them. Nostalgia, eh?