Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Matt Signal Advent Calendar 2014 Day 20: Uncanny X-Men #303

Uncanny X-Men 303, August 1993

We’ve seen plenty of superheroes die over the years, from Superman to Batman to Spider-Man to Captain America. Most die heroically, in battle, sacrificing themselves to save their teammates, the whole world or just a loved one.

Illyana Rasputin died like a person: In a medical bed, of an illness, with people who cared about her at her side.

Uncanny X-Men #303 was a powerful issue because it was quiet. There was no supervillain, no deus ex machina, no miracle cure. Most of the X-Men weren’t even in it, a rare feat for a team that size.

Colossus’ sister, who at that point had reverted back to a child, was dying of the Legacy Virus. Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert had tried to stabilize her and find a cure, but short of putting her in a vegetative state, there was nothing they could do but accept the inevitable.

Jubilee earns her stripes as a point-of-view character here. It is through her – a character about the same age as the intended audience – that we see the mansion that day, watch the grown-ups try futilely to save Illyana and, ultimately, grieve.

To Jubilee, Illyana, despite being physically younger than her, is a relic of a previous era, and her interactions – her jealousy toward Kitty Pryde and her awkward attempts to play with the Bamf doll patterned after Nightcrawler – spell that out perfectly. A new reader has to be made to care about what’s happening, and so does Jubilee. When she finally comes around – well, I probably got more choked up re-reading it now than I did 20 years ago. 

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