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X-Women on Tour

Chris Claremont teams with Italian artist Milo Manara for an overseas adventure with the mutant ladies of the Marvel Universe

By Kevin Mahadeo

This July, the fairer side of Marvel mutantdom gets a spotlight in X-WOMEN, a one-shot written by the legendary Chris Claremont and featuring work by renowned Italian artist  Milo Manara.

"You'll be seeing a really fun story; 46 pages by Milo Manara doing his first work for an American audience and certainly the first he's done using classic American super hero characters," teases Claremont. "It's a presentation of this clutch of x-characters the likes of which have never been seen before. And it's brilliant art by one of the finest artists in the European market, if not the world."

X-WOMEN follows the sextet of Rogue, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Summers, Psylocke and Emma Frost vacationing off on an island in the Mediterranean. Considering the cast, the tale takes place outside of regular continuity, but doesn't stray too far off the beaten path. Claremont first penned the story five years ago; however, as the writer himself says, when it comes to working with an artist as globally popular as Manara, there tends to be a serious waiting list.

"The absolute giggle is how utterly attractive he makes the characters, and yet does so in a way that is courteous to American sensibilities," the writer says. "He just juggles the visual storytelling brilliantly. The characters end up being lovely and funny and all together eloquent. It wasn't intended as being Dark Phoenix all over again. It's a fun romp and I think in every respect it succeeds in that ambition and throws in so much more besides. But that's the advantage of working with a brilliant artist

X-WOMEN preview art by Milo Manara
like Manara. He takes what you ask for and gives it back to you with that much more that makes you think, 'Wow. I must be really good to get this.' No, he's really good. I just get to bask in the glory."

Although the title marks Manara's first graphite-laden stab at the ladies of the Marvel U, it's well-worn territory for Claremont. After all, the penman created every character starring in the title, except for Storm, who he nonetheless wrote and developed for nearly two decades. However, despite his extensive familiarity with the X-Women, the writer says that assuming one knows everything about a character almost contradicts the purpose of comic book storytelling.

"The single element of a good character that one has done a proper job of creating is that it's an ongoing paradox," he explains. "Yes, you know 'everything this is to know about them,' and yet each circumstance, each story, in its own way provides an opportunity to discover new and interesting aspects of the character and their interaction with other people and the situation itself that helps the writer enlighten them further for himself and the audience. It's never a zero sum equation. It's an infinitely open-ended journey that with the right character and the right situation and the right story turns out to be a whole lot of fun."

As much fun as he admits to have had writing the story, Claremont insists the real treat of the book lies in his creative partner's art. Well known in the European market for his portrayal of breathtaking women, Manara brings the same level of detail and exoticism to every page.

"The emotions, the body language, the facial language, the way the characters relate to each other and to situations is-pretentious as it might sound-a revelation and a total delight," Claremont touts. "It's like, 'Wow. I never thought of them as looking this good.' It's just a whole heck of a

X-WOMEN preview art by Milo Manara
lot of fun. And in more than one occasion in the story it is an opportunity to poke fun at my own clichés. Actually, my favorite scene in it is a page where we have Betsy feeding livestock and Rogue taking care of the kids. And it's brilliant. Absolutely brilliant."

As for what else the story contains, the writer only offered a few hints and teases. But those fleeting glimpses showcase an adventure including seafaring scallywags, ancient aircrafts and classic Claremont moments:

"There are pirates. There are dastardly villains. There's a plot to destabilize the world. There is Kitty phasing through a yacht parked in the harbor and discovering that there are things that happen on yachts that young ladies shouldn't look at. There are severed heads galore. Destruction. Mayhem. Storm being inflicted with the usual annoying Claremont cliché of 'Oh look, I'm the prisoner of a pirate. Oh, and he's married. And I'm getting shot at from both sides.' It's a classic scene where everyone else gets hammered to their knees and confronted by villainy and the more they hammer the taller Storm stands. If I can't poke fun at myself, what's the point? And thrill and excitement and hopefully a happy ending. And lots of ancient airplanes. Because, what the heck, it's my story and I like ancient airplanes."


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I'm guessing Psylocke and Rogue switch powers at one point or another


No Dazzler? Damn it. Forget it I'm not interested. I'm tired of her constantly being ignored.