Review: The Uncanny X-Men #169

The Uncanny X-Men #169 cover
Cover by Paul Smith

The Uncanny X-Men #169
Published and © by Marvel, May 1983

Title: “Catacombs”
Synopsis: When Angel is kidnapped, the X-Men pursue his attackers beneath the streets of New York … and into the Morlock’s lair!

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Paul Smith
Inker: Bob Wiacek

Review: Writer Chris Claremont is responsible for introducing so many essential elements to the X-Men’s storyworld, and he expands that canvas again here with the addition of the Morlocks. While the depths of this outcast society are only hinted at in this debut, the exploration of a privilege hierarchy within the mutant population adds another shade of gray to a franchise often defined by a more simplistic good-vs.-evil paradigm. Paul Smith continues to be a breath of fresh air on the series; both line and design are deceptively simple, while his command of nuance and gesture offers complex, compelling storytelling.

Grade: A-

Second opinion: “Uncanny X-Men #169 comprises mostly setup rather than payoff.” – Jason Powell, “The Best There Is at What He Does: Examining Chris Claremont’s X-Men,” 2016 … “Callisto, drawn here as The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, with an eyepatch, starts not particularly interesting and never gets much better.” – John Jackson Miller, The Comics Buyer’s Guide to the X-Men (Comics Buyer’s Guide Presents), 2003

Cool factor: The Morlocks were a cool addition to X-Men lore.
Not-so-cool factor: Caliban undressing an unconscious Kitty Pryde is pretty uncool (and creepy).

Notable: First appearance of the Morlocks, including Callisto, Sunder, Plague and Masque. … According to the annual statement of ownership on the “X-Mail” letters page, X-Men had an average total paid circulation of 313,225 for the 12 months preceding Oct. 11, 1982.
Collector’s note: According to the Grand Comics Database, there is a 75¢ Canadian variant of this issue. … According to MyComicShop.com, there is also a Mark Jewelers variant.

Character quotable:I am Callisto! My brethren have taken the name Morlocks, after H.G. Wells’ rulers of the netherworld. This is our domain. You visit at your peril …” – Callisto, leader of the Morlocks

Editor’s note: This review was written April 23, 2024.

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