The Xavier Institute: Colossus Attends The School Of Hard Knocks In ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #183
by Tony Thornley
We all have that friend. You know the one, the guy who needs a lesson from the school of hard knocks or to have some sense pounded into them. In Uncanny X-Men #183 one X-Man had to learn that lesson, in a way that only the X-Men could teach it.
In 1984, Uncanny X-Men was at the height of its popularity. It had long before eschewed the standard tropes of a superhero team, with the issue-by-issue powered brawls, and instead had become a super-powered soap opera, not unlike the Spider-Man series of the era. This issue, by Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr., Dan Green, Glynnis Wein, and Tom Orzechowski, is a great example of that, with some of the best interpersonal drama in comics mixed with perhaps one of the greatest single issue brawls in comics history.
Recently returned from Battleworld, Colossus breaks up with Kitty Pryde, thanks to the grief over a lost love from the Secret Wars. All of the X-Men take his actions differently, but Wolverine in particular decides to take matters into his own hands. With Nightcrawler by his side, Logan drags Piotr to a Manhattan bar. However, before he can pound some sense into his young friend himself, Wolverine realizes a much bigger problem is sitting at the bar- the unstoppable Juggernaut!
I’m not joking when I say X-Men was a soap opera in this era- the opening scene of this issue is straight out of a romance comic, both in Claremont’s story and the art by Romita, Green and Wein. The opening scene is heartbreaking as well, as Claremont gets into Kitty’s head as the conversation is happening, and the dialogue feels authentic to a teenage girl struggling with rejection for the first time. Really the worst thing about how it’s written is Claremont’s insistence that Kitty is a young teen, not the older young woman that she’s clearly being written as (which is a problem that’s plagued Kitty her entire existence).
As for Colossus, this is perhaps the most balanced comic I’ve read from the eighties as it pertains to gender politics. NO ONE is on Piotr’s side here except Piotr himself, and Claremont doesn’t even try to point any blame at Kitty. It makes the (largely one-sided) fight that comes at the end extremely cathartic, as Logan just stands back and lets Colossus get what he deserves from the Juggernaut, then imparts a lesson on his way out.
Romita is still finding his personal style here, but he does some great work here. He’s able to capture the emotional weight of Kitty’s heartbreak (and everyone’s anger towards Colossus over it) as well as he depicts the brawl. The brawl is absolutely the highlight of the issue though. Romita has always been great at drawing fights that feel impactful and he does that here as the two brutes tear a building to the ground in their rage.
This is a great example of Uncanny X-Men at its best. It’s equal parts human drama and superhero action, and it’s grounded in its characters’ struggles. This is an issue I’d recommend to anyone looking to dive into this classic era of X-Men.
This story may be available in physical single issues at many local comic stores, and via digital platforms. It’s also available as a part of several different collections, such as Uncanny X-Men Masterworks V10 and Marvel Visionaries: John Romita Jr which are available in bookstores, comic stores and your favorite digital platforms.
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