X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Twenty-Nine (1989)

X-Men Vignettes #29 (1989)
“Motherland”
Writer – Chris Claremont
Pencils – June Brigman
Inks – Roy Richardson
Letters – Joe Rosen
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Edelman, Harras, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #29 (January, 1989)

Wrapping up the “roaring twenties” of our Vignettes dip, with the third Colossus-centric chapter!

It’s also Chris Claremont’s final Vignette… so, let’s enjoy him while we’ve got him!

Today’s tale opens with Storm carrying Colossus all the way back to… well, as the title of the story suggests, the Motherland. She sets down her “little brother” just a little ways from his family’s (Ust-Ordynski) collective, as he requested — and kisses him goodbye, perhaps forever. Ya see, Piotr tells her he’ll signal for pickup when he’s ready to return… he’s just not sure if he’s actually send it. He’s done the international hero thing, he’s been an X-Man — but, that wasn’t really his scene. His home is Russia… be belongs with his family. He trudges his way toward the farm, trying to reconnect with Mother Russia with each step. Upon arrival, he spots his little sister, Illyana picking flowers for the Young Pioneers. She throws herself into her big brother’s arms.

Not a moment later, Pete’s folks emerge from their small lodge to welcome their boy back home. Inside they fix him a great big meal while they catch up. In a great bit of Vignette continuity, Piotr presents Illyana with all of the sketches he’d done during his time away. They’re spread out on the dinner table and discussed. Papa Nikolai is very impressed by the skill — but, doesn’t appear to understand their importance, comparing them to the stories he’d tell to Piotr and Mikhail when they were little boys.

Our man decides he wants to catch up with some of his old friends… starting with Sasha. The ‘rents aren’t so sure that’s a great idea — though, they suggest Illyana maybe take him. Piotr immediately knows that something isn’t quite right — and soon learns that his friend… well, several of his friends… were killed in Afghanistan (during the, still ongoing at the time of the story, Soviet-Afghanistan War 1979-1989).

With Pete knelt at the cross-filled memorial site, Illyana tells him that she’ll never let anything happen to him. He assures her this goes both ways. Just then, a propane tanker flips and catches fire over on the main road. Knowing that this could end… ya know, very very poorly, Piotr armors up and rushes into action.

Now, I gotta say — when I first read this bit, I half-thought we were heading into FEAR AND HATE territory. If you recall our past couple of “Colossal” outings, they both ended with Pete having to “armor up”… and then dealing with how those around him react to finding out he’s a mutant. The first time, he was called a monster — the second, he was invited to a post-funeral threesome. So, I guess we can say he’s batting .500 — but, what’ll happen now? Well, oddly enough… the fact that he’s a mutant doesn’t even come up! He manages to save the day, while the Soviets cheer him on. Pete’s Papa douses him with a bucket’a water to cool him off — Illyana jumps in his arms, x-cited for whenever her mutant abilities might manifest… looks like it’s all good in the hood!

But then… a man from Piotr’s past makes his way toward him. It’s Alyosha… and he is wearing the wounds of a Soviet soldier. He is missing a leg and an arm. He calls our hero a Traitor. Kinda gives him a spin on that speech from the uber-preachy and not half as readable as we remember it, O’Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Colossus, I been readin’ about you… you work for the Americans, you helped out the bird-lookin’ aliens, you did considerable for the mohawked and randy cave people — but you never bothered with the Reds (as in Soviets, natch). Piotr, being the sad sack he is, doesn’t have any reply. Alyosha gets so excited he swings his crutch at our man, and winds up doing an elbow-drop onto nothing — kinda like when Ric Flair gets too excited during a promo. Before we know it, Pete’s surrounded by military police… and arrested as a deserter! Wow, that sure escalated, didn’t it?

Piotr’s tossed in a cell… assumedly awaiting trial. The trial won’t ever come, however, as he’s picked up by a Colonel Vazhin — and driven out to a desolate road, where he’s let go. Vazhin tells Colossus that his work is with the X-Men for now… and understands that what the X-Men do, serves the entire world — and so, Pete’s Rodina (Motherland) is the entire world. All well and good — buuuuut, Piotr’s not allowed back home… and, this little event will be framed as him escaping… and deserting.

Not a bad little story. Probably the strongest of the Colossus chapters yet, simply because it didn’t rely on FEAR AND HATE. Not sure it was the best outro for Claremont, as — if I’m not mistaken — this is his Vignettes swan-song, but enjoyable nonetheless. A bit dry and unevenly told — lotta build-up for a very rushed conclusion. This one almost feels like it was intended to be a full-length story/issue of X-Men, but was retrofitted as a Vignette. I’m probably wrong, but there is definitely a feeling of truncation during the final-fourth of this ditty.

The concept of “going home” is one I feel can resonate in us all… though, I’m always open to the possibility that I’m projecting jussa li’l bit. Having Piotr return to his pre-X life, with the suggestion that he may stay there forever, is an interesting story to tell. Sure, the old saying “you can’t go home again” is likely the first thing that flashed in our minds upon getting into this chapter — but, wouldn’t it be nice if that weren’t the case?

Maybe I’m in a semi-fragile state as I write this… maybe I’m stuck in a bit of arrested development… but, imagine if it were possible to just go home again? You’ve lived a stage of your life, made your decisions… and, all the while, your “home” (literal or conceptual) remained just locked in amber — just waiting for you to return. I really appreciated Piotr asking Storm to drop him off a little ways away from the Collective — because he wanted to reacquaint himself with his home on foot. He wanted to hear the crunch and squish of the grass and earth under his feet. He wanted the home he grew up in to rise up over the horizon. It’s very powerful stuff if you stop and think about it — or, if you’re a touch too precious like me.

The “novelty” of home is another thing I feel like many of us can relate to. Have you ever gone back to where you grew up (assuming you left in the first place)? Seeing familiar sights… reuniting with familiar people… friends and family. For a brief… very brief bit of time, you ARE home again. People are happy to see you, everything old becomes new again… and for a moment, it’s as though you never left. Colossus had that here, upon seeing Illyana… having his parents craft a massive feast for him. But then… as it always does, the moment passes… and you come to the realization that, whether we like it or not, time moves forward. Things aren’t the same as they were. Piotr got a bit of that while sharing his sketches… followed by the gut-punch reality-check that many of his friends never made it back from the war.

I’m probably making this seem like a lot deeper of a story than it actually is… not sure why this one’s hitting me quite this way, because — as mentioned, it’s a rather “dry” little ditty. Anyway, dry or not, I think this is a Vignette that’s definitely worth the five minutes outta your day it’ll take to x-perience. You may have noticed that John Bolton does not provide the art this time out, he is missed — but, June Brigman does a good job filling in.

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2 thoughts on “X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Twenty-Nine (1989)

  • April 19, 2022 at 12:00 pm
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    I like this one quite a bit. Not necessarily because I can relate, but because I enjoy slice of life stories once in a while in my comics. Just to settle things down from all the action, life and death situations that are a part of superhero books.

    Reply
  • April 19, 2022 at 5:48 pm
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    This was a great ending to the Colossus saga. I see it as the story of an immigrant searching for a home nd family. Rejected by his old life in his old home Collossus has found his New home and new family with the X-Men.
    What perplexed me is how he was arrested for being a deserter. To the best of my knowledge he was not a member of the Soviet armed forces prior to joining the X-Men. Also he must have had a passport and left the country legally when Professor X recruited him back in Giant Size X-Men. Perheaps the cops were trying to save Pete from getting lynched by a mob who held him responsible for the deaths and maiming of their sons in Afghanistan while he was with the X-Men in America. That would explain why they let him go and tell him to never come back.

    Either way Colossus is the only X-Man to get any sort of character arc in these vignettes.

    Reply

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