Monday, October 15, 2007

UNCANNY X-MEN #289 – June 1992

Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Whilce Portacio (pencils), Scott Williams (inks), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)

Storm continues to tutor Bishop, making Forge jealous. Mystique, staying as a guest at the mansion, antagonizes Archangel and upsets Bishop and Storm. Forge defends Mystique and is confronted by Storm. They discuss their relationship and Forge proposes to her. Meanwhile, Iceman introduces his girlfriend Opal to his parents and is interrupted by Hiro. Another group of strange men appear, declaring that Iceman’s parents must die.

Continuity Note
The characterization of Iceman’s father as a bigot begins here. This apparently contradicts his previous appearances, which bothers some fans to this day.

This is the debut of Scott Lobdell as plotter, after only scripting the previous issues. Whilce Portacio is still around as artist, but isn’t given any plot credit. I don’t know if he was removed from plotting based on his previous performance, or if Lobdell took over to give him more time to draw. There are a lot of missing backgrounds in this issue, and several pages where the characters just seem to be floating on white space. I don’t know if Portacio was going for that look, or if it was the result of tight deadlines. At any rate, this reads like a very different comic than the previous issues, with no action scenes at all and a heavy focus on characterization. Lobdell seems to realize where this title has gone wrong, and even has characters acknowledge that haven’t even spoken to one another for months. This seems to be a strange meta-commentary, and it’s not really necessary. Since the Portacio issues took place right after one another, it really hasn’t been “several months” since the characters interacted, it’s just been several months since the readers saw this in a comic. He could’ve just picked where the character arcs left off, but instead it’s now a plot point that no one’s addressed Archangel’s depression, or that Forge and Storm don’t speak. I can appreciate what he’s trying to do, but it actually makes the X-Men out to be heartless and a lot less likable.

An issue set aside to focus on character subplots is exactly what this title needs after so many months of non-stop (nonsensical) action, but it’s impossible to relate to the way anyone’s portrayed. Forge comes across like a moody teenager, and Storm acts almost like a robot, so it’s hard to really care about their relationship. Iceman’s father could potentially be interesting, but his portrayal goes so far it stretches any credibility. Why would he dress up and go out to dinner in a fancy restaurant just to insult his son’s Asian girlfriend? If he had such a problem with their relationship, why did he go agree to dinner in the first place? Wouldn’t he just stay at home (or is he going to dinner out of active maliciousness)? If he’s such a jerk that he would go out of his way to call interracial dating “vulgar”, why on Earth is Iceman introducing Opal to him in the first place? He’s only now finding out that his dad is racist? The soap opera elements seem to be as poorly thought-out as the action elements in the previous issues.


Mischa KK Bagley said...

G. Kendall:

Fantastic analysis. But, you know, at the end of the day it's all just about the story.


The Confession of the Panther Woman ©

Sex, drugs, and metamorphosis.

Cove West said...

I can sort of see where Lobdell was trying to in-story rationalize all the Imageified "bad ass" personalities the X-Men had been developing in the Lee/Portacio era, but he never seems to connect the new personalities to the old characterizations. It's not Ororo Munroe who is cold toward Bishop and Forge, it's just some random "woman leader of the X-Men weighed down by her responsibilites" type. Lobdell's simply slabbing emotions on cardboard cutouts at this point. It doesn't help that at this early point in his tenure, he's stuck exclusively to Gold Team characters that turn out to be the X-Men he least "gets" (except Charles, but even that comes later).

I see this as the beginning of the "Deflated Period" of the X-Titles. Lobdell obviously has some ideas (of varying quality) and a roughly sketched map of getting to them, but Lee and Portacio had left him so thoroughly crashed a car that the trip was a nightmare. Despite Lobdell and Nicieza's best efforts, quality line-wide continues to dive until Fabian untangles X-FORCE and wrings whatever juice he can out of the Cable/Stryfe thing in the Song, after which Scott and Fabe get to steer their own ship and things pick up after #300. But right now, Lobdell's essentially trying to ghost write a revamp by delving back into prevamp stories, resulting in a disastrous conclusion to "Lifedeath" that shouldn't have seen print (much as the revamped Evil Magneto shouldn't have tread on prevamp Good Magneto's history in #304).

And that Mystique appearance sure is out of the blue, isn't it? Clearly, inter-title coordination isn't as fine-tuned with Harras and Co. as it was when continuity was between CC, Weezie, and Ann Nocenti. "Phew! It's not an evil doppelganger trying to kill me, it's just Mystique!" hardly makes a lot of sense even if you HAD been reading WOLVERINE.

Cove West said...

BTW, G, where are you getting your reading order from?

G. Kendall said...

I'm basically reading them in the order I filed them as a kid. I was obsessive about keeping everyone's appearances in the proper order, so I hated it when characters like Xavier and Wolverine appeared in multiple books at the same time.

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