Follow the Leader
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Dan Panosian (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Glynis Oliver (colorist)
After leaving the Savage Land, Cyclops, Storm, and Professor Xavier’s plane is attacked in the arctic cold. After surviving a crash landing, Xavier senses another presence in the night and leaves on an ATV to investigate. When Cyclops and Storm search for him, they’re ambushed by Siena Blaze. Xavier returns and the three X-Men combine their powers and force Siena Blaze to teleport away. Xavier reveals to the X-Men that a mystery man saved his life and gave him shelter in his citadel during the night.
Professor Xavier claims that Cyclops has never called him Charles, although this actually isn’t true. Cyclops is even shown to be physically unable to say the word “Charles”, tripping up over it and giving up. I get the point Lobdell is making, but this is absurd.
The mystery man who saves Xavier’s life is Magneto.
On page 19, after Ka-Zar asks Cyclops if he’ll make an “honest woman” out of Jean, there’s an added word balloon questioning this figure of speech.
All of the dialogue on page 38 has been re-lettered. The dialogue as published has Storm pining away for Forge. Just looking at the art, Storm nestles up with Cyclops in an arguably romantic embrace. Just to speculate, it’s possible that the original idea was that the characters expected to die that night and have a “last night on earth” fling. If that’s true, I can see why the creators didn’t go through with it, but it would’ve been interesting.
This is the debut issue of X-Men Unlimited, the title that went on to symbolize all that is wrong in superfluous X-spinoffs. As I believe Paul O’Brien pointed out, the last time this title was cancelled, literally no one online seemed to notice. The Unlimited line of titles began in 1993 as an attempt to feed even more product to a crazed speculator market. Each group of Marvel titles received their own quarterly Unlimited (even the “Midnight Sons” books), but only the Spider-Man and X-Men titles survived for more than a few years. The original plan was for every issue of this quarterly series to be a major event; which lasted for about four issues (issue one introduces the “major villain” Siena Blaze, issue two is the return of Magneto, issue three has Sabretooth “joining” the X-Men, and issue four is the origin of Nightcrawler). By the fifth issue, the title devolved into X-Men Quarterly Inventory Stories, a reputation it never shook. After this title was around for a year so, you would think that Marvel would’ve realized that it was hurting the brand identity of the X-line and done something about it, but it limped along in various incarnations until 2006, finally dying out as a try-out title for new creators.
Looking back on what duds Siena Blaze and X-Men Unlimited turned out to be, it’s tempting to totally dismiss this issue, but it has its moments. Chris Bachalo does his first work for the X-office, combining his own idiosyncratic style with the more mainstream look of the early ‘90s X-titles. You can see elements of what’s to come in Generation X, but in some places his art is almost unrecognizable. It’s a good-looking issue, especially when you consider how awful most double-sized comics look. The premise of the story, the three leaders of the X-Men fighting against the elements, is solid even if the master villain turns out to be a joke. Scott Lobdell obviously enjoys writing Xavier, coming up with some creative uses of his powers. It’s refreshing to read a comic that presents Xavier as a sincere, caring father figure, and not a secretive, manipulative, amoral creep. I was never a huge fan of Xavier, but even I was disturbed by the X-office’s recent attempts to darken the character (did anyone think the “Dangerous” arc in Astonishing was a good idea?).
The comic’s major flaw is obvious to fans of this era – Siena Blaze, a poorly conceived villain who thankfully disappeared not long after this issue was released. Blaze has the vaguely defined ability to disrupt the Earth’s electromagnetic spectrum, and every time she uses her power, there’s a chance she’ll destroy Earth’s ecosystem. Since everyone knows this will never happen, it’s a hollow threat. Aside from that, her motivation is simply that she’s a spoiled brat and decided to join the Upstarts for kicks. These aren’t the makings of a major villain. Thankfully, her confrontation with the X-Men is brief, and most of the issue simply focuses on the X-Men surviving a plane crash in the elements of Antarctica. Overall, it’s not that bad. If X-Men Unlimited had maintained even this level of quality, maybe people would have fonder memories of the title.