Friday, December 21, 2007

X-MEN UNLIMITED #1 – June 1993

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.

Continuity Notes
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.

Creative Differences
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.


LurkerWithout said...

I had issues 2-4 of this series, before limited finances cut back how many X-books I could pick up. I actually liked the Magneto and Nightcrawler issues. I can't remember a damn thing about the Sabretooth one though...

Mike Loughlin said...

I think Dan Panoshian's inking was responsible for the book's overall look. His poor-man's Scott Williams style was the X-books were trying for in 1993.

James said...

There was one great issue of X-Men Unlimited, which I really loved. It was a short story reuniting Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz with the New Mutants (and, in a clever conceit, the original five New Mutants themselves reuinted in the story).

The back up story was just as good - a Lockheed tale pencilled by Paul Smith (I forgot who the writer was; it might have been Claremont again). This one was meant to explain where Lockheed was and why he wasn't with Kitty Pryde after the end of Excalibur, but it works wonderfully as a stand-alone tale (you don't need to know a thing about X-continuity to enjoy it). I've actually bought multiple copies of this issue, just because I like it so darn much.

Teebore said...

Even as X-Obsessed kid I knew how lame Sienna Blaze was.

Anonymous said...

"If X-Men Unlimited had maintained even this level of quality, maybe people would have fonder memories of the title."

In fact, this is the issue I think of when I think of X-Men Unlimited. I stopped reading X-comics around this time, so the title never acquired any bad feelings for me.

I like this story a lot, despite the unconvincing villain. I'm a sucker for creatively applied super powers, and it's one of very few stories where I was actually interested in Cyclops.

Arvin Bautista said...

This was the only issue of XMU I ever actually bought and loved it, even if I knew how ridiculously loose the art was, I just felt as a 9 year old that the writing of the three X leaders were done very well.

Anonymous said...

I... kind of like Sienna Blaze. Perhaps it's the writer in me, but she seemed like a character with potential. I liked her motivation of joining the Upstarts for kicks, if she'd been written as the Anarchist in the Upstarts, I think she could've worked. Plus it sets her up as a nice contrast to the other members who have goals for what they want to do w/ the power they accumulate if they win. Sienna is really just a wildcard wrench that Fitzroy throws into the game to even the playing field, and makes him look like a better strategist. Her powers are a bit undefined, but I think the devastation her powers reap when she uses them normally is enough to set her as a legit threat. We don't need the line about the planet cracking.

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