Monday, January 21, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #304 – September 1993


…For What I Have Done
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), John Romita, Jr, Jae Lee, Chris Sprouse, Brandon Peterson, & Paul Smith (pencilers), Dan Green, Dan Panosian, Terry Austin, Tom Palmer, & Keith Williams (inkers), Mike Thomas (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)


Summary
Exodus reveals Fabian Cortez’s role in Magneto’s “death” to the Acolytes. The Acolytes follow Exodus to Avalon while Cortez is left to be a victim of “someone else’s legacy.” During Illyana’s funeral service, Magneto and the Acolytes appear. Magneto punishes Senyaka for the Acolytes’ attack on the hospice, while saying that he would have approved of the action if only he had been asked permission. Bishop absorbs the magnetic power being used to hold the X-Men and blasts Magneto. The X-Men try to charge him up with more energy. When Magneto reappears, Avalon is glowing, preparing for an attack on Westchester County. When Bishop attacks again, Colossus strikes him from behind, siding with Magneto. Desperate, Xavier takes over Magneto’s mind and uses his powers to send Avalon back into orbit.


Gimmicks
This issue has a cardstock hologram cover.


Continuity Notes
Magneto is referred to as “Eric Lehnsherr” for the first time. Even though Xavier has always referred to him as “Magnus” in flashbacks, he suddenly starts calling him “Eric” now. Years later, “Eric Lehnsherr” was revealed to be a false identity, but Marvel seems to have forgotten that.


In a flashback, Magneto is seen running with the body of his daughter, Anya. Previous stories establish that she was burned alive in a fire, but she certainly doesn’t look burned in this issue.


Fabian Cortez being a victim of “someone else’s legacy” is presumably a reference to the Legacy Virus.


Review
This is a comic I can remember actively hating for years. Looking back on it, I can almost see how someone divorced from X-Men continuity might enjoy it, but in terms of building upon existing characterization and giving characters legitimate motivations, it fails miserably. I started buying Uncanny X-Men in 1988, so I missed most of the “reformed Magneto” era. The Magneto I remembered was from the later Claremont issues, an occasional ally who wanted to do the right thing but was constantly being pushed in the wrong direction. I think the only comic I had read featuring Magneto as an X-Man was the final issue of the Fantastic Four vs. X-Men miniseries. The scene where Magneto laments that no one can accept the fact that he’s changed really stuck with me as a kid. Reed Richards shaking hands with Magneto at the end was one of my favorite moments in comics at that point. Reading this issue, with a psychotic Magneto who crashes a little girl’s funeral, advocates a hospice slaughter, kills one of his followers, and then tries to destroy an entire town…let’s just say it didn’t go over very well. Magneto doesn’t exist as a character at this point; he exists solely to be the villain in an overpriced company-mandated crossover. There’s some lip service paid to Claremont’s reformation of the character, but it just seems like a weak attempt to add depth to a one-dimensional villain.


Colossus finally joins Magneto, after months of build-up. The titles have done a good job of establishing Colossus’ anguish over the loss of his family, but siding with Magneto still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Colossus’ sister died of a virus created by an evil mutant. Why join another one? Why would the actions of an evil mutant cause Colossus to doubt Xavier’s dream, when the X-Men were created to fight these villains in the first place? If anything, this would strengthen his resolve to fight people like Stryfe. In order for Colossus to logically side with Magneto, he should have a motivation to side with him against humans. It’s true that his parents were murdered by the Russian government, but even then, this wasn’t done as an attack against mutants (actually, why it was done was never clear). Colossus has a reason to be upset in these issues, and perhaps to leave the team to grieve, but not to join someone planning to wipe out the human race. If Colossus had a specific reason to hate humans (his sister killed in an anti-mutant riot or something), that could work. If Colossus had grown closer to Magneto over a period of time and begun to understand his point of view, this might have worked. But Colossus joining Magneto after he crashes his sister’s funeral and tries to kill an entire city doesn’t work at all. It’s the type of cheap shock value that would characterize much of the ‘90s.


In an attempt to tie the two storylines together, Magneto uses Stryfe’s Legacy Virus as a justification for killing humans. His nonsensical explanation is that mutants wouldn’t be fighting against one another if humans weren’t out to kill them. Think about this…mutants are fighting each other because a separate group wants them dead. Wouldn’t this lead mutants to unite together against humans? I take it Magneto is one of those people who didn’t like the ending of Watchmen. If Magneto is going to justify anything to attack humans, wouldn’t the government’s revival of the Sentinel project be a better excuse?


There’s some attempt to mark this as an anniversary issue, rather than just another chapter in a crossover. All of the X-teams assemble for Illyana’s funeral, giving cameos to former members and other characters from the spinoffs. Former artist Paul Smith returns to draw a few pages, although it’s hard to recognize his style. Storm and Kitty Pryde have a scene reminiscent of the one they shared after Storm’s mohawk makeover. Oddly enough, John Romita, Jr. drew the original issue, but Chris Sprouse draws the homage scene while Romita draws most of the other pages. Most of the artwork is fine, but nothing can save this story.

8 comments:

Cove West said...

Aaaand...the wheels begin to fall off.

I can go along with most of the post-Claremont Era nonsense until this point. X-FORCE had an interesting concept--"New Mutants...out of the mansion and kickin' ass!"--just a mostly-horrendous execution. UNCANNY had been a bog to slog through and X-MEN not much better, but nothing happened that couldn't be forgotten or grudgingly accepted. "Song" was a big, dumb action extravaganza; it wasn't trying to be much else. Even Illyana's death wasn't THAT egregious, since no one had used her since "Inferno" anyway. But then comes UNCANNY #304, and suddenly the train doesn't look so much "runaway" as "purposefully being driven off a cliff."

It's sudden even within the issue itself. The first dozen or so pages of #304 are actually quite good. I've always said that Lobdell's best character was Xavier and he doesn't disappoint here, showing a man beginning to collapse under the weight of his own ambitions. The various "around the mansion" scenes aren't spectacular, but they do an okay job of setting a tone. And the funeral itself is appropriately funereal.

And then Magneto drops Avalon on top of the mansion--as a peace gesture!--and Colossus thinks that's a perfectly acceptable tribute and is SO moved by Magnus's "everyone here, and Illyana by association, sucks!" eulogy that he decides to punch Bishop in the kidneys.

Oh God, where to start. I'm certainly biased--IMO, Magneto was Claremont's crowning achievement--but I can't for the life of me see how anyone at Marvel thought any of this made any sense. It's as though UNCANNY #150-273 NEVER HAPPENED! If you buy Magnus's excuse (that once Moira's personality-tampering was undone in X-MEN #2, he reverted to his pre-Mutant Alpha anger), it contradicts his whole reasoning for Avalon in the first place (he tried his own way, he tried Xavier's way, and now he's going to try abstaining). I mean, going by the X-MEN #2 retcon, shouldn't Magneto be MORE world-conqueringly ape-s**t? The guy has the power to single-handedly incapacitate the ENTIRE X-army or EMP the entire planet, has a pal at his side who can single-handedly sujugate an entire nation AND the X-Men AND the Avengers, has a personal army of frothing worshippers, and has a giant future-tech spaceship...that's GO-time for Old Magneto, not hide-out-in-space time. Not that the retcon should ever have seen the light of day, but if they're gonna go with it...

Sigh. Like I say, I'm biased. Why wasn't the Magneto of UXM #273 "evil" enough? He tried Xavier's way, it all turned pear-shaped, and now he wants to get as many mutants out of the line of fire before the Days of Future Past break out and woe to whoever gets in his way. Was that so tame? Was he not enough of a contrast to the X-Men unless he was a lunatic who didn't remember the past ten years? Apparently so. And at that, I began to see that the X-office didn't have a clue anymore.

Luke said...

I had only started reading Uncanny and Adjectiveless about 6 months prior to this issue, so Magneto's characterization wasn't that unusual to me because I knew so little about him. I remember thinking that this issue was pretty shocking at the time I read it, but then again, I was an idiot so there you go. At this point I was still excited and heavily interested in "Fatal Attractions" and the mutant storylines in general, so I suppose I enjoyed this -- I'm going to have to read it again and see how I feel about it now. (Of course, now I'm going in with the foreknowledge about Magento so I'll probably be more apt not to like it! Arrgh!)

G. Kendall said...

Yeah, I'd be curious to know what someone introduced to the X-Men by the cartoon thought of this issue. Although, even the cartoon had a more nuanced version of Magneto.

Cove West said...

Well, I WAS coming to the X-Men from the cartoon (aside from some early X-FORCE, X-MEN #24 was my first fanboy issue), and like Luke, I thought this ish was pretty cool the first time through. Blue Team, Gold Team, X-Force, X-Factor, and Excalibur, all vs. Magneto? Teh awesome. And I guess that's all Marvel was looking for at the time: hook those Animated Series fans on a straightforward slobberknocker. In that regard, it worked.

But in the long run, I think it did more harm than good. Marvel had a rare thing in X-fans--a loyal audience that was both staunch and numerous. Ditching "their" X-Men in favor of a cartoon-friendly version might've been a short-term boon for Marvel, but it alienated the old-timers who might otherwise still be there today.

It's weird: X-Men fans stuck around through Jean's death, Scott's "retirement," Xavier's space-vacation, Magneto's headmastership, the post-Massacre shake-up, the Outback Era, the Siege Perilous, and Storm's mohawk/powerlessness/second-childhood/mutate-ness/friggin'-space-whale-ness...yet the one thing that drove them away was conservative consolidation. "What if the X-Men's greatest foe was actually...a BAD GUY?" Oh no, that was a step TOO far! Weird yes, but Marvel should've known better--the X-Men work better when they AREN'T what people expect.

Fnord Serious said...

Momentum kept me buying through the rest of the crossover, but the illogical nonsense that filled this issue was the last blow to my loyalty to the X-Men. I am in total agreement with Cove's comment about the book being driven off a cliff. It seems the X-office was so concerned with shock value and having a big bad guy in Magneto that they threw all rationality out the window.

Pat! said...

man, i remember lovin' the hell out of this issue when it first came out

all the hints of magneto's return and then, BAM! he was back. cool back story were we learn his true name

the last half of the story where him and xavier have it out and you learn why xavier is a bad-ass

this issue, the x-men issue after it, and the wolverine issue are still three of my all time favorite comics

of course, i was a kid back then so, what do i know ;)

Trotsky said...

I was also a youth brought into X-Men by the cartoon, and I found no problems with this issue that seem so obvious and glaring at the time. I mean if they want to appeal to 13 year olds they might as well have them right to their level I suppose.

I hated Colossus for years, and never understood why anyone liked him until Mr. Ellis rehabilitated him in his wonderful run on Excalibur (despite having crazy Colossus show up and batter poor Pete because he was kissing Katya).

Brandon said...

I just recently found your blog and am really enjoying it.

A continuity note for this issue. Bishop tells Banshee that in the future he is the person that trains/teaches the next generation of mutants. This foreshadows his role in Generation X. That scene is easily the best of this issue.

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