Wednesday, February 20, 2008

X-MEN #27 – December 1993


A Song of Mourning, A Cry of Joy
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Richard Bennett (penciler), Bob Wiacek/Scott Hanna (inkers), Bill Oakley (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)


Summary
Rogue, Iceman, and Beast visit Infectia, who’s dying of the Legacy Virus, in a Los Angeles hospital. They speak to a Dr. Nathan Milbury before Infectia tells them that she came to Los Angeles to get help from a mutant researcher named Gordon Lefferts. The X-Men investigate Lefferts’ lab and discover a group of homeless people living there. Rogue tracks one of them, Threnody, because she suspects that she might have information on the lab. Rogue finds Threnody just as Mr. Sinister offers to help her. Rogue figures out that Mr. Sinister was actually Dr. Milbury before Threnody’s power erupts. Sinister reveals to the X-Men that Threnody translates emotion into plasma energy, and that she only absorbs pain from mutants dying of the Legacy Virus. Sinister wants to use to her to track more mutants because he also wants to cure the disease. Beast reluctantly agrees to let Sinister take Threnody with him. Later, at the hospital, Beast releases Infectia from her quarantine and holds her as she dies.


Creative Differences
Paul O’Brien's index on this issue talks about a page that was awkwardly re-edited, although I never really noticed it. I only notice two word balloons that have been obviously re-lettered in this issue, which isn't uncommon at all during this era.


Continuity Notes
Infectia is a very obscure villain from the early issues of X-Factor. She’s the only type of character the Legacy Virus ever seemed to kill.


At the end of the story, Threnody detects another mutant with the Legacy Virus nearby. Sinister refuses to tell Rogue who it is. The implication seems to be that Sinister has the Virus, even though this mystery is never referenced again. Of course, Sinister was revealed not to be a mutant a few years after this issue was written (although, later on, human Moira McTaggert somehow contracted the disease as well).


“Huh?” Moment
When the X-Men discover a group of homeless people, Beast tells Rogue to “assuage their fears” because she is most “normal in appearance” of the three X-Men. This overlooks the fact that Iceman can revert to human form at any time.


I Love the ‘90s
In the Bullpen Bulletins page, it’s jokingly suggested that Marvel might change its name to “Marvel Grunge Productions”, “Marvel Technoraves”, or “Marvel Fresh Hip Hop Jams”.


Review
This is the introduction of Threnody, another new character from 1993 who never caught on. She did become a cast member in the X-Man series, though, so she’s probably made more appearances than any of the other new characters from this year. Her powers are frankly ridiculous and obviously exist for plot convenience. It’s one thing to have a mutant who turns emotional energy into “plasma energy”. That’s fairly dumb, but it can work in the context of a superhero comic. It’s another thing to suggest that this power only works on mutant emotions, more distinctively, on mutants with a specific disease. That’s ludicrous. Why would her power only single out this one disease? If a mutant dies a painful death of AIDS, nothing happens; but if the mutant dies of an AIDS allegory, suddenly she explodes? I understand the need to introduce a mutant who can find other mutants infected with the Legacy Virus. Figuring out a convenient way to find those infected with the disease would be a logical step in developing the storyline. But revealing that one mutant has a power that only allows her to feel the pain from Legacy Virus victims is way too much of a stretch.


As he often does, Nicieza gives the heroes an ethical dilemma to contemplate. Despite my objects to how specifically Threnody’s powers are defined, he does create a strong question for the team. Is it okay to allow Sinister to take advantage of Threnody’s power, which causes her to live in constant pain, in order to help all mutants? Nicieza’s able to give the X-Men an answer without making them appear unsympathetic. More moral ambiguity is applied to Xavier, which seems to be a trend during this era. Rogue implies that Xavier is using her rather than helping her control her powers. This doesn’t work as well for me, since a) Rogue came to Xavier for help, not the other way around, b) Rogue’s using her powers to actively help people, not for any ominous purposes, c) it’s already been established that Xavier wants to cure Rogue and is concerned for her condition, and d) being cured of her condition wouldn’t prevent Rogue from being an X-Man since she wants to control her powers, not necessarily be totally rid of them. I don’t really know why the “let’s reveal that Xavier secretly has dark motives” theme keeps cropping up, even to this day. Why is Xavier specifically singled out for this? Xavier started a school to train mutants on how to use their powers and to stop mutants who use their powers to harm humans. Where’s the hidden darkness in that?


This is another issue that’s hard to look back on, as so much of it is spent on building up the Legacy Virus storyline. It’s still hard to believe that Marvel spent so many months selling this storyline, only to totally drop it a few years later. Nicieza is successful in giving the team an interesting question to deal with, but it’s hard to get past the way he got there. Fill-in art comes from Richard Bennett, which I thought looked great at the time, but it certainly hasn’t aged well. He does a few more jobs for Marvel before leaving for Jim Lee’s studio.

6 comments:

Chad said...

I think the Powers That Be or at least writers over at Marvel agreed with you. Over the course of "X-Man" they retconed her powers to include any living being that's dying. Of course, toward the end of the series they also made it so that she could use the powers of any super-being that died, which is on a whole new dimension of stupidity.

Teebore said...

"This overlooks the fact that Iceman can revert to human form at any time."

Could he though, at this time? I recall a time hereabouts where Iceman was stuck in his ice form for one reason or another (probably an injury).

Could be muddling my memories or the timing, but I figured it was worth mentioning since it would make Beast's comment make more sense.

Anonymous said...

I think Iceman being stuck in ice form happens after the fight with Post (X-Men#50), when there's a hole in his stomach.

I always thought this was a decent little issue. Obviously irrelevant now, but good enough at the time for what it set out to do. Although Threnody's powers here stand out as moronic each time I read it.

Teebore said...

Ah, yes, the hole in the chest. That's exactly what I was thinking of.

So Beast's comment in this issue is still grossly inaccurate :)

Luke said...

I have to count this issue as one of the successes of the period, because despite the fact that I was reading both Uncanny and Adjectiveless at this time, this is one of the very (very) few issues of either I can remember with any clarity. I remember reading it and then actually taking some time to think about the moral implications of what Sinister was doing. I really liked the issue then, but that was 15 years ago, so I don't know what my reaction would be now. But I think the simple fact that it was a little different story, with a bit more appropriate ambiguity as opposed to the normal garden variety, made it a better issue all-around.

Fnord Serious said...

I haven't read the issue, but did the homeless people see Iceman already? Maybe Beast assumes they would be unnerved by seeing him revert to human form?

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