Monday, May 5, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #316 – September 1994

“Generation Next” Part One – Encounter
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira (penciler), Terry Austin & Dan Green (inkers), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Steve Buccellato (colors)

In Monaco, a young mutant named Monet St. Croix is riding in a limousine with her bodyguard. She’s trying to convince Monet to speak for the first time in three months. The car is attacked by a member of the Phalanx, who kills the driver and bodyguard. Monet remains emotionless as the Phalanx kidnaps her. In New York, Banshee returns to the X-Men’s mansion to find that the team is behaving oddly. When he sees a few X-Men inside Xavier’s private ready room, and discovers that the entire communications room has been taken apart in less than thirty minutes, he knows that something’s wrong. When Rogue tries to stop him from taking Sabretooth for a walk, he blasts her with his sonic scream and learns that she was a member of the Phalanx in disguise. Sabretooth helps Banshee stop the Phalanx, and agrees to follow Banshee’s plan so long as he has a detonator connected to his muzzle. Sabretooth frees Jubilee from the Danger Room and Emma Frost from the medical lab while Banshee tries to stop the Phalanx from stealing Xavier’s files. He reads the program the Phalanx were running and learns that they are targeting the young mutants listed in Xavier’s archives. The Phalanx explain to him that they’re using the captured X-Men and Xavier’s files to study mutants so that they can learn how to assimilate them. Until then, they’ll terminate any mutants they discover. Banshee sets off the self-destruct sequence and escapes into the sewers with Sabretooth, Frost, and Jubilee.

Continuity Notes
This is the first appearance of Monet St. Croix, or M, one of the few characters from Generation X being used today. She’s established as a powerful psionic in this issue.

Every chapter of the “Phalanx Covenant” crossover has a cardstock cover with a holographic strip. For the first time, thankfully, Marvel also offered non-enhanced versions of the titles at the regular price. The enhanced versions cost $2.95, so Marvel was charging almost twice the regular price for just the special cover.

The Phalanx crossover begins with a mediocre start. For some reason, the majority of the issue is dedicated to Banshee wandering around the mansion, wondering what’s wrong with the X-Men. Since it’s obvious from the very beginning that the X-Men have been replaced with imposters (it’s even on the freaking cover), the setup feels like it takes forever, while also making Banshee look dense in the process. The story doesn’t move until the final six pages, which makes the ending feel rushed and anticlimactic. The very basic idea, that Banshee is on the run from the Phalanx with the weakest X-Man and two captured criminals, isn’t bad at all but it takes too long to get there.

There are also elements of the story that just don’t make a lot of sense. Why do the Phalanx let Banshee just roam around the mansion? If they were capable of kidnapping all of the other X-Men, why couldn’t they stop Banshee as soon as he walked into the door? Why are they keeping Jubilee captive in the Danger Room? I assume that this ties in to their search for young mutants, but the story’s never clear on what the Phalanx want with them. The Phalanx are studying mutants so that they can learn how to assimilate them, but they also want to kill any mutants they discover in the meantime. Age doesn’t really have anything to do with this, unless the story is implying that younger mutants are easier to study. When going back to the “Child’s Play” crossover, I noticed that it actually has a stronger motivation for introducing a new generation of mutants into the franchise. The idea presented at the end of that story is that Xavier must find the next generation of mutants before the Gamesmaster can corrupt them. I really have no idea why that idea was dropped in favor of this crossover, which mainly comes across as a strained attempt at selling the Phalanx as major villains.


Anonymous said...

I always kind of liked the concept that all the major Xmen were taken down off panel.

rob said...

I agree, there is a creepy vibe to Banshee's discoveries around the mansion, even if it lasts the whole issue. And I liked that he gets some decent screentime here since his most recent appearance had him unnaturally shoehorned into the Emma body takeover story to give him a connection to her. The very concept of this issue plays off the fact that he has kind of been out of touch with the X-Men lately.

LurkerWithout said...

Hey the Phalanx CAN be major villains. All they needed was some Ultron...

Matt said...

I actually really like this issue. Yes, it's obvious to us the reader that the Phalanx have taken over, but Banshee doesn't know that. It's got, as several people already mentioned, a really creepy, horror movie vibe. Watching Banshee slowly piece together what's going on was pretty cool, and the bit where he outwits the Psylocke, Gambit, Bishop and Beast Phalanx makes him look pretty clever. I think this issue really works.

Drew said...

While I can't disagree about all of the plot holes, I concur with everyone else that I loved this issue as a kid and still bear a fondness for it. As mentioned, it has a very Invasion of the Body Snatchers feel to it, with the lone hero slowly realizing that things are not right, then with mounting dread finding out that it's so, so much worse than he initially thought. That one series of panels with Banshee dripping sweat and the dawning horror on his face as he realizes just how screwed he is are great, and allow me to excuse that, yes, it makes him seem a bit dim. But it's so rare that the X-books flirt with a true horror story that this was really welcome.

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