Thursday, May 22, 2008

X-MEN #38 – November 1994

Smoke and Mirrors
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Matt Ryan (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Kevin Somers (colorist)

Beast discovers that the Legacy Virus has mutated into three strains, enabling it to infect humans. Iceman and Rogue discuss his recent possession by Emma Frost, while Psylocke and Phoenix spar in the Danger Room. Cyclops then takes over the Danger Room to give Sabretooth an exercise drill. Gambit tricks Cyclops into leaving the control booth, and then sets the Danger Room on a lethal setting. After watching Sabretooth defend himself for a few minutes, Gambit finally confronts him, telling him that he’s not going to revert into the person he used to be. Xavier discusses the loss of his classified information with Bishop, while Beast tries to reassure Iceman. Finally, Xavier reflects upon the future with Cyclops and Phoenix.

Continuity Notes
Sabretooth threatens to tell the X-Men about a “sinister” chapter in Gambit’s past. This is the first direct hint that Gambit has a past with Mr. Sinister.

Adam X visits Hazard in prison, asking about Milbury (a.k.a. Mr. Sinister). He claims that Milbury worked with Hazard’s father in the past. Hazard’s response is to ask Charles Xavier about him. Since Xavier’s father worked with Hazard’s, this is obviously an attempt to tie Sinister to Professor Xavier’s father, but I don’t think anything came of it.

The first in-story hint of the Age of Apocalypse storyline begins when Legion has a vision of Destiny in his sleep.

Psylocke has a very short haircut in this issue. The story even draws attention to it out by having Jean remark that she impulsively cut ten inches of her hair off. I think the short hair makes one more appearance and is then totally forgotten about. Maybe they thought it wasn’t feminine enough for a character so rooted in cheesecake.

Professor Xavier says that he lost all of his private files when Banshee was forced to destroy them during the Phalanx attack. He tells Bishop that he made no copies for security reasons, not even for Muir Island's records. He suggests that Commcast might be able to retrieve the data. This is another forgotten subplot.

This is the four hundredth quiet, post-crossover issue of an X-book. It does set the stage for a few subplots, but considering that half of them go nowhere, it’s hard to get too worked up about most of this. The first hints of an Iceman/Rogue relationship begin here, but this turns out to be another plotline that fizzles out. There’s a lot of interaction between the characters in this issue, but I don’t find most of it that interesting. A lot of the dialogue is filled with cryptic bits like “…Ah can’t run anymore from who Ah was…if it means Ah keep runnin’ away from who Ah wanna be”, which is either really deep or just nonsense. The moment where Gambit tells Sabretooth that he refuses to go back to the person he used to be turns out to be the best scene in the book, and it’s only five pages or so. Andy Kubert’s art is really strong, though, and it’s helped a lot by the improved paper quality and color separations.


rob said...

I've always loved this one! Even if the quiet post-crossover issues are getting overboard at this point. Psylocke's new haircut getting discussed is by far the highlight, as well as the cheesy scenes with Xavier, Scott, and Jean discussing the school's name change that open and close the issue.

This issue is also a sea of aborted subplots, which will get even worse after AoA. The Commcast one is a bit of a shame, because it actually sounds like an interesting idea. Alot of the character development is completely redundant, but it's hard to look harshly at an issue that has a special place in my heart.

Peter said...

From what I remember, Nicieza would often remember and refer to his own past subplots in other series, such as GAMBIT and CABLE/DEADPOOL. The relationship between Sinister, Ryking and Xavier would come up again in Gambit's own series through the Black Womb (also referred to in X-MEN: FOREVER), and didn't Nicieza have some fun with Commcast in C/D?

It's a pity Nicieza's no longer tinkering around in the Marvel Universe. Because of his longevity, it was fun to see how he'd weave plots from his Alpha Flight work into the Thunderbolts. It could get convoluted sometimes, but also made the universe more cohesive.

It speaks volumes of editorial control in the X-office of the time that so many of the subplots end up being aborted over and over again.

By the way, I love your blog, found it a couple months ago and have been reading it regularly ever since. I am considering doing something similar for either all of Marvel's 80s output or for the post-Crisis Superman books. It's fun to read so should be fun to write ;)

Paul said...

How timely that Mike Carey is revisiting the whole Xavier's Dad/Hazard's Dad/Juggernaut's Dad/Milbury/Sinister thing this month!

G. Kendall said...

Peter, I remember being excited when Hazard showed up in Gambit, but I was disappointed when the mysteries Nicieza introduced in X-Men weren't resolved (that's the way I remember it, at least. I never read X-Men Forever, so I don't know what was resolved there).

And I would *love* to see someone do a blog this with one of DC's franchise characters. I've thought about ordering some Superman comics from the late '80s/early '90s on eBay, but I have no idea if they're any good, or how self-contained they are. It'd be interesting to see if Batman or Superman comics of the '90s compare to the X-books.

Peter said...

I do indeed think that Nicieza never finished his Hazard story despite returning him in Gambit. But then he was unceremoniously booted off in favor of the aborted "Gambishop" series, so who knows what he had in mind. I'm sure that he'll end up telling his story eventually, if he doesn't stick with DC longterm. Or maybe Mike Carey will in Legacy soon!

While Superman in the late 80s/early 90s had various good writers and artists, the problem was often the linked storylines that would drag down individuality (hey, that sounds oddly familiar =). You can't read Superman #80-92, say, without also reading the issues of Action, Adventures and Man of Steel from that period. Well, you can, but often it'll end on a cliffhanger resolved in a different series, as DC expected the Superman fans to be following the adventures of Supes weekly (so in no way was 52 a real first for DC, they'd been doing it for quite a while with Superman until Berganza put a stop to it in the late 90s).

It would certainly be kind of fun to do it with Superman post-Crisis, because of Byrne's reimagining and then all the later returns of Silver Age elements. In a few weeks, work will slow down to a trickle thanks to the summer vacation, so I might be able to try my hand at it :)

The Superman series of the 80s/90s are certainly a very different animal from the X-books, focusing as they do on the one character and his supporting cast rather than a wide range of team members. Byrne's stint was fairly substantial (Superman v2 #1-22, Action #584-600, and Wolfman was working on Adventures of Superman #424-444 concurrently) and after he leaves, Roger Stern takes over, with George Perez getting involved for a time as well in 1989.

But then if you're looking for good, self-contained DC, series like Starman and Hitman are a better suggestion. Solidly planted in the DCU, but totally enjoyable on their own. Books like Superman and Batman will always get involved in mega-crossovers, whereas James Robinson and Garth Ennis where able to weave their own tales even when participating in crossovers.

Anonymous said...

I just reread this issue, and then reread the review. One of the strong points of this issue that I'm surprised wasn't addressed was that the book was broken up into story segments with a different heading for each character's segment. Iceman, Rogue, Bishop, etc, with 2 interludes and a prologue/epilogue. Not unusual to see in an issue, but in this one, the first panel in each segment showed the character's face being reflected on some surface. Psylocke's reflection was in her sword, Iceman's was in his icy hands, Sabretooth's was in a danger room robot, and so on. (Interlude 2 didn't have this, but the first panel was Adam X looking at Hazard through prison glass, so maybe the effect was intended to be there.) I thought this was an interesting choice for the art and was surprised it wasn't mentioned here.

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