Wednesday, June 11, 2008

X-MEN UNLIMITED #7 – December 1994

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Joe Rubinstein (inker), Starkings/Comicraft (lettering), Matt Webb (colorist)

Storm, Gambit, and Phoenix travel to Cairo to visit Storm’s thief mentor, Achmed El-Gibar, in his final days. Candra and her devotee Bond also arrive in Cairo, hoping to recruit one of Achmed’s followers, a boy with “latent power” named Jamil. Karima, one of Achmed’s young street urchins, steals Phoenix’s purse and is confronted by Storm. She leads the team to Achmed’s home, where they’re ambushed by Jamil. Jamil is rebelling against Achmed and starting his own street gang. After the X-Men stop his attack, Jamil runs away and meets Candra and Bond in an alley. Candra bribes him with new clothes and a promise to show him the world. Jamil leads Candra and Bond to Achmed’s home, where they fight the X-Men. After a standoff with Storm, Candra leaves with Jamil. Achmed asks Storm to save Jamil from Candra so that his urchins will have a new leader before he dies.
After searching the city, the team finds Jamil. They’re attacked again by Candra and Bond, who trap them underneath a collapsed building. With Phoenix’s help, Storm fights through her claustrophobia and breaks free. They follow Jamil to Candra’s estate, where Jamil is being asked to kill fellow urchin Karima in order to prove his loyalty to Candra. The X-Men enter and stop Jamil from killing her. Storm challenges Candra to a duel over Jamil and she accepts. Gambit and Phoenix stop Bond and Jamil while Storm defeats Candra. When Candra regroups and tries to attack Storm from behind, Karima stabs her hand and stops her. Jamil refuses to go with Storm, saying that he will pay any price to get away from the streets of Cairo. Storm returns to Achmed, who tells her that she has not failed him, but has actually brought back a greater treasure. He asks her to look after the future of the urchins and then passes away. After leaving his side, Storm begins to train Karima to lead the urchins.

Continuity Note
As established in one of her earliest appearances, Storm grew up as a pickpocket in Cairo, and was mentored by Achmed El-Gibar.

This seems to be the period where Howard Mackie found favor with the X-office. The Generation X preview special listed Mackie and Romita, Jr. as the new creative team on X-Men Unlimited, and even though this was Romita’s only issue, Mackie stayed with this book for the next few issues. He was also given the high-profile Rogue miniseries at this time, which I guess Marvel considered good enough to warrant future assignments. Within a year, he’ll be writing X-Factor, too. I know that his run on that title took a massive beating online, and since I hardly remember a thing about it, I’m not sure what to expect when I get to those issues.

Anyway, his debut on X-Men Unlimited isn’t very good, but it is better than his extremely weak Rogue miniseries. The fact that it’s contained to a single comic helps to hide the repetitious nature of the plot, while the Rogue mini’s four separate installments just emphasized the fact that she was fighting the same people over and over again. The characters at least have more sensible motives than what we saw in the Rogue mini, and the Romita art helps the fight scenes out a lot. There is the odd choice to portray Achmed El-Gibar, who takes street kids and trains them as thieves for his own profit, as some sort of hero, which makes me wonder how Mackie would feel if someone stole his own wallet while on vacation. Having Storm train the little girl to keep the tradition alive is also a strange ending, even though the story plays the scene straight and doesn’t present it with any moral ambiguity. I get that these are supposed to be street kids with nowhere else to go, but you would think that a hero like Storm would make an effort to teach them a better way to survive than just stealing. I haven’t read her earlier appearances in a while, but I don’t think we were ever supposed to think that Storm’s past as a thief was cool; it was supposed to show how hard her childhood was. The twist ending, that Karima will actually lead the urchins, isn’t that bad of a resolution. However, she’s hardly given anything to do in the story until this point and remains an extremely underdeveloped character throughout the entire issue. At no point in the story do you actually care about anything that happens to her. Instead of three separate fight scenes with Candra, some of that time should have been spent on building up her character. Aside from the fact that a very minor peripheral character dies, this reads like another inventory story. The rest of the issue consists of eight pin-ups (a few look like rejected covers) and two pages of letters, which reinforces just how pointless this series has become.


Paul said...

And like with the Morlocks, Storm will eventually forget that she's responsible for these folks.

Teebore said...

Storm does have something of a track record of putting in charge of people, then summarily forgetting their existences, doesn't she?

Is this Karima the same one that went on to become an omega sentinel and, then, Omega Sentinel, joining and betraying the team recently in Mike Carey's run?

It's probably just a coincidence, but I honestly don't remember much about Omega Sentinel's early appearances (occurring during a time when knowing everything there was to know about the X-Men wasn't as much a priority for me as it was when this issue came out).

sixhoursoflucy said...

This is actually X-Men Unlimited #7. X-Men Unlimited #9 is an awful story about Bloodscream and Belasco that makes this one seem fairly decent by comparison (but I still didn't like this issue either).

In response to teebore, no, this isn't the same Karima. That other Karima (Shapandar) is from India, and this one is Egyptian. I think it also later turns out that this Karima is some sort of telepath, and the boy Jamil is one of her psychic projections.

Teebore said...

Oh yeah, I'm vaguely recalling that bit about Karima 'creating' Jamil now. Thanks!

Jeff said...

Yes, Scott Lobdell brings these characters back (Lord knows why) in X-Men #60-61 and explains that Jamil is just a projection. Whenever Lobdell wrote both titles adjectiveless X-Men just became a series of filler stories that were generally awful. (X-Men 46-49, 58-61)

G. Kendall said...

This is actually X-Men Unlimited #7. X-Men Unlimited #9 is an awful story about Bloodscream and Belasco

Thanks for pointing that out. I've fixed the title.

Luke said...

I seem to remember Unlimited being advertised specifically as "side stories" that were "too big" for the normal comics, or that needed to be told but on their own, or something. Honestly, the idea of a big quarterly book is fine by me, but the execution of this series was always so slapdash that the whole thing just seemed like an afterthought every few months... "Oh geez, we need another issue of Unlimited!"

rob said...

I have no idea why Lobdell brought this crew of characters back for the later X-Men arc either. Candra has never interested me and that two-parter is dead boring.

Mackie was like a mini-Bendis of his time, with a growing influence on the Spider books to the eventual point when he wrote them all, Ghost Rider until some point, and a bunch of X-projects, all of varying quality.

I agree that Unlimited had wasted away by this point. I could never afford it as a kid, and devotedly borrowed copies from a friend as a loyal X-fan, and I even stopped doing that out of boredom around this issue.

Fnord Serious said...

I've always found Mackie to be rather lackluster. I loved the Saltares/Texiera artwork on Mackie's Ghost Rider, but the stories were so bland, even a flaming skeleton couldn't keep me reading.

wwk5d said...

Still, this issue does have some gorgeous JRjr art.

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