Hither Comes the Sugar Man!
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Mark Buckingham (inker), Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colorists), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Inside the Seattle Core, Illyana and Ace, another young girl, narrowly avoid being killed by the Sugar Man. Outside of the Core, a disguised Skin picks up two of Apocalypse’s human workers on a shuttle, who are soon killed by Chamber. Nearby, Colossus and Shadowcat plan to infiltrate the Core through the back entrance. After Shadowcat is discovered by one of the Sugar Man’s Undercloak guards, Colossus decides that they shouldn’t wait any longer. Elsewhere, Husk poses as a human escort for the High Foreman, Quietus. When his vaporizer device reveals that she’s a mutant, Quietus determines that she must be associated with the X-Men. While in the process of beating her, he grabs the flask Husk kept with her. She tricks him into drinking the liquid inside, which turns out to be her teammate Vincente. He solidifies his body inside of Quietus, killing him. Husk and Vincente look through Quietus’s files for any information on Illyana. When they're finished, they combine their powers to disguise themselves as Quietus and leave. While escaping, they run into Mondo and meet up with Skin and Chamber, who are disguised as human workers. “Quietus” requests that they join him on his rounds. Inside the Core, Illyana is awakened for another day of work.
“Quietus” is defined as either death, a finishing blow, or a release from a debt or obligation (I’m pointing this out because I had no idea what the word meant).
It’s an entire issue dedicated to moving the cast inside the Core, which is pretty excessive. The plotting is a little odd, since the story opens with the team already divided up, pursuing different ways to get inside and find Illyana. It comes together fairly well at the end, but why exactly Colossus and Shadowcat are on their own isn’t made clear. Bachalo’s art helps to sell the thin plot, though, and the story does at least move at a reasonable pace. Unlike this month’s Astonishing X-Men, Lobdell doesn’t focus on a lot of characterization, choosing instead to showcase more of Bachalo’s bizarre new designs. Bachalo’s dark environments do suit the AoA world, but some of the villain designs are more quirky than intimidating. Quietus is essentially a giant nose with kinky hair and a bad polyester suit. It’s not necessarily a bad design, but I don’t buy him as a villain. He looks like something out of ‘70s underground comix, not someone who should be beating up a mutant superhero. Bachalo inserts all kinds of random weirdness into the background of Quietus’s home, such as a photostat of Farrah Fawcett, McDonald’s wrappers, and an Opus doll. I can’t tell if he’s doing this because he’s bored, or if he really thinks it’s adding something to the book. It was the ‘90s, so I guess we were just supposed to accept the arbitrary non-sequiters.