Friday, August 15, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #322 – July 1995

Dark Walk

Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Tom Grummett (penciler), Green/Pennington/Ryan/Milgrom (inkers), Steve Buccellato & Digital Chameleon (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

Archangel is called by Charlotte Jones to witness a crime scene. After facing resistance from some of the other police officers, he’s lead into a nightclub where mutants have slaughtered a group of innocent people. At the mansion, Siryn receives word from Archangel and finds Storm, who is trying to talk to Wolverine outside. Upstate, Phoenix breaks the news to her father that her sister was absorbed by the Phalanx and killed. As she leaves with Cyclops, a mystery man spies on them. In New Jersey, Bishop and Beast are leaving a movie theater when the Juggernaut suddenly crash lands into the street. He appears to be dead, but suddenly regains consciousness and attacks. Psylocke arrives and stabs him with her psychic knife, which reveals that he’s terrified. Bishop absorbs energy from the city’s power supply and knocks the disoriented Juggernaut down. He finally tells the team who attacked him, claiming that he was knocked from Canada to New Jersey by someone called Onslaught.


Continuity Notes

Onslaught is referenced for the first time. Juggernaut claims that he was in Canada, on his way to warn the X-Men, when he was “slugged” by him. He’s convinced that landing next to the X-Men wasn’t a coincidence. Bishop refers to Juggernaut as Xavier’s half-brother, but they’re actually stepbrothers. Not only have I seen writers screw that up with Xavier/Juggernaut, but with Thor and Loki as well. Is there some alternate meaning of “half-brother” that I’m not aware of?


Since Siryn is still in the mansion, I assume this issue takes place before she went missing in this month’s issues of Cable and X-Force. I still don’t know why I placed this issue after the recent issues of Generation X when I was a teenager.


Charlotte Jones casually dumps Archangel in this issue as punishment for not contacting her in months. Their relationship played a fairly large role in X-Factor, but was mostly ignored once Archangel joined the cast of Uncanny.


The man spying on Phoenix and Cyclops is Senator Kelly’s aide from Uncanny X-Men #299 (meaning this mystery has been totally ignored for over two years). He turns out to be an agent of Landau, Luckman, and Lake, and ties in somehow to the Onslaught story.


I Love the ‘90s

Beast and Bishop go to see Pulp Fiction at the movies.


Miscellaneous Note

The Statement of Ownership lists sales at 552,975 for the yearly average, with the most recent issue selling 478,900 copies.


Review

After making a brief cameo in X-Men Prime (which was retroactively revealed not to even be him), Onslaught is referred to by name for the first time in this issue. Since the payoff to this storyline is something fans still complain about, it’s hard to get too worked up by any of this. I do remember reading this issue for the first time and being intrigued, but I had already been burned by so many dropped storylines I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope for the mystery’s resolution. Introducing your new villain by having him knock out the X-Men’s strongest physical foe makes a dramatic statement, but even at fifteen it seemed like lazy writing to me. Not only is Juggernaut, whose physical prowess had been firmly established since the mid-60s, cheapened by this stunt, but you’re also setting up expectations for the new villain so high it’s virtually impossible to meet them. Plus, Onslaught’s actions are already pretty nonsensical. Juggernaut was traveling to America to warn the X-Men about Onslaught…so Onslaught punched him so hard he landed right next to them outside of a movie theater in New Jersey? What part of that makes any sense?


Looking at the rest of the issue, it actually has its moments. I like seeing Jean Grey’s father again, even if she’s certainly waited a long time to confirm her sister’s death (another story that didn’t make a lot of sense). Lobdell does handle the emotional aspect of the scene pretty well, though. The X-Men spend way too much time just interacting with one another, so it’s nice to see one of their family members again. Intercutting the quiet moments with the Juggernaut’s fight scene is a nice way to balance the issue. It provides a break from the strictly talkative issues, creating a mix of action and characterization. Tom Grummett also does a very good job with this issue, handling the conversation scenes and the action equally well. I wish he had been used on the books more than most of the other routine fill-in guys. Really, it’s the stink of Onslaught that drags the whole thing down. The issue would’ve been perfectly okay without it.

7 comments:

Jeff said...

There was something I always really liked about Madieura's cover for this issue. I remember opening this issue as a kid and being disappointed he didn't illustrate the whole thing. (Rereading it recently, Grummett's artwork grew on me.)

This is a pretty weak period for the X-Titles. Due to LOTS of dropped or changed plots. Ugh. But on its own this issue is pretty decent.

sixhoursoflucy said...

This issue is a perfect example of why I dislike Scott Lobdell's writing: he just made everything up as he went along. He's since admitted in an interview that he had no idea what "Onslaught" was supposed to be at this point, but thought the scene with Juggernaut crashing like a meteor would be cool. Of all the plots to abandon...why not this one?

Jeff said...

Yeah sixhours, I agree. That's why I think Lobdell is kind of a crap writer.

rob said...

This is totally the era of dropped plotlines and character arcs. It's really hard to reread with hindsight. But there are still some strong issues. This one is decent. The opening scene with Warren and Charlotte is actually quite good, considering the rest of the Gene Nation arc has never been my favourite.

But the Juggernaut's scenes are a problem, given all of the contradictory appearances for Onslaught to come soon. But Mad's cover is great and Grummet does a great job illustrating the characters.

Teebore said...

I, sadly, hadn't learned not to touch the fire if I didn't want to get burned, and held out hope that all the buildup to Onslaught would pay off. I remember being very excited by this issue, and its tease.

Boy, how little I knew...

I can understand plans changing in long term plots; its the nature of the beast. But to start setting something up without having ANY idea what the conclusion (or even the direction) is? That's just sloppy and amateurish, and it still rankles.

Not that Lobdell should get all the blame; other writers picked up the ball and ran with it (without knowing what kind of ball it was) and where were the editors, pray tell?

wwk5d said...

The post AOA era was really, really bad. So was the post-Onslaught run that lead up to Zero Tolerance. Some good issues scattered throughout, but overall...not the best X-era, but easily in the running for one of the worst.

Trotsky said...

Since I've read probably most of your reviews of the different X-Books up to now, (Excalibur, X-Force, X-Factor, now Uncanny) it seems like actually the rep of the 90s is based on the nonsensical era of the pencilers doing the plotting and "writing" and then post AoA. X-Force and Uncanny were actually pretty good once they stabilized after those guys left on up until AoA and then dropped off a frigging cliff in terms of quality.

Honestly, I think the only book that was good after AoA was Ellis's Excalibur which might be why I hold it in such high regard since it was previously the book I least wanted to read (the awfulness between the Davis and Ellis eras cannot be understated) and almost overnight it turned into the best X-book by a considerable amount for over two years. I have fond memories of Loeb's Cable, but that might be unfounded given the fact he was writing X-Force at this point and considering his current "work".

I'm sure it helped that Warren was out on the fringe and Wisdom's comments about Onslaught really revealed a lot about how Ellis felt about how stupid the whole thing was, but he was fortunate to be out on the sticks of the X-Universe and didn't have to focus any plots on it.

I'm hoping you'll review the Pride and Wisdom limited series since I always thought it was one of the best LS during this time period.

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