Tuesday, September 30, 2008

X-MEN #47 – December 1995

Big Trouble in Little Italy!

Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Cam Smith & Jesse Delperdang (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Kevin Somers & Malibu Hues (colors)


Summary

The X-Babies flee from Gog and Magog after they destroy the underground casino. Bishop and Gambit escape from the wreckage and protect the X-Babies. Phoenix and Iceman arrive with the X-Babies versions of Iceman and Storm. Iceman freezes Gog and Magog, but they easily break free. Dazzler suddenly appears and stops them from eating the X-Babies. She explains that Gog and Magog overstepped their boundaries when they were assigned to “collect” the X-Babies. She tells the X-Babies that many citizens of the former Mojoverse view them as symbols of the old regime and want them dead. She asks them to live with her and Longshot so that they can keep them safe. Excited, the X-Babies teleport away with Dazzler.


Continuity Notes

According to Phoenix, the X-Babies have psionic imprints. She claims, “They may have started out as artificial lifeforms…but now, they’re very, very real!”

Some information on what happened to Dazzler and Longshot is given. Phoenix says that Dazzler is no longer pregnant because she doesn’t sense another life within her. Dazzler refers to Longshot as her “husband”, but in quotation marks (I guess because it’s hard to have a legal ceremony in the Mojoverse, plus he’s not a citizen of any nation). Dazzler says that there is now an “entertainment-free new world order” on Mojoverse. She also says that Longshot hasn’t been “officially” elected as the new world leader yet. According to the X-Babies, Longshot and Dazzler live in the “Palace Royale”, so they must have some recognized authority. It seems like Lobdell was setting up another Mojoverse story, but I don’t think anything came of it.


Review

Not surprisingly, this is another light-hearted issue with a pretty skimpy plot. None of it is really laugh-out-loud funny, but some of the dialogue is clever. Lobdell tries to use the lengthy fight scene as a way to build a connection between Gambit and Bishop, basically by having them grudgingly admit that they work well together, which is really the only contribution to any ongoing character arcs. After probably the darkest year in the history of the X-books, it is nice to see a different type of story, even if it’s not as amusing as the creators seem to think that it is. I remember being excited that Dazzler was brought back, since she had been out of the books for almost three years at this point. I was disappointed that Longshot didn’t show up, though, and it seems like he remained in limbo for years after this. Andy Kubert’s art helps a lot to carry the thin story. He’s lost some of his sketchiness at this point and is drawing more fully formed figures, which really impressed me when I first saw this issue.

EXCALIBUR #91 – November 1995

“Baby I Love You”
Credits:
Warren Ellis (writer), David Williams, Mike Wieringo, Jeff Moy, & Mike Miller (pencilers), Mike Miller, M. Christian, & Philip Moy (inkers), Ariane Lenshoek & Malibu Hues (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

Peter Wisdom and Kitty Pryde convince the other members of Excalibur to go out for a drink. Moira suggests they go to a bar her father used to own. Wolfsbane is reluctant to go, but is reassured by Moira and Nightcrawler. At the bar, Kitty offers her nectarine juice. Moira asks Kitty and Wisdom what’s going on between them, and they reply that they like each other and want Wisdom to join Excalibur. Later, in the men’s room, Britanic and Nightcrawler tell Wisdom that he can join the team, but they threaten to kill him if he hurts Kitty. Later, Douglock asks Britanic why he drinks, and he responds that he’s drinking non-alcoholic beer because of his past abuse. After Moira gets extremely drunk, the team returns home. As Kitty and Wisdom kiss outside, Colossus approaches.


Commercial Break

There’s an ad from American Entertainment for a limited edition All New Exiles vs. X-Men #0 comic book. The normal version costs $7.50 (plus $4.95 US shipping and $9.95 for international) if you meet the deadline, and $10.00 if you order later. The “limited super-premium edition” costs $29.95 before the order deadline and $39.95 after the deadline. I would love to meet the person who paid over forty dollars for this comic book. I was still enough of a completist to consider the “regular” edition (which would still add up to over twelve dollars), but wisely opted against it. It almost seems as if Marvel was actively encouraging kids to just run away from comics at this point. I imagine that naïve speculators and hardcore completists would be the only people interested in this, and judging by the fact that it features Rogue (who left the X-Men by the time Juggernaut joined the Exiles) it doesn’t seem like it even fits into the continuity that completists try so hard to maintain.


Review

It’s a “quiet” issue, so there’s not a lot to say about it. All of the character interactions are fine, but it really doesn’t feel as if there’s enough here to justify an entire issue (the first ten pages just consist of the team flying to the bar after Kitty and Wisdom individually ask the others if they want to go out). It has a few humorous moments, such as Moira getting wasted and Douglock scientifically listing all of the reasons not to drink, and it does do a decent job of making the title feel more like a team book after three issues of “The Pryde & Wisdom Show”. Ellis also gets points for remembering that Wolfsbane and Brian Braddock don’t drink and using that continuity as actual story points (what exactly Kitty is drinking isn’t made clear, maybe because Marvel wasn’t sure of how old she was supposed to be at this point). The art is covered by four different pencilers for some reason (this book really has a hard time getting consistent artists during this period), but it looks surprisingly consistent for most of the issue.

Friday, September 26, 2008

X-FORCE #48 – November 1995

Intervention

Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Adam Pollina (penciler), Mark Pennington & Joe Rubinstein (inkers), Comicraft (lettering), Marie Javins, Derek Bellman, & Malibu Hues (colors)


Summary

X-Force confronts Boomer over her relationship with Sabretooth. She defends him, saying that everyone has their own dark past, pointing to Caliban and Sunspot as examples. When Sunspot claims that he’s put Reignfire behind him, Boomer argues that this proves that people can change. Shatterstar leaves, unconvinced that X-Force should have any say in what Boomer does. While trying to bring Shatterstar back, Siryn runs into Professor Xavier and confirms to him that Boomer is going through the Denial, Anger, and Bargaining stages and is far from reaching Acceptance. X-Force finally tells Boomer that they can’t allow her on the team if she continues her friendship with Sabretooth. When Professor Xavier enters, she eventually admits that she has to believe in second chances, or else she’ll give up on Sabretooth like she did on her father and herself. That night, she tries to see Sabretooth again, but the access code to the Danger Room has been changed. She calls out to him through the speakers, but he doesn’t respond. As she leaves, wondering if he really has changed, Sabretooth emerges from the holographic bushes with an evil grin on his face. Meanwhile, Holocaust is feeding off of the citizens of a South Seas island. Sebastian Shaw appears, offering him a partnership.


Continuity Notes

Warpath claims that Reignfire was a “separate persona” that possessed Sunspot. Sunspot repeats his claim that Cable cured him of Reignfire’s influence.


Review

I’ve always thought this was a particularly silly issue. Having the team confront Boomer over her friendship with Sabretooth is fine. Revealing that Boomer is desperate to believe that people can change because of her past with her father is fine. Drawing an obvious parallel between Boomer’s desire to spend time with Sabretooth and an addict’s lust for drugs is dumb. Referencing four of the five stages of grief is really dumb. How do you compare Boomer’s desire to treat Sabretooth like a kitty cat with the feelings you experience after a loved one’s death? And are we really supposed to believe that she’s addicted to visiting Sabretooth? Are we going to see her go through withdrawal symptoms in the next issue? It’s so utterly ridiculous that it undermines the entire story. Some of the interactions between the characters actually aren’t bad, but Jeph Loeb’s treatment of Boomer is so over-the-top it’s comical. Adam Pollina is able to keep most of the issue-long conversation scene interesting to look at, although some of his faces (particularly Storm and Xavier’s) are pretty rough. His grisly depiction of Holocaust is stunning, implying that he’s more comfortable with the expressionist elements than the more mundane scenes at this point.

X-FACTOR #116 – November 1995

Homecomings

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Steve Epting (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Glynis Oliver & Malibu Hues (colors)


Summary

Inside Alpha Flight’s headquarters, Northstar and Puck discover that Aurora is missing. Outside of X-Factor’s new Fall’s Edge headquarters, Wild Child is motorbiking when he’s suddenly attacked by Aurora. Nearby, Forge has recreated Shard while experimenting with Bishop’s holographic matrix projector. He receives word that Wild Child is under attack and leaves with the team. Elsewhere, the Dark Beast monitors Random as he heads towards X-Factor’s headquarters. Furious that he left her, Aurora continues to assault Wild Child. X-Factor arrives, shortly after Northstar and Puck appear. Aurora calms down enough to listen to Wild Child, who explains why he left. They began their relationship during a period when he had a normal appearance, but after his mutation shifted him back to his animal-like form, he began to retreat from others. Eager to get away from his past, he abruptly left when Val Cooper asked him to help X-Factor. Aurora explodes in anger, claiming that leaving without saying goodbye shows how little he cared about her. Mystique morphs into Wild Child’s previous appearance and tricks Aurora into calming down. When Wild Child exposes her, Aurora explodes again, overextending her powers and then passing out. Northstar and Puck take her home, as X-Factor leaves Wild Child alone with his thoughts.


Continuity Notes

Random has a long inner monologue that raises more questions about his past. He questions how much he wants what the Dark Beast is offering him, and claims that this isn’t what he really looks like. The idea that the Dark Beast is the one behind Random is of course a retcon.


I Love the ‘90s

Wild Child is wearing a “No Fear” t-shirt.


Review

This seems to be an entire issue dedicated to resolving some continuity errors that cropped up when Wild Child abruptly joined the team. I’ve only read the first few issues of Alpha Flight, but judging by this story and some comments in the letters page, Wild Child had actually evolved into a handsome man and renamed himself “Wildheart” at the end of that series. A few years after Alpha Flight was cancelled, he popped up in this series with his old name and old look. I guess enough months passed after he joined the team for fans to write in and complain and for Marvel to publish a story addressing the error. Can you imagine Marvel doing something like that now? Not that anything in this issue is particularly good, mind you, since it mainly consists of characters acting either crazy or stupid until the story gets to page twenty-one and the crazy girl just passes out. There always have been fans of Northstar and Aurora (both mis-colored with bleach blonde hair in this issue) who wanted to see them incorporated into the X-books, but I’ve never understood the desire to have every mutant out there brought into the titles. I guess using them in a story with Wild Child is a nice nod to the few dozen people who were reading Alpha Flight at the end of its run, though. Mackie seems to be using the continuity patch mainly as a way to stall the ongoing storylines for another month, so it’s the third issue in a row where hardly anything happens. If Wild Child and Aurora were written as believable, sympathetic characters, I wouldn’t mind an entire issue justifying their breakup, but writing natural, compelling dialogue just isn’t one of Mackie’s strengths. Epting turns in his usual dependable artwork, but it’s not enough to cover the tedious story.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #327 – December 1995

Whispers on the Wind

Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Roger Cruz (penciler), Tim Townsend & Al Milgrom (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colors)


Summary

In South America, a nun and a group of orphans find an amnesiac Magneto. Magneto lashes out at the nun after she draws a gun on him, and then passes out. He awakes four days later and is fed by the nun, Sister Maria. After he shaves, he realizes that he looks like he’s in his twenties, but he doesn’t know why that feels wrong. One of the orphans, Migdalia, names him Joseph. Migdalia is almost struck by a stray bullet from a nearby fight, which introduces Joseph to the drug-related violence that surrounds the area. Joseph grows closer to Sister Maria and the children as the weeks pass. One of the local authorities, Colonel Ramos, spies on Joseph and discovers his mutant powers. He soon returns to the orphanage and kidnaps Maria and the children. Ramos tells Joseph that if he helps with the drug trade, he’ll free the hostages. Joseph refuses and forces Ramos to tell him where his friends are being held. Sister Maria and the orphans are soon rescued by Joseph, but they’re horrified when they see the corpses of the men he killed in order to reach them. The next day, Joseph leaves the orphanage. Maria gives him a copy of a magazine she bought years ago in America with the X-Men on the cover, hoping that his fellow mutants can help him.


Continuity Notes

This is the start of a bit of a mess. The original idea was that “Joseph” really is supposed to be Magneto, who was somehow de-aged following his landing from Avalon (Marvel even released a miniseries starring the character called Magneto). I have no idea where Lobdell was going with this, but I think he later changed his mind and decided that Joseph should be Proteus. That never made it into the actual comic, but after Magneto returned in issue #350, it was later revealed that Joseph had been a clone of Magneto (created by a jaded former member of the Brotherhood) the entire time.


Review

This is another issue that’s hard to view in the proper context, knowing how poorly this storyline is eventually resolved. The basic idea of reviving Magneto with no memory of his past, giving him a new chance and playing around with the classic “nature vs. nurture” question, is fine. However, magically de-aging him without explanation doesn’t really add anything to that idea (unless you think making him younger is essential for his second chance), and it inserts yet another pointless mystery into the book. It really seems like Lobdell never wanted to do a totally linear story. There always had to be some hidden mystery or unanswered question at the end of every storyline, even if we never got all of the answers from the previous one. It started to get old after a while, and I distinctly remember Magneto’s unexplained de-aging specifically getting on my nerves at the time (I’m not sure why exactly I honed in on that particular mystery, but it really bugged me). Looking past the superfluous mystery, there is some good material here. Disconnecting Magneto from his past is an interesting angle to pursue, and the setting of this issue gives Lobdell some room to play around with the idea. Having Magneto give in to his darker impulses while saving the children mirrors the origin story Claremont gave the character years earlier, which had him killing the people responsible for his daughter’s death in a horrible rage. It’s a bleak ending for a story that had actually been pretty sweet up until that point, and Lobdell manages to competently handle the change in tone. As a story, this issue works as the start of a new arc for a character that had been greatly mishandled in the preceding years, but even at this point you can see hints that it might end up going in the wrong direction.

X-MEN #46 – November 1995

They’re Baaack…

Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Cam Smith (inker), Kevin Somers & Malibu’s Hues (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

Gambit takes Bishop to an underground casino, while Iceman accompanies Phoenix to a bookstore. Iceman asks Phoenix to scan his mind to find out if Emma Frost is still in there. Phoenix doubts that she is, telling him that his insecurities about his powers are probably the cause of his visions. Suddenly, childlike versions of Storm and Iceman come out of hiding. Meanwhile, Gambit asks Bishop if he still thinks he’ll betray the X-Men, and Bishop replies yes. He adds that many of the things he thought were true have been proven false since he came to this time, so he’s allowed Gambit to live so far. The gamblers notice something underneath the tables. They kick them over and discover the X-Babies versions of Cyclops, Rogue, Gambit, Bishop, and Archangel. The gamblers pull guns on the kids, which leads to Gambit and Bishop rescuing them. The X-Babies explain that the new regime of Mojoverse has canceled them, as Gog and Magog appear from behind.


Continuity Notes

Bishop has cut his luxurious mullet and appears with short hair for the first time in this issue (the Bishop who lived through the AoA was bald, which might’ve inspired the change).

There are two brief subplot scenes, one involving Magneto and the other providing more cryptic Onslaught hints. The Magneto scene simply has him waking up in a shack in an undisclosed location. It’s really just a tease for the next issue of Uncanny. The other subplot has Senator Kelly and a group of government agents investigating a secret Sentinel research facility in the Midwest. They claim that fifteen scientists have suddenly disappeared. Senator Kelly is especially upset that one named Evan Donner is missing. The electricity suddenly returns inside the fake farmhouse, as the word “Onslaught” appears repeatedly on the computer monitors.


Review

This begins the brief era that has Lobdell writing both of the main X-books. This lasts for a few months until Mark Waid’s brief run, then Lobdell returns again to write both titles. I seem to recall thinking that his first attempt at doing both books was tolerable, but his post-Waid stint was atrocious. This is a mostly light-hearted issue that combines a little bit of action with Lobdell’s typical conversation scenes. A lot of the conversations, especially Iceman and Phoenix’s, mainly just reiterate ongoing storylines, but Gambit and Bishop make for a decent odd couple pairing. It’s odd that the writers rarely put Gambit and Bishop together after it was revealed that Bishop was convinced that Gambit would betray the team. You would think that’s something that would’ve come up more often. Instead of highlighting the tension between the characters, they just ended up ignoring one another for a couple of years until this issue. Thankfully, Lobdell at least acknowledges the subplot and gets something out of it. Bishop coldly telling Gambit that he still thinks he’s guilty and is willing to kill him if he has to is a very effective scene. The X-Babies barely do anything in this issue, but they have enough of a presence to let you know that Lobdell isn’t taking these issues too seriously and is just trying to have some fun. I don’t find anything involving the X-Babies to be that amusing so far, but I like the overall tone of this issue. The story’s very obviously padded, though, as it’s filled with gratuitous splash pages and oversized panels. It makes the story feel even more thin, even if Andy Kubert’s art excels with the giant images.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

GENERATION X ’95 – November 1995

Of Leather & Lace

Credits: Scott Lobdell & Jeph Loeb (writers), Wood & McManus (breakdowns), Lightle/McManus/Sienkiewicz/Panosian/Russell/Chaloner (finishers), Comicraft (lettering), Moreshead/Kalisz (colors)


Summary

Cordelia Frost, Emma Frost’s teenage sister, meets with Shinobi Shaw in Boston. She’s kidnapped Mondo, and demands a place in the Hellfire Club in exchange for him. Suddenly, armed men working for someone named Barrington take Mondo’s unconscious body away from Cordelia. Soon, Cordelia arrives at Xavier’s School, looking for Emma. She tells her that she came to America with her friend Mondo to enroll at the school, but he was kidnapped. Emma is suspicious, but agrees to send the team on a mission to find him. Meanwhile, Mondo escapes from Barrington’s men and wanders throughout Boston. Emma and Generation X arrive to help him as the armed men chase him down. After Mondo easily defeats a group of the men, Barrington monitors the situation and decides to end their mission. The men teleport away, leaving Mondo with Generation X. Cordelia decides that she came too close to being found out, and decides to leave Mondo with the team. Mondo says goodbye to her, not realizing that she was the one who kidnapped him from their island in the first place.


Continuity Notes

This is the first full appearance of Cordelia Frost, who made cameos in previous issues as the girl living on an island with Mondo. According to Cordelia, Emma Frost’s telepathic powers don’t work on her (which of course makes it easier for this issue’s plot to work).

Barrington is the name of the mystery man Maverick was working for in his first appearances. He makes an appearance in this issue, but he’s kept in shadow. The men working for him have armored suits that resemble Maverick’s.


“Huh?” Moment

Jubilee is drawn without any feet on page twelve, which is pretty noticeable since this is a giant splash page of her diving into the pool.


Approved By The Comics Code Authority

This issue opens with sixteen-year-old Cordelia lounging in skimpy lingerie, smoking a cigarette and drinking wine.


Review

I did buy this issue when it was released, so I guess I’ll do a full review of it. The story can’t be described as typical annual filler, since it involves a new member actually joining the team, but the art is typical of the haphazard messes that double-sized issues often turn out to be. Aside from needing so many finishers their names can’t fit into one credits box, the editors have also assigned incompatible artists like Bill Sienkiewicz and Dan Panosian to work on pages right next to one another. One scene has moody pages drenched with ink featuring expressionist characters, while the one next to it has poorly formed figures made out of super-thin lines standing around in awkward poses. It’s such a disorganized mess, Cordelia looks different on almost every page. In some scenes it’s impossible to tell her and Jubilee apart. The dark, moody pages stand out as the best-looking ones, even though that style really doesn’t suit the story at all. The story itself is mostly fluff, but I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if the art was more consistent. Mondo isn’t that bad of a character, and his extremely laid back attitude can be amusing. Cordelia is sharply written, getting some good lines in during the first scene (“You want me. You want me so much that it bores me”.). Bringing back Barrington, one of the numerous mystery characters introduced during the pre-Image era, would’ve been a nice payoff, except that the story doesn’t offer any answers about him and keeps everything involving him (literally) in the dark.


The Very Personal and Very Private Journal of Monet Saint Croix

Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Jeff Matsuda, Vince Russell, & Rurik Tyler (artists), J. Babcock (lettering), Dana Moreshead (colors)


Summary

Skin reads M’s diary, which is filled with child-like drawings and descriptions of her early days with Generation X. M figures out that he’s read the diary, but is confident that he won’t be able to deduce her family’s secret.


Production Note

This back-up story is hand-lettered, which stands out now that all of the titles are using computer fonts.


Continuity Note

M’s draws an image of her saddened father in a twins’ bedroom. M is pleased that he’s sad because “it is his fault, after all”.


Review

It’s a very short back-up story so there’s not a lot to say about it. It reinforces a hint from an earlier issue that M writes and draws like a small child, and offers a very vague clue about her past. Most of the pages consist of a recap of Generation X #1, which seems excessive when you consider that this issue was only a year old at this point. Some of the cartoony drawings are fun, but there’s really nothing going on here.

WOLVERINE #95 – November 1995

Manhattan Rhapsody

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Adam Kubert (penciler), Dan Green & Matt Ryan (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Joe Rosas & Malibu’s Hues (colors)


Summary

In Egypt, Cyber fights a robot duplicate of Wolverine as Genesis and the Dark Riders watch. In Manhattan, Wolverine wanders the streets as James and Heather Hudson watch from a distance. He’s accosted by a street thug wearing a smiley face t-shirt who calls himself Dirtnap. When Wolverine ignores him, Dirtnap tries to lure a young boy into a dark alley. Wolverine pops his claws and prepares to fight him, but James Hudson stops the fight. After Wolverine punches him away, Heather calms both of them down. They go to a coffee shop to talk, and Wolverine notices the young boy is standing outside, wearing Dirtnap’s shirt. Wolverine attacks him, accusing him of being a body snatcher. A monstrous entity emerges from the boy’s body and grabs Wolverine. Dirtnap briefly possesses Wolverine, but has to reject him because his healing factor is fighting against him. Dirtnap takes the body of a rat and escapes into the sewers, bragging that he still has the boy’s genetic imprint. Wolverine tells the Hudsons that they should’ve trusted him earlier. They offer to take him to Canada, where they’ll help him fight his regression. Wolverine declines, saying that he’s now happy that his wild side is taking over.


Continuity Notes

A brief subplot scene has Senator Kelly reacting to a newspaper headline announcing Graydon Creed’s run for President. This issue confirms that Kelly’s aide from Uncanny X-Men #299 is the Landau, Luckman, & Lake agent who has been tailing the X-Men. He’s also named Noah for the first time. He receives a phone call from Zoe Culloden, who tells him that “the ‘napper…was sent out too early”, which annoys her because “the regression isn’t far enough along to begin to tempt him”. This ties Dirtnap to L, L, & L, but I don’t remember why they were trying to “tempt” Wolverine, or what Dirtnap had to do with it.


Approved By The Comics Code Authority

Dirtnap is clearly shown smoking a joint when he first appears.


Review

And it’s another issue of Wolverine regressing into a nastier state while his friends tell him how worried they are. Taken on its own, it’s a decent one-off story, but this storyline is starting to get tedious. It’s hard not to feel like the book’s treading water when this issue opens with a six-page fight scene with Cyber and a robot that really has nothing to do with the plot. The interaction between Wolverine and the Hudsons is nice, but their conversation doesn’t really go anywhere, and the past few issues have already had plenty of scenes like this. This is the first appearance of Dirtnap, who went on to become a heavily ridiculed character once Hama started using him in Generation X a few years later. I haven’t read most of those issues so I can’t comment on them, but I don’t mind him here. I guess he doesn’t have much of a distinctive personality, but I like Kubert’s rendition of his true form, and actually turning him into a talking rat at the end makes him stand out amongst all of the other villains in the X-books. Kubert does his typical solid work in this issue, providing some cool action scenes and a very nice rendition of the Guardian and Vindicator suits. It’s a good-looking comic with an okay plot, but it seems like the title has lost a lot of the spontaneous feel it used to have, as the story has to wait until issue #100 to actually go somewhere.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #326 – November 1995

The Nature of Evil

Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira (penciler), Tim Townsend (inker), Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

Storm tries to console Gambit, who is sitting alone on the mansion’s roof. He tries to turn the conversation towards Storm’s feelings about killing Marrow, leading her to defend her actions by saying that Marrow made her choice and the true nature of a person can’t be changed. Inside the Danger Room, Boomer watches Sabretooth stalk a holographic rabbit, which leads her to doubt his reformation. Gambit turns off the holographic display and confronts Sabretooth. He generates holographic recreations of everyone Sabretooth has killed, demanding that he remember them. When Sabretooth tries to look away from the death of Gambit’s lover, Genevieve, Gambit grabs his head and forces him to watch. Storm enters and orders Gambit to leave. In San Francisco, Beast and Professor Xavier stage a debate, designed to alleviate the public’s fear about the Legacy Virus. Later, Beast wonders if it was ethical not to present the virus as the threat it could be. He comes across Xavier, who is also doubting the decision, and his choice to bring Sabretooth into the mansion. Beast reminds him that Sabretooth made the choice to murder, while Xavier has chosen to always hold himself to a higher standard. He tells Xavier that even if he couldn’t change Sabretooth, Sabretooth shouldn’t change him.


Continuity Notes

Genevieve is the girl Gambit was involved with in X-Men #33.

Xavier is using his Shi’Ar-derived hover-chair in public, although previous issues established that he was afraid that it would blow the X-Men’s cover if he used it out in the open.

Renee Majcomb is at the scientific conference in San Francisco, so I guess she eventually got into contact with Xavier after her appearance in Cable.


I Love the ‘90s

There’s a Spider-Man hidden 3-D picture puzzle inside, which also manages to be an ad for Fruit Roll-Ups. Am I the only one who could never see the hidden image in those 3-D puzzles?


Review

This is one of Lobdell’s strongest issues, showing that he was occasionally able to tie together the various plot threads and create an overall theme. The issue asks the question if people are fated to be what they are, or if they’re truly able to change. Lobdell uses Storm’s guilt over killing Marrow, Gambit’s guilt over his mysterious past, Sabretooth’s past with Gambit, and Xavier’s attempts to rehabilitate Sabretooth to play around with the idea, which is a clever way of keeping tabs on the various subplots while also using them to be a part of a larger story. Lobdell’s done plenty of these talky, character-driven stories before, but they usually felt like random conversation scenes strung together to fill out an entire issue. This issue actually has a point, or at least a question to raise, so it’s more fulfilling as an actual story. I like the opening scene between Storm and Gambit, which has Storm deciding that people can’t change because that’s what she needs to tell herself in order to defend her decision to kill Marrow. Gambit can’t allow himself to believe that, since he’s joined the team in order to redeem himself of the sins of his past. When he confronts Sabretooth, Lobdell gives Gambit more than just a revenge motivation, since Gambit’s determined now that Sabretooth can’t just forget his past if he’s forced to live with his. Connecting the “Gambit’s mysterious past” and “Sabretooth is a tame kitty now” storylines actually gives you the impression that they’re might have been some coherent, long-term planning going on, which is a feeling I remember fading away as the era progressed. Lobdell also continues to present a very sympathetic version of Professor Xavier, establishing that he might be willing to bend the truth (but not actually lie) in order to prevent a public panic, but he still feels guilty over it. I was amused to read Beast’s line “If you can’t trust Charles Xavier, who can you --”, considering the way Marvel has dragged Xavier’s character through the mud in recent years. As I’ve mentioned before, the titles certainly have flaws in this era, but they did seem to grasp the idea that you can give the characters hard moral dilemmas without making them seem unsympathetic or unethical.

X-MEN UNLIMITED #8 – October 1995

First Contact

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Dan Lawlis & Tom Grummett (pencilers), Ian Akin (inker), Matt Webb (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

A young teen named Chris Bradley passes out in his bathroom after suffering from a severe headache. Simultaneously, all of the circuit breakers blow in his house. The next day, he returns to school, as Gambit and Phoenix follow him. After he asks his crush Donna out on a date, Chris begins to feel sick again. He runs to the bathroom as bolts of electricity shoot out of his body. Overwhelmed by his power, he passes out as soon as Gambit and Phoenix find him. They take him back home and talk to his parents, explaining to them that he is a mutant. Chris runs away, refusing to believe the truth. His goes to his friend Jeff for help, but he’s terrified of Chris’ emerging powers. Chris finally admits that he needs help, and travels to the Xavier Institute a few days later. After getting over his initial reluctance, Chris begins to grow close to the X-Men as they teach him how to control his powers. While he’s eating out with the team, Beast reviews his blood tests and gives Xavier bad news. When Chris returns, Xavier tells him that he’s been infected with the Legacy Virus. He runs away, but Iceman manages to calm him down. Chris leaves the mansion and returns home. Jeff refuses to see him, but Donna still embraces Chris, even after learning of his infection.


Continuity Note

This is the first appearance of Chris Bradley, who goes on to become the New Warriors character Bolt. (And, shockingly enough, he's been killed off in recent years. I'll hazard a guess and say Frank Tieri wrote that story.)


Review

This is one of those “X-Men travel to a small town and locate a young teenage mutant” stories, an old chestnut that actually didn’t show up that often during this era (even the cast of Generation X had to be hunted by the Phalanx before the X-Men would acknowledge them). It’s a very predictable, linear story that does have a morbid twist at the end. Unfortunately, revealing that this kid has a lethal disease doesn’t match the tone of the rest of the story, and Mackie doesn’t seem to know where to go with it after introducing the idea. There’s literally only one page dedicated to showing a character comforting Chris after he’s diagnosed, and the majority of that page has to do with Chris’ reaction to his friend abandoning him, not his feelings about dying. The Legacy Virus twist isn’t a bad idea at all, but Mackie isn't able to deal with the shift in tone, and doesn't seem to have anything to say about the concept. The small town scenes are okay, even if the dialogue is fairly bland and the characters don’t have much personality. Chris comes across as a likable enough teenager, built in the original Peter Parker mold that comic companies apparently can’t get enough of.


One major flaw with the story, which is only a flaw if you view it in the context of the overall X-continuity, is the fact that a new teenage mutant is discovered and Generation X has nothing to do with him. The whole premise of that group is to train young mutants, yet it’s only the X-Men who teach Chris about his powers and pal around with him. I understand that having a normal teenager meet the X-Men is supposed to be the hook of the whole story, but if the creators were playing fair with the audience, this would’ve been a Generation X story. There at least should’ve been a throwaway explanation for why he couldn’t have been sent to the school in Massachusetts. The art is by Dan Lawlis and Tom Grummett, who both have soft, cartoonish styles that fit this story. I don’t know what else Lawlis has worked on, but I remember being disappointed that I didn’t see him on more X-projects after this. I remember the art in Unlimited getting really dire around this time as the faux-manga look caught on, so he certainly would’ve been an improvement.

Monday, September 22, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN ’95 – November 1995

Growing Pains

Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Bryan Hitch (penciler), Bob McLeod (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

Cannonball flies to Massachusetts to pick up Husk, telling her that their sister, Joelle, needs help. Meanwhile, Joelle is inside a chapel with her boyfriend, a young man called Preacher. He’s painted an image of the Age of Apocalypse, but doesn’t know where his vision came from. Cannonball and Husk arrive with Storm, Wolverine, and Bishop at their Kentucky home. Cannonball’s mother explains that their sister has joined a “pro-human” group called Humanity’s Last Stand, and is now living at their compound. Cannonball tells Storm that he and Husk will rescue Joelle from the compound. While attending one of their rallies, Cannonball and Husk listen to a man named Garibaldi speak. He invites Preacher to address the crowd, who reveals his visions of a world ruled by mutants. A man watching from behind the scenes recognizes Cannonball and Husk and sends an army of robots to abduct them. Cannonball is attacked by the robots, but manages to escape. He overhears someone evoke the name of Trask before he flies away. Meanwhile, Husk follows Preacher as Garibaldi leads him towards Humanity’s Last Stand’s secret leader. She’s discovered and subdued by Garibaldi, but the fierceness of his assault unnerves Preacher. A wounded Cannonball returns to the Guthrie home and recruits the rest of the X-Men. Returning to the compound, Cannonball rescues Husk while Bishop locates Joelle. When Preacher sees Bishop, he can see in his eyes that he knows “the apocalypse”, too. The X-Men are soon attacked by the robots, which Wolverine recognizes as Nimrods. Preacher promises Joelle that he didn’t know about the group’s violent motives. Bishop absorbs the robots’ blasts and brings down a portion of the complex on top of them. Garibaldi emerges from the wreckage, threatening to call the authorities. Cannonball and the team leave with Joelle, content that the truth has been exposed. Later, Bishop wants to speak to Joelle about Preacher. Joelle doesn’t know where he’s gone, but she hopes he remembers her.


Continuity Notes

Wolverine calls the robots Nimrods, even though they don’t look anything like the established design. The secret leader of Humanity’s Last Stand is presumably a member of the Trask family, which would explain why Cannonball overheard his name and how the group ended up with Nimrods. Looking online, it seems that he was later revealed to be a new family member named Simon Trask.


Review

It’s another annual filler story, written by Terry Kavanagh, who was starting to find more and more work within the X-office by this point. It’s not terrible, but it just comes across as a throw-away in the end. This is definitely one of those comics I read once and then forgot about as soon as I finished it. Kavanagh does have a few decent ideas, such as Joelle’s jealousy of her sibling’s mutant powers, and the impact knowledge of the AoA could have on the anti-mutant movement, but it doesn’t amount to much. Nothing makes Humanity’s Last Stand different from all of the other anti-mutant groups, and attaching Trask and an army of Nimrods to the concept just feels like a weak attempt to add relevance. Implying that the leader is a Trask, but keeping him in shadow and not confirming his identity is also annoying, since it’s yet another mystery that didn’t need to be turned into one. Preacher isn’t particularly interesting, but I like the fact that he’s not portrayed as yet another anti-mutant bigot. The fact that he has visions of a world ruled by a ruthless mutant but is still unwilling to give in to his anti-mutant fears has potential for future stories. That actually is a unique conflict for one of the human characters to have, even if it's not really dealt with in this issue.


The biggest disappointment for me with the story is the weak portrayal of the Nimrod robots. I believe this is the first time the X-Men ever faced more than one Nimrod at the same time, and instead of presenting a real challenge to the team, they’re defeated in a couple of pages by falling rocks. I guess this is stereotypical fanboy nitpicking, but even one Nimrod is more than enough to present a serious threat to the entire team. By the time I read this issue for the first time, I had already read almost all of Nimrod’s previous appearances and had always been impressed by how much of a lethal foe he was. Not only could he automatically counteract anyone’s mutant powers, but his body also instantly repaired itself, meaning that the X-Men always had to come up with a creative way to defeat him. The brilliant maneuver used here to defeat an army of Nimrods is to drop rocks on top of them. I guess you could come up with the No-Prize explanation that these are weaker prototypes that were built before the future Nimrod was designed, but even ignoring the established continuity, this is still an anti-climatic ending. I’m also not impressed with Hitch’s redesign of the Nimrod concept, which looks like generic villains from a first-generation Playstation game. The fact that they don’t resemble the established Nimrod design at all just makes Kavanagh’s decision to bring Nimrods into the story seem even more arbitrary. The rest of Hitch’s work is okay, even though I don’t like the way he draws most of the faces at this point, and some of the figures look rubbery. Like the writing, it isn’t that bad, but nothing about it is really that impressive.

X-FACTOR #115 – October 1995

Reaching Out to Yesterday

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Steve Epting (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

Havok travels to Alaska to sort through his emotions and is greeted there by his brother, Cyclops. Havok wants to be alone and leaves on his motorcycle, but Cyclops follows. They eventually meet in a bar, where Havok discusses his insecurities about his powers and his inability to live up to Cyclops’ example. After getting into a bar fight with a few rednecks, Cyclops reminds Havok that whatever happens, they’ll face the future together. Meanwhile, inside X-Factor’s new headquarters in Virginia, Mystique tries to access Forge’s files but can’t break his password. Wild Child watches the incident and threatens to tell Forge. Inside a holographic simulation, Forge is meditating when he sees an image of Naze, who tells him that he must answer his call. Mystique interrupts, which leads Forge to generate a hologram of Destiny. He’s still trying to deduce her prophesy that he and Mystique are destined to be together. Mystique asks Forge to consider that Destiny might’ve simply meant that they’re fated to be a romantic couple, but Forge refuses to accept that. Elsewhere, the Dark Beast recreates Random out of goo and orders him to bring back Havok.


Continuity Notes

According to this issue, Havok built a cabin the Alaskan wilderness that overlooks the field where he landed with Cyclops after their parents’ plane crashed when they were children. There’s also a hint that Mystique knows a dark secret about Wild Child.


Review

After producing one decent issue after starting the new direction, John Francis Moore is already gone and replaced by Howard Mackie. Mackie had been doing work around the X-office for almost two years at this point, but this was his first monthly X-title. To say that his run on this book isn’t held in high regard by fandom would be an understatement. There’s nothing particularly terrible in this issue, even though it’s another talky issue that doesn’t really advance any of the storylines. A lot of the dialogue is fairly cliché and predictable, especially Cyclops’ pep talk to Havok, but there are only a few spots where it’s too clunky or awkward. Mackie seems to have gone out of his way to avoid showing any action in this issue, even setting up a bar fight scene and then skipping past the actual fight. I have no idea why he bothered to do this, especially since a few of the conversation scenes and double page spreads could’ve easily been cut to make room for a little action. Overall, there’s hardly anything going on here, but it’s inoffensive enough, and the art by Epting is nicely done.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

THE ALL NEW EXILES #1 – October 1995

Out of the Frying Pan…

Credits: Terry Kavanagh (plot and dialogue), Ben Raab (additional dialogue), Ken Lashley & M. C. Wyman (pencilers), J.U.G.G.E.R.N.A.U.T.D. (inkers), Vickie Williams (letterer), Shannon Blanchard & Malibu (colors)


Summary

The Exiles (Juggernaut, Sienna Blaze, Reaper, Shuriken, Amber Hunt, and ‘Strike) teleport into New York City. They’re attacked by the military, who blame them for destroying a large portion of the city. They fight their way through the soldiers and retreat to ‘Strike’s penthouse. Juggernaut is concerned about the sickly Amber. Sienna Blaze tells Shuriken that she’s waiting for Amber to get healthier so that she can kill her. ‘Strike reveals to the team that almost a quarter of New York was destroyed when they arrived, and the authorities are blaming them. He believes their arrival is tied into the destruction, but doesn’t have an explanation. Later, Shuriken tries to get in touch with an agency named Aladdin by meeting with her “brother”, Qune. Qune turns into a monster and declares that he’s going to capture all of the Exiles and collect the bounty. ‘Strike calls the team together to help Shuriken. After facing the united team, Qune teleports away. As the team regroups, Sienna notices that the Fantastic Four’s building is gone. Amber has never heard of them.


Gimmicks

The second half of this issue is a reprint of the Warren Ellis/Steven Butler Ultraforce #1. There’s a note from Malibu’s president explaining that it’s being reprinted for free due to a production error that occurred during its first print.


Continuity Notes

Juggernaut, Sienna Blaze, and Reaper are all established Marvel characters. Juggernaut of course goes back to the Stan Lee days, while Sienna Blaze and Reaper are ‘90s villains from the Upstarts and Mutant Liberation Front, respectively. Sienna Blaze claims that her powers have been cut in half, meaning that she doesn’t have to worry about destroying the Earth every time she uses them anymore.


Review

I have no idea how I ended up with this comic. I know I never bought it, so I’m assuming it was one of those free comics I got through a mail-order service. I looked over my copy's cover and don’t even see a cover price or UPC box, so I’m assuming this was some sort of freebie given to retailers. It really is a terrible, mostly incomprehensible mess. I have no idea who half of these characters are, how the Marvel characters ended up in a team with them, where they’re teleporting in from, how they’re teleporting, and what exactly is supposed to be going on. That’s sad in any case, but this is the first issue of the series. And not even an ordinary first issue, but the start of a relaunch specifically designed to bring in existing Marvel fans. Aside from not even understanding the concept, I don’t know why Sienna Blaze wants to kill one of her teammates (and why she’s waiting until her target gets healthier to do it), why exactly this Amber is sick and what her powers are, what ‘Strike’s name is supposed to be short for, or what this “Aladdin” is and what it has to do with two of the characters. All of the characters have generic ‘90s looks, no one has a personality, and the story mainly consists of the characters making vague comments to one another and then getting into a pointless, anticlimactic fight. Did anyone really think that this would bring the still sizable X-fanbase into the Malibu Universe? I realize that all of the complaints I just brought up are stereotypical traits of the X-books, but I have a hard time thinking of any X-books that are truly this bad.


There’s an ad in the back for an upcoming Marvel/Malibu crossover involving the Phoenix, which doesn’t even fill me with morbid curiosity. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the Phoenix in this storyline turned out to be some sort of hoax, or an alternate version that had nothing to do with the established character in the Marvel Universe. I think the Malibu Phoenix event actually turned out to be the launching pad for a new series. I remember seeing ads for “Marvel’s first bad girl” comic, published through Malibu, which featured a teenage girl in a tight, nipply t-shirt. I might be getting it mixed up with something else, but I think she was supposed to be another “Phoenix” (what part of this doesn’t reek of desperation?). I’ve actually ended with two more issues of this series that were released a few months after this one, and all of the Marvel characters are gone. So I guess Marvel decided that not even Reaper and Sienna Blaze should’ve suffered through this.

CABLE #25 – November 1995

“What Was…What Is…”

Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Ian Churchill w/Joel Thomas (pencilers), Scott Hanna w/Ryan, Wiacek, LaRosa, Vey, & Carani (inkers), Mike Thomas & Malibu’s Hues (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

Domino joins Cable and Jenskot in the future as they hide out from Stryfe’s soldiers. They sneak though Stryfe’s camp on their way back to the Clan Chosen’s base. Meanwhile, Stryfe interrogates the captured Tetherblood, who refuses to reveal the connection between Nathan Dayspring and the glowing orb Stryfe has obtained. At Clan Chosen’s camp, Cable meets Korless, a member he doesn’t remember. Cable checks on his younger self, the comatose Nathan Dayspring. He’s unable to enter his mind because Nathan is psychically guarding himself against Stryfe. Cable psionically reaches out to the Professor, whose consciousness is contained inside the glowing orb Stryfe is holding. He’s convinced that only the Professor can save Nathan. Domino asks Blaquesmith why she was sent along with Cable, but all he knows is that she must have a key role in this battle. Domino wonders if her role is to kill the younger Stryfe before he can cause Cable so much pain. She heads back to Stryfe’s base and prepares to assassinate him, but is stopped by Cable, who is afraid of disrupting this timeline. Along with the Clan Chosen, they break into Stryfe’s camp and search for the Professor. Once Cable locates him, he’s ambushed by Korless. Korless admits to Cable that he wants Stryfe to succeed so that he can have a place in the new world order. The Professor teleports Cable’s team away, leaving Stryfe to kill Korless for failing him. Soon, Blaquesmith helps to integrate the Professor’s consciousness into Nathan, which saves his life. Cable says goodbye to Jenskot, and is then sent back to the past with Domino by Blaquesmith. The following day, Nathan recovers and wins the next battle against Stryfe.


Continuity Notes

The Clan Chosen is the name of Cable’s team of resistance fighters in the future. Its members include Cable’s best friend, Tetherblood, and his future wife, Jenskot. Korless, Stryfe’s sleeper agent inside the Clan, makes the odd statement that the “High Lord” has already fallen. If this is supposed to be a reference to Apocalypse, that doesn’t fit all of the stories that show him as a continued threat in Cable’s future.


The Professor is supposed to be Ship from the earlier issues of X-Factor. Apparently, there's another story that explains how he ended up as a glowing orb (probably the Askani'son mini I never read).


Gimmicks

This issue has a double-gatefold prismatic foil cover. I have the newsstand copy, which doesn’t have any enhancements.


Approved By the Comics Code Authority

Domino’s costume leaves her right leg bare, which Churchill has taken as an invitation to also leave her right butt cheek exposed. The colorist colors it blue, bringing us another Editorial Swimwear moment.


Review

It’s not uncommon for anniversary issues to do stories where the main character travels through time and meets a younger version of himself, or has another chance to see loved ones who have died, etc. Since Cable is already a time traveler, the theme is a more natural fit for him than it would be for someone like Batman, but the end result it still weak. This is another story about the timeline Cable grew up in, and it’s just as dull as the ones that preceded it. Since the height of Cable’s popularity occurred before it was even revealed that he was a time traveler, I have to wonder if he’s just better off without any of these excursions into his past. I’ve yet to read a story that makes me care about Cable’s future, mainly because no one he knows there has a personality, and nothing about this timeline stands out amongst the hundreds of other dystopian futures we’ve already seen. I guess there’s a novelty to setting the story in an era of Cable’s past that hadn’t been revealed yet, and seeing the return of the once-major villain Stryfe, but I had already lost interest in all of this material by the time this story was published.


Loeb does try to do something with Domino’s conflicting feelings about being sent on this mission, but nothing really comes from it. He actually has the character question why she’s even been sent to the future, has the sage Blaquesmith tell her it must be for a reason, and then never actually reveals what it is. She doesn’t kill Stryfe, which she suspected her purpose might be, or help Cable recover the Professor in any significant way, so it’s hard to see why Loeb even brought up this thread. Domino’s willingness to kill Stryfe and let Cable have happiness here with Jenskot, even if it means she might never see him again or even erase their history together, is a decent conflict, even if it’s only a small part of the story. Loeb also introduces a lot of the time travel paradoxes that usually show up in these stories by giving the characters the typical dilemmas about altering the past, or giving characters knowledge of the future, without doing anything new with any of them. And since Cable’s original goal in returning to our timeline was to prevent his from happening, it’s strange that he’s so concerned about not changing anything now. All of these worries seem moot anyway since Marvel had so firmly established by this point that time travel only creates alternate realities in their universe. Nicieza even had Cable himself acknowledge that his original plan of changing his future probably wouldn’t work during his X-Force run. I guess you could make the argument that only the past is immutable, and that time traveling to the future involves different rules, but that would require this issue to actually delve into questions much more interesting than the ones Loeb wants to address.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

X-MEN ’95 – October 1995

A Sinister Heart

Credits: J. M. DeMatteis & Ralph Macchio (writers), Terry Dodson & John Paul Leon (pencilers), Jon Holdredge & Shawn Martinborough (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Mike Thomas (colors)


Summary

An elderly woman named Faye Livingstone is kidnapped from her nursing home. When Mr. Sinister, disguised as Nathaniel Essex, arrives for his annual visit, he finds Genesis in Faye’s room. When Sinister threatens him, Genesis unveils Faye, who has been genetically manipulated to look sixty years younger. Meanwhile, Phoenix and Beast are vacationing at his cabin in the Catskills. His home is suddenly invaded by the Dark Riders, who grab Phoenix and teleport away. Beast takes the Blackbird and chases the psychic trail Phoenix left for him to follow. Phoenix awakens inside a decaying Hollywood mansion and watches Genesis confront Sinister. Genesis claims that he’s going to do what his idol, Apocalypse, never could do and destroy Sinister by breaking him one piece at a time. Sinister examines Faye, who is dreaming of the past. She remembers meeting Nathaniel Essex at a Hollywood party in the 1930s. She thought they were in love, but soon discovered that Essex was using her mutant genetic material for his experiments. After he finished using her, Essex finally opened the door of his mansion and allowed her to leave. Genesis wants to use Phoenix’s psychic powers to create a mind-link between Faye and Sinister, which will prove that he actually did love her. Beast breaks through Sinister’s defenses and convinces Phoenix to go along with Genesis’ plan. Using Phoenix’s power, Sinister and Faye have a final dance inside their minds. Faye tells Sinister that she knows that he truly did love her and has been looking for a way to make amends. In reality, the genetic manipulation wears off, as Faye succumbs to cancer. Sinister coldly tells Beast to take the woman’s corpse and go away. Genesis is impressed that Sinister never broke his icy façade and decides to leave. Beast looks into Sinister’s eyes, and knows that he is hiding his grief.


Continuity Note

This is the first story to actually show Mr. Sinister as Nathaniel Essex in the past. He still hasn’t been given a full origin yet, but we now know that he once worked for Apocalypse and was active at least by the 1930s.


Review

This is better than your typical annual story. It doesn’t advance any of the ongoing storylines and isn’t written by the series’ regular writer, but it does reveal information about one of the many mystery characters from the era while also telling an entertaining story. The plot also gives Genesis his first interesting scheme ever, as he plans on exposing Sinister’s emotional weakness, rather than simply attacking him physically. Going back to the occasional episode of G. I. Joe that would show a member of Cobra in a sympathetic light, I’ve had a soft spot for stories that try to humanize villains since I was a small kid. The way the story is constructed, never allowing Sinister to admit to his true feelings to himself but making them obvious to the audience, is clever. As if the idea of Sinister keeping this woman captive and experimenting on her wasn’t dark enough, the story also infers that he might’ve sexually assaulted her in his attempts to create the perfect genetic offspring. The writers thankfully keep this element extremely vague, so we still get a sense of how heartless Sinister can be without totally undermining the story’s ending. The idea that Beast can look into Sinister’s eyes and sense his loss is a little much (especially when you consider that he has no pupils), but the scripting of the scene pulls the idea off. Beast’s theory that Sinister is mourning not just Faye’s death, but the idea that he’s gone too far and can never turn back is also handled well.


The art alternates between Terry Dodson and John Paul Leon, two skilled artists who couldn’t be more different. Leon is used mainly for Faye’s flashback scenes, so even if the change in art styles is jarring, at least another narrative is being told. However, he does end up drawing a few pages set in the present, which makes his dark, scratchy style even more out of place with Dodson’s clean look. Thankfully, this is only for a few pages, so it’s not as distracting as it would’ve been if the artists had just been assigned random pages.


Words

Credits: Scott Lobdell w/Matt Idelson (writers), Ramon Bernardo (penciler), P. Craig Russell (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Mike Rockwitz (colors)


Summary

Brian Braddock reads a letter from his sister, Psylocke. She describes her growing feelings for Archangel and her suspicion that she’s falling in love with him. She writes about their trip to the Westchester County Fair, where they discussed their relationship and the forces that drove them together. Psylocke tells Archangel that his willingness to help her through her identity issues made her realize how much he truly cared about her.


Review

I distinctly remember hating this backup story, mainly for the artwork. I’m not quite sure now why I hated the art so much, since most of it looks fine, even though some of the faces are a little ugly and Archangel and Brian Braddock look too much alike. I guess this has nothing to do with Bernardo’s actual drawing ability, but he also gives Archangel a hideous hairstyle that looks like the mullet Adam Curry sported in the late ‘80s. It’s strange that Marvel was still so hung up on giving their male characters perfectly styled long hair at this point, since that look had been out of fashion for years. This is a sixteen page backup story designed to sell the Archangel/Psylocke romance, which is probably something that should’ve already been done in the main book by this point. Their relationship always seemed forced to me, mainly because Archangel went from hanging around Psylocke for two issues to suddenly having some deep spiritual bond with her. I think this story is meant to address that problem, since it has the characters themselves question why they fell for each other so quickly. The story actually does a fair job of justifying the relationship, by casting them as two lonely individuals who tried to lessen their own pain by reaching out to each other. Psylocke decides that if you find something good in life, you should just go with it, so now they’re deep into a relationship. There’s certainly an element of cheese there, but it’s a reasonable enough justification that at least tries to make the relationship stay true to the characters. It goes on way too long, though, and some of the dialogue is rather schmaltzy.

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