Monday, September 8, 2008

BISHOP #1-#4, December 1994 – March 1995

Okay, simply because I was asked to, I’ll do capsule reviews of the Bishop miniseries from this era. Even though I was a hardcore completist, I didn’t purchase this mini when it was released because the $3 cover price was too high, and I was already having a hard time justifying buying all of the titles after most of the prices had increased fifty cents. Plus, there was also an over-priced Rogue miniseries being released around the same time, so I made the decision to save money for that one. This was the first time I was simply unable to afford every X-book being released in one month, which shows that Marvel was probably already losing touch with its younger readers.

#1 (Ostrander/Pacheco/Smith/Comicraft/Rosas) – This isn’t that bad of a start. Bishop hasn’t been given much of a personality or an internal conflict at this point, outside of his occasional struggle to adapt to the X-Men’s stricter code of ethics (i.e., they don’t want him to kill people). Ostrander revives the idea that Bishop might not be able to fit in by having Xavier question if Bishop is more X-Man or XSE. The fact that Forge and Jubilee are still hanging around the mansion makes me wonder when exactly Ostrander wrote this, or if he was only given Bishop’s first few appearances as reference. Bantam, the forgotten sidekick of Fitzroy, is brought back as a way to introduce another fugitive from Bishop’s timeline. Mountjoy, who can take over people’s bodies, secretly possessed

Bantam and traveled back to this time months ago. Bantam asks Bishop for help now that Mountjoy is trying to kill him, because he’s the only one who knows where Mountjoy is. Pacheco draws a pretty energetic fight scene between Bishop, Storm, and Mountjoy, which ends with Mountjoy poisoning Bishop. This is one of the few times a villain has actually tried to get around Bishop’s energy-absorption powers, so at least Ostrander has put some thought into the action elements.

#2 (Ostrander/Pacheco/Smith/Comicraft/Rosas) – The story opens with Bishop dreaming about the X-Men’s deaths while recovering from Mountjoy’s poison. He’s awakened by a hologram of his sister, Shard, which Forge has altered to become totally interactive. This actually has some impact on continuity, since the holographic Shard later joins the cast of X-Factor (in case you’re wondering if that was a terrible idea or not, I can assure you it was). Forge’s dialogue explaining how exactly Shard exists has clearly been re-lettered, so I guess there was some second-guessing going on about how to define what Shard is exactly. Ostrander continues to play up the idea that Bishop doesn’t fit in with the X-Men as he vows to “finish” Mountjoy, even if he has to resign from the team. Exploring the differences between Bishop’s paramilitary training and the X-Men’s goals is a decent starting place for a story, but this doesn’t exactly work. For one thing, we haven’t really seen Mountjoy behave any worse than your typical X-Men villain, so Bishop’s insistence that he has to die seems forced. Also, Wolverine certainly has a willingness to kill if he thinks the situation justifies it, and he remains on the team. The rest of the issue consists of another fight scene with Mountjoy, which ends in a car chase that Pacheco doesn’t exactly pull off. I really have no idea what’s supposed to be happening in the final panels of the scene. The end result is that Bishop has a car crash and wakes up in his own timeline. He begins to wonder if his time with the X-Men was just a dream, which is rather silly. This issue opened with one “so over the top you can’t buy it” dream sequence, and now it’s ending with another one. I’m not sure what Ostrander was thinking with this, but I wonder if he assumed that the X-books had a younger audience that was just naïve enough to fall such a blatant stunt.

#3 (Ostrander/Pacheco/Smith/Comicraft/Rosas) – And, for the third issue in a row, Bishop fights Mountjoy. Ostrander does at least try to break up the tediousness by having Bishop continually flash back to his past during the fight, but none of the glimpses of Bishop’s future are that interesting. This issue does resolve one of the mysteries introduced in Bishop’s earlier appearances by revealing what the Summers Rebellion actually was. An old man tells Bishop that it was the time humans and mutants united against the Sentinels, which lead to the creation of the XSE. This reminds me of how much we don’t know about Bishop’s future, since I only seem to recall one issue (UXM #287) that took place in his timeline. That’s a gap that could’ve been covered by a Bishop limited series, but instead it’s mostly skipped over in order to make more room for the Mountjoy fight.

#4 (Ostrander/Pacheco/Smith/Comicraft/Rosas) – Now the action moves to the X-Men’s mansion, where Bishop continues to fight Mountjoy, who’s absorbed the X-Men’s bodies. Bishop proves that he really is an X-Man in the end by refusing to kill Mountjoy, even though Shard encourages him to. Ostrander tries to add some weight to the ending by forcing Bishop to effectively kill Shard’s holographic persona during the fight, but there’s really only so much drama you can get out of a hologram. I’m not sure how much rewriting went on with this series, but it’s worth noting that Mountjoy lists Bantam as dead in this issue, even though the character just disappeared in-between panels in the first issue and never showed up again. There’s also no shortage of re-lettered and added word balloons throughout the entire run, including the very last caption of the miniseries. It seems pretty obvious that Marvel decided that Bishop was going to get his own limited series and just found someone to come up with a story, rather than a writer coming in with a strong idea for Bishop and creating a series around it. John Ostrander’s basic idea for the mini is fine, but the final result is an endless fight scene with a predictable ending that fails to make you care anything about the main character. The entire series is admirably drawn by Carlos Pacheco, though, so most of the action scenes are fun.


Fnord Serious said...

Thanks, Kendall!
It sure sounds like a lost opportunity. I like the idea you present of a miniseries exploring the alternate future that Bishop comes from rather than the four issue fight scene that resulted. Still sounds like it would be worth buying from the quarter bins just for some early pacheco art.

Seangreyson said...

Your point about the unexplained Summers rebellion is completely on point, and one that went literally unanswered in any detail until earlier this past month.

Got to love dangling, disregarded plot threads.

chris said...

I've always really hated Bishop, but man Pacheco can draw the hell out of just about anything.

kerry said...

I've always felt "Mountjoy" was one of the most unfortunate villain names ever.

Anonymous said...

I thought mountjoy showed up in Warren Ellis' first story arc on Excalibur.

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