Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira (penciler), Townsend/Ryan (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colors)
While the X-Men play a game of baseball, Colossus suddenly teleports in with Callisto’s unconscious body. When Callisto comes to, she explains to the X-Men that Gene Nation are the second generation of Morlocks. They follow Marrow, who plans on rectifying the crimes committed against the original Morlocks. On the anniversary of the Morlock Massacre, they plan on killing one human for each Morlock who was killed. Meanwhile, Gambit receives a phone call from Rogue, who is on her way to Seattle. Threnody, who is monitoring the X-Men for Mr. Sinister, tells him that Gambit is now heading for Seattle. In the sewers, Callisto guides the X-Men towards Gene Nation. They soon discover a dead human chained to the wall. The team is then ambushed by Gene Nation’s Hemingway and Vessel. Storm and Callisto go off to find their hostages, and soon discover dozens of humans strapped up to bombs. Marrow appears and rips open her chest to reveal that her heart is attached to the trigger. She tells Storm that she has to kill her, because each heartbeat brings the bombs closer to detonation. The two duel, and Marrow gains the upper hand with the help of their telepath, Reverb. Storm breaks free of Marrow’s grip and rips her heart out of her chest. Later, the Gene Nation members are shackled and the hostages are freed. Storm asks Colossus to rejoin the team, but he feels that he needs to deal with his recent mistakes first. After everyone else leaves the sewers, Wolverine comforts Storm.
The footnotes claim that Callisto collapsed in X-Men #44, but that never happened. I assume doing this double-sized issue required a decent amount of lead time for Madureira, so maybe he had already drawn the unconscious Callisto before that story point had been changed in X-Men. Or maybe no one was paying attention in the first place.
Callisto reveals what happened after Mikhail and the Morlocks apparently committed mass suicide. Mikhail actually transported them to another dimension, where time moves at an accelerated rate. Gene Nation, the second generation of Morlocks, view their parents as weak and have returned to this dimension for revenge against human oppressors. This new dimension is supposed to be far more advanced than ours, explaining Callisto’s hi-tech armor and Gene Nation’s device that disrupts Cerebro. We actually see this world in the Storm miniseries, but I don’t remember it being very hi-tech. Callisto also claims that Mikhail died while sending the Morlocks to the alternate dimension, yet later says that he was targeted by Gene Nation in their new home. Storm points out her contradiction, but it doesn't serve any story purpose.
This is supposed to be the first appearance of the united Gene Nation, but one of the characters with the team in Callisto’s holographic movie never actually shows up in the story. His name is Ever, and he later shows up as a member of Havok’s new Brotherhood for some reason. This type of sloppiness starts to crop up as more and more editors take over the X-line. The members we do see are Marrow, Vessel, Sack, Hemingway, and Reverb. Callisto is shocked that Hemingway has “mutated more” since she last saw him, and wonders how that could be possible. I have no idea what the significance of this is supposed to be.
This issue has double-gatefold, prismatic foil cover. I guess just being prismatic wasn’t good enough. I have the newsstand copy, which thankfully has no cover enhancements and costs $2.95.
Beginning this month, the paper quality in the “Deluxe” titles is downgraded. It’s still slick, but it’s no longer thick and actually feels kind of flimsy. It feels very similar to the type of paper being used in comics today.
We Get Letters
One fan writes in to complain about Rogue and Iceman “eloping” in an upcoming issue. The editor claims that they’ve received several letters complaining about this and have no idea where fans got this idea (um, your own solicitations, perhaps?)
After Storm draws first blood against Marrow, she licks the blood off of her blade. That’s perfectly in-character, isn’t it?
Not only is this the three hundred and twenty-fifth issue of UXM, it was also released during the twentieth anniversary of the first appearance of the “All-New, All-Different” X-Men (it’s interesting that Marvel was celebrating the new ideas established twenty years earlier at this point, which is more reverential than Marvel seems to be towards anything from twenty years ago today). Lobdell tries to make this a more obvious nod to the X-Men’s past than his previous anniversary issue in UXM #300, so this issue opens with the X-Men playing baseball. Having the X-Men play baseball is considered one of the hallmarks of Claremont’s run by a lot of fans, although people seem to think it happened a lot more than it actually did. Lobdell uses the game as an impetus for Wolverine and Storm to offer some meta-commentary on the line’s increasingly dark direction and continued lack of levity. I don’t remember UXM ever really being that light-hearted, although Claremont did make time to show the team interacting with real people and pursuing everyday hobbies, like Kitty’s ballet and Colossus’ painting. That element has certainly been lost from the titles at this point.
It’s interesting that Lobdell opens the issue with this type of commentary, since the rest of this story includes some of his darkest work on the title. Forcing Storm to kill Marrow is a good conflict for the character, especially if you remember her strong aversion to ever taking a life in the previous issues. However, the story assumes that you already know this and doesn’t actually reaffirm her reluctance to kill. In fact, a few pages before Storm does the deed, we see her licking her opponent’s blood off of a knife. Not only is it incredibly dumb in the first place, it makes the ending much less dramatic since it makes Storm out to be a heartless warrior, so there’s not really the sense that killing Marrow is a hard choice for her. Having Storm throw a dagger into Reverb’s gut shortly before Marrow’s death also undermines the decision she’s about to make, since it’s easy to read this scene and infer that Reverb is dead.
I think that Lobdell intended Storm to be the star of this issue, but that’s something I only really picked up on after reading it in an interview. Obviously the climax of the story heavily involves Storm, but the buildup to it doesn’t specifically have anything to do with her, nor is she really given anything to do until her duel with Marrow. Lobdell pays some lip service to Storm’s failure as a leader of the Morlocks, but doesn’t get a lot of material out of it. Callisto and Marrow separately accuse Storm of failing them, but she only has the brief defense that they were offered a home with the X-Men and never took it. If Storm feels guilty about what happened to the Morlocks, there’s no real indication here. And, honestly, I’m not quite sure what Storm was actually supposed to do as the Morlocks’ leader. They had their own society in the sewers, and apparently had enough supplies to survive. They made it clear to Storm that they had no interest in moving out of the tunnels. Her real motive for becoming their leader was to get them to stop attacking innocent people, and most of them seemed to at least follow that command. Since the Morlocks seemed to be self-sufficient, I’m not sure what exactly Storm was supposed to do for them. I guess there should’ve been the occasional scene of Storm traveling down to the sewers to check on them, but I don’t see what else could’ve been done with this storyline, unless Storm was really going to move into the sewers and live with the Morlocks. If Lobdell wanted to emphasize that Storm was insensitive towards the Morlocks, he could’ve had a character point out that she was playing baseball with the X-Men on the anniversary of the day they were slaughtered (Which does imply that the X-Men either forgot the date or just didn’t care. It’s hard to tell if Lobdell was trying to infer that the X-Men are being insensitive or if he didn’t make the connection himself).
So, at least in terms of drawing upon the X-Men’s history to create new material for an anniversary issue, this doesn’t exactly work. Just judging it as a standalone issue of UXM, though, it’s not all bad. The story moves at a steady pace and sets up the conflict pretty clearly. Lobdell skirts over the fact that humans didn’t actually kill the Morlocks, other mutants did, by having Marrow blame humans for forcing them into the sewers in the first place. It’s a little bit of a stretch, but it doesn’t bother me since the Morlocks always seemed to resent humans in their earlier appearances. Gene Nation never turned out to be credible villains, but they serve their purpose for this issue. And, even though Marrow was later revived, at least this issue does have a very clear and definite ending. Yes, Marrow's eagerness to have Storm actually kill her is bizarre, but she hasn't been portrayed as particularly stable at this point anyway. The baseball scene’s fun, and it is successful in evoking the “family” feel that the titles had been drifting away from during this era. I can remember being excited that Colossus was worked into the story, and relieved that Marvel had totally abandoned any attempts to play him as a villain at this point. Madureira’s art is the real highlight of this issue, as his cartoony style fits the baseball scene perfectly, and his manga-derived rendition of the X-Men is still able to walk the line between their traditional appearance and the new look he’s developing. Some of the pages look rushed, but for the most part he does a lovely job.