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.

3 comments:

rob said...

Absolutely one of the highlights of the era, and Lobdell's run on either book. This issue makes the debacle of the trial of Gambit look better because it's one of the only times Gambit exhibits real, human feelings towards what he did. I also love another one of the issues raised, that of Xavier lying to the world's media to protect mutants. It's a much more layered, difficult question than the repeated "dragging through the mud" they resort to now with no regard for his character (or intelligent stories). There's also great touches here, like the shots of a silent Gambit huddled on the mansion's roof and Xavier dragging himself from his wheelchair to sit on the cliff. Everyone's acting like real, vulnerable people here and Madureira's art is on form throughout. Along with X-Men#33, one of my favourites from the early-mid 90s.

Jeff said...

This is a very good issue that I hadn't read until recently. I agree that it is one of Lobdell's best and does a good job of having the characters address dilemmas without coming off as being whiny, which a lot of comics from this era fell into. Once again, Madeiura's artwork is phenomenal. I generally preferred adjectiveless to Uncanny during this era but with Lobdell now writing both, Uncanny becomes the much stronger of the two books for the next few issues.

percy blakeney said...

I had problems with this story. Sabretooth has already been, at least, strongly implied if not outright established as knowing Gambit's secret and about his connection to Sinister so having Gambit try and force him to recover his memory just seems batshit insane. Surely Gambit has a vested interest in Sabretooth not remembering?
For part of the issue I thought Gambit was just trying to probe Sabretooth to see if he really had forgotten or whether it was a ruse but the whole shebang goes way past that.

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