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)


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.


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.


Chad said...

I am sort of glad that the Joseph storyline got derailed the way it did, since as it was it already just blatantly repeated a key part of Magneto's biography ("Oh my God, Magneto is young again...again!"), although I don't think anyone who knows the Joseph storyline would say that it wasn't a total mess by the end.

On a bit of a side note, reading your reviews has made me realize how badly Magneto had been handled for so long. Arguably Claremont in the '80s (and again when he returned to the X-books in the '00s) went too far toward making Magneto a hero, while pretty much every writer in the '90s ran too far in the opposite direction, making Magneto too much of an unsympathetic villain while yet still holding up Claremont's interpretation of the character and his motives. Still, I suppose it could have been worse (*cough* Mystique *cough*).

Jeff said...

The Joseph mess ends with the Magneto War crossover which actually ends up being not as bad as you'd think (although almost every Joseph appearance up to it is crap, and what kind of code name is Joseph?). But the prelude to the crossover (X-Men #85) is just a fabulous comic. The X-Men save a burning hospital while Magneto tests the prejudices of one normal man to decide whether or not to attack humanity. When the man turns out not to be prejudiced Magneto reveals himself and frightens the man and then uses this to justify his attack. Just a great character study all around. Also, the issue features Alan Davis art. One of the very best X-Men comics of the 90s.

All in all, this issue isn't bad, but I couldn't see too many good stories coming from this.

Teebore said...

Yeah, on its own merits I always thought this issue was pretty good, and even though I didn't like the unexplained and unnecessary de-aging of Magneto, I definitely liked the "second chance" idea, and was excited to see where it was headed.

I even liked how, back when this was still Magento and not a clone, he ended up palling around with Rogue right before Onslaught.

But the "Joseph is a clone" mess just overshadows everything...I remember in particular hating the idea that some never-before-seen jilted Brotherhood member was behind it really made apparent what was always implied: the final resolution of the storyline wasn't what was originally intended, and that bugged me.

I never heard about Lobdell's aborted plans to make Joseph Proteus; what was that all about?

wwk5d said...

Yes, if anyone has any details about Joseph being Proteus, please share them! I am very curious about this, and when Lobdell changed storyline ideas, from Joseph being a de-aged Magneto.

I didn't like the idea that Joseph was a de-aged Magneto, but I did like the idea as a whole at first. Yeah, it was a slight re-hash of a previous story, but the amnesia angle was a nice aspect. Again, it's hard to judge this storyline as a whole since it was derailed, but there were some good moments with Joseph.

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