Tuesday, September 23, 2008

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)


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.)


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.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I think this is the last issue of X-Men Unlimited that I ever picked up. At this point the series seemed like filler instead of its original purpose to tell big stories that would impact the regular series.

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