Wednesday, October 8, 2008


In the Red Zone

Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Gary Frank (penciler), Jon Holdredge w/Mark McKenna (inkers), Dana Moreshead & Electric Crayon (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Caliban tracks Sabretooth down in the sewers, but Sabretooth manages to knock him unconscious and escape. Phoenix tries to telepathically locate Sabretooth, but can’t. Cyclops and Iceman investigate one of his old safe houses while Beast and Archangel position themselves around the city. Sabretooth returns home while Cyclops and Iceman are there. He jumps out of the window and takes a hostage on the street, forcing Iceman to let him escape on the subway. Beast confronts him on the subway train, but Sabretooth manages to escape again. Archangel spots him and tries to capture him, but Sabretooth rips open one of his wings instead. Cyclops orders Iceman to take Archangel to the hospital, while Jean senses that the police have discovered a train ticket for Boston in the remains of Sabretooth’s clothing. The X-Men discern that Sabretooth is headed for Xavier’s school in Massachusetts to kill the younger students. Cyclops, Phoenix, and Beast catch him at the train station. When Sabretooth sees the brigade of police nearby, he antagonizes them into shooting him repeatedly. Val Cooper takes his apparently dead body away, as Cyclops laments that Sabretooth ended up getting exactly what he wanted.

Continuity Note

According to Professor Xavier, Sabretooth can’t be located telepathically ever since his healing factor repaired his brain damage and removed his need for a psychic “glow”. I don’t know if that’s been kept consistent over the years, but this explanation doesn’t make any sense to me.


This issue has a wraparound chromium cover and is forty-eight pages with no ads. The cover price is $4.95, a dollar more than X-Men Alpha, which had the same format a year earlier. I could be wrong, but I think this was the last chromium X-book.

I Love the ‘90s

Sabretooth refers to X-Force as the “MTV slacker group”. Phoenix stations herself on top of the World Trade Center. Beast admits that he enjoys The Richard Bay Show. “Veruca Salt” appears as graphiti on the subway.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority

Sabretooth says “sucks” at one point, which is a word Joe Quesada later claimed the Code had a problem with.


I’m not quite sure what the point of this comic is, outside of Marvel just saying, “Hey, we haven’t done a big, expensive chromium cover comic in a few months”. Maybe the idea was that after so many months of having Sabretooth live in the mansion, there should be a giant “X-Men vs. Sabretooth” comic to end the storyline. The story isn’t that bad, even though the plot mechanics get on my nerves. Gary Frank delivers a solid art job throughout the issue, but his clean, smooth style seems like an odd choice for a Sabretooth special. Nicieza uses the story as a vehicle for Sabretooth’s sadistic point of view, emphasizing again and again that he has no desire to change and that he likes what he is. It’s a legitimate avenue to take, but it starts to get old after awhile since the story mainly consists of Sabretooth having brief confrontations with each of the X-Men and then running away.

For no internally logical reason, only the original X-Men are sent after Sabretooth. I get that Nicieza wants to pit the original team against a creature so nasty he couldn’t have existed in the Silver Age, but hardly any of these characters really have any unique perspective to bring to the conflict. And the mechanics required to keep the story going for almost fifty pages are also silly. Not only can’t Phoenix mentally track him because Sabretooth’s suddenly developed some defense against telepathy, but in the end she can’t even keep him afloat with her telekinesis because she’s “too tired”. Cyclops hits him point blank with his optic blasts more than once and it barely has any effect. The idea that all five of these X-Men would have such a hard time capturing Sabretooth is silly. Four out of the five of them could just attack him from a distance, since Beast is the only one that can’t fire some type of projectile. Given Iceman’s recent power-up, it’s hard to believe that he couldn’t have just frozen Sabretooth at some point in the story. I don’t usually complain about the way characters use their powers in a fight scene, but this is ridiculous.

The story does have its moments, though, as Sabretooth has a few interesting exchanges with Archangel and Phoenix. Archangel talks about suppressing his own dark desires to kill Sabretooth, which is the first acknowledgment of his own internal conflicts in a long time. The idea that Sabretooth is constantly pushing the X-Men to cross their own moral boundaries also works well. The story’s central idea, that Sabretooth is really a coward because he’s unwilling to fight against any of his urges and see if he ever could change, is fine but it’s repeated so often it starts to wear on you. Overall, the story has its moments but it’s obviously padded to fit into the double-sized format, and some of the plot elements don’t hold up to much scrutiny.


Jeff said...

I was glad they let Nicieza finish this story, since he was the one who started it. I don't think this is a bad one-shot and I like the ending. As a kid, I didn't have this issue and it really annoyed me that a few major events took place in an issue that was hard to track down (and expensive).

G. Kendall said...

Yeah, this comic, along with X-Men Omega, was impossible for me to find. I guess chromium was popular where I lived.

wwk5d said...

This wasn't the worst thing the X-offices produced in this era, but alot of the problems mentioned in the review hold up (5 X-men couldn't stop Sabretooth? Really?). Was this one of the few x-issues Gary Frank did?

Seangreyson said...

As a kid I enjoyed this issue. Your guess is as good as mine as to why I bought it (I was reading Gen X at the time, not any of the core X-titles).
However I did like that they used the original team instead of finding some way to drag Wolverine back in. Which was what I had come to expect from X-men comics.

Teebore said...

I also remember having a hard time finding this one when it came out; and I was buying all my comics from a comic shop at the time.

It wasn't until years later that I finally found it at a con, of all places.

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