Wednesday, October 22, 2008

X-MEN #49 - February 1996

Eyes of a New York Woman
Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Mark Waid (script), Jeff Matsuda (penciler), Dan Panosian (inker), Kevin Somers & Malibu Hues (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary
Bishop, who is growing increasingly unhinged, confronts waitress Pamela Greenwood. Beast, disguised by an image inducer, tries to stop him from tearing the restaurant down. Bishop slams him into a mirror and knocks him unconscious. When Bishop almost collapses, Pamela takes him home with her as the police arrive. When Bishop wakes up on her couch, he repeats his claim that she’s a spy. Dark Beast watches the events through the eyes of Pamela, who is secretly Fatale. He decides that allowing Bishop to live is too risky because he might regain his memories of the Age of Apocalypse. Fatale responds to Dark Beast’s order and knocks Bishop out of her window. Meanwhile, Beast turns off his image inducer in order to intimidate the police into letting him escape. He catches Bishop after he flies out of the window, and is quickly attacked by Fatale. She ruptures a gas line and escapes. Dark Beast watches in amazement on his monitors as he realizes that he has a counterpart in this reality. Elsewhere, both Gateway and Chamber disappear from Xavier’s school in Massachusetts. M tells Banshee that she only sensed the word “Onslaught” on Gateway’s mind before he disappeared.

Continuity Notes
As I’ve mentioned before, the waitress in this issue is supposed to be the woman Bishop recognized at Harry’s Hideaway in UXM #299. She looked familiar to him because Dark Beast “scraped” his mind and came up with Bishop’s image of the ideal woman. He claims that he wasn’t able to figure out Bishop’s “chronal blisters” (i.e., his memories of the AoA) the same way.

Miscellaneous Note
According to the Statement of Ownership, average sales for the year were 332,889 with the most recent issue selling 394,189 copies.

Review
This issue is infamously dumb, and it’s just as weak as I remembered. It’s impossible to ignore just how ridiculous the Fatale retcon is, but I’ll try for a few seconds to talk about other aspects of this issue. Jeff Matsuda provides the fill-in art, and while it’s shaky on a few pages, it is an improvement over his unsightly X-Factor issue from this era. I’ve always thought that the splash page that digitally places Dark Beast’s face over his monitor’s image of the original Beast was nicely done, even if it is illustrating one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read in a comic. The plot of this issue, even ignoring the retcon, doesn’t exactly work, since we’re supposed to believe that Bishop has suddenly gone from “troubled” to “outright insane” (although I guess this is closer to the way he was portrayed in X-Men Prime). The plot is mainly an excuse to get Bishop and Fatale alone together for a few pages, so that the Dark Beast reveal can be pulled off. Knowing that, I have to wonder why they bothered to move the action to “Pam”’s apartment, since there’s really no reason for Dark Beast to wait that long to give Fatale the execution order. The Onslaught subplot in this issue is pretty strange, since it involves the cast of an entirely different title. These two pages couldn’t have been done as an epilogue in Generation X?

Moving on to the notorious retcon, I’m not even sure where to begin. As many others have mentioned over the years, Beast is a celebrity in the Marvel Universe due to his past membership in the Avengers (plus, X-Factor was also a popular superhero team during his stint). The idea that Dark Beast has been on Earth for twenty years and has never seen him on TV before strains credibility pretty far. I guess you could argue that this is just continuity anal-retentiveness, since Beast’s role as a celebrity hadn’t been mentioned in a few years at this time. Even if you buy that, this still doesn’t work. Beast is also a world-renowned research scientist, who has appeared on television several times in that capacity. In fact, the plot of UXM #299 involved the X-Men watching him debate Graydon Creed on television at Harry’s Hideaway. And what else happened in that issue? That’s right, the “mysterious waitress” subplot began. Fatale only now notices Beast and brings him to Dark Beast’s attention, even though he was on television while she was serving Bishop drinks in her first appearance? Aside from the continuity points, there’s also the common sense mangling you have to go through to get this to work. Dark Beast is supposed to be one of the smartest men alive, but it never occurred to him in twenty years that he had a counterpart in this reality? Even though virtually everyone he knew clearly did? Really?

The plan for Fatale is also nonsensical. She was supposed to disguise herself as a waitress, rent an apartment, and…do what exactly? I guess she was supposed to get close to Bishop over the ensuing months, so that Dark Beast could find out how much he knew about the AoA. If so, why didn’t she? Why didn’t she make an actual effort to get close to him? They went through all of this effort to set up a new identity for her, one that includes a job, an apartment, and even a cat, all in an effort to make her seem normal, and then she doesn’t actually bother to talk to Bishop? This is beyond stupid. Plus, it opens up another plot hole – if Dark Beast knew enough about the X-Men to send someone to spy on Bishop in the first place, why is he only now learning about Beast? Really, no aspect of this waitress subplot worked. Even if you were just relieved to get a resolution (like I was as a teen), you couldn’t possibly view her three appearances as a coherent story. She showed up once in 1992 and had a panel devoted to introducing a potential mystery about her. She’s never mentioned again for three years, and conveniently shows up again as Bishop is dealing with memories of the AoA (a storyline that hadn’t even been conceived when she first appeared). The next issue after that, she’s revealed to be a spy, apparently living a complete double life while simultaneously appearing as an assassin in a separate X-title. There were no clues, no foreshadowing, nothing at all to connect the resolution to anything presented in the preceding issues. This goes beyond bad writing, it’s outright appalling.

9 comments:

rob said...

You lay out the two sets of plot holes perfectly. I think the Dark Beast plot is the stupider of the two, but both are insultingly bad. Another element is that Dark Beast has obviously been trailing Sinister all this time, and not once did he see Beast? Inferno? The Infectia issue? X-Cutioner's Song? Even as a kid, this whole issue was a mess. Matsuda is able to sell the high-action elements of it, but the story is awful. I also hated how we just jump in to this - Bishop goes from calmly discussing the problem and having a drink to full-on psycho with no explanation in this issue. And the Onslaught stuff is beyond bad.

wwk5d said...

I think this is a contender for one of the worst issues Lobdell has done. Between this and Uncanny, it wasn't the best month for him, no? Kind of funny how the nun Jospeh met in his first major appearance had heard of the X-men, and even saved an old issue of Time magazine with them on the cover...yet the Dark Beast was clueless?

Rob listed many examples of where DB should have seen our Beast, but didn't. That just compounds the stupidity of the reveal even more. It could have worked, had they been building up to the Fatale reveal as soon as we got back from the AOA, and if DB had known about our McCoy all along.

As for the gen-X stuff...this was a period where they were having as many characters and storylines appearing in as many other books as possible, all to try and either set a feeling of completism, and also to try and hook people who weren't reading all the books to do so. As I said, the post AOA era up until the end of Zero Tolerance is, imo, one of the worst era in X-men history.

adam-0oo said...

And I STILL have no idea why anybody cares about Bishop's AOA memories. Is that ever resolved?

Matt said...

I'm trying to remember... Did anyone ever get a letter published bringing up the business about Dark Beast never having seen our Beast before? It seems like one of those things that might have been addressed in a letters page, but I'm not sure.

It sounds like these couple of issues are a lot worse than I ever remembered. As I've said before, I have fond memories of this era, but these reviews are making me think more and more that they should remain just that -- Memories!

What's particularly troubling is that I distinctly remember really, really liking the X-Men at this time! I actually wasn't a big fan of the Age of Apocalypse, and I thought a lot of the stuff before it was too dark... but everything from X-Men Prime up through Onslaught and even Zero Tolerance kept me waiting on pins and needles every month, to the point that I was actually upset when Scott Lobdell finally left!

Chad said...

What's especially stupid is how unnecessary it is. You don't have to write in that the Dark Beast was unaware of the Beast for so many years to explain why he hasn't encountered the X-Men before. After all, there's already an explanation there: the Dark Beast is being forced to play his hand for the first time by the possibility that anyone might find out about his existence through Bishop's memories.

(Of course, even then strict continuity followers would still ask why the Dark Beast didn't step in earlier, when the X-Men first encountered the Morlocks, but whatever...).

Roland Dodds said...

Like Matt, I remember really liking the X-Men at this point in time! I don’t know what that says about my young impressionable mind, but re-readings from this era surely don’t live up to my previous expectations.

Trotsky said...

Unlike Roland and Matt I really started to wonder why the hell I was reading this stuff around this point. I felt like AoA was really good and getting back to the normal continuity was actually *disappointing.*

Also, as I've said dozens of times in my numerous comments already, which is probably starting to sound like fanboy craziness, but I was fully engrossed in Ellis's Exalibur at this point and all the other books were lagging badly.

Wisdom was actually overtaking Gambit as my favorite character, since I like flippant smart-asses (still do) and Gambit was turning into this whiny angst-ridden bore. Wisdom is great because he had dirty, ugly secrets but he didn't wring his hands over them much. Also, I liked how he maintained his MiB plain-clothes look even up to the present day. He's not a "super-hero" he's a regular guy with super-powers.

I stopped collecting sometime in early 97 but had a subscription service at my comics shop I never canceled so I got the full boatload I was forced to buy after about six months which included most of the Onslaught thing that made me stop buying X-titles altogether. You'd think getting six months of comics would make you want to return to it, but god Onslaught was so incredibly bad.

By the way, I dunno if it was in this review or the previous one but the fact that Dark Beast was afraid of Sinister was because he was Sinister's underling in AoA. I dunno why Sugar Man would be afraid of him, other than the fact that he was Apocalypse's highest profile horseman in that reality.

ray swift said...

Well, at this point, I automaticly skipped through everything involves Dark Beast - Fatal included - X-man, or sugerman (Holocoast still seems okay to me, with his alliance with Shaw) so I only read the summaries. I didn't remember anything about this waitress girl, aside that she was last seen in the last X-babies story, so I never cared much about the retcon. I just waited for this hellish characters to die or dissapear. And Bishop was an unstable character that I couldn't read from this first appearence. I never understood why people found him appealing.
And just to make it clear, the reason I was bored by everything from the AoA universe was never because of the outrages retconing (mostly I can get used to retcon after the initial rage) but because they were just written plain bad. Both DB, SM and X-man were flat shallow characters with no reediming quality or complex. They didn't contribute nothing to the main-world. Holocoast was also plain evil, but at least he was somewhat cool and his interaction with shaw had some interesting moments, in my opinion.

Ronnie Deen said...

Marvel never knows when to leave a good thing alone. No one from the AoA should have made it into the 616. Especially considering that all that did was show that AoA was just another universe and not the 616 cruelly changed like Marvel had made it out to be.
Nothing good came to the 616 out of the AoA. McCoy was used competently in Remeders Uncanny X-force. And seeing Holocausts 616 counterpart was nice. Trying to shoehorn the AoA rejects into X continuity should be the go to example of negative editorial interference

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