Monday, October 27, 2008

X-MEN #50 – March 1996

Full Court Press
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Cam Smith (inker), Joe Rosas & Electric Crayon (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary

Cyclops, Storm, Iceman, and Wolverine wake up in a desolate landscape. Cyclops’ ruby quartz visor is gone, and Iceman has a hole inside his chest. Meanwhile, Gateway appears in front of Professor Xavier’s bed, apparently attempting to teleport him away. Bishop and Phoenix enter and easily knock him unconscious. The X-Men try to deduce where their kidnapped teammates have gone, as a being of psionic energy suddenly appears. Inside the mystery location, Wolverine’s senses are able to locate their opponent, Post. He claims to be a “faithful extension” of Onslaught, who is transmitting the results of the test to him. The four X-Men try a variety of different techniques against Post, who’s already familiar with the team. During their fight, Storm senses that the environment is disrupted. The ground begins to shake, leading Storm to develop a plan to destroy the environment, thinking that Post reacts to it as it reacts to Post. Iceman freezes the ground beneath Post, as Wolverine rips open a part of Post’s protective covering. Cyclops blasts the exposed area, and soon the four X-Men are returned home. The psionic entity leaves, telling the X-Men that the Onslaught is coming.

Gimmicks

This issue has a foil wraparound cover. I have the newsstand copy, which doesn’t have a gimmick cover and costs $2.95.

Continuity Notes

This is the first appearance of Post, who is described as “the lowest of Onslaught’s emissaries”. For some reason he has blue skin, and is covered in a series of “computerized plates” which can transfer data and shoot off energy blasts. He’s shown up a few times over the years, usually as a generic goon used to fill up the ranks of some villain group.

Banshee, via video screen, tells the X-Men that Gateway teleported Chamber away, but he dumped him back in their front yard as quickly as he left. The previous issue seemed to imply that Gateway had no control over what was going on, either. Later, Beast theorizes that Onslaught sent Chamber back because he didn’t want any telepaths learning his secrets. This doesn’t explain why Gateway is trying to abduct Xavier at the start of the issue.

Beast wonders why Onslaught is teleporting X-Men away, since he’s allegedly powerful enough to storm the mansion and physically take them. Bishop theorizes that Onslaught “took them to a place that has something to do with the source of his power”, and Beast agrees. I’m pretty sure that when Onslaught is revealed, most of this will make no sense.

Bishop speculates that Gateway wanted to be stopped, explaining how easily he was knocked out. Later, Onslaught (who’s supposed to be the psionic being that appeared at the mansion...maybe?) chastises Gateway, saying, “You assured me these creatures were ready. That they could hold the last line of defense against the coming”. Again, pretty sure most of this is nonsense.

“Huh?” Moment

One of the sound effects used when the environment around Post freaks out is “SPROUTS”. What?

Review

I can remember liking this issue when it was released, even though reading it today is more frustrating than anything. When the Onslaught storyline was still just a series of vague hints, I was able to read this issue and simply enjoy it as an action-heavy story that was planting seeds for the next crossover. I had been burned by enough crossovers to be skeptical about the upcoming event, but the foundation at this point seemed to have promise, and introducing new villains as heralds of larger, more dangerous foes is an old comic tradition. Reading this today, all you really see is a collection of nonsensical clues scattered around a lengthy fight scene. The action is competently handled by Kubert, who fills the comic with large, dynamic figures and a lot of energy. Some of the poses and anatomy don’t exactly work, but for the most part the visuals in this issue are great. The opening page, which has a battered Cyclops covered in shadow as his body is hung up in twisted tree branches, is a strong way to start the issue. It’s one of the few times Lobdell started a story in the middle of the action, which is one reason why this comic stuck out to me at fifteen. The drawn out fight scene starts to get a little old after a while, but Post still comes across as a capable opponent for most of the battle.

Everything past the fight scene is total mess, though. Aside from the clues that weren’t satisfactorily resolved after the Onslaught reveal, there are elements within the issue itself that don’t make sense. If Onslaught were afraid of telepathic powers, why would Gateway send back Chamber, and then go after the more powerful Xavier? If Onslaught can manifest himself as “pure psionic energy”, why would he even be worried about a novice telepathic like Chamber learning his secrets? How exactly is Onslaught drawing power from the mysterious landscape? What exactly is going on between Post and the environment? Why is the landscape drawn differently in different parts of the comic? In the first few pages, the ground is hilly and rocky and the trees look like something out of a Tim Burton cartoon. A few pages later, the trees are lush and green, and the ground is covered with grass and plant life. The sky also goes from gloomy and dark to blue and pretty. What happened?

The future revelation that Onslaught was actually Xavier (spoiler alert!) just makes the entire issue even more nonsensical. Why would Onslaught send Gateway to kidnap himself? I guess you could argue that he was trying to throw the X-Men off, but it’s not as if they were suspecting him in the first place. And if Onslaught has Xavier’s memories and intellect, he wouldn’t have to “test” any of the X-Men of course. He already knows more about them than anyone else. Why is he relying on Gateway for information? There’s also an implication that Onslaught is testing the team to ensure that they can defend against “the coming”. What was that supposed to mean? Or is the psionic entity not supposed to be Onslaught? If not, who was he supposed to be? I don’t seem to recall Onslaught needing to be powered by a special environment either, so all of the mystery surrounding the landscape in this issue probably amounts to nothing, too. Judged as a mindless fight issue, this isn’t so bad, but as a chapter in an extended storyline, it’s dreadful.

8 comments:

wwk5d said...

Wow, this was really bad, huh? As if the future revelations didn't make a mess of what was already revealed (Post being the lowest of Onslaught's emissaries yet we never really saw anyone more powerful than him, the landscape having nothing to do with the Onslaught in the long term, and the identity of the psionic entity). there are just so many contradictions within this issue itself. Lord only knows what the original plan for Onslaught was.

Teebore said...

Far as I've always heard, there never was an original plan for Onslaught; Lobdell just tossed the name out at a meeting and worked it into one of the early post-AoA issues, because he liked the idea of something so powerful it scared Juggernaut, then made up the rest as he went along.

Which of course helps explain the nonsensical hints in issues like this, though you'd think Lobdell would have kept track of this kind of stuff and kept it in mind as he was making up the rest of the story.

wwk5d said...

Hmmm...I wonder when they reached the point where they decided, hmm, let's make him Prof X, AND the traitor from Bishops storyline!

Jeff said...

This issue is only redeemed by Andy Kubert's outstanding art. Otherwise it makes no sense whatsoever. As teebore said, Lobdell was just making all of this up as he went along, which you can do and still come up with a decent story, but only if you keep track of what you've written before which Lobdell decided not to do apparently. It also is a lot harder if you have several writers who don't know what the others are doing just making up stuff. Man, the more I type it the more I think all these writers and editors were semi-idiots. But I love just looking at Kubert's art here.

rob said...

I have to agree on its suckiness. The art is excellent and there's some good bits (like Iceman's stomach), but the contradictions are a mess and even at the time of release I didn't like this. I thought it would be great buildup to this Onslaught mystery and instead we got some thing that may or may not be Onslaught giving the X-Men a boring speech and some reject henchman that Onslaught sent to fight them.

The contradictions both in this issue and in the wider story you mention are almost laughable. One of the things that proves they were literally making this up month to month is the explanation of Chamber's disappearance. After that buildup, he's just returned, off-panel, with some sloppy explanation as to why. And the idiocy of Xavier going to such great lengths to test his X-Men is really funny. I can't believe I generally liked this era of the X-Men when it was coming out. Chalk it up to childhood enthusiasm. Next to this, solid runs like Nicieza/Kubert literally look brilliant.

Seangreyson said...

The lead up to Onslaught was very weak. But looking back on it now I actually kind of liked the actual confrontations with Onslaught (Stories between Onslaught X-men and Onslaught Marvel Universe).

For one thing it was the first of the major crossovers that seemed to want to involve the X-men and Avengers/FF together. Also some of the ideas that came out of it were very cool (Xavier Protocols were probably my favorite).

Finally the art was pretty good through most of it, and the final battle actually seemed to have an effect that seemed significant (AoA ended with a whimper, Onslaught ended with a bang). Yes Heroes Reborn eventually ended up on the dustbin but the Avengers and the FF actually died (admittadly I was an X-men fan and thus recognized they'd probably be back).

Nate said...

I'm very late to this party, but I think when I read the whole Onslaught series as a 13-year-old I assumed that the psionic entity and everything it did was Xavier's subconscious good side trying to test and prepare the X-Men for dealing with his subconscious bad side. I don't know if that idea holds any water. I'd have to re-read them again.

But it's ridiculous that they did stories like this, with so many major hints, without knowing where it was going yet. I mean, c'mon guys. At least have a general outline in your notes or something. There's nothing wrong with long serial story arcs, but they would be much more satisfying if they were planned out in advance.

ToddHome said...

The only theory I ever had for Gateway's actions that reconciled with the ultimate reveal was that he was being forced to work for Onslaught, but didn't know who he was, other than the fact that he was a he and a Psi. He took Chamber to see and found out it wasn't him and returned him. He was trying to take Xavier but was discovered in the process and never able to. Given Onslaughts power he was never afforded another opportunity at Xavier. That was my theory as a teenager, but then again I may have been giving Lobdell too much credit. :)

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