Thursday, October 2, 2008

X-MEN UNLIMITED #9 – December 1995

Horse Latitudes

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Val Semeiks (penciler), Bob McLeod (inker), Tom Vincent & Malibu Hues (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

Lee Forrester rescues Paolo, a former member of her crew who had been missing for weeks. He’s running in fear from Bloodscream, who’s captured the rest of his shipmates. A week later, Psylocke, Beast, and Wolverine board Lee’s ship to investigate her claim that ships have been disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle. They sail into a fog and are confronted by Bloodscream and a crew of men he’s controlling. Bloodscream and his men manage to fight off the X-Men and sail away to their destination. The X-Men follow and soon realize their ship is somehow sailing in the sky. They follow Bloodscream’s path to Belasco’s island, which is magically floating over the ocean. The X-Men land on the island and investigate Belasco’s temple. Belasco captures the team and unveils the N’Garai cairn he’s discovered. He reveals his plan to use Bloodscream’s flotilla and his magic crystal to take over the N’Garai dimension. After he’s overpowered the N’Garai, he’ll use them to conquer this world. Belasco opens a portal to the N’Garai’s dimension as Bloodscream enters. The X-Men reveal to Bloodscream that Belasco was only using him, exploiting his desire to redeem his humanity by drafting him into a war with the N’Garai. Outside of the vortex, Lee Forrester targets Belasco’s crystal from her boat and shoots it. Bloodscream turns on Belasco, enabling the X-Men to escape the vortex. The X-Men drop into the ocean, as the vortex teleports Bloodscream and Belasco away. Eventually, the team is rescued by Lee Forrester.


Continuity Notes

This issue has repeated references to the first time Belasco fought the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #160.


Review

Larry Hama has said in a few interviews that the only writing jobs he ever got were the ones no one else wanted. He was probably exaggerating, but I think it gives you a good idea of how much of a priority X-Men Unlimited had become by this time. It’s another filler issue that basically just consists of a hero vs. villain fight. It doesn’t really tie into any of the ongoing storylines and I think the ending was just ignored by future writers. The story does feature a plethora of obscure characters (Bloodscream, Belasco, the N’Garai, their leader Kierrok, and Lee Forrester) which I guess is a nice nod to the longtime fans even if it doesn’t make the story inherently more interesting.


There are some ideas in here that would’ve looked cool if handled by an appropriate artist, such as Bloodscream’s zombie pirate flotilla, Belasco’s satanic temple, and the Belasco/N’Garai fight, but Semeiks’ art is pretty subdued for most of the issue. He can handle the facial expressions and most of the page layouts, but most of the issue isn’t visually exciting at all. I suspect that Hama was mostly relying on the extreme visuals to sell the story, but Semeiks can’t pull the images off the way J. H. Williams did in his Wolverine annual. Hama does introduce a character arc for Bloodscream, which reveals that he subconsciously wants to regain his humanity and has found redemption in Belasco’s war against the N’Garai. It’s nice that there’s some attempt to add a human element to this story, but Bloodscream is too nasty of a villain to be convincingly reformed, and his arc is really only a minor aspect of the issue. Hama also drops the ongoing subplot he established in Wolverine that had Bloodscream tricking Elsie Dee and Albert into helping him track Wolverine. If Hama was given an issue to kill in Unlimited, I’m not sure why he didn’t just resolve that storyline.

3 comments:

rob said...

The Hama fact at the start of the review might shed some light on his atrocious run on Generation X.

Chris said...

I interviewed Hama once a few years ago for his work on the short-lived BLAZE series, and the first thing he said was exactly that: "I only got the gigs no one else wanted".

So I suppose no-one was lining up to write Wolverine in the early 90s then? Seems to me that book was a cash-cow at the time no matter who was writing it.

G. Kendall said...

By the time the Hama/Silvestri run began, the Wolverine book had just turned into a series of forgettable inventory stories. For some reason, the book didn't seem to be much of a priority after the Goodwin/Byrne run was over.

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