Monday, November 3, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #331 – April 1996

The Splinter of Our Discontent
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Bryan Hitch (penciler), Paul Neary (inker), Steve Buccellato (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: X-Force rescues the Dark Beast, in disguise as the X-Men’s Beast, from a lab explosion. Warpath and Shatterstar are slightly suspicious of his behavior. Meanwhile in Colorado, Archangel takes a leave of absence to help Psylocke recover from her wounds. In New York, Iceman confronts Emma Frost about her previous possession of his body. Most of his chest was shattered during his fight with Post, and he wants her to help him turn back to his human form. She tries to antagonize him with visions of his father and his ex-girlfriend, but he refuses to back down. She tells him to trust in himself and change back to his human form. He reluctantly does, and realizes that his body is fine. Frost explains to Iceman that she provoked him because she was angry that he squandered his potential and always survived, while her highly trained Hellions died in battle.

Production Note: This is yet another nineteen-page issue, the third one in a row for this series. Just like all of the other shortened comics from this time, the extra pages aren’t made up by outside ads, but an extended letters column and X-Facts hype pages.

Continuity Notes: Archangel and Psylocke move to Colorado in this issue, where I think they’ll stay until the Onslaught crossover. This puts the Archangel one-shot in a nebulous continuity position, since it takes place after Sabretooth’s attack while they were still living in the mansion and Psylocke appears to be fully recovered. In this issue, they move to Colorado while she’s still recovering. I decided to file Archangel before this story, rationalizing that even if the story made no reference to Psylocke’s wounds and she seemed fine, it’s possible she wasn’t fully healed yet.

In a brief subplot scene, Cyclops takes Phoenix to the location of his fight with Post. Cyclops wonders why the scenery is untouched, claiming that it should be covered in debris. The landscape is drawn like a mesa, and doesn’t look anything like landscape of X-Men #50 (which was drawn inconsistently even within that issue.) I have no idea if this was supposed to be intentional or not.

Meltdown is still referred to as Boomer, and wearing Boomer’s costume, even though she changed her name and look in X-Force #51, which took place right after Uncanny X-Men #328. See what happens when you read all of these X-comics in such a short amount of time?

In one scene, an agitated Archangel implies that Xavier might mentally coerce him into rejoining the X-Men. Xavier is offended, and Archangel defends his statement by citing the times Xavier erased people’s memories of the X-Men in their early appearances. This might’ve been an attempt to foreshadow the “dark side” of Xavier becoming Onslaught.

An offhand comment by Emma Frost lead to some speculation at the time that Iceman was gay. She comments that he’s used his mutant ability to pursue his first love, “interior decorating”. Some fans took this to mean that she learned he was gay while inside his mind. Those fans apparently chose to ignore the gigantic ice sculptures that Iceman has filled her office with, which is obviously what she’s referring to. Fabian Nicieza has confirmed that no one working on the titles intended for Iceman to be gay, but just imagine if Jeph Loeb followed Scott Lobdell on this book.

Review: This is an easily forgettable one, which mainly touches base on various subplots and gives Iceman a little bit of attention. Many of the pages are just spent referencing things that happened outside of Uncanny X-Men, such as the fight with Post and Dark Beast infiltrating the mansion (the fact that he’s hiding out amongst at least two telepaths isn’t brought up here, but I think it is acknowledged later). Iceman’s anxiety over his wound isn’t sold very convincingly, and it looks like an attempt to make the fight with Post seem more important than it really was. The subplot about Iceman seeing visions of Emma Frost is resolved pretty halfheartedly, as Iceman just bluntly tells her that he doesn’t know why she was doing it, he just wants her to stop. The justification that Emma taunts Iceman because she resents him for surviving while her Hellions died seems like a stretch, but Lobdell does have the characters play off each other pretty well.

The scene between Archangel and Xavier is a little strange, as Archangel just casually claims that Xavier might brainwash him into doing what he wants, and then dismisses his allegations by admitting that he’s in a bad mood. The idea that Xavier must have this sinister dark side based on his actions in early Silver Age comics has never worked for me. He erased the memories of people who learned where the X-Men lived or who came too close to finding them out. Since he wasn’t erasing years of their lives, just a few minutes, or altering their personalities, I don’t really see why it’s that big of a deal. Superheroes have been erasing people’s memories of their secret IDs for decades and I’ve never considered it to be that morally dubious. That idea that Xavier would brainwash one of his students just because he previously used his powers to protect their secrets is a huge leap in logic (and it seems as if Marvel’s using it again to justify the inane decisions they’ve made with his character in recent years). I have no idea if we’re supposed to be sympathetic to Archangel’s charges or not, since he quickly backtracks and claims that he’s just tired. There are a few nice character beats in this scene, though, as Gambit implies to Bishop that he might not be trustworthy at all and isn't worth apologizing to, and Xavier admits to himself that he hardly knows the newer X-Men. They’re very brief moments, but I find them more interesting than most of the rest of the comic.

7 comments:

Chad said...

I think you could read the Xavier/Archangel scene as a natural reaction of a non-telepath to a telepath. After all, constantly being around someone who can effortlessly alter or erase your memories, even if they are a kind and benevolent person, would be quite terrifying, and it's a nice bit of realism for X-Men stories to acknowledge this (although I think you're right and this was just meant to be an Onslaught clue).

(the fact that he’s hiding out amongst at least two telepaths isn’t brought up here, but I think it is acknowledged later).

If I remember right, Onslaught does at some point explicitly tell the Dark Beast that he/Xavier had been protecting him from being discovered telepathically from the very beginning, although it still leaves open the question of why the Dark Beast never really considered Xavier or the team telepaths a threat to his plan in the first place.

wwk5d said...

The thing is, we've never seen Warren express this before, and he certainly didn't seem to mind being around Jean all these years, not to mention he's dating a telepath now. Claremont handled it a bit better back in the 80s with Havok...he didn't mind being around Charles, but he did mind being around Psylocke, because he just didn't trust her personally.

Teebore said...

Plus, Psylocke actually had altered Havok's memories once, when he stumbled across the X-Men plotting to fake their deaths shortly before Fall of the Mutants, so he had good reason to distrust her.

Jeff said...

Remember when X-Men comics used to have adventure and excitement in them? Thanks, Lobdell, for ending that.

Matt said...

I think the reason we're supposed to view Professor X's past actions as questionable is because during the Claremont run, Xavier himself made a point to stop erasing people's memories -- I think he considered it the easy way out or something. Wasn't in Uncanny #101 that he refused to wipe the memories of the JFK Airport workers who saw the X-Men emerge from the crashed space shuttle? He says something to the effect that he will no longer forcibly rewrite people's memories.

Mind you, I'm not saying this is justification for all the Evil Xavier stories that started with Onslaught -- Just that I feel the reason we're supposed to view something like that as bad is because the professor himself does.

ray swift said...

While reading it I thought, and not for the first time, that Emma frost might be the most ingenious character coming from that era, and one of the best X-characters generaly. It's just so fun to see a character that walks on the line of evil yet remains one of the good guys. I would half-expected Lobdel to screw that, for some reason, but it seems like he is doing more then a fine job. I would even risk it and suggest that Lobdel reinvented and recreate Emma Frost, the way we know her today, after the days of Clairmont.
It seems he has no limits with that character, and only with her.
She doesn't act like any other character. Here is iceman totaly nerfing her, and still she stays calm and bossy as if she has the upper-hand, which actualy works to give her the upper hand. She enjoyed being punished. At one point, while fixed to the ice, she give a vague comment which can suggest that she enjoys it sexually, and even paying for it.
Her relationship with Bobby is great, and in this era that ignores almost completely any character interactions (that isn't romantic) in the X-men, this is a true fascinating occuring relationship that I love to get back to time and time again.
There is, though, some sexual tension in this story, or so it seems to me (While outraging and losing his mind, after fixing Emma to an ice colmun, Bobby started to say he cannot take Emma out of his mind. If it was a today HBO series, this was the exact moment in which he would force himself on her - a sexual erge coming from confusion and not being able to extract her from his mind. At another part, while wishing for her help, it seems in the picture like he is stretching his hand to her breast). This could have lead on to a really fascinating (and also deliciously disturbing) development between Emaa and her pet Bobby the Iceman.

percy blakeney said...

The Iceman/White Queen confrontation is utterly ridiculous and yet so typical of the comics of this era. No one can have a conversation they have to go full diva and have a full on battle. Why? This is so retrograde it boggles the mind. This was the kind of thing that X-Men had been pivotal in moving beyond in the eighties yet has become commonplace once more.
The ongoing thing of making Ice Man out to be some kind of moron who can't figure out how to use his own powers is really damaging to the character. This is one of the original X-Men -supposedly amongst the best trained in their powers of anyone! Instead we get Ice Putz.

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