Friday, November 14, 2008

X-MEN #52 – May 1996

Collector’s Item
Credits: Mark Waid (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Cam Smith (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Marie Javins & Malibu (colors)

Summary: Gambit orders Bishop to grab the front of the runaway train. As Gambit loads the train with energy, Bishop absorbs it until he can’t contain any more. The energy Bishop finally unleashes cancels the train’s momentum with a kinetic backlash. Gambit congratulates the weakened Bishop, and the two are soon ambushed by Mr. Sinister. Gambit, Bishop, and Beast (who is still Dark Beast in disguise) wake up restrained inside one of Sinister’s labs. He explains that he created the mutating virus to infect humans because he was running out of mutant subjects. He thinks that he’s now able to make the mutating effects permanent, but he’s more interested in Bishop, the only X-Man he knows nothing about. He performs a psi-probe and learns that Bishop is actually from the future. Dark Beast grows worried, as he knows Bishop has memories of the Age of Apocalypse, which he’s trying to hide from Sinister. Gambit cries out in pain, leading Sinister to believe that he might’ve been infected with the mutating virus. When Sinister unlocks his restraints, Gambit reveals that he was faking and escapes. He charges a playing card and destroys Sinister’s sample of the virus. A revived Bishop attacks Sinister with the electricity he’s absorbed from the lab, forcing Sinister to teleport away. Meanwhile, Rogue rents a room in South Carolina, and the mysterious Bastion confiscates video of the train’s damage at Penn Station.

Continuity Notes: Bastion makes his first cameo appearance, wearing a trenchcoat with his face covered in total darkness. He’ll go on to be the major villain in next year’s big crossover, which means the 1997 crossover is being set up before the 1996 crossover has even begun.

Sinister is extremely curious about who Bishop is in this issue, even though they met before in the “X-Cutioner’s Song” crossover and he didn’t seem that interested in him. Uncanny X-Men #325 established that Threnody was monitoring the X-Men inside their mansion for Sinister, so if he had that kind of access, you’d think he would’ve known about Bishop’s past by now (it’s virtually all Bishop talks about anyway). Now that I mention it, the idea that Sinister was spying on the X-Men inside their home should’ve been treated as a bigger deal than it was.

While reading Bishop’s mind, Sinister claims that he came to this era to stop the X-Men’s traitor. That’s actually not true; he came to this time to abduct Fitzroy and his band of escaped convicts. He had no intentions of meeting the X-Men, and even thought they were imposters when he first encountered them. I think this mistake has been made a couple of times over the years, almost making it a quiet retcon of Bishop’s backstory.

After overhearing Sinister tell Gambit that he wouldn’t expect an attack from him, and Gambit’s revelation that he knows that Sinister’s lab is in St. Louis, Dark Beast suspects a connection between the two. He claims that he’ll use this to his advantage, but I’m sure nothing comes of this.

Production Note: You guessed it…nineteen pages.

We Get Letters: A letter writer points out how absurd the revelation that Dark Beast had never heard of this world’s Beast was. The editorial response is that Dark Beast is so arrogant, “it never for a moment dawned on him that there could be another person out there like him”. They also claim that his work underground with the Morlocks prevented him from monitoring our newscasts. Good lord.

Review: Andy Kubert returns with this issue, which at least brings some kinetic artwork to a fairly thin story. Not an awful lot happens in this issue, as the previous installment’s cliffhanger is resolved (with some questionable pseudo-science), the team is captured, and then escapes relatively easily. I guess Sinister catching a fleeting glimpse of the Age of Apocalypse, and Dark Beast learning of a connection between Gambit and Sinister could’ve provided fodder for future stories, but since I'm fairly certain neither of those ideas went anywhere, it makes this issue seem even more inconsequential.

The idea that Sinister could’ve been fooled by Gambit playing sick, which is such an old trick it even felt like a cheat when it was used on the old G. I. Joe cartoon, is hard to swallow. There’s also some confusion over what exactly Gambit’s done to his research. When I first read this issue, I assumed that Gambit had destroyed all of Sinister’s mutant DNA database, and suspected that it might lead to another arc involving Sinister recollecting his research. I thought this because Sinister showed off his collection of DNA records earlier in the story, calling it his life’s work. After Gambit causes an explosion, Sinister accuses of him depriving him of his…life’s work. Then, at the end of the story, Sinister brags, “You may have destroyed my virus…but I have many other plans in motion”. So I guess it was just the virus? Looking back, the DNA files are colored oddly, with any outline lines knocked out. I think this is supposed to indicate that he was actually showing off a hologram and not the real database. Plus, it was inferred after Threnody trashed one of his labs that he had backups of his research, so Gambit’s actions wouldn’t have ruined his life’s work anyway (although this wouldn’t explain why he doesn’t have a backup of his virus info). This is really too much confusion for such a simple plot. The issue still looks nice and has some decent character interaction, but it doesn’t feel like much of a resolution to the storyline.

6 comments:

Arvin Bautista said...

This is the cover that's an "homage" to a Jim Lee drawing of Wolverine in X-Men 7... I can't remember if this was brought up in that spanish blog with the copycat/homage comparisons...

rob said...

The saving grace is Kubert's excellent, dynamic art. It's a shame this two-parter was Mark Waid's only story that was really his own, as the next issue starts the Onslaught buildup, then he leaves when that crossover's done. So it's too bad that this is so inconsequential. There should have been more to Dark Beast meeting Sinister that isn't here. And the everything about Bishop's character was so boring at this point.

As to the letter response, sure he's arrogant, but he's also intelligent. If he noticed that the AoA and this world both had Sinister's (not to mention the countless other doubles he must have seen while observing Sinister all these years), wouldn't he, at one point, have considered there was another Beast?

Robin said...

Wasn't the 'Bishop is hunting the traitor' storyline originally from the X-Men cartoon? With the popularity of the show, I can see how that transferred to the comics so readily, after all, I'd assume a lot of the viewers started buying the comics, I know I did, and were more familiar with that storyline at this point.

G. Kendall said...

Yeah, the cartoon combined the traitor storyline with the "Robert Kelly is assassinated" storyline from Days of Future Past.

Seangreyson said...

What I always thought was interesting with the crossover between cartoon and comic was the fact that AoA was actually originally concieved by the cartoon writers.

They asked Marvel what a world without Xavier would have looked like, and the AoA concept was born.

This was probably the most dramatic effect, but a lot of what was going on in the comics was influenced by the cartoon's popularity (which characters were being used for stories, the prominence of some villains, etc).

Trotsky said...

Yeah connecting with what Seangreyson said and what G's been wondering about Gambit's accent, I think it's a direct relationship with the cartoon. Notice how the dis and dats don't show up until after the cartoon is a smash hit.

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