Wednesday, December 17, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #334 – July 1996

Dark Horizon
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira (penciler), Tim Townsend (inker), Steve Buccellato & Team Bucce! (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Juggernaut arrives at the X-Men’s mansion, hoping that Phoenix will unlock the secret of Onslaught inside his head. Inside, Phoenix tells Cyclops about her encounter with Onslaught. Cyclops says that she needs to speak to Professor Xavier, but she refuses, even though she’s not sure why. Meanwhile, as Archangel and Psylocke try desperately to contact the X-Men in Colorado, Cannonball tries to talk to Professor Xavier about his feelings of inadequacy, but is coldly rebuffed. Later, Cyclops tries to speak to Xavier inside the War Room, but is instead greeted by a telepathic projection that shifts between insulting him and asking for help. Bishop and Gambit encounter the Juggernaut outside and are knocked unconscious. Juggernaut finally reaches Phoenix and asks for help. She takes him to a psi-shielded chamber in the underground tunnels beneath the mansion. She says that they will learn Onslaught’s identity here. Elsewhere, Bastion chastises Graydon Creed for his conspicuous attempt at killing Senator Kelly.

Continuity Notes: When Bishop is working on Cerebro, he wonders why technology has barely advanced in his time. I have no idea what the significance of this is supposed to be. I know that it will soon be revealed that Onslaught killed the X-Men in his timeline, but were they implying that Onslaught’s victory also lead to technology being stunted for decades?

The telepathic projection of Xavier watches footage of X-Man and comments on the time he pulled his body from the Astral Plane. He says that “what I’m about to do…I couldn’t have done without you.” Allegedly, this allowed Onslaught to be born, even though he had been operating in the background for months before that issue.

Production Note: As I mentioned earlier, this is the month Marvel dropped the slick paper in the X-titles. I remember Marvel first announced that they would make up for the lessened paper quality by adding extra pages. Then, it became apparent that these extra pages would be hype pages for other Marvel books. It seemed like these would at least be fanzine-type articles and interviews, which I wouldn’t have minded. Instead, it became obvious that most of these pages were poorly put together ads, and the same extra pages ran in all of the titles each month. The added pages in this month’s titles are clips of previous Onslaught clues, which really just emphasize how haphazard this entire storyline has been. I remember feeling incredibly cheated by this at the time.

Review: This is a nice example of an issue that touches base on various subplots while building up a main story. Unfortunately, most of the subplots end up fizzling out over the next few months, but there was still some promise at this stage. The dark tone in the issue is successful in setting the stage for the Onslaught revelation, and I seem to recall being fairly excited when I read this for the first time. The clues regarding Onslaught’s identity aren’t even getting close to subtle now, as Xavier suddenly has a drastic change in personality. The previous issue had him acting a little snarky with his students, but now he’s behaving like a totally different character. Lobdell gets some humor out of the “evil” Xavier’s conversation with Cannonball, which basically has him calling Cannonball out as a total incompetent (which is unfortunately what the character had turned into at this point). The brief scene that has the Dark Beast offering a meta-commentary on all of the various fields of knowledge the Beast is supposed to be an expert on is also amusing. Madureira’s art remains a highlight, as he turns in one of the strongest renditions of the Juggernaut ever. He’s also able to keep the rest of the issue, which mainly consists of conversation scenes, visually interesting.

4 comments:

Jeff said...

Madureira's Juggernaut is one of the best ever. We are still in the decent phase of the Onslaught crossover.

Teebore said...

"Allegedly, this allowed Onslaught to be born, even though he had been operating in the background for months before that issue."

I was always under the impression (perhaps mistakenly) that while Onslaught had been operating in the background long before Nate Grey showed him how to transfer his form from the astral to the physical plane, it was always in the Onslaught-controlled body of Xavier.

Whereas after meeting Nate, Onslaught was shown the means in which he could take physical form independent of Xavier's...if that makes any sense.

Honestly though, with all the vague Onslaught stuff leading up to this, who knows?

Chad said...

I remember how genuinely excited I was at this stage, probably because it was such a rare example of a X-Men storyline actually going anywhere. Personally I felt the whole thing derailed the minute they made Onslaught an entity independent of Charles Xavier...

Still, in the early part of the storyline they had some nice moments, like the image of the Juggernaut imprisoned inside the gem that gave him his powers and treated like a paperweight in Xavier's office.

Matt said...

Count me among those who love Madureira's Juggernaut. It's too bad he never got to draw him fighting the X-Men (at least, not that I can recall...)

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