Tuesday, December 16, 2008

X-MEN UNLIMITED #11 – June 1996

Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Terry Kavanah (script), Steve Epting & Mike Miller (pencilers), Sellers/Milgrom/Koblish/Candelario (inkers), Matt Webb & Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Rogue’s landlord reluctantly reports her as a suspicious mutant to Humanity’s Last Stand. A week later, a group of men in armored suits attack her home and try to abduct her. Bastion arrives and knocks her unconscious. Rogue awakens inside Humanity’s Last Stand’s headquarters, where Bastion is detailing his plan to destroy the building and frame her for the deaths of the HLS members. One of the guards objects and is killed by Bastion. Another guard watches the murder through a videoscreen and refuses to stand by. The guard is secretly Joseph, who infiltrated the group weeks ago in the hopes that he could find information on the X-Men. Joseph uses his magnetic powers to rescue Rogue, who is initially suspicious that this is one of Magneto’s schemes. After they fight off the armored guards, Rogue begins to trust Joseph. When the mysterious Trask confronts the duo in an armed helicopter, Rogue convinces Joseph not to use the chopper’s missiles against Trask. Joseph instead slams the missiles together to cover their escape. Rogue returns to her rented home to retrieve her car. Her landlord apologizes to Rogue and says goodbye with her son. Rogue leaves the city with Joseph as her passenger.

Continuity Notes: Humanity’s Last Stand first appeared in Uncanny X-Men ’95. This is the first time Bastion has been connected to the group. They no longer have Nimrod robots, but men in armored suits named “Maulers” instead. The shadowy Trask without a first name from Uncanny X-Men ’95 shows up again. Why exactly his face and full name are still being concealed is beyond me.

I Love the ‘90s: In response to a reader’s query, the editor says that Marvel is working on developing a website.

We Get Letters: This is the issue where the editors request that the fans refer to the imposter Beast as “McCoy” instead of “Dark Beast” or “Evil Beast”. They’ve even taken the liberty of correcting all of the letters that didn’t list the villain under the name they retroactively decided he should have.

Review: I guess this is the second issue in a row that actually ties into the ongoing storylines, so maybe someone at Marvel realized how aimless this series was becoming. I distinctly remember dropping this title after reading one too many inventory stories in a row, so I think the new focus couldn’t have lasted for long. This issue is mostly forgettable, but some of the Rogue/Joseph interaction isn’t bad, and the landlord’s reluctance to report Rogue is actually handled well. Bringing back Rogue and teaming her up with Joseph did feel somewhat important at the time, since she had been out of the books for almost a year and Joseph’s thread had been largely ignored for a few months (the fact that Joseph was still supposed to be Magneto at this point didn’t hurt, either). Pairing them up is supposed to evoke memories of their time together in the Savage Land during the Claremont/Lee run, a story arc that was also the inspiration behind marrying the characters in the Age of Apocalypse. It’s odd that the two issues of the characters traveling the Savage Land, which only had a very brief hint of a possible attraction between the pair, would’ve had such an influence years later, but apparently someone in the X-office really liked that story.

I don’t necessarily mind the coincidence that has Rogue and Joseph meeting one another inside the HSL headquarters, but the idea that Joseph was successfully working undercover is a bit of a stretch. Wouldn’t these people have the technology to detect mutants? At the very least, Bastion does, since he easily identified Phoenix and Gambit as mutants in his first appearance. Ignoring that plot hole, the pairing between Joseph and Rogue doesn’t exactly work here. There’s a nice scene where Joseph chastises Rogue for enjoying the fight with HSL too much, saying that he’s only fighting out of necessity, but just a few pages later Rogue is the one convincing Joseph not to kill Trask. If he was as much of a pacifist as the previous few pages portrayed him as, he wouldn’t have needed Rogue’s coaching. You can see that the Joseph concept has some potential, especially in the scene that has him asking Rogue why she hates Magneto so much, but most of the dialogue is pretty flat and fails to make Joseph that interesting (and the less said about Rogue’s accent, the better). The art is a mixed bag, as Epting delivers his normal dependable work, but the middle section is interrupted by Miller’s cartoonier style. It’s not as bad as most of the faux-manga stuff going around during this time, but it doesn’t mesh with Epting’s work at all and gives the impression that the entire issue was a rush job.


Seangreyson said...

I think Jospeh's characterization is actually supposed to change drastically from moment to moment. On the one hand he's supposed to be the innocent that Xavier left him after the mindwipe. Then he's supposed to alternate to his old ways before the wipe as his remaining Magneto side exerts itself.

In his first appearence remember he goes from the innocent mechanic to the guy who slaughtered the drug kingpin and his troops.

Then they went and ruined the character with the whole clone thing.

Teebore said...

After this issue's connection to the events in the "main" books, I think I gave up on the title, after, as you say, it became apparent it was just going to be a dumping ground for inventory stories.

G. Kendall said...

I think Jospeh's characterization is actually supposed to change drastically from moment to moment.

That's true, but in his first appearance, he was enraged by the kidnapping of the neighborhood children. In this issue, he seems willing to kill Trask, even though he wasn't behaving any differently than the other HSL members. I think that at least some motivation is supposed to be attached to his mood swings.

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