Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Credits: Kurt Busiek (writer), Pat Broderick (penciler), Bruce Patterson (inker), Joe Rosen (letterer), Tom Smith (colorist)

Spider-Man fights a new super-group called Shadowforce. Flash Thompson brings along kids from a Boy’s Club to watch the fight, angering Spider-Man. Distracted by the mimic Mirrorshade, Spider-Man is attacked from behind and kidnapped by Shadowforce. Flash Thompson calls the Fantastic Four and Avengers for help, but can’t reach them. He finally calls X-Factor, claiming that Spider-Man’s abductors were mutants. X-Factor examines hair follicles found at the scene and determines that they belong to six convicted criminals. Forge investigates why the convicts aren’t in prison, and tracks the address of a federal agency that won’t give him answers. Spider-Man wakes up and logs into a computer terminal to learn that Project: Homegrown is a government project designed to create superheroes. Shadowforce are criminals the government experimented on and brainwashed into service. The Shadowforce member Mirrorshade mimics Spider-Man’s anger at Flash Thompson and goes off to kill him. X-Factor arrives and confronts Shadowforce at their base. Spider-Man tries to leave and stop Mirrorshade, but is drawn into the fight.

Continuity Note
There’s a note that says that this limited series takes place before X-Factor #100. There’s really no easy way to fit it into continuity, but this is where I decided it should go as a teenager.

Kurt Busiek would rather everyone forget about this mini, and I think he got his wish. Danny Fingeroth is the editor, meaning that this actually didn’t come out of the X-office, and it does have the same generic blandness that a lot of the early ‘90s Spider-Man titles had. It’s not offensively bad, and the plot mostly holds together, but nothing about the story is interesting in any way, either. It’s an entire miniseries dedicated to X-Factor and Spider-Man fighting goons from a cliché shadowy government conspiracy. Even though Spider-Man and the X-books are Marvel’s two largest franchises, it’s surprising that the two rarely meet. It’s more surprising that one of the few times Spider-Man starred in a miniseries with a mutant team, it was in this forgettable mini with X-Factor, going through its post-Peter David awkward phase. I guess the idea was that wisecracking Spider-Man would mesh well with the more lighthearted X-Factor, but that doesn’t come across at all. On top of that, Marvel had already decided to move X-Factor into a darker direction at this point (Madrox is dying of an AIDS allegory when this story is supposedly taking place!), so you’ve really got to wonder what they were thinking on this one.

X-FORCE ANNUAL #2 – 1993

Extreme Measures
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Antonio Daniel (penciler), Pennington/Wiacek/Vancata/Williams/Conrad (inkers), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Kevin Somers (colorist)

X-Force stops the hunter Adam X, X-Treme, from kidnapping the young mutant Neurotap. Adam X is working for Martin Strong, a mutant with a research facility designed to remove the gene that causes mutations. X-Force leads Adam X to their headquarters where he’s ambushed. Adam X reveals that he only works for Strong because he’s promised to give him information about his past. X-Force convinces him to turn against Strong, and disguised as prisoners, Adam X brings X-Force into the facility. After fighting Strong, it’s revealed that Neurotap was working for Strong the entire time, and that this was an elaborate scheme to capture more mutants for research. Cable defeats Strong, and learns that his large, powerful body is a false synthetic shell, hiding his weak, fish-like body. X-Force debates over destroying the facility, finally deciding that some mutants might want, or need, Strong’s research. Cable offers Adam X a place on the team, but he refuses.

This issue comes polybagged with an X-Treme trading card.

Continuity Notes
This is the first appearance of Adam X, or X-Treme. Later stories would imply that he was the third Summers brother, but Marvel backed away from that pretty quickly.

According to Strong, Feral is seventeen.

It’s another 1993 annual, introducing another character who never really took off. Adam X would show up in a decent amount of Nicieza’s work until the mid-90s before he went off into obscurity. The character’s name and look pretty much scream “1993”, so it doesn’t surprise me that Marvel wanted to leave him behind in this era. To be fair, Nicieza does give him some personality, but he still falls into the X-stereotype of the noble warrior with a hidden past, with a little bit of amnesia thrown in. Actually, whether or not he even has amnesia isn’t clear in this issue. He claims to be working with Martin Strong in order to get info on his past, and tells X-Force he “doesn’t remember” if he has amnesia, but begins referencing his own memories later in the story. This doesn’t do a lot to sell the importance of his search for answers.

Unlike most annuals, there are no back-up stories and only a few pin-ups for filler. This issue reads like it might’ve been a three issue story arc truncated to fit inside the annual. Some of the elements, like Cannonball, Siryn, and Feral working undercover, don’t make a lot of sense. Why is X-Force going to such great lengths to get inside Strong’s facility if they already have three members working inside? The moral issue of the story, if scientists have a right to eliminate the mutation gene, was brought up months earlier in one of Peter David’s X-Factor issues. Casting Strong as such an obvious villain, kidnapping mutants and experimenting on them, makes the issue seem a lot less ambiguous, even though X-Force decides to let him carry on his research at the end. Nicieza’s able to pull off the ending without making the team look like idiots, but a lot more could’ve been done with the ethical dilemma.

This issue marks Antonio Daniel’s first work with the characters. He’ll go on to become the regular penciler of the monthly series soon. His work in this issue is more restrained than the exaggerated, Image-friendly look he’ll soon adopt. Most of it doesn’t look that bad, and it survives five inkers pretty well. Is he the same Tony Daniel doing work for DC now? I don’t know what happened to him after he stopped doing work for McFarlane.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

EXCALIBUR #71 – November 1993

Crossing Swords
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Ken Lashley, Darick Robertson, & Matthew Ryan (pencilers), Smith/Elliott/Emberlin/Nelson (inkers), Oakley/Brosseau/Sharpe (letters), Joe Rosas (colorist)

Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor Xavier arrive at Muir Island, with a plan to use Kitty Pryde as bait to lure Colossus back to Earth. Xavier feels that Colossus suffered a severe head trauma after his fight with the X-Cutioner and requires surgery. Kitty reluctantly agrees and contacts Colossus, claiming that she wants to join the Acolytes. Colossus arrives on Muir Island, where he’s taken captive and Xavier performs the surgery. Cable teleports to Muir Island for revenge against the Acolytes after Magneto’s attack, but is stopped by Phoenix. The Acolytes arrive to take Colossus back and are easily defeated. Colossus chooses to go back to Avalon in order to teach the Acolytes that Magneto’s message was about more than violence. Excalibur decides to stay on Muir Island to protect the research facility from any further attacks.

Continuity Notes
Phoenix (Rachel Summers) feels a connection to Cable but doesn’t know why. Cable doesn’t understand it, either. The readers know they’re siblings, but it’s hard to figure out what the characters themselves know at this time. By this point, Cyclops thinks that Stryfe is his son, but the connection between Stryfe and Cable was still unknown. Even if Cable isn’t sure if Stryfe is his clone, twin brother, or himself from another timeline, he should have still figured out who his parents are at this point, but the stories are still vague.

The Acolytes are back in Avalon with no explanation after being shipped away in escape pods in X-Men #25. Colossus is shown bowing before Exodus, which doesn’t seem consistent with his behavior in that issue, either.

And now, Excalibur is dragged into the quagmire. The Fatal Attractions storyline is really over at this point, but I guess someone decided that Excalibur should start participating in the X-crossovers, so here we are. Everything about this issue seems like a rush job (how many comics have three artists, four inkers, and three letterers?), and at four dollars, it still feels like a rip-off. Lobdell tries to justify the crossover by using the existing connections between Excalibur’s members and the main X-characters, which is a good idea, but it’s not enough to keep the issue from feeling so unnecessary. I wonder if Marvel instantly rethought the decision to have Colossus join Magneto, because this issue is another backtrack. Immediately after joining Magneto, Colossus let the X-Men sneak into Avalon and stop him. Now, Xavier suddenly decides that Colossus was brain damaged when he defected in the first place. See, Colossus fans? He’s not a villain now; he was just a little crazy when he sided with Magneto. Colossus certainly didn’t appear to be brain damaged at all in the previous chapters of this storyline. He was undoubtedly pissed about the death of his family, but not crazy. It’s the type of retcon explanation you expect to see years after a controversial story is published, not a month later. At the end of the story, Colossus decides to stay with the Acolytes in order to teach them about what a nice guy Magneto could be. Is this the same Magneto who just crashed his kid sister’s funeral and sent an electromagnetic pulse that killed hundreds of people? This can’t possibly be reconciled with the story Marvel had published a month earlier. It’s as if Marvel wants Colossus to join Magneto, but doesn’t want to him be a villain. They want Magneto to be a powerful, bloodthirsty opponent, but they want to remind fans of his compassion and humanity. Which is it?

Bringing Excalibur even closer into the main X-titles, Cable makes a brief guest appearance. Having Cable meet his sister is an obvious way to tie all of the books together, but Excalibur was so far on the periphery at this point that it didn’t even occur to me at the time. Everyone made a big deal about the revelation that Cable was Nathan Summers, but his connection to Rachel Summers never seemed to come up. His place in this story doesn’t amount to anything, and it’s an obvious distraction to the main story. What’s worse, the pages he appears on are printed out of order in my copy, making this issue seem even more disjointed.

With this issue, the team moves to Muir Island, where it would stay for the rest of the book’s run. Nightcrawler, Kitty, and Phoenix talk about the team’s new direction: “cutting deep into the problems that fall between the cracks of the X-Men, X-Factor, and X-Force…”, “we’re hoping we can stop a problem before it becomes a disaster…instead of the crisis management favored by everyone else wearing an ‘X’ on their costume.” Basically, the title is going to be less wacky and just fight the same bad guys the other X-teams fight. Nightcrawler spelling out all of the other X-teams just emphasizes how superfluous this direction really is for Excalibur. It sounds like he’s outright saying that Excalibur will fight the castoffs from the main books. And stopping problems before they become major threats was supposed to be X-Force’s role, even if Excalibur claims to be doing this in a pacifist way (which never works in superhero comics, anyway). At any rate, Excalibur is now officially an X-book.

I’ve heard some people comment that sales on Excalibur actually went up after Alan Davis left, revealing the outright stupidity of the general audience. I don’t know if these issues of Excalibur actually sold better than the Davis run, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I was one of those people who didn’t buy the Davis run but got into Excalibur around this time. In fairness, I couldn’t have afforded another book a few months before this and don’t even remember seeing the second Davis run on the stands. By the time the Davis run was over, I was a thirteen year old with an increased allowance. Seeing Excalibur taking part in the X-crossovers and fighting established X-villains, my completist urges wouldn’t let me pass the book up. I thought the book was garbage until the Warren Ellis issues, but I faithfully purchased each issue during this awkward yearlong phase. The upcoming issues are comics I remember almost nothing about, so I have no idea what to expect when I go back over them.

Monday, January 28, 2008

WOLVERINE #75 – November 1993

Nightmares Persist
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Adam Kubert (penciler), Mark Farmer/Dan Green/Mark Pennington (inkers), Pat Brosseau (letters), Steve Buccelato (colorist)

Xavier and Jean Grey try to ease Wolverine’s pain after having his adamantium removed, while the Blackbird falls apart during reentry. Wolverine is ready to accept death, until he realizes that Jean is being thrown out of the Blackbird. He brings himself back to pull her inside. Jean uses her telekinetic powers to keep the ship together and the X-Men return home. Wolverine’s healing power is barely working, but he still feels the need to prove himself to the team. During a training session, he instinctively pops his claws, and everyone is shocked to see bone claws come out of his hands. Losing a lot of blood, he continues to recover over the next few weeks. After a talk with Jubilee, Wolverine decides that he isn’t fit enough to be with the team and leaves during the night.

Continuity Notes
Wolverine’s bone claws appear for the first time. He says that he doesn’t remember ever having them, although later flashback stories show him using them in his pre-Weapon X days.

Wolverine’s healing factor is almost gone after overexerting itself. He quits smoking at the end of this issue.

After being sucked from his body, there’s no reference to where Wolverine’s adamantium actually went. I believe it’s brought up later (maybe in issue #100?), but it seems odd that none of these stories bring this up for years.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority
When Wolverine releases his bone claws for the first time, he’s covered in blood (and not the black blood the Comics Code normally required).

This issue has a cardstock cover with a hologram.

A ‘90s X-Men crossover comic with a hologram cover isn’t the place most people would expect to find a quality story, but I’ve always liked this issue. I had forgotten that so much of the issue is dedicated to the X-Men trying to keep the Blackbird together, because I mainly remember this issue for the Wolverine/Jubilee scenes at the end. Hama’s inclination towards realism shows up again, as several pages of dialogue are spent on characters describing what’s wrong with the plane and how they might be able to circumvent it. I have no idea if lines like “altitude is decaying into a wobble that is generating resonating waves”, “can we scrub this descent and replot a shallower angle?”, and “one degree of declination can increase our drag-friction over the red line!” actually mean anything, but Hama seems to enjoy writing them. They start to get distracting after a while (okay, the plane’s falling apart), but maybe an aviation/X-Men fanatic got a kick out of them.

The excessive technical dialogue is my only real fault with this issue, though. It’s actually a very human story about Wolverine facing his own mortality. Even though no one thinks Wolverine’s actually going to die, Hama does an admirable job of selling the idea. If Magneto were to rip out Wolverine’s skeleton, even with a healing factor, he’d probably die instantly (as Peter David pointed out when he jokingly suggested the idea in the first place). Hama can’t kill Wolverine off, but he treats the prospect seriously and even has Wolverine ready to embrace his own death. It’s a surprising turn for the character that few writers could pull off. The new status quo for Wolverine, on the mend and humbled for perhaps the first time, is an interesting direction for the character.

I’ve always liked the scene with Wolverine’s letter to Jubilee at the end. If I remember his Usenet posts correctly, Hama was actually a fan of Jubilee, and he seems to be speaking through Wolverine’s letter on the final pages, spelling out the character's best qualities. Referencing Jubilee seems to have become internet shorthand for ridiculing ‘90s era X-comics, but I’ve never really understood the hatred of the character. While recuperating, Wolverine tells Jubilee that it hurts every time he releases his claws; a dialogue exchange similar to one later used in the first X-Men movie. I don’t know if the producers of the movie ever read this issue, but it seems likely. The introduction of Magneto’s real name “Erik Lensherr” is another bit from this crossover that made it into the movies. Come to think of it, these are the only elements of this era of X-continuity that the movies used (unless I’m just forgetting something).

This issue marks the first time Wolverine left the X-Men since joining in 1975. Marvel stuck with this for almost two years, and were pretty committed to it (Wolverine doesn’t even make a real appearance in the Scott/Jean wedding issue). It’s hard to believe that there was ever a time in recent memory when Wolverine didn’t appear in at least two team books a month. Wolverine joining the Avengers actually seems more like something from the gimmicky ‘90s than anything in this issue, really. And, yes, Wolverine losing his adamantium is gimmicky, but it paved the way for some enjoyable stories. Losing the adamantium and healing factor really did seem like something new and different was happening to the character, which is hard to pull off with someone as overexposed as Wolverine. Giving Wolverine bone claws never bothered me, since doing Wolverine stories without claws just doesn’t seem right, and the crude, natural look of the claws fits Wolverine’s feral nature. Considering their loyalty to the ‘90s comics, I was surprised that the X-Men animated series never adapted this storyline. The ‘90s Marvel novel series, which was pretty continuity heavy, also ignored the bone claws. Plus, I don’t recall any merchandising with Wolverine’s bone claws (in fact, I think some comic art with the bone claws was redrawn for the merchandising). It’s interesting that Marvel was willing to let the comics stray from the standard merchandising of a popular character, but I don’t really understand the reluctance to use the bone claws in outside media. Are they really such a radical departure that they would turn kids away from an X-Men video game or lunchbox?

Adam Kubert makes his debut as penciler, breaking the chain of subpar fill-ins. His work here is impressive, and it’s interesting to watch his style evolve over his three years on the title. He starts out with a strong detail-oriented, realistic style that evolves into a more expressionistic cartoony look. Even when grounded in reality, his work never looks stiff, and the scenes inside Wolverine’s mind show that he can also pull of psychedelic craziness. I really liked the Hama/Kubert run during my early teens, so I’m looking forward to reading these issues again.

Friday, January 25, 2008

X-MEN #25 – October 1993

Dreams Fade
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Matt Ryan (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)

The governments of the world set up a defensive shield designed to keep Magneto out of Earth. Magneto responds by sending an electromagnetic pulse over the Earth, shutting off electricity across the planet and killing hundreds of people. A few of the X-Men and Xavier teleport to Avalon in order to stop Magneto. Xavier is wearing a suit, powered by “psionic energy” that will enable him to walk. When Colossus sees his former teammates enter Avalon, he turns off the security alarms. The X-Men hack into Avalon’s computer network and teleport the Acolytes into the escape pods. The X-Men confront Magneto, and Xavier and Jean Grey combine their powers to force him to relive every moment of grief from his past. When Magneto fights back and tries to kill Quicksilver, Wolverine slashes his chest. In retaliation, Magneto rips the adamantium metal from Wolverine’s skeleton. Xavier fights back by erasing Magneto’s mind, leaving him a vegetable. Colossus tells the X-Men that he’ll take care of Magneto as they prepare to leave.

Continuity Notes
In terms of ‘90s continuity, this really is a big issue. Wolverine loses his adamantium, and Magneto becomes a vegetable. Both of these changes stick around for a while. Xavier erasing Magneto’s mind even (somehow) becomes the origin of Onslaught years later.

The narration on page 12 about the story beginning with an ending and the breaking of Xavier’s heart is a direct reference to the opening of X-Men #94.

On page 38, In Magneto’s mind, his wife Magda is seen running away with his children while he stands by in full costume. The dialogue points out that this never actually happened, and the odd explanation is that Xavier is forcing Magneto to question his actions (huh?). This might be a case of Kubert using the wrong reference and Nicieza writing dialogue to cover it up.

This issue has a cardstock, hologram cover.

Creative Differences
There are quite a few added word balloons in this issue. On page 14, Xavier is given extra dialogue that spells out the death toll (hundreds, maybe thousands) of Magneto’s action. On page 20, an extra word balloon has the Beast emphasizing the seriousness of Xavier’s plan. On page 30, Jean Grey is given dialogue to suggest that the X-Men might be ambushed, and Xavier is given a balloon dismissing the idea. I guess someone decided later on that the X-Men should be suspicious after entering Avalon so easily. On page 35, Jean has another added balloon expressing her opposition to Xavier’s plan. On page 45, Xavier is given an extra balloon implying that Wolverine’s injury is the impetus for wiping Magneto’s mind.

Okay, where to start on this one? In terms of delivering a “big event” comic that really does affect the status quo for years, this issue accomplishes that much. Magneto stayed out the picture for longer than most people expected (making his inevitable return seem even more anticlimactic), and Wolverine’s bone claws became a part of his standard look for the rest of the ‘90s. The scripting is typically overwrought, but most of the dialogue does help to sell the gravity of what’s going on. There’s a lot of talk about Xavier’s dream in this issue, and the often negative impact it has on his students. It’s appropriate for an anniversary issue, and the script introduces the moral ambiguity pretty well. Magneto is still behaving ridiculously, taking a defensive action by the world’s governments as a call to offensively attack innocent people, but he does seem more lucid in this issue than in the previous chapter of this crossover. Uncanny X-Men #304 firmly established that Marvel wanted Magneto to be a major villain again, so much of my anger over that revision was already wasted on that issue.

In terms of just delivering an X-Men/Magneto fight, this issue has some decent moments, but it’s certainly not enough to convince me that this entire storyline isn’t a mistake. I liked the way the X-Men dispose of the Acolytes simply by teleporting them away. It’s not very dramatic, but it makes logical sense and clears the stage for Magneto to receive all of the focus. Other aspects of the story don’t make a lot of sense, though. Xavier never gives a very good reason for only taking a few X-Men with him to fight Magneto. Early in the story, it’s implied that he’s doing this because he doesn’t expect them to survive (which ought to make the X-Men he does take along feel real nice). Storm asks him to explain why, and he just gives a speech about becoming hardened and the importance of his dream not dying out. That’s not an answer. I can understand why Nicieza doesn’t want to clutter the story with too many characters (a rarity in an X-book), but this setup doesn’t really work.

Quicksilver shows up with the X-Men, which is appropriate. He’s clearly opposed to his father’s actions, which makes the ending of X-Factor’s role in the crossover even more confusing. Another odd point comes during the X-Men’s fight with Magneto. He never erects his magnetic shield, letting Gambit and Wolverine do serious damage. I realize that there’s nothing more fanboyish than complaining about a character not using all of his powers during a fight, but this always bugged me.

Colossus receives an interesting treatment in this issue. Just one month after betraying the team and joining Magneto, he’s already receiving a more nuanced portrayal. He lets the X-Men sneak into Avalon, which leads you to believe Marvel wasn’t serious about making him a villain, but the issue ends with him again distancing himself from the team. Feeling guilty about allowing the X-Men to violate Magneto, he basically tells the team that they’re not in a position to judge him after their own actions. It’s an intriguing idea, but I don’t think it went anywhere. If I remember correctly, the final chapter in this storyline reveals that Colossus is brain damaged and not fully responsible for his actions, which makes all of this seem even more pointless.

As a kid, this was the issue that turned me around on Andy Kubert. It’s the debut of Matt Ryan as inker, which makes the art a little slicker, but I don’t know why I decided with this specific issue that Kubert didn’t suck at all. It’s not a bad looking issue, but it doesn’t look that different from the preceding issues. For some reason, many of the characters are missing pupils (and their eyes are foolishly colored in blood red), but most of the work is fine. I would grow to become a big Kubert fan, even remarking after seeing the cover of the next issue that he should be drawing Captain America (of course, a big X-artist drawing a mid-level book like that was unthinkable at the time).

UNCANNY X-MEN #306 – November 1993

Mortal Coils
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Steve Buccellato (colorist)

When Archangel and Jean Grey visit his Colorado home, they discover his deceased girlfriend Candy Southern is still alive. When Jean Grey probes her mind, she sees shadowy figures reviving her, but a psionic explosion goes off when she gets too close to the truth. Cameron Hodge, also believed to be dead, appears. Candy is revealed to be techno-organic, as Hodge siphons off part of her body to repair the damage Archangel is inflicting. Knowing that she is linked to Hodge, Candy begins ripping her body apart, which causes Hodge to explode. Candy says goodbye to Archangel before she dies again. Meanwhile, Xavier prepares to confront Magneto, and Forge and Storm reconcile.

Creative Differences
The last two panels have been re-lettered, with Archangel worrying that their mystery foes could be anyone the X-Men know.

This was always a strange issue to me. X-Men #25 was already out at this point, featuring Xavier’s big confrontation with Magneto, yet this issue still devotes pages to building up to the big fight. Since the books shipped on a tight schedule during this time, everyone involved must have known that they were still building up to a comic that would’ve already been released. I can understand that the previous issue was in an awkward place, shipping in-between Uncanny X-Men and X-Men’s chapters in the crossover, but two issues in a row of the X-Men facing vague threats while Magneto looms in the background is just odd. Even though the term “Phalanx” hasn’t come up yet, this is another issue setting up the future villains. Last issue, the villains turned into a fleshy goo, and now they’re techno-organic. This has always seemed like a last minute rethink to me, and it’s pretty jarring to read the two issues back to back. Lobdell’s able to handle Archangel’s trademark angst well enough, but for some reason he portrays Hodge as a jokey, cheery villain, which doesn’t work at all. Storm also receives a few pages, as she reunites with Forge. This doesn’t go anywhere, and I wonder why there was an effort to reunite the pair after devoting two issues to their breakup a year earlier. It just serves as another reminder that Marvel really had no idea what to do with Storm during this era.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

X-FACTOR #95 – October 1993

Fatal Repulsions
Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), J. M. DeMatteis (script), Greg Luzniak (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Richard Starkings (letterer), Glynis Oliver (colorist)

Random attacks Polaris, and after a lengthy fight, reveals that he was hired by the US government to kill her. Forge tells Havok that Quicksilver is on a leave of absence, and asks him to justify why every other member of X-Factor should be on the team. When Havok finishes, Forge tells him that he’s now in charge of X-Factor, leaving Forge to deal with the government. Finally, Wolfsbane escapes from Muir Island, claiming that she can’t stand to be away from Havok.

I had no idea DeMatteis scripted so many issues without plotting them. For some reason, I thought Lobdell only plotted one of his issues. Anyway, this is yet another issue that only moves the storylines incrementally. The main purpose of this issue seems to be spotlighting Random, a character Marvel really, really wanted to be popular. I don’t remember how big he actually got, but reading this issue just reminds me of how tedious he was. The rest of the issue is devoted to re-introducing the cast, which is a little weird. This isn’t the start of a new direction, storyline, or creative team, really. Do we need half of a comic reminding us that Wolfsbane is young and innocent and Guido is wacky? Greg Luzniak shows up as artist, beginning a series of fill-ins. Quesada obviously had a large impact on the look of this title, since Luzniak’s the second artist brought in to do an impression of that style. He even follows Quesada’s odd tendency to give everyone, even Havok, crazy medusa hair. The overall look is very ‘90s, to say the least.

UNCANNY X-MEN #305 – October 1993

The Measure of the Man
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Jan Duuresma (penciler), Jose Marzan (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)

Iceman, Rogue, and Bishop stop an attack against Iceman’s girlfriend, Opal. Disgusted that Iceman didn’t warn her in advance and used her as bait, Opal runs away from him. Two of the armored men disintegrate into goo during the fight, and the X-Men take the third one prisoner. Rogue attempts to absorb his memories, but finds her entire body transformed as her skin begins to unravel. Bishop uses his own energy absorption power to undo the damage. The only info Rogue gained from her attacker is the name “Hodge”. Meanwhile, Storm and Xavier meet with Ambassador Louis St. Croix to gain info on the super-suit made to stop Magneto. Xavier wants Storm to destroy the suit and steal the information about its development. Storm steals the information, but refuses to destroy the suit, saying that humans do have a right to defend themselves. Storm flashes back to her childhood, and wonders if Xavier placed a subliminal command to join the X-Men during their first brief meeting.

I Love the ‘90s
The data on the anti-Magneto suit is on a giant floppy disc. I wonder if it also has a copy of Oregon Trail on it.

Continuity Note
The first member of the Mutant Underground, Louis St. Croix is revealed. St. Croix claims that Xavier founded the group while he could still walk, and that they’ve only met twice.

“Hodge” is a reference to Cameron Hodge, who will become a major villain during the Phalanx crossover.

It’s another issue that seems to be killing time while Fatal Attractions finishes up in the remaining X-books. Duuresma’s art certainly looks better than it did in the issue of X-Men Unlimited that came out around this time, but now it’s attached to a fairly bland story. The goo soldiers are supposed to be a lead-in to next year’s crossover, which means that Uncanny is already laying the groundwork for another crossover before the current one is finished. Once the Phalanx were actually introduced, I seem to recall that this issue was casually dismissed anyway, making all of this seem even more pointless.

After two failed attempts, Lobdell attempts to give Storm another spotlight issue. Storm’s reluctance to steal for Xavier just seems odd to me. The X-Men firmly became outlaws during her stint as team leader, so this type of covert operation isn’t anything new to her. Not only was she raised as a thief, but she also committed a federal crime by erasing all of the government’s data on the X-Men in an earlier story. Stealing a computer disc to gain information on how to stop Magneto doesn’t strike me as that morally reprehensible.

Storm’s flashback with Xavier is at the very least interesting, although it doesn’t work for me. Lobdell continues with his darker interpretation of Xavier, implying that he might’ve used his powers to influence Storm’s decision to join him. There’s potential there, but the more you think about it, the less it works. Is this the same Xavier who continually made speeches about respecting everyone’s free will during the Claremont issues? Is this the same Xavier who, just months earlier in Lobdell’s own run, humbly asked Jean if she resented him for asking her to join the team? This idea could only work if the writer emphasizes that this is a younger Xavier, not sure of his powers and the ethics surrounding them. As it stands, this issue doesn’t give a clear answer, and I don’t think Lobdell brought up this idea again (although a similar issue is raised during Amelia Voght’s origin issue).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

X-MEN UNLIMITED #2 – September 1993

Point Blank
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Jan Duursema (penciler), Panosian/Williams/Palmiotti/Rubinstein (inkers), Marie Javins (colors), Richard Starkings (letters)

Adrian, a former East German soldier, remembers a night seven years ago when Magneto killed his brother for disturbing his wife’s grave. The soldier goes on a quest to kill him, gathering information on him while his government develops a specialized suit and gun to stop Magneto. When he sees Magneto again at his wife’s grave, he finally remembers what really happened the night of his brother’s death. His brother insulted Magneto and shot at him, only dying because Magneto erected a magnetic shield that reflected the bullet back to him. Adrian can’t bring himself to kill Magneto, realizing that Magneto has always fought for a cause while he only has hate.

I Love the ‘90s
There’s no other way to say it, Magneto has a mullet throughout this issue.

Continuity Notes
Magneto is referred to as a gypsy for the first time. This apparently came about because Bob Harras was uncomfortable with Claremont’s revelation that Magneto was Jewish.

Phantazia is given the real name Eileen Harsaw. Nicieza attempts to give the character a personality for the first time, something he would be doing with quite a few Liefeld creations during this period.

This issue also has the first hint that Pyro has the Legacy Virus. I think Pyro ended up with three different Legacy Virus-related death scenes over the years.

This is one of the strongest stories from this era, although it’s held back a bit by the generic ‘90s artwork. It’s surprising that during a crossover intended to re-establish Magneto as an outright villain, a story highlighting his humanity and sympathetic motivations was published. The Magneto of this issue is ten times more interesting than the version Nicieza would soon be writing in X-Men #25. Marvel’s insistence that Magneto return to villainy unintentionally helps the issue’s twist ending, which shows that he was never the horrible monster Adrian thought him to be. Nicieza manages to give Adrian believable characterization and use past continuity to paint a balanced picture of Magneto. I suspect that there was an attempt during the Fatal Attractions crossover to incorporate all of the previous interpretations of the character into one, but they never pulled it off. This issue comes much closer to reconciling Claremont’s reformed Magneto with the Silver Age’s psychotic interpretation.

X-FACTOR #94 – September 1993

Evening Where
Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), J. M. DeMatteis (script), Paul Ryan (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Janice Chiang (letterer), Glynis Oliver (colorist)

Guido accompanies Wolfsbane to Muir Island, where Moira Mactaggert will attempt to undo the effects of the Mutate bonding process. Madrox tries to reach out to Quicksilver. Havok and Polaris have dinner and confront an anti-mutant bigot. A riot breaks out and they’re arrested. When released, Polaris gives a speech about tolerance, as Random watches, lamenting the fact that he has to kill her.

Another issue that seems to be killing time while the other books are involved in the big crossover. Even if the storylines are moving very slowly, it’s actually not a bad issue. DeMatteis already has a handle on the characters and can write believable dialogue, the two qualities you need for a “quiet” issue to work. I do wish something was advanced, though. Over a third of this issue is dedicated to Wolfsbane flying to Muir Island with Guido; basically establishing that she’s scared of turning back into a Mutate and that she understands Guido’s hidden pain. That’s fine, but it seems as if more could’ve been done with her subplot (which started over six issues ago). Paul Ryan is the latest fill-in artist, doing a decent job that doesn’t really fit in with the house style of the time.

Monday, January 21, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #304 – September 1993

…For What I Have Done
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), John Romita, Jr, Jae Lee, Chris Sprouse, Brandon Peterson, & Paul Smith (pencilers), Dan Green, Dan Panosian, Terry Austin, Tom Palmer, & Keith Williams (inkers), Mike Thomas (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

Exodus reveals Fabian Cortez’s role in Magneto’s “death” to the Acolytes. The Acolytes follow Exodus to Avalon while Cortez is left to be a victim of “someone else’s legacy.” During Illyana’s funeral service, Magneto and the Acolytes appear. Magneto punishes Senyaka for the Acolytes’ attack on the hospice, while saying that he would have approved of the action if only he had been asked permission. Bishop absorbs the magnetic power being used to hold the X-Men and blasts Magneto. The X-Men try to charge him up with more energy. When Magneto reappears, Avalon is glowing, preparing for an attack on Westchester County. When Bishop attacks again, Colossus strikes him from behind, siding with Magneto. Desperate, Xavier takes over Magneto’s mind and uses his powers to send Avalon back into orbit.

This issue has a cardstock hologram cover.

Continuity Notes
Magneto is referred to as “Eric Lehnsherr” for the first time. Even though Xavier has always referred to him as “Magnus” in flashbacks, he suddenly starts calling him “Eric” now. Years later, “Eric Lehnsherr” was revealed to be a false identity, but Marvel seems to have forgotten that.

In a flashback, Magneto is seen running with the body of his daughter, Anya. Previous stories establish that she was burned alive in a fire, but she certainly doesn’t look burned in this issue.

Fabian Cortez being a victim of “someone else’s legacy” is presumably a reference to the Legacy Virus.

This is a comic I can remember actively hating for years. Looking back on it, I can almost see how someone divorced from X-Men continuity might enjoy it, but in terms of building upon existing characterization and giving characters legitimate motivations, it fails miserably. I started buying Uncanny X-Men in 1988, so I missed most of the “reformed Magneto” era. The Magneto I remembered was from the later Claremont issues, an occasional ally who wanted to do the right thing but was constantly being pushed in the wrong direction. I think the only comic I had read featuring Magneto as an X-Man was the final issue of the Fantastic Four vs. X-Men miniseries. The scene where Magneto laments that no one can accept the fact that he’s changed really stuck with me as a kid. Reed Richards shaking hands with Magneto at the end was one of my favorite moments in comics at that point. Reading this issue, with a psychotic Magneto who crashes a little girl’s funeral, advocates a hospice slaughter, kills one of his followers, and then tries to destroy an entire town…let’s just say it didn’t go over very well. Magneto doesn’t exist as a character at this point; he exists solely to be the villain in an overpriced company-mandated crossover. There’s some lip service paid to Claremont’s reformation of the character, but it just seems like a weak attempt to add depth to a one-dimensional villain.

Colossus finally joins Magneto, after months of build-up. The titles have done a good job of establishing Colossus’ anguish over the loss of his family, but siding with Magneto still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Colossus’ sister died of a virus created by an evil mutant. Why join another one? Why would the actions of an evil mutant cause Colossus to doubt Xavier’s dream, when the X-Men were created to fight these villains in the first place? If anything, this would strengthen his resolve to fight people like Stryfe. In order for Colossus to logically side with Magneto, he should have a motivation to side with him against humans. It’s true that his parents were murdered by the Russian government, but even then, this wasn’t done as an attack against mutants (actually, why it was done was never clear). Colossus has a reason to be upset in these issues, and perhaps to leave the team to grieve, but not to join someone planning to wipe out the human race. If Colossus had a specific reason to hate humans (his sister killed in an anti-mutant riot or something), that could work. If Colossus had grown closer to Magneto over a period of time and begun to understand his point of view, this might have worked. But Colossus joining Magneto after he crashes his sister’s funeral and tries to kill an entire city doesn’t work at all. It’s the type of cheap shock value that would characterize much of the ‘90s.

In an attempt to tie the two storylines together, Magneto uses Stryfe’s Legacy Virus as a justification for killing humans. His nonsensical explanation is that mutants wouldn’t be fighting against one another if humans weren’t out to kill them. Think about this…mutants are fighting each other because a separate group wants them dead. Wouldn’t this lead mutants to unite together against humans? I take it Magneto is one of those people who didn’t like the ending of Watchmen. If Magneto is going to justify anything to attack humans, wouldn’t the government’s revival of the Sentinel project be a better excuse?

There’s some attempt to mark this as an anniversary issue, rather than just another chapter in a crossover. All of the X-teams assemble for Illyana’s funeral, giving cameos to former members and other characters from the spinoffs. Former artist Paul Smith returns to draw a few pages, although it’s hard to recognize his style. Storm and Kitty Pryde have a scene reminiscent of the one they shared after Storm’s mohawk makeover. Oddly enough, John Romita, Jr. drew the original issue, but Chris Sprouse draws the homage scene while Romita draws most of the other pages. Most of the artwork is fine, but nothing can save this story.

WOLVERINE #74 – October 1993

Jubilee’s Revenge
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Jim Fern (pencils), Art Nichols (inks), Pat Brosseau (letters), Marie Javins (colors)

Wolverine and Jubilee try to escape the Ant Hill, damaging one Sentinel in the process. Another Sentinel tries to protect what’s left of him before his own circuits overload. Jubilee senses that the Sentinel is afraid to die and can’t bring herself to kill it, even if it is a robot. Sentinel 3.14159, the robot brought to life by Spiral’s technology, is fascinated by Jubilee’s empathy for a robot. The Sentinel decides to stop his plan to ignite a solar flare and “create whole new algorithms” to study human emotions. He says this will take “2137.23 years”. Jubilee asks him to send them through Gateway’s warp to Los Angeles. She confronts her parents’ killers, but can’t bring herself to kill them.

Continuity Notes
Wolverine says that Jubilee can use her firecracker powers to kill someone by hitting them in the cerebral cortex and causing a stroke.

It’s hard to say anything about this issue without first mentioning Jim Fern’s bizarre interpretation of Wolverine. His renditions of the Sentinels and Jubilee aren’t that great, either, but I can’t begin to describe how ugly his Wolverine is. If you think the cover’s horrible, the interiors are even worse. It’s hard to believe that this is the same artist who did a solid job on an earlier X-Factor issue, so I’ll chalk this up to either deadlines or bad inking. This is, what, the sixth issue of Wolverine with subpar artwork? It’s hard to believe that Marvel couldn’t have found better artists for one of their best-selling titles. All of these issues have been action-heavy stories that really need strong visuals to work, making this even more frustrating. I like the conversation between Wolverine and Jubilee on the last page, and it is nice to see at least one comic in this era preach against revenge and senseless death, but it’s not enough to save a weak issue.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Night Fights - 1993 Style

Madrox vs. Dinosaur Guy Whose Name I Can't Remember

"Acckkk!!" indeed

FYI, kinetic energy causes Madrox to create duplicates of himself

FYI part two, Madrox did this twice in 1993

More fightin' (and maybe a few more "b-splaatt"s) at Bahlactus' house.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

X-FORCE #26 – September 1993

Shadows on the Rock
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Matt Broome (penciler), Bud Larosa and Scott Hanna (inks), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), George Roussos (colors)

The Professor uses future technology to repair Cable after Magneto’s attack. Cannonball and Sunspot go to Madripoor to tell Xian Coy Manh about Illyana’s death. Warpath reveals to Cable that Siryn has been secretly getting drunk. Tempo, Wildside, Reaper, and Forearm are broken out of jail by Reignfire, who wants to start a new Mutant Liberation Front.

“Huh?” Moment
Cable suddenly has a mustache on page four.

Since the last issue of X-Force was a crossover issue, you can probably guess what type of issue this is. That’s right, it’s another talky issue with only one brief action scene. I barely remembered this issue, so I was surprised to see that it’s one of the best “quiet” issues from this era. It’s held back by some truly awful artwork, but Nicieza’s script works really well. I don’t like a lot of the chatty issues because none of the storylines get advanced, and most of the allegedly deep conversations between the characters aren’t that interesting. This issue manages to give the characters more personality and develop character arcs that will play out in future issues. Even though there’s not a lot of plot, the book doesn’t feel like it’s stalling.

What’s more impressive is the fact that Nicieza is building on elements from the title’s weak beginning. Cable actually feels guilty about recruiting emotionally damaged young mutants because they were easier to manipulate. Proudstar finally shows genuine emotion over his family’s death. Siryn turns to alcohol after being scarred by the Shadow King. Cannonball deals with outliving his friend Illyana, who will be the first of many if he’s truly immortal. Shatterstar is even interesting for the first time, as the question is asked, “does he even have emotions?” Nicieza’s able to take his original one-note personality and build an actual story out of it. Structurally, this issue is very similar to X-Force #5, an awful issue from early in the book’s run (both issues even end with a new version of an old team being formed to fight X-Force). In terms of art, they’re both extremely weak, but the plotting and characterization have greatly improved.

WOLVERINE #73 – September 1993

The Formicary Mound!
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Dwayne Turner (breakdowns), Joe Rubinstein (finishes), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Paul Becton (colorist)

Wolverine and Jubilee follow the Sentinel through Gateway’s hole in time and space. They land in the Ant Hill, the location of a former Sentinel base. Wolverine saves Jubilee from the Sentinel, but the Sentinel’s blast seriously injures him. Jubilee tries to coax Wolverine back to consciousness while the Sentinel begins his plan to trigger a solar flare that will kill all organic life on Earth. Wolverine recovers enough to reach the Sentinel and attack, but more Sentinels appear from behind.

Continuity Note
The Ant Hill first appeared in Avengers #103, according to this issue’s footnotes. It’s probably the most obscure reference yet in all of the issues I’ve reviewed, but I guess it makes sense for an X-title to follow up on an old Sentinel storyline.

Miscellaneous Note
“Formicary” means ant hill, in case you’re like me and didn’t know.

It’s the middle section of a three-part story, which mainly serves to re-introduce the Ant Hill and give the Sentinel a master plan. The more I think about it, the less I like the idea of Wolverine fighting Sentinels in his solo book. If only Wolverine and Jubilee can face the Sentinels, then it makes the X-Men look like wimps if it takes six of them to stop the robots. I do like Wolverine’s conversation with Jubilee, trying to convince her not to give into revenge fantasies, but it’s too short. This is another issue that’s hampered by rushed, flat artwork, too. Usually, Wolverine is a lot better than this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

X-FORCE #25 – August 1993

Back To Front
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Greg Capullo (penciler), Wiacek/Green/Ryan/Palmiotti/Hanna/Conrad/Milgrom (inkers), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), George Roussos (colorist)

X-Force returns to their Arizona base to find Cable waiting for them. Cable says that he realized how much he needed the team while he was lost in the timestream. Exodus appears, offering Cannonball and Sunspot sanctuary on Avalon. Cannonball only agrees to go if Exodus also takes the rest of the remaining New Mutants members. Exodus agrees, taking Boomer, Rusty, Skids, and Rictor with him. Cannonball secretly gives Cable a tracking device before he leaves, so the rest of X-Force follows Exodus into space. In Avalon, Magneto cures Rusty and Skids of their brainwashing, and offers the former New Mutants the opportunity to live above the Earth in his new home. When Cable sees Avalon, he recognizes it as his old space station, Graymalkin. After fighting Exodus, the remaining members of X-Force teleport inside. Cable plans to remove the Professor’s programming from Avalon’s core and then destroy the space station. Cannonball explains to Cable that Rusty and Skids want to stay on Avalon, and tries to talk him out of destroying it. Cable ignores his objections, and teleports X-Force away. After removing the Professor’s programming, Magneto confronts Cable. When Cable attacks, Magneto rips out his metal body parts. Cable, barely alive, manages to teleport away.

This issue has a cardstock hologram cover. The hologram apparently required special care.

I Love the ‘90s
Warpath says that he “zones out” on Porno For Pyros. Don’t we all?

Continuity Notes
Cable tells Cannonball that he lied about Tyler not being his son in order to keep himself “emotionally distant”.

On page 20, Cable recaps his origin, outright naming Apocalypse as his future enemy, and reiterating that he came to this timeline to develop “High-Lord “ Cannonball as a “savior of mutantkind”.

After ten issues away, Cable returns to X-Force. Cable would remain in his mentor role for the next few years, before Marvel did another “students strike out on their own” storyline. The opening of this issue makes a big deal out of Cable having a change of heart, no longer keeping secrets and even declaring that he’s following his students’ way, not his own. It’s a good direction for the character, but it’s hard to reconcile this humility with Cable’s actions in his own solo series. Cable does make an effort to reach out to his former Six Pack teammates in that series, but the first few issues still go out of their way to point out Cable’s callousness. I suppose that this might all be related to the “Stryfe’s ghost” subplot growing in Cable’s own title, but it’s hard to tell. Cable’s own actions at the end of this issue, ignoring Cannonball and attempting to destroy Magneto’s ship, aren’t really consistent with his earlier characterization in this story, either. I assume that this is done intentionally, to show that Cable isn’t willing to totally give up control. At any rate, this issue does seem to mark the beginning of the “kinder, gentler” Cable, an interpretation that’s stuck around for years (has anyone tried to go back to the “big guns, bad attitude” Cable? I honestly don’t remember.)

It’s surprising that Magneto makes his return in this book and not in one of the two main X-Men titles. His return had been teased for months, with characters even shown to be afraid to say his name, and suddenly he appears in this comic without much fanfare. Unlike the later chapters of this storyline, Magneto isn’t portrayed as particularly bloodthirsty in this issue (in fact, Cable attacks him first). Magneto’s conversation with Cable isn’t bad, and now that I think about, you could do a lot with these two characters together. Unfortunately, their scene together is very brief, and ends with Magneto basically doing to Cable what he’s going to do to Wolverine in a few weeks. The rest of the issue seems devoted to establishing Magneto’s new home and building up Exodus as a serious threat. Neither of these things have a lot to do with X-Force, although Nicieza tries to build a connection with Cannonball’s past with Magneto. A lot could be done with that relationship, too, but it never goes anywhere. Some of Nicieza’s peculiar scripting from X-Men seems to spill over into this series with Magneto and Exodus’ dialogue, plus this gem from Cable: “We find the others, then we roll right over the people who did this – because Heaven also awaits those who PREY! Wow.

This issue marks the end of Greg Capullo’s run on the title. He left to pencil the Grant Morrison issues of Spawn, soon becoming the regular artist of that series. The trend of this time was for creators to leave Marvel to do their own creator-owned series at Image, so it’s odd that he stuck around to draw someone else’s book. Couldn’t he have done that at Marvel? I know that he eventually did create his own series for Image, but I don’t think it lasted for very long. His run on X-Force was a favorite as a kid, and I’m glad to go back and see that it still looks good. His final issue unfortunately has seven different inkers, but there’s still not a lot to criticize. I should also point out that legendary Fantastic Four inker George Roussos (Geo Bell), colored this issue. Who would’ve thought that a Silver Age Kirby inker would also be the one making sure Feral’s costume is the right shade of pink twenty years later?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...