Monday, June 30, 2008

X-MEN CHRONICLES #1 – March 1995


Origins

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Klaus Janson (inker), Matt Webb (colorist), Starkings/Comicraft (lettering)


Summary

Inside Wundagore Mountain, Magneto trains his first group of X-Men, who consist of Quicksilver, Iceman, Storm, Jean Grey, Scarlet Witch, and Colossus. He introduces the newest member, Weapon-X, to the team. Soon, Mystique arrives with another new recruit, Rogue. Meanwhile in America, Apocalypse sends his Horsemen (Gideon, Candra, War, Death, and Sabretooth) to attack Cape Citadel. The X-Men leave to fight the Horseman, while Magneto asks his daughter, Scarlet Witch, to stay behind with Rogue and the rest of the younger students. As soon as Magneto and the team leave, Wundagore Mountain is attacked by another one of Apocalypse’s soldiers, Nemesis. While at Cape Citadel, Sabretooth expresses doubt in the mission once he learns that Apocalypse is actually going to use the base’s nuclear missiles. Candra takes him outside to be executed when the X-Men arrive. Sabretooth talks her into freeing him so that he can join the fight. During the battle, Weapon-X uses his claws to sever Sabretooth’s spine while Magneto fights against Gideon in the control room. Magneto overloads Gideon’s powers, destroying the building and ending the nuclear launch sequence. Apocalypse arrives to take his Horseman away, except for the “unfit” Sabretooth. The X-Men return home, only to discover that Nemesis has destroyed their base and killed Scarlet Witch.


Continuity Notes

The X-Men in this reality call the Danger Room the “Killing Zone”. This issue also establishes that Rogue permanently absorbed a portion of Polaris’ magnetic powers during a previous abduction attempt. Caliban appears to be in the role of War, but I have no idea who the female Death is supposed to be.


Creative Differences

There are quite a few added and altered balloons in this issue, all standing out because they’re hand-lettered while the rest of the book has computer fonts. Most of the alterations don’t seem that major, but you’d think that someone would’ve caught the missing word in “This is not training session, X-Men” on page thirty-one while revising the rest of the issue. Every time Nemesis’ name is used, it’s obviously been re-lettered.


Review

This is the replacement series for X-Men Unlimited during the AoA event. The regular series is usually distinguished by its total lack of purpose, but the new reality, which gives all of the established characters a new backstory, at least opens up an opportunity for X-Men Chronicles to be more than filler. Using this series to plug in the new gaps in the X-Men’s history not only gives this book something useful to do, but it also helps it stay out of the way of the other titles that are following a specific storyline and reaching a clear ending. The basic plot of this issue is inoffensive enough, and the art is an attractive mix of Dodson’s smooth pencils and Janson’s rough inks.


Recalling the original X-Men’s first mission at Cape Citadel is a little obvious, but it suits the story and it’s something that would only stand out to hardcore fans anyway. Having Sabretooth react against Apocalypse’s plan is an obvious attempt to make this version of the character more sympathetic, setting up his future role as an X-Man. Considering what we know about Sabretooth’s past that precedes this reality branching off from ours, it’s too much of a stretch for me. And did he really think that Apocalypse wanted these missiles to “control”, but not “use”, in the first place? My major problem with the plotting is Nemesis’ off-panel attack on the X-Men’s home. I can understand saving the Scarlet Witch’s death as a last-minute shock ending, but totally dropping Nemesis from the story for such a long stretch doesn’t work. There’s also no explanation of how Rogue (presumably) fought him off. Did he just decide to leave? Why stop the attack if there were more of Magneto’s pupils to kill? The excessively bland dialogue also dampens any emotional impact the story might’ve had. Most of the characters don’t have anything approaching a personality, making it hard to honestly care about anything that happens. There also seem to be an excessive amount of pages spent on Magneto brooding to himself. This could’ve been a nice opportunity to see a more complex interpretation of the character while setting up his daughter’s upcoming death, but instead we just get page after page of Magneto reflecting on the importance of training the X-Men and how dangerous the world is. In terms of just presenting the X-Men’s new backstory in a straightforward way, this issue accomplishes that much, but it fails to make it actually engaging.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

X-MAN #1 – March 1995

Breaking Away

Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Sellers/Smith/LaRosa/Conrad (inkers), Starkings/Comicraft (lettering), Mike Thomas (colorist)


Summary

Nate Grey, X-Man, has a vision of Cyclops helping him escape a cell. He mentally travels to the X-Men’s mansion where he overhears an argument between Bishop and Magneto. Forge calls Nate back to reality, waking him up. His fellow outcasts Forge, Toad, Soaron, Brute, and Mastermind are all gathered around him. Nate learns that while he was experimenting with his mental powers, he accidentally destroyed a large portion of the forest. Forge tells him to stop his unsupervised training and to get ready for the show. That night, they perform Shakespeare for the surviving humans of the cullings in the Midwest. When suspicious human authorities question the mutants, Nate uses his mental powers to make them go away. Forge warns Nate that every time he uses his powers, he could be drawing Apocalypse’s attention. Elsewhere, Cyclops tells Apocalypse that Sinister has fled and left his lab in shambles. Apocalypse brags that no one could match his power, which leads the Shadow King to warn him about X-Man. Domino is sent to the Midwest to find X-Man, with orders to either recruit him or kill him. In Kansas, a group of Apocalypse’s Infinite soldiers has begun rounding humans into trains. Forge’s group of mutants fights them off, along with the latent mutant Siryn. After the fight’s over, Nate demands that Siryn join them. As the group leaves town, a man named Essex stops them in the road.


Continuity Notes

According to the narrative captions, humans “still enjoy their freedom” in Europe. The few humans left in the Midwest were unwilling or unable to go there.


The human authorities harassing Forge’s group are called “Prelates”, even though that’s one of the terms used for Apocalypse’s mutant soldiers in this reality. Since it’s actually a term for clergy, intended to show Apocalypse’s rule over all aspects of this society, it seems odd to apply it to a pair of backwoods deputies.


Review

Due to the character’s muddled origins, Cable’s series was put in an awkward position during the “Age of Apocalypse” event. His existence is based on the premise that Jean Grey was believed dead for years while he was birthed from her clone. Not only that, but he was sent into the future as an infant and didn’t return to this timeline until he was an adult. If you’re starting a new reality where Xavier died twenty years ago and never formed the X-Men, where would Cable fit into this? Jeph Loeb answers this question by reinventing Cable as a teenager, while keeping his origin a mystery for the opening issue. I guess he split the difference between infant and adult and decided on teenage Cable. Loeb continues the plot thread introduced in the Cyclops & Phoenix miniseries that Cable is potentially the most powerful mutant alive by contrasting Nate’s infinite abilities with his immature attitude. This does have potential, but it leaves you saddled with a main character who’s supposed to be bratty and juvenile, which gets old very quickly. If he was surrounded by an interesting supporting cast, it could work, but it looks like X-Man has the leftovers from the rest of the X-line. Did anyone really care about how Toad and Sauron ended up in the Age of Apocalypse? And why exactly is mutant inventor Forge working as head of a theatre troupe in the Midwest? He couldn’t find a better use for his talents? The premise is rather lame, but I’ll at least give this issue credit for moving at a decent pace and not dwelling too long on some of the more absurd elements. For reasons I’ve never fully understood, Marvel allowed this series to continue after the AoA event was over, and it survived for seventy-five issues. It became one of the most ridiculed series of the ‘90s, although Warren Ellis’ revamp did bring some respectability to the title shortly before it was cancelled.

ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 – March 1995

Once More with Feeling

Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira (penciler), Dan Green & Tim Townsend (inkers), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Steve Buccellato (colorist)


Summary

During a meeting of the X-Men, Blink and a wounded Sunfire suddenly teleport in. One of Apocalypse’s Prelates manages to partially emerge from the teleportation portal, bragging that he’s discovered the X-Men’s hidden base. Blink closes the portal on him, as Sunfire reports to Magneto. He tells Magneto that the culling of humans in Seattle was done with Apocalypse’s permission, despite his denials, and that Holocaust is performing more cullings. Later, Gambit tries to seduce Rogue before leaving on his mission, but he’s interrupted by Blink. Elsewhere, Nightcrawler questions Magneto’s belief in Bishop before leaving on his mission to find his mother. Finally, Rogue, Sabretooth, Wild Child, Morph, Blink, and Sunfire leave to stop the culling in Chicago, while the rest of the X-Men travel to Maine to assist the Sentinels in the human evacuation.


Continuity Notes

There are quite a few dialogue bits that hint at the universe’s new backstory. Rogue tells Gambit that Magneto is his best friend, while Gambit responds that he used to be. Blink tells Gambit that she won’t “feel better” while he’s still alive. Sunfire claims that his entire country was destroyed by Holocaust. Sabretooth says that he and Wild Child used to “run with” Holocaust.


Magneto sends Gambit on a mission to find the M’Kraan Crystal, tying in to the Gambit and the Externals series. Nightcrawler, for whatever reason, is still hanging around the mansion and hasn’t left on the mission given to him in X-Men Alpha yet.


Review

While X-Men Alpha served to establish the new world, this issue sets up the specific storylines going on in most of the other X-books. There’s only one brief action scene, but it’s handled with a lot of enthusiasm by Madureira. This is his strongest issue yet (and the first one printed on the nicer paper, which means he missed four straight issues of UXM), as he pushes his manga influences even further while still delivering a solid superhero story. The new character designs, especially Sunfire’s, are well suited for his style. Lobdell helps to sell the event by having the characters refer to past events and make vague comments about one another, giving you the feeling that these X-Men have been around just as long as the “real” team. Splitting the characters up to go on various missions could be bland, tedious work, but Lobdell’s able to ease the movements pretty naturally into the dialogue. The character scenes with Rogue, Gambit, Blink, and Sunfire don’t feel contrived and help to make the story feel like more than just a random stunt. Even if this is mostly setup, it’s still a decent beginning for the new storyline.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

X-MEN ALPHA – February 1995

Beginnings…

Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Mark Waid (script), Roger Cruz w/Steve Epting (pencilers), Tim Townsend w/Dan Panosian (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colors)


Summary

In Seattle, Bishop discovers a living girl amongst a sea of dead human bodies. Unus and a group of Apocalypse’s soldiers discover Bishop with the girl and attack. Unus is shocked to learn that Bishop is a mutant. Suddenly, Magneto and a group of X-Men (made up of Sabretooth, Wild Child, Blink, Morph, Rogue, Storm, Iceman, Quicksilver, and Nightcrawler) appear. The team stops Apocalypse’s men, as Iceman uses his powers to kill Unus. When Bishop sees Magneto, he speaks for the first time in twenty years, calling him a murderer. Magneto forces Bishop to go to sleep and orders the X-Men to return home.

Elsewhere, McCoy is experimenting on the Blob when he breaks free and attacks. Havok and Cyclops stop him before he can harm McCoy. Cyclops chastises McCoy for violating Apocalypse’s Kelly Pact, which halts genetic experimentation. Sinister enters and asks Cyclops to join him. He tells Cyclops that he has to leave to stop “the madness” that’s overtaken one of their own. Sinister soon meets up with two of his fellow Four Horsemen, Abyss and Holocaust. Apocalypse claims that their missing member, Mikhail, will be dealt with later. Apocalypse laughs at humans for falling for the Kelly Pact, claiming that the genetic war between humans and mutants is about to begin. Sinister expresses doubts, which angers Apocalypse. Meanwhile at the Angel’s nightclub, Gambit gets information on how to find Magneto.

In the ruins of London, Logan and Jean Grey hand over information provided to them by Sinister to the Human High Council. At the X-Men’s home in Westchester County, Magneto and Rogue combine their powers to access Bishop’s memories. When Rogue touches him, Magneto is exposed to Bishop’s knowledge of the original timeline that existed before Xavier was killed. Bishop’s power goes haywire, causing Gambit to emerge from hiding and push Rogue away from him. Magneto asks Nightcrawler to find his mother, hoping to learn more about Bishop’s visions. Meanwhile, Apocalypse is angered to discover that Sinister has disappeared, as a crystallization wave heads towards Earth.


Continuity Notes

Wild Child is a fairly obscure Alpha Flight character who was drafted into the X-Men for some reason during this storyline. Morph debuted on the X-Men animated series, albeit with a very different look. He was intended to be an alternate version of the Changeling, a minor character from the Silver Age.


Sinister says that he’s served Apocalypse for “a century and more”, which means that Sinister was with him in the original timeline before it diverged twenty years ago.


Magneto and Rogue have a young child named Charles. Magneto’s “biomagnetic shield” enables him to touch Rogue, even though she has no control over her powers and can’t touch their son. Gambit has no idea about the child, implying that he’s been away from the X-Men for years.


Gimmicks

This issue has a wraparound chromium cover, and a forty-eight page story with no ads. The cover price is $3.95, around twice the price of a normal X-book at the time (considering the page count, that’s actually a decent price).


Review

This is the launch of the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline, which will overtake every X-book for the next four months. It’s more interested in establishing the new world than in telling a specific story, so it can’t really be judged like a normal issue. In terms of advancing actual plotlines, all that happens is that Magneto learns about the original timeline while Sinister plots against Apocalypse. The rest of the issue consists of establishing the new X-Men team and re-introducing the alternate versions of the established cast. Even though it jumps around quite a bit, the story flows pretty smoothly (the fact that the little girl Bishop saves is just forgotten about is the only real exception). The dialogue establishes the new versions of the characters clearly, while dropping lots of cryptic hints about the new history. The hellish new reality is established very effectively, with only a minimum amount of awkward exposition. The art’s the only real drawback, as Roger Cruz debuts his Joe Madureira impression. The opening pages aren’t bad, but as the issue goes on, the anatomy and storytelling get sloppier and sloppier. That complaint aside, this still serves as a pretty strong opening for the ambitious storyline.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

X-MEN #41 – February 1995

Dreams Die!
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert & Ron Garney (pencilers), Matt Ryan (inks/finishes), Bill Oakley & NJQ (letterers), Kevin Somers & Digital Chameleon (colors)

Summary
The time-displaced X-Men witness Magneto’s battle with Legion. Psylocke uses her telepathic powers to find Professor Xavier, who is recovering from Legion’s attack with Gabrielle Haller. When Xavier overhears Legion’s conversation with Magneto, he figures out that Legion is his future son. Iceman temporarily freezes Legion, but he manages to free himself and incapacitate the X-Men. When Legion prepares to kill Magneto, Xavier jumps in the path of the blast. With Xavier dead, Legion and the X-Men disappear. Bishop, however, does not fade away. Meanwhile, Apocalypse witnesses the public display of mutant powers and decides to start his survival of the fittest challenge. In the present, the crystallization wave begins to hit Earth. Realizing that her time is almost up, Rogue kisses Gambit. Finally, reality crystallizes and shatters.

Gimmicks
This issue has a metallic ink cover, while maintaining the normal cover price.

Continuity Notes
In the altered timeline Legion creates, Apocalypse emerges earlier than he did in the original timeline because he sees that mutants are already surfacing. I assume that this scene was written to explain why Apocalypse encountered the X-Men so much earlier in the AoA timeline than he did in the original continuity.

Iceman uses his powers to freeze every molecule in Legion’s body, which the story acknowledges as a new use of his powers. This fits in with the attempt at the time to power him up, but it doesn’t seem like he ever used this power again. Also, Storm’s team of X-Men seem to have found the time to change back into their costumes in-between chapters of the crossover.

Review
Even though it’s a very nice-looking comic, this is the weakest chapter of the crossover. Legion’s just generically nutty at this point, and the ending with Xavier’s death had already been spoiled by months of advance promotion. There’s also some odd plotting that has Xavier recovering from Legion’s attack against him. The whole point of this story is that Legion is going back in time to kill Magneto in order to prove his love to his father. Why exactly is Legion attacking Xavier now? It makes about as much sense as the incest/rape scene from the last chapter. Those complaints aside, Nicieza does do a convincing job of making this all feel very important, rather than the set up for just another crossover. He goes back to a more dramatic narrative style, which he manages to pull off much more effectively than the faux-Claremont purple prose from earlier in his run. The scenes where the X-Men witness the end of the world aren’t bad, even if they’re not given a lot of room. Even if it doesn’t hold up to the previous chapters, it does have its moments.

X-FORCE #43 – February 1995

Teapot in a Tempest
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Tony Daniel (penciler), Kevin Conrad (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Mike Thomas (colorist)

Summary
Cannonball combines a part of Cable’s time travel equipment with Cerebro and is able to find Sunspot’s location. Meanwhile, Boomer comes across a teenage prostitute, while Rictor and Shatterstar go to a nightclub. When a woman in the club begins to touch Shatterstar, he runs away confused. Cannonball contacts Cable, but he refuses to leave Israel. Suddenly, Locus teleports inside X-Force’s headquarters. She tells the team that they have to reach Sunspot before he makes a terrible mistake. She teleports the team away to pick up Boomer, scaring off the young prostitute she was trying to help. Shatterstar is explaining to Rictor that he wasn’t programmed to deal with the emotional demands of sexual interaction when the rest of the team appears. They teleport away to find Sunspot. They land on the MLF’s island headquarters, where Reignfire is attacking Forearm and Moonstar. After killing Moonstar’s horse, Darkwind, Reignfire reveals himself to be Sunspot. Suddenly, reality begins to crystallize and shatter.

Continuity Notes
Well, this is the infamous “Shatterstar and Rictor are gay!!!” issue. Fabian Nicieza has always said that this wasn’t his intent, and it’s honestly surprising to me that some people (including the next writer of this series, apparently) interpreted this scene in such a way. You could of course view Shatterstar running away from the woman as a sign that he’s gay, even though his dialogue makes it clear later that he wasn’t programmed to deal with any sexuality. Shatterstar later says that he never felt “such stirrings” inside of him, implying that the woman got at least some kind of reaction out of him. If Nicieza’s goal was to imply that Rictor was gay, I don’t think he would’ve had a narrative caption describe Rictor’s way with women as “second nature” in this very issue. The question of Rictor and Shatterstar’s sexuality certainly didn’t die with this issue, though, and you can read more about it in this installment of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed.

I Love the ‘90s
The time-hopping Locus says that CDs will be obsolete by the end of the century. Not quite, but that’s sort of true today.

Review
This is another issue that seems a little awkward in hindsight, knowing now that these storylines are just dropped once the title returns from the AoA event. Technically, this is Fabian Nicieza’s last issue, since he’s replaced on X-Force as soon as the AoA is over. I really have no idea where Nicieza was going with the Sunspot/Reignfire story, but it seems more confusing than engaging in this issue. As the story points out, the X-books have done their fair share of time travel stories by this point, and I’m not sure how this one was supposed to be different. Nicieza has shown an ability to add new twists to old clichés, though, so it’s possible that he could’ve done something interesting with this.

The character moments are the best part of this issue, taking advantage of the book’s new urban setting to put the characters in interesting situations. Shatterstar’s loneliness and isolation feel real, and pairing the normally airheaded Boomer with a teen prostitute has a lot of potential. It’s frustrating that this scene was cut short; it’s actually the plotline I would’ve liked to see resolved more than any of the others introduced here. I think that future writer Jeph Loeb later uses Boomer’s thought balloons in this scene as the basis for the implication that she used to be a prostitute. Her thoughts actually read, “This coulda been me…A runaway. Seventeen years old and working the corners”. The “coulda” leads me to believe that she actually wasn’t a prostitute, but I guess there’s a tiny bit of room for interpretation there. Tony Daniel’s art has gotten extremely cartoony at this point, working in the style that will lead him away to Spawn in a few issues. He’s still able to sell the acting in a few of the character scenes, but the looseness and exaggeration in his art distracts from a lot of what Nicieza’s trying to do at this point. Overall, it’s not a bad issue, but Nicieza deserved a much more graceful exist than this.

Monday, June 23, 2008

WOLVERINE #90 – February 1995

The Dying Game
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Adam Kubert (penciler), Mark Farmer & Dan Green (inkers), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Marie Javins (colorist)

Summary
Wolverine is left alone in the mansion with Sabretooth. Sabretooth pressures him to give in to his darker instincts and fight, but Wolverine refuses. Sabretooth taunts Wolverine by trying to jump out of his cell’s containment field, but he can’t break through. After watching news footage of the capture of a serial killer, Wolverine remembers a comment made by a psychologist earlier on the broadcast. She claimed that the auto-flagellant killer was conditioning himself for his upcoming punishment by inuring himself to pain. Wolverine connects this to Sabretooth’s painful attempts earlier to jump through his containment field. He returns to Sabretooth’s cell in time to see him finally break through the field. Wolverine defends himself from Sabretooth’s attacks, resisting the urge to fight on his level, hoping to respect the X-Men’s wishes and only keep Sabretooth contained. When Sabretooth threatens to kill everyone close to him, including Kitty Pryde and Jubilee, Wolverine pops two claws in his face. When Sabretooth repeats his threat, daring Wolverine to kill him, Wolverine finally releases his third claw. Suddenly, reality crystallizes and shatters.

Gimmick
Much of the pages in this issue are gatefold, pull-out pages. This creates thirty pages of content rather than the normal twenty-two. Surprisingly, the cover price isn’t increased.

I Love the ‘90s
As Sabretooth watches TV, we’re given references to the ATF disaster in Waco, Roseanne’s divorce from Tom Arnold, and David Letterman’s departure from NBC.

Review
This is one of the better Wolverine/Sabretooth fights, mainly because it builds up the anticipation for the fight while giving Wolverine an ethical dilemma. Hama creates a nice contrast between Wolverine’s desire to respect the wishes of his teammates, and his own urges to cut Sabretooth’s throat out. The scenes where Wolverine works out and watches news reports could’ve just been filler, but Hama is able to use them to build the tension and advance the plot. Wolverine’s sympathy for the position the police are put in when dealing with the violent serial killer is nice foreshadowing for the ending of this issue. Kubert does a solid job on the artwork, alternating between a realistic style and an exaggerated cartoonish look. His page layouts and storytelling also look great, taking nice advantage of the special gatefold pages. I’ve always liked this issue, so it’s too bad that it became the starting point for one of the dumbest things ever done to Wolverine (which we’ll get to once the AoA event is over).

GENERATION X #4 – February 1995

“Between the Cracks”
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Mark Buckingham (inker), Buccellato & Electric Crayon (colors), Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary
While on a field trip, Generation X encounters a SWAT team surrounding a school. The townspeople believe that a young mutant has taken a classroom hostage. By talking to the crowd, Jubilee discerns that a teacher tried to enroll the boy, Eliot, into the school but the community fought against it. The town now thinks that he’s turned against the teacher who wanted to help him. Synch tries to concentrate on Eliot’s mutant signature, but only senses one in a nearby ice cream truck. While Jubilee sneaks into the school, the Orphan Maker emerges from the truck. The team tries to keep him away from the boy’s parents as Jubilee confronts the suspected mutant inside. As the student hostages escape, she discovers that the teacher died of a heart attack. He helped Eliot out because he knew what it was like to be different due to his weak heart. The Orphan Maker leaves the battle, deciding that Eliot’s parents have already orphaned him. Jubilee breaks the news that the teacher is dead, and Synch’s power reveals that Eliot was never a mutant, he was only born disfigured. Meanwhile, Husk spies on Chamber and Penance in the Biosphere, as Emma Frost comments that Husk reminds her of herself at a younger age.

Continuity Note
The Orphan Maker is a villain from the early issues of X-Factor. He kills the parents of young mutants so that his concierge Nanny can look after them. The gimmick is that the Orphan Maker is a young boy in a hi-tech suit, which is redesigned in this issue. When Banshee stops his bullets, he discovers that they’re bone fragments, something I've never understood (is this supposed to be his mutant power?)

Commercial Break
There’s an ad for the infamous Street Fighter movie, which remains a popular target for online ridicule to this day. It’s funny that comic book movies have gotten so much better over the past 10 years or so, but video games movies are still pretty awful.

Review
With one issue to go before the massive “Age of Apocalypse” event, Lobdell does a self-contained story that doesn’t make much of an effort to advance any ongoing storylines. There’s a very brief moment where Husk considers the possibility that she’s following Emma’s footsteps, but that’s essentially it. The cover claims that Emma is now her mentor, which is only overstating things by a thousand percent (and why is Emma still being called the White Queen at this point?). Cutting this series off at issue four in order to make room for the next event doesn’t do the title any favors. The cast is still being introduced, and due to the leisurely plotting so far, you get the feeling that the series hasn’t even gone anywhere yet. By the time the AoA storyline is over, half of this series’ run will have taken place in an alternate reality with warped versions of the main characters. The fact that this series was still so new was the biggest clue to me at the time that the X-books were not being cancelled. I just knew that Marvel wouldn’t have gone through such a huge effort to push this book and then kill it after four issues.

This issue’s story is passable, with a decent twist at the end, but it does feel like Lobdell’s marking time until the crossover starts. Bachalo’s layouts are fairly quirky, with little cartoon elves hanging out on the margins of most of the pages. They don’t really contribute to the actual story (which has nothing to do with Christmas), and I get the impression that they’re added to distract from the pedestrian plot. They do add some charm to the comic, though, and it’s nice to see some of Bachalo’s cartooning. Bachalo’s unique style doesn’t do any favors to the new Orphan Maker design, though. Not only is not an improvement on the original design, which had a straightforward look that any artist should’ve been able to work with, but it looks too much like Emplate without the giant nose. The Orphan Maker’s treatment in this issue isn’t that great, either, as he gets beaten on for a few pages and then just decides to leave. I suspect that Orphan Maker was being set up as a recurring villain for this series, which would tie into his gimmick very well, but I don’t think the idea ever went anywhere.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

EXCALIBUR #86 – February 1995

Back To Life
Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Ken Lashley (penciler), Tom Wegrzyn (inker), Jon Babcock (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)

Summary
After killing everyone in a secret military base in Thailand, Peter Wisdom decides to quit British Intelligence. Meanwhile, Britanic has a vision of Wisdom in Genosha getting shot by “biting” bullets. Moira MacTaggert enters, distressed that Britanic has turned her hovercraft into a high-tech hypersonic jet. Government agents, using the frequency once used by the Weird Happenings Organization, land on Muir Island. They represent Black Air, a division of British Intelligence that deals with paranormal activity. Britanic is shocked to see that Peter Wisdom is a member, believing that his visions might be coming true. Black Air informs Excalibur that the Genoshan economy has collapsed after the Mutates were released from slavery. Fighting has broken out again, and humans are using special ammunition to kill the Mutates. The government believes that the ammunition originated in Britain, but doesn’t have proof. Excalibur is pressured into going to Genosha with Wisdom to collect evidence. Douglock asks Rory Campbell if he’s going with the team, but Rory fears that any attacks by mutants could lead to him becoming Ahab. Nightcrawler confronts Moira about her Legacy Virus infection, but she wants him to concentrate on Genosha. The team takes Britanic’s new plane, the Midnight Runner, to Genosha. The plane’s cameras broadcast the horrific conditions on the ground. Suddenly, the plane is attacked by rockets, as reality begins to crystallize and shatter.

Continuity Notes
This is the first Marvel appearance of Peter Wisdom, who apparently showed up in some of Ellis’ small press work. He’s not revealed to be a mutant yet and doesn’t really play a large role in this issue.

The Black Air agents claim that they’ve replaced the Weird Happenings Organization. WHO made quite a few appearances in the earlier issues of this series, but they’re dismissed pretty casually here. I know that Ellis mentioned online at this time that he purposefully avoided reading the post-Marvel UK material, so it’s possible that he downplayed continuity he was unfamiliar with and just created new characters to fill the role.

Review
Like a lot of the X-writers this month, Ellis also has one issue to fill before the crossover begins. Rather than wasting time, however, he continues the ongoing character arcs and begins a new storyline. Previously, it looked as if Ellis was going to dismiss the horrific Britanic storyline without any explanation, but he tries to get some material out of it in this issue. Having Brian Braddock reclaim his personality and put the Britanic persona behind him is actually used as a genuine character moment, which at least offers some payoff to the absurd storyline. Reviving Brian’s physics background and genius-level intellect and contrasting it against the buffoonish Britanic persona works pretty well. The only remotely interesting aspect of the Britanic concept was his flashes of the future, which Ellis sensibly salvages while correcting the rest of the mistake. Rory Campbell’s anxiety about turning into Ahab is another storyline Ellis inherited, probably the only ongoing thread that fit in with Ellis’ darker writing style, so it’s not surprising that he’s able to get some material out of it. Ellis even seems to have a decent take on Douglock, using him as a naïve voice for some rather cynical observations. The rest of the issue is mainly setup for the Genoshan storyline. The structure of the AoA crossover didn’t require most of the books to move their casts to a specific place, so Ellis uses the freedom to start a new story that will be completed once the crossover is over. The exposition is thankfully brief, and the new characters introduced to get the story moving have actual personalities and feel like more than just plot devices. Even though the Genoshan storyline will be interrupted for four issues, this is at least a strong start.

X-FACTOR #111 – February 1995


Explosive Performance
Credits: John Francis Moore (plot), Todd Dezago (script), Jan Duursema (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Starkings/Comicraft (lettering), Glynis Oliver (colorist)

Summary
The K’lanti aliens emerge from the ship and take Lila Cheney hostage. They agree to give Lila an hour to retrieve their Harmonium music box, leaving a series of diamond-shaped bombs around Madripoor as incentive. Polaris and Guido go with Lila to find the Harmonium while Forge and the rest of X-Factor try to neutralize the bombs. Meanwhile, Val Cooper spots someone who looks like Jaime Madrox in Washington. On Cygnus Prime, Polaris helps Lila find the Harmonium in an alien junkyard, but Guido is buried under tons of rubble during his fight with an alien guard dog. His body absorbs the energy from the collapse, and the trio teleport back to Madripoor. Lila gives the Harmonium back to the K’lanti, who will use its special music to end their civil war. They disappear, leaving behind one final diamond-bomb to punish Lila. Guido jumps on top of it, absorbing the explosion. The strain of absorbing so much energy gives him a heart attack. Suddenly, reality crystallizes and shatters.

Continuity Note
Every X-comic this month ends with the M’Kraan Crystal consuming the Earth and then shattering.

Review
It’s not as bad as the previous issue, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good. The story feels like it’s killing time before the big crossover, with a tacked on cliffhanger that’s supposed to make you care about the book’s eventual return. If the alien races depicted weren’t so bland and uninteresting, maybe this story could’ve worked. Instead, we just get a group of gibberish-speaking aliens obsessed with a music box and some type of junkyard dog as the antagonist. The only time any of the characters feel unique is during the scene where Forge uses his mutant powers to figure out a way to stop the bombs. Everything else feels generic and dull. There are some aspects to Duursema’s art that I like, but she doesn’t pull off any of the action scenes in this issue. The big explosion that leads to Guido’s injury (which forces him out of the book for years), is pretty flaccid, and not deserving of a scene that will actually have a large impact on the book’s continuity.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

CABLE #20 – February 1995


An Hour of Last Things
Credits: Jeph Loeb (writer), Ian Churchill (penciler), Larosa/Barta/Carani (inkers), Starkings/Comicraft (lettering), Mike Thomas (colorist)

Summary
Cable’s consciousness returns from his journey to the past. Gambit’s angry that Cable’s message to the other X-Men hasn’t changed anything. Lilandra sends a warning that the M’Kraan Crystal is consuming galaxies and is heading towards Earth within an hour. Knowing their time together will soon end, the X-Men comfort one another. Cable reveals his feelings for Domino, who initially dismisses them as a joke, but eventually kisses him. Cyclops and Phoenix decide to tell Cable that they raised him in the future as Slym and Redd, but he already knows. Professor Xavier tells the X-Men that he’s proud of all of them, as the Crystallization Wave consumes the Earth.

Continuity Note
This issue doesn’t reference Cable’s time travel ability. Instead, the Shi’ar technology is given credit for sending Cable’s consciousness to the past (whether or not Cable’s body or just his consciousness was sent back in time wasn’t clear in the last chapter).

Review
Somehow, one of the quiet, talkative issues of X-Men ended up in Cable. Considering the structure of the crossover, there was really nothing for Cable’s title to do this month. Cable’s already visited the past in the last part of the crossover, and since the mandated ending of all of the X-books this month had the Crystallization Wave consuming everything, there’s really no room for Cable to do anything. This could’ve been a nice opportunity for Cable to interact with his parents, but hardly anything comes from their brief scene together. Most of the interactions in the issue seem shallow and overly sentimental. The characterizations just don’t feel real, and the issue is made redundant anyway by the “end of the world” scenes in this month’s X-Men. This issue marks Ian Churchill’s debut as artist, a role he’ll keep for the next few years on the title. All of the exaggerated poses and countless scratchy lines haven’t aged well, but I liked it a lot at the time.

UNCANNY X-MEN #321 – February 1995


Auld Lang Syne
Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Mark Waid (script), Ron Garney (penciler), Townsend/Green/Rubinstein (inkers), Steve Buccellato (colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

Summary
Twenty years in the past, Xavier and Magneto are discussing the possible existence of mutants in a bar in Israel. Elsewhere in the bar, an amputee is being harassed by a group of drunken men. When Xavier tries to stop them, he unwittingly starts a bar fight. Elsewhere, Storm and the rest of her team of X-Men are still trying to recover their memories. In the present, the Shi’ar use their technology to augment the psi-powers of the X-Men present. Phoenix will telekinetically keep Cable’s body together while Professor Xavier telepathically boosts Cable’s latent time travel ability. Cable is able to appear twenty years in the past, where he’s drawn to the temporal energies that surround Bishop. Cable telepathically gives Bishop the information he needs before disappearing in an explosion of energy. Meanwhile, Legion disguises himself as Xavier and seduces Gabrielle Haller. Xavier senses a darkness around Gabrielle and leaves with Magneto to find her. They find Gabrielle wounded, with Legion hovering above her. Legion tells Magneto that he’s come to kill him.

Continuity Note
This is the first time Cable’s time travel ability is outright mentioned. It was previously alluded to in X-Force #39, when Prosh made a cryptic statement that Cable might not need technology to travel through time. It’s not treated as a major revelation here, and there’s no explanation for how any of the characters knew he had this power. I don’t think Cable’s ability to time travel with his own power was brought up again, but I could be wrong. For what it’s worth, it takes Shi’ar machinery that’s the size of a building, and the augmented powers of Professor Xavier for him to access the power in this issue.

At the time this story was published, Marvel was still following the strict time travel rules established by Mark Gruenwald (you can read his column about time travel here). The basic idea is that time travel automatically creates an alternate reality, therefore the current reality can’t be affected by someone travelling to the past. In order for this story to work, that rule obviously can’t be applied. The previous issue of UXM has Storm acknowledge this rule, with Legion replying that he’s created new “chronal energies” that will enable him to pull this off. This would tie into the idea that Legion is potentially the most powerful mutant ever, which Xavier speculated earlier in this storyline. So even if the rule is being broken, there’s some justification for how it’s being broken in the storyline (which would fit in with Marvel’s stricter stand on continuity at the time). It will be interesting to see the rules are (or aren’t) followed as the story goes along. I suspect that Gruenwald created the rules in the first place in order to prevent writers from using time travel to undo previous stories that they didn’t like.

Review
Up until you get to that horribly misguided scene with Legion, this is a solid middle-chapter for the crossover that only has a few rough spots (the bar fight goes on a little long, and I mentioned the unusual introduction of Cable’s new power earlier). It’s drawn very well by Garney, who’s pretty close to developing his recognizable style at this point. Xavier and Magneto’s friendship comes across as genuine, and the scenes in the present do a decent job of communicating the seriousness of the situation. The X-Men that are stuck in the past are also given realistic reactions to having nothing to do for three weeks. It’s the scene between Legion and Gabrielle Haller that overshadows the rest of the issue, making you wonder if the X-office has lost its mind. Maybe the fact that anything Legion did with Gabrielle Haller is implied and not explicitly stated made this “safe” enough to get published, but it’s really hard to see any justification for this scene. Let’s see, do I start with the rape or the incest angle? Aside from the fact that Legion is impersonating someone else when he’s getting intimate with Gabrielle Haller, she’s also shown in tears with her clothes ripped in the final scene. So even if you’re willing to overlook the deception used by Legion in the first place, there’s still the implication that something physical happened between them. Then, of course, there’s the bizarre incest element. Legion wants to go back in time to prove his love for his father by killing his greatest opponent. Okay, fine. How exactly this turns into Legion going back in time to impersonate his father and hook up with his mother is beyond me. Perhaps the idea was that Legion is insuring his own existence by making sure his mother gets pregnant, but that doesn’t work. It’s not in his plan at all for his father to die, so Xavier would still presumably impregnate Gabrielle (and I’m not even going to go into what kind of DNA Legion’s offspring with Gabrielle would have). I guess the idea is to emphasize that Legion is still insane, but surely there could’ve been a more tasteful way to get this across. It’s really a bizarre move that drags everything down.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

X-FORCE #42 – January 1995


A Lie of the Mind
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Kevin Conrad (inker), Pat Brosseau & Chris Eliopoulos (letterers), Marie Javins (colorist)

Summary
James Proudstar talks to Emma Frost about the death of his brother and the massacre of his tribe. Emma is indignant that Proudstar ever believed that the Hellfire Club ordered the death of his tribe as retaliation for him leaving the Hellions. She asks him why he stays with X-Force, but she doesn’t believe his reasons. Meanwhile, Siryn tells her father that she doesn’t have any romantic feelings for Proudstar, while Cannonball checks on his sister, Husk. As Emma and Proudstar continue their conversation, he admits that he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, but feels like this is the only life he’s been prepared for. Emma tells Proudstar that she thinks that he’s afraid to let go of his past and follow what he really wants. As Proudstar leaves, Emma speculates that he holds on to the hope of finding love because he’s terrified of dying.

Continuity Notes
There’s a two-page subplot scene that takes place at a “biochemical research station” in Germany. Every aspect of it is intentionally vague, so it’s hard to recap. Basically, an intruder is killed by the guards, who apologize to their employer (?) when they learn that he was her husband. She doesn’t seem concerned, claiming that he was trying to find their son, and that his employers, the Clan Yashida, will be coming soon. Okay, then. This story was dropped after Nicieza was replaced on the book. Nicieza resolved some of his old plotlines years later while writing Gambit¸ but I don’t know if this is one of them.

This issue establishes that the Hellfire Club didn’t kill Proudstar’s tribe, which had been the assumption since the end of the New Mutants series. Proudstar says that Camp Verde was massacred “two years ago”, which implies that the series is moving in something close to real time (the issue that established their murder was published in 1991). It’s always interesting to read references to years passing by in Marvel stories, when you consider their insistence that Spider-Man and a few other characters never should’ve aged. You can’t have it both ways, unless you want to go back to the days when Superman and Aquaman comics had two conflicting versions of the city of Atlantis, while they served on the Justice League at the same time.

According to Proudstar, six Hellions died in Fitzroy’s attack (UXM #281, #282). Actually, Portacio depicted dozens of Hellion victims during those issues (which never made any sense in the first place -- where did these extra Hellions come from?).

Review
I have no idea what’s supposed to be going on in that cover, unless Proudstar is reacting to Emma’s horrible haircut. Terry Dodson is the fill-in artist for this issue, so the exaggerated style on the cover is really false advertising for the contents. This is another quiet issue, focusing on the existing connections between X-Force and the new Generation X team. Proudstar’s history as one of Emma’s students and the familial connections that Siryn and Cannonball have with Banshee and Husk help to make the story feel organic, and not like a contrived crossover. The main focus of this issue is on James Proudstar and Emma Frost, so the scenes with Siryn and Banshee and Cannonball and Husk don’t actually get a lot of room. Siryn’s problem with alcohol is something her father should have some reaction to, but their scene together feels rushed. Nicieza primarily uses the scene to reinforce the idea that Proudstar is supporting Siryn in the vain hope that she’ll return his feelings. Cannonball’s interaction with Husk is very brief, mainly serving to reinforce the ongoing Generation X subplot that Husk doesn’t want to live in her brother’s shadow.

After Marvel made the decision to reform Emma Frost, I wonder how long it took someone to remember her implied involvement in the massacre of James Proudstar’s tribe. Since Proudstar is a member of another X-team, it’s an association that couldn’t easily be ignored. The connection is dealt with in this issue, with Nicieza giving the simplest resolution possible – the Hellfire Club didn’t do it, and Proudstar never should’ve thought so in the first place. Nicieza tries to use this as a characterization point by connecting it to Proudstar’s eagerness to blame Xavier for his brother’s death, but it doesn’t quite work. The Hellfire Club had always been portrayed ruthlessly, and there was a Hellfire Club mask found at the scene. The stories in the meantime never presented any doubt about the Hellfire Club’s involvement, so Proudstar always seemed justified in blaming them. Still, if Emma Frost is going to be on the heroes’ side, there’s no way her involvement in the incident can stay in continuity, so it has to be dealt with somehow. Proudstar’s vendetta against the Hellfire Club was rarely brought up after he joined X-Force, so it’s not as if this revelation undermines a lot of previous stories.

The depiction of Proudstar as a direction-less young man, doing what’s expected out of him without getting a lot back is a unique take on a superhero. His relationship with Siryn is presented in a surprisingly cynical way; he supports her because he thinks that doing the right thing will help her see his feelings for her, yet she remains oblivious. He’s essentially a giant, super-strong sap. That’s quite an evolution from the teeth-gritting, revenge-driven Warpath from the early issues of the series. His conversation with Emma does a lot to develop his character, balancing the line between making him sympathetic and just pathetic. The ending doesn’t provide any cliché resolutions, as Proudstar walks away from Emma and refuses to tell his friends about their conversation. It would’ve been easy for Nicieza to give Proudstar a stirring speech at the end, defending his choice to stay with the team, but instead he doesn’t give any answers. It’s too bad Nicieza wasn’t able to continue this character arc. It looks like he was removed from the title just as he was doing his best work.

Monday, June 16, 2008

X-MEN #40 – January 1995


The Killing Time
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Matt Ryan (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Kevin Somers (colorist)

Summary
Twenty years in the past, Legion and Storm’s team of X-Men have arrived in Israel. The trip through time has left all of them with amnesia. Storm and the rest of the X-Men know their names and powers, but remember nothing else. Legion is being treated at the same hospital where Xavier is helping his mother, Gabrielle Haller. Magneto is working as an orderly and has befriended Xavier, but they haven’t revealed to one another that they’re mutants. When Legion is exposed to Magneto’s internal anguish, his powers erupt. Magneto finds Xavier, and when they return to Legion’s room, they see his body is in flames, with images of the future flashing above him. In the present, Xavier and the rest of the X-Men call Cable and Domino for help rescuing Storm’s team. Cable tells Xavier that he can’t time travel because his equipment is in the bottom of the ocean. Suddenly, Lilandra appears with a group of Watchers, warning that Legion’s actions in the past threaten all reality.

Continuity Notes
Beast reminds Gambit that he’s still field leader, even though Cyclops is there. I’m not sure why exactly Nicieza is continuing this plot, since it certainly seems as if Cyclops is back for good.
Cable’s “Time Displacement Core” has been at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean since X-Force #22.
The scenes with Professor Xavier, Magneto, and Gabrielle Haller place this story at some point during the flashbacks in Uncanny X-Men #161.

“Huh?” Moment
Xavier has a comically exaggerated smile on the top panel on page twenty-three. He’s responding to hearing Magneto’s psychic cry for help, so I don’t know why this would thrill him so much. I wonder if Kubert intended this to be a smile, or if it just ended up that way after the art was inked and colored (it’s possible that the lines on Xavier’s face were misinterpreted as a smile somewhere along the way).

Review
The story slows down in this chapter, effectively recapping the events of the first installment while taking the time to reestablish Xavier’s past with Magneto. This could’ve been tedious padding, but Nicieza’s able to make it work. Since a large portion of this story hinges on an issue of UXM from the early ‘80s that many readers probably hadn't read, taking the time to properly introduce this era in Xavier’s past is a reasonable decision. Nicieza has a firm handle on the characterizations, and does a great job on the scene where Legion accidentally exposes Magneto’s memories. (I’d like to take this time to congratulate Fabian Nicieza on his 100th tag on this blog. What an accomplishment!) Kubert does a fine job on the art, turning in one of his strongest issues so far. He handles dozens of characters but his work never looks rushed or half-hearted. I also remember the coloring in this issue really stood out when I first read it, and it still looks impressive almost fourteen years later.

WOLVERINE #89 – January 1995


The Mask of Ogun
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Fabio Laguna (penciler), Joe Rubinstein (inker), Pat Brosseau (lettering), Marie Javins (colorist)

Summary
While on his way back to New York, Wolverine meets Ghost Rider, who warns him that a specter from his past named “Ogun” has returned. Wolverine follows Ghost Rider to a museum where Ogun’s spirit has killed the employees. On display are Ogun’s sword and his mask, which Wolverine remembers shattering after he killed Ogun. Ghost Rider explains to him that mystic objects can’t be destroyed by physical means. After they’re distracted by noises from the other side of the museum, Ghost Rider and Wolverine return to see that Ogun’s sword and mask are gone. Ogun suddenly appears and attacks. When Ogun throws his sword at Wolverine, he flashes back to a lesson Ogun taught him about balancing his human and animal sides. Ghost Rider saves Wolverine from the sword, which Wolverine then uses to split Ogun’s mask in half. As his form dissipates, Wolverine sees his own face on Ogun’s body. He explains to Ghost Rider that Ogun used sorcery to reach beyond the grave and attack him with a part of himself. Meanwhile, Gambit warns Sabretooth that Wolverine is coming.

Continuity Note
Ogun is Wolverine’s former mentor, who tried to possess Kitty Pryde’s body in the Kitty Pryde & Wolverine miniseries. The image of him on this cover doesn’t represent the interior art at all.

Review
It’s another issue that’s marred by Laguna’s artwork. The incessant swipes continue, with even the Wolverine image from X-Men #1’s cover getting lightboxed. Swiping from the cover of the highest-selling comic ever isn’t the smartest way to hide what you’re doing. I don’t remember Laguna getting any more work from the X-office after this, so maybe they realized that he was doing more tracing than drawing (the Swipe of the Week archive has a few examples from this issue). The story reads like filler while it’s biding time until next issue’s confrontation with Sabretooth, although I do like the idea of Ogun’s spirit returning as an antagonist. The final confrontation seems to hinge on the fact that Wolverine is balancing his human and animal natures, but I don’t see how that’s represented just by having him throw a sword. The mask it cuts splits in two, so the imagery there is obvious, but that doesn’t feel like much of a payoff. The idea that Ogun is attacking Wolverine with a part of himself doesn’t really make a lot of sense, either. The flashback scene with Ogun repeatedly hitting Wolverine until he gives in to his animal rage is nicely done, though. It’s definitely a weak issue, but I can see the potential of Ogun as a recurring threat for Wolverine. It’s surprising he wasn’t brought back sooner.

Friday, June 13, 2008

UNCANNY X-MEN #320 – January 1995


The Son Rises in the East
Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Mark Waid (script), Roger Cruz (penciler), Tim Townsend (inker), Steve Buccellato (colorist), Bill Oakley (letterer)

Summary
The X-Men travel to the Israeli desert at the request of Gabrielle Haller. Her son Legion has created an energy field around himself, and is crippling or destroying any military vehicles that approach him. When Storm tries to speak to him, Legion uses his newfound power to take them back in time to the day Storm’s parents were killed. When they go back to the present, Legion tells Storm that he’s created unheard of new chronal energies that will enable him to alter time. When Legion talks about his father’s legacy, Storm figures out that Legion is going back in time to somehow remake Professor Xavier’s dream. Storm orders Psylocke to link herself mentally to Bishop, who has been absorbing Legion’s chronal energy. This sends all of the nearby X-Men back into the past with Legion. Phoenix anchors herself and stays behind. She telepathically calls out to Professor Xavier for help before passing out. Meanwhile, the guardian of the M’Kraan Crystal, Janf, warns Lilandra that the end of reality is coming.

I Love the ‘90s
The editors ask fans to send in any type of feedback, saying “it’ll only cost ya 29 cents” to write in.

Review
This is the start of a brief crossover that sets up the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline. Mark Waid is the guest scripter, a role he’ll occasionally take on for the next few months. He’ll take over X-Men briefly next year, but nothing really comes of it. His script is a little sharper than Lobdell’s typical work, but there’s not that much of a difference. This issue really just serves to build up Legion’s new powers and to send the X-Men back into the past. Legion does come across as a formidable threat, and his dialogue thankfully doesn’t portray him as insane or childishly naïve. Far too many X-villains at this point are just labeled “crazy”, justifying whatever arbitrary action the writer wants them to do. Based on my memories of this story, though, Legion’s sanity is short-lived (maybe no one told Waid that Legion really is supposed to be nuts).

The selection of X-Men sent into the past seems odd. I understand that Bishop needs to go back into the past for upcoming plot reasons (due to his own history as a time traveler), so it makes sense that his team of X-Men would be featured. Of course, at this point, the Blue and Gold divisions have pretty much gone away, but the script explicitly refers to this as the Gold team. If that were the case, why would Psylocke go instead of Archangel? Phoenix is already there, so why would two telepaths go on the same mission? And since the team is confronting his son, why isn’t Professor Xavier with them? I know that some of the characters need to be in different places for future plot reasons, but there’s no in-story justification for any of this so far. We’re just supposed to accept the fact that the characters are where they are.

There’s another awkward scene where the team follows Legion back into the past, yet Phoenix inexplicitly stays behind. The way the scene is written makes it seem as if she isn’t aware of Storm’s plan to follow him, which doesn’t make sense because a) she’s a telepath and b) she was standing right next to Iceman just before he was sucked into the time vortex, too. Maybe the original idea was that Phoenix was supposed to stay behind to tell the other X-Men what happened, but that’s not communicated at all in the story. Aside from these awkward moments, though, it’s a pretty unobjectionable issue. The story mainly accomplishes what it’s supposed to, and Cruz’s art (unoriginal as it may be) doesn’t look so bad.
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