Wednesday, January 28, 2009

UNCANNY X-MEN #338 – November 1996

A Hope Reborn, A Past Reclaimed
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira w/Salvador Larroca (pencilers), Tim Townsend w/Vince Russell (inkers), Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Team Bucce! (colors)

Summary: Archangel collapses in pain as his metal wings begin to molt and are replaced by feathers. Ozymandias appears and tells him that his original transformation under Apocalypse was only the beginning. Meanwhile, Joseph is shown a holographic recreation of Magneto in the Danger Room. He wonders why the X-Men would accept him on the team if he really was Magneto in the past. Psylocke teleports in through the shadows and tells the team that Archangel needs help. In Brooklyn, a sickly Pyro visits a church confessional. As a dazed Archangel arrives overhead, Pryo tries to warn the priest about an upcoming event. The X-Men track Archangel to the church, just as Pyro’s Legacy Virus infection causes his powers to go haywire. After Joseph subdues him, Pyro tries to warn the X-Men about “her” upcoming plan. Pyro is suddenly consumed by the earth, leading Wolverine to assume that Avalanche kidnapped him. Elsewhere, Iceman and Cannonball begin to work undercover at Graydon Creed’s presidential campaign.

Continuity Notes: This is, obviously, the issue that ditched Archangel’s metal wings and revived his original ones. Psylocke’s “shadow teleportation” powers also appear for the first time. The only explanation is that the Crimson Dawn elixir must be responsible.

Review: I remember hating this issue when it was released, and it hasn't improved with age. Aside from Madureria’s attractive artwork (I particularly like his rendition of Magneto versus the original X-Men in the Danger Room scene), there’s nothing notable about this issue. It’s filled with vague clues that ended up with little to no payoff, so it's hard to care. Why exactly would Apocalypse remove Archangel’s metal wings? If it’s because he no longer serves him, wouldn’t he have done that years ago? And why replace them with his original wings? There’s no internally justifiable reason; someone at Marvel just wanted his old wings back, I guess. If Marvel wanted a “back to basics” approach to the character, that’s understandable, but keeping his blue skin is an odd choice. If you’re returning Angel back to his original appearance, why not go all the way? Keeping his blue skin just seems like a halfhearted attempt to acknowledge an era of the character’s past that the creators obviously wanted to move away from by this time.

Psylocke’s new, arbitrary powers are also frustrating. Supposedly, the shadow powers were added to have her stand out from the other X-Men telepaths. Making the character’s powers unique is admirable, but tacking random powers on to her while still maintaining her telepathic abilities seems pointless. It adds another wrinkle to a character that had already gone through too many alterations already. Morphing the proper British telepath into an Asian ninja should really be all of the distinction the character needs. She’s living in a stranger’s body, and now has to deal with her primal desire to physically attack opponents, even though her telepathy is the safer way to handle them. The earlier attempt to reveal that her personality had been merged with another character’s was misguided, but it didn’t last for long and it can easily be forgotten. Tacking on totally unrelated powers, and a mystical connection that’s altering her personality again, seems pointless. It makes her the cast member that the writers are always screwing with, leaving her as another X-character with the “too complicated” label.

The actual story for this issue is a setup for the current X-Factor storyline, although there are no footnotes in this issue to lead you towards that title. The X-Men randomly come across Pyro, he makes a few cryptic comments, and then disappears. I believe this leads into the “Assassination of Graydon Creed” storyline, which was another story with a vague ending that went years without a resolution. And, of course, the disease Pyro is suffering from is another long-running storyline that was ignored for years before getting a quickie resolution. So, really, this isn’t a highlight of the era.

5 comments:

Seangreyson said...

Archangel's wings changing always confused me as well. With the metallic wings he was Death (which would seem a natural fit for the 90's), without them he was just Angel.

Of course now they've brought the wings back...maybe, there's a little confusion with regards to them.

Matt said...

I thought it was explained that Apocalypse provided the metal wings as a sort of "cocoon" to allow Angel's original wings to grow back...? Maybe it was another issue (or maybe I'm totally imagining it). It does seem odd, though, that he would want to heal the old wings while apparently only temprorarily replacing them with a pair that Apocalypse would probably have considered superior anyway!

Seangreyson said...

I guess if you look at it that way it actually makes a little sense. Apocalypse makes a deal with Angel to restore his wings, and Apocalypse does usually keep his promises (though not always in the way you expect, hence blue skin and Death persona).

wwk5d said...

I always liked the metal wings, mainly as they made Warren a far more formidable opponent. Few writers would actually use him as a tough opponent with his old wings (Busiek did a good job in Thunderbolts), he basically just flapped around and occasionally punched someone...and yeah, the normal wings and blue skin didn't quite work.

ray swift said...

I think this story and your claims can be represented by another phenomenon of the same era: When the fondness for fantasy books started a spawn of bland, generic, bad fantasy books whom all followed the same formula. Most writers of that time seems to try and achieve the great and famous achievements their ancestors achieved, but by walking in an "easy" path. Mostly, any change, and difference or idea that once was a good idea, now happening in a faster, easier (per say) way, by "magic" or by "mystery". The transformation of Magneto from a bad guy to a good guy by Clarmont was one of the gems of the 80's and was made by a careful and deep writing that evolved the idea threw dozens and dozens of issues. What do we have in the 90's? Enter Joseph - a Man who miraculously is given new life and no memory, and his darker side is gone because of some pseudo un-scientific explanation.
Same goes for Psylocke. We have a character who is bland and boring and has no personality almost non soever at all? A new wacky power! That should patch the problem!

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