Friday, January 16, 2009

X-MEN UNLIMITED #12 – September 1996

The Once and Future Juggernaut
Credits: John Francis Moore (writer), Steve Epting & Ariel Olivetti (pencilers), Kevin Conrad & Ariel Olivetti (inkers), Marie Javins & Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Dr. Strange senses a mystical disturbance and arrives at the X-Men’s mansion. He uses the Eye of Agamotto to witness Onslaught’s recent imprisoning of Juggernaut inside the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak. Gomurr the Ancient arrives, telling Dr. Strange that they can’t leave the Crimson Gem unguarded. He asks Strange to protect the Gem while he goes inside it to rescue Juggernaut. Inside the Gem, Juggernaut is trapped in another dimension. The demon Spite, posing as Xavier, is taunting him. Gomurr arrives and forces Spite to reveal herself. She leaves, bragging that her master will soon claim Juggernaut’s soul. Gomurr tells Juggernaut that he can show him the way out of this dimension, but he must face his past first. Juggernaut is forced to revisit his childhood with his hated stepbrother, Charles Xavier. Gomurr tells Juggernaut to let go of his anger and be free of his curse. Spite reappears, offering Juggernaut a chance to embrace his power and escape the Gem. She convinces Juggernaut that Gomurr just wants the Crimson Gem’s power for himself, and takes him to met Cyttorak, the god of destruction. Juggernaut soon learns that Spite only intended to use him as a sacrifice to Cyttorak. Cyttorak swallows Spite and prepares to consume Juggernaut. The mystical Tar appears and joins forces with Gomurr. They infuse Juggernaut with the energy that bonded Cyttorak to the Gem, which gives him the power to destroy the god. Juggernaut escapes the collapsing dimension and reemerges in the real world. To Dr. Strange’s dismay, Juggernaut declares that he’s stronger than ever.

Continuity Notes: This is the first appearance of Spite, who is D’Spayre’s sister. Gomurr claims that D’Spayre trapped her inside the dimension with the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak.

An origin for the Gem is revealed (although the continuity surrounding Cyttorak seems to be confused). Centuries ago, “a group of heretic monks” sought to harness Cyttorak’s energy. They instead unleashed his destructive energies, which destroyed parts of Asia. Gomurr and Tar used their mystical powers to contain Cyttorak within a ruby. Disagreeing on who should keep the powerful gem, they buried it in a temple hidden in a cave and sealed the entrance with a mountain of rocks. Years later, earthquakes opened the entrance to the cave, allowing Cain Marko to discover the ruby and become Juggernaut.

Review: This is labeled as part of the Onslaught crossover, although it’s actually a follow-up to one of Onslaught’s actions and not a part of the real story. I’m sure every X-title had to tie in with Onslaught in some way, and this is how the oft-forgotten Unlimited got dragged into it. I’m not sure what the point of the story is supposed to be, outside of freeing Juggernaut up so he can be used again, and incorporating some of the newer characters into the Crimson Gem’s origin (personally, I think the Beast/Dark Beast story should’ve been resolved here, instead of X-Factor, where it arbitrarily ended up). Moore only briefly teases the idea that the Juggernaut might change his ways before he goes back to behaving like a giant thug. The ending, which essentially rewards Juggernaut for his bad behavior, is at least a small twist. Juggernaut has a chance to reflect on his mistakes and learn something, but decides he wants to be strong and nasty anyway. He’s adamant about not learning anything, and escapes any real repercussions for his stubbornness. It’s mildly amusing, although Moore doesn’t play it for laughs.

The Juggernaut can be a hard character to pull off, especially as a story’s protagonist, as his main motivation is that he irrationally hates his stepbrother. Moore does manage to make Juggernaut engaging enough to follow throughout the story, although it feels like it goes on for a little too long. Epting’s art is solid as usual, and he draws a convincingly powerful Juggernaut. Olivetti’s rougher style doesn’t blend well with Epting’s, but most of his pages appear as fantasy sequences, which works out pretty well. Incorporating Gomurr and Tar into the Gem’s origin feels surprisingly organic, even though they were very new characters at this point. I think it works because there aren’t many mystical characters in the X-Men’s corner of the Marvel Universe, so it doesn’t feel like a totally arbitrary connection (unlike, say, connecting Dark Beast to the Morlocks or Sugar Man to Genosha). The remaining ten pages of the issue consist of filler like a crossword puzzle, brief “interview” segments with various characters, quotes from previous issues, a “match the mutant” puzzle, and an extended letters column. In fairness to Marvel, the price has been dropped a dollar to make up for the downgraded paper quality, but it’s still obvious that this book serves no real purpose.


AmpGeez said...

I appreciate the blog, man. This was right around the time I kinda took a sabbatical from comics, with a Wizard tossed in evey now & then. Anyways, just wanted to say I'm a fan. Keep doing your thing.

Peter said...

I too really appreciate the blog (I can't believe it's been nearly a year since I started following it, awesome stuff, seriously), and ironically, compared to Amp's comment, this is about the time where I started buying American comics (I'm from Belgium). The faux-epicness of Onslaught combined with Heroes Reborn and the Clone Saga winding down where all things that gave me a reason to check out the originals rather than the Dutch reprints :)

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