Wednesday, March 11, 2009

UNCANNY X-MEN #344 – May 1997

Casualties of War
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Melvin Rubi (penciler), Joe Weems w/Hanna/Alquiza/Candelario/Townsend (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato & Team Bucce! (colors)

Summary: The X-Men watch in hiding as Lilandra is tortured by the Phalanx. Deathbird and Bishop are sent to “The Nest”, where the Shi’ar offspring are birthed, to protect the embryos from the Phalanx. Joseph begins to flash back to the Holocaust as he reflects on the carnage the Phalanx have created. His powers begin to flare out of control, blowing the team’s cover. As the rest of the X-Men fight, the Beast finishes building a weapon that separates the organic portions from the Phalanx’s bodies. He unleashes the device, which shreds the Phalanx apart. Trish Tilby is ecstatic that the threat is over, but Gambit isn’t optimistic. Meanwhile, Senator Kelly expresses concerns over Operation: Zero Tolerance to Henry Gyrich.

Continuity Note: According to Gyrich, Congress hasn’t sanctioned Operation: Zero Tolerance, but Bastion “has people sympathetic to him inside the House, the Senate, and every other ruling party in the world”.

Review: The previous chapters of this storyline were able to coast quite a bit on Madureira’s artwork, but now we’re treated to an entire issue of Melvin Rubi’s terrible Jim Lee impression. The early ‘90s look had almost disappeared from the titles by the end of 1995, but many of the fill-in artists were returning to the early Image look by late 1996 (Coincidentally or not, Marvel had turned over four titles to Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld by this time. I think it’s possible that someone at Marvel made a conscious decision that this was the style of art the kids really wanted). I can live with a competent Jim Lee impersonator, but Rubi’s deformed faces and relentless crosshatching are just hard on the eyes. The story doesn’t do a lot to redeem the issue, either. The goals of the issue are apparently to pair Bishop and Deathbird together and to finish off the Phalanx. Both objectives are accomplished with no real excitement, and the Phalanx’s defeat is particularly annoying. After two full issues of fight scenes, the villains are defeated by a macguffin the Beast whips up in a few panels. The Phalanx were the major villains in a multi-part crossover a few years prior, and now they’re taken out with the press of a button. It’s extremely anticlimactic, and it’s one of the reasons why this storyline always felt like a giant waste of time.

6 comments:

Teebore said...

I do have to give props to the speech bubbles on the cover; when was the last time, prior to this issue, they appeared on an X-Men book? And was this perhaps the last time they appeared, as well?

Matt said...

I agree, Teebore! I distinctly remember being pleasantly surprised and pleased by the cover dialogue on this issue -- it was a great throwback!

Ostrakos said...

It's really interesting reading this blog. I dropped the X-titles around summer of 95 so I'm not really familiar with any of the stories you're covering. And in reading most of your reviews, that's probably a good thing. I hold the early 90s X-books as pretty dear to my heart, but more for nostalgia than actual quality, though it's hard to say that since I haven't read any of those comics in a very long time.

Nicholas said...

This may sound really really annoying but...

I think you meant "deux ex machina" not "macguffin"

G. Kendall said...

In the sense that it's a "plot device that advances the story", I'd call it a macguffin (although I guess it does more than advance the story, it ends it). Since Beast spends several pages working on the device, it doesn't totally come out of nowhere, so I'd be reluctant to call it deux ex machina.

Nicholas said...

I'd argue that it did come out of nowhere despite the fact that it was setup throughout the issue. As far as the X-Men were concerned the Phalanx were a major threat that nearly did them in the last time around in a long series of battles spanning several titles. Here they are disposed of in less than two issues despite being a supposedly more advanced iteration. I suppose that an argument can be made that the X-Men know how to deal with them now but still it's kind of a flimsy plot logic. The ease at which Beast's magic weapon disposes of them does kind of come out of nowhere in the face of continuity.

That plus it's a well known fact that the Hank Mccoys and Reed Richards of the Marvel Universe are commonly used as plot devices to devise... deux ex machinas (see the recent Secret Invasion). Considering the fact that Beast's invention disposes the whole Phalanx so neatly like some magic answer, and that Deux Ex Machina literally means "god in the machine," I'd see the label as an apt one.

I'd consider the machine more of a Macguffin if throughout the course of building the machine he had to send a teammate through a perilous quest to fetch a key part for it. Or if there was a long chase sequence ensuing that required them to put the machine on some inconveniently placed transmitter for it to work or something. Those would be cases of a Macguffin where the machine's arbitrary needs dictate and advance the flow of the story, the way the search for the diamonds do in Reservoir Dogs. Here though it mostly serves to write Beast out of the main conflict so that he can reappear later to neatly resolve it in the nick of time. Which comes of more like a Deux Ex Machina.

anyway my two cents...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...