Friday, March 13, 2009

X-MEN #62 – March 1997

Games of Deceit & Death
Credits: Scott Lobdell (plot), Ben Raab (script), Carlos Pacheco (penciler), Art Thibert (inker), Comicraft (lettering), Chris Lichtner & Liquid Color (colors)

Summary: In Scotland, Shang-Chi arrives at the home of his friend, British secret agent Clive Reston. He’s attacked at the front gates by the Si-Fan, ninjas he thought had disbanded after his criminal father’s death. Wolverine arrives as the fight winds down. He spars with Shang-Chi, but Storm and Cannonball stop the fight. The X-Men explain that they were contacted by Clive Reston, who is also Wolverine’s friend. Inside, Shang-Chi senses the presence of two others, Cyclops and Phoenix, who thought that they were masked by Phoenix’s telepathy. Clive Reston enters, and explains that Shang-Chi and the X-Men must work together to stop the Elixir Vitae from falling into the hands of Sebastian Shaw. Cyclops believes that Shaw wants to use the Elixir Vitae to create a cure for the Legacy Virus, which he will then exploit for his own purposes. The group leaves for Hong Kong, where they’re soon confronted by a group of armed ninjas.

Continuity Notes: The Elixir Vitae is described as a “near-mythical” potion. Looking online, it dates back to the original Master of Kung Fu series. Apparently, his father used it to extend his life span. Clive Reston is a supporting cast member from that title. He walks with leg braces now, which shocks Shang-Chi. Reston claims that since the death of Shang-Chi’s father, his criminal empire has been divided into the Sleep Dragon Clan, the Steel Lotus group, the Wild Tiger mob, and the Coiled Serpent syndicate. The leader of Coiled Serpent, Mao Liu-Cho, disappeared a few weeks ago.

The devolved version of Wolverine is back, even though his most recent appearances in the main titles and his own series had him in his human form.

I Love the ‘90s: Hong Kong is described as “months away” from returning to Chinese sovereignty, which happened on July 1, 1997.

Production Note: My copy of this issue has bright orange type on the cover, unlike the version I've seen online.

Review: This is the start of another unremarkable fill-in arc. I don’t remember it turning out as bad as the previous Candra story, but I remember thinking it was pretty dull. Some aspects of the story don’t make a lot of sense, which may or may not be related to the fact that Ben Raab is scripting over someone else’s plot. After Wolverine helps to scare off the ninjas, Shang-Chi repays him by kicking him in the face for no reason. A few pages later, Storm chides Wolverine for fighting someone who has “done nothing to provoke us” (huh?), and Wolverine explains that he’s attacking Shang-Chi because he thinks he can get some answers out of him (I thought it was because he was kicked in the face three pages earlier?). Cyclops and Phoenix are also hiding from Shang-Chi for no clear reason. The X-Men have already been in contact with Clive Reston, so why weren’t they told that Shang-Chi would be joining them on the mission? And why are they already inside when the rest of the team is just arriving? Who knows. Somewhere between the plot, art, and script, I suspect some of the details got mangled.

Marvel seemed to be going through a ‘70s nostalgia craze during this period, as Shang-Chi joined Howard the Duck, Devil Dinosaur, Satanna, and various other characters in their escape from limbo (judging from some of Tom Brevoort's comments, I’m assuming Bob Harras was the person behind a lot of this). The story seems to assume that the audience already knows who Shang-Chi is and thinks he’s really cool. I was sixteen at the time and had no idea who this guy was, or why he kept going on about his dad. I couldn’t have cared less about a “who would win?” fight between him and Wolverine. The dialogue is certainly filled with enough exposition, but it fails to explain little things like what the “Elixir Vitae” is supposed to be. If you’re already familiar with these characters, it probably is fun to see them again, but there’s not enough in the story to draw a new reader in (And I had been reading comics for almost ten years at this point, so I was hardly “new”. Shang-Chi really was in the depths of obscurity at the time). The art by Pacheco does redeem the issue somewhat, but it’s still an awkward start for the storyline.


Jeff said...

This is a story that really almost works, but not quite. It's fun and Pacheco's art is great as always, but you are right, some of the details don't jibe with what is happening. I think there were some scripting/plotting/art mix ups. That said, I think it's miles better than the Shiar stuff in the other title.

rob said...

I appreciated that both titles were being completely separated at this point in 97, but the stories running in both of them were so tepid at this point, and were succeeding on the strength of their artists. There's some more plot/script mix-ups and jumps in the next two issues too, and it doesn't help the story.

I remember only feeling like we should be excited about Shangi-Chi either from it being hyped up (in the letters page, bullpen page, or the back promo pieces, can't remember) or maybe Wizard. Beyond that, I didn't care at all about his father, the potion, etc.

Anonymous said...

This issue also had a variant cover with Wolverine and Storm on the cover.

wwk5d said...

One thing I do have to give credit for the post-Onslaught era was an effort to integrate the X-men within the Marvel Universe and make it feel like part of a larger line. Whether it came from up on high on Lobdell did it himself, it was nice to see the X-men step out of the mutant ghetto. Even if the stories themselves weren't all that great, it was nice to see JJ Jamison, Spider-man, Hercules, and Shangi-Chi (anyone else I missed?) interacting with the X-men.

Anonymous said...

The end of this storyline involves The Kingpin. Also I mentioned earlier Incredible Hulk #454-457 startin in June 97.
#454 - Hulk and Wolverine in the Savage Land.
#455 - Wolverine brings unconcious Hulk back to the X-Mansion, Hulk wakes up fights the X-Men. (Always loved this issue)
#456 - Apocalypse turns Hulk into one of his Horsemen, War Hulk.
#457 - War Hulk vs Juggernaut.

Great stuff, most of it drawn by Kupert.

Matt said...

I seem to remember liking these issues. I was about 17 at the time, but for some reason I did know who Shang-Chi was, even though I'd never read a comic with him in it. I don't think I realized that his mysterious father was Fu Manchu, though (Marvel had lost the rights to the Fu Manchu character many years earlier, and have never been able to refer to Shang's father by name since).

And I loved that the Kingpin turned out to be the big villain in the end! Didn't this story also further the Rory Campbell/Ahab storyline, too?

googum said...

Didn't Shang-Chi have huge tattoos in these issues? I'm not sure if they're still around or not.

Roberto Pulitano said...

According to Pacheco: Lobdell wrote him a story with Shang-Chi as a welcome present (Pacheco was the new regular penciler of the X-Men). Carlos and Lobdell got to talked about the serie and the Zero Tolerance plans were already on the table. But Lobdell asked Pacheco if he want it to draw something in particular before the big event, and Carlos talked about his love for Shang-Chi.

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