Wednesday, March 18, 2009

X-MEN #64 – May 1997

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

Summary: The Kingpin unveils Cannonball as his captive. He demands the X-Men tell him who sent them, or else Cannonball will be injected with the untested cure for the Legacy Virus. Cyclops promises to leave Kingpin alone, provided he releases Cannonball and the Elixir Vitae. Kingpin releases Cannonball, but continues to taunt the team with the possibility that he’s cured the Legacy Virus. Sebastian Shaw suddenly enters and threatens the Kingpin. Kingpin calls in the Si-Fan Ninjas for protection. Storm ends the standoff, declaring that Kingpin would rather destroy the Elixir Vitae than ever give it up. She creates a lightning storm, which eradicates the Elixir Vitae. As the team flies back to America, they’re suddenly attacked by Operation: Zero Tolerance.

Review: The previous two issues of this storyline were tolerable, assuming you didn’t think about the plot too much and skipped over the dull exposition. The conclusion, however, is a total mess. A major plot point in the issue involves Kingpin holding on to the Elixir Vitae vials as he taunts the team. This overlooks the fact that one of the team members is telekinetic, and could easily snatch the elixir away from him. The story acknowledges Phoenix’s TK a few pages earlier, as she protects Cannonball’s body from the needle with the Legacy Virus cure, which makes the sloppy ending even more ridiculous. Having Storm create a lightning storm to destroy the elixir also raises the question of why she didn’t just generate a gust of wind to blow it back into her hands. And, really, does anyone believe the X-Men couldn’t have just physically taken the vials from Kingpin even if Storm and Phoenix weren’t there?

Some of the other weak plot points could probably be explained by disconnects between the plot and script. The previous issue never did explain why exactly the X-Men invaded the Fujikawa building, which is something the Kingpin wants to know in this issue. It’s implied that Sebastian Shaw told them about the Kingpin’s research (I guess during their largely off-panel conversation in the previous issue), which doesn’t work since Cannonball was already sneaking into the Fujikawa building before the X-Men met up with Shaw. It’s possible that they learned about Fujikawa’s involvement when Clive Reston sent them on the mission in the first chapter of this storyline, but it’s never explained in the actual story. There’s also the question of why the Kingpin was sending ninjas to kill Shang-Chi, and later the X-Men, in the first place. Did he already know about their mission? If so, how? And why was he delivering a monologue in the first chapter about the importance of keeping Hong Kong independent of China? I’d also like to know why the first chapter of the storyline provided a list of the various crime families in Asia, and made a point of mentioning that one of the leaders has been missing for weeks. I assume it ties into the idea that the Kingpin has been making his mark in the Asian underworld, but it would’ve been nice to see the plot points actually connect.

Once the story is over, you’re also left wondering why exactly Shang-Chi got dragged into this. I get the connection between his father’s magic elixir and the Legacy Virus, which is a fine start for the story, but by the time you get to the final issue, he’s left with literally nothing to do. He stands around in the background for the entire issue, never contributes to the action, and finally delivers a token “the heroes will find a solution…their way” monologue to the villains at the end. He then exits the story off-panel, leaving only Cannonball to reflect on one of his pearls of Asian wisdom about the nature of evil. The last three pages then shift into a setup for the next crossover, confirming that the last seven or eight issues of this series have only been filler between crossovers. It’s hard not to feel cheated.


Jeff said...

What's funny is there is a kernel of a good story here. I think a story featuring Kingpin and Sebastian Shaw fighting over a cure for the legacy virus with Shang-Chi thrown in has the potential to be a lot of fun. This one just doesn't come together though, they really dropped the ball. Looks great though.

Anonymous said...

I bought this as a back issue earlier this year and thought it was funny that in the end the answer to the question on the cover: "Must an X-Man die to cure the Legacy Virus?" eventually turned out to be "Yes".

Seangreyson said...

I was just about to make the same joke about the Legacy Virus.

Of course in classic comic book fashion, neither Colossus nor the Legacy Virus were actually destroyed in that eventual story.

As a secondary note, how do you suppose Beast or Moira reacted when they heard that Storm had destroyed a possible cure for the Legacy Virus without even trying to preserve it.

rob said...

Wow, I knew there were a lot of plot holes to this three-parter, but reading this altogether makes this almost seem as bad as the Bishop-Fatale disaster from a year earlier (almost). They may have been pumping us with filler between crossovers, but at least the next issue's a good one.

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