Wednesday, April 1, 2009

UNCANNY X-MEN #347 – September 1997

Big Night
Credits: Scott Lobdell (writer), Joe Madureira (breakdowns), Tim Townsend w/Cannon & Milgrom (finishes), Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato (colors)

Summary: Gambit is taken into custody by Spat and Grovel, two bounty hunters he betrayed in the past. Nearby, Beast and Trish Tilby emerge from the remains of their spacecraft. Three miles away, Joseph and Rogue investigate the alien environment. Joseph tries to attune his magnetic powers to the environment, and inadvertently exposes it as an illusion. Joseph discovers Landscape, who is working with Spat and Grovel. He admits that he created the illusion, but won’t say why. Soon, Joseph and Rogue meet up with Spat, Grovel, and Gambit inside a cave. Their reunion is interrupted by Magneto’s servant robot, Nanny. Meanwhile, Callisto asks Marrow to help the X-Men fight Zero Tolerance, while Maggott follows Joseph’s trail in South Carolina.

Continuity Notes: This is the debut of three characters that never really caught on, Spat, Grovel, and Landscape. They’re bounty hunters with a grudge against Gambit. Grovel is supposed to be the creature that snuck up on Gambit in the previous issue, even though he doesn’t resemble a zebra in any way (he's a giant reptile). Spat is a young girl who de-ages everyday, and blames Gambit for the problem. Gambit implies that something happened in Madagascar between them, but it’s not elaborated on (apparently, Fabian Nicieza eventually resolved at least some of this in a Gambit story on Marvel’s website). Landscape, who Gambit calls “Brett”, is a mutant who can create holographic landscapes. When he’s asked why he created the alien environment, he doesn’t have an answer.

A brief flashback shows that Marrow witnessed Angel being nailed to the wall during the Mutant Massacre storyline. She’s a child in the flashback, which fits in with the idea that she aged rapidly in the dimension the Morlocks were eventually sent to.

Review: This is the beginning of an odd stretch of issues that closes out Scott Lobdell’s run. I’ve never heard all of the details, but apparently there was some behind-the-scenes drama that caused these issues to turn out as a mess. The first hint of this shows up in the opening few pages, as the creature who confronts Gambit blatantly contradicts what we saw in the previous issue. The landscape is then revealed as a fake, as a new character is popped into the story to justify the new location. This creates two problems that aren’t addressed – why did Landscape create a fake environment in the first place (he says that he was ordered to but doesn’t know why), and since we soon find out that the location is actually Antarctica, why isn’t anyone the slightest bit chilly? On top of that, Nanny (not the one in the egg-suit, the original one that’s dressed like a maid) drops by on the final page, which sets the scene for Magneto’s nonsensical appearance in #350. It reads like someone was either making this all up on the fly, or was constantly second-guessing what was supposed to be happening. In addition to a main story that makes little sense, Lobdell also introduces more characters with mysterious connections to Gambit. Is it a prerequisite that every character Gambit meets has to make vague comments about his past, and then name the foreign locale where he did them wrong? It’s gotten ridiculous by now. Since things continue to devolve from here, it’s hard to be charitable at all with this issue.

5 comments:

Jeff said...

Landscape, Spat and Grovel: Lame villains or lamest villains?

Nicholas said...

You think those are the least of the problems? How about the fact that the whole thing hinges on a ridiculous coincidence that they managed to land in Antarctica after being torn apart in a wormhole.

So was Magneto just hiding in Antarctica with all these bounty hunters on the off chance that the X-Men would just fall from the sky literally. And besides that I mean why does he even care about putting Gambit through a trial? I mean honestly they never interacted that much anyway aside from a bit in X-Men 1 and 25 wouldn't Magneto have bigger fish to fry.

wwk5d said...

too bad the Lobdell run ends on such a low point...then again, with the exception of a few issues here and there, much of his post-AOA work is a low point. Not as bad as the Austin issues, but his pre-AOA stuff was much better, if you ask me. Then again, it's hard to know who the blame should fall on, Lobdell, or behind the scenes shenanigans...

rob said...

Yeah, post-AOA on this title (and X-Men) has been a bit of a mess. Some of the problems have to be behind the scenes (the Onslaught contradictions in its buildup, Dark Beast/Fatale), but Lobdell can't be completely blameless, since he's admitted to being a part of Onslaught being made up as it went along.

Matt said...

The problem with Onslaught was that Bob Harras dragged all the other Marvel titles and the Reborn reboot into the mix, forcing Scott to move at a faster pace than he intended for Onslaught. If it would have remained an X-Men event, it would have been a decent story, but it just got too big.

And Lobdell has admitted that Spat and Grovel were a gimmick. At the time, nearly every X-Men character was getting an action figure, so Lobdell asked mad to help him come up with some characters that would never make it into action figures, just as a joke. And sure enough, you can still find Spat and Grovel two-packs on-line - I shit you not.

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