Friday, April 17, 2009

X-MEN #70 - December 1997

Credits: Joe Kelly (writer), Carlos Pacheco (penciler), Art Thibert w/John Dell (inkers), Comicraft (lettering), Chris Lichtner, Aaron Lusen, & Liquid! (colors)

Summary: Iceman, Marrow, and Cecilia Reyes arrive at the X-Men’s mansion. They’re shocked to discover that Bastion has stripped it bare. Soon, Storm, Cannonball, Wolverine, and Phoenix arrive with Cyclops, who is infected with a nanotech bomb. They hoped to treat him in their medi-lab, but all of the equipment is gone. Reyes prepares for a makeshift surgery on Cyclops, ordering Cannonball to obtain medical supplies from town, while Phoenix uses her telekinetic powers to keep Cyclops’ chest together. Without a scalpel, Wolverine’s claw acts as a blade. The doorbell suddenly rings, and Storm is shocked to discover Juggernaut and his attorney. With Professor Xavier incapacitated, Juggernaut claims that he now controls his stepbrother’s fortune. When Storm annoys him, Juggernaut rushes through the door, looking for a fight. At that moment, Rogue’s team of X-Men returns from Antarctica. Maggott threatens Juggernaut with his slugs, which causes Juggernaut to walk away in laughter, claiming that the X-Men will soon self-destruct anyway. When Reyes needs more precise tools to stop the nano-bomb from growing within Cyclops, Marrow rips off two of her bones for Reyes to use. Reyes removes the bomb, and Maggott orders his slugs to eat it. Later, as Cyclops recovers, he contemplates with Phoenix the future of the X-Men.

Continuity Note: Jubilee has disappeared in-between issues with no explanation. She was with Cyclops’ team in the previous Wolverine issues, and in their one-page cameo in UXM #350. This type of editorial oversight used to drive me mad. (Psylocke and Archangel are also missing from Rogue’s team, but I think this is addressed later.)

Juggernaut claims that he is Xavier’s half-brother, which isn’t true (no matter how many times writers screw this up). Juggernaut is Xavier’s stepbrother, and I question the idea that he would have legal authority over Xavier’s affairs, or that being incarcerated would require someone else to look after Xavier’s money (Xavier isn’t officially under arrest anyway).

Miscellaneous Note: According to the Statement of Ownership, average sales for the year were 303,708 copies with the most recent issue selling 258,151.

Review: This is the beginning of Joe Kelly’s brief run, which I recall enjoying back when it was published. Kelly was discovered as a part of a writing program Marvel started with NYU, and had been writing the monthly Deadpool series for a few months by this time (Augie De Blieck recently took a look back at the series in his Pipeline column). Placing him on X-Men wasn’t an obvious choice, which is something I recall every Wizard interview with Kelly emphasizing at the time. He seemed to be a young, enthusiastic guy who was excited about writing the X-Men, which is a feeling that was reflected in his work. This really is an entire issue about the X-Men performing an impromptu surgery, which doesn’t seem to be enough to fill a double-sized issue, but the character interactions and Kelly’s sharp dialogue help to sell the idea. Kelly structures the story so that we still see Storm’s reaction to Marrow, Juggernaut’s response to Maggott, and Wolverine calling out Trish Tilby for exposing the Legacy Virus months earlier. There are over a dozen characters here, but they’re given just enough room to showcase their personalities and not behave like generic ciphers.

As for the brave new direction of the book, however, I never bought it. Lobdell’s plan was for the team to live on the lam, without the mansion, Blackbird, or Shi’ar technology. Instead, what we get is the X-Men returning to an empty house. The story tries to sell this as a horrific sight, but it doesn’t hold up to a lot of scrutiny. Forcing the team to deal with Cyclops’ condition without medical equipment is a smart idea, but you can only do so many stories with this setup. All the X-Men have to do is call their associates on Muir Island (which is the setting of the spinoff title Excalibur, of course) and ask for replacement equipment. Eventually, I think this turned out to be the off-panel resolution, but it certainly took the characters enough time to actually do it. As for Kelly’s run as a whole, it’s filled with unresolved mysteries and subplots that were quickly dropped as soon as he left. He also spends a lot of time selling Maggott, Marrow, and Reyes as the new X-Men, which makes for odd reading in retrospect when you know how quickly Marvel dismissed the characters. This seems to be one of the more popular X-runs, though, so it should be interesting to look back on it.


wwk5d said...

I'm not sure if this should be called one of the more popular runs. It's become a retroactive cult hit on the internet, for sure. For the record, I had stopped buying the X-men titles on a regular basis post Onslaught, and this run didn't do much to bring me back as a full time reader (I wouldn't be back full time until Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Colossus rejoined the team). Looking back, the Kelly issues hold up better as a whole more so than the Seagle issues. Maybe the fact that this was such a brief run in which 90% of what happens gets ignored after that makes not consider a classic run...still, it's enjoyable, and Kelly does do a decent job overall.

Mike Loughlin said...

I really liked the Kelly run, particularly his character work on the new X-Men. He made me like Marrow, an almost impossible feat. In fact, I remember the character moments (Maggott's attitude, Cecelia's interactions with Beast & Wolverine, Marrow's crush on Cannonball and his mature handling of the situation) more than the plots or action. Pacheco is a good artist, but I'm not sure his style fit the material; facial expressions and body language were a bit stiff. I wish Alan Davis had been Kelly's collaborator on more than one issue. Their Magneto story was one of my favorites.

Aqualad said...

The problem with the Kelly and Seagle runs is that they set up tons of stuff that, for whatever reason, never happened.

The Kelly run had great character work with the new X-Men. Maggot, Marrow, Celia Reyes, Joseph are all nostalgic favorites of mine, even though they are all MIA nowadays.

Jeff said...

Another person who really liked the Kelly run. Moreso when I read it recently. Marvel really squandered a lot when they cut him loose. I also love that Kelly/Davis Magneto issue. Easily one of the best issues of the 90s.

Teebore said...

Yeah, I definitely agree that the Kelly run is good though undercut by his departure and the subsequent abandonment of everything he was setting up.

This type of editorial oversight used to drive me mad.Still drives me mad. It's the kind of continuity that really does matter, always.

Matt said...

I don't remember the Kelly/Seagle era at all (except for the incomprehensible Bachalo artwork on Uncanny), so I'm greatly looking forward to upcoming reviews (for as long as they last, anyway)...

ray swift said...

Well, this issue was sure a lot longer then it should'v have. And I mean a LOT.
As for the new X-men: At first I liked the direction of Reyes. I thought she was down to the ground woman in a world of superheroes, which is interesting and a subject that rarely is dealt with in comics. Her reaction to the sentinels attack was very realistic and I liked it. But then the sentinels left and she just happened to be a b*tch in general, always whining and being jerk to everyone all the time.
Then there is Marrow who happen to be a murderous psychopath (I totally agree with Storm in that issue: What Bobby was thinking to himself?!), and Maggott who seems like a total nut-head.

I hope the next issues will be better.

And where is Sabra? What a waste, introducing a character and then just letting her go off-panel.

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