Friday, May 1, 2009

UXM #353 - #354, March - April 1998

Uncanny X-Men #353


Credits: Steve Seagle (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Tim Townsend (inker), Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato (colors)

Summary: After having dreams where she absorbs Wolverine’s persona, Rogue begins to feel an urge to use her powers on her teammates. She tries to convince Joseph to let her touch him, in order to release his memories of his past, but he refuses. Meanwhile, Wolverine comes across Margaret Stone, a Board of Education inspector. She’s extremely suspicious of the school and places it on probation. Wolverine briefly rejoins the others for a picnic, but leaves after an altercation with Iceman. While napping, he’s attacked by a mystery figure. The team soon realizes the culprit is Sauron.

Continuity Notes: This issue is filled with tiny scenes that have nothing to do with the main story. Rogue claims that Wolverine has a son during her dream sequence, which might’ve tied into plans Seagle initially had for the Wolverine series (or Alpha Flight, because I think a character in that series was implied to be his son). Joseph falls over in pain after he rebuffs Rogue, declaring that “he is near!” Archangel questions what’s important in his life, and is angered at Psylocke for jumping off the roof and forcing him to save her (her melodramatic way of proving a point). Bishop, who is still stranded in space with Deathbird, has visions of killing Cyclops (no clue what this is about). While swimming in the pond, Iceman discovers an older model of the Blackbird that Forge hid years earlier (I assume this was done to give the team another mode of transportation). Finally, in Alaska, Phoenix telekinetically removes a mountain of snow, leaving a bird image on the ground.

Commercial Break: An insert promoting 1998 storylines hypes a Legacy Virus resolution in the X-books (didn’t happen), the fate of Graydon Creed’s killer in X-Factor #150 (didn’t happen), a new spinoff named only X-? #1 (don’t think this happened, unless they mean Mutant X), Captain America vs. Iron Man in issues #6 and #5 of their new series (didn’t happen, but I think this story might’ve become an annual), new titles such as Orleans and Endtime (no memory of these), a Blade series that might’ve happened, but it’s hard to keep track at this point, a Micronauts relaunch (nope), and new projects such as Marvel Sci-Fi, Seeker 300, Guardians, Killraven, and Excelsior Comics (nope again, although Alan Davis’ Killraven was eventually released, and Excelsior Comics morphed into the MC2 line).

Review: It’s hard to say much about this issue, since it’s largely a collection of setup scenes, many of which never paid off. It is nice to see the focus return to Rogue, who had been ignored in the months following UXM #350. Seagle seems to be going with the idea that after finally touching someone in Antarctica, she’s looking for excuses to do it again. That’s a reasonable direction to take, but it’s hard to pull off without making Rogue too unsympathetic. It’s one thing to give her dreams about absorbing Wolverine’s persona, but having her trying to trick Joseph into touching her is a bit of a stretch. At this stage, Seagle doesn’t have some of the characters down, as Archangel continues to act erratically and Wolverine tries to stab Iceman for throwing a snowball at him (which might’ve been in-character up until the early ‘80s, but felt out of place by the late ‘90s). Most of the storylines introduced do have promise, but I’ve never understood the point of the Board of Education inspector subplot. Since the X-Men weren’t really keeping the pretense of running a school anymore, I don’t see how getting placed on probation matters to them. They could just claim that they’re running a boarding house for adults, since all of the teenagers are gone. Generation X would’ve been a better series to try this idea, even though that title pretty firmly established that the characters are attending classes. Chris Bachalo debuts as regular artist, and his work meshes well with Tim Townsend’s thick inks. Some of the characters look too babyfaced, and there are a couple of storytelling issues, but overall it’s a nice job.

Uncanny X-Men #354


Credits: Steve Seagle (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Tim Townsend (inker), Comicraft (lettering), Steve Buccellato (colors)

Summary: The X-Men face Sauron, as Rogue runs to the mansion in tears. She discovers Joseph’s lifeless body and performs mouth-to-mouth. Marrow catches her, and accuses her of finding an excuse to touch someone again. The team eventually defeats Sauron, while Rogue hails a taxi and leaves. As she heads to Manhattan, she remembers coming across Wolverine’s unconscious body a few hours earlier and touching his skin.

Continuity Notes: Some of the alternating subplots are still continuing. Bishop is now suspicious of Deathbird, and wonders why she only teleported him away after the X-Men’s craft fell apart. The pair is then pulled into the gravity of a Death Star-esque planet. In Alaska, Cyclops is shocked to discover Jean wearing the original Phoenix costume. Why exactly Joseph collapsed isn’t explained, and I seem to recall that it never was.

Gimmicks: This issue also has an alternate cover with Phoenix in her new/old costume.

Review: This is mostly an all-fight issue, although Seagle tries to class it up a bit with a lengthy string of slightly pretentious narrative captions. The Sauron fight has its moments, but the ending is certainly rushed (one good blast from Jubilee, depicted in a tiny panel, is apparently enough to take him down). The Rogue subplot continues, as we now see her acting on her impulses and using her powers against her teammates. This might have worked if more time had been spent establishing her mental state post #350, but without the proper setup, it’s a more dubious characterization. The logistics of her using mouth-to-mouth to revive someone, when her powers automatically knock someone unconscious, are also suspect (I didn’t really buy it when the cartoon pulled that stunt, either).


kerry said...

I could be wrong, but I think "Endtime" was an aborted Warren Ellis project that was largely recycled in another project years later (part of his "Ultimate Galactus" trilogy of stories, maybe?).

Seangreyson said...

There was also a Guardians series that came out in 2001 or so (new characters, unconnected to main MU). Might have been the one mentioned.

What's also kind of funny about these issues is the number of plot lines mentioned that eventually did get used (even if not the way they meant): Wolverine's son and Bishop trying to kill Cyclops are the particular ones I noticed.

rob said...

I think Radius or Flex from Alpha (or both, since they were either brothers or half brothers) were implied to be Wolverine's son.

I do like #353 a lot, if only because the atmosphere and mood was so different than what we had been seeing in this title. A lot of this has to do with Bachalo's art. The smaller moments and scenes you mention work for me on this level, but it is annoying how many of them are dropped plots. I do like the character arc of Rogue, even if it makes her unsympathetic. The fact that she would be so desperate to touch is realistic and disturbing, and Seagle handled her character well.

#354 is less engaging because it is just a big fight scene and I don't love Sauron. The narration borders on hideous, as well. But I still love the art and some of the scenes, like Scott's shock at seeing Jean in the costume and Rogue leaving, are great.

Matt said...

Wow, I'm continually amazed at my total lack of memory of the contents of these issues. Up until Lobdell left, I still had vague recollections -- and I remember a lot of the Davis run, even though I only read it once, as it was coming out. But the Seagle/Kelly stuff has been wiped from my mind, except for small bits and pieces.

I always liked when they would occasionally use the variant "X-Men Unlimited" logo on the main X-books.

HardtravelingHero said...

X-51 Perhaps? Since X-Factor still had plans in the works, or maybe they moved Mutant X up in the publishing timeline?

As for "Endtime," I'll see if this comment makes it into Ellis' mailbox and see if he hopefully responds, which would be awesome.

HardtravelingHero said...

From the fingertips of Mr. Ellis hisself:

"From what I recall, I was working on a (non-X-Men) 12-issue
project called END TIMES for Marvel. It got abruptly shitcanned
during one of their crises of the period. In a later period, I
had the Ult.Gal thing dropped on me, and repurposed various
bits and pieces of the END TIMES work for it.

Hope that helps.

-- W"

That's as elaborate as it got, so I guess I'll have to read the Ultimate Galactus stuff to see how his ideas were worked into the story, rather than trouble him for more details.

ray swift said...

I didn't buy sauron as a threat.
I know he was a threat to the entire team in the past, but those seems like different times and different circumstances. His first fight was with the teenage first class, which hadn't developed their strength yet. In his second encounter with the X-men, against the second generation team, he used his Hypnotic power and Wolverine impolsivness to distract the other X-men after ambushing storm and later escaped.
This time it's like he is trying to attack the X-men head-on - and succeed, which doesn't make a lot of sense. He isn't even using his hypnotic power most of the time. He is able, without much effort, to sneak on Wolverine - of all people - and take him down, then shoot Storm with a freaking pistol. Last, he is taken down by Jubilee. Jubiliee!!!
I really hate the way they handle the power differences this time, as it seems there is no difference between senior and experienced X-man like Storm and these green screw-ups like Maggott.
I also hate the way they handling Storm in general. She was the most badass X-man in the Claremont run. Better even then wolverine. Then came the 90s... Sad. Truly sad.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...