Credits: Joe Kelly & Steve Seagle (writers), Chris Bachalo & Ryan Benjamin (pencilers), Tim Towsend/Scott Hanna/Jon Holdredge (inkers), Shannon Blanchard (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)
Summary: Government agent Henry Gyrich watches on with Senator Brickman as Rogue begins Dr. Agee’s cure for mutancy. Mystique, who disguised herself as Brickman’s wife, swaps places with Agee’s nurse and opens fire on him. Rogue saves his life, and takes Mystique away to talk. Mystique argues with Rogue against removing her powers, which leads to Rogue touching Mystique and absorbing her consciousness. Rogue tracks Dr. Agee to the Mutopia building, where Mystique’s presence in her mind forces her to fight the government agents. Rogue absorbs Dr. Agee’s memories and learns that the first mutant he tested the equipment on died, and that his sister was only briefly cured. Knowing that the government would eventually use it on mutants against their will, Rogue destroys Agee’s equipment.
Continuity Note: Phoenix reveals to Cyclops that she has lost her mental powers, and the couple decides to stay in Alaska as she recuperates. This is a reference to the “Psi-War” storyline in X-Men, which I think was supposed to remove every telepath’s power. This is likely an indication that “Psi-War” was supposed to be a larger event, because I definitely don’t remember any character (outside of Psylocke) losing their powers for long. And we now have Cyclops and Phoenix deciding to stay in Alaska, one issue after they abruptly decided to move. I have no idea what the point of this back and forth was supposed to be (I would assume some last minute editorial decisions have happened in-between issues).
Production Note: When Mystique reveals that Dr. Agee’s research is based on the power inhibitor Forge built for the government, the editorial caption reads, “Whatever you want to say – Mark”. I’m sure it was supposed to point us towards the back issues of UXM where this actually happened. There are also a couple of word balloons in this issue that are so poorly printed they’re hard to read. Plus, Dr. Agee’s word balloons are incorrectly pointing towards Mystique during the issue’s climax.
Review: With a questionable plot, rotating artists, and numerous production mistakes, this one feels like a rush job. It might’ve been more tolerable if Bachalo drew the entire issue, or if a more compatible artist had been paired with him. Dan Norton, the cartoony fill-in artist from a few issues ago would’ve been a nice fit, but instead Bachalo’s paired with Wildstorm artist Ryan Benjamin. His early Image look is so hopelessly out of place next to Bachalo’s art, you’ve got to wonder what they were thinking when they made this choice.
We’re starting to enter the editorially driven era of the Seagle/Kelly run, so the Rogue storyline that Seagle’s been toying with for months is quickly resolved so that another brave new direction for the X-Men can begin. Having Mystique appear and talk Rogue out of the procedure is a decent idea, but the delivery here is botched by horrid dialogue and nonsensical plotting. Instead of a believable mother/daughter conversation between Mystique and Rogue, we’re saddled with lines like “Come with me…or perish,” “Don’t try to divert me from my rage, Rogue,” and “Has the momentary promise of your forbidden fruit freed you of your faculties?” A cameo by Alpha Flight’s Shaman (as the doctor examining Phoenix) also brings us this gem, “I no longer use the medicine magic of my people to serve Canada as the hero Shaman, but it was Alpha Flight that brought me to Anchorage.” Both Seagle and Kelly are credited with writing this issue, but I don’t recall such stilted dialogue from either writer in the past.
The actual plotting of the story is as shaky as the dialogue. For some reason, Rogue decides to touch Mystique during their conversation (I guess to validate her claims that the government is behind Agee’s research, although that’s not made clear), which leads to Mystique taking command of Rogue’s body a few pages later. This goes beyond a simple continuity mistake, it’s an outright misunderstanding of how her powers work. Making matters worse, Mystique soon reappears, claiming that Rogue didn’t absorb “enough” of her. So she has enough of Mystique’s consciousness that it overtakes her mind, but not enough to knock Mystique out for more than a few seconds? The story also can’t seem to decide if Dr. Agee’s sister is alive or dead. Agee claims that he “owed the machine’s perfection to her memory” right after Rogue absorbs his memories. This is odd enough, since she isn’t the character that died during his flashback. Two pages later, Rogue tells Agee to leave and take care of his sister. So, I guess she isn’t dead. The sister line is used to justify why Agee won’t rebuild his machine, which assumes that the reader buys into the idea that he’ll be so preoccupied with his sister he’ll lose all interest in his research. It’s a copout ending, and it also makes Rogue pretty callous for not seeking justice for the mutant who died when Agee first tried his treatment. (This reminds me that two skeletons are shown in the flashback to this character’s death. Why?) This is really a mess all around, and a clear sign that something odd was happening behind the scenes.
Little Morlock Lost
Credits: Joe Kelly (writer), German Garcia (penciler), Holdredge/Mendoza/Alquiza (inkers), Liquid! (colors), Comicraft (letters)
Summary: Callisto enters the X-Men’s mansion, telling Marrow that she needs to stay with the team. Soon, Marrow overhears Cannonball’s plans to go back home, which pushes her over the edge. She races into the city, terrorizing the humans she comes across. Storm, Callisto, and Cannonball track her to Battery Park. Marrow encounters two police officers she put in the hospital months earlier. When they tell their story, Marrow realizes that she has behaved like a monster and apologizes. Storm makes peace with Marrow, as a shadowy figure watches on.
Continuity Notes: The shadowy figure is the same one who’s been looking over Callisto (for ominous reasons) in the previous issues. He claims that he has plans for Marrow, and at the story’s end, says that leaving the X-Men as her only family was his plan all along. It’s widely believed that the mystery figure was supposed to be the Dark Beast, although I don’t know if Kelly ever confirmed it, or if his specific plan was ever revealed.
The stage is being set for next issue’s overhaul of the team. Beast suggests Maggott join the Generation X team (which never happened), and Cannonball receives word that his mother is sick and needs his help.
The two policemen in this issue are supposed to be the ones Marrow knocked out in the opening pages of X-Men #68. These weren’t Prime Sentinels, as it’s emphasized in this issue that they were normal cops doing their jobs.
Review: It’s been widely accepted over the years that the September issues were the last “real” ones of the Seagle/Kelly era. Beginning next month, Excalibur is cancelled and Shadowcat, Colossus, and Nightcrawler join the team. The amount of internal logic in the stories takes a nosedive, as it becomes increasingly obvious that events are happening because the editors just want them to happen. Marrow is the only new member allowed to stay, which might explain why this is an entire issue dedicated to reassuring her place on the team. Marvel is still taking an odd approach to her past continuity, as the two cops she knocked out in a brief scene during the “Zero Tolerance” crossover are brought back to inspire some guilt and repentance. Marrow committed much larger sins than this during her early appearances, but these have been mostly ignored since she was forced on to the team. If you’re willing to go along with the whitewashing of her past, this is an acceptable story about Marrow finally embracing her role as an X-Man. I never bought the selective use of her backstory, though, and still feel as if Maggott or Reyes would’ve been more suitable members.