Monday, May 25, 2009

UXM #359 & X-MEN #79 – September 1998

Uncanny X-Men #359

Power Play

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.

X-Men #79

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.


Matt said...

I think Maggott does show up for an issue of Larry Hama's Generation X, doesn't he? And then he decides not to stay after all? Or am I mis-remembering something?

For whatever reason, the pseudo-ret-conning of Marrow's past never bothered me that much. I figured the X-Men had also taken in Rogue and Wolverine, and although neither of them had been as "evil" as Marrow, they both had some skeletons in their closests. I would've been far more upset if Sabretooth had become an X-Man as editorial had planned earlier in the 90's, just as I was miffed that Mystique joined the team during Peter Milligan's run a few years ago. I'm not sure why I give her a free pass, but I just do.

Actually, what bothered me most about Marrow as an X-Man was the fact that when she became a "good guy," she also became more attractive for some reason... And this is only the halfway point! By the end of Alan Davis's run, she looks completely different from her original appearances!

Morgan said...

Yes, Maggot does appear in one issue of Gen X, and just like you remember he decides not to stay. I dont remember him ever showing up after that.

I never had a problem with Marrow joining the team. Seems the theme of the 90s was second chances.

Everyone harps on Marrow for being a killer, yet we had Magento join the team previously for years. Sure Joseph turned out to be a clone but at this point we the reader did not know that.

Magneto was way worse then Marrow ever was.

I actually liked Marrows change and was hoping she would become Gambits "Jubilee" sidekick.
Never happened.

G. Kendall said...

I might be wrong, but I think the Gen X issue Maggott appeared in was a year or so later, during the Jay Faerber run.

I can actually buy Joseph as an X-Man, since he had no memories of his time as Magneto, and the X-Men had no way of knowing if he truly was Magneto or not (due to the mysterious de-aging).

rob said...

#359 is a disappointment, really brought down by the inconsistant art and the fact that an ending has to be rushed for next month's revamp.

I have always had a soft spot for #79, though. Garcia does a great job, there's some strong Callisto/Storm interaction, and I buy the relationship between Cannonball and Marrow. I would really have preferred Cecilia to stick around, but an issue like this does make Marrow work for me.

Matt said...

"I can actually buy Joseph as an X-Man, since he had no memories of his time as Magneto, and the X-Men had no way of knowing if he truly was Magneto or not (due to the mysterious de-aging)."

Yeah, but what about when the real, honest-to-goodness, Cape Citadel-hijacking, Brotherhood-leading, Russian-sub-sinking Magneto ran the school back in the 80s?!? Not one of Chris Claremont's finer ideas, in my opinion, and it does speak to the fact that if they'd leave a murderer like Magnus in charge of the next generation of mutants, they'd probably not mind a murderer like Marrow (who is one of the next generation) on the team.

G. Kendall said...

Except that these were issues that were directly dealt with in the actual stories, as opposed to Marrow's past, which Marvel can't seem to decide involves killing or not.
Magneto was willing to stand trial for his crimes, an idea that's never even been discussed regarding Marrow. (And the only time he had been shown actually killing was when he struck back at a Russian sub that attacked him. Admittedly, he did provoke them, but I wonder if Claremont wrote that scene so that Magneto could have some on-panel deaths to angst over). Plus, there's been some "his powers drive him crazy" business that's been tacked on to make him more palatable as an ally.

wwk5d said...

I have to agree with G. Kendall. The Magneto redemption arc by Claremont was some of the best work ever done with the character, mainly because Magento's past was acknowledged and dealt with, by him and the others. With Marrow, her past was either glossed over or the creators/characters flip-flopped over her past.

As for him ending up being the headmaster of the school, I was ok with that, since (initially) the rest of the X-men were there to keep an eye on him until "Fall of the Mutants"...

Matt said...

Yes, I suppose your points are valid. I still think it was a strange and unnecessary direction to take the character, though. I have no problem with Magneto as a noble villain, but as a full-fledged "good guy," he just rubbed me the wrong way.

Plus, I hated his X-Men costume... That short-sleeved purple thing with the giant "M" on the chest? Really??

But either way, I had no problem with Marrow as an X-Man. Though, who knows -- as with a lot of this stuff, if I read it today, I might have a different opinion.

Morgan said...

Didnt Magneto kill hundreds of thousands of people in X-Men #25?
He sets off an EM Pulse shutting down all power on Earth. Wouldnt those on life support, flying in planes even some driving cars all be dead?

I always saw it that way, even though they never tell you these people die.

Then his next appearance Uncanny #303? Illyanas funeral he kills Senyaka for no good reason. I know Senyaka comes back some issues later, but Magneto sure thought he was dead.

Also, didnt Magneto murder the guy who created the Eric Lensher name?

I never read comics in the 80s as I started right before X-Men #1 so I never knew the reformed "nice" Magneto.

I just knew him as a crazed mutant who would do anything to get his way, even murder.

G. Kendall said...

Magneto began killing like crazy in his post-reformation days in the '90s. At the time of his reformation, though, I'm pretty sure his only victims were the Russian sub crew who launched missiles at him.

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