Friday, May 8, 2009

X-MEN #74 – #75, April - May 1998

X-Men #74


Credits: Joe Kelly (writer), Carlos Pacheco (penciler), Art Thibert (inker), Comicraft (lettering), Chris Lichtner & Aron Lusen (colors)

Summary: Archangel revisits the scene of the Morlock Massacre, as Marrow attends to the wounded Callisto nearby. Archangel is attacked by the Abomination, who is now living in the sewers. Marrow, who has idolized Archangel since she was a child, helps him defeat Abomination. Meanwhile in Salem Center, Wolverine investigates a series of murders which might’ve been committed by Maggott’s slugs. He’s attacked from behind, and awakens with a scar on his chest. Maggott is standing nearby, asking forgiveness.

Continuity Notes: A mystery man is helping to keep Callisto alive. The implication is that it’s the Dark Beast, but this is another dropped plot.

The X-Men’s favorite tavern, Harry’s Hideaway, makes an odd appearance. It’s now a 50's-style burger joint that’s way off-model from its previous appearances. Harry himself is also off-model, and doesn’t know that Wolverine is a mutant, which contradicts hints Claremont dropped that he was in on the X-Men’s secret.

Wolverine presents the local authorities with a detective’s badge that reads “Jim Logan”. Years later, James was revealed as his real first name, but I refuse to give Bill Jemas and company credit for researching back issues and referencing this one.

Review: Marrow receives her softest portrayal yet, as Kelly picks up on the revelation that she witnessed Archangel’s mutilation during the Morlock Massacre and reveals that she actually idolizes him with a religious fervor. He takes the idea too far by having her pray “to he who was crucified and reborn”, but I can see where he’s going with it. It’s conceivable that a young Marrow, before growing up in a Darwinist alternate dimension, would’ve been enthralled by the sight of an angel and held on to it over the years. It gives her a connection with at least one of the X-Men, and presents a side of her personality outside of “horrifically nasty”. The fight with Abomination is just an excuse to give the two characters something to do together, but it’s excellently delivered by Pacheco, who has been producing solid work throughout this run. The tease for the next issue involving Wolverine and Maggott is also interesting, playing off the fact that Maggott is still a total mystery and might be capable of anything.

X-Men #75

Anatomy of a Monster

Credits: Joe Kelly (writer), German Garcia (penciler), Art Thibert w/Panosian, Hanna, & Holdredge (inkers), Digital Chameleon (colors), Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Wolverine discerns that Maggott’s slugs weren’t responsible for the murders in Salem Center and heads for the N’Garai cairn near the mansion. He’s joined by Beast, Marrow, and Cecilia Reyes, while the rest of the team tracks down a distraught Maggott. After finding him, they’re suddenly teleported to the Ukraine. They enter the nearby N’Garai cairn and are reunited with the rest of the X-Men inside the N’Garai’s dimension. They soon learn that the murders were actually committed by Pilgrimm, a member of the N’Garai’s former slave caste, the Ru’Tai. The race is powered by the Eye of Kierokk, which Reyes manages to accidentally destroy. The X-Men rescue the Ru’Tai’s human captives and return to Earth. Pilgrimm, however, disguises himself as a human and escapes.

Continuity Notes: When Rogue tries to defend Marrow’s place on the team by mentioning her own criminal past, Storm responds, “You never took a life”. So I guess the X-Men do know that Marrow’s a murderer, which again makes me wonder why they haven’t placed her in custody.

The Ru’Tai were inspired to revolt against the N’Garai after witnessing Wolverine’s slaughter of the N’Garai months earlier. It’s not outright stated, but I assume this is a reference to the Wolverine ’95 annual. The Ru’Tai have labeled Wolverine the “Mai’Keth” and idolize him, although they doubt that he is the Mai’Keth when he stops fighting and berates himself for inadvertently causing the murders in Salem Center. Pilgrimm has been dissecting people because he was given the task of “study(ing) humans for enlightenment”.

Review: This one doesn’t entirely work, but it has its moments. Apparently, Carlos Pacheco is gone by this point (he signs his cover with “see you”), leading German Garcia to come in with a fill-in that the letters column admits was a last minute job. I recall disliking his work as a teenager, but I don’t see any real faults with it today. His work here somehow manages to merge John Romita, Jr. with Mike Wieringo, and while it probably suffers from having to work too many panels into most of the pages, it’s not bad at all. The plot is an entertaining action story with some nice character moments, but it doesn’t exactly work as a resolution to the ongoing storyline. There’s no explanation for why exactly Maggott’s slugs are so attracted to the Ru’Tai, or why they were abandoning Maggott over the past few days (perhaps because they were drawn to the Ru’Tai’s presence in Salem Center, but it’s not confirmed in the issue). And if the Ru’Tai are supposed to worship Wolverine as an idol, it doesn’t make sense for Pilgrimm to have attacked him in the previous issue. I also have no idea why half of the team was transported to the Ukraine, unless this somehow ties into a connection between Maggott and the Ru’Tai. It’s the characterizations that save the issue, as Kelly is able to keep the cast members distinct and maintain sharp dialogue throughout the story. The bits of comedy thrown in, such as Cecilia Reyes getting stuck in one of the Wasp’s old costumes that the Beast borrowed, also keep things fun.


Jeff said...

I really like German Garcia's art in the next few issues. It isn't a million miles off from Pacheco's style and fits nicely with the tone of the book. Thanks to this blog I know what the references to that Wolverine annual were about now, too, which confused me on first reading.

rob said...

Kelly tries to go for big emotional moments in #74, and while I like it, it's never quite clicked with me. I'll give him credit for strong portrayals of Marrow and Archangel, though. I do love the stuff with Wolverine playing detective, though.

I don't care for the N'Gari stuff in issue #75, but as you mentioned, the character interactions in this particular group of X-Men are excellent. Kelly really excelled with this group. Garcia's work also reminded me of Romita jr's first run on Uncanny, and I think he really helped the tone of the book Kelly was going for.

Matt said...

Where did Carlos Pacheco go after X-Men? Was this before or after Avengers Forever (I'm thinking before)? Or maybe this was when he went to Fantastic Four. His run seems a lot shorter in retrospect than I had thought it was -- probably because (unless I'm mistaken) he still popped up on covers now and then (like the --shudder-- "evil Cerebro" arc with the return of Kitty, Nightcrawler and Colossus). It's too bad he left so soon -- his art was a perfect fit for the X-Men! But then again, he seems to be a perfect fit for pretty much anything he draws...

Also, I didn't recall Archangel wearing his red Angel costume so much back when he was blue! I thought he stuck almost exclusively to the blue one during this era. Personally, I've always thought the blue one looks best on him when he has blue skin, and the red looks best when he's caucasian.

Paul G. said...

Matt, aside from some odd work here and there (those X-Men covers, the 1998 Avengers annual), Pacheco's next work was indeed on Avengers Forever later that year.

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