Friday, June 5, 2009

UXM #364 & X-MEN # 84, January - February 1999

Uncanny X-Men #364

Escape From Alcatraz

Credits: Steve Seagle (plot), Ralph Macchio (script), Lenil Francis Yu (penciler), Tim Townsend & Edgar Tadeo (inkers), Liquid! Graphics (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: In Florida, the animated Cerebro that impersonated Professor Xavier destroys its headquarters and flies away. In Alcatraz, the X-Men and Brotherhood continue to fight the Cerebro unit that Xavier calls “Cerebrite Beta”. During the fight, Toad, Mimic, and Shadowcat are blasted by Cerebrite Beta and disappear. Xavier senses that they aren’t dead, so the remaining X-Men are intentionally hit by Cerebrite’s ray in order to investigate. Nightcrawler, who was separated from the team, witnesses the incident and assumes his teammates are dead. He flees in their jet and heads for Tajikistan.

Continuity Notes: The Cerebro unit in Florida reveals (while talking to itself, conveniently enough) that the imposter X-Men from a few issues ago were a “holographic creation…based on existing profiles written by Professor Xavier.” I’m not sure if a more specific origin is given later, but the idea is that Cerebro mixed and matched info on various mutants in order to create new X-Men. However, that doesn’t explain the opening scenes of UXM #360 that had Xavier recruiting each member in real life.

The Cerebro unit (or Cerebrite Beta, as I guess it’s now known) in San Francisco is no longer drawn as a robot, which is how it appeared in the last issue and on this issue’s cover. It now resembles the energy form of the Cerebro unit fighting the other team in X-Men. A less obvious design change comes from Professor Xavier, who suddenly goes from a red jumpsuit to a tucked-in dress shirt and black pants for one page.

Production Note: An uncredited artist draws the last six pages of the story. Some of the pages resemble Pascual Ferry’s work, which is likely since he also works on the next chapter in X-Men.

Review: And now the crossover goes from dull to atrocious. Judging by the cover dates, this crossover was shipped bi-weekly during the final chapters, which would help to explain why this comes across as such a rushed mess. Lenil Francis Yu arrives as the fill-in artist, turning in a job that starts off fine but deteriorates as the issue goes on. Whenever Yu penciled one of the main X-team books during this era, his work seemed to suffer. This one is particularly rough, which I’m sure had something to do with deadline issues. Ralph Macchio shows up for another random fill-in job, turning in a script that mostly consists of characters talking to themselves, describing their powers, and reciting the storyline so far. When they’re not repeating info that’s on the recap page, the characters have lines like, “Ugh! It’s enough to make me puke the way you upworlders fall all over yourselves like the Knights of the Round Table trying to prop up a stricken King Arthur!”

Even if the dialogue were tolerable, there’s only so much you can do with the thin plot. It’s twenty-two pages of Cerebrite Beta fighting the X-Men and Brotherhood, when they’re not busy arguing over who gets to leave with Xavier. You’d think that Xavier would have something to say about this, except that he only speaks in this issue when he has some exposition to spit out. It’s honestly hard to tell if he’s supposed to be unconscious during certain scenes, or if Macchio just didn’t want to give him anything to say. (He’s often drawn with his eyes closed and mouth open, but that doesn’t stop him from speaking a few times.) The action scenes might’ve saved this, but since every page is covered in bland exposition and Yu’s art suffers whenever multiple characters appear, the fight is just boring. This one really is terrible.

X-Men #84

Dream’s End!

Credits: Joe Kelly (writer), Adam Kubert & Pascual Ferry (pencilers), Matt Banning & Pascual Ferry (inkers), Richard Isanove & Monica Kubina (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Nightcrawler rescues the remaining X-Men in Tajikistan and uses the Aurora jet’s tracking system to find Xavier and the others. As Cerebro is explaining its plan to create peace by “cataloging” humans, the X-Men arrive. Convinced that he needs to use his telepathy to connect with Cerebro, Xavier asks Nina to reactivate his telepathic powers. Xavier connects Cerebro with every human mind on earth, revealing the uniqueness of the human race. Cerebro realizes the error of its ways and dissipates. Reunited, the X-Men return home.

Continuity Notes: The Aurora jet is the vehicle used by Cerebro’s imposter X-Men in UXM #360 and X-Men #80. The real X-Men confiscated it at the end of the storyline.

It’s revealed that by “cataloging” people, Cerebro is placing them inside a cocoon. Cerebro claims that it was created when Bastion attempted to download its files. A failsafe sent its central programming “into a secondary vessel”, which somehow lead to it becoming a sentient being after it passed through Bastion’s “complicated neural network”.

Review: And again, the X-Men chapter is more enjoyable than the UXM installment. Kelly’s script still has some personality, and Kubert’s art is up to his usual standards. Pascual Ferry’s half of the issue looks a little rushed in comparison, but it’s not bad either. The crossover finally ends, as Xavier has his powers restored and is reunited with the team. I wonder if that was always supposed to be Nina’s role, and if she was an editorial creation in the first place (it seems unlikely Larry Hama would’ve created such an enigmatic character for the purposes of a one-shot comic). Overall, it’s not a very satisfactory conclusion, but it has its moments. I think the major problem is Cerebro, who just isn’t an interesting villain, personality-wise or from a design sense. After introducing the idea of Cerebro as a villain, it seems as if the storytellers didn’t know where to go with it, as details of Cerebro’s plan are inconsistent from chapter to chapter, and the storyline ends with him getting the warm fuzzies and disappearing. It’s never very clear why he was kidnapping mutants in the first place, or why he abandoned some (like the X-Men in Tajikistan), but ruthlessly pursued others (like Pyro in the first chapter). This might’ve worked better if the storyline were cut in half, but reading issue after issue with such a dull villain becomes a chore.


Jeff said...

I always thought it seemed like they had kind of a neat idea here. I liked Cerebro coming alive and cataloging mutants by kidnapping them, but the execution is not the greatest. And Nina is kind of annoying.

Anonymous said...

my knowledge of X-Men history is a bit hazy for these years... how does this incarnation of cerebro tie into the later revalation that the Xavier's machine was actually an enslaved alien?(?)

jimmy conde said...

can't wait for alan davis' run to begin... everytime i visit my parents, i pull a few comics out my old collection. i didn't realize it at first, but i pulled out X-Men/Clandestine, the first few issues of the 'Heroes Return' FF, and an X-Men issue from 2000... i'm definitely on an alan davis tip!

Matt said...

Cerebro coming to life was a better idea than the Danger Room coming to life, but both turned out to be pretty bad stories...

My memory might be exaggerating, but I think "Dream's End" must hold the record for most often used X-Men title/cover blurb (other than "Welcome to the X-Men, so-and-so...")!

G. Kendall said...

"how does this incarnation of cerebro tie into the later revalation that the Xavier's machine was actually an enslaved alien?(?)"

There's no direct connection, they're just similar ideas. A few years ago, Joss Whedon revealed that the Danger Room gained sentience years ago, and that Xavier enslaved it because his students needed to be trained. Apparently, Marvel recently backtracked on the idea.

Morgan said...

No mention of Collosus's jarring costume change between two pages during the same battle.

As soon as the artist changes so does his costume. Horrible issue.

Thank goodness X-Men gets MUCH better after this storyline.

Bibs said...

I think the scenes where the fake Xavier recruits the fake X-Men can be interpreted as their memories (which, of course are not real)

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