Friday, June 26, 2009

UXM #372 & X-MEN #92 – September 1999

Uncanny X-Men #372

Dreams End Chapter One - Rude Awakenings

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Adam Kubert (penciler), Batt (inker), Liquid! (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Professor Xavier awakens the team in the middle of the night to test their reaction time. They spend hours training in the Danger Room, as Xavier grows more demanding and distant. When Gambit feels that Xavier is pushing Marrow too hard, he storms off. Later, Xavier agrees to speak only to Storm in his study. She emerges, telling Nightcrawler to call Jean Grey. Elsewhere, Renee Majcomb and Nina hide out in a hotel room. Nina begins to cry and disappears. She’s greeted by the Mannites. Meanwhile, Bishop and Deathbird discover a giant fossilized mutant in space.

Continuity Notes: Storm’s new costume debuts. It only lasted a few months because all of the X-Men received new costumes during the 2000 revamp. Alan Davis revived the costume when he returned in 2004, and she wears a modified version of it today (in the current version, her legs are bare).

Review: This is the beginning of the “Shattering” crossover, although the actual title inside the book is “Dreams End” (a phrase that really does get used a lot). This really just hammers home the idea that Xavier is acting strangely and alienating the X-Men. It’s capably handled, but there’s nothing exciting going on. You could conceivably do anything with a Danger Room sequence, but we only see the team fighting generic robots for page after page. Adam Kubert seems to lose interest in these scenes, as they become less detailed and energetic as the issue goes on. The rest of the issue consists of subplot scenes, ones that actually do tie into the main story eventually. It’s nice to see that Bishop hasn’t been totally forgotten, although I have to wonder why Nina is showing up again. I don’t hate her as much as some fans do, but it does seem as if the X-office thought a lot more of the character than anyone else did.

X-Men #92

Dreams End Chapter Two – Pressure Points

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Jeff Johnson (penciler), Cam Smith (inker), Javins, Becton, & Hicks (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Cyclops and Phoenix arrive at the mansion. Upset with Xavier, Gambit quits the team, while most of the others plan vacations. Xavier speaks to Cyclops and Phoenix separately, and then berates the team when he learns most of them are leaving. Wolverine offers to stay, but Xavier abruptly tells him to leave too. Storm is sent to contact X-Force about replacing the missing members. Meanwhile, Nina enters the mind of her fellow Mannite, Beautiful Dreamer, where she sees an image of a monster. Nina tries to telepathically contact Xavier, but her plea is picked up by Phoenix. In space, Bishop is shot in the back by Deathbird while they’re examining the fossilized mutant.

Continuity Notes: Deathbird betrays Bishop because she “got a better offer”. This is foreshadowing for the upcoming Apocalypse storyline. Bishop awakens in the barren desert, next to a sign pointing towards Las Vegas. An editor’s caption says the upcoming Bishop: The Last X-Man solo series has the answers.

The story of Cyclops, Phoenix, Nina, and the Mannites is continued in the Astonishing X-Men miniseries. I’ve never read it, but it’s widely viewed as terrible. A typical line of Mannite dialogue reads like this, “That’s why Glub bringed you. You been eb’rywhere, you know eb’rybody”, so I’m sure they added a lot to the series. The letters column in this issue is dedicated solely to people’s responses to the Astonishing X-Men teaser image Marvel ran online. I seem to recall Marvel hyping it months in advance, positioning it as a possible third major X-Men title.

Review: I don’t want to beat up on Terry Kavanagh too much, but this is another issue that’s held back by poor dialogue. The idea behind “The Shattering” is that the X-Men are falling apart, and this is mostly a conversation-driven issue that’s supposed to split the team in different directions. Even if a conversation has a strong start, it’s only a few lines before a metric ton of backstory is awkwardly shoved in. It’s not enough for Phoenix to say, “Every time we come back, no matter how long we’ve been gone” as she and Cyclops arrive at the mansion. The next line, she has to throw in, “This is the only home either of us knew for so many years, since the moment our mutant powers first manifested…the moment we had to begin hiding what we were from humanity, our friends and our family.” Cyclops can’t just respond, “Do we have a choice? Professor Xavier’s in bad shape, according to Storm.” He has to add, “Frustrated and worn down by the strain of the past few months -- his imprisonment, Cerebro’s betrayal, Magneto’s rise to power in Genosha -- the X-Men’s failure to save the Skrull homeworld from Galactus must have been the last straw.” I get that every issue is (allegedly) someone’s first and all of that, but is this really the best way to treat past continuity? The characters don’t sound real, so it’s hard to buy into the drama the story’s trying to sell. Cyclops has a few nice lines, questioning if the X-Men will always prevent him from having a normal life, but the rest of the characterizations are just flat.


Paul G. said...

This was the year that I returned to reading Marvel comics, after having sworn them off around Uncanny #322, the right choice, in retrospect. Marvel Knights lured me back, and I was branching out. Alan Davis's X-Men issues looked very tempting (I loved his Excalibur run. Still do.). But Kavanagh's name on the script kept me from buying it. Interesting to see that it stands out as the worst aspect of these issues. I wonder how many others at the time made the same choice I did for that reason.

However bad Astonishing X-Men was, it inspired some of Paul O'Brien's most delightfully scathing reviews. I still remember fondly his three word appraisal of issue 3.

Seangreyson said...

You know I never really had a major problem with Astonishing X-men. Yeah it was a little stupid (and the Mannites were kind of ridiculous), but the build up of the villain and then the big climax suprised me when I read it.

Admittedly I read it as a trade a few years after the issues came out so that might be one of the reasons I like it a little more.

Matt said...

I don't remember Astonishing X-Men very well, aside from the fact that Brandon Peterson drew it, and I absolutely loved his depiction of Cyclops's costume -- instead of the hair-exposing Gambit-style cowl thing, the costume had a neckline that left his upper neck and his head bare, and he simply wore a visor. I've always thought that was a great improvement on the Jim Lee costume, and I wish other artists had caught on to it!

But, regarding these issues... I seem to recall enjoying "The Shattering" for the most part -- it was nice to see the X-Men all having separate little adventures. Kind of reminded me of the late Claremont era where they were all over the world after the Siege Perilous.

Oh, and I hated Bishop's dreadlocks. To the point that I actually enjoyed his solo series less because of that ridiculous hair (and he's one of my favorite X-Men)!

ray swift said...

Wow, Terry Kavanagh is boring! I never read Cable so I didn't know him very well, but this issue... And to think what Scott Lobdel could pull off with the exact same material... It could be a great issue.

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