Monday, June 29, 2009

UXM #373 & X-MEN #93 – October 1999

Uncanny X-Men #373

Beauty & the Beast Part One – Broken Mirrors

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Adam Kubert & Rob Jensen (pencilers), Batt, Dan Panosian, & Vince Russell (inkers), Liquid! (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Marrow dreams of her harsh childhood before waking up in a hotel room outside of Boston. Her travelling companion, Colossus, asks her to view one of his paintings that is on display nearby. At the art gallery, an artist named Zone flirts with Marrow. When she loses control of her bone growths, he’s revolted. She tries to leave with Colossus, but they’re suddenly teleported away. They arrive in what appears to be the Morlock Tunnels. Marrow spots Callisto and runs after her. Colossus is greeted by Mikhail Rasputin, who tells him that with their combined efforts, their sister Illyana can be revived. Meanwhile, Deathbird arrives in Egypt, declaring the return of the Living Monolith.

Production Note: Marvel’s cover format changes again this month. The Comics Code seal is now tucked into the corner, and the cover dates are gone. There was a rumor at the time that Marvel dropped cover dates because it was embarrassed by the large number of late Marvel Knights titles, but I have no idea if this is true. The first page indicias still list the date, for what it’s worth.

Review: Marvel might’ve hyped “The Shattering” as a big event, but it really turned out to be an excuse for Alan Davis to do traditional stories about teammates going off in groups and having brief adventures together. This title focuses on Colossus and Marrow, while Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Shadowcat have an adventure in X-Men. These types of stories were common in UXM in the ‘80s, but by this point, I guess they had to be done under the banner of a “massive event that changes everything!”

This storyline is designed to showcase Marrow’s new status quo and to bring her closer to Colossus. From a story perspective, I’m not sure why she was getting closer to Colossus at the same time she was forming a bond with Gambit, but there is an unexplored continuity connection between the duo. Colossus’ brother, Mikhail, is the ruler of the Darwinist world Marrow grew up in, so it makes sense to bring them together in a story that uses him as the villain. I’m sure no one had this in mind when Colossus and Marrow were placed on the team together, but the fact that Davis saw the connection at least shows that he was using the characters as more than just ciphers. He also has portrays Colossus as sympathetic towards Xavier's apparent breakdown, due to his own past, which uses a sketchy area of continuity to the story's advantage.

Mikhail Rasputin was never that great of a villain (he was introduced during the chaotic string of issues Whilce Portacio and Jim Lee plotted), but if Colossus’ brother is out there in continuity, someone probably should do a Colossus story with him. This is mostly set-up, but there are a few nice moments between Colossus and Marrow, and Kavanagh’s scripting is more believably human than it has been in the past. Rob Jensen, a name I don’t recognize, draws half of the issue. He’s the second fill-in artist in a row with a style compatible with Kubert’s, so at least the transition isn’t jarring.

X-Men #93

Hidden Lives Part One – Open Wounds

Credits: Alan Davis (plot & pencils), Terry Kavanagh (script), Mark Farmer (inker), Glynis Oliver (colors), Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: In Manhattan, Mystique narrowly escapes a ninja attack. Nearby, Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Shadowcat are having dinner. Shadowcat and Rogue go dancing, while Nightcrawler visits a church and prays. There, he meets Polaris. She asks for his help, claiming that someone is following her. Mystique tracks Rogue to the nightclub and asks for her help. At her apartment, Mystique explains to Rogue and Shadowcat that armed ninjas have been chasing her. Soon, Rogue investigates a ransacked apartment Mystique keeps under another alias. More ninjas appear and she fights them off. Suddenly, Sunfire enters and attacks.

Continuity Notes: The cover copy is just outright wrong, since Sabretooth isn’t hunting Mystique. He’s not even in this issue; Mystique adopts his form while fighting the ninjas.

A one-page scene reveals Japanese agents, the Yakiba, are in a nearby submarine spying on Mystique. They’ve hired the ninjas, and it’s implied that Sunfire is also working for them. Another subplot scene has “Mastermind” and “Mesmero” (their shadows reveal them as Skrulls) discussing Mystique. She’s been spying on them, but the Skrull disguised as Mastermind is content to let the Yakiba deal with her.

Rogue picks up a new costume from Mystique’s apartment. It’s a green and black outfit that’s very reminiscent of her late ‘80s costume. Marvel should’ve stuck with it, since it’s better than any costume I’ve seen her in since this issue.

For the sake of nitpicking, I’ll point out that Rogue mentally refers to herself as a “Louisiana river rat”. She’s actually from Mississippi. I’ll also mention that Mystique has a photo of her and Rogue taken while Rogue was a young girl. This seems to be going back to the idea that Mystique took care of Rogue before her mutant powers even surfaced (which was contradicted by the infamous X-Men Unlimited #4).

This is Polaris’ first appearance since Havok’s “death”, which is how the X-Factor series ended. She’s convinced that he isn’t dead, which is accurate. He’s been shifted to another reality in Mutant X. Except for one line of dialogue a few issues earlier, this is the first time Havok’s death was even mentioned in the main titles. Even if the readers know he’s not dead, it’s ridiculous that none of the X-Men (especially Cyclops) were given a reaction.

Review: Even more than the UXM storyline, this arc reminds me of Claremont’s early work, or something Davis would’ve done in Excalibur. Most of the story consists of vague hints for upcoming events, but it also leaves plenty of room for characters to interact with one another, or to have long inner monologues. The characters are more important than the specific story, which is something that gets lost along the way when an “event” has to happen every few issues.

Something interesting is actually done with Mystique for the first time in ages, as it’s revealed that she maintains multiple identities in her free time. This issue we learn that she’s secretly billionaire financier B. Byron Biggs and supermodel Ronnie Lake. That’s a great idea that opens the door for a multitude of stories (I don’t know if it was picked up on in her solo series, but it should’ve been). Her relationship with Rogue is handled well, as they discuss Destiny’s death and their past together (since Destiny helped raise Rogue as well, it seems like she should’ve had more of a reaction to it over the years). We also have Nightcrawler expressing his condolences to Polaris over Havok’s apparent death, which helps to revive the “family” feel the various X-characters once had with one another. Towards the end of the issue, Rogue gets a Claremontian inner monologue that has her reflecting on her relationship with Mystique, the fact that she’s still unable to control her powers, and her place with the X-Men. Like most of this issue’s script, it’s an improvement for Kavanagh, whose work is usually more wooden. A tolerable script combined with Davis’ typically excellent artwork means this issue isn’t bad at all.


Jeff said...

These are both really good, character-driven stories. The X-Men side is a little better because it doesn't have to deal with the Gene Nation backstory, which is a little goofy, but Kubert's pencils are really good for that particular one. The X-Men side introduces some interesting concepts in Destiny's diaries, focuses on 3 of my favorite X-Men and gets their personalities just right. These issues are a lot of fun.

Peter said...

I genuinely enjoyed the stuff Davis was doing at this time, especially when he was also penciling the stories. My favorite Rogue period is when she was wearing all kinds of black/green combinations in the Silvestri/Australian era, so the outfit in this X-Men issue was particularly pleasing. Although maybe the green-on-green jacket/top should be in a different shade (ha ha, I'm talking X-fashion now ;)

I wish they'd done more with Destiny's diaries and Mystique's various personalities (which was also set up in X-Factor, I believe, she was Mallory Brickman there)

The stuff with the Skrulls is something that never got referenced in Secret Invasion, did it?

Lots of potential, but sadly not enough follow-up later on because Claremont is no Alan Davis :)

wwk5d said...

These are good issues, and a good counter argument for people who complained that there was never any character work in the Davis run. In fact, looking back, there were little bits of it presented throughout (the Xavier/Wolverine merge in the Otkid story, Gambit's guilt with Marrow on the Skrull world), but this is where Davis does a lot more of that stuff. And it was nice to see the characters go out and do social stuff like clubbing, rather than just angsting all the time at the mansion.

ray swift said...

Mystique: "Pity I can't assume other people's POWER along with their FACES. That would make my life so much easier."
In your face Howard Mackie and Jorge Gonzalez! :)

But man, do I hate Kavanagth's way of summarizing the previous issues... It's totally putting me off.

I liked Rogue and Kitty little night out. It was nice to see the old happy country girl Rogue, even for a short time, instead of the broody one. It was also a nice touch that she came and apologized after trashing that guy rather then escaping the crowd.

The one thing that annoyed me: The fact the Mastermind already knows that the X-men disbanded. For how long was it? A day? I hate it when the bad guys always know EVERYTHING about the good guys, like they have surveillance cameras in any of their bathrooms! The fact that we know it, doesn't mean automatically that everyone knows it!
Another thing that bothered me is that Rogue is surprisingly cooperative and forgiving towards Mystique, after previously rejecting her.

All in all, it's a nice issue. The plot is the strong part while the scripting weakens it. It's a shame Alan Davis couldn't write or get a better writer then this one.

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