Friday, June 12, 2009

X-MEN #86 – UXM #367, March 1999 – April 1999

X-Men #86

Thanks for the Memories

Credits: Alan Davis (plot & pencils), Fabian Nicieza (script), Mark Farmer (inker), Liquid! Graphics (colors), Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Astra, a former member of the original Brotherhood of Mutants, holds Joseph captive. She explains that she created Joseph as a clone of Magneto, designed to kill him. When a desperate Magneto hit Joseph in the head with heavy machinery, he fell to Earth and was later discovered in Central America. In the arctic, the Acolytes watch as the X-Men freeze outside. Xavier attempts to mentally contact them, but the Acolytes refuse to help. Nearby, the Russian navy launches a nuclear attack on Magneto. He tries to contain the blast, but miles away, the fallout reaches the X-Men.

Continuity Notes: This is the first full appearance of Astra. She’s retconned as one of the founding members of the original Brotherhood of Mutants, who left the group before their first appearance. In order to repay Magneto for his “emotional” abuse, she created Joseph as a younger, more powerful weapon to kill him. It’s also revealed that she repaired Magneto’s mental damage before cloning Joseph, because she wanted to be certain Joseph wasn’t a vegetable. Obviously, none of this was planned out when Joseph was created. It’s possible to reconcile most of the retcons with the original story; however, Davis has forgotten that Joseph was originally wearing the clothes Magneto was wearing on Avalon before it crashed. In this issue’s flashback, Joseph’s wearing body armor when he is discovered in Central America.

Review: And now we have the infamous origin of Joseph. After over three years of mystery, the audience finally learns Joseph’s secret, and it turns out he was just a clone after all. By this point, Joseph was really just an afterthought in the books anyway, so it’s not as if a cherished character was somehow being desecrated. A decision had been made over a year earlier to bring the original Magneto back, so Joseph was already redundant by this point. However, revealing that he was created by a new character, who can not only clone Magneto but restore the mental damage inflicted by Xavier, just feels like a copout. The fact that Astra only appeared in this specific storyline and then disappeared after fulfilling her anointed purpose just makes her seem like even more of a plot device. I can understand why the creators felt the need to give Joseph a relatively straightforward origin, and “clone” is a pretty easy way out of the mystery, but more of an effort should’ve been put into making Astra a legitimate character in her own right (and the teenage girl speech pattern Nicieza gives her doesn’t exactly make her more endearing).

Uncanny X-Men #367

Disturbing Behavior

Credits: Aland Davis (plot), Fabian Nicieza (script), Lenil Francis Yu (penciler), Livesay & Vines (inkers), Liquid! (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Professor Xavier uses his powers to provoke the Acolytes into attacking the X-Men, hoping to lure them out of their ship. During the fight, the Acolytes realize that Xavier mentally coerced them into extending their ship’s shields to protect the X-Men during the nuclear wash. Soon, the last Acolyte is defeated and the X-Men commandeer their ship. Meanwhile, Astra takes Joseph to kill Magneto. After she destroys the machines Magneto is using to augment his powers, he is forced to absorb Earth’s electromagnetic field. Joseph vows to stop Magneto from causing more damage.

Continuity Notes: Magneto tells Astra that he never killed Joseph because he wanted the world to think he was Joseph while he worked on his current plan.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority: The new Acolyte Vindaloo reveals his powers for the first time. He emits a brown “gel-like liquid” that ignites into napalm. Vindaloo is actually a type of spicy curry, and it's widely believed that the character’s name was a diarrhea joke.

“Huh?” Moment: Colossus somehow picked up a leather jacket (for one panel) while stranded in the North Pole.

Review: It’s another “X-Men vs. Acolytes” issue, which is just so thrilling. The majority of the issue is spent on getting the X-Men onboard the Acolytes’ ship, which takes much longer than it needs to. And if Xavier is using his mental powers on the Acolytes in the first place, why doesn’t he just force them to give up? I can understand his reluctance to use his powers on normal people, but I can’t believe he would hesitate to freeze the Acolytes in place for a few minutes while the X-Men confiscated their ship. The X-Men just leave them to survive in the Arctic at the end, so it’s not as if they’re portrayed as overly concerned for their wellbeing anyway. This is really just time-killer before the final chapter, although Yu’s art is much improved over the previous issue.


wwk5d said...

I think there was some idea with Astra in mind, due to some very cryptic comments she makes to Nightcralwer, but it was never followed up on.

Poor Joeseph. Initially, I didn't care for him, but I grew to like him, and didn't like the way he was just casually dismissed, especially after all the set-up and Marvel working overtime to make us believe he was the real deal. Looking back, there was potential there, before he was changed into being a clone.

Not a good start to the Davis run, but it gets better after this. And there were ramifications to this storyline, till Grant Morrison literally blew it all to Hell.

rob said...

I agree on Joseph. The way he was dismissed from the titles a year earlier was a little disrespectful for the character and this origin and send-off didn't change that.

I remember reading Lobdell say that Joseph was at one point going to be Proteus reincarnated, or even Rogue and Magneto's son from AoA. Most possibilities are more interesting than just a clone.

Teebore said...

I remember the Astra/Joseph reveal to be when I finally lost my self-imposed trust that any of this stuff was planned out.

By the time Onslaught rolled out, I was old enough and savvy enough to KNOW, intellectually, that the endings to these slow burning sub-plots were being made up as they went along, but I was willing to turn a blind eye and PRETEND it was all part of somebody's plan all along.

But when they revealed that Joseph was cloned by a character that was introduced at the same time we found out she created Joseph, all so she get revenge on Magneto for a slight against her that the writers just made up (obviously, because SHE was just made up), well...I couldn't even willingly pretend anymore (and then there was the resolution to long-simmering Twelve subplot shortly down the road to really hammer home this point for me).

Maybe if Astra had stuck around, maybe if her retcon would have been embraced by later writers, I could have kept pretending this was how Joseph's story was always meant to go, but no.

I still read X-Men, but I'm pretty sure this was the storyline where I finally accepted the reality of ongoing comic book plotting, and could no longer even fool myself into thinking it was all part of someone's grand vision for the characters.

Matt said...

As I recall, Astra was about the only part of Alan Davis's tenure that I didn't like. Even by comic book standards, she was such a painful ret-con!!

Teebore said...


Even by comic book standards, she was such a painful ret-con!!

I think that perfectly gets to the point of my long-winded post :) Thanks!

PeterCSM said...

Astra visits Nightcrawler in a flashback in X-Men Forever (#4 I think?). And that's about the only other thing I've seen of her.

ray swift said...

Well, at least the X-men had some sort of valid plan, in contradition to almost any other fight seen previously in the last stories I remember...
Which still doesn't make it any less then a time killer issue.

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