Wednesday, June 24, 2009

X-MEN #91& '99 Annual – August 1999

X-Men #91

Technical Difficulties

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Andrew Robinson & Dan Panosian (art), Marie Javins (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Major Sole unveils a new Deathlok, despite Nick Fury’s objections. Meanwhile, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, and Colossus follow Douglock’s trail to the nearby SHIELD helicarrier. Douglock overtakes the craft by mentally controlling the crew. Nick Fury goes into hiding and plots a way to fight back. Later, Douglock tries to resist the Red Skull, who is controlling his body.

Review: Most of this is M-Tech setup, so it’s not particularly engaging. Davis keeps the action scenes on Muir Island, while the rest of the cast has some downtime at the mansion. Rogue (who wasn’t with the team when Ejulp kidnapped them) is just returning from the Magneto Rex miniseries. She apparently feels guilty about “chasing after the Magneto she remembered” (I’m paraphrasing because I don’t feel like retyping her phonetically spelled accent), and wants to make it up to Gambit with a night out. Instead, she gets stuck listening to recaps of the past few issues of this storyline, and then runs away when Wolverine demands she tell him what’s going on in Genosha. The story toys with the idea that Rogue’s jealous of Gambit’s new relationship with Marrow, but nothing really comes of it. This is the only real character work in this issue, and it only works if you buy the meeker interpretation of Rogue, the girl who just can’t quit that rascal Gambit. This issue is probably most notable for the bizarre fill-in art. Andrew Robinson has an extremely cartoony style, which results in some facial expressions that are better suited for Saturday morning television than a superhero comic. He pulls off a few nice Rick Leonardi-style panels, but most of his pages are just distracting. Dan Panosian apparently drew the last few pages of the story, and his sketchy, more angular style doesn’t match Robinson’s look, although I guess both artists could be labeled “cartoony”.

X-Men Annual ‘99

Metal Works

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Rick Leonardi (penciler), Bob Wiacek (inker), Joe Rosas (colors), Bullpen/D.S. & P.T. (letters)

Summary: Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, Colossus and Nick Fury develop a plan to stop the Red Skull. Meanwhile, the Red Skull forces Major Sole to develop neural implants similar to the ones Douglock has created, which will enable him to command an army. Douglock, unable to free himself from the Red Skull’s control, commands Deathlok to kill him. Shadowcat arrives and tries to talk Douglock out of suicide. Elsewhere, Colossus and Machine Man free the imprisoned SHIELD agents, while Nightcrawler and Nick Fury confront the Red Skull. When Nightcrawler teleports the Red Skull’s techno-organic hand away, his hold over Douglock disappears. The remaining X-Men arrive and help most of the crew escape. However, Red Skull manages to escape with a few SHIELD agents under his command.

Continuity Notes: This story takes place after Captain America (vol. 3) #19. The Red Skull’s final wish from the Cosmic Cube was to be taken “somewhere safe…far away from people…to find a power that can control the world”. He was sent to Muir Island, where he was discovered by Douglock. After touching him, the Red Skull’s left hand became techno-organic, and he was granted control over Douglock. I have no idea if this specific storyline, which has him escaping in the SHIELD helicarrier, was ever resolved.

Commercial Break: This issue has ads for both the R-rated American Pie movie, and the Disney Channel original movie Smart House. There’s also a Kool-Aid on the back that declares “Grown-ups have to pay for stuff…but kids have the Kool-Aid ticket to fun”. Pre-Quesada, Marvel’s entire line consisted of all-ages material, even though the majority of its audience was probably over eighteen. I’m not sure if Kool-Aid or the Disney Channel actually knew this, but it’s interesting that Marvel was able to get away with advertising adult material and kids products at the same time. You would think having a broad appeal to advertisers would’ve been attractive to Marvel, but they’ve made a decision to target most of their titles towards older fans and move the all-ages material over to its own separate line.

Review: And now the M-Tech material is almost unbearable. With the exception of Shadowcat’s brief attempt at talking Douglock out of suicide, there’s really no characterization here, so you’re left with a fairly generic action story with the X-Men plugged inside. The Red Skull does have potential as an X-Men villain, since it’s logical that he would hate mutants as much as any other minority group, but the story doesn’t use him very effectively. Leonardi’s art is fine, and the plot is more bland than truly objectionable, yet the final product is just a chore to finish. Kavanagh’s script is so wordy, packed with unnecessary exposition and techno-babble, that it’s absolutely no fun to read. To make matters worse, for some reason this issue was lettered internally at Marvel’s Bullpen. It’s a rather crude attempt at computer lettering, which often has letters within the same word spaced far apart from one another. A text-heavy comic with ugly text is just inexcusable, period. If the goal of this storyline was to build up excitement for the M-Tech line, I’m afraid it might’ve had the opposite effect.


Morgan said...

I always hated this story line, its a shame because the Captain America issues leading upto this were amazing. The Cap issue before the one you mentioned drawn by Kupert where the whole issue was black & white except for the skulls red head, great stuff.

M-Tech on the other hand was bad.
I hate to admit that I own them all but Warlock was the only one that was halfway decent. Dethlock was just bad.

Didnt the Bishop ongoing series start around this time also? Wasnt a big fan of that one either.

Matt said...

Also, that black-and-white Cap issue had an Andy Kubert cover which was a close-up of the Red Skull -- this annual's cover, by Andy's brother Adam, features nearly an identical image of the Skull! I assume it was an homage to his brother on Adam's part, and I always thought that was kind of cool.

Morgan said...

Wow Matt.
I never noticed it but your right.
I just looked at my Cap issue and compared the two and its almost identical. (Its Captain America# 14 BTW)

Good eye. Very cool.

The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

The Deathlok series that came out of this was exceptional, very left-field and probably not to everyone's taste, which is why it didn't survive a year.

wwk5d said...

None of M-tech really lasted all that long. Warlock hasn't been seen since his series ended, has he? At least Machine Man is still being used.

Morgan said...

Machine Man, I knew I was missing an M-Tech book. Who could forget the Cable, Machine Man, Bastion annual? The origin of Bastion.

Wasnt Machine Man one of the main characters of Earth X? He was the Watchers eyes? Maybe im remembering things wrong.

His series was so-so. Interesting that Marvel still uses him. (I wouldnt know, havent read a comic book since 2002 thanks to Grant Morrison ruining X-Men, I also blame the horrible X-Men movies)

ray swift said...

Oy Marrow... If it weren't obvious untill this issue, then now it is clear you were completely and utterly butchered. R.I.P.

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