Wednesday, June 10, 2009

X-MEN: THE MAGNETO WAR #1 & UXM #366- March 1999

X-Men: The Magneto War #1

Savior Complex

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Fabian Nicieza (script), Lee Weeks (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Marie Javins & Monica Kubina (colors)

Summary: Fabian Cortez and his group of Acolytes sneak on to the mansion’s grounds. New member REM-RAM searches the X-Men’s dreams, looking for information on Magneto. Xavier senses his presence and orders the X-Men to attack. When Cortez harms REM-RAM while attempting to amplify his powers, the Acolytes turn against him. Cortez escapes, and the Acolytes ask Xavier for sanctuary. Xavier refuses, secretly hoping that following the Acolytes will confirm Magneto’s return. Meanwhile, in Israel, Quicksilver reconciles with Joseph. In the Netherlands, Magneto asks Amelia Voght to look over Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

Continuity Notes: According to the narrative captions, the Acolytes are divided into different camps. Cortez’s followers include the Kleinstock brothers, Senyaka, Spoor, Projector, and the new members REM-RAM (who can enter, and apparently manipulate, people’s dreams), Static (who can disrupt mutant powers), and Barnacle (who turns body moisture into a “carapace shell”). Another group of Acolytes is following Magneto himself. I believe the Quicksilver series used the Acolytes for a few issues, and inadvertently resurrected a few of the dead members.

When Wolverine is shown sleeping in bed, he’s drawn with metal claw housings on his hand. They’re actually supposed to be on his gloves, not his actual hands (a mistake the ‘90s cartoon often made in the early episodes).

Production Note: This is a thirty-two page one-shot with no ads and slick paper. The cover price is $2.99, which is reasonable.

Review: This kicks off the “Magneto War” crossover, a storyline that was so obviously generated by editorial, it was actually solicited without a writer. Alan Davis, who was originally supposed to pencil X-Men for six issues, ended up plotting it, and if I recall the Newsarama interviews correctly, Fabian Nicieza volunteered to script it. I have no idea what was happening behind-the-scenes at the time, but if the rumors are to be believed, Alan Davis agreed to plot the titles for an indefinite amount of time, working off a list of “objectives” the editors wanted to accomplish. I remember a friend of Davis’ posted online that his storylines weren’t being dictated to him, so what I suspect happened is the editors gave Davis a vague list like “Give Joseph an origin. Reveal The Twelve. Do something with Apocalypse.” and he went from there. I recall online reviews of this era being extremely harsh, which always seemed unfair to me. The perception at the time was that Seagle and Kelly were forced off the books by overbearing editors, and that Alan Davis threw his weight around to get a high-profile gig. I don’t doubt that Seagle and Kelly were being heavily rewritten and left in frustration, but I think Alan Davis received a bad reputation as some sort of “other woman” in the scenario. Regardless of the backstage circumstances, once you’ve reached the point where storylines are being solicited without writers, it is hard to believe that the finished product is the work of a strong creative vision. Even the most hardcore of X-fans began to feel that the titles had just become a bland, blatantly commercially conceived, product.

Judging this one-shot on its own merits, it’s a perfectly okay superhero comic with nice art. I’m not sure why some of the Acolytes are spying on the X-Men, hoping to find Magneto, while another group has already joined up with him, but that’s the only quibble I have with the plot. The dream sequences take up a lot of space, but they’re used to make statements about the characters’ internal conflicts, and their connections to Magneto. Xavier of course views Magneto as a threat to his dream, Rogue still views him as a potential suitor (even if she doesn’t consciously admit it), and Wolverine sees him as a tormentor. The fight is a traditional superhero brawl, and the ending sets the stage for the rest of the storyline. The story does what it’s supposed to do, it doesn’t drag, the characterizations feel right, and it has Lee Weeks art. It might not have been produced under the best of circumstances, but this is far from a bad comic.

Uncanny X-Men #366

The Shot Heard Round the World

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Fabian Nicieza (script), Lenil Francis Yu (penciler), Livesay/Townsend/Tadeo (inkers), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Liquid! Graphics (colors)

Summary: Magneto’s group of Acolytes continues to attack genetic research laboratories. After the X-Men confront them in Canada, the Acolytes intentionally lead them on a chase north. Meanwhile, Magneto sends his robot Ferris to the UN to announce that he’s created another electromagnetic pulse, and that it will not stop until Magneto’s given a mutant sanctuary on Earth. The X-Men are caught in the pulse and crash in the arctic. In Israel, Mossad’s tests confirm that Joseph is a copy of Magneto. As Joseph ponders the revelation, he’s kidnapped by a mysterious woman.

Continuity Note: Joseph is revealed as a clone in this issue, although Nicieza tries to dance around the word “clone” throughout the storyline (the Spider-clone fiasco was still relatively fresh at the time).

Creative Differences: A teaser image of this storyline appeared in X-Men #80. It featured Storm in a different costume (the regal purple one she wore briefly during Claremont’s 2000 run), and various world landmarks in the arctic snow. This never happens in the actual storyline. As confirmed by a Comic Book Legends column, Storm was also supposed to die during this story, back when Seagle and Kelly were still scheduled to write it.

Production Note: Starting this month, the recap gatefold covers are gone. Apparently, they cost Marvel too much money.

Review: This doesn’t work as well as the one-shot special, probably because so much of the story is wasted on having the X-Men chase after the Acolytes. The Acolytes are suffering from their typical lack of a personality, so seeing half of the issue dedicated to them isn’t very exciting (and these aren't even the same Acolytes the X-Men were supposed to be following at the end of the previous chapter). Nicieza throws in a brief reference to one of his later X-Men stories, the one that had a few of the Acolytes following Cyclops while stranded in the desert, but it’s not nearly enough to make you care about the villains. It actually serves, unintentionally, of a reminder of a story that actually gave the Acolytes some depth. Nicieza’s script has a few clever lines, such as Ferris’ “inexhaustible supply of patter” and his rather polite interactions with the UN guards, but the script isn’t able to sell the significance of Magneto’s release of the EM pulse. It might not feel like the appropriate big deal because Magneto already did this in another crossover five years earlier, which is one of the larger problems with the storyline. Lenil Francis Yu shows up for another issue as guest artist. It’s an inconsistent job, as he seems to excel at drawing goofy scientists studying Joseph, but delivers some flat action scenes. Some of the pages look extremely rushed, and his odd tendency not to draw pupils is on full display.

7 comments:

rob said...

I agree that this story's events just didn't have the scope they needed to convey that this was a big deal. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Magneto had already done this 5 years earlier.

But the story is also just cluttered and annoying. Why are there SO many Acolytes? Do there need to be two teams of them, especially considering the group from the one-shot isn't even in the rest of the story? Yu's art is pretty bad - I hate him on team books, he can't handle that many characters. Lee Weeks was a nice treat at least.

Another annoying thing is the lack of any personality or characterization for the X-Men. Based on what you mention, at least there is some forward movement in the Davis run and subplots that are actually followed up on. A tradeoff is that, except in the Shattering issues, the characters are basically ciphers moving through the motions of the plot.

Matt said...

I had no idea Alan Davis's run wasn't received well online. I loved it. I actually looked forward to getting the new issues each week, because it felt very much like an "old-school" X-Men comic.

I was also thrilled that Fabian Nicieza (my second-favorite X-Men writer after Claremont) returned for the Magneto War, and wished he could've stuck around to keep scripting over Davis's plots.

I do feel like Alan Davis was working from a list of editorial mandates, but I also think he got to do a lot of his own thing, like that story where the X-Men go to some parallel world or something and meet a bunch of presumed-dead heroes. If that doesn't say "Alan Davis Wrote This," I don't know what does!

Personally, I have no problem with editorially-controlled comics when they're done in this fashion. It's when the editors basically dictate every single aspect of a story to the writers that I don't enjoy it.

wwk5d said...

I also enjoyed the Davis run. It may have been short on character work initially, but it got better in that aspect as the run went on. It was nice to have fun stories as well. The best thing was that you actually felt like the titles had some degree of focus. As much as people reagard the Seagle/Kelly run, it was something of a mess, almost as much as the later Lobdell years. It was nice to move away from endless dangling unresolved mysteries. And let's be honest, the reveal of Death/Wolverine was one of the better kept secrets Marvel ever had, and it was a shock at the time. If anything, it showed that there was some long term planning involved. The Davis run as a whole may not have been as unique or inventive as other runs, and yes, there was an editorial influence, but it did lead to solid, consistent stories, and that's not always a bad thing.

JEff said...

I really liked the Davis issues as well. They were fun and the X-Men got out of the Mansion and got to go on world and dimension-hopping adventures. The characterization may have been a little light, but it also wasn't 100% angst like it had been for the last 5 years either.

Brooke and Scott Church said...

I got the whole run of Davis and then Chris C. and didn't read it then and still haven't read it. The Twelve has stayed in a bag n Board since I got it and it hasn't moved out. I've looked through them when I first got it and it looked way too stupid.

The first thing that really made me mad was the issue that had Mesmero on the cover and I was thinking 'he's dead, did the X-Office miss another guy they killed off earlier?' and didn't even read it to see that it was a scroll.

I couldn't stand Davis's artwork at the time, I wonder if with change of taste if I would like it now?

Jeff said...

*Spoilers* Mesmero's a Skrull, it's not a mistake. But you have to read the issue to figure that out.

Bibs said...

The handling of the Acolytes ranks is a mess...

Wasn't Javitz supposedly killed by Holocaust right after AoA?
He briefly appears in #366 and then disappears forever

I guess that somehow, there was a mistake and they were supposed to draw Kamal instead

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