Uncanny X-Men #375
I Am Not Now, Nor Have I Ever Been…
Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Adam Kubert (penciler), Batt w/Tim Townsend (inkers), Liquid! & Chris Sotomayor (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)
Summary: The X-Men reunite at the mansion and learn that Wolverine has been killed. Xavier continues to behave erratically, chastising Cyclops for Wolverine’s death. He suddenly declares that Phoenix is controlling Cyclops’ mind and attacks her. Soon, the X-Men split into groups and fight one another. After most of the team dies, Onslaught and Dark Phoenix suddenly emerge. When the final X-Men are killed, the team awakens and learns that the fight was a “psycho-drama” created by Xavier, with the help of Phoenix, Cable, and X-Man. Xavier explains that he was trying to locate an imposter by driving the team apart and staging the fight. Shortly, while performing Wolverine’s autopsy, Beast learns that he was a Skrull duplicate. Meanwhile, Archangel and Psylocke are attacked by an Archangel imposter.
Continuity Notes: Wolverine, or at least the Skrull impersonating him, was killed in the Astonishing X-Men miniseries while defending the Mannites from Apocalypse’s newest Horseman, Death. I’m assuming Cable and X-Man were in the miniseries, explaining their presence in this issue.
Xavier explains that he sensed an imposter amongst the team after their return from space. He hoped that distracting the team with exhaustive training sessions would help him locate the imposter, but it didn’t work. Interrogating each member individually would be too obvious, so he entrusted Storm (whose thoughts “have always been particularly uncluttered and open”), Cyclops, and Phoenix with his secret. He drove the team apart “to limit the damage an infiltrator might inflict”, then recruited Cable and X-Man to help him find the imposter. The fight was designed to expose the team’s “deepest loyalties and most primal emotions”.
Production Note: When originally solicited, Wolverine’s face was blurred on the cover. This actually was a well-kept secret at the time.
Miscellaneous Note: The Statement of Ownership lists average sales for the year at 207,381 with the most recent issue selling 183,330.
Review: The big revelation here is that Wolverine has secretly been a Skrull for the past few months. Since that’s a plot point that takes around two pages to establish, the rest of the issue is a giant X-Men vs. X-Men fight. It doesn’t serve much of a purpose, but it’s the type of thing you often see in oversized anniversary issues, and Davis manages to use it as a very loud cap on the “Shattering” storyline. It’s so ridiculously over the top, as long-established characters are killed off on every other page, it’s obvious you’re not supposed to take it seriously, so it’s easier to just enjoy it as mindless mayhem. The revelation that Wolverine is actually a Skrull was a genuine surprise at the time, and Marvel does deserve credit for keeping it a secret until the issue came out. Xavier’s explanation for his behavior in the previous issues is explained fairly effectively, and I’m glad it wasn’t dragged on for much longer. Some of the art looks rushed, but this is still a fun issue.
Do Unto Others
Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Chris Claremont (script, uncredited), Tom Raney (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Marie Javins (colors), Comicraft (letters)
Summary: A Skrull scientist tells his commander that he can create an army of Skrull Wolverine imposters. The commander kills one of the imposters, telling the scientist to do a better job. Later, the Skrull commander impersonates Havok and kidnaps Polaris. The commander decides that he can use Polaris as a bargaining chip against Apocalypse since she is one of the Twelve. When he returns to Skrull headquarters, Polaris hits him with optic blasts, revealing herself as Cyclops, disguised with an image inducer. The rest of the X-Men attack, as Death sneaks in and plants a bomb. Phoenix and Storm combine their powers to deaden the blast, and Colossus attacks Death. When Death’s mask is removed, he’s revealed as Wolverine. Suddenly, he teleports away.
Production Note: No credit for scripter appeared in this issue. Editor Mark Powers later confirmed that Claremont ghost-scripted three issues during this run, and Claremont mentioned in an interview that he worked uncredited on some comics that were running late, so I’ll give him credit for it. By this point, X-Men #100 was already announced as Chris Claremont’s return to this title, so I’m assuming he worked uncredited to keep the attention on #100.
Continuity Notes: It’s revealed why Xavier’s telepathy couldn’t peg Wolverine as an imposter. The Skrulls’ “ally” (I assume Apocalypse) gave them a complete record of Wolverine’s psyche, enabling them to establish “a comprehensive personality matrix” that can survive telepathic examinations. The Skrull commander thinks the matrix works too well, since the imposter now thinks he really is Wolverine and is too independent. I don’t think it was ever confirmed on-panel, but Apocalypse was supposed to be the behind-the-scenes power in Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X serial, so it’s possible Apocalypse has had a map of Wolverine’s psyche for years.
This is the first appearance of the young Skrull Fiz, who will play a role in future issues. He’s one of the Skrulls that’s been experimented on, in the hopes that the genetic strain of the Warskrulls can be recreated. The Warskrulls were Skrulls who could imitate powers naturally, and first appeared during the Claremont/Lee run of Uncanny X-Men.
Review: It’s interesting that this is one of the issues Chris Claremont ghost-scripted, since it directly mirrors a storyline he was going to do during his initial run. Before Claremont was forced off the titles in 1991, he planned to do a story that had Wolverine killed and later resurrected as a brainwashed Hand assassin (as detailed in this
This issue is filled with “Claremont Clichés”, and it’s crammed full with dialogue and narrative captions. If Claremont really were writing this at the last minute, you would think the script might’ve been fairly sparse, but that’s definitely not the case. The Skrulls have the majority of the dialogue in the issue, and I guess it’s justifiable to give them long-winded, uptight speech patterns, but they start to get tedious after a few pages. There are some signs this was an eleventh-hour scripting job, as third-person narrative captions unequivocally state the Skrull commander’s captive is Polaris (even describing how her powers affect her sleep patterns), and a few pages later we learn it’s actually Cyclops with an image inducer. Death’s speech patterns are also inconsistent, as he goes from speaking like Wolverine (“Sorry, darlin’ -- but that an’ more won’t even come close!”) to saying things like, “The name you speak -- the man it belongs to -- are no more!” It seems like it was scripted as the pages were coming in and nobody went back and looked too closely at the finished product. The script isn’t all bad, though, as Xavier and Storm have a nice moment together and the narrative captions do tend to have a decent rhythm. The actual plot advances the main storyline effectively, and I like the way the various story threads are coming together. Tom Raney handles the action scenes well, and his interpretation of the Skrulls is pretty cool. Even if we are heading towards another “event”, this is much more coherent than crossovers tend to be.