Wednesday, July 8, 2009

UXM #376 & X-MEN #96 – January 2000

Uncanny X-Men #376

Filling in the Blanks

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Roger Cruz (penciler), Batt/Owens/Palmiotti (inkers), Liquid! (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Cyclops and Phoenix debate whether or not it’s time to go back home, while the Living Monolith’s followers witness his rebirth in Egypt. A strange man appears and takes control of the Monolith. At the X-Men’s mansion, the young Skrull Fiz is discovered. He says that he’s a mutant and wants to join the X-Men. Xavier reads a list of “the Twelve” from Destiny’s diary, leaving out one name. After he talks Cyclops and Phoenix into staying with the team, he reveals that the twelfth name is someone he must personally contact, Magneto.

Continuity Notes: The Twelve are revealed as Xavier, Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Iceman, Sunfire, Polaris, Cable, Bishop, Mikhail Rasputin, the Living Monolith, and Magneto. The first reference to the Twelve came years earlier in X-Factor #14. Master Mold uncovered in his programming a list of twelve strong mutants who would lead other mutants, and tracked down one of the mutants, Cyclops. He also appeared in Power Pack a few months later, naming Franklin Richards as a member, and Dani Moonstar, Cannonball, and Psylocke as potential candidates. For what it’s worth, Master Mold was malfunctioning during this time (even declaring all humans as mutants since everyone has something that makes them special), so I guess there’s room to dismiss any discrepancies between the original candidates and the official list.

Fiz’s mutant power is the ability to change his mass, along with his shape. He snuck into the mansion by shrinking down to insect size and hiding on Nightcrawler’s body. He says that Xavier is his hero because he tried to save the Skrulls from Galactus, and that mutant Skrulls are traditionally killed, but are now being experimented on. He reveals that the Skrulls have a new ally, a “Death-God” who “promise(s) much”.

Polaris reveals that the Skrulls stole Havok’s costume from her apartment. The jewel on his cowl is connected to his powers, and Polaris says it’s been glowing lately. The jewel shows up on the Living Monolith’s head, and according to Apocalypse (who is the strange man who takes control of Monolith) it enables Monolith to “maintain joint access” to the cosmic energy he shares with Havok.

It’s revealed that Apocalypse and Sinister grafted a sample of Havok’s DNA to the Living Monolith years ago, when he was a “non-mutant variant”. The experiment created a symbiotic relationship between Havok and Monolith, splitting the power between the two of them. This is supposed to explain Havok and Monolith’s odd connection in their original appearances in the Silver Age.

Rogue and Gambit have a one-page breakup. Rogue’s final words before her “death” in last issue’s “psycho-drama” were to tell Gambit that things would never work between them and that he should move on. She now sees that as a sign and wants to break up.

“Huh?” Moment: While flashing back to the past few days, Cyclops recalls Storm telling him that the traitor has been identified and Wolverine has been found. Wolverine’s in the background smoking a cigar. This hasn’t happened yet; Wolverine is still missing at this time.

I Love the ‘90s: The Living Monolith’s followers mention the dawning of a new millennium, and a letter writer to Stan Lee’s column states that Wolverine goes through more costumes in a week than the Spice Girls.

Review: This is revelation of the Twelve, and it’s not treated as that big of a deal. A few pages before the story’s over, in a normal-sized panel in the middle of the layout, Xavier just rattles off a list of names. The revelation of the Twelve was a part of an effort to resolve some of the dangling plotlines that had been hanging around for years, so it’s interesting that Davis chose to list the names in such a low-key manner. I have no idea why “the Twelve” was chosen as a dangler to be resolved, since it was introduced back in 1987 and had barely been mentioned since. Only the hardest of hardcore fans were still asking about the list by 1999. It seems like resolving the Legacy Virus storyline would’ve been more of a priority at the time. At any rate, the Twelve were supposed to be the mutant leaders of the future, not mutants used to power a machine (as we’ll see in a few issues). Plus, the clues were provided by a malfunctioning robot in the first place, so I’m not sure if it was really a mystery worth reviving. It’s possible that Louise Simonson, who introduced the mystery, just intended the list of names as a red herring for Master Mold to chase for a few issues (although I think she also had Apocalypse label himself a member, along with the original X-Men, so maybe she was more ambitious).

The story mainly consists of recaps of the past couple of issues and a few setups for what’s coming next. Because Fiz can’t speak English (he later communicates through a translator device and Shadowcat, who was telepathically taught Skrull a few issues ago), there are a few pages of a “misunderstanding fight” with the X-Men, which is the only action in the issue. There’s a small amount of character work, as Cyclops continues to question if he should stay with the X-Men or return to his normal life. Since this storyline ends with Cyclops’ “death”, it’s possible this was done to make his ending more tragic. Rogue and Gambit’s breakup scene is too rushed to be effective, and I’m not quite sure what the point is even supposed to be. Polaris and Cyclops discuss Havok’s “death” (wow, that word’s showing up in quotes a lot), which is something that should’ve happened months earlier. Even in the midst of crossover madness, Davis still remembers the existing connections between the characters, which actually makes the story easier to swallow. Roger Cruz shows up as guest penciler, this time merging Joe Madureira’s style with Chris Bachalo’s. It’s obviously not original, but he’s growing as an artist and doesn’t seem to struggle with the large cast he’s given to draw.

X-Men #96

The Gathering

Credits: Alan Davis (plot & pencils), Chris Claremont (script, uncredited), Mark Farmer (inker), Marie Javins (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Xavier informs Magneto that he is one of the Twelve. Magneto volunteers to help fight Apocalypse. Meanwhile, Phoenix uses Cerebro to contact Iceman. She watches telepathically as a brainwashed Deathbird kidnaps him. In Japan, Apocalypse’s Horseman Famine abducts Sunfire. At the X-Men’s mansion, Death arrives and kidnaps Mikhail Rasputin. Because the X-Men still view him as Wolverine, they’re reluctant to fight back. When he returns to kidnap Cyclops and Storm, Nightcrawler tries to organize a defense. Death cuts a support beam and buries the team under the roof. Fiz uses his mass to protect the team while Death teleports away. Archangel, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Jubilee head for Egypt, where Phoenix has located Apocalypse’s captives.

Continuity Notes: Magneto is still recovering from overexerting himself during “Magneto War” and is using Fabian Cortez to energize his powers again. X-Man and Cable are shown to be Apocalypse’s captives, so I’m assuming this was covered in their solo books. Archangel, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Jubilee’s story is continued in Wolverine.

Review: Chris Claremont shows up as scripter again, and it is an improvement over his previous issue. His writing tics are a lot less obvious this time, and he’s able to incorporate some nice character moments into an action-heavy plot. It’s definitely a step above most of Kavanagh’s work in recent issues. This is the first time Claremont’s written Magneto since he left the books, and it’s odd watching him reconcile his take on the character with the direction Marvel took him in the ensuing years. Even when the plot has Magneto smack Fabian Cortez for getting out of line, Claremont’s inner monologue has him commenting, “I should have not struck him. It is a sign of weakness.” When Xavier informs Magneto of the Twelve, Magneto’s response is that he should perhaps just kill them all before Apocalypse is able to use them. The script’s able to make Magneto seem pragmatic, and a least a little ruthless, but not irrational or outright insane. The script, combined with Davis’ artwork and the more subdued colors, makes the entire issue feel like something from the ‘80s. I don’t say that dismissively; I say it as a true fan of ‘80s Marvel (although I can understand why readers of The Authority at the time might’ve dismissed this as dull). I wonder if Claremont’s 2000 return would’ve worked out if it were shamelessly a throwback, instead of a forced attempt at new characters, new designs, and non-linear storytelling.

8 comments:

Matt said...

Ah! X-Men 96 is the one I definitely remembered as an obvious Claremont script-job! The cover brings it all back to me now! I think I especially noticed it for some reason in a scene where Cyclops and Storm were conversing... Didn't someone use the old "you can always tell where the X-Men have been" line here? I think that's what really gave it away for me.

For whatever reason, I was really, really enjoying the X-Men titles at this time -- more than I had in years! And this issue in particular really brings it all back to me. I have very fond memories of eagerly going to the comic shop each week and picking up the next installments! And I wasn't a kid in middle school or something -- I was 21 at the time!

It's too bad it all went downhill so fast as soon as Alan Davis left. In my own (admittedly somewhat closed-minded) opinion, this was the last time the X-Men were genuinely enjoyable.

G. Kendall said...

"Didn't someone use the old "you can always tell where the X-Men have been" line here? I think that's what really gave it away for me."

That was in the previous issue, along with four or five other Claremont Cliches.

JdR said...

So are the 90s over?

Are we going to get a long rambling summary post to answer your original question?

Teebore said...

And it begins...

My hardcore inner nerd never could fully embrace this storyline, as I LOVED the mystery of the Twelve when I first read it in X-Factor 14 (as a back issue, years after its release) and was amongst those dying to see it re-visited and excited when Marvel announced it would be.

And then they revisited it by completely disregarding the established subplot. I know, I know, Master Mold was malfunctioning, etc. but I just couldn't get over the deviation enough to fully enjoy the story (and as X-Men crossover stories go, it's not bad, though the Skrulls, especially the mutant ones, seem out of place and unnecessary).

(Making Apocalypse the villain of the piece instead of one of the Twelve especially rubbed me raw, as I had always loved the idea that the villainous Apocalypse was one of the Twelve alongside heroes like Cyclops and Storm; it suggested that whatever role the Twelve had to play, it would be bigger than the usual good guy/bad guy struggle.)

I'd love to find out someday what plans, if any, Louise Simonson originally had for the storyline.

Jeff said...

If I recall interviews properly, I don't think there really was a definite plan for the Twelve when they were created. Even the old stories are inconsistent about who is one and I think it was sort of a Lobdell style "this idea sounds cool and we'll make some stuff up as we go along". But I could be wrong about this. But the idea that they power a big machine was most definitely disappointing. The rest of the story is good, though and I like the Alan Davis Ages of Apocalypse issues.

G. Kendall said...

"So are the 90s over?

Are we going to get a long rambling summary post to answer your original question?"

I think Davis' final issues were released in February 2000, so I'll finish with his run. I'll write an overall summary sometime next week. I don't know if it will be one post or a series.

Adrian said...

"I think Davis' final issues were released in February 2000, so I'll finish with his run."

Sad.

I was hoping that you would be moved by the Spirit and go on through the following runs, which would be cheating (the initial idea of a 90s X-Men blog) I suppose.
But I really wanted to see your take on Morrison's run.

ray swift said...

Nah, this crossover didn't make me excited from the beggining. It just feels like any other crossover in the last decade (except for AoA, of course)... They all have the same vibe. They all feel like they have the same starting point, middle and ending.
I didn't feel Claremont through this issue.
Anyway, Death's character is, again, the weak link in my book, and the thing that irritate me the most. Now he is all powerful again, after that weak performance in Cable's issue, but he still doesn't kill Collosus and Moira when he clearly has the chance, for whatever reason. For some stupid reason Jean cannot do nothing to him with cerebero on (but that's actually a very accurate Claremontian method). Also - Shadowcat should be dead. Wolverine put a sword through her, then electrified her - that surely has to break her concertration and make her solid again, so the sword should cut through her stomach. I call shenanigens.

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