Wednesday, July 15, 2009

UXM #379 & X-MEN #99 – April 2000

Uncanny X-Men #379

What Dreams May Come…

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Chris Claremont (script, uncredited), Tom Raney (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Brian Haberlin (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Professor Xavier leaves the X-Men to train the Skrull mutants in space. In Washington DC, Mystique disguises herself as a federal agent to steal files from the NSA. Iceman and Beast sneak into Genosha, where Beast plans to research the Legacy Virus. Nearby, Polaris begins to question her decision to aid Magneto. At the X-Men’s mansion, a hologram of the High Evolutionary appears. He tells the team that mutant powers are too much of a threat to the planet, and that he will remove the mutant genome and make humanity whole. Suddenly, mutants across the globe lose their powers.

Continuity Note: Shadowcat describes herself as “barely sixteen” in this issue, which caused a firestorm online. Most fans seemed pretty adamant that she was at least eighteen.

Review: This is the start of Davis’ final arc, which sounds like more of an event than the Apocalypse storyline on paper, but really only lasts three issues. The majority of this issue is spent on having characters react to Cyclops’ death, which wasn’t that convincing when it happened the first time, and just reads like an editorial blunder in hindsight. Most of the character bits, such as Phoenix telling X-Man to finally live up to his name and the X-Men’s baseball game, aren’t bad, but the pacing of the issue is odd. The first half of the story consists of conversation scenes and a few montages of what various mutants are up to, and then High Evolutionary appears out of nowhere and declares that everyone’s powers are going away. The High Evolutionary isn’t given a villainous motivation; he just thinks mutants are too dangerous to have around, which at least keeps him broadly in character. Professor Xavier leaves the team, yet again, and Shadowcat isn’t happy about it. This seems like a more realistic reaction than having everyone just solemnly accept that Xavier needs to help the little green men in space. This is really just filler before Claremont’s official return, but the majority of the issue works pretty well.

X-Men #99

Oh, the Humanity!

Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Brett Booth (penciler), Sal Regla (inker), Hi-Fi Design (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Magneto and Polaris rescue Beast and Iceman from the human Genoshans that are targeting former mutants. Beast soon realizes that the genetically altered Mutates did not lose their powers, but were instead stalled in mid-transformation. Meanwhile, Colossus tries to console Nightcrawler, who misses his powers. Rogue disguises herself as Mystique’s lawyer and visits her in prison. Storm and Marrow work at a children’s camp. Jubilee discovers Wolverine is sick, unable to deal with adamantium poisoning. Dani Moonstar has a psychic vision of Cable, leading her to believe that her powers still exist. Inside the High Evolutionary’s satellite, his assistant Dr. Essex freezes the circuits in his armor. Essex reveals himself as Mr. Sinister, who plans on manipulating all DNA on Earth for his experiments.

Continuity Notes: A very extensive narrative sequence on the first page explains that the High Evolutionary removed the X-gene by manipulating the electro-magnetic field that surrounds human DNA. It’s revealed that one of his mentors as a young man was Dr. Essex, who he doesn’t know is Mr. Sinister.

The number of mutants listed on Earth is listed in the “hundreds”, which surprised me until I remembered that it was Grant Morrison who expressly increased the mutant population. I know that Marvel greatly reduced the number of mutants in the Marvel Universe a few years ago (originally claiming that only 198 still exist, but it seems like they’ve backtracked). The move has widely been viewed as a mistake, to put it mildly. I wonder if the “Decimation” idea would’ve worked if Marvel simply tried to revert to the pre-Morrison status quo, instead of overstating their case.

The Neo appear for the first time in a one-page cameo. One of their children (who resembles a mermaid) drowned when the High Evolutionary’s devolution wave hit the Earth. Of course, they’re declaring revenge. This is a setup for Chris Claremont’s first storyline, which is the source of his second run’s horrid reputation. I seem to recall his post-Neo stories were fine, but the unwieldy first arc was such a mess it was used to justify removing him from the titles.

Review: I have no idea why Marvel limited this idea to such a small storyline. This is an event that actually should impact the entire X-line, opens doors for numerous story possibilities, and actually needs to last a few issues in order to sell its importance. If any storyline deserved its own crossover name and special trade dress, it would be this one. Instead, it runs through two issues of UXM, one X-Men issue, and apparently one issue each of X-Force and Wolverine. (I'm basing this on one footnote during Wolverine's scene and X-Force's description in the Bullpen Bulletins' Checklist section. I remember fans asking if any of the mutants in the Avengers would be affected by this, and Kurt Busiek responded that no one at Marvel even told him about the event.) There’s no name for the storyline and nothing on the covers to indicate any connection between the titles. I can see why Marvel was saving its hype machine for the upcoming revamping of the entire line, but why waste this story idea as filler?

This issue takes place weeks after the UXM chapter. Most of the X-Men have now moved on to normal lives, so we get a montage of things like Rogue riding the subway and Storm and Marrow working at a summer camp. Nightcrawler’s having a hard time adjusting to having five fingers and losing his tail, which throws off his balance. Colossus is now an up-and-coming painter and doesn’t seem to miss his old life at all. There’s a lot of potential here (well, Storm and Marrow at the summer camp probably wouldn’t be a winner under any circumstances), but the story doesn’t go into any real detail. We’re given glimpses of a few possible storylines, but the lack of depth makes it hard to care too much. The book is also thick with unnecessary captions and dialogue. Many fans at the time pegged this as another Claremont ghost-job, and it’s possible that at least a few pages are his, but most of this script reads like Kavanagh’s recent issues. At one point Rogue works the phrase “high-price legal teams” into her dialogue twice in one panel. Not to emphasize a point or for comedic effect, but apparently because the scripter couldn’t be bothered to think up a different phrase. The guest art comes from Brett Booth, who was doing X-Men Unlimited at the time. He does a very obvious Art Adams imitation, which seems to mirror the weaker elements of Adams’ early work. Most of the characters are too lanky, his faces are too narrow, and there are pointless scratchy lines everywhere.


Matt said...

I remember not liking this story very much. Davis went out with a whimper, rather than the bang he deserved, which was unfortunate. He didn't even draw any of these final three issues!

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he just tossed the germ of this idea to the editors on his way out the door, and they were the ones who actually plotted it!

Jeff said...

I kind of love this story. Sure, we only get brief glimpses of the characters powerless, but what fun glimpses they are. I do find it funny that such an epic story is told in three issues, but I actually kind of like it. I'm all about compression in comics.

wwk5d said...

I think Marrow's story would have worked better had Claremont kept her and there been some follow up to her looking normal, for the first time ever, then reverting back to normal.

ray swift said...

A. Claremont scripped this? This is horrible! So stiff and cluttered!
B. Oh, Polaris... She doesn't has any convincing motivation since the days of Howard Mackie's X-factor.
C. Well, good morning to you there, High Evolutionary. And why got you to wake up only and exactly now (could at least do that a day or two before, thus preventing Apocalypse from doing his evil dead. Of course, that would be too convenient...)

ray swift said...

Oh, yeah, and Kitty being 16 is BS...

ray swift said...

On X-men #99: I have only one question: How did Bobby and Hank managed to expose the fact they are (were) mutants?!
Also, MAN this script is bad. I'll take Colossus's dialogue (with Kurt) as a case study: So, the writer knows about Colossus that he is Russian, and also that he's an artist. Naturally, Colossus has to say to Kurt that the secondary (?) benefit about being an ex-X-men (not funny) was that he was able to travel around the world and see so much ART (man, that's subtle. Also, when did that happen?). Just after this, they enter the kitchen, and of course Colossus is making some Russian dish. You know, because he's Russian. The writer didn't even seem to bother to check anything about art or Russian food...

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