Beauty & the Beast Part One – Broken Mirrors
Credits: Alan Davis (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Adam Kubert & Rob Jensen (pencilers), Batt, Dan Panosian, & Vince Russell (inkers), Liquid! (colors), Comicraft (letters)
Summary: Marrow dreams of her harsh childhood before waking up in a hotel room outside of Boston. Her travelling companion, Colossus, asks her to view one of his paintings that is on display nearby. At the art gallery, an artist named Zone flirts with Marrow. When she loses control of her bone growths, he’s revolted. She tries to leave with Colossus, but they’re suddenly teleported away. They arrive in what appears to be the Morlock Tunnels. Marrow spots Callisto and runs after her. Colossus is greeted by Mikhail Rasputin, who tells him that with their combined efforts, their sister Illyana can be revived. Meanwhile, Deathbird arrives in Egypt, declaring the return of the Living Monolith.
Production Note: Marvel’s cover format changes again this month. The Comics Code seal is now tucked into the corner, and the cover dates are gone. There was a rumor at the time that Marvel dropped cover dates because it was embarrassed by the large number of late Marvel Knights titles, but I have no idea if this is true. The first page indicias still list the date, for what it’s worth.
Review: Marvel might’ve hyped “The Shattering” as a big event, but it really turned out to be an excuse for Alan Davis to do traditional stories about teammates going off in groups and having brief adventures together. This title focuses on Colossus and Marrow, while Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Shadowcat have an adventure in X-Men. These types of stories were common in UXM in the ‘80s, but by this point, I guess they had to be done under the banner of a “massive event that changes everything!”
This storyline is designed to showcase Marrow’s new status quo and to bring her closer to Colossus. From a story perspective, I’m not sure why she was getting closer to Colossus at the same time she was forming a bond with Gambit, but there is an unexplored continuity connection between the duo. Colossus’ brother, Mikhail, is the ruler of the Darwinist world Marrow grew up in, so it makes sense to bring them together in a story that uses him as the villain. I’m sure no one had this in mind when Colossus and Marrow were placed on the team together, but the fact that Davis saw the connection at least shows that he was using the characters as more than just ciphers. He also has portrays Colossus as sympathetic towards Xavier's apparent breakdown, due to his own past, which uses a sketchy area of continuity to the story's advantage.
Mikhail Rasputin was never that great of a villain (he was introduced during the chaotic string of issues Whilce Portacio and Jim Lee plotted), but if Colossus’ brother is out there in continuity, someone probably should do a Colossus story with him. This is mostly set-up, but there are a few nice moments between Colossus and Marrow, and Kavanagh’s scripting is more believably human than it has been in the past. Rob Jensen, a name I don’t recognize, draws half of the issue. He’s the second fill-in artist in a row with a style compatible with Kubert’s, so at least the transition isn’t jarring.
Hidden Lives Part One – Open Wounds
Credits: Alan Davis (plot & pencils), Terry Kavanagh (script), Mark Farmer (inker), Glynis Oliver (colors), Comicraft (lettering)
Summary: In Manhattan, Mystique narrowly escapes a ninja attack. Nearby, Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Shadowcat are having dinner. Shadowcat and Rogue go dancing, while Nightcrawler visits a church and prays. There, he meets Polaris. She asks for his help, claiming that someone is following her. Mystique tracks Rogue to the nightclub and asks for her help. At her apartment, Mystique explains to Rogue and Shadowcat that armed ninjas have been chasing her. Soon, Rogue investigates a ransacked apartment Mystique keeps under another alias. More ninjas appear and she fights them off. Suddenly, Sunfire enters and attacks.
Continuity Notes: The cover copy is just outright wrong, since Sabretooth isn’t hunting Mystique. He’s not even in this issue; Mystique adopts his form while fighting the ninjas.
A one-page scene reveals Japanese agents, the Yakiba, are in a nearby submarine spying on Mystique. They’ve hired the ninjas, and it’s implied that Sunfire is also working for them. Another subplot scene has “Mastermind” and “Mesmero” (their shadows reveal them as Skrulls) discussing Mystique. She’s been spying on them, but the Skrull disguised as Mastermind is content to let the Yakiba deal with her.
Rogue picks up a new costume from Mystique’s apartment. It’s a green and black outfit that’s very reminiscent of her late ‘80s costume. Marvel should’ve stuck with it, since it’s better than any costume I’ve seen her in since this issue.
For the sake of nitpicking, I’ll point out that Rogue mentally refers to herself as a “Louisiana river rat”. She’s actually from Mississippi. I’ll also mention that Mystique has a photo of her and Rogue taken while Rogue was a young girl. This seems to be going back to the idea that Mystique took care of Rogue before her mutant powers even surfaced (which was contradicted by the infamous X-Men Unlimited #4).
This is Polaris’ first appearance since Havok’s “death”, which is how the X-Factor series ended. She’s convinced that he isn’t dead, which is accurate. He’s been shifted to another reality in Mutant X. Except for one line of dialogue a few issues earlier, this is the first time Havok’s death was even mentioned in the main titles. Even if the readers know he’s not dead, it’s ridiculous that none of the X-Men (especially Cyclops) were given a reaction.
Review: Even more than the UXM storyline, this arc reminds me of Claremont’s early work, or something Davis would’ve done in Excalibur. Most of the story consists of vague hints for upcoming events, but it also leaves plenty of room for characters to interact with one another, or to have long inner monologues. The characters are more important than the specific story, which is something that gets lost along the way when an “event” has to happen every few issues.
Something interesting is actually done with Mystique for the first time in ages, as it’s revealed that she maintains multiple identities in her free time. This issue we learn that she’s secretly billionaire financier B. Byron Biggs and supermodel Ronnie Lake. That’s a great idea that opens the door for a multitude of stories (I don’t know if it was picked up on in her solo series, but it should’ve been). Her relationship with Rogue is handled well, as they discuss Destiny’s death and their past together (since Destiny helped raise Rogue as well, it seems like she should’ve had more of a reaction to it over the years). We also have Nightcrawler expressing his condolences to Polaris over Havok’s apparent death, which helps to revive the “family” feel the various X-characters once had with one another. Towards the end of the issue, Rogue gets a Claremontian inner monologue that has her reflecting on her relationship with Mystique, the fact that she’s still unable to control her powers, and her place with the X-Men. Like most of this issue’s script, it’s an improvement for Kavanagh, whose work is usually more wooden. A tolerable script combined with Davis’ typically excellent artwork means this issue isn’t bad at all.