Wednesday, March 10, 2010

THE BEAST #1-#3, May - July 1997

Bad Karma
Credits: Keith Giffen (writer), Cedric Nocon (penciler), Jaime Mendoza & Hackshack Studios (inkers), Marie Javins & Digital Chameleon (colors), Comicraft (letters)
I wonder, has Keith Giffen ever publically stated his thoughts on the X-titles? His fill-in on Excalibur hinted at some affection for the more obscure areas of X-continuity, and now we have a story that features Gateway, Viper, Spiral, Karma, and her little siblings, Coy Leong and Coy Nga. There’s even a flashback here I’m not familiar with -- the Australian-era X-Men, with Nightcrawler for some reason, facing an adult Leong and Nga (perhaps it's from New Mutants annual #2 ?). Maybe he’s just an old school pro who did a lot of research before delving into the X-universe, but it seems like you have to be a pretty hardcore fan to even think about Karma’s siblings.
The story opens with Spiral using Gateway to bring her Viper, her new partner in crime. Spiral has Leong and Nga, which comes as a surprise to Karma, who thinks the Hellfire Club is keeping them captive. After possessing Beast and forcing him into a pointless fight with Hellfire security, Karma calms down and agrees to let Beast and Cannonball help her in her search (the throwaway explanation for why the X-Men never looked for her siblings is that Karma never "gave (them) an opportunity”). Beast can’t find them with Cerebro (which allows Giffen to explain that non-telepaths can also use it, telepaths are just better with it), but that’s okay. Spiral conveniently shows up at X-Men’s door and kidnaps Karma, apparently because she needs all of the Coy siblings together.
As Spiral teleports away, Beast and Cannonball are brought along for the ride. And, yeah, this has precious little to do with the Beast. I honestly wonder if Karma and Beast have ever even appeared in the same comic before this. Giffen does build up enough intrigue for the first issue though, and with the exception of a comically exaggerated Cannonball, he does have a nice grasp on the characters. Cedric Nocon’s flat, two-dimensional Jim Lee impression is the biggest problem with the issue.
Body Shopping
Credits: Keith Giffen (plot), Terry Kavanagh (script), Cedric Nocon (penciler), Jaime Mendoza & Hackshack Studios (inkers), Ariane Lenshoek (colors), Comicraft (letters)
Giffen’s already halfway out of the door, and the drop in quality is noticeable. After arriving at Spiral’s Body Shoppe, the heroes learn that Karma’s siblings have been transformed into adult cyborgs. For reasons that aren’t clear yet, Viper and Spiral have brainwashed the siblings and unleashed them on the mutants. Aside from just being unpleasant to look at, Nocon’s art really drops the ball during the fight scene. Apparently, Nga bursts out of her “adult” shell, but she now resembles Karma and can duplicate her possession powers. It’s entirely possible that Kavanagh’s script isn’t conveying what exactly Giffen intended, but the art just makes things muddier. It’s hard to tell if Nga is supposed to resemble Karma if both characters barely look human. Plus, the art is so unclear, I can’t tell if Nga is supposed to be a kid again or not (the next issue clarifies that she’s still stuck in an adult body, but it’s unclear at this point). The style isn’t even consistent, as the art goes from a Jim Lee pastiche to a Joe Mad one over the course of a few pages. As for the Beast, he has a quickie flashback to the day he experimented on himself and turned blue and furry. I’m not entirely sure that even accurately represents the original story, and it’s a stretch to connect his transformation to what Spiral does in the Body Shoppe.
Closing Shop
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Cedric Nocon, Paul Pelletier, & Hector Collazo (penciler), Jaime Mendoza & Hackshack Studios, Harry Candelario (inkers), Ariane Lenshoek (colors), Comicraft (letters)
I’ve never read Karma’s first appearance in Marvel Team-Up #100, but apparently it introduced, and killed off, a twin brother I didn’t know about. Tran Coy Manh, Karma’s twin brother with the same powers, is dredged out of the past and becomes a major plot point. Viper wants to kill the Coy family because Tran forced her into some sort of Comics Code Approved white slavery in his sole appearance. As we abruptly learn this issue, Tran never really died, and a part of his consciousness resides inside Karma. This creates a conflict between Viper and Spiral, since Viper wants to take Karma back and use her as a means to torture Tran, while Spiral apparently wants to keep her for experimentation. Meanwhile, Leong and Nga are still grown-up, brainwashed cyborgs providing the token fight scenes. Spiral throws a tantrum, things blow up, and Beast, Cannonball, and Karma escape with the Coy siblings. What does Beast have to do? He un-brainwashes the siblings, but tells Karma that their new forms are permanent. (Are they still supposed to be cyborg adults? I know Claremont established that Karma was still taking care of them, but I don’t know if they’ve appeared “on-camera” since this mini.)
I’m glad someone out there had a great story that spoke to the Beast’s character and didn’t rely on a large cast of unrelated characters to work, don’t you? Seriously, who possibly thought this could be sold as a Beast miniseries? The Beast has served with the Avengers and the Defenders. He’s best friends with Wonder Man and has various connections throughout the Marvel Universe. He has an evil twin out there in continuity. So, of course his miniseries is a follow-up to a forgotten New Mutants subplot. And how is it that a three-issue miniseries can’t even keep a consistent creative team?


wwk5d said...

Wow, this looks like a mess. Might have been a bit better has Giffen stayed on, but you do wonder why this was done as a "Beast" mini-series.

And the twins did re-appear, and were cured. Check out this page from Karma's profile from

Anonymous said...

If I had to guess I'd say it was never intended to be a Beast mini-series, but had him thrown on as the lead to sell more copies given how most of the other characters never left the 80's in any major way. Beast was a pretty major character in the 90's Fox cartoon after all.

Then again, 1997 also saw an original cast New Mutants mini-series published so that just makes this whole thing even more confusing.

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