Monday, May 17, 2010

UNCANNY X-MEN ‘97 - October 1997


Credits: Jorge Gonzalez (writer), Duncan Rouleau (penciler), Troy Hubbs (inker), Comicraft (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors)

Summary: In Africa, the X-Men defend Gene Nation from Humanity’s Last Stand. After fighting them off, Havok arrives with the Brotherhood, warning of another attack. Reluctantly, the X-Men and Gene Nation team with the Brotherhood to stop HLS. After a battle that leaves many Gene Nationals dead, Dark Beast devises a way to freeze HLS’s hi-tech Razor armor. Some Gene Nationals advocate executing their human captives, despite the X-Men’s objections. Dark Beast and Fatale stage a mock execution, secretly teleporting the men away without Havok’s knowledge. Two Gene Nationals, Boost and Tether, leave with the Brotherhood, while Storm names the honorable D’Gard as Gene Nation’s new leader.

Continuity Notes: Gene Nation has been in Africa since the Storm limited series. New Gene Nation members Boost, Tether, and D’Gard are introduced. Boost can enter a mutant’s body and amplify their powers, Tether is a reptile-human with a Cobra Commander speech pattern, and D’Gard is the judicious older member (he has a cane and wears a dashiki, so he must be the wise and noble one). He apparently has "empathic" powers. Unbeknownst to everyone, Dark Beast is teleporting the men away so that they can be used as “human chattel” in his secret experiments.

Review: It’s hard to believe this story showed up in an annual. While the X-books were supposed to be leading up to Bastion’s ruthless anti-mutant crusade in “Operation: Zero Tolerance,” Uncanny had the team rescue the Shi’ar Empire again, then get lost in space (and Antarctica), while X-Men wasted everyone’s time with another origin story for Storm’s ruby and a potential Legacy Virus cure that went nowhere. A story that follows up on Gene Nation (originally intended as a major threat in Uncanny), has Cyclops facing Havok again, and pits the team against an anti-mutant militia? We can’t have that in any of the main books! That space has already been allotted for the X-Men’s long-awaited team-up with Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu.

Although the dialogue gets a bit rough, Gonzalez has many solid ideas here. Gene Nation was introduced as a coldblooded terrorist group with no qualms against killing innocents, so it makes sense that HLS would target them (even though this is apparently a new generation of Gene Nationals). One of the HLS members is related to a girl killed during Gene Nation’s initial terrorist attack at a New York nightclub, which puts a human face on what should’ve been a legitimate tragedy within the Marvel Universe, even if it was quickly forgotten. HLS isn’t fleshed out beyond this point, but at least they’re starting with a decent motivation.

Dark Beast has his own connection to Gene Nation, since he views himself as a “father” to their Morlock ancestors. He’s supposed to hate Storm for removing Gene Nation’s backbone, a plot thread Gonzalez briefly acknowledges. He seems to have put more thought into Dark Beast’s character and motivations than Howard Mackie did in X-Factor, as Dark Beast is still involved with human experimentation and scheming behind Havok’s back. Cyclops asks Havok how could he be dumb enough to trust Dark Beast, a question Gonzalez can’t allow him to answer since Mackie hasn’t bothered to explain it in X-Factor. The Havok-era Brotherhood will always be a dumb idea, but the story uses them in a valid way, and it’s nice to see that Cyclops’ relationship with Havok wasn’t totally forgotten during this period. If only this story could’ve been switched with one of the main titles in 1997. Let Duncan Rouleau draw that Shang-Chi team-up in an annual while Carlos Pacheco pencils a story that actually connects to the ongoing storylines.

1 comment:

wwk5d said...

This one isn't that bad. I wouldn't call it a forgotten gem from the era, but it holds up well. Some nitpicking aside - "he has a cane and wears a dashiki, so he must be the wise and noble one", well, of course! ;) - it's actually good. And yes, why is this in an annual, instead of in the main books? If anything, the Candra 2-parter should've been condensed into an annual.

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