Credits: Jorge Gonzalez (writer), Jim Cheung & Leo Fernandez (pencilers), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Chris Eliopoulos & VC (letters), Kevin Somers (colors)
Summary: Inside Pushkin’s aircraft, Maverick and Red Guardian are discovered by Omega Red and Sickle. Turbulence throws the heroes off the plane, but they’re soon able to locate the AIM base Pushkin has targeted. While Red Guardian disables the chemical weapons, Maverick has a second confrontation with Sickle, but refuses to kill him. Red Guardian is caught by Hammer, who smashes his leg. Maverick sends Red Guardian away in an escape pod as the AIM base self-destructs. After fending off Omega Red, Maverick sneaks back onboard Pushkin’s plane and destroys the stolen missiles. Sickle strikes again, gouging Maverick’s left eye out and throwing him out of the plane. Maverick survives the fall, and uses his powers to cauterize his wound.
Continuity Notes: For some reason, it’s important the editors tell us this story takes place before Quicksilver #6. Chris and Elena make a brief appearance, as Elena lies comatose in the Bradleys’ home. The pain Maverick experiences at the end travels through their telepathic bond and forces Elena out of her coma.
“Huh?” Moment: Apparently, you can “permanently neutralize” chemical WMDs “forever” by pressing a button on a computer console that will deactivate their biological agents.
Review: I don’t remember people talking about the Maverick series when it was new, but I do recall some speculation that its cancellation was significant because it was the first X-spinoff to be cancelled due to low sales. (I guess the 99-cent Professor Xavier and the X-Men book didn’t count, as it wasn’t strictly in-continuity and a part of an entire line that folded.) An X-association was no longer enough keep a title afloat, and surely Marvel would learn a lesson from this and be more careful about exploiting the brand in the future. And that is exactly what happened, because unquestionably no X-titles have been cancelled since 1998. Readers just can’t get enough spinoffs about new teenage mutants, or solo books with popular characters like Rogue and Nightcrawler. That X-brand is still a healthy cash cow, here on Bizarro World.
I do feel a little bad for Maverick. I can’t say it’s been an exceptionally great book, but it’s tended to hold a higher level of quality than many of its spinoff brethren. Had it launched just a few years earlier, I could see it making it past the twenty-five issue mark quite easily. However, Maverick had the misfortune of being released in the summer of 1997, a solid year after the X-brand started to lose its shine as the overall industry continued to collapse. Maverick probably would’ve performed just as well as, say, Cable’s solo title, had it been released within a year of his first appearance. This was a Jim Lee character with mysterious ties to Wolverine! He shoots people and has a bad attitude, just like the Punisher! In 1993, that’s printing money. In 1997, you’re hoping that the people who still remember/care about that stuff will give the book a shot.
And if someone actually wanted to see the original, tough-as-nails merc Maverick, the series didn’t exactly deliver. At this point, he’s mellowed out so much that he doesn’t even kill the assassin that’s obsessed with killing him, the one that helped to murder his mentor earlier in the series, and is in the process of stealing WMDs, when he has the chance. Maverick doesn’t want to be brought down to Sickle’s level, so he lets the guy live to terrorize and murder another day. Or just another hour, as Maverick has to face him again a few pages later, which ends with Sickle gauging his eye out. Sickle lost an eye to Maverick earlier in the series, so maybe this is a play on the old “eye for an eye” axiom, although it’s a little odd that Maverick loses his eye after he’s already decided to spare his opponent’s life. Maybe this was intended as a cynical message; a warning that doing the right thing could also have tragic consequences. The final pages are rather dark, as Maverick tends to his wounds while stranded in the frozen wilderness, so perhaps Gonzalez really was going for a totally downbeat ending. However, given the more traditional tone of the rest of the series, I wonder if the ending was originally intended as a cliffhanger that just became the closing after the pink slips went out.
I’m not sure why exactly Maverick was softened up for this series, but it’s one of the choices that could’ve led to the title’s demise. Maverick’s the guy who shot a flunkie seven times in the face in his first appearance for no compelling reason, outside of it making a nice quip after the goon told him he needed to go to Level Seven (“Seven, huh?” BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM). He’s not the type of character you put through a “true heroism” arc, unless there’s a skilled writer at the helm who can really pull it off. Nothing in this series leads me to believe Jorge Gonzalez is that man. His stories mostly make sense, his action sequences can be fun, and he tends to give Jim Cheung interesting things to draw, but he isn’t someone you turn to for intense character development. Gonzalez’s characterizations are just too flat to execute that kind of an arc, which leaves Maverick as a slightly dull superhero by the time the final issue arrives, rather than the cold-blooded mercenary with a dark sense of humor that Scott Lobdell and Jim Lee introduced to fans. If you wanted that Maverick, you were probably better off reading Joe Kelly’s Deadpool.