Friday, April 1, 2011

X-MAN #37-#38, April-May 1998

Breaking Point

Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), ChrisCross (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Mike Thomas & Mark Bernardo (colors)

Huh, this one is a little odd. Continuing the editorially mandated friendship of X-Man and Peter Parker, Spider-Man is revealed as the mysterious voice from the end of the last issue. He tries to talk X-Man out of erasing the city’s memory of him, but it doesn’t work. X-Man sends his presence over New York and wipes out everyone’s recollection of him, but he decides his friend Jam should keep her memories. (She’s the one who lost her arm, only to have it temporarily replaced by one of X-Man’s psionic illusions.) The story tries to present this as deep and meaningful, but it comes across as more capricious than anything.

While X-Man is spacing out, completing his mission, Spider-Man fears he’s near death and socks him back into consciousness. Conveniently enough, last issue X-Man chose the top of the Brooklyn Bridge to perch dramatically, the location of Gwen Stacy’s death (after the lettering was corrected in the reprints). Spider-Man emotes appropriately, but X-Man isn’t moved. He creates a psychic whirlwind, which somehow touches on Spider-Man’s memories to produce…the AoA Gwen Stacy!

That’s the type of slightly insane/brilliant idea we don’t see enough in this book. It’s unfortunately marred by a continuity error -- for some reason, Spidey remembers Gwen as his friend during his nerdy, bespectacled, high school days -- but what a use of the character! Spider-Man tries to talk to Gwen, but wouldn’t you know it, three mysterious armored hitmen choose this moment to attack. And, surely no one saw this coming…but Gwen’s knocked off the bridge! Spider-Man saves her this time, but she disappears after X-Man collapses during the fight. Spider-Man’s now lost “a dream come true” and is ready to take his pain out on the remaining goons. Like many of the events in this comic, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but Kavangh is using the powers and backstory of X-Man in unique ways, making this issue more entertaining than usual.

Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide…

Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), ChrisCross & Ariel Olivetti (pencilers), Mahlstedt, Bobillo, Caesar, & Sosa (inks), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters), Mike Thomas (colors)

Did you want to see the repercussions of X-Man erasing New York’s memory? Sorry. Were you interested in Spider-Man’s reaction to X-Man’s ability to recreate his dead girlfriend? Eh, we’ll pay it some lip service. The bulk of this issue is dedicated to Spider-Man and X-Man fighting the armored henchmen, because that’s the most engaging aspect of the previous issue.

ChrisCross handles the action capably, and his interpretation of Spidey beats most of the artists assigned to his monthly books at this time, but the lengthy fight is ultimately a disappointment. The only information given on the villains is that they’re from a group called “The Gauntlet.” After a protracted fight that’s stretched over two issues, they simply teleport away, leaving the readers with no insight into who they are or what they want. Considering that Kavanagh has let a Hellfire Club subplot languish in the background for over two years at this point, I don’t think he’s generated enough goodwill to pull this kind of stunt. Speaking of the Hellfire Club, Madelyne Pryor, who was supposed to be doing something evil with the club by now, abruptly shows up at the end. The narrative captions make it clear that she’s genetically X-Man’s mother, which doesn’t stop the issue from concluding with a silhouette of the two sharing a romantic embrace. What can you even say at this point?

Meanwhile, Dr. Arlington, the doctor from the previous arc, somehow has been blessed with healing powers from X-Man. He’s traveling the world with Roust (a character Kavanagh seems determined to add to the supporting cast, even though he’s barely had anything to do with X-Man and hasn’t played a real role in any of the storylines so far), helping the sick. That’s one way to emphasize what a petulant twerp your lead character is -- let a minor member of the cast who was just introduced actually use the hero’s powers for good.


Matt said...

Good grief, how often did Kavanagh revisit the Gwen thing over the years?? I remember during the Clone Saga there was a scene set at the bridge, where Spidey had to save someone (maybe Gwen's clone?) from the same fate as the original, but this time he did it right (with full-blown overdramatic narration informing us that he'd learned from that little "snap" snafu from the first time around) -- and I'm about 99% sure he used a similar scenario in another comic during the 90's, but I suppose it's possible I'm thinking of another writer...

Anonymous said...

Just about every long term Spiderman writer brings up THE BRIDGE at some point. it has become almost a shorthand to remind readers of the human consequences of superheroics, much like the crippling of Barbara Gordon.

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