Friday, April 27, 2012

X-MAN #53 & #54, July-August 1999

In Cold Blood
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (plot), Luke Ross (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Kevin Tinsley & Mike Thomas (colors), Comicraft (letters)

That’s a nice cover, even though Cyclops and Phoenix don’t wear those costumes in the issue. As far as we can tell, they’re wearing their ‘90s outfits underneath heavy hiking gear. Another oddity: Terry Kavanagh is only credited with “Plot” this issue, and his credit looks like it was pasted in after the others were written. (“Plot” appears inside a white box, lettered in a different font than the other credits.) If someone else scripted this issue, he or she doesn’t have a noticeable style, although this seems less verbose than the typical Kavanagh issue. Finally, if anyone wants to make any jokes unfavorably comparing Terry Kavanagh to Truman Capote, go right ahead. Now, on to the issue…

The story opens with X-Man having a nightmare about the Age of Apocalypse, something we’re now told is a common occurrence. When he awakens, we discover he’s hiking an Alaskan mountain with Cyclops and Phoenix. A dream led him here, and his biological parents are helping him out presumably because they live close by. On the mountaintop they discover a pile of dead bodies, bizarrely merged into the rocks, along with an army of Infinite soldiers from the Age of Apocalypse. One of the human rebels’ Atlantic Sea Walls has also merged into the mountain, and its “mutant nullification grid” is inhibiting the heroes’ powers. As they attempt to dismantle it, they’re trailed by the mysterious cyborg Hatchet-9.

Apparently, I’ve stumbled upon the random issue of X-Man that isn’t bad at all. These tend to be the opening chapters of arcs that ultimately disappoint, though, so who knows what’s coming next. If an X-Man series had to exist, this should’ve been the direction it followed. It’s stupid to ignore his connection to Cyclops and Phoenix and his origins in the incredibly popular Age of Apocalypse. The abrupt opening also works as a pleasant surprise, although it does mean that the fifteen or so ongoing storylines Kavanagh still needs to get back to are on the backburner once again.

A Little Piece of Home
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Luke Ross (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Mark Bernardo (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Oh, never mind. This is terrible. Apparently the Atlantic Sea Wall from the previous issue is also housing an Infinite soldier cloning plant for Apocalypse, even though the Sea Walls are supposed to be the human rebels’ base (explaining the “mutant nullification grid” which is still a plot point this issue). Hatchet-9 makes his move against Phoenix, but Cyclops and X-Man arrive just in time for a rescue. She then returns the favor and helps them defeat the Infinite soldiers. And that’s essentially the extent of the drama in this issue.

Hatchet-9 is revealed as a human who joined Apocalypse’s cause by agreeing to become a cyborg, but I’m not sure how he’s supposed to be different from any of the Infinite soldiers, since they have the same origin. Outside of his unusual design, I have no idea why the creators felt he was worth using.

Because every X-Man story still needs a giant explosion, Kavanagh fulfills this issue’s quota by destroying the entire mountain after the Seawall implodes into itself. X-Man passes out, has a vision of the AoA Forge and Siryn, then wakes up in our reality. The baffling final panel is supposed to show X-Man and his parents standing on top of a mountain ledge, but inexplicably has them facing several miles of flat land. Luke Ross is a perfectly competent artist by this point, so I don’t know what happened here. Phoenix abruptly screams, “The ride’s not over yet!” for some reason, perhaps because they’re going to be hiking down that imaginary cliff, and that’s the story’s conclusion. Nothing resolved, no coherent hints at a future explanation. Typical X-Man.

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