Monday, June 25, 2012

X-MAN #55-57, September-November 1999

Trouble on the Homefront
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Mike Miller (penciler), Elmer, Koblish, & LaRosa (inks), Mike Thomas (colors), Comicraft’s Jason Levine (letters)

That cover has no real relevance to this issue, but I’m glad the editors were willing to let Andrew Robinson just go nuts during his short stint as cover artist. It’s certainly more interesting than anything that happens in the story.

X-Man’s Alaska trip continues, as he “bonds” with Cyclops in a clumsily written fishing scene. Trying to incorporate Cyclops and Phoenix into the book sounds fine in theory, but in practice it just emphasizes how vacant their relationship is. A few years earlier, Cable’s issues with Cyclops and Phoenix created a few memorable emotional scenes, while no one has ever seemed to care that much about X-Man’s relationship with his genetic parents. And every time we see Phoenix, it’s just a reminder that X-Man has the hots for her clone, which is something we all need to forget.

The action in the story comes from Modt and Jahf, the Shi’ar guardians of the M’Kraan Crystal. They’re on Earth to investigate the mysterious emergence of a portion of the Age of Apocalypse reality, which you might recall as the unexplained plot from the previous two issues. They target X-Man since a portion of that energy still surrounds him. Modt and Jahf disguise themselves as a critically injured father and son in order to test how X-Man will use his powers, and even though he uses them responsibly, Jahf is incensed when X-Man is able to see through their ruse. They of course fight for a few pages, but the battle ends when Modt decides that X-Man should be left alone. I actually admire Kavanagh’s ability to occasionally pull enemies like this out of nowhere, and it’s about time X-Man’s vague connection to the M’Kraan Crystal surfaced again, but this fight scene just drags on and its resolution is lame. (Why didn’t Modt stop the fight at the beginning?)

Finally, after having his costume destroyed, Cyclops offers X-Man the outfit he wore during the Walt Simonson days of X-Factor. I like the design, I’m glad someone thought to revive it, but it doesn’t look right on X-Man. Maybe it simply looks wrong without the cowl and visor, but for whatever reason, this is not a good fit. Marvel must realize this, because the color scheme is soon changed to darker colors, which does make the outfit more tolerable. Anyway, X-Man says goodbye, proclaiming that he’s got “a new look, new connections, and maybe…a whole new lease on life…” Yes, it’s time for X-Man’s annual “bold new direction!”

Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Mike Miller (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Mike Thomas (colors), Mark Bench (letters)

Oh, joy. It’s a “hero wakes up in fantasy world of his own making” storyline, this one set in the idyllic small town of Greyville. As tired as this premise is, I will say that Mike Miller’s art livens things up a bit. He apparently didn’t draw these issues as last minute fill-ins, which is normally how the X-office employed him, so we’re seeing a better representation of his skills. His renditions of Spider-Man and this arc’s “mystery foe” rival anything going on in the Spider-titles at the time.

Since X-Man doesn’t have much in the way of friends or a supporting cast, Kavanagh is forced to use Spider-Man, Threnody, Madelyne Pryor, Cable, and the AoA version of Forge to populate this “perfect world.” Hey, wasn’t that the title of an Amazing Spider-Man storyline from earlier in 1999? One that had Mysterio using his illusions on Spider-Man’s friends in an attempt to learn his secret ID? Hmm…anyway, the only segment of the story that doesn’t come across as filler is a brief scene that has a pregnant Threnody following X-Man’s trail. And Threnody, for some reason, now commands an army of zombies that rise from the sea, chanting her name. Yes, that makes perfect X-Man sense.

Behind the Curtain
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Mike Miller (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Mike Thomas (colors), Comicraft’s Troy Peteri (letters)

X-Man targets the Purple Man as the creator of the Greytown illusion, but soon learns that this is another fantasy. Eventually, Mysterio makes his presence known, revealing that he spotted X-Man at a carnival a few days earlier and has been using his illusion powers ever since to manipulate X-Man into committing crimes (and search his fantasies for Spider-Man’s secret ID, which he still refuses to reveal). Since X-Man is one of the few telepaths who hasn’t regained his or her telepathy following “Psi-War,” Kavanagh’s actually using the current continuity to his advantage, because it’s highly implausible that the strongest telepath on Earth could’ve been duped by Mysterio under normal circumstances.

And in case anyone cares, Mysterio is exhibiting new mind-control and hypnosis powers that he claims have been lost to mankind for over a millennium. I’m assuming this was thrown in to justify how Mysterio survived his suicide in Daredevil a few months before appearing in Amazing Spider-Man, which had him dismissing his suicide as a prank. Don’t worry about it, guys. The Spider-office has a nonsensical miniseries in the works that will bravely answer none of those questions.

The story ends with X-Man trapping Mysterio in his own illusion, a signal that his telepathy has conveniently returned. The exertion knocks him out, however, leaving him prey to Threnody and her army of the walking dead. Considering this title’s track record, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next issue opened with X-Man leading the Avengers on an attack against the Badoon, or aiding Speedball in his deadly battle against Count Plaqula.


evanmcb said...

Modt and Jahf...Mutt and Jeff?

Kerry said...

Yeah, assuming these were originally Claremont characters, he had a tendency to give alien charactres jokey, winking pop culture names (there's another pair, for example, named after Beany and Cecil).

S said...

Hilarious last line

Matt said...

I believe John Byrne takes credit for naming Modt and Jahf, with Claremont's response being B'Nee and C'cil.

How is Modt undercover on Earth? Isn't he like ten stories tall? Can he shrink?

"Don’t worry about it, guys. The Spider-office has a nonsensical miniseries in the works that will bravely answer none of those questions."

True, the "Mysterio Manifesto" didn't really answer much... but Kevin Smith and Marvel Knights guys shouldn't have created this mess to begin with. Smith killed off Mysterio in the pages of Daredevil without the permission of the Spider-office.

Kerry said...

What's especially frustrating is that "The Mysterio Manifesto" tries to slide someone else into the Mysterio identity, but still leaves the possibility open that it's still Beck in case that new status quo doesn't fly. I think for a little while Marvel half-heartedly tried to suggest that the heroes weren't sure who was wearing the fishbowl now, but in the current comics it's pretty much just, "Yeah, it's Beck, the whole cancer/suicide thing was just Mysterio being Mysterio."

Peter said...

I seem to remember that Kevin Smith created another Mysterio (not the same one from the Manifesto, who was supposed to also be Pumpkin Jack), in the Evil That Men Do mini, and that Peter David wrote a dead, demonic Mysterio (supposed to be the original) killing that other Mysterio in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. I don't think Dan Slott picked up on any of the FNSM stuff when he reintroduced Mysterio in ASM, unless I'm forgetting that bit :)

Kerry said...

Ah, naturally, that stuff happened in FNSM, the one Spidey book I wasn't reading at the time. (I'd read "Evil That Men Do" but must have blocked it out, which I think is understandable). Interesting; I had no idea that they attempted a "demonic Mysterio" bit. Strange that someone as attuned to continuity as Slott didn't attempt to explain it away.

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