Too Many Mutants! (Or Whose House IS This, Anyway?)
Credits: Chris Claremont (writer), Whilce Portacio, Klaus Janson, John Byrne, Rick Leonardi, Marc Silvestri, Michael Golden, Larry Stroman, & Jim Lee (pencilers), Scott Williams (inker), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)
Summary: Following the Genoshan battle, the united X-teams regroup in the underground complex beneath Xavier’s mansion. Storm, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl debate what to do next, while Cable makes his case for leading the united teams. Later, Marvel Girl uses Cerebro to locate the missing X-Men. She’s ambushed by the Shadow King and narrowly rescued by Psylocke. Eventually, the X-Men emerge in new uniforms, ready to follow Storm. Shortly after Cyclops and Marvel Girl say goodbye, Lila Cheney arrives and teleports the team away, claiming Xavier needs their help.
- Gambit “officially” joins the X-Men this issue, in the sense that Storm refuses to leave with him, so he decides to stick around. At the end of the story, he’s wearing an X-uniform with the rest of the team. Gambit’s casual decision to stay probably ties in to Claremont’s rumored original plan to reveal Gambit's a spy for Mr. Sinister.
- This is the issue that ignited the long-running fan speculation that Gambit was a reincarnated Longshot. While Wolverine and Gambit are sparring in the Danger Room, Wolverine remarks that his moves are similar to Longshot’s. On the next panel, a hologram of Lady Deathstrike emerges and attacks Wolverine. In an altered word balloon, Jubilee questions who turned that sequence on. The scene then cuts to Gambit smiling with his left eye glowing, much like Longshot’s.
- Wolverine is barely able to keep up with Gambit during their duel, which continues Claremont’s subplot regarding Wolverine’s slow recovery after the Reavers’ attack in Uncanny X-Men #251.
- Marvel Girl, yes still “Marvel Girl” at this point, only has telekinetic powers and must rely on Psylocke to rescue her from Shadow King. Her telepathy will return a few months later in X-Factor.
- Wolfsbane and Havok are still in Genosha following “X-Tinction Agenda.” Forge is working on a way to reverse the “Mutate transmodation” Wolfsbane’s endured. He speculates that the longer she’s a Mutate, the harder it will be to cure her.
- Psylocke says the Hand used “magic as well as science” to physically alter her into their assassin. The readers will receive a much, much more complicated explanation years later.
Creative Differences: With eight pencilers, it’s not surprising to learn this issue had deadline problems. John Byrne had this to say on his website years ago:
"Bob Harras, then the X-Editor, called and asked if I could do six pages for this issue. I was up to my eyeballs in work, so I declined. So he asked if I could do three. I agreed, and they sent me a plot. I drew the three pages
and sent them in. Then Bob called and said 'You drew three pages! That plot was for one page!'
Woulda bin a real time saver if they'd updated me on that before they sent me the plot! "
Approved By The Comics Code Authority: When Marvel Girl takes a shower (right in front of Psylocke), Joe Rosas colors in the steam to match the contours of her body. This is the first time I ever saw a colorist attempt to make comic art racier than originally intended. Within five years, colorist-added nipple pokes will be all the rage.
Review: Is this the first “quiet” post-crossover X-comic? I believe it is. Just think of all of the variations of this issue the X-office published in the ‘90s following Claremont’s departure. Everyone knows that the numerous subplots and mysteries were inspired by Claremont’s work, but it’s easy to forget that even the downtime issue that followed almost every crossover has its genesis in Claremont’s initial run. I can’t imagine Claremont thought he was starting a trend; he was probably just looking at the cast following “X-Tinction Agenda” and asking the same question the characters ask this issue -- what to do with all of these mutants?
I thought it would be interesting to look back at the era post-“X-Tinction Agenda,” as it paves the way for the 1991 revamps of the titles (the revamps that nudged me towards X-completism). What stands out about this issue is Claremont’s ability to write the characters as rational adults, people capable of having a thoughtful conversation about how they’ve reached this point and how to go forward. Storm acknowledges that faking the X-Men’s death was likely a mistake. Cyclops is bothered that no one’s truly replaced Xavier and mentored the third generation of mutants. Marvel Girl is concerned that Magneto has apparently reverted to villainy (not that she ever bought his conversion.) Cable’s annoyed that the others can’t see that they’re in the middle of a war, and throws his hat in for leadership of all of the X-teams. And as absurd as this might sound in a recap, Claremont handles the scene remarkably well. Claremont writes Cable as more of a grouch than Louise Simonson has so far, but he's still rational, falling in more with Claremont’s “noble warriors” than the cheap Punisher clone he’ll soon turn into. Cable’s position doesn’t come across as unreasonable at all, and even Storm questions if he’s right.
When the story isn’t focused on the main philosophical debate, Claremont has some fun with the rest of the cast. Iceman and Boom-Boom get into a prank war, Archangel and Cannonball introduce the Danger Room to anyone not around since issue #225 or so, Gambit gets to outmaneuver Wolverine (something that almost never happened in these days), and a few of the ongoing subplots get touched upon. As much as this issue might be remembered as “downtime,” there are three action sequences and a cliffhanger ending. Two of those action scenes even advance ongoing subplots, which is a reminder of just how tight a plotter Claremont can be. And even the pages that don’t tie in with the dozen or so subplots Claremont’s juggling are entertaining in their own right, as he’s clearly having fun writing characters he hasn’t touched in years.
Regarding the artist jam, the pages do have some level of consistency, since Scott Williams was somehow able to ink the entire issue. I definitely thought this was a strange looking issue as a kid, but I never thought it looked rushed or shoddy. The oddest pages to me were Michael Golden’s Gambit/Wolverine fight, although today they’re my favorite. It’s also cool to see Scott Williams giving Rick Leonardi and Marc Silvestri highly polished inks, considering how rarely they’re inked in that style. Compare this comic to some of the jam issues the ‘90s will later bring us and it’s practically art. This is an issue that could’ve easily been a mess, but I enjoyed it a lot as a kid and I think it holds up very well.