Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Mike Miller (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Mike Thomas (colors), Comicraft’s Troy Peteri (letters)
Oh, no. There really are two more issues of this run. With a few months to kill, Terry Kavanagh has apparently decided to go high concept and just drop the reader into a story that has X-Man as the prisoner of a group of unnamed aliens. Even though much of the issue is annoyingly vague, I have to acknowledge that this is more readable than the average issue of X-Man. Mike Miller’s art is clean and attractive throughout the issue, and Kavanagh thankfully allows X-Man to be more than a brat this time. Giving him amnesia, a haircut, and an entirely new environment helps. The specific plot elements don’t add up to anything yet (the aliens apparently want slaves to dig holes for the sake of digging holes, X-Man’s telekinetic powers are now restricted to only direct physical contact, an alien baby is somehow important, a floating entity named Fuzz is helping him escape…), but as the opening chapter of the storyline, that’s forgivable.
The Dark Side of the Sun
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Ben Herrera (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Mike Thomas (colors), Comicraft’s Troy Peteri (letters)
So, the baby rescued last issue turns out to be the sister of Urch, the alien that seems to control Fuzz and is helping X-Man escape. (And Urch turns out to be a guh-guh-guh-girl.) X-Man helps return the baby to Urch’s father, who is a thief kept in another chamber of the prison colony. Eventually, Urch and X-Man make it to the surface, where X-Man realizes he’s on the Shi’ar homeworld. This recalls issue #55, which had Shi’ar agents targeting X-Man because of his ties to the M’Kraan Crystal. (X-Man’s connection to the M’Kraan Crystal goes all the way back to X-Men Omega, in case you’re wondering, although I don’t recall the specifics making a lot of sense.)
Lilandra appears, eager to throw everyone back into the gulag, until X-Man uses his powers for more than just explosions and mentally shows her the pain the prison colony is inflicting on its inhabitants. Lilandra has an abrupt change of heart, and X-Man and Urch are set free. It’s possible the ending was meant to tie in with the “six months later” premise of the “Counter-X” revamp, as X-Man is sent on a tiny rocket ship home, a journey that just might take six months. Of course, the opening of all of the “Counter-X” books assumed that a lot happened in the six month gap, so that makes X-Man’s time spent becoming a “mutant shaman” even more compressed if you think about just how long his ride home to Earth took. Therefore, just assume he passed through one of those wormholes the Shi’ar are always using to get here quickly.
For connoisseurs of bad comics, Kavanagh’s final arc is a bit of a disappointment. Yes, it does feature his trademark introduction of new characters that are poorly fleshed out (such as the mysterious Fuzz, and an alien ally that looks like Sleepwalker referred to as “a Darkle” that we’re supposed to believe will be important later), and there is some dubious plotting, like Lilandra instantly forgetting that X-Man is supposed to represent a severe threat to the entire universe. Yet, the dialogue is actually tolerable, and the plot moves along at a steady pace. Heck, even the basic premise of the arc isn’t so bad, and ultimately revealing the Shi’ar as the alien villains is a decent use of past continuity. And, most surprising of all, X-Man remains a…well, not a good protagonist, but a noticeably-less-annoying one during the arc. Where’s this guy been for the past five years? A part of me wanted Kavanagh to go out with his wildest, sloppiest issues yet, but to his credit, he’s actually delivered two of the strongest issues of his run.