Kings of Pain Part 3 - Queens of Sacrifice
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Tom Raney (penciler), Joe Rubenstein & Co. (inks), Brad Vancata (colors), Joe Rosen (letters)
Summary: X-Force and the New Warriors arrive on Muir Island and are promptly attacked by its Shadow King-influenced inhabitants. When Cable explains to Moira MacTaggart that Harness and Piecemeal are absorbing her son’s energy, she stops the fight. The teams unite and travel to Edinburgh to stop Harness and Piecemeal. During the battle, Harness’ armor is damaged, revealing Harness as a female. The teams are even more shocked to discover Harness is Piecemeal’s mother. Soon, Piecemeal absorbs so much energy he disappears in a fog; in his place is a shadowy figure claiming to be both Proteus and Piecemeal. Suddenly, the energy explodes.
Who exactly is supposed to be on Muir Island at this point is hard to keep track of. Madrox and Siryn are now there, following the Fallen Angels miniseries, but characters last seen on the Island like Amanda Sefton, Sharon Friedlander, and Tom Corsi are gone.
Shatterstar uses his energy-blasting powers yet again this issue. Feral is also still in a developmental stage, as she’s deferential to Cable during battle. The Feral we’ll see in the ongoing X-Force series is relentlessly nasty and would only grudgingly obey any orders.
Creative Differences: Some added word balloons on page thirty-three clarify what Silhouette’s powers are.
Approved By The Comics Code Authority: Both Namorita and Polaris have gratuitous thong shots this issue.
I Love the '90s: Harness is totally going to surrender to the Edinburgh police…“NOT!”
Review: So, how did this end up as the Uncanny X-Men annual? Well, during the “Shattered Star” period that had the X-Men split across the globe, most of them suffering amnesia, the closest thing Marvel had to a united X-team was the collection of minor characters on Muir Island. (Many of them not even mutants.) I seem to recall the Muir Island team was actually listed as the X-Men on some piece of merchandising Marvel released circa 1990; Marvel couldn’t really point to another group of characters and call them the X-Men, so they had to make do.
By the time of the 1991 annuals, however, there was a united X-team; a large lineup that famously posed together for the cover of Uncanny X-Men #275. Figuring out how to cram that team into a story that’s taking place before the big crossover set on Muir Island was problematic, however. Plus, it’s possible that work began on these annuals long before the specific lineup in the monthly title was nailed down (at one point, Guido used to make it into group shots of the X-Men on promo images). So, working in one final appearance of the Muir Island team before “The Muir Island Saga” makes sense, plus it gives Nicieza an opportunity to use Moira MacTaggart in the story. This might not be the X-Men that people actually wanted to see in an Uncanny X-Men annual, but I can understand the logic behind the decision.
Much of the story is spent recapping the previous installments, along with the original Proteus storyline from the late ‘70s in Uncanny X-Men. The plot also has to address the fact that the Muir Island team is currently possessed by the Shadow King, which gets hand-waved fairly quickly after a pointless fight scene. (And even Bob Harras’ footnotes seem to indicate he’s not entirely sure what’s supposed to be going on at Muir Island.) Given the circumstances of the plot, this should be an opportunity for Nicieza to do some heavy, emotional work with Moira, but she spends the bulk of the issue merely barking out orders to the teams or spouting pseudo-scientific gibberish. There are around two dozen characters in this story by now, and because they spend most of this story fighting one another, there really is no room for something thoughtful and quiet, like Nicieza’s previous portrayal of Moira in Classic X-Men #36. That’s not to say the characters are entirely generic, though. The idea that Piecemeal is being exploited because of his powers ties in with an early (and quickly ignored) theme of the X-Force series; that this team isn’t going to take mutant oppression lightly. And Nicieza is still able to work in some fun interactions amongst the New Warriors cast, so it’s not a complete loss.
Visually, Tom Raney’s art is all over the place, which is probably a combination of him being a new artist and being inked by an unknown number of unnamed inkers. The best pages show Raney has a real talent for drawing multiple characters and complex designs. I also remember being genuinely grossed out by his portrayal of the corpulent Piecemeal as a kid. That stuff is disturbing.
The Killing Stroke Part Two - The Razor’s Edge
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Jerry DeCaire (penciler), Joe Rubenstein (inker), Mike Thomas (colors), Joe Rosen (letters)
Summary: The surviving members of Freedom Force flee with Dr. Kurtzmann. When Blob and Pyro are cornered, they decide to kill Dr. Kurtzmann to prevent Desert Sword from taking him. Meanwhile, Crimson Commando and Avalanche are severely injured by landmines outside the Kuwait International Airport.
I Love the ‘90s: I would say most of the members of Desert Sword are too politically incorrect to appear today, at least not without a few indignant internet editorials.
Review: The dismantling of Freedom Force continues, and this time the tiny page count actively works against the story. Because everything feels rushed, Pyro’s decision to kill Dr. Kurtzmann and the possible death of more Freedom Force members just lack any real drama. And once Desert Sword exits the shadows and makes a real appearance, it’s obvious that most of these guys are Marvel Comics Presents material at best. Jerry DeCaire’s art is very attractive, though, reminding me of Kerry Gammill’s work from this era. Despite its flaws, this is still more entertaining than most annual backups.
The Origin of the X-Men
Credits: Len Kaminski (writer), Ernie Stiner (penciler), Don Hudson (inker), Kevin Tinsley (colors), Joe Rosen (letters)
Summary: Major Domo presents the history of the X-Men to Mojo. Mojo refuses to believe it, however, telling him to do more research.
Review: It’s another history lesson back-up. There’s little here for anyone who already knows the history, but the Mojo angle thankfully isn’t used as an excuse for a thousand Hollywood references this time. Ernie Stiner’s art is reminiscent of early Mike Mignola, which helps to alleviate some of the boredom.
The Enemy Within
Credits: Len Kaminski (writer), Kirk Jarvinen (penciler), Brad Vancata (inks/colors), Mike Heisler (letters)
Summary: In a nightmare, Wolverine is stalked by his adamantium skeleton.
Approved By The Comics Code Authority: Wolverine is nude throughout the story, covered by tastefully placed shadows.
Review: I’ve always liked this back-up, mainly due to Kirk Jarvinen’s art. He’s the first non-Jim Lee artist that I thought could draw a Jim Lee-style Wolverine right. The visual of an animated adamantium skeleton forcibly merging with Wolverine also creeped me out as a kid. The story’s too short to really work as a psychological piece, but Kaminski gets the basic idea across. Not a bad way to close out the annual at all.