A Fine Line
Written by Dori Koogler
Summary: Callisto oversees Colossus’ recuperation on Muir Island. Colossus views Callisto as a brutal coach, but he sees a different side of her when the Morlock child Jessie is placed in a medically induced coma to prevent her violent telekinetic powers from reemerging. Colossus watches for days as Callisto reads The Wizard of Oz to Jessie. When Jessie’s powers again grow out of control and she dies while under Moira MacTaggert’s care, Callisto is enraged. Colossus consoles her, and as they grow closer, Shadowcat becomes jealous. When Colossus realizes that his friendship with Callisto is hurting Shadowcat, and that he’s unable to return Callisto’s affection, he leaves Muir Island for Edinburgh. Days later, the residents of Muir Island discover that Colossus has rejoined the X-Men and died in Dallas. Shadowcat attempts to comfort the caustic Callisto and advises her to be true to the person Colossus thought she could be.
- According to the Continuity Guide, this story is set “just prior” to Uncanny X-Men #224 (December 1987), except for the ending, which takes place between Uncanny X-Men #227 (March 1987) and the initial Excalibur special.
- At this stage in continuity, Callisto and the injured Morlocks are staying on Muir Island with Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat following the Mutant Massacre. Colossus’ “death” in Dallas at the end of the story is a reference to the “Fall of the Mutants” event.
- After weeks of physical therapy, Colossus is able to revert to his human form during the story. In the comics (as I recall), Colossus remains stuck in his armored form until after he goes through Siege Perilous in Uncanny X-Men #251. When he reappeared months later, he emerged in his human form and the storyline was never mentioned again.
Review: “A Fine Line” is set during that chaotic period post-Mutant Massacre when no one even seemed quite sure who was supposed to be an X-Man. An intimate, human story like this one would’ve be a welcome relief during those days, and Dori Koogler manages to evoke a classic Claremont feel throughout the piece. Unveiling the hidden depth behind a previously one-note villain is a hallmark of Claremont’s work, not to mention his explorations of the tangled thread of relationships and ex-relationships, so this genuinely feels like a missing story from the ‘80s X-Men.
I’m assuming the inspiration behind this story is Colossus’ post-Siege Perilous relationship with Callisto, even though it reads very well on its own without any knowledge of where X-continuity is going. I like the idea that Colossus saw a glimpse of the inner beauty, so to speak, within Callisto months before his memory was erased and he ended up falling for her in a completely different context. Koogler manages to make Colossus far more sympathetic than he appears under most writers. He spends time with Nightcrawler every day while his friend’s in a coma, he still has dreams about his deceased love Zsaji, he reaches out to Callisto out of honest concern (oblivious to any romantic feelings that she might develop in return), and ultimately does what he thinks is necessary to spare both Shadowcat and Callisto’s feelings. Callisto is also admirably fleshed out. Stories like this are always tricky – it’s not as if Callisto was initially conceived as Colossus’ love interest, after all – but Koogler manages to stay true to Callisto’s character and provide plausible circumstances within the plot that will justify the emergence of other aspects of her personality. Bringing Shadowcat (stuck as a ghost at this point in continuity, floating around Muir Island and keeping tabs on her ex-boyfriend) into the story is a nice play on the existing backstory, and a great way to complicate Callisto’s attempts to seduce Colossus. Even though this might initially seem like cliché love triangle material, the characters feel authentic throughout. The story is a little too long, and it’s arguable the scene that has Callisto suicidal following Jessie’s death is going too far, but overall this is a fantastic effort from Dori Koogler.
Steel Dogs and Englishmen
Written by Thomas Deja
Summary: Peter Wisdom contacts Banshee, introducing himself as a W.H.O. agent. He explains that Justin Hammer has moved his operations to England and is selling a new model of Sentinel. Banshee reluctantly agrees to join Wisdom on the mission, which has them infiltrating Hammer’s nautical mansion. After facing a new breed of canine Sentinels, they’re captured by Hammer’s guards. Banshee and Wisdom escape Hammer’s makeshift prison and find his control room. Banshee hacks into the computer and inserts the virus disc that destroys the newest Master Mold, and Hammer’s home. Later, Wisdom meets with his true employers, Black Air, and hands them a disc with copied Sentinel schematics.
Continuity Notes: This story “takes place concurrently” with Excalibur #11 (August 1989). Banshee doesn’t have his sonic powers at this point, a fact Wisdom doesn’t know when he contacts him.
“Huh?” Moment: Banshee wears an old SHIELD outfit while on the mission, a detail that’s never explained. I know that Banshee was an Interpol agent in the past, but don’t recall him ever working with SHIELD.
Review: I’m not a big fan of action in the prose format, and unfortunately, this is around twenty pages of action. The premise for the story is fine -- former secret agent Sean Cassidy getting called out of retirement by the arrogant young punk Pete Wisdom has potential, and it’s an unobtrusive way to retcon Wisdom into one of the X-Men’s past. But the chemistry between Wisdom and Banshee is just tepid; none of the barbs are particularly funny and there’s no real bond between the characters. Perhaps there is an entertaining way to have Banshee and Wisdom bounce off each other, but Deja doesn’t find it. The only real conflict between them comes from Banshee’s refusal to kill, and even that feels casually tossed away when Banshee blows up Hammer’s operation at the end. Surely not everyone escaped, did they?
While I did enjoy Deja’s interpretation of preppie criminal Justin Hammer (and the white tennis outfits the heroes are forced to wear while in “prison,” which is actually Hammer’s guest room), the lengthy fight scenes with the canine Sentinels felt like they dragged on forever. Even in comics, the visual of a robotic dog wouldn’t be so exciting, and reading page after page of prose descriptions of Banshee and Wisdom fighting them, with some generic goons thrown in, gets old quickly. It’s just too much of a chore to finish, and the payoff of “Black Air is up to something!” isn’t enough to justify the effort.