Monday, July 13, 2015

ADVENTURES OF THE X-MEN #4 - July 1996


When the Dweller Awakes
Credits:  Ralph Macchio (writer), Mike Miller (penciler), Dan Panosian (inks), Matt Webb (colors), Ul Higgins (letters)

Summary:  Cyclops rides into Salem Center and discovers it’s been overrun with N’Garai demons.  He enters the only home immune to their attack and discovers Erich Zann inside.  Zann reveals that his family struck a deal to aid the N’Garai years ago in return for their safety, and that today is the day the N’Garai will summon the Dweller in Darkness, a beast that will destroy the Earth.  Cyclops tries to convince Erich to use the Book of R'lyeh to stop the invasion, but he refuses.  Annoyed, Cyclops locates the N’Garai leader Kierrok, who has imprisoned the X-Men.  Cyclops frees the team and takes the Book of R'lyeh from Kierrok.  Cyclops tries to use the Book to banish the N’Garai, but can’t read the language.  Erich enters and performs the ceremony, even though it means he’ll be banished with the N’Garai.  Erich bravely sacrifices his life, disappearing with the N’Garai.

Continuity Notes:  
  • X-Men appearing this issue include Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, and Gambit.  
  • This story is very loosely based on Uncanny X-Men #96.
  • The N’Garai never appeared in the animated series, so this marks their Adventures debut.  
  • Erich Zann is an established character from the H. P. Lovecraft mythos, taken from the short story “The Music of Erich Zann.”
“Um, Actually…”:  The N’Garai generate from a dimensional rift in this story, while in the mainstream universe they emerge from a cairn on the outskirts of the Xavier estate.

Production Note:  Not only does this issue include a card offering a discounted subscription to Spider-Man Magazine for Kids, but it also includes a polybagged packet of Kool-Aid!  Is there a collector’s market for unopened, twenty year old packets of Slammin’ Strawberry-Kiwi Kool-Aid?

Review:  Check out that Adam Warren cover…you’ve got to wonder now why Marvel didn’t heavily pursue Warren after Joe Madureira exploded in the mid-‘90s.  It’s great that Adventures gets a cover of this caliber, but it’s odd that he wasn’t used on more mainstream projects.  Anyway, that cover gives us the promise of a Bike-Riding Cyclops vs. Demons throwdown, and while I can’t say that the interiors quite live up to Warren’s work, there is a decent amount of action this issue.  Mike Miller seems to be having fun with the various demons, and the opening sequence featuring Cyclops riding an anime-style motorcycle through a horde of N’Garai is honestly more exciting than anything I was expecting out of an Adventures issue.  As a story, this is miles ahead of any of the animated series’ Cyclops episodes.  Not only is Cyclops portrayed as an inspirational hero, instead of a barely effective whiner with questionable voice acting, but he also gets to rescue the X-Men and play a critical role in stopping the villains.  Erich Zann’s character arc is noticeably rushed and not particularly fulfilling, but I do like the premise of someone making amends for his family’s mistake and sacrificing himself to save others.  The idea that Erich’s doing this against the wishes of Cyclops, who’s more than willing to be the hero and sacrifice his own life, is actually dramatized pretty well.  I’m not sure how AKOM would’ve pulled it off, but I would’ve loved to see this story take the place of any of the actual Cyclops spotlight episodes.

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