Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ADVENTURES OF THE X-MEN #5 - August 1996

Back in the USSR Part 1: Armageddon in Red
Credits:  Ralph Macchio (writer), Ben Herrera (penciler), Gary Martin (inks), Matt Webb w/Malibu (colors), Ul Higgins (letters)

Summary:  Inside Asteroid M, Magneto prepares his recruits, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Toad, for war.  Their base is suddenly attacked, sending it crashing to the ground.  They land near Moscow and are quickly confronted by the Russian army.  Magneto and his followers dismantle the troops and head for a nearby nuclear missile base.  Nick Fury covertly contacts the X-Men and asks for their help.  The X-Men soon arrive in Russia, but are unable to stop Magneto from launching the missiles at America.  Magneto is confident he’s provoked a war between the two nations.  After the missiles launch, Apocalypse appears on the monitors, boasting that Magneto has fallen for his scheme.

Continuity Notes:  
  • With the exceptions of Beast and Rogue, all of the standard X-Men from the cartoon appear this issue.  Jubilee isn’t allowed to go on the mission, however.
  • Magneto calls his followers the “Brotherhood of Mutants,” leaving the “Evil” out.  No reference is made to Magneto being Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s father.
  • Magneto doesn’t outright reference the Holocaust, following the example of the cartoon, but does state that he was imprisoned for being “different” and that Russian soldiers “were the liberators of my prison camp.”
“Um, Actually…”:  The story of Magneto and Asteroid M has already been told in the show’s “Sanctuary” two-parter.  And the “Family Ties” episode presents a contradictory view of Magneto’s first encounter with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.  Also, isn’t Mystique already leading a Brotherhood team in the show’s continuity?

Production Note:  This issue comes with a bound Dunston Checks In poster, which has coloring pages and puzzles printed on the back.  Clearly someone somewhere thought actual kids were buying these 99-cent books.

Review:  I’m willing to cut Ralph Macchio some slack in regards to continuity, considering that the show’s schedule was erratic by this point, and I doubt he was given access to scripts that weren’t being adapted for X-Men Adventures.  It’s not as if the show itself had perfect continuity, it couldn’t even keep the original team of X-Men straight, so I’m not going to judge the book too harshly for contradicting the later episodes of the series.  I will judge a story for reading like something straight out of the Silver Age, however, which is exactly what happens this issue.  For pity’s sake, Magneto’s so deeply ingrained in the Silver Age he even uses the term “Soviet” in 1996.  I’m half-convinced that this plot was sitting around the Marvel offices for years before getting dusted off for this issue; how else do you explain Magneto using his powers to brainwash the Russian Soviet scientists that are manning the missile base?  It’s crackpot loon Magneto, an interpretation that the cartoon thankfully ignored, behaving like a maniac and trying to provoke America and Russia into a nuclear war.  (Again, how Silver Age is this?!)  Had this been released as a retro project with Steve Rude pencils…well, the story would still be a joke, but at least it would’ve looked pretty.  

How did this end up as a tie-in to the ‘90s cartoon show?  How did Macchio totally miss Magneto’s previous characterization after adapting the first three seasons of the show?  The nuanced portrayal of Magneto as a reluctant villain is a hallmark of the series; an early indicator that this wasn’t going to be a dumbed down toy commercial for little kids.  The only redeeming aspect of the issue is the surprise appearance of Apocalypse at the end, which at least teases the potential of something interesting happening next issue.  Honestly, I’m not expecting much, but maybe we’ll move on past the Cold War.

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