Rites of Passage
Credits: Ralph Macchio (writer), Andy Kuhn (penciler), Ralph Cabrera (inks), Matt Webb (colors), Michael Higgins (letters)
Summary: While the X-Men return from Russia, Jubilee is left alone with Xavier at the mansion. Sabretooth, who has emerged from the depths of a pit in the arctic, sneaks into the mansion. He knocks Xavier unconscious, forcing Jubilee to face him alone. She fights Sabretooth to a standstill until he eventually gains the upper hand. Fortunately, Xavier enters in time to hit Sabretooth with a mental blast, enabling Jubilee to push him into the War Room’s exposed wiring. The X-Men return home to discover a captive Sabretooth. Jubilee declares that she’s now officially an X-Man.
Continuity Notes: This issue is a direct follow-up to Sabretooth’s appearances in the first season. Sabretooth knows the mansion’s location and its layout after staying there in episodes three and four. His escape from the arctic in the opening pages is a reference to the end of his fight with Wolverine in episode six. In the animated series, Sabretooth’s next chronological appearance is in either “Bloodlines” or “Weapon X, Lies, and Videotape,” depending on which episode order you follow.
“Huh?” Moments: Sabretooth claims that because he’s been to the mansion before, he knows how to block Xavier’s mental scans. This is utter nonsense. Xavier is also adamant that Jubilee carry a mini-communicator with her while searching the mansion, which is completely pointless since in every incarnation of the character, from his first appearance, Xavier has been able to stay in mental contact with his students.
Review: Well, I asked for an Andy Kuhn issue and I actually got one. His interiors aren’t nearly as strong as his covers, which is a disappointment, but he’s still a marked improvement over what we’ve been getting in this series so far. Kuhn’s work at this point is a strange combination of Bruce Timm and some of Bret Blevins’ more outré art in New Mutants, which of course means it looks nothing like the X-Men cartoon, but it fits the style Marvel’s chosen for this book. Some people will absolutely hate it, and admittedly it is pretty rough in places, but there are a few scenes that show real potential. When Kuhn isn’t totally distorting the cast, there’s a genuine charm to his cartooning. In places, Jubilee is a cute caricature of a teenage girl and Sabretooth is a menacing beast. Xavier never looks right, however, either grimacing, squinting, or grinning the creepiest smile in history.
Even more annoying than the occasionally off-model art is the story. Like most of the previous issues, the basic idea is fine, but the execution is hindered by blindingly obvious mistakes. If Ralph Macchio doesn’t even know how Xavier’s powers work, I think it’s justifiable for the audience to question just how much he knows about the X-Men in the first place. In addition to getting the powers wrong, Macchio often seems to have only a vague understanding of who the characters are supposed to be. Yes, Jubilee is a teenage valley girl, and she was fairly annoying in the cartoon, but when did she ever say “like” every three seconds? (And why is she thinking the placeholder word “like” in her thoughts?) I’m not going to pretend that “like” has never shown up in her dialogue, but just throwing that in there (repeatedly) and pretending that you’ve somehow established a personality for her is absurd.
It’s a shame, because this had the potential to be a solid issue. The premise springs straight from the show’s canon, the cast is kept small and manageable, and there is a clear arc for Jubilee to complete before the story’s over. Even though the censors would tone down much of this material (Jubilee spits in Sabretooth’s face after he orders her repeatedly to beg for her life), it’s not hard to imagine this plot serving as a springboard for an episode of the cartoon. There are moments this issue that evoke what a quality Adventures book for the X-canon might be like, making the screw-ups even more frustrating.