Friday, September 28, 2007


I bought this magazine at a gas station in late 1991 (I wanted a comic book, but I don’t think they had any). This is the only issue of Comics Values Monthly I ever saw, and I bought it when the idea of comic books being “valuable” was still new to me. I knew that the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man was worth money – but newer comics? Comics I actually owned? People were paying big money for those Punisher War Journal comics I bought just two years ago?

The price guide in this issue has X-Force #1 going from $2.50 to $6.50 depending on which trading card is inside the bag. Second prints of later New Mutants issues are going for $5.00 (a reprint going for five times the cover price, these were crazy times). The final New Mutants issue, which is less than a year old at this point, is listed at $10. The magazine is mostly a price guide, but it also has regional reports from various retailers. According to one report, the first appearance of Cable, New Mutants #87, is going for $50-$60. The same retailer says that X-Force #1 is going for $6-$10 at his store.

All of the regional reports list the X-books in their top ten sellers, although a few are complaining about unsold copies of X-Men #1. One retailer suggests stocking up on Armageddon 2001 and Impact Comics for long term gain in five to ten years (how many copies of Deathmate - Black do you think this guy has in his garage now?). A different retailer has this crazy observation: “Quality has taken a back seat to gimmicks. A hot book seems to base its appeal on how many covers, holograms, second prints, die cuts or glow-in-the-dark colors it has.” I wonder how this guy felt four years later when this stuff was still going on?

UNCANNY X-MEN #287 – April 1992

Bishop To King’s Five!
Credits: Jim Lee (plot), Scott Lobdell (script), John Romita, Jr. (pencils), Scott Williams (inks), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Going/Rosas (colors)

A group of future fugitives murder Bishop’s fellow XSE members, Malcolm and Randall. The X-Men arrive just in time to stop Bishop from killing any more of the fugitives. Bishop is injured in his fight with Colossus and flashes back to the days before he time traveled. While chasing Trevor Fitzroy in the future, Bishop stumbles across the X-Men’s war room. A decades old message from Jean Grey warns about a traitorous X-Man who murders the team. Bishop meets The Witness, the last man to see the X-Men alive, but doesn’t get any answers about the traitor. In prison, Fitzroy kills a rat to fuel his power, and travels into the past with a group of convicts. Bishop, Malcolm, and Randall follow Fitzroy into the past to capture them. In the present, Bishop wakes up and is inducted into the X-Men by Professor Xavier.

Continuity Notes
Fitzroy’s father is influential enough to order Bishop to stay away from his son. Apparently he’s a politician, as Bishop says he doesn’t care about politics and goes after Fitzroy anyway. I think the identity of Fitzroy’s father was another mystery that was teased for a little while, but I don’t know if it was ever resolved.

Bishop says that the XSE was founded after “The Emancipation” enabling mutants to police themselves. He also claims that there has been “thirty years of relative peace.” Bishop’s backstory was filled in later, but I don’t know how much of it was consistent with these clues.

Production Note
Marvel’s regular line of titles still can’t do full-bleed pages. Pages 18 and 19 have a white bar at the bottom even though the entire border is supposed to be black.

Not only does Bishop join the X-Men in this issue, but Malcolm and Randall are killed, Bishop’s future time period is revealed for the first time, and the X-Traitor subplot is also introduced. When I write the summaries for these issues, I’m often surprised to see how much some of these comics accomplish in 22 pages. The decompression fad in comics seems to have died down, but most modern comics still don’t seem this plot-heavy. Unlike previous issues of Uncanny, this issue mostly has consistent, deliberate plotting that covers a lot of ground but doesn’t feel rushed. Except for the deaths of Bishop’s co-workers, though. Malcolm and Randall get the least dramatic deaths in history (or at least since UXM #281). These guys were obviously ciphers who were never intended to live (the letters page in a previous issue outright told readers that something bad would happen to them). One of the comments in a previous post reminded me that people used to write in and request for these two to be resurrected. It’s really hard to figure out why.

Bishop comes across as a more sympathetic character, mostly thanks to the flashback where we see his devotion to his friends and his dedication to stopping the bad guys. These are pretty stock character elements, but even they were missing in his initial appearances. He truly seemed insane, especially in one Portacio drawing where he laughs manically at the idea of actually meeting the X-Men. All you really knew about Bishop in his first appearance is that he’s insanely violent. He’s still not that interesting of a character, but he’s come a long way over the course of just one issue. Bishop’s bloodlust also isn’t presented in a positive light, with all of the X-Men expressing disgust over his actions. This is certainly a different point of view than what you see in X-Force, where the star of the comic does things like shoot a defenseless man.

Even if the writing is getting better, it wouldn’t be UXM without a little nonsense. Why are the fugitives Fitzroy released still running around? They were conjured up in an Antarctic base that was soon blown up. How did they end up in a New York nightclub? Bishop follows Fitzroy through his time portal right after he escapes prison in the future, but Bishop doesn’t show up in the present until Fitzroy has already joined the Upstarts, built a super-powered armor, attacked the Hellfire Club, and traveled to his base in the Antarctic. I suppose you could say that Fitzroy teleported himself further back in time than everyone else, but why would he do that (especially when he was shocked to see that Bishop followed him)? Why exactly is he going back to this specific time period anyway?

The X-Traitor subplot is introduced in Bishop’s flashback, creating a long-running mystery that eventually fizzled out. Four years after it was introduced it was finally resolved, but there wasn't a lot of interest by that point. It’s a dramatic idea, and the introduction in this issue works pretty well, but no one seemed to know where to go with it. Bishop’s next appearance implies that Gambit is the traitor, Bishop remains suspicious of Gambit, the other X-Men don’t seem to care, the subplot is ignored for years, and then Xavier (sort of) is revealed as the traitor. The end.

John Romita, Jr. shows up as the fill-in artist and does a great job. Romita’s able to fit in with the exaggerated style of the time, but maintain solid draftsmanship. His characters are truly three-dimensional, with a weight that’s missing from a lot of the later Jim Lee issues. His storytelling is always clear, while still experimenting with different types of page layouts. Scott Williams’ inks give his pencils a slickness that fits in with what a lot of the other X-books of this time. This is the only time I remember Williams inking Romita, but it’s a nice combination.

Having read this issue and X-Force #8 at the same time, it makes me wonder if Marvel's enthusiasm for Bishop inspired Cable’s origin. The first hint that Cable is from the future is in X-Force #5, and we see him time travel for the first time in #8 (keep in mind that I’ve only read a few of his New Mutants appearances, so it’s possible I missed something). Bishop’s first appearance and X-Force #5 were released at around the same time, so I wonder if someone somewhere said, “Hey, the future! Let’s make Cable from the future, too!” Considering how popular both of these characters were, I’m surprised Marvel didn’t try to co-ordinate their future timelines during one of the annual crossovers. It's also amusing that within one month of each other, both X-Force and UXM had lengthy flashback issues with a character flashing back to the future to explain how they got to the present. Both of these issues also have guest art by critically acclaimed artists that have seen their reputations grow over the years.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

X-FORCE #8 – March 1992

Flashed Before My Eyes
Credits: Rob Liefeld (plot, framing sequence pencils), Mike Mignola (main story pencils), Bob Wiacek (inks), Fabian Nicieza (script), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Steve Buccellato (colors)

Cable flashes back to a mission from ten years ago. Cable, Domino, Kane, Grizzly, Hammer, and G.W. Bridge are revealed to be members of a mercenary group called the Wild Pack. They infiltrate a Hydra base in New Mexico and return to AIM a device that had been stolen from them. Cable drives away from the team and teleports a thousand years into the future. While there, a computer called The Professor tells him about a mutant High-Lord named Sam Guthrie. Cable teleports back to a time just before Sam’s “awakening”. In the present, Cable shoots Sauron in retaliation for impaling Sam.

Continuity Notes
Unless something happened in New Mutants that I don’t know about, this is the issue that confirms that Cable is a time traveler. It’s also the first appearance of the Wild Pack, which explains how many of the characters introduced so far know Cable. This is also the first issue that implies that Cable might be Cyclops’s son. He’s named his servant robots after the original X-Men, and has a computer called “The Professor”. The Professor tells Cable, “A part of you was but a child, Nathan. And I was a projected energy matrix. We are fortunate we survived at all.”

Cannonball’s emergence as a High-Lord is explicitly given as Cable’s reason for coming back to this time. To put it mildly, this idea has been discreetly forgotten.

Miscellaneous Note
This issue is cut short by two pin-ups and a two page letter column. This is the third issue out of the past five with a shortened main story.

A Rob Liefeld framing sequence around Mike Mignola art. I present to you the oddest looking comic book in history. Unless you have a twisted sense of humor, you can’t possibly believe that putting Mignola and Liefeld on the same comic is going to be a good idea. If you ever wanted to see Mignola draw lots of pouches, belts, and shoulder pads, this comic is for you. Reading this issue, one thought kept coming to mind -- who would’ve thought in 1992 that there would be a Mike Mignola movie before there was a Rob Liefeld movie?

Mignola doesn’t even attempt to follow the house style of the X-books of this era. It’s very clearly Mignola, with sparse detail lines and heavy blacks, but he’s still drawing Liefeld characters. Kane, Domino, and Hammer don’t look that bad, but Cable and Grizzly still look ridiculous. It is cool to see Mignola draw classic Marvel villains like Hydra and AIM, and he’s able to make even something simple, like Cable driving away on a motorcycle, look dynamic.

This issue pays off a lot of the mysteries that had been developing for months. It’s hard to read it in the proper context because now everyone knows that Cable is a time-traveler, and most of the Wild Pack have faded into obscurity. It makes me wonder why a fill-in artist drew such an important issue of this title, but I’m under the impression that Liefeld has really lost interest by this point. As a kid who actually cared about the mysteries in this book, this issue wasn’t much of a resolution. I was more confused than anything. Cable teleporting into the future doesn’t come across as a big deal at all, so I wondered if I had already missed something. Everything about this issue is jarring, not just the artwork. The story jumps from Cannonball getting killed, to Cable flashing back to ten years ago, to Cable jumping to the future, to back to the present.

I also had no idea what to make of Mignola’s art. I thought some of panels looked cool, but I didn’t think that it was “realistic” enough. I thought everything was too sparse and flat. If you had asked me, I would’ve told you that both Liefeld and Mignola’s art looked “weird”, but probably couldn’t articulate why. I wasn’t enough of a Liefeld fan to follow him to Image, but I didn’t like this other “weird” art, either. I wonder if a kid today would choose Liefeld over Mignola. I can only imagine what Liefeld’s diehard fans thought of this issue.

X-FACTOR #79 – June 1992

Rhapsody in Blue
Credits: Peter David (writer), Jim Fern (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Michael Heisler (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors)

Quicksilver and Madrox investigate a mutant schoolteacher accused of murder in Maine. The mutant, Rhapsody, uses her musical powers to convince Madrox of her innocence. Meanwhile, an unknown assailant attacks Polaris.

I Love The ‘90s
Guido is still dating Sean Young, and she comes to his door wearing a Catwoman outfit. This is a reference to a bizarre celebrity scandal in 1991.

X-Factor continues with straightforward stories and enjoyable character interactions. Quicksilver and Madrox play off each other well, and Peter David is still finding interesting uses of their powers. Jim Fern’s fill-in art fits in with Stroman’s work and looks nice. My only complaint is that Wolfsbane’s incident from #76 is still being ignored.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Future Collector's Item

This Entertainment This Month ad ran in Marvel’s April 1992 comics. There's no mention of the Image name, and the ad is grouped with Marvel titles like Ghost Rider and X-Men. The copy reads "Hot new team of mutant heroes created, written, and drawn by Rob Liefeld!" My first impression was that this was a new X spin-off, which I'm sure is the goal of the ad ("mutant heroes"?). The $2.50 cover price is exactly twice the price of Marvel's line at this time. I saw this ad and vowed that I would not buy another mutant book, especially not one that cost the ridiculous price of $2.50. I thought that Marvel was nuts, releasing another X-book that no one could afford. I was still buying comics at convenience stores and had no access to fanzines, so the first time I learned about new projects was from these Entertainment This Month ads.

Looking back on old Usenet discussions, the earliest reference to Youngblood I can find is in October 1991. Apparently, Rob Liefeld announced another series in CBG called The Executioners. Marvel supposedly threatened to sue, leading Liefeld to announce Youngblood instead. In October 1991, X-Force was only in its fifth issue, and Liefeld was already announcing a new title.

It’s interesting to read some of the early discussions speculate over whether or not Liefeld would actually leave X-Force. Even when the solicitation for X-Force #12 is released, the same month Youngblood #1 is on sale, people aren’t sure if he’s really left the book permanently. Everyone seems to remember the Image guys announcing their books and leaving that second, but it didn’t exactly happen that way. Even after the Image announcement, a Comics International article is quoted saying, “Liefeld will still be doing 'Cable: High Lord' for Marvel to be released in 'late spring'; beyond that, spanning possibly 20 issues, he may take a rest from the characters.” Youngblood was still considered a three issue mini series when the first issue shipped. If those issues didn’t do as well as expected, Liefeld could’ve easily (I assume) come back to Marvel. Apparently, he was even developing a Cable solo series at the time! Everyone seems to be approaching Image cautiously at this point. The mail order retailer ads infer that Youngblood is a Marvel comic. Almost all of the announced titles are mini series. The creators are still working for Marvel and discussing future projects with them.

Searching through the old posts, you can find people complaining that the first issue of Youngblood is late. It was apparently due out in February or March 1992, but kept being shipped back until the week of April 13th. Image’s early reputation for lateness started with their very first comic.

UNCANNY X-MEN #286 – March 1992

Close Call!

Credits: Jim Lee (plot), Whilce Portacio (art), Art Thibert (finishes), Scott Lobdell (script), Joe Rosas (colors),Tom Orzechowski and Lois Buhalis (letters)

Mikhail Rasputin explains to the X-Men that the Russian government faked his death in order to cover up the existence of his mutant powers. After exploring the dimensional void on Sakhalin Island, Mikhail was stranded in the Triumvirate’s world. After marrying into the royal family, he discovered that the Triumvirate had murdered his crew. He joined a group of rebels and used his energy warping power to close the void that powered the Triumvirate. The energy this released killed his wife and the rest of the rebels. Now, he is unwilling to use his powers to close the void again. The X-Men fight a brainwashed Archangel and the Triumvirate’s soldiers. Sunfire’s nuclear blast converts Archangel, and Mikhail is convinced that by joining powers with the team, no one will be hurt. Mikhail and The X-Men close the void and return to Earth.

Miscellaneous Notes
This is Scott Lobdell’s first scripting issue, the one he famously did overnight. In terms of quality, it’s on the same level as the John Byrne issues before it. The story goes that Lobdell got this job at the office Christmas party, and the date key on the subscription page reads “Jan-92”, which says a lot about the deadline issues this book faced.

The way the credits are written, it’s hard to tell if Portacio is still co-plotting.

According to the Statement of Ownership, sales went from around 460,625 to 599,300 in one year. Another X-title that gained over 100,000 readers in one year.

The best issue in this story arc, which isn’t saying much. There are still some things that aren’t very clear, like what exactly the void is supposed to be powering, and why the Triumvirate would be willing to let it destroy their world. Mikhail Rasputin is given a three-page origin sequence that takes forever to describe and doesn’t explain why exactly he was spared and his crew was murdered.

This is the first issue of this run to have some type of character drama. Mikhail is consumed by guilt after accidentally killing his wife and friends, and unwilling to risk using his powers again. Colossus is disillusioned to see that the older brother he idolized now seems to be a coward. Mikhail must conquer his fears and do what he knows is right. For the first time in five issues, this series has an actual character arc. Unfortunately, it’s marred by the nonsensical ending that requires the X-Men’s powers to work in ridiculous ways, and doesn’t actually require any sacrifice from Mikhail. But still, the plot is almost back to professional standards.

Monday, September 24, 2007

X-FORCE #7 – February 1992

Under The Knife

Credits: Rob Liefeld (plot and art), Fabian Nicieza (script), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Steve Buccellato (colors)

Masque, Thornn, and Phantazia infiltrate X-Force’s headquarters, while Siryn, Shatterstar, and Warpath face the other Brotherhood members outside. After a brief battle in the dark, Cannonball is apparently killed by Sauron. Meanwhile, Kane stumbles across a Mutant Liberation Front base in Canada.

Continuity Notes
Toad brags about being biologically changed, and now exudes some type of resin from his hands.

Feral’s sister, Thornn, asks her “how many more chances are you going to get before you pay for everything you’ve done?” I believe that this is one mystery that was actually resolved.

Miscellaneous Notes
Marat Mychaels gets a note of thanks in the letters page “for helping Rob out…in order to save us from the Dreaded Deadline Doom.”

Shatterstar is still holding “swords” that look like pool sticks.

Another big fight issue. Some of the fights aren’t handled badly, while some are just lazy. Siryn takes care of Pyro in less than one page, and Blob just tumbles into a ravine off-panel. Rob Liefeld is apparently channeling one unlikely influence, Mike Mignolia, during the fight scene in the dark. Overall, this isn’t as uneven as previous issues. After stalling for three issues, at least something is happening.

Kane, the new Weapon X, gets a back-up story in this issue. Just like in his first appearance, he’s only drawn with eyes in one panel, and repeats the phrase “Get-Into-The-Grove!” Can’t he think of another early Madonna hit to psyche himself up with? I don’t remember a lot about these issues, but I do remember liking this back-up story for some reason as a kid. It’s just Kane punching some goons and then running into the MLF, so I don't know why it stood it to me.

UNCANNY X-MEN #285 – February 1992

Down The Rabbit Hole

Credits: While Portacio (plot & pencils), Jim Lee (co-plot), John Byrne (script), Art Thibert and Al Milgrom (finishes), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)

The X-Men are separated after entering the dimensional portal. Archangel accidentally kills a group of rebels and is thanked by the “priestess-queen” of the Triumvirate, while Colossus is praised by another group as their savior. Storm arrives with a mysterious recluse who claims to be Colossus’ brother.

Continuity Notes
While unconscious, Archangel’s metal wings massacre a group of rebels. The narrative caption explicitly states that his wings do this without his direction. In only a couple of issues, I believe we’re told something very different.

This is the return of Mikhail Rasputin, who had previously only been mentioned in a narrative caption during an early issue of the All-New, All Different X-Men.

Jim Lee returns to co-plot this issue, and the story becomes slightly more comprehensible. The basic idea is that the divided X-Men have aligned with opposing sides of a civil war, although that’s not very clear for most of the story. The rebels look exactly like the people they’re opposing, so it’s hard to tell if the different X-Men have taken opposite sides until the very end of the issue. For the first time in Portacio’s run, this issue has something besides fight scenes. It’s not much, but you see Storm befriend a stranger and Colossus deal with being praised as a savior. Colossus doesn’t come across very well in this story. Immediately after being exalted, he tells Jean that he’s beginning to enjoy it. In his next scene, he’s smiling while being surrounded by a group of scantily clad women.

The people who praise Colossus talk about the importance of sealing the portal. So far, there’s no reason given for why the authority figures would want it to grow. When word of Colossus spreads, the town crier announces that their savior has returned. So do the rebels have their own communities? It’s amusing that this race of people in futuristic space armor with laser blasters still have a town crier, complete with an old-timey bell he rings in the town square.

I think that a lot of the ill will toward ‘90s X-Men comics comes from this run. I believe #281 went into a second printing, and I remember seeing it in a lot of comic packs at Wal-Mart. The sales explosion of the early ‘90s had begun and the X-Men received a lot of the focus. Clearly, a lot of people were exposed to these issues, and they’re just not any good.

Friday, September 21, 2007

X-FORCE #6 – January 1992

Under The Gun

Credits: Rob Liefeld (plot/art), Fabian Nicieza (script), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Steve Buccellato (colors)

Toad’s new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants team up with Masque and the Morlocks. The Morlocks are still angry at Feral for leaving them to join X-Force, so the Brotherhood agree to take the team down in honor of their alliance. After a training sequence, Siryn, Shatterstar, and Warpath are attacked by Toad, Blob, and Sauron.

Continuity Note
Phantazia was on the cover of the previous issue, but debuts in this one. Only her name is given, as she does absolutely nothing in this issue.

“Huh?” Moments
Warpath has a ponytail that disappears from panel to panel. He also calls the two cylindered tubes Shatterstar is holding with his bare hands “swords”. Maybe Nicieza was scripting this before the inks were completed?

Miscellaneous Note
This issue has only eighteen pages of story. The other four pages are more “Cable Guide” dossier pages. This is the second story in three issues that’s been cut short.

This is the second issue in a row that’s mostly build-up and not a lot of plot advancement. It’s not as bad as the previous two issues, though. There’s finally a reaction to Feral cutting Cannonball, only four issues after it happened. Having the Brotherhood team up with the Morlocks isn’t a bad idea, and introducing Sauron as a new member makes sense. Toad and Sauron were two villains that had been largely ignored for years, so using them again isn’t a bad idea. They’re just not used for anything interesting.

It’s revealed that Cable orders his weapons from AIM, and he thinks that it’s “hypocritical” to get into the ethics of where you’re buying guns from. Does Cable really believe that Smith & Wesson are as bad as a terrorist group? I don’t think that even the most ardent gun control advocate would go that far. I really have no idea what the point of this scene is. Are we supposed to view Cable as a rebellious bad boy because he helps to financially support a terrorist organization? Is Cable saying that he’s just as bad as a terrorist group for using guns himself? Maybe the point is to show that Cable is a firm believer in “the ends justify the means” and that his mission justifies supporting AIM. Was this scene supposed to be this disturbing?

There’s another scene where Warpath says that he’s driven solely by revenge. Not exactly the most heroic motivation on Earth. I almost wonder if these scenes were setups to future storylines where these characters would learn the errors of their ways. Unfortunately, I think we’re supposed to take this stuff at face value.

X-FACTOR #78 – May 1992

Playing With Fire!

Credits: Peter David (writer), Larry Stroman and Brandon Peterson (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Dave Sharpe (letters), Mike Thomas (colors)

Tempo of the Mutant Liberation Front warns Dr. Tucker about the MLF’s upcoming attack. X-Factor is called in to protect Dr. Tucker, but Quicksilver and Wolfsbane object. The remaining members of X-Factor fight the MLF in Dr. Tucker’s clinic. The MLF mortally wounds Dr. Tucker, but are chased away before they can locate his research. Wolfsbane destroys Dr. Tucker’s research before the information can be saved on disc.

I Love the ‘90s
Guido brags about dating Sean Young.

Commercial Break
“Dissing fellow pros in print” is at the bottom of the Bullpen Bulletins Coolometer. I wonder if this is a reference to Erik Larsen’s notorious “Name Withheld” letter in CBG.
In the Stan's Soapbox column, Stan Lee announces the X-Men cartoon. He lists James Cameron as one of the producers, but that never happened.

I’ve always remembered this as a great issue, and it holds up very well. The idea of detecting mutation in fetuses is a smart use of the mutant concept, and it’s the type of thinking that the other X-books weren’t doing at this time. Peter David is able to give the characters strong points of view while remaining true to their established personalities. Wolfsbane isn’t arbitrarily chosen to present the opposing viewpoint; her stance is consistent with what we already know about her. Quicksilver’s opposition displays his evolution as a character. His monologue on the last page is really touching, and it ties together his past continuity with the current plot in a clever way.

You can begin to see this storyline’s editorial intervention with this issue. The story now says that Dr. Tucker can find the gene that creates mutation and remove it. This wasn’t stated at all in the previous issue. In the last issue, Tucker could only determine the possibility of a mutant birth. The implied conflict was that Tucker’s research could lead to the abortion of suspected mutants. If Tucker can actually remove the gene for mutation before birth, that creates a different conflict. One parallels issues relating to birth defects and abortion. The other involves genetic engineering. Both are interesting, but having the story switch midstream is awkward. It definitely reads as if editorial had last minute problems with the story. The abortion parallels are still evident in this issue, though. There’s a lot of talk about a mutant’s right to live, making decisions, and standing in the way of people’s choices.

I’ve never read any of the MLF appearances in New Mutants, so I don’t know if Tempo had been given any type of a personality before this issue. She’s revealed to be a former patient of Dr. Tucker and betrays the team by warning him of their attack. I always liked Tempo during the ‘90s, even though I don’t remember seeing her that often outside of this story and a few X-Force appearances. The idea of her reforming was brought up in almost all of her appearances, but I don’t know if Marvel went through with it. I’m actually surprised Fabian Nicieza never used her in Thunderbolts.

Brandon Peterson draws a lot of the later pages in this issue. His style doesn’t really blend in with Storman’s, but it’s not bad. Peterson would later pencil Uncanny X-Men after the Image exodus, before leaving for Image himself. Joe Quesada does this issue’s cover, but I don’t know if he had been named as the new artist at this point. I should point out that in spite of the cover, Sinister only appears on one page of this issue.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

UNCANNY X-MEN #284 – January 1992

Into the Void

Credits: Whilce Portacio (plot, pencils), Art Thibert (inks), John Byrne (script), Michael Heisler (letters), Glynis Oliver & Joe Rosas

Sunfire investigates a giant void in the Sakhalin Islands. Monstrous-looking aliens (who look nothing like The Predator at all) emerge from the pit and attack him. The X-Men see reports of the attack and arrive to help him. One of the aliens loses her mask and is revealed to actually be humanoid. The void suddenly turns into a black hole and sucks in the X-Men. Meanwhile, Bishop and his men execute more of the escaped future fugitives.

Continuity Notes
Sunfire’s ‘90s-era armor debuts in this issue. Byrne’s script has even Sunfire making fun of the ridiculous new outfit. I think he wore this thing for several years.

Jean comments that if she returns from the dead one more time, she’ll be walking cliché.

Professor Xavier speculates that the White Queen could’ve transferred her mind into someone else’s body, also. Her body is specifically referred to as a corpse, there’s no mention of her being in a coma.

Another issue with a barely discernable plot. There’s really nothing I can say about this issue that I haven't said in the previous Uncanny reviews. I guess this issue is slightly better than the previous ones, if only because it doesn’t casually kill off dozens of established characters. As a kid, I didn’t notice the sometimes shoddy plotting of Jim Lee’s X-Men, but these Uncanny issues always struck me as awful. Lee’s plots at least pay some attention to the characters and (usually) establish his ideas clearly. Uncanny at this point is just a total mess. There’s absolutely nothing engaging about the stories at all, and nothing to make you care about the characters in any way. X-Force is actually a more enjoyable comic at this point.

X-MEN #7 – April 1992


Credits: Jim Lee (plot & breakdowns), Art Thibert (finishes), Scott Lobdell (dialogue), Tom Orzechowski (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)

The Upstarts learn the location of the C-Synthesizer from Wolverine’s memory, as Psylocke reveals that she’s broken free of Matsuo’s control and fights back. Maverick frees the X-Men and they quickly deal with Sabretooth. Wolverine fights Omega Red until the building begins to explode and the team escapes. The C-Synthesizer is revealed to be inside the grave of Janice, the double agent Sabretooth killed earlier. At her gravesite, Maverick kills Dr. Cornelius, and Wolverine hands him the C-Synthesizer.

This issue is at least better than the previous two issues of this storyline. It’s certainly less confusing than the other parts and isn’t as nonsensical. At least you can follow the action, and it doesn’t have the frenzied feel of the Uncanny X-Men issues of this time. I like seeing Sabretooth under Psylocke’s mental control. You would think that all of those telepaths in the mutant comics would do this more often.

There’s still not enough to save this mediocre storyline, though. The story never explains why exactly Maverick wants the C-Synthesizer (his thought balloons suggest that the X-Men wouldn’t like the reason why he’s there…why?). Plus, Sabretooth never contributes anything to this story, and just disappears in-between pages in this issue. I can understand why Lee wanted the story to have Maverick, Wolverine, and Sabretooth brought together in the present and in the flashbacks, but Sabretooth should’ve been given more to actually do. This is also the second X-book I’ve read in as many days that ends the main story because the building is blowing up.

This issue tries to continue the sympathetic portrayal that Dr. Cornelius received in the Weapon X serial, but it doesn’t really work. In Weapon X, Cornelius is recruited into the project and doesn’t immediately realize what exactly is being done. In this storyline, he just shows up working for Matsuo with no real explanation given. Lobdell does a nice job of conveying Cornelius’ guilt over his participation in the Weapon X experiment; but if he really felt bad, why is he still torturing Wolverine today?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

UNCANNY X-MEN #283 – December 1991

Bishop’s Crossing

Credits: Whilce Portacio (plot, pencils), Art Thibert (inks), John Byrne (script), Tom Orzechowski and Lois Buhalis (letters), Joe Rosas (colors)

Bishop, Malcolm, and Randall emerge from a time portal and attempt to capture Fitzroy. The X-Men are shocked to see Bishop ruthlessly kill Fitzroy’s henchmen. Bishop is convinced that the X-Men are impostors and they begin to fight. Fitzroy is taken away by the Upstarts while Bishop fights the X-Men. The Upstarts detonate explosives in Fitzroy’s base, forcing the X-Men to leave without Bishop. Meanwhile, Xavier returns Jean’s mind to her own body. Finally, the individuals behind the Upstart competition are revealed to be Selene and the Gamesmaster.

Continuity Notes
Xavier senses another mind when returning Jean to her own body. I’m assuming this is Emma Frost.

Shaw’s upset with Fitzroy for stealing his ring of leadership and has him placed in manacles. I don’t think the idea of a leadership ring for the Upstarts is brought up again. Shaw toasts the other Upstarts in victory; none of these characters are identified or seen again, but they all have stylish outfits.

Selene threatens that the Upstarts won’t like the true nature of their prize.

It’s the conclusion to the first story arc in the new direction of Uncanny X-Men, and it’s more of the same. This issue marks the first full appearance of Bishop (even though he was on the cover of the previous issue, he barely appeared there). According to legend, Bishop was the first X-Man created solely for marketing reasons. Marvel’s marketing department wanted a new X-Man, and they wanted him to be black. Gun toting tough guys were also really popular back then, so there you go.

Portacio’s plot remains questionable, leaving the scripting to cover up some of the shortcomings. Byrne tries to explain why Bishop is suddenly more interested in fighting the X-Men than capturing Fitzroy by saying that time travel is “disorienting”. He also tries to cover how exactly Jean developed the new power to transfer her mind into someone else’s body by having Forge say “necessity is the mother of invention”. Okay then. In another goofy scene, Shinobi Shaw tells Fitzroy that his Sentinels re-attached his severed fingers. Those giant robots must be very skilled surgeons. I’d love to see them perform such delicate surgery with their enormous robotic fingers. It would actually be more interesting than anything in this issue.

The introduction of the Upstarts themselves is handled just as sloppily as anything else in this arc. Considering the fact that the Upstart competition is driving the plot in this series and its spinoff, it should have received a much clearer introduction. Unless I missed something in one of Portacio’s X-Factor issues, I don’t think one single issue so far has given readers the basics of the competition. Apparently, they kill super-powered beings for points, and this issue introduces the Gamemaster as the arbitrator of the competition. What’s the prize of the competition? It’s a mystery. What does Gamemaster get out of this? It’s a mystery. Why is Selene in league with the Gamemaster? It’s a mystery.

Theoretically, this should be a very important storyline. It’s the first story since the original X-Men rejoined the team, something fans had been demanding for years. It’s the death of several established characters. It’s the introduction of several new villains. It’s the introduction of a brand new X-Man! Yet, due to the frantic pacing of each issue, it’s impossible to care about any of this.

X-FACTOR #77 – April 1992

Great X-Pectations

Credits: Peter David (writer), Larry Stroman (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Michael Heisler (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors)

The Mutant Liberation Front battles X-Factor and breaks Slab and Hairbag out of prison. Cannonball arrives and tries to talk Wolfsbane into joining X-Force. Havok attempts to arrest him, but Polaris allows him to escape as a favor to Wolfsbane. Meanwhile, the MLF selects their new target, a doctor who has developed a test for determining mutantcy in fetuses.

Commercial Break
Entertainment This Month runs a small ad for Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood. I'll post more about this later.

This isn’t a direct crossover with X-Force, but it does feature the team’s major villains and guest stars one of its members. Peter David keeps it from feeling forced by focusing on Cannonball and Wolfsbane’s shared history, and the political motives of the MLF. I’m actually surprised the MLF didn’t have much staying power. Yes, most of the outfits are ridiculous, but it would’ve been easy to just re-design them. They also have political motives that can make for interesting storylines, as seen in this arc. They’re basically The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, with three times as many members. Considering the lack of credible X-villains and the abundance of mutant spin-offs, it seems like these characters would’ve made more appearances past 1995.

Stroman’s art becomes more stylized with this issue. I wonder if he felt the need to exaggerate his figures to fit in with the early ‘90s ethic, or maybe he was altering his style to fit the Liefeld designs of many of these characters. Maybe he was just naturally evolving into this look. For the most part it works, but some of the figures are starting to look unattractive.

I seem to recall Peter David commenting that this storyline was censored, but there don’t seem to be any obvious re-writes in this issue. The idea that a test could determine if a fetus is a mutant is very interesting, and the inference that this could lead to an abortion is here, but the “A” word is never used. This issue also introduces Vicki Wang, a lawyer fighting for the civil rights of supervilliains. I don’t remember if this went anywhere but it’s an interesting concept. David also puts the X-Force characters to good use. The scene between Wolfsbane and Cannonball is a nice payoff for New Mutants fans, and there’s a great sequence with Quicksilver going up against Tempo’s time-altering power.
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