Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #18 - December 1992


Doomsday! Part One
Credits:  Louise Simonson (writer), Jon Bogdanove (penciler), Dennis Janke (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Glenn Whitmore (colorist)

Summary:  An orphan named Keith spies on the Underworlders that claim to have kidnapped his mother.  He soon discerns that they lied to him, so Keith attracts Superman’s attention with a giant “S” emblem spray-painted on a basketball court.  Superman listens to Keith and travels to Underworld, where Lois is already in danger, investigating the Underworlders’ plans to attack the surface.  Superman defeats the mutated Underworlders and discovers that Lois is safe, thanks to a homeless man named Charlie that knows Lois from the shelter where she volunteers.  Meanwhile, Doomsday escapes from a metal prison and begins to cause havoc.

Irrelevant Continuity: Doomsday doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m going to be calling him that for simplicity’s sake.  At this point, he’s still covered in a green jumpsuit, with one hand tied with cables behind his back.

Mom, Apple Pie, etc…:  Superman comforts the frantic Keith with a big hug.

I Love the ‘90s:  Lois leaves a typed note on Clark Kent’s computer before going out.  When Clark sees it, he remarks that it’s “very high tech of her.”

Total N00B:  
  • The story of Keith and the Underworlders is obviously continued from previous issues.  I have no idea who the Underworlders are, but I’m assuming they’re DC’s version of the Morlocks.  Apparently, there’s a faction of pro-war and anti-war Underworlders, with the normal humans seemingly in the anti-war camp.  
  • After Superman leaves, Charlie wonders if they should’ve told him about “Bloodthirst.”  His friend replies “Bloodthirst is our problem!”  Well, that’s settled.
  • Superman believes the “War World escapees” are behind the Underworlders’ advanced weaponry.  I only associate “War World” with the worst two episodes of the Justice League cartoon, although I’m assuming the comics’ version has a similar backstory.

Review:  Man of Steel #18 is the first full appearance of Doomsday, even though his debut has been teased with several pages of him punching through his prison door during the previous few weeks of Superman comics.  For anyone unaware, the Superman titles ran as a weekly comic during this period, with each creative team picking up where the other left off the previous week.  I can’t imagine this was a creatively satisfying environment, but it seems as if the writers and artists involved didn’t mind so much.  During annual retreats, the plan for the next year was plotted ahead, with everyone pitching in ideas.  I’m guessing the creators enjoyed the collaborative process, because virtually every Superman book during this era has a strong creative team.  It’s hard to imagine DC or Marvel pulling this off today without someone quitting after the first week and giving a blistering indictment of the company on Twitter, but the creators of this era seemed pretty content with the arrangement.  

As famously documented, the big story for 1992 was supposed to be the wedding of Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  The upcoming Lois and Clark TV show derailed those plans, so the creators were left with a year’s worth of stories to fill.  Jerry Ordway’s sarcastic suggestion to just kill Superman, a joke he apparently did every year, suddenly began to be taken seriously.  Dan Jurgens suggested a raging behemoth, a force of nature, be the villain responsible for Superman’s death, in contrast to Superman’s tradition of facing evil scientists and crooks in business suits.  Doomsday, as he appears in this issue, is cloaked in mystery; his goggles, random metallic cables, and green jumpsuit suggest a sci-fi origin, but none is given in the immediate future.  After weeks of teasing, punching at a metal wall (the sound effect “DOOM” surprisingly not used until he finally breaks free this issue), Doomsday escapes while Superman is having fun with the faux-Morlocks.  (Or did the Underworlders come first?)  His first act is to take a tiny bird in his hand, contemplate it, then crush it while laughing manically.  

I don’t think there’s any denying that Doomsday is a walking plot device, but his introduction this issue works fairly well.  I feel the early, cloaked design of Doomsday is a great visual; he’s some form of monster, but your mind is free to fill in the gaps.  As the story progresses, we eventually discover Doomsday is gray Hulk with odd bone growths, sporting green bicycle shorts for some unfathomable reason.  This design I’ve always considered kind of a joke, although the Justice League cartoon would later produce a Kirby-esque remake of this look that had a certain charm to it.  Since I like the original “bagged” Doomsday look the best, this might turn out to be my favorite chapter of the initial storyline.  I doubt today that Simonson would’ve been allowed to finish off a rather tame storyline while giving Doomsday his full debut in the same issue, but the discrepancy works to the story’s advantage.  I like the sense that something horrible is approaching, while Superman’s still going about a seemingly average adventure.  I don’t think it would’ve hurt DC to reprint the issue or two leading up to this story in the Death of Superman trade, however.  It’s not as if the extra material would’ve broken the bank, especially on a book guaranteed to sell out, and those additional pages would’ve helped the narrative flow of the Underworld story immensely.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Next Casualty - Superman


Did you guys know DC published a story in 1993 that actually featured the death of Superman?  Sounds crazy, right?  I’ve miraculously been able to find a copy of this obscure relic, and have chosen to make it my next series of reviews.  I’d suggest everyone read along, but I realize finding copies of this artifact could be incredibly difficult.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

ROBIN #13 - January 1995


Wings over Gotham
Credits:  Chuck Dixon (writer), John Cleary and Phil Jimenez (pencilers), Ray Kryssing w/Phil Jimenez (inks), Albert DeGuzman (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Robin attaches a line to Steeljacket, and finds himself dragged through the sky with the Gotham police force in pursuit.  Meanwhile, Dick and Bruce discuss Bruce’s decision to have Jean-Paul replace him, and whether or not Bruce will resume the role of Batman.  After the Gotham police overwhelm Steeljacket in a hail of bullets, Robin returns to the Batcave.  He discovers Dick wearing his Nightwing outfit, while Bruce is lurking in the shadows in a new Batman costume.

Irrelevant Continuity:  
  • Robin’s suspicion that Steeljacket isn’t human is given dramatic emphasis.  I have no idea if this was ever paid off.
  • This new Batman costume is essentially the Tim Burton movie outfit.  All black, with no trunks on the outside.  Dick and Tim act as if this is a dramatic change, which is just ridiculous.  I believe Chuck Dixon has stated that Batman was supposed to get a more dramatic make-over following “Prodigal,” but DC backed out at the last minute.

Review:  After three volumes and around 2,000 pages, we’ve reached the end of the Knightfall trades.  And if you think this isn’t much of a conclusion, you’re right, but this is the last comic with “Prodigal” on the cover, so it must be the last comic reprinted in the collection.  Those are the rules and we all must accept them.  If there's another way to do research while compiling a trade outside of scrolling through the cover gallery, I don't want to hear about it.  Unfortunately, the final volume is going out on what’s likely the weakest artwork from the entire event.  For reasons I’ll never understand, an editor decided to pair John Cleary and Phil Jimenez as artists this issue.  Phil Jimenez is still doing a George Perez pastiche at this point, while John Clearly is a sub-par McFarlane double.  Remember Boof?  (How could anyone forget Boof?)  No sane individual would pair these guys on the same story, but that’s what happened somehow.  Not surprisingly, the issue looks like an absolute mess.

While there are numerous plot lines that remain unresolved at this point, there is at least some sense of closure, as Bruce and Dick finally discuss why on earth Azrael was hired as the replacement Batman.  Dixon plays their partnership as a father/son relationship, strained over the years as Dick entered adulthood.  The creators are still going with the “he’s his own man now” rationalization for why Bruce didn’t ask Dick to replace him, but Dixon is now putting more weight behind the argument.  And Dick is also able to voice the readers’ complaints and call Bruce out on his lack of faith; Dick didn’t want to become Batman, but of course he would do it if Bruce needed him.  It’s hard to deny that DC always had a flimsy excuse for bringing in Azrael instead of Dick at the start of this event, but Dixon does about as good a job imaginable justifying the decision. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #681 - January 1995


Knight without Armor
Credits:  Chuck Dixon (writer), Graham Nolan (penciler), Klaus Janson (inker), John Costanza (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  A masked, armored figure is terrorizing the Gotham underworld.  Batman is certain Jean-Paul Valley is the culprit, while Robin is skeptical.  They agree to split up the investigation.  Batman finds Jean-Paul living in a shelter, too emotionally fragile to hurt anyone.  Robin, meanwhile, investigates the mobster most likely to be hit next.  After Robin takes out his guards, he’s confronted by the real killer, Steeljacket.  Meanwhile, Batman returns to the Batcave and finds Bruce Wayne waiting for him.

Irrelevant Continuity:  Detective Mackenzie Bock is introduced as Lieutenant Essen’s new assistant.  This is treated as a significant introduction, but I don’t know if he ever amounted to more than just a minor supporting cast member.

Review:  I like the basic premise of the story, but I don’t think the “falsely accused” angle really goes anywhere.  Jean-Paul’s return to the book probably should feel like a significant event, but instead he’s cleared with one dumbfounded look and the story moves on.  Plus, it’s Dick Grayson who meets him face-to-face, and the two of them have barely interacted in the past, so there’s not much going on in the scene.  Regardless, there are some decent action sequences in the issue, and Klaus Janson inking over Graham Nolan just looks amazing.  There are a lot of big, dramatic images this issue, and while they contribute to the unusually short read-time, there’s a sense that the creative team is utilizing Janson to the best of his ability.  I’m relatively certain that Steeljacket never went on to become an A-list villain, and there’s not much to the mystery, but this issue has to stand out as one of the best-looking Bat-comics from the era.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

SHADOW OF THE BAT #34 - January 1995

Prodigal: Ten
Credits:  Alan Grant (writer), Mark Bright (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker),  Todd Klein (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Batman falls for a trap set by the Tally Man, who then chains him up and fires a revolver loaded with one bullet at his head.  As Tally Man teases Batman about the inevitable fatal bullet, Dick Grayson reflects on his life.  Eventually, he finds the strength to break the bonds.  Batman pursues Tally Man and eventually captures him.

Review:  In response to likely no demand whatsoever, Tally Man has returned.  This time, he’s rendered by a competent artist, which settles the issue of whether or not he’s supposed to be some kind of ghost or smoke creature.  He isn’t.  He’s just wearing a dress.  I’m glad that’s settled, and it’s always nice to see Mark Bright show up in the credits.  He draws a very traditional Batman that I’ve always liked, and he's a welcome break from the kind of artist who normally shows up as fill-in pencilers in this title.  The emotional arc for the issue is Dick Grayson’s insecurities, a theme that hasn’t been explored in-depth in “Prodigal” so far.  I’m not sure if Alan Grant is on the same page as the rest of the writers, because he seems to be working from the premise that Dick views himself as a failure in every aspect of his life, which is much angst-ier than I’ve seen in the other titles.  Grant actually handles the character work rather well, even though having Dick reclaim his self-esteem as he magically finds the strength to break Tally Man’s bonds is borderline cheese.


The major problem with the issue is the mere presence of Tally Man, who isn’t a memorable or interesting antagonist at all.  Grant plays up the idea that Dick getting kidnapped is “doubly ironic” since Tally Man first attacked Jean-Paul thinking he was Bruce, and now he’s targeted Dick thinking he’s Jean-Paul, but none of that makes Tally Man himself any more tolerable as a villain.  He’s just someone the reader has to suffer through before Dick can have his emotional catharsis and end the story. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BATMAN #514 - January 1995

One Night in the War Zone
Credits:  Doug Moench (writer), Ron Wagner (penciler), Joe Rubenstein (inker), Ken Bruzenak (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Robin provides Batman with a list of the three worst offenders released during Two-Face’s scheme: Strake, McCone, and Cheung.  Strake targets his former partner in the drug trade, McCone invades the home of the man who testified against him, and Cheung searches for people who cheated him out of gambling profits.  All three are located in Battergate, an area of Gotham nicknamed “the war zone.”  One by one, Batman locates the fugitives and incapacitates them.  Sirens continue to blare after he’s finished, reminding him that Batman’s work is never done.

Irrelevant Continuity:  I thought the worst neighborhood in Gotham was supposed to be called “the Hub,” as seen in the earlier chapters of this crossover?

Review:  The emotional hook for this issue is Dick Grayson’s struggle to truly become Batman, a job he knows he isn’t suited for and doesn’t expect to keep for much longer.  This would seem to be a better avenue to explore than the previous arc’s relentless pushing of Two-Face as Dick Grayson’s personal boogey man, but the story doesn’t really make being Batman seem like such a bad job.  There are no moral quandaries, nor are any of the fugitives pursued by Dick particularly challenging threats.  On the bright side, the issue has solid artwork by Ron Wagner, and there’s more than enough action to distract from Dick’s half-baked character crisis.  Judged mainly as a one-issue action story, this is fairly entertaining.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ROBIN #12 - December 1994

Credits:  Chuck Dixon (writer), Phil Jimenez (penciler), John Stokes (inker), Albert DeGuzman (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Tim Drake is harassed by two punks while at the movies with Ariana.  In order to protect his secret identity, Tim allows the punks to embarrass him in front of his girlfriend.  That night, as Robin, he tries to make himself feel better while taking down hoods with Batman.  The next day, he runs into the punks again.  He easily defeats them when alone in an alley, but is later upset to learn the store belonging to Ariana’s family has been vandalized by gangsters seeking protection money.  Later, the heads of the Troika meet.  An assassin enters, declaring he will kill Batman and Robin.

Irrelevant Continuity:  
  • I don’t believe this assassin appears in any future chapter of “Prodigal,” which means his identity is never revealed in this reprint collection.  I suspect he’s supposed to be an update of the KGBeast, or NKVDemon.
  • Tim Drake’s future stepmother, Dana Winters, is introduced as his father’s physical therapist.

Review:  There’s no obvious reason for this story to be reprinted, aside from the “Prodigal” logo appearing on the cover.  The reprint collection has currently reached an awkward stage, now that Two-Face has been defeated but Bruce Wayne hasn’t returned yet.  Ideally, there should be more of a character arc for Dick Grayson to go through, but he really doesn’t have that much to deal with by this point.  That means this issue of Robin reads like almost any other issue from this era, except a different guy is playing Batman during his brief appearance in the issue.  And that’s not to say it’s a bad issue of Robin at all; in fact, I first read this as a random back issue years ago and have always enjoyed it.  Dixon captures a teenage boy’s fear of being embarrassed in front of his girlfriend remarkably well, and he manages to make Tim thoroughly likable throughout the ordeal.  Dixon always knew how to handle the teen superhero drama during this run, and I have to reiterate that it’s a shame DC doesn’t realize what a great Robin Tim Drake made during the ‘90s.  From the perspective of putting together a truly complete trade paperback, however, I have to say that Robin #0 should’ve taken this story’s place several chapters ago.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DETECTIVE COMICS #680 - December 1994

A Twice Told Tale
Credits:  Chuck Dixon (writer), Lee Weeks & Graham Nolan (pencilers), Joe Rubinstein (inker), John Costanza (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Batman deals with the crime wave that’s been fueled by Two-Face’s mass release of prisoners.  Gordon’s refusal to rely on Batman’s help continues to create a rift in his marriage.  Meanwhile, Robin consults Oracle and deduces that Two-Face is hiding out in the Hall of Records.  He leaves Batman a message and investigates.  When Batman arrives, Robin is already held captive with Harvey Kent, with both strapped underneath two thousand pounds of paper.  Batman commandeers a forklift and rescues both of them.  Confident in his abilities, he easily defeats Two-Face.

Irrelevant Continuity:  The opening narration of the issue claims once again (erroneously) that a computer glitch, a typo, is responsible for Two-Face’s release.

Total N00B:  Robin #0 is once again used as the crux of Batman’s insecurities regarding Two-Face, and I’ll point out again that there’s no footnote referencing it in the actual issue, nor is that story reprinted in this collection.

Review:  Six issues of build-up to a Two-Face fight probably wasn’t the best move, given that Two-Face isn’t that intimidating physically and the scheme he’s hatched this time never really comes together.  Two-Face using computers to cause chaos in the city is a decent idea, but the execution has been all over the place.  In this very issue, we’re told that computer glitches have caused dozens of cons to be released early from prison, while at the same time the prisons are being overcrowded.  Which is it, then?  If there are enough freed criminals to cause a crime wave, how could Two-Face also arrange for Blackgate to be overcrowded?  And how long would it really take the authorities to just forget the computers and manually figure out how many prisoners each facility can hold, especially if a large portion of them have already been released early?

Overlooking the villainous scheme, there’s also a problem with Batman’s big catharsis this issue.  Batman’s allegedly overcome his adolescent anxieties regarding Two-Face by deciding not to play by his rules, which apparently means stealing a forklift and just picking his hostages up out of harm’s way.  I understand the idea is that Dick’s learned from his mistakes in Robin #0, but as I recall the events of Robin #0, it’s not as if “grab a forklift and just ignore Two-Face” was really an option for young Dick in that story.  It’s taken Dick all of these years to finally realize that Two-Face is running a crooked game and that he shouldn’t fall for it?  This just doesn’t work.  As I’ve said earlier, the basic ideas behind this storyline aren’t bad at all, but the execution just feels mangled.

Friday, July 18, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy - November 9, 1996

Storm Front (Part Two)
Written by Brooks Wachtel

Summary:  The X-Men try to understand Storm’s decision to marry Arkon during their stay in Polemachus.  Arkon’s advisors suggest he turn off the planet’s Central Energy Transmitter, the cause of Polemachus’ weather problems.  He refuses to abandon the power source for his servant’s collars.  Eventually, Storm realizes that Arkon’s servants are truly slaves.  Simultaneously, the X-Men meet a rebel leader fighting against Arkon’s rule.  Storm refuses to marry Arkon and the X-Men use his teleportation portal to return home.  Storm’s decision to destroy her monument before leaving sparks a larger rebellion against Arkon.

Um, Actually…”:  The X-Men and Arkon parted as friends after their first meeting in the comics.

Production Note:  Original intro and standard closing montage, again.

Review:  The second chapter of this storyline doesn’t do enough to redeem the concept, but there is more of an effort to make this work as a Storm story.  Parroting a scene from Uncanny X-Men Annual #3, Storm states her desire to help people in ways that don’t involve violence, which is partially used to justify why she’s willing to stay in Polemachus.  Wolverine speculates that the citizens’ worship of her as a “goddess” is reviving feelings she felt as an adolescent worshipped by her tribe in Africa, a clever callback to a part of Storm’s past that’s been largely ignored on the show.  Perhaps these ideas should’ve been set up sooner (Claremont establishes Storm’s desire to have a life outside of the X-Men in the original story before she even meets Arkon), but at the very least some effort is made to present why this would be a legitimate choice for Storm.  

The marriage to Arkon, however, is still a foolish idea that’s never justified within the story.  This is a character with no charisma, no innate qualities that could attract Storm, with nothing in particular to offer her.  He also makes no real effort to hide the fact that he’s a tyrant, keeping his citizens as slaves while plotting to invade a neighboring planet that has resources he desires.  It takes Storm two full episodes to realize this guy’s not marriage material, which is utterly insane.  Perhaps her first hint that something’s not right here should’ve been when he admitted to creating the horrific storm that threatened Washington, DC…on the day they met.  Was Storm just under the spell of his washboard abs?  Using this as a character conflict was just incredibly misguided.  Making this more frustrating is knowing that the source material has already given the producers some angst to explore, since the comics established that using her powers to save Polemachus will ultimately kill Storm.  She’s eventually saved when Cyclops devises a plan that involves merging his powers with hers, with the help of the mechanical skills that Wolverine and Nightcrawler have learned from Banshee.  That’s classic Claremontian melodrama and “give every cast member something to do” writing right there, and it could’ve been adapted very easily for the show.

Credit to for the screencaps.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

X-MEN Episode Sixty-Nine - November 2, 1996

Storm Front (Part One)
Written by Mirith Colao

Summary:  The X-Men fly to Washington, DC, which is experiencing the worst storm in its history.  Storm uses her powers to restore the weather to normal.  The mysterious Arkon emerges and presses Storm into following him to his home planet, which is experiencing an even worse meteorological crisis.  Storm leaves one of Arkon’s teleportation pellets behind for the X-Men to discover.  Soon, the X-Men follow Storm to Polemachus.  Storm has saved Polemachus’ environment and is hailed as a goddess.  Arkon proposes to Storm and she accepts.

Continuity Notes:  
  • This episode is loosely based on Uncanny X-Men Annual #3.
  • The X-Men this episode are comprised of Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Storm, and Jubilee.  Xavier appears at the mansion, but doesn’t follow to Polemachus.
  • Arkon goes out of his way to draw attention to Polemachus’ “Central Energy Transmitter,” which allegedly keeps the planet alive.

Production Note:  The original opening is still being used, along with the standard montage closing credits.  Again, I’m blaming the DVD, because I don’t think the episodes aired like this.

Um, Actually…”:  Arkon teleports with the lightning bolt-shaped devices he keeps in his quiver.  The cartoon has him using tiny little balls that Wolverine compares to golf balls, even though they’re drawn closer to the size of a gumball.

Review:  Out of the entire X-Men canon, it’s hard to imagine why anyone thought Uncanny X-Men Annual #3 was a great place to find an adaptation for the cartoon.  UXM Annual #3 isn’t necessarily a bad comic, but its main selling points would seem to be the novelty of having the X-Men face a traditional Avengers foe, and the George Perez art.  Since Classic X-Men always skipped the annuals, I came into this episode cold when it first aired, not knowing that Arkon is an established Marvel character, let alone one that fought the X-Men.  I’m sure that influenced my initial bias that this two-parter is a waste of time.  Today, I understand the history behind the story, but that doesn’t make these episodes any more tolerable.

As a Storm spotlight episode, we’re left with the dubious premise that all she’s wanted throughout the years is for a man to pay her attention, and once she receives said attention, she’d be more than willing to marry the stranger.  When has Storm ever been portrayed as man-hungry?  I guess there’s a precedent in the comics now for Storm to marry a virtual stranger, but that was done as a rather obvious marketing ploy to save a title Marvel stubbornly refused to cancel.  There’s no interpretation of the character circa 1996 that’s ever come across so needy, as far as I remember.  Storm isn’t an easy character to write, as the series has made obvious in the past, but she deserves better than this.

More annoyingly, this episode is absolutely packed with filler.  The story opens in Washington, DC for no discernible reason, as the episode spends around ten minutes getting to a point that Claremont accomplished in just a few pages in the comics.  Before the X-Men ever get a chance to find Storm, they must crash-land the Blackbird, hitchhike in a stranger’s station wagon (sporadically drawn to resemble some kind of military Humvee whenever the model abruptly changes), find the clue Storm left behind, somehow make it back to New York, consult with Xavier, and finally teleport to Polemachus.  Then, more time is killed as they fight peasants and robot guards, then get arrested.  And there’s more time to kill after that, so Wolverine has a fight with Arkon that has him extracting and sheathing his claws at random intervals to appease the censors.  The fight unnerves Storm, which causes the chaotic weather to return, so she ends up fixing Polemachus’ environment for the second time in five minutes after she regains her composure.  The amount of effort spent on wasting time is just breathtaking.  Perhaps I wouldn’t mind all of this padding if the animation wasn’t utterly wretched.  The human figures seem paper thin, the backgrounds are dull, and the fight scenes are extremely clunky.  Unfortunately, the run of the series is almost over and we’re still getting some incredibly ugly episodes.

Monday, July 14, 2014

X-MEN Episode Fifty-Nine - October 26, 1996

Written by Len Uhley

Summary:  The Friends of Humanity’s ruling council threatens to renounce Graydon Creed for hiding his mutant heritage.  Creed devises a scheme to prove himself, arranging for Nightcrawler to receive a letter from his mother, claiming she needs help.  Nightcrawler contacts the X-Men, who travel with him to a dam that’s secretly occupied by the FoH.  They discover Creed’s setup when Mystique is revealed as the mother of Creed and Nightcrawler.  While the X-Men face the FoH, Nightcrawler tries to make peace with Mystique.  Creed betrays Mystique and impulsively destroys the dam, leading the X-Men to believe Mystique has drowned.  Later, Creed is rescued by the FoH’s ruling council and sent to an isolated shack -- the home of his father, Sabretooth.

Continuity Notes:  
  • The X-Men featured this episode are Wolverine, Rogue, and Jubilee.
  • Blink makes a cameo as a mutant student being harassed during a montage of anti-mutant demonstrations on the news.
  • Much of this episode is based on the infamous X-Men Unlimited #4, which revealed Mystique as Nightcrawler’s mother and brought Graydon Creed and Rogue into the story for a dysfunctional family reunion.
  • Mystique tells Nightcrawler that his father was an Austrian count she was using for money twenty-five years ago.  When she gave birth to a mutant, she abandoned the child and adopted a new identity.

Um, Actually…”:  Jubilee tells Nightcrawler that she never knew her birthparents, either.  In the comics, Jubilee was raised by her parents until they were killed when she was in her early teens.  

Saban Quality:  The FoH’s armory has a crate labeled “Blaters.”

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  Mystique’s vague death scene, obviously inspired by the end of X-Men Unlimited #4, is only allowed to stay “vague” for about thirty seconds.  She stands up and walks away, just a few feet away from Wolverine, who claims there’s no trace of her.

“Huh?” Moment:  The letter Nightcrawler receives warns him to come alone.  Wolverine promises him that no one will know the X-Men are there; a promise that lasts all of five seconds once they reach the base and storm it.

“Actiiing!”:  Graydon Creed still has a priceless overreaction every time someone even mentions Sabretooth’s name.

Creative Differences:  Wizard #51 went behind-the-scenes on the day the voice acting for this episode was recorded.  It reports an argument between Marvel exec/X-Men producer Joseph Calamari and a FOX representative about two lines of dialogue that were cut from the episode.  The article also claimed this episode would likely air in early 1996, even though it didn’t debut until the end of the year.

Production Note:  The opening credits are back to the original, which I’m assuming is a mistake on the DVDs, because I don’t recall the actual episodes ever reverting to the original opening.  Also, the closing credits are back to the montage.

Review:  “Bloodlines” is another episode that could lay claim to the “Last X-Men Episode” title, since Wizard #51 reported that Graydon Creed’s “NOOOOOO” at the end of the episode was the last line of dialogue recorded for the series.  FOX decided to air the two-parter “Storm Front” after this one, however, and according to the production lists posted online, those would seem to be the final ones actually animated.  (Before FOX decided to order another small batch of episodes, of course.)  Regardless, “Bloodlines” would’ve been a more memorable closing for the series, as it revives a popular guest star, resolves a mystery, and has some of the strongest character moments in the show’s run so far.  Nightcrawler is perhaps even preachier than he was in his first appearance, telling orphan Jubilee that God will accept her and later explaining the concept of forgiveness to Mystique, but he’s still recognizable as the Nightcrawler we know from the comics.  Nightcrawler’s explanation to Mystique that he does resent her for abandoning him and later going along with Creed’s plan to save her own life, but will pray for the strength to forgive her is quite touching, and another example of the series going places Saturday Morning would never go.  It’s also worth noting that the “family reunion” aspect of the episode that unites Mystique with her biological children and foster-daughter is handled in a far more logical and coherent way than we saw in the comics.  X-Men Unlimited #4 will always be remembered as a train wreck, but its animated adaptation remains one of the series’ better episodes.

Credit to for the screencaps.
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