Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 56: "Bloodties"

Avengers # 368, X-Men # 26, Avengers West Coast # 101, Uncanny X-Men # 307, Avengers # 369

As many of you are aware, Magneto has a legacy that spans both the Avengers and X-Men's worlds. When civil war breaks out in Genosha as a result of Magneto's EMP and the Legacy Virus, the UN sends in Charles Xavier, Beast, Henry Gyrich, USAgent, Philip Moreau, and Jenny Ransome. Once on Genosha, Xavier breaks off from this group, though somehow (via a continunity mistake) they end meeting up with them again.

Meanwhile, Xavier has called in the X-Men to handle the Genoshan situation. On their way, the X-Men find out that Fabian Cortez has captured Luna and hopes to use her as a human shield to protect himself from Magneto (who Cortez doesn't realize is comatose). Seems Cortez is a mighty bit pissed at Mags for making him loose control of the Upstarts and the Acolytes.

When the Avengers find out that Luna has been captured, they look to hop-to. But no can do. Fury, SHIELD, and the UN are concerned that the Avengers will make the situation worse. After a quick battle with SHIELD, Captain America, Crystal, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Sersi, and Black Knight end up in Genosha. There, they fight Exodus, who is seeking out Cortez and help with the X-Men in trying to cease the civil war.

Jean, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver finally meet up with Cortez and make a bid to take back Luna when Exodus shows up and a fight ensues there. The X-Men, the Avengers, and Xavier's entourage then free some captured, dying Mutates. Everything comes together as Exodus tries to destroy Genosha once and for all . . . but fails because, well, heck he's fighting both the X-Men and the Avengers. Who is going to win against that?

All in all, this summary is sub-par compared to the quality of the story. While, yes, it does stretch its credibility at times, "Bloodties" serves as a fine chapter in the overall Magneto story. More than that, really. It successfully joins together the X-Men and the Avengers, compouding their own subplot. Most of the X-Men/Avengers crossovers have to do with Magneto and his legacy. Remember the origial X-Men/Avengers crossover masterfully created by Roy Thomas? Or how about Magneto seeking out Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to tell them he's their father? Or how about X-Men vs. Avengers (yeeeeaaah, I don't have that)? Anyways, it does a great job of bringing together these two teams and dealing with the ever-developing legacy of Magneto.

The stories are good, despite the annoying continunity problems regarding Jenny, Gyrich, and Philip (I'm so sick of Jenny and Philip). The art is fair, though Steve Epting and John Romita Jr. both seem like they're phoning it in.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 55: "Fatal Attractions"

X-Factor # 92. X-Force # 25, Uncanny X-Men # 303, X-Men # 24, Uncanny X-Men # 304, X-Men Unlimited # 2, X-Force # 26, Uncanny X-Men # 305-306, X-Men # 25, Wolverine # 75, Excalibur # 71, X-Men # -1

Just a quick note: I tossed in these extras issues to give the overall story a little emotion and energy. You'll see what I mean when I start writting about it.

For years, "Fatal Attractions" has been among my favorite X-Men stories. This reading has only made me appreciate it more. It's not your traditional storyline, as the actual titles that are involved don't all link up until Uncanny X-Men # 304.

The story kicks off with the Acolytes attacking a hospital at Cortez's command. When one of the Acolytes are captured, X-Factor finds out their next target: the military base of Camp Hayden. When we find that Senator Kelly and a new breed of Sentinals are there, it turns out that Camp Hayden is the home of an government operation called Project: Wideawake. This is revealed to X-Factor just before the Acolytes show up, but the bulk of the conflict is focused on Cortez and Quicksilver, as Cortez seeks to bring the son of Magneto over to his side, therefore solidifying his control of the Acolytes. He fails, of course, and the Acolytes take off.

On their way to Camp Hayden, X-Factor basically "bumped into" a character by the name of Exodus. Exodus appears then in X-Force, the team having just been reunited with Cable. Exodus takes the New Mutants of the team up to an orbital space station called Avalon - being comprised of parts of Cable's old Graymalkin station and Shi'ar technology. Aboard Avalon, the gang comes face to face with Magneto, who offers them haven from the trouble down on Earth. They reject the offer and Cable and the rest show up, rescuing them. Cable then goes after his little computer buddy, the Professor. He retrieves his files, but is attacked by Magneto, barely leaving Avalon with his life.

Back at the mansion, Illyana passes away. This sends ripples through the X-Men and their various related teams. It's at her funeral that Magneto shows up and gives the X-Men the same offer he gave X-Force - haven. Colossus, disillusioned with Xavier's dream, heads off with Magneto. Professor X and Magneto have a huge battle, then and Xavier forces Magneto to drag Avalon away from the planet (not too far, but it was sitting right above Westchester).

As the international community reacts to Magneto's return, the X-Men prepare themselves for another confrontation. Also, Cable recovers from his battle with Magneto.

Professor X, Quicksilver, and a small team of X-Men head up to Avalon. This is after Magneto unleashes a world-wide Electro-Magnetic Pulse in response to magnetic grid set up to keep him off Earth. The battle with Magneto is high-octane and emotional, with Xavier and Jean using Magneto's darkest memories against him in concert with attacks by various X-Men. This climaxes with Wolverine going against Magneto mono-e-mono. Magneto, fed up with Wolverine, tears the Adamantium off his bones. Xavier then, attacks Magneto unlike any other before - by going into his mind and shutting it down. Not killing him, but leaving him in a vegetative state. Colossus again remains by Magneto's side.

Trouble with the Blackbird occurs on the way, but the X-Men pull through. Wolverine barely does, his healing factor all screwed up and his Adamantium gone. After some time back on Earth, Wolverine starts to recover and we find out that he has had bone claws the whole time.

Professor X, Jean Grey, and Cyclops then head over to Muir Island. Excalibur, at this point, has been reduced to Nightcrawler, Phoenix, and Shadowcat. With Kitty's help, they get Colossus to Muir Island in the hopes of healing his head wound which has kept him in metal form. As they do so, Rachel fights Cable, who has come to settle some scores with the Acolytes. She stops him, then the team goes against some in-coming Acolytes. In the end, Colossus has still decided to follow Magneto, as he believes that he has the best intentions for Mutantkind.

We then take a look back at a meeting Xavier and Amelia Vought have with Magneto, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch a little while before Camp Citadel. It's at this meeting, they both offer the other one more chance at walking their own "right path" and of course, they both reject it, setting their courses into their futures . . .

At the heart of the story, we have a character study of both Professor X and Magneto. At many, many times, it's claimed that Magneto and Professor X have the same goals, just different dreams. It's clear that this is so, and the two actually begin to mirror each other, with Xavier walking (er, metaphorically speaking) a darker path. Magneto threatens the world at a funeral. Xavier comandeers his powers. Magneto issues a EMP against the world. Xavier uses his own memories against him. Magneto rips out Wolverine's Adamantium. Xavier wipes out Mangeto's mind. The two become twisted mirrors of each other. It's only through trying to save Wolverine and Colossus that Xavier tries to seek redemption for all this.

But where the Xavier and Magneto start to look like the other, the Acolytes and the X-Men take a firm stand opposed to each other. There's an interesting parallel to be drawn here. This all starts off with the Acolytes attacking a hospital and wiping out the sick and dying. It all ends with the X-Men and Excalibur helping the wounded Colossus.

Despite being mainly concentrated on Xavier and Magneto, various other characters get some great moments. Quicksilver, Cable, Cannonball, Jubilee, Shadowcat, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue, Wolverine, and (of course) Colossus all shine brillantly above all the others. Each one gives the conflict at hand a different and unique voice, and brings to the story their own flavor.

The writing is top-notch, as Lobdell, Nicieza, and Larry Hama craft a remarkable story here. It's character driven, taking the time to get into characters head with an appreciation of detail and history. The art is good too, though shaky in some points. John Romita Jr.'s work comes off pretty bad here, as does Ken Lashley - both artists who I know are better than they appear in this story. Joe Quesada, Greg Capullo, Joe Bennet, the Kubert bros, and Carlos Pacheco all deliever. Andy Kubert is actually the best of the bunch, which is a bit of surprise for me because I'm not his biggest fan. But between the sketchy feel of the tension-building X-Men # 24 and the dynamic action and character-driven X-Men # 25, he really rises up to the occassion.

The Professor X/Magneto conflict has been around since the very beginning, from the clash of their ideals to the frayed friendship. This is perhaps the best example of their conflict.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 54: "Legacies"

X-Men Unlimited # 1, X-Factor # 90-91, Uncanny X-Men # 298-300, X-Men # 20-23, Uncanny X-Men Annual # 8, Uncanny X-Men # 301-302

It's not a good time to be an X-Man. Targeted by the Upstarts and dealing with a new disease that is going after Mutants, the rumors of Magneto's return do not make matters any better. Let's break it down . . .

X-Men Unlimited # 1 deals with the newest addition to the Upstarts, a young woman named Siena Blaze. She has the power to, um, make things go "boom" and disrupt the electro-magnetic spectrum. She targets Xavier, Cyclops, and Storm as they head home from visiting Ka-Zar in the Savage Land. The three of them must then survive in the shattered hull of the Blackbird after being gunned down. It ain't easy, but it allows for some great character interaction. (I think Scott's struggle over saying "Charles" is kinda stupid though) We also get a nice mystery. Xavier, who spotted a structure as they crashed, heads out to find it. He's rescued, but by whom? Hmmm. A confrontation with Blaze follows, and the three X-Men are rescued by Bishop and Pyslocke.

Over on Genosha, X-Factor tracks down a Mutate with a very deadly disease. They succeed, but not without Multiple Man being exposed to it.

Uncanny X-Men # 298-300 has the X-Men facing off with the Acolytes. It turns out that Magneto's death has inspired a cult-like following with disenchanted Mutants. They first attack a school for handicapped children, believing that one of the kids is a Mutant. The X-Men intervine, but only after Sharon Frielander (from waaaay back) is killed.

Meanwhile, Forge and Gyrich find the remains of Asteroid M and Xavier goes on Nightline with Senator Kelly and Graydon Creed (leader of the group "Friends of Humanity"). As they debate Mutantkind's place with humanity, the Upstarts meet up and plan. It's revealed the Cortez is a member of the Upstarts, gaining a lot of points by killing Magneto.

After Nightline is over with, the X-Men Gold Team (plus Cyclops and Wolverine) head off to a French Castle to take the fight to the Acolytes. A typical battle follows, with Cortez being left gravely injured by Wolverine, then teleported away. When Cortez returns to the Acolytes (who retreated or something), it's revealed that there is evidence that his points don't matter because Magneto might be alive. Back at the mansion, Illyana is sick and getting worse. Xavier and Moria fear that it is same disease that infected the Mutates back on Genosha.

The Blue Team ain't fairing much better. The mounting flirtations between Pyslocke and Cyclops explodes when she kisses him. Scott flips out, goes upstairs, packs his bags and leaves. Storm tries to talk him out of it (considering all the drama she just went through with Forge), but he pushes her away. Jean goes to confront him, but he says nothing to her and leaves her in tears. He's getting good at that. Jean, pissed as hell, goes to Betsy to get some answers. More questions arise when ANOTHER Pyslocke appears, she in her old, European. An overly-compliacted story follows, but here's the gist: Pyslocke appeared on the docks in Japan after she went into the Siege Perilous. A Ninja Assassin named Kwannon found her, some crazy mind-meld followed, and both ended with scrambled minds. As the end of the day, Pyslocke is Psylocke and Revanche (European body) is Half-Psylocke and Half-Kwannon.

As all this unfolds, Cyclops is confronted by Mr. Sinister and learns about the Legacy Virus, which was released as the end of the X-Cutioner's Song. A vacation to Alaska never ends well for Scott.

Uncanny X-Men Annual # 8 features a human assassin named the Executioner going after Mastermind. The X-Men show up first and are pulled into Mastermind's mind. This allows for a unique look at all that has been happening lately through Jean's eyes. Mastermind, as it turns out, also has the Legacy Virus. Colossus suffers yet another blow - this one to the head, preventing him from returning to his human form.

Uncanny X-Men # 301-302 has a showdown with Fitzroy. Colossus, uber-pissed, let's loose on the guy. Plus, Illyana just keeps getting worse . . .

I have to credit the writer's here. A fine job is done in making the Legacy Virus into a real threat, one that is slowly cirlcing the X-Men, chipping away at them slowly. The Upstarts are the other show-stealers, coming off much better than they did the first time they appeared.

Lobdell is the winner above all though. As much as I love Nicieza, the whole Pyslocke story is too complicated and really, not necessary. The Cyclops story is good, but it's overshadowed by the insanity of the Pyslocke story.

Lobdell, however, brings in a more personal flair. We get into Jean's head, really taking in the insanity that has been her life. I'll admit that of all the characters we've seen post-Claremont, Jean has been the hardest one to relate to. But Lobdell (and Nicieza to an extent) nails it. He also brings in some good angst for Peter, who really has been stagnate since the 190s.

The art is fairly good, though I find Andy Kubert lacking at times.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 53: "Recovery"

X-Factor # 87, X-Men # 17-19, X-Force # 19, Cable # 1-2, Excalibur # 66-67

In the aftermath of the "X-Cutioner's Song," the X-teams barely have time to recover. So, let's roll with their punches.

X-Factor # 87
Peter David's best issue. Val Cooper has all over X-Factor pyscho-analyzed. We really get a true, pyschological look at Wolfsbane, Havok, Polaris, Multiple Man, Quicksilver, and Strong Guy. To really explain it would be impossible. Best of the bunch, though, and among the best X-books ever.

X-Men # 17-19
When a Russian town is taken over by the Mutant psychic-vampire named Soul Skinner, Omega Red is called in to deal with him. When he fails, the Russian government calls in the visiting X-Men - Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Jubilee, and Psylocke. However, even they fail to defeat him. The Ruskies then activate a protocol that calls of the assassinations of Colossus' parents and the taking of Illyana. The hope is to jump-start Illyana's powers and destroy the entire town - taking Soul Skinner with it. Colossus fights back, frees his sister. Omega Red escapes. It's an okay story, but the premise is a little shaky. Colossus just can't catch a break.

X-Force # 19
The issue in a nutshell: Cannonball argues with Xavier as to whether or not X-Force are allowed to leave the mansion. Eventually, they do. It's a good issue and serves an interesting take of the whole Cable vs. Xavier's methods arugement. Emotionally grounded, this is a pretty good one.

Cable # 1-2
Oh come on, you knew he wasn't dead. Cable arrives in the future in the aftermath of his self-destruction in the time vortex with Stryfe. Cable rallies Clan Chosen, we learn some backstory of Cable. He then gathers up Kane and attacks the latest and final time machine project run by the evil Cannites. Cable and Kane then travel back in time. It's a fairly good story, if not slow and muddled at times.

Excalibur # 66-67
Rachel has returned, having seperated from Phoenix, yet still retaining its powers and name. To set things right in the future, then, she forms a connection with the creature Widget, which is really the transformed Kate Pryde. Through this connection, Excalibur travels into the "Days of Future Past" time peroid. Joining some old Marvel UK characters (really), the group is able to reprogram Master Mold and the Sentinals into protecting all sentient life. Anti-climatic, but neat.

For the most part, this is a fair time for the X-Teams. Not all of them are winners, but there are certainly worse peroids.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 52: "X-Cutioner's Song"

Cable # - 1, Cable: Blood and Metal # 1-2, X-Cutioner's Song trade, Uncanny X-Men # 297, X-Men: Stryfe Strike Files

This crossover event is the first since the end of the Claremont/Simonson era and is the benchmark for the Lobdell/David/Nicieza peroid. The creative teams have finally settled down, establishing their own voice for their respective series, and have locked in until the end of the tenure.

I decided, for good measure, that I'd toss in Cable # -1. I figure it'll add context to the story. I also added in the "Cable: Blood and Metal" limited since it ties in nicely, plus the Stryfe Strike Files one-shot and Uncanny # 297 for a proper epilogue.

Years ago, Cable arrived in our era near Muir Island. He used his powers recklessly to save himself from a lynch mob and met up with Moria MacTaggert. The two became quick friends. Cable, as it turns out, was on a mission from the future. His goal is simple - to prevent the rise of Apocalypse and to create a peaceful future.

Present day, Cable has broken off his ties with X-Force to hunt down Stryfe and the MLF. As it turns out, the MLF is after certain artifacts bearing the symbol of Apocalypse for reasons unknown. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Cable learned that Stryfe came to this time peroid after him and has been planning on shaping his own future. Cable and his team at the time (Six Pack) were hunted down for years before Six Pack fell apart. Presently, Cable and his former ally/enemy Kane tracked down Stryfe, where Cable learned that underneath Stryfe's mask, he has Cable's face. Kane nearly dies helping Cable and Cable takes Kane back to the future with him to help him recover.

So, meanwhile, Professor X goes off to make a speech at a free World Unity concert in NYC. However, he is shot during his speech by a man looking just like Cable. The various X-Teams leap into action. At the same time, Cyclops and Jean are captured by Caliban and the Four Horsemen as the behest of who they think is Apocalypse, but is really Sinister. Sinister and Stryfe trades Scott and Jean for a canister with his the Summer genetic matrix within. Both are happy.

As Scott and Jean are treated like children by Stryfe, the X-Men and X-Factor hunt down X-Force for some answers. In short order, X-Force is captured and imprisoned in the Danger Room. At the same time, various X-Men go searching for Scott and Jean and eventually meet up with a barely alive Apocalypse (still recovering from the last battle). Both teams retreat and Sinister reveals to the X-Teams that it's Stryfe's who is behind the scenes, manipulating these events.

With Professor X dying the Techno-Organic Virus, Cable returns from the future and is confronted by Wolverine and Bishop. After a great battle, Cable convinces them to listen to him when he claims he didn't shoot Xavier. Wolverine believes him . . . for now. With these three trying to track down Stryfe, the X-Men, X-Factor, Cannonball, and Boom-Boom take down the MLF. As they do, Apocalypse and Stryfe battle it out, with Apocalypse heading the X-Mansion to offer his help. He cures Professor X.

Cyclops and Jean make their escape then and found themselves on the surface of the Moon. This shock causes Jean to unleash a psi-call for help, the call reaching Wolverine. A team consisting of the X-Men, X-Factor, Apocalypse, and Cannonball head to the Moon, confront the upserped Dark Riders, and it all comes to head. Stryfe, Cable, Havok, Cyclops, and Jean battle, trying to make sense of Stryfe once and for all. Cable eventually activates a self-destruct program and blows up while taking on Stryfe in a time vortex. They both vanish.

The X-Men return home. After spending an evening walking and rollerblading with Jubilee due to an after-effect of the T.O. virus, Professor X checks out a disc containing Stryfe's files. They hint that his legacy has been unleashed.


Okay, let's talk about this.

First of all, great story. Love the epic feel to it and I love the character arcs and the way that everyone moves across the chessboard. Apocalypse, Sinister, Stryfe, Cable, Wolverine, Bishop, Havok, Storm, Archangel, Cannonball, Polaris, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Professor X . . . all just basically steal their scenes. Great character moments. Havok and Storm taking command. Cannonball's struggle with the hostility between the X-Men, X-Factor and his own X-Force. Archangel's hatred for Apocalypse. The bad-assness (word?) of Bishop, Cable, and Wolverine. The tension between Cable and Cannonball. The hard struggle of Cyclops and Jean as they try to figure out what Stryfe's problem is.

And let's talk about Stryfe . . .

Stryfe, at his best, comes off as a character who is driven by very primal and dark scars. At his worst, he's a rabbling, loud-mouthed super-villian. The point the writers are trying to make but never come out and say is that Stryfe may be Nathan Christopher, who Scott gave away (about a year ago, Marvel Time). Branching off from that, that would make Cable a pale imitation, a half-man. Stryfe's whole point of this attack was wipe out all those that he thinks harmed and destroyed him: Professor X (for creating the dream); Cyclops and Jean, for giving him up; Apocalypse, for raising him wrong; and Mr. Sinister, for screwing him over in the first place.

Between a great, intricrite plot and great character archs, the story is fantastic. Well-coordinated; makes you think you're reading just one big comic with different artists. Very character-driven - never forgetting about the small characters.

The art is mostly good, with Greg Capullo and Andy Kubert being the best. Jae Lee does his work on X-Factor, but it doesn't mesh well with the rest of the artists. Brandon Petersen works on Uncanny and it's . . . okay.

A great story. One that felt long in coming. The creative teams have finally hit the ground running, now establishing themselves from Claremont.

However, as indicated, Stryfe's legacy isn't dead yet . . .


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 51: "The Tragedy of Wolverine"

Wolverine # 55-57, X-Men # 12-13

Wolverine goes to Japan to rescue Jubilee from customs, which sets off quite the terrible series of events. Hydra (led by his former love, Silver Fox) activates the former female Reaver Cyclia and has her hunt him down. Meanwhile, the Hand goes after Logan as well, and end up fighting Sunfire and Gambit - all the while, negotiating with Mariko to cut off their ties with his Clan (so she can ultimately marry Logan).

Both the Hand and Hydra catch up to Logan and manipulate Mariko into getting herself posioned. Once posioned, she begs Wolverine to kill her. He does and it's sad.

Meanwhile, Logan confronts Xavier over some of his files linking up with some of his own. This makes Logan mad, of course. Professor X goes off to investigate and eventually comes into contact with a childhood friend, Carter Ryking, whose father worked with Kurt Marko and Brian Xavier. Supposedly, the nuclear facility they worked at was a cover for a genetics lab. Unfortunately, Carter (aka Hazard) is unable to control his powers. Xavier helps him, but at the cost of the facility and any valuable information.

These are both interesting stories, though they really don't have much to do with each save Wolerine being a prominent connection. The Mariko story is interesting, though it certainly lacks subtly that I would have wanted from such a major Wolverine event.

The Hazard story is just as interesting and I can tell that the creative teams have stablized themselves since taking over the reigns from Claremont and Jim Lee. However, it lacks in the payoff (which it's touched on for nine years), and comes off pretty mediocre.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 50: "Cutting the Old Threads"

Excalibur # 52, X-Men # 10-11, Uncanny X-Men # 289-293

In a similar way to the earlier post-Claremont issues, these books seek to cut off old plot threads and addresses sub-plots that have basically been left behind for a while.

In "Excalibur" # 52, Professor X and Jean Grey go to visit Excalibur in the hopes of reviving a comatose Rachel Summers. In doing so, they learn the origin of the Phoenix. Ready? Here is comes. Phoenix, as it turns out, is a powerful entity, uncontrollable and highly emotional. It was born out of the Big Bang, was on Earth for a while, but then disappeared. It returned when Jean called out for it. It took over/replaced her (I'll get to that at some point down the line), learned passion, love, and hate and became Dark Phoenix - and then died. It floated around - did the "Inferno" thing where it gave Maddie Jean's memoires. Meanwhile, Rachel's mind journeyed back in time to investigate how Kate Pryde's "Days of Future Past" mission got mucked up. The Phoenix was drawn to Rachel's mind as it was similair to Jean's. It hooked up with her and went into the future with her. Once there, she and Kate went to destroy a Sentinal/Nimrod facility. When things got despereate, Phoenix spirited Rachel into the past, where Rachel's memories were all a jumble.


A few things about this issue. First of all, I have to say that I like the origin story for Phoenix. This is one of the few post-"Dark Phoenix Saga" and non-Morrison Phoenix stories I like. It provides some interest for the character, despite my disagreement that Phoenix shouldn't even be alive. Secondly, I like that it roots ties together two of Claremont's finest stories: the "Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past." Finally, we finally get to understand Rachel and recieve the full explanation of her origins. I wish there was a little more - maybe even tightening the theory that Jean and Phoenix were on and the same, but it was good for what it was.

Next up deals with Mojo. Mojo is among my least favorite characters and this story is sub-pair. Big time. Longshot, Dazzler, and the X-Men Blue Team overthrow Mojo. Longshot and Dazzler are then revealed to be expecting a baby - that gets no development barely at all after this point. Baby? What baby? Anyways, it's also Jim Lee's last X-Men issues. There's an amazing two page spread that caps off his run. And what a run. Jim Lee is definetly among the very best artist ever to grace these pages.

Then comes Uncanny. First, we get a real soap opera story. Forge demands to know what is going on with he and Storm. This results in a marriage proposal. However, knowing that she will say "no," Forge leaves to take care of Mystique, breaking Ororo's heart.

This takes us right into the next storyarch, where we deal with the remaining Morlocks. Callisto has arrived at the mansion, asking for the X-Men's help. The Morlocks have gone insane, being mind-controlled by a traumatized Morlock telepath. Mikhail, tortured by his own demons, joins up with Callisto and floods the Morlock tunnels, killing off all those that remain.

The Morlock story is good, but it's the characters that shine through. Storm is heart-broken and unsure of her personal life and sacrifaces she has had to make for the X-Men. Colossus, as well, is presented in a great light. His hope for his brother and ultimately his loss, are portrayed nicely. Iceman also gets some of the spolight, as Mikhail shows him just what his powers can really do; not to mention his asshole of a racist father (and some stupid cyber-Ninja story). Archangel also deals with his own issues as he comes to terms with the fact that his inner rage has resulted in his wings "acting out." Heck, even Professor X has to handle the second loss of his legs.

Some good stuff here. An improvement by leaps and bounds from previous issues.


PS - I had this big thing planned out for entry # 50, but . . . well, I got lazy. Maybe when we hit 100!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Uncanny X-Periment # 49: "Bishop"

Uncanny X-Men # 287, X-Men # 8, Uncanny X-Men # 288

I talked about last entry how a lot of these post-Claremont stories are rather mediocre and generally just really nice eye candy. Well, luckily, things take a turn for the better here.

The Gold Team tracks down Bishop as he takes on the rest of the prisoners. During the battle between the prisonors and the XSE officers, Randall and Malcolm bite it. The X-Men come in, then, and take Bishop down. The battle leads to some brutal injuries for Bishop and as he recovers, we're given a flashback to his past (aka, the X-Men's future).

In the future, while apprehending Fitzroy, Bishop and his pals stumble upon the X-Mansion. Once there, they uncover a message recorded by Jean Grey to the other X-Teams. The message, while garbled, reveals that the X-Men were betrayed from within. Bishop goes to someone who looks kinda like a really old Gambit (but calls himself "Witness") and questions him. This gets Bishop nowhere. He goes back to his HQ, only to find that Fitzroy has escaped. Bishop, Randall and Malcolm then travel back in time five issues to get him.

Bishop awakens from his flashback and Xavier invites him to join the X-Men. He accepts, finally realizing he has no other place in this past world. Plus, he'd be working with his idols. That's like an Elvis impersonator working with Elvis.

He meets up with the Blue Team and goes after Gambit, accusing him of either being the traitor or knowing who the traitor is. The X-Men convice Bishop that they trust Gambit more than they him and he partially concedes the point. Storm then takes Bishop under wing and the gang heads to NYC to live it up. Bishop still doesn't quite understand how the world of this era works, but he starts to make an effort.

Meanwhile, there's some actual character development. Jean is starting to worry about Scott's attraction to Pyslocke. Wolverine is questioning his place with the X-Men considering everything that has happened recently - the false memories and the Omega Red shit. Plus, there's tension between Forge and Storm. Not to mention the ever-increasing flirting between Gambit and Rogue.

We're on the right track.


Uncanny X-Periment # 48: "Gold Team"

Uncanny X-Men # 281-286

Important side-note: as of Uncanny X-Men # 286, I have officially lapped myself. Uncanny 286 was my very first X-Book. As I read it again the other night, I couldn't help but get a little nostalgic. I remembered how I poured over that comic day and night when I was a boy of mere 9 years old - trying to figure out what everyone was doing and who everyone was. It was the good ol' days.

Reading it again, however, I find myself going into "mature reader" mode and finding just how flawed 286 and many of the issues around it are.

Running parallel to the Blue Team's adventure with Omega Red, the X-Men meet up with Emma Frost and the Hellions at the Hellfire Club. There, Emma warns them of a new foe who has killed Sebastion Shaw and is after both the X-Men and the Hellfire Club. Seeking to make good on their alliance from about 80 issues ago, Emma has asked for their help. Unfortunately, we find out the enemy has struck again - sending oddly adaptive Sentinals after Donald Pierce and the Reavers. Pierce shows up at the meeting thanks to Gateway and the Sentinals follow. The Sentinals take Emma captive and kill Jean Grey.

Yep. Jean's dead.

For those keeping score that means it's time # 3 (the shuttle and Dark Phoenix).

But, of course, she's not really dead. She actually managed to move her mind into Emma's body. That's right. Emma Frost and Jean have switched bodies after an attack by Sentinals that have the ability to adapt technology to their own bodies (for repairs). This is a funny bit of history, considering what happens about ten years later.

But I digress . . .

The X-Men head off to get Emma's body (after Jean's body is made undead or something) and find out who the real culprits are - the Upstarts! Apparently, the Upstarts are a team of wealthy power players who gain leadership of the group by killing off X-Men and Hellfire Club related people. It's all moderated by a super-telepath by the name of the Gamemaster and my 2nd least favorite X-Villian, Selene.

Among the ranks of the Upstarts and the guy who ordered the attack on Pierce is the time traveler Trevor Fitzroy. By killing Pierce and Jean, and kidnappng Frost, he's in control of the Upstarts now. BUT there's trouble. As the X-Men attack the Upstarts, a time portals opens up and three people appear from the future to retrieve Fitzroy: Bishop, Randall, and Malcolm. They battle Fitzroy and the X-Men, then escape and hunt down other time travelling criminals.
After fighting Bishop and co. and getting Jean's head on right, the X-Men are side-tracked by a massive portal that opens between our world and some other world. Coincidently, Sunfire is there! Even more coincidently, Colossus' brother is on the other world! WOW! The X-Men rescue Colossus' brother Mikhail, close the portal and head on home.

It's hard for my to really define what's wrong with these issues, because there's more wrong than right. A lot more wrong.

Let's start with the right. First of all, there are some neat concepts here. The Upstarts feel like bad-asses. They've got Sentinals, they wipe out the Reavers, and they practically destroy the Hellfire Club. Second, the new characters are pretty neat too. I also liked Mikhail for some reason. Kind of a tragic character, I guess. Plus, there's Bishop, who is among my favorites.

The art is pretty cool, too. Whilce Portacio, take a bow.

On the bad . . .

The major problem with these stories here and in the last entry is that no one seems to know what they're doing. I'm well aware of the behind the scenes strife - with Claremont being fired, with Bryne scripting then leaving, and bringing Lobdell to finish these arcs off. The trouble is that a lot of that chaos is bleeding into the pages.

The charactes are 1-Deminsional. Even the ones that we get close up on - Colossus, Jean and Wolverine, in particular - all come off as cliched and uninteresting. They feel more like pieces being across a chessboard than characters that we've known and loved since Uncanny X-Men # 1 and Giant-Sized X-Men # 1.

The stories are okay at best and razor thin at worst. Sure, the Upstarts prove themselves as bad-asses early on, but the stories are so bad that they get pretty much ignored. Ten years later, Pierce and the Reavers are back and giving the X-Men Hell and no one remembers the Upstarts unless they read a back-issue or visit UXN. Mikhail's been sent into limbo and back so many times, it's not even funny. Even Sunfire's awesome new costume vanishes and gets replaced with his original one.

Plus, there's the death of Jean Grey - again. It's pointless other than to gives us some eye-candy. That pretty much speaks of this entire little run of issues. There's nothing new or interesting brought to the table that is good enough to stick - except for Bishop.

This is almost a rut, but I do know that given the right amount of time, the new creators solidify themselves and start to find their own voice. Until then, I'm stuck with some nice art, but extremely uninteresting stories.