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Thursday, October 17, 2013

X-amining X-Men Annual #10

"Performance"
1986

In a Nutshell 
Mojo takes control of the X-Men, forcing the New Mutants to battle their mentors. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Arthur Adams
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
The X-Men train in the Danger Room, their actions unknowingly recorded by Betsy's bionic eyes and beamed to Mojoworld, where they generate huge ratings for Mojo. Hoping to further increase his ratings with a live performance, he sends Longshot to the X-Men, who pops into the Danger Room through a portal along with an ectoplasmic substance that covers the X-Men. The next morning, the X-Men awaken to discover they are getting younger, something which Warlock and Doug determine is caused by the ectoplasm that accompanied Longshot. After Betsy picks up an image of Mojo in Longshot's memory, the de-aging X-Men decide to track him down, only to find the New Mutants standing in their way. However, Magneto, who is still old enough to possess his powers, knocks them out, and the young X-Men rush off to Central Park, where they discover Mojo waiting for them. Back at the mansion, the New Mutants regain consciousness and don new uniforms, "graduating" themselves to X-Men in order to rescue their friends.


Magik teleports the team to the last known position of the X-Men, and they arrive on the stage of the Delacorte Theater, which has been taken over by Mojo and Spiral. Suddenly, the New Mutants are confronted by the X-Men, now slowly returning to their actual ages and reacquiring their powers, but indoctrinated to serve Mojo. A fight breaks out between the X-Men and the New Mutants, and in the course of the battle, the X-Men begin to regain their memories and true identities. After Shadowcat phases through Mojo's chair and disrupts his control, everyone is freed, and Mojo flees, leaving Spiral behind. The X-Men grant Spiral her freedom in exchange for casting a spell which returns everyone to normal. Mojo returns home to discover his latest adventure has generated his hightest ratings ever, and he decides to leave Longshot with the X-Men, to infuriate Spiral and make his eventual victory over them all the sweeter. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Longshot sort of joins the X-Men as of this issue. The issue ends with him remaining at the mansion, yet he'll be absent throughout "Mutant Massacre" before popping up after that storyline ends. As a result, he is "officially" considered to join the team sometime between this issue and Mephisto vs. the X-Men #3 (the next time we'll see him amongst the X-Men) by the official Marvel Index.

Longshot was last seen leaving Earth to liberate the Mojoverse at the end of his limited series; he appears here with no memory of himself or the events of that series, and the implication (made clear later) is that he was recaptured by Mojo, his memory wiped, and then sent to Earth as part of Mojo's plan to capture the X-Men. 

This issue marks the debut of the concept of the X-Babies, pint-sized versions of the title characters. In this story, the X-Babies are simply the X-Men reverted to childhood by Mojo. A future annual will reveal a group of X-Babies independent of the X-Men, created by Mojo in an attempt to have a group of X-Babies under his control after the adventures of the group in this issue prove wildly popular in the Mojoverse. Various iterations of these standalone X-Babies will pop up occasionally thereafter, proving popular enough to warrant the occasional one-shot or miniseries of their own. 


The New Mutants don their "graduation costumes" for the first time, taking action as full blown superheroes in order to rescue the X-Men. They will pull these costumes out again on future occassions, before they're retired for good when the team gets different individualized costumes during Louise Simonson's run.


In terms of the costumes, my thoughts:
The Bad: Karma (too busy), Mirage (the bare legs, too stereotypical), Cypher (way too busy).
The So-So: Wolfsbane (it's fairly blah), Sunspot (it looks better when he's powered up), Cannonball (ditch the helmet, otherwise it's fine, and very similar to his later X-Force costume).
The Good: Magma (it simulates her fiery body effect without turning her into fire).
The Great: Magik. I wish she wore this costume more often. It perfectly suits her character.

Nocenti's Brat Pack characters pop again, in the audience of the play the X-Men and New Mutants crash, as do the talking frogs from that Thor storyline where Thor became a frog (and, off panel, Walt and Louise Simonson are there as well).


The cover to this issue is an homage to Giant-Size X-Men #1.

The Chronology Corner
This issue is notoriously problematic to place within the ongoing X-Men narrative, arguably the only issue of Claremont's run to not fit neatly into place. Kitty, Colossus and Nightcrawler are all present, so it must take place before "Mutant Massacre" and issue #211. Rachel is absent, so it must take place after issues #209-210 (and Colossus is back in his classic look, which he re-donned in #210), yet Nightcrawler shows no ill-effects of his encounter with Nimrod (he teleports repeatedly with ease throughout this issue).

Furthermore, Longshot ends up staying at the mansion at the end of this issue, yet he is nowhere to be found until after "Mutant Massacre". It could be argued that he was simply off somewhere else during that storyline, yet considering he arrives on Earth in this story with no memories whatsoever (he doesn't even know what water is), it begs the question of where he would have gone.

Most people (including the official Marvel index) nevertheless place this story as occurring between issues #210 and #211, which is where we're covering it, simply because that's the least problematic place for it (and because it follows on from New Mutants Annual #2, which fits rather more neatly amongst other issues around this time).

Also, Kitty and Magneto appear in New Mutants #45 following this issue, before Uncanny X-Men #211. 

A Work in Progress
Psylocke is hanging around the mansion, questioning whether she belongs with the New Mutants or the X-Men, though she's ultimately captured and transformed by Mojo along with the rest of the X-Men.


It's established in this issue that Besty's bionic eyes are essentially cameras, beaming the events she's witnessing back to the Mojoverse, where Mojo presents the adventures of the X-Men as a TV show. 


Doug and Warlock merge again, with Doug quickly brushing off any concerns such mergings may cause.


The X-Men track Mojo to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, the same place from which Spiral abducted Rachel in issue #209.

Cerebro is unable to detect the transformed X-Men as, having become children again, they've lost their mutant powers.


Magneto, Storm and Wolverine are said to be the oldest X-Men, which fits everything we've seen before.


For the second annual in a row, Storm regains then ultimately loses her powers, this time saying that regaining her powers through Mojo would taint them.

This causes Betsy to question her bionic eyes, also gifts from Mojo, but she ultimately continues to keep their existence a secret.


Storm and Wolverine explain to Betsy that the X-Men were able to break free of Mojo's control because, ultimately, the X-Men are more than mutants, they're also heroes, and that trait is what led Professor X to choose them (and the original X-Men) over other mutants to be his X-Men.


Claremontisms
Doug says that merging with Warlock is "my choice, my risk", while Dani "hopes not, prays not" that the New Mutants will be the X-Men for the rest of their loves. 

The Best There is at What He Does
Mojo reduces Wolverine to an animalistic state, while his rage at ending up like that again is enough to snap him out of Mojo's control. 


Young Love
Doug's feelings for Betsy help break her free of Mojo's control.


After which, they flirt with one another.


Teebore's Take
Following on from New Mutants Annual #2, this issue continues Claremont's efforts to absorb his Marvel UK and Ann Nocenti's Longshot characters into the larger X-universe. And like that previous issue, this one too is frenetic and a touch whimsical while being grounded by stellar art. This story also has a plot that centers around the characters changing their ages. Where in the New Mutants annual most of the New Mutants were aged into adults, here, the X-Men are de-aged and transformed into the "X-Babies", forcing the New Mutants to "graduate" and become the metaphoric adults they physically became in the previous story. 

This combination of New Mutants and X-Men annuals is also similar to the "Asgardian Wars" story the previous year, in that events from a New Mutants story carry over into an X-Men one, but compared to that story, this ones comes up a bit short. Granted, they're both trying to do different things (the prior cast the characters in an epic high fantasy story, while this is more concerned with the zaniness and satire inherent to Mojo stories), but it's hard not to compare them. Nevertheless, while this story may not be the all time classic that "Asgardian Wars" is, it's still a lot of fun, featuring a great New Mutants vs. X-Men battle, and there's never anything wrong with an Art Adams drawn annual.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Web of Spider-Man Annual #3, guest starring Warlock and the New Mutants, and Amazing Spider-Man #282, guest starring X-Factor. Then next week, "Mutant Massacre" begins with Uncanny X-Men #211 and New Mutants #46. 

14 comments:

  1. Far be it from me to question how the de-aging process caused by other-worldly ectoplasm works but I would think that Kitty should be, like, an infant and Wolverine should still look like a middle aged man, right?

    "After Shadowcat phases through Mojo's chair and disrupts his control, everyone is freed, and Mojo flees, leaving Spiral behind."

    I'm shocked to hear Kitty Pryde saved the day...

    "Storm regains then ultimately loses her powers, this time saying that regaining her powers through Mojo would taint them."

    Uh....no comment. Wait, was that a comment?

    "Storm and Wolverine explain to Betsy that the X-Men were able to break free of Mojo's control because, ultimately, the X-Men are more than mutants, they're also heroes, and that trait is what led Professor X to choose them (and the original X-Men) over other mutants to be his X-Men."

    Break out the auger because this tree is full of sap!

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  2. @Dr. Bitz: I would think that Kitty should be, like, an infant and Wolverine should still look like a middle aged man, right?

    Kitty does indeed become an infant (well, a toddler, I suppose, technically. It's implied she has an accident, if you know what I mean, at least). Wolverine (and Magneto and Storm) regress to the point of childhood (pre-puberty), but are the first to regain their powers, as they are the oldest.

    The problem, I think, is that at this point no one was considering Wolverine to be abnormally old. Certainly the oldest of the X-Men (not counting Magneto), but even then, I think the Storm, Magneto and Wolverine were considered to be in their 30s (Magneto getting a mulligan thanks to Mutant Alpha and Erik the Red), while Nightcrawler, Colossus and Psylocke in their twenties and Kitty a teenager.

    I'm shocked to hear Kitty Pryde saved the day...

    It's not quite the day saver my synopsis suggests (most of the X-Men are free by the time she does it, so its more of a finishing touch than an integral component of the battle), but yeah.

    Break out the auger because this tree is full of sap!

    Again, it's a *little* less sappy in context than in my dry synopsis voice, but still, it's pretty sappy.

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  3. Looks like there was a huge sale on pink masks at Party City, and Xavier couldn't pass up that deal.

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  4. Young Wolverine's costume here kinda reminds me of Windsor-Smiths Weapon X costume; had it appeared in flashbacks before? I honestly thought that look debuted in BWS's series.

    Quick aside: did you review Bizarre Adventures 27? I saw a few mentions of it in old reviews, but couldn't find it using search.

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  5. Back in the early '00, I wrote a fanfic set in this era. The way I handled the continuity was that the NM/UXM Psylocke/Mojo Annuals occurred before UXM#207-210. From UXM#206, the X-Men head to Anchorage to see the Summers, see the house empty and abandoned. The X-Men, worried about Wolverine's absence and the growing noose the government/Freedom Force has on them, decide on other priorities, but Rachel remains behind to search for her father (getting the same results Scott will get in X-FACTOR). So the X-Men return to the School and see Wolverine seemingly okay (his healing factor is at its breaking point, requiring rest and relaxation for him to completely heal- ala Professor X- but he forsakes it, hiding his problem). Then the Annuals occur: when Spiral changed the X-Men she also removed Wolverine's UXM205 injuries. But when Spiral restores the team back to who they were, she restores Wolverine's hidden injuries as well. Longshot heads over to Muir Isle for further study (Psylocke accompanies him but returns sooner).
    So Rachel returns (after NM#45), and Wolverine does a Danger Room session where he overdoes it, temporarily neutralizing his healing factor and turning into the state we would see him in UXM#207. Rachel tries to heal him psionically and gets injured as well, resulting in the trip to the Morlocks.

    Anyhoo, other cameos include Carrie Kelly, Clark Kent, the Joker, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, an adult Charlie Brown.

    Yes, the Frog Queen from THOR is present, with a child...I wonder if Thor had anything to do with that? If he did, I doubt this meant he cheated on Sif. Things were rather distant between the two. In the last pre-WS Thor issue, Sif's dislike of Midgard and Thor's connection for the world ends their relationship. Sif then enters a relationship with Beta Ray Bill, where they have some space adventures. Then, Thor takes a page out of Henry Pym's book and smacks Sif in the face (he was under Lorelei's influence rather then an emotional breakdown). Although Thor begged forgiveness on his knees, Sif at the time refused to give him any. However, her feelings for Thor won out, causing a bittersweet farewell to Bill and giving Lorelei a good smack.

    Each of the X-Babies symbolize a persona the X-Man had rejected:
    Wolverine- Naked savage
    Storm- Above-it-all goddess
    Magneto- Nazi
    Colossus- Cold, Metal man
    Nightcrawler- The devil
    Rogue- Liberated with her skin
    Shadowcat- Child (Her X-Babies issues with the NM; Her growing up in KITTY PRYDE AND WOLVERINE)

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  6. I really don't have much to say about this one. Mojo stories usually fall flat for me, and this is no exception. I just don't find him or his universe interesting. I can't stand Longshot, either. So I really don't like this annual all that much.

    Your thoughts on the New Mutants' uniforms are very similar to mine. I don't mind Cannonball's helmet, though I've always thought it looks a lot like the helment worn by G.I. Joe member Sci-Fi. and I love Magma's costume.

    The timing of this annual really bothers me. I'm very anal about that sort of thing, especially when creators should know better. Claremont clearly had long-term plans for Kitty, Colossus, and Nightcrawler. Flighty as he could sometimes be, I doubt he decided on a whim to write all three of them out of the series. So he should've known their inclusion here would create a big discrepancy. You can kind of dance around the absence of Longshot in the next few issues, but the three injured X-Men are a bigger deal, to me.

    Regarding Wolverine's age -- I know Len Wein intended him to be a teenager in his earliest appearance. But Claremont and Cockrum made him an adult. I don't believe his age was discussed on-page, but I know I've read quotes from both Byrne and Claremont to the effec that they always intended him to be somewhat older than he appeared. Not a hundred-plus or whatever he is now, but Byrne has said he and Roger Stern wanted to toss a scene into their 1980-81 Captain America run where Cap would recognize Wolverine from World War II as "Private Logan". Claremont later went that route anyway, but ultimately Wolverine was no fresh-faced private.

    My personal opinion is that Wolverine should be about twice as old as he looks. So if he perpetually appears to be in his forties, I figure he's actually in his eighties -- birth era adjusted for Marvel Time, of course.

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  7. I've always thought this issue was a big influence on Rob Liefeld. The costumes, particularly Cannonball's, Magma's, and Cypher's would all be shamelessly ripped-off. Art Adams's characters' hair, smiles, and proportions would be aped poorly. It's kind of like hearing the Clash and then realizing where Blink 182 had gotten their ideas.

    Is this the first time we see Sunspot use his powers but not have all his clothes turn black?

    Fun issue, even if the continuity is suspect.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  8. "Storm and Wolverine explain to Betsy that the X-Men were able to break free of Mojo's control because, ultimately, the X-Men are more than mutants, they're also heroes, and that trait is what led Professor X to choose them (and the original X-Men) over other mutants to be his X-Men."

    "...and because the first set of X-Men got captured, and the second set got horribly slaughtered, and this group managed to come back in one piece, so Chuck settled for that."

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  9. It's odd that, while Claremont clearly continues Psylocke's character arc from the UK titles, he still decides to knock ten years off her age in the process.

    The old Psylocke was a grown woman with a SHIELD career and a balding boyfriend already in her past. This version flirts with boys in their mid-teens and considers joining the X-Men kid squad. Something strange is going on...

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  10. @FuryOfFirestorm: Looks like there was a huge sale on pink masks at Party City, and Xavier couldn't pass up that deal.

    When you run a clearing house for mutant superheroes, you gotta buy this stuff in bulk!

    @Si: Young Wolverine's costume here kinda reminds me of Windsor-Smiths Weapon X costume; had it appeared in flashbacks before?

    I don't think so - at least, I don't think it had appeared up to this point. Maybe it pops up sometime between now and "Weapon X", but I'm not sure. I'll keep an eye out for it.

    Quick aside: did you review Bizarre Adventures 27? I saw a few mentions of it in old reviews, but couldn't find it using search.

    I didn't. It's one of a handful of issue (also: Marvel Team-Up Annual #1) that I missed, largely because I hadn't yet decided if I was going to cover ancillary stuff by publication date or chronological date.

    I may go back and cover it some day. Maybe for the collected edition. :)

    @angmc43: Anyhoo, other cameos include Carrie Kelly, Clark Kent, the Joker, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, an adult Charlie Brown.

    I've heard Lois Lane is in there too (presumably with Clark) but unidentified. Where is the Creature?

    Each of the X-Babies symbolize a persona the X-Man had rejected

    Good point - I never put that together before.

    @Matt: though I've always thought it looks a lot like the helment worn by G.I. Joe member Sci-Fi

    You're right, it does.

    You can kind of dance around the absence of Longshot in the next few issues, but the three injured X-Men are a bigger deal, to me.

    For me, it's the absence of Rachel. If she were in this story, we could, with some fudging, just assume it takes place between #206 and #207, or heck, even earlier. But having her gone but the three injured X-Men around forces into this really narrow window where it still doesn't quite fit (because of Nightcrawler's pre-massacre injury), even if you fudge out Longshot.

    Bottom line, I'm really curious when Claremont wrote it and why he featured the cast that he did, since, as you say, things like Rachel's departure, the injuries to the X-Men and even Longshot were all of his choosing and not editorial mandate, so he has no one to blame but himself that the timing is all mucked up.

    @Mike: It's kind of like hearing the Clash and then realizing where Blink 182 had gotten their ideas.

    Heh. I know Adams was an influence on a lot of the Image guys (including, presumably, Liefeld), but I'd never noticed before how directly this issue may have influenced Liefeld, but now that you mention it, I can see it.

    Is this the first time we see Sunspot use his powers but not have all his clothes turn black?

    I think it might have happened in Asgard during the last batch of annuals, but if this isn't the first time, it's certainly one of the earliest.

    @entzauberung: It's odd that, while Claremont clearly continues Psylocke's character arc from the UK titles, he still decides to knock ten years off her age in the process.

    Indeed. As I've speculated before, I wonder if Claremont forgot she was A. Captain Britain's twin, in addition to his sister and B. Thus, older than late teens/early 20s.

    If so, it seems like he remembers (or is reminded) fairly quickly, as the Doug/Psylocke romance gets shuffled aside quickly (granted, the New Mutants disappearing and the X-Men going on the run helps in that regard) and he starts to write her older, as far more of a contemporary to older X-Men like Storm and Wolverine than the New Mutants.

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  11. I picked this up off the racks 'cause I was a sucker for Art Adams and I loved the idea of the New Mutants actually getting their own costumes.

    My opinion of the outfits overall is a little higher than yours, Teebore. Magik's is great, yeah, but I'd put Magma's, Karma's, and Wolfsbane's just a short notch below, especially since there was presumably no real indication that the outfits would be more than a one-time deal. On the other hand, Sunspot's is a little ridiculous and Cypher's just makes no sense — Do all the pockets hold writing and carving utensils appropriate to communicating in various written languages? Cannonball's suggests his power more than it reflects his reality, it seems to me; the knee pads and helmet would be worn by stuntmen being fired from a cannon, but he doesn't need them while powered up and if they're for in case he stops blasting, well, every superhero's outfit should be padded.

    What is the deal with all the pink masks, though?

    Adams gives the female New Mutants a different, slightly-X-based training uniform than the boys have, by the way, leaving the necks black but taking the yellow onto the shoulders. We've seen artists vary the yellow on the regular costumes between the original X-Men's flat, sleeveless look (which the fellas keep in this issue) and their later more tapered design from the shoulders to the belt, bringing in blue-black on the sides of the torso, but if this variation has popped up in recent NM stories I don't recall it. I have seen something like it basically retconned into material like X-Men: First Class while skimming through covers.

    How that "Brat Pack" actually became a recurring thing is beyond me. You'd think that being a blatant not-even-parody of the Our Gang / Little Rascals characters would keep them from getting much panel time for reasons of both trademark infringement and general (lack of) usefulness. Seeing them and frogs pop up as a Greek chorus put me in mind of the Leprechauns at Cassidy Keep.

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  12. My number-one takeaway after reading this issue for the first time in decades is Claremontism overload. Pretty much every single one of his precious tics in plot, character, and dialogue are on grand display here. I have a very low tolerance for it/them at this level, at my present age at least, and I've always hated Mojo stories.

    I like that stuff about the X-Men being chosen for their (potential for) heroism, but it also sounds very self-congratulatory here.

    Wolverine snaps out of Mojo's control and out of his pants, apparently. He appears to have some in the first panel of the X-Men's reappearance in the theater, anyway.

    Orzechowski knocks the letters out of the park in this and the New Mutants annual. I really like his work in general, but something about whatever Adams' and Davis's styles share in their clean, open-yet-detailed fashions really meshes well with Orz's stuff.

    The Creature's at the left of the panel on Pg. 26 that has Carrie Kelly saying "Rip City!" while Lois, Clark, and Joker are on Pg. 25. My suspicion is that most if not all of the faces in the crowd in these panels, the one with grown-up Charlie Brown (bald with zig-zag sweater) on Pg. 33, and other shots of the audience are based on friends, Bullpenners, and/or other characters.

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  13. To be fair, it's not just "Kitty defeating Mojo"...don't quite a few characters take some shots at him, and Kitty just delivers the final hit? He then teleports away to avoid Nightcrawler trying to stab him with Illyana's sword...

    Trust me, it is so much cooler than I am making it sound lol

    As for the costumes, Magma and Magick do have the best ones, though I did like Karma's. Mirage and Cannonball's could work, with some tweaking. Didn't care for Sunspot's or Cypher's. Wolfsbane's, while plain, is similar to what she will get on Simonson's run, no? And I always found it funny how Warlock's costume was to look more human.

    One panel that sticks out is the final one of the NM. Interesting how they're all walking away, arm in arm or hands on each other's shoulders...but Magik is left out of the group hug. Not sure why, since she seems to be getting along with everyone else here...maybe really really early foreshadowing?

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  14. For the 'Superheroes, not students' section is should be noted that unlike the New Mutants back in the day, the X-Men, even de-aged, had no problems whatsoever in taking the school Rolls Royce to get where they needed to be.

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