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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #223

"Omens and Portents"
August 1987

In a Nutshell 
Storm confronts Forge. In a hallucination. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Kerry Gammill
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Washington, Crimson Commando, Stonewall and Super Sabre join Freedom Force, shortly before Destiny has a precognitive vision of the X-Men's deaths. In the Rockies, Naze suddenly falls ill, apparently poisoned by the Eye Killers' venom, and tells Storm to go on without him. In New York, a columnist interviews a group of blue collar workers about mutants. In San Fransisco, the X-Men are using Alcatraz as a headquarters as they search the city for any sign of the Marauders. Madelyne, on a cliff overlooking the ocean, mulls over recent events, including the end of her marriage and the disappearance of her son. Havok sees her from a distance and, fearing she's about to jump, calls out to her.


Elsewhere, Storm has concocted an antidote at Naze's instruction, which he insists she take as well to ward any future effects of the poison. Suddenly, Storm is attacked first by a massive bear and then an enormous snake, as the elements swirl around her. Defeating the creatures, Storm comes across Forge, who tries to convince her to join him in unleashing chaos. Left with no other option, she stabs him, at which point she wakes up, the entire battle a vision caused by the potion. Realizing now the evil Forge is capable of, she resolves to stop him no matter what, much to Naze's pleasure. Back on Alcatraz, Havok and Madelyne bond over their shared circumstances, and Havok tells her the X-Men are her family, and will stand by her, no matter what.  

Firsts and Other Notables
Crimson Commando, Stonewall and Super Sabre, the three WWII era heroes Storm fought in issues #215 & #216, join Freedom Force in this issue. Super Sabre, who was believed dead in issue #216, turns up alive, saying he's always been difficult to kill. They'll remain a part of the team for the duration of its existence.


Spider-Woman's departure from the team is also noted, with Val Cooper taking responsibility for her failure. Spider-Woman left Freedom Force when they were tasked with hunting down the Avengers in Avengers Annual #15.  

In the wake of their battle with the Marauders, the X-Men are temporarily staying in San Fransisco (their second such tenure in the city), using Alcatraz as a base of operations (though I think by 1987 it was already a tourist site). They continue to find the city, in general, more welcoming to mutants.


Kerry Gammill fills in on pencils, the first (but certainly not last) fill-in of the Marc Silvestri era. The result is serviceable enough, largely because Dan Green is on hand to help keep the look consistent with Silvestri's issues.

As mentioned in last week's New Mutants post, this month sees Tom DeFalco formally assume the mantle of Editor-in-Chief from Jim Shooter. His reign will oversee unprecedented sales success for the company, as the comics industry heads into the 90s speculator boom, though much of that success will be built on brand dilution, larger and more regularly-occurring crossovers, and marketing gimmicks like foil enhanced embossed hologram covers.

As much as Shooter pushed Claremont to launch an X-Men spinoff, DeFalco will take it even further, leading to a genuine multi-title X-Men franchise, including a solo series for Wolverine, created over Claremont's objections. An indication of his approach to the Marvel Universe, once told that readers wouldn't buy multiple Spider-Man titles, his response was to the effect of "if they like Spider-Man they will", and while the 90s sales bubble he presided over ultimately burst, DeFalco's approach to "franchising" the various characters and teams in the Marvel Universe has been somewhat vindicated, as many of the franchises over which he saw the creation remain in place today.    

A Work in Progress
Freedom Force's headquarters is revealed to be a brownstone in Georgetown, and not the lair hidden in the Pentagon used when they were still the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Narration gives Avalanche's real name as Domenic Szilard, though it's actually Domenic Petros.  

Destiny experiences a vision that the X-Men will soon die.


Storm once again sees a vision of Forge summoning demons in Vietnam.


Alex and Maddie bond over their shared circumstances, beginning a period of time in which the two will grow closer.  

I Love the 80s
Havok refers to the choice Polaris gave him last issue (blast her or let her go free) as "Hobson's Choice", a fancy way of essentially saying "take it or leave it", a term I've never encountered outside of this issue.


Human/Mutant Relations
In a scene meant to illustrate the rising tide of anti-mutant sentiment, a reporter interviews a group of blue collar workers at a bar about mutants, with one of them dusting off the old chestnut of "I'm not racist because I have a black friend" to defend his position on mutants, including his insistence that if he ever had a child who was a mutant, he'd kill the child.


For Sale
There's a half page house ad for "Fall of the Mutants" in this issue.


The back page has an ad to raise money for the Special Olympics featuring Meatloaf.


Bullpen Bulletins
Editor Ralph Macchio, who is not the Karate Kid, gets the profile treatment this month.  

Teebore's Take
After the relatively straight-forward Marauders rematch that comprised the previous two issues, this one is handed over entirely to more "Fall of the Mutants" setup: Freedom Force (which will feature heavily in the X-Men's portion of that crossover) gains a few new members, Destiny has a vision of the X-Men's deaths, anti-mutant sentiment is growing, and Storm draws ever closer to her encounter with Forge. The X-Men, meanwhile, are still looking back, dealing with the fallout from the Marauders attack as Havok and Madelyne bond over their separation from their loved ones, a pairing that foreshadows the next big event moreso than the immediately impending one.

Of these various threads, the most pages are handed over to the Storm/Naze stuff, and this is officially the point where I become weary of the journey and ready for Storm to encounter Forge already. It doesn't help that the action centerpiece of the issue - Storm battling various giant animals in what turns out to be a hallucination - feels like a failure, in terms of conflict escalation, after Storm's fight with legitimate demons in the previous issue, nor does it help that the issue ends with Storm making essentially the same determination that she made last issue: if necessary, she's willing to kill Forge. The retread nature of Storm's plot, plus the absence of Silvestri, makes this issue, Destiny's premonition aside, feel like the least essential step in the run up to "Fall of the Mutants" 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, more "fun" with Bird Brain in New Mutants #58. On Friday, the X-Factor kids get caught up by the Right in X-Factor #22, and next week, Havok and Longshot take in a movie in Uncanny X-Men #224.

40 comments:

  1. I've been buying these issues to follow along with the reviews, but I have to admit I skipped this one because it sounded too much like a fill-in to me. If I see an issue isn't drawn by Silvestri, it generally has to have a pretty major plot point for me to pick it up and like you said, this sounded like mainly a retread of the fight with the Eye-Killers.

    On the plus side, that ad for Fall of the Mutants is pretty awesome.

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  2. @Jeff: If I see an issue isn't drawn by Silvestri, it generally has to have a pretty major plot point for me to pick it up and like you said, this sounded like mainly a retread of the fight with the Eye-Killers.

    This one is definitely pretty fill-in-y, but be careful as we move ahead and Rick Leonardi starts to fill in more regularly. #228 is eminently skippable, ad #231 is arguably as well, but he and Silvestri trade off chapters in the Genoshan story, and all of those are essential. And then after "Inferno" Silvestri's presence becomes a lot more inconsistent and issues of relative import start to get handled by other artists.

    n the plus side, that ad for Fall of the Mutants is pretty awesome.

    Indeed. I've always liked it, especially for how impactful yet understated it is.

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  3. Yeah, I noticed starting with Genosha it's basically Silvestri and Leonardi trading issues. Once the book goes bi-monthly all bets are off art-wise. As a kid, I went back and bought a lot of issues around Jim Lee's run, so I know that there's a ton of fill-in art even on major issues. I'm just going to go ahead and say I already skipped buying that damn OZ Chase issue, though.

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  4. "Freedom Force's headquarters is revealed to be a brownstone in Georgetown, and not the lair hidden in the Pentagon used when they were still the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants."

    Well, when you're now part of the establishment, who needs a hidden lair? ;)

    "On the plus side, that ad for Fall of the Mutants is pretty awesome."

    I really loved the ad Alan Davis draws. It's always darkest...

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  5. Oh you people, needlessly berating a perfectly good issue full of great character moments. The not-quite-there-in-reformation former male villains of the Freedom Force measuring their weenies with the, chuckle, two new arrivals to the team only to be topped just seconds after by not-at-all-there Spiral holding her blades on the throat of the third one asking if he should be left from his miseries. Rogue calling Wolverine uncle.

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  6. As noted, this issue is not great -- but I think Kerry Gammill is a great artist, so I can tolerate it for him. I know he had a long run on Superman at DC, but I wish he'd spent some extended time on an X-book or maybe something from the Avengers family. He seems like he'd be a good fit for Captain America.

    "... much of that success will be built on brand dilution, larger and more regularly-occurring crossovers, and marketing gimmicks like foil enhanced embossed hologram covers."

    Except for the last part, this exact description could be used for the Quesada/Buckley/Alonso era as well. Only without the insane sales to go along with it!

    "An indication of his approach to the Marvel Universe, once told that readers wouldn't buy multiple Spider-Man titles, his response was to the effect of 'if they like Spider-Man they will'..."

    Is that a sourced quote? I've always been under the impression that the marketing department ordered this stuff to happen and DeFalco just sort of went along with it, not being quite as bull-headed and combative as Shooter before him. I could be wrong, though. The main reason I thought this, though, is that I've seen quotes from DeFalco to the effect that he tried to explain to marketing why having four Spider-Man books was not a good idea.

    "Editor Ralph Macchio, who is not the Karate Kid, gets the profile treatment this month."

    Ralph seems to be a pretty cool guy. Marvel's longest-tenured editor by far, having started as an assistant in the early eighties and only just retiring a year or two ago (30 years!). And he edited, among other things, Simonson's Thor, Gruenwald's Captain America, Miller's second Daredevil tenure ("Born Again"), the full Spider-Man line in the late nineties, and the Ultimate line for several years! That's quite a career.

    Jim Shooter does not think too highly of him, however, per comments on his blog some time back. He called him an "Eddie Haskell" type.

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  7. @Jeff: I'm just going to go ahead and say I already skipped buying that damn OZ Chase issue, though.

    Good call.

    @wwk5d: I really loved the ad Alan Davis draws. It's always darkest...

    Me too. Plus the Silvestri "Inferno" one is pretty great too.

    @Teemu: Oh you people, needlessly berating a perfectly good issue full of great character moments.

    I do genuinely like the Freedom Force stuff (I like anything Freedom Force related). It's the Storm stuff that drags the issue down and makes it feel superfluous. Unfortunately, the Storm stuff is also like 60% of the issue.

    @Matt: Except for the last part, this exact description could be used for the Quesada/Buckley/Alonso era as well. Only without the insane sales to go along with it!

    Very true. And to be clear, I meant no criticism towards DeFalco with the statement - that era was, in hindsight, rife with problems, but there were a lot of different people responsible for them. It's not like DeFalco was personally responsible for creating the speculator market or anything, even if he (understandably) did his best to ensure his company profited by it.

    Is that a sourced quote

    Kinda. It's a paraphrase of one, at least. I meant to find the quote to quote it directly then forgot to look it up. I'll check for it later and add it along with the source (I read it in Sean Howe's Marvel history book).

    Jim Shooter does not think too highly of him, however, per comments on his blog some time back. He called him an "Eddie Haskell" type.

    Ha! That's not necessarily a bad thing. One of my best friends was very much an Eddie Haskell type in high school. :)

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  8. This is a pretty strong "down" issue, as there is a lot going on, even if at the end of the day none of it is moving any one storyline all that far. You barely addressed the best part of the issue, as Wolverine waves a cigar in Dazzler's face, then beats up Rogue for no reason under the guise of "training." Who needs the Danger Room?

    My biggest problem with the Storm storyline is that she's so obviously being led by the nose. Naze-versary isn't exactly being subtle, with an evil smile every other page. I think we're also supposed to see Forge as Storm's OTP, so killing him should be this big deal, but aside from flirting way back in the original "Lifedeath," they just haven't spent that much time around each other.

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  9. "Except for the last part, this exact description could be used for the Quesada/Buckley/Alonso era as well. Only without the insane sales to go along with it!"

    I get my eras mixed up. Is this the era we're in now?

    It is worth noting that there WAS a kind of nice period where the crossover-itis at Marvel seemed to be a thing of the past. I think one of the reasons Morrison's X-Men run is well-regarded despite its flaws is that it's self-contained and free of annoying "crossover" issues that interrupt the flow. Same is true of the contemporaneous X-Force/X-Statix stuff.

    Then it seems Marvel got nostalgic for the 90s, and now it all sucks again.



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  10. "Kinda. It's a paraphrase of one, at least. I meant to find the quote to quote it directly then forgot to look it up. I'll check for it later and add it along with the source (I read it in Sean Howe's Marvel history book)."

    There's also the conversation between DeFalco and Claremont in Comics Creators on X-Men, where they mutually recall that Claremont didn't think there should be a Wolverine ongoing but DeFalco insisted.

    (I love the idea of being concerned that ONE Wolverine ongoing might be overexposure for the character. Simpler times ...)

    "The back page has an ad to raise money for the Special Olympics featuring Meatloaf."

    Oh man, that thing. There was a time back when I used to love going back-issue hunting where it seemed like every few months I'd buy a back-issue with that damn ad on the back.

    "But who's gonna help me?" "We'll help, Meatloaf ... BUT HOW??"

    *SHUDDER*

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  11. "Havok refers to the choice Polaris gave him last issue (blast her or let her go free) as "Hobson's Choice", a fancy way of essentially saying "take it or leave it", a term I've never encountered outside of this issue. "

    I accuse you of lying. You must have also encountered the term in a Wikipedia article, because HOW ELSE COULD YOU HAVE LINKED TO THAT ARTICLE?

    "Narration gives Avalanche's real name as Domenic Szilard, though it's actually Domenic Petros."

    MORE LIES.

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  12. Sorry to post three times instead of just once, but I keep remembering stuff I want to say ...

    ... One thing kind of cool about this issue is the neat dramatic irony of Storm's gambit in UXM 216 going awry. In that issue she strong-armed Stonewall and Commando to turn themselves in to the authorities. That ends up turning around and biting the X-Men on the ass, because all that honorable move accomplished was to add more muscle to Freedom Force, whom they're about to have to fight again. (Although then that turns around and ends up as a good thing, since as I recall the Crimson Commando is one of the first people to come around to the X-Men's side during the "Fall of the Mutants" craziness.

    Anyway, it's just overall a cool narrative move, linking those random (at the time) WWII guys to Freedom Force and thus in turn to the Adversary storyline.

    Meanwhile, seriously, I don't get the "his name is actually Domenic Petros" thing. WHO SAYS? Clarmont's omniscient narrator would not lie!!!

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  13. Regards Wolverine popularity, I find absolutely hilarious the comic book legend that Claremont's intention with the first Wolverine limited series would have been to kill the excess popularity of the breakout character - by dropping him into a samurai story drawn by Frank Miller.

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  14. @Dobson: You barely addressed the best part of the issue, as Wolverine waves a cigar in Dazzler's face, then beats up Rogue for no reason under the guise of "training."

    That is a nice little sequence. I particularly like his "you a singer or X-Man?" line to Dazzler when she complains about his cigar harming her voice.

    I think we're also supposed to see Forge as Storm's OTP, so killing him should be this big deal, but aside from flirting way back in the original "Lifedeath," they just haven't spent that much time around each other.

    Yeah, the Storm/Forge romance has never really worked for me, mainly because it's built more on us being TOLD how in love they are rather than us ever seeing it. The closest we get is "Fall of the Mutants", and most of their time together in that (understandably) passes by off panel.

    @Jason: I get my eras mixed up. Is this the era we're in now?

    Yes. The quieter crossover-less era that preceded it was the Quesada/Jemas era, the one you referenced, which was a mixed bag. On the one hand, you got a ton of creative series and creator pairings, like the aforementioned Morrison on X-Men and X-Statix, and a lack of crossovers after the 90s glut, but they also completely devalued the idea of the shared universe, making everything really insular and self-contained to a given title or family of titles. For example, Kang took over the world, put its heroes in concentration camps, and razed Washington DC to the ground in Avengers, something which went unreferenced or unremarked upon in every other Marvel title at the time. Ditto Magneto's destruction of New York in "Planet X". I didn't want tie-in issues from other titles or anything, but something akin to when the Casket of Ancient Winters stuff was referenced in other Marvel titles in the 80s would have been nice.

    There's also the conversation between DeFalco and Claremont in Comics Creators on X-Men, where they mutually recall that Claremont didn't think there should be a Wolverine ongoing but DeFalco insisted.

    Yeah, I have that conversation flagged to post when I get to the Wolverine solo series.

    And now I realize I forgot to look-up that DeFalco quote for Matt last night. Dang. I'll try again tonight. I really should just buy an eBook copy of Howe's book so I also have a copy on me to reference...

    I accuse you of lying. You must have also encountered the term in a Wikipedia article, because HOW ELSE COULD YOU HAVE LINKED TO THAT ARTICLE?

    Touche. :)

    I've never encountered that term outside of this issue AND ON WIKIPEDIA, when I went to look it up to see if it was an actual thing or some weird Claremontism I didn't know.

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  15. @Jason: Anyway, it's just overall a cool narrative move, linking those random (at the time) WWII guys to Freedom Force and thus in turn to the Adversary storyline.

    Agreed. And I really like the way Crimson Commando especially is handled in "Fall of the Mutants".

    Meanwhile, seriously, I don't get the "his name is actually Domenic Petros" thing. WHO SAYS? Clarmont's omniscient narrator would not lie!!!

    The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, for one, and most online sources (though some of them suggest his name is "Domenic Szilard Petros", most likely to account for this issue, and the spelling of "Domenic" is inconsistent throughout).

    Of course, then the question comes of who originally named the character, and the internet is terrible about keeping track of that kind of stuff for us (I did a cursory check). I've always assumed Claremont provided the real names for Pyro and Avalanche at some point prior to this issue, and this is just a case of him forgetting that name, but I can't recall offhand an issue when it was mentioned.

    Which makes me think their real names may have been revealed in their first Handbook entries, so then the question is who is responsible for that kind of stuff ie who wrote the entries (Gruenwald/Sanderson?) and did they confer with series writers when filling in details like that?

    Regardless, "Petros" is considered to be Avalanche's last name by most "official" sources; whether that name ever came from Claremont himself or not I can't say for certain.

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  16. Jason -- "Then it seems Marvel got nostalgic for the 90s, and now it all sucks again."

    I'm really not a fan of Marvel in general in the early nineties, outside of the X-books and a few other bits and pieces, but I think today is far worse. Consider Wolverine alone -- in the early nineties, he featured regularly in ONE X-Men book, as a member of the "Blue" team in X-Men, plus he headlined his solo series and a serial in Marvel Comics Presents. He briefly co-mingled with the cast of Uncanny as the lines blurred between the two teams within a couple years, but shortly after that started, he lost his adamantium and was written out of both core X-books for a year!! Can anyone imagine anything like that happening today?

    By the time he returned to the X-Men, Marvel Comics Presents was cancelled (or about to be), so even though he was a cast member in both X-books, he still only featured regularly in three titles a month (yes, I know MCP was published more than once a month, but in terms of page count it probably came out to about one issue).

    Compare that to nowadays, when he stars in, I think, two X-books at least (X-Men and Wolverine and the X-Men), two solo series that I know of (Wolverine and Savage Wolverine), and a couple of Avengers series (Avengers and Uncanny Avengers). I'm positive there are more that I'm unaware of, too. Guest appearances are probably at about the same level as they were in the nineties, so I'm not counting those.

    And that's just Wolverine!

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  17. Teebore and Jason -- I've had Sean Howe's book in my Kindle for over a year and I still haven't read it. I really need to get to it someday soon. I'm surprised to hear about DeFalco pimping Wolverine, though, considering that I've read a direct quote from him, on a message board or in an interview someplace, where he basically says that the Marketing folks wanted to double Marvel's output, expecting their profits to double as a result. DeFalco fought them, saying that such a move would more likely dilute the quality of the line, as Marvel did not have a talent pool sufficient for that many books -- plus if you double your line, that doesn't mean everyone will start buying twice as many books. It more likely means they'll keep buying the same number, effectively halving your total sales, or leave the hobby altogether in frustration.

    I wish I could find the quote, but it was a long time ago and I'm not even sure what search terms to use.

    Teebore -- "Which makes me think their real names may have been revealed in their first Handbook entries, so then the question is who is responsible for that kind of stuff ie who wrote the entries (Gruenwald/Sanderson?) and did they confer with series writers when filling in details like that?"

    Per John Byrne (grain of salt), Gruenwald would ask creators, but if he didn't get an answer, he would simply make things up on the spot. Which is how, for example, Black Bolt was given the unbelievably dopey "real name" of Blackagar Boltagon.


    Also, it just occurred to me -- has anyone ever written a story set in WWII featuring a team-up between Captain America with Crimson Commando, Stonewall, and Super Sabre? It seems like a natural and pretty cool idea, and I'm surprised that, to my knowledge, it never occurred.

    Also, count me as another who enjoys Crimson Commando's development in "Fall of the Mutants". Though of the three, Stonewall was always my favorite, at least from a visual standpoint.

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  18. Peter Palmer, Spider-Man, meet Domenic Szilard, Avalanche. Also, I keep picturing Doctor Lizardo from Buckaroo Banzai when I read that name.

    I definitely would put the Quesada/Jemas era as one of the high points for Marvel creatively. Honestly, even right now Marvel is putting out books that are loads better than anything we got in the 90s, you just have to wade through a lot to get to them.

    I don't know if crossovers themselves are hurting the product so much the fact that now it seems like every story line has to always lead up to them. Claremont had to deal with crossovers but wrote good stories in between. Now it seems to be year long stories that only lead to crossover. Decimation went on FOREVER and it looks like the time-displaced original X-Men are going to stick around for years.

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  19. @Matt: Compare that to nowadays, when he stars in, I think, two X-books at least

    Actually, I'm pretty sure X-Men is still Brian Wood's all-female team, so I think the only X-book he's in (depending on how you classify Uncanny Avengers) is Wolverine and the X-Men. He's even been purged from the X-Force books for the time being.

    Not that your point doesn't still stand, since he's also got his solo series and all the Avengers stuff and countless guest appearances, but one X-book is still better than several...

    DeFalco fought them, saying that such a move would more likely dilute the quality of the line, as Marvel did not have a talent pool sufficient for that many books -- plus if you double your line, that doesn't mean everyone will start buying twice as many books.

    I've seen some variation of that statement somewhere (maybe even in the Howe book), and while I don't remember attributing it to DeFalco, he certainly could have said it. There's definitely a difference between arbitrarily doubling your publishing output on marketing's orders, and reasoning that Spider-Man is popular enough to support more titles or that a Wolverine solo series would make money even if it does take away some of the mystique of the character. When Howe talks about DeFalco and franchising titles, it's more along the lines of spinning off solo titles for the stars of a team book, rather than just pumping out more Avengers books or whatever.

    Which is how, for example, Black Bolt was given the unbelievably dopey "real name" of Blackagar Boltagon.

    Ha! Well, I'll give Gruenwald the benefit of the doubt and assume he was pressed for time in that case. :)

    Thanks for the FYI on that. It doesn't answer for sure whether Claremont came up with Petros for the handbook, but it at least suggests the possibility...

    @Jeff: Honestly, even right now Marvel is putting out books that are loads better than anything we got in the 90s, you just have to wade through a lot to get to them.

    Yeah, there really is some solid, well told series out there doing unique and interesting things, it's just that a lot of it is happening on the margins away from the big tentpole/event series. But even something like the recent Legion-centric X-Men: Legacy, which didn't seem like my cup of tea but which I've heard good things about, seems more like the spiritual cousin of, say, X-Statix, with a unique voice and story to tell, than it does just another faceless, pointless X-Men title.

    Honestly, my biggest problem with the recent "Marvel NOW" era (and this is totally a whole nother topic) is whenever one of these bold new directions runs its course or a new creative team comes aboard (or sometimes just when a big storyline ends), it becomes an excuse to relaunch and hype the title with an all new #1.

    So instead of a new creative team coming aboard for issue #18, say, we'll just relaunch at #1. It's getting perilously close to the "series of miniseries" model I desperately want to avoid because I'm pedantic and like series with increasingly large numbers that create a sense of continuity to the past events of the title. Plus, it means less and less subplots and overarching thematic connections because everything is so geared to the storyline/trade paperback model (another criticism I have of the Quesada/Jemas era) or because every incoming creative team just starts fresh with a new series.

    So basically, as good as some of these recent series are, there's always this little voice in my head that says "yeah, well, as good as this is, the series will never make it more than 24 issues because it'll either get cancelled for low sales or relaunched because it's a success, so what's the point?" Which I know is dumb: a good story is a good story, regardless. But it still bugs me.

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  20. So instead of a new creative team coming aboard for issue #18, say, we'll just relaunch at #1. It's getting perilously close to the "series of miniseries" model I desperately want to avoid because I'm pedantic and like series with increasingly large numbers that create a sense of continuity to the past events of the title.

    I think that's valid. If they absolutely insist on another #1 at least prominently display a "Volume #2, #3" etc on the cover.

    I don't really buy many newer comics these days, maybe a one or two a month, but I finally made the switch to digital, mainly for storage space reasons, and the numbering is not as annoying when the computer is organizing it for you. And as a guy who got trained by the market to be really anal about the condition of his comics, they always look pristine. Also, no ads is kind of wonderful.

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  21. "Thanks for the FYI on that. It doesn't answer for sure whether Claremont came up with Petros for the handbook, but it at least suggests the possibility..."

    For me personally, I think the comics content should always outweigh the handbooks. And I'd be willing to bet that 223 is the first actual comic-book to give Avalanche's civilian name.

    Granted, if you asked me why I suddenly care so much about this, I'd be hard-pressed to give you an answer. :) BUT I DO DAMMIT.

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  22. " they also completely devalued the idea of the shared universe, making everything really insular and self-contained to a given title or family of title"

    I see your point, but I prefer that extreme. It's not like the 1980s when comic books were 75 cents a pop. Back then, footnotes were fine.

    Nowadays I don't really want a footnote directing me to "Casket of Winters" if it's going to cost me 50 bucks to read the entire "Casket of Winters" saga.

    "I'm really not a fan of Marvel in general in the early nineties, outside of the X-books and a few other bits and pieces, but I think today is far worse."

    Yeah, from what I can see, true. I was just noting that it hasn't been a steady decline since the 90s -- there was an era when Marvel cleaned up its act in this regard -- but then they got stupid again. And now, as you say, it is worse than the 90s.

    "It's getting perilously close to the "series of miniseries" model I desperately want to avoid because I'm pedantic and like series with increasingly large numbers that create a sense of continuity to the past events of the title."

    To me it's just frustrating if I ever want to go back and explore a series after the fact. Like if I want to read the complete run of Daredevil, and I'll have to figure out which of the six different "Daredevil Number One"'s I read first, etc. It's going to take a full day of internet research just to organize the comics into the correct reading order.

    I think they should just prominently display the month and year on the cover of every issue. Then they can renumber as much as they want as far as different volumes, but for us completists looking to read it all, we can go by the date.

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  23. "Actually, I'm pretty sure X-Men is still Brian Wood's all-female team, "

    Is this any good, by the way? I love the idea of an all-female X-team -- it's so Claremont, and the actual members being used are all Claremont creations, I believe. (Except for Storm, which ... I mean, even she's *practically* a Claremont creation.)

    I've been curious about looking into this one. But then there was also that whole Brian Wood scandal about sexual harassment, which turned me off as well ...

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  24. "Honestly, my biggest problem with the recent "Marvel NOW" era (and this is totally a whole nother topic) is whenever one of these bold new directions runs its course or a new creative team comes aboard (or sometimes just when a big storyline ends), it becomes an excuse to relaunch and hype the title with an all new #1."

    Paul O'Brian had a post a few weeks ago about this subject:

    http://www.housetoastonish.com/?p=2403

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  25. Wolverine may not be in Wood's X-Men series but he's definitely in Amazing X-Men which wasn't mentioned!

    I gave Wood's X-Men a couple issues, but it seems to be diluting the Sublime story line from Morrison's New X-Men. It's not bad by any means, but it also suffers from the current dilution of the X-Books where none of the titles feels like the flag ship title, so they all feel a little less important.

    I have to admit I'm really enjoying Amazing X-Men. The X-Men fighting Demon Pirates is a little goofy, but the character work is fantastic and Ed McGuinness sure draws purty.

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  26. I was, admittedly, basing Wolverine's appearance in X-Men on an issue I skimmed in Marvel Unlimited yesterday where Jubilee took him on a tour of her old stomping grounds in L.A. -- but it's possible that was a guest appearance. But since Jeff says he was in Amazing x-Men, let's all pretend I said that instead, okay?

    I've seen this suggestion before so I take no credit for it, though I do stand behind it -- but why would Marvel not simply keep the real numbering in the indicia, while putting whatever number they want on the cover? I don't think there's any law that says indicia has to match the cover. Then the first issue of a new volume could be labeled #1 and they could reboot to their heart's content, even once a year if they wanted to, but the indicia would continue to say #567 or whatever. It seems like a no-brainer and the best of both worlds.

    And I am aware that there's still some decent stuff coming out of Marvel. I just miss the days when I looked forward to a bunch of ongoing series every month. Now I find that the majority of the stuff I like is mini-series, or I'll check out specific story arcs I've heard are good.

    And a bigger part of my issue is the afore-noted dilution factor. Maybe this is just me being anal, but I have a really hard time reading and enjoying an X-Men comic with Wolverine in it when I know Wolverine is having about ten other adventures that same month. I know it's a little irrational, but it's a feeling I have a lot of trouble getting past.

    Plus, even more than that, just knowing that Wolverine is a full-fledged member of the Avengers makes me not take anything Marvel is publishing seriously. In a universe where he's a valued and respected member of the world's premire superhero team, the entire shared universe feels wrong. I could be reading a Spider-Man comic with no mention of Wolverine or the Avengers, but if I know he's out there someplace avenging alongside Captain America and Thor, then I feel like I'm reading something that "doesn't count".

    I know, I'm weird.

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  27. Jason -- "For me personally, I think the comics content should always outweigh the handbooks. And I'd be willing to bet that 223 is the first actual comic-book to give Avalanche's civilian name."

    I agree with you there. Even if something is established in a handbook, if an actual story contradicts it later, the story should take precedence.

    However in this case I'm with Teebore, only because I think Petros is a much better last name for the character than Szilard. Petros = rock = Avalanche. I like the Silver Agey feel of it. Which, now that I think about it, might mean that Gruenwald did come up with Petros, since he's a big Silver Age guy.

    Also, Petros sounds more Greek than Szilard. And I thought Avalanche was born in Greece. But then again, that's another thing I think came from the Handbook first. Plus, Szilard is too close to Szardos. I can buy the X-Men knowing one person with a "Sz-" last name, but two is pushing it.

    At any rate, here's something I think we can all agree on: Domenic Petros and Domenic Szilard are both better names than "Lance Alvers", which was the name inexplicably given to Avalanche in the X-Men: Evolution cartoon series some years back.

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  28. @Jeff: I don't really buy many newer comics these days, maybe a one or two a month, but I finally made the switch to digital, mainly for storage space reasons

    I haven't totally made the switch (in part because I just can't wrap my head around paying full price for something I only "own" digitally), but I have cut back on what I'm buying because I can eventually read it all anyway via Marvel Unlimited (and I'm so behind on stuff anyway the time lag there doesn't bother me).

    So I still buy in print or trade the stuff for which I want to maintain a collection, but tons of stuff gets the "wait for it to hit MU" treatment.

    And the lack of ads is really nice, if still somewhat eerie.

    @Jason: For me personally, I think the comics content should always outweigh the handbooks. And I'd be willing to bet that 223 is the first actual comic-book to give Avalanche's civilian name.

    It may be, but I'm pretty sure it's appeared elsewhere, in comics, as Petros, more often than Szilard. So that's enough for me to accept it over the one-time name.

    To me it's just frustrating if I ever want to go back and explore a series after the fact. Like if I want to read the complete run of Daredevil, and I'll have to figure out which of the six different "Daredevil Number One"'s I read first, etc.

    Yeah, that's another frustrating aspect of the "#1" era.

    I've been curious about looking into this one. But then there was also that whole Brian Wood scandal about sexual harassment, which turned me off as well ...

    I haven't read it myself, but my initial excitement for it has been tempered by that Brian Wood sexual harrasement stuff. I'll likely still check it out at some point, but probably just via Marvel Unlimited, where it feels less like I'm putting money directly in Wood's pocket.

    @wwk5d: Paul O'Brian had a post a few weeks ago about this subject

    Thanks for the link - I enjoyed it. I really need to make an effort to read his stuff again more regularly.

    @Jeff: Wolverine may not be in Wood's X-Men series but he's definitely in Amazing X-Men which wasn't mentioned!

    Ah, yeah, I'd forgotten that one. Nevermind, he's still in too many X-titles. :)

    @Matt: but why would Marvel not simply keep the real numbering in the indicia, while putting whatever number they want on the cover?

    This is a genuine - not snarky - question, but do they even print an indicia anymore? I don't recall seeing one in recent issues, but I haven't really looked for it, either.

    If it is still there, that idea makes a lot of sense.

    At any rate, here's something I think we can all agree on: Domenic Petros and Domenic Szilard are both better names than "Lance Alvers"

    Agreed. :)

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  29. @Matt: At any rate, here's something I think we can all agree on: Domenic Petros and Domenic Szilard are both better names than "Lance Alvers", which was the name inexplicably given to Avalanche in the X-Men: Evolution cartoon series some years back.

    This sort of thing I absolutely hate. "Yeah, we're bringing this character in but we changed every aspect to something else we feel is more relatable, or, just cooler, and don't mind collecting any easy PC points that may happen be going by."

    And then we'll have Deathstrikes with no cybernetics or backstory or "Lady".

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  30. Teebore- the protagonist of the TV show Early Edition was named Gary Hobson because he often had to make difficult decisions.

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  31. I'm still a bit flummoxed by Mystique apparently dropping her Raven Darkholme identity, or at least the non-blue incarnation who worked with Val Cooper while liaising with the Pentagon in some scientific capacity. As I mentioned several months ago, I don't think Val knows Mystique was/is her friend Raven. Did Claremont just forget about that whole deal?

    Spiral being in Freedom Force makes even less character sense than Sabretooth being in the Marauders. Also, I can't help but find it suspect that a government worried about superpowered mutants has its own strike team made up exclusively (Spiral aside?) of not just superpowered mutants but criminal superpowered mutants. I get that Mystique at least played a part in this, but it makes way more sense in terms of her agenda than from the government's perspective regardless of the control supposedly exerted over the group by the prospect of pardons. I'd expect Freedom Force to at least have someone like USAgent/Super-Patriot leading it, although of course that doesn't really mesh with Claremont's corner of the Marvel U.

    I hadn't thought about this before, but I kind-of wonder if Claremont writing San Francisco as being so welcoming of the X-Men is supposed to be a reflection of it having a large and longtime gay community or just generally being known as a liberal area.

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  32. @anonymous: the protagonist of the TV show Early Edition was named Gary Hobson because he often had to make difficult decisions.

    Ah, that's pretty cool. I missed Early Edition, and probably wouldn't have caught the reference, but that's a neat touch.

    @Blam: I'm still a bit flummoxed by Mystique apparently dropping her Raven Darkholme identity, or at least the non-blue incarnation who worked with Val Cooper while liaising with the Pentagon in some scientific capacity.

    I don't think she has...there's some Val Cooper/Mystique business later in Claremont's run, and I don't remember all the details of that, but I think Mystique's identity as Raven plays into it.

    But at the very least, yeah, we're definitely past the point where Val and Raven are palling around town together, though I don't think that definitely means Mystique has dropped the guise.

    I'd expect Freedom Force to at least have someone like USAgent/Super-Patriot leading it, although of course that doesn't really mesh with Claremont's corner of the Marvel U.

    Yeah, it's definitely something that makes more thematic sense (the villains becoming "heroes") than logical sense, though I definitely think there's a sense of the government not quite realizing just how bad some of the members are (Val knows, but I get the impression she downplays it to her superiors), and I think there's something to be said for the fact that in the MU, the only super-powered people, especially mutants, who would work for the government ARE bad guys, but you'd still think they government would slot someone they know/trust in as the leader, as you say, rather than Mystique.

    Also, this subject will be addressed slightly next issue, but certainly not in any definitive way.

    I kind-of wonder if Claremont writing San Francisco as being so welcoming of the X-Men is supposed to be a reflection of it having a large and longtime gay community or just generally being known as a liberal area.

    It certainly didn't occur to me as a kid, but reading it now, yeah, I'd guess he was playing off the idea of the area just being generally more liberal.

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  33. @Blam: I'd expect Freedom Force to at least have someone like USAgent/Super-Patriot leading it, although of course that doesn't really mesh with Claremont's corner of the Marvel U.

    I so much want to contest this idea on the intuitious basis that Freedom Force always was Mystique's show never mind how much sense it makes or if they would allow it in the real life:

    1) They are not a "governmental" task force but, as per Mystique's pitch (UXM 199), they work explicitly for the White House and Val Cooper (and not necessarily in that order...) allowing them to avoid "periodical conflicts" the government has with the Avengers and Fantastic Four,

    2) The deal was that Freedom Force née Brotherhood of Evil Mutants brings in Magneto and moreover it's Dr. Cooper who puts in the condition of "Full pardon -- conditional of performance. If a single member of your group breaks our agreement, you all hang". Freedom Force delivers their end of the deal.

    3) Rowdy muties with criminal past of "Evil Mutants" fame (=Blob, and why not Pyro and Avalanche also) probably need a leader who's a mutant him/herself and has necessary authority to keep them in check - and has enough blood in hands for others to know (s)he means business. I'd like to hear your candidates. U.S.Agent they would just eat alive. Mystique is more than competent, just remember the others crying after her in UXM 206 when things go awry.

    Sorry but UXM 199 was my very first issue and everything I know about the X-Men is kind of built on this.

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  34. Like, maybe Val has had to listen H. P. Gyrich to bitch about how hard time he had as the Avengers' governmental liaison with the heroes wanting to be all heroic and stuff and Val made a mental note there and then that if she ever ends up having a superpowered group in her hands she'll make sure they come from the darker end of the black-and-white scale.

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  35. " "I'm still a bit flummoxed by Mystique apparently dropping her Raven Darkholme identity, or at least the non-blue incarnation who worked with Val Cooper while liaising with the Pentagon in some scientific capacity.""//
    "I don't think she has...there's some Val Cooper/Mystique business later in Claremont's run, and I don't remember all the details of that, but I think Mystique's identity as Raven plays into it."

    No, Blam's right. Claremont never brings back the "non-blue" Raven identity for Mystique, and the question of whether Val ever learned the truth of that situation is never addressed. I always found it odd too.

    (That's not to say no other writer addressed it post-Claremont -- or for all I know Weezie addressed it in NM or X-Factor ... but Claremont definitely didn't. I always found it odd as well.)

    "It certainly didn't occur to me as a kid, but reading it now, yeah, I'd guess he was playing off the idea of the area just being generally more liberal. "

    Interesting. The San Francisco issues are ones that I didn't read until years later, as a 20-something year old in the early "oughts," and my mind went right to the gay analogy.

    Hm. That'd be a good question for someone to ask Claremont in an interview.

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  36. My fanwank: Once Mystique and the Brotherhood became Freedom Force, Mystique no longer needed that particular identity, or at least, never had to tell Val about it. In case she needed that identity again in the future, if things with FF didn't work out, why burn herself? Also, Mystique probably assumed Val wouldn't take it all too well if she found out Raven was really Mystique...

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  37. Lobdell stated that Forge found out about Mystique's Raven identity and revealed it to the government.

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  38. @Jason: Claremont never brings back the "non-blue" Raven identity for Mystique, and the question of whether Val ever learned the truth of that situation is never addressed.

    Good to know. I couldn't remember if it ever came up in all that Val/Mystique/Shadow King death faking business towards the end of Claremont's run.

    @Anonymous: Lobdell stated that Forge found out about Mystique's Raven identity and revealed it to the government.

    That rings a bell - must have been mentioned either circa issue #289-290 or #301-#302?

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  39. @Teemu: // I so much want to contest this idea on the intuitious basis that Freedom Force always was Mystique's show never mind how much sense it makes or if they would allow it in the real life: //

    All worth a No-Prize. Extra points for the Gyrich mention, too. My problem is that sometimes it's entirely fine and fun as a reader to fill in background, context, or whatever when what's on the page is lacking, but sometimes it's frustrating enough that it takes me right out of the story.

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  40. While I "technically" know the reason why, I still find it frustrating that the X-Men haven't attempted to find or call X-Factor now that Madelyn's with them. Since many of these characters have already seen X-Factor ads they must know where to reach them if only to find out information on what happened to Madelyn's baby (not to mention demanding explanations for the "mutant-hunter" stuff which was still a part of X-Factor at the time.) That whole contrived separation of the two teams has become a slight but noticable annoyance about this period (particularly when the two books start having interweaving plotlines.)

    Oh and I agree that the Storm subplot is really dragging at this point. That's unfortunately one of the nasty side effects of annual crossover events: we get padding such as this so that the "big revelations" can come to head at the desired time.

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