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Thursday, May 22, 2014

X-amining X-Men Annual #12

"Resurrection!"
1988

In a Nutshell 
The High Evolutionary restores the Savage Land

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Art Adams
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Australia, Storm is suddenly compelled to race to the Savage Land. Tracking her, the X-Men follow via Gateway, arriving to find the once verdant land empty and desolate. Reading the psychic history of a bone, Longshot recounts to the X-Men the destruction of the Savage Land at the hands of the alien Terminus. Storm also discovers survivors of his attack, members of various Savage Land tribes, including the X-Men's friend Nereel, who managed to safely travel to an otherdimensional world in the wake of Terminus' attack. Just then Terminus resurfaces, attacking the X-Men as well as the High Evolutionary, who has journeyed to the Savage Land with hopes of restoring it. Defeating Terminus, they discover Garokk inside the armor, compelled by an outside force to pilot it. The High Evolutionary convinces Garokk to lend his life force to the recreation of the Savage Land, and together, they manage to restore the land to its original state. In the wake of the Savage Land's resurrection, the remaining tribespeople come together as the United Tribes, and though Psylocke alters their memories to forget the X-Men, they remember the legends who helped restore their home.

2nd Story: Mojo, enraged at having lost his connection to Psylocke's bionics eyes after the death of the X-Men in Dallas, holds a casting call for new stars to perform for his audience. A variety of different X-Men appear, all of whom displease Mojo, until the X-Babies emerge. The unruly kids clash with Mojo's troops and rescue the enslaved Ricochet Rita, and when Major Domo points out their antics are causing the highest ratings ever, Mojo attempts to capture them. But the Babies and Rita ultimately escape.

Firsts and Other Notables
The Savage Land, which was destroyed by the alien Terminus in Avengers #257 and which, in a stunning bit of continuity that would never happen today, remained an empty husk thereafter throughout Marvel's various titles, is returned to normal in this issue, with the native survivors of its destruction, as well as Savage Land mainstays Ka-Zar and his wife Shana the She-Devil, returning to the land after it's been restored. 


Garrok the Petrified Man, last seen menacing the X-Men in issue #149, returns, and helps the High Evolutionary restore the Savage Land to normal. No explanation is given for how he survived the fall he experienced in issue #149, nor why he looks like he did in issue #116 as opposed to his half-melted/crystalized form from #149.


His priestess Zala, last seen in issue #116, also returns, having become the High Evolutionary's lab assistant. She seems familiar to Havok, a hint at her relationship to Polaris, which will be explored in future issues.


With her are the Savage Land mutates, who are plotting something nefarious. We'll next see them working for Zala in issue #249.


It's revealed that some of the native Fall People survived the destruction of the Savage Land by crossing dimensions to the world ruled by M'Rin, a world encountered by Storm in the back-up story of Classic X-Men #22.  


It's heavily implied this issue that Nereel's son Peter is Colossus' son, though Colossus remains naively ignorant of this fact. Nereel is the woman with whom Colossus snuck off to Pleasure Island during the X-Men's stay in the Savage Land circa issue #114.


This issue's second story, also written by Claremont and drawn by Art Adams, features the return of Mojo and the first appearance of the X-Babies as separate entities (as opposed to de-aged versions of the X-Men). The X-Babies will continue to make occasional appearances in back-up stories and one-shots, becoming something of their own little sub-franchise along the way.


The Chronology Corner
Between this and issue #235, the X-Men make a brief appearance in Alpha Flight #61. 

A Work in Progress
The X-Men are teleported from Australia to the Savage Land wearing winter coats. Why? They don't need them in Australia, and Wolverine knows the Savage Land is tropical even though its in Antarctica.

Storm has Psylocke subtly alter the memories of the Fall People so that they don't specifically remember the X-Men as being the people who helped them, in order to preserve the "the X-Men are dead" ruse.


In the village, the X-Men leave behind an obelisk bearing the star logo Madelyne was designing in issue #232.


The second story is built around the fact that Mojo is no longer able to spy on the X-Men via Psylocke's bionic eyes, bringing to an end that creepy little status quo. We also see Ricochet Rita freed from enslavement by the X-Babies.

Mojo sending the Warwolves after Phoenix in Excalibur Special Edition #1 is also referenced.


I Love the 80s
Dazzler continues to complain about Wolverine's cigar smoking throughout the issue. 


In the second story, Mojo employs the Brain Trust, a group of creators who resemble the creators involved in the creation of this issue, with the Chris Claremont stand-in arguing that quality, not quantity, is what matters.


Claremontisms
Dazzler uses her solid photon beam to launch herself into the air, a neat trick that I don't think gets used too often outside this issue.  


Young Love
Longshot and Dazzler are officially an item as of this issue, or at least knocking boots, as Storm's updraft accidentally pulls a half-dressed Longshot out of his room, after which Dazzler quickly emerges sans pants but wearing Longshot's jacket. 


Later, Dazzler worries that after Rogue takes Longshot's memories and power, she'll know how Longshot really feels about Dazzler.


Teebore's Take
This is the classic example of a mediocre annual succeeding thanks to the presence of Art Adams. While the resurrection of the Savage Land is certainly an important event in the greater narrative of the Marvel Universe, story-wise, there's not much here to get too excited about: The Savage Land, callbacks to a random Classic X-Men backup story, Zaladane and Garrok (remnants of the least-exciting leg of Claremont and Byrne's "World Tour" storyline), the High Evolutionary (with an appearance that is less about progressing the "Evolutionary War" storyline than it is a generic guest appearance, so...sorry to anyone checking this out hoping for the next big development in that crossover). None of this is terribly exciting in and of itself, and would be downright boring without Adams on hand.

The second story, meanwhile, is much more entertaining. Mojo and the X-Babies work best in small doses (as in here), and Claremont is clearly having fun satirizing the way commercial interests can dominate the creation of art (an early glimpse at some of the feelings that will ultimately lead to his departure from the series). That story, plus having Adams on hand to at least make all the stuff in the main story more fun and exciting to look at than it is to read, keeps the entire issue from being a complete wash. It's still better than most of the other non-Adams drawn annuals, but it's easily the weakest of that lot.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we look at Wolverine's initial solo serial in Marvel Comics Presents #1-10. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #235 introduces Genosha, while New Mutants #68 features more of Gosamyr (yay...).

14 comments:

  1. I had never read this annual until just a few years ago. Upon finally getting to it, I found it... not good. It's not awful, and the restoration of the Savage Land is appreciated (and I agree that the continuity of keeping it barren at the time was impressive), but my issues with it are mainly due to the awkward baggage Claremont dredges up over the course of the story, namely:

    1. Colossus had a threesome years ago and one of the girls involved just happened to get pregnant? And she loved this Russian stranger who she barely knew so much that she named the child for him? Contrived and silly.

    2. Storm went to another universe during the X-Men's brief stay in the Savage Land? A needless complication to what was a simple, enjoyable story. That CLASSIC back-up should've been disavowed as soon as it saw print (though I feel that way about a lot of the back-ups which insert themselves into existing stories rather than weaving around them).

    3. Garokk is still alive again? He was a lame villain the first two time. Just leave him dead!

    Also, I can't stand the silly costume Adams has given to Zaladane. Why would a priestess in the Savage Land wear a supervillainess costume complete with a big letter "Z" on her chest? I much prefer her original red outfit, which was pretty much perfect, but I'll also take the green Jim Lee costume from a few years later. Either is preferable to this monstrosity.

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  2. I'm the opposite here, in that I find the first story a rather enjoyable adventure in the Savage Land that revisited some ideas from the past Byrne stories.

    I have no real positive feelings towards the vapid Mojo thing

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  3. Oh, also, Teebore -- I must take issue with your believing the Savage Land to be the "least-exciting" leg of the World Tour. To each their own, but I love that storyline. It's probably my favorite Savage Land tale. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to declare any part of the World Tour as weaker than another. I think the whole thing holds together very well and is probably my favorite extended X-Men saga of all time.

    Now, when they get home and Claremont and Byrne begin navigating painfully awkward hoops to keep people believing the X-Men are dead, that's where I start to have issues.

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  4. I like how we pretty much start the story with Longshot giving Allison the ol' hollow bone...classy. I also like how they made Longshot the "damsel in distress", instead of the obvious choice of Dazzler.

    I feel like the scientific community in the 616 should have mind control capabilities by this point. I mean, apparently every other villain with a helmet has some type of "psychic shielding" to prevent mind probes or whatever (see Terminus, Maggy, etc.). Seems only plausible that the brains of the world would've already figured out how to manipulate/read minds by now...idk

    I love the art throughout the comic & the dialogue for the Mojo story...those X-Babies are just chocked full of awesomeness!

    I always read Mojo with a Gilbert Gottfried accent, for some reason.

    The all female cast of X-Men seemed like it had the most potential :P

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  5. Matt: Colossus had a threesome years ago and one of the girls involved just happened to get pregnant? And she loved this Russian stranger who she barely knew so much that she named the child for him? Contrived and silly.

    I think that is exactly how things would go down in an isolated community that knows nothing of the western sexuality morals. New genetic inflow is a matter of dire importance. Wouldn't be surprised if some village elder called the two unspokenfor girls of right age for a chat and put them to it.

    I mean, in the real life the Faroe Islands were towards being a pretty inbred place when the British forces occupied them during WWII in their, ha, "Operation Valentine". As a consequence, the people there were very welcoming.

    Except for the "love" part. Maybe she just wanted the kid to have some connection to his father?

    Oh, also, Teebore -- I must take issue with your believing the Savage Land to be the "least-exciting" leg of the World Tour. To each their own, but I love that storyline.

    "Least-exciting" raised a flag for me too. The single panel where Storm and Nightcrawler (?) react to Wolverine snikting an unwaiting guard alone elevates the story.

    Reese T: I always read Mojo with a Gilbert Gottfried accent, for some reason.

    Whoa man. You just found a way to ruin a character consisting of a cybernetic spine and endless amount of blubber for me.

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  6. Honestly, I think the Moses Magnum stuff in Japan is way less fun than the Savage Land leg of the journey. They almost seem like a fill-in storyline to me. The Magneto issues are the best part, of course.

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  7. That's what I felt, Jeff, but didn't dare to speak out because today's popular X-portrayal of "THE Wolverine and some interchangeable supporting characters" weights down the space-time continuum so that the Logan-specific revelations and developments in the Moses Magnum storyline just might make it the most essential part of the Claremont/Byrne era.

    I'll wait for people reading the original DoFT and complaining about how they ruined it by having some Chicago chick there instead of The Wolverine. Such a terrible letdown after the awesome Wendigo Saga.

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  8. I like it all, as I said above. From Mesmero to Magneto to the Savage Land to Japan to Canada, I love that run of issues a lot. Now that I think about it, for me the weakest part is the Xavier/Shadow King flashback issue, which I think breaks up the flow of the journey.

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  9. I enjoyed this issue alot. Some great banter between Betsy and Havok. You could tell that if they had continued on in Australia, they might have hooked up, IF she wasn't already hooking up with Peter. She did pose for him in the buff several times.
    Logan wasn't offensive, and was quite ineffective throughout. So it was cool. I do love that Longshot is the damsel here. Made the issue good.

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  10. I know that Glynis has sweepingly used flat color before, to bring parts of a panel into focus or for other artistic purposes, but the rather meticulously drawn bird's-eye shot of the X-Men's new homestead done in a broad swath of pale blue at the top of Pg. 2 and similar monochromatic renderings on subsequent pages are surely her way of saying, "Really? Three more regular issues plus an annual drawn by Art freakin' Adams this summer?!?"

    Gosh, I don't think I've seen Terminus anywhere since Byrne introduced him.

    I love the Adams/Wiacek art, particularly how the X-Men really look like superheroes again — even though the Savage Land is pretty much the last place any of the characters need their costumes for iconic and/or identity-hiding/defining effect.

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  11. One of my first X-Men comics. Ten-year-old me read this one over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

    The main story is such classic superheroics. Great writing, great art.

    The secondary story seemed odd to me as a kid. Later I realized that the satire is pretty darn forward-looking ... and now that I've read the Longshot mini, the whole Mojo milieu makes more sense. As a kid, it just seemed weird and strange but I was still fascinated.

    Top marks for this comic-book. One of my faves. (Turns out it's one of Claremont's as well.)

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  12. While not required reading, this is a good annual in a dumb, fun kind of way. And yes the art is gorgeous and elevates the story, but it's still kind of enjoyable.

    "Colossus had a threesome years ago and one of the girls involved just happened to get pregnant? And she loved this Russian stranger who she barely knew so much that she named the child for him?"

    Maybe Peter is just THAT good in bed? ;) It's interesting that Longshot knows about his son, though...

    "Why would a priestess in the Savage Land wear a supervillainess costume complete with a big letter "Z" on her chest?"

    Why not? Maybe all those super-heroes traipsing through the Savage Land inspired her.

    Teebore, will you be reviewing Excaliber: Mojo Mayhem? It does continue the X-babies sotryline...and does feature Art Adams as well, plus a sort-of Excaliber team-up...

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  13. I too was big on this Annual when it came out. It was my first intro to the Oz-Team, and new costumes.

    Ah, Terminus. John Byrne's replacement for Galactus as the Big, Bad, Alien Giant Earth Destroyer (after having Galactus resign from that part).

    Teebore, you make notice about why the X-Men bundle up for the Savage Land. Unless I was mistaken, Terminus damaged the environment to such extent that its tropical climate had been removed, causing Antarctica's cold climate to engulf the place. The X-Men knew about this and were being prepared. The panel you showed displays Dazzler's breath-in-cold-temperature.

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  14. "Teebore, you make notice about why the X-Men bundle up for the Savage Land. Unless I was mistaken, Terminus damaged the environment to such extent that its tropical climate had been removed, causing Antarctica's cold climate to engulf the place. The X-Men knew about this and were being prepared. The panel you showed displays Dazzler's breath-in-cold-temperature."
    The problem is that Claremont's dialogue makes it sound like the X-Men are surprised that the Savage Land's tropical climate is gone, while the art shows them dressed for winter.

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