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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

X-amining X-Men Annual #14

"You Must Remember This"
1990

In a Nutshell 
The truth about Franklin is revealed as Ahab is defeated. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Art Adams
Inker:Dan Green, Bob Wiacek, Al Milgrom, Art Thibert, Steve Mancuse
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Brad Vancata
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Manhattan, Rachel stops a diner robbery before sensing Franklin's presence. Flying off, the two meet again, and Rachel accepts that Franklin is the man she knew. The pair meet with the Fantastic Four and X-Factor at Four Freedoms Plaza, apologizing for all the recent damage Franklin did. When Mr. Fantastic tentatively broaches the subject of Franklin's younger self's continued torpor, along with the missing Christopher and the continuing threat of Ahab, Franklin alters the minds of his parents, as well as Cyclops and Marvel Girl, to assuage their concerns. However, after Rachel and Franklin depart, Ben Grimm makes them realize what Franklin has done. Meanwhile, Storm and her companion Gambit sneak into the X-Mansion subbasement, only to be caught by Cable. Apprised of the situation, Storm insists they must find Franklin at once, as the man the New Mutants have met is either an imposter or worse. At Four Freedoms Plaza, Ahab attacks Cyclops and Invisible Woman, capturing them and transforming them into Hounds.


He then sends them hunting for Franklin, Rachel and baby Christopher, all having a picnic at Prospect Park. They capture the young mutants and bring them back to Ahab's lair, but the rest of the Fantastic Four, X-Factor, New Mutants and X-Men intervene, freeing the captives. A battle between the heroes and Ahab's forces rages until Ahab activates an energy field which incapacitates everyone, except Franklin who, it turns out, isn't flesh and blood. Ahab makes a final attempt to slay the weakened Rachel, but is stopped, and teleports away. Storm then confronts Franklin, making him realize he died in the future, and that he is currently existing only as an astral echo, surviving by feeding off the energy of Rachel and his younger self. Letting go, he combines with Rachel's Phoenix powers to sacrifice himself, restoring everything to normal, including his younger self, Cyclops and Invisible Woman, in the process. Later, the teams part amicably, with Marvel Girl eventually returning to her parents' house to contemplate the empathic crystal there, containing the essences of both Phoenix and Rachel.

Firsts and Other Notables
On sale at the same time as Uncanny X-Men issues #263 and #264, this issue spoils the upcoming "Kid Storm" arc in issue #265-267, as Kid Storm appears in this issue with her full memories intact, explaining to people that Nanny captured her in issue #248 and regressed her to childhood, plot developments which are revealed in the course of that story.


As a result, this issue features the reunion between Storm and Forge, a somewhat anti-climatic moment given Forge's vision of Storm is what motivated him to search out the X-Men along with Banshee in the first place (it also marks the first encounter between Storm and Cable, everyone else and Gambit, etc., but most of that goes unremarked upon).


Also, Storm is joined in this issue by an enigmatic, floppy-haired dude named Gambit. That's right, this is, technically, Gambit's first appearance, though with this story set after X-Men #267, his appearance in issue #266 is generally considered his first appearance by fans (it is certainly the issue that commands big money on the back issue market for being Gambit's first appearance). More on Gambit when we hit issue #266 (he's in this issue, but he really doesn't do much).

One thing Gambit does do is, when told that Mr. Sinister is responsible for the destruction of the top floors of the mansion, note that he likes the sounds of the man's name. This can be read either as a hint, by Claremont, towards the unused idea that Gambit and Mr. Sinister are both representations of the same child mutant, or as an unintentional hint at later stories which reveal a shared past between the two individuals.


The Cable/Ahab connection is teased again in this issue, with Ahab asking Cable if he recognizes someone when the two are fighting. Again, nothing really comes of this tease, nor was anything ever really intended to, aside from building up the air of mystery around Cable.


This issue reveals that the adult Franklin Richards who has been responsible for driving most of the plot of this story is, in fact, a psychic echo of the Adult Franklin, cast back in time at the moment of Franklin's death in the future (as seen in X-Men #141).


The second story in this annual is set during the events of the first, and features Wolverine, Jubilee and Psylocke (the first time we've seen that trio since issue #261). As Wolverine tells Jubilee the history of the X-Men, they're visited by Franklin and Rachel, with Franklin briefly wiping out Jubilee and Psylocke from existence, before returning them, along with Christopher (which explains how Christopher ended up with Franklin and Rachel between pages of the main story).

There's also a pin-up by Kevin Nowlan, and an alternate cover to the issue by Michael Golden.


Creator Central 
Art Adams (along with a bevy of inkers) returns for his final X-Men annual (after drawing #9, #10 and #12), though this won't be the last we'll see of his work.

The Chronology Corner
This issue takes place between issues #267 and #268 of Uncanny X-Men.

A Work in Progress
Jean continues to be upset about Rachel and the implications she represents for Jean's decisions and future.


Ahab uses the phrase "laddie buck" in this issue, the first indication that the character is possibly Scottish (which ties into the latter "Rory Campbell is Ahab" hints in Excalibur).

Ahab's role as a timecop, protecting the "Days of Future Past" timeline from time travelers attempting to alter it, is spelled out in more detail in this issue. His "between here and now" lair is also given a name, the Tomb.


It's noted that some of Ahab's weaponry is derived from Genoshan technology.


At the end of the issue, he teleports away with a "bamf" sound effect. 


Rachel references a story told to her by her Aunt Sara (Jean's sister) involving Phoenix rescuing Sara from the Atlantean warlord Attuma, a tale told in Bizarre Adventures #27.


As the issue closes, Jean seeks out the holo-empathic matrix crystal Lilandra gave her parents, to which Rachel later added her own essence, in an effort to get to know Rachel a little better.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Throughout the issue, Rachel is wearing some kind of wide-brimmed sombrero with little balls hanging off it. Not sure if that's an early 90s fashion statement I'm forgetting, or what is going on with it.


The Reference Section
The men who Rachel stops from robbing the diner, are, I believe, meant to represent three of the bad guys from the first Robocop movie (ie Kurtwood Smith's Clarence Boddiker, the toxic waste melty guy who ends up on ER for awhile, and the, uh, Black Guy with a beret).


Warlock transforms into Darth Vader, an X-wing, and a pterosaur to entertain little Franklin and baby Christopher.


Young Love
Boom-Boom is smitten by Human Torch.


Teebore's Take
"Days of Future Present" wraps up with its strongest chapter, as Adult Franklin's whole deal finally comes to light and he stops mucking around with things in the present. Of course, it helps that the chapter is drawn by Art Adams, in his final X-Men Annual work, sending the story out with the best art of the bunch, but there's also some pleasure to be had in Franklin actually stopping to talk to people, in seeing all these various characters coming together (including a mysterious floppy haired dude named Gambit) and in giving Ahab something to do beyond send generic goons after the main characters. Basically, this seems like a story designed for Claremont (if he, in fact, wasn't the architect behind it in the first place), and there's a sense permeating the previous chapters of the story that they were just treading water until he could gets his hands on it. Now that he has, it reads like a better story.

But overall, it's still not great. It's perfectly fine, better-than-average annual material, and the effort to tell a cohesive story across four annuals is appreciated. But there's definitely a sense of a thin story stretched too far (helped, no doubt, by having to pad out not only four issues-worth of story, but four double-sized ones at that), with a lot of repetition going on involving Franklin just popping in, making a change, then enigmatically popping out, followed by a generic fight with Ahab and some contingent of his goons. Claremont and Adams help end the thing on a high note, but this simply doesn't even come close, in terms of the craft involved or the thematic significance, of the story to which it's ostensibly a sequel.

Which is, perhaps, an unfair comparison, given that "Days of Future Past" is one of the seminal X-Men (and comic book) stories of all time, but the creators also invite that comparison by, you know, doing a sequel to the story. Compared to the original "Days", it'd be near impossible for this to not come up short; as is, it's a perfectly serviceable, albeit overly long and workmanlike attempt to revisit some of the characters and themes of that original story. The effort is appreciated, and the end result is better than the usual annual fare, but a sharper level of craft would have gone a long way towards bridging the gap between the original and the sequel.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Bret Blevins returns for some summer fun in New Mutants Summer Special #1. Friday, the "Lazarus Project" begins in Wolverine #27. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #265. 

Collected Editions

 

12 comments:

  1. The men who Rachel stops from robbing the diner, are, I believe, meant to represent three of the bad guys from the first Robocop movie (ie Kurtwood Smith's Clarence Boddiker, the toxic waste melty guy who ends up on ER for awhile, and the, uh, Black Guy with a beret).

    It's a hateful moment when you find yourself changing your alliances from cheering for Robocop to rooting for the dude who's trying to put a foot into his ass.

    Let's all contemplate for a moment the fact that Clarence Boddiker was a villain in "near future", but now he's here alongside someone looking a lot like Trevor Fitzroy; let our thoughts stay for a short while that very soon Bob Morton (played by Miguel Ferrer) will apparently pops up as the drummer who "looks like Albert in Twin Peaks" in Rick Jones' band and do our best to ignore the bit about Detroit being "a dystopia and on the verge of total collapse and anarchy due to financial ruin and a high crime rate" and what the opening credits of the other 1987 movie The Running Man prophecies about the world economy collapsing by 2017.

    The Cable/Ahab connection is teased again in this issue, with Ahab asking Cable if he recognizes someone when the two are fighting. Again, nothing really comes of this tease, nor was anything ever really intended to, aside from building up the air of mystery around Cable.

    Cable naturally remembers meeting Ahab/Harpoon from Mr. Sinister's catacombs under the Nebraska orphanage. Time traveller, did you say? And "just happening" to hang around a Summers_Grey? Hmmmh.

    Yeah okay sorry about the non-comic nonsense. It's just that we never got anything of the storyline back in the day, and I was kind of looking for to redeeming the situation now but damn Marvel Unlimited got NONE of the annuals in question. And seeing that this one is a Claremont/Adams, it's starting to hurt.

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  2. I consider Rachel's hat in this annual to be one of the more perplexing unexplained mysteries of the X-Men universe. Seriously, what the hell!

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  3. Hey! There's the panel where Ahab is surprised to find out that hound-Cyclops can't home on Rachel despite her supposedly being his blood-relative. Do I remember poorly or was this here an occasion pointed out recently in the comments when it came up that Rachel's old man might just be certain someone else? Because, wo-hoo, Claremont, canon!

    Did it come up in the second story where Logan shows up?

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  4. Throughout the issue, Rachel is wearing some kind of wide-brimmed sombrero with little balls hanging off it. Not sure if that's an early 90s fashion statement I'm forgetting, or what is going on with it.

    Rachel's destiny is somewhat intertwined with Nimrod, who we remember having very similar diner robbery prevention scene. Nimrod had his Latin-American apron Jaime Rodriguez, it's only fitting that Rachel has a sombrero. Also note the pink color on the balls. I think Nimrod returned from the Siege Perilous as hat. There's a head to go with that hat somewhere very near Rachel in the X-world...

    Nathan probably will cook up something from the fact that sombrero literally means "shadower", though. There's more hounds coming up on UNCANNY and all.

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  5. @Teemu: Hey pull your head back in;) Actually when I saw that classic scene in the Robert E. Howard biopic, The Whole Wide World, I immediately recalled Rachel's sombrero here:)

    While New Mutants Annual #6 has Rictor pointing out that Cable looks like Ahab, Claremont takes another approach in this annual; and I'm actually certain the intention was NOT to impose Ahab's origin onto Cable to resolve the fact that they didn't initially have a background for him, but that it was planted as a RED HERRING! Fabian Nicieza claims the latter, suggesting Bob Harras pushed for the dialogue here in Uncanny X-Men Annual #14; though I'm not entirely convinced it was him primarily since the dialogue at the time seemed indicative of Claremont's well-known catch phrases. While Cable and Ahab did have some similar features, there are more distinct differences, than similarities, during Ahab's introduction here. While both characters had similar scars across their right eyes, Cable's left eye was the bionic one (cf. New Mutants #89, p.26) and page 17 of this Annual has his right eye as blue whereas page 18 shows Ahab's left eye as brown, his right eye being the bionic one. In addition, on page 18 as Teebore notes here Ahab calls Cyclops "laddie-buck", definitely not indicative of Cable's speech patterns. So what identity did Claremont intend here? The one thing that has been completely overlooked in the twenty-five since Ahab's introduction is his going grey in a really unusual pattern. The only remaining question now is whether Ahab is Rogue's father, brother or son. Ooh and with that BAMF might this hint at who she gets together with;)

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  6. > Also, Storm is joined in this issue by an enigmatic, floppy-haired dude named Gambit. That's right, this is, technically, Gambit's first appearance, though with this story set after X-Men #267, his appearance in issue #266 is generally considered his first appearance by fans (it is certainly the issue that commands big money on the back issue market for being Gambit's first appearance). More on Gambit when we hit issue #266 (he's in this issue, but he really doesn't do much).

    Gambit's appearance, here, kind of went unnoticed, for a while. The value of this issue in the back-issue market has gone up a few bucks in, more recent, years as people were starting to realize that, hey, wait a minute, he appeared here, first.

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  7. @Cerebro, but alas, not enough to have the issue appear on Marvel Universe. There's very little of the latter issues of THE NEW MUTANTS there, for example, but the first appearance issues of Cable, Deadpool are, on isolated basis, and that can't be no coincidence.

    @Nathan, sorry, couldn't help it. :) I was projecting it really, partially, because it doesn't really feel like a coincidence that Storm and Gambit are fighting Ahab-transformed hounds here and those of Shadow King's there, especially as the latter ones resemble closely the original SM-thing that was going on with Rachel. Yes, it is Claremont, but then again, it is Claremont. So, what's up with that, is it a retconning excercise to amp up Shadow King for the planned #300, something for the, ha, shady background for DoFP where Shaw Industries provide the Sentinels and Shadow King the hatred to make the dystopic future happen. Could we actually have been in for a medium-changing retcon with the DoFP if Claremont have been allowed to realize his plans, and did it end up to be a blessing in the end that it never happened? In EXCALIBUR they're about to tie in with DoFP with Widget and all soon enough, aren't they?

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  8. @Teemu: If Claremont had remained on Uncanny, Ahab was meant to return around #281. He would somehow end up trapped in our timeline, and establish his base in the Alley where he would transform the surviving Morlocks into his Hounds. This plot idea got changed into the Trevor Fitzroy and Mikhail Rasputin ones I suspect!?

    But come on, nothing about Ahab being related to Rogue?;)

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  9. I guess it’s kind-of meta how screwed up this story is in terms of timing.

    At first the start of this chapter seemed to be a flashback to when Rachel was newly arrived in the "now" of the Marvel Universe — based on her not having had a burger in so long and her activated Phoenix power being enough of an anomaly to be remarked upon by Doctor Strange et al. — even once Franklin shows up.

    Storm and Gambit (re)joining the fold is a pretty big-deal thing to have happen in an annual that isn’t built around it, not to mention one hell of a spoiler to the monthly continuity.

    It would’ve been nice to see the X-Men and New Mutants physically travel from Xavier’s to Four Freedoms, or even get a caption or dialogue about their having done so.

    Ahab zaps Sue and Scott, then absconds with them to his lair, without anyone at Four Freedoms noticing.

    We don’t get any indication in the story of why Franklin’s ghost/echo/avatar consciousness zaps back to this particular moment in time that I noticed. Never mind that it’s technically not his own past, since Rachel appears to be his tether and this is where she ended up. I think maybe a neater tack for the annuals to take would’ve been him flashing back to various moments in the past looking for Rachel, which none of the characters would’ve remembered until Adult Franklin popped into the annuals’ present day (since the past had only just been altered in relative time, Franklin’s appearance was an anomaly that sparked their memory, and similar wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff).

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  10. // Franklin alters the minds of his parents, as well as Cyclops and Marvel Girl, to assuage their concerns //

    “Does anyone else feel like we’re supposed to be looking for droids?”

    // Ahab attacks Cyclops and Invisible Woman, capturing them and transforming them into Hounds. //

    I gotta say, Sue and Scott look ridiculous as Hounds. Franklin’s combo X/FF costume doesn’t work, either, despite the uniforms having a very similar template, largely due to the colors.

    // with Marvel Girl eventually returning to her parents' house to contemplate the empathic crystal there, containing the essences of both Phoenix and Rachel //

    Has Rachel met Jean’s parents? I presume the faces in the crystal are visible to everyone rather than only to the Phoenixes (or being an artistic flourish), so you’d expect them to wonder who the heck this girl is who’s in there now.

    // One thing Gambit does do is, when told that Mr. Sinister is responsible for the destruction of the top floors of the mansion, note that he likes the sounds of the man's name. //

    Which I took as nothing more than sarcasm, an interpretation supported by Storm’s response.

    // a tale told in Bizarre Adventures #27 //

    Claremont obviously has a box of comps in his basement that he’d like to unload on the collectors’ market.

    // Rachel is wearing some kind of wide-brimmed sombrero //

    I get a bit of a Boy George vibe off it, but from a slightly earlier period.

    // "Days of Future Present" wraps up with its strongest chapter //

    That’s for sure. Perhaps due to the Adams art, I think it reads like more vintage Claremont to me than anything Uncanny has served up in a while. Or maybe it just compares favorably to recent issues in terms of having a team (several of them, in fact, joining forces) — the return and reunion of certain characters notwithstanding, although that surely helps things.

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  11. @Blam Has Rachel met Jean’s parents? I presume the faces in the crystal are visible to everyone rather than only to the Phoenixes (or being an artistic flourish), so you’d expect them to wonder who the heck this girl is who’s in there now.

    Actually Jean's parants and Rachel don't meet up until 15 later during Claremont's third term on the books (this was JUST before the entire Grey family was wiped out, which might explain why Claremont finally got around to doing the belated introductions.)

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  12. @Ben: I consider Rachel's hat in this annual to be one of the more perplexing unexplained mysteries of the X-Men universe. Seriously, what the hell!

    Heh. One of the most dangling of all Claremont's danglers!

    @Nathan: I'm actually certain the intention was NOT to impose Ahab's origin onto Cable to resolve the fact that they didn't initially have a background for him, but that it was planted as a RED HERRING!

    I totally agree. I think it's been pretty well documented at this point that the Cable/Ahab teases in this story were always intended to just add to the air of mystery around Cable, to toss out a ton of possible mysteries (is he Ahab? Is he Baby Christopher? Is he Future Cannonball?) before finally picking one.

    If Claremont had remained on Uncanny, Ahab was meant to return around #281. He would somehow end up trapped in our timeline, and establish his base in the Alley where he would transform the surviving Morlocks into his Hounds.

    Oooh, I've never heard of that particular bit of aborted plot; where'd you come across that?

    @Cerebro: Gambit's appearance, here, kind of went unnoticed, for a while.

    That was always odd. Even if you hand wave away the somewhat-odd collective decision of fandom to crown the character's chronological first appearance (rather than his actual first appearance) as the OFFICIAL first appearance that we're going to drive up the price on, you'd still think the character's SECOND appearance would garner some attention, but it never really did.

    @Teemu: There's very little of the latter issues of THE NEW MUTANTS there, for example, but the first appearance issues of Cable, Deadpool are, on isolated basis, and that can't be no coincidence.

    It also seems very odd to me that Marvel Unlimited doesn't have, at the least, the entirety of Liefeld's NM run available.

    @Blam: Storm and Gambit (re)joining the fold is a pretty big-deal thing to have happen in an annual that isn’t built around it, not to mention one hell of a spoiler to the monthly continuity.

    Indeed. It makes me wonder if Claremont expected this to come out later than it did. Even then, it seems odd he'd put the return of Storm to the team (such as it was) into an annual, which in turn makes me wonder if its another case of Claremont's plans being accelerated by Harras/Lee/the approaching X-Tinction Agenda, and realizing it was the place he had room to write that reunion?

    @Blam: “Does anyone else feel like we’re supposed to be looking for droids?”

    Ha!

    Franklin’s combo X/FF costume doesn’t work, either, despite the uniforms having a very similar template, largely due to the colors.

    Yeah, that monstrosity hurt my eyes. Mostly due to the colors.

    Has Rachel met Jean’s parents? I presume the faces in the crystal are visible to everyone rather than only to the Phoenixes (or being an artistic flourish), so you’d expect them to wonder who the heck this girl is who’s in there now.

    As Jonathan points out, they have not. FWIW, I've always assumed the faces in the crystal were an artistic flourish and not a literal depiction of what appears in the crystal (kind of like Marvel Girl's pink TK bubbles), to remind readers what the deal with it is. So, for instance, in that chapter of the Doom/Arcade trilogy where Storm checks on the Greys and Jean gives an oddly angry look from the crystal, Storm wouldn't have seen Jean's image in the crystal.

    But that's just me. I don't think it's ever been made clear either way, in-universe.

    Which I took as nothing more than sarcasm, an interpretation supported by Storm’s response.

    Oh, totally. It's still kind of a funny line given the history that is later developed between the two characters, and Claremont's original ideas for him.

    I get a bit of a Boy George vibe off it, but from a slightly earlier period.

    I can see that.

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