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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #270

"The X-Tinction Agenda: First Strike"November 1990

In a Nutshell 
The Genoshans launch their assault on the X-Men. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams & Art Thibert
Letterers: Task Force "X"
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Amidst rising tensions between Genosha and the United States, Storm & Marvel Girl train in the Danger Room, as Banshee & Forge attempt to analyze Storm's current power level now that her body is that of an adolescent. Suddenly, Cable bursts into the Danger Room declaring it's time for the New Mutants' training session. In Malibu, Guido runs off Freddie Stanachek, telling her Dazzler has left and he doesn't know where, just as Lila suddenly appears on the beach, saying she needs the X-Men's help. Back in New York, Storm and Jean reminisce as they're unknowingly watched by a group of Genoshan magistrates. Returning to the school grounds, Storm bids Jean goodbye as the New Mutants relax by the lake, and Rahne angrily confronts her, upset that Doug remains dead while Storm, Jean & the X-Men get to come back to life. Just then, the Genoshans launch their attack, but the New Mutants manage to hold them off, until the Genoshans call in a larger force.


Just as the rest of the X-Men and New Mutants are about to reach the surface, Storm scrambles the lock on the access hatch, trapping them inside but preventing the Genoshans from accessing the mansion. As her teammates head for the lake exit instead, Storm realizes that one of the magistrates is actually Havok, just as Rictor and Boom-Boom are captured. Shortly thereafter, Warlock is teleported to Genosha, and Storm & Wolfsbane are soon captured as well. The four mutants are then transported back to Genosha along with the magistrates, just moments before their teammates emerge from the lake. Finding only the clothes of the captured kids remaining, Cable declares that whomever is responsible is going to wish they'd never been born!

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the beginning of "X-Tinction Agenda", the fourth and final crossover across the X-books of Claremont's tenure (though it certainly isn't the last X-centric crossover we'll see), which centers on the Genoshan counterattack against the X-Men and their allies, following the X-Men's intervention in their country during issues #235-238 and the Genoshan's failed attempts to retrieve Philip Moreau and Jenny Ransome (as seen in issues #259 & #264).

It's the first formally-structured X-crossover, in that each chapter of the story is numbered and the order of the chapters unfolds in the same pattern across the titles (Uncanny X-Men, followed by New Mutants,  followed by X-Factor), as opposed to something like "Mutant Massacre" where the different series only tangentially crossed over, or "Inferno", where X-Men and X-Factor developed a pretty formal narrative back-and-forth, but only after each did its own thing for awhile (while New Mutants was off doing its own thing entirely).

"X-Tinction Agenda" is also the crossover that was never meant to be; while Claremont clearly intended to return to the Genshoan plot at some point (having recently touched on it briefly prior to this issue), according to Marvel's self-published hype-magazine Marvel Age, the X-crossover in the summer of 1990 was meant to be "The Mutant Wars", a storyline which would feature all-out war between various mutant factions (including the Hellfire Club and the Marauders) and serve in part as the culmination of, not the simmering Genoshan plot, but the Shadow King one (at least initially; according to Claremont, Shadow King wouldn't be dealt with permanently until circa issue #300, which was about as far out as he had the series planned before his departure).

Why the crossover was scrapped and replaced with "X-Tinction Agenda" remains something of a mystery, though X-Men's summer bi-weekly schedule may have had something to do with it (as "Mutant Wars" was intended to start with issue #267, but cross over with the same issues of the other series that comprise "X-Tinction Agenda", suggesting the crossover was announced before it was determined that Uncanny would publish three more issues in 1990 than the other two series). A full rundown of what's known about "Mutant Wars" can be found here (roughly halfway down the page).

"Mutant Wars", in addition to the three books featured in "X-Tinction Agenda", was also meant to include Excalibur (they were intended to be the force which freed Muir Island from the Shadow King's influence, an act which eventually fell to a combined X-Men/X-Factor group in the later "Muir Island Saga") which may all be a contributing factor to that book's general malaise at this time, as it was not only shipping two issues a month, but also presumably scrambling to come up with new content after "Mutant Wars" got scrapped.   

Havok, the remaining member of the team to go through the Siege Perilous in issue #251 yet to be accounted for, pops up in this issue, mysteriously leading a group of Genoshan Magistrates against the X-Men. Though he's the last character we see appear post-Siege, he had to have emerged from it some time prior to, at least, Rogue, in order to have achieved a position of prominence amongst the Genoshans. While we will learn more about his relationship to Genosha in the course of this story, the details of his post-Siege, pre-"X-Tinction" life never really get revealed (beyond the brief image of Havok being chased by Genoshans during one of Psylocke's hallucinations in issue #256 which, in hindsight, now reads more like a possible glimpse of Havok's actual circumstances at that time), nor is there much discussion given to why the Siege Perilous decided that Havok's heart desire was to lead a force of Nazi-esque zealots (presumably, given his later role as X-Factor's leader and his ongoing struggle with existing in his brother's shadow, it's the "leader" part the Siege acted on, the rest being the result of dramatic irony on Claremont's part).


This issue marks the debut of some new Jim Lee-designed tech for the Genoshans, as the artist amps up the already-present sci-fi elements, resulting in stuff like massive robotic suits of armor and two-legged walkers a la Star Wars' Scout Walker/AT-ST. 

 

Stevie Hunter, the New Mutants and X-Men's ostensible physical therapist, pops up again for the first time since New Mutants #48 (a fact the editorial office couldn't be bothered to check, as noted in the footnote), with no explanation as to what she's been up to since then. 


Storm and Jean visit Harry's Hideaway, another piece of pre-Cable New Mutants history to pop up in this issue.  

While at Harry's, Storm and Jean are wearing leather jackets with the Xavier's school logo on it, the first appearance of the famous/infamous team leather jackets that will become ubiquitous (here, and throughout comics) later in the 90s.

Continuing the New Mutants' nostalgia track of this issue, when Storm returns to the school and bids goodbye to Jean, she's angrily confronted by Rahne, upset over the fact that people like Jean and Storm get to come back from the dead, whole poor dead Doug Ramsey remains...dead.


Following up on the events of issue #260, Dazzler has left Lila's house, off-panel, since last we saw her, despite the success of her movie, much to the consternation of Freddie Stanachek, who gets the runaround from Guido. Dazzler's whereabouts is left a mystery; we'll next see her post-Claremont, simply hanging out with Lila Cheney, which doesn't seem like the payoff to whatever Claremont was setting up here.


Speaking of Lila, following her escape from the Shi'ar last issue, she pops up back at her house in this one, after Freddie leaves, telling Guido she needs to get to the X-Men; she and Guido will next appear at the very end of issue #273.


As something of a tradition at the time, this issue received a second printing, with a slightly different color scheme on the cover (it replaces the purple background with a brown one). For whatever reason, this was the hardest issue of "X-Tinction Agenda" for me to find at a reasonable price back in the day; as a result, it's the chapter of the story I've read the least.

A Work in Progress
The opening page of the issue features a dramatis personae, listing the characters featured in the issue: the X-Men (and Marvel Girl) on top, the New Mutants on the bottom.


Despite Roma's spell, Forge and Banshee are able to observe Storm on the Danger Room's monitors. Perhaps the exception that allowed the X-Men's computers at the Reaver base detect them has been extended to the X-Mansion?

Storm and Jean spend much of this issue reminiscing and catching up, sharing their respective "everyone though we were dead but we really weren't!" experiences, as only comic book characters can. 

Storm acts as mediator between the X-Men and the New Mutants, an effective depiction of her as a leader.


Jean mentions that Professor Xavier's favorite book is The Once and Future King by T.H White, and that he always imagined himself less as Arthur and more as Merlin, leading Storm to wonder who the X-Men's Arthur is.  


Storm, and perhaps, by extension, Claremont, finally admits the "make the world think the X-Men are dead" maybe wasn't the best idea, as all it really seemed to accomplish was hurting the people the X-Men care about.


Stevie's bad knee, which led to the end of her dancing career, trips her up as she and Storm flee the Genoshan attack.


ClaremontismsCannonball reminds Forge that he's invulnerable while blasting, as is whomever he's carrying at the time.


Artistic Achievements
It's a little thing, but in the course of three panels, Lee makes a point of showing Banshee buttoning his collar, which is the kind of thing that helps set Lee above many of his future Image compatriots. 


The Best There Is At What He Does
Jean references a heretofore unseen encounter between her and Wolverine, in which they kissed just prior to the events of X-Men #98 (which led directly to the whole Phoenix shebang), leading her and Storm to suggest that perhaps smooching is really what Wolverine is the best at. 


The Cable Guy 
While squabbling over Danger Room time, Banshee notes that he doesn't see the New Mutants on the room's schedule, to which Cable asserts that his team doesn't need any "Mickey Mouse schedules", which is a pretty great encapsulation of his current character in just one panel. 


It's in the Mail
The letter column returns for the first time in forever (a fact it acknowledges), running letters discussing issues from the early 260s and formally acknowledging Marc Silvestri's departure from the series. There's also a letter which provides a potential cast for an X-Men movie, which is a pretty great snapshot of early 90s pop culture (I love that Julia Roberts requires a point of reference). 


Teebore's Take
"X-Tinction Agenda", Chris Claremont's last X-book crossover in the tradition of "Mutant Massacre", Fall of the Mutants", etc., begins with this issue, and though it does its job of kicking off the major plot of the story by having the Genoshans launch their long-teased counter attack on the X-Men  and make off with Storm and a contingent of New Mutants, this issue is as much about looking back as it is launching a new storyline. Though the "non-team" era hasn't quite come to an end (the X-Men on hand consistent of Forge, Banshee, Storm & Gambit, with Marvel Girl and the New Mutants rounding out this issue), this is arguably the most traditional issue of the series since before "Fall of the Mutants", with at least some X-Men gathered at the mansion, training in the Danger Room, and discussing the future of the team (and thereby tacitly acknowledging that there is a team)

It's filled with nods to the past and characters long absent: from Stevie Hunter, which even the footnote wryly can't remember her last appearance, to Harry's Hideaway, the New Mutants one-time hangout, from Jean and Storm reminiscing about the changes wrought on them, to Rahne bringing up Doug Ramsey, of all people, barely mentioned in New Mutants in ages, angry that Storm and the X-Men get to come back from the dad, but Doug doesn't (just wait longer, Rahne). Storm's tacit acknowledgement that her whole plan to trick the world into thinking the X-Men were dead probably did more harm than good is both a reminder of the book's more recent past, and a seeming confession on Claremont's part that maybe he hadn't thought the idea through.

In fact, much like the previous issue, this one features the same push-and-pull between the past and the future - acknowledging the book's past, recent and otherwise, while also moving it forward, immediately, into a nine part crossover with its sister titles. With the Genoshan attack launched, the rest of the crossover, including the next two issues of this series, will be caught up in the minutae of the crossover, so the thematic push-and-pull will take a back seat to more traditional action beats. But out of that action will come a more traditional lineup and status quo for the series, and for as much as this issue is the big action kickoff to the most cohesive X-books crossover yet, that new beginning really starts here as well.

Next Issue
Next week, "X-Tinction Agenda" continues in New Mutants #95 and X-Factor #60.


Collected Editions

25 comments:

  1. "nor is there much discussion given to why the Siege Perilous decided that Havok's heart desire was to lead a force of Nazi-esque zealots (presumably, given his later role as X-Factor's leader and his ongoing struggle with existing in his brother's shadow, it's the "leader" part the Siege acted on, the rest being the result of dramatic irony on Claremont's part)."
    According to Claremont, the original plan was for Alex to lead the RESISTANCE in Genosha. Maybe he did and got captured and brainwashed?
    "Despite Roma's spell, Forge and Banshee are able to observe Storm on the Danger Room's monitors. Perhaps the exception that allowed the X-Men's computers at the Reaver base detect them has been extended to the X-Mansion?"
    Sure but explain Magneto's Savage Land base and the camera in Wolverine.

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  2. The original TPB reprint of this issue removed the Lila subplot and added a piece of Rahne, Rictor, and Boom Boom waiting at the door of the Danger Room. The two newer New Mutants complain about Storm and Marvel Girl getting sovereignty because their association with Professor Xavier, with Rahne defending Xavier. I thought that was a nice bit, reminding one that Rahne was among Xavier's last class of students during Claremont's run.
    Suppose Jean and Ororo were also fighting about boyfriends? Ororo: "This is for having the beginning of something with Forge a few weeks ago!" Jean: "This is for cozing up with Scott during the Brood saga!"
    Wasn't there already some School For Gifted Youngsters paraphenalia? CC's run on NM had jackets and T-Shirts.

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  3. Gotta love how Valance of Star Wars turns into Cable commenting on Mickey Mouse. You did it on purpose, Teeb. ;)

    Claremont obviously having his say on several of his characters having been out of his reach for a while now, starting from Jean commenting on Phoenix/Maddie. Nice one from Rahne about the X-Men getting "better", should be a honorary mention under Claremontisms.

    Roma's spell stops working because she's the guardian of all realities, including the one where Claremont realizes the concept was a miss.

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  4. There have been a lot of instances of X-Men, suddenly, being detectable by cameras, monitors, computers, etc. in books published around this period. I suppose the only in-story explanation that can be offered is that Roma's spell must have just "worn off" at some point. I guess everything has an expiration date.

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  5. Wow, it finally here. Look at that cover, so sick. Love me some X-Tinction Agenda.

    Regardless of how it came about, this issue really ramped up the excitement. 268 and 269 were good, but there hasn't been an issue that just makes me want to keep reading X-Men since maybe Acts of Vengeance.

    The pacing is great, with some early setup and characterization and then the hammer dropping towards the end with the Genoshans' attack. We obviously already know its the Genoshans, but with Lee's artwork they look a bit updated and unfamiliar. This makes it all the more surprising and gripping when they start blasting away led by Havok.

    The Aussie era and the Shattered Star/Rebirth arcs is my favorite XMen run based on the anything-goes, dynamic story telling. However, it is super cool to see the XMen come back together and interact with other mutants and characters woven into the X-Universe throughout the years.

    To me, XTinction Agenda is the culmination of those dynamic times and a great payoff due to the amazing Jim Lee artwork, regathering of X forces, relevant villains, political intrigue, and overall impact to the title.

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  6. Ah, Cable, you sanctimonious asshole. Nice to see some things never change.

    Dani's never around to punch him in the face when you need her to be.

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  7. "X-Tinction Agenda" was always (and remains) my least favorite X-Men crossover, partly because Genosha has never done much for me and I don't like Cameron Hodge, and partly because the artwork in the non-UNCANNY chapters is absolutely horrendous.

    "Jean mentions that Professor Xavier's favorite book is The Once and Future King by T.H White, and that he always imagined himself less as Arthur and more as Merlin, leading Storm to wonder who the X-Men's Arthur is."

    ...it's Cyclops, obviously.

    "Jean references a heretofore unseen encounter between her and Wolverine, in which they kissed just prior to the events of X-Men #98..."

    Note that, while he has her admit that Wolverine is a decent kisser, Claremont also has Jean refer to him as a "little terror". I think his common sense was still intact at this point. I wish I knew exactly when he lost his marbles and decided Jean and Wolverine were seriously meant for each other. I suspect it was around the time the first X-MEN movie came out and gave us the full-on love triangle which had never existed in the comics.

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  8. @Matt

    "Never existed?"

    Wolverine was sure pretty hot for her throughout the mid-late Claremont run and Jean definitely felt something; Cyclops also showed a bit of jealousy. The Wolvster went psycho over Jean's scent in 215, opined over his love for her in 239 and had a sweet splash page make-out session with her in 242, while Cyclops looked mopey and Jean commented on Wolvie's kissing skills.

    It comes up again here, where I am pretty sure "little terror" is mean rather affectionately. Then in chapter 5 I think, as Cameron Hodge puts them in the same cell. They make-out again pretty hard core and Hodge talks about his inside knowledge of Jean's feelings. The Archangel/Wolvie fight is about Jean, and Warren's captain save her mentality. And once again in the final chapters as Wolverine and Cyclops verbally joust over her. Granted, all these issue mentions aren't Claremont, but it was clear that a "love triangle" was on the agenda.

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  9. Maybe it’s too self-evident to reference but there’s a Dark Knight DK talking head in Genosha on that opening page.

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  10. Zephyr -- Inthink I've made this same mistake in clarification here before. I really need to pay more attention. What I mean is, at some point Claremont decided there was mutual love/lust at first sight between Jean and Wolverine, when if one reads his own comics from the seventies it's quite plain that Jean was repulsed by him and his feelings were completely unrequited, as she was completely in love with Cyclops. But for reasons unknown, Claremont eventually decided to ret-con himself and declare that they had always had mutual feelings for each other.

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  11. Blam: Maybe it’s too self-evident to reference but there’s a Dark Knight DK talking head in Genosha on that opening page.

    No, it needs to be mentioned, but with added note that it's a call back to the Leonardi-drawn #237 and original Genosha story, where the Genoshan Ministry of Information courteously presents Genosha facts to us, with helpful commentary by Logan.

    It's painful but I really feel that of all the Miller emulators who ushered in the comic decade of the 90's, Claremont may really have been the worst offender what with Elektra-Betsy and Carrie-Jubes and everything. Unless of course one thinks that Cable somewhat resembles middle-aged Bruce Wayne.

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  12. Like, in silver-haired tech armor guy capable of taking down the Superman way.

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  13. I really enjoy the short young Storm vs Jean fight,

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  14. Stella looks like Emma Frost, but all this anti-aging is more a Selene thing. I hate when addbots do shoddy work with their research.

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  15. @Matt

    Yeah that totally makes sense. Reading through the back issues definitely showcases a lack of interest on Jean's part. I am not sure when it first came up, I think on Teebore or Jason's blog someone mentioned a retcon in Classic X-Men. Not sure if that is after or before it starts coming up around Jean's reappearance.

    @Teemu

    Lol.

    Scary thing is, we are talking about science fiction here and I am pretty sure we are not far off from better bots that can read content to post more specific to sites. Gotta love some AI. Oh, and I'm not a robot.

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  16. Classic X-Men #1 is when Claremont retcons Jean into having mutual attraction with Logan. Published 1986, after Jean's resurrection ... but well before the movies, obviously.

    Later issues of Classic play with it as well. (#27 is a big one).

    All of this is before the dynamic gets integrated into Uncanny and X-Factor, which started with Inferno.

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  17. Thanks, Jason -- After I mentioned the movies, I realized that couldn't have been it, since there was a triangle in the X-MEN cartoon series on Fox, which took most all its cues from the comics as well.

    Though I would suggest that perhaps the movies are what brought everyone around to the idea of the triangle. Grant Morrison ran with it in NEW X-MEN, Claremont used it in X-MEN FOREVER, and I feel like in general it's become a recognized and accepted part of X-Men lore, where up until 2000 it was mainly just something Claremont played with. Throughout the nineties, most writers presented Jean and Wolverine as having a special bond of some sort, but it wasn't of a romantic nature.

    (Though I tend to prefer the seventies version best, where Jean is committed to Cyclops and is generally repulsed by Wolverine's overtures, making him an unrequired third wheel.)

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  18. Larry Hama had Logan bork Mystique who was masquerading as Jean Grey and getting commented on it, though that could be seen as a taunt by Mystique for his mostly-onesided affection.

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  19. My personal suspension of disbelief on the whole "why are X-Men visible to cameras now?" Was that the siege perilous wiped that away. Yes, I realize there were instances prior of them being captured on camera, but I'm going to go out on a limb and call those...mistakes.

    -MN

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  20. @Jason

    Nice one.

    Inferno is definitely the first we see the retcon consummated on page in the main titles, but the timing of the return of Jean, Classic #1 and, a few months later, the start of Wolverine showing on panel hots for Jean in Uncanny couldn't be coincidence?

    I can't remember if there were other prominent mentions prior? If not, I wonder if this was the time Claremont decided to spice it up a bit.

    Maybe with Jean editorially brought back, he had her hook up with the Wolvster as a dig to management. No happy ending, so now an indecent relationship with one of the most violent characters at Marvel!

    Then the clean cut silver-era Angel (which got made hardcore by editorial cause he was too standard) butts in and sticks up for Scott/Jean. In fact, wasn't his hate retconned in Inferno to be about Jean instead of the more ambiguous crazy guy stuff mentioned when Angel leaves the team in 140s?

    Just spitballing here.

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  21. @Teemu: // Larry Hama had Logan bork Mystique //

    Wait. So that’s what the Swedish Chef has been saying all these years? I understand Finnish is entirely different so maybe not, but…

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  22. Blam, just imagine a bulky Swedish man with such moustache in an after-ski party. Thas answer is enough.

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  23. Zephyr, If you notice the CLASSIC X-MEN story, it's suggested that Warren already had his negative opinion of Wolverine before he made moves on Jean, although the act made things worse. I could argue that if it was Peter or maybe Kurt who was flirting with Jean, Warren would have waited and then privately but kindly tell that person that Jean is spoken for. With Wolverine, forget the civility!

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