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Friday, October 23, 2015

X-amining X-Factor #62

"Capital Punishment"
January 1991

In a Nutshell 
Hodge is defeated and the Genoshan government overthrown. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciller: Jon Bogdanove
Inker: Allen Milgrom
Letterers: Task Force Z
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Rahne and Rictor track down Hodge and radio Storm & Cable for help, but Wolfsbane angrily attacks Hodge on her own, forcing Rictor to come to her aid. Hodge then turns his attention to Cable & Storm, prompting Cable to radio Cyclops for help. He sends Archangel, who arrives in time to save Storm, but his captured himself by Hodge. Just as Hodge is about to kill Archangel, Havok blasts him, and he's shortly joined by Cyclops, Wolverine and Marvel Girl. Elsewhere, Beast commandeers a group of Mutates to help carry his wounded teammates out of the Citadel, and they encounter Jubilee and the rest of the New Mutants, along with Chief Magistrate Anderson, who has arrested the Genoshan President and offers aid to Beast and his teammates. Above, Cyclops and Havok manage to force Hodge into retreat, but Wolverine and Marvel Girl are taken out of the fight. Cyclops orders Wolverine to get everyone to safety, then he and Havok pursue Hodge to the roof of the Citadel.


Together, they unleash their full power on the villain, to the awe of teammates and Magistrates alike on the streets below. They destroy Hodge's robot body, but his head remains, and he manages to drag Havok and Cyclops off the roof of the Citadel with him. However, Marvel Girl telekinetically catches the Summers brothers, and when Hodge's head lands at Rahne's feet, she tears it apart, then tosses it into the Citadel, after which Rictor brings the building crashing down. Days later, Chief Magistrate Anderson announces that the military has taken control of the country pending new elections, and both Havok & Rahne decide to stay in Genosha, to watch out for the Mutates. Their teammates then return home, where Boom-Boom & Rictor spread Warlock's ashes over Doug Ramsey's grave. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Hodge sort of dies this issue, his robot body destroyed by Cyclops and Havok and his severed head ripped apart by Rahne, but he's ultimately still alive and buried under the rubble of the Citadel. True to his rantings about being unkillable, he'll next turn up as one of the techno-organic Phalanx (an offshot of Warlock's race), just prior to the "Phalanx Covenant" crossover.


Rictor then proceeds to shake the Citadel to the ground, as he promised to do (repeatedly) throughout the story, just as Havok destroyed it at the end of the first Genoshan story.


In an effort to keep Genosha going, Chief Magistrate Anderson leads a coup against the President, claiming she's insane, and that her insanity led to the abduction of the X-teams and the death of Warlock, a cover-up Anderson willing acknowledges but claims is necessary to keep the Mutates from being exploited by outside forces, thus effectively ending Genosha's status as a slave state. Though this marks the end of the "openly antagonistic towards the X-Men" iteration of Genosha, this is far from the last we'll see of the place, as it will remain an infrequent but recurring presence in the X-books moving forward as it tries to grapple with the consequences of freeing the Mutates and rebuilding its government and infrastructure.


Havok decides to remain behind in Genosha to ensure that the Mutates don't get exploited by forces within Genosha, and Rahne decides to stay as well, saying she's a Mutate now too and belongs in Genosha, helping her people, bringing to an end her tenure with the New Mutants (and further reducing the roster of that team, following Warlock's death, to Cable, Cannonball, Sunspot, Rictor and Boom-Boom). Both Havok and Wolfsbane will next appear in X-Factor #71, when they're recruited to join the new government-sponsored iteration of X-Factor. 


Returning to the New York, the combined X-teams hold a funeral for Warlock and spread his ashes over Doug Ramsey's grave. The closing panel of the issue hints at a possible rebirth, and Simonson, who has said she never killed off a character without having a way to bring that character back, perhaps meant this to be a hint towards her idea for bringing back Warlock. Indeed, when the character does return, it will be in the form of Douglock, rising from Doug's grave.


Jim Lee provides the cover to this issue. Aside from Marvel Girl's boob-thrusting pose, it's pretty solid. 

The corner cover box also gets an overhaul, compliments of incoming artist Whilce Portacio (who takes over as the book's regular artist next issue); it will remain the default corner box image until the series is revamped with issue #71.

A Work in Progress
As a result of the Genegineer's changes, Rahne is no longer the quiet, obedient girl she was, now more prone to fits of rage. 


She's also gained the ability to transform into a massive wolf, something that never really comes up again.


Wolverine is back to being mostly naked, after appearing in a tattered version of his costume in X-Men #272.

Jean rightly tells off Wolverine and Cyclops as the pair bicker over her.


Hodge taunts Cyclops and Havok that he can't be killed and will haunt the X-Men even in death, which more or less proves to be true. 


Artistic Achievements
In this issue's installment of "weird Bogdanove artistic tics that bug me", I can't stand the way he draw half-wolf, half-human Rahne less like a werewolf and more like a big dog.


The Best There is at What He Does
Wolverine takes a beating from Hodge which takes him out of the final fight, as he declares his healing factor isn't what it used to be. 


Teebore's Take
And with that, "X-Tinction Agenda" comes to a close. Though the climax isn't terribly complex (the final two issues are basically one long fight with Hodge, which ends after Havok and Cyclops blast him to pieces) and the full ramifications of the complete collapse of Genosha are held for future issues, this nevertheless stands as one of the more tightly-plotted and focused of all the X-crossovers, and it's format (a central narrative that unfolds in numbered chapters across the line with little meandering) will serve as the new template for the next few years. In fact, it's the plotting of this story that makes it successful - not that anything that happens is terribly groundbreaking or surprising, but the steady progression of the plot from chapter to chapter, the ability of Claremont & Simonson to make each chapter of the story advance the overall plot but also focus on the respective characters of each title, and the classical structure of the narrative (act one: introduce the threat and establish the stakes, act two: counterattack leading to the heroes' seeming defeat, act three: the heroes recover and find a way to prevail) all combine to help propel the reader through the story and past both some dodgy story beats (the collapse of Genoshan society seems to happen awfully fast in this issue) and some particularly dodgy art in many places.

Because yes, the art in every chapter of this story outside of Uncanny X-Men (so two-thirds of the story, then) is routinely awful. Liefeld, who was either behind deadline or already checked out and prepping for X-Force, is mostly absent, robbing the New Mutants chapters of his distinct energy and the entertainment value that only comes from Liefeld artwork, while the X-Factor chapters stumble under the pencils of Bogdanove, an artist whose style is not without its charms but is a poor fit for this material, and whose work was dragged further into the gutter by the continued presence of Milgrom's inks. Had Jim Lee drawn this entire story, or if Liefeld had showed up for it and Whilce Portacio come on X-Factor a few months earlier than he did to give the whole story a "preview of Image Comics" look, or even if the X-Office had been able to line up some more suitable fill-ins, "X-Tinction Agenda" might be remembered today as one of the all time great X-Men crossovers.

As it is, it still stands as one of the better ones, in part because of how tightly-structured it is, and in part because of how it serves as the end of the disconnected, narratively-meandering status of the X-books - kept apart for far too long, with Uncanny in particular a narrative mess as a result of the episodic "non-team era", "X-Tinction Agenda" marks the return of a more cohesive X-universe, in which the series are more likely to interact with one another, which lead directly into the linewide revamp of 1991. But "X-Tinction Agenda" also stands out because, like the original X-Men crossover, "Mutant Massacre", it's built on one of the chief thematic elements of the X-Men narrative.

Genosha has since its inception been a metaphor about the evils of institutionalized intolerance, while Hodge is the personification of prejudice and bigotry towards anyone labeled an "other", unflinching in his views, unable to be defeated by simple violence: his body is destroyed, the Genoshan citadel reduced to rubble, but somewhere inside, that mangled up head of Hodge survives, a symbol of the rotten ideas still lurking in the core of Genosha, unable to be destroyed by physical violence just as bigotry can't be punched to death. "X-Tinction Agenda" holds up, not just because it's well-constructed and features some great Jim Lee art, not just because it signals something of a return to a more traditional narrative status quo for the X-books, but because it puts center stage the core themes that lie at the heart of the X-Men.

Next Issue
Next week: Wolverine - Bloodlust, Excalibur #33 and Wolverine #35.

Collected Edition

15 comments:

  1. I don't know. They never published one page from the whole crossover for us, possibly for the same exact reason why they didn't publish Uncanny #262-264. I only read the issues just now for your X-aminations, and stripped of any sort of nostalgia for the story I just don't really feel it, at all.

    Hodge's square shaped tail reminds me terribly of something (Adams' Mojo on the Uncanny Annual?).

    Do the Summers boys have like any reason for holding hands on that one panel? My first reaction is to ask "what do they think they are, Fenris?", followed shortly by "what!dotheythinktheyareFENRIS?!"

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    1. I only read the issues just now for your X-aminations, and stripped of any sort of nostalgia for the story I just don't really feel it, at all.

      That's too bad. I really do think this story works on more levels than just nostalgia, but obviously, not for you.

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    2. Well, it's plausible that a sizeable part of it may be because I have always had to fill in the blanks myself from specks of info gathered from references in later issues and short recap on editor's column. So I had caught all the most significant happenstances beforehand and mebbe pictured them in my head more to be awesome than (most of) the creators here actually delivered them.

      And the parts I didn't caught from the external sources are Hodge's kackling villainy that's bad fit to the Genosha thematics, Rictor's continuous poor imitation (with his unpaid dues) of Wolverine/Havok from the first Genosha story and Boom-Boom's apparent positioning as some kind of Dani Sue for the 90's, each of which are quite off-putting.

      I did know parts of the story beforehand, some other parts I could have lived without ever knowing, the very okay bit kind of get lost in the static and for me it's really hard not to compare X-Tinction Agenda as it's entirety to the high class stuff that next follows on UNCANNY by Claremont/Lee or what I caught of X-FACTOR by Claremont/Portacio.

      Of course I may just have been shielding myself all these years by telling meself "X-Tinction Agenda couldn't have been any good". It's one thing if they skip an issue here and there, but it gets really testing when they completely skip a meaningful crossover, especially compared to the massive exposure Inferno got only a year earlier when even our Spidey book kept doing it for four months.

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    3. I tend to agree with Teemu on this one. I actually did read "X-Tinction Agenda" in trade paperback format when I was a teenager, probably around 1992 or so, and other than the art in the Jim Lee chapters, it really did nothing for me back then, either.

      But then the only time I was ever interested in Genosha was when Magneto was its ruler, so that probably has something to do with it. I just don't like Hodge or the Magistrates or the Genegeneer or any of the stuff that comes with "classic" Genosha.

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    4. Amusing that we come from totally different directions to it. I never caught the later Genosha stories, but the mere descriptions feel sacrilegious to me, because for me the first Genosha story had absolutely nothing wrong. I bought so into Claremont's Genosha that anything done differently from the original setup is at fault. I almost mentioned in my earlier comment already that the art is off, even by Lee, foremostly because it's not Silvestri/Leonardi.

      In a way the original Genosha story may have been peak Uncanny X-Men for me before every long story arc dear to me like Madelyne, Illyana, X-Factor the mutant-hunters gets burned in the Inferno (pun intended and I've been thinking like this for two decades now) and anything new (to me) that gets introduced didn't so much tickle my fancies, but even so I love Genegineer, his son who gets kicked to stomach by realities, Wipeout, Chief Magistrate Anderson & Magistrates... well Press Gang not so much, and the absurdity of Maddie going semi-inferno already while people are still in process of telling important story on apartheid and most of all Carol Danvers busting loose in a way that's the much needed FU to Avengers #200 which Avengers Annual #10 never succeeded to be. How funny that Maddie's sort-of premiere happened in that issue.

      Ravingly mad She-Reagan and vague promise of law drama and Cable ill fits into my Genosha.

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  2. Agreed so much on the art, especially Rahne's "sad goodbye" face, which is indistinguishable from the face my dog gives me when he's begging for a taste of my food. I liked Bogdanove's art in other stuff, but his art in this story is somehow worse than Liefeld.

    The funeral scene for Warlock always bugged me. Why have Boom Boom give this eulogy full of "I heard that you..." comments when two people who had been teammates with both Warlock & Doug are right there and could deliver a less hearsay-heavy farewell? It's one last baffling creative choice from a writer who really should've known better, I guess.

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    1. especially Rahne's "sad goodbye" face, which is indistinguishable from the face my dog gives me when he's begging for a taste of my food

      Ha!

      Why have Boom Boom give this eulogy full of "I heard that you..." comments when two people who had been teammates with both Warlock & Doug are right there and could deliver a less hearsay-heavy farewell?

      As wwk5d suggested, I've always taken it as Boom-Boom and Rictor pouring out the ashes and eulogizing Warlock because they were present when he died (at least in the general proximity). It's not necessarily the decision I would have made, but I can at least see the reasoning behind it.

      I'm much more bothered by the buxomy dress Boom-Boom is wearing to the funeral, but that's yet another problem with Bogdanove's art.

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  3. Ooh… I do like that point about the symbolism of Hodge’s buried head.

    // Jean rightly tells off Wolverine and Cyclops as the pair bicker over her. //

    After which Scott remarks to Logan, “There’s not another like her,” with a totally straight face.

    Favorite panel: It’s the old tiny-molecular-adhesive-firing-gun-hidden-in-your-mouth trick!

    The cover has me wondering if Lee was paying more attention to detail, in the sense of making sure that everything worked, yet at the same time reining in his tendency to overdue the hatching, because there was no inker to hand the piece off to / fall back on.

    Ditto what Mela said about the eulogy.

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    1. Ooh… I do like that point about the symbolism of Hodge’s buried head.

      Thanks! I actually stumbled over that idea as I was writing the post.

      After which Scott remarks to Logan, “There’s not another like her,” with a totally straight face.

      Heh. I almost called that out. Simonson HAD to phrase it like that intentionally, right?

      Favorite panel: It’s the old tiny-molecular-adhesive-firing-gun-hidden-in-your-mouth trick!

      I do kind of like the random, borderline silly gadgets Hodge has in his bizzaro body; one of the few things Bogdanove does well in his chapters is really sell the idea of Hodge as this outlandish, almost ridiculous grotesque hodgepodge (pun intended!) of sci-fi weaponry.

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  4. "Though this marks the end of the "openly antagonistic towards the X-Men" iteration of Genosha, this is far from the last we'll see of the place"

    Poor Genosha. Marvel could never let it get a happy ending, it just kept being used as a tragic allegory. First South Africa, then the Balkans, then Israel/Palestine, then Grant Morrison blew it up, and CC's not so successful attempt at reviving it aside, it's pretty much a dead island at this point. Too bad.

    "Jim Lee provides the cover to this issue. Aside from Marvel Girl's boob-thrusting pose, it's pretty solid."

    It also compliments the cover to part 1 of this crossover rather nicely.

    "She's also gained the ability to transform into a massive wolf, something that never really comes up again."

    When we she shows up again in a few months, she's more or less back to her pre-mutate power levels, just much more savage. I think Bogdonove just really exaggerated the new more powerful and larger status she got in the last part of this crossover.

    "Wolverine is back to being mostly naked"

    And Jean once again decides to remove her mask. Seriously, what was Bogdonove's fascination with maskless Jean and half-naked Wolverine and Cyclops? Speaking of...

    "I can't stand the way he draw half-wolf, half-human Rahne less like a werewolf and more like a big dog."

    With breasts tastefully covered by slip of fabric! I always thought when Rahne was in her transitional form, her clothing would just disappear, but it seems around this time she started to have her clothing still show when she was in this form. I do know both Liefeld and Lee were also inconsistent with whether they drew her with clothing or not.

    With regards to the eulogy, it is a bit baffling, but I always assumed Boom-Boom and Rictor gave the eulogy as they were there in Genosha when Warlock died...or something?

    If there is one detriment to the story, its that the ending is a bit rushed. It takes place over literally 2 pages, no? It would have been nicer to have a few more pages devoted to the funeral, Rahne and Alex's decision to stay, and to the changes within the Genoshan government. Given how padded out the fight scene is this issue, they could have taken away a few pages from that.

    Overall, though, this is still a good solid story, and one of my favorite X-crossovers. The story itself is really good, as it does bring together many outstanding plot points rather well and ties them up. The X-men are more or less reunited as a team and the Genoshan subplot is brought to a close. Using Hodge, given his history with X-factor and some of the New Mutants, also works on both the symbolic level Teebore mentioned but also from a story point as well. It gives the conflict more meaning to have him there, especially given the limited or non-existent history X-factor and the New Mutants have with the Genoshans. And it was fun seeing all of the various teams finally meeting up and working together.

    The art does prevent the story from being regarded as a classic, which is too bad, given how good the story itself is. Too bad Walt Simonson couldn't come back for this story, especially as most of the stuff with Hodge and The Right happened during his run on the title. It was have been nice to have him close out that particular chapter of X-men history.

    If anything, you could argue this is when the "80s" really ended for the X-titles, as this is the last time CC and Simonson are running the line, so to speak. Next month, Simonson is gone from New Mutants and stays around X-factor for a couple months co-plotting before leaving, CC is more or less on his way out from Excaliber, and Lee and Harras will be exercising more control on Uncanny. The age of Liefeld, Lee, and Portacio starts next month...

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    1. I always thought when Rahne was in her transitional form, her clothing would just disappear, but it seems around this time she started to have her clothing

      It's always been a bit inconsistent, but usually falls on the side of Rahne being unclothed anytime part of the wolf is in play. She's definitely clothed in her transition form moving forward, but that makes sense, since that's now effectively her default form.

      If there is one detriment to the story, its that the ending is a bit rushed. It takes place over literally 2 pages, no? It would have been nicer to have a few more pages devoted to the funeral, Rahne and Alex's decision to stay, and to the changes within the Genoshan government.

      Agreed. The fight scene with Hodge could have been significantly shortened and still covered the same beats (showdown w/Rahne & Rictor, one with Archangel, one with Cyclops & Havok), which would have left more room for the aftermath.

      If anything, you could argue this is when the "80s" really ended for the X-titles

      Definitely. Claremont sticks around for a few more months, but with Simonson on her way out and the final Image founder to join the franchise coming aboard after this story, this is pretty much the death knell of 80s X-Men.

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  5. It's end of an era to the former looks of the Summers boys' classic looks, at least. It's open hair adventuring for both of them from now on.

    Havok's black costume always had that red gem thingy on the forehead the exact nature of which I believe was never opened. The costume was given to him by Larry Trask in the 60's and the ringlets originally had some power controlling qualities. They said nothing of the gem but in the story Trask blasted Havok right into the gem by some sort of remote controller to make him emit rather than store energy.

    I'm not trying to start anything but I'm deeply disturbed by the fact that in the close-ups some artists (Byrne on MTU for example) took some pains to draw it detailedly, and that Selene has occasionally sported a brooch exactly like it, and that her lycanthrope high priest von Roehm was specifically a jeweller by his trade and that the Living Pharaoh, when not amping himself with Havok was all about the Ruby Scarab, and everyone's feeding on power, cosmic or mutant, the color of which Infinity Gem coincidentally happens to be red.

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    1. On closer scrutiny I take it back a bit, because the initial Uncanny outings of Selene had her sport the other red gem brooch with the Hellfire Club pitchfork logo. The Havok-like brooch seem to have been in the Cap issues and in various isolated pin-ups. The question still stands though. Havok's gem, his brother's ruby quartz visor, and 10 y.o. Nathan's suggested red gem-powered Mr. Sinister android. Coincidence?

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