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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

X-amining New Warriors Annual #1

"Errant Knights - Kings of Pain Part 2"
1991

In a Nutshell
The New Warriors fight X-Force, then team-up with them. 

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Mark Bagley 
Inker: Jeff Albrecht
Letterer: C. Eliopoulos
Colorist: Tom Vincent
Editor:Danny Fingeroth
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
At the Genetch lab, the New Warriors and X-Force battle one another, until a pair of Genetech executives intervene, and it's revealed that the entire confrontation has been a setup. In Alaska, Harness and Piecemeal attack an oil refinery, where Piecemeal absorbs more ambient energy, growing larger in the process. Meanwhile, the New Warriors and X-Force have teamed up, splitting into three mixed teams. The first team, led by Cable, pretends to break Frenzy out of jail in order to learn more about who hired the Alliance of Evil, and she gives them the address of a Brooklyn warehouse owned by one of the dummy corporations. A second team breaks into the warehouse and learns it is truly owned by AIM, and that they're creating humanoid casings designed to hold some kind of energy. Meanwhile, the third team returns to Xavier's mansion, where they use Cerebro to learn that the information AIM has on the energy being absorbed by Piecemeal came from Muir Island. Reconvening at Genetech, the two teams put the pieces together and realize that AIM is using Harness and Piecemeal to gather energy which they intend to put into the casings, energy which originated in Scotland and came into being when Moira MacTaggert's son died; AIM is trying to recreate Proteus. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Whereas in New Mutants Annual #7, the New Mutants were never directly or indirectly referred to as "X-Force", that practice ends here, with the "previously in" notes on the title page referring to the group collectively as such, as well as the characters using the term in-story.


Cable knows the New Warriors' Chord (who, as I understand it, is one of that series' token "characters with a mysterious past and surprising connections to other random characters), referencing a past adventure in Africa. While I don't think the specific history with Chord is ever referenced again, the eventual reveal of Cable's time as a mercenary certainly allows for possible African adventures in his past.


This issue reveals that Harness and Piecemeal were hired by AIM to reclaim the scattered energy of Proteus, with the goal of recreating the villain, making this storyline one of the few instances (a subplot of "Necrosha X" being another) to feature Proteus as a villain outside the initial story which introduced, then dispatched, the character.


Creator Central
Future Spider-Man writer and all around Marvel bigshot Dan Slott writes one of the backup stories in this annual, all of which retell the origins of the various New Warriors.

Unlike the other three covers of this storyline, Mark Bagley rather than Mike Mignola draws the cover, though Mignola does ink it which, combined with the repeated staging, helps the whole thing still feel like a part of the whole.

A Work in Progress
Shatterstar's eye can be seen flashing when he's using his power, another hint at a Longshot connection.


Nicieza's doesn't seem to know quite what to do with Domino yet, as she spends most of the last chapter and this one piloting a helicopter and/or relaying intel to Cable.

He does make some effort to sell the idea of X-Force being a more extreme superhero team, with at least a few New Warriors commenting on their relative intensity.


The New Mutants return to the X-Mansion briefly to use Cerebro; Sam mentions that the locks have been changed, though I'm not sure who would have done that (as the X-Men have been in space since the New Mutants left and this story takes place before "The Muir Island Saga".


Boom-Boom is somehow able to use Cerebro and is good with computers, though to Nicieza's credit, the characters express their surprise at this in the issue itself.


Sam is now able to extend his blast field to the extent that it acts as a force field capable of protecting the entire team, even when not blasting.

The Cable Guy
Chord refers to Cable as "Winters", another "throw out a bunch of vague mysteries and see what sticks" approach to Cable.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Boom-Boom drops a "not!" where Warpath pretends like X-Force is in the know.


Teebore's Take
I feel bad for any New Warriors fans picking up this issue, as its the second chapter in what is very clearly an X-focused storyline. There's the standard "heroes fight, then team-up" routine, and with the two teams broken into groups, there's a pretty even divide between New Mutants and New Warriors in each group. But other than that, this is entirely the New Mutants' story (at this point), with the New Warriors essentially guest-starring in their own annual: the Alliance of Evil are old X-villains, the X-Mansion gets a drop-by, and the ultimate goal of the whole storyline is revealed to be the resurrection of one of the X-Men's all-time greatest villains. We never even see the New Warriors' headquarters in this issue. The end result is that New Warriors feel even more shoehorned into this storyline than the Fantastic Four did in the previous year's "Days of Future Present" (where at least the connection between Franklin Richards and Rachel helped the FF stay relevant throughout).

Beyond that, this issue spends a little bit of time highlighting how "X-Force" (now being referred to as such in-universe) is more extreme than even the New Warriors, with the Warriors raising some eyebrows at X-Force's take-no-prisoners approach to combat as well as their interrogation techniques. It smacks a little bit of telling-not-showing, as their actions remain not too far removed from the standard superhero fare (or at least it seems that way now, looking back from a time when X-Force's methods are perhaps not so different from teams like the Avengers), but the effort on Nicieza's part to sell the idea that X-Force is more than just the New Mutants with a bunch of new members is nonetheless appreciated.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the story moves to Muir Island in X-Men Annual #15, then concludes in X-Factor Annual #6. Next week, Excalibur guest-stars in She-Hulk #26.
 

20 comments:

  1. I still like Mark Bagley's artwork.

    I agree with you on this really being a New Mutants story in NEW WARRIORS' clothing. That sort of thing happened a lot in these nineties crossovers. A title would lose its identity to serve the crossover concept. We've already seen this to some extent in "X-Tinction Agenda" and it will be even worse in "X-Cutioner's Song", though at least both of those are entirely X-centric if nothing else.

    "The New Mutants return to the X-Mansion briefly to use Cerebro; Sam mentions that the locks have been changed, though I'm not sure who would have done that (as the X-Men have been in space since the New Mutants left and this story takes place before 'The Muir Island Saga'."

    Maybe X-Factor did it after everyone went their separate ways following X-MEN 273.

    "Chord refers to Cable as 'Winters', another 'throw out a bunch of vague mysteries and see what sticks' approach to Cable."

    I recall reading this and wondering if Nicieza was aware of the plan to make Cable Cyclops's son, and threw this in a a little hint in that direction (Winters/Summers).

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    1. Ha! on Winters/Summers. "X-Force... maneuver seven!" is such a Summers thing to say.

      Unless there are several oil refineries just off Anchorage, then it's the same place where Cyclops fought Master Mold in early issue of X-FACTOR, and now I find it hard to believe that all these easter eggs aren't intentional.

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    2. We've already seen this to some extent in "X-Tinction Agenda" and it will be even worse in "X-Cutioner's Song", though at least both of those are entirely X-centric if nothing else.

      Sadly, it's pretty much what chased Peter David off X-FACTOR.

      Maybe X-Factor did it after everyone went their separate ways following X-MEN 273.

      That was my initial thought, but I think the New Mutants have to have been living in the mansion after #273 - at least for the events of issues #98-100, while the X-Men are off in space. Which means the X-Men are in space and X-Factor in New York/an exploding Ship/the Moon when the New Mutants decide to ditch the mansion, leaving none of them around to scramble the locks.

      I recall reading this and wondering if Nicieza was aware of the plan to make Cable Cyclops's son, and threw this in a a little hint in that direction (Winters/Summers).

      Or, if he was making a REALLY deep cut, a reference to Jack Winters aka Jack O'Diamonds, from Cyclops' 60s-era origin backup story.

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    3. @Teemu: There actually probably are several oil refineries near Anchorage; Alaska is something of an oil rich state (at least nowadays; maybe it hadn't been discovered yet in the early 90s?).

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    4. It was oil rich before the 90s; it's peak as far proven oil reserves was in the late 70s.

      This was probably written and planned at the same time as X-factor #65 to 68. Would Nicieza have been in the loop at this point regarding Cable's origin? Given that Harras, Portacio, etc didn't bother to consult Liefeld about and just went ahead with it, its hard to say whether they would have mentioned their plans to Nicieza.

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    5. @Teebore, it looks like there is (today) only five, and none are especially close to Anchorage. With this as the starting point, it must most likely be the same one.

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    6. @wwk5d: Do we know that Harras, etc. didn't consult Liefeld about Cable? The way I've understood it is that they more or less told Liefeld they were doing this, whether he liked it or not, but that Liefeld was, at least, in the know, even if he chose to ignore it.

      All that said, they probably didn't fill in Nicieza, at least not at this point.

      @Teemu: Frankly, I doubt Nicieza had XF #14 in mind writing this (mostly cuz the Alaska setting is so incidental and tertiary), even given the seeming student of X-Lore that he is.

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    7. Oh when I meant consult, I meant actually ask for his input, not just telling him they were going ahead with regardless of what he thought.

      I wouldn't be surprised if Liefeld was the one to mention it to Nicieza during an angry rant lol

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    8. @Teebore, it's a bit of I Want To Believe on my part, mainly because if there really is no deeper meaning (as easter eggs I mean, not for any actual plot reason) for the energy harvesting scenes taking place in popular X-locations like Westchester, Anchorage and Tokyo, then it stinks like really lazy and disappointing writing. Like, don't they have any other places in their map book (because map books were totally happening in 1991, despite being outdated straight out of print).

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  2. "though I'm not sure who would have done that"

    Cyclops and Jean, possibly?

    Interesting that Cable says his name is Cable..."this year". I guess he changed his policy.

    Overall, its a fun read. Bagley does some nice artwork, and even with the big cast, Nicieaza juggles them all well and gives just about everyone a chance or two to shine. The characters play off each other nicely, during both the fight scene and when they split up into groups. The first 2 parts of this cross-over are actually pretty decent. It's only with the next part that it starts to become a mess, mainly because there are just too many damn characters by then.

    And Nicieze gives much more nuanced and interesting versions of some of the characters here in this annual. He does a much better job in this one issue with Cable and Feral that Liefeld does throughout his entire time on the title.

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    1. Cyclops and Jean, possibly?

      Maybe, if we assume that NM #98-100 occur concurrent to XF #63-64, someone from X-Factor could have gone and reset the locks behind the scenes, before the events of XF #65 begin.

      The first 2 parts of this cross-over are actually pretty decent. It's only with the next part that it starts to become a mess, mainly because there are just too many damn characters by then.

      And because Nicieza has to start paying off some of the vague plot elements that are fine being vague here, but...don't work all that well once they're revealed.

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    2. Or...maybe Stevie Hunter? The the other question is, who repaired the hatch after Namorita ripped it out by the time we get to Uncanny #278/279?

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    3. Ah, yeah, Stevie Hunter is a good answer! Especially since Shadow King goes after her to unlock the place for him.

      But yeah, I got nothing re: Namorita and the hatch.

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  3. One of the chess players hints at other player's identity by calling him "my Ranidaean friend". Faultily, as it really should be Bufonidae. Silly fool would do better by just sticking to shelling out bibles. (Unless it really was originally supposed to be Leap-Frog, but the editorial insisted on messing it up. Leap-Frog would've been awesome. So totally one of my picks for one of the Horsemen in "Age of Owl"!)

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  4. "Future Spider-Man writer and all around Marvel bigshot Dan Slott writes one of the backup stories in this annual, all of which retell the origins of the various New Warriors."
    Actually, he writes a Speedball backup story - ironically enough it features a gag about adding spikes to Speedball's costume.
    Is this the first time "teke" is used as an abbreviation for telekinetic?

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  5. I was both a New Mutants and New Warrios fan at the time, so I dug this annual, and thought the two teams were natural fits to be allies.

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  6. "I feel bad for any New Warriors fans picking up this issue, as its the second chapter in what is very clearly an X-focused storyline."

    Honestly, given pretty much everything that's happened to the New Warriors since their original series ended, probably better that fans built up those calluses early on.

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  7. Eliopoulos’ lettering has come a long way.

    I don’t remember Namorita ever having that nonsensical neck-and-clavicle fabric.

    Possible African Adventures is my new band name.

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  8. Like Rob Liefeld, Mark Badgley's art hasn't improved in the ensuing 25+ years :(

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