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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #287

"Bishop to King's Five!"
April 1992

In a Nutshell
Bishop joins the X-Men.

Plot: Jim Lee
Script: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: John Romita, Jr.
Inks: Scott Williams (with assistance from Ivy, Sienkiewicz, Panosian, and Wiacek)
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Colors: Going/Rosas
Edits: Bob Harras
More Edits: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Bishop, Malcolm & Randall track down the remaining criminals from their future to a Manhattan nightclub. In the ensuing melee, most of the criminals are killed, but Malcolm & Randall die as well, protecting Bishop. Just then, the X-Men arrive on the scene and admonish Bishop for his excessive use of force. He tries to save Storm from one of the remaining criminals, but his intentions are misinterpreted, and he is badly wounded in the ensuing fight. Unconscious, he remembers the events leading up to his arrival in the present, as he, Malcolm & Randall pursue Fitzroy. In the process, they discover a long lost message from Jean Grey; incomplete, it chronicles the deaths of the X-Men at the hands of one of their own. This prompts Bishop to visit the Witness, who is believed to be the last person to see the X-Men alive, but refuses to tell Bishop the identity of the traitor. Just then, Fitzroy escapes from prison, and Bishop, Malcolm & Randall pursue him and his army of criminals into the past. Waking up, Bishop finds himself in the X-Mansion, and is forced to accept that the X-Men are real. He then meets privately with Professor X, who afterwards introduces Bishop to the rest of the X-Men as their newest teammate.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue launches the X-Traitor storyline, one of the 90s more notable ongoing subplots, which will hang around, generating lots of fan speculation, before finally being put to rest at the start of the "Onslaught" crossover in 1996. The general idea is that at some point in the future, between the present and Bishop's time, the X-Men will be betrayed and murdered by one of their own. Sussing out the identity of the X-Traitor and preventing the deaths of the X-Men will become Bishop's main motivation moving forward (when the writers bother to reference it).

The plotline is setup in two ways: first, via a flashforward to Bishop's timeline, Bishop and his men stumble across the abandoned War Room of the X-Men (the place where they sit around discussing what to do about a given problem) and a recording from Jean Grey. The recording is damaged, so all the pertinent information is cut out, but she declares the X-Men never should have trusted someone, and then is seemingly killed on camera (Onslaught: X-Men, which shows Jean making this recording and fills in the blanks, plays a little fast and loose with some of the dialogue to make it fit with the given identity of the traitor and the circumstances surrounding his attack, but for the most part, is rather faithful to what is shown here).


Secondly, after seeing this recording, Bishop proceeds to visit the Witness, a man believed to have, you know, witnessed the death of the X-Men, and thus knows who the traitor is. It's established that Bishop has a past with the Witness, who is quietly hinted at being Gambit - aside from the broken Cajun-esque accent, Bishop calls the Witness "Lebeau", one month after Sabretooth called Gambit the same in X-Men #6 (the true identity of the Witness still technically remains a mystery, though it gets complicated, as these things do).


Also, it's worth noting that the idea of the X-Traitor, the brainchild of Lee & Portacio, was introduced without either of them having a specific character in mind. As detailed here, they had a few suspects in mind, including Bishop, they could use depending on how fans were guessing, but of course, they left the books (and Marvel) before deciding anything, leaving it to later writers to come up with the official resolution.

Bishop joins the X-Men this issue, after meeting in private with Professor X, in a scene that echoes Rogue's introduction to the team (someone the X-Men had recently been fighting has a private meeting with Xavier, then is presented as the team's newest member, to the shock of the rest). He'll remain a member of the team, barring a couple sustained absences and well after the whole X-Traitor plotline is resolved, into the 00s, after which his character will be completely assassinated in service of the big plotline du jour.


Bishop's associates, Malcolm & Randall, are both killed this issue, a necessary byproduct of making Bishop a member of the X-Men. Along with them, the vast majority of the remaining criminals brought into the past by Fitzroy are killed as well, save one named Stylgut (and Fitzroy himself, of course).


Creator Central 
Former regular series artist John Romita Jr. fills in this issue, returning to the series for the first time since issue #211. He'll come back, and stick around a little while longer, starting with issue #300.

This is the first issue of the series since #281 to not credit Whilce Portacio in some capacity.

A Work in Progress
Lobdell does a nice job of selling the idea that the X-Men are legends to Bishop, Malcolm & Randall, with Randall quoting Beast, and Bishop swearing an oath to Cyclops and working "snikt" into his dialogue.

Just in time for them to be killed off, this issue establishes that Malcolm has the mutant ability to detect non-mutants, while Randall is immune to radiation.

It's also established that the police force to which Bishop belongs, the XSE (previously visible on the patch of his uniform) was formed in the wake of the "emancipation", as a way to allow mutants to police themselves.


We see the immediate lead-up to Bishop's first appearance in issue #282 from his perspective, as he and his men prepare to enter the portal that brings them to the present day, though in this issue they seem to be aware that it's a one-way trip, whereas that was news to them in issue #283.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Iceman references the Miller Lite "tastes great, less filling" ads.


Artistic Achievements
Romita Jr.'s art in this issue is really fantastic. His new, blockier style mirrors the bigger, more pin-up-y stuff the Image guys are doing at this time, but his understanding of basic storytelling technique brings it to a whole other level. The opening two-page splash is a great example - it's as attention-getting and posed as anything Portacio or Lee have done, but there's still a flow to it, the way the dialogue bubbles and bursts of energy lead the eye down the page from Bishop over to Randall then down to Malcolm, and there's little background details that add a lot, like the way the blast triggered by Malcolm creates an effect like a panel gutter that separates the additional panels on the bottom right of the splash.


Also, this issue features the debut of Romita's designs for futuristic guns, something he'll expand on in the Cable limited series. For some reason, I've always really liked that design, goofy as it is.

For Sale
The first series of Marvel's X-Men-only trading cards, all drawn by Jim Lee, get an ad in this issue.


One of the Entertainment This Month mail-order ads gives us our first look at Youngblood, Rob Liefeld's Image launch title (Liefeld is gone, or close to it, at this point).


Aw, remember the days back before we knew what a terrible garbage person Roger Clemens is?


Bullpen Bulletins
Stan Lee's column announces that James Cameron is planning to direct a Spider-Man movie, something he actually did intend to do once, but which ultimately got scuttled due, in part, to the collapse of film studio Carolco, who held the rights to do a Spider-Man movie. Apparently, some of Cameron's ideas were incorporated in the script of the first actual Spider-Man movie in 2002. Lee also mentions than an X-Men film is in development, but we're still nearly a decade away from that being a reality as well.

Also, the latest Cool-o-Meter likes Gene Roddenberry (this was presumably put together not long after his death in October 1991) and Lumpy Addams, and dislikes the recession and belly-button lint.


Austin's Analysis
While Bishop is formally introduced to the X-Men this issue, becoming their newest member, and John Romita Jr. returns (albeit briefly) to the series with his newer, blockier style, this issue is really notable for its introduction of the X-Traitor storyline, which will simmer in the background of both titles for years, occasionally bubbling to the surface, before coming to head as the kickoff to Marvel's linewide "Onslaught" crossover. In the meantime, it will come to dominate fans' discussions of the X-Men, promoting endless theorizing about the identity of the Witness, the traitor, and the circumstances behind the death of the X-Men, as well as inspire a plotline on the animated series and articles in Wizard magazine and the like.

But for now, the storyline is simply intended to give Bishop a specific purpose and motivation within the X-Men, as the rest of this issue, rather efficiently (if a bit abruptly) prepares the character for his role on the team, eliminating his original motivation (capture or kill the criminals loosed by Fitzroy) and isolating him (killing off Malcolm and Randall) so the only place he has to go is with the X-Men. Then the flashforward and the introduction of the X-Traitor gives him something specific to do while with the X-Men, beyond staring in awe at legends come to life (and, as we'll shortly see, spark some immediate character drama between Bishop & Gambit). In all, it's a rather impressive bit of setup for one issue, especially one with a fill-in artist and a brand new scripter, and the high-water mark of the book's brief Portacio era.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Liefeld leaves and Cannonball returns in X-Force #9. Friday, then more Cannonball in X-Factor #77 on Friday. Next week, the Omega Red story comes to a close in X-Men #7.

Collected Editions

32 comments:

  1. Despite being sick of Gambit by this point and finding little to excite me about Bishop, the X-Traitor setup here is really well done, and kept me peeking into friends' issues of various X-books for years after I'd stopped collecting, always in hopes of seeing them break that storyline open (see also: The Twelve.) Jean's garbled message is exactly the sort of thing to get a teenager's speculative gears churning, even though I knew full well that there was no way to discern the solution at the time.

    I don't hate it, but I was never a fan of JRJr's blockier style. It's not the blockiness so much as its clutter. That two-page spread is masterfully laid out, but it would be busy as hell even if it were just stick figures. Instead, Romita drew in his characters as if he was getting paid by the line. Granted, it's still well done; extraneous or not, his linework at least shows discipline in why he's using it. I just don't care for it compared to his "cleaner" work from 100 issues earlier, when he saved his busier linework for hair or bunched up clothing. Speaking of which, even with his evolving style, I'll always love Romita for being one of the last big-name superhero artists who could draw characters that looked like they were wearing clothes, as opposed to simply nude figures with painted-on spandex.

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    1. I'd have to go back and look, but I think JRjr's stuff is a little less cluttered when he comes back in issue #300 for his short run. I forget who inks him then, but some of the messiness in this issue could be down to the gaggle of inkers that worked on the issue.

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    2. Unknown: I'll always love Romita for being one of the last big-name superhero artists who could draw characters that looked like they were wearing clothes, as opposed to simply nude figures with painted-on spandex.

      It's difficult to go back to the issues around 180s and look at JRjr's Rogue wearing bikinis a) on a normal human body b) with the plot actually justifying it.

      I'm with the older style JRjr gang, though the new style is... not so bad, though what affinity I have rests much on the old JRjr things showing through the new style. Obviously I'm nostalgia-biased as hell.

      I'll have to keep my eyes open for the understanding of dynamicism that JRjr has that many current (X-amination time) artists are missing. Maybe I'll have to elevate my rating to 'Volvo': blocky but good.

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  2. If Bishop was intended as the X-Traitor, and part of The Witness/ LeBeau's "litter" why would "LeBeau" not disclose to him who killed the X-Men if he knew/ saw him do it? The big clue here may be that "LeBeau" was "pantless" and reclining on a "throne" with what would appear to be twins despite being held in a maximum security prison!? Does this suggest "LeBeau" came to run the prison from the inside? If so, was it by his will that Trevor Fitzroy was given access to "organic matter" within this same prison thereby enabling him to drain its life force to convert into energy to create the portal that enabled him to flee into the X-Men's present? That is, if this was known to be Fitzroy's power, he would be held within solitary confinement to prevent this. So security from within the prison may have let it slip through, perhaps at "LeBeau's" behest!? Did "LeBeau" orchestrate this, knowing full well that Bishop would pursue Fitzroy back in time in the hope Lucas would end up killing the X-Men? If so, the remaining question is how "LeBeau" knew it was our particular time period that Fitzroy would open up a time portal to. Or was Fitzroy another of "LeBeau's" litter, and was he the one who directed Trevor to flee back to 1991 specifically? If so, how was "LeBeau" able to convince Fitzroy to return to 1991 particularly? I'd suggest the "prize" in the Upstart's game! Is it that "LeBeau" learned about this "prize," and manipulated events to set Trevor Fitzroy loose in the late 20th Century, knowing he would kill the potential opposition of the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle and the other "Upstart" competitors for the "prize," and Bishop the X-Men who would obviously be other potential opposition to the taking of the "prize"? But what, you ask, would "LeBeau" have to gain by having the X-Men removed as potential opposition to prevent Fitzroy from claiming the "prize"? Well that's easy. If Fitzroy was "LeBeau's" pawn, like Bishop obviously appeared to be, I'd suggest he used them both to remove opposition to the claiming of the "prize" without showing his direct hand, so his younger self would then step in to claim it. As to why "LeBeau" so desperately wanted the "prize"!? Recall over in Jim Lee's X-Men #4 (which ran parallel to this story unfolding in Uncanny X-Men at the time), Andrea Strucker, one half of the Fenris Twins, reveals that the Upstart "prize" is about "nothing less than immortality". And further recall that in Uncanny X-Men #287 several generations have passed since the X-Men were betrayed and killed, yet "LeBeau" still lives. So was his still being alive this far into the future proof that he had claimed the immortality of the "prize"? And so LeBeau's "Gambit" finally ends, and this explains why the story of the X-Traitor included all the Chess analogies. Recall a "Gambit" in Chess is an opening move in which a player makes a sacrifice, typically a pawn (or a Bishop), for the sake of a compensating advantage. Satisfactory? See, it's not hard to come up with a solution when you just read below the surface of the original stories where plot threads are laid!

    Oh, and while it was later revealed Fitzroy was a Shaw, his surname means "son of the King" and given Donald Pierce's name means "king/ ruler of the world", I'd alternatively suggest he was the planned pater.

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    1. Couple questions/clarifications:

      1. Lee and Portacio never intended ANYONE to be the X-traitor. They had a few suspects, including but not limited to Bishop, in mind. It sounds like their plan was to let the story run its course, then pick the suspect the least number of fans had guessed. All the vague hints and teases in this issue were meant to stimulate general mystery, not point to any specific resolution.

      2. Is the Witness being held in a maximum security prison? In all my years reading this issue, I've never gotten that from it. Bishop drops off Fitzroy at the prison along w/Malcolm & Randall, then goes to visit the Witness, then returns to the prison when Fitzroy breaks out. If anything, the presence of the women and Shackle (who is called Shackle because she puts a shackle on Bishop before he meets the Witness) suggest he's NOT in prison, rather than suggesting a question of why he has those attendants while in prison.

      3. Fenris says the Upstarts prize is immortality, others say its something else (like leadership of the Hellfire Club). Obviously, this is because the creators were making this up as they went along and weren't terribly good at coordinating with each other. Maybe if they'd stuck around, they'd have been able to craft all the teases into a cohesive whole, but they didn't. And I'm reluctant to cherry pick certain teases as more right than others (other than the teases that get confirmed by the later resolution of the story), so I tend to just ignore them all together.

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    2. Trevor Fitzroy is a Shaw?? I had no idea! I'll have to look this up.

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    3. I find it plausible that Selen's just been feeding each Upstart with what he/she wants to hear regarding the prize of the game, but the prisoner and/or immortal Witness angle does get some mileage from his lines to Bishop: "Come to kill me? Judge me? Set me free?" Witness's attendants seem to be very keen in keeping him alive, but it's left open if they're doing a service or rather an intentional disservice to him.

      It's rather like he's been punished from some serious past transgression and kept alive and incarcerated in a force field, even if there is a decadent element to his surroundings. Maybe they aren't quite sure if he should be rewarded or punished. Perhaps he did something crappy, like led the Marauders to the Morlock lairs, but did it as a pawn at the instigation of some future chessmaster to ensure that something of elemental importance to the future world would happen as result, and the judges are still out on that one.

      Apparently his being the witness is also a big deal to the future society.

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    4. Maybe it counts as a "gambit" that they (the emancipated mutants of the future) sacrifice the Morlocks so that Kitty and Kurt can be there to form Excalibur, so that Rachel can one day become Mother Askani and be there to yank young Nathan to future after Apocalypse has him infected with the techno-organic virus so that he can one day return as Cable. And save the High Lord Cannonball.

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    5. "Lee and Portacio never intended ANYONE to be the X-traitor. They had a few suspects, including but not limited to Bishop, in mind. It sounds like their plan was to let the story run its course, then pick the suspect the least number of fans had guessed. All the vague hints and teases in this issue were meant to stimulate general mystery, not point to any specific resolution."

      And there you have the problem with 90s storytelling in a nutshell (Scott Lobdell would take this technique and run with it! And hold it tightly in his grips and never let go, as anyone who ever read his more recent-ish work can attest to.)

      And it always cracked me up about these stories that the fans seem to put more thought and effort into them than the writers did (albeit msybe too much thought, since fan speculation inevitably descends into "conspiracy theory" chaos.

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    6. I think I've said it before around here, but this seems like a perfectly viable way to write, in my opinion. Coming up with a mystery but no solution, then "solving" it as you write it, could be a fun creative exercise. Just throw out a premise and start flinging things at the wall to see what will stick.

      Roger Stern didn't know who the Hobgoblin was when he wrote the character's origin story. Admittedly he says he figured it out as he was scripting the issue, so he did determine the true identity early on, but the fact remains he created a mystery character -- a character whose shadowy secret identity was a major component of his debut -- without knowing what that identity was until after the story was drawn.

      My favorite example is Larry Hama, who once said he often didn't know how an issue of G.I. JOE would end until he wrote the final page. Granted, I assume this is more in the sense of, "I knew where I was going but I didn't know when the issue would stop until I ran out of space," but it's still a similar concept.

      Over in the manga world, Akira Toriyama famously wrote DRAGON BALL by the seat of his pants for years, just throwing stuff out there and drawing things out, often without an endgame in mind until he came up with it mid-storyline -- and that series is considered a classic.

      So it can work. I think you just need to A) be a bit more disciplined than Scott Lobdell with it and B) have more creative control over what you're writing. By this point Marketing and Editorial were the real power behind the comics, where a decade or more earlier, the writers generally still had majority control.

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    7. Nathan Adler, you brilliant, brilliant man.

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  3. "become Bishop's main motivation moving forward (when the writers bother to reference it)."

    If anything, it gets forgotten about for a while until they begin the lead-up for the Onslaught crossover. Lobdell instead has Bishop giving us a monthly variation of "This is different than it is in the future, where I am from!". Funny enough, they even end up retconning the hunt for the traitor as Bishop's reason for coming to the past.

    "the true identity of the Witness still technically remains a mystery, though it gets complicated, as these things do"

    And most certainly wasn't what Lee and Portacio had intended.

    "in a scene that echoes Rogue's introduction to the team"

    Sadly, no "Welcome to the X-men Bishop, hope THEY survive YOU!" variation on the cover...

    I think Bishop has appeared on the cover since #281 more than any of the regular cast at this point, no?

    "after which his character will be completely assassinated in service of the big plotline du jour"

    Thankfully, his character gets rehabilitated later on as well.

    "Lobdell does a nice job of selling the idea that the X-Men are legends to Bishop, Malcolm & Randall, with Randall quoting Beast, and Bishop swearing an oath to Cyclops and working "snikt" into his dialogue."

    I love how they knew all these random, in-depth, super details about the X-men (I mean, they even use the sound effects of the X-men's powers as slang), but not how they died...

    "One of the Entertainment This Month"

    Ah, ETM. Their super-hyping of comics really added to the speculation boom, didn't it? In a few years, just about every comic they advertise will be "Hot!" or "Red Hot!" or "A Must Have!". Lord knows I was suckered into buying some pretty crap comics by them...

    This is easily the best looking issue we've gotten on this title since the relaunch. The faces are bit off, but otherwise, it's really well done. Credit should also be given to Going/Rosas for their contributions as well, they really make the pages pop, and their bold style works well with JRJr.

    While I can't say I enjoyed the resolution to the X-traitor storyline, at least we can say this was one story that was actually resolved. And I do give credit to them for at least trying to make it all fit, especially with regards to Jean's message.





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    1. Funny enough, they even end up retconning the hunt for the traitor as Bishop's reason for coming to the past.

      Yeah, Bishop gets at least three different motivations for being in the past, which is pretty impressive for a character with that short of a history, relatively speaking.

      I think Bishop has appeared on the cover since #281 more than any of the regular cast at this point, no?

      Let's see...#282 and #283 are pretty much Bishop (along w/Storm on #283). He's on #284 with the rest of the team. Then #285 & #286 are just the X-Men. Then this issue. So he's got three to their two, with one shared (unless we count Storm on #283 as a share as well).

      Either way, lots of Bishop on the covers, also impressive for such a new character.

      Thankfully, his character gets rehabilitated later on as well.

      I haven't read that stuff yet - it's in one of the later X-FORCE series, right? I'm glad someone did it; as much as I kind of dug the Adventures of Cable and Hope, I HATED how Bishop got twisted around for that series.

      In a few years, just about every comic they advertise will be "Hot!" or "Red Hot!" or "A Must Have!".

      Heck, it's pretty much already like that now. It's like they start at a baseline of everything being "hot", then just add extra words for the REALLY hot stuff.

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    2. "it's in one of the later X-FORCE series, right?"

      Yup, in Uncanny X-Force vol. 2. I won't spoil the details, but it does make Bishop a viable character/protagonist once again in the X-universe.

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    3. I dunno, it was ENTERTAINMENT THIS MONTH that basically got me reading X-Men at all, with their hype over "X-Cutioner's Song", and they clued me in on a few other things I might have otherwise missed since I never read WIZARD or any other fanzines. I just tended to check out their Marvel blurbs and ignore everything else.

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  4. I'd forgotten that JR Jr. returned here. It is welcome, though I'm one who preferred his older style to this one. And the shot of the X-Men when Prof. X announces Bishop as their newest member just makes me question the roster/design of the current team. It makes me yearn for the team circa issue 200.

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  5. So odd that Lee plots this issue alone. It's not like Portacio is out of the picture -- he'll return for a couple more issues before departing with Lee for Image.

    Anyway -- much as I like the idea of the X-traitor storyline, it ran for way too long, and as a result -- much like the Legacy Virus -- was shuffled into the background and lost a great deal of its urgency as a result. Still, I do love the way it was tied together in X-MEN: ONSLAUGHT. I got goosebumps reading the full version of Jean's message as a teenager.

    I like Romita Jr.'s art here more than his first run on X-MEN, though not as much as his pre-UXM run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN or his later work on PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN. In general I just find that the grounded, "street level" characters bring out the best in him. He's great on DAREDEVIL too (though I'm not a fan of Ann Nocenti's writing), but I'm less enthralled with his work on THOR or AVENGERS or what-have-you.

    "...the vast majority of the remaining criminals brought into the past by Fitzroy are killed as well, save one named Stylgut (and Fitzroy himself, of course)."

    And Mountjoy! (Who, again, is ret-conned into the timeline later, so at this point technically doesn't exist.)

    "...the high-water mark of the book's brief Portacio era."

    I find it really funny that the high water mark of Portacio's era is the issue with no Portacio anywhere in the credits.

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    1. So odd that Lee plots this issue alone. It's not like Portacio is out of the picture -- he'll return for a couple more issues before departing with Lee for Image.

      Yeah, I always wonder about that. I mean, Portacio clearly had a hand in the whole X-Traitor business, so how did he not help plot this issue? Did he just not contribute to the specific overall plot of this issue (ie "this happens then this happens then that happens?)? Is that how a plotting credit works (if you contribute to an overall plot, but not the nuts-and-bolts of a specific issue, you don't get credit)?

      Still, I do love the way it was tied together in X-MEN: ONSLAUGHT. I got goosebumps reading the full version of Jean's message as a teenager.

      Me too. In part because, somehow, despite reading WIZARD pretty regularly by then, I didn't know ONSLAUGHT was going to tie up that plotline, so once it started, I was like "HOLY CRAP, it's the X-Traitor message!"

      And Mountjoy! (Who, again, is ret-conned into the timeline later, so at this point technically doesn't exist.)

      Yes, of course, and Mountjoy. :)

      I find it really funny that the high water mark of Portacio's era is the issue with no Portacio anywhere in the credits.

      I know, right? And I really don't mean that as a slam on Portacio; I just think this is the best issue of the bunch between #281-#290. It just so happens it's not directly involved in it.

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  6. I actually think the inking really hurts JRjr this issue. This is not as strong as when he comes back in issue #300, but even then I think his panels seem a little too busy during this era. This is actually his weakest period for me although it's not bad, by any means. I just prefer his older stuff and his later Spider-Man stuff to this. I prefer Kubert's art in adjectiveless during this time, to be honest.

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    1. For the most part, I like his second run, but I like his later Spider-Man work better. As for Kubert, he's grown on me. As a kid, I was very put off by how everyone seemed to have squinty, angular eyes, but I've come to like it more as I've gotten older (especially later in his run - his earliest stuff is still a little rough, though I believe he was operating under some tight deadlines then as well).

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    2. It took me a while to warm up to Andy Kubert as he was drawing X-MEN. I actually think I recall the exact issue where I decided I liked him after all -- it was #32, with (what I seem to recall was) this gigantic double-page spread of Psylocke fighting Spiral. I don't know if he actively tweaked his style a bit at that point, but from then on his work seemed so much bigger and way more exciting to me.

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    3. I agree that Kubert's art took a definite step forward with those issues (maybe Digital Chameleon jumping on board helped?) I liked him as a kid for the most part from early on though. I think mainly because I thought he was as close as we were going to get to Jim Lee on the X-books for a while.

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  7. Yeah, this issue definitely felt like the series was regaining focus after the previous six. Turned out to be an optimistic mirage, but I remember thinking as a fourteen-year-old that maybe we were still in good hands, despite all the personnel shakeups. (As someone pointed out about adjectiveless recently, the Orz lettering post-Claremont was psychologically comforting too.)

    JRJr's dark and gritty artwork with Lobdell's quippy dialogue is a surprisingly good match, kind of balancing each other out.

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    1. ... my god. I only now realize the quippy dialogue is/was the massive disconnect for me coming from the Claremont era. I never got to bear the worst brunt of the genuine Claremontese as I read my books translated, but goshdangit the X-Men are supposed to meet the villains with some pretentious banter betraying angst, and any occasional humor would be wry and not ha-ha funny or not even particularly funny. Leave spider-manning to Spider-Man, you lot could be South Bronx Internment Facility baits any day now!

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    2. I think it depends on the character. Everyone shouldn't be bantering in an X-Men comic, but it certainly fits for characters like Iceman, Beast, or Jubilee.

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    3. ^^I agree. Banter from the right people is fine; banter from everyone (especially if its the same kind of voice-less banter) is the problem. Here, I think it's fine. Iceman is the only character who sticks out as being quippy to me, and that's fine, he's Iceman, he has a history of being quippy. AIR APPARENT, where EVERY character was cracking the same kind of jokes in their spotlight chapter, that stuck out to me as being the kind of overly-quippy dialogue Lobdell's detractors often point out.

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    4. Yeah but back in the good old days it wasn't for the likes of Iceman to be the first to address the villain. X-Menning was serious business and the first address privileges were with the serious leader characters, to be handled with all seriousness, and pretentiousness.

      There was none of this joke, plasma, joke, plasma, plasma nonsense. If you weren't telling in third person who you are and what you can do with your powers, you could as well just shut up.

      Of course, any moron trying to go "... and now, let T.F. drain your life-force and use it to open a time-portal that curiously only goes backwards..." would've been mercifully snikted mid-sentence.

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    5. If you weren't telling in third person who you are and what you can do with your powers, you could as well just shut up.

      Just because Claremont did it, doesn't mean it's automatically better. :)

      Claremont had his tics, but was still capable of writing good stories and dialogue.

      Lobdell had his tics, but was still capable of writing good stories and dialogue.

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    6. I don't know, Teemu -- recall the "Dark Phoenix Saga", as the X-Men split up to battle the Imperial Guard. Beast, Wolverine, Storm, and Colossus bump into Warstar, but rather than a dramatic speech from Storm or a tough-guy one-liner from Wolverine, Beast declares, "X-Men, we have met the enemy and it is big!" He then promptly refers to Warstar as a "Robbie the Robot reject" while issuing orders to the group. And since it's Beast saying all this, it totally fits.

      Point is, even Claremont gave the X-Men some quippy dialogue now and then.

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    7. Well obviously I exaggerate a plenty here, and did know I'd get called off for it with Claremont havind had quips and it overall not being so clear cut. :) And just as obviously it's my personal issue rather than an objective quality issue.

      It's just that this here was an illumination of sorts for me. Claremont himself famously has commented on reading the post-him X-Men that he didn't know who are these people who look like them but act nothing like, and it just now clicked me here why exactly it has always grated me when a villain amidst doing some villain business hears a quip aimed at him and turns to see the 90's X-Men striking a 90's X-Men pose, breaking the fourth wall a bit in the process with looking straight at camera. I can't help comparing to earlier stuff where the X-Men would mostly look menacing and ready to fight and have full focus on the villain(s).

      Creative team changes have happened since always, but maybe in this case it's hard to stomach for because Claremont had very recognizable style and the All-New X-Men had been his show practically since the beginning. I actually, to my great surprise, found Lobdell's EXCALIBUR to be funny and quite good and have almost no problem with Dr. Doom admitting he can't knit, so I must think the clash here comes from my own expectations of what the X-Men should be.

      So, old man yells at clouds here. ;) I very much wish not to drag anyone's enjoyment of what's their X-Men down here, but on the happy note I expect to have my issues dealt with at latest by the time the true-90's cross-overs kick in which I find myself quite expecting for.

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  8. The Dramatic Laws of Irony would suggest Bishop as the traitor but of course there are the Principles of Serial Narrative to consider as well — in particular the 2nd Unfortunate Corollary to Ongoing Mysteries, which states that if you haven’t left the puzzle to be solved by yourself or others at a later date and you decide to go a different way at the last minute because the fans guess what you had planned all along, or there was a leak, or both, the result will probably be a fustercluck; hence, its nickname: Armageddon Two Thousand and Wha-?.

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    1. Ah but he WAS "the traitor" after all. He was just the rain on a different wedding day. (Something that Remy cheeckily points out during Messiah Complex.)

      Also, one other problematic aspect of the X-traitor storyline that hasn't been mentioned is the tension and urgency in the storyline is diffused almost instantly (but we'll get back to that when x-Men #8 is reviewed, where the response is "Gambit's a traitor? Well then let me rub my scantily-clad, can't-touch-anyone-ever-without-consequences over him while we have a picnic then") As a result, the X-Men began treating this subplot like the sitcom-ish misadventures of an irritating supporting character ("Oh what wacky futuristic-dystopian shenanigans has that knucklehead gotten into now") Combined overtly-drawn-out timeframe of the "mystery" and Bishop's "x-traitor" ramblings start to become a "Did-I-Do-That?" one-note punchline so repetitive that people were criticizing it in story .

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