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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #12

"Broken Mirrors"
September 1992

In a Nutshell
The mysterious past of Xavier's father comes to light.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Art Thibert
Art Assist: Dan Panosian & Trevor Scott
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Rosas/Javins
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
At the Ryking Hospital, longtime patient Carter Ryking attacks the staff with his mutant energy powers, having been agitated by news reports of his father's death. At the X-Mansion, Psylocke leaves to visit her brother while Jubilee trains in the Danger Room, only to have her session interrupted by an angry Wolverine. Having been researching his own past, he came across Xavier's files about his fathers past dealings, and Wolverine is suspicious of the similarities with his own findings. As Carter escapes from the hospital, Wolverine & Xavier discuss their pasts, and seeing news of Carter's father's death, Xavier decides to start his investigation there. At the funeral of Alexander Ryking, who worked with Xavier's father, Carter attacks the crowd. Xavier attempts to stop his old childhood friend, but instead, Carter kidnaps him, intending to take him to the Almagordo research facility where their fathers worked. Later, Val Cooper discusses the situation with the X-Men, and Wolverine surmises Carter's destination. Cyclops tells Val the X-Men will handle this themselves, and Val agrees, even as she insists that Almagordo has been a graveyard for decades.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first appearance of Carter Ryking aka Hazard (referred to as such on the cover but not in the issue itself), a childhood friend of Professor Xavier's whose father worked with Xavier's father. He is a mutant with the power to...generate energy...which travels through...cords and junk...or something? Because his power is so uncontrollable, he has spent most of his life in a mental hospital founded by his father. Outside of this story, Hazard will appear in an issue of Gambit's solo series and again in issue #211 (where he dies), but that's about it for this guy.


With Jim Lee gone, Fabian Nicieza takes over as the writer of the series, adding this book to his work on X-Force. He will remain the writer of the book through issue #45.

He is joined by Lee's most frequent inker on the title, Art Thibert, who pencils this issue and the next, before giving way to new regular artist Andy Kubert (Thibert will stick around the X-office, doing inks and occasional guest pencils, including the first few issues of Cable's solo series). Thibert is considered something of a Lee clone as a penciler, attempting to mimic Lee's style in his own work, and that is on full display here (squint, and you might just think Lee is still drawing this issue).

Psylocke leaves this issue for a long overdue visit to her brother Brian in England. She will subsequently appear in Excalibur #55 next month, and in a nice bit of continuity (especially for this time), she is absent from this series next issue while appearing in that one.


The Xavier File, which Professor X was seen reading in issue #5 and which Maverick mentioned in the backup story in issues #10-11 (where it's established that he killed Hazard's father Alexander Ryking), is revealed here to contain information about Xavier's father's work at the Almagordo Nuclear research facility (along with Juggernaut's father and Hazard's father). Mike Carey will briefly return to this ground years down the road, after the series has been rechristened X-Men: Legacy and focuses on Xavier, but for the most part, outside of this story, none of this ever really comes up again.


An attempt is made to tie all this into Wolverine's mysterious past as well (he says it stinks of the same kind of thing he's found in his investigations ie the general idea of scientists testing stuff on mutants), but nothing really comes of that, either.

A Work in Progress
Jubilee fights simulacrums of the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in the Danger Room, that group's first appearance (sort of) in either X-Men book (presumably, this story takes place after X-Factor #82, and X-Factor has since given the X-Men intel about this new iteration of the group).

It's revealed here that Carter Ryking sent Professor X the file about their fathers prior to issue #5.

Somewhere between escaping from the mental hospital and kidnapping Xavier at his dad's funeral, Ryking picks up a super-villain suit that helps control his power.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
One of the nurses at Ryking's hospital is "Nurse Stimpy".

Jubilee refers to Sauron as a Dino Riders reject, and while I have fond memories of that cartoon (and especially its accompanying toyline), in terms of pop culture references, that's a pretty deep cut.


Young Love 
Rogue & Gambit talk briefly about their relationship, specifically the complications that have arisen out of Belladonna's recent return (and subsequent death) and Rogue's apparent feelings for Longshot (something that was teased back in the Outback days, but was in no way referenced in the previous two issues, though that's clearly what Nicieza seems to be thinking or wanting us to think).


As Psylocke is leaving, Cyclops creepily watches her from his window, confused over his apparent attraction to her.


Artistic Achievements
I'm not 100% sure, but this image of Ryking escaping from the hospital seems like a swipe of something, possibly Wolverine's escape in issue #5. Certainly, there are likely many more swipes that I'm missing.


It's in the Mail
The Gambit limited series, which is about a year away from launching at this point, is teased in the letters page.

Austin's Analysis
The little two-part story which kicks off this issue has never done much for me. As a kid, I think I was simply hung up on the absence of Jim Lee - Art Thibert does a rather remarkable job aping his style, but even as a kid, it was clearly a pastiche, not the real deal, a pale imitation of my then-favorite artist. Whereas nowadays, with the benefit of hindsight, it's hard to muster much enthusiasm for a story that, ultimately, never really goes anywhere. Mining Xavier's past isn't a bad idea in theory, but nothing introduced here, aside from one story in the 00s, ever really gets referenced again, nor does Carter Ryking, a character who immediately feels unnecessarily shoehorned into a backstory that already includes Juggernaut, one of the X-Men's all-time great villains. Even without the benefit of hindsight (which tells us that Ryking really amounts to nothing outside these two issues), it's hard to get too worked up about a character who immediately feels like a warmed over Juggernaut, but with vague and ridiculous 90s powers, in terms of being a representation of Xavier's past returned to menace him in the present.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Alan Davis returns in Excalibur #54. Friday, Larry Hama returns in Wolverine #60. Next week, Unstacking the Deck looks at Marvel Masterpieces Series I.

13 comments:

  1. I know this issue exists because I bought it and I recall flipping past the cover on many occasions when looking for something to read, but for the life of me I couldn't remember anything about it, even after reading this page. OK, I sorta remember Wolverine yelling at Xavier over something blah blah mysterious past blah blah storming out, but that's it.

    I'm pretty sure 90% of X-Men readers at this stage were just treading water until X-Cutioner's Song ramped up. Ironically, that's when I finally gave up on the whole family of books.

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    1. Exact same for me. I know the "look" of my collection well, and the fact that it essentially ends, minus a couple issues bought out of obligation/nostalgia, smack in the middle of X-Cutioner's Song. Something about that story, those characters, the bad writing, and ever-worsening art finally convinced me to drop everything X-Men for good.

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    2. Me too. X-Cutioner Song was the pits.

      This "Hazard" two-parter didn't do much for me at the time, but I re-read it recently and found it a fun action story, if you accept that the "mysterious stuff" is just extraneous noise.

      Thibert's work looks good to me too. I confess I liked at the time and wouldn't have minded Art becoming the regular guy if we weren't gonna get Jim Lee back (which we weren't).

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    3. I dunno, guys -- "X-Cutioner's Song" is what got me to start reading X-MEN regularly. It must've done something right.

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  2. Also, Rogue revealed her true feelings about Longshot to Gambit? What true feelings? He was a hot guy who was drooled over by every female who came near him, but almost entirely due to his physical attractiveness. None of them (not even Dazzler, really) made any more of a connection with him than that. This is either:

    1- really lazy retconning, or

    2- a crafty move by Nicieza, having Rogue create a conflict with an absent third party to avoid dealing with the increasingly skeevy Gambit.

    I've read plenty of Nicieza's work, and I'm not about to give him the benefit of option #2. Verdict: this was lazy-ass retconning b.s.

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    1. In X-Men 241, N'astirh comments on how Longshot is a pure soul torn between two loves, or words to that effect. So Nicieza's take is arguably justified.

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    2. True, there was that incident in the previous issue where Rogue and Longshot roller skated together and she got a little flirty, but the whole thing lasted maybe two pages, and seemed to serve no more purpose than to provide a little character-driven humor.

      Rogue's never been one to shy away from flirtatious behavior (how many "victims" does she kiss in order to steal their powers?) or generally ribald thoughts (her admiration of Colossus around #229 or so.) And that's all understandable considering her "curse."

      She may well have been attracted to Longshot beyond his cute face and majestic 80s hair, but it was never suggested, much less developed into a lasting plot or character point. I'm still going with "shitty retcon," here.

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    3. Yeah, they also alluded to Rogue's interest in Longshot in (I think) the Mojo/X-Babies story in Uncanny Annual #12, with Dazzler and Rogue fighting over Longshot's picture. I always saw it as both Dazzler and Rogue "liked" him. But you're right, it never really a thing, more just a source of conflict for Dazzler, who was always seen as a legitimate love interest.

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    4. Dazzler and Rogue had their own personal rivalry going since always originating from the DAZZLER title and checked on UNCANNY after the Mutant Massacre. Maybe Longshot really was just something to continue the feud over. Rogue, who's always been pretty deprived in the love department for obvious reasons, could have turned that to " genuine feelings" inside her head, especially as Dazzler is known to have had a cadre of men hovering around her.

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  3. to be fair, I believe Art Thibert has a somewhat similar style since the mid 1980s. Of course, Dan Panosian is the 1990s official "extreme maker" in inks, so I'm sure he pushed Thibert's art further into the Jim Lee style.

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  4. I remember Hazard appearing in a "interlude" at X-Men #38. He's arrested at this point and Adam X visits him.

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  5. "An attempt is made to tie all this into Wolverine's mysterious past as well (he says it stinks of the same kind of thing he's found in his investigations ie the general idea of scientists testing stuff on mutants), but nothing really comes of that, either."

    Actually I think X-Men Legacy does (kinda) tie Wolverine's past into the goings on at Armageddo (sp?)

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  6. I didn’t feel this issue gave us what Heidi MacDonald once termed “a satisfying chunk” — enough of a story chapter or slice of an ongoing saga to be worth buying and reading as its own thing — regardless of how much or how little the series interests me at this point.

    // Jubilee trains in the Danger Room, only to have her session interrupted by an angry Wolverine. //

    Why does Wolverine dramatically stop the Danger Room program from the floor instead of confronting Professor X in the control room? How could Xavier know what’s in the folder from that distance? The answer to the first question at least is probably for pin-up potential, but the art’s not supporting the script (or vice versa) there.

    // that's a pretty deep cut //

    Marvel produced the series, apparently, so it’s as much cross-promotion as contemporary reference.

    // As Psylocke is leaving, Cyclops creepily watches her from his window, confused over his apparent attraction to her. //

    That was creepy, and this whole deal of him getting fixated on her is weird because I don’t recall ever knowing about it, and it took me just one moment too long to understand that the door slam caused that picture frame to fall.

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