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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #293

"The Last Morlock Story!"
October 1992

In a Nutshell
The death of Mikhail, Callisto and the Morlocks.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Breakdowns: Rurik Tyler
Pencils: Tom Raney
Inks: Joe Rubinstein
Letters: Lois Buhalis
Colors: Kevin Tinsley
Edits: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Storm, Bishop & Colossus follow the Morlocks deeper into the tunnels, and are shocked to find Mikhail waiting, who declares himself the Morlocks' new leader. Elsewhere, Jean attempts to find Archangel, while Callisto attacks Professor X. As Colossus tries reasoning with his brother, Mikhail uses his power to open the floodgates keeping the East River out of the tunnels. Elsewhere, Xavier manages to fend off Callisto, but then Mikhail teleports the pair to his side, telling the X-Men that he intends to put the Morlocks, and himself, out of their misery by killing them all, which he views as redemption for the lives he took in the Void. Meanwhile, Jean locates Archangel and tells him that contrary to what he believes, his wings don't have a consciousness of their own, and that he's in control of his own actions. With the water rising, the X-Men try to stop Mikhail, but he teleports them all out of the tunnel just before he, Callisto and the Morlocks die. Returning home, Storm mourns the loss of her plants, destroyed by Callisto, while a devastated Colossus calls his sister to cancel his trip home and the surprise he promised.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the second "death" of the Morlocks, following "Mutant Massacre", as Mikhail uses his power to open the floodgates and drown them all. Eventually, it will be revealed that he actually teleported them to an alternate dimension, from which some of them will return as the more violent Gene Nation, and later still, another group of generic mutants will set up shop in the tunnels so we can have a "classic" iteration of the Morlocks running around again.


Both Mikhail and Callisto seemingly die with the Morlocks as well. The latter will return with Gene Nation and remain a semi-regular fixture thereafter, while the former will appear in the Storm limited series before making it back to Earth as part of the "The Twelve" crossover at decades' end.

Mikhail's death is the first of several tragic events that befall Colossus over the next year or so of issues, a subplot that culminates in his departure from the team for a good long while.

Jean tells Warren that he doesn't suffer from any kind of bloodlust, that his wings don't have a mind of their own, and he is solely responsible for his actions. This feels like it should be a big deal, and while it does more or less end the "angtsy Archangel" subplot that's been running in the series since the relaunch, it really isn't handled that way, and Archangel more or less just settles into the background of the narrative for awhile, without ever really grappling with the full implications of that.


Creator Central 
Andy Kubert provides the cover for this issue.

A Work in Progress
The Morlock child who drove the Morlocks into a frenzy (before Professor X stopped him) last issue is called Braincell here.

Xavier attempts to calm Callisto by comparing the loss of her physical beauty to his being recently re-crippled.


More incorrect details pertaining to Angel's maiming during "Mutant Massacre"; here he says it was the Reavers who attacked him, as opposed to the Marauders (the Marauders are, thankfully, depicted).


A legitimately funny bit from Iceman when he appears in the tunnels, and he responds to Mikahil's surprised "Nyet" with "Nyes!"


Austin's Analysis
The "Scott Lobdell Gets Rid of Mikhail Rasputin and Tries to Wipe Out the Morlocks, Again" story concludes, with Lobdell, well, getting rid of Mikhail and the Morlocks (and Callisto). They'll all be back, of course, in varying lengths of time (though, putting aside Gene Nation, a relatively long amount of time does pass before the classic status quo of "deformed mutants living in tunnels under Manhattan" is restored, certainly longer than after "Mutant Massacre", the first attempt to wipe them out), and because we don't really know any of these Morlocks, it's hard to care too much about their "deaths". Callisto, at least, has a history with the series (and some of the characters in this issue, chiefly Storm & Colossus), but she's been gone so long (and gone through so many changes), it's hard to get too worked up about her "death" either (plus, she'll be the first one to return).

If anything, the emotional heft of this story is carried by Colossus, and Mikhail's death marks the opening salvo in the "let's shit all over Colossus" subplot that culminates in him joining Magneto's Acolytes during "Fatal Attractions" and ultimately sidelines him from the X-Men proper for several years. We, of course, don't care any more about Mikhail than we do the generic Morlocks he wipes out, but we at least care about Colossus, and Lobdell generates some genuine emotion from the closing panels, in which a devastated Colossus speaks with Illyana, his planned surprise of Mikhail's survival now null and void (juxtaposing this scene with Storm crying over her plants, on the other hand...does the idea of Storm crying over her plants no favors).

It's hard to believe this is what Portacio (or Lee, or whomever) had in mind when they brought Mikhail back, but as a deck clearing exercise that wipes out one annoying character, one under-used character, and rejiggers a longstanding element of the narrative, it could be a lot worse. It's hard not to see the behind-the-scene machinations at work, but Lobdell manages to surround that with enough solid character moments, from Callisto's anger at losing her beauty to Bishop's ongoing development to an apparent end to Archangel's suffocating angst to Colossus' grief over the loss of his brother, that it's easy enough to look  past the somewhat mercenary plotting of the story.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Force gets a new artist in X-Force #15. Friday, X-Factor takes the X-Patriots out on the town in X-Factor #83. Next week, the X-Men battle Hazard in X-Men #13.

19 comments:

  1. If this actually had been "the last Morlock story" I would've had no problem with it. Aside from their very first appearance during the Paul Smith run, I've never really had any particular fondness for, or interest in, the characters or concept.

    I'm not, however, a fan of the upcoming year's worth of tragedies in the life of Peter Rasputin. I like the character and, while I remember being legitimately shocked and intrigued by his turn during "Fatal Attractions", it really rubs me the wrong way to see this character who was once the most naïve, pure-hearted X-Man systematically destroyed over the next year or so. (Though I am curious if his betrayal was planned this far in advance and all of this stuff was concocted specifically to lead to that point, or if they were just messing with him for the sake of messing with him, with no endgame in mind.)

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    1. Given how we now know Lobdell tended to plot (ie making it up as he went along), I doubt all the Colossus stuff was meant to setup his eventual departure (though it may have come about as a part of a more general "hey, let's mess with Colossus" idea), and instead, the departure grew out of all the crap they put him through.

      We'll get to it, but I mostly agree with your take; in theory, the idea of Colossus going off to join Magneto has potential (and was legitimately surprising), but at the same time, "let's take the most innocent character and push him to his breaking point!" is both terribly cliche, and was already done, more or less, a decade earlier with Storm (to much better results).

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  2. In was born in 1984, which means that for me, having read X-Men thanks to my older brother's collection, Jim Lee's era is The X-men for me. I recall vividly this "post-Jim Lee" period, in which all X-comics suffered from bad art and awful plot. For some reason, I actually thought that Andy Kubert was just another pale Jim Lee clone out there. I learned to appreciate his art much later, around adjectiveless X-Men 40's issues. The entire 1990s were what caused my disgust with comics and forced me to leave. I know that it seems to have gotten worse after that, with a villain who was Xavier's sister and Cyclops becoming a revolutionary idiot hated by all. Something like that, I don't know. My Cyclops will always be the decent man who singlehanded defeated all X-Men in that glorious Paul Smith run.

    However, nowadays for me, the real X-Men ended with that ridiculous fight between Cyclops and a powerless Storm. Since Cyclops was and is my favorite character, I always felt that the way that writers made him treat Maddy (a character whom I really liked) and everything later made no sense. Rachel disappears after Nimrod's battle and no one cares. Kurt and Kitty are taken away to recover from their injuries and no one ever mentions them again, not Ororo, nor Logan or Colossus, all of whom were deeply close to them. Just awful.

    Anyway, I have a few questions for you, if you don't mind:

    1) Could you do a special review on Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri's first year away from Marvel? It was struck me that they left the company to create two groups (Wild Cats and Cyber Force) who were not only identical copies of each other, but copies of the X-Men. Was it worth leaving Marvel?

    2) Is there any reason why Marvel didn't bring back Chris Claremont to the X-Men after Jim Lee left? It seems to me that it would have been the natural move, and only he could have fixed the mess.

    3) Why no one bothered to ask Jim Lee, Liefeld and the others what were their plans for the x-characters and move into that direction, instead of getting lost in the aftermath of their departure?

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    1. 1. - I've given some thought to doing some kind of review of WILDC.A.T.S, at least, but don't have anything concrete planned at this point. As to whether or not it was worth the Image guys leaving, creatively, probably not, at least initially, though some great stuff came out of Image eventually. Financially, it definitely was worth it for them, I'd imagine. I don't have access to numbers or anything, but I think all those guys are doing pretty well financially these days, and/or have the kind of creative freedom to do what they want, when they want, which motivated their decision to leave.

      2. That's a good question. Probably a case of Harras/Marvel wanting to save face and/or not really seeing a problem (in retrospect, sure, the books took a hit creatively after Claremont left, but not commercially, and they remained top sellers long after both Claremont and the Image guys left). Why eat crow to bring back Claremont when you can pay relative up-and-comers like Kubert and company men like Nicieza to draw and write the books for less than you were paying Lee, Liefeld, etc., yet still generate as much or more in sales?

      As for Claremont, it's debatable whether he'd have come back even if he had been asked. Even when he did return to Marvel, it was in an editorial capacity, and he did his best to stay clear of the X-Men for a long time, saying he'd moved on. And, given the relative lower quality of his later runs, he probably had, and probably should have stayed away.

      3. Whose to say they didn't ask the Image guys? After all, Lee and company had no reason and likely little inclination to answer if they were asked. And, again, I think Harras and company were trying to focus the franchise on the characters, not the creators, to say, it doesn't matter what THEY were going to do, you like the X-Men, these are the X-Men, and we're going to do whatever we want with them.

      And for the most part, it worked, at least commercially.

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    2. To tie into what Austin is saying on point #3, we only have to think back to the the Ghost Rider issue reviewed recently and it's mean-spirited satire to see that Marvel editorial probably did take the stance that Austen proposes. In addition, another possibility is that the ideas and story directions weren't that good and they were only tolerated in the first place because they were suggested by "hot" artist (that's of course assuming these plotlines ever had a direction in the first place.)

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    3. When they brought Larry Hama to write WOLVERINE, there were the Claremont's plans to make Wolverine an evil Hand assassin up in the air, which Hama nixed in short order. At this point of time it serves as a happy point that the incoming writer at least gets to (more or less) write his own stories, instead of being tied to previous creator's blueprints.

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  3. Looks like you're about 10 years younger than me. And yeah, there are always problems with characterization when long-standing characters leave, and the others are barely seen to care. I suppose "my X-Men" tends to end after Inferno, since that was probably when I was most invested. But I actually like some of the later developments you mentioned, too.

    I'd say the question of if Lee and Silversti leaving was "worth it" depends on who you ask. WildCATS certainly came off as so much an X-Men clone that I only bothered with the first issue and the first 4-issue TPB. But in terms of the reasons they left--money and creative freedom--I'm guessing they might say it was worth it. Lee is certainly doing very well for himself these days.

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    1. John, you're the same age as my brother. I have no doubt that Jim Lee's departure was positive for him. My question referred to "in-universe".

      There are too many problems after Cyclops departs following his duel with Storm. As I mentioned, the way he treated Maddy (all the way up to her death) really brothers me, to this very day. They could have at least got a divorce, and allow her to leave happily with her son. But not only that. I find unbelievable that the X-Men and the X-Factor never bothered to meet each other before Inferno, especially Jean, who should have told everyone she was alive. The Excalibur was a huge waste of time, always ignored by everyone else. Even when all x-groups converged to create the blue and gold teams, the new X-Factor and X-Force, no one cares about giving a call to Nightcrawler, Kitty and Rachel. Don't even let me start with Rob Liefeld in New Mutants: whatever that is, it is certainly not the New Mutants. He ignored everything thaw came before him.

      We are about to begin a new era in the X-books, in which Andy Kubert comes along, and John Romita Junior returns. But everything is wrong. Magneto crashes Illyana's funeral, someone he really cared once. Wolverine loses his adamantiun, his nose and becomes a feral thing or whatever. Xavier becomes Onslaught. Joseph appears. There is that awful space adventure with a team led by Rogue. Everything is simply awful.

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    2. To be fair, Excalibur did make contact with the X-Men circa the relauch in '91, in issue #42 of their series. Granted, the bulk of it happened off-panel, and it's pretty egregious that it took as long as it did to get the two groups together on page, for reals, but still, at least some effort was made.

      And, as you'll see, we'll have to agree to disagree about "everything" coming up being awful. A lot of it is 90s dreck, but there's some good stuff in there. X-FORCE post-Liefeld is much more the "graduate New Mutants" series it always should have been, especially once the "Road Trip" arc comes along, early Generation X is good, the wedding of Scott & Jean is a nice moment for the series that manages to be a big deal without being a full blown event. Feral Wolverine is dumb, but adamantium-less Wolverine has some merit, and was legitimately shocking at the time. Early Quesada on a few X-FACTOR issues. Warren Ellis on EXCALIBUR, really the only-Davis creator worth a damn on that series. Age of Apocalypse is fantastic. Onslaught has its good moments (and dumb moments, yes). Joseph isn't a terrible idea in theory, but gets ruined by the ultimate reveal of his origins. Joe Madureira art is nice to look at, even if some of the stories its telling are dumb.

      You have to sift through a lot more dreck, but there's diamonds in the roughs of the early to mid 90s.

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    3. Ah, now I understand the question regarding Lee. Well, I have to admit I didn't stick around long enough to find out. X-Cutioner's Song was where I called it quits with X-Men, with only a few exceptions for a couple of sparkly covers, until maybe 15 years later when I started catching up with Morrison's and Whedon's runs, the 40-year DVD-ROM, and then more recent stuff. I think Lee's departure though, with Claremont already out, meant a very low point for the franchise. Lee wasn't a great writer after Claremont left, but at least the art was still great. Then even that was gone, and there was little left to keep me buying. I was getting older, too, and moving onto other comics--and then out of comics entirely by 1993 or so. I called it quits completely after the Spawn/Batman crossover.

      As for the Cyclops/Maddie thing, well, that's the problem with editorial mandate and ongoing serial comics. Eventually, someone screws something up, mandates are made, creative teams change, etc. It's not ideal, and the reasons behind what happened are well documented, going back to the Dark Phoenix saga. Since my entire time as a fan was spent after all of that happened, and I still quite enjoy a lot of it, I can't be TOO bothered by the inconsistencies/problems/etc.

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    4. Indeed, Age of Apocalypse was a very good idea, with some rough points here and there, but certainly something refreshing.

      I actually didn't follow X-Force nor Generation X (except for the early issues), thus, I have no way to argue in favor or against them.

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    5. Licinio: If memory serves, X-Force was a bit directionless from X-Cutioner's Song until Age of Apocalypse, after which Sam joined the X-Men and the rest of the team moved into the X-mansion. Then they were pretty directionless again until issue 70(?), in which they saved Dani and Cable tried to take the team underground again, giving her the chance to join them. Dani's all "With you? lol nope, thx," and this time the team made the right choice, kicking Cable to the curb.

      That began the Road Trip era, when the team was the (grown-up) New Mutants again in all but name. Opinions will vary, but certainly it was my favorite era of X-Force.

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  4. No mention of the speech about Archangel's wings being a big-ass retcon (of a sub-plot that was going on as long ago as eight issues ago)?

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    1. vv What he quoted. :)

      Granted, you're right that I didn't peg it as being as big a retcon as it is, but that's in part because I simply find all the Archangel angst stuff in this era very tiresome, and am happy to just move past it for awhile.

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  5. "Jean tells Warren that he doesn't suffer from any kind of bloodlust, that his wings don't have a mind of their own, and he is solely responsible for his actions. This feels like it should be a big deal, and while it does more or less end the "angtsy Archangel" subplot that's been running in the series since the relaunch, it really isn't handled that way, and Archangel more or less just settles into the background of the narrative for awhile, without ever really grappling with the full implications of that."

    Next issue, Archangel looks very happy taking Charlotte Jones to Lila Cheney's concert. It was very odd to me.

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  6. @Matt: How can you be so dismissive of the Morlocks as a concept;( Claremont's two prologue scenes in Uncanny #176, "Decisions", each flag up dubious moments from his run: the Valerie Cooper scene gives a detailed recap of Uncanny #150, which featured Magneto attempting to force the countries of the world to disarm - a somewhat noble goal, albeit tyrannical in execution. The X-Men stopped him, effectively allowing the governments of the world to keep on building bombs and weapons. The Morlock scene reminds us of a much more recent adventure, wherein the X-Men encountered a group of underprivileged, disenfranchised, self-loathing mutants and reacted to their plight with no compassion. The very premise of the X-Men – protecting humans from other mutants – is "explicitly counter revolutionary." "They were not created to fight for civil rights; rather they were created to fight against those who did so." With those prologue scenes, Claremont was deliberately flagging up problematic moments in the story of the X-Men – moments that he himself had contributed to – I'd suggest in order to plant the first seeds of a new kind of X-Men. In the subsequent issues, he would upset the status quo in significant ways. Valerie Cooper would eventually recruit Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants – ironically rechristened "Freedom Force" – and THEY, not the X-Men, would become the "counter-revolutionary" force of the series. Meanwhile, the Morlocks would transform into a much more sympathetic group – often acting in the story as allies of the X-Men rather than enemies. Eventually, the X-Men are forced to seek shelter in the Morlocks' underground catacombs after a particular catastrophe, and soon after, the X-Men fight to defend/avenge the Morlocks during the ambitious "Mutant Massacre" storyline. Granted, it will turn out to be a slow transition (the X-Men will still live in a mansion for the next three years plus) but as early as then we see Claremont laying the groundwork for a significant reorientation of the overall premise's skewed politics and that to me is why the Morlocks were so significant to his overall concept and run.
    @Austin: It's quite intriguing how quickly Mikhail was gotten rid of from the X-titles so soon after his introduction. While Harras might have endorsed it, why when while Whilce had introduced him, he must have likewise met with Harras's approval if the character was greenlit!?
    @Licioni: The blame for Scott's treatment of Maddy can't be entirely placed upon the shoulders of the writers, as the whole set of circumstances forcing that was created by editorial approving Jean's resurrection for membership on X-Factor.
    Re: 1) you might be interested to know that Marc Silvestri originally created Cyber Force as a group of villains for the X-Men, who would then turn against their corporation and become heroes, and 2) really good question.
    @Austin: AoA was the highlight of FabNic and SLobdell's X-runs, the particular highpoint of that event being Astonishing X-Men. What was odd about the implementation of it though was that despite Charles getting killed by his son triggering the creation of that reality, it had no impact whatsoever on the rest of the Marvel Universe. It's not as if it was like Onslaught where just the main heroes got transported to a different reality, AoA was pitched on the basis it had actually altered the entire timeline.
    @Jonathan: You had to remind us re: Archangel;( But what I want to know more was the old dangler from #242 when Rogue kissed him and she saw Apocalypse in Archangel's form with the metal wings. Just how was a mutant only shown prior to this as possessing the ability to reshape his extremities (and the remainder of his power based just on his possession of Celestial technology), able to completely take over the body of one of his Horsemen?

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    1. Granted, it will turn out to be a slow transition (the X-Men will still live in a mansion for the next three years plus) but as early as then we see Claremont laying the groundwork for a significant reorientation of the overall premise's skewed politics and that to me is why the Morlocks were so significant to his overall concept and run.

      And effectively this is what they roll back from the minute Claremont is (practically) out of the picture. As of X-MEN #1 they're again living in the mansion rebuilt overnight and are in full confidence of Nick Fury and Val Cooper, with lattet to the extent that Xavier and Scott get to appoint Alex to lead the successor of the Freedom Force.

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    2. @Teemu: Yep which would explain why, once Lee and the artists migrate to Malibu, Claremont would unlikely return even if Harras had invited him straight back.

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  7. // The death of Mikhail, Callisto and the Morlocks. //

    I didn’t see that coming.

    // Eventually, it will be revealed that he actually teleported them to an alternate dimension //

    Of course he did.

    // from which some of them will return as the more violent Gene Nation //

    Of course they will.

    // and later still, another group of generic mutants will set up shop in the tunnels so we can have a "classic" iteration of the Morlocks running around again //

    Of course they will.

    // Jean tells Warren that he doesn't suffer from any kind of bloodlust, that his wings don't have a mind of their own, and he is solely responsible for his actions. This feels like it should be a big deal //

    No kidding.

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