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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #295

"Familiar Refrain"
December 1992

In a Nutshell
The X-Men battle Apocalypse as Wolverine & Bishop search for info on Stryfe.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Brandon Peterson
Inks: Terry Austin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
A weakened Apocalypse, searching out his Horsemen to learn why they attacked the X-Men, enters one of his old bases to discover the X-Men waiting for him. Meanwhile, Havok & Polaris check in on X-Force, now imprisoned in the Danger Room. As the X-Men attack Apocalypse, a captive Jean Grey comes face-to-face with Stryfe. At the X-Mansion, Val Cooper briefs the X-Men & X-Factor on Stryfe, thanks to Mr. Sinister alerting them to his involvement, while Wolverine & Bishop break in to Department K, having taken it upon themselves to find more info on Stryfe. Elsewhere, Apocalypse manages to overpower the X-Men despite his weakened state, and teleports away, determined to discover who is orchestrating recent events. At the X-Mansion, Havok & Gambit meet with Cannonball, and offer him the opportunity to help take down Stryfe in exchange for any information Cannonball has on Stryfe and the Mutant Liberation Front. In Canada, Cable arrives at Department K, also seeking information on Stryfe, and proceeds to run right into an enraged Wolverine & Bishop.

Firsts and Other Notables
In the wake of their defeat last chapter, X-Force is now imprisoned in the Danger Room (and all wearing the "school uniform/body armor" yellow-and-blue togs that the X-Men wore as a group post-"X-Tinction Agenda", pre-relaunch, which is a nice touch), which is pretty much where most of them will remain for the duration of the story.


The one exception to this is Cannonball (and, we'll see in the next chapter, Boom-Boom), who is released to help the X-Men/X-Factor take down the MLF in exchange for giving them all the intel he has on the group (he tries to get full pardons for X-Force first, but comes up short).


Apocalypse does that annoying serial villain thing where, upon vanquishing the X-Men, he opts not to kill them, saying he finds slaughtering unconscious foes unsavory. Which is especially rich coming from Apocalypse, given his whole "survival of the fittest" mentality. Maybe it's a mask for how weakened he truly is, and lacks the strength to kill them all before one or more wake up, so he runs while he can.


Stryfe puts Jean Grey in a room where she's clawed and grabbed at by robot arms, likening the experience to that of infant being ripped from the embrace family into the arms of cold, alien strangers. When Jean asks him "why have you done this to me?", he responds that he was going to ask her the same thing, more "Stryfe is Cyclop's son in some way" teases.


Wolverine & Bishop share this issue's trading card.


A Work in Progress
Narration about Apocalypse references his "master's whip", the first indication of his later origin as an Egyptian slave.

The between-issue transistion for Apocalypse is a little rough, as he goes from waking up (still not fully cooked) in Egypt to painfully stumbling into a former base in America (still not fully cooked). Presumably, he teleported in like he teleports out, but why not arrive in the base instead of outside it?

The X-Men/Apocalypse fight occurs in the house he used as a base for the Alliance of Evil in his first appearance in X-Factor #5-6.

Lorna's jaw is shown to still be wired shut here, from when she was punched in the face by Cyber.


In something of an odd moment, Psylocke stands over the injured Xavier, telling him she knows what it likes to have her body forcibly transformed, and promising to end things for him if it gets worse. While it's certainly true that Psylocke has experienced some significant body transformation stuff, this seems like a moment someone like Archangel (who's body has also been forcibly changed, specifically by Apocalypse) has probably earned more. Plus, this is pretty much the only standout moment for Psylocke in this crossover, aside from being a part of various squads.


The glove Stryfe lost to X-Factor in X-Factor #78 is referenced (the footnote incorrectly cites issue #77), in another one of those great "Havok is embarassed by his team" moments.


Jubilee also suggests that Stryfe could just be Cable wearing armor, an idea the others don't dismiss.


As Wolverine and Bishop infiltrate Department K, Wolverine notes that Weapon: Prime must be out of town or the resistance they encounter would be fiercer, which A. I'm surprised Wolverine even knows Weapon: Prime exists/existed and B. No, they probably wouldn't have provided fiercer resistance.

Bishop notes that he's subduing the Department K soldiers without killing them, something he'd like Wolverine to bring to Storm's attention, an appreciated acknowledgement that the X-Men aren't killing people, and of Bishop's ongoing character development.


For Sale
The inside cover of this issue has an ad for Disney's Aladdin.


Austin's Analysis
With X-Force defeated and Stryfe revealed as the main antagonist in the previous chapter, this is mostly setup for the next act of the story, as the combined X-teams begin to pivot their efforts towards finding Stryfe and the MLF, while Stryfe begins teasing the mystery at the heart of the story in his interactions with Jean Grey. While not as strong as previous chapters (with the Apocalypse battle feeling a bit like a superfluous bit of action to break up all the talking, though it was at least setup in previous chapters), Lobdell continues to display a good sense of the franchise's history, both recent (the reference to X-Factor #78 and Stryfe's glove) and older (returning to Apocalypse's original base of operations, as this story continues to warm my Simonson's-X-Factor-loving heart) along with characterization, both in the way Cannonball is depicted (eager to help but still looking out for his team), and the veteran/rookie interactions between Bishop and Wolverine.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine & Bishop battle Cable in X-Factor #85. Friday, Wolverine runs around in his memories some more in Wolverine #64. Next week, the X-Men fight the MLF in X-Men (vol. 2) #15.

Collected Editions

 

18 comments:

  1. Why would Gambit, of all characters, be the one to offer Cannonball his freedom in exchange for his help finding the MLF? As far as I know he's never even met Sam and it seems like a role almost anyone on the team would be fulfilling.

    Not only is Psylocke's situation completely different than Xavier's, but Betsy seems a bit attached to a man she met years after joining the X-Men.

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    1. Story- and character-wise, it makes no sense. But in 1992, Gamivt was HOT HOT HOT, so he got as much "screen" time as possible. (see also: ninja Psylocke)

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    2. Gambit and Cannonball met at X-Tinction Agenda.

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    3. Yeah, I have no idea why Gambit is in that room, other than "because he's Gambit and popular". Even with the Gold Team, Beast and Wolverine away from the mansion, someone like Rogue (or heck, even Psylocke) would be a better representative just in terms of seniority.

      Good point too on Psylocke not having as longstanding a personal connection to Xavier as some of the other X-Men.

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    4. I want to think that maybe Gambit is there to use his mutant charisma power to get Sam to cooperate. You know, the ability that hasn't been mentioned since Claremont was on the book.

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    5. To be fair I think starting around this time there was an implication that was special "bond" amongst psi-sensitives (I remember an issue of either Morrison's or Whedon's X-men where Emma states that "Charles thought us a bit...'above'".)

      And yeah, Gambit involvement in these momenrs is just pure popularity.A similar happens in the "Revanche" story line and "Fatal Attractions."

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    6. Gambit's artificially increased prominence would also be included in the "What If" edition of X-Cutioner's Song, where he tries for leadership of the team

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  2. My favorite bit from this issue is the exchange between Strong Guy and Jubilee:

    Guido: Jubilee, are you finished?

    Jubilee: (Continues berating X-Force.)

    Guido: Let me rephrase that: Jubilee, you are finished.

    For whatever reason, that bit has stuck in my head for decades and I still think of it every so often.

    "Presumably, he teleported in like he teleports out, but why not arrive in the base instead of outside it?"

    Maybe he's so weak/disoriented that he programmed the teleporter wrong. He doesn't teleport himself with his powers, does he? It's been so long, and I was never a massive Apocalypse expert in the first place, that I can't remember. (Oh, dear god -- is this what it's like to be an aging fan??)

    I just noticed that in the panel with Strong Guy and Stryfe's glove, Guido is actually holding up the glove. You can see his fingers miscolored at the top, there. I always thought it was somehow suspended from something in the foreground. This of course begs the question of whether Strong Guy just carries aroudn the glove with him all the time -- and if so, where does he keep it?

    "The inside cover of this issue has an ad for Disney's Aladdin."

    Completely unrelated to this issue, but ALADDIN was, and remains, my favorite of all the films from the "Disney Renaissance" of the nineties. And I loved that it became a whole franchise with a DTV sequel, an 86- episode (!) TV series, and then one last sequel to wrap it all up.

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    1. You're correct; at this point, Apocalypse is technically teleporting via machinery, not via a natural power of his own.

      I also only recently realized Guido is holding Stryfe's glove.

      As for me, I'm a LITTLE MERMAID guy. I enjoy Aladdin, but it's very much in spite of Robin Williams presence (whose comedic work has consistently driven me batty, even though I know that's heresy because he's venerated as a national treasure), which for most people is the best thing about ALADDIN.

      If I was to rank the Disney Renaissance films, I'd probably go:

      1. LITTLE MERMAID 2. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3. LION KING 4. ALADDIN in my top tier, with the others (not all of which I've seen) somewhere below that.

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  3. I always found the cutesy picture of Stryfe in Val's briefing funny. "We don't have actual footage of him at hands atm, so here's cartoon artist's interpretation."

    I never even saw Aladdin, like many of the other Disney flicks of the era, so of the ads the one for HeroQuest game system tickles me to most. Fun at 9, absolutely hilarious at 19.

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  4. I never realized till now how much of a bitch Apocalypse looks like in this crossover. In this cover he's getting beat up, then in X-Force #17 he's getting his clock cleaned by Stryfe. I get that he hasn't fully regenerated yet, but it's a far cry from his omnipotence in X-Factor.

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  5. // Jubilee also suggests that Stryfe could just be Cable wearing armor //

    I don’t know whether it’s down to Peterson or Austin, but while the art is overall fairly unappealing to me there are a few profile shots — like the panel here with Gambit and Rogue in the foreground — that, in a very flattering comparison, remind me of P. Craig Russell.

    The Bullpen Bulletins page mentions the (rather belated) home-video debut of "Pryde of the X-Men" and suggests packs of the newly released Marvel Masterpieces card set as Halloween treats.

    Advertised on the back cover is a card-based X-Men board game — somewhat, if understandably so, outdated in the characters depicted: Cyclops, Wolverine in his brown suit, and Magneto in both the ad illustration and the game box shown; Nightcrawler in the ad itself with Colossus on the game box. I’m not sure you even need the board for it, but it reminds me of a traditional Spider-Man & Fantastic Four board game I had as a kid.

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    1. Was it this board game? https://www.google.com/search?q=x-men+board+game&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjFr9mygPDSAhVYwGMKHfWAAwUQ_AUICigD&biw=1331&bih=725#imgrc=2ISKAz2wRkQocM:

      I'm almost positive I had this as a kid (As well as the Pryde of the X-Men tape). In fact, my board game came with a copy of Uncanny #303 with a gold foil background on it. It turns out that these versions of 303 are very rare, and it's actually the most valuable comic I own now.

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    2. I had X-Men Alert and played it a ton with my brother when I was a kid. No idea how well it holds up today, but I had a lot of fun with it back then. There was a path around the board where you'd count victory points -- first one to the end won -- and you gained said points by fighting villains in the middle of the board. Then there were like story cards or something you could play for extra effects.

      As Blam notes, it was kind of outdated -- the character pieces were sculpted in older costumes, the artwork on the various hero and villain cards was frequently from older editions of the OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, and the images on the story cards were entirely made up of clip art from "Dark Phoenix Saga".

      But like I said, it was fun and thanks to the older artwork and characters featured, the game introduced me -- at least via visuals if nothing else -- to characters like D'Spayre Arkon, and Moses Magnum, among others.

      A few years later there was sort of a sequel game -- different mechanics but similar style pieces and cards -- called X-Men Under Siege, which was way more contemporary in terms of costumes and characters. I don't think we enjoyed X-Men Under Siege as much, but we did grab the character cards and pieces and use them in X-Men Alert since they were compatible.

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    3. The ad in #295 is for X-Men Alert, which Matt describes; the one linked to by Ian was X-Men Under Siege. It appears the actual box art was different than that shown in the ad, subbing Archangel for Colossus, Nightcrawler for Magneto, and weirdest of all Cyclops in his white-detail X-Factor costume for Cyclops in his newest costume; Wolverine is different as well but he’s still in his brown suit. Maybe there were different boxes released that my quick Google didn’t turn up.

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    4. Actually the ad shows the final box art in the middle of the page. I think you're looking at that picture down in the right-hand corner, which appears to be a mini-ad for another game called "X-Men: Deck the Mutants", which I've never heard of. Though the images of Cyclops, Wolverine, and Magneto in the main ad look to be from the cover of "Deck the Mutants", while the image of Nightcrawler is from "X-Men Alert".

      These Pressman folks apparently had a good run with X-Men games in the nineties. Googling all this stuff, I found yet another one by them that I'd never heard of, which appears to use some of the same figurines as "Alert" and "Under Siege", called "Crisis in the Danger Room"!

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    5. // I think you're looking at that picture down in the right-hand corner, which appears to be a mini-ad for another game //

      You’re absolutely right.
      This blog has gone [0] days without Blam missing something obvious.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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