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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

X-amining Marvel Comics Presents #132-136 - Brothers in Arms

"Trouble in Paradise" / "Alone Against the Coven" / "Chain Reaction" / "Off the Cuff" / "Cat's Game"
July - September 1993

In a Nutshell
Wolverine battles Cyber on a tropical island

Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Steve Lightle
Inker: Steve Lightle
Letterer: Ul Higgins, John Babcock (issue #136)
Colorists: Steve & Marianne Lightle
Editors: Terry Kavanagh, Richard Ashford (issues #133-136)
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Vacationing on a tropical island, Wolverine encounters a young woman named Kayla fleeing from a cult called the Coven, who intend to bring about a new Dark Age on Earth. After fighting off some members of the Coven, Wolverine & Kayla sleep together, which Kayla says marks Wolverine as her champion; now, the Coven will need to kill him to meet their goals. Meanwhile, the leaders of the Coven, who have hired Cyber, learn of Wolverine's involvement. Wolverine attacks them, but is knocked out, and when he wakes up, he discovers he's been chained to Cyber. The two fight, and Wolverine gets knocked out again. He regains consciousness just as he and Cyber are being lowered into a vat of acid, intended by the Coven as a sacrifice. Cyber manages to cut them free, and the pair escape along with a jewel the Coven needs for their ritual. Wolverine brings the gem to a temple housing a group resisting the Coven, including Kayla. They only want to let Wolverine inside, but are forced to allow Cyber in since he's still chained to Wolverine. Inside, Cyber immediately reveals this has all been a ruse to get him inside the temple, and unlocks the manacle. The temple defiled, the rest of the Coven enter, but Wolverine is able to defeat them by going into a berserker rage, and Cyber escapes in the melee. With the Coven defeated, Kayla reveals the gem they stole was a fake all along, and Wolverine notes that in being deceitful like the Coven, the group has traded a darkness they could see for one that lives in everyone.

Firsts and Other Notables
This story is arguably most notable for featuring the second encounter between Wolverine and Cyber, following Cyber's introductory story in issues #85-92. Of course, between those two stories, Cyber appeared in X-Factor as the leader of the Hells Belles, though no indication of that (nor how he survived his encounter with a train in X-Factor #81) is made here. This does mark the first time a writer other than Peter David writes Cyber.

The other villains of this story are the Coven, a cult intending to bring about the end of the world who have more or less hired Cyber as muscle. I don't believe they ever appear again.

Issue #133 is the last edited by Terry Kavanagh, long time editor of the series, as he steps down to pursue a freelance writing career (this coincides with his departure from Excalibur as the editor of that series, as it gets moved into the X-office following issue #67). All this free time will eventually allow him take over as the writer of X-Man, in the process giving us one of the worst written X-books in history (he will also contribute to Spider-Man's Clone Saga).

A Work in Progress
Wolverine references Michael Two Youngman, the civilian name of Alpha Flight's Shaman.


Wolverine and Cyber are chained together with adamantium chains, which is of course necessary to not have Wolverine just slice right through them, but it seems odd that this rando cult would have access to something like that, given how rare adamantium is meant to be.


Cyber references Wolverine's propensity for having dead love interests.


Cyber also mentions that his left eye is fake, the result of his last encounter with Wolverine.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
The primary members of the Coven look like they could have been from an Image book around this time, complete with vague, kewl 90s names like "Fetish" and "Blood Shadow" and "Vex".


The Reference Section
Cyber compares the Coven to Jim Jones, the cult leader who initiated the mass suicide of his followers at Jonestown, Guyana in the 70s (that event is also where the idiom "drinking the Kool-Aid" comes from).

The Best There is at What He Does
Wolverine jokes that finding trouble is his real mutant power.


In addition to drowning, acid appears to be something else which can kill Wolverine, at least at this point, as he and Cyber are nearly dropped into a vat of it (the idea being that, at that quantity, it would eat away all his flesh, leaving only his skeleton).


Austin's Analysis
One of the big drawbacks to a lot of the Marvel Comics Presents stories, especially the fluffier, less consequential ones, is that, at eight chapters, they end up feeling very padded. So it's to this story's credit that it starts at something resembling in media res, with Wolverine already on vacation, Cyber already allied with the Coven, and the Coven's plot already in motion. At only five chapters long, the three chapter setup for all that is, mercifully, skipped.

But that aside, this is still another utterly superfluous MCP Wolverine story. There's very little about it which required the presence of Wolverine (you could sub in nearly any character here), as even his rematch with Cyber is relatively underplayed. We can roll our eyes all we want at how hard Peter David worked to setup Cyber as the one foe Wolverine feared in his initial appearance, but that was the key element to their relationship. In that story, Wolverine quaked in fear at the mere mention of the baddie; here, Cyber is just yet another recurring Wolverine foe, with the shared adamantium element the most notable thing that sets him apart from, say, Sabretooth or Lady Deathstrike. So the plot is rote, the characterization basic, the art fine but unexciting: like so many MCP tales before it, it's an utterly harmless, but also utterly value-less, story.

Next Issue
Next week, Cable is back in the present in Cable #3, and Wolverine gets another oneshot in Wolverine: Inner Fury.

14 comments:

  1. I haven't read the story, but I have always liked Steve Lightle's work, and based on what I'm seeing here, it looks good.

    I will say, his artwork here does have a Jae Lee look to it, no?

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    1. The art is definitely the highlight of this story, though that's clearing a low bar. And yeah, the similarities to Jae Lee are there.

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  2. I would say that's more the other way around.

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  3. Cyber is curiously missing here and in the X-FACTOR story all the continuous drug-induced hallucinations which he will be sporting on his next appearance on WOLVERINE, supposedly courtesy of his plunge into the vat of hallucinogens on his first appearance in MCP.

    Which girlfriend of Logan Cyber again was supposed to have killed? Is this one of those throw-at-wall danglers?

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    1. Whichever one was introduced into his backstory along with Cyber in Cyber's introductory story. I forget her name. She was the one wearing the poodle skirt in Wolverine's 1950s/GREASE hallucinations.

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  4. "All this free time will eventually allow him take over as the writer of X-Man, in the process giving us one of the worst written X-books in history (he will also contribute to Spider-Man's Clone Saga)."

    (...thereby giving us some of the worst-written Spider-Man stories in history, too.)

    In fact, the return of the clone was Kavanagh's idea. He pitched it to the rest of the Spider-writers, they were on board, and he introduced Ben Reilly in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN. Of course, the storyline was only supposed to run something like three months across the four titles for a total of twelve-ish chapters, but Mighty Marvel Marketing loved the sales spike so much that they instructed editorial to draw things out to the point that the saga ultimately lasted two years across all four titles (plus annuals, mini-series, specials, etc.).

    I sound like I'm complaining, but I legitimately loved the Clone Saga when I was a teenager. I have the full run of trade paperbacks they reprinted it in some years back, as well. Someday, I'll actually re-read it!

    (Kavanagh really was an awful Spider-Man writer, though. Just terrible.)

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  5. The only Kavanagh-penned thing I can recall offhand that I actually enjoyed was the RISE OF APOCALYPSE miniseries, though it's been years since I last read it, and it may very well have coasted by on the strength of Pollina's art and me just being happy to see a comprehensive origin of Apocalypse.

    I have the full run of trade paperbacks they reprinted it in some years back, as well. Someday, I'll actually re-read it!

    I've never actually read much but snippets of the Clone Saga, but someday I'd really like to read it start to finish, just to experience it for myself.

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    1. I believe the writers involved did the best they could with the Clone Saga, given how Marvel Marketing and editorial kept forcing them to stretch it out. Initially it was Marketing who wanted it extended for sales and who ordered the SCARLET SPIDER mini-event to mimic the success of "Age of Apocalypse", then later Bob Harras wanted it extended so its resolution wouldn't conflict with "Onslaught" -- but as a result, the writers really made a great character out of Ben Reilly, to the point that his death stung a lot. Howard Mackie has specifically spoken about this: the goal was always to make Ben a likeable character, but once they knew his days were numbered, they doubled down on it, and I think they were successful. We'd followed Ben for two years across tons of stories at that point, and his end was heartbreaking.

      The story itself may be a little out there for Spider-Man, but I ate it up at the time and in retrospect, while it consumed every title for a long time, it was really only two years out of nearly sixty years of continuity. It was filled with insane twists and turns, schemes within schemes, and just all-out nuttiness. In a way, you could almost it out "90s X-book"-ed the 90s X-books.

      It's not for everyone, but my recollections of it are really happy ones, and I suspect that I'll still enjoy it for what it is when I revisit it someday.

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  6. Kavanagh's damage wasn't just limited to Spider-Man and X-Man- he also suggested the Crossing crossover for Avengers, which is widely considered the worst Avengers story for the 90s.
    And it didn't just start after he stopped editing Marvel Comics Presents- he finished off the Cloak and Dagger series with an incomprehensible retcon regarding their powers and D'Spayre, wrote the infamous Spider Armor story in Web of Spider-Man and wrote the last couple of years of Moon Knight- which were so horrible the character was killed off for two years.

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    1. Ugh, I try to block out Kavanagh's MOON KNIGHT. I love Moon Knight; he's a favorite Marvel character, and Kavanagh's run is just depressingly awful.

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    2. Y'know, as I think back, I'm pretty sure it was Terry Kavanagh who made me take notice of the fact that there were good comic book writers and back comic book writers. I mean I understood that I liked some comics more than others, but I'm really pretty certain it was Kavanagh's WEB OF SPIDER-MAN that got me to pay attention to writer credits. His stuff was just so bad that I began to actively avoid anything he wrote (aside from the Spider-Man stuff that I felt I was obligated to read as a fan of the character), and from there, I started to recognize other writers I liked and disliked, but I don't think there was anyone I shunned like Kavanagh.

      (Sometimes I feel bad saying stuff like this. From most accounts, he's a nice guy and a lot of writers and artists enjoyed having him as their editor... but his writing was really, really, really awful.)

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    3. I am only missing 2 issues from the Marc Spector Moon Knight series and they are pricey due to Platts art. I'd like to complete the set, but I just can't bear to spend that kind of money on a comic by Kavanagh. I know I'll hate reading them.

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