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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #304

"...For What I Have Done"
September 1993

In a Nutshell
Magneto officially returns, and Colossus joins his Acolytes.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencilers: John Romita Jr., Jae Lee, Chris Sprouse, Brandon Peterson, Paul Smith
Inks: Dan Green, Dan Panosian, Terry Austin, Tom Palmer, Keith Williams
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Mike Thomas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Exodus visits the Acolytes, revealing to them how Cortez betrayed and murdered Magneto, before turning his power on Cortez. Meanwhile, Xavier prepares for Illyana's funeral, while Magneto thinks back on his past before declaring that mutants need to be awoken from Xavier's dream before more innocents die. At the X-Mansion, Kitty & Storm are shocked to see a stone-faced Colossus burning his paintings, and in the wake of Illyana's funeral, he angrily lays into Xavier for failing him. Just then, Magneto and his Acolytes arrive. Magnetically holding the X-Men in check, he executes Senyaka for acting without his explicit permission, then offers everyone assembled sanctuary aboard Avalon, declaring that from this point forward, anyone who isn't with him will be considered an enemy. He then calls Avalon down from orbit, and the Acolytes board it. Just then, Bishop, who had been absorbing Magneto's energy, is able to break free and blast him, loosening his control. Rogue tries to take Magneto out, and when she fails, Bishop, charged up by his fellow teammates, attacks again. But Colossus strikes Bishop from behind, and agrees to join Magneto aboard Avalon. Devastated, Xavier telepathically takes control of Magneto's power, and though he can't bring himself to kill Magneto, he does hurl him and Avalon back into space, knowing full well it's only a matter of time before Magneto will return and threaten the world once again.

Firsts and Other Notables
Though much of the latter half of 1993 is devoted to an overall, linewide celebration of the X-Men's 30th anniversary (including two separate anniversary inspired crossovers, assorted limited series, and one-shots), this is the "official" 30th aniversary issue, and it features a cover date exactly thirty years after the cover date on X-Men #1 (this issue was notoriously late, so I don't believe it was actually on stands exactly thirty years after the first issue, and of course, the series doesn't have exactly thirty years-worth of published issues, due to variances in shipping schedules through the years, and that chunk of time in the late 60s and early 70s when it wasn't being published).

The centerpiece of the celebration is Magneto, who officially returns in this issue (despite already quietly appearing in X-Force #25 and, thanks to scheduling issues, X-Men Unlimited #2). Whereas in his X-Force appearance he received only a third-page panel, here, he gets a pull double page sideways splash reveal.


This is also the issue where Colossus leaves the X-Men and joins Magneto's Acolytes, the culmination of "shit all over Colossus" plotline that saw the character lose his brother, his parents, and his sister, as well as the ability to transform back into human form. His anger at Xavier in this issue is somewhat unfounded (in that Xavier wasn't directly responsible for all that happening, even if he did take Colossus off his family farm way back when), and it's hard to reconcile him throwing in with a group of mass murderers in the Acolytes, but his "screw this noise, I'm out of here" attitude and desire to do something different is certainly understandable. Though he'll continue to appear semi-regularly as one of the Acolytes, and eventually leave them to join Excalibur in a regular capacity, this marks the beginning of his longest absence yet from this series; he'll not return as a member of the X-Men until issue #360.


It's established that Magneto survived his apparent death in X-Men #3 thanks to the Acolyte Chrome, who encased him in a protective metal coating.


The Acolytes finally learn about Cortez's complicity in Magento's death, as Exodus arrives to tell them and bring them to the revived Magneto, effectively ending Cortez's tenure as the leader of the group.


Exodus then turns his power on Cortez, and though the art makes it look pretty harmful, Exodus notes that Magneto wants Cortez left alive, the victim of someone else's legacy. The word "legacy" seems to imply that Cortez is or will shortly be infected with the Legacy Virus, but that never comes about.  He'll next pop up as the architect of the X-Men/Avengers crossover "Bloodties", which is more or less the last hurrah for the character.


Banshee, making his first appearance since X-Men #7 (though chronologically, he appears in X-Men #24 prior to this issue) is on hand for the funeral, and Bishop refers to him as the custodian of the next generation of mutants, one of the earliest bits of track laid for his upcoming role in Generation X.


Illyana's funeral is held this issue, with the vast majority of the various X-characters depicted at the grave site or elsewhere in the issue, with a few exceptions: in terms of characters who actually appear in the issue, Psylocke & Warpath appear on the cover but not in the issue (and Revanche is nowhere to be found), and only Shadowcat & Nightcrawler are there from Excalibur. All of X-Factor is present, save, curiously, Wolfsbane (Polaris is wearing gold "risque" costume), and along with Warpath, neither Cable nor Siryn appear in the issue. There's also an African-American woman in the crowd who goes unnamed, presumably either Stevie Hunter or Charlotte Jones (I'd assume the former).


Professor X refers to Magneto as "Erik" for the first time in this issue, suggesting he's always known Magneto's real name despite never using it before (Lobdell will attempt to address this odd name usage in issue #309). And while anyone reading this after reading X-Men Unlimited #2 would know this to be Magneto's name, this issue was meant to come out (and be read) before that one, which probably would have been somewhat confusing.


Senyaka, the Acolyte member of Cortez's personal guard, is seemingly killed this issue by Magneto, as a demonstration to the other Acolytes to not act without his permission (which is kind of a dick move given they didn't know he was alive). But Senyaka will return shortly, alive and well, over in Cable.


The issue ends with Xavier co-opting Magneto's power to hurl Avalon into outer space. It's not clear if he hurled it far, or just back into orbit, but it and Magneto will be back in the next chapter of the crossover, so presumably he didn't throw it far.

The "Fatal Attractions" hologram on this issue's cover features Magneto. 


The credits for this issue get their own page, gussied up for the anniversary in the same font/design as used for the various X-Men/Avengers 30th anniversary house ads. 


Stan Lee also pens a note in the letter column, reflecting on the X-Men's thirty year history (it is fairly bland and non-specific in its praise). 


A Work in Progress
As the issue opens, the Acolytes are still using the remains of the Leningrad sub as their base, as seen in X-Factor #92.

While preparing for Illyana's funeral, Xavier reviews the Magneto Protocols (previously mentioned in X-Factor). We also see he has a Kirbytech desk in his bedroom.


During a flashback, it's mentioned that Magneto's mutant power first manifested itself when his daughter was killed, which is a slight retcon. It's also said that a childhood bought of hepatitis suppressed the manifestation of his powers, presumably as a way to explain why he didn't magnet himself out of the concentration camp.


Storm and Kitty have a heart-to-heart in the skies above the mansion, possibly a nod to their similar discussion in issue #180.


They are interrupted by the smoke from Colossus burning all his paintings, his most emo move yet.


Dialogue in this issue suggests that X-Force hasn't told anyone they encountered Magneto and that Magneto grieviously wounded Cable.

In the Magneto-power-usage department, he is able to prevent all the gathered mutants from using their powers (save those, like Bishop, whose power works unconsciously), and more or less freezes them in place via the iron in their blood.

Cyclops also makes a point of telling Wolverine to stay out of the fight, more foreshadowing for their encounter in X-Men #25.


Magneto says his near-death in the Earth's EM field has left him more powerful than ever.


It is confirmed here that it was Magneto who rescued Xavier in X-Men Unlimited #1.

Professor X notes that Avalon is tricked out with Shi'ar technology and weaponry that Magneto could only have acquired while serving as headmaster of the school.


Human/Mutant Relations
In one of the more poignant (and effective) arguments made by Magneto to Xavier in this issue, he reminds Xavier that Magneto tried Xavier's approach to human/mutant co-existence, and it didn't work. So perhaps now Xavier should return the gesture and try Magneto's way.


Magneto cites the Legacy Virus as another human attack on mutants, and Cyclops rightly points out that Stryfe was a mutant, and Magneto can't very well hold his disease against humanity.

Young Love
Lilandra drops by via hologram to offer her condolences on Illyana's death.


For Sale
One of the first ad's for A Nightmare Before Christmas appears in this issue.


There's also a double page, Joe Madureira-drawn ad for Pizza Hut, presumably a precursor to the later animated series promotional tie-in.


Austin's Analysis
This issue has something of a bum rap among fans, and that reputation is not entirely unfounded. On the surface, it works fairly well as a celebration of the X-Men's 30th anniversary: members of the franchise's now-sprawling cast put in an appearance, the franchise's biggest villain makes a big, flashy return (despite making a few quieter returns already), making this the culmination of months of build-up, which allows the X-Men to square off with their central antagonist, their first foe lo those thirty years ago. But the presentation is sloppy; plagued by lateness, the multitude of artists on the double-sized issue come across feeling less like a celebratory jam than the result of the Dreaded Deadline Doom, with pages seemingly assigned at random in places while the artists involved hardly feel "celebratory": a case could be made for Paul Smith, and Jae Lee's style is appropriate for the section he draws, but Chris Sprouse is an artist with no significant past connection to the series or characters.

Even the actual fight with the Magneto, meant to be the centerpiece of the issue, is unexciting. His philosophical argument with Xavier is fine, but the conventions of the genre (and, really, the time) pepper those with lots of shots of character posing at each other while energy crackles around them. Backgrounds are sparse or non-existence, with figures usually arrayed across a color backdrop, and it's hard to place the figures in space relative to each other and their surroundings (and, to be fair, some of these failings could also be caused by the deadline issues).

But where this issue really falters, and what it routinely gets dinged for, is its presentation of Magneto, a Magneto far more akin to his earlier Silver Age appearances than in his last appearance, where he was essentially a bitter isolationist or, even, to the depictions of the character elsewhere in "Fatal Attractions": the Magneto of both X-Force #25 and X-Men #25 is much closer in spirit to Claremont's final take on the character than the near-ranting loon presented here. The general idea behind Magneto's overall plan in this crossover is a decent one: offering mutants sanctuary on Avalon, taking their fate out of the realms of human interference, is both a logical extension of his previous isolationist stance and entirely reasonable yet still at odds with Xavier's approach. But while the desire for a big X-Men/Magneto fight for the 30th anniversary is understandable, and that requires a less-measured Magneto willing to pick a fight with the X-Men, the way its triggered here seems both widely out of character for Magneto, and disconnected from his overall goal of creating an isolated mutant sanctuary. And it would have been very easy to present a Magneto more consistent with his past (and future) characterization without completely re-writing this issue.

For example, when Magneto first arrives at Illyana's funeral, a former student of his (and with whom he had a closer bond than some of the other New Mutants, as they shared a mutual struggle with their dark sides), he's rightly called on the impropriety of the act. He responds with some boilerplate ranting about how he's more concerned about the potential deaths of mutants in the future. Why not have the character simply say he's there to genuinely pay his respects to Illyana, and let the situation devolve from there (with some of the X-Men not believing him and/or starting the fight)? Later, he kills Senyaka, saying he approved of the genetic cleansing Senyaka led but not that he acted without explicit instructions from Magneto. Why not have Magneto kill Senyaka because of the cleansing, saying he went too far by targeting helpless humans instead of more direct enemies of mutantkind (or something)? We'd still see that this returned Magneto is EXTREME!, but he'd be more in keeping with the character's past presentations. Finally, the big threat Magneto poses in this issue is from Avalon, which he draws into Earth's atmosphere, bristling with Shi'ar weaponry. Why even bother with this? Just have Magneto make his offer of sanctuary to the X-Men, have them assume the worst and fight back, escalating the situation with the Acolytes and leading to the big brawl the editors and/or marketing so desperately wanted? The Avalon bit reeks of Silver Age "destroy the world" lunacy, and it serves no greater thematic purpose to the story.

I have a lot of nostalgic affection for this issue; reading it when it was first published, it was a big deal and it felt like one, the X-Men's #1 villain finally, for real, returning (he'd barely been gone two years, but at the time, it felt like forver) and engaging in a big, loud, noisy battle with the X-Men while arguing with Xavier. It was the first time I'd experienced that sort of thing in real time, and it only marked the halfway point of the crossover! I was so sucked in by the hype that Magneto's over-the-top villainy didn't really even stick out to me; I think I just sort of glossed over it, using the more measured characterization that precedes and follows this story to sand down the rough edges here. It's hard not to see that roughness now, even for as well as I remember the excitement this issue generated in me as a kid. Whether due to deadline pressure, or editorial interference, or a simple misunderstanding of how the character works best, Lobdell just doesn't write a good Magneto here. And with that failing, the rest of the issue's inability to rise above it's triple role as a marketing-driven 90s comic, an anniversary issue, and a chapter in an ongoing crossover, becomes more pronounced and harder to ignore.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolfsbane goes to Muir Island in X-Factor #94. Friday, Wolverine fights Sentinels in Wolverine #73. Next week, Rogue & Gambit go on a date in X-Men #24.

Collected Editions

  

27 comments:

  1. Supposedly, the major problem with this issue was that Harras had Lobdell rewrite it a couple of times to make Magneto more evil- which made Colossus's joining him as he's about to kill thousands of people look ridiculous. Hence, the "he's brain damaged" copout in Excalibur.

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    1. I can buy editorial interference as the culprit. Certainly, the pseudo-Magneto of issue #309 is better written, but that's really the only other time we see a Lobdell-written Magneto who's not Joseph.

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    2. Are we sure this is all on editorial? Magneto is a lot more nuanced in the Nicieza issues. Although the worldwide EMP in X-Men #25 presumably would kill a ton of people.

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    3. I wondered that too, but I would imagine that brutally ripping out Wolverine's skeleton and killing thousands (millions?) of people makes Magneto sufficiently evil. Check those boxes, and editorial can't really fuss about what Nicieza has Magneto saying or thinking. If anything, trying to walk him back within the script after going to those lengths looks absolutely ludicrous (but we'll get there.)

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  2. I'm sorry, but the historic precedents make it impossible for me to accept that the extended X-Men would wear the business suites to a funeral.

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    1. There's a line of dialogue explaining why everyone is in costume/uniform (I forget exactly what it is offhand, but it's in the screencap of the funeral above). Not saying I necessarily prefer everyone in costume, but I do appreciate that it was addressed.

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  3. Oh. Oh my, this issue. Where to start.

    Indeed, there were two Pizza Hut promotions. The one highlighted here produced the infamous "X-Men Pizza Hut Comics" that are kind of a thing in some circles. The second gave us the "Creator's Choice" VHS tapes with episodes from the animated series bookended by a brief roundtable interview of various creators. This is how I learned what Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell look like, and more importantly, that comics are made by actual human beings. (Which, OK, I knew, but those names in the credits were always pretty abstract until I could put faces to them.)

    That explanation for Magneto surviving the destruction of Asteroid M reads as awfully hand-wavy. It's such a throwaway line that I initially assumed it was a recap of information previously detailed elsewhere, rather than the reveal itself. Ultimately it doesn't matter, but seems like a story they could've gotten a little mileage out of (say, in X-Men Unlimited?).

    How would Magneto know or reasonably expect Cortez contracts/dies of the Legacy Virus, as implied? It's one of those examples of very obvious foreshadowing that tries to look profound, but makes no logical sense under scrutiny. Glad that gets dropped.

    Conversely, the Banshee/Bishop exchange holds up quite nicely. Neat to see that groundwork being laid so early.

    Maybe it's for the best that late shipping swapped the order of this book and Unlimited #2. Kinda makes the "Erik" thing less jarring. Thematically, the story in Unlimited functions well enough as an interlude without requiring any ultra specific placement within this first half of the crossover.

    The multiple artists mostly work for me in terms of how the issue breaks down structurally. Jae Lee on the stylistic flashbacks, Smith handling the chatty character bits, then Romita and Peterson alternating for the big slugfest. Although I agree that one of the artists is not like the others...

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    1. How would Magneto know or reasonably expect Cortez contracts/dies of the Legacy Virus, as implied?

      Presumably, he'd already be infected at this point, and Magneto knows somehow (because this Magneto is nearly all-knowing at times, I guess). But it's all moot cuz that never really happens.

      Conversely, the Banshee/Bishop exchange holds up quite nicely. Neat to see that groundwork being laid so early.

      I'm always amazed at how well that setup works - by the time GEN X launches, it seems like an obvious fit for Banshee to be the teacher, when in hindsight, that really just starts getting laid out here. It's groundwork that manages to be laid over both a remarkably short and long period of time.

      Jae Lee on the stylistic flashbacks, Smith handling the chatty character bits, then Romita and Peterson alternating for the big slugfest.

      I think it's Sprouse doing the pre-funeral chatty stuff, then Smith after Petersen (that's Smith, I think - his style looks a lot different now - in the "Shi'ar tech" and "walk my path" screengrabs), which is just odd.

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    2. Oh jeez, that is Smith mixed up in the fight scenes. I totally glossed over those images and figured it was Peterson. Different style for sure, and not necessarily helped by '90s coloring either. Given how late this book was, it seems quite telling of those behind the scenes production problems that the office would draft two artists not on the usual rotation. I guess with the way CABLE is burning through artists and X-Factor lacking a regular penciller, they didn't have anyone on standby.

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    3. I'm sure the "off-model" Paul Smith art in this issue is due in large part to the inks. When he comes back for X-MEN #42 and 43 a couple years after this, he looks much more like the Smith of yore. I wonder which of the gaggle of inkers handled his pages here?

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  4. (Sorry for the double post)
    For all of Bishop's talk about a supposed traitor to the team, nothing is made of Colossus defecting here. When he, you know, betrays the team, by attacking Bishop. It's as if they stumbled into a resolution for that subplot without meaning to, and thus have to ignore the elephant in the room. In any event, Colossus blowing up at Xavier is understandable, but outright joining the Acolytes is certainly a bridge too far. After all of the trauma he's endured, it doesn't follow that he'd take up with another perceived demagogue; if anything, he's walking away from the war altogether.

    Nevertheless, if it absolutely has to happen, we have a catalyst RIGHT THERE in the form of Illyana's death. To Austin's point, if any effort had been put into reminding everyone what Illyana meant to Magneto, perhaps a grief-stricken Peter convinces himself that Magneto was a better steward for his sister -- and by extension, all of mutantkind -- which at least gives some dimension to his motivation beyond "I hate the X-Men." It isn't terribly more convincing, but works if you squint hard enough.

    And on that note, yeah... why aren't we exploiting Illyana's death to its fullest? The way it's handled here, the funeral could be for any random X-Men associate. I get trying not to harp on the deep cuts of franchise continuity too much (outside of the insanely convoluted tapestry the Harras regime is weaving at this juncture, that is). But in an overstuffed issue already laden with Magneto flashbacks, is it really asking too much to throw in a page establishing that Magneto and Illyana once had strong-ish ties and regarded one other as kindred spirits? I feel like Lobdell could write the shit out of something like that and it would be a nifty way of showing how deeply moved he'd be by her death. With tensions already running high on both sides, that leads to the misunderstanding/bitter fight as Austin suggested. Play it up as a conflict that was going to be inevitable anyway, made so much worse by the timing and optics of a child's funeral. Magneto is galvanized in his cause and the X-Men are understandably out for blood. It's trying to write itself!

    But enough fanfic. At the end of the day, I don't have any fundamental objection to making Magneto the "bad guy" again. They just don't do a very good job of showing their work. I also don't understand Harras' need to make him out to be a Total Monster. The Senyaka bit especially reads as a massive overreach -- Magneto not only kills his follower in gruesome fashion, he goes out of his way to explain that it's for a breach of "etiquette" rather than a condemnation of his savagery? Why the fuck is that in here? What do we gain in making Magneto a less-nuanced character? I get that marketing dictates he needs to be positioned as their principal antagonist, but he can comfortably fill that role without becoming a mass-murdering psychopath. While the latter is certainly more in fashion during this time period, it's not a contest. This is Magneto. No one's going to question his significance to the mythos.

    Lots of longtime readers are going to hate this character turn for Magneto no matter how it's executed. But wow did they ever take the path of most resistance.

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    1. Good point on the obvious balldrop re: the X-Traitor and Colossus. That whole traitor thing really gets dropped until "Onslaught" comes along and resolves it more or less out of nowhere.

      I get that marketing dictates he needs to be positioned as their principal antagonist, but he can comfortably fill that role without becoming a mass-murdering psychopath.

      Yeah, I have no issue with Magneto being a villain, but that doesn't mean he has to be one-dimensional. The Magneto of Claremont's final story was a villain, but still nuanced, and a logical continuation of Claremont's development of the character. He can be an out-and-out bad guy AND be complex. Thankfully, for the most part, outside of this issue, he is moving forward.

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    2. I feel like the next time the X-Traitor mystery is even seriously dealt with was the Bishop limited series right before AoA? Wherein it's sort of implied to be resolved, in a fashion that I remember being more clever than I expected from a throwaway mini that was eclipsed by a gigantic crossover on which it had no bearing. Or at least left ambiguous enough that the regular creative teams could take it or leave it.

      The notion that Magneto holds more power as a symbol than as a man has been fertile ground for some compelling stories over the years. Claremont first played at these edges as his swansong to the character, then Grant Morrison picked up the idea a decade later when Magneto was presumed dead (and ultimately used it to fuel the big swerve capping off his run). But there's a gap in the middle section that could have been explored while Magneto is alive and well. Consider: a Fatal Attractions where Magneto makes his grand re-entrance, but doesn't plan to actually DO anything all that drastic or destabilizing. Just shepherd some wayward mutants to Avalon, picking up from Claremont's last story like you said. Of course, the X-Men/the world flips out, not over anything he's directly done, but because of who he is/what he represents. It leads to a super-powered arms race of sorts with exponentially escalating conflicts and disproportionate overreactions on the part of both sides. The world "shoots first" (The Magneto Protocols), but this time Magneto doesn't roll over. He retaliates (EM pulse), and it's no turning back from there. With the tragedy being, the whole thing could've been avoided had anyone regarded Magneto as a human being instead of some harbinger of doom. But Magneto can't escape his past, and through his actions has assured that he'll NEVER be trusted or vindicated going forward, and everything is terrible. That's sort of my mental rewrite of this event. Basically, a sequel to X-Men #1-3, but with a more proactive Magneto and higher stakes.

      Keep the Wolverine and Xavier bits though. Those are great, "cinematic" moments.

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  5. I have my issues with this... issue. The "jam" style is really jarring, and is especially bizarre for such a momentous milestone. Magneto is totally out of character even by his previous villainous standards. Colossus walking out on the X-Men is totally understandable, but his joining the Acolytes makes no sense. Your rewrite of the story, Teebore, is excellent and gets all the objectives accomplished in a much more organic and less offensive fashion.

    BUT -- I love Bishop's big moment in this one. All the energy-wielding X-Men charging him up, his assault on Magneto... Heck, if not for Colossus's sudden betrayal, it seems pretty clear that Bishop would've beaten Magneto and saved the day. And, Bishop being one of my favorite X-Men in this era, that's okay by me.

    (I was just thinking -- who are my favorite X-Men from this era, anyway? If I had to come up with a Top Five 90s X-Men List, I think I'd say Cyclops, Banshee, Bishop, Angel, and... Psylocke?)


    "Exodus then turns his power on Cortez, and though the art makes it look pretty harmful, Exodus notes that Magneto wants Cortez left alive, the victim of someone else's legacy."

    I always thought that was a really cool line, considering how much I enjoy obliquely worded clues. And dying of the Legacy Virus would've been a fine end to Cortez, considering that, as you note, he basically drifts into limbo following "Bloodties".

    "Banshee, making his first appearance since X-Men #7...is on hand for the funeral."

    Yessss!

    I'll save my rant about him being out of the picture for so long when you cover X-MEN 24.

    "But Senyaka will return shortly, alive and well, over in Cable."

    ...For some reason. I've never actually read the issue where he returns, so I have no idea how his survival is addressed there, but he sure seems dead here! And I don't really get the reason for bringing him back; it's not like he was an A-list character who just had to remain alive. I've sometimes wondered if it was just done to soften Magneto a bit following his uncharacteristic bloodlust in dispatching the guy.

    (Though in my opinion, of all the Acolyltes, Senyaka deserved to die after what he did to that nurse in X-FACTOR.)

    "There's also a double page, Joe Madureira-drawn ad for Pizza Hut, presumably a precursor to the later animated series promotional tie-in."

    I love this ad. I had minimal (if any) exposure to Madureira at this time, so this may well have been my first peek at his artwork. It's burned into my brain, possibly more than any of the actual issues in which it appeared, as the definitive image of the X-Men of this era.

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    1. Oh, I nearly forgot about Bishop stealing the show here. He definitely had Magneto on the ropes, and with JR Jr's fondness for drawing gigantic, crackling energy blasts, it looks tremendous. He could be the butt of the joke at times, but overall, Bishop's creation and development throughout the '90s is a real highlight of the era. Despite starting out as a collection of cliches, Nicieza and Lobdell took care to find a proper character in there FAST.

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  6. Your rewrite of the story, Teebore, is excellent and gets all the objectives accomplished in a much more organic and less offensive fashion.

    Thanks. I usually try to avoid fan fiction-y rewrites like that, but it just seems *so easy* to have made this issue a lot better with just a couple-three changes of dialogue.

    Stand by - I have some pro-Bishop thoughts coming up in a future review inspired by his showing in this issue.

    I was just thinking -- who are my favorite X-Men from this era, anyway?

    Depending on how we're defining "era" and "X-Men", offhand, I'd probably say Cyclops, Cable, Cannonball, Jubilee and, much as it pains me to admit it, Gambit (this was kind of peak era for Gambit, in turns of being a big mysterious 90s figure).


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    1. I suppose if I was going to come up with formal criteria, when I say "X-Men of this era", the era I mean would run from X-MEN #1 up to the 90s' first major team reshuffling circa X-MEN #70 in 1997, and candidates would be anyone who had been an actual, formal member of the X-Men team during that time, but also taking their non-X-Men appearances from that same span into consideration when choosing for the list.

      (Hence, I have Banshee on my list even though he was only officially an X-Man for a handful of issues in the time covered, but I loved him in GENERATION X. Cannonball and Jubilee would therefore fit for your list too, even though they weren't X-Men for the full period in question.)

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  7. Today on Poor Timing Theater
    “Let’s call this guy Exodus for his role in guiding mutants to a promised land from under the yoke of oppression!”
    “Let’s establish that Magneto isn’t actually Jewish!”

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    1. Drat, I meant to point out Exodus' Jewish connection. But, Mags himself has gone full New Testament at this point, spouting the "I died" like he himself was the biggest believer of it. Maybe they felt they had to do away with his Jewishness because of the otherwise too uncomfortable allusion to that other Jewish guy.

      Should've named him Brian Lensherr.

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  8. But goddamnit, to tail-light Cyke68, Illyana as a character would have deserved a one or two actual pages' worth of history recap at her funeral.

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  9. I said about Uncanny #303 that it was the writer Lobdell could be when he was, pretty much, himself.

    Uncanny #304 is the writer that, sadly, he's remembered for being, the one clearly writing for editorial fiat and not himself.

    There's some good stuff in here, and Bishop comes off so amazing here that it's a shame so little was done with the character afterwards, but you have so much awful around it. Everything about Magneto is wrong. Not only is his characterization out of whack for his other appearances in the crossover, the line about Avalon having Shi'ar weaponry taken while Magneto was the mentor of the X-teams goes back and tries to stomp on the Claremont era. Colossus should've turned his back on everyone-the X-Men who he sees failed his family, Magneto who picked his sister's funeral to come start a war-and walked away. Hell, you could've got some mileage out of turning Colossus into the leader of a group of mutants that sought to find a path neither Xavier's or Magneto's, but this is 1993 so we need a big shock event.

    Which they promptly did nothing with.

    The issue tries to find a tension between the Big Crossover Moments and the quieter things Lobdell does, and fails miserably. The art is off, though I love the Romita Jr. stuff-this is the height of his channeling Kirby era, especially with Bishop taking on Magneto. But otherwise, this issue really feels like Bob Harras outlining all of the points he wants it to hit and Lobdell just shrugging his shoulders and going along with it. Even in 1993, which was a time where comics often got away with stories working by Being Cool, this was a disappointment.

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    1. You're right - I missed it, but Austin too pointed out that line about Magneto/the Shi'ar tech. It's a slight retcon, but another example of this story bending over backwards to vilify Magneto. We've gone from, "He's not a good guy" to, "Not only is he not a good guy, he's a very bad guy" to, "In fact, he's a very bad guy who was never a good guy." All in the span of a few pages. Amazing.

      You're not kidding about that tale of two Lobdells. The contrast just within two consecutive issues is striking.

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  10. Couldn't Xavier just be confusing the Graymalkin part of Avalon and jumped to conclusions?

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    1. Xavier calling out Shi'ar weaponry suggests he recognizes the technology, which presumably wouldn't be the same as the weaponry on Graymalkin. The line only exists to sell the notion that Magneto never reformed.

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  11. And this would be my last issue of anything X-related for years--I would only start back in earnest with the TPB's of Morrison's New X-Men run, and the old DVD-ROM of about 40 years of Uncanny issues. By this point, my interest was mostly nostalgic. I'd stopped buying regularly, and was really only sucked in for the anniversary/hologram cover. In truth, I have a hard time not seeing X-Men #3 as the "end" of the story. Everything after that sort of felt like a weird imitation--close to the real thing at times, but always just a little off.

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  12. The first issue of Uncanny I ever owned. As a child, I thought it was perfect.

    Now...well, now I'm a lot more ambiguous. I grew to love the Claremontian Magneto, a flawed, tragic, person at heart who really wanted the best for the world and his people. #304 goes out of its way to put the kibosh on that perspective -- in their efforts to re-establish Magneto as the X-Men's #1 villain, it was like they wanted to make him the most evil. Which is hard to do when the Shadow King, Mr. Sinister, Stryfe, and Apocalypse are all things. So Magneto ends up just feeling wrong...wrong in what he's doing, written wrong, handled wrong. "Mad old terrorist twat" Magneto just isn't interesting to me, and I don't understand why he keeps cropping up. Can't Magneto be a complex, nuanced, tragic villain and still get in regular scraps with the X-Men over their conflicting ideologies? Marvel apparently thinks not.

    Otherwise I still really enjoy this issue. It featured a truly touching send-off for Magik, with a eulogy delivered by Storm that I loved. Ororo and Magik weren't close, and yet they were at the same time -- it was the Limbo version of Storm that gave Illyana a moral compass even in Hell, after all. And tiny touches, like Sam hugging Kitty and talking about how it never gets easier, and Xavier's musings about his feelings of abject failure only to be interrupted by Lilandra's hologram, really work to make this issue achingly sad. Storm and Kitty's conversation about "the shadow passes" was one of the more poignant moments between them not written by Claremont, and even though his mental processes didn't make a lot of logical sense, the pain and rage Colossus felt towards the X-Men made his actions make emotional sense. Kind of like the reverse of a Disney movie.

    People without much emotional connection to Illyana, like Banshee, Beast, and Bishop taking center stage seemed an odd fit, but I kind of like it. Even though I'd much rather have seen more from Roberto, Rahne, or Sam, Kitty was the focal point of the issue for the first part of it, and I really appreciated that.

    And even the teams all dressed in their colors is touched upon in Storm's eulogy -- that Illyana would have been happy to see everyone show up at her funeral decked out in their bright, flashy world-saving gear. It fits what Magik was like before Inferno -- conflicted, snarky, and sarcastic, but also a fan of levity, parties, and festivity, and at the end of the day, a dyed-in-the-wool heroine despite her dark side.

    So #304 is, to me, a mostly good, if sad issue with the portrayal of Magneto being its one glaring fault.

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  13. This is one of the earliest X-Men comics I remember owning, I'm pretty sure I got it right when it came out. I must've liked it, because I re-read it over and over and over again, even drawing my own comics with a huge roster of characters like those featured in the battle. There was plenty of action to keep me satisfied, too.

    The last page is also where I realized you're supposed to add a comma in front of a person's name when using it at the end of a sentence (Xavier says something like "Thank you, Warren" and not "Thank you Warren."). To say comics helped me learn to read is an understatement.

    But I just re-read this issue for the first time in possibly 20 years, and.....Let's just say I liked it better as a kid. The entire thing feels rushed and sloppy in both writing and art. As a kid I don't think I realized multiple artists were drawing this issue, but now I can clearly see the different styles in each part. One thing I did notice as a kid, though, were the lack of backgrounds like you mentioned. I thought it was cool - Magneto was so powerful that he made the air crackle with energy wherever he was as soon as he showed up.

    I have a fondness for this era of X-Men due to the nostalgia of it being the period where I discovered them, but these reviews are making me realize this era was a mess in a lot of places. X-Men #25 was my favorite issue of this crossover, though, so I'm hoping to see if it stands up.

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