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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #24

"Digging Deeper Between Hope and Sorrow"
September 1993

In a Nutshell
Rogue & Gambit go on a date.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Andy Kubert and company
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Paul Becton
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Looking for a brief respite from the gloom hanging over the X-Men in the wake of Illyana's death, Rogue & Gambit are on a date at a fancy restaurant. Meanwhile, Banshee returns to the mansion and is reunited with Moira, and Beast discusses the Legacy Virus with Professor X. At the airport, Jean reunites with Scott, returning from Alaska. At the mansion, Psylocke & Revanche spar, while Kitty tries to comfort Jubilee. In the city, Rogue & Gambit take a carriage ride through Central Park. Back at the mansion, Scott shares his encounter with Mr. Sinister with Xavier, Beast & Moira, and they worry that the Legacy Virus could be spreading into a full-on plague. Outside, Wolverine also tries to comfort Jubilee, while Psylocke & Revanche attempt to make peace with each other. As Scott & Jean go to bed, they vow to remain together in the face of all obstacles, despite everything else feeling like it's falling apart.

Firsts and Other Notables
After an aborted attempt in issue #4 and issues upon issues of flirting, Rogue & Gambit finally go on a date in this issue, and it more or less marks the next step in their relationship, as they go from "flirt a lot" to a genuine couple.

Banshee returns to the mansion in this issue, somewhat oddly, as he left in the first place to chase after Moira (who left in issue #4), but she's been hanging around more or less since "X-Cutioner's Song" (since she was needed to serve as Xavier's doctor in that story) while he's been, per this issue, vacationing in the Canary Islands. At any rate, while he never really formally rejoins the team, this marks his return as a recurring presence in the books, culminating in him becoming headmaster of Xavier's School in Generation X.


Beast and Xavier discuss Beast's relative non-involvement in treating Illyana, and his desire to be more involved in finding a cure for the Legacy Virus moving forward. Indeed, that work will come to dominate his appearances over the next couple years, as we'll repeatedly see him working to find a cure or in a similar capacity, versus more generic superhero involvement in stories.


Cyclops returns from Alaska in this issue and reunites with Jean, declaring they need to be open and honest with each other moving forward, with the pair vowing to remain together, ending their short separation (and, in the wake of the Psylocke/Revanche stuff, the whole Cyclops/Psylocke flirtation subplot) and laying the groundwork for their upcoming wedding.


There seems to be a slight disconnect Nicieza and Kubert on the opening page, as the restaurant Rogue & Gambit are at is called "Poppa Gumbo's Cajun Cookout", yet they and the wait staff are wearing formal attire. Which isn't to say Cajun cooking can't be fancy, but that name seems to suggest a far more casual kind of restaurant.


Creator Central 
Art in this issue is credited to Andy Kubert "and company", suggesting multiple inkers and deadline issues. Whether due to the many hands or the deadline crunch, the art in this issue is decidedly less-polished than in the last couple of previous issues (which had been improving on Kubert's rough start on the series).

The Chronology Corner
This issue has a banner on the first page declaring it a prelude to Uncanny X-Men #304.

A Work in Progress
Continuing the "Beast midlife crisis" subplot, he notes he is just weeks away from his 30th birthday at this point.

Looking over the data, Beast worries that a full-on Legacy Virus plague is imminent, something both Xavier & Moira are later reluctant to admit without further data.


Wolverine counsels the Psylockes to get on with their lives, which more or less is what happens before Nicieza returns to their story to cleanup his retcon mess in issues #31-32.


Xavier notes he's never encountered Mr. Sinister directly and only knows of him through secondhand accounts from other X-Men, a reminder that for all his then-recent ubiquity, he was still a relatively new villain at this point without a ton of appearances to his name.


After his encounter with Mr. Sinister and his time in Alaska, Cyclops is convinced that Stryfe was his son.

Wolverine & Jubilee share a moment together, as he helps her grieve for Illyana.


"Professor X Cyclops is a Jerk!"
Cyclops describes Mr. Sinister has almost destroying his life with Madelyne which A. seems to suggest his life with Madelyne wasn't destroyed in the end and B. grossly underplays the very direct role Cyclops himself played in destroying his life with Madelyne.


Nice to see Madelyne's existence acknowledged, though.

Artistic Achievements
Rather than fully draw Scott & Jean's feet as the pair reunites, Kubert outlines them and leaves them to fade into white nothingness.


In a neat (if somewhat random) detail, an archway overlooking the room where Illyana died (and where Jubilee is mourning) is drawn to resemble Magneto's helmet.


The layout of the final page depicting Rogue and Gambit's date is especially nice, with a backwards L panel running along the bottom and right side of the page, and the image therein almost pastoral in its depiction of a quiet evening.


Young Love
Gambit & Rogue have an exchange where they answer a question with another question, including why Gambut never talks about Belladonna, and why Rogue doesn't tell anyone her real name (it also features Gambit continuing to not take no for an answer as he pesters Rogue about not letting him kiss her).


Rogue later nearly does tell Gambit her real name, but he interrupts her, saying it doesn't matter, which was definitely maddening to teenage me who had a strange obsession with wanting to know character's real names (it probably stemmed from my trading card habit and not wanting "unknown" listed on the backs of cards under "real name").

Putting an end to some of his skeeviness, Gambit does finally tell Rogue there can be more to love than the physical.


The issue ends with Scott and Jean going to bed together, and while it certainly stands to reason a pair of adults in a long-term relationship who have lived under the same roof for years and have had sex together in the past would (literally) sleep together, this may be the first on-panel indication of such.


In the Mail 
This issue gets a two page letter column (possibly another indication of deadline issues). One of the responses suggests that Cyclops may be wrong in his assertion that Stryfe was his son. Also, there's a "Fatal Attractions" checklist at the end of the letter column which doesn't include Excalibur #71 for some reason.

Austin's Analysis
This is Nicieza's first proper crack at a Classic Claremont Quiet Issue (last issue kinda was one, but that was technically closing out the Psylocke/Revanche story, amongst other things), and while he's not quite as adept at the style as Lobdell (the overwrought faux Claremontian purple prose is much more of a Nicieza thing), it mostly still works here. A lot of that is down to the tone: set after Illyana's death but before Magneto's return in Uncanny #304, there's an ominous feeling hanging over this issue that overrides even the happier moments (like Rogue & Gambit's date, Scott & Jean's reconciliation, and the Banshee/Moira reunion). Between the looming threats of Magneto and the Legacy Virus, Nicieza nails that feeling of this being the calm before (several) storms. Plenty of other stuff works in this issue (this is probably one of the better Rogue/Gambit romance moments, and as powerful as Uncanny #303 is, it's nice to see Jubilee sharing her grief with Wolverine as well), but the big takeaway is the feeling that bad times are looming on the horizon, which does a lot to add to the "epic" feel of events at this time.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Cable heals up in X-Force #26. Friday, Excalibur in space in Excalibur #69. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #305.

Collected Editions




19 comments:

  1. I didn't expect to cry tonight, but that page with Jubilee did it. It's that she's holding the doll...

    When I was younger and reading/watching X-Men with my friends, Rogue's real name was the biggest and most exciting mystery to us. We were convinced she had to be connected to someone important, but in hindsight, there's nothing a name reveal could add to her. She was already interesting & important.

    Also, as kids, we thought Rogue & Gambit were the most tragic romantic couple ever. As an adult, I want to tell her to get out of there & find someone infinitely less creepy. Like you noted, they're finally starting to dial down Gambit's skeeziness, but it only happens after a dinner full of red flags. Sadly, as far as bad romances sold to me as a kid, this is probably one of the less icky ones. At least Gambit could learn what boundaries are.

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    1. Man. Ditto on the Jubilee scene. I remember reading this issue when I was ten years old and not being affected. Now it's really tearing at my heartstrings.

      (The effect is attenuated the fact that Illyana eventually returns to the world of the living. I'm reminded of a scene in one of the last issues of Sandman where a murdered character asks not to be resurrected because it would make his death meaningless. I rather wish more comic book writers would take that to heart.)

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    2. I kinda loved how they dragged out the mystery of her real name. But I loved anything connected to Rogue. Although I'll have that love sorely tested in both her solo and paired w/Gambit minis. ;) But I'll wait for the Gentlemen to get there before expounding. :)

      As a teenage boy, I publicly stated I was a fan because of the action and battles...but privately I ate up all the romantic entanglements like that gumbo in the comic.

      I was also deeply invested in the Rogue/Gambit pairing and also thought it was grand and romantic.

      I hope you dont my asking, but what red flags are you referencing? But I'm actually only reviewing the restaurant scenes via the pages posted here and may have missed it.

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    3. Here starts Gambit's turn towards being less pushy & more respectful/kind, but in earlier issues, he's constantly testing Rogue's boundaries. Regardless of her very good reasons for having them, it's not something you want someone to do. And combined with the earlier stuff (like him wishing kid!Storm was closer to his own age) it creates a creepy effect of him being a self-centered horndog & not in a funny way. As a kid, I didn't notice all this, but as an adult... let's just say that there's been similar situations I've seen that haven't ended half as well as here.

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  2. To this day, this cover (along with the cover to the upcoming Scott/Jean nuptials) is one of my absolute favorites of this series.

    Speaking of the art, I actually kinda loved the weird sketchy aspect of this issue. Stylistically, it felt Bill Sienkiewicz-lite. And it, to me, also played to the emotional devastation of the team post funeral & defection.

    I also felt like the Magneto doorway was an intentional way to let the reader know that Magneto's reappearance was a spectre haunting everyone and a reminder that the real drama of his return was shortly to come.

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  3. One of the most memorable covers from this Era of X-Men. Love Kubert's artwork on this one. I randomly found a coffee mug in an old antique store with this cover as the wrap around image. Had to buy it.

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  4. I somehow missed this issue as a teen, after having become a regular reader with #20 -- however this would be the final issue I missed for pretty much the rest of the 90s. And a friend of mine owned it, so I read it at his house anyway, even if I didn't have a copy of my own.

    I'll third the love for the cover, though some of the interiors are a bit iffy. The shot of Cyclops standing before Xavier, wearing apparently skintight jeans and shirt, is pretty silly. Andy Kubert was improving in leaps and bounds throughout the twenties of X-MEN, but he was still struggling with certain things, including civilian clothes, at this point. Also, I love that Cyclops apparently put on a tie just for his flight home from Alaska. That's the square Scott Summers I know and love.


    "Indeed, that work will come to dominate his appearances over the next couple years, as we'll repeatedly see him working to find a cure or in a similar capacity, versus more generic superhero involvement in stories."

    The funny thing is that at some point, the X-books more or less forgot about the Legacy Virus -- or severely back-burnered it, I suppose -- and then in a Kurt Busiek AVENGERS issue circa 1999 or so, Beast shows up to welcome Wonder Man back from the grave, apologizing for not dropping by sooner, but he was tied up with Legacy Virus research. I remember reading that line at the time and thinking, "Oh yeah, the Legacy Virus. That's still a thing, isn't it?"


    And now the elephant in the room that I know we're all thinking about; that we've all been waiting for since X-MEN #4...

    "Banshee returns to the mansion in this issue..."

    I really think everyone forgot about him. As you note in your recap, he and Moira both left in X-MEN #4, and Moira returned almost immediately. Forge also left the X-Men and returned in pretty quick order around the same time. But poor Sean Cassidy continued to live up to the precedent set by Chris Claremont in the prior decade, of disappearing for massive chunks of time, not even putting in appearances when stories might logically dicate he should at least have a cameo.

    On the plus side, he won't be forgotten about again for the rest of the decade, and there's some really good stuff ahead for him in "Phalanx Covenant" and GENERATION X. In fact it was those stories, coupled with reading the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne "All-New, All-Different" stuff for the first time around this period, that made Banshee one of my favorite X-Men.

    Also, I've been waiting almost 25 years now for a BANSHEE: THE CANARY ISLAND ADVENTURE prestige format maxi-series. Hopefully someday soon, someone at Marvel will greenlight that thing. I'm sure they must have received dozens of pitches for it over the past couple decades. It's a no-brainer of an untold story waiting to be revealed.

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    1. I hope you will get it and the cover will say:

      BANSHEE*: THE CANARY ISLAND ADVENTURE









      * Yes, Banshee

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    2. Teemu, I'd like to live in a world where that asterisk wouldn't be needed, but you're right -- we would probably have to include it.

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  5. Forget the Third Summers Brother. We need to know what happened on THE CANARY ISLAND ADVENTURE. Everyone else was getting minis in 1994, what the hell?

    While it does make those departures earlier in the series look extra pointless, I'm glad to have him back too. Not that Sean actually does anything for a good year's worth of issues, but you don't notice with the cast being as large and busy as they are. He makes enough appearances to remind you he's hanging around the mansion, and it's a sneaky good way of setting the character up for what's to come.

    I remember wanting Beast in the Busiek/Perez Avengers so bad after that Wonder Man issue. He was being utterly wasted by the X-office. I really, really hated that late '98/early '99 run at the time.

    This is a decent, remarkable issue. Nicieza doesn't do the Quiet Issue as well as Lobdell, but he nails that foreboding tone. The sketchier Kubert art helps sell it for me as well.

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    1. We did get a three-issue mini, Avengers Two: Wonder Man & The Beast, in 2000, although my recollection is that it disappointed on its own terms as well as in the context of the Busiek/Pérez Avengers run.

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    2. I wish AVENGERS TWO had made it into the second Busiek/Pérez AVENGERS OMNIBUS. Of course it's not by either of them -- it was Roger Stern and Mark Bagley -- but more than half the contents of that book were Pérez-free, so why not?

      I don't recall much about the series, other than that (broadly) I was looking forward to it and I was disappointed when I finally read it, and (specifically) one of the villains was It, the Living Colossus, marking the first time I saw it in anything outside of a Marvel Handbook.

      Oh, and Stern worked in a reference to Weird Al's then newest album, "Running With Scissors", which I thought was really funny. Specifically he had a long-haul trucker singing the lyrics to "Truck Driving Song".

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  6. I hope that mini séries will explain how a redhead Irish can this tanned.

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    1. There will be a prologue where he and Forge finally go look for Dazzler, but they are too late as she has ditched to Mojo-world and only find (and appropriate) her Outback-era suntan lotion.

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  7. Two points: one, the colorist’s mistake on Cyclops’ glasses in the last panel always bothered me. It’s an obvious and unnecessary mistake. Second, say what you will about the cover, but Gambit’s is disproportionate big compared to Rogue. Try to ignore that after I told you.

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    1. In regards to Cyclops, do you mean that he's drawn as if wearing a visor but colored as if he's wearing glasses?

      The size discrepancy on the cover isn't too bad, though. But I'm biased as I've been entirely in love with it since I was a teen. :)

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  8. Two points: one, the colorist’s mistake on Cyclops’ glasses in the last panel always bothered me. It’s an obvious and unnecessary mistake. Second, say what you will about the cover, but Gambit’s head is disproportionate big compared to Rogue. Try to ignore that after I told you.

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  9. "Cyclops describes Mr. Sinister has almost destroying his life with Madelyne which A. seems to suggest his life with Madelyne wasn't destroyed in the end and B. grossly underplays the very direct role Cyclops himself played in destroying his life with Madelyne." I think that the emphasis might be different- Sinister almost destroyed Scott's life BY CREATING Madelyne, not Sinister almost destroyed Scott's life with Madelyne. The problem with that, of course, is that Scott is refusing to admit that if he had simply dealt with the situation with Jean and Maddie upfront instead of running away, things could have been different.

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  10. // Rogue & Gambit take a carriage ride through Central Park. //

    The way these things go — Marvel comics, but specifically X-titles — I had to wonder who the driver, face partly obscured, might turn out to be.

    // Banshee returns to the mansion in this issue, somewhat oddly, as he left in the first place to chase after Moira //

    If only he’d talked to Misty Knight.

    // Art in this issue is credited to Andy Kubert "and company" //

    Bill Sienkiewicz is in there for sure; matter of fact, I think he’s responsible for (or followed the pencils’ lead when inking, anyway) those disappearing feet.

    // Xavier notes he's never encountered Mr. Sinister directly … , a reminder that for all his then-recent ubiquity, he was still a relatively new villain at this point without a ton of appearances to his name. //

    Likewise a reminder that before the edict to bring Xavier back there was a fair amount of big-deal stuff going on in the X-titles that he missed.

    // Gambit does finally tell Rogue there can be more to love than the physical. //

    It sure look to me like they be touchin’ skin to skin, cher, no matter what the dialogue is sayin’.

    // In a neat (if somewhat random) detail, an archway overlooking the room where Illyana died (and where Jubilee is mourning) is drawn to resemble Magneto's helmet. //

    Magneto’s actual face also looms over the mansion in the story’s final panel. Not literally his actual face, I mean, but an image of the real thing rather than architecture suggesting it.

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