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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

X-amining Avengers #368

"Bloodties Part One: Family Legacy"
November 1993

In a Nutshell
"Bloodties" begins as Cortez kidnaps Magneto's granddaughter and kicks off a civil war in Genosha.

Writer: Bob Harras
Pencils: Steve Epting
Inker & Colorist: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Ed-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Special Thanks: Scott Lobdell & Fabian Nicieza

Plot
Fabian Cortez & the kidnapped Luna Maximoff look out over the burning capital city of Genosha. Meanwhile, Val Cooper, Nick Fury & Henry Peter Gyrich discuss the Genoshan situation and their plans for handling it, which leads to Nick Fury meeting with both teams of Avengers to explicitly inform them that the UN wants them to stay out of the situation. The Avengers are puzzled by the fervor of Fury's demand, until they realize that Luna, Crystal's daughter - Magneto's granddaughter - is likely to be a target. Crystal rushes to her daughter's room only to discover she has been replaced by a Genoshan mutate, who promptly blows herself up. Meanwhile, Gyrich tasks Professor X with attempting to broker peace in Genosha, and they depart for the country along with Beast and US Agent, with Xavier telepathically sending the X-Men on ahead of him as well. Back at the Avengers' complex, the group rushes to their hanger to depart for Genosha, only to find a contingent of heavily armed SHIELD forces ready to prevent them from leaving, while in Genosha, Cortez broadcasts a message declaring, in the name of Magneto, that all human forces in the country lay down their arms, or else the mutates will begin killing every human man, woman and child in the city.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue kicks off "Bloodties", a crossover between the X-books and the Avengers books (at least, the franchise's respective two "main" series) in celebration of the franchise's shared 30th anniversaries (both the original Avengers and X-Men titles debuted with issues cover-dated September 1963; both issues were likely on sale circa July of '63). In addition to that shared launch date, the series share a fair amount of history, respective to other Marvel titles (ie, the Avengers & X-Men have a more significant history together than, say, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four), thanks in large part to Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch, who debuted as X-Men villains before joining the Avengers and becoming mainstays there (particularly Scarlet Witch). Once the pair were revealed to be the children of Magneto, the ties between the series tightened, as they had when Beast joined the Avengers (making him the first characters to be an official member of both teams) and again, when former Avenger Ms. Marvel became a quasi-supporting character in X-Men for a time before joining the Starjammers (who are tied to the X-Men as well), and then again when Quicksilver joined X-Factor. And, of course, the ties between the series are currently strengthened by the fact that the X-Men group editor, Bob Harras, is also the writer of Avengers.

It is the Magneto connection that this crossover exploits most fully, with the inciting incident that leads the Avengers to get involved being the kidnapping of Luna, the child of Quicksilver & Crystal (and thus Magneto's grandaughter) being kidnapped in Magneto's name (erroneously, to anyone who knows as the X-Men do that Magneto is currently in no position to order anyone to do anything).

And it is Fabian Cortez, last seen being attacked and then kicked out by Exodus and Magneto's Acolytes in Uncanny X-Men #304, who is responsible for that kidnapping, popping up at the start of the issue, having performed that act and exacerbated tensions in Genosha prior to the start of the issue, and who declares himself the ruler of the country by issue's end. He is nominally the central villain of this crossover (though the X-Men and the Avengers end up fighting Exodus more than Cortez), which serves more or less as the last hurrah for the character in the 90s (he'll next show up in a '96 Magneto limited series), and one of the better details about this story is the fact that Cortez is doing all this to draw Magneto out (as well as for other not-terribly-well-explained reasons), not realizing that he's currently a vegetable and unaware of anything going on around him.


Expatriate Genoshans Phillip Moreau (son of the former Genegineer) and his mutant girlfriend Jenny Ransome (whose flight from Genosha kicked off the initial Genosha storyline) are on hand, joining Professor Xavier's mission to try to broker peace between the two sides.


Quicksilver says he is considering visiting his wife before returning to X-Factor; while events in this story will of course wreck those plans (though he will end up spending time with his wife in the process), he also won't return to X-Factor, as he more or less rejoins the Avengers after this story.


For those unfamiliar with the Avengers of this era, it's worth noting that since roughly the mid-320s of their series, the team has operated as an officially-sanctioned extension of the United Nations (whereas prior to that, they were sanctioned specifically by the US government only, when they were officially sanctioned), something which never really affected their stories much outside of this one, where that status is referenced as a means to keep the team out of Genosha (where the politicians think they're presence will make a bad situation worse). The Avengers' ultimate outright rejection of that charter will factor in to a future chapter of the story.

Luna was seen being abducted from her room on the last page of issue #367, though the exact culprit was unclear (that it was a pair of Acolytes is more obvious, though I have no idea who the second Acolyte is meant to be, as Cortez has been expelled from that group and no other Acolytes appear by his side in "Bloodties").


Creator Central 
X-Men writers Scott Lobdell & Fabian Nicieza get a special thanks in the credits to this issue, presumably for helping hash out the overall story with Harras. Notably, Roy Thomas (who writes the Avengers West Coast chapter of the crossover) is not thanked, suggesting he didn't have a hand in shaping the story.

The Chronology Corner 
This story obviously takes place after "Fatal Attraction" (including Excalibur #71), as well as after X-Men Annual #2.

A Work in Progress
The opening narration refers to Genosha as having once been a "green and pleasant land", which of course was the title of the first Genoshan story in Uncanny X-Men #235-238.

Magneto's EM pulse, deployed in X-Men #25, is cited as contributing to the outbreak of hostilities in Genosha, as is the simmering Legacy Virus plague.


Captain America notes that the Avengers didn't interfere in the last Genoshan crisis (ie "X-Tinction Agenda").


It's not a big deal, but at one point, Xavier asks US Agent to be careful handling a vase, as its a priceless family heirloom. One would suspect that most of Xavier's family heirlooms would have been lost the second time the mansion was destroyed (in Uncanny X-Men #243), if not the first time it blew up (Uncanny X-Men #154). Unless kept a store of heirlooms offsite, or locked up in the subbasement levels.

Beast's history with the Avengers and Henry Peter Gyrich (who was their original liaison during Beast's tenure on the team) is referenced. Beast is also much more jocular & effervescent in his interactions with Gyrich than he's been of late, a nice bit of characterization callback to his time with Gyrich on the Avengers, when his sense of humor was routinely highlighted.


It's noted that Trish Tilby is the reporter who managed to get a video of the Genoshan mutates massacring humans out of the country, triggering the international crisis.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Nick Fury's smoking habit is attacked for being "vile".


Young Love
Rogue & Gambit shamelessly flirt during a Danger Room session.


Austin's Analysis
"Bloodties" is not a terribly good story (for reasons we'll get into/become readily apparent as it goes on), but I nevertheless have a lot of affection for it. After getting into comics via the X-Men, the Avengers became the next series/franchise/group of characters into which I got heavily invested (I don't recall exactly why, but perhaps the various ties between the two groups helped), and to this day, I consider my knowledge and familiariaty with the Avengers to be second only to that of my X-Men knowledge. And, getting into comics when I did (the early 90s), the Avengers I had to fall in love with (outside of back issues) were, of course the X-Men-ified leather jacket Avengers of the Harras/Epting run (this issue is part of the tail end of that run, which concludes with issue #375). So "Bloodties" wasn't just an X-Men/Avengers crossover, or the culmination of the two groups' respective 30th annversary celebrations (both of which I'd been following religiously and with bated breath), but the first meeting, in my limited comic-book-reading time, of the two great loves of my comic book life. There was arguably no one better primed to love this story at the time, and love it I did, despite its (less apparent then, more apparent now) flaws.

But flawed as it is, it all starts off well enough with an introductory chapter that kicks off the various plots and moves all the players into position. This issue begins a little jarringly, somewhat in media res, with Genosha having descended into chaos and Cortez kidnapping Luna Maximoff mostly off-panel, but Harras quickly ties those events to recent X-book happenings, citing Magneto's pulse wave and the threat of the Legacy Virus as contributing factors to the violence, helping the situation feel less like it's coming out of left field (considering the last time we saw Genosha, circa X-Factor #91, it was relatively rebuilt and humming along, looming plague aside). And it of course helps, both narratively and commercially, that one of the strongest connection between the two teams - Magneto - was also the central figure of the X-Men's anniversary story and was left in a fairly unique condition by the end, which helps inform this story (his absence from these events, and the reason for it - which certain key characters know while others don't - looms large), so Harras has a strong hook on which to start the story. Genosha is primarily an X-Men setting, but Magneto's granddaughter is the child of one active Avenger and one longtime-if-currently-lapsed Avenger, and that's enough to justify bringing these two teams together for now, while also generating a lot of energy in this initial chapter of the story, even if later chapters fail to fully utilize the potential established here.

Next Issue
Next week, another Wolverine one-shot, Killing, and Cable #5.

21 comments:

  1. This issue came out 4 weeks late.

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    1. Avengers crossovers had an annoying habit of shipping out of sequence. Fortunately this one has clear chapter numbering but others were a mess - with the Crossing it just compounded the story's problems/

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  2. This is slightly off-topic, but Harras' run on this title was my gateway introduction to The Avengers (I was strictly an X-titles fan beforehand).

    I know his run gets a lot of flack from people, but I've never been able to disparage it.

    Personally, I thought (and still do) it was an entertaining run. I liked the shift in featuring interpersonal conflicts in addition to the 'heroics only' angle it was previously known for. In retrospect, it seems a shameless attempt to mimic the X-Men (and its attendant success), but I ate it up nonetheless. :)

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    1. Same! I adore this run and am irrationally defensive of it. It's certainly nowhere near as bad as it's made out to be, but probably doesn't deserve the esteem I hold it in. But I maintain that any fan of superhero comics could do a lot worse than Avengers #340-375 (or thereabouts). Hell, there are much worse runs of Avengers itself.

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    2. This run gets a lot of flack for being "X-Men-lite" and bringing some elements of what made that franchise so successful - the soap opera stuff - into the Avengers, and that's not wrong, but at the same time, it worked. That's what led me to the Avengers, and made me a lifelong reader, going back to read the more "traditional" stuff and sticking with the series even after Harras & Epting left. Some people point to the Sersi/Black Knight/Crystal love triangle like it's a bug; to me, that was always a feature of this run (ditto their matching branded leather jackets, which make even more sense for the Avengers than the X-Men).

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    3. Seconding all of this. It was the X-Men formula using the Avengers cast, but there's nothing inherently "X-Men-y" about said formula. That's merely how Chris Claremont wrote the series. He just happened to do so for 15 years, hence the heavy connotation of the superhero soap opera with X-Men.

      If the Avengers are regarded as Marvel's varsity team, then it does make a degree of sense for them to sport branded letterman jackets, no? It was a nice way of streamlining and unifying this particular assortment of characters without sacrificing too much individuality. (That said, Black Knight's look is kind of all over the place. Trades in his cape for a leather jacket, keeps the helmet. Ebony Blade replaced with a light saber. Hangs on to the buccaneer boots for awhile, but those eventually give way to the weird ultra '90s metal leggings. Pulled in so many different directions, romantically and aesthetically.)

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  3. The Bob Harras AVENGERS run has been on my to-read list for ages, but I've just never gotten to it. I had a friend who read the series in middle school and I saw the occasional issue here and there at his house, but never really read any of them aside from flipping through the pages. I think I just wasn't impressed by the artwork -- Epting/Palmer weren't "Image-y" enough for me (which was the same problem I had with John Romita, Jr. on UNCANNY). Nowadays I think their stuff is great, but back then it was too traditional for my tastes.

    (I don't even think I read this issue, in fact; I'm pretty sure the only chapter of "Bloodties" I read when it was first released was the X-MEN installment.)

    Whenever I do stumble across an issue of this run, though, I'm always surprised what a good writer Harras was. Obviously he's known primarily as an editor, and I remember that in his Bullpen Bulletins "Pro-File" from around this period he said scripting was his least favorite part of the writing process (he liked to plot, though, which probably explains his micromanaging editorial style) -- but I tend to always enjoy his scripts. He has the characters' voices down pretty well, and the dialogue is rarely clunky or unnatural.

    So is there a reason why the Black Knight appears to have red eyes in this issue? Or is that just some weird stylistic choice by Tom Palmer?

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    1. The Black Knight's eyes are red because he's in a mind meld with Sersi. The Black Knight and Sersi were dating, Sersi was driven crazy by a villain's machinations, and Ikaris decided to mentally bond the Black Knight to Sersi in an attempt to stabilize her.

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    2. Like J. Mays above, this run was my proper introduction to the Avengers as well (specifically issue #350, which I picked up off the spinner rack solely on the strength of its cover. I didn't even know who the Starjammers were or that it had a major X-connection at the time!)

      And I must say, I still really, really enjoy the Harras/Epting tenure. As of my last re-read (2003-ish, mind you) it even held up reasonably well. Black Knight is the de facto leader and main character in this squad, and to this day is still my favorite b-list character. (Of course, I assumed he was a super major big deal when I had no frame or reference or familiarity with Avengers history as a kid.) Yes, he's wielding a light saber. And is arguably modeled after Mel Gibson. Not the most iconic or version of the character, but no less goofy when you really think about it.

      Harras definitely is a better writer that he gets credit for. The art gets knocked for aping the Image style, but shit... welcome to 1993. Epting's strength as a storyteller is too great for that criticism to hold much water.

      If you're willing to indulge in the tropes of the era and can tolerate a decidedly less-than-all-star Avengers roster, I feel like you'd really find a lot to love here. And hopefully I haven't talked it up too much.

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    3. Thanks, Cyke -- I've always taken it pretty much as a given that I would enjoy this AVENGERS run -- being written by Harras, it's clearly influenced by the X-style, which I like, plus I've always been a fan of the Black Knight, so no problems there. Add to that the nostalgia factor -- while I didn't read these issues, this team is pretty definitive to me due to their appearances in the various INFINITY stuff, plus the afore-mentioned thumbing through issues at a friend's house -- and it's something I definitely will read eventually. I just need to find the time!

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    4. I have a funny relationship with Black Knight - after getting into the Avengers with this run (in which he's featured prominently), the next thing I read extensively was the Stern/Buscema/Palmer stuff (circa the Masters of Evil siege of Avengers Mansion), which also features him heavily. As a result, I spent a number of years thinking he was a cornerstone member of the team, until I read a lot of the other stuff and realized, no, I had just read his two biggest features first and he wasn't really around much for the other stuff. :P

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  4. // One would suspect that most of Xavier's family heirlooms would have been lost the second time the mansion was destroyed ... if not the first time //

    Thank
    you! Shame on me, though, for unnecessarily typing up a comment saying the same thing before reading your post… Anyway, I think both this specifically and this kind of thing more broadly are a by-product of the nigh inevitable returns to familiar status quo that ongoing series undertake after the annihilation of a relationship, a headquarters, a timeline, etc. — understandable from a certain vantage, but no less frustrating to readers with an eye on continuity and internal consistency.

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    1. There was a story in a Fantastic Four annual where it was revealed that just before the Baxter Building was destroyed the Watcher had extracted a lot of the FF's personal effects thus saving them, which I suspect was another continuity fix. Maybe Uatu's been moonlighting the service?

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  5. Yeah, this seems to happen a lot after a hero's headquarters is destroyed. During Byrne's FF run, the Baxter Building was destroyed but after Byrne left, items from the Baxter Building kept showing up even though they should have been destroyed. Gruenwald eventually retconned that the Watcher saved the FF's stuff.

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    1. "Watcher saved my stuff" is WAY better than my "maybe he stored some heirlooms offsite just in case?" solution. :)

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  6. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I don't love Epting's art from this period. It feels like there is no depth or something. I've heard he is great in his Captain America run, though.

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    1. This was my introduction to Epting - who remains one of my favorite artists of all time - but in retrospect, it is a little rougher than his later work (I think this is early in his career as well). After this, he moved on to X-FACTOR (the last good artist that series would have), and was at Crossgen for awhile (back when Crossgen existed), and his work just kept getting better and better. His Cap is great, as is his work on the limited MARVELS PROJECT and VELVET over at Image. It's gotten a lot more lush than it was at this time.

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  7. So I was thinking a bit more about this one, because it brought to mind something that's bugged me for ages. I think I may have said this some years ago over at Not Blog X, but I'll repeat it here...

    Xavier talks about Beast in front of Gyrich and USAgent as if they're colleagues and associates, but not as if Beast literally lives in his house. This seems absurd. Hank McCoy attended Xaver's School for Gifted Youngsters; clearly there must be records of this, and knowing Gyrich, he probably looked up the histories of all the Avengers during his time as their liaison just to search for dirt.

    And where does McCoy receive mail, anyway? Does he have a P.O. box in Salem Center? An upcoming Nicieza-written X-Men issue will show Jubilee distributing mail to the X-Men as if she just pulled it from the mailbox, and that includes noted millionaire playboy Warren Worthington -- so if people know that he lives at Xavier's, why does Beast try to keep it a secret?

    Harras isn't the only one to play with this -- Lobdell does it similarly in UNCANNY, acting like Beast has no affiliation with Xavier when they appear together on TV and such. It really just makes no sense -- I mean, I get that Beast is a high-profile member of the X-Men and perhaps he doesn't want the world to know that he lives in the mansion, as that could draw suspicion toward Xavier's role with the team -- but the logistics of pretending he has no affiliation whatsoever with the professor are really hard to wrap one's head around when, again, he lives in his house.

    This has bothered me, off and on, since I was a teenager!

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    1. Is Xavier playing (Mc)coy with Gyrich about Beast in this issue? I've never read it that way, and it makes sense for him not to, as the X-Men at this point are more or less a shadow X-Factor in terms of checking in with Val Cooper and getting intel from her, and Gyrich is on the same government body as she is, so it'd be stupid for Xavier to think he doesn't at least know that Beast is one of the X-Men.

      I can buy maintaining the ruse for the general public (who probably aren't aware of who, exactly, were or were not students at Xavier's school or to where the various X-Men get their mail sent), hence the way Beast is presented on the TV show in issue #298, but certainly within official government channels, it would be a waste of time to do so.

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    2. @Matt: // Hank McCoy attended Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters; clearly there must be records of this //

      I brought this up not long ago, maybe when Xavier was shot or when he was on TV (again) debating the mutant situation as a leading — non-mutant, supposedly — geneticist, and I’m pretty sure you chimed in then. Hank’s and Warren’s identities are quite public; I think Bobby’s is too, at least in the sense of not being secret, but he’s not well-known as a civilian the way they are. Scott’s identity at minimum sure seemed known during X-Factor’s brief period of public adoration and Jean’s must be just by default if she’s not using a codename these days. While them all having attended Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters together may not be common knowledge, neither is there any indication (outside of that trip to the Pentagon with Carol Danvers and maybe some lasting voodoo worked by Fred Duncan if headcanon requires) that steps have been taken to obscure any such connections, so it seems to me the best public front would be to acknowledge that Xavier’s did specifically attract mutants precisely because of his expertise in the field. Although when you consider the number of supervillains aware that Xavier is a mutant, including all those on Battleworld during Secret Wars, it’s ridiculous that none have directly or indirectly blown his cover wide open.

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  8. I came to the Avengers around this time so for me Harras's run was strong enough them to keep me sticking about. It's actually a surprise that the series didn't enjoy much of a sales boost in the 1990s when many other titles were and so a lot of reader missed out and subsequently too many view the run through the prism of the Crossing, when Harras left the series midway through the story (due to his promotion to line wide Editor-in-Chief) and it seems Terry Kavanagh was the driving force behind the worst elements.

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