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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

X-amining Avengers #369

"Of Kith & Kin: Bloodties the Finale"
December 1993

In a Nutshell
The X-Men & Avengers unite to stop Exodus & save Genosha.

Writer: Bob Haras
Pencilers: Steve Eptin & Jan Duursema
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Mike Rockwitz
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Exodus attacks Cortez, seemingly killing him and taking Luna for himself. On the streets above, the X-Men & Avengers unite as the skies turn yellow and outside communications are jammed, actions attributed to Exodus. As Storm & War Machine investigate the barrier and confirm it is psionic in nature, Professor X telepathically contacts the two teams, who send a contingent to aid him, Beast & US Agent against the Magistrate Elite and liberate the mutate concentration camp. Just then, Exodus appears, with Crystal, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch & Jean Grey in his thrall, and orders the mutates of Genosha to slaughter all humans, or else his barrier surrounding the island will contract, killing everyone. Recognizing that Exodus is telepathically fanning the mutates' fervor, the two teams split, with one group holding off the mutates while another attacks Exodus as Xavier probes his defenses. Sensing that the's stretched too thin, Xavier telepathically blasts Exodus, allowing Black Knight to get in close enough to shut him down with his plasma sword. The barrier disappears and the mutates back down, but Exodus recovers enough to escape, blasting Quicksilver on his way. Black Knight revives him with CPR, and days later, as the country begins to rebuild, Xavier ponders whether keeping his identity as a mutant a secret has done more harm than good.

Firsts and Other Notables
Exodus attacks Cortez again, and unlike Uncanny #304, he is clearly meant to have killed him. While Cortez will turn up alive again (in 1996's Magneto limited series, the one where Magneto is Joseph), this pretty much marks the end of his brief tenure as a regular, significant villain.


The Concentration Camp of Magical Appearances lives up to its name again, as in this issue, both Renee Majcomb (leader of the bipartisan rebel forces) and Henry Peter Gyrich (whom Beast & Xavier explicitly left behind in X-Men #26) are on hand, fighting alongside Beast, Xavier & US Agent like they've been there the entire time.


Similarly, Xavier suddenly appears in his regular Shi'ar hoverchair (or something close to it) at one point this issue, despite having been shown in a regular wheelchair in X-Men #26.


For whatever reason, this issue more than any other sticks in my mind as the one which highlights Revanche's utter superfluousness, as she appears in the backgrounds of group shots in a couple of panels, then gets knocked unsconsious in her one action shot. She is a character who pretty much does nothing of note outside of the story that introduces her, the one in which she reveals she has the Legacy Virus, and the one in which she dies, and this issue is the epitome of that for me.


In the end, it is Black Knight who strikes the finishing blow against Exodus, which may seem strange given the number of characters with a more personal connection to Magneto and/or Luna on hand, but its perfectly in keeping with Harras' Avengers run, in which Black Knight is clearly the central character.


Similarly, he is the one who revives Quicksilver following Exodus' parting shot (despite their being tons of other superheroes on hand that probably also know CPR), because it ties in with the whole Black Knight/Crystal/Sersi/Quicksilver love...rectangle (?) that has been central to Avengers of late, as well as the larger Gatherers plotline (in that it highlights the difference between Black Knight and Proctor, the Gatherers' leader and an alternate version of Black Knight, who made a different choice when faced with a romantic rival). 

This issue is double-sized and has a foil-embossed "platinum" cover, the fourth and final enhanced cover and double-sized issue meant to celebrate the Avengers 30th anniversary, following the "bronze" cover to issue #360, the "silver" #363, and "gold" #366.

Creator Central 
Like most everything else around this time, this issue shipped several weeks late, and upcoming X-Factor artist Jan Duursema pitches in to help regular penciler Steve Epting on the issue.

A Work in Progress
Cortez reiterates again that Magneto was a fool to awaken Exodus.


It's noted that the last time the X-Men and Avengers met, they were fighting over Magneto's rights, a reference to the X-Men vs. the Avengers limited series which overlooks at the very least Avengers #350, when Cyclops & Professor X briefed the Avengers about the threat of the Acolytes (though I suppose technically, both teams didn't meet in full in that issue).


Black Knight once again sort of recognizes Exodus from somewhere.


There's a somewhat random bit where Iceman, after Cyclops assign him to the group of X-Men/Avengers staying behind to help evacuate a hospital, bemoans the way Cyclops continues to treat him like a kid. It kind of comes out of nowhere, and while it maybe ties in with the ongoing "Iceman realizing his full potential", it doesn't get brought up again later in the issue.


Xavier says the Magistrate reinforcements at the camp have better psi-shields, a convenient explanation for why he's not just mind-blasting them all into submission.


Rogue notes that the last time she was in Genosha, the Magistrates didn't treat her too kindly, which is...something of an understatement.


It's confirmed here that Exodus' psionic powers include both telepathy and telekinesis.

The Unforgiven pop up in one panel, having somewhat hilariously switched their allegiance from Cortez to Exodus between issues.


Human/Mutant Relations
The issue closes with Xavier musing to Captain America and Renee Majcomb whether it would be in mutants' best interests if he revealed himself as one, or if he does more good for them by posing as a human advocate for mutants (as he's always believed).


Austin's Analysis
"Bloodties" comes to a close with an issue that is of a piece with what came before: mostly fine, suffering coordination issues (even more characters magically appear alongside Xavier at the concentration camp here), and featuring a variety of characters fighting Exodus while he shoots generic blasts of energy. This issue also earns points for actually featuring the Avengers/X-Men team-up the entire crossover has been promising.

But it is kind of amazing to step back and see how far afield the ending is from the beginning, in a story that is just five chapters long. What started with Fabian Cortez triggering an international crisis for various...reasons loosely connected to Magneto's legacy, ends with Exodus trying to crush the country with a telekinetic forcefield. The narrative whiplah isn't helped by the fact that two of the five chapters (Avengers West Coast #101 and Uncanny X-Men #307) are essentially place-holder chapters devoted to Exodus fighting a pair of Avengers, which didn't leave a lot of room for plot or character development. Ultimately, this is a mostly-flawed crossover, suffering from plot inconsistencies chapter to chapter, with characters appearing & disappearing at random, motivations changing between issues, etc. (all else aside, the one thing a crossover kind of needs to do to succeed on at least the most basic level is stick the landing as far as passing the story from one issue to another). It's also pretty blatantly an X-Men story that happens to guest star some Avengers, rather than a truly shared story with equal impact for both teams (the whole "pull out of the UN charter" subplot seems like an attempt to make this story more Avengers-relevant, but it's really an afterthought, in-story and in terms of future ramifications).

Still, for all its warts, I have a lot of affection for this story. After the X-Men, the Avengers were the next thing I branched out into as I got deeper into comics (in large part because of their shared anniversary, which put the franchise on my radar back in the day and made them seem like a logical extension from the X-books), so a crossover between the two groups seemed tailor-made for my tastes at a time when I wasn't yet reading much else. While objectively it's clear that Exodus more or less takes over this story to its detriment, at the time, he was the kewl new villain on the block, and I ate up everything he did with a spoon. I was dazzled enough by the big fights and grave intoning about Magneto's legacy to not really notice the chapter-to-chapter inconsistencies, and if the story was ultimately a little X-heavy, well, that certainly didn't bother me. Quite simply, most of the story's problems weren't readily apparent to me as a kid, when my critical reading skills were still developing. When I read it now, I can still remember how much I enjoyed it back then. But nowadays, it's also difficult to defend it on any objective merits.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the truth behind Tolliver is revealed in Cable #6. Next week, Infectia returns & Thenody returns in X-Men #27.

Collected Editions


10 comments:

  1. Its weird how over-powered Exodus is here compared to how he is in the Age if Apocalypse, especially considering how Ice Man, Blink, etc are generally much better versed in their powers in the AOA verses their 616 counterparts.

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  2. "Rogue notes that the last time she was in Genosha, the Magistrates didn't treat her too kindly, which is...something of an understatement."

    Actually, in the panel she says the FIRST time she was in Genosha, she wasn't treated kindly, which was true.

    The last she was in Genosha was actually X-men Vol 2, #1, where it seems she was treated better, even if we only saw a couple panels of her in Genosha before the Acolytes show up.

    Yeah, splitting hairs, I know...

    "Ultimately, this is a mostly-flawed crossover, suffering from plot inconsistencies chapter to chapter, with characters appearing & disappearing at random, motivations changing between issues, etc"

    That pretty much sums things up. Like many a story we got in the 90s, there is actually a good idea in there somewhere, it just gets executed very badly. The characters appearing and disappearing at random reminded me of the sloppiness of The Muir Island Saga. Though at least here, people mostly have the correct costume from issue to issue.

    Time hasn't been kind to this crossover, especially when you remove the nostalgia goggles. Then again, I wasn't a huge fan of this era of the Avengers. It wasn't bad, just ok, and much as Harras tried to make the Black Knight the star of the series, it just never worked for me.

    Revanche was so pointless in this story they may as well just had Psylocke be in it.

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  3. Great artwork, though! Steve Epting and Tom Palmer drew some terrific on-model X-Men, for the most part.

    So... Does Gyrich now also know that Xavier is a mutant? He pretty blatantly uses his powers right in front of the guy, and I got the impression from earlier chapters that Gyrich was unaware of the professor's genetic disposition.

    (Of course, a quick mindwipe between panels would solve that issue, but despite some of his recent actions, this version of Xavier still tries not to do stuff like that.)

    Lastly, Cortez should've stayed dead. This was a fine ending for him (and I think I said the same thing last time Exodus fried him, too). The creators of the 90s kept bringing the guy back as if there was more to be said with him, when really he was only ever good at being a pompous punching bag.

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    1. Well, when in the other news they are redeeming Sabretooth... they badly need an unredeemable one.

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    2. @Matt: As far as Gyrich is concerned, yeah, he probably should know about Xavier at this point - from this, if not from Val Cooper (who clearly knows and works closely w/Gyrich), but at the same time, the way characters keep appearing and disappearing from that setting, I have no idea what's meant to be actually happening and who is there to witness it. :P

      I also agree that Cortez should have stayed dead. He served his purpose, and it's not like they brought him back to do anything of any significance (to the point that I had to look up to confirm he does come back, and then when I saw he returned in the '96 Magneto series, I had to remind myself what the '96 Magneto limited series was even about).

      @Teemu: true, though they don't bring Cortez back until after Sabretooth's redemption arc has failed, so he's not filling that void at the time.

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  4. Exodus has normal “Caucasian” skin coloring here in both the scan from the printed issue on the Avengers DVD-ROM collection and the retouched Marvel Unlimited version — for the first half of the issue, after which he’s a dark orange before turning sunburn pink. At least we got more definitive info on telepathy being part of his power set, like you say.

    The lettercol gives credit to Don Hudson for “ink assists” and Joe Andreani, Chris Malthys, and Pat Garrahy for “assists in coloring”.

    I read the Infinity Gauntlet, War, and Crusade limited series a few years ago for the first time, all of which had X-Men and Avengers in them, although I confess to not remembering how much of each/any event would be recalled by the participants in light of reality warping. The fact that you didn’t cover them here likely speaks to how much the X-Men had to do with them and/or how much they had to do with the X-Men, but such crossovers almost invariably put a strain on the status quo of how characters relate to one another in terms of philosophical differences, secret identities, and more. Which has been true at least since the original Secret Wars.

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    1. Good point, Blam! INFINITY GAUNTLET is fine -- Wolverine is the only X-Man in that story, so it can get the same pass as Teebore mentions above for AVENGERS 350. But INFINITY WAR was published in 1992, just about a year prior to "Bloodties", and both the full Avengers roster and full X-Men roster were involved there, working side-by-side.

      INFINITY CRUSADE, meanwhile, was being published right around the same time as "Bloodties", and that also features many members of both teams interacting. Professor X actually plays a key role in that story's resolution, in fact.

      Though it should also be noted that the X-books, at least, never acknowledged any of the "Infinity" stuff in their own pages. Not sure about AVENGERS, though. But even INFINITY CRUSADE, which had a crossover issue in practically every single book in the Marvel line, was skipped by the X-office.

      Obviously in a shared universe, "everything counts", but I suspect Bob Harras was probably happy to pretend that the "Infinity" stuff was some alternate universe that didn't involve the versions of the characters under his editorial purview.

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    2. Cyclops also appeared in Infinity Gauntlet, though he was a member of X-factor at the time.

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    3. @Blam: Good point on the "Infinity" crossovers - that's a definitely a case of the X-Men and Avengers interacting with each other prior to this. Though you are correct that the events therein are pretty incidental (if that) to the X-Men, which is why I skipped them. I might be convinced to cover, at the very least, the core miniseries of each event someday, either as part of a Retro X-amination or part of a Patreon/paywall kind of thing, but they're definitely stories where, for the most part, the X-Men are just sort of there, not doing much of interest (with the exception of CRUSADE, as Matt notes, though I couldn't very well cover that one and not the first two, and even then, while Xavier (and to a lesser extent Storm) are featured and are important to the plot, nothing they do has any effect on or gets referenced in the X-books.

      @Matt: Harras' AVENGERS also stayed out of the INFINITY crossovers (AVENGERS WEST COAST, handled out of a different editorial office, did have tie-in issues). And CRUSADE had fewer tie-in series than you may think; it seems like every book had a tie-in, but in fact, most didn't. No X-books, no AVENGERS, only one of the Spider-Man titles, no CAPTAIN AMERICA, no HULK, even no FF (which did have WAR tie-ins). Basically, it was all the "cosmic" books (including THOR and DR. STRANGE), along with some of the "dregs" in need of a sales boost (ALPHA FLIGHT, DARKHAWK, CAGE, etc).

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    4. Only the very core persons remember anything of INFINITY GAUNTLET because of the Nebula 24h rollback. Technically nothing of it happened as far as the main timeline that most of the heroes experience is concerned.

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