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Friday, October 19, 2018

X-amining Wolverine #85

"The Phalanx Covenant Final Sanction Part One"
September 1994

In a Nutshell
Wolverine, Cyclops, Phoenix & Cable reunite to battle the Phalanx.

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Farmer & Rubinstein
Letters: Brosseau
Colors: Kindzierski & Andreani
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Cyclops & Phoenix arrive on Muir Island to find it overrun by Phalanx trying to access the genetic information stored in the computer systems. Their plane is attacked & sent crashing to the ground, but the timely arrival of Wolverine allows the three to retreat to a different part of the island. After checking in with Lang, the Phalanx track down the three X-Men, but just then, Cable arrives and helps push them back. The foursome formulate a plan in which Phoenix & Cable will telepathically disguise them while Cyclops & Wolverine infiltrate Moira's lab and retrieve a Cerebro component they can use to locate the captive X-Men. But when on the Astral Plane, Cable's proximity to Jean trigger memories of his childhood, which breaks their connection & attracts the attention of the Phalanx. Cyclops & Wolverine retrieve the component & prime the lab to explode, and Cable tells them he'll stay behind to cover everyone else's escape. But Wolverine goes back for Cable, and Phoenix manages to telekinetically protect them when the lab explodes. Picked up by Wolverine's pilot friend Harry, Wolverine tells him to make for Tibet, where the Phalanx are holding the X-Men captive.

Firsts and Other Notables
"Final Sanction", the third (and shortest) "Phalanx Covenant" sub-story, begins here (it concludes in Cable #16). It chronicles Wolverine, Cable, Cyclops & Phoenix' efforts to rescue the captive X-Men and defeat the Phalanx once and for all.

Wolverine is reunited with Cyclops & Phoenix for the first time since issue #75 in this issue, his most direct interaction with any of the X-Men since losing his adamantium and leaving the team. Cyclops is characteristically curmudgeonly about it.


Cyclops & Phoenix also encounter Cable for the first time since raising him in the future in The Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix in this issue.


This is the first story where it feels like the distinction between Wolverine having bone claws rather than metal ones first starts to blur. There's a scene in the conclusion that is even more egregious that I'll point out when we get there, but even here, Wolverine is able to slash through the Phalanx with ease. Given that they're essentially metal people, you'd think the claws would shatter the moment they struck one of the Phalanx with force.


When the Muir Island Phalanx check in with Lang, he is concerned that they will discover a secret he is hiding. This will come to fruition in Cable #16 (in which Lang will help the X-Men in the interest of saving humanity).


Minor supporting character Harry Tabeshaw drops Wolverine off at Muir Island, then picks up the four mutants to take them to Tibet, making his last appearance to date.


Like the other "Phalanx Covenant" issues, this one comes with a foil-enhanced cover and was published in a second, standard format.


A Work in Progress
We’re reminded that Wolverine fought in WWII as he parachutes down to Muir Island.


Wolverine apologizes for missing Scott & Jean's wedding. Also, he can see the additional years Scott & Jean lived in the future in Jean’s eyes.


Jean says that the Phalanx desire to wipe out organic life is so strong, it almost feels like a genetic imperative, a reference to Douglock's revelation in X-Factor #106 that the Phalanx have unintentionally inherited the Technarchy's desire to eliminate organic life.


Cable is surprised Jean knows about his techno-organic infection.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Cable arrives on the scene in all his 90s glory. An action figure of this iteration of the character (with a big gun mounted to an enormous shoulder pad) will be made.


Austin's Analysis
Like X-Factor #106, this issue kicks off a "Phalanx Covenant" substory, and like X-Factor #106, it grounds the crossover craziness in more character-driven moments. Because for all the techno-organic chaos and explosions, this issue is all about reunions: Wolverine coming face-to-face with Cyclops & Phoenix for the first time since he left the team (and they got married), and then, the first encounter between Cyclops & Phoenix and Cable since the former returned from spending more than a decade in the future raising him (something Cable has yet to piece together). Those two reunions (and the various interactions they inspire) form the heart of the issue, to the point where it doesn't really even matter what the Phalanx are doing, because the most interesting things happening in the issue are those four characters interacting with each other in various permutations.

Of course, unlike X-Factor #106, this is also an action-packed issue that lets Adam Kubert cut loose with some dynamic fight scenes, taking advantage of the fluid & macabre nature of the Phalanx (such as when Wolverine cuts off one of their heads, only to have it stretch out on a techno-organic tendril and loop back around) and the bombastic 90s elements of Cable (the panel when he arrives on Muir Island is so just so pure 90s Cable). So even while it's setting up the narrative arc of "Final Sanctions" and doing interesting things with all four of its main characters, this issue is also telling a visceral, entertaining action story, helping "Final Sanction" stand aside "Generation Next" as one of the better substories of the crossover.

Next Issue
Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #35, X-Force #38 and Excalibur #81.

6 comments:

  1. I really liked Adam Kubert art in this era. He was, unfortunately, never able to draw as fast as his brother. I recall there were always fill-ins. Was Andy Kubert the last artist to be able to be truly draw a comic on a monthly basis? I mean, as a big artist. I feel everyone else afterwards suffered from fill-in syndrome.

    Regarding the crossover... I never felt it was a big deal. I’m not a fan of stories in which the plot has already developed, like the X-Men being taken away before the event began. In itself, the crossover never seemed like a big deal. The x-Men were captive, the other x-teams treated as tertiary characters... I can’t wait to see your review of Age of Apocalypse, the last X-Men event I cared and liked.

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    1. Licinio -- if you consider Mark Bagley a "big artist" (which I do), I'd say he was the last one really able to do a monthly series with minimal/no fill-ins. He had a long run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN contemporaneous to Kubert's X-MEN, then he did THUNDERBOLTS for 50 issues with only a handful of fill-ins, and after that he drew 110 consecutive ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN issues, and that series often shipped twice a month! Not long after, he did 52 straight weeks of TRINITY at DC, though the page count was lower as it was a split book with backup stories.

      Even now, in his early sixties, he still seems able to manage a monthly schedule with only occasional fill-ins, at least when Marvel lets him stay on a title for any extended period of time -- but for whatever reason, lately they just bounce him around from book to book for shorter runs.

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    2. Indeed! I loved Bagley on Amazing.

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  2. "I'm okay too..."
    "That's great, Logan."

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  3. I think this would have been the first WOLVERINE issue I picked up since #75, so it was nice to see him back in action with (some of) the X-Men. Pretty sure I wouldn't read it again until the buildup to #100, starting somewhere around issue 97 or 98.

    I'd kind of forgotten how fast this crossover happened. The whole thing, all nine issues of it, is done in two months. Compare that with "Fatal Attractions" the year before, which ran over the course of about nine months, and "X-Cutioner's Song" and "X-Tinction Agenda", which were both three months in duration. It's nice to have one that went by so quickly for a change. I assume part of the reason "Phalanx" wasn't drawn out like the others was because the sprawling "Age of Apocalypse" was in the wings at this point, but whatever the reason I like it.

    I also like that Marvel tapped Larry Hama to write CABLE's half of the "Final Sanction", as we'll see next time. It helps to give it some consistency. When you think about it, "Phalanx Covenant" as a whole has only four writers -- Lobdell, Nicieza, DeZago (who really only scripted his parts), and Hama. That's pretty much in keeping with prior years' events, which I found kind of surprising. I guess it's "AoA" which really starts off the idea of X-Events featuring more writers in the kitchen.

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  4. Have we seen the Phalanx call each other by name before? I’m not invested enough to comb through previous issues but it struck me as weird.

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