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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #319

"Untapped Potential"
December 1994

In a Nutshell
Rogue & Iceman go home, Psylocke & Archangel go on a date, & Xavier receives a strange visitor.

Words: Scott Lobdell
Guest Penciler: Steve Epiting
Inkers: Dan Green & Tim Townsend
Off Honeymoonin': Chris & Audra
Colorists: Buccellato, Becton, Hicks
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Rogue joins Iceman for a visit home, while Xavier is seemingly visited in a dream by Magneto, and Archangel & Psylocke go out for a night on the town. As Iceman storms out of his house when it becomes clear his father isn't just perennially disappointed in his son, but is also a bigot, Magneto suggests to Xavier that the world would be a better place if Xavier hadn't had to spend so much time fighting Magneto, then reveals himself to be Xavier's son, Legion. Elsewhere, Psylocke & Archangel pledge to avoid the romantic pitfalls of their peers and keep things simple, simply being there for one another when needed, while Rogue helps Iceman grapple with the disconnect between his own morality, which he'd thought he'd learned from his dad, and his dad's bigotry. At the X-Mansion, Xavier wakes up in a panic, drawing the attention of Beast, whom he tells about his psychic encounter with Legion. When Beast asks which of Legion's personalities was in control, Xavier tells him that's what is scaring him: for the first time, Legion seemed whole and in full control of his mind, meaning a desperate, unstable boy now has access to potentially-limitless power, and he's set himself on some kind of mysterious mission.

Firsts and Other Notables
Rogue and Iceman visit Iceman's family together in this issue, a somewhat random pairing (had they shared any page time, outside of fight scenes, in anything together up to this point?) that will be returned to post-"Age of Apocalypse", when Rogue flees the mansion after discovering something terrible in Gambit's memories, and Iceman comes along to keep her company (with that pairing presumably inspired by their road trip together here).


In a dream, Legion, posing as Magneto, asks Xavier the question of what his life would be like if Magneto hadn't been around to foil his plans, which will form the backbone of Legion’s (ultimately failed) plan to kill Magneto in the past to make Xavier’s life better, this leading to the Age of Apocalypse. A portion of this conversation will be shown, from Legion's perspective, in X-Factor #109.


This in turn leads to Xavier realizing his son has returned, and that his mind is no longer fractured, something which frightens Xavier.

Psylocke & Archangel are effectively a couple as of this issue. Though it will be blown past in the face of bigger things in the short term, their relationship will become a much bigger deal later, during Remender’s X-Force run.


Also, Psylocke’s hair is long again, after a point was made of it being short in X-Men #38.

Creator Central
Not yet the regular penciller on X-Factor, Steve Epting is the guest artist on this issue.

A Work in Progress
Iceman is continuing to struggle with the way Emma Frost used his powers while in control of his body.


It turns out that while Cameron Hodge took all of Worthington Enterprises from Archangel (back in X-Factor), Warren’s family fortune remains intact (which wasn’t really how it was presented back in the day, but this doesn’t specifically contradict anything).


Iceman’s dad continues to be a jerk, including throwing shade at Opal.


Also, he’s a bigot.


This leads Iceman to grapple with the fact that he always thought he learned his more heroic tendencies from his parents, but now he’s not so sure.


Young Love
Archangel & Psylocke mocks the trope of love amongst the X-Men (though once again, I have to point out that while the crack about dying and coming back to life is clearly a shot at Jean Grey, she’s technically only done so once, which is the same number of times Psylocke has died and come back at this point - and Psylocke’s not done).


For Sale
One-episode-per-tape tapes make a great X-Mas gift!


Austin's Analysis
Falling as it does between last issue's "Phalanx Covenant" epilogue and the start of "Legion Quest" next month (which is itself just the prelude to "Age of Apocalypse"), this is the one issue in a ten issue run (including the four "AoA" issues) that isn't part of, reacting to, or setting up a crossover (and even here, technically a third of the issue is setting up a story that sets up a crossover). And while this isn't technically a Lobdellian Post-Crossover Issue, it is structured very similarly to one, especially issue #297, presenting three unconnected narratives featuring a pair of characters each.

Of course, it doesn't work quite as well as that issue, mostly because the three narratives lack the emotional weight of the stories in #297. The Rogue/Iceman story is the best of the bunch, and frankly gains something just from the randomness of pairing the two characters together. The Psylocke/Archangel date is fine, but while there's something fun in the way they basically acknowledge they're comic book characters trapped in one of the soapiest comic books of all time, their pairing, especially at this point in time, when it's relatively new, lacks the emotional heft and push/pull at the core of the Rogue/Gambit romance that was highlighted in #297 (or, of course, the sweeping aura of destiny that permeates Cyclops & Jean's relationship). And the Xavier dream sequence, while raising some interesting questions about fate and the ripple effect of decisions, is ultimately little more than a "Legion Quest" setup.

So while it's certainly appreciated to get a more character-focused quiet issue (particularly one that isn't also as concerned with moving characters around & closing out a storyline, as with the previous, similarly "quiet", issue), especially in light of all the narrative craziness that has happened and will be happening, and everything here is competently-written and well-drawn, the specific content of this issue does little to make it standout as more than a rare island in a sea of issues concerned with bigger, louder and more narratively-significant things.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Legion takes the stage in X-Factor #109. Friday, Deadpool drops by Wolverine #88. Next week, things get extreme in X-Men #39.

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10 comments:

  1. In Xavier's dream, the recognizable body of John Proudstar lays in the middle and front. To his left is an uncomposed woman, maybe the recently dead Illyana in her teens, maybe Maddie Pryor.

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  2. I agree this one isn't up to Lobdell's normal "quiet issue" standard. Part of it, for me, is focusing a third of the issue on Iceman, who I've never found particulaly interesting outside of SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS.

    I didn't like Steve Epting's work in the 90s, whether on the occasional AVENGERS issue I saw, here, or in the occasional X-FACTOR issue, because he wasn't Image-y enough. Nowadays I think he's fine, though perhaps still not quite as flashy as I prefer. But in this sort of action-free issue, he does good work.

    I think my main takeaway from this one when I read it back in high school was "Archangel's rich? I thought he lost all his money! Oh, well -- cool!" I find him a much more fun character when he's wealthy.

    No-Prize solution: the majority of his money was in a trust that Hodge couldn't touch, but neither could Warren until he was, say, 30 (he probably got a smaller -- but still sizeable -- chunk of inheritence when his parents died, as well as a monthly stipend, explaining why he was able to be a wealthy playboy earlier on as well). Assuming he hit the three-decade mark around the same time as his classmate, Beast, maybe he just came into the money recently. He does specifically say that his "family fortune" was untouched by Hodge, which seems an odd choice of words if it was all his to begin with.

    "Also, Psylocke’s hair is long again, after a point was made of it being short in X-Men #38."

    It's long-ish, but not as long as usual. I do think Epting was trying to draw a short-haired Psylocke here, but probably didn't realize how short it was meant to be.

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    Replies
    1. No-Prize solution: the majority of his money was in a trust that Hodge couldn't touch, but neither could Warren until he was, say, 30

      I'm not even sure it's that complicated - Hodge was given control of Worthington Enterprises, and while a fair amount of Warren's personal capital was tied up in it, it's not like Hodge had access to his personal bank account/assets, which, thanks to his parents, was large/extensive. Presumably, it's those later funds he's referencing here, even though the company itself was bled dry by Hodge.

      At least, I don't think that approach directly contradict's anything from Simonson's run.

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  3. // a somewhat random pairing //

    Yeah, I thought so. Although had I read this issue when it came out, not to mention the further time together that you mention is coming, Bobby and Rogue being paired romantically in the early X-Men films might not have seemed quite so strange to me — despite them being portrayed purely as platonic friends and teammates here, give or take what you could infer from his anger over how Gambit treats her if you want. On the other hand, reading it now, I can easily find resonance with the recent developments in his sexual orientation even if there was no intention on Lobdell’s part to shade things that way.

    Does Bobby not have his driver’s license, by the way? He thanks Rogue not for coming along as moral support but literally for offering to drive him home for the weekend.

    Also, I feel like Bobby shouldn’t be quite so surprised by his dad’s bigotry, unless I misremember that he’s both expressed shame over Bobby’s mutant nature and made derogatory comments about Opal before.

    There are some spots of rough narrative flow here— in particular at the bottom of Pg. 4, with Bobby talking to Rogue, and the bottom of Pg. 5, setting the scene for Xavier’s dream. Epting’s layouts could be partly to blame but the balloon and caption placement, on the latter especially, don’t help any.

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    Replies
    1. That's a good point/question. I know New Yorkers often skip it, but Bobby is from Long Island (I think?), so you'd have to assume he got his license. Then again, maybe he was too busy chucking snowballs at Magneto when he was 16 to do it.

      Also, I feel like Bobby shouldn’t be quite so surprised by his dad’s bigotry, unless I misremember that he’s both expressed shame over Bobby’s mutant nature and made derogatory comments about Opal before.

      I'd thought that too - this is the first time he's explicitly called out on being a bigot, but it's hardly the first time he's made statements that would lead one to think it about him.

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  4. "This leads Iceman to grapple with the fact that he always thought he learned his more heroic tendencies from his parents, but now he’s not so sure."

    Reminds me of realizing that I learned not to be a hateful person like my parents are (they're very much in the same vein as Mr. Drake here) but rather from X-Men & Muppets.

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    1. I've had to grapple with similar realizations of late (with only parent, thankfully), so the Iceman stuff in this issue definitely resonated with me now in a way it didn't when I first read it.

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  5. Looks like this is the first issue where they changed the style of the "X-Men" logo for the first time since what, the Silver Age?

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    1. It's only a temp change - the logo is back to normal next issue - presumably so as not to crowd/disrupt Epting's cover art. I believe it's done in the style of the X-MEN UNLIMITED logo.

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  6. This issue always read like a coming out story to me. Back to back with Bobby confronting Emma last issue, and I was absolutely convinced Bobby was gay.

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