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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #40

"The Killing Time"
January 1995

In a Nutshell
A young Xavier & Magnus encounter Legion in the past, while in the present, Lilandra delivers a dire warning.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inker: Matt Ryan
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Kevin Somers
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the past, Xavier invites his friend & hospital co-worker Magnus to dinner, after which Magnus has an encounter with an amnesiac "John Doe" patient. In the present, the X-Men scour the Negev Desert for their missing teammates but discover only Phoenix, who informs them that Legion has taken the rest of the X-Men into the past. Back at the mansion, Sabretooth, believing the place empty, attempts to escape, only to discover Wolverine has returned home. In the past, Magnus is tending to John Doe when Doe suddenly reaches into Magnus mind, discovering the horrors in his past. Magnus rushes off to find Xavier, believing Doe to be one of the mutants they've discussed recently, and when they return to the hospital, they discover John Doe psychically manifesting both fire and images of strange individuals. In the present, Cable & Domino rendezvous with the X-Men at Xavier's behest, but they are interrupted by the sudden appearance of a Lilandra, appearing via a holographic transmission to warn the X-Men that Legion's actions in the past pose a threat to the fabric of all reality. When Xavier asks how she could possibly know this, Lilandra reveals that she is surrounded by a half dozen Watchers, the deliverers of the warning.

Firsts and Other Notables
"Legion Quest" continues, with Legion and the X-Men in the past (circa the events of Uncanny X-Men #161) but partially amnesiac: the time lost X-Men remember their names, relationships with one another, and their powers, but aren’t sure what they’re doing in Israel or why they were all wearing aerobic suits covered in the letter X, whereas Legion is a patient residing in the psychiatric hospital where Xavier & Magneto work.


The issue concludes with Lilandra warning the X-Men of the threat to reality posed by Legion's actions, a threat reinforced by the presence of multiple Watchers, the cosmic beings whose presence is shorthand for "big important things are happening in this story".


Cable joins the present day X-Men in Israel, coming at the request of Xavier, though he tells him that he no longer possesses the ability to travel through time, as his time displacement core currently resides at the bottom of the ocean (as of Cable #3/X-Force #22).


Wolverine returns to the X-Mansion, and the series, for the first time since issue #25 (not counting his off-page appearance in #30), in a two page interlude setting up his showdown with Sabretooth in Wolverine #90 (more in that review about how absolutely bonkers it was that the X-Men’s most popular character was written out of X-Men comics at arguably the height of their popularity for over a year). It's a little odd that Sabretooth is trying to escape, considering he technically turned himself over to the X-Men voluntarily for treatment (and returned of his own volition after breaking free of his restraints in issue #37), but it ultimately comes down to needing an excuse for Wolverine's dramatic entry.


It’s said that Asian Psylocke has a British accent, and I can’t decide if that makes sense or not (accents arent caused by anything physical - I could have a British accent if I wanted - but voices are, somewhat, since not every person sounds the same).

Magnus, after rightly pointing out the line Xavier has crossed by dating a patient, ponders if he’s jealous of Xavier’s relationship, or just his capacity to dream of a better world, foreshadowing his role in Age of Apocalypse, when he is the architect of the X-Men’s dream.


The Chronology Corner
Cable appears here after X-Force #41 (and before X-Force #43), and between issues #19 and #20 of his solo series. Wolverine, obviously, appears between issues #89 and #90 of his book.

A Work in Progress
Ncieza & Kubert do that thing where the issue opens on Xavier in a wheelchair, before pulling out as Xavier stands up, revealing the story is taking place a time before he was injured and is still capable of walking.


Archangel comments that even with his enhanced eyesight, he’s having a hard time seeing through the sandstorm, a reference to one his rarely-mentioned “bird-like” powers that complement his ability to fly.


He’s also started wearing his old blue & white, halo icon costume, in lieu of his blue and red Archangel suit. This will be his default look pretty much until Claremont’s return to the series (and the debut of new unified looks for the characters) circa issue #100 of this series.

Beast reminds everyone that he’s still technically the field leader of the X-Men, and I can’t really blame Gambit for forgetting that, since I did too.


When the amnesiac Legion reads Magnus’ mind, one of the Nazis is depicted as the same kind of monster as in Gabrielle Haller’s mind in X-Men #161.


Xavier considers Legion to be only the second Mutant he’s encountered (after Amahl Farouk), though he has suspicions of Magnus (at this point, before the events of Uncanny #161, he doesn’t yet know Magneto is a mutant).


Upon his arrival in Israel, Cable is promptly accosted by the authorities; he suggests they may be confusing him with Stryfe, while Domino jokes that it's hard to keep track of all the places where they're wanted.


Young Love
Archangel is determined not to lose Psylocke so soon after they both found happiness with each other.


Austin's Analysis
Technically, this is the second part of "Legion Quest", but this is really where the story kicks into gear. Part 1 established Legion as a legitimate powerhouse threat to the X-Men before throwing everyone back in time, but this is where both the meat of the overall plot and the stakes involved get laid out. A group of X-Men are in the past, quasi-amnesiac, bumping into Young Xavier & Young Magneto, who are unknowingly drawn into the orbit of a similarly-amnesiac Legion, while in the present, the rest of the X-Men call in their time-traveling big gun just as Lilandra shows up, backed by a coterie of Watchers, doubling-down on the appearance of Jahf to underscore just how dangerous Legion's trip to the past is. The romp through Xavier's past, Cable's presence, the galactic consequences, heck, even the return of Wolverine, all lend a sense of grandeur to the issue, combined with some top notch work from Kubert who uses some dramatic figures & panel compositions along with both full and double-page spreads to amp up the energy  If Uncanny #320 sold the idea that Legion's threat is legitimate, this is the chapter that makes it clear just how epic this story is.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Warpath & Emma Frost have a therapy session in X-Force #42. Friday, "The Soulsword Trilogy" concludes in Excalibur #85. Next week, Rogue gets the miniseries treatment.

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20 comments:

  1. I would agree with your assessment of this one. It feels more momentious than "Legion Quest" part 1. Though it makes my head hurt to see the characters talking about things "happening" in the past at the same time as the goings-on in the present. As the old lady said, "That's now his this works! That's now any of this works!" I get that from a dramatic standpoint, we need to see these narratives as if they're going on side-by-side, but in truth they aren't -- what happened in the past is long done by this point in the present.

    My only other complaint is that when we first see Legion, thanks to the lack of his trademark hair, he looks like any other random Kubert dude. You figure out pretty quickly who he is, but it's not as evident from the artwork as I think Nicieza and Kubert wanted it to be.


    "...it ultimately comes down to needing an excuse for Wolverine's dramatic entry."

    Also the answer to the question of why Sabretooth didn't smell Wolverine from a mile away in this scene! (I do love that two page splash, though.)

    "It’s said that Asian Psylocke has a British accent, and I can’t decide if that makes sense or not (accents arent caused by anything physical - I could have a British accent if I wanted - but voices are, somewhat, since not every person sounds the same)."

    Why wouldn't she have one? Her brain was raised in England, so she should have the accent in whatever body she occupies, unless he's actively trying to hide it for some reason, right?

    Odder to me about this scene is Bobby's "That's not noooormal" line -- does he think there are no people of Asian descent in Great Britain? Certainly they would be a minority, but they do exist! (I feel like her purple hair would've been a better thing to comment on, as he does with Storm's hair -- this was some years before it became more common to see hair dyed every color of the rainbow, after all.)

    "This will be his default look pretty much until Claremont’s return to the series..."

    I'll complain about it when we get there, but I found so many of those "Revolution" costumes ugly as heck. I get that Marvel wanted to make a big splash for Claremont's return, but they should've put more work into the designs. (Though if I had my druthers, they would've just kept everyone as they were -- the outfits most of the X-Men were wearing at that point -- many still in either their Jim Lee togs or classic looks like Archangel and Phoenix -- were just fine.)

    "Beast reminds everyone that he’s still technically the field leader of the X-Men, and I can’t really blame Gambit for forgetting that, since I did too."

    But... why? Cyclops is back! This isn't something like the early 80s when Storm was leader and he'd come back to guest-star or whatever. He hasn't left the X-Men, so what's the point of Beast retaining his leadership role three issues after Cyclops returned to the team? Unless Nicieza was looking to set up some sort of new status quo which got scuttled by the "Age of Apocalypse" hiatus.

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    1. Matt: Cyclops is back! [...] so what's the point of Beast retaining his leadership role three issues after Cyclops returned to the team? Unless Nicieza was looking to set up some sort of new status quo which got scuttled by the "Age of Apocalypse" hiatus.

      I kind of wish we got to see that.

      I was aware that Nicieza's departure led to threads being dropped after AoA, but I never stopped to think how many or how big (and interesting!) some of them were until reading Teebore's recent reviews. I really enjoyed Jeph Loeb's X-Force at the time and have been looking forward to these reviews reaching that point, but now I really just want to know where post-AoA X-Force would have gone if Nicieza stuck around and how different this title would have been with Beast leading the team into battle instead of holed up in a lab working on the Legacy Virus (or a prisoner of the Dark Beast) ...

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    2. My only other complaint is that when we first see Legion, thanks to the lack of his trademark hair, he looks like any other random Kubert dude.

      Along those lines, I probably should have pointed out that even Kubert's young Magneto is *shredded*.

      Her brain was raised in England, so she should have the accent in whatever body she occupies, unless he's actively trying to hide it for some reason, right?

      Yeah, I guess I was just doubting if there was a physical component to accents - presumably her voice now sounds like Kwannon's, not Betsy's, albeit a British version of Kwannon's voice.

      Unless Nicieza was looking to set up some sort of new status quo which got scuttled by the "Age of Apocalypse" hiatus.

      That could be. In my head, I was thinking of it in terms of Cyclops having been elevated to some kind of larger, overall leadership role across both teams while Storm & Beast remain field leaders, but that's all entirely in my head and not supported by any text I can recall, so I'm not sure where I got that from.

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    3. Yeah, that makes sense -- Kwannon's voice with a British accent is what I'd assume this version of Psylocke sounds like.

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  2. I was in high school when this arc originally ran, and remember getting goose bumps at that last page with Lilandra and the multiple Watchers.

    I remember wondering: if only one Watcher was present for the death of Phoenix...what did *seven* portend?

    The following is a minor quibble...and as much as I (also) like Kubert's work in this issue...I also wish an artist whose good at civilian clothes & detailed backgrounds had drawn it. Especially since a good portion of this story took place in the past. Only if to see the clothes look era appropriate and how the outfits contrasted to each time-lost character. As it is, if the characters hadn't repeatedly stressed they were in the past, a reader could be hard pressed to realize it.

    Someone like 1980s era George Perez/John Byrne or even (that era's) Jim Lee could've made those visuals really fun.

    In rereading these issues, it never stops amazing me how inappropriate Charles Xavier has behaved with people. Particularly women*. As a teen/kid, it didn't sink in how f'ed up it is for him to start a romance with *a patient*. Particularly, as she's a therapy patient and one could argue even more vulnerable. Its pretty messed up.

    *(I'm really excited for us to get to that Jean Grey reveal during one of Mark Waid's 'road to Onslaught' issue.)

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    1. Professor Xavier is a jerk.

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    2. I'm really excited for us to get to that Jean Grey reveal during one of Mark Waid's 'road to Onslaught' issue.

      Technically, it's a recall, not a reveal (which makes it no less jerky).

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    3. As a (soon to be) clinical psychologist, I can attest that dating a patient is EXTREMELY problematic, for a variety of reasons including the one you mentioned.

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    4. To be fair, Anonymous, this here is pretty much the worst case scenario.

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    6. Professor Xavier is a jerk.

      LoL. Kitty has always been a source of reason.

      Technically, it's a recall, not a reveal (which makes it no less jerky).

      Nyah, nyah, Austin. ;-)

      To be fair, Anonymous, this here is pretty much the worst case scenario.

      Considering, the end result was him impregnating her with a child (!) who ends up with severe PTSD (!!) who ends up travelling backwards in time to rewrite history (!!!) but instead introduces a hellish dystopia (!!!!), even your completely accurate & reasonable answer feels like an understatement. ;-)

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  3. This is the best issue of the crossover for me. I'm a sucker for young Charles and Magneto stories and Nicieza nails that dynamic from the Claremont flashback issues. The art's great, the stakes are as high as they get. Honestly, there's not much more I want from an X-Men comic.

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  4. Andy Kubert. Jahf. The Watchers. The Wolverine v. Sabertooth tease. Constant callbacks to continuity that I had read before (and others to issues that I hadn't read before but strongly hinted at a large and complicated history for me to unpack). The 11 year old in me is FREAKING OUT right now.

    I recognize that Legion Quest is a thrilling crossover with my nostalgia goggles off, but lemme tell ya -- this shit is just FUN to read when you let yourself be a kid again. It is taking ALL of my self-control not to read through parts three, four and five ... and then stay up all night reading the entire AoA too!

    I have to wonder why they bothered to swap out Archangel for Psylocke in these issues. Both Lobdell and Nicieza are acknowledging the Blue/Gold divide, with an Uncanny caption box introducing Storm as leader of the Gold team and Beast asserting himself as leader of the Blue team here. But no explanation is given at all to this minor roster change-up. It would actually be less noticeable if the Legion squad was just a mishmash of characters -- the reader could assume then that Xavier assembled a very special team that he thought would be most capable against Legion, as he did in Adjectiveless 25 to take down Magneto. (Even if the actual membership of that team was nonsense.) But just swapping out a single member for no reason -- neither character does anything important in either of their storylines -- that just distracts me.

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    1. I think I said, back when X-Aminiations looked at "Bloodties" or thereabouts, that I seriously wanted to just keep plowing ahead and re-read all the Lobdell/Nicieza stuff right then and there.

      As an adult, I totally see the cracks in this stuff, but the kid in me just doesn't care. I was 16 when this stuff came out, and when I read it I become 16 again. I get thoroughly invested, I get goosebumps at all the right moments, and I can't wait to read the next issue!

      (It's actually kind of nice to shut down that critical side of my brain -- without even needing to try, mind you; it's an automatic switch that just turns off when I open one of these comics -- and enjoy this stuff with the same enthusiasm as I had for it twenty-plus years ago.)

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  5. I recognize that Legion Quest is a thrilling crossover with my nostalgia goggles off, but lemme tell ya -- this shit is just FUN to read when you let yourself be a kid again.

    Definitely. I read this with a big ol' smile on my face, to an extent I haven't with other recently reviewed issues. Some of that, I'm sure, is nostalgia, remember how much this felt like an EPIC BIG DEAL at the time, how pumped I was for Age of Apocalypse, but I really do think that epic energy is objectively there, to some extent, independent of nostalgia, and that carries through.

    But just swapping out a single member for no reason -- neither character does anything important in either of their storylines -- that just distracts me.

    I *think* Psylocke ends up being pivotal in some way to how things go down in the past, at least to the extent that the plot requires there to be a telepath both in the past, and one left behind in the present (one to tell Xavier in part 2 how Legion's mind was whole without a clunky "the telepath on our squad said Legion's mind was whole before being sucked back in time" line, the other to perform telepathic services for the time-lost characters in the past). So both Jean & Psylocke needed to be on the team in UNCANNY #321. It was probably a coin flip as to which one went back in time, and which stayed in the present (Lobdell suggests some business with Psylocke's psychic knife being part of the process that allows the X-Men to follow Legion through time in UNCANNY #321, but it's not like he couldn't have revised his made-up telepathy science to have Jean be the link if he needed to).

    All that said, an explanation for why Psylocke came along - "we're going to need all the telepathic power we can get against Legion!" - at some point would have been nice.

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    1. Jean needed to stay back for the drama, and Psylocke has a very elemental role in the happenings.

      Unless we want Scott be kissing Betsy when things go down.

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  6. I don’t think that the X-Men pulled into the past did entirely remember “their names, relationships with one another, and their powers”. Bobby’s dialogue in the panel you posted suggests that they had to learn each other's names, and when Bobby ices up on the next page his form hearkens back to his old “snowman” look albeit with more definition that it had in the very beginning.

    Cable says “Hi, Pop” on arrival, so apparently he (and everyone else) knows that Cyclops is his father now.

    I’m with Matt on Psylocke’s British accent; I’ve been assuming that Psylocke retained it and never wondered otherwise, although the tone of her voice sounding like Kwannon's makes sense.

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    1. To whom it may concern:

      Not sure what accounts for me mixing this up but I’m aware that Cable’s known Cyclops was his father for a while now; I was thinking of how he didn’t know that Slym and Redd were his actual parents yet and somehow that lever got pulled when the “Hi, Pop” line sounded odd to me.

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  7. "but aren’t sure what they’re doing in Israel"

    Bishop's comment about them being 20 years in the past is also interesting, which would place them in Israel in the mid-1970s, as opposed to the 1960s. Ah, the sliding timescale...

    "It's a little odd that Sabretooth is trying to escape, considering he technically turned himself over to the X-Men voluntarily for treatment"

    Also odd that he seems to have the technical know-how to try to escape his cell in that particular way.

    "It’s said that Asian Psylocke has a British accent, and I can’t decide if that makes sense or not"

    It would have made more sense had we never gotten the Kwannon ret-con.

    "When the amnesiac Legion reads Magnus’ mind, one of the Nazis is depicted as the same kind of monster as in Gabrielle Haller’s mind in X-Men #161."

    A nice call back, though it doesn't really make sense for him to have that same exact memory.

    While I still have my issues with Kubert's artwork, the production values of the deluxe issues go a long way to making it look better than it should. And the storyline does pick up nicely, giving things as you pointed out a nice sense of the epicness of what is going on with Legion in the past, and how it affects things in the present. A nice last hurrah for the pre-AOA X-men titles.

    wwk5d

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    1. Ah, the sliding timescale...

      Yeah, that's why I mentioned the subtle failings of Kubert's art in my comment further up. It would've beem really cool to see someone more detailed oriented go to town with a 70s-based backspace.

      It would have made more sense had we never gotten the Kwannon ret-con.

      The adult version of me recognizes that storyline is needlessly convoluted. But the teenage version of me that read it when it debuted loved it for that reason. Plus, it had all the hallmarks I enjoyed: doomed relationship, a 'whose conning whom?' aspect, and kickass female characters. It was Claremontian - but not fully successful.

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