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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #321

"Auld Lang Syne"
February 1995

In a Nutshell
Cable attempts to contact the time-lost X-Men as Legion puts his plan into action.

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Penciler: Ron Garney
Inkers: Townsend, Green & Rubinstein
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Twenty years ago in Haifa, Xavier & Magneto fight side-by-side in a bar brawl, in defense of a disabled veteran being harassed by the patrons. In the present, Xavier, Cable & Phoenix work together, assisted by Shi'ar technology, to send Cable's mind into the past, in order to contact the X-Men stranded there and warn them of Legion's intentions to alter the future and the threat that poses to reality. In the past, those X-Men continue to struggle with not knowing their reason for being in the past, hoping it will become clear soon. Elsewhere, Legion visits his mother Gaby, appearing before her as Xavier, an act that Xavier telepathically senses, realizing Gaby is in danger. As he and Magneto rush to her, Cable arrives in the past, and manages to restore the X-Men's memories. Meanwhile, Xavier & Magneto arrive at the hospital to find a distraught Gaby, at which point Legion emerges, declaring that, in his time, Magneto will become the greatest villain the world will ever know, and for that, he must now die.

Firsts and Other Notables
Part 3 of "Legion Quest", this is the final issue of Uncanny X-Men before it is relaunched as Astonishing X-Men as part of "Age of Apocalypse". In all the other X-books this month, the transition to "Age of Apocalypse" is heralded by a "crystallization wave" in which the final panels of the issue feature reality being crystallized and shattered as a result of Legion changing the past (and creating the new "Age of Apocalypse" reality). But because "Legion Quest" continues directly into X-Men #41, and the reality warp is triggered there, this is the one X-book this month that doesn’t end with that crystallization effect.

Legion, posing as his father, has sex with his mother in this issue (essentially raping her, since she think he's Xavier), which is a thing that happens for not entirely clear reasons and adds an unfortunate taint to the otherwise pretty solid "Legion Quest".


Upon reaching the past, Cable is drawn to Bishop, as he is a temporal anomaly (something that will also feature heavily in Bishop’s “Age of Apocalypse” role).


A note at the beginning of this issue demands that readers must read Cable #20 with this issue, and I’m not sure how you read one issue “with” another. Like, you can read an issue before another, or after, but “with” makes it seem like you need to read one page of this, then one page of that, etc.

A Work in Progress
We get one of those great “powers in concert” set ups in this issue, as Xavier, augmented by Shi’ar technology, telepathically triggers Cable’s latent time-travel abilities to send his consciousness back in time to warn the time-traveling X-Men to stop Legion, all while Jean telekinetically holds everything together.


Past Magneto is amused by the notion of anyone calling Xavier “Professor”.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
The Israel story is said to be set 20 years ago, or the early 70s, making the still-youngish looking Gabrielle Haller’s experiences in the holocaust harder to reconcile.

"Professor Xavier is a jerk!"
Past Xavier rightly worries about the ethics of dating Gaby, his patient (though not enough to, you know, not date her).


For Sale
There’s an ad for the Mutant Apocalypse SNES game.


Bullpen Bulletins
A Christmas-themed X-Facts page announces all the “Age of Apocalypse” title changes (and their logos), along with the cover to Age of Apocalypse Alpha #1. It also cites the buzz for the event in Wizard andComics Buyers Guide, a rare acknowledgement of the press that was, indeed, relentlessly hyping these events.


It also mentions (in the nigh-illegible breathtakingly-90s designed section of the page) that this is Rogue’s 150th issue of the series, which is only partially true (it’s been 150 issues since she joined the team in #171, but she hasn’t appeared in all those issues, including a length absence following her disappearance into the Siege Perilous in issue #247 and her post-relaunch stint in Adjectiveless when the casts of the two books were kept more isolated).

Austin's Analysis
On the surface, this feels a little padded out - does it really require as many pages of Xavier & Magneto bar fighting as it has? - especially since the two big plot developments - Legion confronting Magneto, and Cable successfully "waking up" the time-lost X-Men - all happen in the issue's closing pages, setting up the resolution to come in X-Men #41. But the bar fight serves an important purpose beyond filling pages: it provides a snapshot of the Xavier/Magneto friendship at this moment in time, when the pair is perhaps at their closest, and underscores both Xavier's belief in the importance of fighting for his beliefs, and Magneto's willingness to back up his friend. As a result, the entire bar fight basically lays the groundwork for Magneto's actions in "Age of Apocalypse", as it is that Magneto - not a Magneto for whom his friendship with Xavier is in the past, with years of philosophical differences wedged between them - who will emerge out of the events of the final chapter of the story and proceed to found the X-Men in Xavier's name, determined to back up his friend and fight for a better world, just as he does in the bar in this issue. That makes this issue, essentially, if not the origin of Age of Apocalypse Magneto, then at least a necessary component to understanding that character's later actions and one of the core "twists" to the setup of that reality.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Strong Guy is in trouble as reality ends in X-Factor #111. Friday, Wolverine comes home and finds Sabretooth sleeping in his room in Wolverine #90. Next week, "Legion Quest" (and reality) concludes in X-Men (vol. 2) #41!

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24 comments:

  1. "Cable's latent time-travel abilities"... this is from Rachel's book of tricks.

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    1. Maybe he took it from her when they met in EXCALIBUR #71. :)

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  2. Somehow I missed this issue as a kid, so it was years before I knew that David had raped his mother (and possibly fathered himself). I, uh ... preferred missing this issue in that regard.

    I did not miss that SNES game, though. I played that thing over and over and over again. I loved everything about it. (Especially after that disappointing Spider-Man and X-Men Murderworld game.) But it annoyed Young Michael to no end that Psylocke's psychic knife affected the Sentinels. That's now how it's supposed to work! I would avoid knifing the Sentinels every time I played as her, just to be in-universe consistent.

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    1. I would avoid knifing the Sentinels every time I played as her, just to be in-universe consistent.

      That is fantastic. I wholly approve that behavior.

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  3. "Upon reaching the past, Cable is drawn to Bishop, as he is a temporal anomaly"

    Wouldn't all of the X-Men in the past be temporal anomalies?

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    1. Ah, but Bishop is a double temporal anomaly!

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    2. Yeah, that's how I read it as well - Bishop is twice removed from his "home" time, which is what draws Cable to him rather than the other X-Men.

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    3. That is ridiculous comic book logic but I will accept it.

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    4. I think it's about Bishop being a glue-on to the master timeline that Legion's actions are in the process of eradicating, though originally originating from it from further on. Ditto, Cable.

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  4. "Mark Waid is credited with scripting this issue, making it his first work on one of the main X-books"
    He is credited last issue too.

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    1. D'oh! I even wrote about it in that issue. That's what I get for having so much extra stuff between the review of last issue and this one.

      I'm going to add some of what I wrote about Waid's tenure here to that post, then remove all the stuff about Waid from this post.

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    2. I'm excited with your Legion Quest reviews because I'm gonna reread Age of Apocalypse next month during my vacation.

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  5. "Legion, posing as his father, has sex with his mother in this issue (essentially raping her, since she think he's Xavier), which is a thing that happens for not entirely clear reasons and adds an unfortunate taint to the otherwise pretty solid "Legion Quest"."

    At least Legion didn't turn out to be his own father.

    "The Israel story is said to be set 20 years ago, or the early 70s, making the still-youngish looking Gabrielle Haller’s experiences in the holocaust harder to reconcile."

    Imagine how much harder it is to reconcile today.

    "As a result, the entire bar fight basically lays the groundwork for Magneto's actions in "Age of Apocalypse", as it is that Magneto - not a Magneto for whom his friendship with Xavier is in the past, with years of philosophical differences wedged between them - who will emerge out of the events of the final chapter of the story and proceed to found the X-Men in Xavier's name, determined to back up his friend and fight for a better world, just as he does in the bar in this issue."

    So where was Baron Strucker during all of this? Does he still come after Gabby once Xavier is dead? I'm just curious how all of that played out in the AOA timeline.

    Garney's art here is very Kubert-esque, and I mean that as a compliment.

    wwk5d

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    1. I agree, wwk5d -- I thought the same thing last night about Garney's art resembling Kubert's. Seems like he was trying to imitate him, and he pulled it off pretty nicely.

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    2. So where was Baron Strucker during all of this? Does he still come after Gabby once Xavier is dead? I'm just curious how all of that played out in the AOA timeline.

      Yeah, while I understand it wouldn't necessarily be narratively satisfying, I would love to read a history book style rundown of exactly how the AoA timeline differs from the "main" one. What year did Apocalypse emerge and begin his conquest? Which of the stories we know still happened but with minor tweaks? etc.

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    3. I mentioned it late in the comments section for issue #320 but this is Garney channeling Andy Kubert in a big way.

      Although, not as blatant as M.C. Wyman on Cable issues 9, 10, and 11. I mean, damn, those were just so obvious. I wonder how that all went down in the office during that time. Did Wyman get called out? Did he tell Kubert ahead of time and it was kind of an in-joke between them?

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  6. The Legion/Gaby thing is so bizarre... has he ever shown any romantic or sexual interest in his mother before?? It's not only insanely creepy, it's also totally out of nowhere.

    I agree that the issue does feel a little padded -- dare I say "decompressed"? It breezes by; I think I read the whole thing in about ten minutes or less last night. But I also agree that it gives some nice insight into the relationship between Xavier and Magneto at this point in their lives, and for that I can forgive it. Overall, though, it seems like Lobdell just needed to fill space before the crossover ended in the next issue of X-MEN. Almost makes me wonder if "Legion Quest" should've just been a three parter, opening and ending in X-MEN with only one UNCANNY chapter in between.

    Regarding the timeline, I decided a few years ago that history just works differently in the Marvel Universe. There are certain things that are totally tied into historical events, specifically World War II but also the Punisher being in Vietnam, which I believe Marvel was still referencing as recently as the mid-00s. The way I see it, just as "Marvel Time" gives us a sliding timeline since the start of the Marvel Universe, there must be some sort of pre-"Marvel Time" as well. Like, regardless of how long it's been in real life, World War II will always have been only around twenty or so years prior to the start of the Marvel Universe. With all the shenanigans Immortus, Kang, etc. get into, it seems reasonable enough that the timeline has been modified/condensed/whatever in ways no one has ever noticed.

    That's the way I look at it, anyway -- but I'm sure Marvel will go to the unnecessary trouble of trying to explain it in other ways as time continues to march along.

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    1. Almost makes me wonder if "Legion Quest" should've just been a three parter, opening and ending in X-MEN with only one UNCANNY chapter in between.

      You can definitely find about an issue's worth of content to cut from this story. For one thing, the fight with Legion in issue #1 doesn't have to be so long; the X-Men could go back in time midway through that issue, cover some more ground, and still have it end with the whole Jahf/Lilandra/end of reality! cliffhanger.

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    2. Uncanny to X-Men to Uncanny would make more sense, purely because if “Legion Quest” had concluded here you wouldn’t have the conclusion in X-Men #41 being released the week after its consequences were reflected in Wolverine #90 and X-Factor #111. Although I guess that raises the issue (as it were) of what the contents of X-Men #41 might then be. Heaven forbid X-Men: Alpha should just take its place on the schedule with only Wolverine, X-Factor, X-Force, Uncanny, X-Men 2099, X-Men Adventures, X-Men Classic, X-Men: The Early Years, X-Men: The Ultra Collection, and the X-Men: Year of the Mutants collector’s mag to keep it company.

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  7. At least Legion didn't turn out to be his own father.

    Is there any reason for that scene to be in there if they weren't going that route? It's like they decided to do it and then chickened out, and rightfully so because it's stupid and weird, but then left the scene in anyway. It's just so bizarre.

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    1. It felt like bad shorthand for "look how evil this character is" for people who might not have read earlier Legion appearances. And even then, it's wildly out of character with those earlier stories. It's basically just there for shock value.

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  8. Yikes. Eliopoulos’ lettering here right after taking in the Starkings/Comicraft work on Dark Design makes for a harsh comedow-- HOLY $#!% LEGION IS GETTING IT ON WITH HIS OWN MOTHER

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  9. Following on from the first poster - it does annoy me how Rachel is shuffled off the board, just for other characters to jump into her shoes/powerset. Just think, AoA could have been another classic Rachel story.

    That said, I like how Bishop/Illyana/Destiny end up as the odd ones out...

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