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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #9

"The Not So Big Easy"
June 1992

In a Nutshell
The X-Men battle the Brood-possessed Ghost Rider.

Plot & Pencils: Jim Lee
Script: Scott Lobdell
Finishes: Lee & Thibert
Lettering: Orzechowski & Buhalis
Coloring: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Old Warrior: Tom DeFalco

The X-Men & Bella Donna battle the Brood and the Brood-infected Ghost Rider until the floor of the chamber collapses, separating them. As Gambit & Bella Donna reconcile, Beast & Wolverine battle Ghost Rider, noting that for all the Brood says to the contrary, he passed up an opportunity to finish them off. Elsewhere, Jubilee & Rogue discover a group of captive Guild members, waiting to be transformed into Brood, when they're attacked by Ghost Rider. Psylocke & Bella Donna enter Ghost Rider's mind, and with the help of the lingering essence of Dan Ketch, Ghost Rider's most recent host, they're able to purge the Brood, though the act of doing so kills Bella Donna. Gambit gives her body to the freed members of the Assassins Guild, telling them to take her home, then joins the X-Men and Ghost Rider to seek out the Brood for vengeance.

Firsts and Other Notables
Bella Donna dies this issue, overwhelmed by the strain of helping Ghost Rider fight off the Brood possession, shortly after she and Gambit reconcile, leaving her in the perfect position to not stand in the way of the blossoming Gambit/Rogue romance but to allow the memory of her to prolong and complicate that romance. She will, of course, be back, but never really develops into much of a recurring character outside of her connection to Gambit and the Guild mythology.

The Brood mention they were drawn to targeting the children of the Guilds because they've been programmed for decades (by some force other than the Brood; the Brood are merely taking advantage). I'm not sure anything ever comes of this notion (though if it does, I imagine it's in one of Gambit's limited series), but it does offer some cursory explanation for the Brood's presence in New Orleans (but not how/when they got to Earth or if they're at all connected to the Brood the X-Men fought in Uncanny #232-234).

A Work in Progress
At the site of the Brood-transformed Ghost Rider, Jubilee jokes about joining the New Warriors; she will in fact join a later incarnation of the team post M-Day/Civil War.

Bella Donna's powers are shown to be something along the lines of "shoots energy" and "vaguely telepathic", though the narrative does hang a lampshade on their randomness/plot convenience. It's also mentioned that she acquired her powers somehow, rather than being born with them as a mutant.

It's said that Jubilee is not technically one of the X-Men at this point.

Wolverine, who has personally repelled a Brood transformation twice, is once again insisting that such transformations are permanent. And by issue's end, he's proven wrong, as Ghost Rider is freed of Brood possession and returns to normal.

Beast is accused of babbling, something to which he takes offense.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
The Brood Ghost Rider is introduced via a vertical double page splash.

The issue ends with another pinup of the X-Men poised for action.

Young Love
Gambit & Bella Donna reconcile their differences and express their feelings for one another, just in time for Bella Donna to die.

Psylocke continues to flirt with Cyclops, mid-battle this time.

It's in the Mail
Augie de Blieck has a letter in this issue, and it's said that Psylocke will visit Captain Britain in issue #12 (this visit is actually shown in Excalibur, with Psylocke simply absent from issues #12 and #13).

Austin's Analysis
If you can turn off your brain ("there's no catacombs under New Orleans! Where'd the Brood come from?") and get past the near-impenetrable "Cajun" dialogue scattered throughout (at one point, "interrupt" is abbreviated as "'trupt"), this is a lot of fun. It's a big dumb sloppy fight issue, but there's nothing wrong with that on occasion, especially one drawn by Jim Lee (and looking a little bit sharper than he did in the previous issue). And for as much as Wolverine dominates the cover (and gets in some licks), Lobdell and Lee manage to give everyone a moment in the spotlight, even Beast & Jubilee, with Bella Donna, Psylocke and Dan Ketch ultimately defeating the Brood-possessed Ghost Rider. Plus, they manage to sneak in a legitimately funny running gag involving Beast's propensity for babbling. It's not high art, but it gets the job done. Sometimes, that's okay.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Excalibur goes prehistoric in Excalibur #51. Friday. Wolverine goes to Japan in Wolverine #55. Next week, the story concludes in Ghost Rider #27.

Collected Editions


  1. Does anyone else find something kind of absurd in the idea of a supernatural being (almost) getting turned into a brood host? I mean, absurd even by comic book standards.

    1. I've seen Ghost Rider's bones been shattered and him being beaten up with his own femur to say that whatever the supernatural bells and whistles there comes with it, the skeleton itself as biological matter is human enough to be altered by broodification. Let us remember Wolverine has been saved twice by the fact that the Brood can't transform the adamantium-laced bones.

      But where the initial Brood embryo is supposed to have been developed when he's nothing but bones and hellfire, I refuse to think about. I'd otherwise say it incubated in Danny Ketch's human form and he turned into Brood Ghost Rider right when it took over, but at this time that's an impossible route.

  2. Lobdell's script describes Ghost Rider as a demon that knows the horrors of eternal damnation but the entire point of the current Ghost Rider series is that it was ambiguous whether or not THIS Ghost Rider was a demon.

    1. I love especially the touch of Betsy seeing Johnny Blaze looming there when diving into Ghost Rider's mind. Makes one wonder if this sent any GR fan boys reeling over the answer being there now. It would be in with the times to pull this sort of revelation in the other guys' book on a crossover, teaches the geek to buy all the parts when Marvel puts one out.

      Of course, how the mystery pans out in the end... technically this doesn't conflict with it maybe perhaps. Blood Feud, *chuckle*.

  3. The Brood Ghost Rider is a cool visual in a totally 90's way.

    Bella Donna is a problematic character. I liken her to Mikhail Rasputin in that it really adds nothing to the character by giving them powers. All her character needs to be is someone from Gambit's past. Throwing vaguely defined powers on top of that needlessly complicates things and adds absolutely nothing. You want her to engage in physicality? Give her guns or something. There were a LOT of minor characters with vague energy manipulation powers showing up around this time.

    1. Whatever one may say of the merits of the Kwannon scenario, this one here sure ain't my Betsy from UNCANNY #213!

      But on the happy note, I did call for the puns the last time, and sure enough, Cyke and Betsy "got a job to do", like in the theme song in that one Bond film located partly in New Orleans, the Guns n' Roses version of which was getting hefty radio play right around the time this issue was written.

  4. I realize that superhero comics books are a ridiculous medium to begin with, but the Ghost Rider Brood transformation required a suspension of disbelief that was beyond my capacity, even at 12 years old. When I went to read the comments, I was delighted that the very first one addressed this. I'm sure the rationale behind it was as simple as "Dude, wouldn't it look so cool if Ghost Rider got infected by the Brood!". This was a time when the visual element dominated the storytelling, coherence and plot development be damned. I always found the Cyclops/Psylocke plot odd. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I wonder what Lee's long term plan for that was, if he actually had one at all?


  5. Yeah, I could accept one isolated underground chamber somehow being carved out and reinforced in New Orleans for Guild purposes, but its floor giving way and the “labyrinth that stretches for miles”… no.

    Jubilee not being an official X-Man struck me as odd. Sure, Xavier or even Wolverine could have qualms about her going into the field without training, etc.; I’m not sure I see a difference between her and Kitty (in this regard), though, other than that she isn’t even necessarily enrolled in whatever kind of school curriculum remains at the mansion.

    That “Cajun” dialogue was atrocious.

    Ghost Rider being infected by the Brood makes no sense to me either — maybe his physical form could be, somehow, but the resultant Brood-dominated entity having access to his supernatural Vengeance Sprit powers I don’t buy.

    Does that last-gasp energy Bella Donna releases from her eyes at the end play a part in her resurrection?

  6. And one final note: I'm from Baton Rouge. We are an hour from New Orleans. Nobody in New Orleans speaks with a Cajun accent. Like, none whatsoever. If you go south-southwest of there, you will run into people who do, but they don't tend to lace their sentences with old world French. Claremont should have made Gambit come from Houma, but I guess no one would know where that is.

  7. It was with this storyline that I realized I was getting too old for this stuff. By that I don't mean superhero comics, which I still read. I mean Lobdell/Lee cartoon reality was just too simplistic and, frankly, stupid to enjoy as even a teenager.

    Revisiting this period makes me appreciate the Claremont/Simonson era even more.


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