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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Unstacking the Deck: Fleer Ultra X-Men Series I

Fleer 1994

Vital Statistics
150 base card set (including the checklist card), as well as several insert/chase sets: a nine card "team portrait" set that combines to form one image, a six card foil-etched "Fatal Attractions" set, a six card foil-etched "Greatest Battles", and a six card foil-etched X-Overs set. Additionally, there is a six card Team Triptych that is exclusive to packs sold from Wal-Mart, and a five card "promo pack" sold with Sega's X-Men video game (which contained versions of the base set cards with the Sega logo on the back).

Categorically Speaking
Super Heroes, Super Villains, Original Team, X-Overs, Team Tryptichs, Deceased, Wolverine's Greatest Battles

Firsts and Other Notables
Fleer is the company which, in the early 80s, helped breaks Topps' monopoly on the production of baseball cards, and by 1991, with the sports card market in the midst of a booming sales bubble (helped, in part, by the opening of the market by Fleer), it released its first "Fleer Ultra" set of baseball cards, a high-end series produced in smaller quantities than the "regular" Fleer set, featuring thicker card stock and silver ink (not unlike how the Marvel Masterpieces card sets are, essentially, an upscale version of the regular Marvel Universe sets). In July of 1992, Marvel purchased Fleer outright, which is why this series (and subsequent X-Men series) are produced by Fleer instead of Skybox, as with the previous sets (though Marvel would, in turn, purchase Skybox as well, in 1995, with both acquisitions often cited as two of the numerous bad business decisions that led to their bankruptcy in 1996).

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

X-aminations in April 2018

Wedding bells are ringing in the January '94 issues, as Scott & Jean finally tie the knot in X-Men #30 (well, "finally" in terms of their thirty year courtship; it's more like "already" in terms of their engagement apparently happening yesterday in comic book time...). But it's not all bachelor parties and wedded bliss, as both X-Factor & Excalibur deal with significant losses in big, double-sized, divisible-by-25 issues, X-Force gets drawn into the Upstarts plotline and a crossover with the similarly-themed, Nicieza-written New Warriors, and Nightcrawler learns the truth about his heritage.

On Sale January 1994
April 4: X-Men: The Wedding Album

April 11: Uncanny X-Men #310
April 12: X-Factor #100
April 13: Wolverine #79

April 18: X-Men (vol. 2) #30
April 19: X-Force #32
April 20: Excalibur #75

April 25: X-Men Unlimited #4
April 26: New Warriors #45
April 27: Cable #9

Thursday, March 22, 2018

X-amining Cable #8

"Fathers and Sons Part Three: Day Spring"
February 1994

In a Nutshell
The truth about Cable & Stryfe is revealed

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Aaron Wiesenfeld
Inkers: Holdredge, Vey, Sellers, Minor, Hanna, Conrad, Banning & Hudson
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Stryfe blasts Tyler and obliterates Askani's energy form, but Tyler's connection to her still allows him to show Stryfe events from his past. Meanwhile, Zero details Cable & Stryfe's survival to Cyclops, Jean, Xavier, Domino, Rictor & Siryn, then teleports Cyclops, Jean, Xavier & Domino to Tyler's base. They arrive just as Stryfe witnesses the truth of his origins as a clone of Cable captured by Apocalypse. A battle ensues, but Zero is able to reconstitute Askani, who, with Xavier & Jean's help, brings the group into Stryfe's mind, where they relive the tragic events of his childhood, as well as Cyclops' & Tyler's troubled pasts. Askani pleads with Stryfe to give up his hold on Cable's body, which he does, but only because he realizes that by dying, he takes the hope of curing the Legacy Virus with him. Cable, now in control of his own body, slumps to the ground, and Cyclops embraces the man he now knows to be his son. Cable asks after Tyler, whom Xavier declares escaped while they battled Stryfe. With that, Cable is eager to move on, but Cyclops asks if there's anything he wants to say to him, or ask about. Cable pauses, then declares he'd like to know a little more about his mother. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

X-amining X-Men Action Figures: X-Men Series V & VI, X-Force Series III

Year of Release

Roll Call

X-Men Series V
Silver Samurai, Morph, Beast, Random, Fitzroy, Robot Wolverine (Albert)

X-Men Series VI
Senyaka, Rogue, Bonebreaker, Ch'od, Raza, Kylun, Civilian Wolverine

X-Force Series III
Cable (4th Edition "Air Assault"), Pyro, Rictor, Sunspot, Mojo, Quark, Shatterstar (2nd Edition)

Friday, March 16, 2018

X-amining Excalibur #74

"In the Name of Love"
February 1994

In a Nutshell
Phoenix finds herself being pulled into the future by Captain Britain.

Written with Love: Richard Ashford
Drawn with Passion: Ian Churchill
Inked with Adoration: Harry Candelario, Cam Smith & Randy Elliot
Lettered with Affection: Pat Brosseau
Colored with Devotion: Garrahy & Matthys
Edited with Compassion: Suzanne Gaffney
Grouply Edited with Appreciation: Bob Harras
Chiefly Edited with Concern: Tom DeFalco

Captain Britain suddenly appears before Phoenix, and she feels herself being pulled into her future as a result, causing her to break the connection. This act of self-preservation proceeds to fill her with guilt as she sees the sad condition Meggan in is, as Moira & Rory Campbell examine her. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler checks on the captive Spoor, and later, Rory tries to get Rachel to open up about her guilt. Elsewhere, Mr. Sinister meets with Gamesmaster & Siena Blaze, and his anger at the latter's failure to retrieve Proteus' DNA is lessened when he discovers Blaze scratched Phoenix, thus providing Sinister with Rachel Summers' DNA. Back on Muir Island, Nightcrawler ponders his heritage while missing Cerise, and Kitty finally decides to unpack following her move to the island. The next morning, Moira checks on Meggan and finds her in a feral state. When Excalibur intervenes, Meggan attacks Phoenix, crying out for her to help free Captain Britain. Just then, Rory is able to dose Meggan with a sedative, knocking her out, prompting an angry Phoenix to tell Rory he had no right to jump in on her behalf. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

X-amining X-Force #31

"Cry Uncle!"
February 1994

In a Nutshell
Warpath & Juggernaut help Siryn & Black Tom reconcile.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inker: John Holdredge
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Editor: Bob Harras
Blarney Stone: Tom DeFalco

Warpath meets with Kelvin Doneghann, a reporter & childhood friend of Siryn's, to discuss Black Tom's attack on the Cassidy's family lawyer Flaherty, with Kelvin noting that if Black Tom had wanted to kill him, he could have, suggesting he's really after attention, specifically from Siryn, who is continuing to deal with her problems by drinking. Later, Kelvin meets with Juggernaut, who is worried because Black Tom needs medical treatment he can only get after turning himself in. The pair devise a way for Black Tom to turn himself in to the authorities and give Siryn some closure on their relationship, and with Warpath's help, arrange a meeting between the two. At the grave of Siryn's mother, whom Tom also loved, the two argue, with Siryn ultimately accepting how much of a father Tom was to her, while forcing Tom to accept that he is responsible for his own evil actions. As Siryn declares that she's giving up drinking, Tom allows himself to be arrested. Juggernaut, watching from the shadows, points out to Warpath that if Siryn truly stops drinking, she may not need him anymore. Warpath agrees, but says, that may be the price of friendship.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #29

"Return to Hellfire!"
February 1994

In a Nutshell
Archangel & Psylocke attend a party at the Hellfire Club.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Matt Ryan
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Archangel watches alongside Beast & Professor X as Psylocke challenges Sabretooth in the Danger Room. Afterwards, amidst preparations for Scott & Jean's wedding, he ponders his romantic history, then receives an invitation to the Hellfire Club's annual gala, sent by Shinobi Shaw, with whom Archangel was friendly as a child. Spotting it, Psylocke reveals she too is a member of the club, and the pair agree to attend the party in the hopes of learning more about the Upstarts. At the party, the pair are knocked out by Tessa, Shaw's assistant, and awaken to find Shinobi waiting to offer his old friend Archangel the place of White King in the Inner Circle Shaw is hoping to rebuild in his image. When Archangel refuses, a fight breaks out, which ends when Psylocke uses her psychic knife on Shinobi, forcing him to relive all his paternal angst. Archangel & Psylocke then depart, leaving Shinobi what he's always been: alone. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

X-amining Wolverine #78

"Deathstalk: A Test of Mettle"
February 1994

In a Nutshell
Wolverine battles Bloodscream.

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inkers: Mark Farmer & Mike Sellers
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Wolverine rides his motorcycle, honor sword of the Clan Yashida outstretched, at Bloodscream. Four weeks ago, Wolverine travels on foot through the Canadian wilderness, unknowingly being tracked by Bloodscream & Cylla. Wolverine recalls how the honor sword was forged from a meteorite, while Bloodscream recounts his origin for Cylla. Wolverine eventually arrives in the town of Logan, to find his motorcycle waiting for him, having been shipped there because his name was on the shipping tag. Outside, a starving Bloodscream drains Cylla of her energy, then attacks Wolverine, who manages to slice him with the honor sword, seemingly killing him. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

X-amining X-Factor #99

"The Cure!"
February 1994

In a Nutshell
Haven cures Wolfsbane

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Penciler: Jan Duursema
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Starkings
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Corvese
Group Editor: Harras
Chief: Tom DeFalco

After an exhaustive night going over the government's data on Haven, Polaris remains suspicious of her terrorist intentions, but concedes the government may be right. Just then, Random arrives, seeking asylum from the government forces that hired him to kill Polaris. Forge proceeds to hire him on as extra muscle for X-Factor's upcoming mission to arrest Haven. Meanwhile, Haven shows Val Cooper more of her operation. Later, X-Factor arrives at Haven's estate and are greeted by her brother, Monsoon. When Random attacks him, a fight breaks out, until Haven quells it and invites everyone inside. X-Factor is stunned to see Val on the side of Haven, who doesn't deny the charges that she's trying to trigger a new beginning for humanity by wiping out large swaths of the population. When Wolfsbane, feeding off Havok's anger, attacks Val, Haven grabs her and manages to cure her of the mutate process, returning her to her human form and severing her bond with Havok, at which point a grateful Wolfsbane declares she is standing with Haven.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #309

"...When The Tigers Come At Night!"
February 1994

In a Nutshell
Xavier reflects on his romantic past in the wake of Scott & Jean's engagement.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inkers: Dan Green & John Holdredge
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Professor X has a dream in which he grapples with his subsconscious, in the form of Magneto, regarding his reservations about Scott & Jean's upcoming marriage. He realizes that he's never had a healthy relationship, with his mother's abuse at the hands of his stepfather prompting him to seek out women he views as needing him, like Gabrielle Haller, or with built-in distance, like Lilandra. He then recalls his relationship with Amelia Voght, a mutant nurse with which he fell in love when he was most vulnerable, after being crippled by Lucifer, but who eventually left him for fear his plans involving the X-Men would lead to war between humans & mutants, and on whom Xavier briefly used his powers to make her stay with him, an act of which he is deeply ashamed. Magneto helps him realize through these reminiscences that he wants what he's never been able to have, and is taking it out on his students. Just then, he awakens as Jean covers him with a blanket, and he clears the air with her, making her promise him that she will love Scott forever, and accept his love in return.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

X-amining Cable #7

"Fathers and Sons Act Two: Illumination"
January 1994

In a Nutshell
Cyclops & Jean learn the truth about Cable as Stryfe targets Tyler.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Aaron Wiesenfeld
Inker: Al Vey & John Holdredge
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Tyler tortures Askani in order to force her to show him what happened after Nathan Summers was taken into the future. At Camp Verde, Stryfe, in Cable's body, attacks Rictor & Siryn before leaving. At the X-Mansion, Domino arrives to tell Cyclops & Jean Grey that Cable is their son, and that Stryfe is in control of his body. Meanwhile, Tyler watches as the infant Nathan, near-death due to the techno-organic virus, is cloned by the Askani clan as a contingency should he die. Domino, Cyclops, Jean Grey & Professor X arrive at Camp Verde and tend to Rictor & Siryn, explaining that Stryfe is in control of Cable's body. Just then, Zero appears before the group, looking for help fulfilling his programming to neutralize weapons, while Stryfe infiltrates Tyler's sanctuary, inadvertently freeing Askani as he targets Tyler.