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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

X-amining X-Men Unlimited #6

"Primal Scream"
September 1994

In a Nutshell
Cyclops, Phoenix, Havok & Polaris battle Sauron in the Savage Land

Writer: John Francis Moore
Storyboards: John Francis Moore
Pencilers: Mandel Alves Flor, Fabio Laguna, Al Rio, Eddie Wagner
Inkers: Ralph Cabrera, Keith Champagne, John Lowe, Mark McKenna, Al Milgrom, Joe Rubinstein, Tim Townsend
Letterers: Steve Dutro, Bill Oakley, Richard Starkings
Colorists: Joe Agostinelli, Ariane, Mel Sanchez, Andrew Triana, Matt Webb
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Cover: Kerry Gammill & Dan Panosian

As Sauron struggles to find a source of energy to keep him sated, Worm & Whiteout bring a captive Havok into the Savage Land, closely pursued by Cyclops, Phoenix & Polaris. After meeting with Nereel and learning Sauron's attacks have become increasingly vicious, the three mutants infiltrate his citadel in pursuit of Havok, but end up captured. Sauron proceeds to drain the energy of both Cyclops & Havok, but Polaris & Phoenix manage to escape and damage the machine regulating the power transfer. In the confusion, they flee the citadel but are attacked by a super-charged Sauron. Phoenix proceeds to enter Sauron's mind and discovers the lingering presence of Karl Lykos, who, with Phoenix' help, battles the mental representation of Sauron. Ultimately, he launches himself & Sauron over a cliff, killing them both, and leaving Sauron with nothing but his animal instincts.

Firsts and Other Notables
Sauron is functionality destroyed this issue, as the remnants of Karl Lykos in his brain kills himself and the Sauron personality, leaving behind the physical form of Sauron with nothing left but animalistic instincts (he goes on to try to join a flock of savage Land pterandons), bringing to an end the brief run in which he was a semi-recurring villain following his return in X-Force #5, though this won’t stop him from returning again eventually (we'll next see him in Uncanny X-Men #351).

This issue concludes with a series of pinups, including a Bryan Hitch Generation X team shot (which includes Mondo).

The Chronology Corner
This issue takes place after "The Phalanx Covenant", with Cyclops & Phoenix appearing here between issues #16 and #17 of Cable (just prior to Uncanny X-Men #318), while Havok & Polaris appear between Excalibur #82 and X-Factor #107.

A Work in Progress
The Mutates refer to Polaris as Zaladane’s false sister, a callback to the brief time when it was believed Zaladane and Polaris were related.

Sauron’s Silver Age history is recapped.

Cyclops, Phoenix and Polaris meet with Nereel, leader of the United Savage Land Tribes (and Colossus’s baby mama).

Cyclops also notes that Magneto created the mutates to be servile to explain their propensity for falling in behind one leader after another.

It’s said here that Sauron, unbeknownst to Wolverine, hypnotized him into releasing Sauron in Wolverine #71, a continuity patch that helps smooth over the abrupt ending to that story.

Polaris declares that nothing metal can withstand her attack which, again, is not really how magnetism works.

Sauron hypnotizes Jean & Lorna into thinking they’re the Goblin Queen and Malice.

Young Love
When asked when she and Havok are going to get married, Polaris responds with that old chestnut about don’t needing paperwork to validate their feelings.

Austin's Analysis
This is the first truly superfluous issue of this series (and in that regard, it's a grim vision of its future, though the series has yet to slide entirely into irrelevance): the first issue introduced the series & Sienna Blaze while teasing the return of Magneto (and featured some decent early Chris Bachalo art), the second tied in to "Fatal Attractions", the third kicked off the "Sabretooth in the mansion" storyline, the fourth, while terrible in terms of art & story, nevertheless closed off a long dangling plot thread, and the fifth grappled with the Shi'ar's handling of the defeated Kree (and ostensibly ended the long if infrequently-depicted Xavier/Lilandra relationship). In terms of craft, this issue isn't great, featuring an army of pencillers and inkers working off of Paul Smith's storyboards and a workmanlike script from John Francis Moore, and in terms of narrative relevance, it sort of kills off Sauron, but given the character's tendency to appear then disappear for large chunks of time (and his eventual return), that's not all that eventful.

All that said, I still kinda like this issue. The Savage Land Mutates are always goofy fun, and the idea that they've been bred to be supplicant to a dominant personality is a clever idea that explains their constant henchmen status to the Savage Land leader-du-jour. And I enjoy seeing the Cyclops/Phoenix/Havok/Polaris combo interacting as a family unit (and not just as members of two teams with similar goals), especially in light of the recent Cyclops & Phoenix wedding and Havok's personal (but rarely referenced) history with Sauron. Those four hanging out together as a family isn't something we see very often, and that makes this issue slightly more interesting. Granted, none of that makes this essential reading, and the general level of craft involved makes it hard to recommend, but as far as inessential X-Men Unlimited issues go, this could be a lot worse.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we continue the theme of "could be a lot of worse" with Excalibur Annual #2. Friday, Cable & Domino go on a date in Cable #15. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #317.

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  1. Completely unrelated, but at my new work today I saw a mailbox with the name of "Tibor" above it and I wondered to myself how soon he will be promoted above me.

  2. I can’t believe you didn’t mention that this issue is the grail of swiping in comics. Almost every painel has swipe, mainly from Jim Lee (we’re almost getting into Madureira’s era) during his ran on adjectiveless X-Men.


    1. I didn’t notice a lot of the Jim Lee swipes, likely due to being less familiar with his work on the series and expecting so many other artists of this era to ape his style anyway, but some Neal Adams swipes of the Mutates really jumped out at me.


  3. I guess we know Cyclops, Phoenix, Havok, & Polaris all survive The Phalanx Covenant. 8^)

    Sauron’s “beak” goes from green like the rest of him, and like usual, to brown to orange — not really cued to his power-fueled mutation — and once it’s turned orange he looks ridiculous. The first orange-beak panel comes 7 pages into Part II, where he’s sort-of balled up talking to himself and the beak is drawn rather cartoonishly to boot; I finally realized after racking my brain who/what he reminded me of there: Sonny from the “I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!” commercials.

    The Bryan Hitch & Cam Smith pinup was actually my least favorite of the group, Hitch not yet having hit his stride. I suppose it goes without saying that they’re all better than the art on the issue’s story, but their quality also averages out much higher to my recollection than the groups of pinups we usually get in annuals, Unlimited, and other extra-sized issues.

  4. It's a good thing that Marvel decided to ignore Claremont's story about Sauron finally being cured.
    It was worth it for those handful of forgettable stories, before Marvel decided they wanted to get rid of Sauron again.
    Luckily though, Sauron would be back in a few years again.


  5. // The Mutates refer to Polaris as Zaladane’s false sister, a callback to the brief time when it was believed Zaladane and Polaris were related. //

    Had we already seen that retcon undone as a story point I’ve forgotten or was it disposed of here in one of those by-the-way mentions because a writer and/or editor had an itch to nix it (*coughLockjawcough*)?

  6. Nice to see the callbacks to the highly comicbook-y concept of Pangea and obviously to Malice-Polaris and Goblyn Queen Maddie.

    The Wolverine retcon gets somewhat pointless when the gang here makes exacty the same notion/justification of it being a "savage" land with its own rules. Granted, Wolverine might be expected to have cut Sauron down, though what happened was after the fray of battle and killing Sauron would have amounted to an execution. It maybe harks something of the character development for Wolverine, whose early killing of a Savage Land guard around UXM #116 has been regarded as a thing of note.

  7. Considering I generally like stories in the Savage Land, and I like stories that team Cyclops and Jean with Havok and Polaris, it's kind of odd I've never read this one. It's another with a cover that was very familiar to me, though, from an X-Men poster book I got somewhere around this period.

    Thanks to Emma's miscolored hair in that Gen X pinup, it looks like Opal Luna Saturnyne is watching over Banshee and his students...

    1. She's not Opal Luna Saturnyne, she's Silver Sable.


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