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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #317

"Enter Freely and of Your Own Will"
October 1994

In a Nutshell
Bannshe & Emma work to locate the captive young mutants, while Monet facilitates their escape.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Joe Madureira
Inks: Dan Green
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Paige Guthrie awakens to find herself being held captive along with four other young mutants: Angelo, Clarice, Gregor, and the mute Monet. Paige tries to lift their spirits, declaring that the X-Men will find them, but is stunned to discover she's seemingly been infected with the techno-organic virus. Elsewhere, Banshee, Emma Frost, Jubilee & Everett Thomas arrive at Frost's west coast home, Emma having telepathically tracked Paige to California. She suggests their best chance of locating the captive mutants is via a nearby SHIELD safe house. Elsewhere, the young mutants are checked on by their Phalanx jailer, Harvest, who Clarice is able to drive away using her power. As Banshee & Emma inflitrate the SHIELD base, Monet suddenly speaks. Using components cannibalized from the techno-organic suits they're all wearing, she blasts Gregor, revealing him to be a Phalanx plant. She then proceeds to punch an opening in their cell, leading them onto the deck of a battleship in the middle of the ocean. But just then, Paige collapses, overwhelmed by the techno-organic infection.

Firsts and Other Notables
More new mutants/future Generation X cast members are introduced this issue. First is Skin, a Latino mutant named Angelo whose power is that he has lots of extra skin (kind of like if Mr. Fantastic had difficulty pulling himself together after stretching himself out), who is another one of those "pure" Gen X characters (in that the majority of his notable appearances and developments occur within the the confines of that series). He gets the "standalone figure next to the foil enhancement" slot for this issue's cover.

The other is Clarice, a young woman with purple skin and little diamond facial tattoos, who displays some kind of teleportation abilities in this issue. She won't join Generation X, but will return in "Age of Apocalypse" as Blink, where she will become a fan favorite character and develop a cult following, leading to her headlining the Exiles book for most of the 00s.

This issue also introduces Harvest, another specific Phalanx villain who will serve as the immediate antagonist for the rest of this story.

This issue contains a survey from Marvel asking readers to answer a series of questions about the direction of Marvel, though most questions are about X-Men characters, or Spider-Man. Of note are things like "would you buy two Wolverine books every month?" (something which does eventually happen, though it takes a lot longer than you'd think it would have) and "do you want Gambit & Rogue to get married?" (something else which eventually happens, but which takes even longer to come to pass). And, of course, Marvel is careful to let would-be respondents know that a photocopy of the survey is acceptable; wouldn't want to risk damaging this sure-to-be-valuable collectors item of an issue, of course.

Setting up her decision to leave the X-Men to train with Generation X, Jubilee complains to Everett about how ineffective her power is compared to the rest of the X-Men.

Upon orchestrating their escape, Skin asks why Monet waited until now to make her move. She tells him she has two reasons she’ll tell him if they survive; I don’t think we ever find out what they are.

A Work in Progress
Blink’s ability to use her power, however briefly, against Harvest, makes Skin realize the Phalanx can’t suppress their powers.

We see Monet speak for the first time in this issue.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
It’s nice of the Phalanx to include cleavage windows for Paige and Monet in their techno-organic bodysuits.

The 90s threw up all over this Cookie Crisp ad (including the fact that it comes with a X-Men trading card).

Austin's Analysis
While all of "Generation Next" is generally about laying the groundwork for Generation X, this is the first chapter of the story to be almost exclusively about that. It provides the most page time yet to future Gen Xers Paige, Monet and Skin (and eventual cult favorite Blink), and even the cutaways to the ad hoc X-Men team are about setting up Generation X: Jubilee's conversation with Everett foreshadows her upcoming departure from the X-Men, while the Emma/Banshee infiltration plot is all about showcasing the two of them as a working pair, establishing the dynamic that will be on display as they work as co-headmasters of the new Xavier School.

None of which is to say this is a bad issue. Backed by Joe Madureira's art (which continues to be exciting & effective even in quieter scenes), Lobdell's handle on characterization (it's kind of amazing how much of the future Gen X characterization Lobdell is already displaying, from Skin's misanthropy to Monet's unique mix of hyper-competence & arrogance, to Paige's desperate desire to exude hyper-competence, especially in the face of Monet's actual competence), and enough plot momentum (with the kids escaping their prison on their own even as Banshee & Emma draw closer to their location), there's plenty to like here even within the immediate context of the story.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Strong Guy fights the Blob in X-Factor #107. Friday, a hidden tale of Albert & Elsie Dee revealed in Wolverine #86. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #37.

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  1. Literally everything you said in your review is what I was thinking after I finished this issue last night. It's like a GENERATION X "backdoor pilot" or something, establishing a lot of the characterizations, plus setting up certain relationships like the friendship between Jubilee and Synch and the barbing between Banshee and Emma.

    The interactions between the latter two were always among my favorite bits in GEN X. Emma sniping at Banshee, occasionally flirting with him (as here when she says there are many ways she could impress him but there are children present), and Banshee's constant exasperation with her personality, even as he seemed to appreciate her abilities. Such good stuff! I like Lobdell's UNCANNY X-MEN a lot, but GEN X is where he really shined in the 90s. Gosh, I liked that series!

    "This issue also introduces Harvest, another specific Phalanx villain who will serve as the immediate antagonist for the rest of this story."

    He introduces himself as Harvest, then for the rest of the issue, the kids keep calling him "Harvester". Seems like an editorial gaffe or something.

    "This issue contains a survey from Marvel..."

    I completed it and mailed it in! Obviously I can't remember for sure, but I suspect my answers would have been: 1. Bi-weekly; 2. No; 3. Stay married; 4. No (I didn't even buy one Wolverine book a month!); 5. Villain; 6. I don't know, other than that I'm sure Bishop was one of my choices; 7. No; 8. No recollection; 9. Spider-Man; 10. Mr. Sinister.

    "She tells him she has two reasons she’ll tell him if they survive; I don’t think we ever find out what they are."

    When I read this last night, I thought maybe it was a clue about the twins inside her; i.e. the "two reasons" she hadn't acted sooner were the girls making her catatonic. Though I'm not even sure Lobdell had figured that plot point out yet when he wrote this story...

    1. "The Harvester" could either be Monet correcting his stupid 90's codename to a more proper standard English actor noun or intentional mockery aimed at someone with a pretentious self-imposed name by hilariously mis-attributing him with the farming machine name instead. (for latter, see: Bud "Grand Master B" Bundy)

  2. "But just then, Paige collapses, overwhelmed by the techno-organic infection."

    Though true, your plot description makes it sound like a shocking cliffhanger than it actually was. Yes, Paige collapses, telling the gang to abandon her so as not to have a burden. And then Monet admits that, Yes, Paige will probably be a burden, but then counters that unless she is either dead or fully Phalanx, she is going to have to come with them. Maybe my argument is based on my liking the scene.

    Poor Gregor. I wonder if this is some SCOOBY DOO reference of him being the Fred in the group, who actually turns out to be the monster (there was an episode in the 80s, when Fred made his reappearance to the series after the Scooby-Shaggy-Scrappy Doo deluge, where he was set up as being the 'ghost.' Fortunately he was proven innocent)?

    This issue would influence my brother on putting emphasis on Jubilee's 'lame powers', countering scenes in TAS, like blowing up a Sentinel or thrusting Sabretooth back, as BS.

    1. I think Gregor is set up more as a captainamericaesque white male leader type character, and you could write an essay of the fun way how the reveal about Gregor jolts the dynamics in the ethnically diverse cast leaving room for example for the true vs. feigned hyper-competence contest between M and Paige.

      It also leaves the Generation X completely without a white male original member, which one can juxtapose to the original X-Men if one so likes.

      Taking this is consideration, the choice of first antagonist in Harvest the (former) family man, supposedly doing his duty for the Homo sapiens but actually giving up his humanity for his hatred for Homo superior, would totally be intentionally deliberate if done today. It's like they're some 20-25 years ahead of their time; I don't know if the bloggers of 1994 managed to catch the themes.

  3. Blink’s ability to use her power, however briefly, against Harvest, makes Skin realize the Phalanx can’t suppress their powers.

    Not very fast on the uptake, Skin, considering that he himself had been using his mutant power to make himself a blanket for Paige.


  4. // It’s nice of the Phalanx to include cleavage windows for Paige and Monet in their techno-organic bodysuits. //

    That was one of my notes, almost verbatim.

    Monet says “imminently” (“… logical”) when she means “eminently”. 100 points from, I dunno, Ravenclaw?

    The Bullpen Bulletins page hypes Marvel’s new Megazines. I was very much in favor of the concept and put them on my pull list, even though I already had most of the material they were reprinting, just to vote for the format with my wallet. Several were one-shots and the main pair of ongoings sadly folded after six issues apiece.

    1. As Monet is about to join the orbit of a super team that uses "parameter" when they mean "perimeter", I'd say she's off to a good start.

  5. I was thinking the same thing about the twins! If Lobdell didn't know then, well, what an awesome coincidence


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