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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #37

"The Currents Shift"
October 1994

In a Nutshell
"Generation Next" concludes as Blink sacrifices herself to save the rest of the nascent Generation X.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Andy Kubert
Inkers: Ryan/Sellers
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Color Art: Kevin Somers
Collective Intelligence: Bob Harras
Assimilating Hot Dogs: Tom DeFalco

On board the Naval destroyer in San Diego Bay, Harvest attacks the escaped young mutants, as Banshee, Emma, Everett & Jubilee sneak aboard. But the young mutants are saved by the timely arrival of Sabretooth, who fights off Harvest before Banshee flies in to finish him off. However, Sabretooth realizes Paige has two scents and slashes her, forcing her to shed her skin - and the techno-organic material with which she had been infected. Just then, Harvest reappears, having reconstituted himself from the material of all other Phalanx aboard the ship. Emma orders everyone to escape the ship while Banshee & Sabretooth hold him off, but Blink realizes Harvest will just keep coming, and once he's killed them, he'll kill all other mutants and, eventually, all of humanity. Using her power to teleport away part of the ship's deck to prevent the others from interfering, she then turns her power on Harvest, creating a spatial disruption he can't counter. But as he disappears, Harvest grabs Blink, pulling her into the disruption & killing her as well. As the surviving mutants climb ashore, they're left to ponder where the sacrifice of one who might have been their friend was too steep a price to pay.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue concludes the four part "Generation Next" portion of the "Phalanx Covenant", concluding with the immediate threat of Harvest defeated and the future Generation X mutants safely rescued by the ad hoc Banshee/Emma led team.

All save Blink, who dies in this issue, sacrificing herself to destroy Harvest. She will return, in an alternate universe form, a few months from now in "Age of Apocalypse" (it would be interesting to know Lobdell/Nicieza introduced and killer her here with the intention of bringing her back for AoA, as another way to show how different that world is, or if the fan response to the character here motivated them to include her in AoA).

Sabretooth returns in this issue, of his own volition, after having escaped in the previous issue (and picked up his costume along the way), in another "is Sabretooth becoming a good/better guy?" tease. He will return to captivity at the X-Mansion following this.

Jubilee discusses her fear of losing control of her powers and hurting someone (while making an un-footnoted reference to the Uncanny X-Men portion of “Acts of Vengeance”) with Emma, providing more setup for Generation X.

A Work in Progress
Narration refers to Monet as M, despite the fact that she’s never been called that in-story and, at this point in time, would have no reason to need a codename.

It’s confirmed here that Harvest is the person shown getting into a van labeled Phalanx in Uncanny #308.

Harvest notes that his connection to the Phalanx hive has been severed; there’s no footnote, but this is due to events elsewhere in the crossover.

Everett is surprised at how good Banshee’s hearing is, to which Banshee responds that with his power, it’s either hear well or be deaf, which...doesn’t make much sense.

Emma gets in a dig on Gambit’s poor French when Jubilee spouts some phonetic French, which prompts the question: how does Emma even know who Gambit is, since she never encountered him before and has been in a coma for pretty much the whole time Gambit has been at the rebuilt X-Mansion (presumably, Banshee has, at this point briefed her - verbally or telepathically - about current events and personnel and whatnot).

The soon-to-be Gen Xers reaction to Sabretooth’s sudden arrival is pretty great, as Angelo & Clarice are horrified and Paige struggles to figure out who he is, knowing at least that it’s not Wolverine.

Paige does something that happens all too rarely in this kinds of crossovers: upon meeting Banshee, clearly introduced herself, and mentions that she knows his daughter (whom she met in “Child’s Play”).

Paige's power continues to be fairly nonsensical; here, she tears off her skin (including her hair) to reveal a metallic, almost robotic form underneath, and she says she'll be back to normal in a few hours (she is her usual Caucasian blond self by the end of the issue), but it's not clear how (eventually, it'll be established that she has to shed her new form to get back to her default one).

Austin's Analysis
With the penultimate chapter devoted in large part to Generation X setup, the conclusion to "Generation Next" is an action packed one, highlighted by the return of Sabretooth and the sacrifice of Blink (who manages to leave an impression despite her relative lack of screen time). Otherwise, "Generation Next" ends on par with the rest of the crossover: strong art (between Madureira & Kubert, arguably the best of the entire crossover), consistent characterization, a good balance between action and character beats, and plenty of setup for Generation X that just manages to not cross over the line into being obtrusive or distracting. While it tells the most limited story of the three "Phalanx Covenant" parts (as both "Life Signs" and "Final Sanction" are concerned with bigger threats and feature more characters), it easily rises above the rest, thanks in part to being more limited (which allows more room for characterization while giving the narrative clear, easy-to-grasp stakes) and to the consistency of the craft involved. "Life Signs" and "Final Sanction" are more big picture, in terms of actually defeating the larger threat of the Phalanx and freeing the X-Men, but nevertheless, when I think about the "Phalanx Covenant", it is the four issues of "Generation Next" which come to mind first and foremost, and stand as the most successful and entertaining portion of the story.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Force meets a new old friend in X-Force #39. Friday, "Life Signs" trudges to a conclusion in Excalibur #82. Next week, a Generation X preview extravaganza!

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  1. It’s confirmed here that Harvest is the person shown getting into a van labeled Phalanx in Uncanny #308.

    It would have been so much better if the man in #308 would have remained as a never-again-seen nameless volunteer to Phalanx among many nameless others, instead of becoming a special codenamed 90'sriffic villain.

  2. I feel like the Nicieza parts of this crossover aren't as strong as the Lobdell parts, but that actually speaks to something that's occurred to me as I've been re-reading all this stuff with your reviews: when I was a teen, I loved Nicieza's X-MEN, far more than Lobdell's UNCANNY. I was disappointed when Fabian left and Scott stuck around after "Age of Apocalypse". Nowadays, as an adult, it's the reverse. I still like Nicieza's stories well enough, but I enjoy Lobdell's scripting way more, and overall I generally find UNCANNY a consistently better read than X-MEN. I wonder what happened?

    Anyway, while I don't find this issue as strong as Lobdell's installments, it's a decent end to the story. Onward to GENERATION X!

    "Sabretooth returns in this issue, of his own volition, after having escaped in the previous issue..."

    As a youngster, I loved Sabretooth's return. It was dramatic and exciting, and it was great to see him back in costume. As an adult, much as I still appreciate it for being a cool moment, it feels forced. The only reason he escaped in the first place appears to have been to set up this moment; otherwise there's no real logic behind it -- especially if, as we'll eventually learn, he's been [SPOILER] faking any desire to reform the whole time.

    "Narration refers to Monet as M, despite the fact that she’s never been called that in-story and, at this point in time, would have no reason to need a codename."

    Not just the narration -- Emma actually calls her M near the end of the issue too, which is really odd.

    " does Emma even know who Gambit is, since she never encountered him before and has been in a coma for pretty much the whole time Gambit has been at the rebuilt X-Mansion..."

    Maybe she had some interactions with the Phalanx Gambit...??

    1. "I still like Nicieza's stories well enough, but I enjoy Lobdell's scripting way more, and overall I generally find UNCANNY a consistently better read than X-MEN. I wonder what happened?"

      Nicieza's scripting is clumsy, full of forced banter and awkward pop culture references. It's the kind of stuff that I always imagined 13-year-old kids probably loved (not shocking: I was fourteen when Nicieza started writing books I was reading.) So if you read it as a kid, I can totally understand how you'd love his work at the time but look back now and say "what the hell is he trying to say?"

      Niceiza's had the opposite effect on me over the years. I hated his dialogue and dreaded seeing his name show up in a book's credits, especially after spending the previous six years reading Claremont, Miller, Peter David*, etc. I still cringe at a lot of his dialogue, but I've come to really respect the plotting and character work he did around this time, especially that first hectic year after Liefeld dropped X-Force like a hot potato and Nicieza was left holding a giant bag of shitty characters and dangling half-assed plot threads.

      Lobdell is a puzzling figure for me. I've almost never really enjoyed his work, but I've rarely hated it. My most common reaction to a book with his name on it is, "hey, that wasn't as bad as I figured it would be." I'll tip my cap to him for being one of the primary figures behind keeping Age of Apocalypse as surprisingly coherent as it was, but another blogger consistently refers to him as Professional Comic Book Writer Scott Lobdell, and that pretty much sums him up.

      *Peter David in particular strikes me as the writer Nicieza wanted his scripts to be like, but he could never make it work.

    2. Good points, Bob -- I was about the same age as you when this stuff was being published -- I would've been nearly fourteen when I started reading X-MEN, and fifteen during "Phalanx Covenant", and I loved Fabian's overwrought prose -- so you're certainly on to something there!

      I do agree with you on his plotting, by the way -- even if I find Lobdell's scripting more appealing nowadays, I still like Nicieza's plots most of the time. And I absolutely loved his run on THUNDERBOLTS, at least up until around issue 50, as well as CABLE AND DEADPOOL a few years later. In the former, he continued Kurt Busiek's established formula of nonstop twists and turns quite nicely, while in the latter, I thought his pop culture references generally worked pretty well when tossed out by Deadpool.

      That said, he does have a tendency to "over-plot" sometimes. Both CABLE AND DEADPOOL and NEW THUNDERBOLTS were a little hard to decipher now and then, as far as certain characters' machinations and motivations. I'm still not sure whether I was supposed to be rooting for or against Baron Zemo by the time Nicieza left THUNDERBOLTS! (Though I should admit that I haven't re-read the run since it first came out -- it might make more sense in one longer binge.)

      In fact, Nicieza strikes me as similar to Chris Claremont in that he seems to need a strong editor to rein in some of his impulses and to remind him when certain ideas aren't as clear on the page as they are in his head.

    3. I still think Nicieza is the better writer. Lobdell is better at creating new characters and Nicieza's codenames stink, but Nicieza is a much better long term plotter and writes way better action scenes. I think his characters track more closely to how Claremont wrote them, as well. Lobdell just seems to write quiet issues or teases mysteries with no resolution in mind. You never really get a classic two or three part action story with him.

  3. I don't know if you guys have plans for something specific about Stan Lee's death (and more importantly, life,) but it's worth mentioning something here since this is the first Marvel-related post since his passing.

    Better (and more succinct) writers have eulogized him over the past few days, and in the process have discussed the pros and cons of Lee's contributions as a writer, editor, and publisher. But I've always loved this excerpt from a 2007 BBC documentary on Steve Ditko, where Lee's own words offer evidence of both his best and worst qualities:
    (Lee's interview begins at 44m40s)

    To paraphrase Neil Gaiman:
    Be to his virtues very kind,
    Be to his faults a little blind.

  4. I agree that Banshee’s specific reply came off weird but the idea that he’d possess good hearing makes sense given his powers. Strong aural/otic biological infrastructure, too, if we’re extrapolating in pseudo-scientific fashion — like Cyclops’ innate sense of spatial geometry or Angel’s keen eyesight and lighter bone structure. Of course that stuff is best touched upon lightly given how inconsistently it may be referenced and how difficult it is to adapt to abilities that can really only function like magic.

    1. I was coming here to type something similar. I definitely interpreted it as Sean's hearing being augmented due to his body producing high-pitched sounds.

    2. Has there ever been an instance where Banshee would have used his powers for echolocation, so as bio sonar like some bats do? That would need somewhat specialized/augmented hearing ability to catch the reflected soundwaves coming back at his way.

    3. In the same issue where the original Thunderbird died (#94? #95?) Banshee uses his scream to sense into a mountain military base's entrance so Nightcrawler will know where to teleport to.


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