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Thursday, February 7, 2019

X-amining X-Men Unlimited #7

"Memories"
December 1994

In a Nutshell
Storm, Gambit & Phoenix are caught in a power struggle between Candra & Storm's old mentor.

Writer: Mackie
Penciler: Romita
Inker: Rubinstein
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colorist: Matt Webb
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Edits: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Storm, accompanied by Gambit & Jean Grey, arrives in Cairo at the behest of her dying mentor, Achmed El-Gibrar. At the same time, Candra arrives, with designs on exploiting the latent power of one of Achmed's current urchins, Jamil, whom Candra's associate Bond has been following. When Storm meets with Achmed, he makes her promise to look out for Jamil, but Jamil decides to ally himself with Candra, and leaves Achmed's side along with a fellow urchin named Karima whom they capture. To honor her promise to Achmed, Storm challenges Candra to a duel for Jamil. As Gambit battles Bond, Storm fights Candra. The woman are evenly matched in terms of power, but Storm's experiences on the streets allow her to sucker punch Candra, winning the fight. But Jamil declares he still wants to remain with Candra, and Storm is forced to return to Achmed only with Karima. But Achmed tells her she has succeeded in honoring her promise. As he dies, he declares that Karima will be the new leader of his gang of young thieves, and Storm calls forth a massive storm to honor her fallen teacher.

Firsts and Other Notables
Candra, the External who debuted in the Gambit miniseries, serves as the villain of this story. She'll next appear in the Rogue miniseries.

Master thief Achmed El-Gibrar, the man who taught Storm all she knows about thievery, lock-picking, etc., dies in this issue.


Jamil & Karima, the two young thieves working under Achmed who are fought over in this issue, will return in Adjectiveless X-Men #60-61.

As with previous issues of this series, this concludes with a pinup gallery.


Creator Central
John Romita Jr., presumably fresh off having Uncanny X-Men snatched away from him by Joe Madureira, draws this issue; Steve Epting provides the cover.

The Chronology Corner
Storm appears here between X-Men Annual #3 and Bishop #1 (and between Uncanny #318 & #320), while Gambit appears between Wolverine #89 and Bishop #4 (and Uncanny #318 and X-Men #38) and Jean between Uncanny #318 & X-Men #38. 

A Work in Progress
Storm recalls her Dickensian upbringing on the streets of Cairo.


Gambit spends the early part of the issue suggesting Jean can’t handle the streets, something which she rightly admonishes him for later.


In an echo (intentional or not) Storm duels Candra for the life of Jamil, ultimately defeating her via her hand-to-hand skills rather than her powers.


Austin's Analysis
The series continues to flirt with narrative irrelevancy (in those terms, this is probably a step up from last issue's Savage Land adventure, but the death of Storm's little-seen mentor isn't exactly a significant event), but as it does so, it continues to tell engaging, self-contained stories featuring smaller groupings of characters that aren't often featured together in the monthly series. Here, we get Storm & Gambit, reunited on the strength of their shared skills in thievery, the very thing which brought Gambit into the X-Men's fold in the first place (all of which, to Howard Mackie's credit, goes unstated in this issue), with Jean Grey tossed in, seemingly at random (Gambit should, by now, be well aware that Jean can hold her own, but Storm at least points this out). And while even Fabian Nicieza seems to have put the Externals to bed at this point, Mackie's use of Candra here draws little on her status as an External and follows somewhat logically from her role overseeing the Thieves and Assassins Guilds in his Gambit mini. And, of course, John Romita Jr. is always a welcome sight. So while this issue isn't introducing a new character or launching a new plotline, it's still an opportunity for Storm to reflect on her past, coupled with some well-drawn action in which all the characters involved are given room to breathe, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Cable #18. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #320 and X-Factor #110!

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8 comments:

  1. "Jamil & Karima, the two young thieves working under Achmed who are fought over in this issue, will return in Adjectiveless X-Men #60-61."

    Which was a really, really bad story...

    "with Jean Grey tossed in, seemingly at random (Gambit should, by now, be well aware that Jean can hold her own"

    Still, someone must have liked the Gambit/Jean Grey pairing, since we see them working together a few more times over the next couple of years (off the top of my head, in the Unlimited issue where we meet Chris Bradley, and right before Onslaught where we meet Bastion...

    Not much else to say about this. It looks good, there are some nice character beats, and for a Mackie comic, it could have been much, much worse. I think it might have had more impact if we had actually seen Ahmed...sorry, Achmed* a few times interacting with Storm a few times when she was an adult. I believe his only on-panel appearance previous to this was a flashback during the CC/Bryrne years...

    *You can tell someone who has limited knowledge about Arabs wrote this issue, because nobody spells Ahmed that way in English, phonetically.

    wwk5d

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    1. '"Jamil & Karima, the two young thieves working under Achmed who are fought over in this issue, will return in Adjectiveless X-Men #60-61."

      Which was a really, really bad story...'

      You're not kidding. I started reading during Onslaught (I was about 12 at the time) and I read some truly dreadful stories. That one, however, was the first one that I think I just gave up hope of getting any pleasure from and ended up skim-reading.

      Delete
    2. "*You can tell someone who has limited knowledge about Arabs wrote this issue, because nobody spells Ahmed that way in English, phonetically."

      To be fair, that's how Chris Claremont spelled the name twenty years earlier when he introduced the character. Mackie's just going with what was established (though whether he know it was incorrect or not, I couldn't say).

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  2. // with Jean Grey tossed in, seemingly at random //

    True, Storm and Gambit have not only a background as thieves in common but a personal bond from their time spent together while she was de-aged, which is how he joined up with the team in the first place (given a nicely subtle nod here whenever he calls her “Stormy”). However, as I recall, Jean and Ororo became fast friends before Jean’s Phoenicization in X-Men #100-101, making their relationship one of the few experiences from the early New X-Men era that’s legit her own rather than something absorbed from a doppelganger. Which is my preamble to opining that her inclusion shouldn’t be looked upon as random — Jean would be the first one offering to accompany Storm to Cairo.

    All that aside, I was a bit underwhelmed by the story. We don’t get any indication of what Jamil’s power is, or even whether he knows about it, and while it’s nice that Storm’s failure to bring him back into the fold is accepted by her beloved mentor it’s awfully quick turnaround for the fervent deathbed request he had of her to be waved off.

    I really like that Brotherhood pinup of Paul Smith’s.

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  4. I've never read this issue, and it sounds like I didn't miss much. Interesting that Romita Jr. drew an X-MEN UNLIMITED story, though. He seems a much bigger name than the typical artist on this title.

    Also, I'm now wondering -- was this the first time Mackie and Romita worked together? Romita would become the penciler on SPIDER-MAN in less than six months, starting a creative partnership between the two on that character which lasted for about six years. It'd be interesting if this was the start of the "Mackie/Romita team".

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    1. HEARTS OF DARKNESS, the funny business with Wolverine, the Punisher and Ghost Rider had them team up before.

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    2. Of course! Thanks, Teemu. I forgot about that one-shot. So that was probably the first collaboration between Mackie and Romita.

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