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Thursday, June 6, 2019

X-amining Gambit and the X-Ternals #1

"Some of Us Looking to the Stars!"
March 1995

In a Nutshell
Magneto sends Gambit and the X-Ternals into space to retrieve the M'Kraan Crystal.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inker: Kevin Conrad
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Kahuna: Bob Harras

Jubilee, Guido & Sunspot of the X-Ternals steal medical supplies, delivering them to a human safehouse where Lila Cheney is waiting. Joining Lila, they head into the former Morlock Tunnels to join Gambit, who is waiting with Magneto, who has a mission for the X-Ternals: steal the M'Kraan crystal. Meanwhile, Commandant Richter receives a report from the squadron which engaged the X-Ternals. In the tunnels, Magneto leads the X-Ternals to a doorway leading to Apocalypse's Science Chamber. Fully expecting a trap, they enter, and are attacked by the Madri. As they fight them off, Sunspot discover Peter Corbeau, the human tasked with overseeing the chamber, whose life Magneto once saved. Accessing Apocalypse's star maps, he locates the Shi'ar galaxy, then he & Magneto help Lila access her latent teleportation powers in order to transport the group to the alien world. Just then, Richter & his forces attack. Magneto holds them off as the X-Ternals pass through Lila's portal, but Richter manages to follow behind them just before the portal closes. Magneto thanks Corbeau for his help, but Corbeau knows Apocalypse will learn of his betrayal and execute him for it. However, he at least he sets the chamber to explode, while Magneto worries that if the X-Ternals fail, an entire universe will die.

Firsts and Other Notables
This series takes the place of X-Force for the duration of "Age of Apocalypse", and will chronicle the efforts of Gambit and his team of thieves (consisting of Lila Cheney, Guido, Jubilee & Sunspot) to steal the M'Kraan crystal to help facilitate Magneto's efforts to restore reality. As a result, it will also serve as the primary vehicle to showcase the AoA versions of the "cosmic" side of the X-Men, like the Shi'ar, Lilandra, etc.

And while it comes from the same creative team as X-Force, it is obviously the series which departs the most from its prime counterpart: of the main X-Force characters, only one (Sunspot) is a main character in this series, and the fifth (out of five) most important one at that (Rictor, meanwhile, is on hand as the series' primary villain). The subplot in the larger AoA narrative that forms the main thrust of this series' story is predicated on Gambit's role as a thief (which stretches out to reimagine this group as a team of thieves), and the execution of that story will find the characters tossed into an explicit "X-Men in space!" plot. In other words, worlds away from X-Force's general set ups of "the team that strikes first and asks questions later" and "the further adventures of Xavier's now-grown second batch of students". The AoA X-Men books, for all their changes, are still ostensibly about X-Men defending humans from evil mutants; Generation Next is still about young mutant students; X-Calibre still features Nightcrawler. But there's very little X-Force in Gambit and the X-Ternals.

The Madri, also seen in Amazing X-Men #1, appear here. It’s also casually dropped that they’re all clones of Madrox (hence, Madri), something that, if I recall correctly, is treated like a bigger reveal later in the event.

Through the Looking Glass
Gambit was a member of the Thieves Guild until Holocaust slew the guild’s benefactress, Candra, during one of the last “battles for succession”. He then threw in with the X-Men, until Rogue married Magneto (roughly two years ago), at which point he left to form the X-Ternals.

Gambit uses throwing knives instead of playing cards in this reality.

Rictor is a low-ranking official (called a "Mudir") hoping to capture the X-Ternals and raise his profile within Apocalypse’s Empire.

Magneto says he rescued Lila from an asylum; it is not the same asylum as he rescued Exodus from, as it later turns out he actually rescued her from Apocalypse’s star lab.

Magneto & the X-Ternals gain access to Apocalypse’s library (and stellar data), the remnants of Ship, thanks to the librarian, whose life Magneto once saved. He turns out to be Peter Corbeau, the astronaut & associate of Xavier who played a role in the creation of Phoenix in the prime reality.

A Work in Progress
Apocalypse launched a nuclear strike against America on Jubilee’s sixth birthday.

Jubilee threw in with Gambit after Everett died - presumably a reference to Synch.

Within the shadow of Apocalypse’s citadel there is a Temple of Human Redress, a place for humans to air their grievances with the Mutant ruling class (grievances which go mostly ignored).

This issue reveals there is an organized human rebellion operating, which is aided by the X-ternals.

Apocalypse weeded out the Morlock Tunnels; now the X-ternals use it as their base of operations.

In another example of AoA characters being better with their powers, Jubilee is able to detonate the molecules in the Madri’ cloaks.

Guido & Jubilee perform a fastball special. 

Austin's Analysis
For a series that I recall being largely disconnected from the main narrative (aside from its overall goal of retrieving the M'Kraan crystal, which certainly factors into the climax of the story) on account of most of it taking place away from Earth, this issue does a surprising amount of world-building in its opening pages, establishing both some measure of human society in the heart of Apocalypse's empire, to the point where a "redress center" exists (it may not be effective, but its existence at least suggests the humans who go there aren't, like, liquefied on site or something), as well as a human rebel faction, establishing that it's not just the X-Men fighting back against Apocalypse's regime. I also recall this being one of the more soap operatic AoA series, and that's established here, with Gambit still pining for Rogue, Lila pining for Gambit, and Guido pining for Lila (with Jubilee rolling her eyes at all of it). All in all, this is a fairly jam-packed issue - introducing the characters, building the world, and kicking off the "steal the M'Kraan crystal! plot - on par with Factor X for the way it quickly creates a world-within-a-world and draws the readers in to the interpersonal relationships amongst the cast.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Nightcrawler heads south in X-Calibre #1! Next week, Generation Next #1 and X-Man #1.

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  1. Is it pronounced lee-la or lie-la?

    1. I've always read it as "Lie-la", but I have no idea if that's correct.

    2. Li-la.

      But also, Wol-ve-ri-ne, so, you know.

    3. I read it as "Lil-a" (like "Lily" but with an "uh" sound at the end) until listening to the X-Plain the X-Men podcast, where they beat "Lie-la" into my head.

  2. I thought I would've loved this series based on my appreciation for Lila, Gambit and Guido, but it's mostly forgettable. I've always felt Lila Cheney was an underrated character, so I'm glad she's used here. The cheesecake-y moments where her clothes disintegrate when she first uses her powers are pretty laughable. I don't seem to remember that being an effect of her power in the 616 reality.
    I'm intrigued to see what you think of this series. As always, great review.

    1. Thanks! I'm interested to revisit this series more than some of the others; I don't remember a lot more than the broadstrokes, so I'm curious to see how it holds up.

  3. What happened to Boom-boom, Warpath and Siryn in the AoA reality?

    1. Siryn has a supporting role in X-Man. Neither Boom-Boom nor Warpath appear, though Thunderbird does has a small bit in X-Calibre.

  4. I love this book. The world building, the action, X-Men in space! (I don't care what the haters say. X-Men in space are awesome.) It stands alongside Factor X as my favorite of the whole crossover.

    And while it comes from the same creative team as X-Force, it is obviously the series which departs the most from its prime counterpart: of the main X-Force characters, only one (Sunspot) is a main character in this series, and the fifth (out of five) most important one at that (Rictor, meanwhile, is on hand as the series' primary villain).

    Casting choices aside, this departure seems inevitable. Nicieza has, by this point, developed X-Force into a proper successor to the New Mutants, but the AoA already has an in-training series. Similarly, X-Force's original mission statement -- "to the extreme!" (cue 90s guitar riff) -- doesn't really work in a world where the X-Men are comfortable with killing and the characters have all pushed their powers far past what we've seen them do before.

    As for the cast, it is odd, but I kind of love this mishmash of characters. I suppose they could have subbed in Boomer for Jubilee if they wanted to make the X-Force counterpart a bit clearer, though.

    1. Yeah, I think putting Boomer in the Jubilee spot would help make this feel just a smidge more like X-FORCE. At least Lila has New Mutants roots, and was hanging out with X-Force not all that long ago.

  5. I was sent an official X-Men/Edge newsletter, having written into the X-books a couple of times. I remember them talking about Age of Apocalypse and saying "Some things weren't so bad, like Jubilee had a better costume". I'm looking at this now and thinking "That is not actually a better costume".

    1. Nope. And it's not like her pre-Generation X costume was *that* bad, either.

  6. "Gambit uses throwing knives instead of playing cards in this reality."

    Fabian: Hey, do you think anybody remembers Longshot exists?
    Editor: Who?
    Fabian: Perfect, thanks!

    I'm also calling bullshit on that "D'oh!," Jubes. For an event set in 1995, even if Matt Groening wasn't a victim of a culling, no way does he get around to creating America's favorite family. I'll No-Prize it that she once saved Dan Castellaneta from Abyss.

    1. Good catch! Especially since, as we'll see in GENERATION NEXT, Portland is the site of a huge mutant prison.


  7. // Guido & Jubilee perform a fastball special. //

    Which instead of a super-strong guy throwing a man with a powerful healing factor and nigh-unbreakable skeleton is a super-strong guy (Strong Guy!) throwing… a teenage girl.


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