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Thursday, June 27, 2019

X-amining Gambit & the X-Ternals #2

"Where No X-Ternal Has Gone Before!"
April 1995

In a Nutshell
Gambit and the X-Ternals find themselves cast in the role of galactic saviors on an alien world.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inkers: Conrad, Milgrom, Christian
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Galactic Warden: Bob Harras

The X-Ternals find themselves on an alien world, confronted by the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. They fight their way past the Guard, fleeing into a nearby forest, leaving behind Rictor. Captured, he tells the Guard he can locate the X-Ternals thanks to a tracking device planted in one of them. Just then, all of reality momentarily blinks out of existence, and the Guard realizes D'Ken's spies were right: this is the next world to suffer from the nexus expansion. Elsewhere, the X-Ternals are captured by Jonath, the leader of a force exiled for failing to protect the emperor from his murderous eldest children. He tells them of how the new emperor, D'Ken, harnessed the power of the M'Kraan crystal, a power which now threatens all of reality. He also says that, for some reason, the planet wanted them to come here, a sentiment Lila agrees with, as she can somehow sense the same. Just then, the Imperial Guard attack, led to the location by Rictor. During the ensuing fight, the reality blinks happen with increasing frequency, until everything starts to crystallize. Just as the crystallization wave is about to hint the X-Ternals, they are teleported away by the Starjammers. Their leader, Deathbird, reiterates that the M'Kraan crystal is more than a simple jewel, and that it wanted them to see the destruction of the planet, and Gambit declares that if they have to save the universe, then that's exactly what they're going to do.

Firsts and Other Notables
Echoing "Legion Quest", this issue establishes that, without the X-Men to oppose Shi'ar Emperor D'Ken and Phoenix to contain the energies of the M'Kraan crystal, all of reality is slowing being threatened as the crystal expands, crystallizing whole worlds in the same manner as was shown in the prime titles just before "Age of Apocalypse" began.

The crystallization wave is heralded by instances of reality "blinking" out of existence for a moment, a similar effect to that seen in X-Men #108 before Phoenix repaired the crystal.

Rictor is able to use an implant in one of the X-ternals to track their movements (and lead the Imperial Guard to them); this implant (and the identity of who is carrying it) will factor in to the conclusion of the series' story in issue #4.

The opening three pages of this issue (and the title) homage the opening pages (and title) of X-Men #107, the issue which introduced the Imperial Guard and the Starjammers after the X-Men traveled across the galaxy.

Through the Looking Glass
This issue introduces the Age of Apocalypse version of the Imperial Guard, which is pretty much the same as the prime one.

It also features the AoA Starjammers, who are mostly the same, save for being led by Deathbird instead of Corsair (despite Deathbird having been declared dead in the earlier retelling of D'Ken's rise to power).

That history is mostly the same as in the prime reality, though without Xavier and the X-Men around, Lilandra is simply killed by D'Ken, after which he manages to harness the power of M'Kraan crystal (thereby endangering reality).

A Work in Progress
It’s established quickly that the Imperial Guard are employing some kind of universal translator device.

There’s a pretty stunning example of a narrative caption telling instead of showing, followed immediately by the dialogue showing instead of telling, as Gambit puts up a brave face for his team.

Young Love
Jubilee reminds us that Strong Guy carries a torch for Lila.

Austin's Analysis
Just as last issue did a surprising amount of world-building, here Nicieza turns his attention to presenting the modified version of relevant Shi'ar history, in the process upping the stakes of, not only the series, but the main narrative as a whole (in that the Age of Apocalypse reality is doomed whether Magneto succeeds in reversing it or not), and recasting the X-ternals from Robin Hood-esque thieves to galactic saviors (which a pretty big turn he mostly pulls off). As with Amazing X-Men, Nicieza manages to do all this without sacrificing character, as the personality of each of the X-Ternals (with the exception of Lila, who spends most of this issue in a post-teleportation daze) shines through amidst the sci-fi trappings & heady stakes: lovelorn Strong Guy, calmly-efficient Sunspot, Gambit, over his head but trying to play it cool, and motormouth Jubilee providing unfiltered running commentary through it all. It's a great juggling act on the part of Nicieza, made all the more impressive for the way he keep the series relevant to the larger "Age of Apocalypse" narrative even as the characters are hanging out millions of light years away from everything else important to the story.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Nightcrawler spends some time under the sea in X-Calibre #2. Next week, Age of Apocalypse: The Chosen!

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  1. Wasn't this Tony Daniels last issue?

    1. D'oh! I totally thought he stuck around through next issue. This is what I get for not reading ahead and relying on my (increasingly shoddy) memory.


  2. Ugh. When you think of Cockrum and Byrne drawing the Imperial Guard this art is an absolute crime against the senses. Even when you don’t, actually.

    Is there any discernible reason why Gambit punched a hole in the Starjammers’ bulkhead and pulled out a fistful of wires as he struck a pose on the last page?

    1. s there any discernible reason why Gambit punched a hole in the Starjammers’ bulkhead and pulled out a fistful of wires as he struck a pose on the last page?

      Because the 90s, Blam. Because the 90s...


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