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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

X-amining X-Men Chronicles #2

"Shattered Dreams"
June 1995

In a Nutshell
Wolverine attacks the X-Men as Rogue & Gambit's relationship falls apart.

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Ian Churchill
Inks: Hanna/Vey/Moncuse/Wiacek
Lettering: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Matt Webb
Color Separations: Digital Chameleon
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Upon his successful rescue of Jean Grey from Apocalypse's slave pens, Weapon X, angry that Magneto was unwilling to mount a rescue effort, announces that he and Jean are leaving the X-Men. Meanwhile, Holocaust meets with his agent, Wolverine, and orders him to find Magneto and make him watch as the person closest to him is killed. Days later, the X-Men arrive in the ruins of Denver, rescuing a group of humans from a gang of bandits. Wolverine, watching from the shadows, empowers two of the gang members, and one of them manages to stab Magneto. The concern shown by Rogue & Gambit makes Wolverine realize they are the closest to Magneto, not, as Wolverine suspected, his son Quicksilver. Back at the X-Men's base in New Mexico, Gambit tries to get some time alone with Rogue, but she insists on helping the recovering Magneto plan their next mission. As Wolverine picks up the scent of the X-Men and starts tracking them to their base, Gambit confronts Rogue, looking for a commitment, but Rogue apologizes and runs off. Gambit then goes to Magneto, conducting a training session in the woods outside the base, and talks to him about his feelings for Rogue. As Wolverine draws nearer, Rogue interrupts Magneto & Gambit, saying she needs to talk to Magneto. But when Magneto reveals he's found a way to neutralize her powers - such that only he can touch her - an angry Gambit confronts the pair. Just then, Wolverine attacks the X-Men's base. During the ensuing fight, Magneto's injury is exacerbated, but Gambit comes to both he and Rogue's defense, fighting off Wolverine, after which Gambit announces he too is leaving the team, saying it's time for Gambit to go it alone again.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue opens in the wake of Weapon X rescuing Jean from Apocalypse (and losing his hand), as shown in Factor X #3, and depicts Weapon X & Jean leaving the X-Men.

In the wake of their departure, Rogue (already Magneto's second-in-command at this point) and Gambit grow worried about Magneto's mental state, and the issue takes great pains to paint the trio as the best of friends, with Gambit & Magneto best buds with Rogue as Magneto's right hand and Gambit's would-be paramour.

However, Rogue finds herself growing closer to Magneto, and when he reveals he's found a way to nullify her powers such that he - but only he - can make physical contact with her, Gambit, feeling betrayed, quits the team and leaves them both behind.

The villain of this issue, an agent of Holocaust (who is now in his armor), is Wolverine. Aside from having big Killjoy-esque blades on his forearms and some tracking abilities, his resemblance to the prime Wolverine is minimal. As far as I know, he's not meant to represent the AoA version of some existing character.

As with the previous issue, this one concludes with a series of pinups featuring notable events in the history of the Age of Apocalypse.

A Work in Progress
Colossus & Gambit are both still members of the X-Men, along with Rogue, Iceman, Sabretooth, Quicksilver & Storm.

Colossus says that Apocalypse’s culling is Russia wiped out the entire country.

Magneto is hit with a non-metallic Knife, possibly the first time ever that something non-metallic actually hit him.

At this point in time, the X-Men are operating out of a base in New Mexico.

It’s noted that Magneto moved the X-Men to America (from Wundagore) specifically after Apocalypse’s emergence and the events of issue #1.

Quicksilver & Rogue briefly discuss Rogue being second in command, not Quicksilver. Quicksilver also speculated that soon there will need to be two teams of X-Men.

Austin's Analysis
This issue begins and ends with departures: first Weapon X and Jean Grey, then Gambit. Thus, it essentially chronicles two of the more significant changes to Magneto's X-Men previously mentioned during the course of "Age of Apocalypse". In that regard, this is, theoretically, fleshing out events that inform the backstories of two separate series (Weapon X and Gambit and the X-Ternals), showing what had previously just been told via dialogue and narrative captions. In practice, however, it's hard to see what has been gained by showing these departures, as the scenes depicted herein add very little to what had previously been known. It was said that Weapon X left the X-Men, enraged that Magneto wouldn't commit to rescuing Jean, and that is in fact what is shown here. Similarly, Gambit left the X-Men when it became clear Rogue had feelings for Magneto (which he reciprocated), and that's largely what is presented here (ironically, this issue tries to sell the idea that, prior to Gambit's departure, Rogue, Magneto & Gambit are a trio of friends closer even than Magneto and his own son, presumably to better twist the knife of Magneto & Gambit's falling out, but that is mostly told through Wolverine's observations, rather than shown in any meaningful way).

The evil AoA Wolverine in this issue is also a curious character, one without seemingly any obvious prime counterpart, who never appears (nor is even referenced) outside of this issue. The reason for why he shares a name with the X-Men's most popular character are unknown; it's almost as if someone realized "hey, since we're calling this version of Wolverine 'Weapon X', the name 'Wolverine' is up for grabs, and we can't *not* use it", then just applied it to this otherwise random character. All in all, between this story and the previous issue's chronicle of the X-Men's first encounter with Apocalypse, the series proves itself to be very much the spiritual companion of its prime counterpart, telling stories well enough, but which nevertheless do little to justify their existence, either in the level of craft involved in their telling or by telling a narratively-important or character-defining story. I don't mind reading about the first mission of this group of X-Men or seeing a heartbroken Gambit leave the X-Men, but there's very little in either issue to justify having spent the time on it, instead of just letting all of this remain in the unshown past.

Next Issue
Next week: Generation Next #4 and X-Man #4, as the regular Age of Apocalypse series all come to an end.

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  1. The three past events that I really wanted to see in AoA were not depicted, not in 1995 and anytime afterwards:
    1) The battle between Magneto and Nemesis that led to the former being so damaged that he has to use an armor and become Holocaust.
    2) The battle between Magneto and Apocalypse that destroyed esteem Europe (I think) and forced the latter to recover for a long time.
    3) The battle between Cyclops and Wolverine in which both were maimed.
    They are often referenced during the series, but never shown!

    Regarding this specific issue, I have nothing to add to what was already said. It was a waste of time and effort.

    1. I think the only correct choice was to leave all these events as non-shown background. There's just enough told for the reader's own imagination to do the job.

      Had they actually tried to put on paper for example Cyclops vs. Weapon X, we'd be "That's it!?" when reading it.

  2. Tom DeFalco probably said, "just come up with some story that involves only the popular characters, especially if they had a limited series recently. You know, for the Marvel Zombies. You've got until Wednesday."

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  4. So Rogue is placed in Magneto’s care and, once he’s able to free her from the agonizing isolation she’s afflicted with, they begin a romance despite their power dynamic — no pun intended. Did the creative hands consciously parallel the relationship between Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller that launched this entire story?

    The art from Ian Churchill et al. ranges from “not my style” to “objectively dreadful”; I’m looking at you, full shot of Rogue (except of course her feet) on Pg. 26.

    On the other hand, Rogue is flat-out adorable in Paul Smith’s double-page spread of Wanda’s funeral. Matter of fact, I half wonder if the folks who cast Anna Paquin a few years later used this pic as reference. The characters’ body language is so perfect and the ink lines are so choice that even the muddy coloring doesn’t entirely dim its quality.

    We get a comment from Iceman to Gambit that could retroactively be considered to gibe with his present-day orientation — “You’ll always have me to snuggle up to”. One presumes that it was just a hackneyed throwaway line on Howard Mackie’s part, however; absent more context I’d no sooner call it remarkably progressive for the era than actively homophobic.

    Jean and Logan, the guy who always called Xavier “Charley” in the prime timeline, refer to Magneto by his codename rather than “Erik” or “Magnus” in the opening pages. That felt awkward to me but it’s a mild stylistic quibble next to Magneto’s expository groaner “Wha--? Jean’s telepathic thoughts?”

  5. When I reread the Age of Apocalypse a few months ago, I skipped only this issue and X-Universe. It’s dreck for all of the reasons previously discussed — bland plot, bad art, lame villain. I remember being unsure of who I was supposed to be rooting for in the love triangle. There was no genuine chemistry between Rogue and Magneto here. Fortunately, that’s not true for the rest of the story. Although we see very little of Rogue and Magneto together, I enjoyed their moments in X-Men: Omega and the Gambit/Rogue interaction in Astonishing X-Men #1 much more than this issue.

    I was always curious about what happened in the fight between Magneto and Nemesis that resulted in him being turned into Holocaust. I actually like that it was never shown. We also (as far as I know) never got a full explanation of Nemesis’s powers and whether his transformation into Holocaust was connected to them or what. I think one of the pin-ups in X-Chronicles implied that Dark Beast had a hand in the transformation.

  6. Also, the X-Men line-up we see them at the beginning of this issue — Magneto, Rogue, Gambit, Weapon X, Jean, Storm, Iceman, Colossus, Sabretooth, and Quicksilver — bears a much closer resemblance to the main timeline team of the same era. I like that the team we see in the AoA “present” is substantially different. It does raise some questions about how much time passed between this story and X-Men: Alpha and suggests that characters who were introduced in the 70s and 80s (e.g., Banshee, Dazzler, Nightcrawler, Sunfire... even Morph is technically a character from the 60s) in the main timeline joined the team much later in the AoA timeline. We get broad strokes of Exodus’s introduction to the team, but none of the other ones. Interesting to think about a world in which Gambit became an X-Man before Nightcrawler. Through a mirror, darkly indeed! (Jk, I love Gambit.)

  7. Yeah that's Caliban. And they are probably living in would-be (The New) Defenders' headquarters in New Mexico.

    I know they got another version of Caliban roaming around (like they got two Toads), but this mutant-"tracker" here totally is a bit-miscolored Apocalypse's horseman Caliban in his most Liefeldian form.


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