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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

X-amining X-Men Prime #1

"Racing the Night"
July 1995

In a Nutshell
The existence of the Legacy Virus is made public, leading to the death of a mutant trying to reach the X-Men.

Writers: Scott Lobdell & Fabian Nicieza
Pencilers: Bryan Hitch, Jeff Matsuda, Gary Frank, Mike McKone, Terry Dodson, Ben Herrera, Paul Pelletier
Inkers: Al Milgrom, P. Craig Russell, Cam Smith, Mark Farmer, Mark McKenna, Tom Palmer, Tim Townsend, Hector Collazo
Lettering: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Coloring: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Chief: Bob Harras

On a dark & stormy night, Jean Grey visits Wolverine in the woods outside the X-Mansion. She urges him to come inside, but he refuses so long as Sabretooth is there. Inside, Bishop discusses his recent nightmares involving another world with Xavier. Elsewhere, a young mutant named Dennis, heading to Xavier's school in the hopes of finding the X-Men, stops at a diner. In Wyoming, X-Factor stops Mystique from bombing a dam. At the X-Mansion, Cyclops & Beast are delivering food to Storm, who is watching over a comatose Gambit, when they're attacked by Bishop, who briefly believes them to be servants of Apocalypse. In the Morlock tunnels, a woman named Marrow begins a ceremony to summon the first Morlock. In Florida, Rogue & Iceman are dancing at a bar when a special news report from Trish Tilby begins. In her report, she informs the public of the existence of the Legacy Virus. When his fellow diner patrons begin speaking out against mutants in the wake of the report, Dennis slips out, but his absence is noted.

At the X-Mansion, the X-Men's dismay over Trish's report is disrupted when Xavier suddenly senses the arrival on Earth of Nate Grey. In England, Emplate visits Gayle Edgerton. In New York, the diner patrons catch up to Dennis, and begin savagely beating him, drawing Xavier's telepathic attention. Elsewhere, Arcade remotely detonates the Murderworld facility being used by X-Force. In Wyoming, Havok suddenly loses control of his power, destroying the dam Mystique meant to bomb. In Genosha, Excalibur draws closer to uncovering Sugar Man's role in the development of the country, much to his dismay. In orbit, Colossus leads a contingent of Acolytes into space to investigate a nearby chunk of ice, which reveals a figure trapped inside. In the Morlock Tunnels, Marrow meets the first Morlock, Dark Beast. Back in New York, Xavier & Storm race to Dennis' side. They arrive too late, and soon, the rest of the X-Men arrive as Xavier cradles the body of Dennis Hogan, telling them they must fight for a better world, because heaven help them if this is their future.

Firsts and Other Notables
Written by Lobdell & Nicieza and featuring a variety of different pencilers & inkers, this issue is intended to establish the new status quos of the various series in the wake of "Legion Quest" and "Age of Apocalypse", lay the groundwork for a handful of stories that will unfold in this books, and establish that a group of "Age of Apocalypse" refugees managed to come to the prime reality.

To that end, each series gets at least a few pages highlighting it's respective characters. Wolverine is shown to be living in the woods outside the mansion, due to a combination of his disappointment in giving in to his animal instincts and almost killing Sabretooth (Sabretooth specific fate isn't revealed, but he is established as having survived the claw-through-the-head Wolverine gave him), and a refusal to share the mansion with Sabretooth (his solo series, which will explore this dynamics further, will also establish that he has become generally more feral/animalistic since the battle with Sabretooth).

Gambit is in a coma, the result of his kiss with Rogue shortly before reality ended in X-Men #41, while Rogue & Iceman are out road-tripping, as a result of Rogue having put Gambit in the coma and seen something in his memories which freaked her out (Iceman is mostly along to keep an eye on Rogue).

X-Factor remains in pursuit of Mystique (during which, somewhat oddly, they help protect a Sentinel processing plant with a surprising amount of casualness). She is attacked by a shadowy figure which knocks her out, enabling X-Factor to grab her (the identity of the shadowy figure attacking Mystique or its reasons for doing so are never officially revealed; as with most dangling plot threads and half-formed mysteries from this era, most people assume it's Onslaught or someone Onslaught-adjacent).

Forge wonders why he’s even thinking about sticking his neck out for Mystique again (a reference to their past together), which is also setting up her upcoming role in X-Factor.

Finally, Havok loses control of his power, blowing up a damn; he will continue to struggle with them in subsequent issues of X-Factor, eventually leading to his departure from the team.

Jeff Matsuda, one of the early artists to try to cash in on the demand for manga-inspired art in the wake of Joe Madureira's success, draws the X-Factor scenes; he will become the book’s regular artist after Steve Epting.

The Generation X setup involves Emplate visiting a woman named Gayle Edgerton , making her first appearance; who has a past with Chamber. We'll eventually learn she was Chamber's girlfriend who was injured when his power first manifested, and she will join Emplate's group of Hellions in the near future.

X-Force is forced to vacate their Murderworld base in this issue (when Arcade discovers they're using it and blows it up), bringing to an end that short-lived status quo. Cyclops then appears and offers them a place at the mansion, setting up their move there as seen in X-Force #44.

The reality-ending cliffhanger from X-Force in which Sunspot was revealed to be Reignfire is hand-waved away, with Sunspot a part of the team again and dialogue noting that Cable helped him get back to normal. This will be explored further (but not by much...) in X-Force.

Similarly, the cliffhanger that found Excalibur plummeting to Genosha in the crashing Midnight Runner is resolved off-panel (thanks to the two week time jump), with Excalibur (or, at least, Kitty, Wisdom & Douglock) shown to have survived. They are digging into the history of Genosha, which serves as a vehicle to reveal that Sugar Man survived the end of "Age of Apocalypse" and is now in Genosha (teased here, it will eventually be revealed that he arrived twenty years in the past, and is responsible for developing the mutate bonding process that the Genegineer used to create Genosha's race of mutant slaves, in arguably the dumbest "let's retcon the surviving Age of Apocalypse characters into past X-Men continuity!" retcon.

In addition to Sugar Man, this issue also serves to establish the presence of the rest of the "Age of Apocalypse" survivors. Nate Grey’s arrival on Earth (falling in from space where, we’ll learn, he and Holocaust were dropped by their shard of M’Kraan Crystal) is detected as a massive surge of psionic energy that affects the X-Men’s telepaths. His story will continue in X-Man, which continues publication following the end of "Age of Apocalypse" for reasons known to neither gods nor men.

Holocaust, meanwhile, remains in outer space, frozen in a chunk of space ice, where he is retrieved by the Acolytes; his story will continue in Adjectiveless X-Men.

Finally, Beast (heretoforth referred to as Dark Beast, to differentiate him from his prime counterpart) is revealed to be the "First Morlock"; later stories will establish that he, like Sugar Man, arrived in the past of the prime reality, and was responsible for the creation of the Morlocks, which is then used as a retroactive explanation for "Mutant Massacre" (in that Mr. Sinister, recognizing in the Morlocks similar genetic manipulation to his own as a result of the Sinister-taught Dark Beast, orders them wiped out), making this retcon only slightly less dumb than the "Sugar Man is behind Genosha!" one, only because Dark Beast is, at least, an actual character and not just a sentient tongue and because providing at least some nominal explanation for the Morlock Massacre (beyond, you know, "Mr. Sinister is just evil, maybe?") isn't a terrible thing. But the idea that Dark Beast "created" the Morlock is abjectly stupid, because there's not really anything to create; they're just a group of mutants who fled the surface world and congregated together in the sewers (to that end, even later stories will retcon the retcon, and establish that Dark Beast didn't so much create the Morlocks as experiment on some of them, allowing the motivation for the Morlock massacre to stand while injecting a bit of common sense back into the Morlock's origin).

In addition to Gayle Edgerton, two other notable characters make their first appearance in this issue. First is Marrow, a Morlock with weird bone protrusions (she technically has the power of "controlled bone growth", which basically means she can pull bones out of her body and use them as weapons, like if Wolverine used his bone claws as throwing knives) who is the grown-up version of Sarah, the young Morlock child who appeared in Cable #15 (that story ended with her rejoining the Morlocks in the interdimensional realm they were sent by Mikhail Rasputin; here, she is returning, with time having past quicker there, hence her accelerated age).

Marrow will serve as one of the more immediate post-"Age of Apocalypse" villains, then stick around on the fringes of the series for a while before eventually joining the X-Men during the short-lived Steven Seagle/Joe Casey runs, after which she'll be a part of the team more or less until Grant Morrison's run begins.

The other notable debut is Blaquesmith, the diminutive, chalk-white character with bulbous observing Nate's fall to Earth. He will become a recurring supporting character in Cable (retconned into having been a sort of Stick/Yoda-like mentor figure to young Cable) and stick around, off and on, until the "Counter X" revamp.

The Legacy Virus plotline enters its third and final stage this issue, with knowledge of the virus (and the fact that it can infect humans) is made public (via Beast’s old girlfriend and former X-Factor supporting character) Trish Tilby.

Marrow tells Dark Beast that half a dozen fellow Morlocks are waiting to attack humanity; this is a reference to Gene Nation, the group Marrow will lead which will debut in Uncanny X-Men.

Dennis’ death, and Xavier’s inability to do anything to help him, will later be cited as one of the inciting incidents that leads to Xavier’s transformation into Onslaught.

The cover gimmick for this issue is a "foil acetate" wraparound cover, which basically means it has a transparent cover with the logo on it over the regular cover featuring the artwork. It is, of course, also a double-sized issue.

A Work in Progress
The issue opens two weeks after the events of "Legion Quest", with narrative captions explaining that the X-Men in Israel experienced the end of reality, and then a moment later, everything was back to normal.

In a nice touch, when Jean is searching the woods for Wolverine, she is holding three different flashlights around herself telekinetically.

Bishop has been experiencing flashes of memories from his AoA counterpart since the X-Men’s return from Israel, something which has (conveniently) made his mind difficult for Xavier to read.

Gambit & Storm’s bond, rarely referenced of late, gets name-checked here.

Upon seeing Trish’s news report, Xavier asks Cyclops to contact Cable for him; this is, I believe, a reference to the whole “Cable May hold the key to a Legacy Virus cure” plotline introduced in X-Men #30 (which ultimately goes nowhere). In this issue, it also sets up Cyclops being on hand to invite X-Force to the mansion after their Murderworld base is destroyed.

Human/Mutant Relations
One of the bigots who attack Dennis earlier suggests putting all the mutants on an island, then killing them, with another suggesting that Genosha should be the island; many years later, Grant Morrison will kick off his X-Men run with Cassandra Nova wiping out all the mutants on Genosha, a sizeable portion of the overall population.

Austin's Analysis
This is less a cohesive story than a collection of teases for other series and set ups for upcoming plotlines. It's the kind of thing that Marvel would come to do often in the 2010s, with such an issue accompanying each of their post-linewide crossover rebranding/relaunching efforts every 18 months or so, but it's still relatively novel here, and there is something entertaining in getting a bunch of new plotline teases and status quos in one fell swoop, thereby allowing each of the various series to dive right into their new post-"Age of Apocalypse" stories right off the bat (even if this also robs the various pre-AoA cliffhangers of some their urgency, having them all resolved - at least in terms of the immediate ramifications - off panel).

In as much as there is a narrative spine to this issue, it comes in the form of the tragic story of Dennis Hogan, a mutant who just wanted to reach Xavier's school and, he hoped (based on rumors), the X-Men, but is slain by a group of bigots whose fear & hatred of mutants is churned up by the Legacy Virus news. While some of the X-books (mostly X-Factor) have dallied with the "sworn to protect a world that fears and hates them" element of the franchise off and on of liate, for the most part, the main X-books haven't engaged with it very directly in a while, really since the '91 relaunch. That will change from this point onward, with human/mutant relations becoming a much bigger part of the franchise as a whole, playing a role in both "Onslaught" and "Operation: Zero Tolerance", the next two big linewide crossovers that will form the narrative spine of stories over the next few years. Dennis' story is sadly over, but it represents a shift that will will be felt for a while to come. In that regard, even if this isn't the most cohesive of issues, bouncing from plot point to plot point, from character to character, it is is a successful table-setter, not just for the way it sets up new stories for the various series, but the way it points a thematic way forward for the entire line.

Next Issue
Juggernaut utters a name but no one knows what it means yet in Uncanny X-Men #322, things fall apart for Havok in X-Factor #112, and Nate Grey finds himself on a whole new world in X-Man #5!

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  1. Claremont originally had plans for why Sinister ordered the "Morlock massacre", but he didn't get around to fully fleshing it out.

    Sinister was going to be involved in some sort of plot to use mutants as weapons sold to the world's governments.
    We got a brief hint at this in one of those awful Excalibur issues between Davis and Ellis, when Sinister refers to mutants as "merchandise".
    The idea was that any mutants whose powers were of no use as weapons for the government were to be culled.
    Hence, the "Morlock massacre" was Sinister's first step in eliminating any mutants who were of no use to him.

    1. That's fascinating. I've heard a lot of various "here's where Claremont was going with that plot point" explanations through the years, but never that one.

  2. I loved this issue as a teen. I was 16 at the time, I believe. Not sure why I mention my "at the time" age here so often, other than to perhaps give a glimpse into my maturity level and emotional state as I read all this stuff. I consider this to be part of my "Personal Golden Age" of comics -- I had read comics since I was a small child, but I was a bit of a late bloomer with regards to that whole "Golden Age" thing. There' stuff I absolutely loved and still cherish from my elementary school years, but the period in my life that I actually consider to be my "Golden Age" is mostly my teens: roughly 1992 - 1999 (part of middle school, all of high school, and part of college). Comics -- specifically Marvel comics -- never, before or since, captured my imagination and kept me riveted to the extent they did during that period.

    Anyway -- I hadn't been that into "Age of Apocalypse" (which is why I never commented on any of the past few months' worth of posts here), but I was totally excited for the X-Men's return to reality. I know I've mentioned here before that if a writer could set up enough goosebump-worthy moments, that was generally all I needed from fiction when I was a youngster (and, to an extent, is still all I need today). PRIME did this in spades, as did pretty much the entire subsequent year building up to "Onsalught" -- so I am really, really hyped to re-read along with all this stuff over the next however-long-it-takes.

    To wit -- I had absolutely no problem at the time with the reveal that Sugar Man and Dark Beast were behind Genosha and the Morlocks, respectively. I had just started reading regularly in 1992; those were ancient premises and characters from my perspective and I had no special attachment to either of them -- so anything that could make them relevant to me, right there and then, was just fine.

    (Nowadays I agree that Dark Beast being behind the Morlocks is silly -- just as I believe that Paul Smith drawing nine zillion Morlocks in the first place was a terrible idea when Claremont had only wanted about half a dozen -- and I'm glad they fixed that, while still keeping Dark Beast as a part of the "Morlock Mythos". Genosha, on the other hand, I have never cared about at any point other than when Magneto was its king circa 1999-2000, so as far as I'm concerned, inserting Sugar Man into its backstory does no harm and actually makes it a smidge more interesting.)

    So anyway, of course those two bits gave me the ol' goosebumps back then. So did whatever sent Rogue on the run. What was Gambit's secret?? I was excited to find out. (And unlike many, I wasn't really all that disappointed with the revelation when it eventually came about a few years later.)

    Then there's the Legacy Virus stuff (which didn't yet feel played out), Bishop's issues, the GEN-X setup (as the only peripheral X-title I read, that one actually meant something to me)... plus the story of Dennis really pulls at the heartstrings, and I hate to say it, but it feels even more relevant in the U.S of 2019 than it did in 1995.

    I'll comment more on Bryan Hitch later, as he does a lot of work for the X-Office in the upcoming year or so, but I will say that I like his 90s art now a lot more than I did as a teen. Back then I wanted everything to look clean and cartoony, like Joe Mad and Mark Bagley. Nowadays I can really see the Alan Davis influence on Hitch, and I like it a lot -- though I actually prefer this era of Hitch's work over what it looks like today.

    1. "(the identity of the shadowy figure attacking Mystique or its reasons for doing so are never officially revealed; as with most dangling plot threads and half-formed mysteries from this era, most people assume it's Onslaught or someone Onslaught-adjacent)."

      Having never read X-FACTOR at any point, I never realized this went unresolved. All these years, I just sort of assumed it was Onslaught doing it for Onslaughty reasons... he does, after all, steal some Sentinels later on.

      "In a nice touch, when Jean is searching the woods for Wolverine, she is holding three different flashlights around herself telekinetically."

      I had literally never, ever, ever, ever noticed this until reading it right here, now, today. Where's the pink energy effect to draw my attention to it??

    2. I will say that I like his 90s art now a lot more than I did as a teen.

      Ditto. I thought it was *ugly* at the time, and even well into his stint as the bastion of "widescreen" art in the early 00s, I was puzzled at how everyone was raving about it. I eventually came around to his style of that era, but returning to his early stuff from this era, I find myself liking it much more.

      I had literally never, ever, ever, ever noticed this until reading it right here, now, today.

      If it makes you feel better, I didn't notice it until I re-read the issue for this review.

    3. I think I've mentioned before that while this era still falls into my personal Golden Age, it's definitely on the backend of it. "Onslaught" is the last major crossover that I was unabashedly all-in on, naively believing it was the culmination of years and years of planning and plot-threading (which, I think, is part of why Lobdell's "I just tossed out the name Onslaught and made up the rest later" admission rankles me so much - it just underscores how dumb I was at the time); after that, I could see that the emperor was naked, so to speak, and while I kept reading, the shine of the Golden Age was definitely off by the time "Operation: Zero Tolerance" rolled around.

      But even as much as this still falls within my Golden Age, this is also the era when, in retrospect, some seams started to show. Prior to this, I just loved everything; if it happened in an X-book, then it was good, meant to happen that way for a narrative reason, all part of a grand plan. Coming out of "Age of Apocalypse", I still wasn't quite capable of being able to both enjoy and criticize something (or really, even aware that such a contradiction was possible), but there were definitely things in this era that didn't sit right with me, even if I couldn't yet articulate why - or, at least, that I didn't unabashedly love. Sugar Man's ties to Genosha were one thing, the way Havok was written out of X-FACTOR (and then broke bad) was another. I loved Cannonball getting promoted, but then it bugged me how he immediately went from "The Cyclops of X-Force" to "the post-Dark Phoenix Kitty Pryde of the X-Men". Fatale gets a big push in this era and she never really did much for me. I didn't mind the reveal of the big Gambit secret once it actually got revealed, but the tease of the reveal in X-MEN #45 was one of the first times I can remember being noticeably let down by marketing hype. Bishop gets a renewed focus as the only character with memories of AoA, and I loved that, but I didn't love his new costume. I loved Joe Mad's art, but he was only on like every third issue (at best).

      Just stuff like that, which, earlier in my Golden Age, I just would have rolled with, but which now, with enough issues (current and back) under my belt that I was starting to have opinions on what I liked and what I didn't like beyond "I like the X-Men so whatever happens with the X-Men is good", didn't quite work for me (even if I still wouldn't go so far as to say I didn't like it). I still have a lot of fond memories of this era - I have some terribly specific sense memories of many of these issues - and look back on it - and my excitement over the build-up to "Onslaught" - with a lot of affection, but it definitely represents the twilight of my Golden Age.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. "Ugly" is how I would've described Hitch's work back then, too. And there is one criticism I would still level at it today, even though I mostly like it now, as I said: he draws everyone with unusually wide-looking faces/heads. That was a big part of why I disliked it in the 90s, but now I see it as an interesting quirk on otherwise very good art.

      "I think I've mentioned before that while this era still falls into my personal Golden Age, it's definitely on the backend of it."

      I would say that, as regards the X-Men specifically, this is somewhat near the backend for me as well. I liked the buildup to "Onslaught" a lot. In fact, I would go so far as to say I loved it. I wrote a whole blog post "love letter" to this year a while back. I also liked the event well enough, but I hadn't been reading all the peripheral titles, so the misrepresented clues weren't as obvious to me. I also enjoyed the first few issues post-Onslaught. It was only as we got closer to "Zero Tolerance" that cracks started to appear for me -- but even then, Carlos Pacheco was drawing X-MEN, so the gorgeous artwork had me overlooking some of the issues.

      By the time of Seagle/Kelly, UNCANNY and X-MEN had dropped considerably in my priority list, but at the same time, I was really enjoying the "neo-classical" Spider-Man period post-"Clone Saga", and that was around when all the "Heroes Return" stuff started, plus there was stuff like THUNDERBOLTS and Joe Kelly's DEADPOOL -- so the "Personal Golden Age" was extended because of those titles. And, come 1999, Alan Davis was on the X-Books, and I really enjoyed his run.

    6. "...Lobdell's 'I just tossed out the name Onslaught and made up the rest later' admission rankles me so much - it just underscores how dumb I was at the time. [...] Prior to this, I just loved everything; if it happened in an X-book, then it was good, meant to happen that way for a narrative reason, all part of a grand plan. "

      I know you say that self-deprecatingly often, but in all seriousness, I'm not sure it says anything about a lack of intelligence on your part. I think you, like most of us when we were kids/teenagers, simply assumed that professional adults knew what the heck they were doing! It's amazed me as I've grown up over the years (now decades) to learn how often that's not the case.

      If anything, I feel I'm the one guilty of some sub-standard intelligence at this point. I'm a few years older than you, but while you say that this was the point where you started to see cracks, and I assume you were probably in middle school, I was about to be a high school junior and still in the "if it happens in a published comic, it's good" mindset. It was less about being part of a master plan for me -- I understood at this point that they were making it up as they went along -- but more about "it was written and approved by the editors, so it's obviously well-conceived and if it seems like it doesn't make sense, that's just because I don't have all the pieces yet."

      Though as far as the "making it up as you go along" approach goes, I do think it's a viable way to write a serialized story, but there are those for whom it works and those for whom it doesn't. I don't think anyone can argue that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and John Romita weren't making it up as they went, but their work is considered the gold standard of superhero comics. And several years back, I read an interview with Larry Hama where he said he often didn't know how an issue of G.I. JOE would end until he wrote the last page. So clearly, that approach worked for all those guys. But Lobdell's style of "making it up" seemed less akin to having a vague idea of where he was going and more like throwing darts at a board to map out his stories, whether the ensuing path made sense or not.

      (That said, Lobdell did plan ahead in some areas -- see the long buildup to GENERATION X, or his original plans for "Operation: Zero Tolerance" which were scuttled into disarray by editorial. I think something similar happened with his "X-Men in Space" storyline leading up to UNCANNY 350. I would honestly like to assume that perhaps the word "Onslaught" was more an experiment in freewheeling on his part than his normal M.O.)

    7. All the other stuff you mentioned -- Sugar Man, Havok, Cannonball, Fatale -- didn't read as ill-conceived to me. Again, in part, I invoke the fact that I simply wasn't reading the peripheral titles, so if I read in one book that Havok had gone bad, I just assumed it all made sense in the pages of X-FACTOR. Similarly, I didn't read X-Force unless it was part of a crossover, and I had never read NEW MUTANTS, so I didn't have much idea of how Cannonball was "supposed" to behave. But even so, I had little issue with his characterization in X-MEN/UNCANNY. Kurt Busiek did something similar in AVENGERS with Justice a few years later: he was totally composed and a great leader with the New Warriors, but around the Avengers he was awestruck and a bumbler. It seems a reasonable way to approach such a situation.

      As for Fatale, I do recall her not going anywhere, but for whatever reason I didn't think much of it at the time. I think I wasn't very impressed with her as a characer, so if she never showed up again, it was no big loss to me whether it meant a loose end or not. (Which, honestly, is how I reacted to a lot of dangling plots back then. If it didn't interest me, I didn't care if they forgot about it.)

      I didn't like Bishop's new costume either, though I loved (and still love) the shaved head look on him. he very briefly wore his old costume with the shaved head, and I thought that was great. I actually liked X-MEN 45 a lot, but I don't remember the marketing hype. I just recall that we learned Gambit's secret involved Mr. Sinister, and since I was a card-carrying Sinister-maniac, I was totally fine with no resolution as long as I knew the eventual resolution would involve him.

      But now I'm getting carried away... I could seriously talk about this X-era for hours upon hours, which is why I can't wait for all the upcoming posts!

  3. "(the identity of the shadowy figure attacking Mystique or its reasons for doing so are never officially revealed; as with most dangling plot threads and half-formed mysteries from this era, most people assume it's Onslaught or someone Onslaught-adjacent)."

    I always thought it was the ugly Hound who appears in X-Factor #123. But, of course, he was meant to be Onslaught.

    1. Yeah, I've seen that Hound bandied about as a possible culprit as well, though as you say, all the Hound stuff is still Onslaught-adjacent anyway.

  4. This is where I left X-books for a long, long time (until around mid-way through Morrison's run, and even then, it was to follow related books, not his). It wasn't cuz of the stories so much as availability - I had no LCS, I could only follow AoA cuz of mail order bundles, and the newsstand where I used to buy comics stopped carrying the majority of the X-books.

    Looking at some of the art (especially the pages with Rogue and with Trish that you scanned in), I don't feel like I missed much. Not just with stuff like the dangling/unsatisfactorily resolved plots set up here but the overall feel. Until this point, Lobdell's "make it up as you go" plotting usually worked, but maybe due to the larger line & creative stable, it wouldn't from here on out.

    AoA just felt like a good jumping off point, one that could almost serve as a series finale of sorts.

    1. especially the pages with Rogue and with Trish that you scanned in

      That art is easily the worst thing I've seen in a long time. I don't even know who is responsible for it - I'm assuming Ben Herrera, as that's the only name I don't recognize or whose style I'm not familiar with - but it's just awful. The rest of the art is pretty decent, and it's nice that, as much as this is a jam issue with a bunch of different artists, there is some consistency as to who handles what: Hitch draws all the X-Men scenes, Matsuda all the X-Factor scenes, McKone all the Dennis scenes (at least until Xavier enters the scene), etc.

    2. Yes, that is the work of Ben Herrera. Even as a teenager, when I ate up all the faux-manga Joe Mad impersonators with gusto, I thought his work was horrendous.

  5. This is where I jumped off of X-Force and X-Factor. Both books left on such great cliffhangers that coming back to this and what I considered terrible art, never settled well with me. X-Force left with Tony Daniel and this cool Reinfire cliffhanger and we come back and ....... nothing, lets roadtrip. I HATED IT and still do to this day.

    The art in this book is just so bad. The cover to this issue after just having Joe Mad and Kubert art and then this....look at Wolverine's face.

    The Iceman/Rogue page is complete garbage that should never have passed an X-Editor. This is what happens when Image is taking your best artists, Marvel gets this. Hitch's artwork was really bad back then. Even looking at it now, I'm not a fan. I look at some art that I didn't like as a kid and I like it now, not this. I love his later work.....not this.

    I never cared for Gene Nation in Uncanny and sort of stopped reading through the end of 325 and even with Joe Mad on it, the story never hit with me.

    X-Men I thought was really good with Magneto's group here and falling back to earth with Holocaust making his first appearance. Was the fake Magneto around this time. And we start getting Post and then what did Rogue see in Gambit's past, etc.

    Gen X stays strong for a while after they return, it was about the only X-Bright spot to me and I really started getting into Wildstorm books at this time. The art was so much better overall and the stories were fun and full of adventure and I felt like the X-Books were just retredding so much.

  6. I have a confession to make.

    I am, in fact, the sole person who was excited that X-Man became a continuing title.

    It didn't last, but I was. And I honestly have no idea WHY.

  7. I remember this issue being both exciting and disappointing. As a tease and kickoff of the X-line's new status-quo, it was tantalizing. On the other hand, the art was not to my liking, and so much page-space was devoted to teams from books I wasn't following.

    My friend Travis and I had divvied-up the responsibilities of collecting what we considered the "core" X-titles. He had been buying X-men and X-Force, while I got Uncanny and Generation X. However, around this time, he stopped buying comics, and my interests were turning elsewhere, too. I stuck with my two titles and even started picking up Adjectiveless for a while, but stopped when Madureira left.

    Anyway, this comic, rather than being the premium issue that its fancy cover and page count purported it to be, read more like an extended ashcan comic.

  8. In addition to this being the first appearance of Gayle Edgerton, note that we are also introduced to Mister Edgerton, Genosha's first Mutate (page 34) who is also designated by Douglock as the "original Morlock" (page 35). Given he was also a mutant, it would seem likely Lobdell intended them to be related?


  9. I did enjoy the flashlights around Jean.

    As Nathan has pointed out, Kitty calls the fellow helping the Excalibur crew “Mr. Edgerton” and Warlock refers to him as “Designate: Original Morlock”. The latter is presumably a typo for “Original Mutate”… Unless there’s an upcoming reveal of cross-pollination between Sugar Man’s and Dark Beast’s respective tinkering? I’m not sure whether the former was actually meant to link him to Gayle Edgerton, or if the name popped into the head of whomever wrote that page and nobody in the editorial chain realized that it was because the name’s used elsewhere in the story, or what.

    Hitch is not at the height of his talent yet, to my eyes, drawing an ugly off-model Beast face and oddly gnome-like Xavier head in places — with his Xavier also being strongly reminiscent of John Byrne in spots despite his generally overwhelming Alan Davis influence — but there’s still a lot to like.

    Bobby and Rogue’s friendship continues to surprise me; as I may have said during their earlier road trip to the Drakes’ place, I was struck entirely out of left field by the characters’ romance in the early X-Men films because I had zero idea they’d been paired off even as confidants in the comics.

    So if Dark Beast and Sugar Man were always part of history it means either that events prior to their insertion into the timeline were overwritten only to bring about the same results or that, contrary to how I believe the nature of the Marvel Universe is usually portrayed, the entirety of the timeline is fixed — with Legion’s creation of the Age of Apocalypse reality and the subsequent reversion to the Prime reality fated to happen because that’s where Dark Beast and Sugar Man came from.

    I’ve known of Marrow for a while but never to my recollection actually read a story with her as a character until now. Am I correct in understanding that her powers have nothing to do with the part of bones that is her codename? Like, I’d understand if these were Shard’s powers, or if Marrow broke open her bones to use the constituent tissue as… something… but otherwise it feels off the mark.

    Meanwhile, not having encountered Blaquesmith until after the release of the entire Star Wars sequel trilogy, I can’t help seeing him as the love child of Maz Kanata and Babu Frik.


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