Wednesday, October 2, 2019
X-amining Uncanny X-Men #322
In a Nutshell
Archangel visits the site of a massacre while Juggernaut gets punched across the country by Onslaught.
Story: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Tom Grummett
Inks: Green, Pennington, Ryan & Milgrom
Lettering Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Editor: Bob Harras
Archangel meets Charlotte Jones outside a nightclub. She takes him inside, where a dance floor packed with humans was slaughtered by a group of mutants. At the X-Mansion, Storm tells Wolverine he still has a place with the X-Men, but he insists that he can feel his humanity slipping away. In New Jersey, Beast & Bishop are leaving a movie when they see an object streak through the sky before crashing to the ground. Investigating, they discover the object was an unconscious Juggernaut. Upstate, Scott & Jean visit Jean's parents, and Jean shares the news of her sister's death. In Jersey, Juggernaut wakes up and promptly freaks out, triggering a fight with the X-Men that ends when Bishop absorbs energy from the city's electric grid and rechannels it back at Juggernaut again and again. Shocked to his senses, a weary Juggernaut tells Beast the last thing he knew, he was in Canada, intent on coming to warn the X-Men about the same person who punched him across the country: Onslaught.
Firsts and Other Notables
One issue back from "Age of Apocalypse", this issue kicks off the line's next big crossover, "Onslaught", by having Juggernaut turn up in New Jersey after having been punched across the country by an unseen whom Juggernaut was going to warn the X-Men about. When asked who attacked him, he utters one word: Onslaught.
Onslaught will, of course, turn out to be Professor X (or, more accurately, a physical manifestation of Xavier's dark side mixed with some essence of Magneto with which he was literally infected while wiping Magneto's mind in X-Men #25), making his attack on Juggernaut here one of the more effective Onslaught teases given that later revelation. But, of course, Scott Lobdell has somewhat infamously said (to the point where I'm comfortable repeating it without direct citation) that when he wrote this issue, he had absolutely no idea who or what Onslaught would be; he merely thought of the name and the idea of building up the unseen foe by having him completely overpower (freak out) Juggernaut to establish his power levels, and figured he would make up the rest of the story as he went along (an approach to storytelling that is perfectly valid and not inherently worse than any other storytelling approach even if asking me, as a writer, to wrap my head around how anyone could start writing a story without having some idea, however vague, of where it was going and how it would end would be like asking me to breathe underwater).
Jean visits her family and tells her dad what happened to her sister (as Banshee learned she’d been absorbed by the Phalanx in X-Men #36), an appreciative bit of continuity from Lobdell (even if the footnote is wrong). It would have been very easy to not follow up on Sara’s death (a plotline that dangled, mostly unacknowledged, for years before getting resolved in "Phalanx Covenant"), but Lobdell makes the time for some closure.
As they leave Jean’s parents, Scott & Jean are observed by a seemingly-invisible, seemingly-transparent individual. This is Noah Dubois, who first appeared as Senator Kelly's mysterious aid in issue #299. An agent of the interdimensional law firm Landau, Luckman & Lake, who will pop up again shortly in Wolverine.
Charlotte Jones, Archangel's one-time girlfriend last seen in issue #294, pops up in this issue. She rightly gives Archangel a hard time for not really talking to her since their aborted date to the Lila Cheney concert at the start of "X-Cutioner's Song".
Charlotte contacts Archangel in the wake of a massacre in which a large number of humans are slain by mutants. Next issue we'll learn that the Marrow-led Gene Nation is responsible for the attack, though curiously, the grim scene of the crime, which establishes that mutants are responsible for the killings and which still shocks Archangel, even given all he's seen through the years.
Because Joe Madureira manages to crank out four issues in row during "Age of Apocalypse", he apparently needs to take next three off, and won't return until issue #325. This one is pencilled by Tom Grummett, who, amongst other things, will go on to pencil much of Claremont's X-Men Forever series in the 00s. Like Rick Leonardi in the late 80s, Grummett, is one of those artists whose work I've come to appreciate more as I've gotten older, when I'm less bothered by the fact that it seems like I only ever saw him drawing an issue as a fill-in for the regular artist.
The Statement of Ownership in this issue lists the average number of copies sold in the preceding twelve months as 552,975, with the issue closes to filing selling 478,900, numbers any series today would kill to have (and which were probably vastly higher than the average Marvel book at this time, in the midst of the industry-wide bubble burst).
A Work in Progress
Wolverine says he can feel his humanity slipping away in the wake of his attack on Sabretooth.
In the wake of their base's destruction in X-Men Prime, X-Force is at the mansion (with this taking place ahead of X-Force #44 when the team formally moves into the school and adopts new costumes), and Siryn delivers a message to Storm, alerting her to what Archangel discovered.
Jean says that thanks to her psionic powers, she can remember everything; she may be speaking tongue-in-cheek, but that’s not really an established side-effect of telepathy.
The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Early in the issue, a police officer takes a shot at Archangel with a very normal shotgun - narration specifically says Archangel can hear the bullet entering the chamber - yet the shot is depicted as a blast of pink energy. It reminds of the kinds of things the Fox animated series in the 90s had to do to get episodes approved by network censors (in which case, the cop's mostly on-model shotgun in this issue would have been drawn as a futuristic laser gun to match its discharge).
Beast (using an image inducer to look like his pre-mutation self) & Bishop see Pulp Fiction.
Two things: Combos are awesome. Combo Man is also awesome.
There is perhaps nothing that says "1995" more than a series of metallic Batman Forever trading cards.
It's in the Mail
This issue features a two page letters page (in addition to the one page X-Facts), with letters reacting to the start of "Age of Apocalypse". Interestingly, at least a few of the writers are still buying the idea that the all the series have been cancelled and replaced and that AoA is the new, permanent state of being.
Like X-Men Prime, there's a lot of setup in this issue, both in the short-term (launching the Gene Nation story arc that will carry the series through to issue #325) and long-term (Onslaught, obviously). But in and around that stuff, Lobdell dabbles in the kind of quieter, character-driven scenes that define his more overt Post-Crossover Quiet Issues, stuff like Storm reaching out to Wolverine or Charlotte Jones throwing shade at Archangel for seemingly forgetting about her following their date in issue #294. While Joe Madureira's absence is frustrating, Grummett makes for a worthy fill-in, his clean, classic style handling both the quieter scenes and the action-oriented Juggernaut fight with equal aplomb. That Juggernaut fight keeps this from being a true Lobdellian Post-Crossover Quiet issue, but even with it, compared to the Sturm und Drang of "Age of Apocalypse", this is still a relatively low-intensity issue, and a welcome one at that.
Tomorrow, Havok runs wild in Japan in X-Factor #112. Friday, Nate falls to Earth in X-Man #5. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #42!
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