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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #323

"A Nation Rising"
August 1995

In a Nutshell
The X-Men are attacked by Gene Nation while investigating the nightclub massacre.

Story: Scott Lobdell
Guest Penciler: Bryan Hitch
Guest Inker: Cam Smith
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Edits: Bob Harras

Plot
While Rogue & Iceman deal with a flat tire while on their road trip, Psylocke & Archangel train in the Danger Room before being interrupted by Gambit, who regains consciousness, staggers into the room, and asks after Rogue before passing out. Outside, Cannonball takes Sabretooth for a walk, and the pair run into Wolverine, who threatens to kill Sabretooth if he turns out to be faking his docility. He is interrupted by Storm, who asks Wolverine to accompany her and Cannonball into the city in order to investigate the recent nightclub massacre. In the city, Beast confronts Tish Tilby about her decision to go public with news of the Legacy Virus, while outside city hall, Graydon Creed uses the nightclub massacre to whip an anti-mutant crowd into a frenzy. Around the corner, Charlotte Jones emerges and leads the X-Men inside to the morgue. In the desert, Iceman presses Rogue on what she saw in Gambit's mind, after which he is taunted by a vision of Emma Frost. Back at the city morgue, the X-Men meet with the coroner, but Wolverine senses something off with him, and attacks, causing the mutant Sack to emerge from the coroner's now-dead body. Sack is soon joined by his companion Vessel, who says that while Gene Nation is dedicated to the destruction of human society, they will gladly kill the X-Men in order to do so.

Firsts and Other Notables
Following on the heels of Hemingway in Generation X last month, two more members of Gene Nation debut in this issue, Sack & Vessel. The former has the ability to possess dead bodies, while the latter draws increased strength, size and durability from the physical & psychic residue of dead bodies.


Gambit emerges from his coma this issue, and immediately asks after Rogue before passing out; Psylocke is concerned by the fact that she sensed danger shortly before he appeared, beginning a minor "Psylocke is wary of Gambit" subplot (the evil she senses is, presumably, the same as the secret that drove Rogue away - that he participated in the Morlock Massacre - but it's not terribly clear why she would only sense that particular evil in him now).


Following the news of his "graduation" in X-Force #44, Cannonball makes his debut as one of the X-Men in this issue, helping take care of the now-docile Sabretooth and joining Storm & Wolverine on an investigation in the city.


Graydon Creed’s upcoming presidential run essentially begins here, as he uses the nightclub massacre to whip up anti-mutant sentiment outside city hall. One of the people watching (whom the Marvel Chronology Project credits as being Noah Dubois, the same person who observed Cyclops & Phoenix last issue and will turn out to an agent of the interdimensional law firm Landau, Luckman & Lake) sees reflections of Hitler in him. Creed's campaign will run in parallel to all the Onslaught build-up, until he is mysteriously assassinated shortly after that story (thereby creating a dangling mystery that won't be resolved for years).


Joe Madureira is still recovering from drawing four consecutive issues during "Age of Apocalypse"/playing Sega, so Bryan Hitch fills in on pencils. Madureira does contribute the cover to this issue, though.

A Work in Progress
Rogue & Iceman’s toad trip hits a snag when they blow a tire, and it’s revealed that Rogue only let him come along if he agrees to a “no powers” rule.


Lobdell continues to really try and sell the idea that the massacre last issue was especially horrific, as Archangel (who, keep in mind, was horrifically injured himself during an earlier massacre) is still being affected by what he saw.


Sabretooth, tendered docile by Wolverine’s attack, has healed enough that he can move about the mansion grounds, which of course puts him face to face with Wolverine.


Wolverine is impressed that Cannonball stands up to him.


The Hudsons’ upcoming visit in Wolverine #92 is mentioned (though the issue number is missing from the footnote for some reason).


Iceman hallucinates being taunted by Emma Frost (OR DOES HE???).


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Marvel runs a survey in this issue filled with glorious 90s-ism, like assuring reads its okay to photcopy the page (in order to preserve the value of the book no doubt) and asking if the respondent pays for internet service.


Human/Mutant Relations
Beast confronts Trish about breaking the Legacy Virus story. It...does not go well.


For Sale
I was wrong; *Waterworld* trading cards are the most 1995 thing ever.


It's in the Mail
A letter in this issue complaining about the current state of the X-Men wouldn’t look out of place on a present day message board (or broken down in a tweet thread).


Austin's Analysis
Still in "mellow mode" following "Age of Apocalypse", this is essentially a Classic Claremont Quiet Issue, as Lobdell focuses on various character interactions and limited action. The Gene Nation plotline that is, technically, the narrative spine of this batch of issues is advanced, as the X-Men investigate last issue's massacre and conclude the issue by coming face-to-face with a pair of Gene Nation members for the first time, but it's clear the quieter stuff before that is the guts of the issue. Ironically, considering how much his name will become synonymous with the dominance of "widescreen" action art in the 00s, Bryan Hitch here continues his strong showing following his work on X-Men Prime. Not yet working in that widescreen style, his art here is a sort of blend of Alan Davis by way of Barry Windsor Smith, and it works especially well in this issue in spite of (or perhaps because of) the quieter, less incident-packed story.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Factor is in Japan so that means Yukio shows up in X-Factor #112. Friday, Nate meets a new old friend in X-Man #6. Next week, the Fall of Avalon in X-Men (vol. 2) #43!

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11 comments:

  1. ”Following the news of his "graduation" in X-Force #44, Cannonball makes his debut as one of the X-Men in this issue, helping take care of the now-docile Sabretooth and joining Storm & Wolverine on an investigation in the city.”

    And he’s adding like foolish novice and everyone treats him as someone without any experience. This is not Cannonball.

    P.S.: Rogue dressed like that and Iceman didn’t melt? Was there any hint of him being physically attracted to her during this road trip? Is it possible not to? Unless... he’s not into women. Mind blown.

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    1. P.S.: Rogue dressed like that and Iceman didn’t melt? Was there any hint of him being physically attracted to her during this road trip? Is it possible not to? Unless... he’s not into women. Mind blown.

      Obviously a straight dude can be friends with a woman and not be attracted her, but as I said in a comment a few months back, Lobdell clearly recognized Bobby as a gay man and wrote him as such. There are at least a dozen little story beats and lines of dialogue in the mid-90s that point to his "big secret" being his sexuality. I was only 11-12 in the run up to Onslaught and even I recognized "Oh, Iceman likes boys."

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  2. I’m not sure Cam Smith was the right inker for Bryan Hitch at this point. While this looks unmistakably like Hitch’s work, it seems to rough, at least to my eye.

    I like Cannonball’s X-Men costume. It’s kind of generic, but cool. It takes a lot of cues from Cyclops, which sort of makes sense in a way, with both being “graduated” team leaders.

    It’s fascinating to see how evil and irredeemable the members of Gene Nation are in these initial issues, when you have the foreknowledge that that their leader (who presumably orders and participated in the massacre) will, in just a couple years, become the next insecure young female X-Man to be mentored by Wolverine.

    So let’s see... if I was completing that survey circa 1995 (which I’m fairly sure I actually did do), #1 would’ve likely been Spider-Man, Cyclops, and Adam Warlock. I have no idea how I would’ve answered 2. 3 would’ve been 2-3 X-titles per month. 4 would’ve been an unenthusiastic yes. 5 would’ve been no. 6 would’ve been 4-5 Spider-titles per month. 7 would have been a resounding yes — I loved the clone saga at the time. 8 was probably the lower end of 21-50 titles per month. 9 was comic store (a shop which is still there, under the same owner, to this day). 10 was yes, I did play CCGs and probably spent $21-50 per month on them. 11 and 12 were yes, while 13 was no (though we would have AOL within the year).

    That was a fun time capsule!

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    1. I like Cannonball’s X-Men costume. It’s kind of generic, but cool. It takes a lot of cues from Cyclops, which sort of makes sense in a way, with both being “graduated” team leaders.

      Agreed. This is one of my all-time favorite Cannonball designs.


      It’s fascinating to see how evil and irredeemable the members of Gene Nation are in these initial issues, when you have the foreknowledge that that their leader (who presumably orders and participated in the massacre) will, in just a couple years, become the next insecure young female X-Man to be mentored by Wolverine.

      I'd never really thought about this, but you're right. Though, even as a teen, I was never a fan of Marrow's transition to an edgy Kitty/Jubilee-like protege. Sam would have worked better as the new kid under Logan's wing, since Lobdell seemed committed to this new "I'm so green behind the ears" version of Sam.

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    2. "Sam would have worked better as the new kid under Logan's wing, since Lobdell seemed committed to this new "I'm so green behind the ears" version of Sam."

      And he did for a while in Wolverine pages.

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  3. Graydon Creed’s upcoming presidential run essentially begins here, as he uses the nightclub massacre to whip up anti-mutant sentiment outside city hall.

    I really loved this storyline, though I suspect "openly racist and corrupt villain runs for president" will, sadly, be more relevant today than it was in 1996.


    Sabretooth, tendered docile by Wolverine’s attack, has healed enough that he can move about the mansion grounds, which of course puts him face to face with Wolverine.

    I had forgotten that Wolverine has this long devolution period before the noseless transformation. But here we are just two months back from the AoA and I'm already tired of it.


    A letter in this issue complaining about the current state of the X-Men wouldn’t look out of place on a present day message board (or broken down in a tweet thread).

    Except that this letter-writer appears to have been interested enough in the characters and/or stories to have kept reading over 20 years, whereas today's sales suggest that the complainers have abandoned the books.

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  4. Remember when a strong writer had Sam stand up to Professor X with the mouse vs hand argument and Sam proved his leadership and intelligence. All of that is gone now for whatever reason. Lobdell regresses him to pre-New Mutants level Sam. Then they have him beat Gladiator???? How many drugs was Lobdell on during this time period?

    I agree with you LIcinio, Iceman never showed any attraction to the beautiful women around him. I was never upset that Iceman came out as gay. I had a cousin who was married to a women and had four kids when he announced he wasn’t going to live a fake life anymore and eventually married his husband. This sort of thing does happen in real life.

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  5. I still don’t buy that Iceman is the right person to make a road trip with Rogue. I can’t remember any other occasion in which they were shown to be friends, or even to have talked to each other. Of the other male X-Men who could (and should) have taken his place, I imagine Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus (pre-Mutant Massacre colleagues), or Longshot and Havok (Outback era colleagues). I don’t remember Rogue interacting with a Beast during the blue team era, and although she kept calling Cyclops “sugar” when he was team leader, he was always distant. Iceman is almost a stranger to her. I think at least a brief mention about this should be done, like when Jubilee correctly complained about her lack of ties to Archangel when she left the X-Men.

    Regarding Iceman’s “homosexuality”, I have to say that I don’t buy it. Pre-Lobdel Bobby Drake would certainly have had a crush on Rogue, and would be hitting on her or at least showing feelings in his thoughts balloons. But, if I didn’t know Iceman’s backstory since 1963, and I had only read X-Men after Lobdel became writer, I’d indeed have seen his coming out of the closet as expected. The hints are all over the place in this era.

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    1. Granted it's anecdotal, but John Byrne has said more than once on his message board -- including years before Iceman ever came out in the comics -- that Marvel staffers used to joke that the character had to be gay way back in the 70s. So clearly there was some subtext there that at least some people saw, even in the old days.

      As far as Iceman and Rogue being friends goes, this was clearly an invention of Lobdell's and something he wanted to explore. I guess it's likely that they became better acquainted behind the scenes/between issues, etc. -- she accompanied him to his parents' house, after all, for whatever reason -- but I agree that it would have been nice to see some genesis for this friendship on the page.

      Hey, maybe it all started when Rogue was on the team that went with Iceman to check on Opal in issue 305. They might have started chatting on the flight home or something, and found they got along better than they'd realized.

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    2. Rogue and Iceman had some talk in X-Men (vol. 2) #38, writen by Fabian Nicieza.
      I don't see any problem in Iceman retconnected as gay. Actually, it's a symbolic gesture that I appreciate very much.

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  6. Rogue, having just put a man in the hospital with her affections, probably pondered "who's the opposite of Remy? As in, the least likely to kill themselves by trying to jump me?"

    Bobby was her answer.

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