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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #42

"Heaven Can Wait"
July 1995

In a Nutshell
Holocaust wakes up on Avalon.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Paul Smith
Inker: Matt Ryan
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Kevin Somers/Digital Chameleon
Editor: Bob Harras

Plot
Exodus toasts the arrival of the strange figure trapped in ice, believing it to be a sign of good tidings for the Acolytes. Some of the Acolytes have reservations, however, and when Milan stays behind to further analyze the being, he inadvertently comes into contact with it and is killed when it drains his life force. On Earth, Storm notifies Professor X of the nightclub massacre, while Beast tends to the now-comatose Juggernaut. In Florida, Iceman stops Rogue from committing a robbery. Back on Avalon, Rusty & Skids are discussing whether they made the right choice joining the Acolyteswhen Scanner appears and tells Rusty Exodus wants him to check on Milan. When he does, he too is killed, and his energy is enough to cause the figure - Holocaust - to break free of the ice. When Exodus confronts him, Holocaust - recognizing Exodus as one of the X-Men from his world and not realizing he's in a different reality - attacks, and their subsequent fight severely damages Avalon. Voght teleports away, seeking help, and returns with Cyclops & Phoenix, who are greeted by the raging Holocaust/Exodus fight and Colossus, cradling the comatose Magneto, declaring that in a manner of minutes, the station will be destroyed and everyone aboard killed.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue kicks off a three part story that will see Holocaust & Exodus fight one another until Avalon is destroyed, bringing to an end the latest round of "Magneto has an orbital base" status quo and taking the Acolytes as a whole off the board for awhile.

Paul Smith fills in on this issue and the next, returning to the X-Men for the first time since Uncanny X-Men #175. His work seems a little off, relative to the earlier stuff, but is still very, very nice and much welcome.

Also returning this issue is Rusty & Skids, the former X-Factor wards turned New Mutants turned brainwashed members of the Mutant Liberation Front turned Acolytes, with the pair discussing whether they made the right decision joining the Acolytes, especially since Exodus is such a nutter.


Unfortunately for him, this is also the last appearance of Rusty, as he is killed by Holocaust. Somewhat surprisingly, his death has actually stuck.


Milan, the Acolyte with an arrow tattooed on his face and the 90s-riffic power to convert thoughts to video images, also dies this issue at the hands of Holocaust.


This issue reveals that, following his fight with Wolverine in Wolverine #90, Sabretooth is still alive, but comatose, and being monitored at the mansion along with Gambit and, now, Juggernaut.

It appears as though Exodus' head failed to get colored in on the cover (the Marvel Unlimited version corrects this).

A Work in Progress
When Milan comes into contact with Holocaust, he experiences flashes of "Age of Apocalypse", a favorite trick of books this month.


Storm tells Xavier about the human nightclub massacre from Uncanny #322.


The X-Men have seemingly removed Juggernaut’s helmet, glove thingees and bootS, which seems like something they shouldn’t be able to do.


Iceman (looking a lot like his AoA counterpart) stops Rogue (dressed like Gambit, her mind swirling with his memories) from stealing a (presumably antique and expensive) helmet.


Holocaust appears without his armor for the first time, looking something like he did in Stryfe’s Strike Files.


Exodus is stunned that Holocaust knows his name, saying no one living should.


Scott & Jean are returning from visiting Jean’s parents in Uncanny #322 when Voght teleports they to Avalon.


Austin's Analysis
Kicking off the book's return from "Age of Apocalypse" with an issue almost entirely dedicated to the Acolytes is somewhat jarring especially since the X-Men proper have been absent for four months. But the fact that both X-Men titles are essentially sharing the same cast of characters and many of the same plotlines helps mitigate it somewhat, with this issue's X-Men check-ins continuing directly from the events of Uncanny (pity anyone not reading both, of course). And the focus on the Acolytes is effective, helping build the tension on Avalon, as Exodus' (nonsensical) hubris primes the Acolytes (and Avalon) for a fall, just as Cyclops & Phoenix get sucked into things. It's a fun return for the series, even if it is a little removed from the X-Men itself, helped along by some always-appreciated art from Paul Smith.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Force #44. Friday, Wolverine #91. Next week, Generation X #5!

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11 comments:

  1. Pedantic correction alert: Paul Smith's last issue of the X-Men was Uncanny #278, not #175. You'd be easily forgiven for not remembering that particular fill-in : )

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  2. Not much to say about this one, though I do like it. I think I'll have more comments as the story continues into the next chapters.

    I remember that at the time this issue came out, I had read "From the Ashes" and was therefore familiar with (and really liked) Smith's heydey on the X-Men -- and I was shocked that this was the same guy. The work looked stiff and lifeless to me. But today, I have no idea what I was thinking. This issue looks really nice, and while perhaps not on par with the energy of his art from a decade-plus earlier, it's a welcome return.

    In particular, he hasn't lost a beat here with his depictions of Xavier and Coloussus. Both look like they stepped out of a comic from 1983. Though I must say that I wish Smith had been able to draw Cyclops in costume at some point during this two-issue stint, as his Cyke was my favorite of all his interpretations of the characters from his original run.

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    1. I really enjoyed the handful of X-Men Forever issues he drew because he had everyone wear the exact same outfits they wore during his 80s run! It made me unreasonably happy.

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  3. The comment about pitying anyone not reading both main X-books fits in with something I said on an earlier post about how Marvel at this point in time was operating as if the crash hadn't happened. Back in 1993, it wasn't silly to assume people were reading the entire line, because we were.

    1995 into 1996 though, was an entirely different story, yet here was Marvel operating from the same playbook. People weren't reading every issue. I was very spotty in my reading at the time from Marvel, by then reducing the X-books to a handful, and only Ellis' Excalibur on a monthly basis. Bob Harras hadn't figured out yet that 1993 was over.

    Maybe the sales still justified it for the X-Men, and it's not like Marvel's learned from that mistake-they're still operating today by a LOT of the methods laid down in 1993-but it always felt weird that they didn't seem to notice the roof had caved in.

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  4. Back on Avalon, Rusty & Skids are discussing whether they made the right choice joining the Acolytes when Scanner appears and tells Rusty Exodus wants him to check on Milan.

    Skids wonders if Exodus knew what they were discussing and whether he was leading Rusty into a trap, which has to be exactly the case, right? I don't recall whether this is resolved, but this stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Scanner has the power to pop in anywhere on the station instantaneously. She could pop in to check on Milan at any time -- she even pops in to check on Rusty when Rusty is killed!


    Unfortunately for him, this is also the last appearance of Rusty, as he is killed by Holocaust. Somewhat surprisingly, his death has actually stuck.

    Poor Rusty. I feel like he had the potential to be a Cannonball-like character in the X-Factor kids team, but no writer ever seemed to know what to do with him.


    It appears as though Exodus' head failed to get colored in on the cover (the Marvel Unlimited version corrects this).

    Speaking of the cover: what exactly is going on with Colossus' legs?


    Storm tells Xavier about the human nightclub massacre from Uncanny #322.

    The X-Men have seemingly removed Juggernaut’s helmet, glove thingees and bootS, which seems like something they shouldn’t be able to do. [...]

    But the fact that both X-Men titles are essentially sharing the same cast of characters and many of the same plotlines helps mitigate it somewhat, with this issue's X-Men check-ins continuing directly from the events of Uncanny (pity anyone not reading both, of course).


    I didn't recall the books became so closely intertwined -- publishing like a single semimonthly title -- immediately after AoA. I'd thought that only happened after Nicieza left and Lobdell was doing both books. I guess it's possible, though, that the creators already knew what was coming as we have only a few issues left until Nicieza's departure.

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    1. Also speaking of the cover, this is a reminder that for some reason Andy Kubert never received the memo that Colossus wears an Acolyte uniform now. Literally every single artist to draw him since he joined the Acolytes has put him in the uniform -- even on covers -- except Kubert!

      (I'm more forgiving on Magneto since putting him in costume here can be seen as dramatic license -- but for Colossus it's just lazy. Colossus has a new, official costume at this point and it's an Acolyte uniform. It's been seen, as noted above, on covers. On trading cards. Etc. Magneto has no iconic look at this point, since he lays around in a bathrobe.)

      This will become even more painfully apparent, by the way, two issues from now when Kubert comes back and Colossus's outfit magically transforms from Acolyte uni to X-Men costume between chapters.

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  5. Man I thought the art was Kubert's for these issues but I guess not. I loved Paul's art in the late 100's of Uncanny but his return here....it's not good. Look at Beast in that picture above. I feel like he's almost going with an Adam Hughes mixed with Terry Dodson instead of just doing his slick nice lines. It also might be the digital coloring which really wasn't all that great at this time on the slick paper. Maybe the inking. If you compare his earlier Uncanny work, I just can't handle this style.

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  6. When this issue came out, I was really, really excited, because I felt that Holocaust would be a great and feared villain for the X-Men. But, nothing came out of this. At all. I don’t remember seeing him again afterwards. (He may have appeared somewhere else, but I only cared for Uncanny and adjectiveless) Holocaust in the main timeline was a complete waste of a great potential.

    No one mentioned, but, here it comes: I was just as happy when I saw Rusty and Skids’ relationship to Cyclops and Jean (which will actually be mentioned next issue) be remembered. Last time Cyclops or any of the former X-Factor thought about their former wards was back in the late 80s. One of the worst characterizations I’ve seen from creators. They simply forgot that Boom-boom, Rictor and the others began their stories with the X-Factor.

    Lastly, it was a pleasure seeing Paul Smith back, despite the lackluster art (was the inker to blame?). I really thought he was back for good, but, it was just another fill-in. I don’t believe his art would have been deemed acceptable by fans who craved for more Madureira style, even if Paul Smith was drawing as good as he did back in 1983.

    Really a shame what they did with Holocaust and the missed opportunity...

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  8. P.S.: I don’t recall Holocaust having the power to drain people’s life-force. Is this the first time it was shown?

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  9. Daniel LichtenbergOctober 14, 2019 at 6:40 PM

    Exodus was just insufferable, wasn't he? Poor Colossus and the Acolytes, believing in Magneto's vision for a haven for mutants only to get stuck taking orders from this dolt. I've often wondered if Magneto chooses the henchmen he does so as to never have to worry about being upstaged.

    Did AoA ever explain why that version of Exodus was chill and modernized while the 616 version is this fruit loop?

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