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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #43

"Falling From Grace"
August 1995

In a Nutshell
Cyclops & Phoenix attempt to survive the destruction of Avalon.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Guest Penciler: Paul Smith
Inkers: Matt Ryan & Cam Smith
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Kevin Somers/Digital Chameleon
Grace Catcher: Bob Harras

Plot
Professor X telepathically tries to contact Cyclops & Phoenix, who have been teleported to Avalon in the midst of Exodus' battle with Holocaust. On Avalon, Cyclops & Jean try to find Skids, and learn Rusty was killed by Holocaust. Elsewhere, Colossus debates abandoning Cyclops & Jean to escape with Magneto. At the X-Mansion, Voght tells Xavier he'll never break through Exodus' psionic shields, but he continues to try. On Avalon, Cyclops rallies the remaining Acolytes to escape, while Phoenix sets out in search of Skids. After Xavier breaks through and makes contact with Jean, he tells Colossus to use an escape pod to escape with the comatose Magneto. As Jean uses her power to leave the station and recover Skids, Cyclops leads the Acolytes to the escape pods, only to discover they're all missing or destroyed. As Exodus & Holocaust's battle causes the station to fully break apart, Cyclops orders Unuscione to use her exoskeleton to protect the hunk of wreckage to which he and the rest of the Acolytes are clinging, but as the pieces of the station begin crashing to Earth, Jean senses Unuscione's shields starting to falter.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the end of Avalon, Magneto's latest orbital headquarters, introduced in X-Force #25 (at least until pieces of it show up as part of Utopia in the 00s), as the station breaks apart due to Exodus & Holocaust's battle, sending the pieces crashing down to Earth. It also effectively ends the Acolytes as a group for the foreseeable future, until a revived Magneto regroups them shortly before "Magneto War" towards the end of the decade.

As such, the various players on Avalon are all sent scattered by the end of the issue: Exodus & Holocaust end up crashing in the ocean. Exodus will next appear in Cable #30 (the start of a crossover with X-Man), while Holocaust will return in X-Force #48.


Colossus & Magneto escape in an escape pod before the station breaks apart. Colossus' fate will be revealed next issue (and he'll eventually end up joining Excalibur following this), while Magneto's will be (seemingly) addressed in Uncanny X-Men #327.

Jean & Skids are sent hurtling to Earth on one piece of wreckage, protected by their respective powers, while Cyclops and the rest of the Acolytes are on another, using Unuscione's powers to keep themselves alive. Their fates will also be covered next issue.

Before destroying Avalon, Holocaust kills Javitz, the Acolyte who perpetually had a bandage/blindfold over one eye.


The three limited series for 1995 (all of which have to be crammed into the last 2/3 of the year because of "Age of Apocalypse") are announced in this issue's letter column: Wolverine/Gambit (from Loeb & Sale), Starjammers, and Askani'son (the sequel to The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix).

A Work in Progress
Tons of callbacks to original X-Factor run in this issue. First, Jean is determined not to leave Avalon without Rusty & Skids, their original wards.


Then Cyclops flies into a rage when he learns Rusty is dead.


This leads to him turning on Frenzy, calling back to the fact that she was the first evil mutant X-Factor confronted, when she tried to kidnap Rusty.


Exodus is able Force Jean out of his mind, causing her to realize just how powerful he is.

Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
The closing panels of this issue, with Jean sensing Cyclops' peril as Unuscione's shields start to fail, is a callback to X-Men #100 and the events which led to Jean becoming Phoenix, complete with the same "tac" sound effect.


Austin's Analysis
This is a fun issue, one which plays almost like a disaster movie (where the disaster is two super-powered lunatics whose fight with one another indiscriminately threatens the lives of everyone around them), with Cyclops & Jean furiously working to first stop the disaster, then get the Acolytes (and themselves) off Avalon, as the station crumbles around them. And for fans of the original X-Factor (like myself), there's also some much appreciated callbacks to Cyclops & Jean's time in that series, recalling their tutelage of Rusty & Skids and antagonism with Frenzy (one of the first evil mutants to appear in that series). Once again, all this is complemented by Paul Smith's pencils which, while not as polished as his earlier work (I don't think either the inkers or the paper stock are doing his work any favors), are still much appreciated, and make this a worthy sendoff for one of this era's more notable locations.

Next Issue
Next week: Generation X #6, Excalibur #88 and Cable #22!

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12 comments:

  1. Glad to see that I was not the only one happy seeing Paul Smith back on X-Men. I was very sad when I realized it was just a fill-in. He always had issues with deadlines, though. I don’t think he was ever able to stay for a long time in any comic.

    I was also very happy to see all those callbacks as well. It felt like an actual X-Men comic in a very long time. Pity it went nowhere, because Cyclops and Jean immediately forgot about Rusty and Skids.

    Am I the only one who was extremely excited with Nemesis/Holocaust appearing and was equally frustrated to notice that it went nowhere? I thought I’d see him again, and have him be properly introduced to the X-Men as a major villain. He simply disappeared! It seems he later showed up on X-Man, but I didn’t care about that comic. What a wasted villain!

    Lastly: what a terrible leader Exodus was! He didn’t care at all about his followers. Completely selfish and idiotic. He didn’t even try to tell his followers what to do, or to lead them in battle, or to warn them to escape. What happened with Exodus after this? Did any of the Acolytes called on his behavior afterwards?

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    1. It seems he later showed up on X-Man

      He mostly bounced around the other X-books: X-MAN, CABLE, X-FORCE. I think he pops back up in UNCANNY/X-MEN closer to Onslaught, but he definitely never becomes a BIG DEAL villain or anything.

      What happened with Exodus after this? Did any of the Acolytes called on his behavior afterwards?

      He's in a CABLE/X-MAN crossover, and gets a oneshot that establishes his origin as a medieval follower of Apocalypse. Then he's featured in X-NATION 2099 for a bit. Eventually he comes back to the Acolytes and serves in varying capacities there (he also leads an incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in the 00s). But he never really gets any comeuppance for his spectacularly awfully leadership in this era.

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  2. P.S.: That’s a terrible Andy Kubert cover. Look how awkward Magneto’s legs are. It would be far battle if he had shown Holocaust and Exodus’ battle instead. I believe Holocaust was also ignored in the previous cover? Doesn’t seem odd that a major villain showing up wouldn’t be given the deserved spotlight?

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    1. And, of course, he draws Colossus in an outdated costume (that's for you, Matt. :) ).

      I believe Holocaust was also ignored in the previous cover? Doesn’t seem odd that a major villain showing up wouldn’t be given the deserved spotlight?

      The Exodus/Holocaust battle is featured on the previous issue's cover (presumably Kubert wanted to do something different for this one). I'm also not sure that we're supposed to assume Holocaust is a major villain - on paper, there's nothing inherently more major about him than Dark Beast or Sugar Man (he's more powerful, sure). Marvel was hyping the "surviving" Age of Apocalypse characters, but I don't think they were making a bigger deal out of Holocaust than the rest (outside of, you know, Nate getting his own book). And if anything, at this point Holocaust *is* being highlighted even moreso than Dark Beast and Sugar Man at this point; he's at least the villain of this story, whereas they are, at most, involved in some behind-the-scenes machinations elsewhere. Heck, Dark Beast hasn't even appeared yet outside of X-MEN PRIME.

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    2. Austin, the reason I said that was because Holocaust was the sole surviving horseman from the AoA, and all the combined X-Men lead by Rogue was unable to stop him. I always felt that next to Dark Beast and Sugar-man, he was supposed to be far, far more important.

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    3. And, of course, he draws Colossus in an outdated costume (that's for you, Matt. :) ).

      Thanks! Just wait till I go off on Kubert in the next issue!

      (My actual comments on this one will probably show up here tomorrow.)

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  3. I guess it's nice that Scott finally remembered he was supposed to care about Rusty after having done zip to help either him or Skids after they were taken by the MLF.

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    1. Don’t say that! Cyclops and Jean went to dinner to discuss their relationship and a possible marriage for the hundredth time!

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  4. "Once again, all this is complemented by Paul Smith's pencils which, while not as polished as his earlier work (I don't think either the inkers or the paper stock are doing his work any favors), are still much appreciated, and make this a worthy sendoff for one of this era's more notable locations."

    It's about to arrive here a copy of "X-Men: From The Ashes" that I found at Mercado Livre for a bargain. I'm very X-Cited.

    "It also effectively ends the Acolytes as a group for the foreseeable future, until a revived Magneto regroups them shortly before "Magneto War" towards the end of the decade."

    I've just re-read "Magneto War" this week. Is the Astra/Nightcrawler dangling plot resolved at all?

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    1. I seem to recall reading somewhere that Marvel editorial decided Astra had been a bad idea from practically the moment she first appeared, and therefore nothing was ever done with her after “Magneto War”. Not sure she’s ever been seen again in any comic, even to this day!

      Of course, I don’t recall where I read that, and it was some time ago, so I could be misremembering at least somewhat.

      Much as I really liked Alan Davis’s year-long run on the X-books, I was not a fan of some of the “Magneto War” revelations, such as Astra as the unknown “fifth Beatle” of the Brotherhood, and the rest-conning of Erik Lenscherr into an alias. Also, I find it very amusing that the first X-Men movie was developed before the Lenscherr thing was dropped, so that’s been his real name for 19 years on the big screen, while it was undone 20 years ago in the comics!

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  5. I remember reading this one when it first released, and enjoying the wall-to-wall action. I think at the time I wished Andy Kubert could've drawn it, but nowadays I like Paul Smith's version just fine.

    I was quite familiar with the "All-New, All-Different" era at this point, and I remember getting excited over the final panels' homage to UNCANNY 100 -- and being let down a month later when it turned out that an homage was all it was. I had been hoping for Jean becoming Phoenix again, or some other revisit of the original saga. Oh, well!

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    1. Oh, forgot to say that I love how Cyclops takes charge and whips the Acolytes into shape to get them off Avalon, something we'll see more of next issue as some of them, at least, begin to develop a grudging respect for him.

      I also forgot to mention (don't know where my mind is today) that the fall of Avalon feels kind of weird to me. Magneto revealed it during "Fatal Attractions" in 1993, then promptly went into a coma. Now here we are, two-ish years later and the place is destroyed. And in the meantime, Exodus and the Acolytes really only factored into one major story ("Bloodties") and a handful of stand-alone issues. Avalon feels a bit like it never lived up to its potential at this point -- especially with regards to the idea of Colossus living among the Acolytes, feuding with Exodus, and trying to teach them about the other sides of Magneto, something we really only saw in UNCANNY 315.

      Compare this with the end of the decade, when Magneto becomes the ruler of Genosha. That setup only lasts for around two years, but we at least get a crossover to set it up ("Magneto War"), two mini-series dedicated to the premise (MAGNETO REX and MAGNETO: DARK SEDUCTION), and another crossover to close it out ("Eve of Destruction") before Grant Morrison nukes it at the start of his run. (And I'm sure I'm probably forgetting a stand-alone issue or two during that span as well.) The Genosha thing may not have lived up to its potential either, but at least they tried, unlike here.

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