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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #324

"Deadly Messengers"
September 1995

In a Nutshell
The X-Men battle Sack & Vessel.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Guest Penciler: Roger Cruz
Inkers: Townsend, Russell, Milgrom
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Editor: Bob Harras

Plot
Psylocke probes Gambit's mind, searching for the source of the darkness she sensed in him when he woke from his coma, but he senses her presence and forces her out. Meanwhile, in New York, the fight between the X-Men and Gene Nation members Sack & Vessel spills out into the streets. Graydon Creed is caught in the middle of it, but is rescued from some falling debris by Beast, arriving on the scene following his confrontation with Trish Tilby. As Cannonball defeats Sack, Wolverine realizes that the energy of the deceased which Vessel harnesses can be released, weakening him. Storm blasts Vessel with lightning, releasing the souls he'd harvested, but the arrival of the police force the X-Men to retreat rather than pursue Sack & Vessel into the Morlock Tunnels. Elsewhere, Rogue & Iceman arrive at a bar in Arizona, seemingly at random. But Rogue realizes Gambit's memories of the place led her there, while Iceman, who has begun having visions of Emma Frost, tries to call Xavier's School, but Emma refuses to answer.

Firsts and Other Notables
Rogue and Iceman stop at bar in this issue, a decision which turns out to have been subconsciously made by Rogue thanks to memories she absorbed from Gambit, as it's a place he'd been to before - Rogue seems to know the bartender, there's a picture of the bartender, Gambit and a third person, and Rogue asks after "Grey Crow". Grey Crow will turn out to be Scalphunter of the Marauders (the one whose costume is guns and whose power is to make things into guns), his past association with Gambit tying in to the whole "Gambit's dark secret is he helped lead the Marauders into the Morlock Tunnels triggering the mutant massacre" thing (Fabian Nicieza will also later return to the Gambit/Scalphunter stuff in his solo Gambit series, if memory serves).


A Work in Progress
While illicitly traipsing about in Gambit’s mind, Psylocke is depicted in her Lady Mandarin garb.


A connection between Gene Nation and the Morlocks is teased.


Both Sack & Vessel get a bit of exposition detailing their (highly specific and gross) powers.


Iceman is seeing Emma Frost in random places since their whole body swap (in issue #314). He tries to call her, but she (somewhat ominously) refuses to answer.


When Vessel sees Beast, he says “First One” under his breath, a reference to Dark Beast (and also exclaims “Mikahil’s breath”, a further indication of the Gene Nation/Morlock connection).


The Reference Section
“Who watches the Watchmen?”, the tag line of DC's Watchmen series (and something that was scrawled on walls and whatnot throughout that story as well), can be seen scrawled in a wall in the background of a panel.


For Sale
That Malibu acquisition is already paying dividends.


Austin's Analysis
Coming off two relatively quiet issues, this is the most action-packed issue of the book since the return from "Age of Apocalypse", consisting almost entirely of an issue-long fight with two members of Gene Nation (with a couple cutaways to Rogue & Iceman's road trip). Joe Mad remains in absentia, and after the relatively strong showing of Tom Grummet & Bryan Hitch in the previous two issues, go-to fill-in guy Roger Cruz's work here is much rougher (though as always with Cruz, still perfectly serviceable). More problematic is the fact that, in hindsight, two members of Gene Nation, hardly one of the series' all-time great villain groups, gives this particular group of X-Men (including seasoned vets Storm, Wolverine & Beast) as much trouble as they do (this isn't really a fight that needed to last an entire issue). Still, that's the nature of serialized storytelling (Lobdell certainly didn't intend for Gene Nation to become little more than an aftethought...), and the action does make for a nice change of pace, even if the art isn't quite as polished as the previous two fill-in's.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Factor gets a new look in X-Factor #114. Friday, Nate Grey loses a friend in X-Man #7. Next week, Wolverine '95 #1!

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9 comments:

  1. It was a mistake to pretend that Joe Madureira was the regular artist of UXM, only to feed in his popularity. It was obvious that he could not work on a monthly comic, just as Arthur Adams couldn’t in his time. They should have given Joe Madureira another X-Men title, that perhaps would be released every three months. Instead of this, Marvel kept him as the regular artist, while bringing several others to work as fill-in. The result is an inconsistent mess.

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  2. A print run of ONLY 40,000 COPIES?!?! Collectors take note!

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  3. "Rogue seems to know the bartender, there's a picture of the bartender, Gambit and a third person, and Rogue asks after "Grey Crow". Grey Crow will turn out to be Scalphunter of the Morlocks (the one whose costume is guns and whose power is to make things into guns)"

    I was wondering: How she didn't recognize him from Mutant Massacre or just before The Fall of The Mutants or even Inferno? Or am I wrong and they didn't met in any of these stories? (My comics are inacessible to check it now.)

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    1. By the way: Scalphunter of the Marauders.

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    2. She didn't meet him at all during Mutant Massacre, and only briefly for a few seconds just before FOTM. Inferno, well, both teams were tearing into each during that fight...

      But in any case, I'd like to think she would know who all the Marauders were, since Psylocke did read Sabretooth's mind for information on the Marauders during MM. You'd think she would have then shared all of that telepathically with the rest of the team at that time...

      As for Rogue not recognizing him from the picture, you could say he was a younger and clean shaven Scalphunter. Plus, given how long ago the Marauders were at the time and how little Rogue interacted with them, I can buy her not recognizing him immediately, and plus, him being in a picture with Gambit probably also wouldn't have her assuming that person in the picture was a former Marauder.

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  4. I never have much to say about these wall-to-wall action issues, but here are a couple of brief comments:

    1. Roger Cruz (whose work I don't necessarily mind in these pages) draws a horrendous-looking Beast. Also, when did blank white eyes become the character's default? Did Jim Lee start it? You'd see it sporadically in the early 90s, but I feel like it became way more common for a while around this point.

    2. Scott Lobdell does not have a great grasp of geography, if he thinks Arizona is "half a country away" from New York.

    3. Gray Crow, as pictured in the photo on the last page, looks absolutely nothing like Scalphunter. Clearly their being one and the same was a ret-con at some point.

    And speaking of Scalphunter, I seem to recall that post "Messiah Complex", during the "Manifest Destiny" event (which was just about my very last hurrah as an X-Men reader), there was a story where Scalphunter was trying to hide from the X-Men by working as a short-order cook at an isolated diner like this one. If I'm remembering that correctly, it was a nice continuity nod on the part of whoever wrote the story.

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    1. In fairness to Lobdell, he didn't say WHAT country, did he?

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  5. Night Man vs Wolverine. The Charlie Day and Hugh Jackman musical I didn't realize I wanted until now.

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  6. // the one whose costume is guns and whose power is to make things into guns //

    Rarely has a man loved a parenthetical aside as much as I love this parenthetical aside.

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