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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #325


"Generation of Evil"
October 1995

In a Nutshell
Gene Nation launches their attack on the anniversary of the Morlock Massacre.

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers: Townsend & Ryan
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Plot
The X-Men & the visiting Generation X are enjoying a spirited game of baseball when Colossus suddenly teleports onto the mansion grounds, holding an injured Callisto. When she regains consciousness, she informs the X-Men that Gene Nation, comprised of renegade Morlocks, is planning to kill one human for every mutant who died during the Morlock Massacre, on the anniversary of the massacre, which is today. Meanwhile, a recovering Gambit receives a phone call from Rogue, and learns she & Iceman are heading towards Seattle. Later, the X-Men arrive in Manhattan, their movements watched by Mr. Sinister & Threnody, who also note Gambit's departure, heading towards Seattle. Storm, Colossus & Wolverine enter the Morlock tunnels alongside Callisto. After skirmishing with Gene Nation, Storm confronts their leader, Marrow, who reveals she has attached a series of bombs to a group of captured commuters, and rigged a device to her heart that will soon detonate the bombs, unless Storm kills her first. As payback for Storm's failures as leader of the Morlocks, Marrow challenges Storm to a duel, forcing her to either let the humans die, or sacrifice her morals to kill Marrow. Storm draws first blood, and eventually triumphs, ripping out Marrow's heart, disarming the bombs but killing the young woman. In the aftermath, Wolverine tells her she did the right thing, and Storm agrees, troubled by how relatively easy the decision was for her.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the "All New, All Different" X-Men who debuted in issue #94 (being published roughly 20 years after that issue); X-Men #45 will continue the celebration, with both issues receiving extra pages and gatefold, cardstock, foil-enhanced covers, in the style of the time.

Presumably in honor of that anniversary, it also sees the (brief) return of Colossus to the pages of the series, working alongside the X-Men (he left the team to join the Acolytes in issue #304 and headlined the Acolytes-centric #315, before appearing in the "Fall of Avalon" story over in Adjectiveless). With Avalon destroyed, Magneto missing and the Acolytes seemingly disbanded, from her he will move over to Excalibur, where he will become a regular cast member of that book until its cancellation.


This also marks Joe Madureira's return to the series following the four issue Astonishing X-Men; if we look just at issues titled Uncanny X-Men, this is his first since issue #317.

This issue is set on the anniversary of the Morlock Massacre, with Gene Nation intending to kill one human for every mutant who died (despite the Morlocks being killed by other mutants).


Marrow is revealed to be Sarah, the young Morlock girl whom Cable & Domino helped Thornburg perform the “ceremony of light” for in Cable #15 (which gets incorrectly footnoted here).


Storm battles Marrow in a deliberate callback to her duel with Callisto in issue #170, and while Joe Mad is dynamic in his own right, he’s no Paul Smith.


Storm defeats Marrow by ripping out her heart with her bare hand, killing her (for now; she'll return in the Storm miniseries, and eventually become a member of the team).


This marks the end of the Gene Nation storyline; while Marrow will obviously return to be a consistent figure in the book for awhile, most of the other members of the group fade into obscurity at this point. 

Before that, one more member debuts: Reverb, a low-level telepath.


Callisto provides the origin of Gene Nation, a group comprised of the second generation of the Morlocks who survived Mikhail’s transportation of the Morlocks to a hellish alternate dimension in issue #291. Time moved differently there, so the kids have grown up and returned as adults despite the short passage of time from the perspective of the X-Men. More on that dimension and the Morlock's time there will be revealed in the Storm miniseries.


Rogue calls Gambit, who is worried about the X-Men learning the secret that drove Rogue away, and tells him she’s heading to Seattle (which freaks him out), setting up the events of X-Men #45.


Gambit's subsequent departure to meet her there is noticed by Threnody, who is still hanging with Mr. Sinister following the events of X-Men #27.


A Work in Progress
This issue opens with the X-Men playing a game of baseball, one of those things that characterizes the X-Men even though they don't do it *that* often (I believe the previous game was in X-Men Annual #13, the "Atlantis Attacks" tie-in).


A chunk of the cast of Generation X is on hand for the baseball game, including Banshee, Monet, Jubilee, and Skin.

Colossus drops in on the mansion this issue holding an unconscious, injured Callisto. Less clear is why, as we last saw the pair at the end of X-Men #44, in which (an uninjured) Callisto is tending to Colossus after his fall from Avalon.

There’s a lot of talk of Cerebro this issue, despite the fact that in X-Men #44 it was still out of commission following “Phalanx Covenant”.


“Mutant Massacre” gets referenced a lot this issue, so of course Archangel is extra mopey.


Callisto almost takes some shots at Storm’s leadership of the Morlocks, but Colossus intervenes, comparing blaming Storm for the Morlock Massacre to him blaming Xavier for Illyana’s death (as usual, Storm gets off easy for her lack of proper Morlock leadership).


Callisto implies that Gene Nation killed Mikhail.


With Colossus back for an issue, at least, we get a fastball special!


Marrow says Storm owed the Morlocks more than just a place in the mansion, where they’d be hunted by humans.


Young Love
Colossus’ & Callisto’s brief post-Siege Perilous romance is referenced.


For Sale
This issue has an ad for Overpower cards, Marvel's foray into the collectible card game market that was quickly supplanting the existing trading card industry at the time. It is the only CCG I have ever actually played (once upon a time I had a few Magic cards and some cards from the Star Wars CCG, but never actually played either game).


Bullpen Bulletins
The X-Facts page contains a brief history that led to the creation of the All New X-Men team.


Austin's Analysis
Like issue #193, this is an anniversary celebration of the "All New, All Different" X-Men. But where that issue revisited the events of that X-Men team's first official adventure (set in NORAD and featuring the future Warpath attempting to get revenge for the death of his brother in that story), for this one, Lobdell returns to "Mutant Massacre" (and, to some extent, Storm's duel with Callisto in X-Men #170) to celebrate the anniversary and wrap up his Gene Nation storyline (I would love to know which came first: Gene Nation, or the need to celebrate the anniversary with the 325th issue). In the process, he reunites the three (readily available) "All New" X-Men who were present for "Mutant Massacre" and sends them into the Morlock tunnels and a confrontation with Storm's failures as leader of the Morlocks.

It's not a surprising choice as an anniversary touchstone, even if it isn't as directly related to the genesis of the "All New" team, as "Mutant Massacre" has long loomed large over the series, and Lobdell, we will eventually learn, is also simultaneously teasing things that will further bring it front and center once more. "Mutant Massacre" also marks an ending of sorts for the "All New" team: while certain characters such as Kitty and Rogue and Rachel Summers had been added (and Banshee subtracted), the core "All New" team of Storm, Colossus, Wolverine and Nightcrawler had remained consistent until "Mutant Massacre", which set Claremont on the path towards upending the entire series (and not really resetting it back to a pre-"Massacre" status quo until the '91 relaunch).

But as fun as this issue is - it's great to have Joe Mad back, drawing "regular" X-Men for the first time in...nearly a year...and to see the X-Men (plus some Generation Xers) playing baseball again, and even to have Colossus back in the series - it doesn't quite land the thematic punch Lobdell seems to be going for. The somewhat valid questions surrounding Storm's handling of the Morlocks raised by Marrow get mostly waved aside, and Storm's killing of Marrow in the course of their duel, while clearly meant to echo her earlier fight with Callisto, doesn't have the same impact the second time around: Storm crossing that line was a big deal for the character in 1983, and while Marrow here (seemingly) dies at Storm's hands (whereas Callisto ultimately survived Storm's killing blow), that escalation feels less shocking in the wake of the intervening twelve years. Storm is no Wolverine, but for her to kill someone to save the lives of innocents isn't the shocking twist or defining character inversion Lobdell is clearly positioning it as here. He even ends the issue with Storm mostly shrugging it off, with Wolverine's help, inviting the question of what the point of all this even was then.

As a conclusion to the Gene Nation storyline, this is fine (if a bit abrupt). As a return to the "Morlock Massacre", it's better than, say, the "last" Morlock story from issues #291-293 that leads indirectly to this one. But as a celebration of the "All New, All Different" X-Men it comes up a little bit short, not quite resonating with the "All New" history as much as previous efforts, nor making as much of a statement on the changes in Storm's characterization as it clearly intends to be making.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Havok mopes in X-Factor #115. Friday, Nate Grey is on a boat in X-Man #8. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #45!

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7 comments:

  1. I love that the celebration of the "All-New, All-Different" team is composed of an issue of UNCANNY starring and/or cameo-featuring four of the "new" X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Banshee), while X-MEN's contribution is an issue starring two characters who joined the team years later and one original X-Man.

    Anyway -- I liked this one originally, mainly for the superficial stuff you mentioned above: Madureira back on art, Colossus reunited with Storm and Wolverine, the fastball special, etc. -- and Mister Sinister talking cryptically was of course a major plus. But even back then, I found myself wondering, "why the Morlocks again?" X-creators liked to return to that well once in a while, and I never got it. I liked the original Morlock story for what it was -- though I've wished for years, ever since learning about it, that Paul Smith's inclusion of a million more Morlocks than Claremont intended could be undone. But I've never cared for the Morlocks beyond that story. I just find them uninteresting.

    I do think Lobdell hits some interesting character moments here, as he always does, but as a wrap-up to the Gene Nation story and a turning point (?) for Storm, I agree that it misses the mark.


    "This issue has an ad for Overpower cards, Marvel's foray into the collectible card game market that was quickly supplanting the existing trading card industry at the time."

    I wasn't a massive CCG guy (I was way more into tabletop RPGs), but there were a few I tried: Decipher's STAR TREK and STAR WARS, and OverPower. I liked OverPower somewhat, though it never felt "comic booky" enough to me. I tend to feel that if you can strip the license out of a game and the game still plays the exact same way, then it's not a great game for that license -- and OverPower felt that way to me. It wasn't a "Marvel game"; it was a game with the Marvel name slapped on it.

    That said, I had a friend who absolutely loved OverPower, and to this day says it's the best CCG ever made -- but to my point, he's also said that he would've kept playing a "generic" version of the game if Fleer had lost the Marvel license.

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    1. I found myself wondering, "why the Morlocks again?" X-creators liked to return to that well once in a while, and I never got it.

      This is not about the Morlocks; the Claremont era Morlocks had enough interesting characters who should be there if it was about the Morlocks specifically.

      This is about The Mutant Massacre. I'm obviously biased as it happened in my formative year as a reader, but it was an extremely powerful storyline in what possibly were formative years for some of the creators too. The ante got upped when the Marauders showed up, especially in and for the UNCANNY.

      And the Morlocks really weren't central characters in the storyline, they were just fodder for it. As a reader, I feel called out here for not really having cared about the dead Morlocks when a number of X-Men got severely injured. Maybe they (and the creators) are targeting humans, as the readers are humans. I would guess that is why the Morlocks are a bit of an itching sore that has gotten brought up every now and then after Claremont's departure. Claremont pretty much discarded them, so maybe there's even a bit of "yeah but whatabout" by the follow-up act, because if you want to be the man as an X-Men writer, Claremont is the man you need to beat.

      Alas, the execution here is completely meh. The Mutant Massacre changed the whole direction of the book, culminating to the Outback era. It also was the original X-over. This story, at this time, is essentially a one-off threading water between the crossovers with nothing really allowed to change in the big scale, so all the potential gets wasted in the end. Not least in the angst department. But let's have Storm rip a heart out of someone instead.

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  2. Didn't Storm also kill Reverb without much hullabaloo? I think this too lessened any impact that Marrow's death might have otherwise had.

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  3. Storm battles Marrow in a deliberate callback to her duel with Callisto in issue #170, and while Joe Mad is dynamic in his own right, he’s no Paul Smith.

    Definitely not. The staging is very anime (especially that "cross swords, wait a beat, dramatic outcome" panel which I'm usually a sucker for) but without real care to its execution, and the big, distracting sound effects & end speech really take away from it. Nowhere near as powerful as Smith's wordless, grim original. Say what you will about Claremont's dialogue & captions, he knew when to NOT have anything said or described and just let the art do the heavy lifting.

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    1. There's also the fact that the Storm/Callisto duel was a massive point in Storm's character arc, including the killing strike into Callisto's heart. She had been struggling with assuming the mantle of the leader of the X-Men after Cyclops, who had just been present (and naturally assuming the leadership) for the Brood story, and when Kurt challenges Callisto for a duel over the Morlock leadership, Pestilence-stricken Storm vetoes that and insists precedence as the leader of the X-Men.

      Here, there's zero surprise that Storm has it in her, and no larger thematic whatsoever. Unless you think that Storm (again) solves the pretty mansion people specific issue just by kniving the Morlock leader and despite the pomp and the talk stops caring about the Morlocks.

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  4. Who is the orange Gene Nation member who appear in the hologram picture, but not anyone else? The way that Madureira positioned him, it felt like he was the leader, but this was not the case. I only remember seeing him much later, having joined evil Havok’s team, whey they attacked an airplane in which Cyclops as in. Was he ignored after UXM 325? No one at the time thought about why was he included here, if he did not appear anywhere else?

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  5. It's interesting that, before Marrow, we had Lucifer with a bomb somehow connected to his heart way back in X-Men #9.

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