Wednesday, March 4, 2020
X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) '95
"A Sinister Heart" / "Words"
In a Nutshell
Genesis targets Mr. Sinister through his relationship with a former actress.
Writers: J.M. DeMatteis & Ralph Macchio, Scott Lobdell with Matt Idelson (2nd Story)
Pencils: Terry Dodson & John Paul Leon, Ramon Bernardo (2nd Story)
Inks: Jon Holdredge & Shawn Martinborough, P. Craig Russell (2nd Story)
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Mike Thomas, Mike Rockwitz (2nd Story)
Editor: Mark Powers
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
Beast & Jean Grey are at Beast's cabin in the Catskills, awaiting the arrival of Cyclops & Archangel for a weekend of relaxation, when they're attacked by the Dark Riders. Jean is captured, but manages to leave a faint telepathic trail for Beast to follow. Jean is taken to a Hollywood mansion, where Genesis, master of the Dark Riders, has captured an old woman named Faye Livingstone, drawing the attention of Mr. Sinister. Genesis wants Jean to read Faye's mind in order to learn why Mr. Sinister secretly visits her every year. Sinister, held at bay with Faye captured, recalls his romantic relationship with her in Depression Era Hollywood, how she ultimately found his secret lab and he was forced to hold her captive in order to conduct genetic experiments on her. Beast arrives and fights his way inside the mansion, where he convinces Jean to do as Genesis is asking and connect Sinister and Faye's minds. Once she does so, the pair share a final dance, and Faye tells Sinister she knows that, despite his cruelty, he truly did love her. Faye then dies, and Genesis leaves, having found no weakness in Sinister to exploit. Mr. Sinister then allows Beast & Jean to leave as well. They return to the cabin, ruminating that it is not their powers, but their capacity for love - which Sinister rejected - that gives them their strength.
Brian Braddock receives a letter from his sister, Betsy. She tells him of a recent visit she and Archangel took to a county fair. As they enjoyed the fair's attractions, they pondered their relationship and whether, in light of all the romantic struggles of their fellow X-Men, they should embrace their feelings for one another. Ultimately, on the strength of their shared experiences of being manipulated by outside forces, they decided to take the leap and declare their love for one another. Flying home, Brian is proud of sister for taking the risk.
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue provides one of the first concrete glimpses into Mr. Sinister's past, revealing that he once lived in Hollywood in the 1930s, where he conducted clandestine experiments and ultimately fell in love with an actress whom he initially courted (and kidnapped) for her genetic potential.
Genesis, making a rare appearance outside of Cable and Wolverine, functions as the villain of the story, basically just attempting to eff with Mr. Sinister on behalf of the deceased Apocalypse (whom Genesis says was betrayed by Sinister), before shrugging his shoulders and heading off to continue his plans for Wolverine (which will unfold across issues #95-100 of that series).
In his flashback, Mr. Sinister references "a deal with the devil"; this is hinting at the relationship between him and Apocalypse (which will be fully detailed in The Further Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix), in which Sinister pledged himself to Apocalypse in exchange for longevity and genetic knowledge.
John Paul Leon, who will pencil the later Sinister-centric, Victoria-set Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix miniseries, draws the flashback sequences in the first story.
The Chronology Corner
Beast appears here between Wolverine #92 and Uncanny X-Men #325 (and just before his appearance in Avengers: The Crossing). Jean appears after X-Men #44 and Wolverine #91, and before Uncanny #325. X-Men Unlimited #8 takes place after this issue.
A Work in Progress
Mr. Sinister uses the alias "Nathan Essex" in 1930s Hollywood.
Beast bought a cabin in the Catskills that he and Iceman would bring dates to during the Silver Age.
Captain Britain finds himself with more patience since his trip into the timestream.
Brian refers to Kwannon as having been Chinese; I’m honestly not sure if that’s right or wrong (though I feel like later stories specifically say she is Japanese).
Angel refers to Scott & Jean having gone through seemingly 30 years worth of struggles, a clever acknowledgment of real world time within the context of the sliding timeline.
The Reference Section
Jean compares Beast’s attempted O5 reunion to the Boomer nostalgia-fest film The Big Chill.
A coloring lapse makes it look like Jean was skinny dipping.
Always appreciate a callback to Vera, Beast's Silver Age girlfriend (who last appeared in X-Factor).
Archangel & Psylocke declare their love for one another, predicated on their shared experiences having their bodies & minds manipulated by outside forces (which is thing that brought them together in the first place).
This is far from a perfect issue - the art is muddy (especially, oddly enough, in the present day stuff by the Dodsons rather than the flashbacks by Leon, despite the flashbacks presenting a sort of mad scientist/monster movie vibe), the scripting, at times (particularly when Beast is ruminating on life and love), overwrought, and in Genesis, it features a character who ties the issue to a very specific moment in X-history (ie the year that Genesis was a thing) whose plot in this issue is questionable, at best - but as annuals go, this is pretty decent. Mr. Sinister is a character who has become more and more of a regular fixture in the books since the linewide relaunch in '91, having his fingers in multiple narrative pies at this point, yet this is really the first significant effort to flesh out his characterization and backstory a bit, showing a more human (but still pretty monstrous, Faye's questionable declarations of love at the end aside) side to the character while also teasing a connection to Apocalypse. And with Beast on hand as one of the two main protagonists in the story, this issue becomes another installment in the quiet "Beast develops a grudging respect for Mr. Sinister, biologist to biologist", following on from issue #27 and #34 of the main series. It has its problems, but all-in-all, this is a decent Beast/Sinister story, and a strong annual overall.
Next week, Generation X makes a new friend in Generation X '95!
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