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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #49

"Eyes of a New York Woman"
February 1996

In a Nutshell
Bishop battles Fatale as Dark Beast discovers the existence of regular Beast

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Pencils: Jeff Matsuda
Inks: Dan Panosian
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Kevin Somers
Separations: Malibu Hues
Editor: Bob Harras

Plot
At Harry's Hideaway, Bishop attacks Pamela, the waitress, believing her to be spying on him. Beast intervenes, but Bishop hurls him across the room, calling him a pet of Apocalypse. Responding to the disturbance, a police officer enters & Bishop's disarms him, but Pamela, not wanting to make things worse for Bishop, offers to take him back to her apartment to clear his head. Meanwhile, Gateway abducts Chamber from Xavier's School in Massachusetts; the only word Monet was able to get out of Gateway's mind before he disappeared was "Onslaught". Back in New York, Beast searches for Bishop, who is being watched by Dark Beast through Pamela's eyes. When Bishop wakes up, Pamela reveals herself as Fatale and attacks him. Their fight spills out into the street, drawing Beast's attention, but Dark Beast calls it off when he spots his doppelganger for the first time, as he is inspired to start a new, more sinister, plan.

Firsts and Other Notables
After debuting his new shaved head in issue #46, this issue features Bishop's new costume, as he leaves behind the XSE uniform he's worn since traveling back in time. This will be his new default look more or less until the launch of his short-lived solo series a few years down the road.


It is revealed in this issue that Harry's Hideaway waitress Pamela is Fatale, though obviously this isn't wasn't the plan all along, as Fatale didn't exist when Scott Lobdell first teased a mystery surrounding Bishop and the random Harry's waitress (most likely, there was no plan, and this was another of Lobdell's patented "toss out a mystery, come up with the resolution later" moves).


Dark Beast comes face to face (via Fatale’s broadcast of her fight with Bishop & Beast) with his 616 counterpart for the first time this issue (in a page whose effectiveness is marred by some dodgy 90s computer effects), which sets up the events of X-Men Unlimited #10 and the plotline in which Dark Beast takes the place of regular Beast amongst the X-Men. More on that below.


Gateway grabs Chamber and teleports both of them away from Xavier's School in this issue, setting up their appearances in next issue. As they disappear, Monet is able to pull one word from Gateway’s mind: Onslaught (the relationship between Onslaught & Gateway and why he abducted Chamber is never really explained very well).


The Statement of Ownership in this issue lists the average number of issues sold in the previous year to be 333, 639, with the issue closest to filing date selling 394,939 copies.

Creator Central
Mark Waid eases himself onto the book, scripting Lobdell's plot. Jeff Matsuda, still getting fill-in work ahead of becoming X-Factor's new artist after Steve Epting leaves, does the art.

The Chronology Corner
The Generation X appearances all occur between issues #11 and #12 of that series.

A Work in Progress
Dark Beast has scanned Bishop’s mind, enabling him to craft the Pamela Greenwood persona as Bishop’s ideal woman.


The captive Havok appears briefly, unconscious.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Twice in this issue, Beast makes comical references to being married to Teri Hatcher (best known at the time for Lois & Clark).


Austin's Analysis
This issue is less fill-in-y, in that it actually advances a few plotlines, however incrementally, but is nevertheless very frustrating. The reveal that the waitress from Harry's Hideaway is Fatale technically resolves one of those "throw it out there and answer it later" mysteries swirling around the franchise, but it's hard to care too much when Fatale is such a one-note character with no significant connection to Bishop in the first place (though, to be clear, closing these things off rather than leaving them dangling is nevertheless appreciated). And the big payoff to this issue - Dark Beast learning about his 616 counterpart, setting up the "Beast Swap" storyline that will carry through to "Onslaught" - is hampered by the fact that it just makes no sense at all that Dark Beast has never seen (or even suspected) that he had a counterpart.

He's been watching Bishop close enough to plant Fatale at the X-Men's preferred watering role, and crafted a persona for her modeled after Bishop's personal desires, but never in the course of that action until now encountered his doppelganger, who lives in the same house with Bishop and frequents the same bar? All Dark Beast has done since coming over from "Age of Apocalypse" is stare into monitors to watch people & events from afar, and he's never once in his twenty-ish years on this world seen his counterpart, one who is a famous scientist and former Avenger who made a televised appearance in an issue just a few months before this one?

It boggles the mind how we're supposed to buy this. And if it was in service to a better storyline, excuses could be made and disbelief, suspended. But there's nothing about Dark Beast changing places with regular Beast that is predicated on him only now learning of Beast's existence. It's a forced moment of shock for the character that adds nothing to this specific story or the plotline as a whole, and it makes this issue - which is otherwise at least workmanlike in advancing a few other plotlines and thus can't be dismissed entirely- all the more frustrating .

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Boomer gets a new look in X-Force #51. Friday, Wolverine is framed in Wolverine #98. Next week, Archangel #1!

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11 comments:

  1. "(the relationship between Onslaught & Gateway and why he abducted Chamber is never really explained very well)."

    It reminds me of the idea never fully explored by Chris Claremont that Shadow King was controlling Gateway during the Non Team Era.

    "Jeff Matsuda, still getting fill-in work ahead of becoming X-Factor's new artist after Steve Epting leaves, does the art."

    Here, Matsuda's pencils are still acceptable.




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  2. "It reminds me of the idea never fully explored by Chris Claremont that Shadow King was controlling Gateway during the Non Team Era."

    What references did Claremont make to this? I remember it being hinted at in Forge's vision/dream (the one where he decides that Storm must be alive); am I missing another one?

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    1. There's that, and as ProfessorSi says, Gateway seemingly drops the Carol side of Rogue split off by the Siege Perilous with Shadow King, without explanation. In general, there's a lot to Gateway that's never really been explained, and Claremont has said in interviews & whatnot that he intended to establish a relationship between the two in the runup to issue #300 and the climax of his whole Shadow King storyline, but even for Claremont, he didn't plant a ton of seeds towards that idea before he left.

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  3. I can't remember, but doesn't Gateway or his bullroarer anyways, transport 'Carol' directly to the Shadow King in Uncanny #269?

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  4. The whole Sugarman/Dark Beast in the 616 20 years in the past is such a stretch, by the time they reach 20 years in the future, they would be in their 40's/50's basically, much older than their current 616 counterparts. Not only that, but according to the sliding scale, that would put them before so many events happening in the 616 that define it. Why wouldn't they:
    Talk to Apocalypse and start things in motion.
    Kill of Xavier or Magneto before any of this happens.
    Not just hang out with the Morlocks.
    Do anything but what they've done so far.
    Setting up Genosha was Sugar Man's thing but from what we briefly know about him from Gen X, that doesn't even feel like something he would have done.

    It's beyond a waste and doesn't make sense throwing them in and then acting like it wouldn't change anything in our current timeline, or wouldn't it just create a new timeline where it diverges from the normal 616 with them coming into it and changing things in the past?

    I hate time travel stories with a passion, they have to be goofy like Bill and Ted's or simply accepting that none of it makes sense like the Terminator.

    But saying that Dark Beast doens't know who the regular beast is when he's been around the Morlocks who know him, Beast has been on TV multiple times, both as an Avenger and an X-Man and being now 20 years older than regular Beast, ARGGGGG. This sort of stuff is what really took me out of X-Men during this time period. I was still buying, but not really enjoying it. When going from Claremont to this was such a big dropoff.

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    1. It's beyond a waste and doesn't make sense throwing them in and then acting like it wouldn't change anything in our current timeline, or wouldn't it just create a new timeline where it diverges from the normal 616 with them coming into it and changing things in the past?

      I think the idea is that it's supposed to be a closed loop time travel story - what unfolded is what always unfolded, we just didn't know Dark Beast & Sugar Man were there until now because they weren't inserted until "Age of Apocalypse" (and it didn't create an alternate reality per Marvel Time Travel Rules because of the unique nature of Age of Apocalypse and the role of the M'Kraan crystal in the story), but all that said, it's still pretty dumb and adds very little to the narrative. I mean, I guess I'm glad we finally got an official explanation for why Sinister ordered the Morlock Massacre, but it's pretty dumb and it seems like nearly anything else would have been better.

      I hate time travel stories with a passion, they have to be goofy like Bill and Ted's or simply accepting that none of it makes sense like the Terminator.

      And I *adore* time travel stories of all shapes and sizes, yet the Dark Beast & Sugar Man retcons do very little for me regardless.

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    2. it didn't create an alternate reality per Marvel Time Travel Rules because of the unique nature of Age of Apocalypse and the role of the M'Kraan crystal in the story

      I recently restarted listening to "Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men" due to the lockdown, and I was surprised to hear them give this same explanation as to why time was rewritten to form the AOA rather than branching off from the main timeline as an alternate reality. I had been operating under the idea that time was rewritten because Legion went full god-mutant in "Legion Quest." Specifically, I am thinking of the dialogue between Storm and Legion in Uncanny #320:

      Storm: History cannot be altered.
      Legion: Listen to me, Ororo. Time is not absolute. Within this desert cauldron, I have generated chronal energies undreamt of by any timewalker. Energies that will allow me to twist fate and destiny to my own design.

      Was the M'Kraan Crystal called out in the narration at some point to explain that it was the cause of the rewrite instead?

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    3. I think I read someplace years ago that Bob Harras actually had to convince Mark Gruenwald to allow AoA to happen as a rewritten timeline rather than a splintered/parallel one. I’ve always found that amusing for some reason.

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  5. This will come up later, but Dark Beast is a complete moron for moving into the mansion with 3 telepaths thinking he won’t be discovered. If Onslaught hadn’t helped him this ruse would have ended pretty quickly.

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  6. Again, X-MEN feels like it’s treading water ahead of “Onslaught” while UNCANNY continues to feel more important (plus, clearly, UNCANNY is getting more of Lobdell’s attention since he’s not even scripting X-MEN at this point).

    I did like this issue when I was younger, though, both for resolving the Pamela mystery and for the moment with Dark Beast first seeing Beast in the closing pages, which gave me genuine chills back then. Nowadays, however, unlike a lot of the other moments which still tingle my spine 25 years later — even if I know they’re ill-conceived or won’t go anywhere — this one has lost that effect on me for the absurdity of it that you noted above.

    The funny thing is, at this point in my teens, I was still buying into all of it. I don’t think I ever considered or questioned how Dark Beast was unaware of his counterpart (or, to be honest, even considered that he should have been aware of him) — I just went with it and loved it. It wasn’t until reading G. Kendall’s review of this issue on NOT BLOG X, more than ten years after the fact, that I realized it made no sense!

    (Also, I know this is Scott Lodbell’s plot, but you’d think a writer with an excellent head for continuity like Mark Waid might have questioned this development. I wonder if he ever challenged editorial on it.)

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    1. (most likely, there was no plan, and this was another of Lobdell's patented "toss out a mystery, come up with the resolution later" moves).

      While this is definitely a Lobdellian move and I understand what you’re saying, I’m not sure he had a patent on it. I suspect many comic writers did it this way, whether teasing something they intended to figure out later, or changing their own ideas behind the scenes before they got to the point where they were going to resolve something. I really think the concept of planning everything out in advance like a novel is a relatively recent development in the post-2000 world of writer-driven comics.

      I’m sure I’ve said it here before, but it’s probably been several years — I actually prefer comics written by the seat of the pants. Plot out major beats, of course, but make everything else up as you go along. A run written that way (which I believe is how many/most runs were written pre-2000ish) feels more organic/natural to me somehow than when you read a run where every development was meticulously planned well in advance.

      (I remember years ago, reading an interview with Bendis where he talked about how he was usually something like 18 months ahead of schedule on most books he wrote, and that really disappointed me because it sounded way too organized. I’ve always liked to imagine comic writers plotting and scripting their stories right up against the deadline. That sounds more exciting and creative to me. But then I’m not a professional writer, so what do I know??)

      The weird thing is, comics is the only place I feel like this. You’re writing a novel? Yes, of course you need to plot the entire thing out (though I’d love to read a novel made up chapter by chapter as the writer went along, if only for the trainwreck novelty of it). You’re writing a serialized TV series? Then yes, plot out every episode of the season in advance!

      But you’re writing a comic? Absolutely make it the heck up. Don’t try to know what’s going happen in a year or even six months. Come up with everything as you go along. Let events build naturally with no endpoint in mind, and see where it takes you. That’s how I’ve always imagined most of my favorite runs were written (which I suspect is not far from the truth based on interviews I’ve read over the years with various 70s/80s/90s writers), and if that wasn’t the case, I don’t want my illusions shattered!

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