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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

X-amining X-Men: Books of Askani

March 1996

In a Nutshell
A Marvel Handbook-style guide to the world of the Askani, featuring painted art. 

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Painters: Doug Alexander, Trace Drury, Bill Sienkiewicz, John Bolton, Larry Stroman
Pencilers: Jeff Lafferty, Nghia Lam, Gene Ha, Ian Churchill, William DeMott, 
Letterer: Jon Babcock
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Firsts and Other Notables
Similar to Stryfe's Strike Files or Age of Apocalypse: The Chosen, this is a one-shot dedicated to the Askani and the world of Cable's future as depicted (chiefly) in the Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix & Askani'son limited series. It profiles 18 different characters/groups, including Apocalypse, Rachel Summers, Cable (as "Askani'son") and Ch'vayre, pairing one page with a few paragraphs of text and a penciled image with a fully painted image of the character/group on another.

Two characers/creatures debut here, the Daegon, a monstrous dragon-like creature who hunts Apocalypse's foes, and the Wysps, faerie-like beings whom the Askani believe carry the Askani's hopes & prayers to others; as far as I know, neither has appeared outside of this issue.

This issue was on sale the same month as the first issue of the Askani'son miniseries, making it somewhat spoiler-y for some of the events/characters therein. 

A Work in Progress
Blaquesmith is said to be the only male to learn the ways of the Askani, to act as a safeguard for when the Askani’son might fall.

His body is also said to have been twisted & corrupted as a result (and I'm fairly certain that pencil image is just lifted from an issue of Cable).

Tetherblood is described here as functioning more as an older brother to Nate, whereas in Askani'son, the two seemed very much peers on equal footing. 

Zero is the non-living receptacle for all that is known & unknown about the machinations of Apocalypse, so add that to the list of things of Zero is (a member of the MLF, Tolliver's inheritance, Douglock's pal). 

The Cable Guy
It’s explicitly spelled out here that Cable’s power, unencumbered by keeping the TO virus at bay, would be massive, more than enough to defeat Apocalypse once and for all.

Young Love
Blaquesmith is said to carry an unrequited love for Mother Askani/Rachel. 

Austin's Analysis
The strange love child of an issue of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and Stryfe's Strike Files, this issue is part reference guide, part artist showcase and, presumably, part promotional material, and I have no idea what the audience for this thing was supposed to be (aside from "hardcore completists", of course). I mean, I fall perfectly into the overlap area in the Venn diagram of  "loves the Marvel Handbooks and all their ilk" and "is far more into Cable's weird future-Chosen One-Campbellian mythology than I should be", and even I have a hard time mustering much enthusiasm for this, now or when it was first published (and I was younger and more foolish and even more into the Cable mythology stuff back then).

Ultimately, I think that lack of focus is what leads it to fail: the profiles aren't as dense as a Handbook entry (in large part because these are new characters with, at most, a handful of stories to their name, even before taking into account the relative quality of those stories) while the painted art isn't enough of a focal point (or engaging enough) to stand on its own, and, of course, this setting gets mostly left behind after Askani'son, making this a fancy overpriced promotional issue for, at best, one four issue limited series. In terms of the money-grabbing oneshots Marvel pushed out at the end of 1995, this certainly isn't as head-scratching or random as Archangel #1 nor as phoned in as Logan: Path of the Warlord, but it is very much a testament to just how much X-Fans were willing to gobble up, no questions asked, in the mid-90s, that Marvel felt like they could make money publishing an art portfolio promotional guidebook to a specific setting within the world of a spinoff of a spinoff. 

Next Issue
Psylocke meets the Crimson Dawn in Uncanny X-Men #330, Forge prepares to battle the Adversary in X-Factor #120, and Nate meets Threnody in X-Man #13! 

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  1. I ate this up when it came out, but looking at it now it's like "What's the point?" There are some nice pinups, but I wouldn't pay money for this now. I think they were hoping readership would warrant Askani'son taking off as an ongoing, giving them 3 Cable solo books to milk for cash (counting X-Man). Looks like Marvel has gone back to the teen Cable well with his current book (which ties into ROM Spaceknight of all things).

  2. kinda seems like sample size trading card collection,.. but it's sized up with 2 complimentary staples. I wonder if blaquesmith and rachel ever met in the canonical present(?). can easily imagine a wedding issue set in time stream, on their way back to a shared dire future.

  3. The point was that Marvel was still partying like it was 1993, when we bought everything with the slightest connection to the X-Men on it, only it was 1996 and comics were driving off a cliff.

    The fact that Bob Harras lasted long enough in this industry to unceremoniously be laid off by DC in the summer of 2020 amazes me.


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