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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #339

"Fight and Flight!"
December 1996

In a Nutshell
The X-Men battle Havok and his new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencilers: Adam Kubert & Cedric Nocon
Inkers: Jesse Delperdang & Scott Hanna
Letters: Richard Starking & Comicraft/KF
Colors: Steve Buccellato & Team Bucce
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Spider-Man visits the X-Mansion to warn the team that J. Jonah Jameson is investigating Graydon Creed's campaign, and is worried he might become a target as a result. Later, Mystique watches one of Creed's appearances on TV, plotting her assassination attempt. Meanwhile, Cyclops and Beast board a plane at JFK airport; Jameson is aboard as well, and they're hoping to keep an eye on him while Storm and Joseph follow in the Blackbird. In London, reporter Nick Bandouveris anxiously awaits Jameson's arrival; having learned the truth about Creed's parentage, he worries for his life. As Storm tries to explain Cable's history to Joseph, another vehicle appears above Jameson's passenger plane. Havok, leading a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, blasts the top off the plane and tells Jameson the Brotherhood doesn't need his help stopping Creed. Cyclops attacks his brother, their fight spilling out into the open skies. Joseph manages to use his power to land the plane safely, while Storm saves Cyclops after Havok teleports away, but Jameson is left pondering the apparent presence of Magneto fighting alongside the X-Men. Back in London, Nick is killed by Bastion, who needs Creed to continue playing his part for the success of Operation: Zero Tolerance and can't risk his heritage becoming public and ending his political career. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Spider-Man makes a brief guest appearance at the start of the issue, to loop the X-Men in on the "J. Jonah Jameson is investigating Graydon Creed" subplot, as the X-books continue to dip their toes in what's left of the wider Marvel Universe post-"Onslaught". 

Similarly, the "Mystique is going to kill Graydon Creed" subplot from X-Factor makes its existence known in this series as of this issue, and Mystique spots the undercover Iceman while watching a Creed rally. 

As does the "hey, Havok is evil now" plotline, as Havok attacks a passenger jet carrying Jameson in this issue, displaying an ability to use his new harness with his powers to enable him some measure of personal flight. 

He is ostensibly leading his new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in this effort, though the only other one we see is former Gene Nation member Ever, and he doesn't really do anything. 

Jean's telepathy is acting up, and a footnote directs readers to recent issues of X-Man, but that plotline hasn't started there yet. 

A Work in Progress
When Spider-Man arrives on the X-Mansion grounds, he's confronted by Bishop, a subtle nod (however intentional or nod) to the fact that Bishop considers himself responsible for the mansion's security. Spider-Man also doesn't recognize Bishop, this version of Spider-Man (Ben Reilly) having never encountered him before. 

Havok insists he's more in control than ever before in his life, sounding totally like someone who is faking being evil whilst fighting his brother alone. 

Cyclops worries that perhaps this new evil Havok is actually the first time he's seen the real Havok (spoiler alert: it's not). 

Jameson notes to Beast that if the X-Men are hanging around Magneto again, they might end up with a PR problem on their hands. 

The threat of Bastion/Operation: Zero Tolerance continues to mount, as he kills a report working for Jameson who discovered the truth about Creed's family. 

The Cable Guy
There's a recurring bit in this issue in which Storm tries to explain Cable's whole deal to Joseph. 

Bullpen Bulletins
This month's Bullpen page features a tribute to the recently deceased Mark Gruenwald. 

It's in the Mail
A response to a letter in this issue promises the writer that "when and if a cure for the Legacy Virus is found, Cable is going to be involved". Spoiler alert: it will be a while yet before a cure is found, and when it does, Cable is in no way shape or form involved. 

Another writer is told there is no Psylocke miniseries coming anytime soon; about six months from now the Crimson Dawn miniseries featuring Archangel and Psylocke will be published (though I suppose that's not technically a *Psylocke* miniseries, and it's possible it genuinely wasn't in the works at this point in time). 

Austin's Analysis
Like it's predescessor, this is an issue less concerned with telling a coherent story (or even a chapter of a larger story) and more about setting up future stories while furthering the general narrative notions of "things are real bad for mutants right now" and "there's a Magneto with the X-Men now." In its introduction of the newly-vilified Havok to whatever portion of the Uncanny X-Men audience wasn't already reading X-Factor, it's also the issue I always think of in connection to the later retcon that Havok is faking his heel turn, as threatening the lives of an entire passenger jet full of civilians just to yell at his brother is a pretty big risk for someone who's only supposed to be doing evil stuff in the interest of a greater good. The disjointed feeling of the issue isn't helped by the split in artists, with the early Adam Kubert pages being quite lovely before giving way to Cedric Nocon's poor man Jim Lee's art. Certainly, the issue does the job it set out to do - illustrate that things are bad for mutants and highlight Joseph's presence in the series - but it's hard not to wish it had bigger aspirations at the moment. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Nate Grey finds an apartment in X-Man #22. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #59!

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  1. I believe we've entered peak "wheel spinning" in service of the next big crossover. Which is a little strange since Uncanny only crossed over for a single issue in O:ZT.

    In general, I liked these kinds of issues once in a while but it seems like these issues were the rule rather than the exception during this period.

    That aside, there is still enjoyment to be had here. Particularly I like the way it feels slightly more integrated with the larger MU than it has in the past. The explanation about Cable is great, as well.

    It also seems like Marvel was doing a lot of things off the cuff during this era. I believe about three months from this issue, they published an insert than promised the revelation Graydon Creed's killer in X-Factor #150 and a brand new X-Men title. The title itself was listed only as X-____ #1. I suppose they could have been referring to Mutant X #1, but from later interviews with Mackie it sounds like Marvel hadn't planned that far ahead.

  2. I'm with Drew on pretty much all counts (and I feel like I say that a lot lately). Wheels are being spun, fast and furious, and it seems clearer with every issue that Lobdell doesn't really know where he's going with any of this. I compare it with the "Onslaught" stuff, and it's like night and day. We know that Lobdell had no direction for Onsalaught either, but you read those issues and he fakes it really, really well. But recent issues of X-MEN and UNCANNY have both felt really aimless and unplanned.

    That said, part of this, at least in this particular issue, is due to Lobdell taking cues from Howard Mackie and X-FACTOR. As you said in your review, he's really just using this issue to check in on Mackie's plots, tying them to the X-Men and letting readers know what's going on over in that other series.

    But at the same time, I do love seeing the X-Men interact with Spider-Man and Jonah Jameson. But I must wonder, what's up with the weird torn midriff shirt Cyclops is wearing on the airplane? Aside from the fact that I have trouble imaging him ever wearing something like that, this is "square" Scott Summers, for Pete's sake! I've no doubt that even in the 1990s, he would've dressed up in a suit for an airplane flight.

    1. Forgot to mention that I was really touched by the Mark Gruenwald tribute. I knew little of him at the time, but nowadays, having learned a lot more about him, all those tributes make me a little misty-eyed.

      Also, I distinctly remember being surprised to see Chris Claremont's name among the quotes. I mean, obviously a human tragedy like this can (or at least should) trump personal grudges, but given he was on the outs with Marvel, I still found it shocking.

      Though a year later, he would be credited (among many, many others) with helping to conceptualize HEROES REBORN: THE RETURN, so who knows when the hostilities really melted away?

    2. I confess, I wasn't overly familiar with Gruenwald when he passed away. All I knew was that he had done some Captain America and that was the end of it. I developed a much greater appreciation for him after reading Marvel: The Untold Story. That was pretty tragic.

    3. @Michael I think Scott's in disguise?

  3. I just realized, I actually had this issue. My next door neighbor at the time was having a yard sale, and had some comics for sale for half cover price, so I bought a handful of them. Needless to say, that I forgot about this until I read this review tells you what I thought about this issue. Did I forget other issues before the Seagle/Kelly days? STAY TUNED.


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