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Thursday, November 11, 2021

X-amining X-Man #23

"Crash Course"
January 1997

In a Nutshell
Nate Grey is visited by Bishop and Rogue. 

Writer: Terry Kavanagh
Penciler: Roger Cruz  & Manny Clark
Inker: Bud LaRosa
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Mike Thomas
Editor: Jaye Gardner
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

As questions continue to swirl about Threnody's true loyalties to Mister Sinister, she leaves the apartment she shares with Nate to get some space, leaving a distraught Nate to miss Bishop approaching the apartment. Meanwhile, vying for the position of Black Rook of the Hellfire Club, Madelyne Pryor battles Sebastian Shaw's candidate, Scribe, ultimately defeating her and revealing Mountjoy to have take control of her body, thereby earning Madelyne the title. Back at Nate's apartment, Bishop wakes Nate, who lashes out at him telekinetically, an attack Bishop is able to redirect. They tussle, eventually spilling out of the apartment where Rogue intervenes, calming things down when she explains Bishop - who experienced Nate's home reality - was simply worried about him, prompting the pair to check on him. Though Nate remains distrustful, Rogue reminds him that he doesn't need to be so wary of all the X-Men. Rogue and Bishop depart, and Nate returns to his apartment, only to suddenly find himself in a changed world. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The Madelyne Pryor/Hellfire Club subplot peters along, with Madelyne battling Scribe - late of the London Hellfire Club's Inner Circle over in Excalibur - for the title of Black Rook in the "US" Inner Circle, and defeating her. This is Scribe's last appearance to date. 

She is revealed to have been taken over by Mountjoy, one of Bishop's enemies from the future whom Captain Britain intended to ferret out by joining the London Hellfire Club, also in Warren Ellis Excalibur run. This also marks his last chronological appearance to date (though he'll turn up again when I review the XSE miniseries). 

The end of this issue leads directly into the X-Man '96 annual. 

A Work in Progress
Nate - raised to be an entertainer who never experienced TV before - is turning into something of a couch potato. 

Kavanagh is perhaps hanging a lampshade on the series' earlier flaws as Nate reflects that he's spent so much of his time in this world running in place. 

Rogue suggests Bishop has reverted to his militaristic XSE training in the wake of the Professor's departure, which is both a cheap plug for the XSE miniseries but also consistent with what we've seen in other issues around this time, with Bishop returning to his "running security at the mansion" role. 

It's revealed here that it was Bishop watching Nate from afar last issue (a plot point which I completely blew past, apparently).  

Rogue - who is arguably the member of the X-Men with the best relationship with Nate in that they interacted earlier in this series and he didn't throw a hissy fit - reminds him that he doesn't treat the X-Men as a whole with such deep suspicion. 

Austin's Analysis
With this issue, the series continues to improve on its pre-"Onslaught" incarnation by focusing on relatively mild-mannered character dramas, but that schtick is only going to remain novel for so long, and something needs to change soon. If not for the Selene/Madelyne Pryor/Hellfire Club subplot, this might not seem so obvious, but this book has become hideously decompressed. While there's enough low stakes-conflicts occurring in the A-plots of the last few issues (Nate and Threnody get an apartment, Nate argues with the X-Men), the ongoing subplot serves to underscore just how little narrative momentum the series has: every issue, that plotline gets roughly three pages to advance itself, before disappearing until the next issue. So such pivotal moments as "Selene greets Shaw" and "Madelyne gets introduced to Shaw" are dolled out one incident per issue. The general hangout vibe it has cultivated of late is certainly a marked improvement over the general aimlessness punctuated by bratty outburts that preceded it, but the Madelyne plot has become a metronome of sorts, marking out the relative slow pace and underscoring just how little is actually happening each month. Ironically, without that subplot, the lack of incident may not be as striking (even while very little continues to actually happen), but with it, there's a general sense of "when are they going to get to the fireworks factory?!?" frustration mounting with each passing issue. 

Next Issue
Next week: Candra returns in X-Men (vol. 2) #60 and Wolverine fights Godzilla (sort of) in Wolverine #109. 

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  1. I just noticed Nate and Rogue must have the same hair stylist, lol. Seems like one of them should comment on it

  2. So in EXCALIBUR 100's comments, I didn't remember Mountjoy being in this issue at all; only Scribe. Yet here he is, despite Captain Britain having been shown, very definitively, to have knocked out Mountjoy in EXCALIBUR.

    Continuity quibble aside, this speaks to my general interest level in X-MAN around this time. As I mentioned in last issue's comments, #22 was the first issue I picked up with the intention to be a regular reader, but I lasted barely six months before dropping the series. And I remember next to nothing about any of these issues, aside from what few sparse memories might be triggered by the covers.

    Case in point, besides not remembering Mountjoy, I also had no recollection Rogue was in this issue, or anything else about it, beyond seeing the cover and thinking, "Oh yeah, this was the one where Bishop ambushed him in his apartment." Despite my wanting to like it, X-MAN really did nothing for me.

    That said, I appreciate Kavanagh referencing Bishop's knowledge of the Age of Apocalypse, since Lobdell has pretty much dropped it entirely at this point.

  3. I wonder why Asterix is missing his moustache when he appears in one of the channels watched by Nate.

  4. I'm starting to feel like I should make suggestive comments about these issues with hints of criticism but hold off on any solid conclusions until the next cross over. I'd blame the writers for all of the water treading but it's been pretty well documented that while Bob Harras was in charge it was near impossible to commit to any long term stories because he might decided to switch directions completely the next month. It's unfortunate since this pretty much becomes the norm until Harras leaves the X-Men. Not that there isn't some good stuff along the way, but it becomes less frequent as these "filler" issues become the norm. It get worse they closer they get to anniversary issues or crossovers.


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