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Thursday, November 4, 2021

X-amining X-Men '96 #1

"One Day at the Mansion"

In a Nutshell
The X-Men, X-Force and Generation X gather at the mansion for a barbecue. 

Writer: Larry Hama
Pencils: Roberto Flores & Anthony Castrillo
Inks: Nathan Massengill & Al Milgrom
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Paul Becton
Enhancements: Malibu
Editor: Bob Harras

In the wake of Onslaught's defeat, the X-Men, X-Force and Generation X gather at the mansion for a day of rest and relaxation. After an intra-team baseball game, a Sentinel suddenly lands on the mansion grounds. The combined heroes attack, but the Sentinel reveals it gained sentience during Onslaught's attack and decided to warn the X-Men. It then succumbs to the damage inflicted by the X-teams, with Jubilee holding its finger as it dies. Later, the Summers family hosts a barbecue as the teams gather for a group picture, followed by fireworks compliments of Sunspot, Cannonball, Jubilee and Meltdown. Afterwards, Phoenix and Cable telepathically meld everyone's minds together briefly, in an effort to help everyone heal from their recent ordeals. 

Firsts and Other Notables
A hang out issue, this involves the X-Men, X-Force and Generation X casts gathering at the mansion basically just to hang out together. That includes playing a baseball game, making this issue one of the more overlooked ones in the small "the X-Men play baseball" canon. 

Their hangout is briefly interrupted by a Sentinel who, in the course of "Onslaught" gained sentience, and then sought out the X-Men to warn them of something before dying (it's not terribly clear what it was trying to warn about). 

Towards the end of the issue, everyone gathers for a group shot, which serves as a pretty decent snapshot (pun intended) of the casts of six of the nine monthly X-books as 1996 draws to a close. However, Psylocke is absent from the team picture for some reason, while Chamber, Mondo, Artie, and Leech appear in the picture but nowhere else in the issue. 

Incidentally, while I own a copy of this issue I bought off the stands back when it was published, this was one of the hardest issues yet to find digitally, legitimately or otherwise, for this project. Eventually, I ended up finding a digital "Onslaught" collection that included it (which makes its absence from Marvel Unlimited even more egregious since Marvel already digitized it for that collection!). 

The Chronology Corner
This issue takes place between Cable #36 and #37, X-Men (vol. 2) #59 and #60, X-Force #58 and #59, Generation X #23 and #24, and Wolverine #106 and #107

The Marvel Chronology places it between Uncanny X-Men #340 and #341, which seems odd, given Iceman's presence (he leaves the team in issue #340), though I suppose the thinking is he hung around for the events in this issue. 

A Work in Progress
Wolverine mentions the time he met a similarly-evolved/sentient Sentinel in Wolverine #72

Hama also calls back the death of Genesis in Wolverine #100, having Cable & Wolverine butt heads briefly over the Sentinel before giving way to a long-delayed conversation about Wolverine's killing of Cable's son and Cable's son's attempt to brainwash Wolverine and restore his adamantium which led to him ultimately turning Wolverine (briefly) feral. 

Magneto's time teaching the New Mutants is mentioned, and it's suggested that Cannonball isn't entirely comfortable around Joseph as a result. 

Similarly, Gambit is still fuming about the closeness between Joseph and Rogue. 

Psylocke appears without her Crimson Dawn markings, which simply seems like an art error (there's no way chronologically for this take place before she got them). 

Even Gateway shows up at one point. 

Jubilee and Meltdown snipe at each other as they prepare their fireworks extravaganza for the crowd, and I like to think this is a subtle callback to their interactions during "X-Tinction Agenda", when Jubilee ended up working with Boom-Boom and Rictor briefly after they'd escaped from Hodge. 

The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
Cyclops somehow manages to look like a square even while riding a dirt bike. 

Also, Cyclops is seemingly no friend of Hank Hill's when it comes to grilling. 

The Best There is at What He Does
It's also worth noting that Wolverine appears more or less normal ie not in his more feral, animalistic state, throughout this issue, even though his "normal" appearance over in his solo series at the time is attributed to him using an image inducer.

Austin's Analysis
I always remember this issue as "the one where a Sentinel crashes an X-Men barbecue" but really, the Sentinel is only in all of a few pages, and the X-Men don't really even do much except watch it die. Instead, this is, essentially, one big Post-Crossover Quiet Issue for "Onslaught", with three of the X-teams getting together to just hang out in the wake of the crossover (and Professor Xavier's departure). Additionally, Larry Hama takes the opportunity to write an epilogue of sorts to the events of Wolverine #100, giving Cable and Wolverine an opportunity to confront one another and comes to terms with what Cable's son did to Wolverine and what Wolverine did to Cable's son, a brief but nevertheless appreciated scene that helps support the cohesion of the overarching narrative. 

The art here isn't great: Castrillo's pencils are fine but a tick off his recent work in X-Force, while Roberto Flores' work in the front half is much rougher, with figures that are consistently off-model and frequently borderline-grotesque in appearance. Both are able to tell the story, but do so in a fairly mundane, repetitious way (perhaps overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters involved). If not for the lackluster art, I'd call this a hidden gem of the era. As it is, it's still a pleasant surprise, a double-sized issue dedicated almost entirely to a big group of characters just hanging out and reflecting on their shared history. It would be welcome in any era, but it is especially appreciated at this time of post-"Onslaught" malaise. 

Next Issue
Next week: Uncanny X-Men #340 and X-Man #23!

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  1. The art in this thing looks like a virtual "who's that?" of 1996 artists.

    I've never read this one and had no idea what it was about until today. Which is funny, because I do own it. It sounds like the kind of thing I would enjoy as I really loved the quiet issues of this era. Something I desperately miss in the modern era.

    What's really interesting is that the teams don't meet up until after the crossover. There were already a lot of characters teaming up in the event anyway and all of these characters likely would have cramped up the previous issues.

    I'm guessing the Sentinel was trying to warn them about Bastion's upcoming threat though I could be wrong. It would have been great if it was there to warn them that Marvel was about to go banrupt and the future of the company was on their shoulders.

  2. Addendum: I don't see Arcangel anywhere either? Perhaps he and Betsy snuck away for some private time?

  3. Is there a worse drawn Rogue in bikini in any comic than the one in this issue? It appears that front view characters look okay but any side view of characters in this issue look like a kid drew them.

  4. Meltdown snapping back at her boyfriend Cannonball stand out during the Cable and Wolverine argument stands out. A sign of things to come.

  5. "Incidentally, while I own a copy of this issue I bought off the stands back when it was published, this was one of the hardest issues yet to find digitally, legitimately or otherwise, for this project."

    What book did you wind up finding it in? I can't see it in any of my digital collections, or even on Comixology! The weird thing is that it's in the ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS, which really makes no sense. It was published a few months after the event ended, and per your contiunity note, it's considered to take place between UNCANNY 340 and 341, which are reprinted in the ONSALUGHT AFTERMATH trade collection (and Marvel loves to arrange issues in proper reading order when they can).

    The same fate befell X-MEN UNLIMITED #11... it's in the ONSLAUGHT OMNIBUS, but not availabile in any digital format yet. Marvel is really hit-or-miss about that sort of thing. They do not release Omnibuses digitally, but sometimes they will put the individual issues contained in an Omnibus on Unlimited and/or Comixology when the Omnibus releases, but other times they don't.

    Anyway -- I know I owned and read this one, but I had literally no recollection of it until re-reading for this post. And I agree; it's a fine story and a much-needed "breather" for the X-Men after everything they've been through recently, but it suffers from some very sub-par artwork (as was often the case for the annuals and UNLIMITED issues around this time).


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