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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

X-amining X-Man #24

"First Noel"
February 1997

In a Nutshell
Nate and Spider-Man battle Morbius!

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

Peter Parker is spending Christmas with Mary Jane at her aunt Anna's house. He senses a disturbance in the neighbor's garage; investigating, he finds Nate Grey, who says he's been attacked. Peter realizes Nate has been bitten by Morbius, and promises to help. Meanwhile, Threnody wanders through a hospital, harvesting the energies of the dying patients. Elsewhere, Madelyne Pryor seduces Sebastian Shaw in the wake of her confrontation with Tessa. Later, Threnody visits an abandoned tenement, harvesting the energy of the dying there, and is unknowingly stalked by Morbius. Visiting her mother's grave, Threnody is confronted by Morbius, who says they have a lot in common. Just then, Nate and Peter, as Spider-Man, arrive in the graveyard and attack Morbius, but Threnody defends him. As Threnody fights Spider-Man, Nate battles Morbius, managing to break the vampire's hold over him, at which point Morbius retreats. Nate then tells Threnody he knows what she's been doing, and says he won't take her back until she stops. Nate and Spider-Man leave, after which Threnody is visited by Madelyne, asking if she's seen anyone matching Nate's description. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is part of a loose crossover with Amazing Spider-Man (specifically issue #420), the series Steve Skroce left this book to pencil. On sale in December of 1996, it is the second X-book to be explicitly set at Christmas this month (following Uncanny X-Men #341). 

The science vampire Morbius, an occasional antagonist/ally of Spider-Man and recent member of the Midnight Sons, Marvel's loose collection of horror-themed characters, guest stars in this issue, having attacked Nate off-panel and caused Nate's telepathic powers to put Nate in a semi-vampiric state (Morbius usually doesn't create more vampires with his bite). 

The Madelyne Pryor/Hellfire Club subplot simmers along, then threatens to boil over at the end, with Madelyne seducing Shaw (including healing his post-death scar) and then meeting up with Threnody. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
I'm pretty sure even by 1996, standard nursing attire was scrubs, not "sexy nurse Halloween costumes".

Young Love
The Nate/Threnody rift continues, with Nate learning how Threnody has been feeding on the dying and telling her he can't help her until she decides she wants to be helped.  

Austin's Analysis
I have no idea why Morbius is in this comic. Yes, Kavanagh draws a parallel thematic connection between his vampiric need to drink blood and Threnody's drive to absorb the energy of dying people, but it's not like he *had* to use Morbius to further the (kind of coming out of nowhere) rift between Nate and Threnody. And yes, this issue is technically continuing a crossover with Amazing Spider-Man #420. But I read that issue, and while there really wasn't much X-Man content to it to necessitate its own review (mostly, Nate just helps Spider-Man grieve the recently-departed Aunt May at Christmas), I can confidently say that A. it's better than this issue and B. Morbius doesn't appear in it, making his appearance here all the more puzzling. It really just adds to the aimless feel of the series at the moment, that Kavanagh has subplots he wants to advance (like the Nate/Threnody relationship and the Maddy/Hellfire Club stuff) but no real ideas for A-plots, so he just throws a bunch of stuff at the wall (Street Performer! Bishop! Morbius!) to see what sticks while he kills time (for whatever reason), waiting to get to what he really wants to write.  

Next Issue
Next week: Storm's battle with Candra concludes in X-Men (vol. 2) #61, while Wolverine goes hunting in Canada in Wolverine #110!

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  1. I’m not sure what’s the weirdest part of the splash panel with the Christmas tree — Peter looks high, Anna has the Penguin’s fingers from Batman Returns, and there’s a present wrapped in sloppy attempts at Joe Quesada’s signature. (Roger Cruz seems to draw just about everyone with big ol’ hands.)

  2. At the very least, it's an interesting way to do a crossover. Low to no stakes and each issue seems to stand alone. I had no idea it was part of a Spider-Man crossover when I read it initially. I thought it was a one off team up. And despite Morbius not really being needed for this issue I did enjoy seeing him.

  3. I know I read this. It came out during my brief time of picking up X-MAN -- and it guest-starred Spidey, who was one of my main reasons to start reading X-MAN -- yet, as with the last issue, I remember absolutely zilch about it, while I do recall one or two bits from the ASM issue you mentioned!

    "I'm pretty sure even by 1996, standard nursing attire was scrubs, not 'sexy nurse Halloween costumes'."

    I can only wonder if nurses still dressed like this (I mean, not exactly like this, but you know what I'm getting at) in Cruz's native Brazil at the time?

    Anyway, regardless of the nurse, I love how they did the credits on this page.

  4. It’s Morbin time


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