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Thursday, March 24, 2022

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #61

"Bolt"
February 1997

In a Nutshell
Storm defeats Candra and learns the truth about Jamil!

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Cedric Nocon
Inks: Hunk & Miller
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras

Plot
In Manhattan, Archangel returns home to the sound of Psylocke in a fight, but when he bursts into the apartment, he finds her calmly sitting. Just then, Gomurr the Ancient appears, and tells them there is a price to pay for the Crimson Dawn having saved Psylocke's life. Meanwhile, at the museum, Storm battles Jamil for Candra's heartstone, as Jamil manifests both the Shadow King and Juggernaut. But when Cable appears and offers to help Storm, she realizes something is amiss: it is the young girl Karima manifesting everyone, including Jamil. Her mutant power is the ability to give form to people's desire, in this case, Candra's desire to attain the stone and Storm's desire to stop her. Outside, as the X-Men race to help Storm, Jean Grey briefly finds herself completely alone on the street. Back at the museum, Karima explains how Storm's old mentor taught her to manifest Jamil in order to disguise her power and give herself a companion. As Jamil and the other villains fade away, Candra lunges for the stone, but Storm simply tosses it at her. However, the X-Men arrive at that moment and Cyclops blasts it, destroying the stone and with it, Candra. Storm admits she knew the X-Men had arrived and were confident they'd back her up. Meanwhile, Sebastian Shaw is in Hong Kong, plotting to retake control of the Hellfire Club. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Candra joins her fellow (non-Selene, non Cannonball(?)) X-Ternals in death this issue, after Cyclops destroys her heartstone jewel thing, which causes her to disintegrate (it's never explained why Selene didn't kill Candra when she targeted the rest of the X-Ternals in X-Force #53).  


This issue reveals that Jamil, the young mutant boy working with Candra, doesn't actually exist, and that he and all the other characters who appear in the story (like Shadow King and Juggernaut) are manifestations of Karima, the young mutant girl who Candra captured and who took over for Storm's old thief mentor Achmed El-Gibrar in X-Men Unlimited #7. Her mutant power is the ability to give form to desires, something she used to create Jamil (at Achmed's urging) and then, while under stress, began manifesting the conflicting desires of Candra and Storm as they battled for the stone; this is her last appearance to date. 


The final page of the issue features Sebastian Shaw in Hong Kong, setting up the three part story which begins next issue.  


At one point in this issue, Jean turns a corner and suddenly finds herself all alone; I believe this is setup to her encounter with the "Heroes Reborn" Iron Man in issue #65, in which she similarly gets pulled out of "her" reality; to what end beyond "meeting the 'Heroes Reborn' Iron Man" this is meant to serve, I don't know/can't remember. 


The opening pages involving Psylocke, Archangel, and Gomurr the Ancient is setup for the upcoming Psylocke/Archangel Crimson Dawn miniseries (thereby continuing Archangel and Psylocke's trend of late of mostly appearing only in subplot pages). 


The Chronology Corner
Sebastian Shaw (who is very popular these days, despite being dead not that long ago) appears here and in the subsequent story after his appearances over in X-Man (which conclude with #28). 

A Work in Progress
Cyclops sounds an awful lot like his animated counterpart (ie a total square) in this panel; it's also noted that anti-mutant sentiment is running especially high, continuing the slow build towards "Operation: Zero Tolerance". 


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
For the first time (that I can recall), the upcoming new millennium is referenced in this issue (in Sebastian Shaw's monologue); this will become something of a staple as the year 2000 draws ever nearer. 

Austin's Analysis
Well, if you were dying for a continuation of/resolution to that one Howard Mackie story from a random issue of X-Men Unlimited, you got it! This two-parter is, ultimately, fine: having Storm fight manifestations of Shadow King or Juggernaut instead of the real deal feels like a bit of a cheat, but it's a pretty standard comic trope, and it gives the issue some flair and visual variety. Giving Storm a showcase is also appreciated, especially given how underserved she's been since her Claremontian heyday, and to its credit, the other X-Men who appear in this issue are largely superfluous; it's Storm who saves the day more or less on her own. Yet for all that, it's hard to escape just how fill-in-y this feels, like an inventory story pulled out of a drawer to buy the regular creative team some time (I don't think this was an inventory story, but it almost certainly was meant to buy incoming regular penciler Carlos Pacheco some time to get ahead). And while Storm is the central character, it doesn't really say or do much with her aside from having her be the one advancing the plot. Largely inoffense, in the end, but it's still too bad Storm's spotlight couldn't come with more narrative impact or a chance for the character to do a little more. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Wolverine teams up with Alpha Flight's Shaman Wolverine #110. Next week, X-Factor #131!

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7 comments:

  1. No writer after Claremont seemed to know what to do with Storm and even Claremont himself seemed to struggle with writing her after Fall of the Mutants. Which is a shame because she was definitely one of the best characters during the All-New, All-Different era. I would even go so far to say that, to this day, no one really seems to know what to do with her. There have been some good stories with her but no great Storm stories.

    Even her current status, while interesting, is producing anything memorable. Writers simply create a scenario to give her a kick @$$ moment, but not a story.

    As far as this issue goes, it's serviceable enough for a monthly superhero comic. Though I'm surprised someone besides Mackie cared enough about Candra to use her.

    I remember there were a lot of Heroes Reborn and 616 crossovers going on at this time, mostly with X-Men characters but I don't think they ever amounted to much. I'm wondering if the X-Men were supposed to be a major part of Heroes Return and then, like many plots from this time, just got dropped?

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  2. I’m glad those opening pages make sense to someone.

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  3. So is Candra's gem the one Storm wore in the 70's right? I thought that one was still around in X-Treme X-Men when it powered Khan's portal?

    And it's destroyed here? Mistake, retcon or should I be No-Prizing for a second gem?

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  4. I agree; this story feels like a fill-in (and also probably something that could've been done in one issue if Lobdell really put his mind to it). And, as discussed in the comments on the previous issues (and related to your comment about Cyclops's dialogue when he first appears), it feels more like an episode of the TV show than an issue of the comic.

    A few notes:

    1. There are a couple typos in this issue. On page 3, narration refers to Psylocke's "minga-trianed instincts," which I found especially funny because "minja" is how my son says "ninja". And later, Storm tells Jamil (or actually Karima) to "relinguish" Cable's form.

    2. The first page tells us that Graydon Creed was just assassinated this very night. Then later, Cyclops says that "Since Creed's assassination, the public's fear of mutants has only increased." Which yes, is probably true, but that seems an odd way to phrase it when talking something that apparently happened only a few hours ago.

    3. As Archangel races to the apartment to help Psylocke, he thinks, "Whoever manage dto discover who Betsy and are--" I'm not sure who needs to "discover" who he is. Warren Worthington III has had a publicly known identity for decades (in real time) at this point, dating back, I believe, to his time with the Champions. I suppose we're supposed to infer that he means the apartment is rented/leased/owned under a fake name, but the line comes across like he thinks he has a secret identity.

    In general, the script for this issue doesn't feel as polished as Lobdell's usual work. I'm wondering if that's due to Bob Harras being stretched to thin as both the direct editor of the X-Books and the editor-in-chief of Marvel at this point.

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    1. Huh. I made a typo when attempting to duplicate a typo. Double typo! The narration refers to Psylocke's "minja-trained instincts," not her "minga-trained instincts." At least I typed it right when I mentioned how my son says it.

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    2. Isn't this at the same time Lobdell was also writing Uncanny? It seemed like everyone was being stretched thin at the time. Not to mention, the constant need for all of the books to tread water until the next big crossover that comes along to inch the plot along.

      I somehow missed the typos in the comics, even though they're fairly obvious. Shows how much I pay attention.

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    3. Yes, Lobdell was writing both series at this point -- though he actually only scripted UNCANNY most months, with Ralph Macchio or Ben Raab usually scripting X-MEN over his plots. In fact, this is the only issue of X-MEN Lobdell scripts himself in a seven-month span! Looking back, it appears Macchio scripted X-MEN 58 - 60 -- and then starting next issue, Raab scripts the 3-part Hong Kong storyline through #64, at which point Lobdell returns for "Operation: Zero Tolerance" with #65. This is the only issue in that span that Lobdell scripts himself.

      So yeah, maybe he's spread too thin as well, and can only manage to script two titles a month. And we know GEN X is his baby, and he's always seemed to put more energy into UNCANNY, going back to when he was writing both series post-Nicieza/pre-Waid -- so I guess X-MEN suffers for it.

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