Thursday, January 10, 2013

80-Page Thursdays: X-Men Universe #8!

Here's an 80-Pager I've already covered, as the actual issues, but you can get it in one 80-page package: X-Men Universe #8, featuring the High Evolutionary!

Right up front: I didn't like Chris Claremont's return to the X-books. I thought Alan Davis had been doing a decent job, and the books were enjoyable reads, if not reinventing the wheel. And, this one has elements predating House of M and Secret Invasion!

Uncanny X-Men #379, "What Dreams May Come..." Story by Alan Davis, pencils by Tom Raney, inks by Scott Hanna. This issue opens with the aftermath of the Apocalypse: the Twelve storyline, where Cyclops sacrificed himself to defeat the Big A. Mulling over a "Shi'ar Holempathic Matrix Crystal" of Cyke, Professor X leaves earth with the Skrull mutants.

OK, even if the X-Men had a bunch of blank holempathic matrix crystals, and a holempathic surround recording studio; when would Cyclops have made that thing? Do all the X-Men make them, in case of their untimely demise? Or is that a special, favorite student thing? I still don't know how the Professor returned from space this time (he previously spent yeeeeears in space starting in UXM #200) or if the mutant Skrulls were ever brought up again, even in Secret Invasion where it would've made sense.

That's either wrong, or wrong...
As she complains about Professor X abandoning them, and having her own hopes and dreams, Kitty says she's barely sixteen. Wha--? Really? Kitty first appeared in UXM #129 as a thirteen-year-old (in 1980), so the last two-hundred and fifty-one issues worth of Uncanny took place in a three year period? That would also include a hundred and twenty five or so issues of Excalibur, and her relationship with Peter Wisdom, which would be just wrong then...

At any rate, having lost two of the team's strongest leaders, it's time for Storm...to space out during a game of baseball. Logan saves her from a baseball to the noggin, and Storm admits she's already worrying about the next crisis; that the X-Men are "a fire brigade" and there's always another fire.

Meanwhile, tons of other mutants are going about their business: in Genosha, Polaris is shoring up Magneto's failing powers, in an attempt to bring peace to the region. Mystique is sneaking into the NSA to try to see how several of her cover identities have been blown. Phoenix sits on a mountaintop, and has a brief chat with X-Man. (The young version of Cable from the Age of Apocalypse, and that's as much as I'm going to get into that, although I know I liked the first issues of that book...) The current Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, a total sausage-fest with Blob, Toad, the somehow not-dead Mimic, and Post; plans a heist. And the Beast gets Iceman to give him a ride to Genosha to research the Legacy Virus.
I imagine anytime anything is lost or goes missing now, Gambit comes to mind.
(All the alt-text bits disappeared--I don't know why they don't seem to work anymore, at least that I can see.)

The X-Men themselves are having a picnic, when the story starts moving: a hologram of the High Evolutionary appears, and promptly denounces mutants as a danger to the genetic potential of the world and its people. The High Evolutionary is probably one of the nicer, more well-meaning mad scientists in comics, but has rarely accomplished anything helpful. I think I've lost more comics than I have with him: those Evolutionary War annuals, a couple batches of Thor, Ka-Zar of all places. After a brief debate, what gives you the right, blah blah blah; H.E. declares he has an energy field that will neutralize their mutant genomes, and make them human. And just like that, every mutant on the planet is shut down.

The ones we care about--Jean, X-Man, Cannonball--are shown falling, but not too far. Someone off panel, still debating with the Evolutionary, points out the Avengers have several mutant members and won't take this lying down...which they totally do, since this storyline didn't cross over with even the other X-books, to say nothing of the larger Marvel U. (This, and Kurt Busiek's big Kang story in Avengers, are the best examples of the fragmented nature of Marvel at the time...there wasn't even a handwave explanation as to why no one else noticed.)
Watch the hands, bub!
("Watch the hands, bub!")

Magneto falls, in a weird position with Polaris, and realizes old scores are going to be coming for him. Mystique turns blue, then powerless, mid-heist and is captured. The Brotherhood loses their powers, to varying effects:
So...the Toad's power was being an uggo?
(So...the Toad's power was being an uggo?)

Hey, isn't the Mimic a mutate, not strictly a mutant? Well, maybe he lost powers absorbed from mutants.
That would have to be more traumatic than Storm losing her powers, but you wouldn't know it to listen to her...
(That would have to be more traumatic than Storm losing her powers, but you wouldn't know it to listen to her...)

Beast and Iceman are stuck on Genosha, in their trunks, since that's all they wore as costumes. Mutants like Angel and Nightcrawler transform into ordinary humans--do not ask how that would work. The High Evolutionary feels bad for them, but points out all that silly human vs. mutant stuff is at least over.

So, the High Evolutionary just used an energy wave to turn every mutant on earth into normal humans. What's he going to do for a follow-up? Um, how about mope about whether he had the right to do that? H.E. seems uncertain, but his old teacher Dr. Essex reassures that this is the best course of action. Although Essex looks like an Einstein-type, it's not clear why H.E. doesn't realize Essex should be really old, as in dead; unless he just figures all geneticists don't age.
Iceman's gun goes 'poom,' I gather.
(Iceman's gun goes 'poom,' I gather.)

Stuck in Genosha, Beast and Iceman have managed to find some action-heroey ensembles and guns, and are trying to protect some of the former mutates from the now-superior human forces. (The battle was pretty even when the mutates had powers and the humans had battlesuits and whatnot.) They are joined by gun-toting Magneto and his crew; who point out that the humans don't care how or why the mutates changed, they're just going to press the advantage and exterminate them.

No one had the heart to tell Kurt to sew up his...tail-hole.
(No one had the heart to tell Kurt to sew up his...tail-hole.)

Meanwhile, the Xavier Institute...is closed until further notice. Nightcrawler has stayed behind to maintain the school, but it's more because he misses being Nightcrawler. As plain Kurt, he's not as agile, and had to relearn how to walk in a straight line without a tail, and has icky extra fingers. I thought his acrobatic ability was a learned skill, though, and not as much a power. Ex-Colossus Peter encourages Kurt to get out of the house and travel, since weeks have seemingly passed between the start of the issue and page eight. Kitty's back in school, and is enjoying her classes but also realizing most girls her age are "irritating. And that's the polite way of putting it." She reads a postcard from Warren and Betsy--the former Archangel and Psylocke--on vacation in St. Moritz, since Warren could never go to beaches before as he couldn't have his wings out. Peter doesn't think the beach is a fair trade for flying.
Girls, a friendly tip:  if you're seeing a guy that's 'spiritual,' he's not.
(Girls, a friendly tip: if you're seeing a guy that's "spiritual," he's not.)

Why is Rogue taking the subway?  Two steps with those legs, and she's there!

Storm and Marrow are volunteering at a children's park-ground in upstate New York. While Marrow is enjoying the hell out of not having extra bones sticking out of her and the dating opportunities that brings; Storm is struggling with this second loss of her powers. Rogue is able to touch people (and loss of her powers doesn't seem to have affected her legs, which are absurdly long...Why bother taking the subway? Two steps with those legs, and she's there!) but has to cope with the lack of personal space in the city. She's working on Mystique's case, as her foster mom faces an assload of charges while freaking out over being stuck with her old face.

Meanwhile, setting up Chris Claremont's run, the hidden community of the Neo is wrecked up when they lose their powers. But they're the suckiest of Marvel's several dozen hidden races, and we shall waste no more time with them. Somewhere else, not sure where; a street gang attacks Jubilee, then gets the beatdown by Wolverine. Who is not taking powerlessness well: Logan just got his adamantium back, the week before losing his healing factor, which he kinda needed to prevent adamantium poisoning...OK, Wolvie's not a doctor. He's probably dying of something else, like not being able to make blood cells, or rejection, or from taking stab wounds he thought he could heal from.

The former Mirage, Danielle Moonstar, gets a psychic vision from Cable, who may now be a techno-organic Alien egg at this point. She wonders if their powers aren't completely gone after all; and Genosha seems to back that up. Beast realizes some of the mutates have "stalled in mid-transformation" and their mutations are mutating, and that the rest of the planet will soon follow suit.

In space, the High Evolutionary is about to come to the same conclusion, when he's zapped and frozen by his teacher...revealed as Mr. Sinister! Duhn-duhn-duh! Concluded next issue, in Uncanny X-Men #380, "Heaven's Shadow"!

All scans this issue from X-Men #99, "Oh, the Humanity!" Plot by Alan Davis, pencils by Brett Booth, script by Terry Kavanagh, inks by Sal Regla. Like we said, Davis was on his way out, and these issues seem much wordier than previous ones: either Kavanagh was emulating a Claremont style to prep for his return, or he thought the letterer was getting lazy and needed to step up.

Sinister had a goatee last issue, and now he looks too Tim Curry-like.
(Sinister had a goatee the previous chapter, now he looks too Tim Curry-like.)

So, the High Evolutionary turned all the mutants on earth into normal humans, but the procedure was going to cause wild mutation in all life on earth, thanks to the involvement of Mr. Sinister. The powerless X-Men have less than a week to stop him. (Since they figure the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Power Pack, etc. will have their own problems and don't need to be bothered with every little thing.)

Fortunately, the X-Men have big piles of stolen alien crap from the Skrulls, the Shi'ar, etc. (Which begs the question, every time the Sentinels attack, why don't the X-Men whip out some of the ray guns and whatnot?) While they get ready, Mr. Sinister makes his own preparations: he wants to use the High Evolutionary's tech to make an army of New Men, evolved animals. H.E. tells M.S. to suck it, but Sinister just says he'll figure it out. How hard could it be?

I know you're falling apart, Wolvie, but you could change into a uniform that isn't full of blood...
(I know you're falling apart, Wolvie, but you could change into a uniform that isn't full of blood...)

Rogue calls the jailed Mystique, who gets steamed that her foster daughter is siding with the X-Men over her. As the team works on a ship, most are anxious to get their powers back, when Wolverine arrives. Or most of him, anyway. Still dying of "adamantium poisoning," Logan had been willing to take one for the team if it meant other mutants like Marrow would be happy, but he's also ready to die fighting.

'Oh, I'm sorry, Kitty: who here has multiple doctorates? Hmm?'
("Oh, I'm sorry, Kitty: who here has multiple doctorates? Hmm?")

The ex-X-Men launch into space, and note that mutants apparently cope better with G-force nausea than normos do. Since the High Evolutionary is ostensibly peaceful, his satellite didn't have the weaponry to shoot them down, and Sinister is looking forward to comparing their powerless performance to previous records.
'Ha! What did the five fingers say to the face! I finally get that one!'
("Ha! What did the five fingers say to the face! I finally get that one!")

His New Men are supposedly mutated normal animals, but seem to include Gloop (or Gleep) from the Herculoids, Tweak from the classic Judge Dredd story "the Cursed Earth," and a snake-lizard guy in bright yellow pants and a big-S belt buckle. As everyone fights, Storm, Wolverine, and Kitty break away to try and find the station's power core; but Wolvie gets Sinister's scent--wait, did that still work?--and they decide to try to take him and the station's controls.
That's a puppy with a carpet remnant on it's back!
("That's a puppy with a carpet remnant on it's back!")

Sinister is pretty well prepared, though: he's got a Killer Shrew for Wolvie! (Or maybe a giant rat, but it's more fun to figure Sinister is an MST3K fan.) Wolvie fights his way to Sinister, who tries to burn him down with his nondescript ray-hands. Kitty realizes those blasts should've killed Wolvie outright, and deduces that nausea they all felt earlier wasn't g-forces, it was their powers starting back up. It dawns on Sinister that his powers still work there, maybe everyone else's would too...even scorched bald, Wolverine still has a prodigious amount of arm hair, and slices up an explody console.

The X-Men regroup to watch Logan heal slowly up, and the freed High Evolutionary says he's regressed all the New Men back into animals, Mr. Sinister just escaped in the X-Men's ship, and Wolverine didn't destroy the anti-mutation satellites: Wolvie just broke the Evolutionary out, and he destroyed his misused life's work. Back on earth, old mutants repower up: awkward for some like Jean Grey or the Blob, but awesome for others like Magneto or the now-incredibly pissed Mystique. And in space, the X-Men themselves return to normal, presumably as they wait to get a ride home.
If this had been a big crossover thing, Blob would've gotten a three-issue mini out of that...
(If this had been a big crossover thing, Blob would've gotten a three-issue mini out of that...)

It doesn't seem like the X-Men gave some of their depowered friends a heads-up: the sudden return of her powers could've very easily killed Jean, and it's likely Warren was in a public place when his powers came back. I like to think the Toad turned back into the Toad, in a scene reminiscent of the end of They Live...
My finger fell off, help me find it for my scrapbook!
("My finger fell off, help me find it for my scrapbook!")

Marrow sprouts horns from her forehead pretty quickly, and Nightcrawler looks like he's going to molt off his extra fingers, which is kind of gross. Did his tail just fall off when he lost his powers? This happens every once in a while at Marvel, like when Spidey grows or loses extra arms, and it's never quite clear.

Not a bad little yarn: entertaining, and relatively quick, even with a cast of dozens. Nowadays, a plot like this would be spun out into every book Marvel could, and then some miniseries tie-ins to boot; and while admittedly that might add some depth, or get to some characters and plots that got shortchanged (the Moonstar/Cable one is barely an afterthought) there is something to be said for the cheap, bare-bones and done story. If you can find it, all three issues were reprinted in X-Men Universe #8.

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

Got some of these myself. Like you said, they don't re-invent the wheel, but they were pretty decent for the time. How fucked up is it though, that The Toad and maybe Post, benefited the most from losing their mutant powers? Makes you wonder....

Oh and if I was Rogue, or Gambit and find out I could bone w/o the serious risk of a coma or death, I'd totally nail that shit;)

Just think of all the pent-up sexual frustration Rogue's being keeping bottled up all these years. I think she'd go through a museum/sex-store full of dildos in about 10 seconds;)