Characters Appearing: Beast, Bishop, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Black Widow, Captain America, Crystal, Cyclops, Fabian Cortez, Gambit, Hawkeye, Henry Peter Gyrich, Henry Pym, Hercules, Iceman, Jean Grey, Jennifer Ransome, Luna, Marilla, Mutate 682, Nick Fury, Phillip Moreau, Professor X, Quicksilver, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, Sersi, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), Storm, Trish Tilby, USAgent, Valerie Cooper, Vision, War Machine
Issue(s): Avengers #368
Not that an Avengers/X-Men crossover ever needs a "reason", but this crossover feels like the inevitable result of Bob Harras being both the Avengers writer and the editor of the X-Men line. More explicitly it's the result of the Avengers and the X-Men both celebrating their 30th anniversaries this year. This crossover is more of an X-Men story in terms of villains and setting, but the point of the crossover, as expressed in its name, is that the Avengers and X-Men do have some familial ties.
Those ties are exploited in only the most mechanical way possible, though. We saw in the last issue of Avengers that someone kidnapped Luna, the daughter of Crystal and Quicksilver. That someone turns out to be Fabian Cortez. So both the Avengers and X-Men go after Cortez. It's worth noting that Quicksilver is only with the X-Men after having been unceremoniously transferred there from X-Factor during Fatal Attractions, a crossover that was published directly before this (X-Men #25 was a Fatal Attractions issue, issue #26 is part of Bloodties). And Cortez's reason for kidnapping Luna is somewhere between unexplained and nonsensical. The fact that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are the children of Magneto is of course mentioned in this series but it's not relevant in any specific way. And that's the biggest failing of this crossover not just because it fails to create lasting connections between Marvel's best selling franchise and the Avengers, but because it means that the villains of the series (Cortez and the equally uninteresting Exodus) have no sensible motivations at all. So basically the two teams break down into random team-up configurations and run around Genosha for a while and then it's all over.
One thing that does make this story of interest to Avengers readers is that it results in the Avengers giving up their status as UN peacekeepers. That's probably the most impactful thing to come out of this. So in that sense i guess the series is ultimately more relevant to the Avengers even though it uses X-Men props. It is also good to see the Avengers taking an interest in mutant-related issues, although as we'll see it's mostly for self-interested reasons.
I have these issues in a trade. It starts with a text piece that summarizes events leading up to this story. It seems a little inaccurate though. It claims that following Fatal Attractions:
...Fabian Cortez, the most radical of Magneto's disciples assumed control of Avalon and his master's legacy. Yet, his rule was to be short-lived. Exodus, a mutant of vast power and a mysterious past rose up to challenge Cortez, and eventually ousted him from power.
The last time we actually saw Cortez, in Uncanny X-Men #304, the other Acoyltes had turned on him because he tried to kill Magneto. Exodus showed up and brought the other Acoyltes to Avalon, basically leaving Cortez to die (it was implied that he had the Legacy Virus). And that was during Fatal Attractions, whereas what the text piece describes was said to be after the climax of Xavier mind-wiping Magneto. If Cortez assumed control of Avalon after that - and the use of the word "eventually" implies some kind of protracted civil war among Magneto's followers - it was never shown (and seems unlikely).
I don't mean to nitpick, but i think it's interesting when a write-up of what Marvel creators thought they were depicting doesn't seem to match what we've actually seen. Along similar but more general lines, the text piece describes the X-Men as an "outlaw band of mutants", which is kind of a joke since the X-Men have been collaborating regularly with Val Cooper and SHIELD for a while now.
The text piece also provides a motivation for Fabian Cortez that fails basic logic:
Because she was both the granddaughter of Magneto and also fully human, he transported her to Genosha, an island nation where humans - or flatscans - lord over the mutant population, forcing them to perform cruel and inhuman tasks.
That may just be poor writing due to runaway exposition, though. The next paragraph says:
Now, Cortez plans to use Luna as a symbol in his efforts to raise the mutants of Genosha into a private army in hopes of ousting Exodus, reclaiming the throne of Avalon, and the destiny of mutantkind.
So i think with some generous editing we can derive a coherent motivation for Cortez:
Because she was
Again, though, what we'll see in this story doesn't really match that motivation. Cortez is exacerbating a civil war between humans and mutates in Genosha, but he's secretly controlling both sides in order to perpetuate the conflict. Which isn't what you'd do if you wanted to liberate the mutates to use as an army against Exodus.
Part of the reason why Cortez' motivation is doomed to make no sense is that it's based on a lack of intel. Cortez is actually unaware that Magneto is currently a vegetable thanks to Xavier's actions. He's really kidnapped Luna in hopes of drawing Magneto out, and that can't happen.
I mean, i assume he's trying to draw out Magneto, and not Crystal's never-seen Inhuman father, Quelin. (I joke, but since the text piece made it seem like Cortez's power struggle against Exodus was triggered by Xavier's zapping of Magneto, it wasn't clear to me at the start of this crossover that Cortez was unaware that Magneto was comatose.)
We next see Val Cooper, Henry Gyrich, and Nick Fury discussing the civil war in Genosha. We've seen Genosha quite recently, in X-Factor #88-91, and a major point of that story was that mutate/human relations were improving. Genosha was quite draconian when it came to containing the Legacy Virus, but the government seemed sincere in establishing equality for mutates, and the X-Patriots were left there to help with that. So it's surprising and disappointing (from a continuity point of view) that Genosha is now in full-blown civil war. And there's no follow up on the X-Patriots, or the Genoshan officials from that story, or anything like that. But at least we are given an acknowledgement that the situation has changed rapidly. It's said that the Legacy Virus was the fuel for the civil war, and the catalyst was Magneto's EMP pulse. The confirmation that Magneto was still alive caused the human Genoshians to worry that the mutates would rise up. So they decided to crack down, and attempted to "eradicate" the mutates before that could happen.
Despite the humans literally attempting genocide, this story will generally take the "both sides are wrong" approach. It's said that unlike in previous Genoshian crackdowns, the mutates actually organize and fight back. And their resistance is apparently more violent than the US government and the good guys of the story approve of.
The US's plan for stopping the civil was is to send in Professor Xavier as a diplomat. He's to be accompanied by Philip Moreau - son of Genosha's original Genegineer - and his girlfriend Jenny Ransome, a mutate. It's worth noting that in the meeting between Fury, Cooper, and Gyrich, Xavier is discussed only as a reclusive specialist in mutant-human relations. So at least one of them doesn't know that Xavier is Professor X, and the others are keeping it a secret.
Also during their meeting they discuss intel that they've learned that they don't want the Avengers to find out about, because they don't want the Avengers to get involved. Fury disagrees with that approach, but goes along. We'll learn later that the government only knew that Cortez was planning on targeting the children of Magneto in some way, not that Luna had already been kidnapped.
Fury calls together the East and West Coast Avengers, and briefs them on the Genosha situation. USAgent is called away by Gyrich for a special assignment, escorting Xavier alongside the Beast.
The other Avengers understandably wonder why they're being briefed if the government doesn't want them involved (and note how the Avengers' UN charter is what's stopping the Avengers from acting on their own).
But Crystal deduces that it might be about Luna, and runs to check on her daughter. Up until this point i was wondering how Crystal could be such a horrible parent that she didn't know that her daughter was missing, but it turns out that Luna has been replaced by a mutate shapeshifter.
The mutate then self-destructs, killing herself. The Avengers survive thanks to a cyclone created by Crystal to funnel away the explosion.
The mutate's line about the world's apathy is pretty damning. And i was originally going to hit the Avengers hard over their lack of involvement so far. But the more i think about it, the more i realize it's not merited. I'm fairly certain that it wasn't until X-Tinction Agenda that the world became aware of Genosha's mutate situation, and the X-Men dealt with it in the same story. There wasn't really time for the Avengers to have done anything (although She-Hulk did attempt to provide legal help for the X-Men). And since then, as i noted above, things seemed to be getting better until they suddenly turned around for this story.
But this story does try to make us feel like the Avengers haven't been living up to their ideals, even if it's by airbrushing over recent continuity. In fact, from a publishing point of view, i'm not sure if we're really supposed to like the Avengers or not. It feels sort of uncommitted. If this weren't a crossover where three fifths of it were Avengers titles, i could totally see the Avengers being used as kind of dickish aloof government-sanctioned super-heroes that, if not actively bigoted towards mutants, don't make defending their rights a priority. And the way they sort of shrug their shoulders at Nick Fury's description of the Genoshan civil war until they find out about Luna exemplifies that. But that's a weird way to pitch the Avengers to X-book readers. The story doesn't fall strongly on the side of the Avengers being motivated by the wrong reasons, but the subtext is there, and it surfaces at least once.
Sersi comments on how the mutate "blew herself up for a political cause" which she finds "oddly... impressive" (Crystal is less willing to abstractly admire the mutate's commitment). The use of a "suicide bomber" brings to my mind unrest in the Middle East and potentially sets up Genosha as an Israel/Palestine situation. I don't know if that's intentional - in the past South African apartheid was the go-to analogy - and in any event the story doesn't attempt to parallel real world scenarios any further.
Anyway, once the Avengers realize that Luna has been kidnapped, they head to the Quinjet hanger, only to find a contingent of SHIELD troops, including Mandroids, waiting to keep them grounded (depicted unimpressively across a two-page spread).
I wrote a lot in this entry but in truth not a lot really happens. This storyline is "important" in the sense that it's a crossover between Marvel's most prominent in-universe super-hero team and the one that was most popular in the real world, and because Genosha serves as an interesting metaphor. But the creators rely on those aspects to do all the work without building up a good story around them.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part one of Bloodties. Part two is in X-Men #26. This takes place after Fatal Attractions, and explicitly after Wolverine has left the X-Men. X-Factor #96 takes place concurrently with the events here (but is part of a storyline that continues beyond the end of this). X-Force #27 takes place soon after this crossover is over.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Bloodties TPB
"There were arguably Genoshan crises prior to that, though."
What about the original Genoshan crisis in Uncanny X-Men #235-238?
Posted by: clyde | March 6, 2017 3:45 PM
That and the time the Genoshan magistrates risked a political crisis by invading the US in Uncanny X-Men #259-260 were exactly what i was referring to. But you'll see a footnote in Avengers #369 that confirms that by the "first" Genoshan crisis, they are referring to X-Tinction Agenda.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 6, 2017 3:53 PM
This issue came out a month late.
Posted by: Michael | March 6, 2017 7:58 PM
Luna is no longer considered Magneto's granddaughter, so this story is no longer considered important.
Posted by: Steven | March 9, 2017 9:08 AM
I fully expect that if Marvel ever manages to regain the movie rights to the X-Men characters, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver will once again be revealed to be Magneto's children.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 9, 2017 2:35 PM
@Ben: Hee! Maybe Wanda and Pietro will call the same geneticist Lorna used (Dr Chuck Austen?) once Marvel and Fox Studios gets it's shit together.
The problem, fnord, is that Genosha was originally a way to Make Statements on South African apartheid, a system that was ending around this period, so a NEW global political atrocity had to untelized for metaphorical commentary. I've heard it suggest that the situation in Genosha now was suppose to be (vaguely) similar to internecine wars in the Serbian region. This nebulous civil war/global stand in continues continues until Magneto gains control of the country in the late 90s.
Speaking of political commentary, one kinda interesting thing here is the idea of wannabe revolutionary figures appropriating Magneto's name for their own agenda, regardless of what his actual views are (something that would be a big theme in Morrison's run). The idea that Magneto is more "useful" as a symbol to be interepreted than the actual person makes his comotose period add a bit to the schemes of fanatics and crazies like Exodus and Cortez and their battle over "legacy."
Posted by: Jon Dubya | March 10, 2017 8:15 PM
It's mind-boggling that with the whole idea of mutants being down to genetics, experts like Xavier, Moira and Beast, who have had plenty of access to the DNA of the characters in question, haven't been able to state the (non-)relationship of Magneto, Pietro and Wanda with any degree of certainty.
Posted by: Dave | March 10, 2017 8:20 PM
@Dave-they explained that the High Evolutionary altered Wanda's and Pietro's DNA to make them mimic mutants because... reasons.
Posted by: Michael | March 10, 2017 8:37 PM
Comments have been disabled for the summer while i'm not around to moderate.
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