Uncanny X-Men #294
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #294
Reading it now, i'm surprised at how much i still enjoy it. It's the most coherent X-crossover in a long time, maybe ever, and it's very well coordinated and consistent across the various creators (again, even if that meant that Peter David has to allow his book to be co-opted by plots that were unrelated to his character). There are a lot of characters but they are given plenty of do (at least until the majority of X-Force gets imprisoned) and good characterization scenes. The plot uses all the big X-archvillains that aren't Magneto, and it resolves some longstanding questions about Stryfe and Cable.
One thing to clear up is that this story does not feature the debut of the X-Cutioner. I get that muddled in my head sometimes, but he has nothing to do with this. I also am not sure how to pronounce X-Cutioner. I assume it's supposed to be "executioner", but i can't help say "ex-cutioner". I don't pronounce X-Men "exemen".
Artwise, this crossover feels like Marvel saying that they've got things under control after the Image exodus. That's especially true on the adjectiveless book, which features the debut (on the title) of Andy Kubert. But this book gives us Brandon Peterson, and Greg Capullo had just recently been moved to X-Force. X-Factor uses Jae Lee for just the duration of the crossover (Joe Quesada takes over after that). So all books have solid, potentially star, artists. Jae Lee is toned down a bit compared to his Namor issues, but his style is still a little jarring compared to the others. Even with that, though, it's clear that Marvel isn't just throwing fill-in artists at the books and hoping that someone will stick. At least at the nuts and bolts level, Marvel has weathered the exodus, and these artists are much cleaner than the ones that left, and in my personal opinion it's an improvement.
Lila Cheney is giving a free concert in Central Park, and Professor Xavier is going to make a surprise appearance with a speech about mutant tolerance.
Archangel is taking Charlotte Jones as a date, and he's using an image inducer to make him look like his old self.
Charlotte met Warren only after he became Archangel. I'm sure she was aware that he is/used to be white, but i wonder if this scene is meant to suggest that it's just become real for Charlotte that she's involved in an interracial relationship, as opposed to just surprise that Warren isn't blue.
Speaking of relationships, Iceman mentions to Colossus that Opal is out of the picture. She "needs time alone to think things through", which Iceman interprets as code for breaking-up, although Colossus says that she might just actually mean it. And Cyclops continues to fantasize about Psylocke.
Jean tells him that lying to a telepath is demeaning. But then Scott puts the whole thing to rest.
And, continuing to speak about relationships, Storm and Gambit talk about Storm's break-up with Forge. At least, i think that's what they're talking about. Gambit must have overdosed on gumbo, because his accent is out of control.
So (accents aside) this issue starts off with a nice set of character moments. It even does a good job depicting X-Factor.
Then stuff starts to happen. Cyclops and Jean are attacked by Caliban.
Actually, don't call him that anymore.
Cyclops and Jean are captured.
And Iceman and Colossus are attacked by other Horsemen of Apocalypse.
But the big shocker is that Cable stops an assassination attempt on Professor X...
...only to shoot Professor X himself.
Angel tries to stop Cable (note the line about Professor X thinking the New Mutants would "come to their senses").
But Cable manages to "bodyslide" away.
X-Force, watching the concert from Warpath's reservation in New Mexico, see Trish Tilby reporting on the assassination attempt by their former leader.
It's a great start to the crossover. Just the right levels of characterization and action. And, as we'll see, some good misdirection from the villains involved. It's also the most fun and exciting the X-Men have been in a while. Certainly a huge turnaround from the recent stories about Hazard or Colossus' long lost brother.
At least one person had a problem with Xavier's speech, and wrote a lengthy letter that was published in issue #298. Their point of contention was Xavier including homosexuals in the list of ways that people shouldn't be divided, because the others are biological traits while the letter writer contends that homosexuality is a "learned cultural trait" (to which i would say, even if true - and the science seems to suggest that it isn't - so what?). Marvel is accused of having become "politically correct" and it makes the letter writer "sick and angry".
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part one of X-Cutioner's Song. Part two is in X-Factor #84. The biggest sticking point for placement is that X-Factor seem to still be in New York following the attack on the X-Patriot Prodigal, and, worse, in X-Factor #84, Havok will say that the attack happened "yesterday". This is a problem because X-Factor #82-83 have to take during the early part of Infinity War (see the Considerations there). I'd be uncomfortable about trying to cram all of X-Cutioner's Song into Infinity War in any event, but there's at least one specific, if convoluted, reason why i can't do that. Alpha Flight #114-117, which happen after the conclusion of Infinity War, feature Kane (Weapon X), who appears there before the Cable two-part series. So the Cable series can't take place during Infinity War. And the Cable series takes place prior to X-Cutioner's Song, so this also can't take place during Infinity War. So i'm going to assume that X-Factor were called away for Infinity War and then came back, and Havok's "yesterday" comment is a slip-up on his part. In that same panel, Havok also says that Madrox has rounded up all the attackers and they're being charged and says, "Maybe we'll finally see some justice" (emphasis in original), so maybe the slip-up is because yesterday is when Madrox finished rounding up all the attackers, or it was when they were arraigned, or something like that.
For what it's worth, someone seems to have belatedly notice the timing discrepancy. Uncanny X-Men #298 will say that the unity concert in this issue happens "less than a week" after "a young mutant was nearly beaten to death" in the same location (Central Park), which seems to be a reference to this story. "Less than a week" gives us more time to work with than "yesterday".
Crossover: X-Cutioner's Song
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): showAngel, Bishop, Boom Boom, Caliban, Cannonball, Charlotte Jones, Conal Duran, Cyclops, Famine (Horseman of Apocalypse), Gambit, Iceman, Jean Grey, Lila Cheney, Madrox the Multiple Man, Professor X, Quicksilver, Rictor, Rogue, Siryn, Storm, Strong Guy, Stryfe, Trish Tilby, War (Horseman of Apocalypse), Warpath
The placement issues here must be quite frustrating, seeing that in terms of X-books this crossover should be greatly simplifying things. Makes me glad I only had to place my issues in my largely X-collection.
Posted by: Dave77 | May 6, 2016 11:49 AM
The file cards given with the bagged copies were cool. Of course, a true collector would then have to buy another copy to keep bagged. Hence, the reason I have two copies of all the parts of this crossover.
Posted by: clyde | May 6, 2016 3:16 PM
At the start of this issue, Lobdell mentions that Warren only lost "most" of his fortune- this explains how he was able to pay the boy's medical bills in Marvel Fanfare 50.
Posted by: Michael | May 6, 2016 7:46 PM
Caliban claims in this issue that Caliban is a name Callisto gave him but in issue 148,he claimed that his father named him for a monster.
Posted by: Michael | May 6, 2016 10:29 PM
He also had truelove for the spritechild. Things change.
I totally believe that comic books could use a good soap opera, but preferably one without superheroes. If we must have one with superheroes, Scott Lobdell's post-Claremont mutant titles isn't it. Warren, Charlotte, Scott, Jean, Storm, Gambit, they don't feel like believable people having believable romantic urges. They're puppets doing what they're told to do. The Warren/Charlotte and Scott/Jean kisses are in the exact same position. At least Storm points out that Gambit just had a wife we'd never heard about, until she did.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 7, 2016 2:18 AM
Nicieza and some of the other creators have said this crossover had to be put together pretty quickly, because the originally intended crossover to be drawn and written (if that's the world) by the Image guys fell through when they all left.
I have two thoughts about what the crossover was originally going to be and how it became X-cutioner's Song instead. As I've speculated in other comments, I think Lee and Liefeld were leading to an obvious crossover involving the Upstarts and High Lords. The Upstarts were the ongoing plot of the Lee/Portacio books, and there were High Lord hints at the edges: the role of Selene in creating the Upstarts, for example, the fact that the Upstart prize was described in both X-Men books as some kind of immortality, and, although it wasn't revealed until the post-Image era, the role of Candra in powering up the Assassin's Guild and in Gambit's backstory.
In X-Force, most of the hints being dropped about Cable's mission and background were related to the High Lords and his quest to find Cannonball, and Gideon's Externals played an ongoing antagonist role very similar to that of the Upstarts in the X-Men books. Stryfe and the MLF weren't as prominent as the High Lords while Liefeld was setting the direction.
I'd bet that Apocalypse, obviously a High Lord himself, was going to play a role in the crossover, but I doubt that Stryfe would have, and I'm all but certain Sinister wouldn't have. The subplots didn't seem to be leading to those characters. Cable's background may have been revealed in part, but I'm guessing there would have been as much emphasis on his war with Apocalypse in the future as on his background as the son of Jean and Scott.
All this is speculation, but I think the clues add up. For whatever reason, though, Harras didn't go with the Lee-Liefeld storyline, and most of its elements are jettisoned right before or after this crossover: the Externals are sidelined immediately and start dying off of the Legacy virus and Selene is revealed to be behind the Upstarts only to be taken out of the picture, before her plan is even explained. Shinobi Shaw turns into a drum and never launches a significant plot, and Cortez returns only to be killed off more definitively by a new post-Image character, Exodus. The Acolytes and Graydon Creed are developed in stories that don't really have anything to do with the Upstarts, and poor, late-to-the party Siena Blaze never develops at all before she's exiled to the Malibuverse. All the High Lord and Upstarts setup is thrown out piece by piece, and by contrast Apocalypse and Sinister, and to a lesser degree Stryfe and his legacy, become the long-term villains.
So where did X-Cutioner's Song come from? It looks like the core idea of having all the big villains fight is roughly what Harras had in mind for the Mutant Wars crossover that didn't happen in 1990 (when we got X-Tinction instead). Here's a site with a scan of the Marvel Age 1990 Preview of the Mutant Wars: http://bullyscomics.blogspot.com/2015/05/psylocke-psaturday-warning-psylocke-may.html .
Baddie vs. baddie seems pretty basic as an idea, and even though some of the factions mentioned for the Mutant Wars are the same as the big players in X-Cutioner's Song, that's not much of a connection, right? But in several 1990 comics, and in publicity info, Caliban is spoken of as the guy who's going to kick off the Mutant Wars. And the Marvel Age preview does seem weirdly insistent about how tightly plotted the crossover is going to be, and how "each trying to be the strongest--the survivors" is the theme. That ties in with the Apocalypse elements of X-Cutioner's Song, and I can just about imagine Caliban kidnapping Scott and Jean (or one of the other) might have been a plot point in Mutant Wars: indeed, if Caliban wanted revenge on Sinister for the Mutant Massacre, kidnapping Cyclops--the only guy whose power had been able to hurt Sinister as of 1990--would have been a logical move.
I'm not saying X-Cutioner's Song is what Mutant Wars would have been: obviously the Cable/Stryfe heart of X-Cutioner's depends on post-1990 stories, but it seems to me Harras may have used the scrapped 1990 crossover as a starting point, together with "Give Cable an origin," for X-Cutioner's.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 11, 2016 11:26 PM
This was a key issue for me because like fnord, it got me back in. But it wasn't just the X-books (all of which I continued with after this except X-Factor). I had dropped all the X-titles a year before and had dropped everything back around Christmas of 91. So these were the first comics I had bought in close to a year, only at a comic shop because I was hanging around friends from my dorm and they were headed down to Outer Limits in Waltham. But I decided to go ahead and buy this (I couldn't browse it, since it was poly-bagged) and I was interested enough that it really got me again. Maybe that's what happen when you go to college 3000 miles from home - you suddenly get back into comics to relieve some of the loneliness.
I do still think this holds up pretty well. The first panel with Cable is a bit jarring and awkward but most of the rest of the art is pretty solid (with the strange exception of Ororo's tiny ankles).
I rather like the Scott / Jean conversation. It reminds me of Garry Shandling's old routine of a marriage being like dinner at a nice restaurant. You might look at what someone else ordered. You might even imagine how it would taste. But in the end, you eat what you ordered because that's what you really want - after all, that's why you ordered it. And you're not going to go leap across the table just to try what the other person ordered.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 12, 2016 6:46 AM
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