Characters Appearing: Avalanche, Banshee, Beast, Blob, Crimson Commando, Cyclops, Empyrean, Gambit, Henry Peter Gyrich, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Moira MacTaggert, Phantazia, Professor X, Psylocke, Pyro, Revanche, Rogue, Toad, Trish Tilby
X-Men annual #2
Issue(s): X-Men annual #2
We learn that Crimson Commando has been rebuilt as a cyborg...
...and he's dropped the "Crimson" part of his name ("feels like any crimson I had was BLED out of me"). Avalanche is also fully covered by new body armor. The two factions are not happy with each other after their split at the end of the story ending in X-Factor annual #6. But the fight is broken up by our new character.
His name is Empyrean, and so we are on the Empyrean Isle (although Herbie Hancock isn't around).
Avalanche and Pyro later reconcile.
Seeing them prompts Blob to ask if they're kissing yet, and this causes Empyrean to get angry and use his powers to zap the Blob.
We also learn that Empyrean is trying to create a sanctuary for mutants afflicted with the Legacy Virus.
It also turns out Empyrean - aka Jonathan Chambers - is being monitored by Henry Gyrich (although he's pretending to be part of the DEA). He's actually hired Commando and Avalanche to infiltrate Empyrean's island.
Meanwhile, the X-Men are monitoring the Legacy Virus situation, which has apparently escalated quickly.
I think it's kind of a shame that the Legacy Virus has grown into full-blown crisis mode so soon after the confirmation of the disease. One of the more dramatic and tragic elements of the real AIDS crisis was that the disease was not acknowledged by officials right away, which prompted activists like ACT UP to stage protests to call attention to it. There are a lot of ways that Marvel could have used that, and the AIDS parallel in general, to create interesting stories. But instead the disease is just sort of here and it's all about working furiously for a cure, complete with a very implausible globe that magically glows wherever an instance of infection has occurred.
Meanwhile, Jean Grey (in part trying to help determine if Psylocke's "romantic" advances towards Cyclops were of her own volition) tries to diagnose the Psylocke/Revance situation and finds that they are completely linked, two halves of the same whole.
Later, the X-Men decide to investigate Chalmers, in part because his island is built on a former AIM headquarters. It also seems that his father died under mysterious circumstances. Chalmers has come to the X-Men's attention thanks to his public appearances promoting his book, Fatal Attractions (as we saw in X-Men Unlimited #2, but there's no footnote). And Chalmers has recruited a pair of scientists, one of whom is part of Professor X's "underground railroad of mutant sympathizers". This was formerly called the "Mutant Underground". A tangent here (a familiar one to regular readers): over the years i've seen a lot of complaints about how the X-books became too impenetrable because of the deep continuity. As i've said before, there were a lot of problems with the X-books but as a fan of continuity i've always reflexively disagreed that that was the problem. But we see here two examples where even if you're trying to follow the X-books, you're going to run into problems. The scene in X-Men Unlimited #2 gave no hint that the character there was the mutant Empyrean, and this issue makes no effort to tie us back to that. And just a simple thing like using multiple names for Professor X's network of sympathizers reduces clarity (presumably the "Mutant Underground" name was dropped because the people in the underground aren't necessarily mutants). So it's not that continuity in itself is a problem, but when you write in such an insular way that you have to go over every line with a fine toothed comb, you're going to drive people away.
Anyway, Xavier's scientist friend has contacted Xavier to let them know that the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are on Empyrean's Island, which is what causes the X-Men to head there now. The X-Men split up. Cyclops, Rogue, and Beast meet Empyrean while Gambit, Psylocke, and Revanche try to sneak into the basement, but are found by the Brotherhood (with Commando and Avalanche). Cyclops, Rogue, and Beast hear the fight and go to it, and when they see Commando and Avalanche, they reveal that their "contacts" have told them that they now work for Project: Wideawake.
Reacting to that (i think, or maybe the fight generally), Empyrean freaks out, saying that he won't have his work disrupted. And he uses his power, which apparently causes the powers of every mutant on the island to "spew".
It then comes out that Empyrean is really some kind of energy leech, feeding off of mutant energies, but that turns around again and it turns out that doing so actually comforts people infected with the Legacy Virus.
The Beast and Cyclops are still not sure if they want to leave Empyrean in operation, but Revanche and Psylocke strongly support Empyrean - it turns out that Revanche has the Legacy Virus too - and tell the other X-Men that it's time to leave. Gyrich then shows up, and the X-Men refuse to go along with him in saying that there are illegal activities on the premises that would allow him to investigate without a warrant.
Like a lot of Fabian Nicieza stories, there's a decent plot here that is overcomplicated and trying to do too much at once. Too many factions. Characters with ambiguous powers and ambiguous motivations. This would be tolerable if it were building to something bigger. But, for example, Empyrean will never appear again (aside, apparently, from giveaway comics issued at Hardee's restaurants, where he goes back in time to try to spread the Legacy Virus further but winds up getting eaten by T. Rex).
It's actually surprising that Empyrean wasn't used again, since his island sanctuary could have served as a decent setting for stories about the Legacy Virus. But as noted above, the stories about the Legacy Virus are generally pretty poor, so i guess such a setting wasn't necessary.
A back-up story has the Beast acting way too flippantly about a mutant that is in a lot of pain. Some very cartoony art from Ian Churchill.
The Beast realizes that he's being an ass, and the doctor that was doing his immoral experiments also has a change of heart.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP have this in between Wolverine #75 and Excalibur #71 (the final two parts of Fatal Attractions) but i'm pushing it beyond Excalibur #71 to make Fatal Attractions more contiguous. I don't think there are any real dependencies.
Crossover: 1993 Annuals
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
"but Revanche and Psylocke strongly support Empyrean". Of course they would, given Revanche's current status.
Posted by: clyde | January 24, 2017 3:28 PM
This issue came out a month late.
Posted by: Michael | January 24, 2017 7:57 PM
I never realized the one-off Iraqi villain Amenedi was reported dead in this issue. Another low-profile Legacy victim.
As aimless as the Legacy story quickly becomes, it seems like a model of long-term plotting compared to the Mutant Underground, which gets a flurry of mentions out of nowhere in '93 and I'm pretty sure is never heard of again after its fourth of fifth reference.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | January 24, 2017 9:23 PM
One interesting thing about the backup story- during the second half of Simonson's run, Beast was said to be considerably stronger than ever before. But when the mutated patient and corrupt doctor are in danger of falling to their deaths, Trish isn't sure whether Hank can save them both, and Beast says don't worry, I can lift 3,000 pounds max and they weigh less then that combined. There's been no mention of Hank's "extra" strength lately and 3,000 pounds is roughly Hank's pre-Simonson strength limit, so it looks like the backup is saying Hank's back to his pre-Simonson strength.
Posted by: Michael | January 24, 2017 10:34 PM
Yeah, all the Simonson X-Factor power enhancements are being forgotten about. Beast isn't additionally strong, Iceman has had to get another power enhancement because the one that required him to use the inhibitor belt has been forgotten about, and even Archangel rarely uses his wing blades or darts in this era.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | January 25, 2017 12:27 AM
By the way, quick trivia reference: this is the first time tbe disease is actually calked "The Legacy Virus."
Posted by: Jon Dubya | March 3, 2017 8:15 PM
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