Uncanny X-Men #289-290
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #289, Uncanny X-Men #290
From the covers you can see that these issues are focusing on the soap opera elements of Storm's love life, but there is actually a lot going on in these issues, starting with a portal opening into an alternate dimension where the original X-Men got turned into zombies.
Ok, that's really just Storm showing Bishop some old photos of the X-Men. But things between them get icy when Storm offers to let Bishop call her by her civilian name, and Bishop tells her to keep calling him Bishop.
Hey, i'm from the future! Bishop is my only name!
Actually, at some point Bishop's real name will turn out to be Lucas Bishop, but judging by this scene i assume that wasn't decided yet. Or maybe he just takes the name Lucas at some point to fit in in the present?
As an aside, i wonder if Bishop's name was ever meant to tie in with the Hellfire Club's titles (White Queen, etc.). We also have Gambit, which is a name that is used in some chess openings (e.g. the Queen's Gambit). I suspect this is all a coincidence and i'm glad that the writers didn't start doing chess metaphors, but since Bishop's name came up i thought i'd bring it up.
Portacio's art is dramatically dialed back for these issues, and that actually fits the downtime story quite nicely. Lobdell's main strength on his X-Men run has been his downtime issues.
Jean is following up on something she raised with Cyclops in X-Men #8, but Cyclops was too distracted by Psylocke to respond to her at the time. So Jean is doing it on her own. A surprisingly subtle touch there, and a nice interplay between the books (both written, or at least scripted, by Lobdell).
A little less subtle is Iceman's father's sudden descent into bigotry.
We learned in the Iceman mini-series that Iceman's father is Irish but he married a Jewish woman. Not that that would automatically mean that he's going to be open and welcoming to people of all ethnicities, it does make you wonder where he draws the line. Of course he's framing it as concern for his son, not wanting him to add 'complication' to his life, but at the same time he's talking about "morals". And he later tells Opal and Iceman, "what you are doing is vulgar".
He does have a point about the complications that come with dating an Asian person in the Marvel universe, at least, as he notes when they are inevitably attacked by ninjas at dinner.
Hiro shows up to help Iceman against the ninjas and whatever whatever i don't really care. Hiro actually kills himself by setting his armor to self-destruct, saving Iceman from a fight with the Cyber-Samurai (who were sent by Tatsu'o over the usual family honor stuff).
Meanwhile, Archangel continues to worry about his grip on his humanity, and he's visited by what seems like a vision of himself from the days when he wore the awful red and yellow costume with the suspenders. But it turns out to be Mystique.
This is a little weird. Wolverine did try to help Mystique in Wolverine #52, as the footnote says. But that story ended with Mystique getting dumped through a portal and winding up in Canada, with her memories fading. I guess Wolverine located her after that and brought her to the mansion before heading to Japan to pick up Jubilee. But there seems to have been a very poor handoff between the Wolverine book and this one.
And the Portacio art is back to being a mess.
Mystique gets Storm so mad she loses all her color.
Mystique manages to stir up enough trouble that Bishop and Forge start fighting. Storm sends Bishop and Mystique away to have it out with Forge. Bishop and Mystique keep fighting, and Bishop hilariously keeps telling Mystique that she's only got one crappy power and it's not very useful once you know about it.
I also love that Bishop has no guilt over the death of Randall and indeed finds the suggestion absurd. "He died in the line of duty! How could that be my fault? WTF are you talking about?"
Anyway, Bishop and Mystique don't really get to fighting, because as Forge points out, Mystique is just nuts.
I guess we'll have to make room for her next to Nebula in the Home For Formerly Competent Female Super-Villains.
As for Storm and Forge, Storm says that she's not sure about her feelings anymore. But Forge says that she's not being brave enough, and she needs to take a chance on herself, and he asks her to marry him.
Storm doesn't respond but flies off to think about it, and at least seems happy about it.
But Forge can't help but try to get Jean to give a preview while he's waiting, and he doesn't like what he finds out.
So when Storm returns, Forge tells her that he's leaving. He's going to dedicate himself to taking care of Mystique. Storm was going to say yes, but she doesn't get the chance. Luckily, a shirtless Bishop is still around.
As i said, there's a lot going on in these issues. So we also check in on Colossus and his brother Mikhail, who are out on the town. When Colossus leaves Mikhail alone for a second, he has a freakout, resulting in a sequential art fail from Portacio.
I guess that's a pizza delivery guy bumping into Mikhail. Anyway, when Colossus comes back, the poor guy's been turned into, or maybe phased into, a tree.
I have to admit i'm calling this a downtime arc because i'm basically blanking out the whole Iceman/Cyber-Samurai fight. The fight, and indeed the entire two issues, are fairly light on content thanks to Portacio's tendency to fit about four panels per page. But the story does still manage to jump around and focus on a lot of characters, and i like that. It's a nice change from a lot of recent issues where the story has been singularly focused on the main plot. Now we get subplots and character moments. Melodramatic, screaming character moments, mind you, so it's not exactly subtle stuff. And the sub-plotting is arguably becoming "more Claremont than Claremont", which will add to the charges that this book is impenetrable to new readers. But it's a definite change in style now that Lobdell is plotting, and it does have its merits.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The events of the last issue are said to have happened "yesterday". Forge quits the team in issue #290, so this should probably take place after Forge's appearances in X-Men annual #1 and Infinity War.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAngel, Bishop, Colossus, Forge, Hiro, Iceman, Jean Grey, Madeline Drake, Mikhail Rasputin, Mystique, Opal Tanaka, Professor X, Storm, William Drake
Mystique will be revealed to be faking her insanity in X-Men Unlimited 4.
Posted by: Michael | February 28, 2016 1:50 PM
By now wouldn't you think Jean would have a much better poker face when confronted with questions like that?
"Listen,pal, I don't go snooping on my friend's personal business. Sort it out yourself."
Posted by: Shaun | February 28, 2016 3:36 PM
It's been bugging me for over 20 years - what kind of hat is that pizza delivery guy wearing?
Posted by: Mark Black | February 28, 2016 4:10 PM
Gambit is not just a "name that is used in some chess openings", it's a specific type of chess move: sacrificing a pawn to gain some other advantage. I always thought it was weird that Gambit has such a specific name, yet neither his powers nor personality seem to have anything to do with its meaning. Why did he choose that name?
Posted by: Tuomas | February 28, 2016 4:32 PM
I admit I really like Portacio's depiction of Jean in these issues. She looks genuinely beautiful.
Posted by: Piotr W | February 28, 2016 4:32 PM
As to why Gambit chose his name, has it been explained in-story? Some N'Awlins gambling thing, I guess?
As to why Claremont chose the name, I've generally accepted the theory I'd heard that Gambit was sort of a Dark Longshot. Longshot/Gambit, sometimes glowing eye thing etc.
As to why the same young kid would have chose the name "Mr Sinister" for one of his identities and "Gambit" for the other, who knows? If we're going by the Mr Sinister naming convention, he should be called "Ace Ladiesman" or something.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 28, 2016 5:15 PM
Ace Rimmer. He should've been called Ace Rimmer! :)
Posted by: Piotr W | February 28, 2016 5:47 PM
Smoke me a kipper, skipper; I'll be back for breakfast!
Posted by: Cecil Disharoon | February 28, 2016 8:52 PM
I think it's weird that after roughly four and a half years publishing time of Archangel as a guy with light-blue skin and dark-blue/purple costume, it was decided that he really needed to be a blond again. Not even saying 'oh, it was a skullcap all along' as a way of at least explaining things.
Posted by: ChrisW | February 28, 2016 10:27 PM
@Jonathan: Young Nathan from the State Home for Foundlings chose the name "Sinister" because it is the heraldic mark of the bastard. Claremont was intending to suggest he was the illegitimate son of a famous character in the MU.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | February 29, 2016 5:59 AM
Wait what, Sinister and Gambit were supposed to be the same person?!
Posted by: Tuomas | February 29, 2016 6:57 AM
Sorry about the multitude of links but here's Claremont's "secret origin" of Gambit and Sinister (from a non-canon series).
I'm sure some of you will think this is the same old brilliant gold, so I won't say anything...
Posted by: AF | February 29, 2016 7:20 AM
That's the rumour, that Claremont intended them to be the villain and hero images created by essentially a young kid. I've heard Claremont confirm the part about Sinister being a young kid, but never actually seen where he said that Gambit was the hero version.
Claremont did say that he intended Gambit to be a villain who was connected to Mr Sinister (so the whole "is Gambit maybe the traitor" storyline isn't totally against what CC intended): "Gambit was created to be, among many other things, an adversary for the X-Men, working to subvert and destroy them from within. The connection with Sinister was part of his genesis from the get-go– *however* that connection related solely to *my* conception of Sinister and the plans I had for him and the team, post “X-Men” #3"
What exactly that connection was I don't know. In "X-Men: The End", Claremont makes Gambit a clone of Sinister, though that might not have been what he intended back in the 90s, before other writers took Sinister in a different direction.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 29, 2016 7:33 AM
Oops, crossed posts with AF...
Posted by: Jonathan | February 29, 2016 7:59 AM
Mine needed approving first so you couldn't see it. ;)
Posted by: AF | February 29, 2016 8:02 AM
"Gambit was created to be, among many other things, an adversary for the X-Men, working to subvert and destroy them from within. The connection with Sinister was part of his genesis from the get-go– *however* that connection related solely to *my* conception of Sinister and the plans I had for him and the team, post “X-Men” #3"
Okay, I guess that might sorta explain his name too... He was a pawn of Sinister that Sinister "sacrificed" (let him join the X-Men) so that he would have a sleeper agent within the team.
Posted by: Tuomas | February 29, 2016 8:11 AM
Everyone Portacio draws looks like they're experiencing some kind of mild seizure.
Posted by: Bob | February 29, 2016 9:31 AM
My God, if only Claremont's plans for Gambit were allowed to come true..!!! That would be awesome. Instead, the X-Men mythos got saddled with the nonsense of Gambit as a genuine hero... :(
Posted by: Piotr W | February 29, 2016 5:13 PM
@Piotr W: So what's wrong with that?
Posted by: D09 | February 29, 2016 7:47 PM
Much is made about about Storm feelings, but many readers thought Forge flew off the handle and that the break-up was way too much an abupt shift in tone. (Of course it's been speculated that this was a ham-handed way to pair him off with Mystique, playing off a previous prophecy.)
To be fair though, there was talk about how Ororo's relationship with Forge seemed rather cold and distant as of late, (I think there was even a letter in Uncanny 285 making that point with the response generally agreeing with that assessment.)
And speaking of abrupt shifts in tone, Archangel's melodrama really cracks me up in retrospect, considering that they're going to drive a nail through that subplot in the next arc. Oops!
Posted by: Jon Dubya | March 3, 2016 11:51 AM
ChrisW, Archangel was bald between Fall of the Mutants and at least Inferno (Dazzler makes a comment on it). It seems sometime after that his hair must have started growing back in but he was just never shown with his skull-cap hood thing off.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | March 3, 2016 12:49 PM
Jay, that's my point. Archangel was never shown as having hair for four and a half years of publishing time. Dazzler's comment "blue-skinned and bald" made perfect sense. It's not like he has this huge Portacio mullet breaking out of his skull all this time.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 3, 2016 11:56 PM
@ChrisW and Jay: Louise & Walt intended Archangel's costume to actually be tattoo markings from Apocalypse's process (having made him a proper "angel" if you get my drift, i.e. smooth as a Ken doll).
Posted by: Nathan Adler | March 4, 2016 3:01 AM
@Nathan: wait, so Archangel was supposed to be flying around stark naked? Now that's a... novel superhero idea. Not to mention, it would mean that he was no longer, uhm, anatomically correct...
@D09: well, I don't really like Gambit. I'm not a fan of the "dashing rogue" trope... Also, I really think that the idea of Gambit as Sinister's infiltrator / avatar was great. When you read the final Claremont issues, you can see that plot being subtly built on... and I really think it's disappointing that it didn't come to pass.
Posted by: Piotr W | March 4, 2016 2:39 PM
Say what you will about late period Claremont, for him to be unceremoniously booted for this drek (especially considering that Portacio and Lee ended up running off to make more money at Image, anyway) is one of the biggest injustices toward a creator in Marvel's history.
With his tenure and all he'd done for the company, he deserved better.
Harras might have been slightly forgivable, had he hired someone with an actual vision and work ethic. Instead, he gave it to Lee and his hack sidekick.
Posted by: Bob | March 4, 2016 4:03 PM
@Piotr W: Ah but anatomically correct for an Archangel!
Posted by: Nathan Adler | March 5, 2016 4:46 AM
Lobdell is so frigging inconsistent as a writer. It's like, he has moments where I think he's the second coming of Claremont, and other times he makes me want to gauge my eyes out.
But his scripting is never as bad as a young Nicieza or Liefeld.
Posted by: FF3 | March 10, 2016 3:07 PM
I think this issue explains a lot about Uncanny X-Men #600. Which is to say, never ask Jean (or "a" Jean) for any advice about your relationship or sexuality.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | March 13, 2016 11:47 PM
Good lord, was this bad. I really loved the first year or so of X-Men, but the same year of Uncanny was just awful. I never did understand how Mystique even knew about Randall to mimic him in the first place.
Posted by: Erik Beck | March 20, 2016 1:18 PM
@ Mark Black -
Since no one ever seemed to answer your question of 2 years ago - my impression (what I can get from the pathetic story-telling in the art) is that the guy is wearing roller blades and that's a helmet on his head.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 17, 2018 6:17 AM
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