Characters Appearing: Arclight, Dazzler, Harpoon, Malice (Marauder), Mr. Sinister, Polaris, Rogue, Sabretooth, Scalphunter, Scrambler, Spider-Man, Storm, Vertigo (Savage Land Mutate), Wolverine
Issue(s): X-Men/Spider-Man #2
I had initially placed this tentatively in my 1986 box, thinking that i'd cover it directly after the Mutant Massacre. But when i opened it to read it for that year, i realized that it had to take place after Kraven's Last Hunt, and i worried that Christos Gage had screwed up big time here and i would have to compress a year's worth of 1987 Spider-Mans into 1986. But when i kept going and got into my 1987 X-Men i remembered that the group spends the whole year basically doing nothing about the Marauders, so fitting this in late 1987 isn't a big problem.
That said, there are a lot of little concerns to contend with. Not regarding placement (i do have a few of those still, but they can be hand-waved), but about how a lot of the details and especially the two big revelations in this issue don't fit in very well with the period its supposed to take place in.
Before i start grinding away on that, let me say that i do like Gage's writing. He's got a natural and fun way with dialogue, and the plotting and pacing of this issue in isolation, and the way he connects things here with the story from his first issue is fun. It's when you look at the story in the context of the period that he runs into trouble. I continue to have mixed feelings about Mario Alberti, who for a modern artist puts in more detail and better storytelling than most but whose style is such that things become muddled; the amount of detail he puts in actually works against him at times and, combined with the coloring (also by him), some scenes aren't as clear as they should be. I also just don't like his style; especially his hairy eyebrowed thick lipped faces.
Ok, on to the nitpicky continuity nerd stuff.
My first question is why does Spider-Man go to the X-Men at all. He reads Kraven's journal and sees that it was about the five original X-Men. Ok, so why does he go to the current X-Men? Spider-Man met the original X-men team operating as the X-Terminators in Amazing Spider-Man #282 and seemed to have the ability to contact them for Marvel Fanfare #31-32. I guess i shouldn't expect Gage's research to go deep enough to find the Fanfare issue, but Spider-Man at least should come to the X-Men knowing that Cyclops' group was separate. Storm only says that Cyclops' team is "otherwise occupied"...
...and then, interestingly, Rogue promises to "let Cyclops and the others know", which would have been the first contact between the two X-groups if it had actually occurred (instead, the current X-team find out that Spidey's info is about Mr. Sinister, so they stop trying to give him the brush-off).
The first troublesome revelation from Kraven's journal is the fact that it leads the X-Men to the Morlock tunnels, where Mr. Sinister apparently had a secret lab. "No wonder [the Marauders] took 'em down so easy. They already knew the territory."
The problem with this is the fact that the Marauders seem to have gone to great lengths to find the secret entrance to the Morlock tunnels. In Uncanny X-Men #210 they had to chase the mutant Tommy back and forth across the country to get in. And then there's the later (conflicting?) revelation that Gambit led the Marauders there. Now it turns out that Mr. Sinister had been operating out of these tunnels all along. So are the X-Men wrong and Sinister was keeping this lab a secret from his minions? If so, not any more, because the Marauders show up at the lab in this issue when Spider-Man and the X-Men get there.
It's also worth noting that we have to believe that Mr. Sinister's lab in this "seldom-used" (per Storm) portion of the Morlock tunnels survived Thor's purge at the end of the Massacre.
One thing that Gage stays consistent with the 1986-1987 books about is that everyone has a reason for being immune to Vertigo's powers and she gets taken out easily.
Spider-Man isn't aware that Storm has lost her powers, which is fair enough. They were both there for the fight against the Beyonder at the end of Secret Wars II, but with all the confusion there i can't fault Spider-Man for not noticing that Storm wasn't using her abilities.
Here's a scene that illustrates a number of things. Sabretooth tells Wolverine that if he wants a shot at his partners, "you're gonna have to go through me". So Wolverine literally goes through Sabretooth, jamming his arm all the way through Sabretooth's body and (i guess?) cutting off Scalphunter's arm.
That's the sort of thing that, if someone had drawn it in 1986-87, if it had been allowed to be drawn (and i don't just mean by the Code), it would have been an iconic, memorable event. Here it's just a passing moment of kewlness in an obscure mini-series.
And Alberti's confusing art hardly makes it a memorable scene.
On top of that, if this was done back in '86-87, it would have killed Sabretooth or at least put him out of commission for a long, long time. Compare to Wolverine being bedridden after his fight with Lady Deathstrike or Sabretooth being hospitalized after his fight with Spider-Man. Here, Sabretooth grins and says "Now this is a brawl."
Finally, it turns out that even Scalphunter has regeneration (something that we haven't seen to date in the regular books) and is barely fazed by losing an arm.
My god, there are just no stakes in this fight. No one can be hurt. We're watching a battle between immortal gods that can unleash immense but meaningless destruction upon each other.
It's barely worth mentioning that Dazzler confidentially uses a "light-shield" to deflect Harpoon's energy javelins, something i haven't seen her do elsewhere yet. How'd she know that would work?
Spider-Man and the X-Men get more than a passing glimpse at Mr. Sinister's lab and see the X-clones before the Marauders destroy it.
Gage gets in a predictable but still fun joke having Spider-Man shudder at the thought of clones.
Then we switch to Mr. Sinister at the grave of his "old ally", Kraven. He doesn't comprehend Kraven's decision to kill himself, but makes a comment about how "part of you will live on", a reference that builds on a scene from the first issue of this mini-series where Kraven also gave Sinister a sample of his own DNA.
Concerning placement and the things that i have to ignore: at the beginning of this issue, Wolverine tells Spider-Man that the Marauders have "just declared" war on mutants, and later when they take Spider-Man into the Morlock tunnels they define the Morlocks as "A group of underground-dwelling mutants who the Marauders just massacred". I'm using my standard "time is relative" rule for that. The other point is the absence of Havok. Before entering the tunnels (and actually, nicely on Gage's part, with Spider-Man showing reluctance to go into the sewers again after his recent fight with Vermin and the claustrophobia it caused), Spider-Man suggests that the X-Men call in "the full team". Rogue responds, "This is the full team, honey. Everyone who's home and fit to fight." Thank goodness for the word "home"; the fact that Havok was sent out for ice cream therefore disqualifies him. Or more seriously, he could maybe be at the Hellfire Club with Magneto trying to locate his girlfriend Polaris, which would plug the hole in the actual Uncanny comics where he was never shown doing that. You may ask why i don't just push this back to before Havok joined the team, and the answer is Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1, which takes place before Kraven's Last Hunt but shows Havok with the X-Men.
I said i liked Gage's scripting, and i do, but it occasionally gets a little tone-deaf in order to get some jokes in. The most obvious case of that is when Wolverine tells Spider-Man that the X-Men are busy "tryin' to heal the sick, find the missing, bury the dead and nail the scum" behind the Mutant Massacre. And Spider-Man responds, "Hey, I've got things I'd rather be doing too, Wolverine, and people with better hair to do them with.". Nice, Peter. Sensitive. The clone joke at the end is also purely meta; no real reason for Spidey to make that comment at this time.
That said, i still do like Gage's writing, and this story is just fun enough to justify its existence. Frankly, the addition of another X-Men/Marauders fight helps greatly with what otherwise feels like a period of shiftless inaction on the X-Men's part. I do wish Gage did better research (or had an editor who cared about such things); if this were, for example, a Kurt Busiek story i imagine it not only would have fit in perfectly but also might have helped smooth over some pre-existing problems, like the Tommy/Gambit thing.
The biggest problem with this story is the implications of the revelations that Mr. Sinister is involved in cloning and has an interest in the original X-Men. This really, really should have prompted the team to reach out to X-Factor (alternatively, if we were writing in "fix it" mode, you could say that when the X-Men nearly encountered X-Factor in the Morlock tunnels, and when Wolverine thought he smelled Jean Grey, the X-Men could now write it off as being Mr. Sinister's clones). And the cloning revelation should have prepared them for the idea that Madelyne Pryor was a clone and the fact that Sinister was also cloning the Marauders.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: See above for some items i'm disregarding, like the absence of Havok and references to how much time has passed since the Massacre. This definitely has to take place after Kraven's Last Hunt, and i'd think the sooner the better (since Kraven saw Spider-Man's face, Spidey worries that he may have had notes on his secret ID, so after Kraven's death he snuck back into his mansion to see if he needed to destroy any records, and that's how he found the journal with the info on Sinister). For the X-Men, since i'm already disregarding Havok and the possible intention on passage of time, the important thing is that this take place before Storm leaves the group in Uncanny X-Men #220 and therefore basically this has to take between #219-220, since #219 introduces Havok to the team and, as i said above, has to take place before the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine oneshot which has to take place before Kraven's Last Hunt.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Another problem is that during Inferno the X-Men learn that the Marauders are setting up a base in the Morlock tunnels and they seem surprised, although that can always be spun as the X-Men not thinking the Maruaders would return to the Morlock tunnels after their previous base there was discovered.
Posted by: Michael | April 19, 2014 7:25 PM
I'm looking at this out of curiosity and I'd have agreed about the Scalphunter-arm thing. Picture it with Byrne's art or the artist of Life Death and it would have been outstanding.
Posted by: davidbanes | April 19, 2014 7:42 PM
Scalphunter's mutant power if regeneration is first revealed, real-time, in an issue of Tieri's Weapon X from the early 2000s. It shows Sinister recruiting Scalphunter during World War II.
In the scans above, the X-Men explain Morlocks to Spidey. But he's met Morlocks before in Marvel Team-Up, hasn't he?
Not only do the X-Men seem surprised to find Marauders in the Morlock tunnels during Inferno, as Michael notes, but the Marauders themselves have dialogue that tells us they don't know why they've been told to set up base in the tunnels. (I now realize that just maybe Claremont intended to connect that to the fact Sinister himself had taken over Xavier's mansion, which links up with the tunnels.)
Sinny's a manipulative enough guy that I guess he could be messing with the Marauders' minds and misleading everyone about his knowledge of the Morlocks' tunnels, pre-massacre. But we do indeed on the face of it have three contradictory accounts of how the Marauders come to know of the tunnels.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 19, 2014 9:52 PM
Spider-Man did encounter "Morlocks" in Marvel Team-Up #135, but they were of the non-mutant variety and i guess Spider-Man just thought he was fighting a bunch of humans in the sewer.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 19, 2014 11:10 PM
The X-Men didn't have a clue Mr. Sinister existed until "Inferno." When Psylocke read Sabretooth's mind in UXM #213, all she got was "Marauders, and a shadow all acknowledge as their master." When Dazzler was freed from Malice in #214, when the X-Men saved Madelyne Pryor from them in #221-222, when Madelyne was corrupted by N'astirh to find her baby in the run-up to "Inferno," the characters were entirely oblivious to Sinister's existence until "X-Factor" #38.
Posted by: ChrisW | April 27, 2014 3:41 PM
Actually, in Uncanny 212, Sabretooth tells Wolverine he's working for a Mr.Sinister.
Posted by: Michael | April 27, 2014 3:58 PM
Well, why don't I just shut up then?
I'm not sure I ever noticed that reference before, and #212 was possibly the first *new* issue I got as a brand-new fan of the muties. I probably did, and just forgot about it before too long, because it wasn't that memorable of an issue, or a reference. Wolvie ends the fight talking to the Healer (who's probably unconscious) about how he's a man, and he's learned honor, etc.
My basic point still holds up (kinda) because the X-Men spent the next thirty issues without the slightest interest in who the Marauders worked for, even when they set up a rematch in the first issue of "Inferno."
I'd never even heard of this comic, much less read it, but at least based on the panel shown here, where Spider-Man tosses off a reference to 'this sinister guy,' I don't see it as believable that they recognize "Sinister" as a name and not an adjective commonly applied to super-villains.
Posted by: ChrisW | April 27, 2014 5:48 PM
Speaking of "sinister" used as an adjective, has anyone ever done a "Mister Sinister Six" gag?
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 25, 2015 11:17 AM
Can't think of an instance, but it sounds like something Rick Remender would come up with.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 25, 2015 11:28 AM
Well, there was Sinister's Six in AOA.
Posted by: Scott | January 4, 2016 12:02 PM
Hey, I just had a thought. Wolverine could smell Jean's scent in the tunnels during Mutant Massacre. Couldn't seeing clones of Jean in this issue give him reason to doubt the validity of it for the time being?
Posted by: Max_Spider | January 4, 2016 4:43 PM
I always wondered why if Wolverine's smell is so accurate he identifies people by their scent, didn't he know Madelyne was a clone of Jean? Did Sinister change her body chemistry or something?
Posted by: jULES | June 17, 2018 6:54 PM
Why would a clone smell different from the original deal?
Posted by: Bill | June 17, 2018 11:08 PM
I think jULES is saying Madelyne would smell the same as Jean, not different. Though if she looked exactly the same, I don't think smelling the same would be that surprising, comparatively. (And if twenty-year-older time-travelling Kitty Pryde smelled the same as her pubescent self, you have to figure Madelyne would also smell the same as Jean to Wolverine.) Although, why the X-Men wouldn't think to do a DNA analysis, or at least a fingerprint comparison, is beyond me. I don't remember a scene where Wolverine first encountered Madelyne; he was too wrapped up in the Mariko meshugas at the time.
Posted by: Andrew | June 18, 2018 7:23 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|