120: Phalanx Covenant (Generation Next)

What’s Covered?

UXM # 311 - 313, 316 - 317 & X-Men Vol 1 # 36 - 37


The Phalanx Covenant features the techno organic Phalanx attacking the X-Men and also serves as a backdoor introduction to Generation X.


Roster Watch



Synopsis


UXM # 311 - 313: Yukio and the Phalanx

Writer - Scott Lobdell

Pencils - Joe Madureira


The Phalanx Covenant storyline centers around a techno organic menace threatening mutantkind, and eventually all of humankind. We learn that Warlock's Techno organic remains were sent to the US Government for study and they choose Stephen Lang (the mutant hater from all the way back in #98 and the origin of the Phoenix) to be the human host for the virus.


Stephen Lang spawned an entire group of human/machine hybrids working within a common hive mind. Cameron Hodge is one of their leading consciousnesses as well, first seen in Issue # 308 during Fatal Attractions. Lang and Hodge both bring their anti-mutant bias to the fold as they direct the Phalanx to exterminate all mutants.

Yukio, first introduced in Wolverine's original Limited Series, asks to meet up with Storm in New York. Shortly after meeting up, three members of the Phalanx attack Yukio and Storm, announcing that they have been following Yukio, hoping she would lead them to Storm. We quickly see how menacing and dangerous they are as they appear to be impossible to kill (putting themselves back together like a T 1000) and able to adapt to any attack (like Nimrod and other advanced sentinels).


At one point, a man with a baseball bat tries to destroy one of their members, but it quickly goes bad as the man is taken over by the Techno Organic creature (like horror movie, The Blob) and is forced to join their ranks.


Eventually Gambit shows up and him, Storm, and Yukio are just barely able to escape. There is also a check in with a re-animated Douglock character, who we will learn all about in my next entry,following the Excalibur team.



UXM # 316 - 317 & X-Men Vol 2 # 36 - 37: Generation Next

UXM Writer - Scott Lobdell

UXM Pencils - Joe Madureira

XM Writer - Fabian Nicieza

XM Pencils - Andy Kubert


Once again following the horror story vibe, Jubilee and Banshee begin to slowly realize that the X-Men are acting quite odd. It eventually becomes apparent that all of the X-Men have been taken and replaced by Phalanx body snatchers. We'll eventually learn that the Phalanx have not yet discovered how to take over mutants (which is odd because Warlock could), and while they plan to kill all mutants, they just took the X-Men hostage to "study them." In other words, the X-Men have plot armor so nothing serious is going to happen to them.

Banshee, Jubilee, Emma, and Sabretooth are the only members of the mansion who haven't been taken over. We'll primarily follow them as we learn that the Phalanx are on the lookout for the Next Generation of mutants, setting us up to meet the cast of the new X-Comic, Generation X.

I'll provide a brief introduction to the Gen X squad here, but I'll get much more into them in the full Generation X blog.

The first mutant kidnapped is Husk, aka Paige Guthrie, Cannonball's sister, who we first met during the X-Force Younghunt storyline. Paige is able to shed her skin and unveil various inner forms (an undamaged body, metal skin, beast form, etc.) She seems hell bent on becoming the leader of the group and tries to show the most maturity.

We also meet Monet St. Croix, who goes by M. Monet seems to have a huge array of powers, including at least flight, super strength, telepathy, and advanced intelligence. Money spends most of the series in a coma like state, before suddenly snapping out of it and saving the day.

In addition, we meet Angelo Espinosa (Skin) who has the mutant power to...grow extra skin? He's kind of like Mr. Fantastic but instead of being stretchy, he just grows more skin? Still figuring this one out.

Clarice Ferguson, aka Blink, is introduced as well. She is a teleporter, but since they all work differently her ability seems to be a bit unstable.

Finally, we meet Everett Thomas who goes by Synch. He seems to be able to synch up his powers with Mutants around him and copy their abilities.

Eventually, Banshee, Emma, Jubilee, Synch, and Sabretooth are able to find the rest of the young mutants and rescue them, but not without suffering a tragic loss.

Clarice, AKA Blink, helps them all to escape by teleporting herself, along with the Phalanx to some unknown time and place. This is also the icing on the cake for Jubilee where after issues of build up, she realizes that her place is with those of her same age, shortly leaving the X-Men to join Generation X.


My Connections

The Phalanx Covenant is broken into three parts, with this blog covering the first part: Generation Next. Excalibur, X-Force, and X-Factor will come together for "Life Signs" and then the two solo comics led by Wolverine and Cable will round out the event with "Final Sanction."


Through the 90's, Marvel had strict guidelines regarding how sexuality can be portrayed in their comics. Claremont was famous for skirting this policy through his use of Mystique and Destiny as "friends" who live together. Another example is Black Tom and Juggernaut spend all of their time together, and we learn in one issue that Juggernaut was a huge Dazzler fan, which is a subtle nod at coding him homosexual (Dazzler has a huge gay following.) Even Storm herself would be shown hanging around with Wolverine naked in her bed during the Outback era, having casual conversations, leading one to believe that they were friends with benefits.


Storm and Yukio is another such relationship, where I would argue that Lobdell correctly picked up on Claremont's hints and decided to continue it, but even less subtly

ScreenRant ran an article in 2017 called "X-Men: 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Storm." I'll be clear that I'm not sure if ScreenRant is a credible source, but the writer seems to agree with my assessment when he said:


"Chris Claremont had originally intended for Storm to be bisexual. He had wanted her to pursue a relationship with Yukio, with whom she seemed to have a physically close relationship. Claremont was not allowed to do this at the time, as Marvel would not admit that any of their characters were gay."

Let's take a look at the conversation below:

"Not afraid for me, silly...for you. Though we're separated by thousands of miles, Ororo --I think about you often." It seems pretty clear that Lobdell is taking this Storm/Yukio thread from Claremont and making it a tad bit more explicit. In addition to the dialogue, you can see the the ladies looking into each other's eyes, with Yukio cradling Storm's face.


Creators

As discussed previously, John Romita Jr. had stepped away for a few issues to pencil a Marvel/DC crossover. While he was away, Joe Madureira had filled in admirably. Editor Bob Harras had received so many positive letters about Maduriera's work that he decided to make him the permanent penciler on Uncanny, which officially begins here. I'm certainly a fan of his work and he seems to work well with Lobdell.


Fabian Nicieza and Andy Kubert continue their work on X-Men, however Nicieza's tenure isn't far off from ending.


Character Beats


Jubilee has had one of the biggest ongoing arcs over the last several comics which essentially comes to a conclusion. Lobdell and Nicieza are laying on pretty thick that Jubilee is young and probably doesn't belong here. There have been a number of instances where we see that she doesn't have complete control over powers. Emotionally, she seems isolated and alone without Wolverine. She has been a scared kid on the run since being orphaned and Wolverine has been right there by her side, acting as a psuedo father, but now he's gone and she's having trouble regulating her emotions.

In these panels you see Jubilee freaking out at Beast about him making jokes when so many heavy events have taken place. Obviously she is carrying a lot of grief over the death of Illyana and the Hellions, the maiming and subsequent abandonment by Wolverine, and the current questionable states of Emma and Bobby. As a perfect setup for Generation X, it's Banshee who is there by her side providing comfort.


Speaking of setup for Generation X, Banshee (Sean) and Emma begin spending a lot of time together setting up their relationship as co head masters of the re-branded Massachusetts Academy which will house the Generation X team.


In another skillful nod to the Claremont era, Storm struggles with whether or not it's right to kill the Phalanx. We haven't seen her verbally struggled with killing since Claremont was on board, but it makes sense that she would be the one to question whether or not they are living creatures and deserve life. This is what separates heroes from villains, where the heroes can't always choose life, especially when innocent lives hang in the balance, but the fact that there is conflict and effort to avoid it is what makes all the difference.


We get more development in the "Is Sabretooth good or bad" saga which I mentioned in the last blog post as beginning to grate on me. Here this is a "shocking" moment for he escapes and is freed from his muzzle and claw restraints and the team (consisting only of Banshee, Emma, Synch, and Jubilee) is left to wonder if he will be a bigger threat than the Phalanx. However, similar to the Annual covered last blog, Sabretooth comes back of his own accord (sporting his typical costume) and provides aide to the heroes (which happens to include another reformed villain, Emma Frost AKA the White Queen.)


My Rating - 7/10


Previous Post - 119: UXM # 311, 314 - 315 (Sabretooth Loose)


Next Post - 121 - Phalanx Covenant: Life Signs & Final Sanction


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