UXM # 323 - 326 (July - Oct '95), X-Men V2 # 45, Wolverine # 91, Wolverine Annual '96, and X-Men Unlimited # 8
Hello my faithful followers! I've done this blog and the previous one a little differently. There are a bunch of little character stories going on across UXM # 322 - 325 (only covering # 323 - 325 in this one), X-Men # 42 - 45 (only covering # 45 in this one), X-Men Annual '95 (not covered in this one), X-Men Unlimited # 8, Wolverine # 91, and Wolverine Annual '96.
While many of the side stories above are seeded throughout all of these issues, I pulled out all of the stories that are mostly isolated to be covered in the next blog. The previous one featured a Juggernaut encounter, a Mr. Sinister reverie, and a Colossus story in the Fall of Avalon.
The main story that I will cover in this blog is the Gene Nation story, which is set up across multiple titles and completed in Uncanny. I will also provide coverage of Wolverine, who is pretty feral and living in the woods outside of the mansion throughout all of these issues after realizing that he almost killed Sabretooth. I'll cover Sabretooth himself, who has regressed to a childlike state after being stabbed through the brain by Wolverine. We'll follow Iceman, Rogue, and Gambit as Gambit wakes up from his pre AoA kiss with Rogue to find her running from her life (with Iceman) as she lives out Gambit's memories. We'll also cover a Legacy Virus storyline and I'll finish it off with a little update on Graydon Creed.
Also, a quick editorial note about my team graphic. I'm still trying to figure out how best to represent the team. I stopped doing a separate Blue and Gold team now that the two teams are mixed, but with the addition of Cannonball (which I'll feature more heavily in the next X-Force blog as opposed to diving into him here), there are 12 total team members, plus a bunch of allies and villains. For now, I am going to feature the characters who get serious plot time in the arc as part of the main lineup with those relegated to the side listed alongside allies. For example, other than Bishop playing baseball, I really don't even think he appeared in any of these comics.
Since I won't be covering the stories issue by issue, I'll lay out all of the creative teams here.
Both Wolverine stories are written by Larry Hama with # 91 penciled by Adam Kubert and the Annual penciled by J.H. Williams III.
The Uncanny issues are written by Scott Lobdell and penciled by Joe Madueirera (325), Bryan Hitch (323), and Roger Cruz (324).
X-Men is still written by Fabian Niceiza (for now) and penciled by Andy Kubert.
X-Men Unlimited # 8 is written by Howard Mackie and penciled by Don Lawlis & Tom Grummett.
Wolverine in the Woods
Shortly after the return from Age of Apocalypse, we see Storm heading into the woods surrounding the mansion (donning full traditional African garb), looking for Wolverine. It appears as though Wolverine can't believe that he killed Sabretooth and is now feral, refusing to co-habitate with any of his fellow X-Men.
We see a little vignette of Beast, Storm, and Xavier discussing whether he will ever go back to normal. Apparently his adamantium was actually stopping him from mutating into a wild beast, however I don't know if this is a plot thread that will ever be followed up on.
One little story we get in Wolverine # 91 is when a redneck (a house next to the shared woods with the mansion) almost beats his wife to death, Wolverine is tempted to step in but a few members of the X-Men stop him. In Wolverine Annual # 95, Wolverine and Nightcrawler (best buds) follow a demon into the pit of Kierrock. Remember when Cyclops blasted Kierrock's cairn way back in UXM # 96, immediately following Thunderbird's death. Well they fight a bunch of demons, it gives Wolverine a chance to go truly nuts, and they win.
To be honest, this is one story beat that I just don't buy. Wolverine has killed a lot of people. That's kind of his thing. But he's so disgusted with himself over killing his mortal enemy, one of the most evil characters in the Marvel Universe??? That's what sets him off and he can't trust himself. I get that it's a cute little plot device, but I'm just not buying it.
If this is the best Marvel can give us for X-Men crossovers, then we could be in trouble.
Callisto and Colossus
Shortly after falling to Earth, Colossus is saved by Callisto in Antarctica. Callisto brings Colossus to the mansion, interrupting a little baseball game between the X-Men and Generation X. I liked this and it's the first of many callbacks to the Claremont era in this story arc. Callisto tells the X-Men of the Origin of "Gene Nation."
Apparently Mikhail and the Morlocks didn't die in UXM # 293, but instead he teleported them to another dimension where they aged faster. A new generation was born, calling them selves "Gene Nation," and raised hating those they blame for the Mutant Massacre, which includes the X-Men for some reason.
Callisto, Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine head into the Sewers to find them. There is a lot of tension between these four which I'll get into in more detail in the Character Beats section below.
The primary Gene Nation story kicks off with Charlotte Jones (a second Claremont era callback) calling Archangel to the scene of a massacre. A few of the X-Men are investigating the murders at a Morgue when two members of Gene Nation, Sack and Vessel attack. Vessel calls Beast "first one," leading me to believe that Dark Beast (from AoA) is being retconned into the Morlocks somehow (which seems like another bad idea).
Gene Nation attacks and captures a subway car full of humans, vowing to kill 100 humans for every mutant killed during the Mutant Massacre. There is a little skirmish, including a Fastball Special!
Gene Nation is led by Marrow, who is the small girl named Sarah introduced in Cable #15, aged up from the other dimension. Marrow is joined by Reverb, Sack, Vessel, and Hemingway. It all comes down to a head when Marrow and Storm have a 1 on 1 battle with Storm pulling out Marrow's heart, which is the third callback to the Claremont era.
But this isn't any callback...it happens to be paying homage to my favorite X-Men moment of all time. Unfortunately, for this reason it falls a bit flat for me. Storm stabbing Callisto in the heart during X-Men # 170 is the culmination of years of build up for Storm's character, whereas Storm has been mostly neglected by Lobdell and Marrow is a character who holds virtually no weight for me.
Following Age of Apocalypse, or more importantly, following Wolverine stabbing Sabretooth in the brain, he now has the intelligence of a child. He's relegated to living in the danger room, at one with nature and unable to talk. New X-Men recruit, Cannonball, is tasked with babysitting him and the image below shows him running around with Sam hanging on to this leash.
At one point, Gambit charges into the room and starts threatening Sabretooth with memories of the terrible things he's done. It really seems like an unnecessary scene, to be honest.
Prior to the world ending with Age of Apocalypse, Rogue and Gambit shared a kiss. When we pick back up, Gambit is in a coma and Rogue is carrying Gambit's powers and memories. Continuing with this new, odd pairing between Rogue and Iceman, the two of them are traveling around the world while Rogue runs from something.
Gambit wakes up and immediately tells Archangel and Psylocke that he needs to find Rogue. Psylocke can sense that there is something "off" inside of Gambit. Gambit actually stops Psylocke from snooping around in his mind, which is a strong sign of psychic strength I didn't realize he had. Between Gambit freaking out about finding Rogue and Psylocke being alarmed by his thoughts, it's obvious that Gambit is hiding something and I STILL haven't read what this thing is.
Iceman calls the mansion and speaks to Emma, who is still doing her best to get inside his head.
Eventually Rogue breaks down, calls Gambit, and tells him that she's heading to Seattle. Gambit clearly knows this means something and takes off to beat her there.
There is a huge final event where Rogue realizes there is something important that happened to Gambit in Seattle, but she doesn't hold the exact memory. There is an entire issue devoted to this, but in the end Gambit doesn't tell her the secret and Rogue doesn't figure it out. I haven't been this let down since we were vaguely told that Stryfe was Cyclop's son during X-Cutioner's Song. This does, however, result in Rogue leaving the team.
X-Men Prime showed us Trish Tilby breaking the Legacy Virus story to the world. Beast shows up stark raving bad and tries to bitch her out for telling the world, but she slaps him and claims she's only reporting the news.
Later, Beast and Professor X are leading a televised conference where they present evidence that the Legacy Virus is not as bad as Trish made it seem. They seem to be purposely coordinating to mislead the public.
X-Men Unlimited # 8 features a young mutant who is scared for his life and on the run to find Professor Xavier. Unfortunately, some scared rednecks figure out that he's a mutant and beat him to death. Sad story that seems far too possible in today's political culture.
Graydon Creed moves from leader of the paramilitary Friends of Humanity group to more of an organized public speaker, spewing hate towards mutants. He privately remarks about being happy about the Gene Nation attack as it furthers his goals.
It becomes clear that Graydon Creed is going to run for President. It's interesting that we're reading in 1995 about a white man spreading lies, misinformation, and bigotry to a cheering crowd and sees this as a platform to run for President. I guess times haven't changed. That's all I'll say.
As you've heard me complain about, Storm has been unceremoniously neglected in the Lobdell/Nicieza era. However, if the theme of this arc is a callback to the Claremont era, then it makes sense that Storm would finally get some attention.
As Callisto and Storm head into the sewers to face off with Renegade Morlocks, it isn't lost on Lobdell that these are two former Morlock leaders, and Callisto is especially salty. At one point she gets a dig in:
“ Except that I took my responsibility more seriously, wind rider“
This begs the question: Was Storm a poor leader of the Morlocks!? She certainly only seemed to occasionally check in on them, and both the Mutant Massacre and Mikhail's suicide pact happened on her watch. I think Callisto may be on to something here. Perhaps this is why Lobdell neglects Storm, maybe he came up during the Claremont era and couldn't forgive Storm for poor leadership choices. You can even argue that it was her abandoning of the team which led to the end of the Outback era when the remaining team members went through the Siege Perilous, spending years lost.
Lobdell reflects on her vicious fight with Marrow by once again using a Claremont tactic of having her and Logan get deep with each other. Wolverine tells her not to beat herself up over killing her since she needed to be stopped, but Storm is scared by the sheer simplicity of it. As they hold hands and walk away, Wolverine says:
"But bein' an X-Man is more than that. It's about tryin' to make sure life don't keep turnin' people, or mutants, into monsters."
Colossus makes his grand return to the X-Men (even though Excalibur is the team he will remain with) and there is a lot to dig into here. First of all, Wolverine can't help himself but get in multiple digs on him, at one point flat out saying that he doesn't forgive him for leaving. To me, this highlights on one of Lobdell's greatest strengths, character motivations. I'm sure it's inevitable that Colossus would come back into the fold, but of course some characters would be pissed off at him about it. Of course Wolverine is the one to hold the biggest grudge. Luckily this anger wasn't enough to avoid asking for a fastball special while fighting Gene Nation.
While Wolverine is still holding that grudge, he is, of course, on the redemption tour. At one point while Callisto is laying into Storm about leadership, Piotr stops her and says that she can’t blame storm anymore than he can blame the X-Men for what happened to Illyana. This is an important character moment for him. If he is able to let go of his anger and stop laying the blame on the X-Men, and more specifically Professor X, then there is a chance he can move on with his life.
Lobdell also doesn't forget that Colossus and Callisto were banging not too long ago (once again during the post Siege Perilous timeline). Caliisto asks Colossus to hook up with her even though she’s 10 years older now (from aging faster in the other reality):
"I don’t suppose you’d come back with me, Piotr. I may look older, but I’ve still got some lovin left in these bones of mine."
Even though Claremont didn't create Charlotte Jones (Wheezy did), she was clearly a favorite of his. She pops back up and Archangel apologizes for not calling her. She's clearly bitter but also clearly the better person and able to move on and remain professional.
Just so we're clear, I'm on Iceman gay watch. Iceman certainly wasn't coded gay in the Silver Age or in X-Factor, but maybe Lobdell is starting to lay out the breadcrumbs here. He was talking to Rogue in the last arc about how maybe he can't unlock his powers because he's not being open about himself. Now here he says:
"As iceman I’ve made a career out of denial… or so I’ve recently discovered"
Is he denying his true sexuality, and that's what's stopping him from being able to unleash the full scope of his powers too!? I think that might be where this is heading.
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