In 1996, Marvel's stock was dropping fast. Most comic lines were experiencing massive contraction, however X-Men comics were still far and away leading the pack. Someone must have come up with the bright idea to pad sales by creating as many X-Men comics as possible. I'm thankful that they didn't start a bunch of new ongoing series, but certainly mixed on their decision to make a million X-Men Limited Series. In this blog, I will cover all of the uses that were published around 1996. I'll throw in some standalone X-Men Unlimited stories too because they fit the theme of one off stories that are mostly disconnected from the larger continuity.
Wolverine/Gambit: Victims 1-4
Writer - Jeph Loeb
Pencils - Tim Sale
This is a fun little Wolverine and Gambit romp with next to no implications on the larger universe.
Gambit is drawn to London where there is a series of murders being conducted with a Jack the Ripper vibe... and all signs point to Wolverine. Gambit doesn't think that Wolverine did it, but he's not convinced he didn't either. We get the impression Wolverine isn't sure either.
A woman named Martinique helps the two of them, but then ends up being a robot. This leads the two of them to a now deformed Arcade and Mastermind's daughter who is fittingly going by "Lady Mastermind." It turns out that Arcade made a Wolverine robot and in the end they are stopped.
I want to make a few comments here about Arcade. First of all, we haven't seen him in a few years, which I appreciate because he's never been my favorite character. With that being said, I like he is disfigured now as it takes this oddball and makes him a bit more interesting. I don't believe we know how it happened and I wonder if we'll ever find out. Also, there is a SUPER fascinating side story where we learn that Arcade killed his longtime assistant Ms. Locke. Ms. Locke has been by Arcade's side ever since his first appearance in the Silver Age, so this is a pretty big reveal. We see that Lady Mastermind is shocked and appalled by this revelation, which helps to add to the earned impact of this revelation.
Writer - Peter Milligan
Pencils - Leonardo Manco
You might be thinking to yourself "who are Peter Milligan and Leonardo Manco?" Or maybe..."I don't recall ever hearing about this series, I wonder what it's about?" Well let me just go ahead and copy and paste my notes directly here:
"Weird, black and white, dead Tuesday bird girl: terrible and dumb story, in his head." If you want to know more about the story you'll need to read it yourself, but make sure you light up a joint first and have "Sharknado" expectations.
Starjammers 1 - 4
Writer - Warren Ellis
Pencils - Carlos Pacheco
Before I starting diving into this, I need to point out that it feels weird to have a Star Jammers story without Dave Cockrum. I really hope someone called him up and he just didn't collaborate because he was busy or something. Otherwise, that's a travesty!
Remember those creepy aliens called "The Uncreated" who were first introduced in the Dream Nails trilogy in Excalibur and are convinced that they killed God? Well those crazy aliens are destroying Shi'ar worlds on their way to the Shi'ar homeworld, to punish them for having their own religion.
We're first introduced to the Starjammers as they are on the run with Kree Refugees. This helps to establish the Starjammers as a rogue group of pirates who have a conscience. In fact, a central theme of this story follows Corsair questioning whether he wants to continue as a pirate and his girlfriend, Hepzibah, feel differently, still just as cruel as we've seen in the past.
We see that Lilandra is deceived by her own people as a rogue general wants to kill the Star Jammers but knows that Lilandra would protect them. This is a clever enough story device to allow the Star Jammers to be chased by the Shi'ar while also keeping Lilandra somewhat pure, even though she's been sullied a bunch in recent years.
The Starjammers find themselves in the position to stop a bloody war between the Shi'ar and the Uncreated, but Hepzibah goes too far and tries to sabotage them so she can watch the Shi'ar burn. Luckily Corsair assumed that she would betray him (which is sad) and was able to stop her. In another clever maneuver, the StarJammers project an image of the Uncreated God. This makes them freak the fuck out and commit suicide. Lol, they assumed that they killed their God, so by seeing him/it alive they figured they better just hurry up and end their lives. War over!
Writer - Larry Hama
Pencils - Val Semeiks
Let's get through this fast. Wolverine, Psylocke, Beast, and Lee Forrester are on a boat looking for Bloodscream. It turns out that Bloodscream partnered with Belasco. Belasco puts Psylocke in a diamond.
Remember those demons called the N'Garai who Kitty fought in UXM #143? Yea, the ones who were a straight rip off from the Alien movies. Anywho, Belasco is hoping to take over the N'Garai through one of those Cairns (like the one Cyclops disturbed after Thunderbird's death by shooting wildly into the woods). In the end, Bloodscream turns on Belasco (shocker) and all is resolved.
I do love Magic and felt we got jipped on the whole Magic/Belasco storyline, so I always perk up when we see Belasco again. Not much to dig our teeth into here though.
Writer - John Ostrander
Pencils - Brian Hitch
Remember back in UXM # 232 - 234 when the Brood came back and infected Hannah Connover, the wife of the X-Men ally, Pastor Connover? Well someone decided that we should pick up that story 6 years later.
It turns out that Hannah Connover has been infected this whole time, but she is the only Brood Queen to resist. She still infects people and has a ravage following, but she hasn't completely succumb to her alter ego. The Brood Empress sends her "Firstborn," to kill Hannah. The "Firstborn" are essentially the Navy Seals of the Brood empire. Scott and Jean...and later the full X-Men team (Storm, Wolverine, Bishop, Beast, Cannonball) fight to protect Hannah and succeed.
Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix #1-4
Writer - Peter Milligan
Pencils - John Paul Leon
First, this is false advertising. This is definitely not in the same vein as the original Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix. Second, it doesn't matter because this rocked. Third, maybe Peter Milligan doesn't suck but John Paul Leon certainly does. I hated this art.
This story is truly a Mr. Sinister origin story. Nathaniel Essex is a scientist in the 1800's and is married with a pregnant wife. (This story seems to be ignoring the last Sinister prologue we got when he was capturing young ladies and keeping them captured in his basement for experiments, then fell in love with one and visited her until the day she died). We learn that Essex had recently lost a son, which seems to have twisted him. He is obsessed with Charles Darwin (who actually shows up several times in this comic) and is convinced that eventually there will be a "great mutation" that brings a subset of humanity above the rest.
Essex begins gathering freaks to learn more genetic deviations and eventually captures the attention of Apocalypse. He eventually reveals himself as an immortal mutant and offers Essex eternal life in exchange for his promise to work for him to further his darwinistic philosophy regarding mutants. Essex's wife thinks he's a monster and flees.
While this is going on, Jean and Scott are sent back in time by Sanctity of the Askani. This is kind of a stretch, but she tells them that they need to interfere with Sinister's plan to stop Apocalypse from coming to power in this time period. Jean is trying to convince Essex not to take the deal and convinces him by saving a mutant. Essex is conflicted because he recognizes Jean as being a powerful mutant (proof that his theory of a coming great mutation is true), but thinks he might be wrong about the world domination part since Jean is so powerful and uses that power to protect humans. Apocalypse also becomes aware of Scott and Jean and remarks that this is the first time he's met another mutant, which certainly doesn't jive with the Externals stories we've read over in X-Force.
Essex agrees to change and sets out to find his wife and live a normal life, but she had been killed by his freaks and as she's dying she doesn't accept him and calls him Sinister, which is the name he will take from there on out. Sinister agrees to Apocalypse's deal and is turned into the variation that we know now, with the diamond on his forehead a branding (even though that diamond seems to have nothing to do with Apocalypse based on anything I've ever seen). Apoc asks Sinister to create a plague to kill all humans and further his rise to power, but Sinister turns on him and creates a plague that only effects him. This puts Apocalypse back into hibernation and essentially ends the story.
We learn that Sinister's obsession with the bloodline of Scott and Jean really comes back to this story as he met them in his "youth" and waited for them to be born. Also, some of the freaks flee to America and take up the surname Summers, leading us to believe that this was how Scott's lineage began.
Writer - Warren Ellis
Pencils - Terry Dodson
This wasn't a great story and doesn't seem to have a lot to do with Storm, but let's dive into it. Basically Storm goes to the Morlocks world with Callisto and finds Gene Nation and a very much alive Mikhail Rasputin. Storm struggles with her murder of Marrow until she finds out that she's very much alive (similar to what happened with Callisto). There is some weirdness between her and Cable being quite close (romance?) and Storm eventually shows off a new look. That's about it.