X-Men, Volume 2 # 8 - 9, Ghost Rider # 26 - 27, X-Men, Volume 2 # 10-11, Shattershot X-Men Annual (XM Annual # 1, UXM Annual # 16, X-Factor Annual # 7, X-Force Annual # 1)
This blog entry covers 3 different stories, none of which are too good I'm afraid.
The first Ghost Rider/Gambit's past arc is comprised of a 4 issue arc taking place between X-Men # 8 - 9 and Ghost Rider # 26 - 27. Both comics were wildly popular, as Ghost Rider was a huge seller, so I'm not sure why they decided to mash these two comics together. You typically see comics using one popular comic to help bring in new readers to a less popular comic, but this kind of reminds me of when a Football team keeps their starts in during the 4th quarter of a blowout. Gambit gets a lot of characterization and backstory in this first story, between the New Orleans main plot (Gambit's family is being taken over by Brood) and Bishop is accusing him of being a traitor (picking up where Uncanny left off).
The second two stories are both Mojo focused. I...didn't care for them. Annual's rarely impress me, so the Shattershot story didn't let me down. However the Longshot/Mojo story in X-Men # 10 - 11 was a big let down.
The biggest reason I feel let down is because this is Jim Lee's swan song. By this point he had accepted his new fate with Image comics and he was phoning it in. I know I've said this a lot, but it makes me sad to think that we missed out on what could have been. Marvel agrees to essentially give Claremont the boot and launch a second X-Men title for Jim Lee, the art and stories (up until this one) had been great, and then he leaves before he really gets going. I know Jim Lee made a crapton of money at Image, but he passed on the opportunity to lead the best selling comic series into the future. Actually, few X-Men creators are more popular than Jim Lee, so I guess he did that regardless. But he could have done it for longer!
Sigh, let's get into it!
X-Men # 8 - 9, Ghost Rider # 26 - 27: Ghost Rider, Gambit, and Bella Donna
Plot - Jim Lee
Script - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - Jim Lee
Just as Gambit and Rogue's flirtation was starting to crystalize into something more concrete, Gambit gets a surprise visit from...his wife, Bella Donna. We learn a lot about Gambit's past, in this issue, which is really about time because he is a very popular character and we know so little about him. Apparently Gambit is a member of a Thieves Guild in New Orleans, where we eventually learn that there is something going on with his bloodline all being mutants (or having powers some other way). Gambit had married Bella Donna as a way to bridge the gap between two rival clans, but when Gambit was forced to kill Bella Donna's brother (kind of like Nightcrawler was), he decided the best thing he could do for his family and Bella Donna was to split, which is what brought him to Storm (first appearance covered here) and eventually, the X-Men.
Bella Donna brings Gambit (and the full team) back to New Orleans to address Gambit's family getting picked off by an assassin. This is where the team also runs into Ghost Rider, who is on a mission for vengeance due to all the innocent people (the younglings from the guild were kidnapped too) dying (or getting hurt/kidnapped). They eventually figure out that the Brood are loose and Ghost Rider (who at one point get's taken over by the Brood) and the X-Men need to fight a bloody battle vs. them. Ultimately, the Brood are stopped (of course), but not without a sacrifice in the form of Bella Donna. She pretty much had to die because how else was Rogue and Gambit's relationship going to progress.
Picking up right where Uncanny left off, Bishop is accusing Gambit of being "the traitor" from his timeline. This is a plotline that will drag on for quite some time with us wondering if Gambit is secretly evil. Spoiler, he's not. Or at least, by the time this was resolved, the creative team decided not to discredit such a popular character.
We've started to see this hinted at, but flirtations between Psylocke and Scott starts getting red hot. We've started to see Scott checking out Psylocke more and more, with Jean even catching him on occasion. In this issue she starts openly flirting with him and pushing him to get a little flustered. This is fun, that's all I have to say. I'm STILL not a Scott fan, so this is a fun way to see him be more interesting from my perspective.
X-Men 10 - 11: Longshot
Plot - Jim Lee
Script - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - Jim Lee
My synopsis is going to make some people mad, but I really don't know what else to say. Longshot and Dazzler show up to help the X-Men free Professor X who was kidnapped by Mojo. A bunch of Mojo-ish things happen, but that's about it. Oh, and Mojo is taken down and replaced by Mojo II, a new character who seems to be more of a good guy? Don't really care, tbh.
It's also strongly hinted at that Dazzler and Longshot are Shatterstar's parents. Ok, that's all I got.
You thought my last synopsis was short? Wait until you see this one.
This 4 issue crossover (taking place between the Annual's for X-Force, Uncanny, X-Men, and X-Factor) is another Mojo story. Sigh. This one is a bit more focused on "Arize," a character we saw briefly in the Longshot Limited series. He was the guy who created the human slave species (that Longshot and Shatterstar come from). There's a bunch of Mojo hijincks. The team's are fighting to protect Arize. That's about it. It ends with this trippy X-Force issue where we see into the future (or a possible future, I don't know, I was confused and hated the story) where Shatterstar was king (more like dictator) of the Mojoverse and Magik was back alive (I know, random, right).
There was one very interesting plot development though worth mentioning. We learned that Spiral is actually Ricochet Rita! Remember her from the Longshot Limited series? That's pretty clever, actually. Ricochet Rita, Spiral, and Longshot were first introduced in 1985 and there were clearly hints laid out every time these two met, but I never really put two and two together. This has been right in front of my face for 8 years (in publishing). Pretty impressed with the team playing the long game here across creators.