This blog focuses on UXM # 298 - 300 and Uncanny X-Men Annual # 17. In addition to growing my appreciation for Scott Lobdell (which I'll take some time to gush about), this issue re-introduces Fabian Cortez and his now incarnation of the Acolytes. These issues, in addition to the Annual begins to ramp up the upcoming Legacy Virus plot and begins to put the pieces in place for Fatal Attractions.
UXM # 298: The Acolytes Return
Writer - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - Brandon Peterson
We begin by seeing that Professor X has been spending countless days locked away in his ready room, plugged into the world and working hard to fix things. At this point, it's difficult to understand exactly what he's up to, but I think it's because he sees what's happening with the Legacy Virus and feels that he needs to do something about it.
At one point, Bishop interrupts Professor X to tell him that he doesn't feel he belongs and needs to resign. Charles basically slams the door shut on this idea and tells him to have Storm bring the team around. I love that Charles doesn't indulge his second guessing at all, which in turn makes Bishop smile.
We see that in Storm's absence, Jean is leading a serious exercise in the Danger Room. Bishop and Gambit recognize that they are being put together on purpose to force them to work together, which they both agree to since they are part of a team.
We then move on to a school where the rest of this issue will take place. We see the Acolytes show up at a school with potential gifted students and Sharon Friedlander and Tom Corsi are working there, expected to take care of the kids.
The Acolytes actually find the mutant child they are after, but upon learning that he has Down's Syndrome they neglect him. There is a comment made about how the X-Men were lucky they didn't realize how important that child is. I'm not sure if this plotline ever gets picked back up or not, but we'll just have to wait and see.
As Tom Corsi is driving a bus full of students back to the school, the school explodes. This marks the death of Sharon Friedlander. I have to applaud the creative teams as they are really killing off a lot of secondary characters.
We are introduced to members of the Acolytes: Uniscione, Kleinstock, Cargill, and Frenzy. You may remember Frenzy from the earliest Apocalypse appearance in early X-Factor as a member of Apocalypse's Alliance of Evil. I like seeing that she is making a re-appearance here.
The Gold Team, plus Gambit, show up to fight the Acolytes. One of the Acolytes are left dead in the skirmish, shot by Tom Corsi.
UXM # 299: Philosophical Debates
Writer - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - Brandon Peterson
We see that Forge is working with Henry Gyritch as a consultant for the Government. Parts of Magneto's Asteroid M have landed back on earth and it appears as though someone guided the ship down gently. Could Magneto still be alive!?
Most of this issue takes place in a televised debate between Senator Robert Kelly, Professor X, and Gradyon Creed. Robert Kelly actually seems a bit reformed as he is respectful to Charles and seems to be a little less radical. The radical viewpoints are all left for Graydon Creed, the leader of the Friends of Humanity. The Friends of Humanity are a group of humans who are essentially an organized mutant hate group who will, over time, become militarized.
Beast is brought on at the end of the interview and belittles Creed in a goofy way. It kind of reminds me of how he was portrayed with the Avengers. I'm curious to see if Greed ever tries to get revenge on Beast.
Fabian Cortez calls a meeting of the Upstarts (we only see Shaw and Fitzroy physically with him) to bitch about Gradyon Creed (a human) being added to the Upstarts group.
UXM # 300: The Acolytes vs. The X-Men
Writer - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - John Romita Junior
Since it's issue #300, Lobdell opts to bring back the original Giant Sized X-Men group, which means Nightcrawler is brought along on this op.
Forge drops off some intel and machinery for the X-Men, but takes off before Storm shows up. He's obviously still quite bitter.
The Gold team, plus Nightcrawler, Cyclops, and Wolverine charge in the home base of the Acolytes.
We see the Acolyte's home base. After the demise of the original Acolytes, Fabian Cortez has amassed a large group of loyal followers who blindly follow the teachings of Magneto.
Cortez and the Acolytes have kidnapped Moira McTaggert as they believe she can help their cause.
Bobby tries once again to console Peter, who is hurting after his brother's suicide, parents death and his sister growing sick, but Peter rudely dismisses him.
I LOVE this. The first thing Storm does upon seeing Kurt is ask if he's been taking care of her Kitten. Kitty and Storm alert!
One of the Junior members of the Acolytes (a mutant phaser) overhears Cortez bragging to the Gamesmaster about killing Magneto. This is obviously not something that Cortez wants to get out and a chase begins to kill this young boy.
Cortez's personal guard (who don't need to wear the outfit apparently) chase after the young mutant.
The Gold team plus friends defeats the personal guard, talks to the young Acolyte and gets ready to attack.
Very cool visual of the team attacking. A major fight breaks out.
At one point Jean, who is typically more mild mannered, gets pissed off and lets loose, showing off that she is one of the most powerful mutants on the planet.
Cortez is able to escape at the end and we see that the Gamesmaster informs him that he's lost all points for his Magneto kill. He doesn't explain why, but it's another strong hint that Magneto is still alive!
Illyana is still sick and we hear Moira tell Charles that if the disease is the same she saw at Genosha (covered in 97: X-Factor 87 - 91 (Peter David’s Swan Song), then it is most likely terminal.
Annual # 17: The X-Cutioner and Mastermind
Writer - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - Jason Pearson
This annual has two plotlines. The first involves a character called the X-Cutioner, who is basically like the Dexter Morgan of the Marvel universe, a human compelled to kill evil mutants. We see him kill Tower, another person we originally saw in the earliest Apocalypse appearance in early X-Factor as a member of Apocalypse's Alliance of Evil. More side characters killed! The X-Men fight him off.
The main story involves Mastermind who is dying of the Legacy Virus. Before he does, he pulls Bishop, Iceman, and Jean into his mindscape. He spends time messing with all of them. Bishop gets to see his sister, Shard (who I have a feeling we'll see a lot more of in the coming years), Iceman gets to be a celebrity and the leader of the X-Men, and Jean is married to Scott with two kids named Nathan and Rachel. At the end, Jean forgives Mastermind for what he did to her (the Phoenix, really) and it turns out he has genuine feelings for her and lets her out (because if she was in his mind while he died, she would die too). The Legacy Virus takes out another high profile mutant and the secondary character market grows even thinner.
So here we have Issue 300. It's not necessarily the giant issue Claremont had been envisioning including a final battle with the Shadow King that had been brewing for years, but it's still a pretty good arc on it's own. I love that Lobdell found a way to make it special by bringing Nightcrawler into the issue and enough Blue team members to have the Giant Sized X-Men lineup appear!
We get the introduction of the Friends of Humanity, which means a lot to me due to their oversized role during the Animated Series (which I've started to cover here). It's hard to believe we hadn't seen them up until now.
I also recall that I stopped reading the comics, but was still collecting super hero cards and didn't understand why Colossus was listed as a villain. I love this slow build up to him getting more and more bitter.
Brandon Peterson continues his strong art style, but gives way to John Romita Junior who hasn't been seen in years. JRJ's art seems much more modern considering he was around in the Golden era so if he is taking over here, I'll give him a little bit of rope and see if he can impress me.
As you've been seeing my comments over the last few blogs, I am officially declaring myself a fan of Scott Lobdell. Here's a quick quote from Editor Bob Harras about him from Comic Creators on X-Men:
“I don’t know what it’s like now, but at that point, to write an X-Men book, you had to be a certain type of writer, a writer that really understood or emphasized with what it was like to be an outcast…X-Men needed a writer who had empathy, because typically X-Men books were not about force, not about in-your-face, ‘screw you’ type characters. X-Men was about characters who knew what it was like to be alone, and there was something of that in Chris writing, and in Scott’s writing. They both had it. At his best, Scott could get the emotion down just wonderfully.”
I totally agree with this. I think he is a good successor to Claremont due to this ability to write the hell out of these characters. He seems to really understand their history and know exactly when a character should have an emotional reaction. For example, Storm see's Nightcrawler and the first thing she does is ask how Kitty is. That's exactly what Storm would do! And Forge is on hand to help, but he runs away before Storm shows up. Again, that's exactly what a spurned lover would do and he nails it.
Storm is still getting vastly underutilized compared to the Claremontian era, but I loved seeing Storm ask Nightcrawler how her Kitten was doing!
I think we've seen an end to the storyline of Bishop questioning himself as he tells Professor X is he is going to resign and Professor X tells him to stop being ridiculous. If this truly is the end of that lingering plotline, this is a great way for that to happen. Let's move Bishop into some new areas.
Speaking of Bishop, we are reminded that him and Gambit are still not on the best of terms. I take this as a sign that we'll see the "Is Gambit a traitor?" storyline coming back in the near future.
I love what they are doing with Jean. It's never explicitly stated that she is the quiet, but respected leader, but we keep seeing so many different examples. You can really tell that everyone looks up to her. And she's sitting on enormous power which she's technically hesitant to use (maybe because she could be overpowered), but every once in a while she lets it rip.
I liked seeing minor supporting characters like Charlotte Jones, Tom Corsi, and Sharon Friedlander show up, but RIP Sharon. Sharon and Tom have been around since the Demon Bear days and it's sad to see her go. We also get some minor villain deaths with Mastermind, Tower, and at least one Acolyte.
Speaking of Creed, he has joined Fitzroy, Fabian Corez, Shinobi Shaw, and Fenris as a member of the Upstarts.
Forge is still bitter about Storm and goes out of his way not interact with her. I actually love this because they aren't forgetting about this dynamic, they are keeping it alive, as they most certainly should be.
Lobdell's continued strong use of Professor X is on display, showing him having a philosphical debate with Senator Kelly and Gradyon Creed. Lobdell talked about his use of Professor X in Comic Creators on X-Men:
"I came to see that the most fascinating X-Man is Professor X himself. Chris Claremont would often send him off into space or wherever...I don't think you need any specific Avenger to have Avengers but you need Professor X to have X-Men."
My Rating and Review
I thoroughly enjoyed this arc. It's not necessarily the most memorable, but with this re-introduction of the Acolytes you can tell they are a villain team that we'll be seeing a lot of. In addition, there is a lot of strong character development.
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