UXM # 328 - 330, X-Men V2 # 48, Sabretooth: In the Red Zone
UXM # 328 & Sabretooth: In the Red Zone - Sabretooth Escapes
Writer - Scott Lobdell (UXM 328), Fabian Nicieza (SitRZ)
Pencils - Joe Mad (UXM 328), Gary Frank (SitRZ)
This (UXM # 328) is a pretty big issue considering the theme of Sabretooth staying with the X-Men has been lingering for years. Will he become a reformed villain like Magneto did in the 80's? Is he forever doomed? This issue seems to make clear that they have finally chosen a lane.
Sabretooth is beyond redemption. The truth has come out that Sabretooth has been lying for some time about his state of mind after being stabbed in the brain by Wolverine. It's not clear how long he has been lying. It does seem that he was genuinely more gentle for a while, but at some point more recently he "came back on line" and has been hamming it up. Due to this realization, Sabretooth is going to be transported from the mansion to Val Cooper. I believe this will lead into some plot lines with X-Factor where he joins that team and is reunited with Wild Child (due to their well received partnership during AoA), but as you all know, I'm not reading X-Factor anymore.
Not surprisingly, Tabby is super pissed off at him about this. Everyone has been trying to tell her that he's not worth her time, but she's been providing support to him anyway. Many things happen at once, but in her anger Tabby sets off a bomb and he escapes. The whole after effects of this with Tabby will play out in X-Force (covered in 140: X-Force # 49 - 51, Cable # 29 - 31 (Cable vs. X-Man)), including Bishop accusing her of purposely setting off the bomb to set him free and her concluding guilt and transformation into Meltdown.
Regardless of Tabby's intention, Sabretooth goes off the deep end and finds himself in a brutal battle with Psylocke.
This seems like a random pairing, however I immediately recognized that this is throwback to UXM # 213 when Psylocke (who was still British at that point) proved her mettle by holding her own in a battle with Sabretooth. She does the same here, holding out longer than you might think, however it ends in the way it probably would in real life, with her losing and lacerated poorly, leaving the audience to think she was killed. She's not dead, and the entire next arc (Warrior of the Ebon Knight) will be dedicated to Archangel and Wolverine struggling to save her.
Sabretooth's escape, rampage, and eventual capture is chronicled in the solo comic titled "Sabretooth: In the Red Zone" by Fabian Nicieza of all people. This issue starts off with another epic battle with Caliban where Caliban is left knocked out. Most of the issue focuses on the original 5 X-Men (Cyclops, Jean, AA, Beast, and Iceman) on a mission to bring him to justice. It's fun seeing the original 5 together, but it seems like there are other characters that may have been better suited for this task, like Wolverine and Gambit. They eventually figure out that he is heading to Massachusetts and the Generation X campus, but Val Cooper and the government show up first and apparently shoot him dead. He won't stay dead, but I did think he might be after the way this was portrayed.
X-Men V2 # 48: Poker Game
Writer - Scott Lobdell
Pencils - Luke Ross
This issue is one of those famous slow issues where we focus on characterization. Even though I'll admit that Lobdell probably does this a little too often (more often than Claremont did, who already known for doing it a lot), I eat them up and appreciate them much more than the dumb action issues.
The opening sequence shows a poker game being played by Beast, Storm, Iceman, Cannonabll (eventually), Gambit and...the Thing.
I appreciated this, but the Thing here seems incredibly random. While the X-Men have appeared in the Fantastic Four and they've appeared together in X-Men vs. Fantastic Four, I'm fairly certain that Thing has never appeared in an X-Men comic. In addition, I don't believe there is any crossover recently where this would make sense. So no context is given, he's just there.
Anyway, the fun thing about the poker game is that Sam plays them all for fools. He pretends to be aloof and not know what he's doing, but he ends up being a shark and takes them for all their worth, including outplaying Gambit (or did he?)
Bishop gets the cover treatment, so I guess I should talk about him next. He's continue to struggle with re-living the memories of his AoA lifetime. In a clever move, Bishop is commiserating with Scott and Jean because they also lived an entire life without aging (The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix when they went back in time and raised Cable).
Betsy is shown to be alive, but in terrible shape and currently recovering in a coma.
Bobby asks Storm to tutor him in the skill of controlling the elements, so this plot line is still being milked.
UXM # 329 - 330 (Saving Psylocke: Warrior of the Ebon Knight)
Plot - Scott Lobdell
Script - Jeph Loeb
Pencils - Joe Mad
This is a little two story arc focused on Wolverine and Archangel teaming up to save Psylocke. Before I even dive into the plot, I'm going to say that I really like this pairing. Lobdell seems to be on fire with pulling out connections from the Claremont days. First, Wolverine spent a bunch of time alone with Psylocke and Jubilee in Madripoor near the end of the Claremont run, so it makes sense that he would have a vested interest in helping her. In addition, there has always been tension between these two as Lobdell even shines some light on it with this quote:
"You’ve been riding me ever since I joined your little band of misfits."
Dr. Strange (another random Marvel cameo) is watching Wolverine and Archangel fight a mist monster as they try to infiltrate a part of "Little Asia" in New York where they can find help for Psylocke. A diminutive old asian man named Gomurr the Ancient shows up, has a history with Wolverine (who doesn't) and agrees to help. The three of them end up fighting ancient beings in a subterranean underworld (maybe another dimension) on their path to save Betsy. Eventually, Archangel is able to throw a piece of Psylocke's soul (which he had because they are in love) into the "Crimson Dawn" to save her soul.
There was a point in the Claremont Run, right after Inferno (around 1989), where I started to think"Ut oh, is the quality going down?" I recall starting to realize that the stories were getting a little flat and I knew we were only a few years away from the 1991 re-boot, so I just needed to hold on.
I'm kind of worried that that's what is happening here. It just seems like there isn't anything big going on and I find myself less and less excited to keep charging on. The only problem is that I know things will get shaken up in 2001 when Grant Morrison starts his New X-Men run and Claremont comes back for Extreme X-Men...but that's 5 more years of publishing. I've already given up on X-Factor, Wolverine, and X-Man. I'm committed to reading Uncanny, X-Men, Excalibur, Cable, and X-Force. I guess Generation X too. For now.
I mentioned earlier about the Thing showing up randomly for a poker game. If anything, I feel like this shines a light on how isolated the X-Men universe is from the rest of the Marvel universe. It is incredibly rare for a character from another series to show up in X-Men, with the exception of Claremont bringing in characters from other properties that he writes. In fact, it's ironic that this happens twice as Dr. Strange starred in the Warrior of the Ebon Knight story. I'm going to put a flag in this to see if this theme continues.
Right around this time, Marvel is really struggling as a company. The speculator bubble has popped and comic sales are rapidly shrinking. Marvel decides to move away from the "5 Editors in Chief" model and promotes X-Men Editor Bob Harras the overall Editor in Chief. Mark Powers takes over as the X-Men editor.
In other news, I don't like this manga art crap. Maybe I'm just too conditioned to prefer the 90's Jim Lee/ Image comics art style, but I just can't get on board with this. The scary thing is that I have no idea how long this art style is going to last.
Bishop is continuing to struggle with his Age of Apocalypse self. I'm not surprised that they are trying to cash in on the success of AoA, but it's weird that they keep portraying this "other Bishop" to be dark. I mean...I read AoA and Bishop was a good guy. Even if those memories come to the surface, the other Bishop was pretty similar so I don't see what all the fuss is about.
A consistent theme in these blogs has been about the character assassination of Sam Guthrie. Now while this issue still hasn't brought back the confident Cannonball from the early X-Force days, it was nice to see Cannonball play up his yokel identity and take advantage of the team in poker. I'm hoping this is a sign that the creative team recognizes that Sam's characterization has been a joke and they are on their way to setting it right.
Iceman continues to struggle with his powers, this time asking Storm for help. It's getting a little ridiculous that this whole "Iceman struggles with his powers" thing is the best they can do give him some personality. Rogue is out of the comic and their friendship was kind of interesting, but now we're back to this. We were also starting to get some heavy subtext about him being gay, but this time around I wasn't picking up on that at all. I'll keep looking for it.
Something weird is happening with him, where these arcs continued this more bitter and cold version of the professor.
In addition to struggling with Psylocke being hurt, Archangel had his wings damaged in his fight with Sabretooth. The second story arc makes it look as though this is going to be a recurring plot point for him.
As Gambit realizes that Psylocke could die, a part of him feels relieved that his "big secret" could die with her. It seems as though he considers for half a second to act on that, but instead shows that he's committed to saving her. I'm all for drawing out big plot points, but let's have this one already. This is taking too long and it's not like other interesting things are happening, you might as well move this to the A plot. And complete the Legacy Virus story while you're at it...