Saturday, May 4, 2013

Two Banners, One Dream

Two back-to-back X-Men story arcs which apparently warranted their own cover page banners weren't as epic-minded as previous arcs that were ambitiously launched, but they were probably good for sales in that each of them had an unresolved hook which readers were curious about. One was ascertaining the status of Charles Xavier, gone missing since his arrest following his lapse into the identity of Onslaught; the other would finally answer the question of who, exactly, was "Joseph," the mutant who appeared out of thin air and whose resemblance and abilities were those of a much younger Magneto. And so comics racks would once again benefit from an "event" look with cross-title banner covers, this time featuring:

And once again, through the magic of hindsight, we can cut through all the globe-trotting and the pointless fights (this time with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the Acolytes) and get right to the action. Neither the Brotherhood nor the Acolytes play a part in the climax to either story, anyway. Color me shocked.

But Xavier does, so we'd better find him first.

As the X-Men search for their missing mentor, Xavier discovers a deadly threat to the human race from his greatest creation.

Shifting back and forth between Uncanny X-Men and X-Men, from December 1998-February 1999. 6 issues total.

Xavier is missing from government custody after his arrest following his rampage as Onslaught. In the meantime, Nick Fury has asked the X-Men to corral a rampaging Pyro who, afflicted with the Legacy virus, is busy setting fire to Nebraska. Pyro keeps shouting Xavier's name--and only when his threat is finally dealt with do we see that something else is also curious about the missing Professor's whereabouts.

Xavier has been on the run from Cerebro itself, which has gained sentience and is seeking to "catalogue" and store all humans on the planet in order to accomplish its own interpretation of its creator's dream. To that end, it needs Xavier's young mutant companion--Nina--to restore Xavier's mental powers, so that Cerebro can join with him and use their combined abilities to enact its monstrous plan for the human race. Instead, Xavier (with Nina's help) redirects Cerebro's attack and has it instead scan the humans' minds in order to understand why humanity is worthy of life and to truly learn the nature of Xavier's wish for coexistence. Cerebro is overwhelmed by the realization, losing its corporeal form and dissipating.

As Magneto holds the world hostage in order to secure a sanctuary for mutants, a younger duplicate of himself known only as Joseph seeks to learn his origin.

Shorter in scope, despite the stakes involved and this being a so-called "war"--once again shifting between the two main X-titles, from April-May, 1999. Five issues total, including a prelude issue.

Using a tower constructed at the Arctic circle to augment his power, Magneto disrupts Earth's--what else?--magnetosphere, in order to get the attention of the United Nations assembly where his robotic ambassador, Ferris, delivers an ultimatum: cede Magneto the authority to create a national sanctuary, or he'll permanently disable the e-m spectrum and thus grind the human race to a standstill. In the meantime, a mysterious younger man who resembles Magneto--Joseph--travels to Israel and learns that someone has created him to be an exact duplicate of the master of magnetism.

We learn that Joseph is a creation of Astra, a former member of the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants who now wants revenge on Magneto as well as having plans for Joseph to rule the human race as her puppet. But when the X-Men arrive and engage Magneto, Joseph instead battles to repair the damage done to the magnetosphere, with Xavier's help. Joseph burns himself out and perishes in the process, but manages to succeed as well as destroy the tower. The battle between Magneto and the X-Men, while vicious, ends in a draw; but even though he's now powerless to carry out his threat, the U.N. grants Magneto sovereignty of Genosha, in return for his guarantee to never again launch a preemptive strike against other nations--terms Magneto accepts. And with mutants now heading toward segregation, having an entire country as a sanctuary, Xavier is forced to wonder if his dream of integrating mutants with humanity is now dead.

I think this might have done it for the banner covers, though we'd get more abstract cover ads for cross-title arcs like "Eve of Destruction," "Dream's End," and the unusual "Poptopia" series. I have mixed feelings about such fanfare. On the one hand, I know of no good reason why multi-part stories shouldn't be promoted in this way; on the other, I certainly don't want to see it done regularly or across the board. I can only imagine a promotion of "The Kree-Skrull War, Part __!" prominently on the covers of Avengers #s 90-97. I suppose the bottom line is, do we want or need a story to have a common denominator every five or six issues, or do we just want the enjoyment of reading a good story every month? And is that a moot point, given the juggernaut of sales distribution demands?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The whole "X-men phenomenon" left me cold, even in the 80's. I didn't much care for Claremont, who I thought tried to batter his readers over the head with how noble, tormented and conflicted his characters were. It seemed like an insult to my intelligence, such as it is. As for Byrne...a great artist and plotter, but a real petty jerk who played out his personal grudges in his work.
The whole X-men thing seemed to me a cheap, inane soap-opera spread out among various titles in a brazen attempt to push up sales. I don't have any X-men stuff in my collection for the simple reason that when I shuffle off this mortal coil and somebody has to go through that stuff, they don't think me a complete idiot.

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