Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sinister Banners Promising Stryfe


The years 1989-1993 were banner years for the X-Men--and I do mean "banner," since during those years the X-books were practically tripping over themselves with cross-title stories heralded with dramatic cover banners:





Around this time, the stories were absolutely out of control. Demons. Time paradoxes. Fragments of the Phoenix force. Clones. Blue and gold teams. Psylocke sports a cloak and a hood. The infant Nathan Summers skips his entire childhood and begins hoisting guns that look like they overdosed on Pym particles. Crises were life-altering and upending. And the X-Men were all over the place--all over the world, uprooted from the Xavier mansion due to one excuse or another. Smack dab in the middle of all this, the launch of 1991's X-Men spinoff threw this team into inexplicable turmoil, which spilled into New Mutants as well as another spinoff, X-Force. I can just imagine all the yelling that went on at story pitch meetings. They must have resembled an all-day traffic jam in Times Square.

But let's try to cut through the chaff and whittle down the essence of these particular story arcs. Then, if you want to try to track down all the pertinent issues and read them in sequence, godspeed. I wish I had a no-prize to offer you, but I don't think they make one for that level of bravery.



IN BRIEF:
It's hell on Earth, as N'astirh and S'ym, demons from Limbo who conspicuously both have apostrophes in their names, carry out a demonic transformation and invasion of New York.

SPAN:
15 separate titles (that's right, 15 separate titles), from January-April, 1989. 42 issues total, give or take one or two. If you listen closely, you can still hear the echoes of all those cash registers.

HOW IT BEGAN:
Madelyne Pryor, Scott Summers' estranged wife, transforms into the Goblin Queen and forms an alliance with N'astirh to locate her missing son, Nathan, and eventually finds that she has ties to the machinations of Mr. Sinister.




HOW IT ENDED:
The demons are driven back and sealed off in Limbo, because even demons can be exhausted by having to make appearances in 42 issues over a four-month period. Madelyne discovers that she's a clone of Jean Grey created by Mr. Sinister, and is defeated by Jean in battle. The X-teams, their costumes and hair now transformed by the events of Inferno so that they're now dead ringers for Twisted Sister, confront Sinister and discover the truth about his manipulation of the lives of Cyclops and Havok. Sinister proves to be a match for all the X-Men, but is vulnerable to Cyclops' optic beam. Havok super-charges Cyclops, Cyke opens fire on Sinister, and Inferno is officially concluded.




TRADE PAPERBACK:
The TPB only contains the X-titles--but if Sinister doesn't care about any of the others, you probably won't miss them, either.


IN BRIEF:
The Genoshan Magistrates, directed by Cameron Hodge (who used to be X-Factor's PR man--don't ask), are out for the X-Men's blood, attacking the X-mansion and making off with several captives. Members of the X-Men and X-Force mobilize to travel to Genosha to free them.

SPAN:
Three separate X-titles, from November 1990 to January 1991. Nine issues total.

HOW IT BEGAN:
A Genoshan strike force (along with a brainwashed Havok) makes a surprise attack on the X-mansion and manages to snag Storm as well as some New Mutants. Like that isn't going to get a response.




HOW IT ENDED:
The three X-titles/teams join ranks on Genosha and attempt to take down Hodge, who in cyborg form is practically indestructible. Why, I don't know. Cyclops, Havok, and Wolfsbane rip this guy to pieces, yet the battle continues. Finally, Rictor just decides to bury him under his own citadel.


TRADE PAPERBACK:
You know you can't resist anything having to do with Genosha.


IN BRIEF:
Cable's apparent assassination of Charles Xavier reveals the existence of Stryfe and a plot for revenge against Cyclops and Jean Grey. The banner shamelessly adapts the title of Norman Mailer's book for a story which has zero to do with either Gary Gilmore or singing of any kind. On the other hand, Stryfe has the coolest helmet since Magneto.

SPAN:
Five separate titles, from November 1992 to January 1993. Fourteen issues total.

HOW IT BEGAN:
At a free concert to promote diversity, while Xavier is giving a speech, Cable shows up and takes him out with a shot that infects him with a techno-organic virus. The Horsemen of Apocalypse also attack Colossus and Iceman elsewhere, while Caliban likewise attacks and kidnaps Jean and Cyclops under the orders of Mr. Sinister, who trades the two to Stryfe for a cannister containing DNA data on the Summers family. (Yes, that's right--Cyclops and Jean couldn't take down Caliban.) Apocalypse, the Mutant Liberation Front, and the Dark Riders are also dealt in later. Gosh, have I left anybody out?




HOW IT ENDED:
"Stan Lee Presents a tale which will go down in the annals of mutant history!" If only. Stryfe, now based on the moon, has it out with Cable while Jean and Scott are held immobile in the midst of machinery that can activate a time vortex. Cable sacrifices his own life by causing the vortex to self-destruct while he's grappling with Stryfe. The origins of both Cable and Stryfe remain mysteries to readers, who foolishly thought this series would answer more questions than it asked.




TRADE PAPERBACK:
Come on! Don't you want to see Caliban wipe up the floor with Cyclops and Jean?

These arcs were just the tip of the iceberg of banner-stamped stories, in both the X-books as well as other titles.  Later on, we'll hit a few more X-arcs where the cover masthead needed some help from a banner to sell the story.  Hopefully none of them will offend any more best-selling authors.

1 comment:

Matt Celis said...

I think it's hilarious that "X-Cutioner's Song" can't even be pronounced the way they intend us to say it. It's "Ecks-KYOO- shun-er" the way I read it. Just goes to show how much thought and effort went into these comics when even the banner title for the event is misconceived.

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