Wednesday, June 3, 2020

X-Men (vol.2) #1 (1991)


X-Men (vol.2) #1 (October, 1991)
"Rubicon"
Co-Plot/Writer - Chris Claremont
Co-Plot/Pencils - Jim Lee
Inks - Scott Williams
Letters - Tom Orzechowski
Colors - Joe Rosas
Assistant Editor - Suzanne Gaffney
Editor - Bob Harras
Chief - Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $3.95 / $1.00

Breaking up the incessant pod-plugging with... well, a re-purposed synopsis that I'd originally wrote for... a podcast.  We covered this issue during the first episode of From Claremont to Claremont: An X-Men Podcast back in April... actually recorded this segment wayyy back in like November/December, 2019.  I really dragged my feet on that show.

Before we get into it, I want to apologize for the lack of "new" comic book "discussions and reviews" here... as I know it's what the lion's share of visitors to this place are looking for.  All of my metrics are telling me that folks, with few exceptions, aren't interested in my personal stories or remembrances.  Unfortunately, for the moment, that's all I'm able to do.

Reading comics just isn't something I'm able to bring myself to do.  I'm sure y'all understand that, considering the circumstances.  I'm hoping this passes before long... but, I can't make any promises.  Again, I'm sorry.

Today though, a piece that will be new to... well, pretty much everybody visiting.  The discussion piece below the synopsis is all new.  Thanks for reading.

--



We open with a pair of ships desperately seeking Asteroid M, which, if you're not aware is one of the places Magneto is known to hang out.  And well, that's exactly who they find!  Our man destroys both ships... and tells them, in no uncertain terms that, just like the Hulk, he wants to just be left alone.  They can do as they please on Earth... but, they're not going to bring violence into his home.



One of the crew members pleads for Magneto not to leave them to die in space.  Magneto tells them they have nothing to worry about, after all, if they were to die... it would just lead to further stress for him.  She then informs Magneto that the reason for their "visit" is that... they're all Mutants!  They're here to pledge their lives in Magneto's service.  The second of the ships, we come to find, was sent by S.H.I.E.L.D., and is full of folks who are most definitely not Mutants... and who have no interest in throwing in with the Master of Magnetism.



We shift scenes to the Star City (not that Star City) Cosmodrome in Baikonur.  It's here that we learn that those Asteroid M visitors actually hijacked the ships.  The Russians also know that Magneto was responsible for them going "boom"... and enact something they refer to as "The Magneto Protocol".



Meanwhile, in Washinton, D.C. George H.W. Bush is meeting with Colonel Nick Fury.  He's worried that American shuttles exploding over Soviet airspace might just lead to an International Incident... at the very least, it wouldn't be prudent.  Fury thinks on it a bit, before offering something of a possible solution.



We shift scenes to beautiful Salem Center, New York... Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, home of the X-Men.  Cyclops and Storm, the leaders of the team observe while Beast, Forge, and Banshee initiate a Danger Room training scenario for the teams.  The gimmick this time around is, the X-Men must infiltrate the Mansion and "capture" Professor X.



Speaking of whom, we shift scenes to a conversation between he and Jean Grey.  He's mostly thinking out loud, considering everything that had changed since he'd been away from the X-Men.  That is to say, while he was away enjoying sharing his newly-cloned body with the Majestrix of the Shi'ar Empire, Lilandra.  He thinks about his oft-mentioned "dream" of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants.



Back in the Danger Room scenario, Rogue and Iceman narrowly evade some heat-seeking missiles, and insodoing, affords Archangel and Colossus the opportunity to bust into the Prof's study.  Upon getting "Fastball Specialed" inside, however, Colossus finds himself easy pickin's for a Jean Grey psychic-blast!



Meanwhile, the second team... and certainly the more "90's cool" team, consisting of Wolverine, Psylocke, and Gambit work their way through the "low-road" toward Charley (ie. the sewers).  They are ambushed by a whole lotta golden robots.  Logan and Betsy take the fight to the bots, while Gambit slinks away into the study.  



He nails Jean with a charged up playing card... gives her a big smooch, and well... gets exploded on!  Turns out, this "Jean Grey" was just another Danger Room robot!  According to the rules of the Danger Room, Gambit is now "dead".



Cyclops and Company are joined on the "bridge" by the actual Jean and Xavier... and share some pithy banter about the Cajun having no qualms about kissing Scott's woman.  Just then, Wolverine cuts his way into the control room... and pops his claws right in the Professor's face, thereby "winning" the Danger Room Challenge.



We jump ahead to a video-call from Nick Fury, which fills the X-Men in on all the space-shuttle-splodin-situation, courtesy of their old pal and foe, Magneto.  Rogue doesn't really see what the big deal is... after all, Magnus was only defending his turf.  It's worth noting, that she and Mags had become a bit "friendly" over the past little while, so her point of view might be a bit biased.  Cyclops maintains that, all things being equal, there's still reason for concern when it comes to Magneto.  Cyclops proposes that the X-Men be split into two "strike forces"... which Xavier accepts, thus officially kicking off the Blue and Gold era.



We rejoin our space-visitors from the open.  They all "come to" on Magneto's Asteroid M.  Considering the disparate crews have very different "purposes here", it should come as no surprise that none of these fools are all that happy to be together... and, in fact, jump right to insulting and pummeling one another!  That is, until Magneto enters the scene... and informs them that they'd better behave while in his home.



One of the first crew, a Mutant woman named Anne Marie runs toward Magneto, again pledging her life to him.  She is shot in the back by S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, "Deke".  She dies in Magneto's arms... once again swearing her life to his cause.



This is where the worm most certainly turns.  Magneto loses it!  Up until now, it would seem that he wanted to explore peaceable options... but, in seeing what ol' Deke did to one of "his kind", that has all changed.  Major Delgado, also of S.H.I.E.L.D. apologizes for Deke... but, only sorta.  It's kind of like one'a those "I'm sorry you're offended" sorta deals.  He's not exactly tickled that Anne Marie is dead, but... she did break the law!  Magneto's all "your laws don't mean diddly-squat up here"... and tells Delgado to hold his tongue... or else.  Another Mutant, one we're about to become very familiar with named Fabian Cortez, steps up and kinda works on poisoning Magneto's mind more and more.



Back at Xavier's, the Professor engages Cerebro to track Magneto.  Upon realizing that he's just about to enter Earth's atmosphere, Cyclops's BLUE team is dispatched.  The team includes: Cyclops (duh), Wolverine, Beast, Gambit, Rogue and Psylocke... aka. the far cooler ones to a 12-year old Chris.  Anyhoo, they load into a brand-new Forge-forged Blackbird, and head out.



We rejoin Magneto, who had in fact entered Earth's atmosphere!  He's floating above the Mid-Atlantic Ocean and is raising the Leningrad Submarine outta the drink.  He peels it open and comes to find that it still has it's nuclear missiles intact!  Now, the Leningrad Submarine had been sunken by Magneto way back in Uncanny X-Men #150 (September, 1981).  This is one of those times where an editor's note would've come in handy.



The X-Men arrive... in their, ya know, metal jet... to face off against the Master of Magnetism.  Magnus decides against destroying the rig, and instead just holds it in place.  Maybe he has turned over a peaceful new leaf?  Gambit and Beast hop out of the Blackbird... which doesn't work out all that well.  Beast gets bludgeoned with a chuck of submarine, leaving Gambit to toss some charged cards at the baddie.  Worth noting as Magneto didn't kill Beast, Remy doesn't charge the cards up enough to kill.



Psylocke uses this distraction to her advantage, and manages to slip in close enough to Magneto to kick the helmet right off his head.  Magnus is able to defend himself, and finally asks the question: "Why do you assault me?"  That is to say, he tells them flat-out that he ain't here for a fight!  Well, at least not a fight with them.



Cyclops nails Magneto with an optic-blast, and Wolverine rushes in to start slashin'.  Again, Magneto pleads with the X-Men to back off.  He isn't there to fight!  But, ya see... at this point, the light of day is able to shine into the submarine, revealing a whole lotta skeletons.  Skeletons of men Magneto had killed when he sunk the submarine back in the long ago.  It's too much for the Master of Magnetism to take!



He flashes back to his youth in the Concentration Camps... and just flips out!  He rises from the submarine... with the missiles!  Rogue flies up to try and reason with the man.  She apologizes for the way the X-Men have responded up to this point.  Just when it seems as though she might be getting through, she is pelted from behind with a blast from a Soviet jet!  This tells Magneto that he was right the first time... humans will never accept their kind!  He then detonates one of the nukes, giving him all the distraction he needs to escape the scene.



We rejoin him back at Asteroid M, where he is addressed by Fabian Cortez.  They briefly chat, before Magneto passes out from the pain of the Adamantium-chest shaving Wolverine gave him earlier.  Cortez gathers the rest of the followers around their Master... and promises to lead them all to greatness (or something, assuredly "greatness adjacent").



Back on the Blackbird, Cyclops tries to sweep for Rogue... but comes up with bupkis.  Turns out, she's at a hospital in Hammer Bay, Genosha.  She wakes up to find herself ambushed by Fabian Cortez and the rest of Magneto's Acolytes.  They offer her the opportunity to join their cause.  She politely declines... by punching the Acolyte Delgado... not to be confused with the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent from earlier in the issues, this is a different dude!



Anyhoo, the Acolytes don't like taking "no" for an answer... and so, a battle is on.  Just then, the X-Men's Blue Strike Force arrives to even the odds.  Wolverine and Beast discuss how weird it is for their to have been two Delgados... I wonder if they're just poking fun at Bob Harras's editing, or if Claremont had planned for this to become a story point had he remained on the book?  Whatever the case, Logan breaks away and is able to go one-on-one with the ring-leader of this fracas, Fabian Cortez.  He does the ol' "fist to the throat, threaten to pop the claws" thing... which only causes ol' Fabe to smirk like the cocky a-hole that he is.  Worth noting that Logan says that Cortez's scent is "familiar".  Not sure where this might've been headed.  More Claremontian "plot-dangling" at play!



Just then... Magneto arrives!  He talks... a lot.  Like, a lot a lot.  He declares his Asteroid M as a Mutant safe-haven, and invites all mutants to live there without fear.



We wrap up back at the Mansion.  Moira MacTaggert is frantic, and confides with Banshee that everything that's going down is all her fault!



--

Gather up a dozen comic book fans (if you can find that many in one place), and ask them when the various "ages" of comics (Gold/Silver/Bronze) started and ended, and you'd likely come up with a slew of different responses.  Fans see different moments in comics time as being indicative of the tonal shift in "Comics Ages"... heck, ask me that question today... and a week from now, and you just might get two different answers!

One constant, however, is X-Men (vol.2) #1.  It's kind of the "great divider" when it comes to comics fandom.  Now, this is purely anecdotal, all from conversations I've had personally with X-Fans, and is by no means intended as a "blanket statement"... but, X-Men (vol.2) #1 is usually the issue where people started or stopped reading the X-Books.  This was the start... or end of a "Comics Age" as it pertains to the X-Family of books... and, that is something that has always fascinated me.

Talk to older fans... and this issue is sort of the line in the sand.  Where they stopped reading/buying/enjoying the X-Men.  Talk to, well... not-quite-as-old fans (like myself), and it's where we discovered the X-Men.  It isn't often I talk to someone where they describe this as just "the next issue" of the run, ya get what I'm trying to say?

Whether you like them or not... there's something very important about this book... and this era of the X-Men family of titles.  From all of the marketing and boatloads of money (this issue still holds the Guinness World Record for most copies sold, in part due to the multiple variant covers) they started to bring in... to the careers that were in the process of launching... to the folks who were about to be jettisoned from the company.  There was a lot of stuff going on... much of which is probably more interesting than anything that might be in the actual comic itself!

So... what about the actual comic itself?  I can say that it is a collection of very iconic images.  Nearly every page of this issue has been burnt into my brain.  Outside of Superman (vol.2) #75, I don't think there's any other book that I have that kind of feeling toward.  I remember it actually being quite difficult to put this synopsis together, as I wanted to include basically every-single-page.  It's some peak Jim Lee pencils... though, with some of the usual complaints you might see about his work, ie. characters being overly-posed.

As far as the story goes... I like it.  I like it a lot.  I feel like the next issue is quite a bit better, in that it drops some rather shocking revelations that really change (and explain) the motivations for one of the main characters.  But this issue's no slouch.  It's pure Claremont, and if you're a fan of Claremont X-Men, I think you'll be a fan of this.

This is one of those tough ones to "recommend" as... I mean, millions of these things sold, so chances are... you've already read this... or, at the very least own a copy (or four) of it.  I would say, if it's been awhile, maybe give it another look.  This is an actual "Mutant Milestone", unlike the yearly reboots and relaunches we get nowadays.

1 comment:

  1. I'm one of those guys for whom this was just the next issue of X-men. My first issue of X-men was 169 and my last was around 500. I bought all the spinoffs and limited series, so this was not that special to me.
    I think that what makes this issue so iconic is that this is the point in time where X-men entered pop culture full on. These are the X-Men from the 90's cartoon. The X-Men from the toys, the lunch boxes, the video games, etc...
    The issue itself is just another Claremont X-men story.

    ReplyDelete

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