The Austin Run, Part 2 – Uncanny X-Men #411 (2002)

Uncanny X-Men #411 (October, 2002)

“Hope, Part 2 of 3”
Writer – Chuck Austen
Pencils – Ron Garney
Inks – Mark Morales
Colors – Hi-Fi
Letters – RS & Comicraft’s Saida!
Edits – Mike’s Raicht & Marts
… and of Course – Jemas and Quesada
Cover Price: $2.25

Welcome back to…

We’re now at two weeks in a row… which is one week longer than I thought it’d go!

We’ve still got several weeks until this gets really good (is that the word for it?)… so for now, we’ve got a bit more Austenian World Building to commence with.  We’ve gotta establish our team, before we get to The Draco, the exploding Communion wafers, and the bangin’ (oh Lord, the bangin’)…

So, without further ado… 

We open in the Blackbird, with Professor X trying to psychically sooth Stacy-X long enough for her to perform CPR on Angel.  Sammy the Squid Boy is in such awe of this… that he breaks off into his own exposition-laden narration boxes.  Fair play though, this is something comics used to… and in many case, still probably should do.  Xavier loses contact with Stacy… and fears the worst.  Hank says he’ll get them to Scotland STAT.  Speaking of Scotland… X-Stacy (which, I mean – why didn’t they just call her that?) fears that the Juggernaut is about to kill them all.

See?  In fairness to her – the Juggernaut is charging right at them with a furrowed brow while bearing all of his teeth… so, yeah – stands to reason she’d think that.  Remember this, it’s going to be very important.

Iceman wakes up and has some words of encouragement for Stacy…

Oh yeah, one of the hallmarks of this run is that very few of Austen’s chosen characters are going to be portrayed in any way likeable.  They also talk like they’re on The Howard Stern Show, and like to bang in public… but, we’ll get there.  Anyway, Bobby blasts Juggernaut with an ice shaft, meaning he didn’t get the memo that Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut*.  The baddie even mocks Iceman, claiming that the ice thing never works**.  Cain rushes over to Wolverine, who had been impaled on a wooden stake… and yanks the thing out of his chest.

Iceman then sends out another ice blast… and we learn that Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut… except an ice blast.  Meanwhile, Stacy-X wonders how she might keep the dyin’ Angel’s blood flowing.  Err, doesn’t her mutant power sorta-kinda have something to do with controlling “blood flow”?  Maybe tap into that?

Just then, a bunch of Krakoan vines burst from the ground – grabbing poor Warren and nyoinking him to the down below.  Nightcrawler just stands there, dumbfounded… while Bobby and Logan continue to fight the Juggernaut.  If I’m not mistaken, Bobby even suggests that they retreat… which would mean leaving Warren (and Monet) behind.  I’m tellin’ ya, Professor Xavier the X-Men are jerks.

Juggernaut has the sudden realization that Nothing Can Stop Him… and so, he begins punching his way through Bobby’s drip-drip.  When he finally gets close enough to our heroes, he informs them that HE made the distress call to their “eight-hundred number”.

Well, those of us who have already learned to be X-Tra Safe, know that Xavier’s doesn’t have an “eight-hundred number”… it’s just a local call… well, international long-distance to those calling from Scotland, I suppose.  I wonder if Cain used 10-10-220?  Y’all remember having to dial that before making your long-distance call?  Yikes.

Anyhoo, Juggernaut and the X-Men spend a whole nother page discussing the misunderstanding that’s eaten up the last several pages before that.  Each side is calling out the other for being jerks… which, well… valid points are being made.  This conversation is thankfully interrupted by more Krakoan vines!  Any guesses who are big-bad’s going to be?  We’re in Ireland Scotland, we’re dealing with a plant-like threat, and our point of contact is Juggernaut.  Any guesses?  Oh by the way… always remember, Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut… except vines.  Is that me being unfair?  Probably.

We next shift scenes to Rosy Manor Convalescent Hospital in Upstate New York… not to be confused with the actual Rose Manor Hospital in Durham, North Carolina… which I only just found out about by Googling in attempt to appear more worldly and knowledgeable than I actually am.  It’s here we meet Annie Gaz… Ghaz… Gharz… hold on, *ahem* it’s here we meet Annie Ghazikhanian.  Ghazikhanian?  Welp, that’s not going to be fun to type as often as we’re probably going to have to.  Thank goodness this isn’t an audio offering… yet.  If anyone out there wants to help coach me with this, I’m not too proud to beg!  Anyhoo, Annie Gh… Annie, is a Nurse here at Rosy Manor – and she’s kind of fallen in love with a catatonic patient/resident… with a scar over his right eye.  The other Nurses are torn between feeling bad for her… and, in a way envying her.  We learn that Annie is a single-mother, which will hopefully not go on to be her sole defining characteristic***.

Annie wheels Al… err, her patient outside for some fresh air and natural light… and notices that anytime he’s in the sun he “Nnnnhh…”s a bit.  It’s here we meet Annie’s son, Carter Gaz… a-hem, Carter, who is reading The Daily Bugle Newstrack, which is running an article on the “Mutant hideaway” the Xavier School.  There, as luck would have it, is a picture of… her catatonic boyfriend – he’s one half**** of the amazing flying Summers Brothers, Alex Summers!

Back in Scotland, the X-Men (+Juggernaut, -Iceman & Nightcrawler) are all wrapped up in the vines.  Worth noting, there are also some humans and bones all strung up here as well.

Juggernaut finally reveals what we already figured out – the threat here is: Black Tom Cassidy.  Upon learning this, Wolverine takes the opportunity to make a gay joke (because Austen+2002).  Should we start keeping a running counter for all the lazy gay jokes we’re going to hear during The Austen Run?  Remember, Northstar will eventually join the cast!  Let me know in the comments!

Now, Black Tom is gone quite mad… and has grown quite powerful.  Cain pleads with him to let the X-Men help… but Tom ain’t havin’ it.  Instead he rams his thorny barbs into Juggernaut’s eye-holes and mouth.  Kinky.  So yeah, Nothing Can Stop the Jug… nevermind.

We shift down below, where Bobby and Kurt are walking through some catacombs.  It’s here Bobby has an idea.  Seeing the vines and roots, and knowing that they likely belong to whoever the big bad is… he decides to use his ice powers in a very unique way.  He freezes the water in the green… which gives them a way to easily track them to their “trunk”.  Ya know, this is actually pretty cool.  Back in the day, people really seemed to struggle coming up with unique ways to make Bobby’s power appear to be useful… and to show that Bobby himself was something of a force to be reckoned with.  This sort of use of his abilities is quite inspired.

Scene shift, back to Annie the G making call to Xavier’s.  Since she’s upstate already, I don’t think it’d be such a big deal to just make the local call.  Anyhoo, Xavier’s is closed… but, she leaves a message for Scott Summers, claiming that she might’ve found his thought dead brother.  Scott is just shocked to learn that Alex was missing in the first place!

We wrap up back in Scotland, where Bobby and Kurt follow the icy vines to their source… ultimately discovering that they belong to Black Tom, and also that Tom’s got the team all tied up and/or about to sing the chorus to “Twist and Shout”.

Well, shake it up, baby, now…

Well, what we get here is another very traditional X-Men outing… with a standard “Marvel misunderstanding” between the heroes and who they believe to be the villain.  Nothing all that special here, in as far as our A-Plot is concerned.

I suppose I could comment on how stupid is was for the Juggernaut to come charging at the X-Men, even though it was he who summoned them for aid… but, that’s more of a Marvel thing than an Austen thing, innit?  We need some action that doesn’t involve botanical bondage… and, that was going to be it.

Our entire team here… actually, check that – our entire team x-cept Stacy (oddly enough), comes across as real a-holes here.  Just really snippy, sarcastic, and dismissive of one another.  Not a likeable bunch… which, I’ll use my powers of projection to suggest that Uncanny was attempting to evoke the tone of the (at the time) wildly popular Ultimate X-Men?  It’s been ages since I read that, but I seem to remember none of those characters being all that pleasant to be around either.

Let’s talk Annie Gotzhergun and Havok.  This, I recall, was what I was most looking forward to seeing play out back in the long ago.  Havok, who “perished” in X-Factor #149, actually wound up suffering a far worse fate than death!  He was whisked away to another dimension to star in the Mutant X series!

And yes, yes, I know – Mutant X had a strong opening arc… but, after that completely fell off the cliff.  Mutant X was a constant threat I had made to Reggie for an episode of the Cosmic Treadmill… and, ooh boy, what an episode that would’ve been!

Anyhoo, nobody in the 616 seemed to care that Alex was “dead”… it barely got a passing mention in any of the X-Books.  After thirty-something issues of Mutant X, and I believe being bitten by Dracula… Alex Summers was somehow returned to his proper Earth, with nothing more than a slight scar over his right eye (which comes and goes) to remember it by.

I remember being pretty jazzed that he was coming back… and actually joining a flagship team.  I’d missed Havok’s first go-round with the X-Men Proper, only ever following the books while he was a member of X-Factor.  So yeah, I was excited to see this play out.  Boy, talk about a monkey’s paw wish…

Iceman using his powers in unique ways seemed to be something that stumped a lot of writers.  Iceman, by all accounts, should be wildly powerful and versatile — they’ve even written whole stories about him not living up to his mutant potential – and yet, during this era, not all that much was done to correct that.  Bobby was usually relegated to just being “An X-Man”… a dude who stood in the background, who was given the lines that could’ve been said by anybody.

That said, it was pretty neat seeing him realize he could use his powers to work with the vines.  Even though… I mean, he and Kurt would have eventually found Black Tom anyway… considering that the entire middle section of the wrecked castle was teeming with vines and hogtied mutants – but, points for the effort!

Overall – this doesn’t really have many of the Austenian Hallmarks many of us fake-ass comics historians like to dismissively raise our enlightened eyebrows at… this is just a traditional outing with the Uncannies, setting up stories yet to come, while furthering the main plot long enough to hit a designated page count.  Not much to get excited nor angry about… just another issue!

*Most things seem to stop the Juggernaut

**X-Cept, ya know, on the very next page

***What do you think?

****I guess, technically, he’s now one-fourth of the Summers Brothers

One thought on “The Austin Run, Part 2 – Uncanny X-Men #411 (2002)

  • I am all for keeping a running tally of all the Austin-isms going forward.
    This issue for me wasn't very Austin at all. I guess he was just warming up for all that is to come.
    Looking forward to week 3.


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