Uncanny X-Men #401 (January, 2002)
“Golden: A Silent Interlude”
Writer – Joe Casey
Pencils – Ron Garney
Inks – Mark Morales
Colors – Hi-Fi Design
Letters – Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Saida Temafonte
Edits – Powers, Franco, Quesada
Pres – Bill Jemas
Cover Price: $2.25
While I’m on a brief hiatus from X-Lapsed, I’ve decided to kinda-sorta go back to my “roots” as a fake-ass comics content creator… maybe rediscover my love for this process, and hopefully find some bliss in order to press on with the endeavor.
But, what to write about? Is there anything I can write about that… I dunno, might help to expand the world of X-Lapsed? That might help to back-up any outrageous claims I may have made on the air? Or, maybe something X’y… but from an era I haven’t spent a lot of time talking to death just yet?
Well, howsabout… some of the above? Now, if you’ve been listening to the show… okay, okay… who am I kidding, of course you haven’t been — but, if’n ya were, you might recall that I recently covered a story that I referred to as being the WORST X-Men story I’d ever read. That story was… X-Men Green by Gerry Duggan, which appeared in something like 45 installments of Marvel’s X-Men Unlimited Infinity Comic.
It was preachy, it was unfunny… I’m tellin’ ya, it’s up there among the worst X-Men comics ever put to (digital) paper. And, I mean, if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time (going back to when it actually WAS a blog and not just a repository for my audio links), you’ll know that I try to veer away from hyperbole in my writing and editorializing. I try to ride the fence and give the benefit of the doubt more often than not… and, indeed I tried going that route with X-Men Green… until it beat me into submission.
Now, why am I saying any of this? And what does X-Men Green have to do with anything? Well, ever since covering it, I’ve been on something of a personal “quest”… fighting off my hyperbolic comments… trying to find WORSE stories in X-Men history.
And, for awhile, I was comin’ up empty. That is, until I refreshed my memory on the book we’re about to discuss today.
This issue, my friends… well, I’d say it “speaks for itself”, but — well, it’s a NUFF SAID issue, so it kinda doesn’t… and that’s one of the bigger problems with it. Notice that I said “one of” the problems… because, boy howdy – it doesn’t stop there.
Now, if you’re newer to comics, or lapsed from comics, or have wisely selectively blocked NUFF SAID Month from your memory, I have spoken about it on the air during the Giant-Size X-Men: Jean Grey & Emma Frost episode of X-Lapsed… which I’d recently collected into a
giant-size great big compilation episode of the X-Lapsed Triple-Dip. If you’re interested in checking it out, click the pic below!
Now, with the shilling and stage-setting out of the way… howsabout I quit with the vampin’ and make with the unfunny spoilin’ of a twenty-year old (Jeez, where did my life go) book?
We open with our man, Sean Cassidy pourin’ one out for the recently deceased Moira MacTaggert. Ooookay, if you’re a current year X-Fan, this might require a bit of x-planation. I mean, Hickman did a good job making the Moira-ness of his story “fit” and “work”, but if all’s you know of Moira is that she’s a mutant with the power to come back to life over and over again… resetting the timeline with each death — well, this here is the fallout of her pre-HoXPoX “dead is dead” death. Sean Cassidy, Banshee, and she had an on-again/off-again romantic entanglement… and so, our man was hit pretty hard when she faked her death using a Shi’ar Golem or whatever the hell it was. We’ll follow his breakdown throughout this issue… and also chat about what the original wardrobe for this breakdown was gonna be when we’re thru! From here, we get our… ahem, Single-Page Spread of ROLL CALL and Cred (only three of the six characters featured actually appear)… which, kinda breaks the rules of the NUFF SAID! gimmick… but, I mean… who cares, right?
From here, we shift scenes over to, what the included script refers to as a “medieval-style castle”, which… sure, why not? Here, we see the not-yet unmutanted Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, joined by the new-look “movie-handsome” Toad… as they are approached by… umm, some dark-haired woman. Who dat? Well, we’ll get there in a sec…
But first, whoever this is needs to (literally) swap spit with ol’ Mortimer. Like… furreal… this is one sloppy wet kiss. Like, I could almost gag looking at it. Magneto then appears… and the gal is run through with a spear.
Buuuut, then we find out that… it was allllll an illllllllusion. Ya see, gang, this is Lady Mastermind… and she’s been captured by… uh, some uniformed dudes? Okay, now if you were reading the X-Books back in ye’ old 2002, you might be saying: “But Chris, you handsome idiot – I thought Lady Mastermind had blawnde hair… and she was just (as in the week before this book came out) in an issue of X-Treme X-Men.” Now, if you were to say that… I’d respond with, “Wow, you’ve got a mighty impressive memory!” and I would also suggest that, with such care and respect for continuity across titles, that perhaps our current-year crew of X-Men Editors have figured out the secret of time-travel. And, oh by the way… these soldiers, believe it or not… are Jamie Madrox. Never mind that their faces don’t look alike (and the fact that they just look like The Manhunters from DC)… just take my (and the included script’s) word for it.
Anyway, we follow the Manhuntdroxes (the same ones? other ones? – who knows?) into a gas-cloud-filled hallway, where one of ’em… either shoots into an empty room or… no, that’s exactly what it looks like he did. Anyway, this room is apparently where Mystique is… was… might be being held prisoner. It’s nice of her captors to provide a name plate for her door (does that break the NUFF SAID! rule?)! That’s captivity in style!
So, everybody havin’ fun so far? No? Well… it’s about to get even better/worse, because our next stop is Chappaqua — ya know, that small city in New York where the Clintons bought a home so that Hillary could run for Senate in the state? That’s… not an “outta nowhere” political comment, by the way — one of the Clintons is about to show up in the book. And yeah, it’s as dumb as it sounds. Dumber, in fact!
Okay, so… we’re in Chappaqua… with Wolverine. He breaks into the Clinton home, where he finds the security detail all laying about with huge (satisfied) smiles on their faces… and (no joke) likely a desperate need for a change of drawers. I promise I’m not joking.
Because, ya see… Logan’s on the trail of our newest X-Man… Stacy-X – who… um, broke into the Clinton compound with the express purpose of helping Bill bust a n… err, have an orga… hmm… uh, “sleep comfortably”? And, by the looks of it… she was successful. Thankfully, Garney isn’t drawing with any semblance of hyper-realism… because, I mean… nevermind. Let’s forget this happened. Actually… first, I’m gonna make you look at the panel… then, we can forget this happened.
You might be asking yourself… why in the bluest of hells did we need a scene like this? Well, the answer to that question is two-fold… sadly, neither of those folds make any sense. Ya see, this wasn’t originally going to be Bill Clinton unwittingly getting his rocks off… the script originally called for this to be Stacy coaxing some fluids outta Rudy Giuliani (those pages of script aren’t included in the issue… but, I’ve tracked ’em down – and I’ll share ’em down below). But, well… this issue came out in December, 2001… just a couple months after the attacks… and so, Rudy was seen as “America’s Mayor” at that point — so, they changed it to Clinton. Now, you might be asking what that “other fold” of the two-fold x-planation might be… and, uh… honestly, so am I! Oh, hey, look – Stacy’s here!
And, well… we get a fight scene… that just stops. Next we know, Wolverine and Stacy are hanging out watching TV. Okay then… that totally makes the Presidential spunk scene worthwhile, dunnit? Anyway, Nightcrawler BAMFs into the room, and gets in Stacy’s face. Why? Who knows… and, well… I know I’m not the funniest dude in the world, but I can’t even think of something UNfunny to say here.
Oh Lord, we’re only halfway thru…
The scene continues to play out… Wolverine pulls Kurt aside and motions for Stacy to stay quiet. Why? Who knows! In any event, Nightcrawler appears to be okay with whatever it is Logan told him… and so, he leaves. Maybe he knew Bubba was pent up and needed a release? It can’t be easy bein’ Bill…
From here, we shift over to Operation: Dumbo Drop… where, the Blob is carried to the X-Corps HQ via helicopter. But, why? Again, who knows? I think the helicopters are being flown by Madroxes… but, honestly – I wouldn’t bet a thin dime on it. Anyway, he arrives, and is led inside by a pair of unrecognizable fellows. Hey, at least we can tell who the Blob is, right? Apparently, these two Blob flankers are Avalanche and Radius. I’d wager that most X-Fans are at least somewhat familiar with Avalanche from his time as Pyro’s pal in Freedom Force and what-not. But, Radius? Well, he’s a bit of a deep-cut. Ya see, he’s from Volume Two of Alpha Flight… which, to me, is still some of the finest Alpha Flight ever put to paper. Anyway, it was alluded to there that Radius was/is related to Unus the Untouchable. He’s given the wrong hair color here, which I could only assume is a result of our colorist thinking he was supposed to be Banshee?
Speaking of Banshee, Ol’ Dukes is led into his… office? Board Room? Dining Hall? Whatever it is, it’s full of X-Men busts… and, Blob does NOT look happy to be there.
This, mercifully, takes us to our ending. Banshee bellows at the Blob, kayoing him… and, closes out by, uh, sinisterly smiling at the camera?
That was Uncanny X-Men #401. What’dja all think? It’s quite the issue, innit? Is it as horrid as X-Men Green? Well… yes and no. I mean, it’s so tragic that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if FEMA were called in to deal with it — but, it’s so batspit insane that it transcends being “just a bad comic”.
I think to properly contextualize (at least to the best of my abilities) this issue, we need to look at exactly what was going on in the X-Men and the world back in mid-2001 (when I assume/hope this was written… for reasons we’ll discuss in a bit). Marvel Comics was under the rule of Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada. I’m on record as saying that this was probably one of the more exciting times to be a comic book fan. Jemas and Quesada did a lot to bring Marvel back from the brink of bankruptcy… both financially and creatively. They were smart enough to leave good things alone (at least at the start), but also knew when a change of direction was needed for certain titles/franchises.
Case(y) in point, the X-Men. When Jemas and Quesada took over from Bob Harras, the X-Books were back under the purview and vision of Chris Claremont. This was… something of a misfire. It was an impossible position… to be honest, and I felt bad for Claremont almost immediately. He was basically tasked with competing with… himself. The Claremont of the 1980’s was not who we got at the turn of the century. And, well, in hindsight, it was probably (read: definitely) unfair of the fandom to assume we would.
What we did get was… something different. Seemingly purposefully different… which, is, unfortunately, not what anybody wanted. The Claremont “Revolution” X-Men was this odd amalgam of “new” and “old”. New concepts… that, weren’t ever going to be properly fleshed out (Ruhmembuh the Neo?), with a writing style that was at least two-generations removed from sounding timely or “with it”. The old Claremontisms of characters standing around and loudly introducing themselves at one another – “Face me, Villain – for I AM STORM!” or “My name, dear [bad guy] is Elisabeth Braddock – though, YOU may call me PSYLOCKE!” – it was cringingly bad stuff.
So, enter the new regime — and an all-new take on our X-Men. Claremont would be shifted over to his own sandbox with X-Treme X-Men… where, some of our favorites could continue to loudly introduce themselves to each other, while (adjectiveless) X-Men was retitled New X-Men and given over to Grant Morrison, and Uncanny would wind up in the hands of Joe Casey.
Now, why am I spending so much time setting the stage? Well, a) I think it’s necessary, and b) I’m almost certainly vamping so I don’t have to give my deeper thoughts about this issue quite yet.
Since this IS Uncanny, let’s talk Joe Casey’s time on the book. Casey wasn’t new to the X-Books, and in fact had (relatively) recently wrapped up a highly acclaimed run on Cable. Joe Casey (and Jose Ladronn)’s Cable was an absolute (and unexpected) highlight of the late-90’s X-Books. Never before had Cable been so humanized and relatable. Casey was building the book up for its big Millennial payoff… and the “final” battle between Nathan and Apocalypse. That is, before Marvel nyoinked both the rug and story away, and gave us the abominable Twelve storyline. That reminds me, has anybody actually taken credit for writing Cable #75 yet? Eh, nevermind, that’s a story for another day…
So, when Joe Casey was announced as taking over Uncanny… many of us were quite excited. The comics press of the day (read: Wizard) assumed that between Casey’s Uncanny and Morrison’s New, we were stood at the precipice of a new Golden Age for the X-Men… and, well… they were half-right.
It seemed like for the months leading up to the launch, we’d get barraged with interviews from the new X-Arbiters… and, while Grant always seemed to come across as being rather reserved about his plans – Casey was more “in your face” about how “evolutionary” and “envelope-pushing” his run was going to be. I’ll just let him tell it…
“The book’s about evolution. Aside from the actual storylines, the book itself should be the evolution of comics.”
“This is what mainstream comics should be doing.”
“When this stuff comes out… people are going to be imitating it for the next couple of years.”
“It’s our job to be completely ahead of the curve as much as we possibly can, to push every direction just as far as we can.”
We… well, I can’t speak for X-Fandom as a whole… hell, the current-year X-Fandom refuses to acknowledge I even exist! So, I can only speak for myself when I say – I was excited to see where Joe Casey would take the book.
And, well… then the books started to come out. And, while they weren’t bad by any stretch (until this issue), they certainly weren’t “evolutionary” or anything that was worthy of imitation. It was a fairly conservative book… especially when compared with its actually progressive, envelope-pushing, and genre-redefining Grant Morrison-penned sister-book.
The Casey run, up to this point, was… another take on the Mutant Massacre (this time in London!), Chamber entering into a romance with a pop-star (totally not the same thing as when Cannonball was getting with Lila Cheney), and… the Vanisher selling drugs? Okay. Like I said, not the worst ideas… but, falling just a hair (or entire toupee) short of expectations.
Looks like Joe was saving all his “worst ideas” for this issue. This was an issue whose story kind of preceded itself. Does that sentence make even an ounce of sense? Probably not… but, bear with me. If you know nothing else about this issue (which is to say, if you skipped my entire spoilery synopsis and hopped down here), you might still know about the controversy surrounding it’s earliest teaser images. You’ll probably have heard that Banshee and his X-Corps were adorned in Nazi-regalia… but, you may not have actually seen (or seen in awhile) those… problematic sketches.
Well, how y’all like these apples:
I tell ya what, it’s probably been every bit of twenty years since I’d last seen that. In fact, I spent the better part of an hour trying to find it just now… I actually wound up finding it on, of all things, and ancient GEOCITIES page (ancient… Geocities, redundant much?). Anyway, I’d forgotten quite how “in your face”… and stupidly misguided it was. Sure, this was in days days of Web 1.0, and less in the way of fashionable social media outrage… but, even so — this is a bit much, dontchathink? THIS was what “mainstream comics should be doing”? This is, what “comics will imitate for the next few years”? Welp, since that wasn’t the case, I truly think we’re in the right timeline.
Thankfully cooler (and wiser) heads prevailed… and we didn’t get Nazi-Banshee. Lord knows he’d never be able to shake that stink off. It’d be like Hank Pym smackin’ his wife or Speedy… well, doing smack! I just can’t believe it was ever on the table in the first place… and actually got sketched up. I gotta wonder how the notes to the artist actually read. Did it just say “Make him a Nazi”… or “Nazi him up real good”? I couldn’t imagine.
Speaking of bad ideas… let’s move on to the most bewildering scene in the issue… and perhaps in the near-sixty years of X-Men comics… Stacy X bustin’ Bill Clinton’s… err, um… I apologize, that’s disgusting. Stacy X providing relief to Bill Clinton. Now, I feel like I’m playing social media BINGO here… we’ve got Nazis, and here we have… I dunno, can we use the “r” word? I mean, I didn’t see Bubba give his consent. I feel weird even discussing it… so, we’ll just leave that bit there.
Howsabout we look at the proposed-Giuliani-ness of the script. Now, I mentioned in the synopsis that this was originally supposed to be, then New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani in the role of the unwitting orgasmer. I can only assume that the script was written pre-9/11 and changed after. Though, with Mr. Casey… he may’ve written this post-9/11, and was making an attempt at edginess by slighting “America’s Mayor”.
Below I will be including the pages of script that Marvel put in the back of the physical issue… which, unfortunately ends before the Bill Clinton scene. We would have to go to the prehistoric Marvel web-site for the remaining pages. Those pages, however, are long gone. After a bit of digging, however, I managed to find the pages in question. And, as if Joe Casey hasn’t already made quite the twat of himself… let’s check these out (bolded emphasis mine):
Inside the bedroom now. Candlelight causes eerie, flickering lighting. Angle on the door, carefully being pushed open by Wolverine, who is already taking a cautious step into the bedroom. He’s already seeing something off-panel that puts a look of extreme disappointment on his face.
Big panel on the page. Wolverine’s POV, looking into the master bedroom of the mansion (so it’s pretty big). Candles lit all over the room. Lots of shadows. Zooming in on the king-size bed, which is completely trashed. Drenched with sweat. Sheets wadded up at the foot of the bed, pillows ripped apart, feathers leaking out. There are night tables on either side of the bed (upon one is a beeper/pager that you might want to establish here). In the middle of the bed, completely laid out on his back, spread eagle like a sexual slave, is Rudolph Giuliani (since this is the silent issue, we can get away with this if we’re smart about it… not naming him by name, try to get his likeness as close as possible. Those in the know should absolutely get the joke… the one or two X-Men readers who might be at all politically aware...). Giuliani is wearing only boxer shorts, a torn wife-beater T-shirt and his designer dress shoes. He’s also wearing one of those “sleep blindfolds” that rich people sometimes wear (why, you might ask? Because even though we’re not naming names, I’ve been told we need to be very careful with the Guliani likeness… thus, the blindfold partially hides his face). He’s so whacked out, he doesn’t even know where he is. He’s got a dizzy smile on his face. Some serious sexual stuff has been going on in this bedroom…
Wolverine walks over to the bed, in the flickering candlelight. Giuliani doesn’t even register his presence. Wolverine is looking down at the Mayor, disgusted.
Small panel. Angle on the beeper/pager on the night table, which is now vibrating and lighting up.
Another small panel. Wolverine’s head whipping around as the beeper (off-panel here, obviously) gets his attention. The candlelight flickering on his face.
The beeper in the foreground, at the bottom of the panel. Wolverine above it, looking down at it, reaching down with one hand to pick it up. The shadows of the room in the background behind him.
Wide panel. Action shot. Wolverine (now holding the beeper) in the foreground, whirling around as Stacy X (wearing her skimpy X-uniform) leaps out of the shadows in a kung-fu style kick. She looks pissed off. Wolverine doesn’t look surprised at all… he was waiting for her to make her move.
Okay, so – this confirms a couple of things. a) Rudy was the original orgasmer, and b) Joe Casey thinks very little of his audience! Now, I’ll admit to being denser than most… hell, that’s almost one of my catchphrases at this point… but, here’s the thing: why in the world is this in an issue of X-Men? Did Joe Casey just really wanna make a comment about Rudy Giuliani’s marriage falling apart while he was in office… and couldn’t have jammed it into one of his more transgressive works? And if so… why keep the scene when Rudy was taken off the table?
Like, what did this prove… that we didn’t already know about Stacy-X? We know she’s an orgasm-facilitator… we know she worked at a Mutant Brothel… was this scene necessary? I mean, I’m no prude or nothin’, but this just comes across as high school-level “comedy”. Like, was there a single soul who saw this scene, and even… I dunno, smirked? Half-smiled? Did one of those “inhale-snort” laughs to themselves? Doubt it. It was stupid… it was immature… and, all it did was make it so the Chuck Austen run that followed could be viewed more favorably in retrospect… and, that my friends, is unforgiveable.
I suppose the fact that I’ve been writing and researching this piece since 5:30am (it’s currently about 10:30), tells me that… well, I’ve been writing and researching this piece for about four hours too many. Wow, sure said a lot of words about a book with NO WORDS in it! And, hell… I’m not even gonna waste your time going into the Lady Mastermind boner!
Anyway, I’ll wrap it up here — and thank you all for reading. Here’s some “Not the Letters Page” back-matter…
(Not the) Letters Page: