Uncanny X-Men #282 (November, 1991)
Plot/Pencils – Whilce Portacio
Script – John Byrne
Inks – Art Thibert
Colors – Dana Moreshead
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Edits – Bob Harras
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.00
It’s been a pretty rough few days, my friends… emotionally draining, and just plain unpleasantly busy overall. This is kind of embarrassing to admit, though perhaps it shouldn’t be… but, I’m still processing the loss of our dog. It’s been four months now, and the hurt just refuses to go away. If anything, it only seems to intensify. It makes it very difficult to do much of anything… as he was so, I dunno, entwined I guess, with everything I do on a daily basis. He was always there, by my side… no matter if I was writing, recording… or doing yard work or yoga. Every day, for fourteen years. And now… he’s not. I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to actually grieve properly… just kept forcing myself to push forward. That stuff… those feelings… they just don’t “pass”, I suppose. They’re going to have to be faced and dealt with eventually… and, my subconscious appears to be drawing it out to make the sensation as painful and life-destroying as possible. On that happy note…
I’m dipping back into the old From Claremont to Claremont show-prep well to find anything I haven’t already repurposed into a blog post for our humble and hollow internet home. I think I’ve found one worth “zsuszing up”.
We open at the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, where the Prof and Forge are engaging in a game of Chess. Charles ekes out a win, and acknowledges that he knew Forge had activated a psychic dampener in order to keep things “fair”. Before setting the board back up for a rematch, the pair are interrupted by the arrival of the Gold Strike Force… and a Sentinel head. This is a pretty ugly panel…
… though we do see via his bookshelf, that Professor X has been keeping up with the Infinity Gauntlet limited-series! So that’s sorta fun.
Storm explains what happened last issue… which… even the editorial caption informs us isn’t what actually happened. The wheels are coming off this book already! Bob Harras writes, “Not Quite what you saw last issue, but take our word for it! It’s what happened!” Yeah, nice try…
The Professor is shocked to see Jean in such a state… and informs the team that, if she were actually dead, he’d have felt it when it happened. A deeper probe reveals that Jean Grey isn’t actually dead… only displaced. But… where?
We shift scenes to Shinobi Shaw’s penthouse apartment… the caption tells us it’s late at night, even though the art makes it seem like it’s pretty bright out. Anyhoo, Trevor Fitzroy is paying the man a visit to inform him that… well, he’s won the game. Not only did he kill Donald Pierce, but he also took out the White Queen and her entire pack o’ Hellions! We learn here that Jean Grey is actually occupying the mind of Emma Frost, by the way.
He demands Shinobi’s ring… which, I guess denotes he’s the leader of the Upstarts. Imagine that being the “topper” on your resume? Shinobi assures him he won’t give it up without a fight… and so, Fitzroy decides he’ll just cut the dude’s finger off and take the ring by force.
Back at the Mansion, the X-Men put together a plot to save Jean. They deduce that Fitzroy’s base is located on an iceberg somewhere in the Arctic. Forge and Professor X decide they’re coming along on this mission… which appears to make Storm a little uneasy.
We rejoin Fitzroy, who is accompanied by his weird little sidekick, Bantam, and a trio of heavily-armored guards. Suddenly… a portal opens! This is rather a shock to Trevor, as he had nothing to do with it. From the portal springs… two men, who, in the process of passing through, wind up melded into one!
Fitzroy puts them out of their misery, and blames Bantam for the boner. Ya see, Fitzroy make’a the portals, and Bantam is supposed to be monitoring them all. Bantam reveals that this portal didn’t seem strong enough to actually work… and so, he stopped paying it any mind. Or something. Bantam thinks to himself that Trevor needs to be more responsible with his powers… otherwise, ya never know who or what might crawl out of the next portal! Let’s put a pin in that for the moment…
The X-Men arrive over the iceberg… and it’s confirmed, as if we didn’t already know, that Jean transferred her psyche into the nearest telepath last issue… and, of course, that telepath was Emma Frost. Xavier assumes this means that Frost is actually dead… but, again, finds it strange that he didn’t “feel” her dying.
Back inside, Fitzroy prepares to “feed”. His Sentinels warn that there’s an aircraft approaching… but he silences them. He’s surrounded by his hostage Hellions… and is getting ready to suck up all of their energies. He starts with Tarot. It’s here where Fitzroy’s speech pattern is really started to get to me… any time he addresses someone, he starts his statement with “My dear…”, like “My dear Tarot.”, or God forbid, “My dear Beef.”
Fitzroy uses Tarot’s energy to open up yet another portal. From this one, we meet a trio of gaudy geeks named Burke, Kroeger, and Stylles. Trevor and Kroeger have some contentious back-n-forth, resulting in the K-Man trying to leave through the same portal he entered… and learning the hard way that it was only a “one way” trip.
Just then, Jean Grey-as-Emma Frost reveals herself to be, ya know, awake… and lashes out at Fitzroy with some telekinetics. This, naturally, catches Trevor off-guard, as Emma Frost is “nothing more than a telepath” and shouldn’t be able to do any of this.
Then… the cavalry arrives!
What follows are several pages of the X-Men just tearing through Fitzroy’s Sentinel army. I can only wonder what Byrne might’ve thought when he got faxed these pages. Fitzroy has finally had enough, and rushes over to his hostage Hellions of drain more power than he’d ever drained before!
In turn, he uses this energy to… say it with me… open up yet another portal. From this one emerges… well, basically Morlocks from the future. Just a gaggle of interchangeable geeks… without any sort of defining characteristics.
The X-Men wipe the floor with them. Fitzroy is still pretty confident… but that all changes when some heavy firepower comes blasting through the still-open portal.
He turns in horror to see his old rival… Bishop (flanked by Malcolm and Randall Redshirt).
The wheels kinda fell off this new direction pretty quick, no? It was never quite as obvious to me, growing up, what an amateurish effort this was. The very definition of painting oneself into a corner, without even the slightest hint on how they might find their way out. From the very opening scene they “excused away” of the ending of the previous issue… I mean, c’mon. This would never fly at any other time in comics history.
Though, perhaps I should give them an ounce of credit for trying to get ahead of their clusterfrig of a story. Nowadays, they’d just flat-out ignore it… and mock any of their paying-readers who dare question them on social media. Still though… if this wasn’t a sign that Marvel backed the wrong horses… from a storytelling standpoint, I don’t know what is!
Financially… I don’t think Marvel minded the fact that one of their flagship titles, simply put, made no damn sense… which, stands to reason, right? I could just imagine the look on John Byrne’s face when these pages were faxed his way (likely with about 10 minutes left to get the entire thing scripted). A disaster on so many levels. And to think… this was what the X-Books looked like when I fell in love with them! It’s a wonder I’m still here. It’s a wonder I ever was at all!
What we’re seeing here is a harbinger of Image Comics… almost the four-color definition of the phrase “Image over Substance”.