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The ’90s Revisited: X-Men #41


90srevisited

xmen041Dreams Die!

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Ron Garney, Andy Kubert, Matt Ryan
Color: Kevin Somers/Digital Chameleon
Letterers: Oakley / NJQ
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue is one of THE iconic issues of my youth. I’ve read and reread the issue countless times. It sticks in my head, and is one of the key issues I think of when considering X-Men stories. The cover image is iconic, as is the silver-ink coloring on the cover (shockingly enough in a way, there’s no foil to the cover.) I have a number of copies of this issue in my collection, as I often buy it from quarter bins for the nostalgic factor. And if only "mentally," the cover combined with my recollection of the issue really lends a bit of finality to the thing, like this really could be a "final issue." (Perhaps that’s also helped by the fact that Marvel doesn’t seem to like any of their titles getting much past 30 these days).

We open this issue with the four time-lost X-Men staring in disbelief at the scene that surrounds them–of Legion and Magneto trading blows in the skies over Haifa, their memories having finally returned (for all the good it does them). They seek out young Xavier, and take turns taking on Legion themselves, before Iceman finally manages to freeze him solid. Meanwhile, in the present, everyone comes to accept that despite their best efforts–of the several X-Men "tagging along" to the past as well as the attempt with Cable to contact them–they’ve failed and the finality of their universe rapidly approaches.

In the past, things come to a head as Legion pounces on Magneto, planning to kill him with a psionic blade…but young Xavier throws himself at them, and is the one killed. But with a dead Xavier, there never would be a David Haller. No David Haller means no X-Men-in-the-past. For that matter, no X-Men. No X-Men, no world where the X-Men have been around to save it umpteen times. Etc. Reality ends. With only moments to react, everyone faces the crystallization wave, taking their final moments in their own ways.

The world ends with neither bang nor whimper…but in an eerie, silent, shimmering shroud of glass. A world, which like one man’s dreams–proved to be such a delicate thing. And when not handled with enough care…is so easily…shattered…

I’d forgotten or not really noticed before how much the art of this issue was broken up. I REMEMBER it as a cohesive whole…and this time through, even, just reading through, I didn’t consciously note any particular "breaks" in one penciler over the other. I just kept right on going, and would actually have to go back through very specifically to pick out which pages were by which team. Which is the way it SHOULD be, for this sort of thing. Garney and Kubert certainly complement each other with a similar enough style–whether one veered toward the other or not, I don’t know.

That goes into the story side as well…namely, that this was such a monumental thing for me back in the day, that even reading it now, it simply IS. I flew through the reading, remembering all these little parts as I went along, as I came to them. Yet the art never jumped out at me or turned me off for anything…it was just there, consistent enough that it definitely worked for me.

Huge as this issue is for what happens, it’s a quick read, and reeks of a foregone conclusion. The cover itself proclaims To All Things–An ENDING!" and we see a beaten Magneto holding the body of Xavier (not entirely accurate as Erik wasn’t yet Magneto and all that, but the cover gets plenty across symbolically with the costume’s presence).

The issue’s narration is particularly poignant to me even if it is a bit heavy on the "telling instead of showing" thing. By the final couple pages we see bits showing how fully in-continuity this is for the X-Books (though it didn’t affect the non-X books of the time).

It strikes me that for a contemporary comic of this magnitude, this would have been a foil-enhanced cover for sure, probably $4.99 to $5.99 and a Very Big Deal despite "only" ending the "prologue" to the main event it’s setting up: the massive Age of Apocalypse, with the entirety of the X-books going on hiatus for a third of the year, replaced by four-issue mini-series on a one-for-one basis.

This issue ends Legion Quest, and as an ending to that story, and as an issue taken by itself, it works well for me. With modern comics it seems like story endings are merely backdoor prologues for the Next Big Event. While, yes, this "leads into" Age of Apocalypse in general, the issue itself ends, with finality. Legion Quest is the story of Legion going back in time to kill Magneto, with several X-Men hitching a ride back to stop him, while the rest gather and try to "help" as they can from present-day…but as a whole, the entire thing fails–including Legion himself…which ends their reality.

So far as we see and "know" within the story, everything ends. No broken timestream–just an ending. No revelation of some alternate timeline, no popping-in of some hero from another timeline to save things at the last second, no deux ex machina resolving things in the final panel, no crap ending to an otherwise decent story…this could very well have simply been THE end.

And for the kid I was, this was exciting stuff, and took me "all in" for Age of Apocalypse, and combined with Superman and Batman stuff in the couple years prior made for a massive touchstone in my experiences as a comics reader that holds over into the present.

As my rambling on this issue shows…I’m hardly unbiased, and have loads of thoughts and memories associated with this. But having now covered this issue…next week, I look at X-Men: Alpha and then on into the Age of Apocalypse itself!

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