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The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #320

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uncannyxmen320Legion Quest part 1: The Son Rises in the East

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Penciler: Roger Cruz
Inker: Tim Townsend
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: January 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Making me think I missed a chapter, this issue opens on the action, as a squad of X-Men are in the midst of a “battle” with Legion–one in which they’re throwing everything they can at the boy, and the boy’s not even acknowledging them. The issue cycles between this battle and flashbacks to what brought the X-Men to this point–Gabrielle Haller and X-Factor reached out, and so these X-Men came to Israel to see what they could do. Legion finally acknowledges his attackers, jumping back in time with Storm to show her the moments before a jet’s crash that killed her mother. Returning to the present, Storm–despite her hurt and anger–pieces things together, and with the help of Psylocke and Bishop gets the group psychically tethered to Legion just before he makes his main jump back in time. Having used her own powers to anchor herself in the present, Jean is left behind with just enough consciousness to contact Xavier to let him know the X-Men and Legion are gone. Finally, in the depths of space, Lilandra, queen of the Shi’ar, is informed of the beginning of all that is.

This issue had several editions. The X-books at the time were presented in “Deluxe” and “standard” editions–the deluxe having higher quality paper, while the standard was the cheaper paper and (I believe) carried a cheaper cover price. The non-deluxe editions have never been on my radar, and so are being soundly ignored.

With the deluxe edition, there was the regular edition one would buy in comic shops…and there was a “gold edition” that was included in an issue of Wizard magazine. Not just some “ashcan” or “preview” or such, it was the issue in its entirety.

Other than that, there’s nothing (to me) all that remarkable about the cover or anything “iconic” to it. Though I recognize it on sight due to its place in my own life, it doesn’t otherwise stand out in and of itself.

The art is solid, and doesn’t particularly stand out to me, taken by itself. It’s certainly familiar, with the X-Men particularly recognizable, and really the only oddity to me is Iceman’s costume…I don’t recall this costume/appearance, and so at one point I was left wondering who he was while out of his iced-over form. Other than realizing that and wondering who the guy in the unfamiliar costume was, nothing else took me out of the story visually.

The story itself is quite good. I’d noticed Mark Waid‘s involvement with X-Men: Alpha or X-Men: Omega several years ago…and his name again stands out here. Lobdell provides us the plot while Waid supplies the dialogue…yet other than the names in the credits telling me that, I doubt I’d’ve noticed either one of them. For me, going back 20 years, the story just WAS. These were the X-Men, and I took ’em at face value.

Once I realized I had NOT missed a chapter and that we were being presented with some action before the “gap” was bridged with flashbacks, I was ok with the flow of the issue. I doubt this issue’s structure would fly in contemporary comics, as contemporary comics seem primarily written for the trade, and this structure would not play out in a single issue (there’d be an entire issue of action, then an issue of flashback, etc). It’s also sort of odd seeing so few characters involved, despite having appreciated that in the previous issue. But that was part of the premise, I believe–with two X-Men books, each would typically focus on a smaller set of characters from the overall continuity of the whole.

That also poses a bit of a problem here with no explanation given to Bobby’s linking back up with these characters, and where Archangel and Rogue went between the end of #320 and the start of this. However, this opens well given the context of the X-Factor issue, as we go from Legion flying off talking of making things better, and being confronted here with the flashbacks showing that he’s already been setting his plans in motion.

All in all, not a bad opening chapter with plenty of action and context as well as driving the story as a whole forward by the end of the issue. I definitely enjoy that within the pages of a single issue’s pages multiple scenes unfold…that this seems written as a full single issue rather than “just” a chapter of a six-issue arc.

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The ’90s Revisited: X-Factor #109

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xfactor109The Waking

Plot: John Francis Moore
Script: Todd Dezago
Pencils: Jan Duursema
Inks: Al Milgrom
Lettering: Starkings/Comicraft
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

While this issue’s cover proclaims itself the start of Legion Quest, it’s still more of a prologue/lead-in than an official chapter…at least in my reading of it. The issue seems to be happening pretty much alongside Uncanny X-Men #319, though its labeling marks an official starting point from back in an age where stories were not “written for the trade” and neatly grouped in 4, 5, or 6 issue arcs with the eye on the collected volume.

The issue opens with Mystique in a hospital room being confronted by a couple members of X-Factor, where David Haller (Legion) has just awoken from a lengthy coma (I believe he’d been in the coma since the final pre-“adjectiveless” X-Men #1 launch). She’s there to kill him for (apparently) having killed Destiny, and X-Factor is there to stop her from murdering the boy. Finding herself outmatched, she makes to escape, vowing to return; and X-Factor pursues. The situation doesn’t go well, and eventually we’re left with Legion leaving the hospital and passing a message from Destiny (or *a* Destiny in his head) to Mystique. Legion then zaps X-Factor away, and leaves, talking about making things better.

The art’s a bit iffy for me–not bad, but there were parts (especially panels of Legion himself) that just look weird and exaggerated to me. Overall, no huge issue with the art, but it did distract me at a couple points, taking me out of the story.

The story itself isn’t entirely helpful–to me, it’s a “slice of life” sort of thing, with no “previously” page and not a LOT of context on stuff. At the same time…it’s not really needed…especially not for MY purposes here of reading the issue. This read-through is specifically for the issue being part of the Legion Quest stuff, and not for any specific story otherwise going on in the pages of X-Factor. But there’s plenty to give some context–Legion having killed Destiny, she and Mystique had History together, Forge was there when Destiny was killed, he and Mystique have some recent history, etc.

I really like that there’s some dialogue from Legion that I believe lines up with dialogue in Uncanny X-Men #319…this is the height of what I love about continuity in comics. In that issue, we see Xavier’s side as he dreams he’s interacting with Legion, and here we see Legion’s side, through the eyes of those around him at the time. This does not seem like anything that would truly fly in contemporary comics, from separate series not necessarily intended for collection in the same volume.

I also like that there’s lead-in to a story and it’s not just some sudden last-page reveal or epilogue sequence to something: we have at LEAST UXM 319 and this issue showing characters going about their business, the story unfolding in general but we get to key in on the specific “event” of Legion’s awakening and talking about changing the world for the better…which the main Legion Quest story itself is focused on as he actually executes his intentions.

The cover is a BIT misleading, showing a gleeful Legion standing over the unconscious (?) bodies of Mystique and X-Factor. But it fits the issue as we DO have Legion vs. Mystique and Legion vs. X-Factor, and Legion emerges victorious in both conflicts. Combined with the proclamation of Legion Quest beginning here, it’s a rather key image suggesting (among other things) that Legion’s taken out X-Factor before the X-Men even become involved…upping the threat-factor for the start of the main story itself.

Despite that, this issue is hardly essential to the core of that story, as I remember (not yet having read/re-read it recently). But this gives some good context, and alongside UXM 319 pads thing out pleasantly prior to jumping into the heart of the main story itself.

While not quite as enjoyable as last week’s UXM issue, I liked revisiting the X-Factor of this era, and getting a renewed sense of where things were at the time. Of course, even moreso I’m all the more eager to get into Legion Quest itself, and one of my all-time favorite single issues of a comic, as well as my all-time favorite X-Men story!

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