Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Magnetrix (Issue #50)

A milestone issue! (Did they even care about such things, back then? Will I be disappointed at the lack of awesome in this issue? I must say, last issue was quite snappy, with a good blend of story and action, so I am expecting something good. But am I expecting too much?)

YES! Though (like a stern father who refuses to acknowledge how proud he is of his children) I didn't mention it in the write-up for the last issue, I thought #49 was the best story in a long while. Further, such a story could not have come at a better time, as I was starting to get a little tired of the pattern these books have been taking: X-Men meet villain; X-Men get defeated; X-Men win.

Issue 49 was like a breath of fresh air. (Or, since I know the book gets canceled in about 16 issues, I guess it's a last gasp? Death rattle? (Though, 16 issues is more than a year in real time, so I guess not a death rattle, to be fair.)))(parentheticals!)))

Most notably the title logo is different. Pretty sure this is how the logo looks for the next... 150 years.

Immediately, one notices that artist Jim Steranko BRINGS IT. I mean just look at these first two pages:

Looks like SOMEONE hired an artist with ambition.

More excited about this 2-page spread than the kind in Playboy.

Dynamic framing of the shots and a two-page splash! It's unlike any X-Men art that's come before. Even though its still mostly confined to boxes and those boxes are all orthogonal to each other, the characters protrude, word bubbles spill out. The layouts are modern in a way that you can only tell is modern after subjecting yourself to 49 old, stodgy issues. I just hope the story holds up.

So, Lorna (who you should remember was, last we saw, being worshiped by Mesmero and his minions) is put into a coffin and transported to a city of evil mutants, naturally, called Mutant City. [Where do you go when you want factory-direct mutants at a fraction of retail cost?!] There, Lorna is put into a machine that will "probe each cell" of her body to unlock latent mutant powers. It is as sexy as it sounds.

Back when science was done with Kirby Dots!

Meanwhile, the Men of X have tracked down Mesmero's hideout/city and start a fight with his henchman. During the fracas, Jean receives a mental IM from Bobby: "Hey J. I M captured EMOJI FROWNY FACE. EMOJI POOP. EMOJI HEART." But, since Bobby doesn't know where he is being kept, he suggests that the rest of the X-Men let themselves get captured, too, so they can have a reuniting in a prison cell. It's a good enough idea and the X-Men are JUST about to do it when ... they actually get captured. Ha! That's some good writing! [I'm actually really enjoying this, that was not meant to sound ironic. So hard to tell, these days, isn't it?]

This writer, Arnold Drake (who wrote the last installment, too (though that issue was not drawn by the same guy)), has the best grasp of the X-Men 's powers, yet. He uses them effortlessly and flawlessly in combinations that don't feel forced and without feeling like they are being forced down out throats with unnecessary, cumbersome explanation.

Now Lorna, stepping from the prober-machine which probed her good (thus unlocking latent, mutant powers), is told that she is ... Magneto's daughter! SQUEE! WHAT?! [Again, not ironic. Looks, guys, I just really like this issue, OK? LET ME HAVE THIS!]

The daughter of Magneto throws
the heavy METAL sign?! Awesome.

The captured X-Men are brought before Mesmero ... but why are they not immediately handing his ass to him with their fists? Because Mesmero has attached Bobby Iceman to a bomb that will go off if he so much as moves. Marvel Girl users her mind and interrupts its functioning. Bobby realizes this and breaks free. It plays out like a well-oiled concert and it feels natural and believable.

Mesmero is not having any of this, so he orders Lorna Dane to attack. She certainly does, but just because she is Magneto's daughter doesn't mean she's as bats-hit crazy as he is. No, she does what any one of us would do, having been captured by bad guys, tortured, and given super-powers: She lashes out at her captors! [Have I mentioned I love the writing in this issue?]

(Cuz, like, magnetism works on ferrous materials?)

And just when the X-Men are about to punch Mesmero's ticket, who steps out from the shadows but Back From The Dead Again (Again) Magneto! [I've passed out.]

Take a knee, mutants.


And, as expected, this bonus story is a total let down.

After that issue - that GLORIOUS issue - why would you try to follow it up with a bonus story like this? It's like, having finished the most delicious chocolate cake you've ever eaten, the waiter comes over and says, "Would sir care for a second dessert? The chef has sent one out for free!" "YOU BETCHA!", you say (because you are an extra in an old black and white film) and the waiter presents you with a bowl of salted lard.