Friday, September 05, 2008

X-Cutioner's Song Part 5: Familiar Refrain (Marvel)
Uncanny X-Men #295 When: December 1992 Why: Scott Lobdell How: Brandon Peterson

The Story So Far...
When mutant popstar Lina Cheney offers Professor Charles Xavier an opportunity to speak at a public concert for awareness and acceptance of mutants, she unwittingly provides the opportunity to spark a war between factions.
A daylight attempt on the Professor's life implicates the mysterious mutant soldier, Cable, as a traitor to his people, but unbeknownst to the X-Men he is merely the victim of a murder wrap through time!

Apocalypse too finds himself caught in the web of deceit when his Horsemen are deployed to attack the X-Men. In truth, they are following the order of the mysterious mutant liberator, Stryfe, whose machinations include the kidnap of X-Men mainstays, Cyclops and Jean Grey.

With the defeat of the Horsemen, the X-Men opt to pay a visit to the ancient mutant, whose recuperation from a previous battle had been prematurely interrupted by the emergence of Mr. Sinister as Stryfe's impostor. Though weak, Apocalypse remains all too happy to cull the weak from the fit, as he faces the X-Men in mortal combat in his own safehouse!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Colossus 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Beast 6 (Genius)
Speed: Quicksilver 6 (Mach Speeds)
Stamina: Apocalypse 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Ice Man 7 (Limitless)
Fighting Ability: Colossus 4 (Trained)
Energy Power: Storm 5 (Lasers)

- The X-Men are: Storm, Beast, Archangel, Colossus, Ice Man, and Quicksilver.

The emergence of the mutant X-gene brings with it mixed blessings as humanity finds itself confronted by the next stage in human evolution. As individuals begin to manifest inherent superhuman abilities, two men; Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr; find themselves at a philosophical crossroads where education would be concerned. In contrast to his counterpart, Xavier uses his family fortune to found the Charles Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, using his knowledge and powers to train and educate mutant pubescents struggling with their abilities.

Xavier's original class consisted of Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Bobby Drake, Hank McCoy, and Warren Worthington III, but would soon expand exponentially proportionate to team's activities as a covert paramilitary force protecting humanity from those who would misuse their power. Among the prominent new recruits; Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Storm, Rogue, Havok, Dazzler, Gambit, Emma Frost, and for a short time, even Magneto.

They fight to protect the very people who fear and hate them, defending against the menace of alien invasion, cosmic crisis, and the mutants who would use their gifts for evil. Regular enemies include; Magneto, Apocalypse, Sentinels, the Hellfire Club, Brotherhood of Mutants, Juggernaut, and other.

- The grey-skinned infant who would come to be known as Apocalypse was first dubbed En Sabah Nur by a tribe of nomadic warriors who found him abandoned in the desert. Taken-in by their leader, who believed him to be the destined subject of an ancient prophecy of upheavel against the powerful pharoah, Rama-Tut; En Sabah Nur was christened in the harsh environment of ancient Egypt's deserts, taught strength by the tribe's creed of survival of the fittest.

After overthrowing the time travelling pharoah, and stealing his technology, the immortal Apocalypse continued to amass power and fear in his dedication to the darwinist teachings of his adopted family. Hibernating through the decades; Apocalypse becomes a constant in time, ever surviving as he carves his name into human history and pursues the ideals of his philosophy of the strong.

Apocalypse uses the advanced technologies stolen from Rama-Tut to transform his subjects into nightmarish, mutant versions of their former selves. Among his most famous horsemen, Nathaniel Essex, whose biological research in the eighteenth century first introduces Apocalypse to the concept of mutants, who become his obsession as the ultimate evolution of the fit. His zealous dedication to the sub-species brings him into regular conflict with the X-Men, among other.

One of the most powerful beings on Earth Apocalypse is capable of: manipulating his physical form to a multitude of methods; healing and recovering from fatal wounds; producing massive amounts of raw energy; teleporting; and resisting physical attacks with superhuman strength. He is also the master of many advanced technologies which, combined with the knowledge of centuries, allow him to understand and foresee events with uncanny wisdom.

Math: X-Men (Ttl) Apocalypse (Avg) Ranking: Storm (#25)

What Went Down...
Prematurely awoken from his healing slumber by the Dark Riders; Apocalypse finds himself weak to the point of teetering near death, his superhuman body breaking as quickly as it heals the snapping bones and tearing organs. Almost delighted by his struggle, the everlasting mutant drags himself through the pouring rain toward the salvation of one of his many secluded refuges, ready to seek vengeance against the mysterious presence who would dare impersonate him.

Apocalypse arrives to discover his deceived Horsemen at the feet of the X-Men who defeated them. Believing Apocalypse to be responsible for the abduction of their teammates, Cyclops and Jean Grey, the group attacks their weakened foe, but do not find Apocalypse as helpless as he appears!

Wrapped in the rigid grip of suddenly forming ice; Apocalypse channels energy back to the source, flash frying Bobby Drake as he bursts his morphing body free of his shackles! He shatters the ice just as Beast bounds toward him, only to suffer the brunt of yet another explosion of energy!

The Beast's airborne trajectory is broken by Storm, who does her best to catch her stunned teammate, but finds herself hurtling out of control, out through a shattered window into the unruly elements outside.

An enraged Apocalypse calls Quicksilver's attentions away from the potential demise of his colleagues, demanding of the mutant's super speed that seems unable to process quick enough the extending fist of Apocalypse's offensive!

Colossus and Archangel dive on their nemesis with his shapeshifting limbs extended beyond practical defense. Archangel presses the razor edge of the very wings granted to him by Apocalypse at the tyrant's throat, while Colossus pins him with his mighty metallic muscle. Archangel grapples with his bitter hatred for the mutant who transformed him into the blue-skinned horseman of death, struggling with the desire to inflict a mortal blow.

Both Archangel and Colossus soon discover - the hard way - that Apocalypse chose to return to his refuge not for it's locale, but for the hidden technologies dispersed through it's infrastructure. Tapping into his hidden power source, Apocalypse channels the stored energies, sending his attackers sprawling with an explosion of energy and twisting tendrils from his malleable body!

Enjoying only temporary rejuvination, Apocalypse opts not to stoop to the "unseemly" ask of slaying an unconscious foe. Instead, he teleports away, satisfied to lament on his one minute victory against the X-Men, and his goal to uncover the identity of his impostor...

The Hammer...
Actually, according to Apocalypse himself, his victory comes in less than sixty seconds, but even if he was a little, it's impressive none the less!

As regular readers might have gathered, this is yet another belated entry as a result of our recent bold acknowledgment for the superiority of X-Men 2: Clone Wars as the greatest comic book adaptation in video game history!
Apocalypse marks yet another surprisingly overdue inclusion in the Infinite Wars, following up on our recent induction [Onslaught: X-Men #1] of the psionic mega-menace, Onslaught!

I suppose I've been on a bit of an X-kick, to be honest. I found myself going back to what little of the now classic 90's cartoons series was accessible. Usually when the X-Men are a subject of discussion on the Infinite Wars it's with a contemporary context full of prefaced distain and disappointment, but like so many others, I have a fond nostalgia for the early nineties X-Men too. Hence, our arrival at this junction in X-history.

Well, okay, I don't really have a huge amount to choose from, either, but I feel like this was around about the time of the swansong of the classic X-Men mystique (pardon the pun).

X-Cutioner's Song comes from a period of retroactive infamy, where editorial decision making is scrutinized as much as what's on the page. Stories like this one are as well known for their introduction of plot points as they are for the behind-the-scenes building blocks that offered lax intentions, like; the concept to have the X-Men face all of their enemies in a single crisis.

The mythos of the X-Men universe owes a lot to this particular story.
Lingering plotlines and details of the future-history of characters like Cable (and Stryfe) gained further clarification, while, from this past, a lasting legacy was born that would eventually further complicate matters in culminating with the death (and resurrection) of Colossus -- volunteer catalyst for the Legacy Virus cure.

Honestly, I'm getting a bit of a headache just talking about it, but I'm compelled to press on. As much as I would heap praise upon Grant Morrison's work with the X-franchise -- which took the established mythology of mutant societal issues, and forwarded it to a scenario that implied some passage of time from the X-Men's inception -- I have to acknowledge the defining qualities of the nineties!

In pushing and twisting the elements of this corner of the Marvel Universe, influences like Fabian Nicieza, Scott Lobdell, and even Rob Liefeld, achieved something modern comics fail to! For all their grand designs, documented tweaks and interruptions in the writing process let many of these comics adapt on the fly. Consequently, every muscle cringing mistake brings an action-packed twist or moment that is worth remembering.

I'm glad we have these relics to look back upon. I hope this industry, that has become so presently focused in it's bid to survive, can again generate self-wealth from the annals of it's mythology. I hope fans can come to value the back issues and find them in their local comic store, and buy them! Not just in collected form, but in their original presentation, because I think this format is just one of the treats of the medium as it was.
While I do believe there is room for compromise, I would not change the heavy plotting and character driven density that has populated modern comics. I would just ask that we remember the fun times, and maybe even learn from them, too.

Apocalypse, despite being a relatively young creation, now ranks among the very best villains Marvel Comics has to offer. Alas; like his 1960's counterparts; Apocalypse has suffered the indiscretions of time, and like so many villains in the X-corner, bares little resemblence to his former-self under the weight of dishonorable shifts in the character's history.

Granted, Apocalypse can be a difficult character to fairly serve, given the grandios designs of a mutant who would have sizable portions of the world's population culled in an instant. While stories like Age of Apocalypse gave opportunity to render brief glimpses of what this character might look like within his fullest capacity, subsequent tales have struggled to contort around this potential, baring the bitter fruit of transformations, deaths, and aborted motivations.

So much time is spent apologising for the existence of characters to the point of denying the very traits and definitions that made them. It is a fine line between longevity and irreversible deconstruction, but where characters like Apocalypse are concerned, less is clearly more. At least in terms of defining the character as it exists by rule of it's actions.

Focus on the summary of the battle, because clearly diving into early nineties X-Men has driven me insane. Enjoy the presence of these icons that we know, love, and recognise. I'm not sure I could critically describe them as good comics, but somehow, even through the illintent of contrived plot twists, they work.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 4.5

It's a relative certainty that villains will suffer a greater number of defeats than heroes, so it's pretty neat that Apocalypse joins us as one of the strong, with a victory! If you'd like to celebrate this occasion you might like to pick up the collected X-Cutioner's Song, which also features the machinations of Stryfe, which may or may not show up in the Infinite Wars again some time!
Need to consume more to prove your worth to the darwinist rule of mutant madmen? Why not hit up the fittest of all the online stores, the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe, where you'll find collected editions featuring all the stories reviewed on the site! Hey, by purchasing through links provide, you ensure the survival of the site! Mmm, appeasing!

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