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Marvel Fanfare #33 (1987, July)

February 4, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). So, kind of a weird story today. Actually, a really weird story. By Claremont, Brigman, Austin, Oliver and Parker, “Shadows of the Soul!”

Shadows of the Soul!

Ooh, a wrap-around cover. Is this the ’90s?

This is a Questprobe tie-in. So I should give some context. Questprobe was a series of computer games published by Adventure International in the ’80s. Each featured a different Marvel character: the Hulk, Spider-Man, and the Human Torch and the Thing. Each had a comic tie-in. You can read about it on Wikipedia. Apparently, it was planned as a 12-game series, but the developer went bankrupt and closed down; X-Men were going to be the fourth, which is presumably why this story still ended up being done, before sitting around until Al Milgrom used it here as an inventory story. On a fun note, the whole Questprobe story ended up being wrapped up in the early ’90s, in the pages of Quasar! Mark Gruenwald actually wrapped up a few loose-end stories in Quasar. And told some great stories in general. So! This issue!

The X-Men are on Magneto’s island, the one that X-Plain the X-Men dubbed Octopusheim. They’re having a vacation. The line-up here is Storm, Wolverine, Kitty and Colossus, along with Magneto and Lee Forester. Obviously, this takes place before the Mutant Massacre. Magneto and Lee are dating, and incredibly melodramatic about it.

Marvel Fanfare #33

This isn’t even purple prose any more. Jeez, Claremont.

Kitty tries to use her phasing power to surprise Wolverine, but he knows she’s there, and she gets annoyed. She’s generally uncomfortable with the island. I can’t imagine why. Wolverine agrees, and says it’s like being on night patrol, always on edge and waiting for an attack. And, of course, Storm also dislikes the island.

Then the statues come to life and attack. Storm gets turned into stone. Kitty tries phasing through a statue, but instead of disrupting it, she gets stonified. Wolverine and Colossus both follow. Magneto’s the last one left. This is when the Chief Examiner – the fish-bowl-headed guy on the cover – introduces himself. He says the stone effect will wear off in an hour, congratulates Magneto on winning, and tells him to pass through a scanning gate. Magneto refuses, and attacks.

Meanwhile, Rogue is on her way back on a speedboat, after a shopping trip. After pulling the stone Wolverine out of the water, she flies to the island, where Magneto is ranting about being free. He puts on the Examiner’s outfit – complete with the fish-bowl helmet, and come on, Magneto, you’re better than ripping off Mysterio’s fashion sense – and attacks Rogue. In freeing herself, she accidentally hits the scanning screen, and it zaps her, and then she turns green. She dodges an attack, and stick to a wall. And then she lights on fire. Hulk, Spider-Man and Human Torch, the three people who’d already been scanned in earlier issues.

We then cut to an alien world, where we see a computer, an egg and a gem. Inside the computer, Magneto is in some kind of energy form. He meets a guy named Durgan, the creator of the Chief Examiner. He explains that his world is about to be invaded by another race of aliens, the Black Fleet, and his own people reject force. Durgan decided to take matters into his own hands, by creating a robot to find powerful beings and replicate their abilities. I guess “power,” here, is measured by popularity. Because, come on, Spider-Man as one of “the most powerful of beings”? Really? Not, say, Thor? Or Monica Rambeau? You go with Spider-Man? Anyway, the gem in the computer lab is sentient, and it’s the spirit of the gem that’s taken over Magneto.

Rogue continues to fight Magneto’s body, while Magneto and Durgan work together to get things back to normal, and Magneto’s sent back to his own body. Rogue passes back through the scanner, and is returned to normal. Magneto passes through the scanner, so his powers can be replicated. All the X-Men return to flesh and blood. Magneto lectures the Examiner on responsibility, and then gives a speech on violence and non-violent resistance. Yippee.

In all honesty, this was not a particularly good comic. It’s a video game tie-in, which are seldom good. The story is goofy, and not in a great way. Claremont indulges way too much in his purple prose, and in sermonizing. We get some OK character stuff early on, but nothing really special. It doesn’t even have the appeal of nostalgia with the line-up, since it hadn’t been that long at this point since Kitty and Colossus had been put out-of-commission.

The art’s really nice, though. Brigman, Austin and Oliver are all fantastic at what they do. Terry Austin was one of the best inkers in the industry, and Glynis Oliver one of the best colour artists. And June Brigman had a really good art style. Expressive faces and great body language. Really great body language. And it’s a very pretty, pleasant style. Really draws you in.

Still, the art isn’t enough to save this story. It’s not a good story.

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