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X-Men Annual #13 (1989, August)

June 29, 2017

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Technically, I should be doing an issue of Alpha Flight today. But Canada Day is on Saturday, so I’ll do it then. And as long as I’m throwing out all the rules, I may as well skip to the 1989 X-Men Annual. Written, surprisingly, by Terry Austin! Art by Mike Vosburg, colours by Tom Vincent, letters by Ken Lopez, “Double Cross.”

Double Cross

This is a weird, weird story.

So. This is part of the Atlantis Attacks crossover, which happened in a bunch of the 1989 Marvel Annuals. You can get a run-down here, but here’s the gist: A Deviant named Ghaur and a Lemurian named Llyra want to rebuild the Serpent Crown so they can bring the Serpent God, Set, back into their reality. They also kidnap a bunch of women to be his brides. This event, to be blunt, is Not Good. It sucks. It’s stupid and shitty. It is more cohesive than the previous year’s Evolutionary War, I’ll give it that, but it’s still bad. It’s really not worth reading. But! I started this blog, so I am morally obligated to read this Annual! So let’s get to it.

Dazzler slips into Logan’s room to sleep with him, but the other X-Men, with a strange red-headed woman, interrupt. The red-head is Allison, in the body of Diamondback, a woman who was part of a team called the Serpent Society, and who had a thing with Captain America. Ali’s angry at Rachel for trying to sleep with Logan, and Rachel points out that Ali spent the night with Longshot. Which is pretty fair. Rogue drops in on Storm reviewing the tapes of Dazzler’s and Diamondback’s stories.

The Serpent Society had been hired by Ghaur and Llyra to collect some mystic items. Diamondback, along with Fer de Lance and Copperhead, were sent to steal something from a dude named Mr. Jip. Mr. Jip, by the way, was a Cloak & Dagger villain. A weird one. He’s been dead for a long time, and it’s kind of a shame. Mr. Jip was created by Terry Austin, so no real surprise he was brought into this Annual, even if he is an odd fit for an X-Men story. Anyway, Ali was nabbed while going through one of Gateway’s portals on a supply run to Sydney. And now I have to wonder if the X-Men’s Outback base was low on TP during this entire story. Jip wants the X-Men to collect the objects for him, so Ghaur doesn’t screw up his own schemes.

Over breakfast, Ali is angry at Rachel for eating sugary cereal. Then, when everyone gathers for the mission, Rachel starts to smoke one of Logan’s cigars, which really pisses Ali off, and that’s completely fair. Not cool, Rachel. Don’t smoke in someone else’s body. Not cool at all. No respect for other people’s property. Gateway whirls up a portal, but they don’t go where they expect to go. Dazzler and Wolverine end up in the Savage Land, much to Dazzler’s irritation. She’s angry at Logan. He didn’t even do anything. But eh, yeah, he’s a prick, so go on being mad at him. They have an image of a stone idol in their minds, so they go looking for it, and find a Serpent Society craft. Ali, who had split off on her own, gets captured by Puff Adder and Asp. Logan rescues her, and beats up an Australian boomerang guy named Boomslang. Marvel has at least two Australian villains who use boomerangs. Which is more than they need. This guy’s particularly useless.

X-Men Annual #13

Likely a joke about Wolverine having an Australian X-Men in the Pryde of the X-Men pilot.

Anyway, Wolverine then knocks out Asp. But then he gets grabbed by Puff Adder, who starts to crush his insides, so Ali has to knock him out by throwing the idol at him. And when Wolverine touches the idol, they’re teleported away. So the story cuts to Lima, Iowa, and Havok, Rogue and Colossus. Inside a local shopping centre, they split up to find another totem. Colossus is attacked by Anaconda, Havok by Black Mamba, Rogue by Coachwhip. Anaconda crushes things, Black Mamba summons up Dark Force illusions of loved ones, Coachwhip, um, whips things.

X-Men Annual #13

“Dented goods.” Cute.

Alex gets one of the all-time great wins:

X-Men Annual #13

Victory through soup.

Rogue just throws Coachwhip into a pillar, and I gotta say, it’s brutal.

X-Men Annual #13

That hurts just to look at.

Rogue broke a cement pillar with the woman’s face. We’re not given any indication that Coachwhip has superhuman strength or anything. And especially with that little red streak, it honestly looks like Rogue just killed her. Anyway, the three X-Men then go get the totem from Rock Python. Who has trick snake eggs that shoot steel ribbon on impact. Wisely, Python chooses not to fight.

And now, to the last group, in Iceland. Storm, Rogue, Longshot, and Diamondback. They’re there to find . . . a rock. Longshot immediately starts checking rocks. A team of Serpents lands. Cottonmouth, Black Racer, Rattler, and Bushmaster. Diamondback blinds Black Racer with a light burst, and Psylocke makes her run into a rock, and it just amuses me. Diamondback also convinces Bushmaster to leave the fight, as repayment for a time she saved his life. And all the while the fight was going on, Longshot was still looking for the rock, which he’s found. Rattler brings the hill down, which is a stupid move, considering he’s standing on the hill. He buries himself and Longshot. When Diamondback picks up the rock, the three women are teleported away. Mr. Jip switches Dazzler and Diamondback back to normal, then brings Longshot in. Turns out he fell into a hole in the rocks.

Then Sidewinder teleports in, and leaves with Diamondback and the trinkets. Jip’s annoyed at being tricked that way, and he teleports away the X-Men. Ali apologizes to Logan for being mean to him, and offers to get him a root beer. He accepts. Aw, happy ending for the X-Men.

It’s an odd story. It’s kinda fun. There’s some entertaining, if brief, fights. Austin does at least let it feel largely independent of the whole Atlantis Attacks crap. It ties in, but mostly indirectly. That helps things. It means you don’t really need to read the rest of the crossover to still get the full experience from this story. Bad guys have bad plans, another bad guy wants to disrupt those plans, boom, everything you need to know. The real joy of this story is the Serpent Society. I really do love those guys. They’re a supervillain trade union. That’s amazing. They all have snake themes, so they decided to join together, but they also decided to be smart and business-like about it. They’re a union. They have set rules regarding pay, health insurance, all that other boring stuff people don’t think about until they need it. It’s great. I love them. They’re the best. And some of them are weird, but they’re all cool.

The art in this issue’s good. Vosburg’s a fine artist. Nothing outstanding, but he did good work. Body language and facial expressions were clear and fitting, fights were choreographed well, it’s good work. The reality is the whole team did the best they could with a mandated tie-in to a lame crossover event. It’s not really their fault they couldn’t get the story above mediocrity, because none of the Atlantis Attacks stories managed that.

But there’s more! As the cover promises, a Jubilee story! By Sally Pashkow, Jim Fern, Josef Rubinstein, Gregory Wright, and Joe Rosen, “Jubilation Day.” Allow me to share with you the very first narration box:

X-Men Annual #13

I love Jubilee’s narration.

As you can tell from the clothes the girls are wearing, this continues on from UXM #244, the instant classic “Ladies’ Night.” So, after the women went through the portal back to Australia, Jubilee followed, though they didn’t see her. Jubilee complains to herself about being stuck in the desert with a guy who probably can’t even speak, and she has a point, we’ve never seen him speak.

X-Men Annual #13

Fair reaction to a half-naked guy saying “Welcome, child.”

Gateway leads her to a crater with a small tunnel, and she falls down it, into a room filled with coins, which she rides down.

X-Men Annual #13

And she enjoys it.

She sneaks into the X-Men’s compound and steals some of their stuff, and watches a little baseball. Then heads back to her hidey-hole.

X-Men Annual #13

Moms get mom-wisdom, dads get dad jokes. It’s automatic.

Her musing on whether being a mom comes with spouting mom cliches is funnier in retrospect, now that she’s a mom. Shogo’s not quite old enough for the mom wisdom cliches. But man, Jubilee’s a mom now. That is crazy. How did I get this old? Anyway, back to her still being young. She starts trying on clothes, and talks about her parents being dead.

X-Men Annual #13

And her body being flat.

Jubilee’s dissatisfaction with her body will be a fun running gag for a couple years. Luckily, she still figures something out.

X-Men Annual #13

Iconic look.

Sadly, we never actually get a full shot of her with that outfit. I wish we did. We should have. But she does get those killer shades. She heads to a cavern with a big lake, and gets attacked by a cyborg dog. She runs away, and it chases her. She gets scared and starts to cry, but the dog keeps going after her, so she’s forced to pop more fireworks to try to stop it. And she wins.

X-Men Annual #13

Damn straight!

So this story? This story’s great. It is weird the way she keeps referring to herself as a chica. I’m wondering if Pashkow knew Jubilee is Asian-American, not Latina. Or if it was just meant to evoke LA slang. Either way, chica aside, Jubilee’s voice here is an absolute delight. Her non-stop rambling narration is so much fun. She just keeps going, jumping from thought to thought, going back to old thoughts and then jumping to a new one, and it’s really fun. And through it all, you get the sense of a young girl who’s independent and brave, but also vulnerable and scared. She can take care of herself, clearly, but she also feels lonely. She wants to introduce herself to the X-Men, but she’s scared to, since she doesn’t know who they are or how they’d react. And even though she’s stealing stuff, she does still seem like a good kid. Jubilee is just the best.

The art on this story is great, too. Jubilee is really expressive. Her fireworks look great, some excellent colour work there. The dog-borg was freaky. I’m nervous about dogs as it is, a cyborg-dog with hans? Yeah, no thanks. There’s also some really great camera angles to invoke certain moods. When Jubilee slips into her hidey-hole, it feels really small, even claustrophobic. When she’s bathing in the lake, the angle gives the cavern a sense of size. There’s really good work like that all through this story.

So, yeah, as weak as the main story was, this second story was excellent. Jubilee!

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From → 1980s, 1989

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