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Dec 27

Uncanny X-Men Annual 2016

Posted on Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by Paul in x-axis

Technically that’s not the title.  Technically this thing is Uncanny X-Men Annual #1.  But Marvel’s annuals have come to embody Milk & Cheese‘s 1990s dream of a series composed entirely of issue #1s, so let’s call it something that’s actually vaguely informative instead.

The main story, “Balancing The Scales” by Cullen Bunn and Ken Lashley,  is pretty much just an extra issue of the regular series – and it does at least matter to the plot.

Josh Foley, who was bumped off in an earlier issue to build up the Dark Riders, is back from the dead, because of his healing powers.  He promptly heads off to Genosha to torture the Dark Riders (who were themselves killed by Magneto a few issues later) by raising them up and dropping them dead repeatedly.  Precisely how he knows that any of this happened or where to find the Dark Riders is, shall we say, less than clear.  Never mind.  Magneto’s X-Men duly show up to try and bring the erratic omega mutant under control.

Reasonably enough, Josh is not desperately impressed by the X-Men’s offer of help – it’s not like it did him any good last time, and Magneto always has an ulterior motive.  That gets us a scene where Josh starts trying to raise the entire deceased population of Genosha before passing out, and Monet of all people is pressed into service as the character who has to tell Magneto to think again about taking him up on the offer.  There are some interesting character ideas in here: without Psylocke around to act as the team’s conscience, Monet can no longer maintain her ironic detachment and finds herself being drawn into the same role.  And Magneto is persuaded, but only by the purely practical arguments, not by Monet’s protests that Josh should be seen as a person rather than a tool.  Unfortunately, this gets somewhat lost under dialogue like “But what if he raised 16 million mutants as flesh-eating zombies?”  (Judging from the 2009 “Necrosha” storyline, which was pretty much that plot, it would have been bad.)

Anyhow, the X-Men take Josh to some sort of refugee camp in Kansas City where mutant victims of the Terrigen Mists are being treated.  And again, there are a couple of neat character ideas in here.  Everyone else is understandably appalled by Magneto parading through a hospital as if he owns the place just because it’s something to do with mutants, but he simply blanks them.  And there’s a comparatively subtle suggestion that Magneto is particularly infuriated by the Terrigen Mists because it’s a problem where his personal myth and his legend – one of his key preoccupations during his recent solo series – is totally irrelevant.  He can’t use psychology or intimidation against them, and that impotence grates with Magneto as much as the impact on mutants.

But again, that’s the grace notes, and the plot is leaden: at first Josh is indeed powerful enough to cure M-Pox, but then he goes nuts and starts killing stuff again, which is not terribly interesting because it’s that comic book version of madness where people just kind of do random stuff without any particularly coherent idea beneath it all.  There’s some blather about how Josh’s powers have some sort of balance between life and death, which he apparently needs to master now that he’s become this powerful, but this feels less like a theme and more like an excuse to pack him off to Xorn for some meditation.

So a couple of decent moments in here, but otherwise a story that clumps uninspiringly through the necessary plot mechanics of getting Josh back onto the board, presumably with a view to having him available for Inhumans vs X-Men.

The back-up strip, “Lady Luck”, is a Domino story written and drawn by Anthony Piper.  Piper has a fiddly take on how Domino’s powers work: it’s not really luck, it’s that she subconsciously moves small objects telekinetically.  I don’t particularly have a problem with that as an idea – “luck” is a very hazily defined thing – but it is a retcon, and it’s not something I’d have been inclined to do in a one-off back-up strip.

Then again, it is the focus of the strip, since the bones of the plot are a routine “mission to kill a baddie” thing.  The schtick is that she drops some of her bullets on the way in, but one of them winds up falling back into her gun precisely when she needs it.  It’s a visually clear story, and there’s some nice banter between Domino and Roberto da Costa (serving as her handler by radio), but I wonder if that central gimmick needed more explanation.  On a first reading, it reads as if the whole losing the bullets thing was just a pointless complication.  On a closer reading, I think the idea is that if she’d kept the bullets in the first place, she wouldn’t have had time to re-load, but because it happens this way round, they just fall into the gun – which is a nice enough idea – but I couldn’t completely swear to that being the intention, and it’s certainly not spelt out.

On the whole, pretty forgettable even by the standards of modern Marvel annuals.  You do at least get a plot development in the main story, but not one that’s especially well done.

Bring on the comments

  1. Joseph says:

    Since they gave Josh Foley the death powers he’s always reminded me a bit of Desert Ghost (Xi’an Chi Xan) from X-men 2099. I like the life/death tension for him, which suits his own internal conflict as a character. (He was introduced as a Purifier, wasn’t he, before he discovered he was a mutant?)

    I also enjoyed the Domino back-up story, though I find the power ret-con pretty questionable. Even if she does telekinetically move things with her mind according to subconscious needs, this mechanical explanation can’t account for the coincidental series of events. It doesn’t even make sense within the bounds of the story, as subconsciously she couldn’t have known precisely how the situation would develop, when she would need that bullet, etc.

  2. mastermahan says:

    I could have sworn the “Domino doesn’t really have luck, just subconscious telekinesis” idea has cropped up before. That’s what Marvel’s website lists her power as. It seems like a silly hair to split, though, given how generally writers treat it simply as “luck”.

  3. Suzene says:

    Yeah, I just ignored the retcon in the Domino story and enjoyed it as a basic spy mission thing. But I picked this up because of Elixir; because I’m happy to see the old Academy X/NXM crew get any kind of development. *glances over at Extraordinary* OK, almost any kind of development.

    I did like Bunn nerfing Elixir’s powers a bit. The problem with healer characters is that they take all of the tension out of a story, so making Josh’s powers a balancing act that his has imperfect control over makes the character a bit more usable than someone like Triage.

    Of course, this is Cullen Bunn. I’m fully expecting Josh to die “for good” in IvX. 😉

  4. bnyblm says:

    I’m probably one of only like 6 people who would say this, but I would totally read an Academy X/NXM relaunch with those characters. Don’t have Mags and Xorn helping Josh, have Anole and Surge and Pixie and Dust and Rockslide helping him! That’s the family vibe that that team never really got to get into because they were always being killed or blown up or raised from the dead or shuffled into larger teams.

  5. Suzene says:

    bnyblm: There are way more than six people who’d like to see those character dynamics revived and the characters themselves put back into circulation (and Kris Anka is one of them!), so don’t feel too lonely. 😉 One of the reasons the news of the new Generation X title wasn’t best received was because a lot of readers were hoping to see at least some of the Academy X crew on the roster instead of a largely undeveloped cast. But the editors of the X-Line seem to think their only use is as wallpaper.

  6. David says:

    The X books have a huge problem with developing the X-teens consistently. Personally I always fall for it too- I love the Grant Morrison kids, I love the Academy X kids, I loved the kids they introduced in Young X-Men, I love the kids they introduced in Wolverine and the X-men and I loved the kids from Bendis’ Uncanny. But I definitely think they need to stop introducing new kids and focus on the ones they’ve got- they should have done that a long time ago.

    But honestly, Bling!, Benjamin Deeds, Eye Boy and Quentin Quire are all characters I’m really fond of. There are a million X kids I wanna see more of-Graymalkin, Cipher, the Cuckoos, Josh Foley- but I’m pretty happy with those kids taking a prominent role.

    I will say, although All-new X-men hasn’t been that good, I am sad to see Idie, Evan and X-23 being dropped from the cast as it relaunches as X-Men Blue. Those are some of my favorite kids too (although at least we know Laura will still be around).

    One question though- why has Sofia Mantega totally vanished? I know she’s not a mutant anymore but she got new powers in that awful New Warriors book. Why not bring her back to the school?

  7. Suzene says:

    David: I stopped getting invested in kid X-Men books after Guggenheim completely squandered the momentum that Kyle and Yost had built up with their cast while duplicating their missteps (ymmv, obviously). I think part of it is that NXM were the last cast of youngsters where I could suspend my disbelief and feel like the characters would, if not become X-Men in fact, go on to do their own thing. Everything since has felt like treading water, especially since Marvel explicitly has no plans to expand their mutant IP any further or ever let any of the current generation age out of the junior role. I wrote off getting invested the rest of Marvel’s “legacy” characters as a bad idea when they decided to feed the Avengers Academy class into the woodchipper for shock value sales.

  8. sagatwarrior says:

    Ah yes. The Avengers version of the Hunger Games.

  9. Billy says:

    Didn’t they previously retcon Domino’s powers into her being able to calculate (or “see”) all the probable outcomes for the future and that she’d pick courses that would lead to the desired outcomes.

    I remember the explanation both making her rather powerful and actually still *failing* to explain how she managed to pull off the stuff that she pulled in the story. (That’s why I remember it as being seeing probabilities rather than possibilities, as I remember being annoyed when part of the action required her knowing about something that she had no way of knowing.)

  10. Jason Rubinstein says:

    ” Unfortunately, this gets somewhat lost under dialogue like “But what if he raised 16 million mutants as flesh-eating zombies?” (Judging from the 2009 “Necrosha” storyline, which was pretty much that plot, it would have been bad.) ”

    you are a delight

  11. Brian says:

    “I could have sworn the ‘Domino doesn’t really have luck, just subconscious telekinesis’ idea has cropped up before. That’s what Marvel’s website lists her power as. It seems like a silly hair to split, though, given how generally writers treat it simply as ‘luck’.”

    “Didn’t they previously retcon Domino’s powers into her being able to calculate (or ‘see’) all the probable outcomes for the future and that she’d pick courses that would lead to the desired outcomes.”

    At a certain point, one begins to imagine that every nonsensical (and contradictory) explanation for Domino’s powers is just another con that she’s running to distract those around her (including the readers?) as she runs a job…

  12. Billy says:

    Since I knew the story I mentioned had been discussed on this site, I did a quick Google search…

    The X-Axis 21 July 2013 covered A+X #10. One of the stories in the book was a team-up with Scarlet Witch and Domino, written by Adam Warren.

  13. Luis Dantas says:

    @sagatewarrior, @Suzene: do you mean “Avengers Arena”?

    Boy, did that book disappoint me. Not least of all because it has such a tenuous claim at being an “Avengers” book, even by today’s standards.

    It did not help that it could not be bothered to give context for its very premise; that it made sure to spotlight other groups even when what was then called “Avengers” would be a logical choice; that it had no pacing to speak of; and that it was followed by an idiotic premise with a worse title.

  14. Suzene says:

    Luis: Honestly? Everything else scraped away, Avengers Arena was just a mean-spirited, joyless book that ultimately didn’t even succeed sales-wise. It was just a waste.

  15. Mika says:

    I didn’t dislike Avengers Arena as much as I expected to at the time, but thinking about it now, I still feel sad about Juston and his Sentinel.

  16. Chris says:

    They killed the sentinel in Avengers Arena?

  17. Chris says:

    oh good lord. I found the Marvel wiki entry.

    What a grisly end for an upbeat character

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