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Jan 26

Juggernaut #1-5

Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 by Paul in reviews, x-axis

by Fabian Niceza, Ron Garney and Matt Milla

Is this an X-book? It’s from the X-office, and the Juggernaut is an X-character. But it doesn’t follow the style and layout of the Krakoa-era line – it has its own colour coded recap pages, I suppose, which are something of a nod to modern X-Men design sensibilities, but that’s about it. Professor X shows up in a couple of issues, but only to tell the Juggernaut that sorry, he’s not welcome on Krakoa, due to being a human.

That’s something of the point. The rest of the X-cast have decamped to Krakoa, and the Juggernaut – who was dutifully trying to reform the last time we saw him, and had briefly joined the Rosenberg-era “last X-Men” squad – is stuck behind in New York. And Fabian Nicieza is an X-Men writer of an earlier era, which in a meta sort of way feels very appropriate for where the Juggernaut is left.

Ron Garney is a good fit for the Juggernaut too. He’s all about big, bold shapes; he does dynamic and imposing very well. Juggernaut plays to all of his strengths. I’m not sure he’s done the Juggernaut before, but he’s done the Hulk (who also shows up here), and similar considerations apply. At the same time, Garney is a fairly traditional-looking superhero artist, which well suits the world that this story is in – though he turns out to be pretty decent as well on the more atmospheric flashbacks of Juggernaut getting his powers back.

Now, it has to be said that part of the premise of this series – that Juggernaut can’t join the other X-characters on Krakoa because he’s a human – runs up against the problem that there are at least a couple of humans on Krakoa: Jubilee’s infant Shogo, and Northstar’s husband, who’s part of the regular supporting cast in X-Factor. It would be nice to read this as Xavier telling white lies to get rid of the annoying stepbrother, but it really does feel more like a continuity problem. Xavier tells Cain outright that “Krakoa is only for mutants. You cannot set foot on its land.” If that’s a plot point, it never goes anywhere; if it isn’t, it’s really past time to get the ground rules straight.

That aside: this is clearly a book with something of a continuity agenda, intended to get the Juggernaut back on his feet after he was casually tossed aside in the Rosenberg run, and to set him up with a new and viable status quo. It’s the villains-seeking-redemption angle, but hey, Thunderbolts isn’t around right now, and Cain’s stop-start rehabilitation fits it well enough.

The series has two strands. A series of flashbacks explain how Cain got his powers back after losing the gem of Cyttorak in Uncanny. The broad thrust is that Cain defines himself in terms of his powers, and is determined to get them back in order to be himself again – though this time he manages to engineer it so that he’s free of Cyttorak’s influence and really does have the power for himself. In the main story, Cain is trying to go straight by using his powers innocuously, helping out Damage Control with demolition work. When he stumbles upon D-Cel, a mutant teenager who strenuously insists that she isn’t a mutant and won’t be going to Krakoa, a mutually beneficial relationship ensues.

The flashbacks tell a continuous story; the main stories are more episodic. D-Cel debuts in issue #1, the Hulk guest stars in issue #2, Quicksand appears in issue #3… In fact, the Hulk issue turns out to be the outlier, intended to confront Cain with the fact that he was in his right mind when he did all the things in his past. Everything else is trying to put together a supporting cast for Juggernaut stories going forward, a slightly odd approach when there’s no apparent venue for those stories to be told. (Are the X-books really going to pick up on a subplot of Juggernaut starting a new team?)

On an issue by issue basis, it’s all very readable. Nicieza and Garney know their superhero standards, and some of the best material here is in fact the episodic stuff, where it just gets into the action. (Though the legal drama in issue #3 is really rushed and never really works.) The bigger picture isn’t as convincing. There seems to be an idea that D-Cel and Cain both learn to focus more on who they are and less on their powers – he says goodbye to her with “Thanks for showing me that my power wasn’t my life”, and she thanks him “for the same thing” – but it doesn’t really work.

There’s some logic in the idea that Cain is letting his powers define him. Even though there have been efforts at redeeming him in the past – it was one of the well-received aspects of the Chuck Austen run – he’s got an iconic role in the Marvel Universe as the unstoppable guy, and he’s never really escaped the shadow of that. That’s despite the fact that he’s an unstoppable guy who gets stopped rather frequently, and who’s never had a very clear idea of what he wants to do with his vast power (at least once he got his initial revenge kick out of his system). The disparity between Cain’s A-list power and D-list ambitions has been a defining feature of the character for years, and there’s some logic in thinking that, even in his own mind, the power is what’s keeping him relevant.

And yes, the flashbacks certainly show Cain going to undue lengths to get his powers back, which does seem rather excessive. If he really doesn’t want to be That Guy any more, he could have just walked away. Instead he goes on a quest to make himself the Juggernaut once again. But… there’s never really any sense that this is a bad call. After all, he does get his powers back. From a reader’s perspective, that is the natural order of things, because he’s been the Juggernaut for going on sixty years. He even outwits Cyttorak to get the power without the influence – which means he’s already doing things on his own terms and setting his own direction before he meets D-Cel. So what he’s meant to be learning from her is a bit confused.

As for D-Cel, her own arc seems rushed: she doesn’t want to be a mutant because her powers wound up killing her parents, and she wants to be able to blame those powers on something external to her. Fair enough; that makes reasonable sense and it sort of dovetails with the idea of Cain placing too much emphasis on his powers over the things that really define him as a character. But the pay off is abrupt and doesn’t feel like it emerges from the story.

Still, Nicieza does write a very engaging Juggernaut, who makes endearing company. The story doesn’t really work, but the tone of the series is judged very well. A little to my surprise, I’d quite like to read more in this vein about Juggernaut’s new team. The miniseries has problems, but it’s surprisingly likeable for all that.

Bring on the comments

  1. JD says:

    Garney was technically one of the artists on Austen’s run, at the very least for the opening storyline that had Juggernaut join the team. So he’s indeed drawn him before, although his style (especially the way he’s inked) has changed a bit since then.

  2. Forrest says:

    Yeah, the whole rejection from Krakoa rings hollow also because Juggy was not only was part of the team, but he is practically family. I also like to think that Sammy the Fish Boy has been resurrected and Xavier is keeping Cain away because that might not go over well with Cain.

  3. JD says:

    Upon further looking it up, it turns out that Garney also drew the “Trial of the Juggernaut” storyline later in Austen’s run.

  4. Paul says:

    I must admit I’d completely forgotten that Ron Garney worked on the Austen run. It’s been a long, long time since I read those issues.

  5. Chris V says:

    Forrest-This version of Xavier blames all of humanity for the death of the mutants on Genosha.
    Technically, yes, humans built the Sentinels, but it was a non-human entity which was actually responsible for the deaths on Genosha.

    I’d say that this version of Xavier, it is easy to accept that he doesn’t want to forgive Cain for their past.

  6. Taibak says:

    Paul: If it helps, this was the one where the Juggernaut fought the Rhino then was let out of prison to have sex with the She-Hulk.

  7. Brendan says:

    Juggernaut is as much of an X-Men character as Deadpool. They both have a link to a prominent X-character in their origin which can be played up or downplayed based on the needs of the narrative or editorial – but not licencing. Which has become am moot point.

  8. Loz says:

    How many non-mutants have been members of x-teams?

    Also, Thunderbolts is back, although possibly briefly, as a lacklustre tie-in with this god of the symbiotes storyline that is taking up a ridiculous number of comics right now.

  9. Paul says:

    Depends in part who you count as a mutant (and, in recent years, as a team member).

    Longshot and Warlock are aliens, but the books always insisted that they were mutants of their species. Ditto Shatterstar. Phoenix was a cosmic entity pretending to be a human mutant. Omega Sentinel was a cyborg. Danger was an AI. Deathlok and Spiral were members of one version of X-Force. Doop doesn’t seem to be a mutant. Excalibur had several non-mutant members.

  10. ASV says:

    Warlock being a “mutant” has always irritated me way more than it should.

    “Mutants are the next stage in evolution beyond homo sapiens, and they have a particular gene which marks them as such.”

    “OK. Here’s a guy from an alien species of living technology that has a profoundly different worldview from the rest of them.”

    “He’s also a mutant.”

  11. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Didn’t professor Xavier go to space to teach a whole class of Skrull mutants? Cadre K or somesuch?

  12. Luis Dantas says:

    Also Mimic (historically the first non-mutant X-Man) and Namor. Yeah, I know he has been called a mutant for many years now. That is still a retcon.

  13. Taibak says:

    Paul: I thought Longshot was genetically engineered in a lab?

    Luis: At least in Namor’s case the retcon makes sense. There’s no reason why a human/Atlantean hybrid should have wings on their ankles that allow them to fly.

  14. Paul says:

    Longshot is genetically engineered, but that didn’t stop Claremont claiming that he was a mutant anyway. See eg the narrator in Uncanny #225: “He’s the newest member of the team, and while he’s a mutant, it’s of a species far removed from Earth.”

  15. Don Alsafi says:

    Actually, the Namor as mutant thing was first stated by Stan Lee himself, back in 1963!

  16. According to the last time they touched this, Shatterstar is the child of Dazzler and Longshot, who is, in turn, a clone of Shatterstar. Because time travel. So Shatterstar is genetically his own father. But, because of Dazzler, they both presumably have a human X-gene.

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