Sunday, December 6, 2015

X-MEN: MUTANT MASSACRE

Hardcover, 2009. Collects 1986's UNCANNY X-MEN #210 - 214, X-FACTOR #9 - 11, NEW MUTANTS #46, THOR #373 - 374, POWER PACK #27, and DAREDEVIL #238.

Published in 2009, X-MEN: MUTANT MASSACRE was, to my knowledge, Marvel's first attempt to collect the complete "Mutant Massacre" event in on volume, including not only the pertinent issues of the mutant titles, X-MEN, NEW MUTANTS, and X-FACTOR, but also the various tangential crossover material from DAREDEVIL, THOR, and POWER PACK.

The book opens with UNCANNY X-MEN #210, X-FACTOR #9, UNCANNY #211, and X-FACTOR #10. From there, we move into the majority of the one- and two-off chapters -- NEW MUTANTS #46, THOR #373, POWER PACK #27, and THOR #374. Then it's back to the "core" material in UNCANNY #212 and X-FACTOR #11, followed by DAREDEVIL's contribution in issue 238, and then the saga is capped off by UNCANNY 213 and 214, which was not originally identified as an official piece of the crossover, but which provides a nice coda to the whole thing.

The reproduction of most of these issues is very nice, with the criminal exception of Alan Davis's X-MEN 213 (below), which looks absolutely horrid and represents an unforgivable crime against one of Marvel's best artists of all time. That issue is, for me, easily the highlight of "Mutant Massacre" in terms of both story and art, and I can't believe it came out looking so awful in this book.

There are a decent eight pages of bonus material here, including a house ad by Walter Simonson in two different formats, and design sketches for the villainous Marauders by John Romita, Jr. (Oddly, though he designed the characters, Romita only drew them in two issues before departing X-MEN in the middle of the crossover.)


We also have the cover to the nineties trade paperback of this material by Terry Dodson, as well as covers, two to a page, of issues 6 through 11 of the SABRETOOTH CLASSIC reprint series from that same decade, featuring art from Steve Epting, among a few others. (Yeah, maybe this is representative of the height of nineties excess, but don't knock SABRETOOTH CLASSIC! For a young budget-conscious teen, this was the cheapest and easiest way to read several of the characters early appearances.)


I like the concept behind this crossover for a few reasons -- One, it was Marvel's first big mutant "event", making it a novelty at the time. Even though I never read it as it came out, looking at it in retrospect, it still comes across as relatively well planned and executed by all parties involved, and it's clear the story trumped any commercial/marketing considerations. And two, the mutant Morlocks had long been an albatross for the X-Men at this point, ever since artist Paul Smith unilaterally turned what Chris Claremont had intended as a small band of reclusive subterranean mutants into an enormous community which really should not have existed in the first place. The goal of "Mutant Massacre" was to drastically decrease the number of Morlocks in the X-Men's world, and it succeeded there.


"Mutant Massacre" also has a handful of "bits" I like, such as the return of Colossus's classic costume -- still the best look for the character -- and the first mention of Mister Sinister, the character who would eventually become my favorite X-Men villain. I don't know how it felt for readers at the time to have that named dramatically dropped on them in the middle of the action, but looking back on it now, knowing how big the character would become in the ensuing decade, it feels pretty momentous. The crossover also gives us the first battles between Wolverine and Sabretooth committed to the page, several years after Claremont and John Byrne had decided to make the pair mortal enemies.


All that said, I can't help feeling the impact of "Mutant Massacre" is diluted by the participation of other non-mutant family titles. Their involvement is at least organic from a creative standpoint, given that Louise Simonson, writer of X-FACTOR, was also the writer of POWER PACK, her husband Walter, artist of X-FACTOR, was the writer of THOR, and Ann Nocenti, editor of the X-books, was the writer on DAREDEVIL. But the POWER PACK issue, featuring a bunch of kids taking out Sabretooth, undermines the character, while Thor, a cosmic character who is normally above this sort of thing, is a bizarre and incongruous fit for the mutant shenanigans. Daredevil at least fits in tone, but like POWER PACK, his fight with Sabretooth sort of lessens the villain's threat factor a bit.


Nonetheless, MUTANT MASSACRE is a handsome collection which, with the exception of UNCANNY X-MEN issue 213, makes for a very nice archival package of the original mutant crossover. It's out of print, but still available from third party sellers -- albeit at a premium price these days. It may be worth a purchase for hardcover completists, if you can live with the substandard reproduction on that particular issue. On the other hand, if you love Alan Davis as much as I do, you might want to pass on this one and pick up the trade paperback from 2013. Its dimensions are smaller, but the price is a far better bargain for the contents and I'm pretty sure Marvel would have cleaned up the offending artwork for that edition. (Don't hold me to that, though, as I only own the hardcover.)

Available from Amazon: Hardcover | Paperback

9 comments:

  1. But did they really mention Mister Sinister? Betsy's reading of Sabretooth's mind in #213 reveals only a "Master", an (afterwards disturbingly) round-headed shadowy figure, being behind the Marauders. I always thought he came out of nowhere in #221, and the bit in #213 was an Onslaught-y "we'll think something up later" more than anything else. I understand behind-the-scenes shenanigans nixed Claremont having his preferred story turning out with certain Marvel UK characters.

    "Wolverine -- much younger, tossed broken and bloody on a snowscape" , though... that was something to light a hunger in the eyes of a starting young connoisseur of mid-80's UNCANNY.

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    1. Teemu, you had me second-guessing myself so I went back and checked, and in UNCANNY 212, Sabretooth specifically says Mister Sinister's name during his fight with Wolverine.

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    2. Let's blame it on our translators. Mr. Sinister translates poorly into Finnish and he goes by "Mister Evil" here, and Sabretooth's announcement of "Evil plays game that jada jada" flew right past me as generic villanous nonsense back then. The silhuettous "master" with the unfortunate whisp of smoke puts one most in mind of the evil mastermind in Police Academy 6 (released in '89 a year after our publication of the issue but anarchronistically it so totally does).

      ... I actually did try checking up UNCANNY 212 before commenting, but Marvel Unlimited was acting up on me and the particular page didn't load. Rats.

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    3. Silly as it sounds, I really like the name "Mister Evil". It sounds like an old pulp character or something.

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  2. Thor, a cosmic character who is normally above this sort of thing, is a bizarre and incongruous fit for the mutant shenanigans

    There will be no questioning of Simonson's THOR here. He had had dealings with a member of the Morlocks already eight(!) issues earlier, and verily he will turn not back on the Central Park frogs who he had becometh the champion for in their hour of need. It's all legitimate.

    Plus, the plot called for the mother of all Lightnings, and you go for the source then. Spidey inadvently dropping Electro conveniently into the sewers or someone ramming Zzzax into Hydro-Man just won't do.

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    1. Yeah, Simonson definitely did some "street level"-type stuff with Thor, though I have to admit that's generally my least favorite material from his run. I vastly prefer all the Asgardian antics.

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  3. (Yeah, maybe this is representative of the height of nineties excess, but don't knock SABRETOOTH CLASSIC! For a young budget-conscious teen, this was the cheapest and easiest way to read several of the characters early appearances.

    Heck yeah! I'm pretty sure I first read UXM #213 via that series, since that issue was always more spendy than I was able to pay back then, and collections hadn't quite caught on the level of today yet.

    Thor's involvement in this doesn't bother me - rather than finding him an ill fit, I prefer to think he lends some gravitas to the proceedings, ie things are so bad, even a god is getting involved, and as Teemu says, he did have some involvement with the Morlocks so it's not completely out of left field.

    Power Pack, yeah, I've always had the same problem you had. Not just Sabretooth, but the Marauders as a whole come off not too well when Power Pack is able to defeat them. I'm not opposed to Power Pack getting involved (aside from Weezie, the characters had interacted with both the X-Men and the Morlocks enough in the past for their inclusion to make narrative sense), I just wish it would have been in some other capacity - helping ferry wounded Morlocks away, battling some unrelated menace in the tunnels while the "grownups" handled the Marauders, something like that.

    Daredevil, well, moreso than undermining Sabretooth, that issue just suffers from being weird for the sake of being weird, which seems like a lot of Nocenti's run that I've read, unfortunately.

    All that said, I am glad Marvel included everything in the hardcover. A shame about the UXM #213 reproduction, though.

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  4. I just noticed the last page of X-FACTOR #9 and Simonson doing the glasses trick on Blob too. Absolutely hilarious.

    One of the greatest things Marvel ever did was those 25th Anniversary covers of Nov '86 with a mugshot of someone surrounded by the border of characters. It must've been a helluva sigh at the comics shelf back then. Of course, I had no idea whatsoever of the bigger concept for the longest time, only having seen the UNCANNY one, but that one certainly felt momentous for a momentous issue.

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    1. I really liked the 25th anniversary covers, though I've always been disappointed with the portrait chosen for that month's TRANSFORMERS issue. Since it was, after all, a licensed comic based on a toyline, they had to showcase the newest figures every month. So rather than Optimus Prime or Megatron or someone like that, we get... Menasor. The combined form of the Stunticons. It's a bit of a let-down next to that month's G.I. JOE, which had a great Mike Zeck Snake-Eyes, Uzi in hand, on the cover.

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