Sunday, June 12, 2016

X-MEN: BISHOP'S CROSSING

Hardcover, 2012. Collects 1991-92's UNCANNY X-MEN #281 - 293, material from X-MEN #10 - 11, and X-MEN #12 - 13.

I have to confess -- I like the issues collected in this book. Its contents were released when Marvel relaunched the X-Men franchise in 1991, alongside the latter portion of the X-MEN BY CLAREMONT & LEE OMNIBUS volume 2. But, though that other material features Chris Claremont's final three issues on X-Men and continues without him under Lee as plotter and artist, I have a real soft spot for these contemporaneous UNCANNY issues instead, plotted by Lee and Whilce Portacio and drawn by Portacio with scripts from John Byrne and Scott Lobdell.

The book is laid out in about as straightforward a manner as possible: We have a direct run of UNCANNY X-MEN issues 281 through 293, then a two-part backup serial from X-MEN #10 and 11 (omitted from the Claremont/Lee book due to lack of involvement from either), and then the run of issues wraps up with X-MEN #12 and 13 in their entirety.

These contents may seem a mish-mash, but there's logic behind their inclusion. The book gets its name from UNCANNY 281 - 288, which introduce time-displaced mutant Bishop and follow his path to joining the X-Men. I believe at one time in the nineties, there was a trade paperback called BISHOP'S CROSSING as well, which contained only these eight issues. But for this hardcover edition (and its upcoming paperback reprint), Marvel has seen fit to include issues 289 - 293 as well, thus filling the full gap of UNCANNY issues between CLAREMONT & LEE volume 2 and the X-CUTIONER'S SONG collection (which we'll look at next month).


Furthermore, Marvel has also filled an X-MEN gap by tossing in those two backups from X-MEN 10 and 11 starring Maverick (vs. Warhawk!), as well as a two-part story from issues 12 and 13 of that title, bringing the reprinted X-MEN issues to a chronological match with UNCANNY as of this collection. The result is a slim but tightly-packed volume designed to fit perfectly between the Claremont/Lee books and X-CUTIONER'S SONG on the shelf.

Following the sequential issues in this book are twelve pages of bonus material comprised of a "Man of the Year" column on Professor X from MARVEL 1991 - THE YEAR IN REVIEW, then several MARVEL SWIMSUIT SPECIAL pinups by the likes of Kevin Nowlan, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, June Brigman, Mike Mignola and Joe Jusko.


Also, strewn between issues throughout the book are a number of second printing covers (usually simply the same as the initial printing but with a different colored background), WIZARD magazine covers, and some pretty funny parody ads from that same YEAR IN REVIEW issue. (Seriously, I loved the MARVEL YEAR IN REVIEWs. I think they only did two or three of them, but they were a lot of fun.)

As I said to open this post, I like these issues -- though specifically it's the first half of the book, the Bishop storyline, which is dear to me, due mainly to nostalgia. I had just gotten into the X-Men around 1993 or so when I went to our local Bay Area comic convention, Wonder-Con, and grabbed a small stack of UNCANNY back issues -- in particular, the run of issues 273 - 277 and 281 - 288. Something about the brightness of the colors and the energy of Portacio's artwork really appealed to me, even more than the contemporaneous work of Jim Lee. Plus, I found Bishop to be a really cool character who swiftly became one of my favorite X-Men of the ensuing decade.


Besides introducing Bishop, these issues also send the X-Men into a parallel dimension where they find Colossus's long-dead brother, Mikhail, alive and well. After that, as Portacio departs the book and scripter Scott Lobdell becomes the regular writer, beginning a years-long stint, we have a little love triangle between Storm, Forge, and Mystique, followed by a tale of the Morlocks and Mikhail which is generally considered an early nadir for Lobdell.


The two full X-MEN issues here aren't much better, though, introducing some convoluted continuity into the past of Charles Xavier, though they are notable for being the debut of Fabian Nicieza as series writer, a role he would hold for about three more years.

I've said many times before that while I believe the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men are the definitive X-Men, the characters assembled in this book are my X-Men, and the Lobdell/Nicieza era is the X-period with which I spent my formative comic-reading years. This stuff isn't for everyone and it's certainly not all top quality material (the final five issues in the book are pretty dreadful, in fact, as noted a moment ago), but I also believe it's not as bad as people think and I'm proud to own it in an extremely beautifully assembled hardcover package.


Next time we'll take a look at one hardcover (X-CUTIONER'S SONG) and one paperback (A SKINNING OF SOULS) which together bridge the gap between BISHOP'S CROSSING and FATAL ATTRACTIONS. See you then!

Available on Amazon: Hardcover (out of print) | Paperback (pre-order; alternate contents)

And by the way -- if you want to see an issue-by-issue analysis of this volume's contents unfolding live right now on a monthly-ish basis, hop over to Gentlemen of Leisure, where Austin Gorton's "X-Aminations" just recently reached this point!

6 comments:

  1. Ah, the start of the post-Claremont X-Men. Probably the least confusing part of that era, since it was just beginning...

    I actually really liked Bishop's original power, which seemed to just be redirecting energy back to his opponents the same way he received it-- e.g. if Storm zaps him with lightning, he zaps back with lightning. It was less pseudo-sciencey than "concussive force blasts" (although I suppose the latter is more or less the same as Cyclops' energy beams). I also like how his super-stilted "I refuse to use contractions ever" way of speaking hadn't taken root yet, although it did begin to appear in its nascent stages.

    I don't know. Some of the stories here are weird to me, especially like the Sunfire one, although I thought Byrne did a good job scripting it. On the other hand, some of the issues here are fairly solid: I thought Lobdell's dialogue for the Witness was quite fun, and the X-Traitor thing certainly wasn't a bad idea. More than anything, though, you can kind of feel that the series was in flux during this era.

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    1. Y'know, I never really noticed when exactly Bishop's power changed. I would bet it occurred when his creator, Portacio, left the series and other artists took over.

      I agree some of this stuff isn't great and is a little out there, and there are definitely some behind-the-scenes cracks showing. Even after Scott Lobdell becomes the regular writer I'm not sure he figure it out for a while. I'd say it's somewhere around issue 300 that he really becomes comfortable with the series and characters.

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  2. Hey, thanks for the plug!

    I won't say much, for free of stepping on my own toes, but I did want to add to this:

    followed by a tale of the Morlocks and Mikhail which is generally considered an early nadir for Lobdell.

    That Morlock story is definitely a dud, though I do feel for Lobdell. It's pretty clear that no one outside of Portacio had any desire to do anything with Mikhail, nor any idea what to do with him. That Morlock story is just one big write out for the character, and while it's not very good and technically part of Lobdell's run, it now strikes me more like his fill-in work on EXCALIBUR, an attempt to clean up a mess moreso than craft a legitimate story.

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    1. "Hey, thanks for the plug!"

      No problem. Weird as it seems, your posts on these issues got me really excited to write about the book above. Even I can't quite understand why I love the Portacio UNCANNY so much, other than nostalgia, but I really do.

      "...it now strikes me more like his fill-in work on EXCALIBUR, an attempt to clean up a mess moreso than craft a legitimate story."

      It's certainly possible Lobdell didn't even know he was the ongoing writer at this point. In fact, I may be misremembering but I think I recall some interview where he said he was asked on for no guaranteed period of time, but they never asked him to leave, so he just kept writing.

      And the Mikhail thing is pretty dumb. Much as I like the stories which bring him back, he could've been any character. Colossus's brother should have stayed a memory.

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  3. I prefer this era over its Claremontian predecessor. Not for everyone ? It sure as hell was for me...
    https://devilkais.deviantart.com/art/Best-X-Men-Run-519531141

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    1. Thanks for the comment! I just read your essay and you said a lot of stuff I agree with, though I'll have to agree to disagree with you on Claremont/Byrne. That's my favorite X-Men run of all (actually it's Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne/Cockrumm/Smith that I consider to be the best), with this era following close behind.

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