Sunday, January 20, 2013

10 Reasons X-Cutioner's Song Still Rocks Pt. 2

Three’s Company
At the end of Uncanny X-Men #295, chapter five of X-Cutioner’s Song, Cable heads to the awesomely-named Canadian Intelligence group Department K because who-cares-why, where he runs into Wolverine and Bishop, also there for reasons I don’t remember, and super pissed because they think this dude shot Professor X. The next week in X-Factor #85, it’s a showdown for the ages, as the two X-Men throw fists, claws and energy blasts at Cable’s giant guns, with Jae Lee drawing all the gory details and black blood flowing freely. After Wolverine slices up multiple weapons, the two X-Men agree Cable didn’t do the dirty deed and head up to his space station where they spend the next couple chapters—both Wolverine and Cable pass the time through whittling while Bishop stares out the window and no I’m not joking—before getting bored and going after Stryfe. Years later, Bishop would forget all about this sitcom-ready set-up and spend decades trying to kill Cable and his daughter.

Killer Archangel Moments
There are three instances in X-Cutioner’s Song where Archangel—who I knew next to nothing about as a kid other than that he had an action figure—comes off awesome and totally won my young heart over. The first is when Mutant Liberation Front member Kamikaze tries to sneak up on him from behind, he extends his razor sharp wings to get ready to fly, and unknowingly decapitates the dude (then angsts about it for like three issues). The second is when Apocalypse, his “father,” shows up to cure Professor X, and when the other X-Men think the whole thing has gone bad, he raises up his wings to block them from interfering, making them all think he’s gone evil, until a few seconds later where Xavier is saved. Lastly, on the moon, in the final chapter, after Apocalypse has been beaten nearly but not quite to death by the Dark Riders, he asks his “son” to mercy kill him, and Archangel just walks away like a stone cold bad ass, not willing to give him the satisfaction—harsh!

Crying Havok
I wrote a more lengthy post that covered this already, but Alex Summers got to be a stone cold bad ass during X-Cutioner’s Song. Cyclops usually took command during most crossovers, whether his brother was leading X-Factor at the time or not, and in lieu of that, Storm got the reins, but with the X-Men besieged by so many enemies, some of their biggest guns captured and a personal stake involved for Havok, the reluctant hero had no choice but to step up. With the main teams still in disarray following Xavier’s shooting, Havok keeps a clear head and goes after X-Force, bringing them in and then getting Cannonball to cooperate in the search for Cable (and later Stryfe). His diplomatic skills proven, Alex then has his most rad moment on the moon, where that nasty force field barring anybody without Summers (or Grey) DNA prevents most of the good guys from doing any damage, and leaving Havok to play cavalry and help Cable save the day. Now that he’s leading an Avengers A-squad in Marvel NOW!, the time has never been better to check out Havok’s first major rodeo.

You can have your Magnetos, your Apocalypses, your Sinisters, your Mojos and your Empyreans (look it up!); there was NO X-Men villain more awesome—at least to me in the 90’s—that m’f’n Stryfe, baby. At the time of X-Cutioner’s Song, we didn’t know the guy’s motivation for sure, we just knew he had the most dangerous looking armor ever (how did he walk around without impaling every person he came close to?), the same face as Cable, and the ability to deliver Shakespearean soliloquies that would make Hamlet go “Damn, that’s good.” One of the coolest thing the brain trust behind the franchise at the time did was elevate him to the A-list almost out of nowhere, since he went straight from being a terrorist who gave X-Force a hard time to the guy who took out Professor X, kidnapped Cyclops and Jean Grey, beat down Apocalypse and outwitted Sinister in the course of 12 issues; something about the fact that he had been almost hiding in plain sight to that point just increased his coolness. I also dug that he was arrogant and clearly had a master plan, but no matter how much time he’d put into his scheming, the raw emotional hurt he felt towards Cyclops, Jean, Apocalypse, Cable, etc. could take over at any time and he’d rant away with tears flowing from his eyes; he had incredible power, but you always knew he was about two seconds away from self-destruction, and that kept things interesting. I wish Stryfe had a longer and more enduring shelf life, because I feel like too many people felt like once his full past and relationships were out there he lost his edge, but I disagree and think the intensity of his hatred and his penchant for chaos remain key components to a great villain. There’s a reason you can yell “Stab his eyes!” at any 90’s X-Men fan and get a knowing smirk and nod.

Lasting Consequences
In the final page of X-Cutioner’s Song chapter 12 (aka X-Force #18), Mr. Sinister has his assistant open a canister from Stryfe that purportedly contained DNA info on Scott Summers and Jean Grey, but it’s empty; Sinister stomps off annoyed, his assistant coughs. What was in the canister? The Legacy Virus. Sinister’s assistant would be the first to die, kicking off a subplot in the X-Men books that last nearly a decade, claimed the lives of many heroes and villains, and ultimately took a tremendous heroic sacrifice by Colossus to stop. More fallout from the story: X-Force breaks out on its own, Rogue and Gambit get together, Archangel starts moving past his depressed stage and Cable becomes an essential part of the franchise—just to name a few lasting consequences.

Also, I became a huge comic book fan and eventually start working in the business; so it was an important story.