Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One-Off Wednesdays: X-Men 106

X-Men # 106 (August 1977)
"Dark Shroud of the Past"
Writers: Chris Claremont/Bill Mantlo
Artists: Dave Cockrum/Bob Brown
Inker: Tom Sutton

Karen: Our last X-Men one-off was the issue prior to this one, #105, and in many ways wasn't that much of a one-off, in that it set up the next story arc. This time around however, we get a framing sequence and a fill-in issue, and it was one of the most disappointing reads I had encountered at that time -it still is, honestly. The story itself is pretty weak, but the main thing is, you could feel that the book had been building a head of steam and here is this story, plopped down like a steaming pile of you-know-what smack dab in the middle of it!

Doug: Disappointing? I would rank it right up there with the 2-part "Assassin" fill-in that landed in the midst of "The Serpent Crown Affair". And to make it all worse, we'd just seen the basic premise of doppelgangers of the original team only six issues prior, in the anniversary 100th ish!

Karen: Geez, you're right! I had forgotten about that. That just makes it worse. Writer Chris Claremont explains why it happened on the letters page; essentially, Cockrum was over-committed. This story had been written and drawn as an emergency fill-in two years prior. Artist Bob Brown had passed away a few weeks before the issue was published, and Claremont has high praise for him. It's a touching tribute to the veteran artist. Claremont mentions that the issue was 'plotted' by Bill Mantlo -I get the feeling that Claremont wrote at least some of the dialogue -it just sounds like him, and the characters are consistent with what we've come to expect.
Doug: It is difficult to know what Mantlo's contribution was -- from Claremont's comments in the lettercol, I'd be willing to assume that the story was done Marvel Method -- Brown drew it merely from a plot by Mantlo. I'd have to agree with you that Claremont most likely did the dialogue. Also, it's only a 15-page story (17 with the Claremont/Cockrum material at the beginning), so I'm unsure of where it might have been intended for use. In fact, now I'm also wondering if I got stuck with another three pages of ads in this book for my 30c??

Karen: Even if he did write the d
ialogue, this is still a weak issue. We start with a framing sequence that picks up from last issue, with Firelord confronting Xavier on the roof of Jean and Misty Knight's apartment -or what's left of it. Xavier becomes delusional from the strain. He begins to remember a time right after Moira MacTaggert arrived at the mansion, when he was suffering from his strange dreams of an alien visitor -who turned out to be Lilandra of course. Any way, the fill-in story starts up with the X-Men, right after Thunderbird died, working out in the Danger Room. Wolverine is his usual jerky self, threatening Colossus until Cyclops intervenes. Just as the team decides they need to find a way to relax, who should appear but the original X-Men, in their old blue and yellow outfits.

Doug: Yep, as I said above, we'd just seen this a few months earlier. Other than the old suits (which I was familiar with, having just seen them on display in the Son of Origins of Marvel Comics tpb!), this angle was almost doomed from the get-go.

Karen: The old team hassles the new, and then becomes outright viol
ent, telling the new kids to take a hike. Let the battle begin! A common theme from this era is played out again: the new X-Men, while more powerful than their predecessors, fight as individuals, while the old team fights as a unit. Cyclops begins to figure out that these are not his former team-mates. In fact, he believes they are not people at all, but images.

Doug: The scene where the Beast was digging into the wall with his bare feet while maintaining a perpendicular orientation to the floor might have been a clue that all was not right! I thought it was weak that it was Cyke who figured it out; Wolverine had made the big play against the Jean Grey Sentinel in #100; but I'll bet that speaks to this story having been written before #100 saw the light of day.

Karen: It turns out that the image-enemies are all mental projections of a feverish Professor X. They are the
work of the 'evil' part of his psyche -his Mr. Hyde. He manages to gain control over this evil alter ego and the images disappear. The end.
Karen: I know it was a fill-in, but boy did that thing stink. Seriously, the X-Men fight fight fight, and then Prof. X shows up and "wishes" it all away. What the heck is up with this evil side? Wouldn't you think there'd be some concerns, some repercussions over something like this? I mean, your mentor just attacked you! But hey, it's a fill-in, or really, just filler, so no one will ever talk about it again. Except us of course.

Doug: I agree -- Xavier spoke like this was an ongoing struggle for him, containing this "dark side". I don't think that was ever mentioned before or has been since. Funny, too, that whatever was learned in this adventure would be forgotten in a couple of years when Mastermind started messing around.

Karen: A forgettable story that has been completely forgotten -as it deserves to be!


Edo Bosnar said...

Huh? Wha--? There was an X-men 106? Forgot all about it...

Karen said...

Lucky you!

Fred W. Hill said...

I have no memory of reading this issue and I don't know if that's because it was so bad that my brain refused to retain any trace of it or if it was yet another gap in my X-Men collection. I seem to remember at least another less than X-citing fill-in before Byrne took over. Methinks perhaps Cockrum wasn't the fastest penciller in ye olde Bullpen, especially considering that the X-Men was still on bi-monthly status at this time. Then again, I have no idea what other titles Cockrum was working on during this era, but I don't recall that he had the sort of ubiquitous presense in Marvel's Bronze Age titles that artists such as the Buscemas or even Byrne had.

Anonymous said...

I remember being, first excited to see this issue in the spin rack after a long two month wait then, being horribly disappointed. Seeing that Cockrum's art only went as far as the second page meant another two months wait.

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