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  1. #1
    Fantastic Member Captain Buttocks's Avatar
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    Default Joe Casey's Uncanny X-Men run - issue-by-issue

    Hello all, and welcome to what I hope will be a series of posts re-examining Joe Casey’s run on Uncanny X-Men.

    First of all – why Joe Casey? Well it originates from the re-examination of E is for Extinction on another thread, and my original idea was to re-examine Morrison’s run on an issue-by-issue basis, however I felt that his run was, Quite Frankly (see what I did there?) too long, too complex and too difficult to do justice to in the format I’m going to use initially. Indeed, an attempt at covering his run had been tried back in 2014 on these very boards. If this proposed thread goes down okay and maybe drums up some nostalgia from other users I may consider doing other runs in the future, including Morrison’s.

    The plan is to re-examine each issue, the writing, the art, the characterisation and - in cases where it’s appropriate and we have documented evidence or statements from interviews – the backstage upheaval at Marvel and/or with the creators. As someone who was buying the issues at the time, I will share what my feelings were on each issue/story at the time, and how I feel about it now, almost twenty years later (God I feel old typing that, just saying “back in 2001” feels much healthier!).

    I’m not going to look at an issue in this particular post, instead I’d like to provide some perspective on the landscape at both Marvel and the X-office at the time of Casey’s appointment. This may be very boring to you all but it does provide context.

    It’s often stated that the X-books were in the doldrums prior to the appointment of Morrison/Casey in 2001, but that’s a spurious statement to make. Both X-Men and Uncanny X-Men were frequent top-selling books throughout the nineties, so financially, they were still strong books for Marvel, who had declared bankruptcy in the winter of 1996, due to a series of disastrous business decisions, coupled with the crash of the speculator market (Anyone wishing more information on this should check out Rise and Fall of the Comic Empire on the sfdebris Youtube channel, or Sean Howe's book Marvel Comics the Untold Story).

    The two flagship titles, Uncanny X-Men and X-Men had spent most of the latter part of the nineties being virtually the same title flipping back and forth fortnightly, as Marvel sought to squeeze profit out of their strongest selling books. The odd daring hire aside (Kelly/Seagle spring to mind) stories were editorially mandated and status-quo-then-summer-crossover was the order of the day as everything drifted towards DoFP and the X-Men rarely got a win. Things changed when the ownership lawsuit was settled and Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada took the reigns as President and Editor-in-chief respectively. Suddenly Marvel wanted to be hip, cool and daring again, as Jemas in particular took aim at everyone and everything to establish the pair as the enfant terrible of the comics industry.

    Prior to the regime change, the closest we came to any semblance of creativity in the X-line usually came from the freedom provided by the B-titles, with Fabien Nicieza producing a solid Gambit comic, Jay Faerber getting Generation X back onto solid footing following a disastrous run from Larry Hama and Joe Kelly producing a classic run on Deadpool. Howard Mackie got in on the act too, with a very promising first six issues on Mutant X, which…well… you know the rest, sadly.

    With Quesada in as Editor-in-Chief, that meant that Bob Harras was out by 2000, and the X-line was lined up for an event called Revolution. Harras being gone allowed for legendary X-scribe Chris Claremont to return as writer, with some of the B-titles going under the supervision of Warren Ellis in a banner called Counter X. Sadly for Claremont, despite a hefty spike in sales initially, his run was not as well-received as his previous run, and the failure of the X-books to gain any momentum at all from the movie led to Bill Jemas decrying them as too complicated to follow (Claremont was not alone in facing Jemas’ wrath, as then-Captain Marvel writer Peter David was also subject to public ridicule).

    Claremont’s run hadn’t been the success Marvel had hoped for, so new blood was sought. Fresh off the success of his Marvel Boy series, Grant Morrison made a pitch for the X-Men. On November 8th 2000, Jemas and Quesada announced big changes to the X-line. Claremont was off the main books, but would be given his own sister title, which would eventually be (awfully) named X-Treme X-Men. Morrison would take over X-Men (renaming it to New X-Men) and finally, announced as the writer of Uncanny - which would have a separate cast and remit to the Morrison book – was Joe Casey.

    Casey was most widely known to X-Men for a well-received run on Cable and an excellent (but oft-delayed) mini-series called X-Men: Children of the Atom, which retold the origin of the original five X-Men (albeit not in continuity). In a shade of things to come, CotA had been absolutely plagued with lateness and ever-shifting art teams. Morrison had been a big fan of Casey’s pacifistic Superman run and seemed excited to work with him.

    Subsequent to the announcement of Casey, several more changes were made. X-Man, Generation X, X-Men: The Hidden Years, Mutant X (thank God), Gambit, and Bishop: The Last X-Man were all announced as cancelled, despite the vast majority being profitable. John Byrne made his thoughts on the decision to axe Hidden Years clear on his website and has not worked for Marvel since. Additionally, X-Force would be handed over to Peter Milligan and Mike Allred who had a radical new idea for the direction of the series.

    All that was left was for Ian Churchill to be announced as Casey’s collaborator on the book, and for Scott Lobdell to be brought back in to do some fill-in work to clear the decks and get rid of some dangling plots that the new direction needed removed (i.e the Legacy Virus) with the four part Eve of Destruction crossover and Joe Casey’s run on Uncanny X-Men was all set to begin with a new logo, a slimmed down line-up and a hot artist with Uncanny X-Men #394, three hundred issues since the first numbered appearance of the All-New All-Different X-Men!

    How I Felt Back Then – I was tremendously excited, gobbling up Wizard preview issues and checking forums for interviews and news snippets. That said – I was desperately disappointed to see Generation X go, as I felt it was in a good spot at the time, with the Four Days story having just started with an excellent Chamber issue (of whom we shall be reading more later).
    How I Feel Now – It’s strange nowadays when the entire line often gets relaunched at the drop of a hat, but fool me once, shame on you, fool me ten times shame on me. But I still got excited for the Hickman run (it brought me back to the books!) so maybe I really am the fool in all this!

    If you have any thoughts on how the X-Books were at the time, please feel free to share in the thread. If you haven’t read Casey’s run – why not? If you have - do you have any fond memories of it?

    Next time - Warp Savant, a new logo, legal drinking age and why I hate the word "skanks".
    Last edited by Captain Buttocks; 02-01-2020 at 03:20 PM.

  2. #2
    Astonishing Member Factor's Avatar
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    Great thread and analysis of the time. I started reading comics about two years after this run started (I was 8), so I have fond memories of this period.

  3. #3
    Fantastic Member Captain Buttocks's Avatar
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    Uncanny X-Men #394: Playing God

    Uncanny X-Men #394 hit shelves on the 2nd of May 2001. The estimated report from Diamond to North American distributers had it shipping 136,081 issues, making it second for the month (behind New X-Men and a mere 780 copies ahead of the debut issue of X-Treme X-Men) which is a tremendous total. The previous issue was also second on the sales charts, but with 105,890 issues listed on Comichron. It’s important to note that there were no variant covers for this issue, so the sales are hugely impressive and showed what could be achieved when Marvel promoted a re-launch properly (and when they limited it to one a year).

    As alluded to in the previous post, it was written by Joe Casey and pencilled by Ian Churchill. There are already signs of lateness here as whilst the issue shipped on time, there were four inkers used to do so. Thankfully the inkers are all pretty consistent so there’s no real stylistic clash, but what of the real meat of the issue? Let’s hear from the man himself:-

    "The X-books are the top books in the industry. We're committed to leading from the top down, taking creative control of this franchise and changing the face of mainstream comics," – Joe Casey in 2001 (credit – The Oklahoman)

    “Okay, for me, this is really the most important reason: I simply had no strong vision for the book. Nor did I have any particular love for those characters. Grant had both, when he started. Oh, I had a few scattered ideas, some of which I developed later (and to greater effect) in WILDCATS VERSION 3.0…” – Joe Casey in conversation with Chad Nevett of CBR in 2012 when asked why his run wasn’t seen as a success, 2012 (credit – CBR)

    Unfortunately for Casey, this story definitely veers towards the second of those quotes, as it is a thoroughly under-whelming and actually quite odd start to his run. Prior to the start of his run, his team had been announced as Archangel, Iceman, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Chamber, with a new character, rumoured to be female, joining after the first arc. Of that cast, only Archangel and Wolverine were present in this story (Wolverine only features in half of Casey’s issues in total). The other two X-Men featured in this story are Cyclops and Jean, who get the bulk of the dialogue.

    Casey hints that all is not well with Scott and Jean’s marriage, which provides some foreshadowing for New X-Men, but the third wheel in this case is Wolverine and not Emma Frost. Yep, our brave new era is starting by revisiting a 25 year old love triangle plot (and not even the correct love triangle). In terms of themes which Casey wanted to bring to the book and explore there’s precious little here worth reviewing.

    In the case of the plot, a young mutant called Warp Savant decides to attack a military base on his 18th birthday (it’s hinted that he was born on the day Magneto attacked in issue 1. That squares okay at the time if you squint a bit, but not with the new HoXPoX timescales). The X-Men have to stop him. Wolverine and Jean get transported inside his head and thinking they are about to die, share a kiss, as Archangel shows up with a plot device ray and defeats Warp Savant who apparently commits suicide. There’s not really a whole lot here to get stuck into, as a lot of the issue focuses on Warp Savant, who is as one-dimensional disaffected youth as The Other Three in the Omega Gang.

    The book’s visual identity is a problem also. The X-Men are trying to appear new and shiny as illustrated by Frank Quitely on New X-Men and Salvador Larroca on X-Treme. Uncanny gets Ian Churchill who had been doing work for the X-Office as far back as 1993, with a style very reminiscent of the Image-style of that time. I’m not a fan of the cover; I think Wolverine looks utterly ridiculous. The new logo is nice though. Covers would actually be a strong point for the X-Line at this point, so thankfully this cover is a bit of an abnormality.

    Churchill’s design for Warp Savant is…meh. I don’t know what the fascination at that time with giving characters dodgy facial hair was, but Warp Savant and Archangel both look daft. There’s the obligatory scene-in-a-nightclub where Warp refers to three of his female friends as “skanks” which is something I just cannot stand. Why hang around with the guy, especially when Ian Churchill is drawing you with your ass-crack hanging out? I get that he’s supposed to be a “bad guy” but that dialogue is just awful. I’m also not sure if he’s seventeen exactly what Warp is doing boozing it up (given my admittedly low understanding of American drinking legalities) in a pub/club. The design of all the female back-up characters in this is very one-dimensional.

    The visual effect of Warp’s powers just about works, but if Jean and Logan hadn’t explicitly stated that they were in his head I would have assumed they’d just have been teleported somewhere as they are still being chased by the army in the initial shots.

    As to the X-Men themselves, I think we’ll look at how each of Casey’s cast fares issue-by-issue.

    Archangel – shows up with a plot device gun, and spouts some awful dialogue about “living fast, dying young”. Thankfully, he’ll improve a lot and come to be the character I most associate with Casey’s run.

    Wolverine – pretty bog-standard take on him. He fancies Jean and likes to fight. No problems there.

    Nightcrawler, Iceman and Chamber are not in this issue.

    Who died and will HoXPoX resurrect them? Warp Savant apparently commits suicide. I cannot see anyone having a burning desire to use him again, but given some of the people being dug up, I cannot rule it out. 1/10 chance of being brought back.

    What I Thought Then – wait, *this* is what everything has been building up to? Morrison better be good next week.

    What I Think Now – I’m still baffled why Casey chose to start with this. It’s not bad, but it’s just terribly underwhelming and not that interesting. It doesn’t seem like the bold new adventure we were promised and I’m still not a fan of the art.

    If anyone is reading this – what did you make of Warp Savant? Are you a fan of Ian Churchill’s art? Did you enjoy the issue or did you, like me, expect a little bit more?

    Next time – Welsh pop sensations, Kurt’s mouth cannot close, the comics code authority and why Joe Casey has never been in a Newcastle pub. It’s Poptopia time!

  4. #4
    Fantastic Member Captain Buttocks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Factor View Post
    Great thread and analysis of the time. I started reading comics about two years after this run started (I was 8), so I have fond memories of this period.
    Thanks - hope you enjoy the summary for 394!

  5. #5
    Incredible Member franckd's Avatar
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    Casey's run was full of promises. But it didn't live long beyond the hype.
    I remember that there was a big negative feedback on Jean's portrayal at the time. And I remember that yes, she was very out of character.
    Also I remind that readers thought the bad guy, a man with a flame-thrower, was absolutely lame. And readers didn't welcome new X character Stacy X

  6. #6
    BANNED JasmineW's Avatar
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    I don't understand how this writer was the same one who wrote Cable during the Ladronn era. This stank so much, I actually think it's worse than Austen.

  7. #7
    Mighty Member psylurker's Avatar
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    Very interesting topic and nice summary, Captain Buttocks! I would only correct your initial post to say it was actually Bob Harras to get Claremont back on the X-books in the first place, and also greenlight Warren Ellis' Counter X take on X-Force, Gen X and X-Man.

    But back to Joe Casey. If I had to sum up his Uncanny X-Men run in a few words, I'd probably say "much ado about nothing". This goes for the majority of his comics in my opinion - aside from his Wildcats run which I genuinely enjoyed, I always thought of Casey as someone who talked a great game in interviews, only for the execution to fall short and for the actual books to be painfully unexciting. His X-Men run is the absolute pinnacle of him hyping his take as wild and revolutionary when in fact it ended up being totally boring and plain. Chuck Austen's run at least had some good character moments and even when it got really bad it at least made people talk. Most of Casey's stories I can hardly remember anymore.

  8. #8
    Mighty Member Hi-Fi's Avatar
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    Casey gave us the amazing Stacy X and that great X-Corps arc with Martinique, the Gen X girls and Banshee. The Vanisher two-parter was pretty good too. His Warren is probably my favorite version of the character.

    Yeah, his Cable run is superior, but his Uncanny definitely had its moments.

  9. #9
    Fantastic Member Captain Buttocks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by franckd View Post
    Casey's run was full of promises. But it didn't live long beyond the hype.
    I remember that there was a big negative feedback on Jean's portrayal at the time. And I remember that yes, she was very out of character.
    Also I remind that readers thought the bad guy, a man with a flame-thrower, was absolutely lame. And readers didn't welcome new X character Stacy X
    I'm looking forward to getting to our flame-thrower-toting friend very soon (next issue in fact).

    Quote Originally Posted by JasmineW View Post
    I don't understand how this writer was the same one who wrote Cable during the Ladronn era. This stank so much, I actually think it's worse than Austen.
    Worse than Austen is a big call. I'm intrigued if there are others who feel like that. Austen definitely tried to bring the soap opera elements back!

    Quote Originally Posted by psylurker View Post
    Very interesting topic and nice summary, Captain Buttocks! I would only correct your initial post to say it was actually Bob Harras to get Claremont back on the X-books in the first place, and also greenlight Warren Ellis' Counter X take on X-Force, Gen X and X-Man.

    But back to Joe Casey. If I had to sum up his Uncanny X-Men run in a few words, I'd probably say "much ado about nothing". This goes for the majority of his comics in my opinion - aside from his Wildcats run which I genuinely enjoyed, I always thought of Casey as someone who talked a great game in interviews, only for the execution to fall short and for the actual books to be painfully unexciting. His X-Men run is the absolute pinnacle of him hyping his take as wild and revolutionary when in fact it ended up being totally boring and plain. Chuck Austen's run at least had some good character moments and even when it got really bad it at least made people talk. Most of Casey's stories I can hardly remember anymore.
    Many thanks for the correction - you're 100% correct. I still remember the excitement when we heard *Warren Ellis* was going to be on the X-Books - and not even the main ones!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hi-Fi View Post
    Casey gave us the amazing Stacy X and that great X-Corps arc with Martinique, the Gen X girls and Banshee. The Vanisher two-parter was pretty good too. His Warren is probably my favorite version of the character.

    Yeah, his Cable run is superior, but his Uncanny definitely had its moments.
    As I stated above - it was Warren who I felt Casey found the strongest voice on. We'll investigate some of those reasons later on. Losing the daft facial hair certainly helps!
    Casey does have some comments on art, which I will use in a couple of issues time, he certainly benefits from a strong artistic collaboration, which I feel he had with Jose Ladronn on Cable, and with a few of the artists on his stronger Uncanny issues.

    Thanks for the interest all!

  10. #10
    Mighty Member Thievery's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Buttocks View Post
    Uncanny X-Men #394: Playing God







    Churchill’s design for Warp Savant is…meh. I don’t know what the fascination at that time with giving characters dodgy facial hair was, but Warp Savant and Archangel both look daft. There’s the obligatory scene-in-a-nightclub where Warp refers to three of his female friends as “skanks” which is something I just cannot stand. Why hang around with the guy, especially when Ian Churchill is drawing you with your ass-crack hanging out? I get that he’s supposed to be a “bad guy” but that dialogue is just awful. I’m also not sure if he’s seventeen exactly what Warp is doing boozing it up (given my admittedly low understanding of American drinking legalities) in a pub/club. The design of all the female back-up characters in this is very one-dimensional.

    The visual effect of Warp’s powers just about works, but if Jean and Logan hadn’t explicitly stated that they were in his head I would have assumed they’d just have bee

    Archangel – shows up with a plot device gun, and spouts some awful dialogue about “living fast, dying young”. Thankfully, he’ll improve a lot and come to be the character I most associate with Casey’s run.

    Wolverine – pretty bog-standard take on him. He fancies Jean and likes to fight. No problems there.

    Nightcrawler, Iceman and Chamber are not in this issue.

    Who died and will HoXPoX resurrect them? Warp Savant apparently commits suicide. I cannot see anyone having a burning desire to use him again, but given some of the people being dug up, I cannot rule it out. 1/10 chance of being brought back.

    What I Thought Then – wait, *this* is what everything has been building up to? Morrison better be good next week.

    What I Think Now – I’m still baffled why Casey chose to start with this. It’s not bad, but it’s just terribly underwhelming and not that interesting. It doesn’t seem like the bold new adventure we were promised and I’m still not a fan of the art.

    If anyone is reading this – what did you make of Warp Savant? Are you a fan of Ian Churchill’s art? Did you enjoy the issue or did you, like me, expect a little bit more?

    Next time – Welsh pop sensations, Kurt’s mouth cannot close, the comics code authority and why Joe Casey has never been in a Newcastle pub. It’s Poptopia time!
    Warp Savant and Angel have that facial hair because it was pretty common among young people in America at the time. It's still used, just not as often. And it appears more frequently on adults than it used to.

    I'm hot and cold on Casey's Archangel. Some of it I liked, like Warren becoming more of a leader. Some of the rest, involving Warren running his company, I'm less fond of. I haven't read Wildcats in a long time, and I no longer have those comics, but I think that Casey did better corporate stories in that comic.
    But, I have to admit that I prefer the metal winged, somewhat blood thirsty version of the character also.

    Wolverine is how you described him. I could be wrong, seeing as how I didn't spend much time online when I was younger, but I think that the decision to go with Scot/Jean/Emma instead of Scott/Jean/Logan could have been a late change. I believe that Morrison's original plans included Storm and Colossus. Colossus was killed before Morrison could use him, so Emma was brought in instead and given her diamond secondary mutation. So it's possible that Casey was going with the triangle that he thought would be used. I could easily be wrong, though.

    Chamber and Stacey aren't in this first issue, but I've always felt that they were the characters that Casey used the best. I guess that I'm in the minority, but Ive always thought that Stacey-X was a great and underappreciated character. Hated the way that Austin wrote Stacey out.

    I agree with you that this was a strange way for Casey to start his run. Stacey-X, the X-Corps or the Vanisher's mutant drug stories all seem like better starting points for what Casey seemed to be going for. If Warp needed to be used, he probably would have fit in well in Vanisher's mutant drug stories.

    Warp Savant is an underdeveloped version of Quire as you alluded to. A young, disaffected anarchist type. He's drinking in the club underage. Actually, I think that he is at a rave, but I don't have the comic in front of me, so I'm not sure if I'm right about that part. I took his use of the word skanks to show that Warp is something of a teen douche bag who isn't kind to his friends or the girls who may like him. I don't know of any use of the word skank that could be used as slang in good, friendly way. But, I don't have the issue in front of me, so I may be missing some context. I doubt it when it comes to the use of the word skank.

    I liked Warp well enough, and wish that he had been given some more work. Having said that, I'd forgotton about Warp Savant until you started this thread. I cant picture any writer looking at Warp and saying "yeah, that's the character that I just have to write in my stories".


    I liked Churchill's art. I thought that it looked really good on the Poptopia issues.
    I think that Churchill left Uncanny because he felt that his art just wasn't a good fit for the stories that Casey wanted to tell. But, I could easily be wrong, as I didn't spend much time online when I was young.

    I think that the comic is solid enough, but as something that was advertised as bringing in a great new era for the X-Men, I can see how people would come away disappointed.
    Last edited by Thievery; 02-03-2020 at 04:41 AM.

  11. #11
    Mighty Member Thievery's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasmineW View Post
    I don't understand how this writer was the same one who wrote Cable during the Ladronn era. This stank so much, I actually think it's worse than Austen.
    I couldn't disagree with this more.

  12. #12
    Fantastic Member Captain Buttocks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thievery View Post
    Warp Savant and Angel have that facial hair because it was pretty common among young people in America at the time. It's still used, just not as often. And it appears more frequently on adults than it used to.

    I'm hot and cold on Casey's Archangel. Some of it I liked, like Warren becoming more of a leader. Some of the rest, involving Warren running his company, I'm less fond of. I haven't read Wildcats in a long time, and I no longer have those comics, but I think that Casey did better corporate stories in that comic.
    But, I have to admit that I prefer the metal winged, somewhat blood thirsty version of the character also.

    Wolverine is how you described him. I could be wrong, seeing as how I didn't spend much time online when I was younger, but I think that the decision to go with Scot/Jean/Emma instead of Scott/Jean/Logan could have been a late change. I believe that Morrison's original plans included Storm and Colossus. Colossus was killed before Morrison could use him, so Emma was brought in instead and given her diamond secondary mutation. So it's possible that Casey was going with the triangle that he thought would be used. I could easily be wrong, though.

    Chamber and Stacey aren't in this first issue, but I've always felt that they were the characters that Casey used the best. I guess that I'm in the minority, but Ive always thought that Stacey-X was a great and underappreciated character. Hated the way that Austin wrote Stacey out.

    I agree with you that this was a strange way for Casey to start his run. Stacey-X, the X-Corps or the Vanisher's mutant drug stories all seem like better starting points for what Casey seemed to be going for. If Warp needed to be used, he probably would have fit in well in Vanisher's mutant drug stories.

    Warp Savant is an underdeveloped version of Quire as you alluded to. A young, disaffected anarchist type. He's drinking in the club underage. Actually, I think that he is at a rave, but I don't have the comic in front of me, so I'm not sure if I'm right about that part. I took his use of the word skanks to show that Warp is something of a teen douche bag who isn't kind to his friends or the girls who may like him. I don't know of any use of the word skank that could be used as slang in good, friendly way. But, I don't have the issue in front of me, so I may be missing some context. I doubt it when it comes to the use of the word skank.

    I liked Warp well enough, and wish that he had been given some more work. Having said that, I'd forgotton about Warp Savant until you started this thread. I cant picture any writer looking at Warp and saying "yeah, that's the character that I just have to write in my stories".


    I liked Churchill's art. I thought that it looked really good on the Poptopia issues.
    I think that Churchill left Uncanny because he felt that his art just wasn't a good fit for the stories that Casey wanted to tell. But, I could easily be wrong, as I didn't spend much time online when I was young.

    I think that the comic is solid enough, but as something that was advertised as bringing in a great new era for the X-Men, I can see how people would come away disappointed.
    Some interesting points there and I agree with a lot of what you have posted. I knew about Morrison wanting Colossus but I'm reasonably sure he switched to Emma before Casey started writing (GM was announced before Joe and he works far ahead, which actually became a problem later on). I'm definitely intrigued by the idea of Warp using drugs (although it would likely have needed to be Kick, as he was already a mutant) as he does seem a bit like Quire.

    Churchill - I'm posting 395 tonight, which is Churchill's (second and second-last issue), and I'll discuss his art in full at the end of his run. Poptopia's first issue is definitely an improvement on 394!

    I will keep banging on about facial hair though!

    I also utterly loathed Austen's use of Stacy (and just about anyone female)!

    Thanks for the comments, and please keep 'em coming!

  13. #13
    Fantastic Member Captain Buttocks's Avatar
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    Uncanny X-Men #395: Useless Beauty

    Uncanny X-Men #395 hit shelves on the 13th June 2001. It was one week late, which I would assume is due to art issues as there are two inkers for this issue. The estimated report from Diamond to North American distributers had it shipping 139,359 copies, making it second for the month (behind New X-Men #115, so Uncanny can claim a win as New X-Men was over a month late, not actually shipping until the second week in July) and a slight increase on the last issue, most likely due to a variant cover by legendary artist Barry Windsor-Smith. If I had to pick a cover I would probably pick the variant, however neither really grab me as much as subsequent covers would do.

    This is the first part of Poptopia, a four-parter concerned with two main plot threads. In the A-plot, Archangel, Iceman and Nightcrawler investigate a Cerebra spike underneath London which is due to the presence of a disfigured mutant community living in the sewers, while in the B-plot former Generation X cast member Chamber is drawn into the celebrity lifestyle. For my money the B-plot is more interesting, however neither is particularly dripping in originality.

    The A-plot is mostly a re-tread of the Morlock Massacre story, including one of the X-Men having to fight the leader. Later a very uninteresting villain shows up and torches a bunch of them with a flamethrower. Churchill’s designs for some of the Britlocks are a mixed bag, with some interesting ones and some pretty silly ones also. Mr Clean, the afore-mentioned guy with a flamethrower is, well, a standard guy with a flamethrower. There’s little of great interest here, and Kurt’s referencing the Morlocks only serves to remind any long-term readers of how unoriginal it is (rather fortunately for Casey, New X-Men was already running late as a few Britlocks being bumped off would have paled next to what was happening in Genosha).

    The B-plot is much better, however Casey’s tendency to throw random silliness in does undercut the theme he is looking for. American readers may not know better but the description of Sugar Kane as “Llandudno’s teen pop sensation” is very silly. I also have the sneaking suspicion that this is only set in Britain so Casey can sneak the word “wankers” through and have some fun writing British accents. Thankfully, Chamber is mostly spared from the “gor blimey guv’nor lets ‘ave a right old knees up!” (beyond exclaiming “Gordon Bennett!” when some heavies knock his hotel door) but some of the background character dialogue efforts are beyond caricature.

    Plenty of positives though, Casey makes a conspicuously good start with Chamber, capturing his slightly surly nature from Generation X and addressing the plot-hole of him graduating to join the X-Men in the last Generation X issue. Nightcrawler displays some of his softer nature in helping deliver a young Britlock’s baby and the X-Men do interact like a team. His handle on the rest of the cast varies and we’ll discuss it below. The supporting characters unfortunately do not have a lot of depth to them. We’ve already discussed Mr Clean, and the rest of the Britlocks don’t really have much personality. Sugar Kane only gets a few panels in this issue, so hopefully she’ll be fleshed out in the rest of the story.

    Quick note on Iceman drinking in Hyde Park – Newcastle Brown Ale is supposed to be served warm. Casey probably shouldn’t try and be trendy.

    I mentioned above that Casey used a spot of British slang – the B cover to this issue shipped without the Comics Code Authority stamp on it, making it the first X-Men issue to do so. This wasn’t as a result of anything Casey did, rather it was (I believe) the result of a storyline on Peter Milligan’s X-Force, and the Jemas/Quesada regime thinking the CCA had outlived its usefulness. It would probably provide some free publicity too, which was something neither Jemas nor Quesada was a stranger to. Rather musingly the A cover still has the stamp, so I'm picturing someone taking a look at BWS's cover and yelling "Ban this filth!" in a very amusing way.

    Ian Churchill does a stronger job on the artwork here. His Chamber is good and the rest of his cast are instantly recognisable and drawn well. Warren’s facial hair has also had a trim, although it still looks stupid. The colouring for Chamber’s “bio-chemical field” is very eye-catching and the short fight between The Cyclops and Kurt is good enough. On the negative side his design for Sugar Kane is daft (but like the last issue Churchill gets to draw cleavage and ass, so at least he’s happy - female representation isn’t high on this book’s to-do list for the next few issues), and there are huge stretches of the book where he couldn’t be bothered drawing any backgrounds whatsoever. The splash page title with the characters and the Poptopia logo is easily the artistic highpoint of the issue, it’s very eye-catching and still looks great today.

    If I had a major nitpick with the art on this issue it’s that Kurt’s mouth is hanging open for every panel he is in but one, I can only think Churchill really likes drawing prominent fangs almost as much as he likes drawing boobies. Poor Kurt also appears to be in a 50/50 mix of angry and dull surprise.

    Now that Casey has his initial cast together, how are they getting on?

    Archangel – nominally seems to be in charge of this team, and certainly seems to be calling the shots, however this would later be retconned to joint command with Nightcrawler.

    Nightcrawler – gets a fair amount to do, briefly throwing down with The Cyclops and delivering a baby, whilst Archangel and Iceman heroically stand still and do nothing.

    Iceman – seems to be written as the joker of the group, but his dialogue isn’t particularly great. One nice line towards Kurt, and that’s about it. If Fantomex is Grant Morrison, Iceman may well be Joe Casey, given his refusal to take his sunglasses off, even in the sewers at night using a flashlight. That’s devotion to the look.

    Wolverine is barely in this issue, popping up on Kurt’s computer screen to have the A plot explained to him for a couple of panels.

    Chamber gets off to a strong start, with some good dialogue and a very decent art job done on him by Churchill and especially Avalon Studios with the colours for his bio-kinetic field.

    Who died and will HoXPoX resurrect them? One of the named Britlocks, The Cyclops, is toasted by Mr Clean, along with many of the unnamed Britlocks. There’s more chance of a cabbage jumping up and biting me on the bottom than of any of them being brought back. 0/10 chance of resurrection, possibly less.

    What I Thought Then – I’m pleased to see Chamber, and both Casey and Churchill appear to have a good grasp on him, but this bloke with a flamethrower is crap and I don’t care about British Morlocks.

    What I Think Now – This was surprisingly readable. Again, Chamber is the highlight, but there’s actually some nice stuff done with the art (amid the predictable lows). I find myself cautiously looking forward to the rest of the arc.

    For those reading this – did you like Poptopia? Do you buy Sugar Kane’s singles or wait for the trade…err…album? Was Chamber a good choice for the cast? Who is your favourite of the highly memorable Britlocks?

    Next time – Ian Churchill exits on a high, Kurt is officially lazy and Wolverine appears even less than in this one. It’s Poptopia Part Two!
    Last edited by Captain Buttocks; 02-03-2020 at 03:18 PM.

  14. #14
    Mighty Member Thievery's Avatar
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    As for 395, here's how I feel.

    Chamber get's off to a great start, as stated. Except for, in my opinion, Chamber's naivety.

    Much of the rest of the comic is unoriginal. You have the Mutant Massacre repeat, which isn't the type of story that you want to tell if you are trying to launch a bold new era.
    The B-Plot with Chamber is also unoriginal. I didn't know this at the time that I read Poptopia, but Sugar Kane and Chamber is a little bit of a replay of Lila Cheney and I believe Cannonball.

    Kane/Chamber at least has the idea of Sugar Kane only using Chamber as publicity going for it. The problem there though, is that I just don't picture Chamber as being nave enough to go along with this. I know that later on you get the feeling that Jono knows that he was being used, and was getting something from Sugar Kane himself. I also get that Chamber probably saw this as a way to avoid joining the X-Men, and doing things his own way. But, the idea that Jono would come across as oblivious to how the media would end up writing tabloid stories featuring Sugar and himself in a negative light comes across as a little half baked. Jono knows that mutants always are portrayed in a negative light by the press. Just my opinion.

    As for Mr. Clean, I think that Casey may have been better off establishing his ties to the Church of Humanity earlier in Poptopia. It may have made him feel less generic.

    Still, I don't feel that it's a bad comic. It probably would have fit in well with other X-Men comics from the 90's era.

    What's strange about saying that a popstar is from Landudno ?

    Circling back to 394, I reread it. I forgot that Warp Savant was wearing a fishnet shirt and what appears to be platforms. Or, maybe I just didn't notice it. So, I'd say that Warp is definitely being just as sexualized as the woman in Poptopia. It seems to be commentary to me.

    As far as how Austen wrote woman, in my opinion he did a realy bad job with Stacey, Husk, and She-Hulk. But, the work that he did with Polaris leads to some great stories for the character, and helps lead her to a portrayal that I think that a lot of readers like. And, Nurse Annie gives off some Mary Sue vibes. She wasn't written to terribly, she just wasn't a very god character, in my opinion.

    I never realized that Fantomex was meant to be a stand in for Morrison during his run. I feel bad for Morrison, given how hated that Fantomex seems to be.

  15. #15
    Mighty Member Su_Whisterfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thievery View Post
    What's strange about saying that a popstar is from Landudno?
    Could have been worse, could have been Rhyl. Or Wrexham.

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