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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 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.

  9. #9
    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.

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