Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

27 August 2010

X-Men: Powerless

Collects: Uncanny X-Men #379-80, X-Men #99, Wolverine #149, X-Force #101, and Cable #78 (2000)

Released: July 2010 (Marvel)

Format: 144 pages / color / $16.99 / ISBN: 9780785146773

What is this?: The High Evolutionary, laboring under bad advice, takes away all mutants’ powers.

The culprits: Written by Alan Davis, Joe Pruett, Joseph Harris, and Erik Larsen and drawn by half a dozen artists

X-Men: Powerless exists in an odd cul-de-sac of X-Men history, although no one knew and few guessed that when these issues came out.

Immediately before these issues came out, the X-Men fought their long-prophesied battle with Apocalypse, one that finally resolved the “Twelve” dangler and Cable’s raison d’etre. (That large storyline was collected in X-Men: The Shattering, X-Men vs. Apocalypse, v. 1: The Twelve, and X-Men vs. Apocalypse, v. 2: Ages of Apocalypse.) This was the last hurrah for issues that dwelled on Chris Claremont-era continuity, which was counterintuitive because Claremont himself returned for about a year — an uninspiring, frequently disappointing year. And then we got Grant Morrison’s New X-Men (and Joe Casey’s Uncanny X-Men), which led into the House of M Bend-over,24 and the X-books haven’t been the same since.

X-Men: Powerless coverThese issues don’t feel momentous, however. There is little of the gravity one might expect for a jumping off point, the end of an era. Only Cable seems to have an inkling, with supporting villain / block of stone Ozymandias saying, “A new era approaches — one full of possibilities and potential. No longer are the days yet to come written in stone.” Of course, Cable was often filled with pretentious blather about the future, so this may come under the heading of “blind pig finding an acorn.”

Instead we get a time-killing story of the X-Men and other mutants losing their powers because of the interference of the High Evolutionary, a plot device / easily misled superscientist who wants to save millions of lives by eliminating the possibility of a race war between humans and mutants. He’s being misled by Mr. Sinister, but that’s to be expected. In any event, the crossover shows X-Force and Wolverine dealing with being powerless, while writer Joe Pruett wraps up the consequences from the Apocalypse storyline for Cable. (Cable #79 might have been a better choice for this volume, since Cable doesn’t feel the effects of the plot until the last page of his issue in this collection.) X-Men and Uncanny X-Men introduce and wrap up the storyline in three issues — hardly worth a crossover, really.

The thing is, this idea should be important. The X-Men lose their powers; how do they deal with it? Rogue’s life is completely different, as is Marrow’s and Nightcrawler’s. Colossus and Shadowcat have other lives they can explore, but what is Storm if she doesn’t have her powers or a superpowered team to lead? Is Gambit still charming? These issues are brought up and explained in a few sentences, which is nothing compared to the importance these issues should have. Losing their powers is worse for the X-Men than it is for other superteams; for mutants, their powers are their identity, something they gained when they began to figure themselves out in adolescence. All writers Alan Davis and Terry Kavanagh give us using this life-altering premise is three issues to fill the schedule until Claremont’s return: the setup, the brief exploration of the idea, and the perfunctory fight. Worse yet, we get the first appearance of the Neo, one of the worst parts of Claremont’s second run.

Only Wolverine and X-Force look at what it’s like to be without powers for a mutant. Wolverine doesn’t change what he’s doing, but he’s lost his enhanced senses and healing factor; writer Erik Larsen says Wolverine’s suffering from “adamantium poisoning” to slow him down further, but that doesn’t change Wolverine’s actions. X-Force does a better job, with Joe Harris writing a story in which Tabitha has to deal with the feeling of helplessness coming from being unable to help her former (?) boyfriend when his powers cut off hundreds of feet above the ocean and also counsel a young mutant who has lost his ability to fly and is in denial about what it (and his powers) mean. It’s the only issue in the book that’s really affecting, despite the potential of the idea.

The art is all over the place, with pencils from Tom Raney, Juan Santacruz, Brett Booth, Michael Ryan, Steve Harris, and Graham Nolan. Only Raney does more than one issue, penciling Uncanny X-Men #379-80. Although his work never really resonated with me, Raney is a good artist, one worthy of what was a top-tier title at the time. As for the others … well, if comic art circa 2000 is your cup of meat, you’ll probably find something from the other five artists that is to your tastes. None of them appealed to me, although I have to admit Graham Nolan’s work did seem to fit Wolverine particularly well.

Nothing in this collection is particularly bad, but it is extremely forgettable, so I am still a little confused about why these issues were collected. There’s nothing that really recommends X-Men: Powerless, other than being a relic of a different time — a mutant fly caught in the amber, so to speak. That’s not enough of a recommendation, however. My theory is that someone in Marvel’s reprint department wants to start filling in the issues between X-Men vs. Apocalypse, v. 1 and 2, and the crossover that ended Claremont’s second run, X-Men: Dream's End. Uncanny X-Men #387 and X-Men #107 are already scheduled to be reprinted in Avengers / X-Men: Maximum Security, which is due out November 3. Mark my words: you should start looking for reprints of the rest of Claremont’s frustrating and disappointing run (Uncanny X-Men #381-6 and X-Men #100-6) in 2011.

Rating: Marvel symbolMarvel symbol (2 of 5)

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3 Comments:

Blogger Marc said...

Yep, when I first saw the solicitation for this book, I knew it could only be to fill the gap between the Apocalypse stuff and Dream's End. And although the Claremont stuff is pretty bad, I wonder if this means we'll also see new collections for X-Force, which was actually fairly decent right up until the Milligan/Allred reboot (which was brilliant).

I started reading the X-books at the beginning of said Claremont run, so I never did read the issues in Powerless. It sounds just as senseless as what would come afterward though. Does Alan Davis draw anything, or just write? He's one of the few artists whose comics I'll read for the art alone, but if there's none of that here then I would feel safe skipping it.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Raoul said...

Unfortunately, no Alan Davis art. Seems kind of senseless, really.

Some of the issues of X-Force after Powerless (#102-9) have been reprinted in the Counter X, v. 1, TPB, which leaves only #110-6 unprinted. I wish more (any) of the John Francis Moore / Adam Pollina "roadtrip" issues would be reprinted -- although I have all the issues in floppies, so I probably wouldn't buy the TPB.

12:21 AM  
Blogger Marc said...

Weren't some of the Moore/Pollina issues reprinted in X-Men: Road Trippin'? It would be nice to see that book or an updated version of it back in print.

The three Counter X volumes were nice, and I'd love for them to publish follow-up trades -- each of those series ended about six issues after what's collected in their respective trades, so it wouldn't be that difficult to pick out the material. I have the floppies for all of that stuff as well, but still, it'd be nice to see.

2:41 AM  

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