X-Men 40 was cover dated January 1995 and was on sale in November 1994, sharing the spinner racks with Breed II #1, Cyclops Retribution #1, Sin City: the Big Fat Kill #1 and Star Trek Generations #1.
Credits: Writer: Fabian Nicieza, pencilled by Andy Kubert, inked by Matt Ryan and edited by Bob Harras.
Cast: (20 Years ago) Charles Xavier, Magnus, Gabrielle Haller, David ‘Legion’ Haller, Betsy ‘Psylocke’ Braddock, Robert ‘Iceman’ Drake, Lucas Bishop and Ororo ‘Storm’ Monroe.
Cast: Present Day Professor Charles Xavier, Gabrielle Haller, Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers, Jean ‘Phoenix’ Grey-Summers, Remy ‘Gambit’ LeBeau, Warren ‘Archangel’ Worthington III, Rogue, Domino, Dr Henry ‘Beast’ McCoy and Nathan Christopher Day’Spring Askani Summers/Cable.
Plot: Twenty years in the past, Charles Xavier (not yet a professor) and Magnus (not yet a villain) have met and are working in an Israeli hospital as a doctor and orderly respectively. They are both aware that they have secrets from one another, but are quite good friends. As Charles plans for dinner with Magnus and his former patient Gabrielle Haller (how reassuring that we have some unethical s**t from Xavier), Magnus checks on a patient, a amnesiac John Doe, who the reader will recognise as David ‘Legion’ Haller, someone who is yet to be born.
In the present, Rogue and Archangel are scouring the desert where Legion battled the X-Men last issue to find the unconscious Phoenix, and only her in the sands. Jean lets the rest of the assembled X-Men (including Cylcops, Gambit, Beast and the present day version of Professor Charles Xavier) know what has happened and that Legion and the 4 missing X-Men are in the past.
Back in the past Lucas Bishop, Ororo ‘Storm’ Monroe, Betsy ‘Psylocke’ Braddock and Bobby ‘Iceman’ Drake have recovered some of their memories, but not all and at the hospital Magnus tries to help the John Doe, who uses his psionic power to conjure up the worst memories in Magnus’ head. The holocaust, the loss of his wife and the hole that these things have left inside him. John Doe wonders how he can keep on living. Magnus seems to throw the entire room around (seriously, have looked at this panel several times and I have no idea how he can even stand, let alone what he is doing. Clearly panicked, he leaves heads straight for Charles. Upon hearing about this unusual patient, Charles ditches Gabrielle and goes with him. The patient is projecting psychic holograms of events still in Charles’ future and both he and Magnus are concerned.
Back in the present, Professor Xavier, Gabrielle and the assembled X-Men welcome the arrival of Cable and Domino, Cable being something of an expert on time travel being the time displaced son of Cyclops, who is younger. As Cable points out that he has no ability to get to the past anymore, the talk is interrupted by Lilandra Neramani, both Charles Xavier’s ex and the Mahestrix (Empress) of the Shi’Ar empire. She’s there in hologram form to tell those present that the past is being altered and it’s affecting the cosmos. When asked how she can know this, she informs them that this information comes from the Watchers.
Notes: Ok, first things first. I have this thought that Uatu, the Watcher is addicted to interfering in human affairs, he’s not that invested in humanity, but keeps butting in because he can’t help it, like an addiction. The last page sort of looks like an intervention. “Uatu, we love you, but you have a problem.”
Now I have got that out of the way. This is a comic of two halves in many respects. Half of it takes place 20 years ago and deals with the early days of the friendship between Charles and Magnus. They are very much friends at this point, with much of the anger and violence that came between them, still ahead of them. I will be honest, would have liked to see more of this sort of thing in the issue, since Charles before his dream took over his life and the needs of that dream having twisted him, is an interesting character and Magneto is always worth a read when he isn’t used as a demagogue or silver age villain. But here we are and the 20 years ago plot starts to move forward with Legion and the X-Men having arrived in the past and their actions begin to ripple forward. The modern day stuff is to be honest filler. Lots of talking and impending doom. The plot is good, but the scripting at times feels forced and wordy, but not in the smooth manner than defined the X-Men not 5 years ago.
The art too is a mixed bag. Kubert paces the story very well and overcomes much of the writing’s shortcomings. Everyone is very much on model and the two versions of Charles look like two versions of the same guy. Where Kubert falls here is the posing of characters, which is as 90’s as you can get. Very few people stand the way actual people stand. But that doesn’t always take me out of the story that much and the last page with a gathering of Watchers maintains it’s impact. Watchers have gathered, s**t just got real.
Not yet at the Age of Apocalypse, but I enjoying the ride.
Next Time: Madness, clones and baffling motivations, yup back to the Clone Saga.