The quest is a simple one: There are a lot of crossovers out there for you to dive into, and Sequart is going to try to steer you toward the better ones.
Welcome to a series of articles that will focus specifically on crossovers. In this series, we will analyze crossovers large and small, good and bad, and from any company that has dared to find a way to bring its major characters together for a profit.
Joking aside, X-Men 3 will be in theaters next summer, so the first handful of articles will be devoted to major X-crossovers from the late 80s up to the present day.
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Fall of the Mutants (trade paperback)
If you’ve actually read Fall of the Mutants (Uncanny X-Men #225-227, X-Factor #24-26, and New Mutants #59-61) you’ve recognized that it’s not really much of a crossover at all. Sure, there are mentions of what is going on in the other books but that information is minimal until the final pages of the New Mutants arc, and, by then, a reader might feel duped by the fact that they just read a 270-page story with little interaction between the three books’ characters. (Oddly enough, characters from a fourth book appear, do more crossing over than any of the X-characters and that’s not even advertised or included in the trade!)
So the question you may be asking is, “Why would you begin an all new column about crossovers with one that barely qualifies?” To answer that I have to state what my definition of a crossover is. A crossover occurs in a single issue, on a single page, in a single panel when a popular character from another book appears and affects the story. If the story isn’t affected then it can hardly be classified as a crossover even though the cover of the issue might deem it as one. A perfect example of this is on the cover and within the pages of Ravage 2099 #5. Spider-Man 2099 shows up for the “briefest guest star appearance of all time” by simply swinging past a Ravage 2099 character in two consecutive panels. His appearance didn’t affect the story at all, but I’m sure it still moved many copies of the low-selling book. That is not a crossover. So, back to the original problems, (1)”Why Fall of the Mutants?” By my definition, this still falls into the category of a crossover, albeit barely. (2)”Why make this crossover the first one that I write about?” It gives me a chance to create the crossover boundaries to work within, plus, I’m pretty glad to be getting this particular crossover out of the way.
With that taken care of, let’s begin … (Since there isn’t any major interaction between these titles, they will be covered separately.)
Uncanny X-Men #225-227
Chris Claremont, writer; Marc Silvestri, penciler; Dan Green, inker; cover-dated January-March 1988
Uncanny X-Men #225: “False Dawn!”
The story starts with Peter Rasputin (Colossus) in Scotland sketching a nicely-drawn picture of his teammates, (The drawing looks suspiciously like early Silvestri.) which, at this point, are as follows: Storm, Wolverine, (With Storm currently missing, Wolvie’s the team leader.) Havok, Rogue, Longshot, Psylocke, Dazzler, and Shadowcat. Peter had to stay in an Edinburgh hospital due to a bashing he received from Juggernaut and The Marauders. The rest of the team made it through the battle with minor wounds, so they moved on to the next dilemma.
As Peter is sketching his friends, trying to get over missing them, a group of Scottish boys begin playing in the street near him. The kids speak with Peter about the drawing and promptly start arguing amongst themselves about the default concept of many X-books’ storylines: Whether or not mutants are people too. The argument leads to a shoving match and that’s when Peter has to get between them and give us our monthly dose of, “Mutants are not monsters!” You get the idea.
The kids run off. Then, a mysterious, pretty woman shows up out of nowhere and reads Peter’s fortune. She tells him some cryptic things and comes pretty close to the mark about Peter’s identity and past. Peter demands she become more specific and she abruptly vanishes, leaving behind a chess piece that looks exactly like Colossus. Then the kids from before reappear and throw a firecracker at him, he gets spooked, accidentally turns into Colossus and bolts out of fear and embarrassment.
Cut to the cryptic woman’s omni-dimensional domain. It looks equal parts outer spacey and psychedelic. She arrives back from messing with Peter (We later find out that this woman is Roma and that she was trying to warn Peter of impending tragedy.) just in time to see The Adversary breaking into her dimension. The Adversary, also known as The Trickster, had recently fooled Storm into attacking a brainwashed Forge, almost killing him. The Trickster then banished Storm and Forge to an alternate Earth where they were the sole occupants. Apparently they were the only two who had the power to stop Trickster’s plans for dumping all of reality into chaos. Now, with none in his way, his plans take him to his final destination. In order to complete his vision he enters Roma’s realm, which, Claremont tells us, is “the space that encompasses all existence”. Roma, by the way, is the daughter of Merlin. She is a curious voyeur, and sometimes helper, of the Omniverse (all realities). She is a woman of considerable power but, in this instance, was taken by surprise and subdued by The Trickster. Let the chaos begin.
While this is transpiring, the X-Men arrive at Forge’s Dallas headquarters in an attempt to find Storm, who has been missing for a while. They immediately notice something odd. There’s snow on the ground in the middle of a summer night, in Dallas no less. Unbeknownst to the X-crew, The Trickster is in the driver’s seat of all realities and abnormal things like this are just beginning to occur.
Cut to Scotland. Colossus is all huffed out from his sprint through Edinburgh and launches into one of Claremont’s trademarked, angst-filled soliloquies (This one was mostly interior monologue, with an occasional outburst.) about humanity’s distrust of mutants as well as his recent confusing meeting with the enigmatic woman. After his whine session he decides that his place is with the X-Men, so he can continue the fight towards Xavier’s dream. He phones his sister Illyana, currently with the New Mutants, so she can help him find the X-Men and take him to them via her interdimensional transport through the demon-filled Limbo territory. (That’s a mouthful.) In an instant, she appears. Poof, they’re gone.
Cut to Forge’s building in Dallas, where the X-Men are finding all sorts of obstacles. Upon entering the building they are attacked by defenses Forge created to keep out trespassers. Wolverine is Swiss-cheesed by lasers, so simple entry won’t work. Havok decides to blast the lasers but accidentally collapses part of the ceiling, forcing the X-Men to high-tail it back outside. In the parking lot, Freedom Force, led by Mystique, shows up to arrest them for reasons that I didn’t find all that specific. The Freedom Force is a federally created team comprising of a bunch of X-villains and / or vigilantes (like the Blob, Spiral, Destiny, and the Crimson Commando to name a few) that, for some reason, are “good guys” working for the government. The obligatory brawl ensues, resulting in the unconsciousness of Psylocke, Dazzler, and Rogue. The rest of the X-Men retreat back into the lobby of the building, leaving the three behind. As they do, Freedom Force’s Destiny starts freaking out. She, like Roma, can see the future and what she sees is dire; anyone in Forge’s building at dawn will die. Just then, an amazingly huge and impossible tear opens up the night sky above Dallas. Bright light is pouring over a portion of the city and Destiny proclaims, “It has begun.”
Uncanny X-Men #226: “Go Tell the Spartans”
As the standoff between the two teams continues and the Trickster’s tear in the sky baffles, National Public Radio shows up to cover the phenomenon. Interestingly they show up with a camera crew. A radio crew with a video camera? Maybe that’s how NPR does things. Dazzler regains consciousness and tries to create a diversion in order to get Psylocke and Rogue back to safety. Instead, members of Freedom Force see her and (annoyingly) the brawl starts all over again.
Cut to the alternate world that Storm and Forge have been banished to. Storm, recently made powerless by one of Forge’s gizmos, is having a tough time getting over the fact that she can’t fly or control the elements. Plus, she isn’t sure if she can trust Forge after recent events. Apparently he was manipulated by The Trickster (who inhabited Forge’s old teacher Naze) into fighting Storm and now she can’t figure out if she is alone with Forge or Brainwashed Forge. He sustained many injuries from their fight. Storm warily begins to nurse him back to health.
Up until this point, I was into the story, but this is where Claremont starts losing me. He cuts back to Earth 616 (regular Marvel Earth) and, adjacent to Forge’s building, chaos is in full swing. Dinosaurs and barbarians are walking around, attacking everything. Monsters are looking for victims to kill and, even though I understood what The Trickster was doing, I was completely turned off by Claremont’s style. His explanations for the events were too forced and claustrophobic. I couldn’t gain a handle on the entire scope of something that should be catastrophic. He jumped around too quickly and said obvious things like, “Nothing makes sense”. Really? I can see a Claremont fanboy trying to explain the problem away, “It’s supposed to be confusing, it’s The Trickster!” I’m sorry; the way he tries to deliver something so huge is glitchy to me. It could have been handled in a much better way. Silvestri’s pencils don’t help the claustrophobic feeling either.
And where are the other superheroes of this world? There is a tear in the fabric of reality, people! And a handful of X-Men (who have now decided to form the predictable tentative pact with Freedom Force to take care of this problem) are the only ones around to take care of it. Well, the quick thinking of Claremont takes care of that by mentioning, via news broadcast, that Earth’s other heroes are ready and willing to help but “are being kept in reserve until it’s determined which” of the two situations is a bigger threat. (The other situation is the battle between X-Factor and Apocalypse in Manhattan. Guess what? In the end, Earth’s other heroes didn’t show up anywhere. Surprised?) For the time being, it’s a pretty good ploy that Claremont uses to explain why the Avengers and Fantastic Four haven’t shown up, but by the end of the crossover the reader will realize that no one shows up in either Dallas or Manhattan. Brilliant! Chris fooled me just long enough to get me to read the entire story.
The story continually cuts back to Forge and Storm to show their progress in the alternate world. Forge eventually comes up with a plan to get Storm her powers back as well as get the two of them back to their home on Earth 616, but once the procedure starts, there’s “no turning back” (of course) and it could be fatal. Scared? They begin and, after a few tense moments, Storm has regained all of her powers. Then Forge yells for her to hurl her lightning bolts in the way that he instructed, which she does, and they disappear with a flash.
Uncanny X-Men #227: “The Belly of the Beast!”
The rest of the Uncanny story is a boring, confusing blur for many reasons: (1) The lobby of Forge’s building has, yet again, transformed. This time into (sigh) Vietnam. It has to do with Forge’s past, and how he used his powers during that war to avenge his fallen comrades. Apparently a gate to another dimension was opened and out sprang a bunch of demons. Hmm. (2) The X-Men, in order to close that gate and get rid of The Trickster, must sacrifice their own lives to reverse Forge’s spell. (I think. I probably have to read it again to be sure … I just don’t want to.) After some thought, the X-Men decide to save the world and sacrifice themselves. They actually die but are then brought back to life by Roma. (3) A seemingly omnipotent foe such as The Adversary / Trickster shouldn’t have been so easily defeated. He tore a hole in the sky, people! (4) The X-Men decide that, since they’re “dead”, they should continue letting people believe this lucky lie so that they can become more of a covert team. (5) During an early fight sequence, Spiral slammed Destiny’s fallen mask on Dazzler’s face and fastened it on with a mental (yes, mental) blade. Dazzler had to be guided around for the rest of the story. By the end, Dazzler dies with the other X-Men, is resurrected and the mask is just gone. These were just some of the things that I didn’t feel like trying to decipher.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of interesting ideas (and there were some cool things, too) going on in these three issues, (Admittedly, Claremont was overflowing with them back in the day.) but they shouldn’t have been crammed into so few pages because said ideas seemed to be flying at me one after another. Decompressing a storyline is a dangerous thing, but this is one story that would have benefited from it. I’m not sure how much the story would have benefited from decompression, but it would definitely have been more understandable. I would have gone into more detail about Claremont’s contribution to Fall of the Mutants, but it would hurt my head to try.
As far as the art team of Silvestri and Green, all I can say is that Silvestri is a lot better now. Green’s inks cover Silvestri’s problems 75% of the time. The rest of the time it’s just not pretty to look at. Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the art. Maybe I was unimpressed because my tastes are rooted in the last 10-12 years, so fans of this art team will have to excuse me.
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As I was writing this column, it got away from me. It became much larger than I anticipated. With that in mind, I have decided to split it into three parts. The second part will be posted next.
Tune back in for my review of X-Factor #24-26, the second part of Fall of the Mutants.