Monday, September 29, 2014

Review # 132: "X-Men: Mutant Massacre"

"Mutant Massacre" made X-Men history by being the first crossover between three X-family titles and is regarded by many as one of the greatest X-Men stories of all time. But while it has its share of memorable moments, I really can't say I agree.

The art of blending narratives had not been perfected at the time (has it ever, really?) which leaves the result a little disjointed. It's a shame, to be honest, given that I'm a big fan of many of the creative runs swallowed up by "Mutant Massacre." You have Chris Claremont's "X-Men," Louise and Walt Simonson's "X-Factor," Walt Simonson's "Thor..." but with so many interlocking events and business in each series to take care of from their own ongoing narratives, "Mutant Massacre" moves very slowly.

The main plot deals with the villainous Marauders storming the Morlock Tunnels and murdering the lot of them by the dozens. It's a disturbing concept that carries a lot of brutality. However, outside of the "X-Men" series the ongoing violence is kept at an arm's length. "X-Factor" is fretting about its young wards; Thor is hanging out with his old frog buddies; "The New Mutants" are dealing with Warlock's daddy issues. Each series had its own place to go, which is a burden on the writers trying to present a united front.

I'd flirted with the idea of separating series-by-series and going from there, but unfortunately it's not a feasible option. Angel - in a legendary moment - has his wings impaled on a wall in "X-Factor," but is rescued by Thor. The X-Men come to the aid of a few Morlocks (including Callisto in their own pages,) but return to the mansion in "New Mutants." There's a continuing pattern outside of Claremont's "X-Men" stories of overarching story moments being surrounded by endless exposition unique to that title. It just doesn't mesh.

Ultimately, the aftermath of "Mutant Massacre" would go on to carry more weight than the actual series. Angel's wings getting amputated, Storm taking the "X-Men" underground, dealing with the serious injuries to Colossus, Nightcrawler and Shadowcat, Thor taking on Hela, etc. "Mutant Massacre" was a major catalyst with actual repercussions. It's a shame that this great experiment didn't work out quite as well as it could have.

Well, except for one thing.

This story was the first to feature a fight between Wolverine and his arch-nemesis Sabretooth. They duke it out twice, and my God... it's great. The dialogue as they tangle in their first fight is classic Claremont, perfectly matched by the pencils of Rick Leonardi. And then there's their second fight, drawn by guest artist Alan Davis. Take a look at the cover for "Uncanny X-Men # 213" for a second.

That quality of drawing, ladies and gentlemen, is a decade ahead of its time. The opening page with Psylocke strapped into Cerebro is equally jaw-dropping. Davis brings an unseen level of fury to the battle between Logan and Victor, as they bite and scratch and go through walls. It's glorious.

So, I find myself giving this an easy recommendation. Yeah, I think it has a fair share of faults. But if you want to see a LOT of X-Men history as it happens, you'll find a lot in "Mutant Massacre."

Rating: 7/10

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