X-Men: Condition Critical (197-199)

This storyline has some title issues. On the cover, the story is titled ‘Red Data’, but on the inside, it’s titled ‘Condition Critical’. Since the inside usually has the more reliable stuff (such as the story), I’m going with that. It boggles my mind that the editors couldn’t catch that in three months time. Of course, if you’re like me (or have read Jeph Loeb’s current Wolverine storyline), you probably have quit assuming that editors in the X-Office do anything.

Editing aside, this storyline picks up right where Primary Infection left off (with the exception of what happened to Iceman, who’s hunky dory now). Rogue has an infection that’s killing her, and her absorption powers have been upped to the point that any contact will kill the person. This is an interesting change for a character that’s been lacking any solid characterization since Scott Lobdell was on the book. Say what you will about Peter Milligan’s run, but getting Rogue away from Gambit was a good move, and Mike Carey has allowed her to grow on her own for the first time since the start of the 90s. She’s not pining for Gambit’s return every issue. It’s about time. Of course, I’m saying that about a character who’s only awake for the second half of the final issue, so let’s focus on the story.

The basic gist is that while the X-Men have traveled to Cable’s nation of Providence to seek medical assistance for Rogue, they are confronted by a mummudrai who warns them of an attacking creature called Hecatomb, who was created by the Shi’ar. But really, none of that’s important. The book seems to be filling time while heading for next month’s issue 200 and the coming ‘Endangered Species’ story that it starts. There are only a couple of important things you need to get out of this story:

Number 1, Cable’s island nation pretty much gets the crap torn out of it. I guess with Cable on an X-Men team again, being the leader of a nation doesn’t really fit. Somehow, I doubt it’d be a problem if it was Wolverine. Hell, Black Panther’s been the ruler of Wakanda forever and he’s still made time for the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. The problem here is that everyone seems to be forgetting that this story has been building for quite some time in Cable’s own book, Cable and Deadpool. The more I see his role fade in that title, the shorter I see it’s lifespan. And really, with the main story that’s been building since pretty much day one up in smoke, it may be time to either give the title solely to Deadpool or axe it all together. But that’s another story. Let’s move on.

Number 2, to stop the Hecatomb, Rogue absorbs all the personas that it had drained, and the experience has left her batty. Issue 200 promises the death of one of this book’s X-Men, and I wouldn’t be shocked for Rogue to be the one that bites it. It would be a shocker to many, and really a shame, since she’s finally becoming interesting again after the Curse of Claremont (I’ll save that one for a rant).

Number 3 is made up of a lot of little things that are rather unimportant, but could possibly lead somewhere. Sabretooth is gone, but not dead. Iceman and Mystique lock lips before he saves the day. The X-Men’s ship, the Conquistador (which Chris Bachalo drew as a tanker rather than a plane), crashes. Cable merges with the mummudrai, restoring his mutant powers, only to get the tie severed and lose them again. He, like Rogue, is a character that everyone needs to agree on what they can do, instead of continuously messing around with them. It did, however, lead to an interesting monologue in his own book in which he contemplates his role as a gun-wielding psycho, as he was written for many years.

For what it was – a big ass fight scene – this story was perfectly acceptable. Forgettable in the long run, but good enough setup to head into 200 with as much momentum as it needs. Hopefully the loose ends are tied down before too long. We’d hate to sink into Claremont levels. Damn, there I go again.

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