In part 3 of our weekly venture through the muck of Chuck Austen’s X-Men run, we come upon one of the most noteworthy storylines of the period, Dominant Species. I’m not saying it was good (it wasn’t) but it was noteworthy because of the art, provided by popular Japanese artist Kia Asamiya. Unfortunately, Asamiya got paired up with the terrible writings of this story, but he did toss out some character redesigns for the cast.
Archangel (leader), Husk, Wolverine, Northstar, Iceman, Nightcrawler, Stacy X
Maximus Lobo and an indefinite number of werewolves
Others you should be aware of
Professor X, Nurse Annie, Carter, Havok, Cyclops, Juggernaut, Polaris
In a nutshell
The X-Men get a call about a werewolf attack and those that feel like showing up for the mission get attacked by werewolves. Nurse Annie is attacked by Polaris while Carter tries to revive Havok. Nightcrawler questions his religion after he sees Stacy X naked.
Are you ready for this? Too bad – let’s begin.
Mutants are, in theory, the next step in human evolution. But what’s the next step up past mutants? If you guessed “werewolves” then you are on board for this story, which kicks off when a bunch of werewolves attack a group of humans who are attacking a mutant/human couple. But they don’t approve of the whole “cross-breeding” bit, so they attack the innocent human as well. And thus we have ourselves a plot.
But the X-Men aren’t exactly in good shape themselves. The narration boxes give a dueling thoughts from Archangel and Husk, though the two don’t really work well together. Archangel is mourning the death of Psylocke (and not very well) while Husk is dealing with the conflicting emotions of being horrified of some of the damages caused by an enormous corporate entity like Worthington Industries while also wanting being all hot and bothered about its CEO. Archangel expresses to Iceman that when he was technically dead during the fight with Black Tom Cassidy, Psylocke came to him and said goodbye. Iceman, apparently forgetting all the crazy crap that’s happened to him with the various superteams he’s been on, decides that it can’t be possible and takes Warren to Nightcrawler for a priestly explanation that the dead are dead, period. Especially in comic books. Nightcrawler doesn’t help Iceman’s case when he says that there’s no good reason for a lot of things that happen – like Professor X’s astral projection – so who’s to say Psylocke didn’t reach out from the beyond and talk to her former love? Iceman’s argument? What Professor X does is “science”. Good logic there.
Thankfully, Xavier interrupts the rather embarrassing sequence by calling the team together for a mission, but apparently can’t be bothered to contact everyone he needs, so he asks the three guys to collect Husk and Stacy X. Iceman decides that he is tired of Stacy so he simply opts out of the mission. Seriously. Nightcrawler goes after Stacy, but she decides this is as good of a time as any to seduce the fuzzy priest and shows up before him naked. Nightcrawler freaks out about his very non-priestly emotions and runs off, leaving Stacy sobbing in her bed that she ruins everything good in her life. No, I’m not sure when her interests switched over from Archangel to Nightcrawler either.
Since nobody actually did what Xavier asked, he goes and contacts Husk himself, finding her – where else? – in the infirmary talking to Nurse Annie over the still-comatose body of Havok. Since we last saw the two of them, Husk has apparently gotten over Annie’s dislike of mutants (she has her reasons, if you recall) and now the two are gossiping about love, boys, and most likely planning their next pajama pillow fight. Xavier summons Husk but manages to also project his floating head to Annie, solely for the ha-ha-larious reaction of her freaking out. Husk runs off for the mission promising to tell Annie all about the “hunky” Archangel later. Swooooooon!
So when the investigating detective – longtime X-Men ally Charlotte Jones – meets with the team, the only ones who actually bothered to show up are Archangel, Husk and Northstar. Charlotte takes a moment to remind readers that Archangel isn’t blue anymore and hit on him (which is what girls do) before Wolverine shows up, catches a scent and they all take off to find the villains. Except for the cop, that is. She goes home or something. The scent leads the foursome to a building belonging to “Lobo Technologies” (get it?) and the X-Men decide to make some great assumptions. They know that 1) the attackers of the humans were apparently werewolves and 2) that the trail leads here, so they put together that werewolves are running Lobo Technologies and are therefore responsible for all the evil that the company is doing…which hasn’t really been explained. But we also learn that Lobo Technologies is a subsidiary of Worthington Industries, so both Northstar and Husk decide that everything that has happened is Archangel’s fault. To their credit, Archangel does admit he really doesn’t pay attention to what he does with the company he’s been running forever.
While this logic is being worked through, Wolverine wanders off on his own and gets destroyed by the werewolves. Archangel decides that the best place for Wolverine to heal is back at the mansion, so he sends Northstar back with him with orders to bring back reinforcements. You know, at least those other three X-Men that were instructed to come but instead decided they had better things to do. In the meantime, Archangel and Husk decide to hold off the werewolves on their own. The werewolves that just demolished Wolverine. Husk uses her densest form, steel (apparently forgetting all the times she husked into a diamond form), but it doesn’t help them against the werewolves. With little other option, Archangel flies the two of them out of the building and into the middle of some nearby woods in which they both lie down and die. The end.
No, not really, but we’ll get back to those two. Let’s take a break and follow Northstar back to the mansion, shall we? With nothing better to do, Carter hangs out with his mom in the infirmary, then decides to use his vaguely defined psychic powers to pull Havok out of his coma. Since, you know, Professor X couldn’t pull it off. The effort leaves the boy in a similar state and Annie starts freaking out right as Polaris shows up. What are the odds? But Polaris is not the same Lorna Dane we once knew – this one has been driven mad by the destruction of Genosha, and shows up wearing an outfit that looks like she stole from Morrigan from the Capcom line of fighting games.
Polaris and Annie somehow immediately know who each other are (and speak as if they are old rivals) and Polaris begins to threaten Annie with scalpels for yelling at the comatose Havok. What either woman is trying to accomplish here is beyond me, but Northstar shows up and immediately takes Annie’s side before Professor X, Iceman and Juggernaut also walk in, apparently finally deciding to figure out what all the noise was about. The situation calms down just before Havok starts screaming, then wakes up. Ignoring Polaris, he immediately runs to Annie and Carter and tries to get Carter to come out of his coma. He explains that there was another entity “in there”, though I’m not quite sure where that would mean. In Havok’s head? In Carter’s head? In the astral plane? Anyway, Prof jumps in and rescues Carter and everyone is happy. And then Northstar remembers that he left Archangel and Husk with a bunch of werewolves who have probably killed them by this point and he gets Iceman and Juggernaut to go back with him. Priorities.
But we’re not quite there yet. The other X-Man playing hooky is Nightcrawler, who decided to go to a church to deal with the whole “Stacy came onto me while naked” thing (ooh, bad wording). The priest begins asking about the situation and Nightcrawler goes on a lengthy speech about his doubts on religion and not understanding why God would allow the desire to become a priest, yet not quell the desire for intimate relationships. Or banging, if you want to be crude about it. Chuck Austen obviously has issues with Christianity and through his run he frequently uses Nightcrawler as a mouthpiece for these issues. This basically boils down to the classic question of “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” stretched out in a wordy explanation complete with a not-so-vague mention of the whole “Catholic priest molesting young boys” thing.
When all is said and done and Nightcrawler needs guidance most, the priest politely tells him to get the hell out. And that’s the scene. A bit of taunting from Northstar later and Nightcrawler teleports into the X-Plane to join in on the mission that he blew off earlier. And speaking of blowing, Stacy does not appear in the rest of the story. Sorry for that.
Back in the woods, Archangel and Husk, who were both critically wounded, wake up perfectly fine. Thinking Archangel is unconscious, Husk takes a bit of me-time to explain to the reader that when she uses her powers, she fries her clothing and is thus completely naked when she’s fighting in battle. Just don’t go back to her initial power usage an issue earlier where she rips her skin without losing her clothing. Anyway, she wonders what would have happened had Archangel had been awake to see her naked, since that is obviously what it takes to make a man fall in love with a woman. Luckily for her (though she’s unaware of it), Archangel did look at her while she was naked, yet pretended to be asleep. Because he’s a creeper.
When the two finally take a moment to talk, Husk explains to Archangel that while she was “dead”, Psylocke came to her and explained to her their entire relationship. Why Psylocke would do such a thing isn’t gone into, but both seem to think it means something. Their moment is cut off when the werewolves finally realize that they’re in the story and attack once again, with pretty much the exact same results. Both get injured and fly away. But this time, the two are somehow herded right back into Lobo Technologies, despite being able to FLY and everything. Whatever. They go right back to where they started from, yet still manage to have time to figure out why they keep healing. Archangel deduces that he’s developed a healing power, but since he also helped Husk heal, he decides that it has to be in his blood. To save her life, he does the only sensible thing – he takes a box cutter to his chest and presses his open wound to hers – which apparently is a large gash across the boobs. The gamble works and Husk comes to, immediately realizing that Archangel pressed his naked chest to hers. And she liked it.
And then the X-Men showed up and beat the werewolves. The end.
What? Disappointed by that? Need something more? A reasoning for the werewolves’ attacks? Perhaps a reason for calling the story ‘Dominant Species?’ Fine. The wolves politely waited for the tender, bloody moment between Archangel and Husk before showing up and revealing their nefarious plan – they were repackaging Stark Industries tech under the Lobo brand and selling it as weaponry. But since Worthington Industries owned Lobo Tech, Archangel would get all the blame put solely on his shoulders when Stark quickly realized what was going on, ignoring that the company likely has a board of directors and whatnot. As for the ‘Dominant Species’ part? Turns out that Maximus Lobo (seriously – that’s his name) and his followers are the next step of genetic mutation, better than mutants. It’s kind of hard to buy when they are all basically just werewolves, and even harder to buy when you realize that the only dialogue any of them besides Maximus has is simply repeating random words others have said in a spooky font.
To keep the “textbook super-villain” theme going, when the X-Men attack and suddenly find themselves capable of defeating the werewolves, Maximus decides to kill everyone by forcing his
evil lair office building to explode. Luckily, Juggernaut steps in front of everyone which apparently manages to protect them from the explosion’s heat and shockwaves, but leaves him critically injured. But that’s okay – Archangel has magic blood. No problem. The story ends with Archangel going to Husk’s room back at the mansion, finally deciding to let go of Psylocke, the only woman he has ever loved. You know, if you ignore the nearly two decades he was with Candy Southern. But she doesn’t count, I guess. There – don’t you wish I had just left it at “And then the X-Men showed up and beat the werewolves. The end”?
And thus ends this chapter of the legendary Chuck Austen run of X-Men. Next week we’ll be hitting up “Rules of Engagement” which deals with Havok’s awakening and even brings in Alpha Flight…as a police force…for an American school. Yeah.
Missed a week? Glutton for more punishment? Click here for the rest of the Chuck Austen’s X-Men series!