Chuck Austen’s X-Men: Of Darkest Nights

A quick note before we begin.  The remaining chapters of Chuck Austen’s X-Men have been COMPLETED.  As in written (with images) and ready to post.  That means no more delays in further updates – there will be two updates next week and then the final chapter and a wrap-up the following week.  Thanks for sticking with it – it’ll be worth it!


443cover

Took Place In

Uncanny X-Men #442-443

Team Line-Up
Juggernaut, Polaris, Wolverine

Others You Should Be Aware Of
Emma Frost, Professor X, She-Hulk, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch

In a Nutshell
Professor X takes the body of the slain Magneto back to Genosha and has a philosophical debate with Polaris while Wolverine tears down buildings.

Before we begin, I have to give a little bit of defense to our favorite writer, Chuck Austen. 2004 was a big transitional time for the X-Men. At the time, there were three X-Men books – one was considered the “flagship”, which carried the MAIN X-Men story – while the other two were basically secondary books for characters to appear who weren’t being used in the main book. And Wolverine of course, because Wolverine. The flagship book would get all the Wizard attention (remember Wizard?) while the secondary books were kind of left to their own, hoping that no one would notice. For X-Treme X-Men, it gave Chris Claremont room to do whatever he wanted, because he’s Chris Claremont and damn it, he earned it. As for Uncanny, Chuck Austen did…well, we’ve learned what Chuck Austen did.

But come 2004, suddenly the flagship hit a transitional period. Grant Morrison finished up his epic in New X-Men and headed off for the Distinguished Competition, and fanboy messiah Joss Whedon was set to come in and start his epic in the newly launched Astonishing X-Men – back when jumping on points were actually jumping on points. In the meantime, the rest of the X-Books got shuffled a bit. Both Uncanny and New had decently high numbers (back when that mattered) so X-Treme X-Men was ended and Claremont was brought back over and given Uncanny, which from a sales point made a lot of sense – Chris Claremont back in the book that he built. Glory. Chuck Austen was in turn pushed over to Morrison’s old title, given back it’s original name of simply “X-Men”. So all was good in the world. Whedon manned the flagship, and the others kept going.

Well, except that there was a two month gap between Morrison’s last issue and the big relaunch. That meant nothing for X-Treme X-Men – all it had to do was wrap up and get ready to jump. But for Uncanny and New X-Men, that meant two months of treading water, not able to start new stories because RELAUNCH. So in Marvel’s epic wisdom, they decided to give both books to Chuck Austen and said “do something for an epilogue”. But it wasn’t an epilogue to his own stories – no funeral for the Cabots to be seen. Instead, he got hampered with writing an epilogue to Grant Morrison’s finale of Planet X. (We’re going to ignore Here Comes Tomorrow). That meant Magneto and Phoenix dead, Charles Xavier leaving the school, and the school in ruins.

That by itself wasn’t too bad, but any X-fan worth their mettle is probably aware of the shenanigans that took place just after Morrison left Marvel. The entire run of Morrison’s X-Men had been the infiltration of Magneto into the X-Men following the destruction of Genosha. Then the climax hits and everyone’s mind is blown and we’re left with the aftermath…and Marvel decides “Nope, it was not actually Magneto” and brings him back a couple months later, with Professor X seemingly having known the entire time. It was a horrendous mess, and it hampered any kind of story dealing with it, because if Professor X knew, why would he be going through these motions here?

So in Chuck’s defense, that’s not his fault. This will also come up when we get to the return of Xorn. But enough of that. We’re not here to defend – we’re here to ridicule. So let’s go!

When last we left our heroes (not here in Uncanny, but in the far more important New X-Men), the X-Men had brought down Magneto and stopped his rampage of New York, but failed to keep him from killing the cosmically powered Phoenix (or re-killing her, I guess) so Wolverine took a moment to lop off his head. Berzerker rage and all that. So now the genocidal mutant terrorist is dead and what do the high-and-mighty powers-that-be do with the body? They give it over to Xavier and say “give it a funeral – need a ride?”. So Xavier decides he’s going to cart the body off to Genosha for burial, and decides to take only Wolverine with him. You know – the unstable man who’s not only responsible for his death, but is also completely furious that he killed the woman whom he may have loved more than anyone…except maybe Mariko Yashida.

This story serves as a prequel to the about-to-launch Genoshan Excalibur title, and really the less said about that one, the better. The point here is that by within a couple months, Xavier is going to reveal that he knew it wasn’t Magneto the whole time, hence a big reason he decided to stay in Genosha. That really never went anywhere, but it kind of defeats the purpose of Xavier having a funeral for the headless master of magnetism anyway. But again, not Austen’s fault, I suppose. It’s not like the X-Office’s editorial staff was ever good at…well, really anything – and especially not in 2004, where the strategy was “make money on big name and ignore all other titles”.

Anyway, so off to Genosha Xavier and Wolverine go, but Wolverine – being the teenage girl that he is – decides to give Xavier the silent treatment.

silenttreatment

Passive aggressive works fine for me, bub.

Xavier and Wolverine’s little spat is cut short by Nick Fury, who quickly explains the elephant in the room – Magneto killed a large number of humans in an act of Genocide, and in his mind he doesn’t deserve the decency of burial. So, like any battle-hardened soldier would, he takes his plane and leaves, telling the X-Men to have a nice walk home. Never to leave a good moment alone, Wolverine gives Xavier a jab, which pretty much fairly sums up that Xavier is oblivious and kind of a dick.

You must suck at this, Chuck.

You must suck at this, Chuck.

In New York, Juggernaut and She-Hulk are digging through the rubble of Liberty Island, trying to save a young girl apparently named “Medik” who is trapped in the rubble. It’s not explained who the girl is, why she’s on Liberty Island, or why she has a code-name, but it doesn’t really matter – they get to her a few seconds too late to save her life. I wonder if a name like Medik would mean healing powers – I should probably Google it. There’s probably a fan site to her somewhere. After all, someone out there likes everyone. Me, I loved Cypher back during the New Mutants days.

But after the tragic death of Medik, we flip back to Genosha where Magneto’s coffin has been laid out on a table (complete with tablecloth) an Xavier begins the funeral – or tries to, but Wolverine keeps interrupting him like a teenager trying to be funny. So with Genoshan survivors surrounding him, Wolverine – the man that killed their beloved leader – decides now is the time to break his silence and begin arguing against having the eulogy. Why Xavier even felt the need to bring Wolverine is a great mystery, as he could have been much more useful (and far less of an asshole) using his senses to for search and rescue in New York. But instead he gets to start a fight at a funeral. Oh well, at least he’s not crazy enough to kick over the coffin or anything…

Oh...

Oh…

So still arguing with Xavier, now with claws extended, Wolverine decides to stand on the body. This doesn’t sit well with the Genoshan’s present, who actually aren’t really even sure what they’ve shown up for and finally ask if that’s Magneto’s body that he’s standing on. Cue the fight scene…

…or don’t. Instead we hop over to Avengers mansion in Manhattan, which is completely untouched by the damage of Magneto, where Polaris, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch have decided to skip the rescue efforts of the destroyed city and instead have a spot of tea, I suppose because they don’t want to be associated with the man who destroyed the city. Of course, that would beg the long-since-answered question of “haven’t the Avengers already gotten over that connection?” and the long-since-answer is “Yes.” But we need Polaris to reveal to her siblings that she too is the daughter of Magneto, so here we are.

Back in Genosha, Wolverine fights the generic band of mutant henchmen while he continues his argument with Xavier, then decides to prove his point by scaling the enormous statue to Magneto built by Polaris out of the leftover Sentinel husk in the middle of the city. And he’s quick about it too – he manages to scale the entire thing in the span of one run-on sentence. He speaks of Magneto’s atrocities, which surprises the gathered crowd of Genoshan’s (apparently they never read the biography of their master) and then to prove his point, brings down the entire statue with a single swipe of his claws.

destroystatue

Let’s let the awful boon of logic interrupt this sequence. Wolverine’s claws tend to vary in length depending on who draws them, but realistically it’s safe to say that at their longest, they are about the length of his forearm. Being that they are made of Adamantium, making them longer would interfere with his ability to bend his elbow when they are sheathed. So take a look at your forearm – then line it up with a tower of some sort. Do you think you could cut down a tower with that length of blade? No, you wouldn’t. No rational human being would. But of course, this is Chuck Austen, and we needed a spectacle.

We’ll also ignore that the crowd, including Xavier, were at the foot of said tower (or at least a few feet away, since Wolverine made the distance and climbed it in one sentence) and all make it past the fall with no problem whatsoever.

So of all people, Toad is the one who decides he’s going to take Wolverine down, and gets a chunk cut out of his tongue for good measure. Me, I still can’t remember how he got the damn tongue power, but of course now he’s green, so it’s not like anyone else at the X-office cares either. Just as Wolverine is about to be the one who finally offs Toad, the Magneto Youth Trio (band name) show up with Polaris declaring that she’s going be “devil’s advocate”.

devilsadvocate

We’ll pause for a moment here to make mention of what “devil’s advocate” means. Let’s say you are making the argument that ice cream is delicious. If I wanted to play devil’s advocate, I would argue with you, saying that ice cream is not delicious, even though I agree with you. That makes me the devil’s advocate. So in Polaris’s case, this would mean that since Wolverine is arguing that a mass-murdering terrorist like Magneto doesn’t deserve any kind of human rights in response to his actions, she would argue the point or maybe even try to justify what he did. But you couldn’t do that, right? Not someone who has thrown in with Charles Xavier all this time, right? Well, this is crazy Lorna mode, so we’ll see. To the next issue!

Upon Polaris’s arrival, the Genoshan’s immediately begin bowing, declaring her queen of Genosha now that Magneto is dead, as he had named her his heir. Wolverine immediately chimes in that Polaris must be just like Magneto since she’s been acting ker-aaaaaazy lately. Xavier tries to explain that there’s more to it than philosophy, but Polaris strikes him down and then we get to the wonderful “lecture mode” that we all love so much about Chuck Austen’s X-Men. Like when we learned how horrible the Catholic Church is or how love (twue wuv) is the most important thing…until your girlfriend’s armor-clad family decides to kill yours.

Anywho, Polaris decides this is the good time to explain Stockholm Syndrome, which is where hostages form sympathy for their captors (it’s really not THAT simple), but Polaris decides that all theories are wrong, and instead it comes from a desire to be loved…

I would settle for a coherent story.

I would settle for a coherent story.

…then flips that and explains that she found her way with Magneto after Havok’s “death”, then begins saying that schools can cause this, which of course gets an argument from school teacher Charles Xavier, who says the school that causes that is dependant on the ones in charge. It is at this point that I realize that there is no real coherent point to this rambling, now about four pages in, and we’re just getting an author-laden lecture with a counter-point written in to keep it going. Polaris here is serving as the mouthpiece.

So with no point being made from the Stockholm Syndrome lecture, Polaris gets back on topic and begins justifying Magneto’s attack on New York as fair response to the destruction of Genosha. And honestly, it’s somewhat of a fair point. Whenever super-powers do something major, it’s a crime against humanity. But the slaughter of Genosha goes unnoticed because it happened to mutants. This seems to be little more than a lecture on American responses to global actions, but I may be looking into it too deeply. Anyway, her point is that crimes against humanity are screamed against, while legislation goes in to build weapons, like Sentinels, that eventually get used against them for horrific results. This really is a 2004 political statement.

Boo America!

Boo America!

So anti-Iraq…er-Genosha lecture aside, Polaris finally steps up and says what everyone was pretty much thinking around this point – Xavier’s dream is all well and good in principal, but when it comes down to it, the world will never accept it. Finally she asks, after all the horrors thrown down on mutants over time, was it so wrong for Magneto to attack New York, to show humanity the harm it has done to mutantkind?

This is really the first time I’m going to say this about Chuck Austen, but he actually has made a compelling argument for someone following Magneto to make, especially to Charles Xavier. And with her mental instability arc going on, Polaris actually was the best person present to make it – a longtime Xavier student who has suffered greatly for his dream. She demands respect, especially now that she’s Magneto’s daughter. There – praise. See? I’m a nice guy.

So Chuck goes off on a huge rant about how awful the acts of Magneto were and that he would never condone such violence as it only leads to more violence and nothing ever gets solved. Then he realizes that he’s been defending Magneto with this and Wolverine gets to laugh. Ha ha frickin’ ha, bub. He congratulates Lorna for her successful “devil’s advocate” but then she says that she wasn’t playing and then we go right back off the rails.

You see, since mutants were killed in Genosha, all the innocent people of New York were somehow complicit “knowingly or otherwise” and therefore deserved to die at Magneto’s hand. And your good point just goes straight to hell. So because of humans, Lorna says, Synch, Skin and Colossus are all dead.

Okay, let’s pause. Number one, Colossus is a very bad example here. Colossus died curing the Legacy Virus, which was created by Stryfe, who was a mutant (or a clone of a mutant). Saying that humans killed him would be saying that it was Moira MacTaggert who invented the cure which killed him, and she was human. But the Legacy Virus was certainly not the fault of humans.

So the other two examples are better, I suppose. Synch and Skin, BFFs from Generation X, were both killed by humans – the former getting blown up in bombs set by Emma Frost’s sister and the latter getting crucified back in Holy War. So yes, both killed by humans. But in the realm of characters to go nuts over for murder, Synch and Skin are d-listers at best. How about upping to the C-list and mention Cypher and Warlock, both killed by Cameron Hodge? How about Psylocke, murdered by Vargas (was Vargas a mutant? I can’t remember)?

A bit of an overreaction...

A bit of an overreaction…

And in her anger over the death of Synch (mirroring my own – I loved Everett), she decides to kill Charles Xavier, but then decides that’s a bad idea and everyone goes home, but not before using the magic of magnetism to rebuild the torn down monument into a new one featuring both a helmet-less Magneto and Xavier’s chrome dome standing side by side. Meaningless? Yes. But there you are.

Magnets are awesome.

Magnets are awesome.

Finally, Wolverine says goodbye and leaves with the others, and Professor X is left with the body (the table is now missing, if anyone cares) for the start of Excalibur. But really, the less said about that book the better. Trust me – I used to review it.

Next up, we continue the transitional period with Austen becoming the only non-Grant Morrison writer to get to use the New X-Men logo and demonstrates that he does not understand Morrison’s story whatsoever. See you then!

Missed a chapter?  Catch up with the guide to Chuck Austen’s X-Men!

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6 comments

  1. It’s awesome to see you continuing these, and it’s providing a public service. I have a couple of co-workers I’m introducing to the X-Men, and the Austen era represents a gap in my collection. I just won’t keep those things in the house. So thanks for taking the nostalgia bullet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would say “my pleasure” but I’m the one reading them. Seriously, though – thanks for reading! The feedback I’ve received on these totally makes the effort worth it!

      Like

  2. I just read all of these at the same time and this made my week! (Vargas was not a mutant, but a different offshoot of advanced human… never to be mentioned again)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Toad got his tongue in that X-Men Forever mini from the early 00’s. It was done so he would look like the movie character. In that same mini Mistique was changed also to look like the movies, but thankfully in her case it was forgotten.

    Like

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