Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Warren attempting to lay out his plan for dealing with the Vanisher & the drug that this villain is marketing that temporarily grants ordinary humans mutant abilities, though this drug also has a ridiculously high death rate among its users. However, we see Warren's careful planning finds itself at odds with the more direct approach that Wolverine is eager to enact, as Warren's efforts have discovered where the Vanisher is holed up, and Wolverine wants to pay the man a visit. We then see that Warren is able to get Logan to back down, and we see his plan has Stacy X paying the Vanisher a visit & she uses her abilities to put the man out of commission for two weeks. During these two weeks we see Warren uses his financial might to seize control of the Vanisher's drug empire, and he pays his new employees not to produce the drug. As the Vanisher returns to find all his work has been destroyed by the X-Men, we see him attempt to escape to fight another day, but Iceman steps in to ensure that the Vanisher stays put. We also see Nightcrawler has himself a disturbing encounter with the Church of Humanity, where he learns the mutant hating group have a vested interest in his welfare.
This issue brings Joe Casey's sixteen issue run on the book to a close, and much like most final issues we're treated to a mad dash by its writer to tie up any loose ends that might've been left dangling. However Joe Casey continues a fine tradition that the X-books have engaged in for decades by leaving most of his plots free to be picked up by a future writer, as the Church of Humanity's appearance in this issue is little more than a refresher piece to remind readers that this group is still out there, and Nightcrawler's crisis of faith is left pretty much unresolved. Even the main threat involving the Vanisher & his lethal drug that grants its users temporary mutant gifts is given a fairly ambiguous finish, as the drug still exists as does the ability to produce more of it. As it stands this issue is a pretty much indicative of why Joe Casey's work on this book never grabbed me, as his material has an almost listless quality to it, as the threats & the X-Men's reactions to them have a hands off quality to them. This issue also has Wolverine making the observation that this book requires solutions that involve a whole lot of standing around looking cool while others get their hands dirty.
Let me see if I fully understand Warren's "cunning" plan for dealing with the drug problem. Unlike most plans Warren's method involves paying the people who run the targeted drug operation to not produce the product. In effect instead of halting the operation in its tracks & removing its ability to create more product, Warren's plans hinges entirely on the idea that the people working in this industry are going to keep their word. Now the idea that the drug did seem to kill most of its users likely played a big role in Warren's offer receiving such a positive response, as this would cut down on the word of mouth trade among the drugs users, and I'm sure this flaw in the drug was noticed by its disturbers. However what's to stop these people from using what is basically a payoff by Warren to provide them with the time & funding they needed to correct this defect, and start up production again once they discover they could make more money selling the corrected version of the drug. It just seems like this plan is more of a holding pattern than a final solution, and it relies far too much on the greed of these people being entirely sated by the payments that Warren is offering them.
Sean Phillips does a nice job detailing the ideas that the issue calls upon the art to express, as the scene where Nightcrawler discovers why the basement of that church played host to a series of drug overdoses made for a powerful visual moment, as did the arrival of the Church of Humanity on the following page. The scene where Stacy X puts the Vanisher on the shelf for a couple weeks is also a fun sequence, as the panel where he's sent into his zoned out state was nicely set up by Stacy X's look of disgust in the previous panels. This issue also finally gets around to showing us Bobby in action, as his solo effort in the restaurant is impressive presentation of his power, though the shot of his frozen attackers does leave one to wonder if these people are still alive, despite Bobby's assurances that they are. I also rather enjoyed the panel layout design that Sean Phillips uses on this issue, as when we get a scene change he uses a narrow panel running vertically up the left, or right side of the page to deliver the establishing shot. My only real complaint about the art would have to be Nightcrawler's Bart Simpson style hair, as it makes the character look rather goofy.
Joe Casey's run on this series is notable for his seeming reluctance to actually involve the cast in threats that actually endangered the group, as this issue plays nicely into this pattern as we see Warren's plan for dealing with the Vanisher & his lethal drugs is largely centered around back room wheeling & dealing instead of direct conflict. Now I'm all for a writer trying to shake up the standardized format of how a story plays out, but truth be told I can't say I found the solution that Warren comes up with all that credible, as what's keeping these people from simply taking the money he gives them & setting up shop at another location. Wolverine's approach may have been simplistic, but it would've offered up a more rewarding finish, not to mention a fair sight more entertaining adventure than what we did get. As for Nightcrawler's encounter with the Church of Humanity, it only served to further reinforce my belief that this is a poorly conceived & executed idea, and here's hoping it never resurfaces again.
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