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Uncanny X-Men #418

Posted: Monday, February 3, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Chuck Austen
Artist: Kia Asamiya

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens in the Academy infirmary where we see Annie is busy discussing her rather creepy obsession with a comatose Havok with her son. However, when her son attempts to use his mutant gift to wake up Havok, we see the young child is stricken with the same ailment that keeps Havok from waking up. However, Annie's pleas to Havok to release her son are impeded by the arrival of Polaris, who is in full "I'm a deranged lunatic" mode, and as it would appear Lorna's able to roam the grounds of the Academy unsupervised. Meanwhile, we see the X-Men are in a bit of a spot, as while Northstar races the injured Wolverine back to the Mansion, and attempts to secure some reinforcements, we see Husk & Archangel are left behind to battle an army of werewolves. However these aren't ordinary werewolves, but rather they are a collection of mutants who believe they occupy the next rung on the evolutionary ladder, and as such it is them and not mutants who shall rule the planet. After a brief battle we see Husk is seriously injured, and when Warren's efforts to fly them back to the Mansion are impeded by his own injuries, we see the two collapse in a heap, and it would appear that Husk has died as a result of her injury.

Comments:
Aside from her connection to Sam Guthrie (aka. Cannonball), I never found Paige to be all that interesting a character. In fact one of the main reasons I left "Generation X" after Chris Bachalo moved on was due to a general lack of interest in the title's cast. I'm telling you this so you don't get the idea that my annoyance is spurred by any attachment to the character, but rather my problem is that the "shocking" death of Paige Guthrie is that it rates as one of the most undramatic death scenes I've ever seen in the page of a comic. In fact about the only surprise this "death" managed to deliver was when I came across an interview where Chuck Austen stated he had killed Paige, as the book is utterly lacking any sense that we are being treated to an important event. The death is without purpose which is never a good sign, as while pointless deaths are a fact of life, from a simple entertainment sense one would hope a writer would recognize the value of actually having the hero accomplishing something before they kill them off. There's also the little details like Warren's being seemingly unable to send out a psychic S.O.S. to the half-dozen telepaths who currently reside at the Academy, or the fact that Paige doesn't even make an attempt at saving herself.

You know things are getting a bit worrisome when you start to notice story elements are starting to bear a resemblance to ones found in Chris Claremont's second run on the X-Men books, as the idea of a group of mutants believing themselves to be on an even higher rung of the evolutionary ladder was one of the primary plots of that confusing mess of issues. Now I'm not saying that Chuck Austen is stealing ideas, but if he is then he should at least pick a better source than it would appear he's chosen. The simple fact of the matter is that the villains of this arc do little more than brag about how powerful they are, and while they managed to take down Wolverine, the furious backpedaling that is done to placate Wolverine fans is incredibly difficult to miss, and when the writer starts making excuses for why the villains have any measure of success, one has to be a little concerned. It also doesn't help that the villains never really emerge beyond their surface descriptions, and as a result they are fundamentally dull opponents. We also get a odd little scene in this issue where we see a mentally disturbed Polaris is apparently allowed to walk unsupervised through the grounds of the Academy, where she can apparently attack staff members without drawing any notice.

The art of Kia Asamiya isn't quite as impressive as the buildup it received, but it's perfectly serviceable in terms of how it delivers the story. The art does a pretty solid job of conveying the sense of desperation that is felt by Annie as she fights against Polaris, and while the villains of this story aren't all that interesting, from a visual sense they are quite effective, as they remind me of Bill Sienkiewicz's Demon Bear from his New Mutant issues. The tilted panel work, and the heavy shadows also do a nice job of giving the attack scenes a nice horror movie feel. Now I can't say I care much for his design sense as none of the previous costumes have really won me over, and this issue only serves to continue the trend by have Polaris show off his new look, and while the visual representation of her powers is impressive, the floating cloth halo, and the cape rob the character of her ability to appear all that dangerous. There's also Warran's "I've just been hit upside the head with a shovel" expressions, and the fact that every moment where the characters are suppose to be upset, we get the ever familiar open mouthed shout of enraged fury, which is far too extreme a reaction in a couple of instances.

Final Word:
Good writing acknowledges problems that would impede their stories & fashion stories that work with these obstacles in mind. Bad writing on the other hand simply delivers its story regardless of the material that directly conflicts with it, and hopes that the readers won't look too closely, or ask any questions. So when Warren is in dire need of aid, does he call out for help? So when Paige is cut, does she take on a more malleable form where she could fuse herself back together? So when Polaris starts her insane performance does anyone in the school take notice of it? Of course the answer to all these questions is no because the answer yes would rob the material of its artificially inflated attempts at generating tension. However, the writing's failure to address these fairly important points is only part of the problem, as the simple fact of the matter is that this story is unable to convince me that it's doing anything all that important, and given this issue features the death of Paige Gurthie, there's something very wrong with this picture.



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