Or – “Blame Mela.”
One of the great joys of reading comics is finding a book that you’ve never considered that someone recommends highly. That, after all, is the reason why these Retro Reviews exist in the first place, but I especially enjoy it when the Faithful Spoilerites flip the script and tell ME about a book from their past, doubly so when the book in question was one I had never heard of. I might not have every delved into late 90s X-Men continuity without the heads-up, so your guess is as good as mine what happens next, but your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!
TEAM X 2000 #1
Writer: Sean Ruffner; D. G. Chichester [as A. Smithee]
Penciler: Kevin Lau
Inker(s): Sean Parsons; Marlo Alquiza; Caleb Salstrom [as Cabin Boy]
Colorist: Kevin Tinsley; Sean Ruffner
Letterer: Richard Starkings [as RS]; Comicraft; Albert Deschesne [as AD]
Editor: Ruben Diaz
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.50
Previously, in Team X 2000: Alan Smithee, for those in the know, is a pseudonym used by directors when they are unsatisfied with the finished product of their movies, a fact that Dan Chichester, film school graduate knew when he took a job at Marvel Comics. For several years, Dan (or D.G., as I remember him being credited) worked his way up the Marvel ladder, starting with the Shadowline imprint (home of Doctor Zero, St. George and other characters that nobody has revived yet) and eventually making his way to the front lines as the writer of Daredevil.. When news came down the comics grapevine that he had been replaced on the title while in mid-storyline, Chichester requested an ‘Alan Smithee’ credit on those books in protest. Several years later, this book arrived, though it remains to be seen WHY the writer chose to remain anonymous… Also, X-Men blah blah blah license to print money in the 1990s fishcakes. We start our tale in space with the X-Man Bishop and Shi’ar mercenary Deathbird trapped in an alien shuttlecraft, where they’ve been for several months after being lost during an off-world X-Men mission. “Bishop… I had the dream again,” says Deathbird…
For an X-Men book of the time period, this issue is remarkably weird, as Deathbird explains her dream, and how she thinks it’s a vision from her goddess, Sharra, while Bishop tries to teach her to play chess. It’s a thoughtful opening, one full of character, although I can find several vaguely disturbing implications in Deathbird’s dream of murder, hunger and sibling rivalry. Bishop shares my skepticism about dreams from Sharra, as well…
Apparently, sometime earlier, Bishop gave in to the charms of pretty golden bird-lady, and she is trying to convince him to be her consort, ruling the galaxy together as
father and son mutant king and birdy queen, going so far as to inform him that he should be “honored” at her interest in him.
Why is there a giant Star Of David in outer space? Ask Alan Smithee! As for Dwayne “The Rock” Bishop and Deathbirda Von Teese, they find the stargate (Oh, NOW I get it!) to be a boon, especially as a group of pirates appears out of nowhere to chase them through it, as if on cue. Sadly, the other side of the gate isn’t any safer, as their tiny ship is sucked into the hold of a “behemoth-class” warship. Meanwhile, on The Planet Of The Apes…
“You mutant bastards! You finally did it!” The manga stylings of the art in this issue are something of a pleasant surprise for me, but it seems to work with the unusual story, emphasizing the alien nature of things. (For all I know, this is what ALL X-books looked like circa 1998, though, so that may just be my perception of things.) In any case, we find that Earth has fallen to the Shi’ar Empire, the new empress has taken the Angel as her king, and all seems to be lost. Also, the empress is NOT Deathbird’s sister Lilandra. Bishop and Deathbird’s ship is boarded, and she immediately responds with swift and blinding violence! She also gets knocked the $&@# out in seconds…
For the last few years, I’ve had a thought rumbling around in the back of my head, and this issue finally puts it into concrete terms: I don’t like Bishop without his giant Jheri curl mullet. For some reason, without it, he is kind of humorless and brutal, little more than Cable with a different skin tone. More on that later, as Deathbird is taken into custody and delivered to the Empress as tribute, where certain mysteries of identity unfold, while Bishop is chucked in the disgusting hellish Shi’ar prison.
Thank Sharra that X-characters often speak in the third person, because these kind of stories would be nearly impenetrable otherwise! But, how can the mighty Juggernaut have fallen so low? And how can Earth have fallen to the Shi’ar in the few months that Bishbird (their messageboard ‘shipper name) have been missing? And why hasn’t someone been naked yet? Oh, right…
Is it just me, or is the handmaiden on the right clearly from Tamaran? Deathop (alternate version used in French message boards) take the time to enjoy a sultry tag-team bubble bath (during which the colorist makes the interesting choice to draw in Bishop’s skivvies, notable since the colorist is the co-writer!) while Empress Alanna consults with her seer, who informs her that having the support of Deathbird will only strengthen her iron-handed rule, which is a bit shaky since EVERYONE HATES HER GUTS.
Also, she’s telepathic. While her royal highness introduces Deshothbip (only used in Scandinavia and Finland) to the downtrodden people of Earth, a couple of strangers arrive from the crowd, ready to play Freedom Fighter!
My first thought is “YAY! It’s The Falcon!” Followed quickly by, “WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO THE FALCON?” This story may take place during one of the periods when Sam Wilson’s bird-communicating powers was considered a full-on mutant membership card (something that I think Ed Brubaker may have nerfed after the turn of the century.) Things go pear-shaped quickly, and The Falcon dies in battle with Sauron, the empress’ pet enforcer, while BishNBird are taken to the secret underground lair of the Morlocks!
Wh… Why does he wear an eyepatch over his mask? Wouldn’t the visual of the Patch persona have been equally effective at conveying “This is Wolverine!” For that matter, for an alternate future dystopian hell, they all have pristine spandex suits, don’t they? And also, it’s Jubilee! Before anyone can ask why they call her Vertigo, Wolverine and Cable inform Bishop of the whole truth: It’s the future, y’all! And all the heroes are dead! And the new empress is the offspring of Lilandra and the late Charles Xavier! And Doctor Doom is on their side now! And the humans are slaves! It’s like a combination of ‘Days Of Future Past,’ ‘House Of M,’ ‘Planet Of The Apes’ and just a smidge of ‘Ilsa, She-Wolf Of The S.S.’ Luckily, there is a weak link in the Empress’ crack security team, one Adrian Toomes, aka The Vulture.
I don’t remember a lot about 90s comics, but Vulch looks awfully young here, especially given that he was in HIS nineties at the time, and this would put him well into the triple-digit ranger. Wolverine’s team breaks into the palace, leading to Auntie/Niece combat, while Bishop pits his power-absorption against the similar power of Sauron.
Cable and company leave Bishop behind, while The Angel reveals his own true colors to save Longshot, while the Shi’ar combat ritual continues in the throne room… Will Deathbird’s savage offense overcome Alanna’s telepathy?
It better, we only have a couple pages left in the book! Before Deathbird can live up to her name, Bishop arrives to save her from her berzerker rage with a kiss. (In a very cute touch, we see her standing on tippy-toes to even reach his mouth, a flat-out “Awww!” moment for me.) Bethopard re-embark their ship and set off for the warp zone
save point Star-Of-David-Gate, hoping that their next leap… will be the leap home. (Why this would work is kind of left up to the reader’s imagination, though.)
I love the fact that the creative team ended with such an obvious sequel hook, too. Part of me wonders if, given the timeframe just a couple of years after Age Of Apocalypse, if they weren’t trying to create another alternate/future/whatever world for the X-Men to play in. Ever since this book was brought to my attention in a Twitter conversation a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been trying to analyze what exactly it was meant to be. The use of The Falcon, (however briefly) The Vulture and Doc Doom made it feel a little different from the average X-crossover, and the weirdness of the central character pairing is charming enough to give this a boost past “just another one-shot status” for me. I found myself enjoying the manga-style art and even the characteristically garish 1999 coloring works for me. In short, Team X 2000 #1 may have been forgotten, but at the very least it wasn’t awful, entertaining me to the point where I won’t be torturing the one who recommended it to me (too much), and will award it 3 out of 5 stars.
Oh, darn it! I forgot to use Deathshop!
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!