Jul 4, 2016

Jubilee: The X-Tinction of Storytelling

Jubilee: A Detailed Introduction to an X-Men Legend
Part 4 – The X-Tinction of Storytelling
Back Issue Ben
Ben Smith

The early ‘90s were an interesting time to be a comic book fan. A new crop of superstar artists had taken the medium by storm, despite how little substance their books had under all that style. The first vestiges of the speculator boom were beginning to take shape, with retailers often marking up brand new books for even the most superficial of reasons. It was in this environment that brand new characters like Jubilee and Gambit debuted, and quickly became multimedia stars thanks to the X-Men animated series.

Nothing encapsulates that time period quite like the massive crossover event, the X-Tinction Agenda. The story had something to do with Genosha and Cameron Hodge blah blah blah pretty pictures. The cover to part one of the event, featuring Havok cutting loose, is one of my favorite X-Men covers of all time, so when I bought the digital collection a few years back, I really really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a spectacular mess. Consider this: despite our collective shame over making Rob Liefeld a superstar artist, he’s not even the worst artist on this crossover. That honor goes to Bogdanove. Despite transcendent talents like Claremont and Louise Simonson, the youngsters had taken over, and the results were not good.

In honor of the lack of story in X-Tinction Agenda, here are some pretty pictures to look at.

Here’s a fairly famous half-splash of Wolverine, Jubilee, and Psylocke by Jim Lee.



Say what you will about Jim Lee, but there wasn’t anything like him in comics at this time. He was a superstar for a reason. Unfortunately, I think all those guys learned that they sold a ton of books no matter how hard they worked, so why spend extra time agonizing over a page? Also, when you can sell splash pages of your original art for 5 times the amount of a panel page, why not make the whole issue splash pages? Jim Lee was still putting in top-notch work at this point, not succumbing to any of the questionable posing and suspect anatomy that would plague his work later on.

This might be the first instance of Claremont’s famous “focused totality of my telepathic powers” line from Psylocke.



Here’s a Rob Liefeld Jubilee.




And another one, where she’s apparently developed powers that make her sprout yellow peacock feathers.



I’m not one of those guys that likes to pile onto the Liefeld hate train, but how in the hell did we make this guy a superstar? There certainly have been worse artists to work in comics, but the ratio of bad drawing to popularity has never been as high as it was here. It’s one of the bigger regrets we have in the history of American society.

Here’s a tease of what would have been a pretty spectacular fight between Wolverine and Archangel.



Unfortunately, it didn’t really go anywhere. I don’t know how, in a book all about the visuals, you fail to provide more of the most interesting thing possible in the story.

I remember when X-Tinction Agenda came out. I remember going to the comic book store and trying to get every chapter of the crossover, but it was hard because all the issues were marked up beyond cover price. Except the Bogdanove issues; nobody wanted those (that’s not a joke). I don’t even know if I was still reading the comics at this point, but I was still a collector, and the X-Men had already replaced Spider-Man as my favorite franchise. Incidentally, it wouldn’t be that much longer before I took my first extended break from comics.

Following X-Tinction Agenda, the X-Men were finally (mostly) back together as a complete unit. Uncanny X-Men #273 dealt with all these characters sharing the same living space, as rendered by an all-star lineup of artists. (Some people may not realize that John Byrne reunited with Claremont on the X-Men for a 3-page sequence in this issue.)

Jubilee was having trouble adjusting to being a member of a larger team, and not just Wolverine’s loyal sidekick, while Wolverine and Gambit were fighting to see which one was going to be the team’s loose cannon.



Following that, in #274, Rogue and Magneto were romping around the Savage Land half-naked (and probably doing some full-naked touching after hours) while the X-Men were launched into another space epic via Lila Cheney.



There are few costume periods I’ve hated as much as I hated the matching yellow thong uniform era of the X-Men. It may have been what drove me from comics for good.



In the giant-sized #275, Jubilee finds herself in the middle of yet another titanic struggle between the X-Men and Deathbird, with the Starjammers and Shiar running around somewhere no doubt. (Jubilee just isn’t Jubilee without the yellow raincoat.)



In the following issue, the two newest X-Men finally find the missing Professor Xavier, but something is very very wrong with him.



The two rookies are severely overmatched by the false Xavier and the Shiar.

There’s pretty much no way I’m going to read this storyline, but Jubilee’s one-liners are still on-point.

Uncanny X-Men #278 sees the X-Men returning to Muir Isle, as rendered by guest artist Paul Smith (clearly a rush job).

In #279, Gambit beats up on the teenage girl for, as far as I can tell, having a smart mouth.



Wolverine lets it happen.

That’s about as far as I can go, because now we’re getting into early Andy Kubert art, and that is about when the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia get removed for me on the X-Men.

Like I’ve said before, the siren call of girls began to call ever so louder for me at this point in my life. At some point I realized I wasn’t exactly enjoying any of the comics I was reading. I’m sure I assumed I had outgrown them, but it turns out the comics just weren’t any good. They were certainly pretty, at the time, but the stories were getting increasingly more awful, and the X-books were at the forefront of that trend, along with Spider-Man. Thankfully I bailed ship before things got even worse in the years ahead.

Next week, I try to avoid the ‘90s as much as possible!




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