Current Reviews


Uncanny X-Men #414

Posted: Monday, October 14, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Chuck Austen
Artist: Sean Phillips

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens on a farm outside of Fort Albany, Ontario, where we see a young boy destroys his home when his mutant ability to generate massive explosions manifests itself. We then look in on Charles Xavier, as we find him in a meeting with Jean-Paul Beaubier (aka. Northstar), and we see Xavier is offering him a teaching position at the Academy, but Northstar doesn't seem all that eager to join the cause. However he does agree to a second request, as he makes his way to the farm we saw in the opening sequence, to help the X-Men investigate what happened. As they discover the young mutant, and are on hand to witness the destructive & seemingly uncontrollable ability this child has, we see Northstar agrees to carry this child back to the X-Mansion. However, along the way we see the child's power slows Northstar's progress, and when the child explodes in midair, we see the two crash to the ground in a deeply wooded area. With the child injured, and his explosive power making it almost impossible for Northstar to transport him, we see Northstar is unwilling to admit defeat, and he's caught in the child's final explosion. We then see Jean-Paul wake up at the X-Mansion where he accepts Xavier's offer to join the X-Men.

While I have to admit that Puck was, and likely always will be my favorite member of Alpha Flight, Northstar has continually been a close second, as I've always been partial to any character within a team that acts as the group's rabble-rouser. I've enjoyed Hawkeye's time in the Avengers, Guy Gardner in the Blue & Gold Justice League & Quicksilver in Peter David's brief, but highly recommended run on X-Factor. Now Northstar is very much a part of this select group, as one has always gotten the impression that saving the world is a task that he is somewhat reluctant to do, as he dislikes the world & everyone who lives upon it. Northstar is also very much a loner hero who has been seemingly shackled into a team existence, as I think in the entire 130 issues of the original Alpha Flight series, the only cast member who he even attempted to treat like a like a fellow human being was his sister, and even then he played more of an overprotective father figure. Now I know the above description makes it sound like I didn't like the character, but it was these unlikeable elements that made the character work, as you could always count of Northstar to sour the mood of even the most happy of occasions.

You know given every villain that has ever managed to capture the X-Men has come up with some means of nullifying their mutant abilities, I'm starting to wonder why the X-Men have never quite figured out how to make one of their own. I mean didn't Forge actually invent an inhibiting collar for one of those evil government programs that are forever looking to take down the X-Men, so it's not one can say the X-Men haven't had access to the technology. The only reason I mention this is because this issue provides yet another story where the X-Men are faced with a problem where a mutant is being destroyed by their mutant power, and yet the X-Men once again have no way of dealing with this situation. I mean yes having the X-Men sporting technology that could nullify a mutant’s power would make for some rather unexciting encounters with evil mutants, and it would all but eliminate a story like this, but following on the heels of the Black Tom situation, one has to wonder why the X-Men continue to do things the hard way. I mean there's only so many time one can bang your head against a brick wall before you discover wearing a helmet while doing it would be a good idea.

Sean Phillips is a decent enough artist and given he's provided the art for seven of the past twelve issues, I tend to view him as this book's regular artist. Now his art doesn't exactly hold up too well when one looks over at the sister title & we see the work of detail-intensive artists like Phil Jimenez & Frank Quitely, but given this is a monthly title there is something to be said for an artist who looks to be able to meet the monthly deadlines, and unlike Igor Kordey, his New X-Men counterpart, Sean Phillips' work never looks rushed. Now I am a bit annoyed at the writing for coming up with a scenario that effective robbed Sean Phillips of the ability to show the reader how fast Northstar can move, but the explosive mutant gift of the young mutant, is well presented, and the art also does a great job capturing Northstar's arrogant nature. From the look of disgust that he sends Warren's way as he refuses to be bossed around, to his enraged expression as he refuses to concede defeat, the art does a very nice job conveying Northstar's abrasive, in spite of the work's seemingly limited range of expressions. As for the cover by Steve Uy, all I can say is the coloring/lighting work is pretty nice.

Final Word:
Northstar becoming a member of the X-Men is enough to make this issue a welcome sight, though Chuck Austen's ham-fisted handling of the idea that Northstar is gay left me a bit cold, as the conversation between Northstar & the young boy is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the head. Now I get that Northstar's sexual preference is a key part of the character, but I hope that it wasn't the only element that made Chuck Austen include him in the cast, as there is more to the character than this. Now part of my disappointment with this issue is due to the simple fact that the plot is decidedly simplistic, and the X-Men have faced the out-of-control mutant power scenario enough times, that it's become silly that they haven't come up with some method of dealing with it. Still, I'm glad to see Northstar back in a monthly title, and here's hoping he proves to be as big a jerk in the X-Men, as he was in Alpha Flight.

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