By Adam P. Knave
I agreed to do this. I did this willingly. When Steve looked around for people willing to write about a comic issue that featured Darkstar I raised my hand. There were no second guesses, no thoughts of regret on the horizon. No, I felt excited. Because I remember Darkstar but not well. She’s not a character I’ve run into all that much, when it comes down to it. So an excuse to delve a bit deeper felt like fun.
And then Steve hit me upside the skull with the 90s.
I need to say this out front: Joe Pruett is in no way a bad writer. A writer of the times, though? Yup. And at the time, the X-Books were still trying to frantically cling to the bones of Claremontism, which means there are more words per page going on in this opening than… a thing that has too many words per page.
I grew up with Claremont’s X-Men, myself. Big fan: when I was twelve. And in my time since then I’ve learned, deeply, that stuffing a page full of dialogue and captions and all just manages to clutter the art, make a letterer weep, and lose a certain elegance. It isn’t comics in its purest form where you have the art and the writing collaborating and spinning each other along to tell a unified story. Instead it ends up feeling like the comic is fighting itself.
Into this let us add Darkstar. She doesn’t enter until page six of this comic, which means the comic itself is, by default, inferior, containing five entire Darkstar-free pages at the outset. But that’s fine. Because then page six happens. Gambit gets hit by Darkstar’s… well… by the art, I would have to guess her new wind powers? But don’t worry about it, because then Storm starts to ask Beast if that is who she thinks it is.
Good ‘ol Hank then gives us seventy-five words, in four balloons, explaining who Darkstar works for; what they are; what other teams she’s been a member of; what X-Men were also on that team and why; what Hank himself was up to when that was happening; that she’s a mutant; and what her powers are. I’m tired just thinking about it.
Anyway, the art (in full Liefeldian form from a young Booth) continues to fight the script, as an endless amount of words explains what the art is showing you, while at the same time, being so dense that it has to cover up tons of the art, thus necessitating having to tell you, since the art is no longer clear. I guess that makes sense, somehow. Kind of.
Oh, and Hank then stops to tell Darkstar who he is, and why she should know him (name checking the Champions again), and reminding her that Angel and Iceman were on the team when she was. Again. Because even though she was five feet from him when he gave his last speech, he wanted to be two inches from her this time to make sure she heard… does Beast think Darkstar has hearing problems? Along with her new wind powers (that are just an art gaffe)?
I am learning so much today about Darkstar you guys!
So anyway Jean clears Darkstar’s mind, because she was being controlled by the bad guys, which is why she attacked in the first place. I call shenanigans. She attacked because Hank would not shut up. ANY-whooooo! She teleports them and then page twelve sees the villains all in shadow-and-menace-lighting telling us, for a whole page, basically a recap of the previous eleven pages. Well, mostly the previous Darkstar containing pages because even they don’t really care about those five Darkstarless bits.
They fight some Mandroid-type things, and then meet the big bad of the issue who is named… I am not joking here…The Black Death. He then spends two entire pages telling us about himself, and then telling the X-Men and Darkstar about himself, at length… oh lord the length… and uhm… no one moves to take him down or anything. They are polite and let him finish.
The next time any of you wonder what the School teaches them? Manners. They get taught manners. Learn some.
The Black Death hypnotizes the X-Men – except for Hank, who I guess Deathy wants to use the crush his enemies with super-loquaciousness? Whatever. Hank says sure, they can go have an exposition-off and kill each other I guess, and the X-Men are put into cages and trapped in mental prisons. And, look, Jean Grey is there, you know how this goes, right? She breaks free, as does Storm… blahblahblah the X-Men are freed in under a page.
So Jean threatens the guy and Black Death is a million percent “Cool, coolcoolcool” and then…nothing happens, so Hank zaps him with a taser disc and the X-Men go on for about sixteen hundred words about how they have prevailed and go home.
I was reading this issue for Darkstar, and I have to be honest with you: she’s the only really interesting bit in this story, and she isn’t interesting in this story.
All I really came away with was knowing, all too well, that she was in the Champions – you know, with Angel and Ice-Man, back in the day, did you know that? Because it gets said a few times. In case you didn’t know that. Because you should know that. For reasons. Like maybe go read old Champions issues instead of this and you’ll think Darkstar is cool, instead of some teleporter who fires black energy blasts, has wind powers and is hard of hearing.
This wasn’t my remit but damn it, Steve, you made me totally dislike Hank McCoy right now!
X-Men Unlimited #28: A Plague Among Us
Written by Joe Pruett
Pencilled by Brett Booth with Ron Lim
Inked by Sal Regla and Derek Mei
Coloured by Marie Javins
Lettered by Sharpefont & PT/JC Letters
When not falling into my traps, Adam P. Knave is a writer, editor and half-reformed critic best known as co-writer of comics including the Amelia Cole series and The Once & Future Queen. You can find his site here, and his twitter page here!
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