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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 84: Gambit and the X-Ternals #2

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Gambit and the X-Ternals #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1995. Enjoy!

Seriously?

Man. Coming right in the middle of the Decade of Excess (or X-Cess, I suppose), the Age of Apocalypse gave us the most Ninetiesest story and art in a period of X-Treeeeemmmm COMIX, and Gambit and the X-Ternals was shining example of it. Fabian Nicieza, who wrote this issue, doesn’t have much to do – he tells us that the group is no longer on Earth both with the caption box and with Jubilee’s “Where the heck are we?!!” question, but that’s about it. He’ll make up for it, though – fret not!

It’s Tony Daniel’s glorious artwork that we need to consider here (this was before he got all highbrow and added his middle initial to his name, like he does these days). It’s not just Daniel’s pencil work that makes this so very Nineties, however. I don’t know who inked this page (the issue has three inkers – Kevin Conrad, Al Milgrom, and Mike Christian), but there certainly are a lot of lines, aren’t there? Plus, Chris Eliopoulos is lettering this in the X-Treeeeemmmmest way – colored bubble letters were a big trend back in those days. But let’s get back to Daniel’s art, along with Marie Javins’s coloring (Digital Chameleon separated the colors). It’s a splash page, so we don’t need to worry about Daniel’s storytelling techniques, because he’s not trying to tell a story, just give us a big impact to begin the comic. So let’s go around the horn, starting with Jubilee (we learn all these characters’ names within a few pages, so even though we might not know them if we’re just picking this up randomly, bear with me). She’s clearly Asian, which is always nice, and she has the glossy lips that always look weird on minors in comics. She’s wearing what appear to be Peter Pan slippers, but hey, that’s comics. She’s squarely on the back of Guido, not on his shoulders, which works because Guido appears to be a hunchback. His tiny head sits between massively deformed arms, and his open mouth shows the millions of teeth which every comic book character appeared to have at this time. His hand, you’ll note, is bigger than his head, which is just freaky. Over what passes for his shoulder is Rictor, also with his mouth agape, also with a smallish head (not as small as Guido’s, but still) in the middle of giant shoulders, plus what looks like two (2) ponytails (in a few pages, we’ll see that he does indeed have two ponytails). He’s so X-Treeeeemmmm! he needs TWO MOTHERFUCKING PONYTAILS!!!!!! Behind and above him (balancing on his tail bone?) is Lila Cheney, who’s naked for some reason (I have not read this series since it came out, so I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason for her to be nude). Her giant hair towers above her (because why not?), and her waist is so tiny Guido could wrap one hand around it, I’d think. I’m not sure where the shadow to cover her breasts is coming from, unless it’s from a giant CCA stamp floating off-panel above her somewhere. Moving on, we get Sunspot, who’s awesome, frankly. His hair is all crackly, and his transformation into his Sunspot persona can’t hide his awesome mask thing. He’s not surprised, he’s full of rage! as we can see from his gritted teeth (in the Nineties, gritted teeth meant you were serious about kicking ass!). He has muscles on his muscles, from his bulging neck to his massive chest, and he’s twisted in such a way that his belt buckle faces the reader even though we’re seeing a side view. Finally, there’s Gambit. Oh, Gambit. Look at that scrub-brush hair! Look at those red eyes! Look at those glove things that extend up his arms! Look at those boots and knee pads! Look at that superfluous ribbon wrapped around his right leg! Look at those dagger things that he’s holding in his right hand with no effort whatsoever, glowing with that purple special effect! Man.

Would this get you to keep reading the book? Beats me. I bought the whole damned series, so who am I to judge? It’s energetic, I suppose, much like the rest of the issue. Still … if you’re trying to explain the 1990s to a comic book fan who missed the decade, you could just show them this page and say, This. And they would nod ruefully. C’est la vie, my friends. C’est la vie.

Next: Another X-book?!?!? Well, I do own a lot of them. Sorry! The archives have many non-mutant books, I promise!

15 Comments

Hey man, AoA freaking ROCKED!!! Seriously, though, it did. Still the best X-Men cross-over ever (and it does have some good competition like Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, X-Cutioner’s Song, etc.). However, to be fair, I agree with G. Kendall from Not Blog X – this was the weakest of the AoA books. At this point, Tony Daniels’ Image look was dated in the X-books and the book just never seemed to flow right as a narrative. Plus, you have the aforementioned problem of too many inkers, plus halfway through Daniels got replaced by an inexperienced Sal Larroca. Of all the AoA books, I would have went with Astonishing, but maybe that’s just me (I do love me some Joe Mad!)

Oh man, now THAT was a writeup. Whew!

I think there’s something about hands being bigger than heads that’s done to help convey action and stuff, but I can’t remember the details. I think Kirby did it, but much much better.

AoA was great. except the stuff they did after then shoe horned into it. and the shitty ten year anniversary.
though remender’s return to it was awesome

You know, the 90′s was the decade I grew up in so I’ve got a weak spot…. but damn that just don’t look right. Anatomy was not the watchword of the day.

That said I loved the Age of Apocalypse with all my adolescent heart. For my money Generation X’s spin off into Generation Next produced the most awesome result. Shit was epic.

A little homage to Uncanny #137 there. This was by far the dumbest of the AoA books. Really horrible art too.

Anonymous and Sean: Yeah, I bought almost all the AoA books, too, and I still think it’s pretty good. Generation Next was a really good mini-series, and the others were pretty decent. This one, unfortunately, is probably the worst one. Oh well!

I have to say, my first thought looking at that page was, “Wow, and this is a comic you OWN. Like, that you paid money for.”

I should follow that up by saying that I bought every issue of Team America and Crystar, Crystal Warrior, so I’m not exactly throwing stones. Just expressing my awe.

Hey, I just recently picked this one up, in an attempt to finally get all the AoA stuff. Cuz I liked it. I just forgot that the art looked like this.

I liked that one issue where Guido up above fought Batman. I think Frank Miller drew it.

I had completely forgotten that Tony Daniel drew this.

This series rocked.

buttler: I own PLENTY of comics that even I wonder about. As I’ve noted, before about 2000, I was far more interested in superheroes and it didn’t feel like I was getting ripped off with comics. Even this issue was PACKED with content. It might not have been good, but at least you felt like you were getting your money’s worth!

This is exactly the sort of book that pushed me away from mainstream american comics during the ’90s, which had the added benefit of allowing me to explore far superior european stuff like Blueberry, Torpedo, Ranxerox, Arzach and Superwest. It would be a decade before I’d be interested in mainstream american comics again, and every time I see pages like the one featured here I’m filled with relief for having avoided this turdstorm.

Don’t get me wrong: if you liked this overscratched muscular-hypertrophy style, more power to you; when I was 13 I liked KISS so I’m in no position to judge anyone’s tastes. But to me that artistic “style” is the equivalent of fingernails scratching across a blackboard.

@ HammerHeart
And THIS is the kind of sentiment I’d like to see more often from people who don’t like something when it comes to comics – “hey, we have different opinions, but that’s fine.” Way too often I see elitists who make it their mission to be as snarky and insulting as possible, as if their tastes are objectively good and anyone who likes stuff like this are objectively bad. There’s nothing I hate more when it comes to comics than when my personal taste in something is insulted by some high-brow elite who only knows how to be funny when he can find the billionth way to essentially say “Rob Liefeld sucks”

If you don’t like something, then that’s your prerogative, but leave the snark and the judgement at the door please.

I, too, am a huge AofA fan (I think I voted it 4th or 5th in the top storylines poll awhile back), and I think it was the pinnacle of what the x-books were capable of when done right. That said, I agree that Gambit was the weakest of the 8 minis (Generation Next and Astonishing X-Men–2 Lobdell books!–were the strongest), and I’ve never liked Tony Daniel’s art. While I don’t know whether the inks here are by Conrad or Christian, I can pretty well guarantee they’re not Milgrom.

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