Reviewer: Jesse Baker
Story Title: Hope Parts 1-3
Written by: Chuck Austen
Penciled by: Ron Garney
Inked by: NA
Colored by: Hi-Fi Colors
Lettered by: Comicraft
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Once upon a time the prodigal son Joe Casey returned to Marvel Comics to write Uncanny X-Men. Unfortunately for fans of Joe Casey, his return was a huge failure on multiple layers and he eventually quit the title after around 17 issues. To replace him, Marvel brought the “Prince of Crap” known as Chuck Austen to take over. While he would start out innocent enough soon his crappiness would be shown and drown the book in a sea of mediocrity the likes of which have never been seen before. So does his first arc “Hope” stand-up as being at the very least quasi-readable?
Uncanny X-Men #410
The book starts with the introduction of Sammy “The Squidboy”. Sammy is a mutant who’s physical form is that of a fish and needless to say he gets tormented by his fellow classmates. After getting spit on by the neighborhood kids, Sammy goes to his treehouse and calmly gets his gun out. Sadly before Sammy can go out to go Columbine on his fellow kids, his mom calls him into the backyard. Waiting for him is Professor Charles Xavier! And Beast! They’ve come to take Sammy away to the wonderful world of the X-Mansion!
We cut to the X-Men as they are flying out to a mission. The roster includes: Wolverine, Angel, Stacy X, M, Iceman, and Nightcrawler. We learn that Chamber has left the team and that the X-Men are on their way to Scotland to investigate a weakening mutant signal. After the standard character introduction roll-call, the plan is attacked by fireballs. The X-Men jet plane is hit and M is knocked out of the plane as it crashes at a nearby castle.
We cut back to Sammy’s home as he gets told of all of the goodies waiting for him to at the X-Mansion. Sammy gets on Xavier’s jet as he is ordered to turn over his gun and find a seat to sit in as they fly off to start Sam’s new life. Xavier then tries to contact his X-Men as he finds the team in deep deep trouble: M’s been knocked clear of the wreckage, Wolverine’s been impaled, Angel isn’t breathing, and Iceman is still in the plane wreckage. Nightcrawler and Stacy are the only two X-Men awake and lucid as Stacy freaks out over Angel being near death. Xavier temporarily takes over Stacy’s mind as he tries to save Angel as the Juggernaut comes out to survey the wreckage.
Uncanny X-Men #411
Xavier loses contact with his X-Men as Juggernaut attacks Kurt and Stacy. Luckily Iceman escapes the wreckage in time to create an ice wall between the two and Juggernaut, a wall Juggernaut immeadiately breaks. Juggernaut sarcastically asks what Iceman was thinking with that as he removes the wooden spike impaled into Wolverine’s chest. Iceman then refreezes Logan as a large mass of vines pops out of the ground and drags Angel down into the ground. Iceman tries again with the ice wall trick as Stacy frets that Angel’s dying and will definately die if they can’t get him medical help ASAP.
Juggernaut ultimately breaks through several ice walls when he tells the X-Men to shut up and listen to him. We learn that Juggernaut doesn’t want to fight and that the weak mutant life-sign is Black Tom Cassidy, Jugggernaut’s long-time criminal partner. Juggernaut and Iceman bicker as Juggernaut brings up the fact that he was actually HELPING the X-Men by removing the wooden spike from Logan’s chest, when more vines pop out of the ground and pull everyone into the ground save Iceman and Nightcrawler, who look downward at the huge pit inside the castle.
We now cut to the bad part of this issue: the introduction of the evil nurse Annie. And the much hyped return of Alex Summers AKA Havok. Anyway, Alex has been stashed away at an Upstate New York hospital for the invalid/comatose and is comatose. Given the hellish nature of Mutant X, who could blame Alex for going comatose? Anyway we open up with Evil Nurse Annie dressing a naked Havok and getting rid of those stubborn pubic hairs of hers that are on Alex’s lips after she forced his comatose head into her Axis of Evil. As she wheels Havok around the hospital so that they can have some “quality time” with Annie’s bastard son and all around mind-raper, Carter. The nurses comment at how Annie is a sick stalker in love with Havok as she goes out to read the paper with her son and poor victim. Inside the paper ironcially enough is a picture of Havok and his brother Cyclops, which causes her to realize that she’s been molesting a member of the X-Men.
The interlude ends as we then cut to a double-spread page of the X-Men (including M, who doesn’t do anything else in this arc) being wrapped up by vines which are now penetrating their eye sockets and mouths. And the X-Men themselves aren’t the only ones getting vine-tentacle raped as we see other guys and rats hanging from the vines and some nasty skulls on the floor. Stacy asks the question of what is going on as Juggernaut reveals that Black Tom is to blame. Remember when Toliver healed Black Tom by way of turning him into a half-man/half-plant mutant? Remember when Black Tom suddenly turned BACK into a 100% human without a mention as to why? Well aparently he’s now a 100% Plant and a vampire plant to boot. Wolverine teases Juggernaut by calling Tom Juggernaut’s boyfriend while Tom (now a green plant with tentacles flowing from his body) shows himself and curses Juggernaut for bringing the X-Men of all people to help him.
Wolverine gouges out Black Tom’s eyes (which regenerate) as he has his tentacles penetrate Wolverine and Juggernaut’s eyes and mouths. Juggernaut and Logan, despite having vine tentacles entering their mouths, still have the ability to argue as Logan tries to free Stacy from the vines. Juggernaut claims that he’s desperate for someone to help Black Tom, so desperate that he would take help from the step-brother he hates. Logan replies that Juggernaut is an ungrateful brat who should be thankful that Xavier still likes him despite all of the crap Juggernaut has done to him over the years.
We cut to Iceman and Nightcrawler running through the castle’s hallways as Iceman uses his powers on the various vines all over the castle to find the main room. We cut back to the home of Evil Nurse Annie, as she leaves a message on the X-Men answering machine that missing X-Man Havok is at her hospital and whether or not they want to pick him up or let her continue to molest him. Finally we cut back as Iceman and Nightcrawler react in horror at Black Tom’s chamber of vines and near dead X-Men and dead bodies of those Tom has already killed.
Uncanny X-Men #412
The issue opens with Iceman getting impaled by Black Tom as Nightcrawler takes the fight to Black Tom. We get a full page look at Black Tom’s victims. There is serious fungus/mold on the ceiling and the X-Men are all looking like zombies as they hang from the ceiling with vines violating their bodies. Kurt demands that Tom let the X-Men, a demand that is met by laughter by Tom as he inflicts more pain onto the X-Men.
We cut then to a lake where Evil Nurse Annie is spending her last couple of hours with Havok before turning him over to the X-Men. Needless to say, Annie’s on her knees and bitching that she wishes Havok would wake up and make sweet love to her. Annie assumes the position to felate as she whines out loud that she’ll never find true love with a man who isn’t brain dead. Suddenly Cyclops appears to take Havok away from the sicko nurse, as Evil Nurse Annie starts asking if Havok has a girlfriend. Cyclops says yes as Evil Nurse Annie asks if he needs an evil nurse who’s got a telepath for a kid who can violate Havok’s mind so that he loves her and not his girlfriend.
We cut back to the castle as Angel is looking like he’s near death as Kurt gives us an explaination for Tom’s sudden transformation: It’s his secondary mutation apparently. Kurt guesses that Tom is trying to stop his transformation by draining the life forces of other people (which doesn’t seem to be working given Tom’s ghastly and extremely groutesque
new form) but Tom doesn’t want to talk about it. So Kurt decides to get Stacy X freed so he can try Plan B. He has Stacy use her “bad touch” powers to make Tom have an orgasm, which should destract him long enough to let the X-Men get freed. The plot goes into affect but not before the life drain turns Angel back to a white boy. Iceman then uses his powers to freeze all of the vines, which allows the X-Men and Juggernaut to break free. Angel by the way now has a long full head of hair and extremely healthy. Stacy and Angel hang around each other in a bit of sexual tension as Juggernaut approaches his former friend. Black Tom explodes the entire castle with a fireball that forces the X-Men to flee the now exploding castle.
The X-Men reach a nearby cliff as vines chase after them and Juggernaut is pleading to Black Tom to leave them alone. Suddenly Xavier’s jet arrives and Juggernaut performs the fastball special to get Wolverine into the shuttle while M and Angel fly the rest of the team into the jet. Juggernaut is left on the cliff as Black Tom confronts Juggernaut and verbally tears Cain Marko to shred before knocking him into the water below. So Sammy decides to go and jump in to rescue Juggernaut, bringing him to the surface despite the fact that Juggernaut weighs nearly a ton. Of course a dejected and rejected by his best friend Juggernaut would rather drown but Sammy suprisingly is able to convince Juggernaut to come back to the surface with him.
We cut to then to the inside of the X-Men’s jet as Xavier and Juggernaut have a sit-down talk. Juggernaut is shocked when Xavier suddenly invites him to stay at the X-Mansion and after initially rejecting the offer decides to take it when he sees how shocked the rest of the X-Men are. So Juggernaut takes a seat next to Sam and they banter about the jet’s leather seats and Juggernaut’s sudden farting spell that freaks him out and causes Sammy to break out into laughter as Juggernaut denies farting…..
Ironic note: Chuck Austen (a writer who’s mysoginistic leanings are pretty much out on the table when it comes to his writing) does a story that features tentacle rape and does so in such a manner that most people won’t even notice it unless they know about it, and the bulk of the artwork focuses on the GUYS being violated with tentacles…..
As first stories go, “Hope” still holds up and only gives minor hints (through the Evil Nurse Annie/Havok stuff) of the horrors that are to come for the readers of New X-Men. That being said, the three-parter plays to his strengths by having him concentrate on Juggernaut and Nightcrawler, with Kurt showing his sense of humor off after having his character castrated by Chris Claremont during “Claremont II: The Suck”. On the minus side, the arc has Angel being turned white again, undoing the last remaining traces of the 1988 revamp of the character into the Metal Winged, Razor Blade Shooting Angel of Death.