Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fatal Attractions by Fabian Nicieza

When I started reading X-Men for 2015, my first ever review posted a day after New Year was the three-chaptered story about Magneto's descent to madness and eventual demise via getting blown up with his Asteroid M in X-Men (1993). It was also officially considered as writer Chris Claremont's retirement piece. Just four months later (specifically, last week), I reviewed The Uncanny X-Men issue #200 of 1985, which was about Magneto's trial in the international court and Xavier passing the torch to him to become the new mentor for the X-Men. These two events were only a hundred-plus issues apart and it's interesting how stupidly dark Magneto has become right after he supposedly started from scratch around the eighties. In that time, Claremont did an excellent job showcasing Magneto's growth and progress towards becoming a reformed villain, going so far as becoming a replacement guardian for Xavier's brood. And then the nineties and Fabian Nicieza rolled along and Magneto not only reverts backs to his evil ways but he was hence portrayed as a super-mega-douchebag that even Charles Xavier can't love or see any hope for redemption anymore.

To be fair, Magneto going balls-out insane for this story arc, Fatal Attractions, was somewhat inspired by the tone and approach Claremont ended his X-Men run with that aforementioned three-chaptered piece. I remember wondering what happened to Magneto after because I know for a fact he cannot be dead permanently, and I was actually looking forward to seeing him again. AND I HAVE NEVER REGRETTED SOMETHING AS MUCH AS I DO THAT. I stumbled upon Fatal Attractions the same way I do when looking for specific storylines rich with Charles Xavier/Erik Lehnsherr subtext and tragic moments--with my heart clutched on both hands, eyes closed for whatever horrors may come. And they came, all right, like Winter fucking came for the Starks.

This story arc was AWFUL in a sense that I was almost in a fetal position as I lay in bed while reading the issues on my tablet. As the story dug deeper into my skin, I found myself lying on my stomach, slamming my tablet on the pillows in front of me repeatedly because it was the safest way to physically show my outrage without wrecking my precious gadget for good. And then I got misty-eyed in some parts and then truly shed tears by the last issue during a rather unexpectedly moving scene between Kitty and Colossus.

But I digress. This is probably one of the longest reviews I will ever write because there are plenty of things (and scanned panels) I'll be touching upon; a good eighty-percent of which is CHERIK. But what is the point of reading X-Men and shipping Cherik if I don't take the time being TL;DR in my reviews like this? This is also the best way I could heal after the bloody mess of hurt feelings and screw-ups that Fabian Nicieza and co. subjected me through with Fatal Attractions.
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The nineties were truly a dark time for comics. Sales were down, lots of shitty minor titles about testorened superheroes/toy line were released which catered to no one but were collected by idiots because somehow people don't understand that what makes a comic book worthy of an investment is its rarity and not when it's in mass public circulation which a lot of these obscure nineties titles were. But the nineties X-Men were doing fine as far as 'fine' allows them to thrive in that era. There's an ongoing cartoon series that definitely helped them maintain recognization among households.

One of the...notable(?) stories after Claremont gave up the mantle and passed it on to another writer, which then effectively ended his sixteen-year career for the X-Men, is motherfucking Fatal Attractions. What in the name of shit is Fatal Attractions you may ask and why did it unravel me in such a terrible, sadomasochistic way?

Well, Fatal Attractions is a six-issued story arc comprised of (and in order of appearance): X-Factor #92, X-Force #25, The Uncanny X-Men #304, X-Men #25, Wolverine #75, and Excalibur #61. Those are six separate titles coming together to tell the story delivered in lieu of a Greek tragedy clusterfuck that is definitively Magneto, and as a tribute to the cheese-tastic soap opera awesomeness that is Claremont's literary signature for the X-Men. Basically, it's enjoyable with different shades of 'mildly sickening' and 'unforgivably heartbreaking', depending, of course, on how heavily invested you are about the fragile relationships among the mutant families.

The first two installments in X-Factor and X-Force read together as one story, focusing more on the said X-teams and their struggles that are actually quite similar in spite of their different fields of expertise (one is working alongside the government while the other is essentially a private outfit). At midpoint, they found themselves facing the collective acolytes led by Fabian Cortez (who left Magneto stranded for dead in Asteroid M), and they are a bunch of fanatics who are determined to wipe out humanity (whom they deemed as 'flatscans') in the name of their fallen god Magneto. These two issues also covered the significant roles of Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff, son of Magneto) and Cable (Nathan Summers) respectively.

Now, I'm not entirely familiar with these two titles which was why there are some references from their previous arcs that I don't get, but overall I was still immensely intrigued with what was happening. I though their contributions to the overall structure of Fatal Attractions were necessary. They certainly contextualized and deepened the ongoing strife between the X-heroes and the acolytes.

It was The Uncanny X-Men issue #304 that ruined me slowly. I was very much looking forward to this one the most, considering this is where the most epic and hurtful of Cherik quarrels was brought forth. However, the equally important sublot concerning Colossus was particularly painful for me as well. His sister, Illyana, was just killed by the Legacy virus, a misfortune that Professor X himself feels like a personal failure of his, and Colossus eagerly agrees with him. I just read and reviewed Giant-Size X-Men #1 so that issue being referenced here as Colossus spitefully recalls the time the professor recruited him back in Russia kindda stings me a little. Colossus is just one of those traditional good guys, you know, who have faith in their leaders and always do the right thing. To see him lose that faith in someone he considered a mentor was definitely shocking.

And then super-mega-douchebag Magneto, with obvious disregard for the mourning process, crashes the funeral. The bastard is just classy that way. And when I say he's a douchebag of only the epic proportions, this scene more than testifies to that. He freezes the X-Men through the iron in their blood (like, wut? When did he ever start doing this?) and disassembles Charles' wheelchair so that the professor literally has to crawl during their conversation. EPIC. DOUCHE. BAG. The next five scans I'm going to drop here--trust me, you are not prepared for the amount of assholery and pitiful blows that these two have mercilessly attacked each other with:

I...don't know where to begin. The shippy aspect of me whenever I read anything Cherik together is suddenly, and quite terrifyingly, quiet for the first time, and has hastily retreated to a happy place somewhere. Meanwhile, the rational part of me is annoyed as hell to witness these two best friends verbally compensating, punishing and degrading each other. The rest of the characters are just there to duke it out with the acolytes who landed much later to kick some ass. So it's basically the worst funeral in recent memory for the X-Men. Colossus is surely not thrilled but he's just too mad with grief to feel sympathetic towards Xavier so HE JOINS MAGNETO AND THE ACOLYTES, justifying that the cause they are fighting for is something he should have chosen long ago. Maybe, if he did, he never would have lost his sister. At this point, y'all know that things have taken a grim turn for more clusterfucks when a good guy like Colossus turncloaks like this.

What can I say about Xavier/Magneto at this point that those scans did not do already? I suppose I should comment on the last line that Charles said: "If you will not take responsibility for yourself, Magneto, then so god help me, I will." The professor eventually does prove that this is the case by the next issue on the roster, X-Men #25, when he put on some exoskeleton suit from the Shi'ar (an alien tech) so he can start walking and join his fellow students in confronting Magneto and the acolytes yet again.

Aided by Jean Grey, Cyclops, Gambit, Rogue, Wolverine and Quicksilver, Professor X crashes Magneto's base of operations, this kingdom he proclaimed as AVALON. I would appreciate the Arthurnian reference a lot more if Magneto for this story did not make me want to throw up in his face. So the X-Men arrived and yet another bloody fucking hissy fit between Xavier and Magneto of the upsetting proportions ensue.

Earlier on, Beast (and Storm) emphasizes this tragic circumstances with a literary reference:
Storm's quoted response: "Our kinship has a strange power, that and our life together was SPOT-ON in capturing Xavier's long-running justification as to why he still thinks Magneto could change; why he hasn't given up on the idea that his best friend will come back to him and they can work together; why he can forgive Magneto even when he least deserves it. That 'kinship' drives him to always find a better, humane way to communicate with Magneto, that and their history and dream together. Well, Magneto is now a super-mega douche who claims that their dream together is dead, and he's going around preaching absolute genetic cleansing of humans because he's unironically the new Hitler, so Professor X most certainly ain't gonna put up no more with his shit.

Especially when Magneto ATTACKS HIS OWN SON PIETRO AND MAKES A DECISION TO KILL HIM ON THE SPOT because it's a sacrifice that he is prepared to make. Wolverine disagrees violently and tries to kick his ass but Magneto, as I've stressed, is no longer a sane person, so he does this utterly horrific thing that actually became an iconic panel in X-Men comics.

Let me present this moment when Magneto pulled out the adamantium from Wolverine's body:

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK, ERIK FUCKING MAGNUS FUCKING LEHNSHERR? He just TORE THE ENTIRE FUCKING THING out of Wolverine, extracted that shit out of him like it was nothing. It was gruesome, that's what it is. I don't think Wolverine can heal fast enough from those gaping wounds.

And that was it. Charles Xavier knows his best friend needs to be put down. And he's the only one who could do it.


What a horrible day for everyone involved.

Colossus arrives to pick up the now vegetative-state Magneto. Scooping him in his arms, he allows the X-Men to escape so they can rush Wolverine for some serious medical treatment and the professor who has understandably fainted after doing some serious mind-wipe on a man he used to consider his equal and likeness.


The last two issues (Wolverine #75 and Excalibur #61) were the stories that wonderfully closed this motherfucking grueling saga of Fatal Attractions. The Wolverine one is the most personal, and quite possibly my favorite installment of them. It examined just what makes Wolverine such an adaptable, enduring badass. Magneto may have ripped the adamantium from his body permanently but he was not de-clawed at all. In the end, it was shown that--through sheer willpower and agony--he can still pull some claws out of his knuckles--but this time he's using his own bone structure to do it. So...ouch? Good thing, he has a healing power. But he does need time to recover both mentally and physically, from all that drama, so he says his goodbyes to Jubilee in a very sweet and touching letter. These two had become close all throughout Jubilee's membership in the X-Men and he acted as a big brother to her so I thought it was only fitting that she's the only one he cares enough to say goodbye to as he leaves the team for a while to gather his bearings. I was happy that this issue was rather optimistic and intimate, especially after the terror of the midway issues earlier.

Speaking of big brothers, in Excalibur #61, we zero in on Colossus at last, who himself is most definitely grieving and suffering during the most untimely of moments. His decision to leave the X-Men for good may have been hasty and spiteful of the professor, but after a while when Kitty Pryde was able to reach out to him, he finally calmed down while the others forcefully reverted him back to his flesh form. It's worth mentioning that he has been in full-metal mode the entire time after his sister's death, a symbolic defense mechanism to shield himself from the pain of losing the one person he felt that he should have saved and never could. Illyana is a doomed character from the start, and Colossus refuses to forgive himself because he thinks he has control over his sister's fate, but he doesn't. Kitty comforts him and holds his vulnerable form in her arms OH MY GOD WHY ARE THERE TEARS IN MY EYES, FLOWING DOWN TO STAIN MY CHUBBY CHEEKS????!!!

Sadly, even after this cathartic scene, Colossus still decides to go with the acolytes. He does, however, stopped blaming the professor for everything. His anger was replaced with something more painful for Charles though: disappointment.

Colossus believes that Charles Xavier wasn't doing anything MORE that could have a lasting impact and change for mutantkind, and that's why his dream is beginning to fail not just the two of them but everyone who ever followed him and became an X-Man. That's why Colossus is leaving. He simply does not believe in Charles Xavier anymore. On the plus side, he's forging his own path and is finding a way to fight again for something he must figure out by himself, and hopefully he will find that. It's just not with the X-Men.

With Magneto comatosed, Wolverine bailing out and Colossus choosing another side--all these personal failures to protect his dream and the loved ones who became a part of it--it's no wonder they eventually put a strain on Charles's psyche later on, hence the Onslaught saga of 1996 (I might read the collected volumes of that if I can find time to squeeze them in this year but no guarantees).

For this closing Excalibur issue, we also had some tender moment between Jean Grey and her alternate-universe teenage daughter Rachel Summers, and this fascinating parallel made between Rachel and Pietro later on. Now to contrast Colossus' choice, Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler) explained that he would still stand by the professor's dream. He then made the decision that the new Excalibur team which he belongs to should renew their vision-mission statement, and do whatever they can to smooth down things between the mutants and humans during these most trying times in their civil rights movement.

My rating for this story arc has strong subjective bias. It moved me in many ways, both positive and negative, which was why it's getting the perfect rating. If you're into all that soap opera drama that is the X-Men in general, and prefer them especially dark like this nineties comics story, then Fatal Attractions will not disappoint you. There are genuinely earnest moments of emotional depth in the last two issues that for me added to my enjoyment. It was such a relief that this was how the writers closed the story. I was fairly satisfied and definitely looking forward to reading the Onslaught saga someday which comes after these events.


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