Uncanny X-Men #350
Release: December, 1997
Writer: Steve Seagle
Pencillers: Joe Madureira, Andy Smith
Inkers: Tim Townsend, Dan Panosian
Colourists: Steve Buccellato
Letterers: Richard Starkings
Cover Artists: Joe Madureira, Andy Smith
Editor: Bob Harras
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Rating: 3 Soda cans
Soda and Telepaths rates Comics out of a potential 6 pack of Soda Cans – the score indicates the value of each release in Sodas.
It was meant to be a landmark issue. But Uncanny X-Men #350 is wrought with confusion and barely holds its own in the annals of geekdom.
Uncanny X-Men #350 was meant to be a special release for Marvel Comics. It was a landmark celebrating a good thirty something years of the Children of the Atom with the fallout of the “Operation : Zero Tolerance” Marvel event as the backdrop. An event spanning many issues in the X-Universe, Operation : Zero Tolerance brought The Sentinels back into the picture. Sentinels in the hidden form of government operatives working for none other than Bastion. A half human, half sentinel hybrid and the new form of the X-Men nemesis Master Mold. What followed is a storyline sewing the seeds of distrust, bigotry and xenophobia across mutant and humankind alike.
Uncanny X-Men #350 centres on Gambit. The issue opens with Gambit in shackles and chains. Contemplating his deep seeded sins and the origin of his jailer. Raising the point that he has as many enemies as the Spider-Man villain, the Kingpin. This point is questionable where Kingpin has scores of enemies from forging his thirty year criminal empire. Where Gambit would be lucky to have as many as a tenth of those enemies.
Abruptly the scene cuts to a younger Gambit talking to a Nathaniel Essex. Well read X-Men fans will know him for his Mister Sinister persona. The conversation, centering on a task to bring together some of the most feared mutants. For what is something we’ll find out later. What we see is a bitter, distrustful and vacant Gambit. A far cry from the suave card wielding rouge we’ve all fallen in love with. Haunted by the death of his love, Belladonna, ready to take on the most “sinister” of missions. Pun intended. Caring naught for the outcome.
Another abrupt time shift in the next scene. Taking us to Gambit being escorted to what would eventually become an un-named haunting citadel, later in this issue. Escorted by the odd pairing of Spat and Grovel. Spat, a clear resident of the Savage Land and Grovel, a mutant beast with no clear powers that are used at any time during the issue. During their accompanying him to the citadel, Gambit daydreams back to an earlier discussion between him and Rogue. Where Rogue pleads Gambit not to leave her and eventually bids him farewell after professing her love for him. Without actually professing her love for him.
Here’s an idea Rogue – Go with him. Accompany the one you claim to love so much as he deals with his plethora of issues. Here is one of many cases where the dialogue of the characters doesn’t logically match up with any of their actions. It’s melodrama simply for the sake of melodrama. I don’t buy it.
The next scene featuring Joseph, Beast and Trish is unnecessary. It’s nothing but thought bubbles and Beast quoting Shakespeare. Yes I get it. Beast is intelligent and well read. You’ve had 349 issues to establish this. Move on writers! Beast’s dialogue is used to reach out to Joseph’s new found amnesia. The amnesia that’s helped him forget he was once Magneto.
Cut to a new scene where Psylocke and Archangel are searching Maggot. Another mutant whose ability creates two matter absorbing giant maggots!? Horrible mutant ability and tiresome character. Moving on. Psylocke opens one of her shadow teleporting powers and this prompts Archangel to follow her through the void of this newfound ability.
Back to where Gambit is being held captive. He is no longer shackled. Well thats a rookie mistake. He is being mocked by a voice in the dark. He thinks it’s Mister Sinister but he’s dead wrong.
Rogue, Beast, Joseph and Trish are powering across the landscape of Antarctica. This introduces an interesting exchange between Rogue and Beast. She is riding on the outside of their makeshift Shi’ar snow vehicle despite arctic temperatures. Beast pleads with her to ride inside the vehicle. Rogue declines, rationalising that she doesn’t want to look weak in front of her blue friend. I can understand this if she’s now the self appointed team leader but there is nothing in this issue to insinuate this. Instead, is just the bald faced arrogance in the face of Beast’s assist. All completely out of character. Even for Rogue. From out of nowhere, the citadel shoots from under the snow causing a near crash. Regardless, it’s time for the X-Men to venture inside and rescue Gambit.
Once inside, Joseph experiences a slew of convulsing, headaches and near seizures. Somehow he links this to his memories of being Magneto starting to resurface. The first question hinting to the eventual conclusion of this issue: “did I build this place?” The second hint is the reveal that Psylocke has too ended up in the Citadel. Absolutely no logical link to why she’s ended up in the citadel. A part of the citadel housing a library of sorts. She opens a text and it seems to be covered in rust. Archangel ends up in another part of the citadel near a torture apparatus. Maggot ends up in another separate part where he runs into Joseph. The two discovering a link there to Joseph’s past as Magnego. What follows next is a series of every character being attacked and taken hostage by shadowy adversaries.
Far below in the nether regions of the citadel Rogue finally comes across Gambit. Another useless scene that serves only to form an empathy to Gambit’s plight. Yes, we’re well aware of the love Rogue feels for Gambit. For me, this scene does the exact opposite of its intentions. I feel nothing for Gambit’s self sorrow or his emotional pleas.
The character that captured Gambit and all of the X-Men is revealed to us as Eric The Red. Stringing the entire X-Team in chains along with Gambit’s head sticking through a guillotine. Eric the Red’s purpose is to reveal that Gambit’s past is littered with lies and deceit. The main crux of this scene is that Gambit once led Mister Sinister’s Marauders to the sewers to eliminate the Morlocks. Revealing a shocking re-evaluation about Gambit’s character.
Revelling in the pain he’s causing the X-Men, Eric the Red forces Rogue to accept one last truth. One last betrayal. He forces Rogue to kiss Gambit. Taking his memories, half truths and the betrayals caused her. This causes Rogue to lose control, breaking through her chains. At the same time Archangel and Maggot achieve the same, breaking everyone free before escaping via Psylocke’s pocket dimension portals.
This leaves leaves Rogue to free Gambit from his guillotine. Despite his pleas she flies him up to the surface as the citadel begins to crumble. This leads Rogue to leave Gambit in the barren wasteland and pseudo-fire him from the X-Men. A brutal break up of sorts from a woman scorned. A woman who has to draw the line that if you work with Sinister – you’re out of the X-Men. No forgiveness here.
What follows is a short epilogue of Eric the Red changing out of his costume to reveal none other than Magneto. The X-Men’s greatest adversary. Begging the question, who or what is Joseph?
Uncanny X-Men #350 plays out as an issue that works better conceptually. The interpersonal relationships of this Uncanny X-Men team rarely work together. The interactions of Gambit and Rogue defies their bond as characters and people. Beast functions as a shadow of the main protagonists while Archangel and Psylocke’s relationship is reduced to a friend zone of the highest order. This issue of Uncanny X-Men is where artists Joe Madureira and Andy Smith reign supreme over the writer. Writer Steven Seagle should’ve been given two issues to execute this compacted storyline. Not one.
MVP for this issue is easily Rogue, although, her decisions are questionable towards the end. Her stance on Gambit’s betrayal are absolute and her judgement swift. Even though we know this won’t last forever. She sure establishes herself as queen badass stranding Gambit in the middle of nowhere. Dealing out a virtual death sentence.
Uncanny X-Men can be picked up from your local comic book store (hopefully) or digitally on Comixology.