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June 1992 – “The Not So Big Easy”

X-Men #8 and #9 saw the X-Men team up with a character who had been around since the 70’s (I think) although he had gone through different incarnations (before it was Johnny Blaze, now it was Danny Ketch):  Ghost Rider.  Even at 14 years old, I recognized this for what it was:  a blatant attempt to get readers to flock to the Ghost Rider comic.  After all, the X-Men were sky high at this point.  Nobody disagrees that as far as comics go, the early 90’s belonged to the X-Men.  So they (and Jim Lee) were forced everywhere to try and increase readership of other titles.

Well guess what?  It didn’t work.  I still didn’t give a flying rat’s ass about Ghost Rider.  Sorry, folks.  In fact, the Ghost Rider issues were so poorly drawn and written that I usually just gloss over them when I read this story.

But still, the cross-over had some redeeming qualities for X-Men fans.  First of all, this was the first time we got any sort of revelations regarding Gambit’s past.  We traveled to New Orleans, explored his relationship with the thieves’ clan, his wife (or ex-wife, I’m still really confused about this), and were given teasers about why he left.  Second, we were shown a bit more of the Cyclops flirting with Psylocke.  And the last gem for X-fans is the reintroduction of a villain who hasn’t been around for about 60 issues:  the Brood!  They are what make this issue truly worth reading and why I don’t completely throw out the Ghost Rider issues.  This was my first introduction to the Brood, but I immediately went back and collected every back-issue I could find.  I absolutely loved them.  I especially loved their takeover of Ghost Rider and how his skeletal head became elongated to match that of a Brood’s.

McCoy denies he was babbling
McCoy denies he was babbling

For those of you new to the Brood, did you ever see the movie Alien?  Claremont got the idea from that movie.  The end result is usually the same when the infect you:  you die and a new Brood is created.  Of course these are comics, so what happens is that they also gain the powers of whatever host they used.  They also don’t burst through your chest.  Instead, your body is morphed into a Brood’s body.  A little more acceptable to the Comics Code Authority.

This was also the first time many of the characters encountered the Brood.  Beast, Gambit, and Jubilee had never run into them before.  Of course Wolverine was the only member who had encountered them both times and he just went berserk.

SYNOPSIS

The story starts as the X-Men stare in horror at a Brood infected Ghost Rider.  Then Brood start climbing down the walls to attack the X-Men (along with Gambit’s wife Bella Donna).  The X-Men battle against the swarming Brood as well as Ghost Rider.  Wolverine hurls one Brood against a pillar which collapses the floor, scattering the X-Men.  Gambit and Bella land together.  We find out that Bella Donna is still upset over Gambit leaving which deprived her of any choice in the matter.  They embrace and kiss, with Gambit apologizing to his love.

Beast lands and as he raises to his feet, he sees Wolverine, growling at him.  Suddenly Wolverine leaps at Beast, but Beast is not his true target.  Wolverine instead strikes at Ghost Rider who had been standing right behind Beast.  As Beast and Wolverine battle Ghost Rider, the Brood suddenly stumbles and appears to be arguing with himself.  Beast realizes that the transformation is not yet complete and may be able to be reversed, but before he can even formulate an idea, Ghost Rider runs off.  Elsewhere, Cyclops and Psylocke help each other out.  We’re treated to a little flirtation and an uncomfortable stammer from Cyke.

Jubilee, while looking for the others, stumbles across several people in weird green pods.  Rogue shows up and together they free the people who reveal that the Brood were saving them for later and had also captured the children of the Thieves’ clan.  Unfortunately, Ghost Rider/Brood shows up and the battle throws them through the wall into Cyclops and Psylocke.  Gambit and Bella Donna show up shortly thereafter.  Bella holds Ghost Rider in stasis while Psylocke plunges her psychic knife into Ghost Rider, hoping to free the Brood’s human host.  In the astral plane, Psylocke confronts the Brood who has now managed to lock on to Daniel Ketch.  Psylocke “knifes” Daniel, which separates the Brood from Ghost Rider.  Bella Donna, mortally wounded in the fight, uses her last bit of strength to destroy the Brood.

Cyclops

Back in reality, Ghost Rider, now purged of the brood, gets to his feet.  Meanwhile, Gambit holds Bella Donna in his arms as she slowly dies.  He sends his kin on their way with the wounded and swears vengeance against the Brood.

SYNOPSIS

This issue as a single story is actually rather enjoyable.  As part of a coherent storyline, it’s still an enjoyable read.  However the problem, as I mentioned before, is that the non-X-Men issues of this crossover are really, REALLY bad.  This story was actually helped along by Scott Lobdell’s scripts.  For me, nobody, save maybe Claremont, was better at character than Lobdell.  Although his plots were sometimes odd (for instance, check out the trilogy involving the Morlocks and Mikhail Rasputin) I felt that he knew how to instill real emotion into his books.  Not just sorrow, either.  There are moments when I couldn’t help but smile at some of the dialogue.

The art, of course, is Jim Lee.  There’s a reason he’s considered one of the best (if not the best) artist of X-Men ever.  The art in this issue is top of the line.  He does an amazing Ghost Rider (which is why it was horribly deceptive of Marvel to use him as the cover artist for the Ghost Rider issues in this cross-over).  His Brood are the best ever drawn.  I know I come across as a Jim Lee fanboy and guess what…  I’m too old to give a damn.  I love Jim Lee and still, to this day, 22 years after this issue came out, still love reading his X-Men issues.  Although I miss Claremont, I can honestly see why the editors chose Lee over Claremont.

Such a touching scene with the usually jovial Gambit
Such a touching scene with the usually jovial Gambit

The X-Men really do feel like family and real characters in this issue.  Lobdell has a talent rivaling Claremont for making us care about these people.  Gambit and Bella Donna’s arguments feel real (or at least about as real as it can in this fantastic universe) and I actually get a little choked up when Bella Donna dies (as is typical in the 90’s, though, her death was nowhere near permanent – turns out she just slipped into a coma).  And of course Beast babbles constantly throughout (but as we see in this issue, he would disagree that it is babbling).

FAVORITE QUOTES

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Jubilee:  “Color me curious, but does anyone know if I’m too young to join the New Warriors?”

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Jubilee:  “Show off!  I was just about to do that!

Beast:  “I am certain.  Fact is, I was sitting over there thinking ‘What would Jubilee do in my place?'”

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Cyclops:  “Betsy…  We’ve got a job to do!”

Psylocke:  “My thoughts exactly”

Cyclops:  “I meant finding the others!”

Psylocke:  “So did I.”

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Bella Donna:  “I agree wit’ de girly.  Dis whole team is made up o’ showoffs.”

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Ghost Rider:  “I am here until vengeance is served.”

Wolverine:  “Sounds like a battle plan t’me.”

Gambit:  “Vengeance?  Mes amis, you do not know de meaning of dis word.”

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I would NOT want to be in their path!
I would NOT want to be in their path!
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