Bizarro Back Issues: The X-Men, Pizza And Cyberspace, Together At Last (1993)
When you consider that I'm spending a good portion of every week recapping the '90s X-Men cartoon, you might think that I'd have my fill of '90s mutant nostalgia, but that is definitely not the case. If anything, going back through that show has made me want to go back and revisit that stuff even more. That's why I went out a few days ago and grabbed one of the most treasured artifacts of my childhood: the four-part X-Men Collector's Edition comics released in 1993 and sold at Pizza Hut.
Seriously, you guys. There was a time in this country when you could go out and get a pizza and comic books about the X-Men jacking into cyberspace in the same building. If we want to make America great again, I suggest we start there.
I don't know if it was just me or if it was something common to everyone who was eleven years old in 1993, but I could not have been more excited at the idea of the comic books and pizza coming together to provide me with everything I wanted in the world. And for the record, that excitement at those two would continue at pretty much the same level of intensity for the next 20 years, and doesn't really show any signs of stopping now.
What I'm getting at here is that in the summer of '93, these weren't just my favorite comics, they were quite possibly my favorite things in the entire world. They're kind of perfect in a way, with Professional Comic Book Writer Scott Lobdell splitting the team into pairs so that they can chatter on about their powers while dealing with villains whose appearances may or may not make any sense at all and wrapping it up in a goofy mystery about the real mastermind behind it all, and I still think they're a lot of fun. But back then?
I used to iron these comics after I read them.
Yeah. Really. With a hot iron. Like you would use on clothing. There are like twenty-six different ways that this is the dumbest thing I have done in a lifetime of reading comics, but that's how swept up I was in both loving these things and keeping them in Mint Condition so as to not lose their value as Collector's Editions. Fortunately, I somehow managed to avoid becoming the subject of a South Carolina newspaper headline reading "BOY, 11, BURNS DOWN HOUSE; CITES SATANIC 'WOLVERINE' COMIC-BOOK CHARACTER AS CAUSE."
I liked the whole story, but looking back, the best issue by far is the climax. That might sound weird coming from me since it's the one starring Cyclops and Bishop and not the one where Wolverine stands on top of a fighter jet in mid-flight while trying to stab a dinosaur man, and believe me, I'm surprised too. It's not that PCBW Lobdell goes out of his way to make Cyclops less of a grumpy sack of doorknobs than he is in other X-Men stories. In fact, he opens the series with a shot that ranks right up there with X-Men #1's "BACK OFF, WOLVERINE!" as the scond-most Cyclops panel of all time:
And we know that that's the second-most Cyclops panel of all time because in #4, Lobdell and artists Mike Harris and Harry Candelario open with what is unquestionably the most Cyclops panel of all time:
That's right, Jubilee! There's nothing "cool" about having my psychic wife transport a gunfighter from the future and me into a digital world of danger and adventure! And if saying that makes me "lame," then I guess I'm just a big "lame!"
Oh, Cyclops. Of all the Cyclopses in the world, you're the Cyclopsest.
So after explaining to his teammates, and the reader, that nothing he is about to do could possibly be considered "Cool," Cyclops heads into cyberspace with Bishop, courtesy of Jean's powers. The reason they're doing all of this is that something's gone wrong with Cerebro, and since it's the most vital tool in what Mr. Lucas Bishop refers to as "our goal of global harmony between humans and mutants," they've all had to scramble for replacement parts. Rogue and Gambit had to take their heavily accented flirting into the Danger Room, which of course went crazy and tried to kill them with Sentinels, Wolverine and Jubilee flew to the Savage Land to pick up some vibranium, Beast and Storm went to Muir Island to get an antivirus program and fought Magneto, and now Cyclops and Bishop have to go into cyberspace.
Because that's where the files are. Inside the computer.
Incidentally, I think it's a little weird that Jean drops them 150 feet from where they need to be, but I suppose that's what you get for having your Matrix operated by someone whose powers have nothing to do with computers or technology. But it does give Cyclops and Bishop time to have the standard "if you die in a computer, you die in real life, but don't worry, our powers and weapons still work exactly the same as they do in the real world" conversation as they mosey on over. And that's when things start to get even better:
ARCADE HAS ENTERED THE VIDEO AGE.
Long-time CA readers will recall that Arcade is one of my all-time favorite villains, and these comics came out right around the time that I read the story that made me a fan, the Claremont/Byrne classic from Uncanny X-Men #123-124. Clearly, PCBW Scott Lobdell was angling directly for the Chris Sims market. And he got it, especially when Arcade's Giant Digital Head revealed its master plan: Making the X-Men... fight the X-Men.
Yes, not only do you get pizza and the X-Men and Arcade, but you also get digital copies of the X-Men trying to murder Cyclops. There's nothing that isn't "cool" about that combination.
Eventually, Cyclops tricks the FauX-Men into beating up on Bishop, which is no easy feat since they're undoubtedly lining up to paste him one, and therein lies his master plan. Bishop, whose mutant powers still work in Cyberspace, is able to absorb all the (cyber) energy shot at him by the "cyber icon" versions of Gambit and Jubilee, and then uses it to project (cyber) energy back at them, thus killing the computer virus.
Look. I know this might seem silly in our strange 21st century world where we all carry around computers in our pockets and use it for whatever the hell "Angry Birds" is, but this was 1993. There's a good chance that Scott Lobdell had never used or seen a computer.
Once that problem is finally dealt with, we finally learn who the actual mastermind was: Professor X, who set everything up as a challenge to his students to see how well they dealt with pressure. Because this was the only situation in which the X-Men could ever be seen acting under pressure, as opposed to, you know, every single other day of their lives. Also, it's worth noting that the reveal is pretty much made apparent when Professor X excuses himself as soon as the action starts and then a suspiciously bald silhouette shows up muttering to itself at the end.
But hey, it's a comic for twelve year-olds. Or, you know, very sophisticated eleven year-olds.