Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

355 – All Sentinels Are Bastards

Art by David Wynne. Wanna buy the original? Drop him a line!

In which we take a break from X-Men to talk Onslaught tie-ins; Miles learns about coffee shop AUs; Sentinels are very large; there are no bystanders in a crossover event; we are really not Punisher people; and all the bad guys have plans.

X-PLAINED:

  • The Clone Saga (briefly)
  • How not to dispose of a dead clone
  • Ben Reilly
  • Amazing Spider-Man #415
  • Spider-Man #72
  • Green Goblin #12
  • Punisher #11
  • Onslaught’s increasingly nebulous goals
  • Sentinel timing
  • Coffee shop AUs
  • Sentinels in Manhattan
  • Several fights with Sentinels
  • Green Goblin (Phil Urich)
  • Uncles Ben
  • The Lunatic Laugh
  • Punisher (Frank Castle) (briefly)
  • Yet another helicarrier crash
  • The happiest cannon fodder
  • The Junkyard Dogs
  • Rashid Hammer Jones
  • The surprisingly exciting world of NYC maritime salvage
  • Make-believe superpowers
  • Deadlines

NEXT EPISODE: A Big Fight


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18 comments

  1. Outside ghosts, there’s an British TV show using that unpleasant word, about MI5. And it’s those contexts I mostly know it from. Crazy how one word can have three different meanings.

    1. The term was widely used at the time in American movies and television as slang for CIA agents. I was unaware of its racist use until a few years ago. It’s not a word I’ve ever used for any reason, regardless. But I agree, it is interesting. Especially since it’s not an obvious slur if you have never heard it in that context.

    2. Yeah, I’ve only ever known it as a slang term for any sort of shadowy governmentnal covert operative (or one of the cats on “Top Cat”) which I suppose means, from one point of view, I’m not moving in that many racist circles, but still, always good to learn these things.

  2. The Clone Saga gets a lot of crap but honestly the start of it is really good. It’s a bit like Onslaught itself that way, I guess. The spot where it falls apart is very visible; it’s the precise moment where Marvel Editorial freaked out because of grumpy grognard fans and tried to reverse course.

    The plan as originally designed was actually a good one. The writers felt (not incorrectly) that Peter had his life too much together — he’d married MJ, largely solved his income problems, and was generally in a pretty good place, which is good for Peter but bad for writing Spider-man, who depends so much on the tension of struggling to balance his heroing with his ordinary life and just barely managing.

    The Clone Saga was a great way out. Instead of ripping away everything he’d earned (cough One More Day cough), they just wrote Peter out of his own story. His powers start failing him, he’s got a kid on the way, and suddenly Ben shows up going “Yeah so uh you’re actually a clone and stuff”, and it’s a very graceful way for Peter to exit the story with his life all wrapped up and the spider-mantle passed on to a new guy with exactly the same origin story. Peter becomes a full time scientist with a wife and kid, and Ben becomes the new Spidey, with many years of mysterious wandering-the-world behind him to generate plot. Ben has to take low paying jobs to barely scrape by since he doesn’t have any work history. He’s technically a PhD but can’t claim that expertise because there’s already a Dr. Parker working and nobody has a record of a “Ben Reilly” at grad school. Peter can play occasional guy-in-the-chair and confidant, and once in a blue moon don the outfit to help Ben out of a jam, but largely stays out of the heroing world.

    But the fans started whining, so they ditched the pre-planned narrative with all its useful story implications, and went spinning off to desperately try to back out of the story. The result was the horribly mangled mess that is the Clone Saga.

  3. Scattered thoughts:-

    – I found myself liking Green Goblin enough to check out the comic on Marvel Unlimited, and DeFalco explains the whole thing about all the Goblin things being pretty well in the first issue: Phil Urich stumbles on Harry Osborne’s secret lab in which he had been experimenting with new ways to be a better Goblin, so it makes sense that he had the stuff all in one place.

    – Coming in at this end of Phil Urich’s brief career made it a bit of a shock to go back and read his earliest issues, because you’re seeing him after he’s matured and improved as a person quite a lot (apparently — haven’t read most of the intervening issues yet).

    – Even so, I really liked how DeFalco juxtaposes the Spider-Man and Green Goblin stories, so that they work fine by themselves, but better when set side-by-side. There’s the nice moment where we see the Sentinel attack on the Daily Bugle from the two different perspectives in different stories, which is the sort of thing that I love in superhero comics.

    But there’s also the way in which the two stories end on disabling Sentinels. But Peter in the Spider-Man story takes out three at once, and then he and Ben go off to join the main Onslaught finale as they should, given that Spider-Man is a character that just *has* to be there, given his stature as the iconic Marvel character. (And obviously, the story is largely about Spider-Man as iconic Marvel character and the way that’s now divided between two people.)

    Meanwhile, the Green Goblin has a hard time but ultimately triumphs in making his small contribution (explicitly mentioned as such) of disabling *one* Sentinel, that he has to hope will mean something — because it’s ended his career. And he, obviously, will not be taking his place among the other heroes in the finale. It’s a nice moment of someone finally doing the right thing, and maybe it matters, maybe it doesn’t — there’s no guarantee.

    Good stuff. I think DeFalco is at his best on Spider-related things for a reason, because his fannish nostalgia works best there. The classic Spider-Man was a coming-of-age story about leaving childhood behind. And obviously, the origin defines Peter Parker as someone who lost a happy past through a single impulsive decision that he can never take back. This makes the character suited for a nostalgic approach (to which the Fantastic Four are not suited — but the contrast does play into why Spider-Man tends to work well in stories in which he meets the Fantastic Four, especially Johnny).

    – Sinister Pryde *promised* me that I would be able to relish Onslaught ruining a Punisher story, which for me would instantly mean that Onslaught had a glorious shining virtue that would outweigh any flaws. 🙂 Sadly, John Ostrander is a capable enough writer that it was pretty clear that he used the crossover to steer his Punisher story in the direction it was going anyway.

    – The Netflix Punisher tv series does work, to an extent. (I think Jon Bernthal’s performance carries a lot of the weight.) But a lot of that is because, with the exception of throwaway moments at the end to satisfy the fans, it’s about a version of the character who doesn’t want to be the Punisher, and instead, if left to his own devices, would occupy stereotypically masculine but non-violent blue-collar jobs in peace. There are a lot of problems there, but that Frank Castle lacks comics Punisher’s basic element of wish-fulfillment for people who have really ugly wishes.

  4. What I love about this bit of Spider-Man is the combination of “on the periphery of someone else’s big crossover event,” which you’re right Peter is great for that — and the nice little moment of remembering that Peter is the GOAT. He fits everywhere. He’s okay against any bad guy. If it’s street stuff or cosmic nonsense, he’s good.

    Also you should TOTALLY cover the Adventures of Frank and Carl. Apparently I like Frank more than you all, but I recognize that whole cultural-context problem and the fact that his stuff in this era is just… not great. But I feel like it might be a fun goofy thing to cover because it’s so out of left field.

  5. Does ANYONE in any of the crossover ponder why the American Government keeps building ten storey tall murder mechs? And why they ONLY exist to persecute the mutant population?

    What IS Captain America’s reaction to Project Wideawake? (Okay, probably not going to be addressed in this story, given how it ends, but still, a valid question I think).

    I mean, the Punisher should probably be wondering how they could be repurposed for standard military combat roles, since a ten storey tall murder mech would probably seen a viable alternative in many scenarios.

    1. Unless I’ve missed something, no-one ever actually tells the Avengers in this story *where* Onslaught obtained the Sentinels. Captain America just says something like, “It looks like Onslaught has found his army.”

      I think the same goes for everyone else — they’re probably not aware that these Sentinels were built by the US government, and to be supposing that they’re built as a private project, like in the Silver Age..

      And in fact, I’m reasonably certain that Project Wideawake is only the second time that the US government has actually commissioned the building of Sentinels, the first being the Sentinels that Sebastian Shaw builds for Gyrich in New Mutants #2, and apparently uses in UXM #151. (Steven Lang was working for the government to study mutants, but he went into Sentinel-building on his own initiative without authorization.)

      The Sentinels in NM #2/UXM #151 are a plot thread that Claremont never really develops (they’re very much ancillary to the real plot of UXM #151), so that goes nowhere. In fact, I’m not entirely clear that Project Wideawake isn’t supposed to be the same as that Shaw Industries project from the ‘80s, in fact, picking up the plot thread after a decade and a half.

      So maybe the US government has only decided to do this once? And obviously, it’s supposed to have been done in secret, and only a very few people know about it (although New Mutants #2 might in principle have led to some publicity, if Claremont had ever returned to the plotline properly).

      So I think the other superheroes are in the clear.

      However, should the X-Men have told them? I can’t remember how much the X-Men know about Project Wideawake at this point themselves, but if they know about it, I think this is on them for not telling anyone about it. Which they should have done the moment they found out about it. I mean, Beast is a former Avenger. He’s got contacts. (But maybe they don’t know themselves — as I said, I don’t remember.) A lot of this might be a casualty of the X-Men “sort of” being in their own universe.

      I’m curious as to why the government/Shaw never varies the color scheme of the Sentinels. Although that might be a cunning ploy for plausible deniability, to make it seem like these are just more Silver Age Sentinels. But still, putting the Sentinels in camouflage paint or something like that might be a nice little visual cue for the reader that these are a different kind of Sentinel.

      1. Actually, thinking about it, the ones in that New Mutants issue *do* have a new grey and blue color scheme, so maybe Shaw Industries did a little market research, and discovered that people prefer the classic purple and blue.

        1. What I always found interesting is that other Marvel books did more with the Mutant Registration Act/Project Wideawake than Claremont did on Uncanny at the same time. Captain America specifically, which had a story arc centered around a group of mutants called The Resistants and specifically a mutant named Quill … but also Daredevil, Fantastic Four and Iron Man did Registration Act-centered stories. Meanwhile the X-Men themselves were in Australia. Wonder if Claremont lost interest in that particular plot thread?

      2. New Mutants #13 has Kitty and Doug (in his first ever appearance) hacking into the Hellfire Club and, unknowingly, interrupting Shaw demonstrating one of his new Sentinels for Gyrich, their interference caused it to go wild, requiring Shaw to hit the self-destruct button on several million dollars worth of prototype.

        So yes, they’re the same project, legitimate businessman Shaw got the contract to build them from the Government and planned to program them to ensure that they were unable to detect any mutants the Hellfire Club specified (ie them)

        Also, given Raven Darkholme (when she was working for the Defence Department) and Val Cooper (in her role as Security Advisor) both sat on Project Wideawake, they’d have access to that info, even if neither were on particularly good terms with the X-Men per se.

        And now I’m imagining car-ad like adverts for “This years Sentinel, now in soothing pastels and go faster stripes” or “The Hybrid Sentinel… no not THAT Hybrid, ROM killed him… the other sort of Hybrid”

  6. Jay and Miles: If you like the jovial relationship between Peter and Ben may I recommend the current arc of Amazing Spider-Man, called “Beyond”? Ben is Spider-Man again, while Peter is injured, and their relationship is just as delightful. It began in Amazing Spider-Man 75/876 a few months ago.

  7. HEyyyy,, that intros WHAAAT moment wasnt justified/earned. Just cause Punisher is in some of the comics your going to cover today,, THAT deserves the WHAAAAT? Nahhh.

    The show was tooo DARK & grim for me 🙁 . Yeesh i had to turn it off.

    Sentinel voiceS are fun!

  8. I can’t remember where i would have seen it, but I wasn’t totally surprised when Jay mentioned the racial epithet meaning of “spook”. I mostly know the ghost and/or secret agent meanings. Ostrander had a ghost character in his and Tim Truman’s series GrimJack that was a ghost that just called herself “Spook”.

    I was reading a lot of Spider-Man during the Clone Saga, so I’m not the best judge, but it had definite good parts, but it sold well, so they strung it out. I think it was supposed to be six-month thing that ended lasting 2.5 years? But it is fun to watch Peter and Ben go from antagonistic to gradually becoming friends and later, like brothers. I don’t think that really starts to take until after Amazing Spider-Man #400, when Peter gets arrested for murder, breaks out/escapes, and Ben agrees to take his place in jail.

    (The murder was committed by the first clone, Kaine, so he has Peter’s fingerprints. And it just so happened the murder took place during the 2 weeks Peter was in a grave courtesy of Kraven’s Last Hunt, so he has no alibi for a murder committed in Utah.)

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