krisis's X-Men #94 - Hidden Lives. Part 2 of 2: Pandora's Box review

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A trio of plots sizzle, all leading to something more

Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Terry Kavanagh deliver a blockbuster issue filled with action, intrigue, and lingering plot threads that are woven into the next huge X-Men story arc, The Twelve.

Story & Script
The plotting here is phenomenal – Rogue, Kitty, and Nightcrawler all have separate adventures, and though Rogue's is the only one with action they're all thrilling due to the intercutting between the three stories.

Rogue as the main protagonist works like a charm – sure of herself and fuming at the stubborn chivalry from the slightly uptight Sunfire. Too often Rogue is written as a big, dumb bruiser or ineffectual and lovesick. Here she's a hero, but still a little cocksure – but not as much as Sunfire!

Kitty's need to find dirt on a teenaged Rogue is adorable, as it reinforced a for-years-lost sisterhood between the characters. That she happens upon Destiny's diary – apparently meant for her to find –  adds a portentous chill to her story.  The Kurt & Polaris story seems superfluous, but it's equally important to the coming arc. It's also a good, subtle nod to Lorna's instability – something Chuck Austen will beat into the ground repeatedly in the 400s.

If there's a slight disappointment here it's the inert Mystique – she's a character who rarely shows up without an ulterior motive, but in this instance she genuinely seems to be the damsel in distress.

Artwork
I love Alan Davis and Mark Farmer, and here they are perfection.

The opening splash of Kitty's reflection in Destiny's golden mask is sumptuous. Sunfire is drawn with glee, his bug-eyed mask suggesting Japanese rubber-suit movie monsters. And, after some trouble over the prior year, Davis seems to have finally settled on a lithe, playful version of Rogue.

Even some of the smaller panels are terrific. The inset of Skrull-Mesmero's unbidden rage at Skrull-Mastermind as he tries to flee is awesome. I'm fascinated by the shadows on the smirking face of a Yakiba agent as he turns away from his video screens. And, a blue Mystique wrapped up like an incognito Marilyn Monroe is both excellent and hilarious – considering Mystique doesn't exactly require a disguise.

This is one of my all-time favorite issues of Davis/Farmer art, abetted by a particularly vivid coloring job. If there's a detraction, it's that they're illustrating Kitty a little old here. However, in the last issue she was made up to get into NYC clubs, so it stands to reason she'd look older than usual. Also, as with Rogue before her, I'm not convinced Davis has completely decided how to draw Lorna.

Bottom Line
If you adore either Alan Davis or Rogue, both this and the preceding issue are absolute must-haves. I was in love with this issue on first read, and on re-read I was fascinated with how much of the coming Apocalypse plot is foreshadowed throughout. Davis and Kavanagh's plot not only evokes mid-80s Uncanny, but also the small team and more personal plotting of the defunct Excalibur.

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