Just Friends — Marvel Comics Presents, the X-Men

X-Men's Beast - Just Friends

X-Men’s Beast – Just Friends

Oh, Marvel Comics Presents. A title fondly-known for giving us Wolverine: Weapon X and… well, nothing else. That’s not to say there isn’t good in there… it’s just true that it’s not really remembered. MCP told serialized stories from all over the Marvel Universe, and while their quality ranged from middle-range to… quite a bit less than middle-range, let’s be honest, it always had a steady contingent of X-Men stories that allowed other authors to contribute to a then-Claremont controlled X-Narrative. I’m not saying they contributed good things, I’m just saying they contributed. Just wait till we get to the one where Wolverine is a fur-trader. Woo-Boy.

Anyway, MCP experimented with telling stories with Wolverine, Cyclops, Excalibur, Colossus… before deciding “fuck that” and focused pretty exclusively on Wolverine. This was basically the first secondary X-Men and Wolverine titles for a long time. Apparently they hadn’t learned the ‘just focus on Wolverine’ trick by issues 85-92, which is when the 8-part Just Friends story took place, starring Beast.

(Actually, they had. There was a Wolverine story that ran concurrently to it… but you get the drift).

In this story, we learn that Hank McCoy still resents Professor X for tampering with the minds of everyone he ever knew growing up, including that of his best friend, Jennifer… which makes a lot of sense and I’m shocked hasn’t come up a lot more. How many times has Xavier insisted he “would never do anything like that, it’d be ethically wrong”? Man, Magneto WAS right. :/

Anyway, the sentient ship which would later become Cable’s conscience which would later still become an aggressively annoying android for one issue before returning that space (just… go with it) teleports him to the surface to aid a mailwoman under attack by a mysterious armored man. Meanwhile, in Brussels, Belgium, the police hope to apprehend a seven-time serial killer before the upcoming World Symposium on Mutant Research, while at the museum, a messenger reports that their agent failed to intercept the letter to Hank. We then cut back to Hank, en route to said mutant symposium.

Hank tells his disinterested seatmate about his high school romance with the beautiful Jennifer Nyles, a romance which ended when Professor X wiped her mind. So, now we have the Professor basically forcibly making Hank into a date rapist. Who wrote this… Scott Lobdell? This is an early Scott Lobdell X-Men story?? Dear lord. This man brought us the Phlanax Covenant.

As it turns out, Dr. Jennifer Nyles is one of the symposium’s keynote speakers. Because, that’s not coincidental at all. Thankfully we’re not given a lot of time to dwell on the statistical possibilities of that, because the Constrictor attacks. For anyone who doesn’t know who that is, go read the Dark Reign run on Avengers Initiative. And I do mean right now, because it was awesome.

During the battle, Hank bumps into the Red Ghost, whose presence confuses Hank until much later, long after neutralizing the Constrictor, when his Super-Apes crashes the symposium’s cocktail party and makes off with Jennifer.

Hank teams up with his new French friend infiltrate the Belgian Ministry of Defense, and after separating, Hank finds the Red Ghost undergoing a hostile interrogation. He intervenes, but is caught by Lt. Commander Courage who reveals he intends to exploit Beast’s connection with the Avengers. Which is interesting, in that it is rarely brought up that Hank was an Avenger. Is this actually an Avengers short story in MCP? Hmm. Or is it a Champions story… no, nothing could be that bad.

Hank runs off to find Jennifer… who pulls a gun and shoots him in the chest. Huh. I’ll admit that I didn’t see that coming… mostly because it’s horribly plotted. Surprises don’t work if there’s been nothing leading up to them! And I know Lobdell knows this, that’s what’s frustrating. Beast is now a prisoner of Commander Courage, monologues about how, with the help of Jennifer he perfected the faulty Techno-Organic brain-reprogramming research of the late Dr. Hertzog. He intends to test his results on the scientists attending the mutant symposium to create an army of indestructible Were-Borgs. Satisfied, Beast escapes from his cage, grabs Jennifer, and gets the hell out of there.

Hank hacks into the facility’s master computer and uncovers Commander Courage’s sinister plan to infect several world leaders with mind-controlling implants which would place them fully under his control. You know, the information they just found out straight from him a second ago. Good thing time isn’t of the essence or anything. After Hank successfully reprograms similarly implanted Super-Apes, he asks Jennifer how she got involved with this scheme. She reveals to Hank that her research was fueled by the nagging feeling that a piece of her soul was stolen when she was younger. After asking if that sounds stupid, Hank kisses her, causing the buried memories of her time with Hank to return. Then, the Constrictor and the Frenchman storm in, on the run from Commander Courage and his fearsome Were-Borgs. Commander Courage u shoots Jennifer. While the rest of the heroes, including the now-healthy Red Ghost, destroy the Commander, Hank cradles the dying Jennifer in his arms and helps her through her last moments, before realizing her entire body could be reprogrammed back to health using Techno-Organics. Although she fully recovers a week later, she and Beast separate and remain just friends. Oh, I get it. That’s the title.

It’s a good thing Beast knew so much about Techno-Organics so that he could cure the Legacy Virus in no time… oh, right.

Yeah, if you hadn’t guessed, this story is kinda bullshit. There’s a reason MCP stuck mainly to Wolverine. And even then, that was pretty hit-and-miss.

Just Friends (Marvel Comics Presents, # 85 - 92)Just Friends by Scott Lobdell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“Apparently they hadn’t learned the ‘just focus on Wolverine’ trick by issues 85-92, which is when the 8-part Just Friends story took place, starring Beast.”

View all my reviews

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