Saturday, November 02, 2013

Psylocke Psaturday #19: Domo Arigato, Ms. Roboto

Psylocke likes attention (well, she is a former supermodel) and she doesn't like being ignored, so before I get jabbed in my fuzzy behind by a psychic knife, let's check in again with our favorite purple-haired mutant as she continues the journey from airplane pilot to pro-facto leader of Uncanny X-Force Volume 2. (She's got it written that way on her resumé, and who am I to disagree?)

Betsy has joined the X-Men during one of their most dangerous years: 1987. Want proof? It's the same year Michael Jackson attempted to buy the Elephant Man's remains. (So at least we know the goofiest stuff isn't simply going on at Earth-616.) Altho' she's joined the X-Men, she's still of an uncertain mind about whether this is what she wants out of life. I'm guessing her very proper English lady's boarding school's career counselor suggested instead that she go into a career of being one of the Bright One Things of 1980s England, lolling about, drinking designer cocktails and complaining about how dreary everything is. No one ever would have predicted that the art of complaining about your lot in life was to be refined to the nth degree by the angsting angstiness of Chris Claremont's scripts. Now, towards the end of '87 there's really no doubt where Psylocke's energies and loyalties lie: as a charter member of the Wolverine Rules OK Club.

Panel from Uncanny X-Men #224 (December 1987), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Bob Wiacek, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by Tom Orzechowski

But if we flash back a few months to UXM Annual #11, we get to check in with the X-Men before they leave the relative safety of the X-Mansion for the wild outbacks of Australia, and one of those "Why must the X-Men exist?!?" stories that Claremont competently trots out every few issues years. It's one of my favorite X-Men Annuals (probably only eclipsed by Annual #9), and (not only) because we get to see the X-Men in their pajamas when Wolverine wakes them up coming home drunk in the middle of the night:

Panel from Uncanny X-Men Annual #11 (1987), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Alan Davis, inks by Paul Neary, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Attention brewing companies! Wolverine is available as an elegant commercial spokesman for your fine beers!

Betsy's twin brother Brian (and Brian's magic-girlfriend Meggan) are staying at the X-Mansion for a holiday and convenience of the story, so it's a good time for Claremont to portray her uncertainty about the future and her chosen career as comic book superhero. Considering her much later dress sense, her Victorian-style neck to ankle nightgown seems like a good metaphor for the eventual evolution of Psylocke's love of shock and scandal, or else it's just a chance for Alan Davis to use the Laura Ashley catalogue for artist's reference.

Suddenly! The alien overlord known as Horde (please do not spell his name as a homonym) invades the Xavier School and, with his absolutely undefinable power-set, overwhelms and kidnaps all the X-Men. Hey, it's a test version of Onslaught!

Horde traps the X-Men, Cap Britain and Meggan in a bizarre alien citadel, where one by one they're separated from each other. You know, Storm, when you're the leader of the X-Men, it's a bad idea to take tactical advice from episodes of Scooby-Doo. When Psylocke breaks one of the citadel's crystal walls and cuts her hand, she discovers that underneath her skin shiny metal! I knew it! Even tho' they wrote him out of the book following the Mutant Massacre, Claremont has found a way to bring back Colossus!

The Citadel ultimately grants you your deepest, most hidden wishes, and it looks like Betsy Braddock desperately craves being a Jocasta cosplayer. There then follows several panels about how now brown cow Betsy realizes her destiny is to a warrior (altho' I'm guessing she didn't predict the turning-Japanese part), and much discussion with Storm about their ultimate fates, thankfully not including the creepy Claremont similar of being "closer than sisters."

By the way, this is the Annual where Wolverine regenerates from one single drop of blood. Granted, it's with the help of a Powerful Magic Alien Crystal™, but that's a pretty dramatic demonstration of his healing factor. Also, geez, Wolverine, no one wants to see your circulatory system; put on your dang uniform.

Thanks to his contact with the P.M.A.C.™, Wolverine evolves into Cosmic Wolverine, which explains that entire run of Wolvie comics in '88-'89 in which he took off to the stars with BFF Silver Surfer and had a whole lot of adventures drinking in space bars with Galactus. Ah, I miss the days of Cosmic Wolverine.

Suddenly! Eventually! Denouement. Everybody on stage for the big South-Park style "What have we learned this week, kids?" lesson. Psylocke has learned she was born to be an X-Man, Rogue has learned she can make a fine dress out of curtains, and everyone else is pretty bummed. Well, you all get a different reaction from the same ride at Disney World, I guess.

One final note: this is the Annual that establishes a concept I don't think has ever been addressed again in the Marvel Universe: that it is Horde's testing of the X-Men, and Wolverine passing that test, that has allowed the human race to continue evolving. Past tested races like the Kree, the Dire Wraiths, and the Skrull have failed and had their evolutionary paths ended: they will not continue to evolve as biological beings, making their races dead ends among the galaxy. Today in 2013 Infinity is covering similar ground, but I'm pretty sure this Claremontean plot point has been long-forgotten or -ignored.

So the next time you're arguing about why the Beast changed from a monkey into a cat, you can just tell them it's because Wolverine dripped blood on an exhibit in a cosmic museum. Yep, that's a good an explanation as any.


eric said...

'It's our innings' in the plural would have been an acceptable Britishism (Cricket has innings, not inning), but 'It's our turn to bat' would be fine.

Blam said...

a concept I don't think has ever been addressed again in the Marvel Universe

Huh. I haven't read this issue in years 'n' years, and I'd totally forgot that. Claremont in particular did have a tendency to toss off grand, sometimes even universe-defining concepts like this that weren't ever really addressed again.

Tazirai said...

Totally glad you've returned to Psylocke Saturdays. Love seeing her British side. I was going to write a mean note, asking how you forgot Psylocke saturdays, but then I started Watching Courage the cowardly dog, and all was right with the world.