Saturday, January 24, 2015

Psylocke Psaturday: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Madripoor

Welcome to Madripoor!

from Marvel Atlas #1 (January 2008), art by Klaus Janson

Yes, Madripoor! The island nation so full of vice they named it twice! (Truth in disclosure: they did not name it twice.) In the Marvel Universe you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, except perhaps for that T.G.I. Friday's in downtown Doomstadt, Latveria. Madripoor, home of the world's weirdest hot air balloons!:

from Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Wolverine one-shot (December 2004)

We're certain this tale of peril, pirates, pride, prejudice, and Psylocke takes place in Madripoor, because Wolverine thoughtfully notifies us in his ninja-slashin' oratory. Thanks, Wolvie!

Panel from Uncanny X-Men #268 (Late September 1990), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Jim Lee, inks by Scott Williams, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Whoo-hoo, Jim Lee fans, check it out: Psylocke is totally fightin' topless!

Oh, don't get too excited — it's just a coloring error that was corrected in the trade paperback:

So, calm down. Where were we? Oh Madripoor:

...where, in keeping with the best traditions of the adventures that inspired Claremont's creation of Madripoor (Terry and the Pirates and TaleSpin), our trio of mutants — Wolverine, Psylocke and Jubilee — have been wandering across Southeast Asia looking for trouble and a really good shrimp dumpling. But you don't buy comics to read about shrimp dumplings, now, do you?

Hey, look, it's a Marvel Team-Up: Natasha "Noodles" Romanoff is part of this story, wearing that Frank Miller-designed grey pop-collar unitard costume that was popular for a while in the 1980s. And that's why they call her...the Grey Black Widow! Also relatively short-lived in this panel: the way Claremont spells her name "Betts."

It's the tale whose flashbacks explain that the Black Widow was around during World War II! Geez, maybe instead of Scarlett Johansson in the movies, they coulda gotten Helen Mirren to play her. (I would have zero problem with that.) Also, it's the adventure where Jubilee eavesdrops through Venetian blinds thoughtfully placed on the outside of a house.

The story does a decent job of establishing the backstory of Wolverine's antagonistic decades-old relationship with Captain America (hey, did they ever explain why Cap never mentioned knowing Wolverine?), and it also continues Betsy Braddock's evolution from cheery purple-haired English rose to cool and mysterious purple-haired Asian assassin.

John Byrne once explained in an interview that when he took over pencilling X-Men, he consulted contemporary magazines like Vogue in order to dress the female characters in more up-to-date contemporary garb than they'd had previously. Jim Lee cranks this idea up to 11 by providing his X-Women with big Eighties hair and the slinkiest, sleekest examples of micro-short clubbing wear although what the Sam Scratch is up with Psylocke's yellow flowered gardening gloves?!?!. Though their styles may now be dated, the skeevy attention Betsy and Natasha are getting is straight outta 2015 as they attend a Ninja Party and attract the attention of the Manimests of Madripoor.

It's not a X-Men party until somebody gets kicked in the jaw, which takes place a handful of panels later. How did Psylocke and Black Widow get changed so fast? And what is the purpose of those unstable molecule-spandex bands around Psyclocke's thighs? How does she keep them from falling down? (A: With great style.)

UXM #268 is justifiably one of this period's classic X-Men issues, with a full, fast-paced plot by Chris Claremont, and the intricate and gorgeous pencilling of Jim Lee, whose artwork was just begging for a better format to be printed on. Seriously, compare the two introductory panels above. Newsprint did no favors to Lee's work, and the eventual addition of the just-plain X-Men title a year later gave him a cleaner printed paper on which to shine. And it's also an issue with one of my favorite scenes: where Jubilee jealously contemplates the fact that she's one of the more-realistically proportioned female heroes of the Marvel Universe. It's a lovely bit of fresh and funny character work in a well-designed and neatly-timed series of panels showing solid teamwork between Claremont and Lee.

Yes, like Kitty Pryde, Jubilee didn't suffer from the over-exaggerated and all-too-homogeneous female bustiness that characterizes too many comic book heroines.

Until she appeared in New Warriors.

Panel from New Warriors (2007 series) #2 (September 2007), script by Kevin Grevioux, pencils by Paco Medina, inks by Juan Vlasco, colors by Marte Gracia, letters by Joe Caramagna

Yep: post-Secret Invasion Jubilee. They're bigger than her head.

Anyway, that's what Psylocke (and Jubilee and Wolverine) were doing in Madripoor. Please now stand for the Madripooran National Anthem.

Hail, hail, our Madripoor
A country Chris Claremont totally made up!

1 comment:

Blam said...

I don't recall seeing Madripor's flag before. Lemme go out on a limb and guess that it celebrates the ousting of Swiss colonists by Aslan during a crescent moon.