Sunday, November 17, 2013

Psylocke Psaturday Psunday #20: Well, X-Men, you can't say that Dallas doesn't love you

Hey! You're just in time for The Fall of the Mutants! Or, as it's known in the United Kingdom, Autumn of the Mutants.

The Fall of the Mutants

...which is apparently such an iconic image that they're homaging it on the cover of this month's Uncanny X-Force:

Solicitation cover for Uncanny X-Force (2013 series) #14 (January 2014), art by Kris Anka

The Fall of the Mutants is unique in the annals of X-History. (I've written a little bit about it before here.) it's the first major tri-title crossover for the mutant comic books (Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, and X-Factor), but the stories don't actually cross over with each other (aside from a few scenes where the X-Men realizes Jean Grey has returned to life and X-Factor discovers Madeline Pryor is working alongside the X-Men) and there's pretty nearly zero requirement to read any other books to understand the story in any one title. All this would change. It was, as Don Henley would sing, "the end of the innocence."

I've mentioned in the past couple installments here that the X-Men were facing one of their most dangerous years, and The Fall of the Mutants is the first of a one-two punch that truly changes the adventures, the stomping grounds, and in many cases, the looks of our merry mutants. The entire earth is menaced by the magical machinations of the Adversary, a trickster god of the Cheyenne Indians. In other words: Native American Loki.

Panels from Uncanny X-Men #225 (January 1988), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Dan Green, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by Tom Orzechowski

It's at a time when nobody likes the X-Men, especially graphic designers who have left waaaaay too much blank space on that photo of 'em. Also: apparently Cain Marko is studying for an internship under Banksy. Here's an example of a very ineffective "wanted" poster. It doesn't say "dead or alive" and it doesn't offer a substantial monetary reward. What's my impetus to capture the X-Men after seeing this broadsheet? My answer is exactly the same as what war is good for: absolutely nuthin'.

Let's take a peek in on our psionic powerhouse princess, please as in...Dallas, Texas.

As we follow her history and evolution, Psylocke is now showing a definite opening up of her innate strengths in battle strategy, keen and sharp with tactics and attack plans. Also: that devil-may-care saucy "over the shoulder" glance. Plus, hair that blends into her natural surroundings! She's got Nightcrawler's "fade into the shadows" bit down pat already! There's not a lot of Psylocke in UXM #225, but what there is is pretty impressive, as she helps the X-Men fight off a cadre of Freedom Force, the former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (now sanctioned by the US government), including the Blob, Spiral, and the fairly-unimpressive Captain America-expy "Crimson Commando":

In addition to featuring an angle at which you don't wanna see the Blob and a fairly cool if slightly illogically-timed visual sound effect, this issue also was the one where Wolverine came to appreciate the predicament of a pancake.

Hey, this is no time for B-list villains to be engaged in a grudge match against the X-Men...the world is ending! Either that, or the White Event is happening on Earth, and Shooter's going to force us into reading all those tedious New Universe titles...again.

UXM #226 opens pretty much immediately following #225, although yes, you did have to wait for it a month in your comic book shop in 1987. The powers of Betsy and the others not-withstanding, the X-Men are pretty much on the defense (insert your own Dallas Cowboys joke here):

Panels from Uncanny X-Men #226 (February 1988), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Dan Green, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Luckily, and in the category of "with teammates like this who needs enemies," Rogue to the rescue! ("Spotted dog?")

This is also around the period where Chris Claremont was trying to make recurring characters in Uncanny out of two real-life personalities, NPR radio journalist (and pal of Claremont) Neal Conan and NPR radio engineer Manoli Wetherell. Turning real folks into comic book characters isn't a new thing in the Marvel Universe, but I've always been endlessly puzzled why Claremont thought it necessary to cast Conan and Wetherell as reporters for the made-up NPR Television, which of course would be "National Public Radio Television." Well, I guess comics are a visual medium, but this, as Groucho would say, is ridiculous. I dunno, maybe it's just because Marvel already had a trademark on the hero name "Conan."

Here's a nice bit where Havok speaks a fine, newsbyte-worthly little speech of the sort that he probably listed on his resumé so that Captain America would much later choose him as the leader of the Uncanny Avengers. See, folks, remember this: whatever you put out there in the media or on the internet, it will always follow you, no matter how many years and Skrull invasions happen in between. Also: I believe that although no one has ever mentioned this factoid before or after, this story definitely proves that Neal Conan is genetically related to Betsy Braddock. Either that or he has bought some really off-brand "Just for Men."

As for Psylocke, she shows off another useful ability for a plot-crammed comic book: the special mutant power of psionically bringing everybody up to date on what's happening without another lengthy dialogue sequence. Or, y'know, Claremont coulda added the caption "After Colossus has brought the X-Men up to date..." but hey, what'd ya expect? It's Claremont.

Through her big-brainy mutant powers, Betsy discovers that Chris Claremont is yet again indulging in his tendency to extensively use characters from his (at that time) pretty-much-unseen Captain Britain run. (He'd indulge in this extensively in the fast-approaching Excalibur and in his run on the "Heroes Return" reboot of Fantastic Four.) In this case it's Roma, the delicious variety of hearty spaghetti sauce Omniversal Majestrix (now there's a job title for your C.V.), daughter of Merlin, and the origin of Captain Britain's version of the guy that Matt Murdock ran across the street to push out of the way of an oncoming truck. As Dean Martin was often heard to croon: "Como e' bella ce' la luna brille e' strette / Strette como e' tutta bella a passeggiare / Sotto il cielo di Roma."

So, that's pretty much it for Psylocke's involvement in The Fall of the Mutants, and...oh wait, I forgot: The X-Men die.

Panels from Uncanny X-Men #227 (March 1988), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Marc Silvestri, inks by Dan Green, colors by Bill Wray, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Which is why Uncanny X-Men was cancelled with issue #227 and the series was never seen again.

Hah! Did I fool ya? Because while they actually did die in Dallas that day, Roma brought 'em back alive! (Probably because she had just bought a year's subscription of Uncanny from Marvel and didn't want it to be switched over to just get eleven issues of Star Brand.)

From this point onwards, The X-Men are believed to be dead, and they must let the world think that they are dead until they can find a way to control the raging spirits that dwell within them. As a side effect of Roma's resurrection, the X-Men are now completely invisible to every single electronic surveillance, which means they can't be sensed or picked up by electronic security systems, cameras, computer surveillance, or videotape! So, be right here next time to see this exciting scene from the adventures of the X-Men!

1 comment:

Tazirai said...

I absolutely loved Betsy during this time in her career. It showed she didn't have to be ninja to affect her foes. As long as she stayed at range, my girl was amazing. Even as a Ninja she's never taken on multiple foes at once like she did then. Even the lines she had showed such a great character, cunning and compassionate. Helping Dazzler, the mystery of Roma, Mentally helping civilians, she rocked. I miss this Betsy so much.