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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #213

"Psylocke"
January 1987

In a Nutshell 
Psylocke joins the team as Wolverine and Sabretooth fight once again. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Alan Davis
Guest Inker: Paul Neary 
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Psylocke telepathically surveys the mansion with the help of Cerebro, checking in on Rogue, who is patrolling the perimeter, and the injured X-Men. Meanwhile, Wolverine, Storm, Magneto and Callisto check the Morlock Tunnels, confirming that the energy which blasted through the tunnels has scoured it of anything flammable. Magneto, believing he has failed the missing New Mutants, mentions the Hellfire Club's offer to become their White King. Storm quickly shoots down the idea, but Callisto notes that the X-Men could use the help, especially in the face of the Marauders. Meanwhile, at the mansion, Psylocke detects a stranger entering the grounds, but when she tries to read his mind, the resultant feedback knocks her out, and in LA, Malice continues to exert more control over Dazzler. Back at the school, Rogue is knocked out by Sabretooth. As Psylocke regains consciousness, she tries to warn the X-Men, but Sabretooth attacks her.


Psylocke survives his initial attack, then leads him on a chase through the mansion, up and away from the injured in the subbasement levels. The chase ends in Storm's attic, and just as Sabretooth is about to kill Psylocke, Storm and Wolverine arrive. The latter engages Sabretooth, their ensuing fight spilling out of the school and onto the grounds. Psylocke, seeing an opportunity, reads Sabretooth's minds while his psychic defenses are down, gaining information about the Marauders and their leader. When the fight reaches the cliffs overlooking the lake, both Wolverine and Sabretooth tumble into the water, and though Wolverine surfaces, Sabretooth disappears. The X-Men spend the night searching for him, to no avail, and the next morning, impressed by how well she handled herself, offer Psylocke a place on the team, which she happily accepts.

Firsts and Other Notables
Psylocke officially joins the X-Men in this issue, appearing in what will be her standard costume, with some variation, for the next few years, for the first time.


Mr. Sinister appears, sort of, for the first time, as a shadowy figure in Sabretooth's memory, a panel which, along with the Wolverine/Sabretooth fight, helped inflate the back issue price of this issue in the 90s. It's implied that Psylocke picked up some critical intel on the Marauders while rooting around in Sabretooth's mind, yet ultimately we'll see this isn't the case, as we never get any follow up to whatever info she may have gleaned and the X-Men are largely ignorant of him when they finally meet Mr. Sinister, further indication that Claremont is perhaps making this up as he goes along a bit more than usual.


In that same sequence, Psylocke sees a memory of a previous fight between Sabretooth and Wolverine. In that panel, the younger Wolverine is drawn with the pants of his current uniform, which he didn't start wearing until after the death of Phoenix. In-universe, this can be explained away as a result of Sabretooth's faulty memories created by the Weapon X program. Out-of-universe, of course, it's just a case of Davis and Neary not being familiar with the character's timeline.

The idea is floated that the X-Men can't effectively protect the surviving Morlocks at the mansion while also hunting down the Marauders, and decide to bring the survivors to Muir Isle. We'll see this transition in future issues, and this discussion lays the seeds for the essential abandonment of the mansion as a base of operations by the X-Men for the remainder of Claremont's tenure on the title. Psylocke also worries that the days of Cerebro being used to identify and track down new mutants may well be done, and for the most part, she's right. 


Alan Davis fills in as guest penciller, as Uncanny X-Men continues to wait for the arrival of a new regular penciller in the wake of Romita Jr.'s departure. He is joined on inks by his longtime artistic partner, Paul Neary, and the pair also contribute another iconic cover to the series.

The Chronology Corner
Between last issue and this one, Sabretooth appears in Daredevil #238. 

A Work in Progress
Claremont has either recalled or been reminded of Psylocke's age relative to the New Mutants, as she says she is no longer a "youngster" and notes that Kitty is almost half her age.

Psylocke's butterfly effect is seen for the first time, the visual representation of her telepathic abilities. It will usually be seen surrounding her face when she's using her telepathy, but sometimes, as in this issue, it appears amongst other characters when she's telepathically communicating with them from afar.


It's noted that if a way to return Kitty to solid isn't found soon, she runs the risk of ceasing to exist as her molecules spread apart.


The New Mutants absence is discussed further - Psylocke vows not to stop looking for them (though we won't see much evidence of that moving forward), Magneto, consistent with his portrayal in New Mutants, continues to believe they're alive, while Wolverine reasons that if they were, they'd have found a way to contact the X-Men by now (which is flawed reasoning on his part, considering we know of at least reason they haven't contacted the X-Men - there's no phones that can make calls across time in medieval Scotland).


The return of Storm's powers are teased once again - after Storm notes that lightening could have caused the energy blast that scoured the Morlock Tunnels, Callisto recalls the lightening which occurred during their fight last issue, and the pair wonders if Storm subconsciously triggered the blast (of course, readers of Thor know this is not the case, and it was Thor's lightening which triggered the blast).


Magneto tells Storm and Wolverine about the Hellfire Club's offer to join them. Their reaction suggests he hadn't shared this information with them previously, which further suggests he didn't tell the X-Men about X-Factor's true nature (and Wolverine discerned it elsewhere), or he told them about X-Factor but kept the Hellfire Club offer a secret for some reason.


Psylocke offers to use Cerebro to amplify her powers to the point that she can search the world over for either the New Mutants or the Marauders; the X-Men appreciate the offer, but (convienantly) turn it down as being too dangerous. This prompts Psylocke to bristle at the dichotomy between her prim, seemingly-gentle exterior and her desire to be a warrior, a character trait carried over from her time as a member of Captain Britain's supporting cast and one which will greatly inform Claremont's depiction of her during his tenure.


Sabretooth is largely depicted in this issue as being more powerful than in his later appearances: he somewhat laughably knocks out the super-strong, invulnerable Rogue in three panels, and later crumples a barbell in his bare hands.


Sabretooth also refers to Wolverine as "runt" for the first time. 

Claremontisms
The title of this issue's story is another single character name title.

One of the more (in)famous Claremontisms appears for the first time (in a slightly modified form), as Sabretooth says to Rogue, "Bang, you dead".


Later, its said that during Wolverine and Sabretooth's fight, no quarter is asked and none is given.

Young Love
Psylocke says that Doug loves her deeply, though she's uncertain of her own feelings for him, as Claremont wisely backpedals away from that relationship.


Bullpen Bulletins
In his Bullpen Bulletins column this month, Jim Shooter discusses a then-recent TV interview celebrating Marvel's 25th anniversary, and apologizes for the lack of credit given by the broadcast to artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko for the role they played in the creation of the modern Marvel Universe.Which is just interesting given that the subject is an oft-contentious one. 


It's in the Mail
A response to a letter in this issue teases the Claremont/Leonardi Phoenix limited series that never comes to be.

Teebore's Take
Depending on who you ask, either this issue or the next is considered Uncanny X-Men's final contribution to "Mutant Massacre" (the most recent collections include issue #214, so we're considering that the final issue for our purposes). Not that it ultimately matters, because as has been said repeatedly, the actual plot line of the massacre ended with its first issue. Once again, the massacre is used chiefly as a means to push the narrative forward. Only one issue after establishing their rivalry, we get a Wolverine/Sabretooth rematch, this battle more savage than the last with more vague hints at the characters' shared pasts. The notion that the mansion isn't safe - or that, at the very least, it makes it difficult for the X-Men to both protect the wounded and hunt down the Marauders - is also fronted, and both ideas (of the book's traditional setting being untenable and of the X-Men being more proactive) will greatly influence the remainder of Claremont's tenure on the book.

But moreso than either of those pieces, this issue is principally concerned with formally bringing Psylocke into the fold. She's been hanging around on the fringes of both this series and New Mutants for a couple months now, but this story puts her in the spotlight for the first time, facing her off against Sabretooth in an effort to prove her bonafides to both the characters and the readers. For the most part, it work. It comes dangerously close to Mary Sue-ism, but doesn't quite cross that line: Psylocke doesn't so much fight Sabretooth as avoid being killed by him, her biggest success being leading him away from the injured (her later efforts to read his mind come after Wolverine has entered the fray and taken over the physical fight). Or, to put it another way: Sabretooth taking out Rogue in three panels is ridiculous, but that doesn't mean Psylocke holding her own against him later automatically is. It's an effective way to introduce the character to the team (and finally settles the question of where she'll end up), and, of course, it helps that it's all gorgeously illustrated by Davis and Neary. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, half the New Mutants find themselves in a grim future in New Mutants #48 and Friday, X-Factor goes boom (boom) in X-Factor #12. Next week, the first pair of "Mutant Massacre" tie-ins, Power Pack #27 and Daredevil #238. 

16 comments:

  1. This issue is another great example of what a good collaborator Claremont is, as it's mostly built around a Captain Britain character Alan Davis has already worked with. As mentioned earlier, Davis seems like an odd fit for the "darkening" of the X-Men line that JRJR definitely helped lead into, and this issue as a result reminds me a lot of the Byrne/Claremont "Demon" issue. Which is nice, but it's not really where the series is headed thematically. As far as "not knowing where he's going," I think Claremont has a strong sense of where his character beats are going, but the actual plot to plot stuff is pretty much being done on the fly.

    As dumb as Magneto's costume from this era always looks, it looks even worse with Davis drawing it. I mean, a red Dracula-cape with a big "M" on it? It's like he's wearing a lame Halloween version of his own costume.

    Agree that this isn't really Mary-Sue-ism so much as justifying why a character that they've explained can't really fight should be on the team. Every character needs a spotlight issue now and again, and this doesn't make her out to be super special or the only hope or anything like that. She isn't going from unknown to beating up Juggernaut and making out with Wolverine.

    My Marvel RPG explanation for Rogue being punked out by Sabretooth? Her stats in that game were poor in her fighting skill, as her "Rogue" personality hadn't absorbed Carol Danvers's fight training (she'd only have that fighting ability when Carol takes control), and she was pretty green at actual knock-down fights, although in the intervening two years, you'd think she'd improve. Anyway, Sabretooth was able to use his superior fighting skills to stun her, without really doing any real damage. That's my no-prize explanation, anyway.

    Also, shameless self-promotion: I'm getting closer to reviewing "The Crossing" on my blog over at http://thepouchfiles.blogspot.com/

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  2. I'm surprised the cover wasn't "Welcome to the X-Men Psylocke, hope you survive the experience"...guess Shooter figured it'd be more lucrative to feature a cover promising a Wolverine Sabretooth rematch.


    Is this the last appearance of Kitty in an X-Men book before seeing her in Excalibur?

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  3. Kitty (and Kurt) show up again in the wake in UNCANNY during Fall of the Mutants, in the wake of the X-Men's apparent death; I think maybe after that it's straight into Excalibur for them?

    I'm hoping Teebore will cover Excalibur.

    I've been reading along and really, really enjoying the interactions between Storm and Callisto--their rivalry is one of my favourite components of this era.

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  4. I really like this issue. Love the cover, love the artwork by Davis, love the action and the sense of menace presented by Sabretooth -- which, as Dobson notes, is not dissimilar to the "Demon" in that Claremont/Byrne issue. Plus it sets Psylocke and Sabretooth up as rivals. I believe they cross paths a few more times during Claremont's run, and of course there was the classic (?) Lobdell/Madureira issue where Sabretooth disebowled her.

    "Out-of-universe, of course, it's just a case of Davis and Neary not being familiar with the character's timeline."

    I actually think that on is on Glynis. There are no lines to indicate Wolverine is wearing any clothes in that picture. I assume she colored the pants/trunks and gloves on to appease the modesty requirements of the Comics Code.

    "Claremont has either recalled or been reminded of Psylocke's age relative to the New Mutants, as she says she is no longer a "youngster" and notes that Kitty is almost half her age."

    That sounds about right. As I said before, she was college age when Claremont started writing her (since her twin was in college), but Alan Davis had established Brian's age as 29, I believe, by the time Captain Britain's solo series ended.

    "...Wolverine reasons that if they were, they'd have found a way to contact the X-Men by now (which is flawed reasoning on his part, considering we know of at least reason they haven't contacted the X-Men - there's no phones that can make calls across time in medieval Scotland)."

    Plus, doesn't Wolverine recall that time everyone thought the X-Men were dead, and they never bothered to phone up their friends and let them know they were still alive for weeks after they returned to New York?

    "Sabretooth is largely depicted in this issue as being more powerful than in his later appearances: he somewhat laughably knocks out the super-strong, invulnerable Rogue in three panels, and later crumples a barbell in his bare hands."

    Because of that, I've always thought that maybe this is Claremont's "true" Sabretooth, working with the Marauders just this once. Claremont has said he intended the majority of Sabretooth's appearances to be clones, but not all of them.

    "One of the more (in)famous Claremontisms appears for the first time (in a slightly modified form), as Sabretooth says to Rogue, "Bang, you dead"."

    Funny, I've always considered this more of a "Gambit-ism" than a Claremont-ism, but I guess he did use it for other characters. It just seemed like, near the end, he was trying to sell it as Gambit's catchprhase.


    Dobson -- "My Marvel RPG explanation for Rogue being punked out by Sabretooth? Her stats in that game were poor in her fighting skill..."

    You're speaking my language, Dobson! Though Rogue's Fighting was actually GOOD (10), not POOR (4). ;-)

    I also don't think you were able to Stun someone if their Endurance was higher than your Strength, but I could be misremebering.

    (Yes, I know you were half joking. I'm just having some fun.)


    Reese & Ben -- Kitty also plays a major role in X-Men vs. Fantastic Four, though I guess you were maybe just wondering about the core books, and not ancillary mini-series.

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  5. Matt- you could stun someone even without damaging them if you had the "martial arts" talent in the basic rules (they removed that limitation in the advanced version anyway)! So glad to put this information to good use!

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  6. Of course! Martial Arts! Not sure how I forgot that. I lived and breathed that game for years as a kid.

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  7. "It's implied that Psylocke picked up some critical intel on the Marauders while rooting around in Sabretooth's mind, yet ultimately we'll see this isn't the case, as we never get any follow up to whatever info she may have gleaned and the X-Men are largely ignorant of him when they finally meet Mr. Sinister, further indication that Claremont is perhaps making this up as he goes along a bit more than usual."

    I think it could be argued that she did gain some intel on them, since during their next encounters with the Marauders, the X-men end up doing a much better job fighting them. Possibly due to the intel she gained in the individuals members.

    As to why she didn't get any intel on Sinister himself? My fanwank is, as much she tried to probe and discover, Sinister placed mental blocks in the mind of the Marauders to keep telepaths from raiding their minds for info about him.

    "Is this the last appearance of Kitty in an X-Men book before seeing her in Excalibur?"

    Yes, as Matt points out, besides an issue of FOTM, she also appears in Fantastic Four vs. The X-men (which is before FOTM).

    "and of course there was the classic (?) Lobdell/Madureira issue where Sabretooth disebowled her."

    Er...not so classic :D

    "My Marvel RPG explanation for Rogue being punked out by Sabretooth?"

    Regardless of her fighting skill, shouldn't Sanretooth have broken his hand just from punching her jaw?

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  8. I love Alan Davis pencils, especially as inked by Paul Neary, but that splash page looks like Psylocke got into a paintball fight with Ant-Man and The Wasp.

    You mentioned pretty much everything I had questions about or that otherwise stood out to me: Betsy referring to Kitty as "half my age"; the Hellfire Club thing; Sabretooth's knocking Rogue through a large rock and then out cold; the "butterfly effect" of Psylocke's mental projection; her offer to scan the country or even world for the New Mutants. The only big outstanding bit to me is the practicality of moving all of the wounded, from both a logistical and defensible standpoint.

    // Mr. Sinister appears, sort of, for the first time //

    Perhaps she was having a psychic premonition of Venom?

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  9. @Dobson:I think Claremont has a strong sense of where his character beats are going, but the actual plot to plot stuff is pretty much being done on the fly.

    Definitely. Pretty much any time I mention Claremont not seeming to know where something is headed, I mean in terms of the plot. He pretty much always seems to have a strong idea of where the characters are going.

    Every character needs a spotlight issue now and again, and this doesn't make her out to be super special or the only hope or anything like that.

    Well said.

    I'm getting closer to reviewing "The Crossing" on my blog

    I am ridiculously behind on your blog (and Matt's, and Blam's, and tons of others, and even the comments of my own), but I'll have to head back over there soon, as I have a pretty strong love/hate relationship with "The Crossing".

    @Reese: Is this the last appearance of Kitty in an X-Men book before seeing her in Excalibur?

    In addition to the FoM issue and the FF miniseries others have mentioned, I think we might see her in her big glass jar on the way to Muir Isle (or just after they get there) in either issue #215 or #216, but I could be wrong about that. Certainly, aside from the FF miniseries, this is the last time she'll be featured notably until Excalibur.

    @Ben: I'm hoping Teebore will cover Excalibur.

    I'm planning on it, as well as the Wolverine solo series.

    @Matt: I actually think that on is on Glynis. There are no lines to indicate Wolverine is wearing any clothes in that picture. I assume she colored the pants/trunks and gloves on to appease the modesty requirements of the Comics Code.

    That makes sense.

    Plus, doesn't Wolverine recall that time everyone thought the X-Men were dead, and they never bothered to phone up their friends and let them know they were still alive for weeks after they returned to New York?

    Right? For all Wolverine knows, the New Mutants are just in the process of making their way home by way of the Savage Land/Japan/Canada and haven't been able to contact anyone for various contrived reasons. :)

    Because of that, I've always thought that maybe this is Claremont's "true" Sabretooth, working with the Marauders just this once.

    Ah, that could be. It would certainly fit with Claremont's idea.

    It just seemed like, near the end, he was trying to sell it as Gambit's catchprhase.

    Definitely. It was used before Gambit by various characters, but he seems to have adopted it towards the end of Claremont's run.

    @wwk5d: My fanwank is, as much she tried to probe and discover, Sinister placed mental blocks in the mind of the Marauders to keep telepaths from raiding their minds for info about him.

    Yeah, I've never had a problem with Sinister remaining shrouded in mystery, even after this probe, simply because he strikes me as the type that isn't too open with his flunkies. It just seems like Claremont is setting this up as the inciting incident for the X-Men going after the Marauders, and they never really do (at least not for awhile).

    Regardless of her fighting skill, shouldn't Sanretooth have broken his hand just from punching her jaw?

    You'd think so. Granted, it would heal eventually, but still.

    @Blam: The only big outstanding bit to me is the practicality of moving all of the wounded, from both a logistical and defensible standpoint.

    We'll see them doing it in a couple issues time. It's neither exciting nor terribly realistic.


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  10. I'm fairly sure we see the last time we see Kitty prior to Excalibur is actually in New Mutants, just after the the X-men and Doug's deaths, which won't be for awhile.

    Illyana freaks out-- go figure-- and goes to Muir Island in search of a a shoulder to cry on. Unfortunately, our little snowflake has gone to the wrong place if she's looking for sympathy!

    Illyana comports herself as a shrieking lunatic brat in typical Simonson-era fashion while Kitty is a mealymouthed Pollyanna who seems baffled that her supposed best friend should be upset by recent events.

    One gets the impression that Inferno could have been entirely averted at this moment if Kitty had just put a Jiffy Pop on the stove and suggested a gal's night in. Instead, Kitty smarmily tells Magik to grow up and quit whining, Magik retreats further into her demonic K-hole, and New York is overwhelmed by hellspawn as a result.

    At least, that's my recollection of the scene.

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  11. Which suddenly brings to mind that it might have been interesting to see Magik as a member of Excalibur in place of Rachel. She's an unwieldy character but no more problematic than Rachel, she has a more obvious relationship to Kitty, and her mystickal powers could have been interesting in the context of the Captain Britain mythos. Plus she has a sword.

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  12. @Ben: I'm fairly sure we see the last time we see Kitty prior to Excalibur is actually in New Mutants, just after the the X-men and Doug's deaths, which won't be for awhile.

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure Kitty pops up in New Mutants post-FoM, pre-Excalibur.

    Which suddenly brings to mind that it might have been interesting to see Magik as a member of Excalibur in place of Rachel.

    I'd never thought of that before, but you're right, that would have been interesting - we may have even gotten a different ending for the character than she got (I've never known how much of what happened to her in "Inferno" was Simonson's doing or Simonson working off notes from Claremont). Plus, yeah, the sword.

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  13. @Ben: // Which suddenly brings to mind that it might have been interesting to see Magik as a member of Excalibur in place of Rachel. She's an unwieldy character but no more problematic than Rachel, she has a more obvious relationship to Kitty, and her mystickal powers could have been interesting in the context of the Captain Britain mythos. Plus she has a sword. //

    I like that idea. Maybe her stepping discs (and, by the way, I feel like she hasn't called them that for a while now) would've made "The Cross-Time Caper" trickier, or maybe not since her power was unpredictable anyway. Honestly, as much as I tend to enjoy alternate-Earth travelogues, I gave up on that interminable story about halfway through, and it might even have been before Davis himself dropped out.

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  14. This was a great read. This is my favorite version of Psylocke. The non fighter with Strong Psychic powers, and Strength of spirit. Always ready to help. I always have to tell people, her "fans", who've never seen or read her British books, she was in. Psylocke was an older woman, at 29/30. She was the oldest of the X-men outside of Magneto, and maybe Callisto. But sometimes you just have to give proof. Which I did tonight with this very issue.
    New follower here.

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  15. She was the oldest of the X-men outside of Magneto, and maybe Callisto. But sometimes you just have to give proof. Which I did tonight with this very issue.

    Erm, Wolverine was the oldest team member at the time, and even pre-retcons, would have been the oldest after Magneto. Also, Storm could have been in her early to mid 30s by this point? But yes, Psylocke may well have been one of the older members by her joining the team.

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  16. I love this Psylocke and this issue. The wave is about to break, and it's killing me. I wish Davis had stayed on, I love his kinetic, clean lines.

    FASERIP baby!

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