Wednesday, November 6, 2013
X-amining Uncanny X-Men #213
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.