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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #238

"Gonna Be A Revolution"
Late November 1988

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men rescue Wolverine, Rogue & Maddy and inspire a revolution in Genosha.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Genosha, the Genegineer and Chief Magistrate Anderson watch a psychic transcript of the telepath who scanned Madelyne, seeing what was in her mind moments before she killed everyone in the examining room. The Genegineer confronts Madelyne in her cell, but she claims ignorance of the attack. Elsewhere, Wolverine, Rogue and Phillip Moreau reach the Mutant Settlement Zone where the enslaved mutants live, and Phillip is horrified by the conditions. However, when Wolverine and Rogue are discovered, Phillip is arrested alongside them and taken to the Citadel. There, Madelyne comforts Jenny Ransome as Phillip is brought before his father, where he argues on behalf of mutants. Meanwhile, the rest of the X-Men infiltrate the Citadel, attacking Magistrates and searching for their captured teammates.


In the chaos, Madelyne escapes her cell, and the Genegineer finds her where mutant babies are created, holding the infant retrieved by the Press Gang, and she notes that the place seems familiar to her. The Genegineer prepares to shoot her, but Phillip intervenes, disrupting his shot and demanding his father take him to Jenny. In the aftermath of the attack, Psylocke forces Wipeout to restore Wolverine and Rogue's powers, and though Wolverine advocates burning the country to the ground, Phillip argues that the people of Genosha need to be given a chance to set things right, that if they learned the truth they'd be as revolted as he is. He and Jenny pledge to lead a mutant rights movement, and Storm urges the Genegineer and magistrates to listen to the boy as Havok destroys their Citadel. As the X-Men leave, Wolverine warns the Genoshans that if they don't change their ways, the X-Men will return.  

Firsts and Other Notables
The X-Men defeat the Genoshans, as much as they can, this issue, with Phillip Moreau, his eyes opened to the true state of mutant affairs in his country and reunited with Jenny Ransome, pledging to lead a mutant rights movement, with the X-Men threatening to return to Genosha if things don't get better. Shockingly, things don't get better, and Genosha will return as an antagonistic presence before too long, with most of the characters introduced in this story returning. 

There are lots of "Inferno" teases seeded throughout the mindscan of Madelyne: she threatens to engulf the world in flames a la Phoenix, and casts the Genegineer in the attire of Mr. Sinister.


She then appears in her Goblin Queen persona, threatening to create an inferno 


Later, Madelyne finds the creche where the Genegineer creates mutant babies familiar, a hint at the upcoming reveal of her true origin.


The mutant baby who kicked off this storyline in issue #235 resurfaces, and is rescued from the Genoshans by Madelyne, only to disappear later, with Madelyne making a cryptic comment as to his whereabouts. Future stories will imply that she gave the baby to N'astirh, as part of his quest to attain mutant babies (as seen in contemporaneous issues of X-Factor).

As the Genoshan's watch the recordings of the mindscan performed on Madelyne, they hear a song playing in her mind from Steeleye Span, which is the group whose lead singer (Maddie Prior) inspired the character's name.

As reluctant as I am to bring it up, it's worth noting that later stories will establish that the technology involved in the creation of Genoshan mutates and the Genegineer's specific know-how in that field came from Sugar Man, one of the four characters from the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline who jumped into the "main" reality in the course of that story and landed some twenty years in the past (which is what allows for Sugar Man to be able to monkey with Genosha's development in the past). It's a stupid and unnecessary retcon, but it is officially canon, and thus worth mentioning.

The Chronology Corner
Between this issue and the next, Colossus appears in Marvel Comics Presents #10-17 (which we'll look at next week), along with most of the rest of the X-Men in issue #16. Wolverine then appears in issues #9-10 of his solo series (even though they technically haven't been published yet). 

A Work in Progress
In arguing with Madelyne, the Genegineer pulls out that hold chestnut that the mutant slaves are well cared for, and arguably have a better life than some free people. He also stresses the importance of keeping Genosha's mutant slaves a secret, because the rest of the world would both condemn Genosha and covet the process, suggesting that while Genosha is known to be an economic powerhouse around the world, the true source of that wealth remains a secret.   


Wolverine, Rogue and a shocked Phillip visit the mutant settlement facility, the concentration camp-like place where the mutates live.


In a clever touch, the fact that Wolverine and Rogue, posing as magistrates, didn't appear next to Phillip on security equipment, gives them away.


Jenny Ransome has begun the transformation into a mutate, and has grown larger and stronger as a result, but the X-Men prevent the Genegineer from finishing the process.


Madelyne mentions that she had healing powers once, a reference to the X-Men/Alpha Flight limited series.


Wolverine offers up "Patch" as his name to the Genoshans, the first time that alias is used in X-Men.


It's revealed that Wipeout can remove memories as well as powers. 

The Genegineer makes it clear he'd sacrifice his son to protect Genosha.


Phillip, though opposed to the Genoshan regime, prevents the X-Men from destroying the country, arguing that it's still his home, and he wants to work to make it a better place.


However, as a symbol of their dissatisfaction with the country and reminder of their power, Havok blows up the Citadel for the X-Men.


Phillip and Jenny are also forced to leave with the X-Men, out of fear that the Genoshans will immediately suppress their mutant rights movement, and vows to begin the fight from Australia.


Psylocke once again covers up the involvement of the X-Men, using her telepathy to alter the Genoshans memories specifically of the X-Men (though later stories will suggest this alteration doesn't take).


Claremontisms
Dazzler uses the "solid light" aspect of her power to essentially create a battering ram, thinking in the process that "she can't fail - won't fail".  


The Best There is at What He Does
Wolverine mentions that he's been a slave before, though I don't think this particular cryptic hint of his past has ever been tagged to a specific event/story. 


Young Love
Upon being reunited, Havok and Maddy kiss, with Maddy earlier casually referring to Havok as "lover".


Human/Mutant Relations
Phillip, explaining why he never questioned Genosha's approach to mutants before, says that he was taught that "like keeps to like", and that the mutants preferred to be isolated.


Teebore's Take
The X-Men can't ever win completely. Not just because they're the stars of a long-running serial narrative predicated on regular doses of conflict, but because, at the end of the day, you can't punch away prejudice. Hence, so many of the X-Men's greatest foes are metaphorical: they can't blast away bigotry, but they can blast Sentinels. They can't make humanity love mutants, but they can save humans from the latest attack of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. All of which is to say the biggest failing of the otherwise spectacular Genosha storyline is the ending. Because on the macro level, the X-Men can't just believably uproot the entirety of Genoshan society and force equality between humans and mutants, while on the micro level, there's not a singular foe who can be defeated cathartically in lieu of full-on societal restructuring.

Claremont does the best he can to end the story on a satisfying note, and for the most part, he succeeds. Havok destroys the Genoshan citadel, set up as a symbol of their oppressive regime, while the Genegineer's son and his fiancee, rescued from the mutate process, vow to lead a mutant rights movement on the island. It's the best ending we can hope for in a narrative that can't realistically support the societal change we'd like to see nor deny future stories the use of the Genoshans as villains (and, as that mutant rights movement develops and the nature of Genoshan society changes in future stories, so too does the nature of its metaphor, to mixed results), and it doesn't take away the power of the initial metaphor on which Genosha is built nor this well-executed story. Still, there's no denying some level of disappointment at Wolverine being unable to follow up on his threat from last issue to "bring this flamin' country down", however unlikely that may have been.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Excalibur battles the Warwolves in Excalibur #2 and Friday, Wolverine's march to sales dominance begins in Wolverine #1. Next week, the Colossus serial in Marvel Comics Presents #11-17.

15 comments:

  1. I wonder if people would be as upset about the Sugar Man retcon if Sugar Man wasn't such a god awful character. Although, I guess Dark Beast wasn't a bad character and his retroactive involvement with the Morlocks was pretty terrible, too.

    I definitely take a selective approach to X-Men continuity. I generally ignore that the Jean who died in the Dark Phoenix Saga wasn't Jean and that Xorn wasn't Magneto. As long as it doesn't warp continuity too much, I can overlook retcons I don't like. Also, Chuck Austen never wrote X-Men in "my" continuity. Most of Scott Lobdell's run after AoA is out. It makes me a much happier camper.

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  2. Note that this issue Maddie doesn't seem to remember what she did as the Goblin Queen and Wipeout says she has no powers. I have to wonder if Claremont was going for something different then what actually saw print in Inferno.

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  3. "Shockingly, things don't get better"

    They certainly don't get better for the X-folk either, as far as their dealings with the Genoshans go.

    "As the Genoshan's watch the recordings of the mindscan performed on Madelyne, they hear a song playing in her mind"

    You might say it is the song within her, building towards it's (inevitable) crescendo...

    "that the technology involved in the creation of Genoshan mutates and the Genegineer's specific know-how in that field came from Sugar Man"

    One of the worst and most useless retcons EVER in the history of the X-universe.

    "Jenny Ransome has begun the transformation into a mutate, and has grown larger and stronger as a result"

    Interesting. Don't we see later on during X-tinction Agenda that it seems to a process which you only do once, and then it's done? Also, why would she need to be larger and stronger to manipulate rocks? I guess they need her to be tougher to survive the mines or something.

    "Claremont does the best he can to end the story on a satisfying note, and for the most part, he succeeds."

    It would have been unrealistic for them to flip the country overnight in one story. Heck, the slaves were freed how long ago in the US, and there is still institutionalized racism?

    One other problem with Genosha is that nobody seems to know what to do with it, or rather, they can't really use it unless it's as an allegory du jour. Especially once CC leaves.

    As for this story itself...great concept, good execution but not a favorite of mine. It does (for me) drag out in parts, and I am split about whether or not I'd enjoy it more had it been one issue less. And CC does at least follow up on Genosha later on.

    But hey, for now, the match has been lit, and you-know-what is about to be ignited...

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  4. "As the Genoshan's watch the recordings of the mindscan performed on Madelyne, they hear a song playing in her mind from Steeleye Span, which is the group whose lead singer (Maddie Prior) inspired the character's name."

    And the little-girl-in-pigtails avatar that appears there is a reference to the girl from Avengers Annual 10 who calls herself "Maddie Prior." She says the same line, too, or a variation on it (i.e. "I was sick but now I'm better"). I love that.

    Also, the Steeleye Span song that she's said to be singing, "Gone to America," opens with the line "Married him in April, lost him in July." That was a revelation to me, when I finally heard that song. What a perfect sentiment for Maddie to express, after Scott's abandonment. (And given how Marvel time works, three months is barely hyperbole.)

    (Sidebar: For what it's worth, the singer spells her name "Maddy." I wonder if Claremont always did "Maddie" as a dodge in case the lawyers came a-calling? And changed the last name from "Prior" to "Pryor" for the same reason? Good instinct in any case, considering that character-assassination that he and Weezie eventually wrought on the character for "Inferno.")

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  5. The Limbo demons actually amped up a mystic carbon copy of Maddie, who was driven mad by the influx of power and and the feels stemming up from her failed marriage. The real Maddie is healing up in a cocoon somewhere.

    About Wipeout's stout opt-out for the eventual fallout of Maddie's failed power-out, he was just saying that she had no powers at the time she was wiped sometime prior the mutate process. N'astirh called at her when the process was already going, either powering up her in the process then or otherwise the whole massacre was possibly done by the demons doing Maddie's bidding rather than by herself with Goblyn powers. And by Maddie I of course mean the mystic carbon copy of hers.

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  6. So, in other words, it's not real Maddie, but... a s'ymulacrum.

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  7. Maybe it's because Genosha has never done much for me -- the only time I ever found it interesting was when Magneto was its ruler -- but I've never understood the big deal about Sugar Man being retroactively "behind the curtain". In fact, that actually made Genosha feel a bit more important to me at the time.

    I don't think it takes anything away from these earlier stories, either. The only part of it I don't like is that he was apparently sitting there for twenty years or whatever, though the various incursions by the X-Men, and did nothing. In other words, I'm bugged by the continuity glitches the idea creates, but not at all by the idea itself.

    Dark Beast founding the Morlocks, on the other hand, is just a silly idea all around.

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  8. // [Maddie] then appears in her Goblin Queen persona //

    I'll
    say. That plunging bare midriff with underboob is so blatantly immodest that it cries out for some kind of rationalization, however suspect. Perhaps in addition to the whole sexual-empowerment deal — if ya got it flaunt it and use it to distract your adversaries — it's some kind of commentary on Maddie's loss of the child she once carried in that amazingly tight abdomen?

    // even though they technically haven't been published yet //

    I think they just haven't been published yet, period. (Sorry.)

    // He also stresses the importance of keeping Genosha's mutant slaves a secret, because the rest of the world would both condemn Genosha and covet the process //

    Even though it kind-of strains credulity, I'm happy to have it established that the world at large is ignorant of the situation just so Xavier, Magneto, Emma Frost, and the like don't look like complete chumps for never having engaged it.

    // Havok blows up the Citadel for the X-Men. //

    And then a split-second later he worries that Maddie was still in there — !!! — until she shows up in the next panel to plant a big ol' smooch on him. It sure felt like Claremont having to script over some business Silvestri drew that he thought he needed to explain away.

    // Upon being reunited, Havok and Maddy kiss, with Maddy earlier casually referring to Havok as "lover". //

    I was gonna mention that. Has a relationship between them been established (he asked, not really wanting to look back through the past dozen issues) or is this forwardness an indication of Maddie's new personality bubbling up?

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  9. Blam: And then a split-second later he worries that Maddie was still in there — !!! — until she shows up in the next panel to plant a big ol' smooch on him. It sure felt like Claremont having to script over some business Silvestri drew that he thought he needed to explain away.

    Nope, Maddie was in there and that was exactly where Maddie got the fatal damage she had to be put into a cocoon to heal from. The "Maddie" appearing from totally different direction and acting uncharacteristically from the first minute is the s'ymultacrum immediately starting to give in for the lust and other stuff in the usual way of the redheaded women of the Grey family in the face of a power-amp.

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  10. "Even though it kind-of strains credulity, I'm happy to have it established that the world at large is ignorant of the situation just so Xavier, Magneto, Emma Frost, and the like don't look like complete chumps for never having engaged it."
    But that's the problem- the dialogue makes it clear that ordinary Genoshans know the mutants are laborers. Even if they don't know they're slaves, Xavier, Magneto, Emma Frost, etc. should have heard about it by word of mouth.
    "Has a relationship between them been established (he asked, not really wanting to look back through the past dozen issues) or is this forwardness an indication of Maddie's new personality bubbling up?"
    They became close in X-Men 223 and Maddie rested her head on Alex's shoulder in issue 227. In issue 232, Maddie wonders how Alex would react to seeing her naked and in issue 235, Alex gets angry enough to kill the Genoshans when they grabbed Maddie. So probably they were attracted to each other but didn't want to do anything out of concern for Scott and Lorna so Maddie's forwardness is an example of the change in her.

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  11. The more offensive bit about Dark Beast is that it took this supposed genius 20 years to realize that there was a 616-version of him, in a world full of AoA doppelgangers.

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  12. @Anonymous: // Even if they don't know they're slaves, Xavier, Magneto, Emma Frost, etc. should have heard about it by word of mouth. //

    That's why I said it "strains credulity" — but I'm still, however marginally, glad that we were told that they don't know (so we can No-Prize it away if we want rather than stew in the impossibility of their not knowing) instead of getting some retcon of them just shrugging or not having gotten around to addressing the screaming clusterf--- of a mutant slave-state yet.

    I appreciate the rundown-reminder of Maddie and Alex's budding relationship to this point.

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  13. Given how much writers post-2000 seem to enjoy retconning that Xavier was an rotten malicious dick all along, I'm surprised nobody has retconned him not only knowing about Genosha, but somehow also indirectly contributing to the mutate process somehow as well.

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  14. Sugar Man, arggggg. What a waste. I believe that Peter David was going to have a different person - much more Sinister - be the one behind the country. In X-Factor 83, 88, 89 or 91 there is a mysterious door that opens in Genosha and it has a character that has the diamond chest and forehead emblems but gets dropped completely and left for dust as X-Factor than falls into complete crap from that point forward.

    I love Marc's art in these issues, his Goblin Queen messed with my 12-14 year old brain completely. I had comic artist Tyler Kirkham draw a sketch of her onetime at a con, I'll have to post it when I find it, it's really amazing.

    This is from a long time ago but since I recently read through all these blog posts it has stuck in my mind and I didn't want to post on something that was written years/months back.

    Chris Claremont co-plotted What if 32 and 33 which covered what if the Phoenix had lived. The Butte where Jean and Scott got it on is shown in this series to be where Rachel is conceived and then it shows her as a baby later on. While not technically cannon, I always have thought of this as proving that Rachel is the daughter of the Phoenix and Scott and not actually of Jean, thus making it much harder for her to have a relationship with Jean going forward when they are around each other, etc. where as her relationship with Scott is strange but not as distant as Jean's.

    Anyways, just wanted to bring that part up as I've never seen anyone talk about those What If issues when the topic of Rachel has been brought up in the past.

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  15. I wonder if Wolverine was referring to being a slave of the Canadian government during his Weapon X days?

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