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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #282

"Payback"
November 1991

In a Nutshell
The first appearance of Bishop.

Plotter - Penciler: Whilce Portacio
Inker: Art Thibert
Scripter: John Byrne
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Dana Moreshead
Editor: Bob Harras
Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
The X-Men return to the mansion with news of Fitzroy's attack and Jean's death, which shocks Xavier, as he didn't telepathically sense it. Meanwhile, Fitzroy visits Shinobi Shaw and claims leadership over the Upstarts. Back at the mansion, Forge has used data taken from a fallen Sentinel to locate Fitzroy's base, disguised as an Arctic iceberg, They X-Men, accompanied by Forge and Xavier, fly there, and when they get near, Xavier confirms his suspicions: that Jean has transferred her consciousness into the body of the nearest telepath: the White Queen. Inside the base, Fitzroy uses his mutant power to drain the life force of the captive Hellions and open a portal to the future, bringing forth his criminal allies. Jean, in the White Queen's body, attempts to stop him as the X-Men arrive. Better prepared, they make short work of Fitzroy's mercenaries and Sentinels, prompting Fitzroy to finish harvesting the Hellions and open a massive portal, through which dozens of criminals pour out. However, as Fitzroy gleefully watches the X-Men battle the criminals, he's shocked when three additional figures emerge from the portal, led by a man named Bishop, who declares that Fitzroy's little game just got a lot deadlier.

Firsts and Other Notables
Bishop makes his first appearance in this issue (albeit only on the final page of the issue), and his debut completes the Mount Rushmore of 90s X-Men, along with Jubilee, Gambit and Cable (though you could swap in Ninja Psylocke for Cable if you want only characters who are technically members of the X-Men at this point). We'll eventually learn that Bishop (first name: Lucas) comes from yet another dystopic future, one further down the timeline from "Days of Future Past" (from which Rachel Summers hails), a future where the X-Men are revered as legends and an uneasy truce exists between humans and mutants after they banded together to overthrow the Sentinels of "DoFP", and in which Bishop serves as an officer in a mutant police force called the XSE (Xavier's School Enforcers).


Bishop will hang around the book as an antagonistic figure for a few issues before officially joining the X-Men in issue #288, after which he'll become a mainstay of the team in one form or another throughout the 90s and into the 00s (along the way, introducing the X-Traitor storyline, one of the franchises biggest storylines of the 90s and having a prominent role in the "Age of Apocalypse" event), after which he'll take a massive heel turn during "Messiah Complex" and become an irredeemable villain who will, nevertheless, undergo a redemption arc in the second volume of Uncanny X-Force. His debut marks the end of a rush of new X-characters around this time, and is the last significant new addition to the team until the trio of Marrow, Maggot and Cecilia Reyes join post-"Operation: Zero Tolerance".

As detailed here, Bishop was essentially a creation of Whilce Portacio, created with the goal of adding some additional power to the Gold team and introducing a new character to grab readers' attention in the wake of the linewide relaunch. He originally intended the character to be Filipino, but Marvel's marketing department stepped in and asked that the character be black, because the series had a huge following amongst black readers who wanted to see a male black member of the team (eventually, it would be established - by Chris Claremont during one of his periodic returns to the X-Men - that Bishop is an aboriginal Australian, though that doesn't conflict with anything presented on page throughout the years).

In addition to Bishop, his two partners, Malcolm & Randall, appear for the first time this issue. They will not last long beyond this issue, though they've made a few additional appearances in stories set in Bishop's future.

This issue establishes (vaguely) that Fitzroy is from the future (the same as Bishop's, we'll learn), and has the mutant ability to absorb life energy, and then use that energy to power one-way portals through time. This is arguably the first in what will become increasingly ludicrous powers for new characters, and this one in particular has always bugged me both for its sheer specificity (it's not enough that he opens portals, or powers them through stolen life energy, but they're also time portals, and also one way. Compare "generates one-way time travel portals powered by stolen life energy" to "super-strength" or "magnetism"). The "the portals are one-way only" stipulation is also dumb, a caveat that effectively renders his power useless in all circumstances but the most specific, and seems to exist only to justify Bishop getting stranded in the past.


It's also mentioned that Fitzroy can't go through his own portals; I believe this idea is eventually dropped, and its eventually established that Fitzroy came back in time via his own power.

Fitzroy's toady Bantam, a minor character at best, appears for the first time in this issue, along with a bunch of super-powered criminals from Fitzroy's future, none of whom amount to much and all of whom get wiped out by issue #288 at the latest.


Whatever Hellions survived the previous issue are considered to be killed in this issue, though the only one who gets an on-panel acknowledgement is Tarot, despite having also been killed last issue (and despite later turning up alive in X-Force). The captive Hellions shown in this issue are also far greater in number numerous than we've ever seen before.


Fitzroy claims leadership of the Upstarts from Shinobi as a result of his success against the Hellfire Club last issue, even going so far as to cutoff Shinobi's finger to claim the ring which represents that leadership, despite Shinobi claiming he never agreed to Fitzroy's version of their contest's rules. All of this gets retconned away by later development in the story, as we shortly learn that a third figure, Gamesmaster, sets the rules of the contests, not Fitzroy, while the prize for winning constantly shifts.


An acknowledgement of what a mess the end of last issue was, Storm's recap to Xavier of what happened is completely different from what we saw, something to which an editorial caption cops.


The cover corner box gets updated the heads of the Gold team; Bishop will shortly join them.

This issue received a second printing, with the logo colored gold.

Collection Recollection
I received this issue (along with a few others) in my Easter basket shortly after I started collecting. I have no idea how my parents knew I needed this particular issue (maybe they were working off the previous year's Christmas list, as I seem to recall a few years where I'd put individual back issues I needed but couldn't afford outright on such lists).

A Work in Progress
This issue opens with Forge and Professor X playing chess and carrying on like old friends, even though this is the first time I can recall that the pair have ever appeared on-panel together (outside of maybe some group shots, like the end of #277).


It's revealed that Jean survived her apparent death last issue by transferring her consciousness into the White Queen's body. While in that body, Jean is able to manifest her telekinetic abilities, which she probably shouldn't be able to do, as mutant powers seem wedded pretty firmly to each individual's biology (like, even though it's a mental power, it's Jean's physiology that enables her to use that power).


Jean's body is said to be in cryogenic freeze, and while it's suggested that White Queen is dead (enabling Jean's mind to inhabit her body), it will shortly be revealed that she is still alive, albeit comatose.

For Sale
A Wolverine video game is advertised in this issue; I've never played it, but if it's anything like the NES X-Men video game, it's terrible.


Bullpen Bulletins
This issue features a two page add for WAM (Wild Agents of Marvel), the latest iteration of the Marvel fan club, in the tradition of the MMS (Merry Marvel Marching Society) and FOOM (Friends of ol' Marvel), though I don't think WAM lasted as long as either, nor is as well-remembered.


It's in the Mail
A response to a letter in this issue acknowledges (but doesn't really announce) Claremont's departure not just from Uncanny but from the franchise as a whole.

Austin's Analysis
Though he gets cover billing and this is notated as his first appearance, Bishop really only appears on the final page of this issue, making it not unlike the cameo shot of Cable that closed out New Mutants #86. So we'll leave Bishop for next issue, which serves as the proper introduction to the character. Instead, this is chiefly about resolving the big "Jean is dead!" cliffhanger of the previous issue (quickly establishing that she is not, in fact, dead nor never was, a point I underline simply to reinforce that this story doesn't belong in any "Jean Grey is the poster child for the revolving door nature of comic book death!" arguments), while also continuing the efforts to sell Fitzroy as a credible threat. We learn about his overly-complicated and comically-specific power, that he's from the future, and are shown additional examples of just how cruel and evil he is: the casual way he discards his own men, his off-panel cleaving of Shinobi's finger, and his wholesale slaughter of the Hellions. It's all very loud and messy (Portacio seems to be of the mind "why use one line when you can use three?"), but it does the job of further establishing Fitzroy as a smarmy, sadistic villain, even if it comes at the expense of the Hellions, and even if he never quite lives up to the level of attention and page space he gets in this issue.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, things go sideways in X-Force #4. Friday, it's multiple Madrox murders in X-Factor #72. Next week, Magneto learns a horrifying secret in X-Men #2.

Collected Editions

17 comments:

  1. "It's also mentioned that Fitzroy can't go through his own portals; I believe this idea is eventually dropped, and its eventually established that Fitzroy came back in time via his own power."

    It does sound like a plot hole someone later on down the line thought about and realized "Heeyyyy..."

    "The captive Hellions shown in this issue are also far greater in number numerous than we've ever seen before."

    I wonder if that was just ignorance on Portacio's part, or he just didn't care and needed lots of dead bodies for plot purposes.

    "even going so far as to cutoff Shinobi's finger"

    Which hilariously gets reattached by a Sentinel off-panel. Those giant robots sure make great surgeons on tiny human appendages, no?

    "An acknowledgement of what a mess the end of last issue was, Storm's recap to Xavier"

    Byrne gives food meta.

    "This issue opens with Forge and Professor X playing chess"

    With the bright idea of negating Professor X's powers while the team is away on a mission. In the next panel he even mentions how it is strange that he didn't detect Emma's death, nor that he didn't sense Jean's death. Maybe if hadn't stupidly kept Forge's power damping device on...

    "While in that body, Jean is able to manifest her telekinetic abilities, which she probably shouldn't be able to do"

    I could be wrong, but I do think Lobdell teases us a few times during Generation X that Emma might have telekinteic powers.

    This issue isn't quite as much of a mess as the previous issue, but that isn't exactly high praise indeed. Byrne does his fair share of trying cover for the wonky plotting and art work, but even he can't elevate this beyond something that is average at best.

    And while Bishop is something of a significant addition to the X-mythos, he never quite lives up to the potential we see of him during the next 6 or 7 issues. I don't think anyone at Marvel quite knew what to do with him. Within a year, he basically is reduced to stories of "But in the future, whatever we are currently discussing is different from how things are now!", with occasional lip service to the traitor story.

    And Fitzroy...well, even if he did live up to his sadistic streak and became a major player as seen in these few issues, I'm still not sure that would have justified his massacre of the Hellions and Reavers. But hey, new pet favorites need to be propped up...

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  2. Yay, Bishop! Back in the nineties, if you'd asked me to list my favorite X-Men, he would have been right up there with Cyclops and Banshee (eclectic, I know). I still really like his visual and his attitude and if I was putting together an "All-star" X-Men team, he'd most likely be on it. It's a shame (as wwk5d notes) no one ever really figured out what to do with him after this debut arc. There was brief flirtation with him being Professor X's personal bodyguard, which always seemed like a neat way to go, but it never really panned out.

    I still like Portacio's artwork here. It feels more energetic to me than Lee's. Lee's work features a lot of pin-ups, and while I won't say Portacio avoids that tic around this time, I do believe his figures generally look more kinetic than Lee's, like they're always moving even when they're posed for a pin-up.

    "...a bunch of super-powered criminals from Fitzroy's future, none of whom amount to much and all of whom get wiped out by issue #288 at the latest."

    Except for the mysterious Mountjoy, who will show up in Bishop's self-titled mini-series and then soon after in Warren Ellis's EXCALIBUR! (Though we don't see Mountjoy here, so your point technically stands, I suppose.)

    "This issue opens with Forge and Professor X playing chess and carrying on like old friends, even though this is the first time I can recall that the pair have ever appeared on-panel together..."

    I always got that impression too, and while I chalk it up to Byrne's unfamiliarity with Forge, I don't necessarily mind it. It's possible they simply struck up a fast friendship on the way home from Shi'ar space or something.

    "A Wolverine video game is advertised in this issue; I've never played it, but if it's anything like the NES X-Men video game, it's terrible."

    It was pretty bad. Though it used 8-bit recreations of Jim Lee artwork in a few places, which I always thought was really cool.

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  3. "no one ever really figured out what to do with him after this debut arc"

    I will admit, one of the better uses of him was during District X, but Decimation shot that all to hell.

    "It's possible they simply struck up a fast friendship on the way home from Shi'ar space or something."

    Given how near instantaneous Lila Chenney's teleportation probably is, it must have been damn fast ;)

    Of course, you can't really fanwank that they knew each other prior to meeting in #277. Forge even comments in #275 something along the lines of "So that's the famous Charles Xavier" (even if it was to the Skrull version). It's possible they just bonded in-between the Muir Island Saga and the reboot. Given how Forge probably supervised much of the mansion's reconstruction (security systems, new planes, etc), one could assume he and Charles spent quite a bit of time together bonding, even if it was a short period of time.

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    1. Good point! I forgot they took the Cheney Express home. In that case I'm with you; Forge and Xavier probably became friends during the mansion's reconstruction. In any case, I think the point remains -- they're both educated intellectuals (and both veterans too, now that I think about it); they probably found a great deal of common ground in a hurry and struck up a pretty quick friendship.

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  4. Fitzroy's father is mentioned this issue. I've always wondered if it was supposed to be Gideon, since Gideon is green-haired and immortal. Fabian has Warpath suggest this later on, only for Bantam to shoot it down, so maybe that was the original plan and Fabian decided not to go with it.

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  5. Oh gosh, no. Poor Blam has enough in his hands already with Cable having a son called Tyler to be told that there also is the mysterious X-ternal "Gideon" and his son Trevor.

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    1. Eh. I'll be fine, thanks.

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    2. Ha, yeah, sorry 'bout that. It's just that I was genuinely suitably impressed by your snort laughter reaction to Cable having a "Tyler" as a son, and as an occasional taker of comicbooky things way too seriously it was a very welcome reminder to me of there being inherent occasional sillyness that needs no explaining away.

      Coincidentally I vaguely remember feeling something similar about Bishop's sister Shard, whose name they first tried translating for our publications,for two whole panels' length, before opting for using the original English name next time, because the translated word in our lingo does not only mean a small piece of shattered glass or crystal, but is also a not-too-unusual female given name, and so her first appearance read like agitated Bishop was yelling out a name that's effectively "Cheryl" in Finnish. I think it was enough a stylistic clash for everyone when seen printed on paper that she got de-Cherylizated for her next appearance.

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    3. I feel it necessary to elaborate: the Shard translation "blooper" really is a thing for me only because usually they managed to hit especially well the question whether or not to translate the code name of a character. For us international readers it is a genuine issue that can effect on the enjoyment. Leaving the original code names can add mystery to a character, especially before you learn English yourself. I had tremendous fun back in the day having to look up from a word book the meaning of "Storm" and "Rogue" and "Wolverine" and "Nick Fury". And on the other hand, nowhere better hits the translation than with the Thing, our "Möykky", literally 'the Lump', after Sue's line in FF #1 according to which "He's turned into a some sort of lump!"

      We actually had only a few days ago a newspaper article where a translator of the current superhero movies was near-apologizing that they must leave the characters who have for a long time already had established translation like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man (also Star Wars) untranslated, because the owners of the properties are nowadays super-conscious about the brand and francise not varying from country to country.

      Near-apology really isn't enough, not by far, when at the same time for marketing purposes it's totally okay to translate "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" into "Captain America: The Return of the First Avenger", because of the non-existent presence of the Winter Soldier character in the market. Literally. That's our translation.

      The French apparently have had some leeway and got "Captain America: Le Soldat de l'hiver", but apparently only the Quebecians can be trusted with "Capitaine America: Le Soldat de l'hiver".

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  6. I much prefer oddly specific powers like Fitzroy's to omni-powerful characters like Apocalypse or Sinister who have totally unrelated powers. Plus, making Fitzroy's teleportation powers one way makes him distinct from similar teleporters like Magik, Gateway or Lila Cheney. The energy vampire aspect makes him more villianous seeming but also give him clear limits.

    Of course, none of this matters since he is eventually allowed to flounder.

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  7. // The captive Hellions shown in this issue are also far greater in number than we've ever seen before. //

    I was thrown by that. Also by the specifications of Fitzroy’s power, which as you mention are… specific; I don’t know if that’s inherently a bad thing in concept, especially if one desires unique abilities in a world where the Morlocks and Genosha and the Upstarts call for a constant flow of new mutants, but in execution it’s indeed kind-of laughable here and you’re right that — not unlike code names, in my opinion — there’s a stark contrast drawn with simpler, broader powers introduced back when the landscape was less crowded.

    // I received this issue (along with a few others) in my Easter basket //

    What a great memory to have.

    // Though he gets cover billing and this is notated as his first appearance, Bishop really only appears on the final page of this issue, making it not unlike the cameo shot of Cable that closed out New Mutants #86. //

    Except that it is unlike that cameo since Bishop’s on the cover. Wolverine likewise debuted on the last page of Hulk #180, and was even teased in sequences leading up to the reveal, yet he doesn’t take the cover until #181. Portacio may have lobbied Harras to put Bishop on the cover or Harras may have suggested it, but despite his intended significance I honestly can’t figure out how it makes sense to pass over the X-Men fighting Sentinels and/or Fitzroy, the kewl new ruthless villain who controls them, in favor of three characters introduced on the final page.

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    1. Maybe the anticipation was that Bishop was going to be huuuge in short order, and that the issue of his first appearance would be hot collectors' item and when that happens it would be cool to have had him on the cover. I don't know if NEW MUTANTS #87, the vaunted first full appearance of Cable with the cover to go with it had become such an item already at this point, but I would guess there was at the time a breed of people consternated over the fact that #86, the true first appearance of Cable, wasn't such a big deal. Applies of course to Wolverine too. Maybe they weren't looking for to be caught like that the third time.

      I like the cover, even if the book fails to live up the hype in the long run.

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  8. I have long felt the Second Genesis X-Men hit it right with powers and code names: they're not too Gold/Silver-Agey obvious and simple like "Iceman" with ice powers or "Angel" with angel wings, but the power sets have somewhat developed to the organic steel and super-strength, power and mind absorption, adamantium claws and heightened senses variety combined with not-obvious code names that still make sense in relation to the powers. The New Mutants, Morlocks, Marauders still manage to hang in there with the "different but definable" era of superpowers.

    I don't know if these relaunch fellows are just trying too hard with their cool new full name villains (except Shinobi Shaw obviously is essentially Vision), or does everything fall apart when the plot suddenly demands the baddie be capable of something with his/her powers and then he/she just will be, any previous definitions be damned.

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  9. I acknowledge Bishop was likely designed to appeal to African American males, but even moreso, I thought he was designed as the first truly "black" X-Man. There was Storm, of course, but her design included white hair/blue eyes, and I believe originally was supposed to be an amalgamation of ethnic characteristics (Asian, caucasian, etc.). I thought I even remember there being comments that the X-Men had already featured multiple "blue" members, but only one "black" one, who herself was a combination of other ethnicities.

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  10. This issue also begins a running gag in the X-Titles about heroes/villains confronting Shaw Jr. in his birthday suit.

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  11. Man, did anyone else's head hurt trying to figure out what's going on in this issue and thinking about how ludicrous Fitzroy's power is? No wonder why I loved these issues so much as a kid, it's like they were written by a kid. I know comics are a visual medium, but they have writers for a reason. And after Claremont's departure I'm quickly realizing how essential a solid writer is for a story. I don't remember much of these issues since it's been decades since I read them, but something tells me the quality of the series is gonna take a lot of nosedives throughout 1991 to the present.

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  12. I think Bishop had a great introduction and a lot of potential. The next several issues of UXM are pretty entertaining. As the 90s and 2000s wore on, I think it became easy to forget what an antagonistic, violent, pain in the ass thug Bishop was in his initial appearances, and how he had to work very hard to overcome that and find his way with the team. He was constantly at odds with himself and his new teammates; I recall Storm not putting up with his crap most of all. Over time he gradually settles down and begins to make the most of his new circumstances. He and the X-Men truly begin to respect and trust one another (Gambit crap aside).

    As Teebore said, I think his first year was pretty solid and a nice character arc. After that, he does become pretty generic and useless, and long after that, well... whoever decided to completely destroy his character like that in Messiah Complex should be ashamed of themselves. There are ways to either put a shocking new twist on an existing character or to write out one that you don't like. But don't take an established hero and make him a mass murdering lunatic just because he's not Wolverine or just because you can. What a stupid story.

    Anyway, as much as the reboot has its problems, I remember these issues fondly as a young man and as an adult I think Bishop's introduction and first year still hold up really well. And when I re-read the flashback to The Witness I still get goosebumps, remembering as a kid how I couldn't wait to see what Marvel had up their sleeve for that plot! *sigh*

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