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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #23

"Leaning Towards Oneself"
August 1993

In a Nutshell
Mr. Sinister kicks off a decades-long mystery.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inker: Mark Pennington
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Leaning Tower of Pizza: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Alaska, Mr. Sinisters insists he only wants to warn Cyclops about Stryfe's mutant-targeting virus, but their discussion is interrupted by the arrival of the Dark Riders, come to test the two. In Japan, Lord Nyoirin tells the X-Men they need to talk to Shinobi and Matsu'o for further answers, while at the X-Mansion, Wolverine reports to Xavier about his findings in the Savage Land.. In Alaska, Mr. Sinister attacks the Dark Riders, telling them they're welcome to fight Cyclops but can't kill him, before disappearing. In Japan, Beast & Gambit visit Shinobi, while Psylocke & Revanche attack Matsu'o. In Alaska, Cyclops fights the Dark Riders long enough for them to declare that he is strong enough to fight in the coming war, leaving Cyclops to ponder what he's learned that day, and decide that the time has come to ask others for help.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is most notable and best-remembered as being the introduction of the Third Summers Brother mystery, begun when Mr. Sinister tells Cyclops he merely wants to protect him and his brothers, and Cyclops catches the use of the plural. The mystery is notable for going unresolved for over twenty years (though Fabian Nicieza drops some pretty big hints that Adam X, soon to be introduced in this year's X-Force annual, is the third Summers brother, in issue #39), before Ed Brubaker revisits it in the Deadly Genesis miniseries as part of an anniversary celebration of the All New X-Men, in which Gabriel Summers aka Vulcan is introduced via a massive retcon that establishes Professor X sent a third team of X-Men to Krakoa, after the originals got captured but before he sent the team comprised of Storm, Colossus, Banshee, etc., who counted amongst their number Cyclops & Havok's heretofore unknown brother.


The initial round of the Psylocke/Revanche story comes to a close here as well, with the two characters essentially left with the answer that each is half the other, stirred up and mixed together and then poured out into two different bodies. Eventually, Nicieza will return to this story, presumably once he realizes that doesn't quite fit with previously established events, but for now, the matter is put to rest, with the two women settling in to an uneasy truce as they take down Matsu'o.


Kwannon-in-British-Psylocke's-Body is called Revanche for the first time here; that's the name the character will use moving forward.

Wolverine reports to Professor X about his findings in the Savage Land in Wolverine #69-71, and once again, it's all but said that Magneto is back (though Xavier remains adamant they can't be sure).


Everyone is also fairly convinced the X-Men can't beat Magneto, and while that adds a nice bit of forboding to his upcoming return, I'm not quite sure why everyone is so certain of that. They've beat him before, and there's more X-Men (plus X-Factor and X-Force if necessary) than ever before.


This issue refutes the notion that Mr. Sinister is vulnerable to Cyclop's optic blasts, with the villain surviving a direct hit and saying his apparent death at the end of "Inferno" was staged simply because he wasn't yet ready to face the X-Men (it's worth noting this is the first direct confrontation between Cyclops and Mr. Sinister since the end of "Inferno", something I never quite realized reading this as a kid, assuming they had a much deeper history together I'd yet to read).


Sinister says his interest in Cyclops is driven by his belief that the balance of power resides in his genetics; this will later be firmed up into the idea that Sinister is trying to find a way to defeat Apocalypse once and for all, and that he orchestrated the creation of the child of Cyclops and Jean Grey (ie Cable) to that end.


It's also noted here that the canister Sinister received from Stryfe in exchange for Cyclops and Jean during "X-Cutioner's Song" was meant to contain the DNA of Cyclops' offspring (ie Stryfe), which is why he was willing to trade Cyclops for it (since he'd already have Cyclops' DNA, but not the DNA of his future kids).


A Work in Progress
Sinister is also cryptic about whether Stryfe is Cyclop's son, suggesting he may know the true relationship between Stryfe and Cable (or is just being cryptic because that's his default setting).

Cyclops is shown the grave of Gordon, Sinister's geneticist seen coughing in X-Force #18, and repeats Stryfe's "pox on mutants" line in discussing the Legacy Virus.


Jean is referred to as Cable/Stryfe's half-mother, which doesn't seem quite right.

The Dark Riders make mention of the High Lord Ascension, as Nicieza continues to try and make the whole High Lord/External thing from X-Force work.


Beast makes a crack about his younger days, a reference to his ongoing "quarter-life crisis" subplot.


It's established here that X-Men know the Upstarts exist (Lord Nyoirin presumably tells them off-panel), something they inform Shinobi of.

The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
Cyclops freaks out when the Dark Riders cause him to lose his glasses.


It's in the Mail
A response to a letter in this issue says that the X-Men are funded by Xavier, who is independantly wealthy; presumably, he's come into that wealth since the days he was begging Angel for a loan and moving the X-Men to Magneto's C'thulu island because it was too expensive to rebuild the mansion.

Austin's Analysis
There's a lot of things happening in this issue: the Psylocke/Revanche plotline is, for now, resolved (somewhat abruptly), Magneto's imminent return is made even more ominous, Cyclops battles the Dark Riders, and the Legacy Virus plotline continues to come into shape. But the thing this issue is remembered for, and, frankly, the thing I remember most about it, is that it launched the Third Summers Brother mystery. That it did so via one-line of tossed-off dialogue that, by all accounts, should be the least relevant thing about this issue, is a testement to that particular mystery's staying-power and it's ability to linger in the minds of fans/prompt debate amongst fans.

Of course, it helps that the Third Summers Brother is one of those long-running mysteries launched in the 90s then left for dead, which actually received not only resolution, but a high-profile resolution. It also helps that said resolution has been largely lambasted by fans and is responsible for introducing one of the more annoying X-characters in the history of the franchise, keeping the relevancy of this issue alive even after the mystery it introduces is paid off. Personally, I've never been the biggest fan of that resolution, but have always loved that someone bothered to close out a dangling plotline from one of comic's less-celebrated eras that I figured would never get resolved (but more on that when we get to Deadly Genesis). And I've always genuinely loved this issue chiefly for the tease of possibly life-altering information regarding my favorite character, delivered via one of my favorite means for such teases: cryptic comments from Mr. Sinister.

A lot more happens in this issue than one line of dialogue that doesn't get paid off for over twenty years, all of which is far more relevant to events happening in 1993, yet every time I crack it open, I'm still surprised by just how little of it I remember outside of "...brothers...".

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Cable & Magneto return in X-Force #25. Friday, the Starjammers come to town in Excalibur #68. Next week, Cable #4.

Collected Editions




18 comments:

  1. I figured that the darker, shiftier Xavier we get in the 90's used his psychic powers to play the stock market, using his investment portfolio to bankroll his private army. More realistically, he likely had financial help from members of the Mutant Underground like Cartier St. Croix.

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  2. The lack of any explanation for Xavier's income isn't hard to accept. We're supposed to feel sympathy for a bunch of people ("harassed minorities") who don't work and live in a mansion, with all bills paid by an eccentric?

    I don't care for Vulcan. I left comics more than fifteen years before he showed up. I know the overall story, and I think it's purely idiotic. "Professor X sent another team, who perished, and he mind wiped everyone from remembering it! Then, Cyclops kills him later! Both are evil!" No, no, no, no. STOP. That's not the X-Men.

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    1. I always felt like the X-Men's money flow was one of those things you need to apply the MST3k Mantra to & leave it be. Like you pointed out, it kind of ruins the intended message of the series.

      Agreed on Vulcan & on Deadly Genesis in general; it felt like such an unnecessary, mean-spirited retcon that took way more from the X-Men's history than it added. And personally, it bugged me that the characters with the most interesting potential in their powers & backstories (Petra & Sway) were the ones that stayed dead and had the most visually gruesome demises. It's just... BAD.

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    2. Stepping forward to Deadly Genesis for a moment; it was actually a strangely reassuring comic, because it finally proved that Ed Brubaker wasn't a superhuman being writing non stop amazing comic books all the time. I'm not sure why he didn't really work well on X-Men, but that was a pretty poor fit. I want to hope that the whole idea was forced on him by editorial, because man that was awful.

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  3. "Jean is referred to as Cable/Stryfe's half-mother, which doesn't seem quite right."
    Why? His mother was her clone. (Remember, at this point Jean hasn't married Scott or raised Nate in the future.) What else would you call her?

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    1. Obviously, there's no good real world term for "genetic template of my birth mother", but step-mother is probably closer than half-mother (which, if anything, would be the mother of Cable's sibling if she wasn't also Cable's mother, which isn't the case with Stryfe - even assuming they're "brothers", they have the same mother. But maybe Jean is his half-mother because she's *Rachel*'s mother, Cable's other sibling whose mother is technically different than Cable's?).

      Also, won't it be fun to revisit this discussion in the early issues of X-MAN when Nate Grey starts putting the moves on Madelyne Pryor (is there a term for "my alternate universe template's mother)?

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  4. I will delete all my anti-jew posts if the Zionists offer me a job working as an online shill for them. I will use my website and my other methods of making content go viral online for the purpose of promoting the Jew's agenda of multiculturalism, destruction of the white race, pro-transexualism, socialism, etc. I am ready to work for the Zionists and stop all propaganda efforts to expose the Jew's agenda. All you have to do is email me and offer me a job. I can be either your greatest ally or your greatest enemy, so choose wisely, Zionists and Jews. If you do not accept me into your ranks, I will spend the rest of my life exposing the entire Jewish conspiracy and making it go viral in front of millions of people. You have 48 hours to contact me. Once again my email is boycottbitches@protonmail.com and my website is the famous Boycott American Women blog: http://boycottbitches.com/i-am-ready-to-work-for-the-zionists/

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  5. Look, buddy: If you want to work for the Zionists then you're going to have to submit your CV and wait for an opening like the rest of us. And quite frankly, I'm pretty sure my extensive background in promoting "transexualism" and destroying the white race makes me a way more qualified candidate than you. If you're really serious about this, I'd really recommend getting a masters degree in promoting the Jewish agenda from a reputable university. It'll really make your application stand out.
    -Pushpaw

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    1. I thought we mainly were pro-transhumanists. Comics Code doesn't much allow that other stuff at this point.

      Magneto's soon-to-be introduced fake identity is technically a Jewish conspiracy I guess but it doesn't need much exposing at this point and anyway it's not connected to the viral stuff. Dude gonna need read better.

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  6. This was the first X-Men comic I ever owned (and second or third comic I ever owned, period)! There's a ton going on here, and I didn't care. I was hooked and wanted to find out MORE.

    And I never even noticed the "brothers" comment until much later. I probably knew who Havok was from friends and trading cards, but the hint didn't register with me until re-reading this much later on.

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  7. I love this issue. The "brothers" comment genuinely feels like a Claremont tease for a future story. Cyclops get to kick some ass. Kubert's version of Sinister runs neck-and-neck with Silvestri's for my favorite depiction of him. A lot of subtext is finally made text this issue. It's one of my favorites of the era.

    For all of X-Men: The End's faults, I kind of like Claremont's solution to the third brother mystery. SPOILERS (if anyone cares about X-Men The End) Gambit is the third brother who was genetically engineered by Sinister.

    On that note, which is worse: Vulcan as the 3rd Summers brother or Adam X?

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    1. For me, Vulcan is way worse, simply because of how Brubaker went about introducing him. As Mela said above, DEADLY GENESIS comes off as mean-spirited. It was touted as an anniversary celebration of GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1, so naturally instead of actually celebrating that story, it totally deconstructed and retroactively tainted it.

      Adam-X may have been kind of a lame character, but his very existence wasn't offensive as is Vulcan's.

      And I agree with you -- Claremont's solution was perfect, both solving the mystery and giving Gambit tighter ties with Sinister at the same time (he needed to have more of a backstory with the guy after all the teases we'd received years earlier).

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    2. I've always liked Gambit as the third Summers brothers too (even allowing that I generally have little time for Gambit). It would have worked better as his big secret than "assembled the Marauders and led them into the Morlock Tunnels, too".

      As for Vulcan vs. Adam-X, it's a tough call between a terrible character who received too much page time, and character who is terrible because he's little more than a collection of 90s tropes who didn't get enough page time to grow beyond those tropes.

      I think you have to go with the devil you know, but I also can't deny that I'd have been bummed if Adam X was confirmed as the brother sometime in the 90s.

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  8. I love this issue; it's one of my favorites of Nicieza's run. Of course we have Sinister vs. Cyclops, but there's also a bunch of crazy clues about things that may or may not ever pan out, plus the oblique references to Magneto, the Psyclocke stuff... and the final page has some of my favorite Nicieza purple prose, as the narration talks about Cyclops welcoming his pain like a comfortable blanket. This is, for me, quintessential nineties X-Men in the best possible way.

    "This issue is most notable and best-remembered as being the introduction of the Third Summers Brother mystery..."

    A lot of people seem to think this is dumb, and while I agree it's unnecessary, I have no issue with it in concept since it's very clear that Nicieza has a character in mind to become the third brother. If he'd just tossed it out there randomly, with no resolution in mind, much the way Scott Lobdell was known to do now and then, it might bug me more.

    That said, DEADLY GENESIS was an abominition of a "celebration" of the all-new, all-different X-Men. It was pretty much the last straw in my X-reading and not long after, I dropped out of monthly reading for good. (After already temporarily dropping -- but still following -- it when Grant Morrison and Joe Casey/Chuck Austen runs).

    "Everyone is also fairly convinced the X-Men can't beat Magneto..."

    Maybe I read too much into it, but I've always taken this as being more commentary that the X-Men will never beat Magneto on a philosophical level, like they'll never be free of what he represents, rather than an inability to physically defeat him. Though it could also be reference to the fact that if he survived the destruction of Asteroid M, he can probably escape any fate.

    "This issue refutes the notion that Mr. Sinister is vulnerable to Cyclop's optic blasts, with the villain surviving a direct hit and saying his apparent death at the end of "Inferno" was staged simply because he wasn't yet ready to face the X-Men."

    It used to miff me beyond all reason (and to some extend still does) that trading cards, RPGs, and other tie-in material continued to note Cyclops' beams as Mister Sinister's weakness long after this issue was published. To this day, there are probably longtime fans (not to mention continuity-lazy writers) who still believe it!

    "Cyclops is shown the grave of Gordon, Sinister's geneticist seen coughing in X-Force #18, and repeats Stryfe's "pox on mutants" line in discussing the Legacy Virus."

    Y'know, I never really considered it in all these years, but if Sinister buried Gordon basically next door to Cyclops' grandparents, does that mean he actually does live near them? I know later issues will reiterate that his top-secret lab is under the ol' Nebraska orphanage, but perhaps he has a secondary lab in Alaska.

    "(but more on that when we get to Deadly Genesis)"

    I look forward to reading that post from the retirement home!

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    1. Y'know, I never really considered it in all these years, but if Sinister buried Gordon basically next door to Cyclops' grandparents, does that mean he actually does live near them? I know later issues will reiterate that his top-secret lab is under the ol' Nebraska orphanage, but perhaps he has a secondary lab in Alaska.

      That is kind of weird, but I think issue #34 establishes that he has multiple bases connected by tesseracts, if I remember correctly. Makes sense that he'd have something set up by the grandparents of the dude he's stalking.

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    2. You're not kidding about that purple prose ("The Fabian Nicieza Sledgehammer of Angst"). I get the sense Nicieza was more self-aware or winking at the camera when he indulged in that sort of thing than his contemporaries. He seems like the type of writer who would laugh at his own efforts after scripting something like that, or even challenging himself to see how thick he could lay it on. At least, I hope that's the case. Contextually appropriate and consistent as that tone is, you have to admire anyone who can recognize and revel in the absurdity. Far too many writers (past, present, and future) on this property take the plot mechanics and characters' introspective navel-gazing far too seriously. I know that's the '90s in a nutshell, and for the most part, I do enjoy this period at face value. But when you reach Peak Impenetrability with an issue like this, I definitely appreciate it more paired with the detached irony of a completely over-the-top script.

      Re: Sinister's oddly specific vulnerability to optic blasts, the animated series probably contributed as well. His first appearance on the show would've been Fall of '93, so a few months after this issue. But TAS continued the thread of optic blasts inflicting massive damage (they even sort of less-graphically adapted the "Inferno" blow-apart in a pretty cool scene). I suppose it made a degree of sense in Claremont's unrealized origin for Sinister, as a psychological handicap stemming from his arrested development and history with Scott. Once that went out the window, it didn't track thematically or canonically for him to have this one random weakness. It does annoy me a little for retroactively dulling the impact of that "Inferno" finale though.

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    3. @Matt: Maybe I read too much into it, but I've always taken this as being more commentary that the X-Men will never beat Magneto on a philosophical level, like they'll never be free of what he represents, rather than an inability to physically defeat him.

      Hey, I've never considered that before, but I like that reading of it!

      To this day, there are probably longtime fans (not to mention continuity-lazy writers) who still believe it!

      Yeah, as Cyke68 mentioned, I think the animated series did a lot to cement this error in the minds of a generation of fans/future creators. I mean, take that away, and the only evidence left supporting the vulnerability is the end of "Inferno", compared to all the later instances in which he shrugs off blasts.

      But that animated series was the introduction to the X-Men for a lot of fans of a certain age, and by repeating Sinister's "Inferno"-era ruse, it cemented "Mr. Sinister is vulnerable to Cyclop's optic blasts" in the minds of tons of fans.

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  9. I know it’s just moronic spam and I appreciate Pushpaw’s reply but I still nearly couldn’t bring myself to comment (late, as usual) after seeing that “Zionists” garbage.

    // the X-Men are funded by Xavier, who is independently wealthy; presumably, he's come into that wealth since the days he was begging Angel for a loan //

    TNG
    residuals?

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