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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #28

"Devil in the House"
January 1994

In a Nutshell
The X-Men deal with the presence of Sabretooth in their midst.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Matt Ryan
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Jubilee wakes up from a nightmare of being hunted by Sabretooth, prompting Jean Grey to call an emergency meeting between herself, Cyclops, Storm & Beast to discuss Professor Xavier's recent decision to bring Sabretooth into the mansion. Meanwhile, Xavier runs some tests on the Legacy Virus-infected Revanche, then learns that Sabretooth is resisting psychic treatments from Psylocke, demanding instead that Jean perform them. Rogue & Gambit bring Sabretooth his dinner, and Sabretooth taunts Rogue with mysterious references to Gambit's past. Later, Scott & Jean present their objections to Xavier, but he insists that Sabretooth will stay. Determined to confront him once and for all, Jean enters his cell, ostensibly to give him the psychic treatment he's demanding. But she refuses, telling him he needs to deal with what he's done and not run away from his issues, winning his respect. The next morning, a nervous Jubilee, needing to confront her own fears about Sabretooth, brings him his breakfast.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue deals with the fallout to Xavier's decision in X-Men Unlimited #3 to bring Sabretooth into the mansion for psychic treatment, as the X-Men adjust to his presence and debate whether Xavier is doing the right thing, especially in light of his recent actions (like asking Storm to steal from the government in Uncanny #305 and wiping Magneto's mind in issue #25).

It also marks the debut of what will be Sabretooth's unofficial look during his stay in the mansion: brown pants and a black tank top. Add in his silver manacles and muzzle, and you've pretty much got the "Prisoner Sabretooth" action figure.

When Rogue & Gambit feed Sabretooth, he continues to taunt Gambit about their past together, telling Rogue to ask Gambit about Paris. Unlike previous "mysterious hints about Gambit's past" this one is presumably being made with the story it's teasing already in mind; Nicieza will reveal at least one of Gambit & Sabretooth's previous meeting in issue #33, and it's the one Sabretooth is referencing here.

Sabretooth also tells Rogue to ask Mystique about her long-lost brother, a reference to the revelation from Sabretooth's miniseries that he and Mystique are the parents of Graydon Creed, and a setup for X-Men Unlimited #4 (in which Rogue will learn about TWO long-lost brothers).

Psylocke attempts to give Sabretooth his psychic treatment (aka the "glow" he used to get from Birdie to calm his psychotic urges and help him think straight) but he refuses, saying she's not good enough. Here, it's presented merely as a pretext to get Jean into the room with Sabretooth (and win his begrudging respect), but it's interesting to think of that scene in the context of Sabretooth & Psylocke's history together (she held her own against him pre-ninja transformation and before she'd even officially joined the X-Men, in Uncanny #213), as well as their future (he will ultimately seriously injure her on his way out of the mansion, leading to the terrible Crimson Dawn nonsense that will eventually drag the character into irrelevance for a time).

Cyclops references what he and Jean recently went through with Cable, a reference to the events of Cable #6-8.

Sabretooth says that he is the flip side of a coin with Wolverine, an idea that will be somewhat causally explored during his stay at the mansion (at least initially), as the writers play around with the idea of Sabretooth as a Wolverine replacement.

A Work in Progress
The "senior" X-Men meet at Harry's Hideaway to discuss Sabretooth, with Nicieza joining Lobdell to sell the idea that Harry's was a place the X-Men had been going to for years despite it not appearing until New Mutants.

The debate held there is well-written, with both sides making some decent arguments (which basically boil down to "this isn't that different than taking in Wolverine or Rogue" vs. "yeah, but it's Sabretooth"). Also, Jean notes that she's using her telepathy to mask Beast's furry form, presumably to protect the notion that the X-Men hang out at Harry's rather than to protect Beast's identity.

Xavier, despite not budging on the whole Sabretooth thing, is still happy that his students are willing to call out "the old man".

While arguing with Xavier about keeping Sabretooth in the mansion, Cyclops & Jean point out that Xavier wasn't in the Morlock Tunnels for "Mutant Massacre", when Sabretooth & the Marauders mercilessly slaughtered one mutant after another. It's always appreciated when we're reminded that Xavier missed a good chunk of X-history, including some of their biggest losses.

Xavier provides a pseudo-science explanation for why the Legacy Virus causes blisters (in some people). Apparently, Beast has also created a balm to help with the pain they cause ("Blisters & Balm" is my new band name).

Austin's Analysis
As with #26, this is another example of an issue which would be incredibly jarring for anyone picking it up without reading other specific X-books. Most of Sabretooth's recent development, including the notion that he has theoretically-curable homicidal urges and his admittance to the X-Mansion for treatment, happened outside of any of the regular monthly X-books (if someone wasn't reading Wolverine, the Sabretooth limited series or X-Men Unlimited #3, the last time they saw the character in an X-book was issue #7; now he's suddenly living in the mansion). Nicieza does his best to spell out the circumstances of Sabretooth's presence in this issue, but I imagine it still had to be abrupt for certain readers.

That said, this issue does a decent job of exploring the impact on various characters of having Sabretooth living inside the school, even as a prisoner. Tying Jean's dismay at Sabretooth's presence to her feelings for Wolverine doesn't really work (it feels forced, but then again, I've never been that big a fan of the "Jean pines for Wolverine too" retcon), but the grudging respect she wins from Sabretooth by standing up to him is an effective moment. Jubilee's terror at living under the same roof as Sabretooth, as well as her efforts to overcome that fear, are well-depicted too, as is the senior X-Men's discussion of Xavier's decision and the confrontation between Cyclops, Jean and Xavier that results from that. Ill-advised and/or out-of-left field the decision to try to rehabilitate Sabretooth may be, this issue effectively shows the impact of that decision on at least a few of the X-Men.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, things get extreme in X-Force #30. Friday, Excalibur fights Siena Blaze in Excalibur #73. Next week, Gambit goes solo in his first limited series.

Collected Editions


  1. This is a good example of what a lot of Nicieza's issues felt like to me around this time: it's not exactly what you'd call a "quiet" issue, but there aren't any big battles either. There's a skirmish, some soap opera stuff, and you come away feeling like you've read a solid, but understated, story.

    In fact, this sort of thing is actually how I remember most X-stories of this era from both Nicieza and Lobdell. Aside from the big yearly crossover events, the rest of the year generally felt quieter and more focused on stuff going on around the mansion, and any fights were usually borne less from supervillain battles than from interpersonal conflicts. I'm not sure if those recollections are 100% correct, but I look forward to finding out.

    I noted that when Jean mentions Storm stealing documents for Xavier, she says it happened two weeks ago -- which means UNCANNY 306, X-MEN 25, WOLVERINE 75, EXCALIBUR 71, all of "Bloodties", X-MEN 27, and UNCANNY 307 -- not to mention X-MEN UNLIMITED 3 and whatever other stuff the characters have appeared in, like CABLE 6 - 8 -- all occurred within that span. I've said it before, but I'll note again that I love super-compressed timelines like this. It really makes you feel like these characters are jumping from one crisis to another with little time to catch their breath.

    (Also notable is that during "Bloodties", we were told it had been a week since Wolverine left, so specifically, it's been one week since the events of "Bloodties", which itself was a week after the X-MEN 25/WOLVERINE 75 segment of "Fatal Attractions".)

    I like that Cyclops appears to wear his costume under his civilian clothes at the mansion. Totally something he'd do. And speaking of clothes, do we think Gambit is an LSU alum, or does he just root for the school?

  2. I always thought the blisters were supposed to be an analogue to Karposi's Sarcoma that late stage AIDS victims suffered through during that time (before the shift in HIV medication that occurred just a few years later changed everything).

    As I was a somewhat closeted high school student during that period who related to the X-Men because its whole being a mutant ran (to me) parallel to being gay, reading the Legacy Virus storyline was really intense.

    I loved that it was Jean who was so dead set against Sabretooth being there. There was a moment where, during her arguing the point with Xavier, she actually forces herself to call him by his first name. I thought it was a nice character touch to show that she had reached a point where she saw Xavier as a colleague rather than an elder.

    Interestingly, I had always read that issue as Jean (as the POV for the reader) *rejecting* the suggestion that Sabretooth was a flipped version And now substitute for an Adamantium-less Wolverine. That the comic was telling the reader via her words that they WERE acknowledging he could never take Logan's place.

    I totally agree it was bad form to seemingly forget that Psylocke had defeated Sabretooth in her previous incarnation.

    Lastly, showing Jubilee's terror with him being in the house was a nice reminder that, despite all her bravado and wisecracks, she was still a kid.

  3. This is one of my favorite "quiet" issues from the era. It's just a lot of interesting character work. It sets up some storylines that are resolved shortly, which is welcome. I really like Kubert's art. This is just an all around solid issue (I think Niceiza has a really good run coming up for the next 6 issues or so of this series)


  4. A caption has Sean referring to Rogue as “well nigh near invulnerable”, which struck me as more than almost just about practically repetitious.

    Pg. 1’s narration asks “What can firecrackers do against an atom bomb?” Although in the third person it seems to be sympathetic to Jubilee’s perspective — her being the one with “Roman candles [and] pinwheels” that are "useless” against the “unrelenting engine of destruction" that is Sabretooth. When Jean confronts him later, however, she tells him “You’re a firecracker, Creed — and I’m an atom bomb!” One presumes the callback is intentional but I don’t know if we’re supposed to surmise that Jean caught the stray thought when comforting Jubilee after she awoke or if it’s just one of those serendipities presented for the reader’s benefit, and/or the writer’s own self-indulgence if you prefer, like the quoted lines from Aeschylus used independently by Hank and Magneto in X-Men #25 as pointed out by Teemu.

    “This is about Logan, isn’t it?” at the bottom of Pg. 15 of the story and “I understand it, too…” in the first panel of Pg. 16 both look relettered. Dunno what might’ve needed to be changed and why; of course, there could be an entirely mundane reason, although the subject feels controversial enough that it’s of interest.

    1. The firecracker/atom-bomb sent me too pondering pretty much among same lines. The first instance being in Jubilee's dream, it feels like her viewpoint and not some omniknowing narrator. But that would suggest that Jean got it from her, either as a case of "your thoughts are loud like shouting, I can't block them out" or as an intentional invasion of privacy by Jean.

      In the eXtra power scale, if Jubilee is firecracker, the atom-bomb would be -- Dark Phoenix. Probably unintentional, but I can't not read it like a ye auld Dark Phoenix tease now.

      "What was it like" by Sabretooth to Jean about Logan would suggest that those two would have been intamit back in the day. Obviously, she has Maddie's memories now and there's no chance that Wolverine didn't poke Cyclops' estranged wife while both were laying down in middle of desert during the Outback era.

    2. Yeah, I don't see Maddie and Wolverine hooking up. At all. CC did drop plenty of hints that he and Storm had a Friends With Benefits going on at the time, though.

      I think Creed was just fcuking around with Jean. Besides, it isn't like Creed would 1) know that Jean had Maddie's memories or 2) that Maddie and Wolverine may have done The Sex.

      Jean does have memories about Maddie doing The Sex with both Cyclops and Havok, though, for what it's worth. I wonder if that ever came up between Jean and Scott ("That's not how your brother does it").

    3. Wolverine is Friendly with everyone who's a grown-up self-standing woman. Storm, Mystique, Carol Danvers back in the day, Tyger Tiger... him, Cyclops' embittered wife, in middle of boring nowhere, it all equals to stuff happening, the very least in the pre-Inferno heat after her selling out to S'ym.

      And Creed got them animal instincts to catch it all from Jean's demeanor and nostrils flaring and all whenever Logan gets mentioned.

    4. There's also the circumstantial evidence of "Rachel's real dad" theory, explaining how she became the very best of the DoFP "hounds", and suggesting that Logan dream-chasing Rachel to top her murdering Selen was really due to time-line ascending paternal duties.

      But then again, I'm also in the opinion that the corresponding Aeschylus quotes Blam mentioned have an in-universe explanation, and Beast quotes reluctant Hephaestus when sending the task-force to Avalon in semi-knowledge of his role of the unwilling partner in Xavier's (acknowledged or unacknowledged) scheme to make Logan an excuse which Xavier can then use to justify his Dealing with Magneto For Good, with telepathic telegramming by Xavier being the reason for Hephaestus-Beast and Kratos-Magneto both quoting bits fitting for themselves from the Aeschylus' play at crucial moments.

      This is probably also the actual reason why Xavier originally chose to call his little soldiers "the Aesch-Men".

      Professor Xavier is a jerk.

    5. Except we never saw anything of the sort to indicate Wolverine and Maddie ever crossed that line. Ever.

      Nice try, though.

    6. I'm sorry man but this ship sails. Like she would do Scott's brother to spite him, but at the same time not touch Logan.

    7. Yeah, it sails...if the ship is named the USS Fan Fiction Theories lol

    8. I agree that Wolverine would not have hooked up with Madelyn. TPTB made it clear they were emphasizing her relationship with Alex/Havok during that period.

      In regards to Logan possibly being Rachel's father, I also feel there were hints, most notably in Part Four of Days of Future Present, when both Cyclops and the Invisible Woman were (temporarily) transformed to Hounds. Sue was able to locate Franklin although Scott wasn't able to do so with Rachel - to Ahab's astonishment. He even said (in that scene) that shouldn't be possible.

      Also in the backup story in that same annual (that chronologically occurs before the main story's finale), Rachel and Franklin are drawn to Logan/Jubilee/Psylocke in Madripoor. I always thought it was interesting she would visit the man whom, when she last saw him, tried to fillet her. I felt like they were implying she was drawn to him the way she was to Jean in Part Two (the X-Factor annual) because of a blood tie.

      I was always shocked there was never more interest from readers regarding all that.

  5. As a kid, this is the issue that made me realize just how utterly useless anyone with physical powers would be against a telekinetic. I know, it can’t be realistic because no one wants to see Professor X or Jean just putting everyone to sleep, or the Flash stopping every villain before they can blink, or Cyclops taking out everyone on the battlefield in 2 seconds just by looking at them. But if you grab Wolverine by, say, one of the bones in his spine, battle’s over. I don’t care how strong-willed or badass he is, he ain’t breaking free from his own spinal cord. Likewise, Psylocke would certainly just grab Sabretooth’s brain and compress it to the size of a marble, and he isn’t healing from that.

    So basically, I really liked this issue, but it’s also why to this day I think the psis and energy blasters are just humoring Wolverine and X-23 and Warpath and all the rest. “Oh yeah, absolutely, we NEED you on the team, Logan. For sure. Now, I believe you had some money saved up that we can use for a new Blackbird...?”


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