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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

X-amining X-Men (vol. 2) #31

"Soul Possessions Part One: The Butterfly & the Hawk"
April 1994

In a Nutshell
Revanche dies as the truth about her & Psylocke starts to be revealed.

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Andy Kubert
Inks: Matt Ryan
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Lavern/Digital Chameleon
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Spiral watches through Revanche's bionic eyes as Revanche seemingly prepares to attack a sleeping Charles Xavier. Just then, however, the feed cuts out, and the next morning Xavier reveals to Psylocke that Revanche left him a note saying she was leaving. Psylocke declines to tell him that Revanche left Psylocke her bionic eyes. In Japan, Matsuo recalls his past relationship with Kwannon, then meets with Spiral. At the X-Mansion, Archangel invites Psylocke to breakfast while Xavier discusses his intentions to re-open Emma Frost's school with Beast, and Gambit checks on Rogue, who has been acting strangely since they returned from New Orleans. In Japan, Revanche tracks down Matsuo. She forces him to admit the truth of her origins. Dying of the Legacy Virus, she then asks Matsuo to end her life, and he does, a sensation Psylocke feels a half a world away, as she and Archangel return to the mansion to find Spiral waiting for her, offering to answer all the questions she has about her relationship to Kwannon.

Firsts and Other Notables
Having apparently been made aware of the rather massive flub in his initial Psylocke/Revanche retcon, this issue kicks off a two-part story which attempts to address that by retconning the retcon (for those that don't recall, the initial retcon said that Kwannon, personal assassin/lover of Lord Nyoirin, found a post-Siege Psylocke and accidentally swapped bodies with her, with their respective memories & skills getting jumbled up as well such that both women shared the same knowledge & abilities. Matuso then discovered Psylocke-in-Kwannon and brainwashed her into serving the Mandarin, and Lord Nyoirin founds Kwannon-in-Psylocke and set her after the original, all of which was impossible because we'd seen Matsuo encounter the post-Siege, still-British Psylocke on panel). Here, Nicieza attempts to fix his retcon with a new one: that Matsuo & Kwannon were lovers, and that Kwannon was gravely injured shortly before Matsuo found Psylocke. He cut a deal with Spiral to save her body, but she couldn't (Matsuo believed) save her mind, so he had her transfer Psylocke's mind into the body, then used Hand science and magic to attempt to brainwash her into being as much like Kwannon as possible.


The full truth, as revealed next issue, is slightly more complicated yet than that, as questions remain, like the fact that Wolverine was unable to distinguish between the two Psylockes.


It is said that Lord Nyoirin simply lied to the X-Men when they first came asking about all this (in issues #20-23), and that Matsuo kept quiet about the truth as a form of penance for what he did to his former lover.


This issue also marks the final appearance of Revanche, as the character is killed, at her behest, by Matsuo, to spare her dying of the Legacy Virus, thus ending her brief run as "that character standing in the background of big group shots during crossovers". Barring a brief return at the start of Matt Fraction's run, this is essentially the end for the character.


With Cyclops on his honeymoon, Xavier appoints Beast the leader of the Blue Team this issue, notable for being a rare instance (outside the Defenders) in which Beast is put in a formal leadership role, but also somewhat less impactful as Cyclops will be back before too long, and with the whole Blue/Gold distinction having more or less faded away at this point anyway (with, for example, Archangel featuring heavily in this issue and the next, while Gambit will appear in the next couple Uncanny issues).


He also asks Beast to take over more of the day-to-day operations of the mansion in Xavier's stead, as Xavier hopes to focus on other things in an effort to make amends for his recent actions (presumably a reference to his attack on Magneto). Beast is reluctant to do so, having hoped to focus more on finding a cure for the Legacy Virus, but ultimately agrees.


This issue also reveals that Emma Frost, the former White Queen of the Hellfire Club, left Professor X her Massachusetts Academy in her will, and that he intends to reopen the school (which is additional setup for Generation X, as that series will take place at the re-opened academy), another reason given for Xavier's desire to have Beast step up around the mansion (and also the explanation for why Banshee can't run the mansion, as Beast suggests, since Xavier is already planning on having him head up the new school).


Though Kubert plays somewhat coy in depicting her (as coy as possible when dealing with a six-armed character), intending for her full reveal on the last page to be something of a surprise, Spiral pops up in this issue (last seen in X-Factor Annual #7, in which we learned her tragic backstory as Ricochet Rita), and will feature in the final explanation for Psylocke & Revanche's connection next issue.


A Work in Progress
Remember how British Psylocke received bionic eyes from Mojo, which broadcast the X-Men's adventures back to Mojoverse until they went through the Siege Perilous at the end of "Fall of the Mutants"? Well, Fabian Nicieza does, and they feature in this story, somewhat grisly in this story as Revanche cuts them out and leaves them for Psylocke.


Remember the Siege Perilous? The mystical portal given to them by Roma through which the traveled in "Fall of the Mutants" and again, later, which spit them out with no memory of their past lives (for awhile) Well, Fabian Nicieza does, and he references it in this issue.

Remember how, after that first trip through the Siege Perilous, the X-Men were rendered invisible to all forms of electronic observation/detection until a later time when they just...weren't anymore? Well, Fabian Nicieza does, and that gets referenced here as well.


Gambit notes that Rogue has been acting strange since they returns from New Orleans, referencing the events of the Gambit limited series.


Revanche's sudden desire to cut out her eyes, leave the mansion, and seek out Matsuo (whom she recognizes as a former lover) is said to be caused by the Legacy Virus having unlocked her memories (which also explains why, if Kwannon & Matsuo were lovers, Revanche never said anything about prior to this issue).


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Archangel & Psylocke specifically drink cappuccino at their breakfast, which recalls the burgeoning coffeehouse craze of the early to mid 90s which saw the proliferation of coffee shops (and Starbucks in particular) out of Seattle and into every mall, airport and large standalone retailer today.

Also, in responding to whether or not he's bothered using an image inducer to hide his blue skin in public, Archangel notes that Michael Jordan (arguably at the height of his fame at the point this was published) would probably love to have one. 


Artistic Achievements
Kubert continues to ramp up the cheesecake, such as revealing that Psylocke apparently sleeps in a thong.


We also get a "sexily-posed while reading a book" Rogue when Gambit comes to check on her after she skips breakfast.


There's a fun little scene transition that fits the body-horror themes of this story, where Kubert positions Psylocke's hand, in closeup, holding the bionic eyes, over a medium-shot of Revanche's face, such that the eyes almost look like they're part of Revache's face again.


Young Love
Archangel & Psylocke go to breakfast together, and bond over their shared experience with bodily transformations.


It's in the Mail
An editorial column on the letters page announces some changes in the editorial structure of the X-office (mostly involving assistant & associate editors), including the hiring of Ben Raab (now this book's assistant editor), who will go on to write (not terribly well) Excalibur and a bunch of random mid-90s limited series, amongst other things. It also teases the upcoming Generation X ongoing series and the Rogue limited series (which is a sequel of sorts to Gambit's limited series).

Austin's Analysis
This issue kicks of Nicieza's attempts to straighten out the Psylocke/Revanche mess caused by his incomplete reading/editorial oversight, and at the same time, write Revanche out of the series (perhaps feeling like he'd be better off cutting his losses with the character). While Nicieza puts in a good effort to wring some pathos out of Revanche's death via a doomed romance with Matsuo, it's hard to care too much that she's gone or that the villainous Matsuo is sad. As a result, it's the stuff happening on the margins of that business which is most interesting: Beast continuing to try to find a balance in his life, the continued quiet build-up to what will become the new Xavier Institute & Generation X, the deepening of the Psylocke/Archangel relationship, references to the events of the Gambit limited series, and some deep cut continuity nods, including Psylocke's bionic eyes, the Siege Perilous, and a rare reference to that time the X-Men were all invisible to electronics.

Combine that with Nicieza's somewhat verbose prose over the Matuso/Revanche flashbacks, and the whole thing reads very Claremontian. Not exactly a Quiet Issue, but the kind of thing he always excelled at, giving each issue an "A" story while using the subplots and character development scenes to connect it to the larger narrative, recalling past relationships, referencing ancillary stories, and laying the groundwork for future ones. Nicieza's prose doesn't quite have the pop of Claremont's yet, but this nonetheless reads like a really good cover band doing a riff on Claremont, even as the main story centers on a character no one much cares about in the first place.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, "Child's Play" continues in X-Force #33. Friday, the mystery of Britannic in Excalibur #76. Next week, a special wedding-centric What If? #60.

Collected Editions

 

16 comments:

  1. Xavier discusses his intentions to re-open Emma Frost's school with Beast and Gambit

    My brain broke on this line, unable to finish the sentence for a moment. I thought there was some aborted plan of which I'd never heard to launch Generation X with Beast and Gambit as headmasters and that would have been ... goodness, that'd have been amazingly bad.

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    1. Heh. This is why commas are important.

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  2. "the villainous Matsuo is sad" :D

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  3. "Remember the Siege Perilous? The mystical portal given to them by Roma through which the traveled in "Fall of the Mutants" and again, later, which spit them out with no memory of their past lives (for awhile) Well, Fabian Nicieza does, and he references it in this issue."
    Except that he didn't reference it correctly, since they DIDN'T go through the Siege Perilous in Fall of the Mutants.

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  4. I also remember that this was the first X-issue(and first Marvel) issue that I read with computer coloring in it. I was blown away at that time lol.

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    1. I was blown away too. I could eat this issue because of its computer coloring.

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    2. Agreed. Lovern Kindzierski (and his studio Digital Chameleon) did the coloring for the title moving forward. His work took Kubert's art to an entirely different level.

      I was incredibly impressed with the coloring used in the flashback/memory scenes: the colors were muted perfectly to convey to the reader that those sequences didn't occur in the present.

      I'd always been previously aware of how colorists helped (or hindered) a story - but this issue was the first time I was aware of the coloring *before* anything else.

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    3. Glad other people are talking about this! I was totally blown away by this issue too; it looked so different from any comic I'd ever seen before. Prior to this, everything mostly had plain flat colors and no special effects. Now, suddenly we had these cool, lush gradiants, the whole opening sequence depicted on video looking "softer" than normal, and the shot Teebore posted above where Beast is in the foreground with a blurred Xavier in the background to create a camera effect.

      Between these colors and Comicraft coming aboard to provide letters very soon, I remember thinking that the X-books of this era set the (extremely high) bar for what all comics should have looked like.

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    4. Yeah, I totally dropped the ball in failing to mention the computer coloring in this one (chalk it up to my continued ignorance of artistic developments), as its definitely an important development for the franchise (and comics as a whole). Like Matt, this is pretty much the point where I fully warmed to Kubert's artwork, finding it really scratchy in the early goings, and and I really do think the sudden onset of these lush colors had a lot to do with that.

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  5. I'm sorry, but.. I always loved the twin Psylocke saga! I came into XmenX because of the cartoon. Got a couple of back issues and latched onto the non cartoon characters... Who were Nightcrawler, Shadow at and Psylocke? I needed to know more!

    And in the UK, the comic that accompanied the cartoon also contained 'real' X-Men comics at the back. The issue where wolverine has Psylocke in his claws, accusing her of not being the genuine Betsy... what madness was this? I was hooked :)

    It's only later that I realised what a godawful mess it was, but still. I'm glad Psylocke mostly sat out the late 90s... Her recent appearances have all been great and seem to carry on the trajectory her personality took in the Australian outback stories. Feels like a natural evolution to me. If only the other female characters, like Storm, were getting the same attention.

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    1. I'm with you; the whole Revanche saga was what made me a regular X-reader starting with issue 20, and I was enthralled by it. It never even occurred to me for several years that Nicieza was fixing his own mistakes with these two issues; I always just figured he had planned the misinformation and later revelation from the start.

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  6. Man oh man did I hate the revanche story. After 7 years, this is pretty much my ultimate terminus as a monthly X-Book reader. As stated in my comments in the Wolvie #75 discussion, bone claws just didn't jibe with me. And in the main books, they seem to start throwing a lot of stuff at the wall fairly haphazardly. With that said, they were coming out of the Image guy's era, which consisted almost entirely of character regression, or in Cable's case, no characterisation at all. I applaud Mr. Lobdell and Nicieza for breaking out of that funk and setting templates for folks like Psylocke, Cable, and even Deadpool to become interesting individuals beyond just looking kwel. They allowed the rest of the cast to mature, both physically and emotionally, and the quite issues post-Image Xodus were easily on par (some maybe better) than Clairmont. The wedding acted as more or less my swan song, although I did buy the first few issues of Generation X, as I was a big Jubilee fan and was really into Bachalo coming off the Death Mini. I'd have friends keep me abreast of goings on, and would read an occasional issue, but with the exception Age of Apocolypse, I only observed from afar. I know that a great deal of you look back on this time fondly, and I compleatly understand. I loved the outback era and Inferno, and that was a point where many older readers I knew where feeling like "thier X-Men were over". I've really loved these X-Aminations Austin, and I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. It inspired me to get back into collecting, and I now own a compleat run of Giant Size all the way through #143, all in VF or higher. That was a dream of mine in my youth, and a reality for me in adulthood, and none of it would have happened without you and your wonderful analysis of a 55 year old children's story.

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    1. Thank you, Scott, for the kind words. I'm glad you've enjoyed these reviews and flattered that they've had such an impact on you. Hopefully you'll still follow along and/or check in periodically, even as we move further away from "your" X-Men.

      Also, kudos on the run; I'm in the process of assembling a full UNCANNY run from the beginning, and while I've got everything from #95 to present (along with a fair number of Silver Age books), the vast majority of the older, classic stuff are Good, at best (reading copies, really), far from VF. Your run is quite an achievement.

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  7. I didn’t care much about the rest of it but it sure was nice to see a (likeness of the) normal Warren back in that old Angel uniform.

    Xavier uses the phrase “ad infinitum” on Pg. 10 when he really just means “et cetera” — “With Jean and Scott on an extended leave of absence, Logan gone, ad infinitum, I need your support, Hank.” Reading it again now I wonder if maybe the “ad infinitum” referred to Logan’s absence being indefinite, instead of meaning that there were other issues beyond the ones mentioned, but that’s not really a proper usage either.

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  8. As noted in my prior comments above, I liked this issue. This was close to the point where Andy Kubert's style finally won me over, but that actually happened for real in the next issue, with the giant two-page spread of Psylocke and Spiral fighting. But we'll get there soon enough.

    "...the hiring of Ben Raab (now this book's assistant editor), who will go on to write (not terribly well) Excalibur and a bunch of random mid-90s limited series..."

    I think I mentioned this here before, but while I agree Raab's EXCALIBUR wasn't so great -- even I, not exactly the arbitor of great taste at the time, dropped it -- I generally loved almost all those minis he wrote, in particular UNION JACK and HELLFIRE CLUB.

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    1. Yeah, my recollection seems to be that his miniseries stuff was vastly better than his EXCALIBUR stuff as well.

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