In a Nutshell
Sabretooth escapes captivity & brutally injures Psylocke.
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers: Tim Townsend
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon
Editor: Bob Harras
Having realized during a telepathic scan that Sabretooth was faking his recent docile behavior, Professor X finally gives up hope of curing him of his homicidal rages, and prepares to turn him over to Val Cooper for government incarceration. As they wait for her arrival, Boomer confronts the restrained Sabretooth in the Danger Room, angry at him for making her think he was helpless & appreciative of her care. As Psylocke watches from the control room, Sabretooth taunts Boomer, and Psylocke telepathically urges her to get out. But Boomer loses control and launches a massive bomb at Sabretooth, intending to kill him. But instead, it simply destroys his restraints as his healing factor works to repair his injuries. Just then, Psylocke intervenes, saving Boomer as she engages Sabretooth in a vicious fight. As Boomer calls for help, Psylocke is forced to resorts to giving Sabretooth the telepathic "glow" to calm his homicidal urges, only to discover it no longer affects him. As Cyclops, Beast & Archangel rush into the Danger Room in response to Boomer's calls, they discover Sabretooth gone, and Boomer cradling a badly injured Psylocke.
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue effectively ends the "Sabretooth living in the mansion filling a Wolverine-adjacent role in the series while Wolverine is off doing his own thing and Professor X tries to cure him of his homicidal tendencies" plotline that's been running since X-Men Unlimited #3/X-Men (vol. 2) #28, with Xavier having resolved he can't cure Sabretooth while it's revealed here that Sabretooth has been faking his recent tranquility (to some extent; as has often been the case with the "docile Sabretooth" subplot, it's unclear if the idea is Sabretooth has faked being docile since the return from "Age of Apocalypse", or if he was legitimately docile for a time, and only regained his original, evil, personality after his mind healed).
Sabretooth's subsequent escape triggers a fight between him and Psylocke, an overt callback to their first direct encounter in Uncanny X-Men #213 (when a pre-Asian/ninja Psylocke took on Sabretooth one-on-one towards the end of "Mutant Massacre").
In the ensuing fight, Psylocke is gravely injured, setting up the events of the next two issues (as Wolverine & Archangel work to save her life) which will, in turn, lead to further changes for Psylocke (this marks the beginning of her "Crimson Dawn" period).
In a brief moment, Jean tries to comfort Xavier about the Sabretooth situation, and he curtly brushes her off, which could be pointed to as a subtle indication of the presence of Onslaught (in general, the overall failure to cure Sabretooth will be cited as one of the frustrations which leads to the creation of/causes of increased power/control to Onslaught).
A Work in Progress
Sabretooth says he never asked to be cured of his homicidal rages, which doesn’t quite gel w/X-Men Unlimited #3, where Sabretooth agrees to come to the mansion for treatment of those rages.
Cyclops gives a pretty decent argument to Bishop for why the X-Men don’t kill their enemies.
Upon hearing Bishop talk of his experiences "coming back" from the "Age of Apocalypse", they realize it sounds similar to their own experience spending ten years in the future raising Cable, and ponder that perhaps their rapport has helped them process that experience better than Bishop.
Boomer confronts Sabretooth, angry about the whole "she fed him and cared for him and almost got kicked out of X-Force for it, only to find out he was, to some extent, faking it all" thing.
When Psylocke tries to subdue Sabretooth during their fight by giving him the telepathic "glow" which calms him down and suppresses his homicidal rages, it doesn't work; he claims Wolverine' claw-to-the-brain is the cause (though I have no idea how he'd know that, or even that the glow no longer affected him).
Marvel Overpower gets an expansion set.
The X-Facts page is another "designed with crude 90s graphics" mess, highlighting the upcoming Book of Askani oneshot (and Storm miniseries).
With this issue, Joe Mad goes full manga, leaning in to the development of his style in that direction to maximum effect (it becomes even more apparent starting next issue, as Lobdell begins to write material which speaks to his collaborator's style, but comparing this issue even to, say, just #325 - let alone his earlier issues on the book - make it clear). And, to his credit, his work here, as with issue #326, does do a lot to sell the various plot beats. The big Sabretooth/Psylocke fight isn't as well choreographed as their previous direct encounter in issue #213 (let alone as well choreographed as something like Wolverine vs. Silver Samurai in #173 or the Wolverine/Shingen stuff in the initial Wolverine mini), but some of that is down to the pacing & structure: Lobdell doesn't leave him a lot of space for an epic fight, as he builds the tension ahead of Sabretooth's breakout, and similarly, the cutaway to the X-Men responding to the fight, in order to setup the reveal of Sabretooth's escape & Psylocke's injury, takes panels away from the fight itself.
But Madureira sells the threat of Sabretooth, making him a hulking monstrosity, barely held in check by his restraints and then towering over Boomer & Psylocke once released. And while the whole "Boomer is emotionally wounded by Sabretooth's betrayal" lacks the intended punch even if you've been reading it unfold over in another series (and especially if you haven't, in which case it more or less comes out of nowhere, another example of the inter-connectivity of the X-books at this time and the expectation from the creatives that everyone is reading everything), Madureira still sells the anguished sense of betrayal & rage from Boomer. Even if it's not fully clear why she is as hurt & angry as she is, Madureira makes it clear just how much she is. So while this an important issue narratively speaking - ending Sabretooth's time in the mansion, setting up Psylocke for further changes in her character & physiology - it's even more important in the development of Madureira's style and its impact, as he fully embraces his passions and a more energetic, anime/manga-infused approach to his art, one that brings a whole new look to not only this series, but, eventually, the franchise, and superhero comics on the whole.
Tomorrow, Havok battles Random in X-Factor #118. Friday, X-Man battles X-Cutioner in X-Man #11. Next week, X-Men (vol. 2) #48!
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