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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #330

"Warriors of the Ebon Night Conclusion: Quest for the Crimson Dawn"
March 1996

In a Nutshell
Wolverine, Archangel & Dr. Strang retrieve the Crimson Dawn to save Psylocke

Writer: Scott Lobdell & Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inker: Tim Townsend
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato & Team Bucce
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

As Wolverine, Archangel, & Gomurr the Ancient enter the Netherplace in search of the Crimson Dawn, they are joined by Dr. Strange's astral form. Just then, they are attacked by a group of Undercloaks, whom Wolverine's enhanced senses detect. Back at the mansion, Gambit visits the wounded Psylocke, musing that if she dies, she would take whatever secrets she pulled out of his head with her. Just then, she begins to convulse, and Gambit calls for Xavier & Beast. In the Netherplace, the heroes escape the Undercloaks and confront Tar, protector of the Crimson Dawn. As Wolverine battles Tar's minions and Beast & Xavier work to save Psylocke's life, Strange & Archangel use Wolverine's fight as a distraction, approaching the mystical vein where the Crimson Dawn resides. Dr. Strange removes from Archangel the piece of Psylocke's soul she entrusted to him via their love and places it into the Crimson Dawn. At the mansion, Psylocke suddenly starts to recover, though she now carries a strange mark over her eye. In the Netherplace, Tar sends everyone back to Earth, and though the X-Men are happy they succeeded in helping Psylocke, Strange worries that the battle for the soul of Psylocke has only begun.

Firsts and Other Notables
Psylocke is effectively healed of her Sabretooth-inflicted wounds in this issue after receiving an "injection" of the Crimson Dawn elixir (or, at least, the "mystical" problems affecting her recovery are resolved, allowing her body to heal normally), marking the beginning of a new status quo for the character, in which it will be revealed that the infusion of the mystical liquid she receives her grants her additional shadow-based powers (and a chillier personality) along with a new facial tattoo (which is mentioned but not shown here).

It is mentioned that Dr. Strange is studying new techniques (and is sporting a different look than his "classic" appearance in this issue and the previous one), though I am not familiar enough with my Dr. Strange history to know exactly to what this refers (and there's not a ton available online regarding this era of Dr. Strange either).

A Work in Progress
Wolverine thinks his tenuous hold on his human side is being loosened by having to engage his animal senses so much in the mystical realm.

Gambit & Psylocke's interactions in issues #323-324 (in which Psylocke pondered the comatose Gambit's actions & later probed his mind to try and find out what drove Rogue away from the team) are referenced here (though no footnote is given), with their positions reversed and Gambit ruminating on Psylocke's death (he does call for help when it's needed and work to revive her, for what it's worth).

Archangel hangs a lampshade on his role, apologizing for playing the straight man and asking questions.

He also continues to feel the affects of Sabretooth’s injury to his wings.

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Thankfully, Psylocke’s  bandages are arranged just so to allow for a boob window...

While trying to revive Psylocke, Professor X provides a bit of ill-timed exposition about Psylocke’s history.

Young Love
Archangel declares his love for Psylocke (to Wolverine & Dr. Strange...).

Austin's Analysis
The Crimson Dawn story wraps up, with Madureira continuing to flex his anime muscles, with Lobdell & Loeb mostly just getting out of his way while he does so. The end result is an issue light on plot and heavy on mystical, Asian-influenced trappings. Lobdell gets some little character beats in - Wolverine's ongoing struggle to hold on to his humanity, Archangel's grief about Psylocke - but for the most part, this is Joe Mad's show. And while I don't know that I entirely buy the central conceit of the story (that Psylocke needs mystical help to recover from the physical injuries inflicted by Sabretooth because of the role of mysticism in the Elizabeth Bradock/Kwannon body swaps/mind melds) nor am terribly captivated by characters like Gomurr the Ancient, it's pretty clear that Madureira is having a blast. And sometimes, creative enthusiasm is enough to carry an issue.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, more Adversary prep in X-Factor #120. Friday, Nate makes a new friend in X-Man #13. Next week: the Storm limited series!

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  1. Prof X's exposition is incorrect as Betsy's bionic eyes stopped broadcasting when the Xmen died during Fall of Mutants as recounted in XMen Annual 12.

  2. That may have been reversed somewhere I think, because Spiral can clearly see through Revanche's 'eyes' at the beginning of X-Men #31.

    BUT, Beast says in the next issue that they may not be broadcasting but were recording, so Spiral might have been watching it at a later date.

  3. I agree with your summation that Maudreira's enthusiasm is on full display here, and I do love the artwork, but the main plot of this issue just doesn't do much for me. I like the bits with Gambit, but the stuff with Wolverine, Archangel, and Strange leave me cold. Plus, I don't like the getups Madureira puts them in. I would've much preferred to have them in costume as on the cover of the prior issue.

    (Mad drew a really good Wolverine in costume, but he rarely got to actually do it!)

    I think my favorite thing about the issue, aside from the Gambit bit, is Gomurr explaining how one becomes "Gomurr the Ancient": "First you have to be named Gomurr. Then you have to get really old." Cracks me up every time.

    "...a new facial tattoo (which is mentioned but not shown here)."

    This was weird. I have to assume Madureira drew it in the pencil art but it got lost in the inks and colors somehow (maybe someone even thought it was a mistake!) -- because, assuming this story was done Marvel-style (as most everything still was at the time), it seems odd that Lobdell or Loeb would script that line after art was presented that didn't show the mark.

    Anyway, I know the mark was pretty divisive among fans. I always thought it looked really cool. I wasn't a fan of the shadow powers that came with it, but purely aesthetically, I liked it.

    "Thankfully, Psylocke’s bandages are arranged just so to allow for a boob window..."

    I've puzzled over this for literally decades... she appears to be just, like... naked under the blanket, based on that shot and the later ones where Beast and Xavier are working on her. Seems odd.

    "While trying to revive Psylocke, Professor X provides a bit of ill-timed exposition about Psylocke’s history."

    Glad you commented on this. It was painful to read.

  4. You'd have thought I would have loved Joe Mad going full anime in X-Men, given that I was a true early adopter of anime-ask me sometime about staying up all night with a bunch of fellow fans in the late 80s, all of us with VCRs hooked together recording copies of raw movies and OVAs from Japan, it was a riot-but yet, I simply never got into it, and it was for a simple reason.

    The writing sucked eggs.

    Now, I suspect the main reason why it did was the well known heavy handed editorial rewriting of the era; Prof X's ill timed exposition scene just screams editorial going MAKE SURE THEY UNDERSTAND THIS STUFF OH HERE I'LL WRITE IT FOR YOU. It also might be because it felt so damn calculated at the time: oh, things went great when our hot artist did a bunch of Asian related things with Psylocke, let's do that again!

    That worked though because, one, it was different then, and two, you could always rely on Chris Claremont to let us know far too much about his personal kinks than was healthy. This was just "line up a bunch of Asian/anime/manga feeling things and let Joe Mad go wild." Scott Lobdell and Jeph Loeb just couldn't bring that weird frisson to a story like Claremont did.

    I wasn't done with the line yet-that came when I read one of the Joe Kelly issues and I literally could not understand what was happening-but this was when a whole row of seeds got planted for my departure.

  5. A mere 20 years later, even without benefit of an infinite number of typing monkeys, Doctor Strange would be played by a man whose name is almost Netherplace Undercloaks.


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