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Monday, August 29, 2022

X-amining X-Man #25

March 1997

In a Nutshell
Nate and Jean Grey confront the revived Madelyne Pryor!

Writer: Terry Kavanagh
Pencilers: Roger Cruz with Casey Jones
Inks: Bud LaRosa with Jason Martin
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft AD
Colorist: Mike Thomas
Editor: Jaye Gardner
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Madelyne talks to Threnody in a cemetery, trying to find out where Nate is. In the course of their conversation, Threnody realizes Madelyne is actually dead. Angry, Madelyne removes one of Threnody's psionic bafflers, knocking her out. Meanwhile, Nate senses Madelyne's return; after tracking her to the cemetery but finding her gone, he goes to Switzerland in search of her. At the X-Mansion, Jean is visited by the Askani woman named Sanctity, whom cryptically makes her aware of Madelyne's return. In Switzerland, Nate finds Madelyne and brings her to the cabin where they first met. Just then, Jean arrives in the Blackbird, and Madelyne attacks. During the ensuing three way battle, Madelyne realizes that, ultimately, Nate is going to side with Jean, while Nate realizes that Madelyne is his creation, formed of his psionic energy and memories of Jean from his own world as he sought comfort upon first landing on Earth. Angrily insisting she is a person with a right to exist, Madelyne angrily returns Nate's energy to him and leaves. Jean offers him a place with the X-Men once again, but he turns her down. He does tell her that he wished she'd been his mother. Later, Madelyne Pryor joins Sebastian Shaw in his bed. Back in Switzerland, Nate realizes that his telekinetic powers are gone, but is unsure if it is because of his confrontation with Madelyne, or the beginning of his end as his powers begin to consume him. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The truth about the Madelyne Pryor who appeared in issue #5 and went on to join the Hellfire Club is revealed in this issue, with Nate realizing that he psionically created her physical form and drew in her lingering psychic presence out of loneliness upon arriving in this world, his thoughts having been on the Jean Grey of his world as he shifted realities. 

In the wake of his confrontation with Madelyne, Nate realizes he's lost his telekinetic abilities (though his telepathy remains), which will be the new status quo for the character for a time. 

Madame Sanctity, the Askani priestess who debuted in the Askani'son limited series (where she was mentor to Cable's future wife) and was responsible for sending Cyclops and Jean back in time to Mister Sinister's origins in The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, appears here to alert Jean to the existence of the Madelyne Pryor whom Nate created. It is never terribly clear why. 

Being the 25th issue of a series in 1997, this is a double-sized "anniversary" issue, though thankfully the wraparound cover is the only gimmick present. 

A Work in Progress
When Madelyne's psychic presence is felt around the world, it fills Cable with dread and the theoretically-evil-now Havok with anticipation. 

Jean offers Nate a place with the X-Men, and he once again turns it down, but does say that he wishes Jean had been his mother. 

Artistic Achievements
Casey Jones gets to draw a neat little montage of Madelyne's early life, from being cloned by Sinister to awakened by Phoenix to wed to Cyclops. 

Austin's Analysis
As far as "using an anniversary issue to answer a long-running series' mystery" approaches go, celebrating the book's 25th issue by finally revealing what the resurrected Madelyne is and how she got revived isn't a terrible idea. Of course, this being serial comics in 1997, that knowledge doesn't really change much, as the issue still ends with Madelyne running back to what she was doing before her confrontation with Nate (cozying up with Shaw and the Hellfire Club). Furthermore, while you can squint and see that Kavanagh is trying to tap into the angst at the heart of Madelyne's character, the idea that she needs to prove she's worthy of existence as her own person and not just a copy, the ultimate revelation of this Madelyne's nature does little to ameliorate the creepy elements of her relationship with Nate, which remains the biggest obstacle to accepting the character in her own right. If anything, the details of the reveal double down on those creepy elements; in trying to further Madelyne's angst by making her another copy inspired by another version of Jean, Kavanagh specifically ties Madelyne's creation by Nate to his memories of a different Jean Grey about whom he had maternal feelings, which is what prompted him to psionically craft a woman who looked just like her that he could...make out with and pine after. 

Obviously, Kavanagh is working with what he was given here, and it's unclear (though doubtful) if this is what Jeph Loeb had in mind when he brought Madelyne back in issue #5 (if indeed he had anything in mind at all beyond a good issue-ending hook). And tying Madelyne to Onslaught as another psychic creation of a powerful telepath that took on a life and form of its own is a smart way to use recent precedent to explain the character's existence. But while it serves as an explanation, of sorts, it still leaves the character in a weird place, not a resurrected version of the character who married Cyclops, birthed Cable, and died in "Inferno", but a sort of psychic facsimile thereof given physical form. She's almost akin to Shard over in X-Factor, a slightly different copy of a previously-existing being that is neither the original, nor a completely faithful copy of the original. Like the Shard hologram, it's almost one or two outlandish concepts too far for us to capably wrap our heads around, and it leaves the character in a kind of weird limbo. So for as much as the effort to explain this version of Madelyne's whole deal is appreciated (with both Cruz and Casey turning in some really nice art in parts), it largely fails, at least in terms of making Madelyne a more understandable and relatable character going forward. 

Next Issue
The (earthbound) X-Men team-up with Shang-Chi in X-Men (vol. 2) #62!

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  1. I had stopped being a completest once Onslaught was over, so wasn't keeping up with this title. Even some of the titles I stopped buying, like Wolverine, I would still check out from time time to time, but not this or X-factor.

    It seems I wasn't missing much.

  2. There's something oddly appealing about this series that kept me coming back to it each and every month. Or, at least there was when it was being released. Rereading some of these I have a hard time connecting with my younger self to know exactly what it was. I must have just been in a certain frame of mind at the time. While I can enjoy going through these again I don't find anything compelling that would make me come back to the next issue if it were published these days.

    As to this issue itself, it felt like it was trying to be momentous without closing off any potential future plotlines. Which is too bad, this would have been a perfect issue to wrap up everything that came before and give the title a new, more compelling direction. Though, that was was pretty much the case with any of the X-Titles that weren't specifically "X-Men:.

  3. *sees the part where Nate makes out with Maddy* that's how it is in their family.

  4. I much prefer the faces and figures on those couple of Jones/Martin pages, but looking through the issue again got me realizing that there’s some fine work from Cruz/LaRosa on scenery and backgrounds. Extra points for Jean’s fuzzy X-branded slippers. Those giant, thick-fingered hands are still bizarre, however.


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