October 1986 – Uncanny X-Men 213 Or, despite all the horror and violence, everyone looks fabulous.

 

Synopsis: Psylocke was written by Chris Claremont with art by Alan Davis and Paul Neary and opens with Betsy ‘Psylocke’ Braddock using the X-Men’s Cerebro system to check the grounds of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, current home of the X-Men and the Morlocks who survived the recent Mutant Massacre. She checks in on Rogue, who is patrolling the skies, finding them to be currently clear. She then looks in on the injured X-Men, being cared for by Dr Moira MacTaggart and her nurse Sharon Friedlander. Piotr ‘Colossus’ Rasputin is paralysed, trapped in his metal form. Kurt ‘Nightcrawler’ Wagner is comatose due to his injuries and Kitty ‘Shadowcat’ Pryde is fading from existence. She also looks through the empty rooms which normally house the New Mutants, including Doug ‘Cypher’ Ramsey who are at this point missing.

  

In the Morlock tunnels under the city, Wolverine and Ororo ‘Storm’ Munroe are assessing the damage caused by the massacre, which was burned away by what seems like lighting. Morlock leader Callisto and Xavier School headmaster Magneto are also there, desperate for answers to the massacre as well as the current whereabouts of the New Mutants. Psylocke’s butterfly shaped psi-self appears before them and offers to use Cerebro to search nationwide. The X-Men decline her help and she breaks the connection, cursing profusely. She then senses an intruder and when she tries to mind-scan, the feedback knocks her to the ground painfully.

Subplot time and Alison ‘Dazzler’ Blaire is laying low, but as she sees her reflection in a shop window, Malice, a voice in her head tells her that she’s a star and has no reason to hide, so she stops hiding, declaring herself a star.

 

Back at the mansion and the intruder, the Marauder known as Sabretooth, ambushes and knocks out Rogue and slips into the mansion. He gets to Cerebro and attacks Psylocke, who hits him with a psi-blast and makes a run for it, leading him away from the infirmary, an act not unnoticed by Dr MacTaggart. Psylocke puts up a fight, injuring her arm and further breaking her ribs, but holds him off until Wolverine and Storm arrive. As Storm rushes Psylocke out of the way, Wolverine and Sabretooth, seemingly long time adversaries, begin a savage attack on one another all claws and teeth. Magneto arrives (after the other two, despite the fact he can fly?) and offers to restrain Sabretooth, but Psylocke has a better idea. While he is fighting, the psychic defenses that knocked her over before aren’t functioning, so she can slip in his head and learn who was behind the Mutant Massacre. The fight becomes more and more savage, until Psylocke gets the information and an injured and embarrassed Sabretooth flees off a nearby cliff with Wolverine in pursuit. Rogue , brought inside by Callisto, ends up pulling Wolverine out of the water, Sabretooth being long gone.

 

The next morning, the X-Men decide that they need to move the survivors and medical staff to Muir Island off the coast of Scotland and also to invite a grateful Psylocke to join the team and she is thrilled to accept.

Notes: One thing that X-Men comics in the 80’s and 90’s did very well is the big epic story, Fall of the Mutants, X-Cutioner’s Song, Inferno etc, but almost as strong was the aftermath stories that were heavy on characterisation and consequences. They worked as a palate cleanser, before the build up to the next big story. This is one of the earliest, coming off the heels of the recent Mutant Massacre story, which ran over New Mutants, X-Factor, Uncanny X-Men, Power Pack and oddly enough the Mighty Thor. The Mutant Massacre set the stage for the next several years of stories, taking Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and Colossus off the table for a while (although Colossus would return) and led the way to Excalibur happening a few years later.

Being a Claremont X-Men comic, the writing was tight, with focus on character being pre-eminent, even if the prose does get a little purple, but that’s not unusual for X-Men, the selling point here was the art. There are few artists of this era that can compare with Alan Davis, his composition and story-telling, his design of hair and fabric that make it look real and not an afterthought and his expressive faces make him one of the best in the business and it seemed only fitting that the story which brings Betsy into the X-Men is by one of the creators who revamped her so well in the Captain Britain strip. Claremont and Davis work well together and their collaboration on this proved to be fruitful when they launched Excalibur. This is a story full of stakes and yet also of heart.

I first read this story in a hard-backed reprint annual in the 1980’s completely devoid of context, I read it again a few years ago as part of a X-Men read-through of Claremont’s 17 year  run and in both cases this issue works amazingly well. It’s well written with glorious art (seriously, everyone looks like they just got out of a photoshoot) creating a cracking issue with a fan favourite character joining the team. I was glad of the excuse to re-read this comic and it stands up fantastically well. I highly recommend it

Next Time: X-Men meet up with the Fantastic Four and it doesn’t go well for anyone.

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