Tuesday, October 2, 2007

X-MEN #8 – May 1992

Tooth And Claw
Credits: Jim Lee (plot, pencils), Scott Lobdell (script), Jim Lee & Art Thibert (inks), Joe Rosas (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)

As Bishop is inducted into the X-Men, he recognizes Gambit as “The Witness” from the future. Bishop is convinced that Gambit will betray the X-Men, but the team is skeptical. At a picnic, Jean catches Cyclops leering at Psylocke. Meanwhile, Bishop and Gambit get into a brief fight that is interrupted by Bella Donna Bourdeaux, Gambit’s wife. She explains that she married Gambit to create a truce between their two clans. Her brother-in-law objected and was killed by Gambit in a duel. Bella Donna wants Gambit to return to New Orleans to end the war between their two clans. The X-Men agree to join him in New Orleans.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority
Psylocke emerges from the pond in a scene that’s almost reminiscent of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. There’s always been an element of cheesecake to Jim Lee’s X-Men work, but this is the first time the story draws attention to it. This type of scene between Cyclops and Psylocke will continue for at least a year.

Continuity Notes
According to Bishop, Forge will later be known as “Genesis”. He also refers to Jubilee as “the last X-Man”. On top of that, Bishop says that he was raised by Gambit (as The Witness) “in the aftermath of the Great Betrayal.” I don’t remember anything about Bishop’s various solo series, so I don’t know if all of these bits were connected.

Gambit’s name is revealed as “LeBeau”. This issue also introduces the Thieves Guild and Assassins Guild. Various writers have tried to make the Guilds work, but I don’t think any of them ever pulled it off. X-fans were excited about lots of things in this era, but I don’t remember any enthusiasm for the Guilds idea.

I’m still keeping track of Gambit’s speech pattern. In this issue, I counted two “dat”s and one “dis”. His accent still isn’t as exaggerated as it will later become.

There isn’t much of a plot in this issue, but the various story threads it introduces stuck around for years. More is revealed about Gambit in this issue than in any of his previous two years of appearances. He’s given a real name, a part of his past is revealed, and he’s accused of betraying the team. Gambit was originally intended to be working undercover for Mr. Sinister when Chris Claremont introduced him. Since Bob Harras was also the editor when he was introduced, I assume he was familiar with the idea. It’s possible that the plan at this point was for Gambit to actually betray the team.

As soon as the traitor plot is introduced, no one seems to know what to do with it. Bishop, a man they know is from the future, tells them that Gambit will betray the team and kill them. Professor Xavier’s response is that the X-Men should go on a picnic. This is totally ridiculous, and the script even acknowledges so. Based on his previous appearances, I can understand if the X-Men think that Bishop is a little nutty, but why would they so casually dismiss what he says? They know nothing about Gambit, and he doesn’t seem that interested in proving Bishop wrong. Shouldn’t the X-Men at least be a little concerned? Whatever dramatic weight this idea might’ve had is dismissed as soon as it’s introduced. It’s a shame since this could’ve introduced a lot of tension into the title. If we actually saw Bishop investigating Gambit and learning about his various sins, that could have been an intriguing storyline. Instead, the idea stayed in the background for years and was never fully developed. The ‘90s cartoon actually did a better job with this idea. At least in the cartoon, the X-Men are disturbed by this revelation. In this issue, no one seems to really care.

Psylocke’s reputation as the X-Men’s “slut” can also be traced back to this issue. There is a segment of fans that are highly defensive of the Scott/Jean romance and are hostile to any attempts to drive them apart. Putting Psylocke in the “home wrecker” role probably wasn’t a good move for her long-term popularity. Even though her costume was a one-piece bathing suit at this point, there hadn’t been an effort to directly focus on her sexuality. Suddenly having her in the role of seductress is awkward and it leads to her being labeled as “ninja bimbo” for years.

Rogue also begins a personality shift in this issue. In her previous appearances, she barely tolerated Gambit’s advances. Now, she has a schoolgirl crush on him, and automatically defends him from Bishop’s accusations. Rogue lost a lot of her personality throughout the ‘90s, and I think it started with this issue. I don’t want to be hyperbolic and say that this issue ruins three characters, but you can see where things are starting to go wrong.

I don’t want to make this issue out to be worse than it is. The art’s an improvement over the previous issue, and some of the picnic scenes work well. Like a lot of the Jim Lee issues, the story just doesn’t hold up to a lot of scrutiny. Having an X-Men picnic issue is fine, but placing it after the traitor revelation doesn’t make sense. Lee also falls back on the plot convenience of having another stranger know where the X-Men live (although I guess it’s possible that Gambit and Bella Donna have been in contact over the years).


Lorin said...

Fabian Niceiza does a great job with the Guild in the first twelve issues of the Gambit solo series he did with Steve Skroce. Then it gets bogged down in time travel guk after Skroce leaves. But the first twelve are fantastic.

G. Kendall said...

I liked Gambit's solo series, but I think it was probably too late to redeem the Guilds by that point. I thought the stories set during Gambit's childhood were really good.

Cove West said...

The way I saw it, the X-Men just assumed Bishop had Tourette's, but instead of making odd noises or swearing, he'd announce "Gambit will betray you all!" for no particular reason. Seriously, did ANYONE other than Gambit take Bishop's warning seriously until Onslaught? "That explosion? Just Bishop trying to kill Gambit again. Those ragamuffins." Even during the numerous "Gambit's dark secrets revealed" stories, I don't recall anyone ever saying, "OMG, he used to do THAT? Maybe Bishop's right and Gambit will kill us in our sleep!" Definitely not one of the better handled storylines of the age (though I guess, relative to the other overarcs, it turned out better).

Weird thing is, neither avenue makes much sense. Do the X-Men: a) listen to a gun-toting maniac who says he's from the future over someone they've known and fought with (and entrusted Teen Storm with) for months, or b) discount the maniac because obviously the shady thief who everyone already suspects is going to sell them out at some point isn't really the traitorous type. Apparently, option #3 was chosen: c) stay neutral and hope it all works out. Sorta like how no one bothered to give Remy a reason to stay at the mansion in the first place (other than "because that's where Stormy is" and "because that's where Rogue is").

Wasn't there a thing in X-Tinction Agenda where Scott had a little flirty thing with Betsy and Jean got mildly disturbed (I say "mildly" because "upset" for Jean means "turn Mastermind into a vegetable and eat an asparagus sun")? Anyway, I wish they'd get back to the "edgy" Betts. Even back in the pre-ninja days, she wasn't always Miss Prissy (she got in a pretty tense fight with Rogue in #239 just for the hell of it, and of course she conned the team through the Siege Perilous "for their own good"). I don't even mind if they'd return her to the "slut" days, so long as they offer some redeeming qualities to offset it (which they didn't do the first time and she ended up being mauled by Sabretooth, so let that be a lesson).

Another sign of Rogue's personality change: she seems to be using moisturizer, at least in the cover. Look at that face! When did the river rat who liked fighting the Juggernaut start using facial cream?

G. Kendall said...

Bishop having Tourette's would also explain his memories of the Age of Apocalypse, I guess. "Yes, Bishop, there's a traitor in our midst. Yeah, buddy, you lived through twenty years in another timeline where Apocalypse ruled the world. Do you have to bring this up all the friggin' time?"

Anonymous said...

I remember the Scott/Betsy angle.It was later revealed that she mind melded with a ninja assassin named Revanche and it was Revanche who was in control of Pyslocke and moved in on Scott.It was to show that Revanche was ruthless and did not consider jean to be competition for her to get a guy she wanted

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