Thursday, November 29, 2007

X-MEN #20 – May 1993


Digging In The Dirt
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Mark Pennington & Bob Wiacek (inkers), Bill Oakley (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)


Summary
Psylocke attempts to seduce Cyclops, and they kiss for the first time. Cyclops quickly pushes her away and leaves. Distraught, he decides to take a break from the X-Men and visit his grandparents in Alaska. Jean decides to confront Psylocke, and Psylocke stabs her with her psychic knife. A second Psylocke appears, wearing her old armor. This Psylocke uses a “psychic katana blade” to debilitate Psylocke. The X-Men arrive, and the armored Psylocke takes off her mask to reveal the original Caucasian face of Besty Braddock.


Approved By The Comics Code Authority
Psylocke licks the side of Cyclops’ face (apparently cleaning up motor oil…classy). Jubilee also refers to Psylocke’s dress as an “I Want Sex” outfit.


“Huh?” Moment
Psylocke is decapitated by her double, although her body is fine in the next panel. I assume that this was only intended to be a symbolic interpretation of what a psychic blade does, but it’s not clear at all.


Review
This is the start of the infamous “Kwannon” storyline, which is Fabian Nicieza’s own “Last Morlocks Story”. Several years after the story was over, he was still taking grief about these issues on Usenet. The actual details of Kwannon/Psylocke’s origin don’t come until a few issues, as this issue only introduces the mystery while advancing the Scott/Psylocke/Jean love triangle. The love triangle subplot began when Jim Lee was plotting the series and I have no idea where he was going with it. It’s possible he just wanted to introduce some romantic tension into the title. Nicieza inherited the plot and folded it into his storyline about the “true origin” of Psylocke’s Asian makeover. Rather than having Psylocke continue to flirt and drop hints at Cyclops, Nicieza has her abruptly lick his face and make out with him in this issue. I guess she got her point across. In the long run, placing Psylocke as the “other woman” in the Jean/Scott relationship didn’t help the character’s popularity (although her constantly shifting origin and powers during this era probably did more damage).


Even if this is a storyline known for everything it gets wrong, I do like the idea of bringing back Psylocke’s original Caucasian body. The introduction of “Ninja Psylocke” during Acts of Vengeance was a great storyline, but no one seemed to know where to go with the character after those issues. Bringing back Psylocke’s original form is an obvious idea, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad story. I’ve always thought Psylocke’s old purple armor had a strong design and I was sorry to see it go. Unfortunately, that look only returns for this issue (and the cape is incorrectly colored blue).


Nicieza’s script is still extremely moody and somber, but the narration isn’t as overblown as the earlier issues. He’s able to convey the malaise that’s come over the X-Men without taking it too far. His characterization of Psylocke is odd in this issue, as she goes from just flirting with Cyclops to suddenly licking him, and then literally attacking his girlfriend when she’s confronted about it. Psylocke’s psychic attack is done to show Jean Grey “the truth”, whatever that means, but it is a brutal scene. These scenes may have been intentionally extreme in order to cast doubts on her identity, but it’s still strange. Psylocke, even after changing bodies, did have consistent characterization and neither of these actions really fit. Andy Kubert’s work is still rough, and most of his facial expressions alternate between bizarre and just ugly. Since most of this issue revolves around character drama and not physical action, that’s a big problem.

4 comments:

Kerry said...

There's an "I Love the '90s" moment here, too: the title of the issue is from a Peter Gabriel single that was making the rounds at the time (though I don't think it was much of a hit).

G. Kendall said...

Really? I didn't pick up on that. I'm watching that video on youtube right now.

De said...

Back off man, Peter Gabriel is timeless :)

wwk5d said...

This is where things go downhill for Psylocke. I wonder if the Kwannon/Revanche thing was due to people complaining about the character trying to mess-up the Scott/Jean romance? This gives them an out to placate fans who were complaining about that.

Either way, Betsy never really recovers from this story. Personally, I didn't need the return of her Caucasian body. I mean, even if she did regain it, I have a feeling the writers would have still been clueless as to what to do with her...

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