Thursday, December 27, 2007

X-MEN #23 – August 1993

Leaning Towards Oneself
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Mark Pennington (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist)

In Alaska, Mr. Sinister tells Cyclops that he accidentally released Stryfe’s deadly virus. The Dark Riders suddenly appear, eager to test Cyclops. Sinister fights them off, and tells them that Cyclops is not to be killed, but he doesn’t mind if he’s “roughed up”. After a brief battle, the Dark Riders leave. In Japan, Nyoirin tells the X-Men that Kwannon and Revanche possess one-half of each other’s soul. He also informs the X-Men about Matsuo and Shinobi Shaw’s connection to the Upstarts. Gambit and Beast warn Shaw that the X-Men are now watching the Upstarts, while Psylocke and Revanche confront Matsuo.

Continuity Notes
This is the beginning of the infamous “Third Summers Brother” mystery. Sinister refers to Cyclops’ “brothers” and then corrects himself, saying that he only meant Alex. Even though this set off ten years worth of debate amongst fans, Cyclops just shrugs it off in this issue.

Cyclops’ optic blasts apparently have no effect on Sinister. Sinister says that his death during Inferno was only a ruse.

The Dark Riders tell Cyclops that when the “the battle for ascension of the High Lord commences…you will be at the forefront of the killing fields.” The Dark Riders also tell Cyclops that they knew that infecting his son would become the catalyst for this upcoming war.

Creative Differences
When Cyclops asks Sinister if Stryfe is his son on page four, Sinister’s response is “Perhaps. Who can say?” This word balloon has obviously been re-lettered. I wonder if Marvel still wanted the Cyclops/Stryfe connection to be ambiguous, although you have to wonder why at this point.

The Kwannon storyline belatedly reaches something of a conclusion, as Nyoirin finally just spells out Psylocke’s new status quo (in just a few panels, making this four issue storyline seem even more protracted). I can see what Nicieza was going for, and it could’ve provided a clean way to revert Psylocke back to her original body, but the entire storyline was needlessly drawn out and often just outright confusing. Not only were these issues a little dense on their own, but they're built on some obvious continuity mistakes. For a storyline that’s all about the X-Men’s past continuity, that’s a problem. Instead of just killing of Revanche at the end of this arc (which happens a year later), I really think Psylocke should have just returned to her original body. It would’ve put the ninja era behind her, and perhaps made it easier for everyone to forget about the Kwannon/Revanche mess. Unfortunately, the X-office’s attempt to re-energize Psylocke would just result in her getting mysterious powers that no one cared about.

The conclusion to the Kwannon storyline only takes a few pages, however, as most of the issue focuses on Cyclops. In terms of advancing any ongoing storylines, not much happens, but Kubert does a decent job on the pointless fight scenes. The Dark Riders really have a ridiculous motivation, but I guess it’s enough to justify a few pages of action (I remember thinking that they looked pretty cool as a kid, too). They’re really just a distraction in this issue, though. After the events of the previous storylines, a lot could’ve been done with Cyclops in this issue, but the opportunity’s wasted. Nicieza’s purple prose also returns on the last page, offering this gem: “The pain and sadness wash over him, warming him like a smooth balm. He’s come to embrace them both – to depend on them – to need them…” Yeah, Cyclops. I hate it when I have to turn to my sadness to warm me like a smoothing balm, too.

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