Friday, March 28, 2008

X-MEN #32 – May 1994

Soul Possessions Part Two: The Leopards and the Cats
Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Andy Kubert (penciler), Matt Ryan (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Kevin Somers/Digital Chameleon (colorist)

Psylocke attacks Spiral, demanding that she explain her connection to Kwannon. The other X-Men join the attack, but Spiral isn’t interested in fighting. As she teleports away, she tells Psylocke to use “all of the eyes” she’s been given to see the truth. Psylocke reveals to the X-Men the bionic eyes Mojo implanted into her original body. Beast and Banshee set up a means to view the transmissions from her eyes. Going back to the day Matsuo discovered her original body, they witness Matsuo making a deal with the Mandarin to use The Hand's science and the power of his rings to place Kwannon’s mind in Psylocke’s amnesiac body, in exchange for Mandarin receiving Kwannon’s body as a telepathic assassin. Spiral was hired to heal Kwannon’s body in preparation for the transfer. In order to make “the game” more interesting, Spiral tells Nyoirin that Kwannon’s soul is inside Psylocke’s original body, causing him to steal her away. Back in the present, Psylocke travels to Japan to learn more from Nyoirin, but discovers that Matsuo has already killed him. Matsuo tells her that Nyoirin lied to Revanche about her past in order to mold her into what he always wanted. Nyoirin sent Revanche to join the X-Men in order to kill Wolverine and Psylocke for foiling the plans of his ally, the Mandarin, months earlier. Revanche came to respect the X-Men and wouldn’t go through with it. Matsuo uses the “imprinted telepathic energy” Revanche left him before she died to take back any trace of Kwannon’s memories from Psylocke’s soul. He then attempts to kill himself in order to join Kwannon, but Psylocke talks him out of it. Back home, Psylocke tosses her bionic eyes into a lake and walks away with Archangel.

Continuity Notes
The Mandarin, as you probably know, is Iron Man’s archenemy and the foe Wolverine faced in the “Lady Mandarin” storyline (Uncanny X-Men’s part in the “Acts of Vengeance” crossover). I’m no expert on Iron Man continuity, so I’m not sure how Mandarin’s rings could help to transfer one person’s consciousness to another’s body.

According to Beast, Psylocke’s first trip through the Siege Perilous (which left the X-Men invisible to electronic equipment), prevented the transmission from her bionic eyes from going through to Mojo, but the optic sensors still kept recording.

Kwannon and Psylocke have “crossed-biological traits” because Spiral manipulated their genetic coding, according to Beast. This is meant to explain why Psylocke was still able to use her original powers in her new body, and why she possessed some elements of Kwannon’s memory and personality. Matuso says in the flashback that Kwannon has “low-level telepathic abilities” that will enable her mind to survive the body transfer.

Matsuo tells Psylocke that Revanche was a “confused creature of anger, discomfited in the use of her newfound telepathic powers”, causing her to project her confusion and anger on to the X-Men, leading them to react in kind. I assume that this is meant to explain why the X-Men never noticed the contradictions in her story, and why they were so quick to suspect Psylocke in X-Men #21.

In this issue’s flashback, Matsuo knows from the beginning that Kwannon’s mind will be placed in Psylocke’s body. In the previous issue, he told Revanche that he didn’t realize at first that Kwannon was in a different body. Psylocke’s role in Matsuo’s plan in the last issue was to use her telepathic powers to heal Kwannon’s brain damage. Also in the last issue, Matsuo says that Spiral switched their minds as a cruel prank, but in this issue the mind swap was always a part of his plan.

This issue reveals that Nyoirin was allies with the Mandarin, and that he sent Revanche to kill Wolverine and Psylocke for defeating him during the “Lady Mandarin” storyline. Mandarin was aligned with The Hand during that story. Shortly before Kwannon’s mind was placed in Psylocke’s body, The Hand wanted Nyoirin dead for coming into conflict with their interests, as revealed last issue. So…Mandarin is aligned with both The Hand and Nyoirin, yet The Hand wanted Nyoirin dead. I can only assume that The Hand’s feud with Nyoirin ended at some point (maybe Matsuo dropped the feud after Nyoirin gave him Kwannon’s body?).

“Huh?” Moments
Even after Beast watches the Mandarin tell Matsuo “you wish to use the power of my rings, in conjunction with your sciences” to put Kwannon’s mind into Psylocke’s body, he still says “Spiral more than switched (Psylocke and Kwannon's) minds…”. It's as if he's reacting to a different explanation for the mind swap (more on this later).

Beast theorizes that Spiral agreed to Matsuo’s request because her master Mojo wouldn’t have received any “entertainment value” from the amnesiac Psylocke who emerged from the Siege Perilous. Since, as Beast has already pointed out, Psylocke and the X-Men were invisible to electronic scanners and her bionic eyes weren’t transmitting anything to Mojo anyway, this explanation doesn’t really make sense.

Commercial Break
There’s an eight-page insert on glossy paper for the “Marvel Mart”, which looks like an early attempt by Marvel to skip retailers and sell directly to fans (it didn’t exactly work out very well). A lot of it looks like Marvel’s trying to dump unsold 2099 and Midnight Sons comics at cover price.

This is the second part of the Kwannon/Revanche continuity patch, designed to give the final answers and resolve any remaining contradictions from the previous Psylocke storylines. Unfortunately, it creates a few more errors, contradicting the events of just the previous issue. I wonder if there were multiple drafts of this storyline, and conflicting elements from different drafts ended up being published without anyone noticing. It seems like the original idea (as stated last issue) was that Matsuo used Psylocke’s telepathic powers to heal Kwannon’s brain damage, but Spiral switched their minds (without Matsuo’s knowledge) while healing Kwannon’s body. In this issue, Matsuo wants the body swap from the beginning in order to save Kwannon’s mind from her dying body and place it inside Psylocke’s “empty shell” (he doesn’t mention Kwannon’s brain damage at all, although I guess it’s possible that Psylocke was already coerced into fixing it). This introduces another element that doesn’t work -- if Kwannon’s body can be repaired enough to become the Mandarin’s assassin, why is Matsuo swapping bodies in the first place? If the idea is that placing Kwannon’s mind inside Psylocke’s body is actually Matsuo’s plan to heal her brain damage, that’s not explained clearly at all. All that’s been said previously was that Psylocke’s telepathic powers would be used to cure the brain damage; if this implied actually putting Kwannon’s consciousness inside Psylocke’s telepathic body to heal the brain damage, I never picked up on that. The story also alternates between Spiral’s role in the body swap, as some scenes just say that she healed Kwannon’s body and that The Hand with Mandarin did the body swap, while other scenes give her credit for both. There must be some curse on these issues that keeps them from making any real sense. I’m not trying to be unnecessarily harsh, because I usually do like Nicieza’s work, but plowing through all of this is really a chore.

One element where this issue exceeds the previous one is the emotional drama, which Nicieza handles well. Last issue, Matsuo’s relationship with Kwannon seemed extremely unnatural due to their ridiculous dialogue, but his feelings for her seem more real and believable here. The final scene between Psylocke and Matsuo isn’t bad, even if Psylocke telling him that she senses something good inside of him, after discovering the body he just killed, is a little much (and yeah, I know Nyoirin was an evil crimelord who probably deserved it, but it still struck me as funny). The Archangel/Psylocke relationship continues to advance, with Archangel telling Psylocke that he came out of his experience with Apocalypse as a better person, just as she’s growing now. The relationship still doesn’t really work for me, as it seems as if their connection to each another is defined by the things that other people have done to them, rather than any real affection for one another. Although, really, I guess their relationship isn’t more of a stretch than most of the others we see in superhero comics. It’s also a well-drawn issue, with improved acting by Kubert and some cool compositions (although he gives Psylocke an inhumanly small waist for most of the issue). The digital coloring is also improving, losing a lot of the garish effects from last issue.

1 comment:

wwk5d said...

Ugh, what a mess. A couple of points:

Psylocke only went through Siege Perilous once...the first time, during Fall of the Mutants, she and the other X-men sacrificed themselves so that Forge's spell could take out the Adversary. Roma then brought them back to life.

In the original Lady Mandarin story, Tatsuo and the Hand approached the Mandarin for his skills in brainwashing via sensory deprivation. Not sure of Claremont added that aspect to his character or if it already exited, but his rings were never involved in the mindwipe.

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