Quest for the Crimson Dawn
Credits: Scott Lobdell & Jeph Loeb (writers), Joe Madureira (penciler), Tim Townsend (inker), Steve Buccellato & Team Bucce! (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Wolverine and Archangel follow Gomurr to a warehouse filled with Chinese paper dragons. Shortly after Dr. Strange appears, the team is attacked by Shadow Ninjas, sent to guard the elixir that might save Psylocke. Gomurr vanquishes the ninjas and leads the group into the mouth of a paper dragon. Meanwhile, Gambit watches over Psylocke, wondering if she learned his secret when she entered his mind weeks earlier. When her condition worsens, he calls Xavier and Beast. Inside an extradimensional plane, Wolverine and the others meet Tar, the protector of the Crimson Dawn. Tar ignores Gomurr’s plea for help and sends his mystical “neon minions” to attack. As Wolverine fights them off, Dr. Strange shows Archangel the vein of the Crimson Dawn, which reveals that Psylocke is dying. Strange takes the portion of Psylocke’s soul that she’s trusted to Archangel out of his chest and releases it into the Crimson Dawn’s vein. At the mansion, Psylocke is suddenly overcome with a red energy, which stabilizes her vital signs. As the group returns to the real world, Dr. Strange questions if the battle for Psylocke’s soul has just begun.
This is the second issue in a row that’s only nineteen pages long.
It’s another issue that mainly consists of Wolverine and Archangel fighting vaguely defined mystical enemies. Like the previous issue, it’s obviously well-drawn, but for some reason Madureria has put the lead characters in ugly, stereotypical “Asian warrior” garb. Archangel is supposed to be the one annoyed by it, even though he’s just in a robe while Wolverine is wearing a horrible mesh, sleeveless shirt with karate pants. They look ridiculous, and even though the script points that out, there’s no real justification for why they’re dressed this way. It’s implied that Gomurr tricked them into wearing the clothes as a joke, which just emphasizes how annoying the mystical characters in this storyline can be. Tar, the guardian of the Crimson Dawn, has no motive to attack the team outside of the fact that he’s sick of people always asking him for things. That’s cute, but it seems out of place in a storyline that’s really trying to sell the idea that one of the X-Men is about to die.
Another problem with the “Psylocke is dying” angle is that hardly any of the other X-Men seem to be involved at all. The previous issue of sister title X-Men showed the team playing poker, while Psylocke was still stable enough to talk to Professor Xavier. Now, she’s suddenly in a struggle for her life, and the majority of the X-Men can’t be found. Lobdell and Loeb do create a strong scene with Gambit, though, which calls back to Psylocke’s earlier invasion of his mind. The idea that for a “fraction of an instant” he’s tempted to let her die in order to keep his secret is interesting, and it helps to convey the seriousness of his shame more than his break-up issue with Rogue did.
The ending of the issue is fairly lame, and I remember feeling cheated by it as a teenager, too. Instead of getting the Crimson Dawn elixir to save her life, Dr. Strange pulls a portion of Psylocke’s soul out of Archangel’s chest (uh…okay), sticks it into a mysterious blob, and suddenly she’s okay. Future issues will reveal that the incident left her with a facial tattoo and new powers, but none of that is revealed here (and, really, using this as a justification for screwing around with Psylocke’s status quo yet again is beyond inane). Ending any story by saving a character with “the power of love” is automatically going to make me roll my eyes. It’s also an incredibly rushed ending, as Madureria once again fills the early pages of the issue with splashes and large panels, forcing him to cram all of the necessary story details into tiny panels on the final pages.