Wednesday, January 13, 2010

SABRETOOTH & MYSTIQUE #1-#4, December 1996 - March 1997

Old Sins Cast Long Shadows

Credits: Jorge Gonzalez (writer), Ariel Olivetti w/Pier Brito (art), Comicraft (lettering), Kevin Somers & GCW (colors)

Spinning out of the opaque mess that was X-Factor comes Sabretooth and Mystique. Howard Mackie’s run on the book during this era is generally regarded as terrible, but Jorge Gonzalez is at least able to employ some of the ideas into a promising start. Mystique is on a mission to destroy the life’s work of Catalyst, a deceased Hydra agent she despised. This leads to her and Sabretooth faking their deaths to escape the government, then stealing a capsule from a corpse on the SHIELD helicarrier (apparently it has a morgue). Following the tradition of miniseries dedicated to villains, the pair is pitted against another set of villains, AIM. AIM also wants the capsule, leading to a series of chase scenes and action sequences. The idea that Mystique can morph into inhuman forms had recently been introduced in X-Factor (sans explanation, of course), and Gonzalez goes out of his way to shove it into this story. Over the course of a few pages, Mystique morphs into Gargoyle from the Defenders, Wendigo, and a few other monsters. It’s an alteration of her powers I’m not personally fond of, but it doesn’t hinder my enjoyment of the issue that much.


Credits: Jorge Gonzalez (writer), Ariel Olivetti (art), Comicraft (lettering), Kevin Somers (colors)

I remember Scott Lobdell once defending on Usenet his stance that Mystique couldn’t father a child. This lead to someone bringing up this miniseries, and Lobdell had an interesting response. Aside from questioning if it should even be considered canon, he seemed to express sympathy for editor Kelly Corvese for having to deal with the project (or just Marvel in general during this period). The continuity does get murky here, as a flashback to their secret agent days shows Sabretooth wearing his current furry outfit, and Mystique using her powers to grow functional wings (which would mean her new powers in X-Factor weren’t new at all, yet we never saw her use them before). There’s also a scene in the present that has Mystique morphing into Forge while nullifying Sabretooth’s tracking device, even though the story states repeatedly that she can’t take someone’s powers while impersonating them. The main story soldiers on, as Sabretooth and Mystique travel to a Hydra base to find notes Catalyst left behind. Mystique is confronted by Dismember and Corrosion, two Hydra lab experiments that have appropriately ridiculous designs by Ariel Olivetti.

Willing Victims

Credits: Jorge Gonzalez (writer), Ariel Olivetti w/Pier Brito (art), Comicraft (lettering), Kevin Somers (colors)

Mystique is taken into custody, and to the shock of absolutely no one, learns that Catalyst is still alive. After another flashback to the day Catalyst tortured Mystique, Destiny, and Sabretooth, he spells out his master villain plan. Using Access, his computer program that grants him contact with every existing database on Earth, he’ll become the new Supreme Hydra. Sabretooth catches Catalyst’s scent and tracks him down. He frees Mystique and is ready for a fight when AIM begins its own takeover of the base. Although much of this is predictable, it is pretty fun, due in large part to Olivetti’s ability to sell the action scenes.

Dead Ends

Credits: Jorge Gonzalez (writer), Ariel Olivetti (pencils) Pier Brito (inks), Comicraft (lettering), Kevin Somers & GCW (colors)

As the mini draws to a close, Mystique chases down Catalyst while Sabretooth faces Cypher (an AIM officer, not the New Mutants member). Virtually the only hint of characterization appears here, as Cypher appeals to Sabretooth’s shred of humanity to cover her escape. She’s used the Access technology to launch a missile attack against Russia that will create another world war (That’s a very ‘80s master plan, isn’t it?). Sabretooth can either fight her, or destroy Hydra’s technology and stop the launch. Whether or not Sabretooth actually has any desire to be human is debatable, but it’s only a brief scene and Gonzalez manages to pull off. Having Sabretooth save the world in a mission no one will ever know about is also a clever idea. Meanwhile, Catalyst flees capture, but ends up falling off the edge of a mountain. Destiny, who earlier predicted her face would be the last he would see, stands over the ledge as he falls. Of course, Destiny is actually Mystique in disguise. Finally, Mystique convinces Sabretooth to put his restraint collar back on and the duo heads back to X-Factor’s headquarters.

That last scene is an obvious reminder that all of this can be lumped under “illusion of change.” Compare this to the 1993 spurt of limited series, which revealed legitimate continuity points about Sabretooth, Deadpool, Mystique, and to a lesser extent, Gambit. Now, we don’t particularly learn anything about the characters’ pasts, their status quos aren’t impacted in any way, and everyone just goes home in the end. As a fast-paced action story, it’s actually an entertaining mini, but there’s nothing here that couldn’t have worked as an annual, one-shot, or fill-in arc. Actually, given X-Factor’s level of quality at this point, it would’ve been a welcome break.


wwk5d said...

Mystique's new powers bugged me. If it was revealed that she never had them, but had just learned how to use them that way, it wouldn't have been so bad...but to say she had these powers all along, as we hadn't seen them? WTF?

Teebore said...

Yeah, I never liked the new powers either. Stretched the suspension of disbelief regarding her power just a bit too far for me.

Matt said...

Y'know, I never noticed until just now that Sabretooth's logo uses pretty much the exact same font as the jagged Spider-Man logo from the 90's (currently gracing the covers of the "Clone Saga" mini, which I thought was a nice touch). Weird!

G. Kendall said...

Todd Klein designed both of them. He posted a story in his blog, saying that the people behind the '90s Spider-Man cartoon liked his Sabretooth logo and asked him to adapt it for Spider-Man.

ray swift said...

I dropped this mini-series after issue #1. It had too many holes, and what wasn't in a direct contradiction to some known fact was too much vague and unclear.
Why does Mystique start running her revenge so many years after the thing in Jerusalem happened? How come the Hydra goons just happen to go for the mechanical chip-thing themselves at the exact time Mystique and Sabs are doing the same thing (for both teams to attempt the same action in the same hour after years and years that hydra dude was dead seems like a far from reality coincidence). Did Shield just post on their twiter wall that they got that guy in their morgue or something?) I don't remember it explained in the comics.
Speaking of unlikely coincidence: connecting Mysique and Sabs through international (different) operative agencies - very unlikely coincidence. What Mystique was doing in the Mosad from the first place? Why is the Mosad, an Israely spy agency who operates in foreign countries, is doing an operative mission inside of Israel?
Better yet - talking of giving misinformation and contradict description of powers - am I supposed to believe that Sabertooth wasn't able to figure out Mystique was that Israely dude until she told him now? Even if I'm to believe this happened before they met in Germany during the cold war, it couldn't happened long time before that because Destiny already seems old in the flashback and Mystique has to give birth to Gaydon Creed, a man that suppose to be in his prime in the present. So Sabertooth should remember her scent when they meet in Germany the first time as the scent of the Israely operative!
And of course, saying stuff like "My strength doesn't change like my appearance does" doesn't help to sell the reason Mystique is changing to a brute form in the first place (also, the wings thing).
And I didn't read the ending, but going back to X-factor after all that happens, when they are already free from the damn collars and even S.H.I.E.L.D couldn't track 'em after they broke into their carrier? it makes no sense to me at all.

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