Beware. Beware! venture, if you will dear reader, into the hidden depths of… the Uncollected X-Men library! Mwa-hahahahaha!
Haha, fun. But seriously, I jest. There’s nothing wrong with any of the books that I’ve grouped together and name Soul Possessions, after the only multiple-part story in this grouping. In fact, I’d venture to say there are some quite good stories in here. Maybe even some of the best of this volume of X-Men, and certainly issues that expand on the continuing stories of some of its characters. So the question becomes: why are these issues specifically some of the only X-Men between Claremont leaving and Onslaught that are left uncollected in trade format? I don’t really know the answer, at least not for all of them.
So this small batch of issues comprises issues 31-35 of the 1991 X-Men series, and fits right in-between The Wedding of Cyclops and Phoenix and The Phalanx Covenant. The fact that it takes place between two large events yet isn’t collected to either and isn’t really one story onto itself is probably the biggest nail in the coffin of getting this as a trade, in all honesty.
We start off with the two-part “Soul Possessions” arc, which is a very, very very complicated that tries to shed light on the Kwannon / Psylocke relationship that’s been playing out over the past few months. See, during the Acts of Vengeance Crossover, Psylocke was kidnapped by Matsuo Tsurayaba and the Mandarin and… you know what? It’s too complicated. Bullet points: Psylocke used to be British, now she’s Asian. Everyone just kinda assumed the Asian body was made out of thin air, but it wasn’t, it was a ninja named Kwannon who was Matsuo;s lover. Now she’s in Psylocke’s old European body, which is dying of the legacy virus.
This plot line didn’t last very long. There was no internet back then so it’s hard for me to go back on posts a figure out if I’m right, but I suspect fan reaction wasn’t the best. The biggest crime is that it was far too convoluted. It just kept going through pages and pages filled with text that was painful to read, and it just wasn’t that interesting. To me, at least. In any event, “Soul Possessions” finally puts the truth of whether Kwannon is in the ‘real’ Betsy Braddock’s body or not… by having her rip out her own eyes and reveal that they were cybernetic, from waaaaaay back when Mojo replaced her damaged eyes so that he could broadcast her sight through them for alien entertainment. See? Complicated. Even for an X-Aficionado like me this is complicated.
Anyway, the point? Psylocke and Archangel are starting to feel romantically about each other, and Kwannon has gone off alone to die in a corner like a hurt animal and will (to my knowledge) never be heard from again.
X-Men #33 is “The Hearts of Thieves,” an epic and amazing story that it boggles my mind is not collected in one of the Gambit Classic volumes. For a while now there have been hints at a unfriendly past between Sabretooth and Gambit, and now we’re finally getting it, though from Sabretooth’s point-of-view.
It tells the story that, just before his wedding, Gambit was taken by his brother on a quest for the thieves guild to steal of jewel called The Cheating Star, currently in the possession of the beautiful young Genevieve in France. And anyone that knows Gambit knows how this goes: rather than just stealing the jewel, he takes the opportunity to have one last tryst before his vows, seducing Genevieve for well over a week before sneaking out of her bed with it one night.
The problem is that Sabretooth was also contracted to retrieve the gem, though through much more lethal means. He and Gambit butt heads over it, and after his affair with Genevieve, Creed captures both she and Gambit’s brother and hangs them from the Notre Dame tower. In the same sadistic way he always would with Logan, Creed has decided to teach Gambit a lesson about his true nature, and makes Gambit choose who will live: his brother or Genevieve.
Unlike with other superhero dramas, the choice is an easy one. Gambit chooses his brother, whom he loves dearly, over this girl he really barely knows. The problem is that Genevieve was falling in love with Gambit and would have given him the gem had he but asked, and she dies still trusting that he would save her. This is understandably hard on the young soon-to-be X-Man.
If I have one gripe about this issue, it’s that there’s never anything made of the fact that it’s being told by Creed to Rouge. Unreliable narrators can make for the most complex and morally webbed stories in all of literature, but here there’s never any indication that Creed was being anything but 100% honest. That’s an odd choice and a missed opportunity.
Issue #34 — “Life and Consequences” — follows this as a small squadron of X-Men consisting of Gambit, Psylocke, and Beast follow up on a hint from Creed to find one of Sinister’s secret labs beneath an orphanage in Nebraska. There they find a cloning facility and the mutant Threnody, who hasn’t been seen since Beast reluctantly gave her over to Sinister at the end of issue # 27. They discover that Sinister has clones of all the Marauders, explaining why they never die, and that Sinister is actually trying his best to cure the lethal legacy virus. Threnody decides to stay, and fight for Xavier’s cause from within Sinister’s clutches, and the X-Men destroy the rest of the cloning vats.
“Sunset Grace,” #35, is the issue I was referring to when I said that I could understand why some of these weren’t collected. This book is weird, weird, weird. It stars Cyclops and Phoenix, right after their return from the future in The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, and they’re jazzed up to tell about their future knowledge of — what else? — the legacy virus. Before they can, they’re taken in by Nick Fury aboard a SHIELD Hellicarrier. And… nope, I can’t even. I just can’t.
This issue really is just too hard to follow. It tries to act as a stepping-off point from the Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix book, but it’s fixing things that didn’t need to be fixed and thereby making them more complicated. Where were Scott and Jean’s comatose bodies? Nick Fury picked them up! Oh… I just assumed they got sent back to the instant they were taken, so that nobody realized they were gone. That kinda made sense to me. Does Nick Fury often monitor people he knows on their honeymoons? Creepy.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
#33 is amazing, but the rest brings it down a fair bit sadly.
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