Bishop: The Mountjoy Crisis is a 1994 4-issue miniseries that serves as the focal point of several ongoing plot-threads involving Lucas Bishop, a mutant from the near-future working with a police force descendant of the X-Men, the XSE.
For the most part it functions as a standard action piece, though there are glimpses of something more going on here, including a strong theme of the validity and power of predetermination, as was prominent in the majority of Bishop-centric stories.
Not being thematically relevant isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Entertainment for entertainments sake can be just as important and enjoyable as literature that endeavors to be socially or culturally relevant. And nobody can accuse this story of being un-entertaining.
It does something that a miniseries should do to deserve to exist: it tells the story of an X-Man that wouldn’t necessarily fit in with the themes and stories present in X-Men. This isn’t a story about “othering” or equality or social inclusion.
What The Mountjoy Crisis does do, is dovetail four disparate plot-lines involving Bishop’s character.
1. Criminals from the Future: in Bishop’s inaugural story, Bishop’s Crossing, a criminal mastermind from the future named Trevor Fitzroy teleports a host of imprisoned criminals from the future into the present, in essence executing a chrono-prison escape. He’s pursued by Bishop, who then takes it upon himself to track down these chronologically-misplaced criminals. Here, Mountjoy represents one of those criminals whom Bishop was unaware made it over by the nature of his powers. In this, the story takes the form of the standard “cold-case” police-procedural storyline, modified for use in the X-Universe. This forms the main crux of the plot, but it isn’t necessarily what the story is “about.”
2. Shard: several times, most notably during the lead-up to The Phalanx Covenant, Bishop has mentioned that he had a sister, named Shard, whom he feels responsible for killing. This mini-series elaborates on her by way of having Forge combine elements of Bishop’s futuristic computer technology with elements of the existing Shi’ar hologram technology the X-Men have to bring her into the present, in essence. This doesn’t feel like a technological cheat, as it uses the functional technology in ways previously established as possible, but her inclusion is the weak point of the series. It feels like, narratively, she was included in an effort to give Bishop a supporting cast outside the X-Men. Her issues aren’t her as a character so much as her use, as she’s so obviously auxiliary to the story. Her inclusion feels shoe-horned.
3. The X-Traitor Storyline / Predetermination: Every since Bishop has been introduced, part of the main thrust of his narrative is that, at some point in his past, the X-Men were betrayed from within and destroyed. This was his main plot for some time, with an early contender for the role of the traitor being Gambit. This has made predetermination a prevalent topic: in suspecting that Gambit defects, can it be prevented? The Traitor plot takes a different spin this time though, playing with the same time-paradox determinism as The Terminator movies: what is The X-Traitor is Bishop?
This isn’t dealt with in the typical method of “time-traveler causes the problem he went back to stop” a la The Twelve Monkeys, but actually chooses to use Mountjoy’s ability to control bodies to try and make Bishop murder his fellow X-Men.
As a side-note, what this does from a structural perspective is to remind the reader about the X-Traitor plot-line. It’s easy to forget looking back, but that plot hadn’t been touched for well over a year. This was before the birth of the Internet, when constant speculation would keep the plot-line alive until it was dealt with. Knowing what we know now, that this plot would come to a climactic head relatively soon, it’s easy to see this plot-point and this mini-series as being extremely functionally important.
4. Bishop’s place as an X-Man: this is the big one, the driving force of the character arc of this series. Ever since his debut, Bishop has been caught between his past as an officer of the XSE and his present as an X-Man. The main divide coming from the simple, functional fat that the X-Men (at the time of this series’s publication in 1994) do not kill, while XSE members, as agents of martial law, are allowed to and in fact expected to kill.
This is the theme of the novel, around which all other plot lines rotate. To get really lit-theoretical here: Bishop is the pharmakon to the XSE|X-Men binary.
Mountjoy is a part of this plot-line as the inciting incident, as Bishop only feels tempted to meet out judgement when faced with a villain from his XSE days.
Shard, especially in her ephemeral status, is like the devil-on-the-shoulder that represents the internal voice in Bishop’s head that follows the XSE, with fellow X-Men Storm, Forge, and Xavier acting as counter-points.
And the destruction of the X-Men provides the necessary crisis to force a choice onto Bishop: X-Man or XSE?
In the end Bishop of course chooses the X-Men, but this reversion to status-quo is in no way a slight against the mini-series. Internally, Bishop is very different at the end than he was at the beginning, and we the reader have learned more about him.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Bishop: The Mountjoy Crisis is a 1994 4-issue miniseries that serves as the focal point of several ongoing plot-threads involving Lucas Bishop, a mutant from the near-future working with a police force descendant of the X-Men, the XSE.”