When ongoing, serialized stories deviate from their ‘default’ genre there can be some very strange results. Such is the case with Warrior of the Ebon Night, a short story-arc that took place between Uncanny X-Men issues 329 and 330.
This arc takes place immediately on the heels of Road to Onslaught: Volume Two, wherein the Sabretooth plotline that had been running through the main X-Men books for well over a year at this point. To greatly condense down this plot here, Sabretooth had been staying at the mansion as a captive as Professor X attempted to help him in the same way he had Wolverine and Rouge in the past, and turn a villain into a hero. Sabretooth has proven too difficult a subject though, and the Professor finally agrees to turn him over to X-Factor. Before we can be removed though, Sabretooth tricks X-Force member Boomer into setting him free and proceeds to eviscerate Psylocke before running out into the streets of New York and being tracked down by the original five X-Men.
This is where this story picks up, with Psylocke still hanging on to life by a thread. However, due to the alterations to her physiology over the years at the hands of Mojo, The Siege Perilious, and the Mandarin, normal medical science (and even the advanced technology of the Shi’ar at the X-Men’s disposal) cannot help her. This seems like something they would have figured out long ago and preplanned for, given that they’re a semi-military superhero team that routinely goes into life-threatening battle for the sake of all humanity, but I suppose not. In any event, what it actually is is a hastily thought-up reason why the main plot of the story needs to happen, as Wolverine and Archangel go on a mystical spirit-journey to retrieve a vial of the Crimson Dawn to save Psylocke’s life.
From a purely character-based perspective, this had a lot of potential and was clearly a well thought out idea from that standpoint. The two characters on the team who are perhaps closest to Psylocke and would be the most affected by her injury are Wolverine (her friend, teammate, and fellow ninja) and Archangel. But it’s never really been dealt with before that, although they both share love and affection for the same woman: they hate each other. Archangel quit the X-Men, originally, because he so vehemently opposed Wolverine’s inclusion on the team, and he is one of the few X-Men who still (at the time of this story) hasn’t come around to accepting Logan as an X-Man.
That makes for an interesting, almost Buddy-Cop like dynamic of having two opposing personalities with very different viewpoints but common interests needing to team up together for a shared goal. And had the “McGuffin” for this story been different, it might have worked very well: it might have been a longer storyline or its own miniseries. But the McGuffin we have is a mystical one wherein Wolverine and Archangel must seek out the age of a very ethnocentric Asian stereotype named Gomurr the Ancient for help getting a drop of some magical liquid called “The Crimson Dawn” that can save Psylocke’s life.
Here’s what I was talking about in the beginning: this sort of story might have worked in the pages of a Midnight Sons title: in fact, Doctor Strange even guest-stars. But being here, in the very science and science-fiction based X-Men title, makes it seem out of place. Archangel constantly disbelieving in the things he’s seeing and Gomurr’s constantly making jokes and pop-culture references make this seem like a parody of a mystical epic, and that parody feeling drains all the tension out of the drama.
There is some good though. The dialog is decent and as I said, it’s good to see the Archangel / Wolverine dynamic played out even if it could have been done at a better time. The art by Joe Maduria is great as always, and the ongoing plotline with Gambit comes in at just the right moment to add tension, as we the reader are left to wonder if Gambit will kill the comatose Psylocke to allow the secrets she stole from his mind stay buried, when in fact he risks “outing” himself to save her. A great progression of that amazing Lobdell plotline.
All said a decent storyline, but it definitely could have been better.