Uncanny X-Men #262-263
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #262, Uncanny X-Men #263
Jean is then taken back to the X-Men subbasement and given a costume to wear, since her clothes were of course torn up.
I don't really get the reaction to the costume. It's a standard super-hero suit, no different than what Jean wears in X-Factor, and for all that it's skintight spandex it's no more exposing than the miniskirt she used to wear. The heels on the boots are absurd for anyone in a fighting team, but that's not what anyone's reacting to. If Claremont wanted to comment on the things that women wind up wearing in his books, this wasn't the place to start.
A couple other bits of information come out of this exchange.
The latest X-Men gear is so high tech it practically makes you a superhero even without any other powers. And note Jean's comments about Moira. Rather than acknowledge the fact that Jean's memory should be merged with Phoenix and Madelyne at this point, he's inventing the idea that she's known Moira since forever. That's not implausible, given both her and Moira's backstories, but you'd think "Oh, i have the Phoenix's memories of meeting Moira much more recently" would be more relevant to this conversation.
You'd think the initial Jean/Banshee interaction would be a little different, too. This is the first time they're meeting after Jean "died" as Phoenix. Banshee knew Jean as Jean and also spent time with the Phoenix Force while he was in the X-Men. Forge seems to be aware that Moira didn't become associated with the X-Men until after Jean "left" (which isn't actually true), so i guess that means Banshee also knows that Jean had been replaced by the Phoenix and was now back. It's obviously complicated, but you'd think some of that would allow for some kind of human interaction here.
Banshee gets upset when he learns that the X-Men are alive.
And i guess i'm confused. I thought they knew this from Polaris and it's why they were out looking for them. Remember? You're worried the Reavers are hunting for them?
Actually, the Reavers are busty causing trouble for Emma Frost at the moment.
Banshee and Forge do remember the Reavers, and tell Jean about their attack on Muir Island. Jean is surprised to learn that Freedom Force helped repel the attack.
If you squint at the above scan, or pull out your hard copy, you may see that the dialogue bubble from Banshee about X-Factor being in space seems to have been re-scripted. If i'm right about that, i wonder what Claremont had originally written. "Last we heard, we still thought you were mutant hunters" or something like that?
Jean suggests evacuating everyone from Muir Island to X-Factor's ship, and Banshee says the idea is worth considering. Forge, Banshee, and Jean decide to head there now, after scanning a file on Callisto (which i wish i could do since i've never really understood her powers) and noting that she's still missing. Forge also gives both Jean and Banshee what he says is an anti-biotic to protect them in case the Morlocks attack again, since one of them had a poison that knocked Jean out. We'll learn later that it's much more than that.
As soon as Banshee and Jean step outside the subbasement, they are BAMF'd away by the Morlock teleporter.
So this allows for a little solo action for Forge. Claremont parallels it with memories from his time in Vietnam.
Note that the name of Forge's 'Nam outfit was the Marauders, same as the group that killed the Morlocks. And there's also repeated use of the word arclight in reference to the bombing campaigns in Vietnam. Arclight was also the name of one of the Marauders. It's also been noted that Scalphunter, another Marauder, is similar to Forge in looks and abilities (although i should note that in the lettercol for issue #266, it's still maintained that Scalphunter is not a mutant, "just a very good inventor", and that's said specifically in contrast to Forge). Claremont has a tendency to re-use names and phrases, so it's not clear that any specific connection was intended here.
It also turns out that a British agent of SHIELD named Malone tried to recruit Forge.
"Harry Malone" is actually the last name of Hardcase of the Harriers, and the Harriers were said to once be associated with SHIELD, (and before that Malone was in the Royal Marine Commandos, so i guess he was British) so i suppose that's who we see in that flashback.
Meanwhile, the amnesiac Colossus is at a successful showing of his art when he sees the model that he's been meeting. This time she gets into a car, which the Genoshan Jenny Ransome over-enthusiastically stops and rips open for Peter, only to find that no one's inside.
The model later shows up at Peter's loft, accompanied by Masque.
One of the extra things that Forge did when he gave Jean and Banshee the antibiotics was put trackers in their bodies, so he's able to trace them. He has to fight his way through the Morlock X-Men doppelgangers (note that he says that Angel is supposed to be bald).
He eventually finds that Jean and Banshee have also been warped by Masque.
Oddly, the conversation turns to how the Reavers seem to have "replaced" the Maurauders, and what it means for Xavier's dream.
And then when Jean expresses the tiniest bit of displeasure over having her arms turned into tentacles, Forge plays the "I lost my arm" card.
Meanwhile, we learn that the model that kept going to Colossus is actually Callisto, warped by Masque to be beautiful instead of ugly. Masque doesn't know that Peter is the real Colossus, but he sees the resemblance and twists his body to make him look like he's in armored form.
It's said that despite the look, his body is still flesh and can be injured. Masque then sets Callisto and Colossus free, challenging them to make it to the surface. Forge and Jean are monitoring with spy cams, and Jean says that the challenge should be easy for Callisto, but Forge says that Masque is somehow manipulating the tunnels the same way he does to people's bodies.
So Jean, Forge, and Banshee (powerless without his mouth) rush in to help. We see that Jean is starting to accept and like her new form.
And Colossus' armored form turns out to be less superficial than first thought.
So Masque is defeated.
He tries to tell them that they have to stay with him, or at least beg him to return Jean and Banshee to regular form, but they refuse. They also don't, it's worth mentioning, actually do anything about Masque. They just leave him there. I guess there's not much they can do. X-Factor are public heroes at this point, but i guess they wouldn't contact Freedom Force to have Masque imprisoned. Take him to the police, who could contact the Vault? It seems like there should be something. Instead they're left to roam the tunnels under Manhattan, which will cause problems at least for the New Mutants.
It turns out when Forge was injecting Jean and Banshee, he was also taking cell samples, and with them he's able to restore them to normal form. Banshee and Jean debate whether or not to try to restore Colossus' memories, since he seems happy as an artist. And Forge says a final goodbye to his old Vietnam squadmates.
The subplots in these issues relate to the Genoshian story that started with Colossus' return a few issues back. Chief Magistrate Anderson teleports in to the White House (thanks to Pipeline) for a meeting with Val Cooper and the governor of New York.
It's said that the US owes money to the Genoshan government, and that there therefore isn't anything that the US can do to stop them from operating on US territory. I'm... not sure that's really how it works.
It's then said that trying to stop them would lead to war.
Val is later contacted by Colonel Alexei Vazhin (essentially the Soviet Nick Fury that has popped up in X-Men on occasion). He has a lot to say.
My first thought on reading this was to wonder just what the heck Claremont was talking about. It's true that the various villains Vazhin mentions exist, but we haven't seen any evidence that mutants are aligning into factions under them. The MLF are a new group. Mr. Sinister is thought dead and the members of his Marauders have remained consistent since they were introduced. Apocalypse should not be considered a "faction" in any meaningful sense. And the one who remains unidentified is the Shadow King, a spectral boogeyman that as far as i know has also not been amassing a mutant army. The reference to Acts of Vengeance in relation to all of this also seems odd. But then i noticed that in the April Bullpen Bulletins, winners of a contest would be announced "at the start of the Mutant Wars in X-MEN #271 (like the way we sneaked that bombshell in there?)". And i now think that's what was being set up here: a summer crossover event called Mutant Wars that would have pit these various factions together. Sounds pretty cool. Obviously that morphed into X-Tinction Agenda, which narrows the focus specifically to the Genoshan element.
I find myself wondering if there's meant to be any kind of metaphor here with the Morlocks. The Morlocks for a period worked as a metaphor for the masses of mutants that the X-Men were nominally fighting for. Failing to be accepted by society, they were forced to take refuge underground. They were originally somewhat violent and threatening, but Storm became their leader (again, nominally) and forced them to act more conciliatory towards humans. The symbolism seems to then start to break down when they were then mostly wiped out by other mutants acting on the orders of another mutant, for reasons that are still unclear (if they were wiped out by humans, or wiped out by mutants with a more aggressive mutant liberation agenda, i'd still see the Massacre as part of the metaphor). Now, though, they've seemingly descended into pure horror movie territory. If pressed, based on the random halting conversation she has with Forge about Xavier's dream, i might say that the idea that is in the X-Men's failure to make progress for the Morlocks, and indeed their failure to even protect them at a basic level, has led to the group (or what remains of it) getting taken over by an extremist. But i'm not really seeing that. Masque just comes across as a very generic insane villain, which makes him and this whole story uninteresting on that level, and it unfortunately sets the tone for future Morlock stories in other books, notably New Mutants.
The use of Jean in this story strikes me as equally weird and off theme. In X-Factor, Jean's story arc is about finding herself in the face of the fact that she's absorbed the memories of these other entities that weren't really her and worrying that a decision to marry Cyclops won't be her own. Her transformation at Masque's hand is seemingly an opportunity to work through that: if she isn't herself physically, then she'll have to find her true self mentally. But Claremont ignores all of that, doesn't even acknowledge the triple psyche problem, and instead has Forge lecturing her about beauty only being skin deep, which leads to her accepting her newly mutated form. That might be a good arc for a new mutant character, or it might be an experience that would lead Jean to empathize with a new mutant student with a more physical mutation than her, but it seems pretty meaningless when she reverts back to her old self at the end.
So without any deeper meaning that i can discern, i'm left with a generic action story with fill-in art.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Continues more or less directly from the subplot in issue #261. New Mutants #90-91 should take place after these issues. According to the MCP, Jean (and the Beast) next appear in X-Factor #55 and part of #56 before appearing in X-Men #264.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAngelo Macon, Banshee, Bliss, Bonebreaker, Callisto, Chief Magistrate Anderson, Colonel Alexei Vazhin, Colossus, Debra Levin, Forge, Jean Grey, Lady Deathstrike, Masque, Murray Reese, Phillip Moreau, Pipeline, Pretty Boy, Valerie Cooper, Wade Cole
That weird Jean Grey worm thing looks like something I vaguely remember from an '80s horror movie. I want to say it was one of the Poltergeist sequels but someone else may remember more clearly.
Posted by: Robert | May 4, 2015 5:01 PM
Claremont liked the tentacle-arm nonsense so much, he later did it again with Calysto, in X-Treme X-Men.
The Mutant War stuff sounds very cool. Too bad it never materialized. It kind of reminds me of the earlier hints about "The Twelve". They were supposed to be the leaders of the mutants against the humans, but since it includes characters as diverse as Cyclops, Apocalypse and Franklin Richards I always thought they were supposed to be leaders of different factions.
Posted by: Berend | May 4, 2015 7:01 PM
FNORD - I found this article about "The Mutant Wars" - you might like it - http://secretsbehindthexmen.blogspot.com/2012/05/final-days-of-x-men.html
Posted by: clyde | May 4, 2015 9:14 PM
The explanation for why Jean can't use her telekinesis when Masque transformed her arms into tentacles makes no sense. The idea is that the same part of Jean's mind that controls her telekinesis controls her arms, and the tentacles are too heavy for Jean to lift. Which is fine, except that Jean can lift dozens of tons telekinetically. If the arms are that heavy, then how can Jean hang from the pipes? What are those pipes made of, adamantium?
Posted by: Michael | May 4, 2015 9:23 PM
I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't get Jean's comments about the X-Men uniforms. It seems like maybe the lines were scripted before the costumes were designed or something?
Posted by: Bill | May 4, 2015 9:32 PM
Note the bizarre parenthetical monologue from Masque on p. 11 of 263, where he says he's never seen Colossus in the flesh. It's bizarre both because this seems to be needlessly emphasizing a plot hole--and because it isn't actually a plot hole, since Masque did see Colossus in human form in the first Morlocks storyline. Evidently Claremont and or Harras misremembered. Was the idea of Masque reconiginzing a hero he'd supposedly never met in civilian guise meant to be a clue that Masque was being guided by an unseen mastermind (Farouk)? It's a bit similar to the way in which dialogue in 247 and 252 calls attention to Pierce knowing things (that it was the invisible X-Men who fought Master Mold and how the Siege Perilous worked) that he shouldn't have been able to know.
Vazhin's description of the upcoming Mutant Wars is pretty similar to Shaw's rant in New Mutants 75. The Mutant Wars idea seems to have been Harras's big plan for the X-books. We finally get to see something like it--Apocalypse vs. Stryfe vs. Sinister vs. various X-Men factions--in the X-Executioner's Song crossover of 1992.
The point about the kinky new X-Men uniforms that doesn't come through is that the garter-belt-like straps and butt-floss-like bikini patterns are meant to be more sexually accentuating than the modest skintight costumes of old. Given how minor such details are compard to what form-fitting costumes mean in the first place, the idea doesn't work, but I think that's what Claremont was going for.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 5, 2015 12:43 AM
Thanks for the link, Clyde. What Walter says, that the Mutant Wars eventually became the X-Cutioner's Song, makes sense too.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 5, 2015 7:40 AM
Re: Forge's comments about Angel, his Death costume was always meant to be a full-body tattoo, so yes the markings on top of his head were part of this and not meant to be a head covering.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 17, 2015 4:28 PM
Personally I thought Claremont's plotting was starting to go to pieces even before the Dark Phoenix/X-Factor fiascoes, but that's just my biased opinion on the guy's run.
Posted by: D09 | July 14, 2016 10:22 PM
Totally understandable. Scott Summers between #137-200 and Illyana Rasputin between #161 and "Inferno" are the only genuinely successful plots he has to his credit. And the first one is the only time he's credited as the writer the entire time (excursions like "Secret Wars" not included.) When #262-263 were new, I was right there thinking the title had gone off the rails, which is basically the same reaction fans had five or ten years before me. We may come to the series at different times and respond to it differently, but in the end, we can all agree that Claremont's X-Men were gone by the time we quit, whether or not Claremont was still writing.
PS, believe it or not, in these discussions, my first thought is 'dude, it's a comic book' and only going into detail from there.
Posted by: ChrisW | July 15, 2016 1:40 AM
@Fnord: "And i guess i'm confused. I thought they knew this from Polaris and it's why they were out looking for them." I assume Sean was upset specifically because he learned the X-Men didn't tell him and Forge they were still alive. I guess he thought they couldn't communicate with anyone except Polaris and thus is annoyed to know X-Factor knew it before him. And IIRC Polaris never told them that X-Factor met her and the X-Men during Inferno.
I like Jean's annoyed face when she criticizes her costume. A Blushing Banshee is quite strange to look at, though. (that should retroactively become his Lee-style name!)
Masque seemed a lot more muscular last time we saw him. Not sure what happened to him.
Jean's tentacles remind me of what happened to Leela in a recent Futurama episode. She got a very similar mutation and moved by grabbing things around like Jean does in that panel. Maybe the animators read this issue before making the episode :)
Posted by: Nate Wolf | July 4, 2017 4:32 PM
One correction, Fnord: that’s not the governor of New York, it’s the White House chief of staff, as the Genoshan minister says at the bottom of p. 13. He’s referred to as “Governor Seward” because he’s based on John Sununu, who was George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff at the time and had previously been governor of New Hampshire. Honorifics sometimes carry over, but I seem to recall that Sununu was particularly known for wanting to continue to be called “governor.” (I might be misremembering that detail, though.)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 25, 2018 3:06 AM
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