Issue(s): X-Factor #11
I'm thinking about the above in terms of Claremont's intentions at this time, not in the context of later revelations about the Dark Beast or Mikhail Rasputin or anything else (you might be interested in Nathan Alder's Fanfix entry on the Morlocks for more involved speculation). And i swear i didn't mean to write a huge paragraph on it here. The reason i bring it up (in addition to the fact that with the Mutant Massacre we're really not going to get to see any more of the original Morlocks in action) is because this issue introduces another distinction, between "Drain Dwellers" and "Tunnelers". X-Factor get into a fight with some Tunnelers (each side initially assumes the others are Marauders), and then invite them back to their compound. The Tunnelers are more human looking and have powers that make them highly capable in a fight.
And the group includes Masque, which makes me wonder if Callisto and Sunder were also considered Tunnelers.
Despite having both Skids and the "Drain Dweller" Morlocks that they previously rescued freak out when they realized that they were being led to the mutant-hunting X-Factor headquarters, X-Factor makes no attempt to warn or explain to these more violent and powerful mutants what the situation is. Which is probably for the best because if anyone had lingered in the tunnels any longer, they would have been engulfed in Thor's cleansing flame.
But it means that the Tunnelers try to "escape" X-Factor as soon as they have a chance.
It's worth noting that while the Tunnelers already looked pretty human (the leader, Berzerker, has a wild mohawk but hey, hardcore punk was pretty big in the 80s), Masque is able to use his powers to make them look even more human.
Unfortunately, while planning to make a new life for themselves in New Jersey, the group are attacked by some muggers, and things escalate, and soon the Tunnelers are fighting cops and the X-Terminators have to go out to stop things. It doesn't go well, though. The one called Blow-Hard (HAHAHAHAHA! Sorry.) is killed by the muggers, Scaleface is shot by the cops...
...and Cyclops is forced to blast the enraged-with-grief Berzerker into the river, which causes an electro-magnetic discharge that kills him.
At this point i want to quote briefly from Kurt Busiek's second Dark Age graphic novel in his Astro City series. This is after a character called Point Man kills a few bad guy goons while saving the day:
A few years before, it'd have been a scandal that the Point Man killed those two, even though they'd have died anyway.
To really go off on a tangent, the above could really be applied to Wolverine's killing of the Hellfire goons in the Dark Phoenix saga. First Wolverine killed them. Then, i think, it created at least enough controversy (maybe only in Jim Shooter's mind?) that Claremont brought them back as cyborgs in X-Men #151-152. Then in the Code of Honor series in the 90s, the sewer under the Hellfire Club is so riddled with corpses that the drain gets clogged. But to bring it back to this issue, i think Busiek's meta-commentary on this period is really insightful. It's not that the heroes all become violent killers (although we saw both the X-Men and X-Factor killing some Marauders during this event). It's that the writers put them in situations where they are forced to kill. Cyclops didn't know what would happen to Berzerker. So the character isn't at fault. But Louise Simonson put him in a situation where he couldn't stop Berzerker without killing him. And Berzerker isn't even really a bad guy. Similarly, all of the heroes in this story fail to stop the Mutant Massacre or even bring the bad guys to justice.
Busiek seems to have a pretty negative assessment about this that we'll look at more in Eye of the Camera. Personally, while this event is unquestionably dark and violent, i find it to not be exploitatively so. Realistically, characters are going to get killed during all these battles, and these deaths, deliberate and accidental, and injuries, and failures, all add to the stakes.
Speaking of injuries, at the end of this issue a doctor brought in by Cameron Hodge declares that Angel's wings are going to have to be removed thanks to the damage he took last issue.
Earlier, Artie tried to convey the complex message that Angel gave to him to give to Jean last issue, and it comes out looking a little more simplified if nonetheless accurate.
Cyclops, fresh off a little character growth in his Power Pack appearance, takes it stoically.
Let the above comments on the Morlocks and the "Dark Age" serve as my closing statements on the Mutant Massacre. There is one more issue, X-Men #213, but even with this issue the Massacre itself is over and besides Sabretooth the Marauders are long gone. Although there should in theory be follow-up to this major event, as Caliban desires...
...the truth is that neither the X-Men nor X-Factor manage to directly follow up on what happened here, and it takes the events of Inferno for matters to be resolved.
Two other events in this issue unrelated to the Massacre. Apocalypse continues recruiting for his Horsemen.
And we are (re-)introduced to two new/old characters. The Vanisher has really been moving up in the world and he's got himself a group of teenaged pick-pockets. One of them is Boom Boom, the character introduced in Secret Wars II.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Crossover: Mutant Massacre
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAngel, Ape (Morlock), Apocalypse, Ariel (Fallen Angel), Artie Maddicks, Beast, Boom Boom, Caliban, Cameron Hodge, Chance (Fallen Angel), Cyclops, Erg, Iceman, Jean Grey, Leech, Masque, Scaleface, Skids, Tarbaby, Trish Tilby, Vanisher, War (Horseman of Apocalypse)
I guess Boom Boom decided not to call herself "Time Bomb" (as she mentions in Secret Wars II #5) after all. ;)
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | February 11, 2014 5:20 PM
This seems to set up the Vanisher for his future appearance as the head of the Fallen Angels.
Posted by: CLYDE | February 11, 2014 6:47 PM
Disappointed to see all the Tunnelers die. I thought they had more potential than the first batch of Louise Simonson Morlocks (whom I never noticed until now were her own creations). I think they would have made good foils for X-Factor, sometime foes and sometimes begrudging allies.
Given both the Beast's and Iceman's combat training, I'd have thought they'd do much better depowered against the Tunnelers than they did.
Also, I can easily understand how some mutants powers would be interrupted by Leech. I scratch my head how Beast would be affected since all of his powers come from his natural physique. He doesn't access any kind of energy or requires odd enzymes. It's like saying Angel wouldn't be able to fly if he was near Leech even though he would keep his wings.
Posted by: Chris | February 11, 2014 8:59 PM
Note that Caliban expresses a desire for revenge against the Marauders this issue- this is going to become important.
Posted by: Michael | February 11, 2014 9:53 PM
We don't get a proper look at the two girls here but they are probably Ariel and Chance from the up-coming Fallen Angels mini-series.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | February 11, 2014 10:05 PM
Not sure I agree with Busiek: there are plenty of silver age instances of good guys accidentally, or occasionally not so accidentally, causing death without any scandal. Berzerker's demise isn't much different from, say, Heinrich Zemo's. Or the bad Black Knight's, for that matter--I don't think Iron Man ever showed any remorse for that.
Cops killing Scaleface, even in self-defense, is a change from the stricter Code days, though, as is the failure of the X-teams to stop the massacre. Of course, back in the Golden Age, Namor was at time as violent as many of today's antiheroes.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 12, 2014 2:40 AM
I guess I'd say comics have always been inconsistent about how they treat heroes' lethal violence. In every age, sometimes it's no big deal, but if a writer decides to make a story point of it, then suddenly Captain America's killing of a terrorist is a remorseful new development.
The key to the modern sensibility, I'd argue, is greater self-awareness on the part of readers and writers, there more effort at extending the realism and psychology of the fictional universe. We get a great example in a year or two in PAD's Spectacular Spider-Man, where Spidey finds grounds for remorse over the crippling injuries he inflicted on Sin-Eater. It's "scandal," to use Busiek's term, but it addresses one of the basic conventions of the genre in a way that's disturbing and new--namely, what the bodily consequences of super-hero brawls, particularly with non-powered individuals, must be.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 12, 2014 3:05 AM
Thanks for the plug fnord.
For speculation on the tunnels themselves the following might interest you if commenters have the patience to wade through: http://fanfix.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/gateways-origin/
Posted by: Nathan Adler | February 12, 2014 3:46 AM
Double checking... Ariel & Chance "rescue" Boom Boom from X-Factor in Fallen Angels #3 and they discuss how Boom Boom betrayed them & Vanisher to X-Factor in this issue & X-Factor #12. So in spite of the artwork, these 2 girls with Vanisher & Boom Boom are actually Ariel & Chance so you can add them as "Characters Appearing".
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | February 18, 2014 6:38 AM
Thanks, Jay. Seems right and i've added them.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 18, 2014 9:38 AM
I always wondered about the specifics of Apocalypse's philosophy. He wants the survival of the fittest, and at times has been shown to pit his own minions against one another to figure out who's the strongest, and yet here he is, helping Abraham out of his iron lung.
Posted by: Berend | March 13, 2014 8:00 PM
Well, true. Perhaps he likes irony.
I liked the portrayal of the Age of Apocalypse. It pointed out how different Apocalypse and Magneto (or villain Magneto anyway) are in their views.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 13, 2014 10:32 PM
I think he sees potential and tests people to see if they can achieve the potential he sees.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | March 14, 2014 1:29 AM
Richard Case stated in Amazing Heroes #190 that he did uncredited backgrounds for Simonson in issues #11-15.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 24, 2015 4:58 PM
Comments are now closed.
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