Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Rick Leonardi
Inker: P. Craig Russell
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Letter: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Bob Harras
When we left our mutants last, the team had returned to their Outback home following a confrontation with a group of Brood who used mutants as their hosts. The battle saw both Havok and Colossus take several lives, but it was only the former who seemed to be left a bit distraught over his actions. In addition to the X-Men’s battle against the aliens, the lone non-mutant member of the team, Madelyne Pryor, engaged in some sort of internal “dream” struggle that saw her cross paths with (as well as apparently make a bargain with) the demon S’ym, and left her in an unconscious state inside the Outback base’s computer room. Now, for the very first time, we are introduced to a locale that over the years has become one of the most important, if not infamous, settings in all of X-History: Genosha…
This issue marked Rick Leonardi’s return to the book after a three issue absence, probably due to the bi-weekly publishing schedule the book had for the summer months, and although his style is vastly different from Marc Silvestri’s, it is still one that I loved seeing on these pages.
As was the case with the first pages of The Brood arc, as well as the first pages of #229 the officially kicked off the Outback saga, Claremont drops us into an unfamiliar landscape with unfamiliar characters. While the billboard screams out the story location, we have a strange man protecting a baby from some unknown threat that he refers to as “magistrates” on the following page (the usage of magistrate here would be yet another example of comic books teaching me new words at the age of 9 years old).
The man is certainly more than “normal” as he leaps an electrified barbed wire fence with ease before placing the baby inside the cargo hold of some random airplane. In his goodbye to the infant, he also makes reference to “our kind” which further indicates he is not your standard human and that notion is cemented with the helicopter-flying magistrates refer to him as “MUTANT”. I also believe this is the first time in the annals of X-Lore that the reader is exposed to the racial (or is it genetic?) slur “genejoke” in reference to a mutant.
With the same ease in which he leaped the fence, the man hoists a jeep into the air and tosses it at his pursuers but it’s a fruitless effort as he is gunned down by the airborne magistrates. Still even after taking bullet after bullet, the man clings to life as the airplane in which he stowed the child takes off in the background. As the mutant spits out his dying words, one of the magistrates makes a joke about how “The Genegineer breeds his muties tough”, leaving a dangling question of just who the Genegineer is and just what is meant by “breeding” his mutants….
We jump ahead two days to an Australian newspaper headline reading “STOWAWAY BABY FOUND IN JET” being perused by one of three more brand-new characters being introduced to the reader. Through their conversation we learn each of their names (Punchout, Hawkshaw, and Pipeline) and learn that they are there in Australia to first collect a Jennifer Ransome and then the baby. It is also from their dialogue that the reader begins to get some insight into just what Genosha’s story really is; a place where people are, by law, tested to see if they are mutants and then are apparently obligated to fulfill some sort of duty/responsibility. Exactly what that is remains unknown at this point but presumably that duty is what the man was attempting to save the baby from in the opening sequence.
The lives of our X-Men slide into the picture as Madelyne Pryor, apparently okay from her “dream” incident”, literally flies into the picture alongside the aforementioned Jenny Ransome. The duo apparently has been summoned to the airport where the Genoshan trio is waiting to help a patient but quickly find out that it’s all a smokescreen for this Press Gang (as Hawkshaw refers to them) to recapture Jenny. Of note during this sequence, Pipeline tells his fellows that Madelyne not only doesn’t register as a mutant to his “special senses” but she just plain doesn’t register at all. This is likely an effect of Roma’s spell that prevents “…any agency other than yourselves” (circa #229) from detecting the X-Men. The lone exceptions to this spell though are the naked eye and the technology of the Outback base, hence why we could see the team on the monitors at the end of the previous issue (something I did neglect to point out in the previous article).
Up until now I simply thought it was a name for the group and nothing more but as I write this, I also did a quick Google search to see if there was an historical precedence for the name Press Gang and found this following article. The short version: it’s a colloquialism for Impressment which was the act of forcing someone into the Royal Navy by force as far back as the 17th Century and even into the early 19th Century. The weight of this name for the group does become significant later in this Genoshan saga…
We see as Madelyne attempts to make a mayday call to “Rogue One” that, as with the man in the introductory pages, the members of The Press Gang are not as they appear either. Punchout tosses Madelyne’s plane around with ease and, when Maddie and Jenny are presented to Pipeline, we witness his abilities in action as he essentially digitizes Jenny into data and transmits her back to Genosha. Staring at the pile of Jenny’s clothes left behind, Madelyne freaks out as Pipeline informs her he is going to do the same with the lone non-mutant X-Man.
With the arrival of Rogue to the scene sometime later, it would seem the “Rogue One” to whom Maddie was firing off a distress call would be her fellow X-Men. With Psylocke telepathically tracking Rogue (despite her natural resistance as Claremont helpfully points out to the reader), Gateway transports Storm and Wolverine to her location as Betsy, Havok, Dazzler, Longshot, and Colossus await their instructions back at the Outback base.
Although it seems a rather standard page in the scheme of things, I elected to include the above image because of Havok’s reactions and thoughts pertaining to Madelyne. We saw a hint of a growing…something…between the two back in #232 when Maddie said to herself that the thought of Havok seeing her naked was intriguing; this is the first time though we have seen Havok be so “touchy” as it pertains to his brother’s wife.
The Outback quintet teleport to meet their teammates at the Sydney International Airport where Wolverine has tracked the scents of both Jenny and Maddie, scents he says are old while those of the Press Gang members still seem relatively fresh, as if “…our two girls vanished” he says. Storm adds that this square up with Psylocke’s inability to psi-scan for them as well as with Havok’s to track them down with the computers.
Unfortunately the scent trail leads to a hospital which forces Wolvie and Rogue to don some makeshift disguises to enter. They make a comment about their last trip into a hospital back in UXM #221, as the reference box so helpfully points out (I miss the inclusion of these things in modern comics), where the team battled The Marauders when they were previously in search of Madelyne after a botched assassination attempt on her life.
Of course the two X-Men immediately run into Punchout who Wolverine immediately attacks, recognizing her scent as one of the three at the site the of attack on Jenny and Madelyne. She decks Wolvie in one shot but her skin-to-skin contact with Rogue activates Rogue’s ability to absorb a person’s psyche and abilities (if they exist) with a touch. Rogue’s physique grows to match that of Punchout, helpfully ripping her clothes, but also letting Rogue see the purpose for the Press Gang being at the hospital: stealing the baby. Wolverine tracks down Hawkshaw and Pipeline, but the latter pops in a magistrate to defend him.
Rogue, who apparently changed clothes between panels because her bare hands from the previous page are now covered in her full-body suit, finds her teammate just in time for both of them to get blasted by the magistrate. Pipeline, before he pops in a larger cadre of magistrates, also observes how Rogue and Wolverine are invisible to his senses just like “the girl” (Madelyne).
As the remaining X-Men look for their teammates, they are set upon by the new magistrate arrivals, but handle them rather easily using a combination of their powers and some actual teamwork. During the course of the fight the reader gets another glimpse into the mindset of Havok when it comes to Madelyne as he says to Psylocke “If they’ve hurt Madelyne, I may not be so careful where I place my plasma beam”. In response, the team’s resident telepath remarks to herself that Havok is angry enough to kill in that moment.
The team takes down the remaining magistrates, leaving them for the Australian authorities to handle but in the midst of that battle, the Press Gang discover the unconscious bodies of Wolverine and Rogue. While Punchout is looking for some instant gratification for what Rogue did to her, the choice is made to treat them the same as Maddie and Jennie and transmit our mutant heroes off to Genosha for the Genegineer to add to something called the Gene Pool. We get a bit more insight into the range of Pipeline’s powers in this segment as well when he says he is able to insert a sedative into the program that he uses to transmit Rogue & Wolverine to Genosha.
We see the eight pointed star Madelyne was sketching up back in UXM #232 put to use for the first time (possibly the only time) as a calling card left with the captured magistrates. As for the fate of our three transported X-Men and Jenny Ransome, as well as the rest of the team’s reaction, now that is the story to be picked up next issue…