Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Colorist: Petra Scotese
Letter: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Bob Harras
With this issue, Marc Silvestri is back on pencil duty along with Dan Green on inks. In addition, a brand new colorist joined up for this issue in Petra Scotese. Now the name was unfamiliar to me so I did a quick search and discovered she had contributed to a massive number of books of which I had read including Classic X-Men vignettes, New Mutants, and X-Factor to name a few. You can check out the full list here.
Now at the close of our last issue, Rogue and Wolverine had been digitized and transported to Genosha by Pipeline just as Madelyne Pryor and Jenny Ransome had been earlier in the story. The magistrates who had come to Australian soul were wrapped up by the remaining X-Men and left for the authorities complete with Maddie’s eight pointed star calling card…
We jump right into the fray in Genosha with “BUSTING LOOSE!” as a naked Wolverine and Rogue (the lack of clothes being a side effect of Pipeline’s transportation methods) battle a slew of magistrates. Throughout naked time, the art team plays with shadows and debris, as well as the bodies of the Genoshans in order conceal the not-so Comic Code approved parts of the human anatomy. In the midst of the battle, our X-Men discover Maddie and Jenny locked up behind bars by the Genoshans and although it’s not clear on the panel in which they appear, both women seem to be wearing suits of a similar nature as opposed to the nakedness in which Rogue and Wolverine arrived here.
As Rogue rips the doors of the ladies cages, two of the magistrates, completely unaware of her abilities being activated by skin-to-skin contact, grab Rogue and are abruptly rendered unconscious. Being they are baseline humans, there are no powers for Rogue to absorb but she does see their memories, thereby giving herself and Wolverine some answers to their questions of “where” and “why.”
Of interest to me is Rogue’s usage of the term “Gestapo” to describe the Genoshan magistrates. Quick version: Nazi Secret Police…
That knowledge does Rogue no good though as a man named Wipeout (his “nom de guerre” which I learned at the time was a phrase literally translated from the French as war name) uses his own abilities to essentially wipeout the powers of both our X-Men: no more ability to absorb powers/memories from others for Rogue and no more healing factor, enhanced senses, et al for Wolverine.
We cut from a shocked Rogue to elsewhere on the island where a young man is awoken by the combination of his alarm and a ringing phone. The alarm is trashed while the phone call isn’t for the kid answering the phone, rather for his father, a Dr. Moreau, aka The Genegineer whose existence we learned about in the previous issue.
As we learn in the above image, the kid is named Phillip and we also get a cute little Spider-Man reference courtesy of the Genegineer (“With great power…”). In addition, in the sequence above, we get our first real look at something…off…about the way Genosha operates. A man comes up to the scorched earth spot where the plane took off and simply fixes it by putting his fingers in the dirt. That in itself isn’t the odd part; what is odd is that he is in a colored skin-suit that bears the number 7781, that he appears to have something also on his forehead although it isn’t clear just what in these images, his manner of speaking is rather…simple…for lack of a better word, he calls Phillip “boss”, while the younger Moreau calls this man “boy” as if he was talking to an animal…or a slave. Refer to this excerpt from Wikipedia:
Historically, in countries such as the U.S. and South Africa, “boy” was not only a ‘neutral’ term for domestics but also used as a disparaging racist insult towards men of color (especially of African descent), recalling their subservient status even after the 20th century legal emancipation (from slavery, evolved to race segregation, viz. Apartheid) and alleged infantility, and many still consider it offensive in that context to this day, since it denotes that men of color (especially of African descent) are less than men.
So, in this somewhat innocuous scene between Phillip and his “boy”, we can clearly see how the master/slave dynamic exists in Genosha, and how it must be something that has existed for sometime based on how Phillip addresses this situation in a manner so casual that it must be part of his day-to-day existence.
We then follow Dr. Moreau, the Genegineer, as he travels to Hammer Bay and Genosha’s capital city which we are told is “…sometimes called the most dynamically modern city on Earth”. A woman Moreau refers to as “Chief” fills him (and the reader) in on the events of last issue, and helpfully reminds us (while informing Moreau) that neither Wolverine nor Rogue can be viewed by electronic means, only by the naked eye.
The Chief, whose name we learn is Anderson, takes Moreau to the cells in which our two X-Men are being held and we see both of them have been adorned in a skin-suit similar to that of the man we saw heal the lawn at Moreau’s house, complete with their own specific numbers: 9601 for Wolverine and an indiscernible number for Rogue.
Anderson informs Moreau that the two captives are complete unknowns at the moment and makes reference to a computer virus that is preventing them from accessing other databases to find out information. Although it’s not specifically referenced here, and while I certainly did not know it at the time, I believe this is a reference to Uncanny X-Men #158 in which Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel/Binary) put a virus into the system at the Pentagon that essentially erased all records of the X-Men and apparently continued to do so for years afterwards. Although I am not 100% sure if this is a plot-point of Claremont’s that has fallen completely by the wayside over the years, or if it was explicitly written out at some point (given the involvement of S.H.I.E.L.D in the X-Men’s lives in current issues), I suspect it is no longer a relevant issue.
As for Wolverine & Rogue, the former is apparently unconscious in his cell while the latter is in rough shape after, according to Anderson, “…some of my officers took a few liberties her when she was being processed.” Presumably this refers to the two magistrates who were rendered unconscious during the duo’s escape attempt, but what exactly those liberties entailed is left to the reader’s imagination. It is safe to say that given the state in which Rogue currently exists (balled up in the fetal position), it was undoubtedly a violation of some sort. We also learn that, thanks to The Press Gang, who has now been dispatched to collect the captured magistrates in Australia, the Genoshans are aware of Wolvie and Rogue being a part of a larger group and as such are preparing themselves for the arrival of their allies.
Cut back to Sydney where, thanks to Gateway’s teleportation abilities, Psylocke, Storm, and Colossus get to the jailed magistrates before The Press Gang and, through the use of Psylocke’s telepathic abilities, interrogate the Genoshan police force.
At first, that is a beautifully worded idea of what Betsy experiences when using her psychic abilities, but it devolves into a horrific tableau of just what being a Genoshan magistrate means: murder, torture, and slavery. They are essentially overseers. Psylocke’s response to what she saw on the psychic plane, one that may have led to the magistrates’ death if not for Colossus’ intervention, is another indicator of that increasingly harsher edge to the X-Men that we began to see in their battle with The Brood.
With the location of Wolverine and Rogue now in their possession, these three X-Men return to Australia to collect Dazzler, Havok, and Longshot and then head immediately back off into one of Gateway’s teleportation portals. Unbeknownst to anyone, at that very moment, the demon N’astirh (first seen in X-Factor #32 released about a month prior) uses the computers in the heart of the Outback base to attempt to contact someone. Although it is not specified in the panels, given that he name drops S’ym and that he is using the computer system to communicate, it is safe to say he is looking to talk to Madelyne Pryor about this “special merchandise”.
Jump back to Genosha where Phillip Moreau is out for the run he mentioned to his father earlier (I particularly like the use of the British slang “brekker” for breakfast here in his internal dialogue) but the quiet of the moment is shattered by the arrival of a magistrate team, a “fast-reaction Strike Team” according to Phillip. Their destination proves shocking to Phillip, as he sees the family of Jenny Ransome being taken from their homes and arrested despite her father’s status as a government minister. One magistrate in particular take umbrage at Phillip’s protestations and, not knowing he is the Genegineer’s son, nearly beats the kid before one of his more aware partners fills him in on Phillips identity.
The above contains a four panel sequence that I find particularly intriguing, as Silvestri pulls a slow zoom in on the eyes of Phillip after his near assault. It’s a moment mixed with both horror and possibly some realization, as if Phillip is seeing the magistrates with new eyes. It just stands out to me on the page.
We return to Rogue and find out more about what happened during her aforementioned processing that has left her so withdrawn. Claremont puts it in the context of being able to touch someone for the very first time, only to have that experience be traumatic and abusive, and be combined with threats “…of worse to come.” It was a violation bordering on rape, and for a woman who has been unable to so much as touch another human being for years, it was… a breaking point.
There is a bit of fun to be had in this sequence though in playing “spot the character,” because you can clearly see the likes of the magistrates, Nightcrawler, a Dire Wraith, Northstar, and Loki but you can also see Captain America, Spiral, Thing, Juggernaut, and Thor among the mob. They are remnants of the people Rogue has absorbed over the years, but the image of Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel is far more substantial; far less the ghost than the others. Why? Because back in Avengers Annual #10, where Rogue made her first appearance (along with a little girl named Maddie Pryor coincidentally who is totally unconnected to our Madelyne), she permanently absorbed the powers of Carol. If not for that experience, the only powers Rogue would have would be the absorption ability. But the battle with Carol gave her the speed, flight, invulnerability, etc that fans generally associate with the character. No Ms. Marvel = Anna Paquin’s movie Rogue…
So, this sequence essentially puts Carol in charge of Rogue’s body, and the difference is immediately evident when the two magistrates come to take another piece out of Rogue. Not only does “Rogue” demonstrate a fighting style unlike any we’ve ever seen from her, but her manner of speech has also undergone a change from her bayou patterns to a more “proper” English. The change is further confirmed by Wolverine, who notes that even the sound of “Rogue’s” voice had changed to “…a voice I never figured to hear again”.
Wolverine, in seriously bad shape due to the loss of his healing factor, insists that “Rogue” leave him behind; but her response, referencing the night Wolvie rescued her from the KGB, denotes a previous history between the two that had been mentioned before (Uncanny X-Men #150 for example). I was unaware of it at the time of reading this issue, however. In their search of the prison area, “Rogue” and Wolverine find the cells of Maddie and Jenny Ransome empty and Wolvie, I must also note, refers to Carol repeatedly as “Ace” while she is in control of Rogue’s body. So, rather than writing “Rogue” every time to refer to Carol, I will use that nickname going forward.
(Sidebar: Although this was yet another thing I was unaware of at the time, Carol also took charge of Rogue’s body back way back in Uncanny X-Men #182. That issue also relates a bit of the KGB story Ace keeps referencing and gives context for that nickname as well.)
Jump back to the story of Phillip Moreau as he hacks into his father’s computer to discover just why Jenny’s family was arrested. In addition to discovering that Phillip and her were “practically engaged,” we also learn that she has been given the number “9817” and that she is to undergo genetic modifications including increasing her height, strength, and making her resistant to heat and pressure. So break down Genegineer into its component parts and the reader can see just what the backbone of Genosha really is: gene engineering.
Genetic modifications, gene testing, modifying mutants to work specific tasks, that is the foundation of Genosha (which explains why that random mutant last issue put the baby on the plane, why Jenny’s father protected his daughter and faked her test results). Genosha is a slave state, and both Jenny & Maddie were about to become the latest additions to the pool until the timely video screen arrival of N’astirh saves them. The odd part of this sequence isn’t that a demon shows up on the monitor, it’s that Madelyne seems completely unsurprised by his appearance, merely remarking “Later” to his appearance.
The blackout caused by N’astirh’s appearance also gives Wolverine & Ace an opening to break out of the Citadel, steal a plane, and get out of the line of fire long enough to make a plan. In the midst of the escape though, we get a glimpse of just how weak Wolverine is becoming when a punch from a “normal fella” brings him to his knees, even though the magistrate breaks his hand on the adamantium-laced bones. Never before have we seen Logan look so weak, but Rogue insists, as they fly off into the night, that they will “…make those clowns regret they ever laid eyes on us”.