To the Outback & Beyond… Part 9

Uncanny X-men #237

Writer: Chris Claremont

Penciler: Rick Leonardi

Inker: Terry Austin

Colorist: Glynis Oliver

Letter: Tom Orzechowski

Editor: Bob Harras

We left a depowered Wolverine and Rogue, with the Carol Danvers persona in charge of the psyche of the X-Men’s Southern belle, on the escape from Hammer Bay in Genosha with a promise to tear the city down on their lips.  We return to the scene of the crime, now with the pencil of Rick Leonardi on duty, as the magistrates descend upon the stolen ship, looking to take our two mutants alive…

"I know my duty..."

Under the hand of Leonardi, Chief Magistrate Anderson certainly strikes a manlier visage while Genegineer Moreau is a thicker individual than when depicted by Silvestri.  This is one of the things that is bound to happen when two artists with such distinct styles alternate on a book but it is a testament to their abilities that despite each man’s take on these two characters. Still, they are still quite recognizable to the reader despite being essentially brand new to the X-Men lexicon.

As the magistrates (who in a nice touch by Claremont are each individually named rather than being complete nonentities) discover, the hijacked ship has been abandoned and rigged to explode by our mutant duo.  It’s much to the chagrin of the Chief and the Genegineer, but it does give the reader a look into a conversation between two of the most powerful individuals in Genoshan society.  There is paranoia inherent in their conversation, a belief that they are dealing with spies in Wolverine and Rogue, and yet a hint of admiration for how they have avoided capture.  Within this chat we are again reminded of the computer virus I discussed in Part 8 and learn a tragic fact about Wolverine from the scientific standpoint: without his healing factor to produce sufficient red corpuscles, he will die within “a matter of days,” according to Moreau.

"A matter of days..."

An “informatape brought to you by the Ministry of Public Information” gives the reader, and Wolverine, a crash course on the official version of Genosha.  Planting the island’s location near east African coast, Claremont details the government’s story about how Genosha became what it is today with a mix of myth, legend, and propaganda.  Even the name Ministry of Public Information brings to mind not only the novel 1984 and its assorted Ministries (particularly MiniTrue) but also the very real UK Ministry of Information that was in existence as a propaganda machine following WWI and during WWII.

From this video, we are told that modern day Genosha is largely pollution free, that it is a haven for tolerance and opportunity, and that the farmlands are bountiful enough as to one day “…challenge America’s Midwest for the title ‘breadbasket of the world.’”  In other words, Genosha is perfect.

Wolverine, coughing up a lung, scoffs at the official story as we then bear firsthand witness to the real Genosha when a magistrate comes across a mutate cleaning the streets of the city.  An accident sees the mutate spray the magistrate with water to which the Genoshan cop, in a disgraceful display, shreds up what appears to be a cigarette and demands the mutate clean up every last scrap.  The saddest part of the exchange is that the mutant does it happily, even calling the magistrate boss as he picks up the mess while blissfully unaware of the humiliation heaped upon him.  That the utter removal of identity is possibly the saddest part of the entire mutate process…

"Ace is a world-class agent..."

While Wolverine expresses his desire to make the magistrates bleed, Rogue/Carol Danvers (or Ace as she is nicknamed and how I referred to her in Part 8) makes her appearance in an outfit decidedly unRogue-like, particularly for the amount of skin exposed.  To be fair, it is hard to judge what a depowered Rogue would wear after years of having to worry about making skin-to-skin contact, but the Rogue the reader has come to know over the years would likely never pull off this look.

I must note that this bar fight sequence highlights both positives and negatives of the alternating artist set-up of this Genoshan saga.  Although I think Leonardi’s depiction of Wolverine is spot-on here in the light of losing his powers (depicting him as a battered man and actually looking old to my eyes), his style does not work for me when aiming for a sexy Ace that would serve to distract the masses in the bar.  That sort of… not sure if “cheesecake” is the right word but it is the first one that springs to mind…is more up the alley of Silvestri.

The difference in the artist’s style comes into play in this sequence again with the introduction of Phillip Moreau, the Genegineer’s son, to this chapter.  Leonardi’s depiction is of a rather thickly muscled young man with a lighter shade of brown to his hair (whereas Silvestri’s version in last issue gave us a young man with darker hair and more of a runner’s body than that of a bodybuilder).  Unlike with Chief Anderson and The Genegineer, these two depictions do not bear any sort of resemblance to one another and, if it wasn’t for the magistrates recognizing/identifying him (and plotting to dump him onto the “mute train”), the reader would be hard pressed to know this is the same kid from the previous issue.

Putting the visual inconsistencies aside, the conversation between magistrates in this situation (one of who is named Meg, which for some reason has my relevancy-sense buzzing) gives the reader some insight into the internal politics of Genosha.  The magistrates look at this kid and see a way to send a message to the Genegineer for his treatment of Chief Anderson and for the supposed lack of “…proper respect for us magistrates and the work we do”.

Ace and Wolverine follow the magistrates to a “mutants only” train platform where the magistrates (another one is given a name, Tam in this case) dump a now skinsuit-attired Phillip onto the train alongside the mutates. The train, just as with the garbage truck Wolverine saw earlier, is run using a mutate as both conductor as well as power source.

As our X-Men duo hop aboard the train, nearly killing Wolvie in the process, our scene shifts to the offices of the Genegineer, where he greets his son’s girlfriend Jenny Ransome.  Although we only saw her first in shadow last issue, and then in a very brief panel during the Madelyne scene with N’astirh, it was evident she was adorned in a skin suit and that her hair was still long.  In this sequence though, Jenny’s hair has been shorn off (though not yet bald as with the fully transformed mutates) but the skinsuit is still intact.  The fact that Jenny calls Dr. Moreau “uncle”, while potentially odd considering her status as his son’s girlfriend, demonstrates just how close the relationship between this girl, her family, and the Moreau’s actually is.  Unfortunately for her, that relationship is pointless in the face of her “duty” to Genosha; a duty based, not her actually mutancy as we learn she has no powers, but on her potential as a mutant.  There is a latent potential on her genes, one that it is the Genegineer’s “duty” to awaken through the mutate process.

The conversation between the two exposes the reader to just how deep the self-deception goes with the Genegineer.  He does not see the usage of the mutates to turn Genosha into a “paradise” as slavery, rather he sees it as self-defense given that the abilities of the few hundred mutates could overthrow the structure of the island nation.  Finally, in a pair of sad moments, Jenny first holds out hope that she can at least maintain her status as a nurse of some kind but Dr. Moreau dashes that hope instantly, telling her that her talents will be oriented in other fashions.  Then, in one final separation of who she was from who she will be, Jenny’s own near father-in-law denigrates her down from being Jennifer Ransome to simply being Mutate #9817.

One observation from that final moment though; Moreau is contacted by one of his men to inform him that deep psi-scans are have been made on Mutate #9818, who we see on the next page is Madelyne Pryor. Given that Jenny and Maddie were brought into Genosha at the same time, and their process began together, I would assume that is the reason their numbers run sequentially.  If that is the case, and they are the two newest addition to the mutate pool, than that means there were 9816 mutates that came before them!  Nearly ten thousand mutants, or latent mutants, have been processed into mutates since the beginning of this state-imposed system of slavery.  Sickening but miniscule when compared to our reality and the estimated 305,326 Africans brought to the United States from 1626-1866 or the estimated 12.5 million overall.

"...You won't miss kids. Or anything else."

Our scene cuts to the aforementioned deep psi-scan of Mutate #9818, aka Madelyne Pryor, where we also learn a bit about not only the function of the skinsuits but also about the reproductive process Genosha uses when it comes to the mutates.  Maddie warns the Genoshan’s telepath to stay out of her mind as she screams, but our scene shifts to the anticipated arrival of the rest of our X-Men team on Genoshan soil.

A fight ensues with the magistrates at their point of arrival, but it is a battle easily handled by our team. The shifting nature of our mutants that we began to see during the Brood saga rears its head again as Storm tells the team they cannot afford witnesses to their arrival to which Colossus questions, “Does that mean we kill them?”  Prior to the Brood Saga, I don’t believe that is the response we would have heard from Peter Rasputin, at least not in such a seemingly off-handed fashion. Luckily, it is not an issue that must be debated as Storm simply wishes Psylocke to use her telepathy to scramble the magistrates’ memories of the team. Unfortunately, Betsy is inexplicably struck down as she tries to use her powers just as the alarms begin to sound back in Hammer Bay…

"Never sensed such ultimate terror."

Although intentionally not the clearest image, there is no doubt that middle panel is the room where Madelyne was undergoing her psi-scan and those are most certainly dead bodies littering the room around her restrained body.  Back on the battlefield, Psylocke seems quite traumatized by the psychic shockwave she compared to “…being cast into the molten heart of a star”. It’s an experience that obviously left her scared and has we the reader wondering just what happened in that room.

It’s a question left to be answered another day though as we return to Wolverine and Ace aboard the Mute Train as they aim to save Phillip Moreau. We see first-hand how dependant Wolvie is on his healing factor as the simple act of popping a claw leaves him bloodied at the site of the unsheathing when his powers would normally heal the minor wound before it could bleed.

While Ace and Wolverine (in magistrate garb mind you) make their way through the train looking for Phillip, the reader begins to see a different side to the mutates, one not as obedient as a male mutate stands up and questions their presence on “OUR train” and wonders “Why you not leave us be?”  It’s a surprising side of the enslaved portion of Genosha’s population and one that Wolverine takes note of,  remarking that the Genegineer’s conditioning process “…ain’t what it’s cracked up to be”.

As the train comes to a stop and magistrates filter into the car, we see the continued physical abuse of the mutates at their hands as Wolvie and Ace look to quell the situation to no avail.  It’s the worst abuse of power as the magistrates feel the need to exert their authority in a situation where there was no need but it is that situation, along with his and Ace’s overall Genoshan experience, that sees Wolverine not only accept that fact that he’s dying but promise to “…bring this flamin’ country down!” before he goes.

"...I'm gonna bring this flamin' country down!"

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Christopher Maurer is a graduate of Michigan State University w/ a BA in English who then proceeded to get wrapped up in the world of videography for local news & sports, including the 2003 March Madness tournament, before migrating to Philadelphia in late-2003 where he then jumped into the crazy-ridiculous world of professional wrestling under the moniker Shane Hagadorn. It is a world in which he, his wife, and cats have since resided for the last 10 years. Chris, an avid fan of comics for 25 years & counting, has been writing his own personal blog since late-2010 at 20 Plus Years of 32 Pages and recently had his first published work in the September 2013 issue of Philly Beer Scene Magazine. His loves include Batman, mutants, Grant Morrison, craft beer, and not taking it all too seriously...

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