To the Outback & Beyond… Part 10

We left off last issue with Rogue / Ace and Wolverine rescuing Phillip Moreau from the Mutant Train with promises to “…bring this flamin’ country down” while their teammates finally arrived in Genosha on their rescue mission.  In addition, we also bore witness to something inexplicable happening during Madelyne Pryor’s psi-scan that left the room looking like a slaughterhouse with the (supposedly) baseline human Maddie strapped to a operating table in the center of the massacre. The final chapter of the Genoshan saga begins now…

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Letter: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Bob Harras

This issue dumps us straight into the Madelyne situation as we observe what the caption boxes (one of which is identified as The Genegineer) describe as a psychic transcript of what happened during the psi-scan.  This child version of Maddie is picking flowers and, as pointed out by the non-Genegineer caption, is signing as song called “Gone to America” by Steeleye Span.  Now given that I was all of nine / ten years old when I initially read this story, I just assumed that this was a song & group concocted simply for the story.

Only now, as I reread this for the hundredth-plus time, have I been prompted to explore the song title and group name via Google.  Turns out both song and band are legitimate.  Lyrically, it brings to mind some thoughts of Cyclops and how Maddie may reflect on their marriage / separation while the make-up of the group apparently included a female singer named Maddy Prior.  The Maddy Prior child that appeared briefly in Avengers Annual #10 was apparently also a nod to the singer by the way.

As for the scan itself, the telepath’s psionic image is processed into that of the Genegineer’s by Maddie while the very brief events of the scan contain several layers of information.  In the above page, the image in the very first panel is very reminiscent of the Phoenix firebird imagery to the point that the “magistrates” even refer to it as a bird of fire.  The psychic representation of Genosha is leveled with a mushroom cloud, signifier of a nuclear bomb with Maddie herself being the nuke here, and the Genegineer is left to survive adorned in a garb readers would recognize as that of Mr. Sinister. (My memory is not totally clear, but at this point I don’t believe I had been introduced to the character of Sinister via the San Fran story arc in #221 that marked his debut.)

In addition to seeing the Genegineer in Sinister’s garb we also see Madelyne, now an adult, in the “clothing” from her dream sequence with S’ym.  She also recites dialogue that is resonating with me for a reason I can’t quite place yet, the “strike a match…ignite an inferno” is either something that Claremont had already used, or is something that is going to be recycled in the very near future in this book.  The “inferno” reference, as well as Maddie’s costume, is also an allusion to the upcoming Inferno crossover that Marvel had been advertising using this ad as well others featuring Sinister / S’ym / N’astirh, Illyana / Magik / Darkchilde, Maddie / Jean Grey / Cyclops:

With that event just around the corner, I’ll reserve any talk of it for those upcoming entries into the series but suffice to say, you can see the groundwork of Maddie’s side of the story being laid out since the beginning of the Outback saga.  The mystery surrounding her continues to grow as we now see the collected Genoshan contingent viewing the transcript including the Genegineer, Wipeout, Chief Anderson, and others.  We learn that the entire sequence of events played out in thirteen seconds inside Maddie’s head, Wipeout continues to insist he cannot remove powers that do not exist, and that a reincarcerated Maddie has zero recollection of the events.

The debate between Maddie, or #9818 as her skinsuit shows, and the Genegineer demonstrates how deeply entrenched Dr. Moreau is his beliefs that the Mutate slave state is right and proper.  He firmly believes that the mutates are well cared for and want for nothing, that if the world discovered Genosha’s secret they would judge harshly while simultaneously trying to steal those state secrets, and that the problem is that people just don’t understand.  Even if there is doubt in Moreau’s heart about Genosha’s ways, it would completely unravel his identity to question them too deeply as Chief Magistrate Anderson illustrates when she says to him “We do not question the course of our lives…” For her part, Maddie reinforces the Nazi Germany / Genosha parallels when she greets Anderson with a “Sieg Heil”.

With Anderson informing the Genegineer that there is word of his son, the scene drifts to Ace, Wolverine, and Phillip Moreau at the prison camp (or “Mutant settlement zone”) at the end of the Mutant Train line.  This scene not only demonstrates the artistic differences between Silvestri & Leonardi I mentioned earlier regarding Phillip, but also highlights his general ignorance to the truths about his homeland.

The sad thing is…you can almost forgive the boy his ignorance because it is the only life he has ever known.  No one has ever taught him that life can, that life should, be different than the one in which he was raised.  His assumptions about mutants (they want to keep to their own, that the suits are for their own protection as well humans) make sense when he has grown up isolated from any other way. Ace’s talk about the dehumanization of the Genoshan mutants, of turning them into machines essentially, hits home in a fashion similar to that in which I can imagine anti-slavery conversations taking place nearly two hundred years ago in the United States.  The fact that Anderson responds to Ace’s rhetorical “Who cares about machines?” with a “Who indeed?” only further emphasizes how deeply ingrained that train of thought is into the Genoshan machine.

With the capture of Wolverine and Ace, we once again see Roma’s magic at work but this time to the dismay of our mutants.  Their “technological invisibility” gift proved their undoing in this instance but, as the skies surrounding them grow darker, combined with the reader’s knowledge that the other X-Men are on the island, it seems that liberation could be forthcoming.  A small note as well about the right hand page in that image; it may just be my eye, but I do see a difference in the way Silvestri draws the body language and facials of Ace as opposed to how he handles Rogue-Proper.  In a more recent context, it makes me think of the fashion in which I saw Ryan Stegman take on the body language of Doc Ock’s Superior Spider-Man versus that of the Peter Parker Amazing version.

The other side of that image puts Madelyne’s story at the forefront once again as she tells a noticeably changing Jenny Ransome about herself.  Maddie makes reference to losing her powers as a healer (a callback to an old X-Men and Alpha Flight mini-series) as well as her husband Cyclops and son Nathan Christopher. Once again we are reminded of the dehumanization of the mutates as magistrates come to collect Jenny and only refer to her by 9-8-1-7 as they cart her off for further modification.

The baby that initiated this entire arc returns to the scene for a moment as Wolverine and Ace, along with Phillip Moreau, are brought before the Genegineer to discuss what they saw in the prison camp.  For Phillip, this was a hugely eye-opening experience, but Chief Anderson does put into perspective as the younger Moreau’s willing ignorance to the slave-state in which he has grown up.  It is a rationale that one can apply to an infinite number of real world issues as well.  Be it gun control, racial and / or sexual intolerance, or abuse in its many forms, the notion of turning a blind eye applies to each and every one of us on one level or another.  All too frequently it is only when this negative behavior directly affects us that we take notice of the obvious and look to affect change where possible as is the case here with Phillip.  Prior to his girlfriend being turned into a mutate and his experiences with the mutant train / prison camp, he would have gladly kept his head in the sand but now it is a task too impossible for even the son of, arguably, Genosha’s most powerful human.

As courageous an occurrence as it may be for Phillip to finally take a stand against the fractured foundation on which his country has been built, it is equally terrifying how willingly the Genegineer seems to be willing to sacrifice his son in order to maintain state secrets.  Ace likens it to the Biblical story of Abraham & Isaac in which the former nearly sacrifices the latter, his own son, to God in order to prove his loyalty.  While the question of the nature of a God that would test a man in such a fashion is a topic for an entirely different venue, the parallel is there with Genosha itself representing God in this instance.

Meanwhile, outside the Citadel, the paths of our two X-Men units begin to converge as Longshot, Dazzler, and Havok infiltrate the base dressed as magistrates under the cover of the severe weather that has been building since the team arrived on the island. At the same moment, Wolverine makes his move but not before first acknowledging a growing respect for Phillip and then dropping a bit of a shocker (at least to Ace) that he too has been a slave (possibly an allusion to the Weapon X project or perhaps a plot thread Claremont setup but never picked back up).  Despite the risk it poses from the removal of his healing factor, Wolvie pops his claws (reminding the reader of their nature while also informing the magistrates) as Ace steals a gun from one of the magistrates and opens fire.

Simultaneously upstairs, Dazzler and Havok make their move by blowing a hole through the wall of the Citadel and bringing Storm, Colossus, and Psylocke into the fray in dramatic fashion.  Downstairs Wolverine insists to Ace that since he’s dying anyway, he wants to go out in style and “with lots of company” while the other unit begins their search for their missing teammates.

Obviously, Havok had his own intentions by heading out in search of Madelyne separate from his teammates and once again the reader experiences a side of this woman that the X-Men have not been privy to as of yet.  Not only did she find a way to remove her unremovable skinsuit, but she also got her hands on that baby, who in Maddie’s arms is a bit of a proxy for Nathan Christopher, and found her way to the crèche where the mutate babies are grown.  In this relatively short scene there are numerous aspects that throw up red flags: Maddie’s sense of familiarity with the crèche, calling Havok “lover,” her baiting of the Genegineer about her powers, and the fact that neither Maddie nor Havok bats a proverbial eyelash at her nudity.  The Maddie / Havok dynamic is something we saw a bit of, on her end, right before her S’ym dream sequence and then from Havok’s end right after the Genoshan’s kidnapped Maddie, but none of that would equal to the “lover” comment which to me signifies a quantum leap in how these two (or at least Madelyne) are viewing one another.

So, with a gun to his head courtesy of his own son, the Genegineer turns over Jenny Ransome and although we don’t get a great shot of her, it is clear her mutate transformation is complete: she’s now bald-headed, extremely muscular, and a  great deal taller than Phillip. Ace, still in control of Rogue’s body which Storm immediately notices the differences, also uses the gun-to-head technique on Wipeout who then (with some guidance from Psylocke) restores her powers as well as those of the dying Wolverine.

Wolverine, no surprise, wants to raze the entire Genoshan institution but it is the words of Phillip Moreau that gives his countrymen a reprieve.  It is Moreau’s hope that he can expose the Genoshan slave-state and they will be forced to change of their own accord rather than having to rebuild from the utter destruction Wolverine would unleash.  The X-Men acquiesce but not with unleashing a little more chaos as Havok levels the citadel…

There is a bit of glitch on that page as the words of Havok don’t exactly match-up to what has been shown to the reader, given that Maddie was shown standing with team and holding the baby just two pages earlier but, like the Brood Saga naming error. That sort of thing happens from time-to-time I suppose.

So we leave Genosha with Psylocke clouding the minds of all involved so they don’t remember the X-Men specifically and with a threat from Wolverine to the Genegineer that there will be blood if the X-Men ever return.  We also head back to Australia with a boatload of questions about Madelyne Pryor stemming from her Genoshan experiences and with Inferno just around the corner, and her as a centerpiece of the marketing for the crossover, you know those are about to be answered.

Before I sign off on this entry though, there is one concept I would like to touch upon that really hit home for me during my reread of this very first Genoshan Saga and was reinforced by my viewing of the Sequart produced Chris Claremont documentary: the concept of world-building.

This story arc was produced in the summer of 1988, so Claremont had been the sole writer of Uncanny X-Men for 14 years by that point and yet he still was constructing a world around our merry mutants.  This wasn’t a dip back into the Magneto-pond or another dance with Sentinels; it was the introduction of an entirely new nation the Marvel landscape replete with its own social and governmental system that played not only into the larger ideas of what the X-Men represent, but also into the world’s own extensive history of slavery.  Even after a decade-plus of working on this book, he still found ways to shake up the status quo and bring to life entirely new entities like Genosha that are still in play 20-plus years later.

I believe that is why this section of the X-Men history that I refer to as “The Outback Saga” left such a strong marker in my mind.  Not only was it when I first started reading the books but it also represents a time in X-History where it seemed Claremont was free to play and find ways to keep himself interested in writing the book after all that time.  For a mainstream book it feels experimental to me, maybe not in the same sense as say Kirby’s Fourth World or Morrison’s Arkham Asylum, but certainly a departure from the X-Men’s comfort zone.

Next time: Prelude to Inferno

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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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