Uncanny X-Men #214 (1987, February)
We start at a Lila Cheney concert. Malice convinces Dazzler to steal the show. Afterwards, Lila threatens to fire her if she does it again, but Dazzler quits.
At the Mansion, Rogue declares Cerebro a lost cause, since no one there has any idea how to repair it. Psylocke feels responsible for letting Sabretooth get so close in the first place. Come on, Betsy, you were a hardcore badass last issue, just own it. Wolverine and Callisto spar in the Danger Room, then talk a bit. Callisto wants to hunt the Marauders, but she has to stay with the remainder of her people. Later, Wolverine is talking to Wolverine, and pops the claws on her, which startles her into mind-blasting him with her “focused telepathic projection force.” Luckily, that doesn’t become a catchphrase for her, but it does almost feel like Claremont testing the waters for the “focused totality of (her) psychic power.” I feel like, once Psylocke becomes Japanese, I should start tracking how often that phrase gets used. Because it’s used a lot. Anyway, Wolverine was testing her, to see if she could be caught off-guard again, and to test her capabilities. Then Lila calls to say something’s up with Dazzler.
The next night, they find Dazzler in a Dallas club, dancing and flashing and making the mood of the club more violent. Then she attacks the X-Men. She blinds Storm, dazzles Wolverine, blasts Psylocke, and saves Rogue for last, because of their past antagonism. Rogue rips up the floor to knock her off-balance, and Storm grabs her. Then Dazzler collapses, as Malice takes over Wolverine. Malice attacks Dazzler, but she manages to blast him and knock him out. Cops gather outside.
Malice takes over Rogue, and she goes to attack the cops. Psylocke gives details about Malice – a psychic entity, affiliated with the Marauders, keyed into the emotional centres of hosts’ brains.
Outside, Malice/Rogue has beaten up the cops, and is posing for news cameras. She specifically mentions that her name isn’t Rouge, it’s Rogue. That amuses me, considering how often you see people misspell it as Rouge. I know it’s an easy typo to make, but come on, people. Spellcheck. Get it right. (Also: Spider-Man, not Spiderman. Remember the hyphen, dammit!) Dazzler lures her back inside, and knocks Rogue out, so Malice takes over Storm. But Storm’s will is pretty damn strong, so it’s a battle, and Storm wins by tearing Malice’s choker off.
Unfortunately, the damage is done, and the X-Men are renegades, more than ever. Storm asks Dazzler to join the team. But Wolverine’s in bad shape. He attacks Storm, convinced she’s still Malice. Psylocke says none of them have any traces of Malice, though Dazzler asks how they can trust her. Wolverine says if they can’t trust each other, they should split up. Malice, possessing a cop, watches from a rooftop.
This is a good issue. I will say, though, I’m not convinced it was necessary. None of the subplot with Malice possessing Dazzler felt necessary. I suppose it did give an excuse to get Dazzler back into the X-Men. But I do wonder if it might have been better to go right to Malice possessing Dazzler, as happens in a little while. This issue almost felt like filler, in a way. It was well-written and everything, it just didn’t feel particularly important, even though some important things happen. (Dazzler rejoins the X-Men, the X-Men become wanted criminals.) I think the problem is that it tries, at the end, to set up this question of how the X-Men can get over their doubts about each other. The thing is, this doesn’t really get followed up on. We do get continuation of a subplot where Wolverine questions whether he can doubt his own senses, or sanity. But the trust thing doesn’t last long.
This issue does continue a darker tone for the book. We’ve entered what is probably the darkest period of Claremont’s run. The Massacre was a damned dark story, and its repercussions are felt for a while, with the book keeping a very dark tone for the next little while, aside from a few issues here and there.
The art is great. Barry Windsor-Smith’s art is always nice to look at. It’s realistic, but looks just a little better than real life. There’s just that little extra bit to it that enhances it so much. He does a great job with mood, and with facial expressions that show what characters are thinking. It’s great art.
Despite my criticisms, this is a solid issue.
There’s also Classic X-Men #1. It’s a reprint of the classic X-Men #98, the return of the Sentinels and the story that led to the Phoenix. We get a couple extra scenes. One page that shows Wolverine being captured by the Sentinels. Another shows Nightcrawler and Colossus on a date with Amanda and Elisabeth. Nightcrawler tells Amanda he feels like they’ve met before. Moira comes to get the boys, and Amanda thinks she’ll be seeing Nightcrawler again. Then we see the X-Men training in the Danger Room, while Scott uses Cerebro to search for the others. We also see the Hellfire Club, blocking Cerebro’s scans with their own shields.
That done, we get to the back-up, by Claremont and Bolton, “A Love Story.” Jean gets home with groceries, and starts telepathically putting them away. Then she takes a bath. Once out of the bath, she sees a note from Misty mentioning that Scott called to say he’d pick her up at 7:30. She dances a little with some spare clothes Scott’s left over. She changes into a black dress in time for Scott to pick her up, and they head out on their date. Soon after, something smashes her apartment, knocking over her poster of “The Phoenix and the Carpet.” Foreshadowing! This is just a nice little silent story of Jean getting ready on the night the Sentinels grabbed her. Bolton’s art is great for something like this. It’s soft and romantic and expressive. I like the story.
As an aside, I apparently forgot to mention, in my post on X-Men #98, that the issue had a letter from a young woman by the name of Jo Duffy. She praised the book, but added that the original X-Men would always be her team. Duffy, of course, would have a long career as a writer and an editor, for Marvel, DC and Image. She had a great run on Power Man & Iron Fist. I’ll be getting to her Fallen Angels series pretty soon. She also had a brief run on Wolverine; only a few issues. I feel ashamed of myself for not noting her letter before, because she is a noteworthy person.