Uncanny X-Men #236 (1988, October)
Wolverine and Rogue are in Genosha. Naked. They’re both naked. And not in good moods. They kick some ass, and free Maddie and Jenny. But then they’re defeated by an old guy named Wipeout, who takes away their powers. The Genegineer gets called in, even though he’d planned on spending the day with his son. (We also see the lawn repaired by a simple-minded mutant with a number tattooed on his forehead.) The Chief Magistrate – a woman, because Genosha is egalitarian that way – tells him about the new prisoners, and the fact that they’re invisible to scanners. He looks in on them in their cells, and it’s pretty interesting in Rogue’s case.
I’ll talk later about Rogue’s feelings, but I actually want to talk about the Genoshans for a moment. We know that Genosha has a negative view of mutants – there’s a lot of talk of “genejokes” and the like. And we are starting to get some hints at more sinister treatment of mutants. And yet, here, we see that both the Genegineer and the Chief Magistrate oppose mistreatment of mutants. It’s really interesting to me. It’s not made clear just yet, but we do learn the Genoshans treat mutants as a slave race. They dehumanize mutants in a horrific way. And yet, they still believe mutants should be treated with some respect. This cognitive dissonance is so fascinating. They believe themselves to be good people, despite the fact that they engage in monstrous practices. I suppose, though, that it’s not that similar to using animals as beasts of burden while objecting to seeing them abused. But yeah, I really like that the Genoshans are so complex.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, the Press Gang are on their way to free the imprisoned Magistrates, but the X-Men get there there to have a chat. And Storm is awesome.
Seriously, forget Storm as the serene, detached goddess. Storm is at her best when she has an attitude. Regardless, Psylocke reads the guy’s mind, and we get a really cool sequence.
We actually don’t often get to see, in this period, how telepathy works or feels. It’s become more common since then – I absolutely loved how it was depicted in Sam Humphries’ run on Uncanny X-Force, with the artists on that book killing it every time it was shown, and other books have done amazing things with it, as well – but back in the ’80s, that was less common. Anyway, what Psylocke sees in their minds is, uh, not exactly her favourite thing.
For the record, her next line is, “That would be too quick, too easy.” The X-Men head back home, and then back off again. All this travel is via Gateway, of course. Meanwhile, in the computer centre, N’astirh calls about some “special merchandise,” but finds no one there. In Genosha, the Genegineer’s son sees a bunch of Magistrates fly in to arrest Jenny Ransome’s family, to the shock of the son. He’s known the family all his life, Jenny was his friend. Then, back to Rogue!
The trauma of being touched against her will, of being unable to defend herself, has caused her to retreat into her own mind, where she’s attacked by psychic reside of all the people she’s absorbed over the years. Which is pretty terrifying. Interestingly, Ms. Marvel comes to her defence. She’s stuck in Rogue’s head, and what happens to Rogue will affect her. So she wants to take control of Rogue’s body and get them free.
By the way, huge praise to Silvestri, Green and Oliver for the eyes in that last panel. Because that is not a Rogue expression. That’s a Carol expression. They managed to get that across beautifully. Then the two Magistrates she absorbed earlier come into the cell, looking to mess her up. One’s male, one’s female. I’m not sure if that’s to avoid implications of attempted rape, or to show that women can be as awful as men. The woman is the one who grabs Rogue’s face. Whatever, Carol beats the shit out of them in seconds.
She takes the guards’ uniforms and keys and goes to free Wolverine, who’s in terrible shape. He tells her to leave him behind, but she reminds him that he didn’t listen to her when he rescued her from the KGB. Given how much writers love telling stories from Wolverine’s long life, it’s funny that that mission has never actually been seen. It got referenced a few times in the ’80s, and a few times since, but it’s never actually been shown.
The Genegineer’s son – I should probably mention his name is Phillip – gets onto his dad’s computer and learns that Jenny is going to be turned into a mutate. In the Citadel, Jenny and Maddie are in a lab. N’astirh shows up on one of the monitors, and asks if he’s come at a bad time. N’astirh is amusingly polite. He blows out the power. Carol and Logan fight their way to a fighter plane, with Carol saying they’re going to “pull a Millennium Falcon out of this bargain basement Death Star.” I love Carol being a Star Wars fan. It’s great.
This issue is fantastic. This is above-average for the series, and the series’ average is “pretty great.” It’s got some great tension all through it, constantly increasing as we get more and more of a hint that Genosha is a Very Bad Place. But we also get some really smart exploration of how no one sees themselves as the bad guys. The Genegineer justifies his actions as being necessary for the greater good of Genosha, that mutants have a duty to the state. And he also believes they should be well-treated, that abusing them is unacceptable. And yet, he’s involved in mutating them. At another point, a Magistrate almost beats Phillip before learning who he is, at which point he apologizes and talks about how tough the job is, and how he’s just following orders. Again, he doesn’t think it’s wrong to beat up a random teen. He’s a hero keeping his country safe. I love the exploration of how people always believe themselves to be justified in what they do.
This issue also has some exceptional character work. Storm being a badass is never not awesome. Psylocke freaking right the hell out on the Magistrates was kinda scary, given she’s usually calm, and tries to serve as a voice of reason. Seeing her lose her shit and scream in unthinking rage is shocking to see, and really hammers in just how bad the Genoshans are. Rogue being mentally incapable of being touched, without her permission, and without her being able to do anything about it, is very effective. It’s worth remembering that she is a teen, as the narration reminds us. And I love how Carol is treated here. She hates Rogue, but she’s still a hero. Especially with Logan in danger, she can’t stand by and do nothing.
Carol taking over also leads to, perhaps, the artistic high point of the issue. Not because of any big cool visuals. But because Silvestri captures the change so effectively. Her facial expressions and her body language are completely different. You can see that Rogue’s not the one in charge. That can be tough to convey, and Silvestri nails it. Even aside from that, though, the art is excellent. Silvestri, Green and Oliver work really well together. There are a few big cool visuals. Psylocke’s mind-reading stands out there as being pretty gorgeous. But mostly, Silvestri excels at littler things. At facial expressions and body language, the details that really make characters feel alive.
This is such a great issue, raising the stakes and setting up huge payoffs. It’s excellent.