Friday, May 31, 2013

Equal Opportunity Mind Control part II: Encore Ensemble Enslavement

When we last left the X-men... Oy, what a story.

Uncanny X-men # 257 saw Wolverine and Jubilee getting kidnapped by Lady Mandarin, who was actually their former teammate Psylocke, mind controlled by the Mandarin and the Hand to serve as their latest master assassin. The Mandarin took Jubilee under his wing, while the Hand tried to brainwash Wolverine.

Alas, the villains didn't have much luck with either of them...

But not for lack of trying, though. Psylocke actively kept trying to breach Wolverine's impressive mental resistance. She even tried to seduce him by taking on the form of his former lovers. Mariko Yashida, Yukio, even his old teammate Jean. Let's see how Logan responded to that...

"Seduction was but one... pathway to your soul!"

So, if the sweet and subtle way fails, you can always fall back on a bit of primal violence. After all, this is the Wolverine you're facing. You'd better fight fire with fire, right? Or as Psylocke herself puts it...

"My psychic knife... the ultimate focus of my psi-powers... is as deadly a weapon as your claws! With it... I make you forever MINE!"

Yeah, just like in the previous issue, Psylocke jams her psychic knife in his head... But this time, it doesn't subdue Wolverine. No, it actually forms a mental bond between the two combatants, which causes Psylocke considerable pain...

"Too late, bub!"

The reason for Psylocke's screaming is rather simple. Thanks to their mental rapport, she instantly experienced everything Logan had ever been through. From the Hand's recent, tortuous mental reconditioning to the abuse suffered at the hands of the Reavers... And let's not forget almost a century of anger, pain and frustration... It's a miracle she didn't turn completely insane.

Well, she did a little... Psylocke also got a taste of Logan's psychosis. Wolverine's healing factor had been failing, which resulted in unattended physical ánd mental ailments. And when it came to the brain department, it was a doozy: Logan had developed a major psychosis in which he envisioned being in the company of Nick Fury and Carol Danvers... Guess who came to visit Betsy.

"Summon lord Matsuo! ... He's returned to his island!"

Turns out lord Matsuo made the right call by leaving, because things were about to go from bad to worse fo the Hand. Their master assassin was fighting ghosts and now their main quarry was starting to wake up. And we all know what adamantium claws do best: go *snikt* and break stuff. Like glass sensory deprivation tanks...

"Any objections, shorty... to my shortening the odds?"

Wait, how come figment Fury is cutting those Hand ninjas to ribbons? Madness, you say? Well, yes... Psylocke's, as a matter of fact. After getting a taste of Wolverine's psychotic worldview, she considers  Fury and Carol real people whose actions have an actual impact on the world. So... if their bullets hit somebody, Psylocke uses her mental powers to convince the victims they have been shot.

Mind control to make a psychotic persona feel validated... that's a new one.

However, Psylocke eventually overcame the effects of the psychosis and tore Wolverine a new one. In fact... his last one.

"Dispose of the remains, if you please"

Seeing Wolverine's corpse was such a shock that Jubilee was able to shake off the dominating effect of the Mandarin's 'mento-intensifier' ring. Overcome with emotion, she lashed out with her mutant powers... Usually, that resulted in some blinding but hardly harmful fireworks, this time her pyrokinetics caused an explosion that tore apart the Mandarin's massive villa.

Psylocke took advantage of the Mandarin's initial shock to attack the master villain. Turns out she was no longer under his control either. But defeating Iron Man's arch nemesis is far easier said than done, as both X-women were about to find out.

"Eh?!? My arm... it will not move!"

Oh, sweet, sweet mind control... you never disappoint, do you?

"You forget, Mandarin... I have worn your rings... and touched your mind!"

But just as the Mandarin was about to overcome her mental domination... Wolverine turned out to be too dead after all. And with a third adamantium claw about to pop his head off, the Mandarin was suddenly rather open to discuss a truce.

Americans achieving peace with honor after a stalemated conflict in Asia...and they didn't even need doctor Henry Kissinger. Truly, these are more modern times...

"Gimme a break! She's a telepath, she could be playing with your head!"

Leave it to Jubilee to point out what the readers might be thinking... And it's not even that big a stretch. Who would trust this 'new' Psylocke, after all she's done? Well, Wolverine does...

But hey, hé's nuts...

Equal Opportunity Mind Control part I: My Fair Mandarin *the musical*

Uncanny X-men # 258 marked a unique moment in Chris Claremont's long and storied career.

He managed to write an issue in which every single one of his main characters get themselves mind controlled in one way or another. Even some of the unnamed bitplayers standing in the background get in on the action. Not bad for an Acts Of Vengeance tie in.

The fun actually started a month earlier. In # 257 Psylocke arrived in Madripoor on her first mission as the Mandarin's personal assassin. She was sent to take out Patch, who might become a problem once the Mandarin turned his attention to the island. Patch, of course, is an alternate identity used by Betsy's former teammate Wolverine.

He wasn't in the best of shape after getting kidnapped and crucified by the Reavers. Jubilee eventually freed him, but the damage was so severe his healing factor was no longer able to take care of even the slightest injury. Even worse: Logan's mind had started to break down too: he saw hallucinations of Carol Danvers and Nick Fury who he treated as real people, actually engaging them in conversation.

All Wolverine wanted to do in Madripoor is catch his breath and heal up. He didn't get his wish.

"Blast... somehow she nailed the kid."

Yup... That's Psylocke dressed as, well, she said it, you read it... Lady Mandarin. After mind controlling Jubilee, she found out where Patch was hiding and attacked. It wasn't really a fair fight, though... Psylocke clearly had the upper hand and that was even before she lost her head gear and Logan somehow recognised his teammate in her new Asian body, leaving him vulnerable to a knockout blow...

Well, guess his mental issues gave him some sort of unique insight. It wasn't enough to save him though. After stabbing him with her psychic knife, Psylocke learned that 'Patch' was actually Wolverine... and that he'd be far more valuable alive... That's why she brought Logan and Jubilee before the Mandarin and his partners in the Hand. They decided to give Logan the same mind wipe treatment used to make Psylocke one of their assassins... Yay, more mind control!

In Uncanny X-men # 258, the sensory deprivation sessions were already well under way... As shown in some rather visual and gruesome panels...

Psylocke had to monitor Wolverine's progress telepathically, because he was still "invisible" to electronic systems (courtesy of Roma, long story). That's why she was in his head, trying to sway him over, as the Hand's chief Matsuo Tsurayaba explained to a shocked Jubilee...

"Primal clay... that I, through Psylocke's telepathy, will shape and mold... 
into the image of the Hand."

But having one of the world's most potent psi talents use all her mental swaying power in a relatively small space caused some unexpected side effects... As the Hand scientist tried to explain to Matsuo while he was busy intimidating Jubilee...

"The resonances she's receiving from Wolverine and broadcasting to us... are beyond the capacity of even our strongest psychic dampers!"

In other words... Psylocke's attempts to mind control Wolverine splashed over to those around her, but mixed in with Wolverine's feral, bestial rage. You can guess what happens next, right?

"Some of our more susceptible personnel are bound to be affected!"

And then some... While Matsuo was busy stopping the Hand goons from killing each other, Jubilee took advantage of the confusion to make a bold and daring escape. Alas, she didn't get too far before she literally bumped into, well, as always, he'll tell you himself...

Have you no manners, girl?"

Ow, the Mandarin knows how to fix that!

"My mento-intensifier ring will give me dominance over your psyche...
And ensure your proper behavior."

It's interesting to note that the Mandarin didn't simply mind control Jubilee to stop her, no... He was actually apalled that 'a daughter of the middle kingdom' as he put it, had been 'sullied by the mongrel ways of the west'.

He meant to turn her into a proper Chinese lady... An Asian professor Higgins to Jubilee Doolittle... "My Fair Mandarin: The Musical".

"What about Psylocke and Wolverine? How do they fare?!"

A more than fair question, which we'll answer in part II of Equal Opportunity Mind Control: Encore Ensemble Enslavement 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Doctor Strange Doesn't Mind Controlling The Hulk

It's 1974 again.

Chris Claremont had been in the business for a little under 5 years at this point, working on Marvel's editorial staff while taking every chance to moonlight as a writer. In this case, he got to write 'Doomball', a one off job on Defenders # 19.

And, contrary to what the title might suggest, no, Doomball doesn't involve either one of Victor von Doom's testicles.

"The Gamma Bomb! It's gone!"

Working off a plot by Len Wein, Chris got to write the Defenders and the Wrecking Crew (in their third appearance ever!) as they opened up the prize they had been fighting over in the previous issue: a miniature gamma bomb. But when they opened the casing, they were shocked to find... Well, you heard what Thunderball said, right?

Actually, Thunderball's the whole reason there even is a pocket gamma bomb to begin with. Before he became a supervillain after touching the Wrecker's magic crowbar, he was a nuclear physicist nicknamed 'the black Bruce Banner'. With good reason, he used Banner's original gamma bomb designs to create this handy dandy version of the WMD.

Unfortunately, when the company he was working for claimed the rights to his creation (always read the fine print in your contract, kids) he got so mad he broke into the lab and took off with the bomb. Of course, that never quite works out...

"All I had to do was find the right building and knock it down!"

That explains why the Wrecking Crew had been destroying buildings in the previous two issues. The Crew thought they had recovered the device last issue and planned to hold New York hostage with it. But all they actually had was the bomb's empty adamantium casing.

Doctor Strange offers the Defenders' aid in tracking down the actual explosive, but the Wrecking Crew quickly turns on the team, knocking even the Hulk out before taking off. When Strange comes to, he's in no mood...

"Enough! In the name of the omnipotent Oshtur, I say you... Hold!"

Poor cops... Getting mind controlled while they were just trying to do their job. Heck, if you were called in to investigate why a perfectly good skyscraper just came tumbling down and you saw the Hulk lumbering around the scene, what conclusion would you draw?

Hard to believe as it is, four supervillains dressed in primary colors can actually be be a bit difficult to trace. So the Defenders waste a little time trying to find the Wrecking Crew until the answer comes from the unlikeliest of sources...

"There was a brother with 'em... talked like he was on TV... he had a 'lectronic gizmo"

Yeah, guess it's safe to say Chris Claremont didn't have the voice of the innercity black youth down at that point. But more importantly, aren't baseballs supposed to be white? The one in the kid's glove almost looks like it's made of metal? Surely, that won't be a plot point or anything...

Well, of course it is.

After soundly trashing the Wrecking Crew (and the Harlem Boys Club in the process), the Defenders learn that the little boy who warned them actually had the bomb all along. And wouldn't ya know it... the second they laid eyes on it, the device started its countdown.

Now, what could the Defenders do? After all, they're only a team whose founding members are a behemoth powerhouse capable of throwing stuff into orbit and Earth's sorceror surpreme... A magician with more teleportation spells than spots up his sleeve.

"Hulk, look at me. Gaze deeply into the eye of Agomotto and relax"

If all else fails, try mind control... Also, Doc misspoke: it's the eye of 'AGA-motto', but considering the stress Strange was under, the mystical deity didn't seem to mind and turned a blind eye. 

"This is the device. Can you disarm it?"

Poor Banner, he only gets to come out during the lousy parts of the story these days. And now he has to disarm a device he's only done some extremely preliminary work on. With no shirt... and no tools. Well, that is until Doctor 'deus ex machina' Strange delivered...

"One air force nuclear disarming pack,fresh from a Hulkbuster Base supply locker..."

Sheesh Doc, if this whole 'sorceror supreme' gig doesn't work out, you could make a fortune in overnight delivery services. Also: if he's able to yank a similar sized object halfway across the country, opening up a dimensional rift to deposit the gamma device into a realm where radiation is a snack food would have been just as easy. But, it wouldn't have made for dramatic scenes like this...

C'mon Doc, less talk, more screwing... In an early example of a semi-verbose Claremontian style monologue, Banner fights off his nerves and the transformation long enough to disarm the bomb, collapsing after the effort.

"Did magician put Hulk to sleep?"

That Hulk... A hero at last. And all he had to do was fall asleep.

"... Oh..." indeed.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

See Psylocke Control Minds While Getting Mind Controlled Herself

A picture really is worth a thousand words... That's why today's entry focuses on a single panel from the past, but this time using a lot more words and a bunch of extra pictures to fully explain the magnitude of the mind control involved...

Case in point:

"I return these things... won in fair combat... to their rightful lord and master... who has for now and for all time... become mine."

Back in 2008, this image from Uncanny X-men # 256 was included as part of  a previous entry, but there's so much more mind control to cover from that issue. How did Psylocke go from a British, pink haired telepath and member of the X-men to an Asian assassin subservient to the Mandarin?

Well, remember how she mind controlled the X-men into entering the Siege Perilous, effectively having them commit suicide so the Reavers wouldn't ambush and kill them? Psylocke went through the mystical reincarnation gem as well, only to resurface in Uncanny X-men # 255.


She washed ashore on a very familiar island, now controlled by the Hand. Naked and absolutely amnesic, no one knew who she was, until local crime kingpin Matsuo Tsurayaba arrived and got a good look at her...

"She is the mutant X-man Psylocke. And by all the gods who ever were...
I know full well what the Hand may do with her."

Tsurayaba's big plan unfolded in Uncanny X-men # 256 when he visited the Mandarin with an intriguing proposal: after some proper modification (read: mind control) Betsy would be ideally suited to be the Mandarin's mind reading premiere assassin. Taking care of his enemies ánd learning all their hidden secrets in the process.

Intrigued, the oriental warlord tentatively accepted Matsuo and the Hand's offer. They began Betsy's mental reconditioning using a combination of mystical influences and sensory deprivation, .

"Our ambition is to reconfigure her mental mosaic into a more... useful pattern"

Mind control by any other name, really.

Incidentally, probably the biggest reason the Mandarin appears in this storyline at all is the fact Uncanny X-men # 256 happened to be the first of three Acts of Vengeance crossover tie-ins. 

The big idea behind this Summer event was simple, yet elegant: tired of getting beaten by their archenemies, the villains decided to swap and attack heroes who weren't used to fighting them... Daredevil got Ultron, the Punisher fought Dr. Doom and the X-men had the Mandarin show up.

So, how was Psylocke's mind control going?

Honestly, who knows? Claremont writes a rather hard to grasp, perhaps purposely disjointed string of scenes that depict Betsy in the various stages of her life.

You remember how she started out as Captain Britain's blonde twin sister? Here she is, little more than a child, sitting in a prop Spitfire airplane on a carnival ride, imagining about really flying and killing Germans... And then the fantasy becomes all too real.

"A monster. A demon... No... Coming to claim me. No. No. Body and soul... No no no..."

After leaving the carousel, she finds a pretty ring. And pretty soon afterwards, she finds another. These are the ten rings of the Mandarin she is somehow collecting. But she's a bit too busy getting pushed around in her own mind to notice the villain's presence... or the rings' powers. Until she gets a make over that is...

"THERE you are, my naughty, naughty toy!"

By this time, she'd miraculously grown to adulthood, started wearing skin tight black leather outfits. 

"We can't have a westerner running the Hong Kong underworld. Art as life... I do love it so!"

By now, it's obvious we've reached the part of Psylocke's life in which she was under Mojo's thrall. Back in New Mutants Annual # 2, the ruler of the Mojoverse already mind controlled her and even transformed poor Betsy in a copy of himself. 

"And yet, for all that's changed... the oldest hurt remains"

And here we have the debut of the Asian style Psylocke.

There are just a few problems here: for one, all of this allegedly only plays in her mind. Changing Betsy's mental form should have no impact on her physical body. And yet it does. Also: what's with all the memories she has to work through? Didn't we establish earlier in the same issue she washed ashore a complete amnesiac?

Ah well, onward and upward... Betsy's about to resume her quest for the rings. And now, she knows they're powerful ánd that her former friends the X-men have them. With Storm conveniently enough standing next to her, she starts with Ororo who refuses... And this is when a mind controlled Psylocke uses mind control to get what she wants...

"You have no will but mine... That's my girl. Give it here."

So, a proven, strong telepath also uses the Mandarin's mind controlling 'mento-intensifier' ring (not to mention a flame blast) to get her hands on Storm's bauble. Well, one might call that overkill, but hey... whatever works.

Psylocke then goes on to kill Colossus, Dazzler and Havok for their rings. And, in a nice, foreshadow heavy nod to a future storyline, she doesn't have to fight Rogue, because she's already fought Ms. Marvel to the death...

Her brother Captain Britain would have been next on Betsy's hitlist, but then the unexpected happened:

"The impact beam is mine, Psylocke... And so now my pretty, at long last, are you!"

The disembodied voice belonged to the Slaymaster, a Captain Britain villain from back in the day who fought Betsy when she took over for the titular hero and was blinded by him in the process. The appearance of Slaymaster wasn't part of the mind control strategy the Hand and Mandarin had set out.

The whole idea was to force Psylocke to actively kill off everyone she cared for in her old life, so she would be hurt, vulnerable and open to whatever the villains wanted her to do. The Slaymaster threatened to throw the proverbial monkey wrench in that scheme. Luckily, Betsy overcame her fear for the villain and struck back, discovering not everything is quite as it appeared...

Smashing the Slaymaster's helmet, the face of the Mandarin was revealed. He immediately used whatever rings he still had left (count em in the upcoming panel, if the story makes any sense he could only have two out of ten). Not that he'd have time to count, because Psylocke was about to end him.

But even when caught at a distinct disadvantage, the mastervillain still tried to come out on top...

"Cast aside your boulder, Psylocke... And acknowledge the Mandarin as your lord and master."

Looks like he now has all his rings back. How come Psylocke doesn't have any left? Also why are Mojo and Spiral there, hovering in the background? And, more importantly, did Betsy just say 'no'?

"Your mind may control the ring... But mine... through my telepathy... controls your thoughts."

Ooh snap.

So, even while she herself is busy getting mind controlled, she controls others a record total of two times in the same issue. That girl sure is a pro. But surely, she wouldn't actually follow through on that threat now, would she?

Well, guess she would.

So, judging from this story... after witnessing her coming to terms with being changed against her will, after seeing her face and deal with childhood trauma and insecurities, not to mention having her stare down her greatest fears while fighting the Slaymaster ánd beating the tale's actual villain in the process... You'd think ... It's only logical to assume Betsy would end the issue a free woman.

Yeah, you'd think...

And so, with Psylocke killing everyone who tried to control or shape her, we come full circle, with this scene: Psylocke fully submitting to the Mandarin's rule after all. It makes very little sense indeed.

Y'know, not unlike an actual ring of the Mandarin.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meet M Squad: The Mind Controlled Mutant Menacers

"The Empire State building is GROWING!"

One of Chris Claremont's best loved traits as a writer is his knack for casually introducing seemingly irrelevant characters that eventually blossom to fill a far more prominent role. Case in point: these scientists arguing in the background in the opening pages of Uncanny X-men # 240.

The reason they thought the Empire State building was growing that, well, it was... New York was about to be hit by Inferno and the city's landmark was the focal point of the demon invasion. Madelyne Pryor would soon turn into the Goblin Queen and she was already being surrounded by demons.

Very hungry demons...

"I don't remember these murals... from when we came up."

Yes, Madelyne had sicked her personal demon dogs on them... And, apparently the poor, hapless scientists didn't survive the experience.

"I think these belong to the lady scientist. I wonder why she dropped them."

So that, it seemed, was that, for the silly looking cadre of academics... That is, until Uncanny X-men # 244, in which Jubilee was causing ruckus in an LA mall during her first appearance... 

"We need trained professionals."

So, do I need to say it, really? The mall cops called these guys in...

"Have no fear, citizens... M SQUAD is here!"

Well, how do you like them apples? They actually survived being attacked by demons... and apparently, that encounter caused a bunch of ordinary scientists to become mutant hunters? What caused them to change?

"One night, last Summer, something happened.
We don't talk about it, that's why we left town and changed fields."

Ignoring the obvious Ghostbusters similarities, right down to their car, the M Squad seemed possessed by their Inferno infected equipment. And this band of miscreants had to capture mutant mallrat Jubilee. Luckily, some of the X-men just happened to be shopping at that same mall. 


Luckily, some of the X-men just happened to be shopping at that same mall. 

"Follow me, M Squad... Let's get them!"

Well, needless to say, even with their Inferno powered weaponry, the M Squad were no match for Storm, Rogue, Psylocke and Dazzler. Before long, the X-women had defeated them and returned to Australia... with Jubilee.

On a completely non mind control related subject... Jubilee decided to follow the X-men home by jumping after them... Only seconds after they'd passed through Gateway's teleportation portal. You'd think she'd arrive at about the same time the X-men would, but no... Jubilee was able to enter the X-men's outback base for months, holing up in the many service crawlways, before revealing herself to save Wolverine from the Reavers.

Ah well, at least we saw the last of M Squad...