Thursday, December 18, 2008

Psylocke learned mindcontrol from the best

I suppose its inherent to the nature of telepaths, but most of the X-men's telepathic members have used mind control at one point or another. Back when Stan Lee was writing the team, Xavier used his powers to make Beast's parents forget all about him. Talk about a doozy, but while Claremont was writing, team telepaths made the mind their personal playground. Jean Grey, as Phoenix, was guilty of manipulating Kitty Pryde's parents for instance. But near the end of his run, Claremont had Betsy Braddock, aka Psylocke, commit several mindcontrol transgressions against members of her own team! Lets review some of the highlights...

After returning from a mission to the Savage Land, Psylocke sensed that the cyborg criminals known as the Reavers had invaded their Australian homebase. Knowing they were severely outmatched, Psylocke decided to give the team an easy way out: the Siege Perilous. This was a gift the X-men had received a while ago from the otherdimensional ruler Roma. The gem shaped device turned into a portal to the afterlife. Whoever entered through it, was granted a new leash on life, providing a form of instant reincarnation. Prefering this over certain death, Betsy used her mental control to convince her fellow X-men to enter the Siege as the Reavers approached to finish them off. Certainly a powerful moment, but also remarkable as she gives the other X-men no say in the matter. They have to die, because Betts says so. Doesn't really seem right, does it?

Still, Betsy also used the Siege and was got reincarnated. Sort of. I'll spare you the convoluted history of early 90s Psylocke, but basically: she didn't reincarnate into a new form at all. An amnesiac Betsy appeared on an island near Japan. There, she was recovered by Matsu'o Tsurayaba, a businessman who had close dealings with the crime syndicate known as The Hand.

One of their best operatives was the female assassin Kwannon. This minor telepathic hitman got severly injured on assignment, which gave Matsu'o a brilliant idea: lets combine the two women! He got his wish, thanks to the outerdimensional villain Spiral and her Body Shoppe. Spiral placed Betsy's mind inside Kwannon's body, much to Matsu'o's delight.

Also, because this storyline ran during Marvel's Acts of Vengeance crossover, in which heroes fought villains they were unfamiliar with... for that reason alone, the Mandarin showed up in X-men. One of the Mandarin's ten rings of power lets him control minds and... well, I suppose you can see where this is going, right?
"Next: Lady Mandarin!" Ow, next issue blurbs... sometimes you ARE downright profetic. Yes, I suppose because of the Acts of Vengeance, Claremont had Psylocke 'retrieve' the Mandarin's rings, binding her ever closer to his will. In a startling dream-like sequence, Psylock was forced to kill her fellow X-men and her brother Brian Braddock. They all had one of the Mandarin's rings. Once she completed the set, she was under his complete control, allowing for the transformation into Lady Mandarin. But in her new form, this Psylocke really was into mindcontrol. Lets see what she does when she encounters her former teammate Wolverine and his sidekick Jubilee...

"I am Lady Mandarin"... *SIGH*... I suppose I could fill another blog with THIS particular writing tick of Claremont's. At one point or another most of his characters feel the need to enter the scene shouting their own names. I get why he started doing this, its a great way to introduce new readers to the often confusing array of characters running around any given X-men comic, but still... its hardly realistic. Yet, 'Lady Mandarin' had 'nailed the kid', but her real target was Wolverine. The Hand wanted to forcibly recruit him as their new assassin. Mind you, this was in 1990, a good 15 years before Mark Millar introduced the same concept during his Wolverine run.

Yup, its mind control at its finest... using her telepathic powers, Psylocke tried to brainwash Wolverine, in an attempt to get his primal, violent urgings to work for the benefit of The Hand. It seemed to work for an instant or two, but Logan broke free. So, if at first you don't succeed... try, and try again... In her new body, Psylocke fought Wolverine and used her psychic knife, the manifestation of her mental powers, to get the job done.

Awww, Betsy Braddock... Once, your telepathy floated like a butterfly, now your knife stings like a bee-yotch!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shadowy Charley: Mindcontrol Xavier style

So, just where had Charles been while the King was busy conquering Earth?

Well... long story short... A while ago, Xavier got mugged by an anti mutant mob and would have died if the Morlocks hadn't taken him to their healer. He managed to put ol' humpty dumpty head back together again, but Charles didn't allow himself any time to fully heal. This caused him to have a fatal heartattack in Uncanny X-men # 200.

Luckily, his ladylove Shi'ar empress Lilandra had been aware of his anguish thanks to their mental link. She came to his aid and teleported him away so he could get the proper medical attention on board the Starjammer. But when the stargate to Earth got destroyed, Charles was left stranded in space.

This meant the X-men were cut off from their mentor for an extended period of time. But as luck would have it, another crisis brought the X-men and Xavier together again. Lilandra's terrorist sister Deathbird asked intergalactic teleporter (and singing sensation!) Lila Cheney to bring the X-men to her. Lila complied and after a brief struggle, Deathbird told the X-men what was wrong. Well, take a look. She wasn't kidding: something was very-very wrong indeed...

Professor Xavier, using his mental powers to enslave the Imperial Guard along with the Shi'ar empire itself? Surely, its still years before every writer started to paint the X-men's benign leader as an evil mastermind, so this is totally out of character for the man. But the mind control fun didn't stop there, because when the X-men confronted their mentor, he got a few new playthings.

"The X-men are mine"

But who are you, anyways? Turns out the real professor Xavier was being kept in a stasis jar, while his body and powers were copied by... A Skrull. More than 15 years before Secret Invasion, Claremont had undercover Skrulls trying to destabilise other worlds. After his ruse was discovered, the Skrull dropped the Xavier guise and took on Psylocke's form when the team tried to free Xavier. Luckily, Forge wasn't as vulnerable to Psy-Skrull's psychic knife as he'd hoped.

 "You've disrupted my pattern... triggered a partial reversion to my base form..." 

You just gotta love Claremont's knack for over-X-plaining the obvious. But still, Forge's battle with the Skrull formerly known as Xavier/Psylocke marked the end of the battle for domination of the Shi'ar empire. Professor Xavier was freed and, when told about the Shadow King threat, he decided to return home and deal with the crisis. Lets take a look how he chose to start the fight against his mind controlling arch nemesis.

That's Charles, dressed in Shi'ar battle armor (hence the triangular helmet), mind controlling a group of Scottish soldiers to hand over the X-men's old Blackbird jet. Charles had hoped the King wouldn't notice his return until it was too late, but the Shadow King was very much aware.

In fact, he sent someone very close to Xavier to take care of the professor. The King mind controlled Peter Nicholas to confront Charles when he was at the X-men's former headquarters in Salem Center. Peter who? Remember how Psylocke suckered Colossus into the Siege Perilous?

No? Well, it was one of his better deaths... Colossus was reincarnated as Peter Nicholas, a New York artist who, rather conveniently, was a dead ringer for Peter Rasputin. So much for advancing on the karmic scale. Of course, once the Shadow King found out about him, Nicholas was forced to attack Xavier and Stevie Hunter. Close to death, Xavier found himself with no other alternative than this...

Yup, that's Charles Xavier for ya... Destroying an entire person (a soul, if you will) to save his own life. He erased Peter Nicholas and brought back the original template of Peter Rasputin, who the Shadow King hadn't managed to get his claws into.

Talk about character suicide... Still, it worked and good ol' Colossus was back in the game... And did we need him! Shadow King finally revealed himself to Xavier... take a look.

Ow yeah, the King meant business. He had taken over the mutants on Muir Island: Legion, Strong Guy, Multiple Man, Siryn, Rogue and Moira McTaggert as his personal strikeforce.

His 'Islanders' had already taken out most of the X-men, but Xavier alongside X-Factor managed to defeat the King. However, it turned out to be a costly victory...

The Muir Island/Shadow King saga brought Claremont's 16 year run on Uncanny X-men to a close. He would later return for two more mind controlled runs, which we'll cover next time!

Beating it to death: Shadow King's shtick part 2

Just imagine for a second you were a powerful but disembodied psychic entity... Trapped on the astral plane, looking at a world you can no longer directly influence. I'm sure after a while you'd get pretty pissed off, right? That's basically the entire reason for the Shadow King acting the way he does (apart from being pure evil for, well, evil's sake I suppose).
When police detective Jacob Reisz died of an appearant heart attack, the Shadow King took control of his body and started recruiting people for his cause. No, he didn't really need a physical presence in this world, he could easily influence folks from afar.

But hey... your heroes need someone to punch, so the Shadow King recruited Lian, a woman (dressed in black leather, in true Claremontian style) who acted like his second in command. He also gathered a bunch of footsoldiers known as Hounds, who acted like wild animals and were dressed in... ow, you guessed it.

So, what was the Shadow King all about this time? Ow, the man had a big plan! He wanted to feast on all the hatred and bad feelings of humanity. You see, negative emotion is like a drug to the Shadow King. He feeds on it, so he does everything he can to fan the flames of intolerance and hatred.
It was never explained on panel, but I guess that's why people around Polaris suddenly started acting crazy. She had lost her powers in the Savage Land, but all of a sudden Lorna was superstrong and had some kind of uncontrollable negative emotional pull on people. Which was bad news in itself, but then the Shadow King showed up on Muir Island where Lorna had been residing. He took control of Xavier's son Legion and started pulling the strings behind the scenes. Take a look...

That's Legion, shown here in his Jack Wayne persona, pleading Carol Danvers for forgiveness. Carol had come to Muir Island after she got seperated from Rogue (its a long story involving the Siege Perilous, the Reavers, Magneto and more). Once she got to the island, Legion and the King tried to take her over. Poor Carol didn't really stand a chance. Not that her former mind-partner Rogue fared any better when she came up against the King...

... Hmmm, well, if you can't beat them, join them I suppose. But where Rogue joined with the King semi-willingly, there were others who offered more of a struggle. You see, Shadow King was also busy controlling the American government. In such an undertaking, there's one government official you just can't ignore: the ever ready willing and not very able Valerie Cooper. Val fell under the King's influence too, but at least she felt a little bad about it...

Owww snap and all that... But the King still wasn't without his pet peeves. He carried a particular grudge against Storm, who he considered a prize possession that had gotten away. He was hell bent on getting her under his control. Storm, by that time, had been reduced to a preteen by Nanny and was running around New Orleans with the (in those days) mysterious and exciting mutant thief Gambit. Shadow King tried his darndest to get to Storm.

The road to Storm went through the ragin' Cajun but the King and his hounds were very eager to add him to the list of mental accomplices as well. The big win for Shadow King was Storm herself however and, like he tried so many years before, the Shadow King once again attempted to control the weatherwitch.

Of course, Storm broke free and got away with Gambit (hey, this is called the X-men not Shadow King... the bad guys still always lose). Yet, the King and his flunkies remained a thorn in the X-men's side and they even expanded their targets to include the other X-teams like X-Factor. Here, original X-man Jean Grey gets blindsided on the Astral Plane by the Shadow King and Lian, his Queen.

Jean was saved by (early 90s bad ass) Psylocke, but by then it was obvious: the Shadow King was a problem that had to be dealt with. So, who you gonna call? Yup... the man who originally took care of the King: Charles Xavier. In part 3: we find out getting Charles back also involves some mind control and the professor is revealed to be a fan of 2 can play that (mind control) game!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shadow King's Shtick part 1: King Control

Shadow King.

If there's a single villain Chris Claremont created that served his penchant for mind control during his tenure as writer on Uncanny X-men, it has to be him.

Who is the King? A malevolent psychic entity with no physical form who delights in causing pain, trouble and mental suffering. His main foe is Charles Xavier, who he met many years ago when the Shadow King inhabited the form of Egyptian telepath Amahl Farouk. Check out this page from Uncanny X-men # 117.
 A young Charles meets Amahl in Cairo and senses his innate evil.

Charles and the Shadow King fight, the villain wants to destroy Xavier's mind and leave him an empty shell, ready to be corrupted by the King's evil presence. This is basically his entire shtick. But Shadow King severly underestimated Xavier's mental powers.

 Charles defeated Fahrouk, which forced the King to flee the Egyptian's body, basically condemning the entity to a life on the astral plane. This ensured the Shadow King's vendetta with Charles Xavier.

Yet, for the longest time (Uncanny X-men 117 was released in the late 70s) the villainy of the King wasn't much more than just another part of Xavier's origin... Just like Charles had been buddies with Magneto or had his legs crushed by the villain Lucifer... That was, until New Mutants came along and the King resurfaced again.

Xi'an had every right to be frightened. After a fight against Viper and the Silver Samurai she had mysteriously disappeared . She'd presumedly died in a big explosion only to resurface months later... Not quite herself... Well, lets just say there was more of her to love.

Yes, this is Karma, friends... The Shadow King had taken control of her mind, still in his 'Amahl Farouk' persona. Using Karma, the King finally had an outlet for his physical urges again. He liked to indulge himself with food and drink, causing Karma to become hugely obese (as Farouk had been). But don't be afraid, good always triumphs over evil in the end. No matter how obese...

Begone fattie, be goooooone... Ah, if only actual weight loss was that easy. Still, this wasn't the last time Amahl 'Shadow King' Farouk would plague the team.

A couple of years later, Shadow King was back. This time, the X-men had disbanded and the mutant inventor Forge was trying to locate the team. On the astral plane, he came face to face with the King (again posing as Farouk).

Forge had to fight for his very life, because the King planned to consume his mind and take over Forge's body... All in an attempt to once again gain entry to the physical world. Forge managed to beat off the Shadow King, but in the end the entity accessed our world through the corpse of one detective Reisz.

In that guise, he would plot one of most audacious (mind control) gambits yet. More on that next time!