Thursday, February 21, 2013

X-tremely Early X-men Mindcontrol

The year is 1991 and Chris Claremont has been forced into a corner.

During his impressive 15 year run on Uncanny X-men, Claremont made a bit of name for himself as a talent scout, handpicking the pencilers that worked with him on the title. Starting with Dave Cockrum and John Byrne, the selection of popular artists like Paul Smith, John Romita Jr. and Marc Silvestri were increasingly up to Claremont... and culminated with the pick of Jim Lee.

Lee's art was more than a little impressive. In fact, it was so stellar the X-men editors started to realise the artist might well be more important than the writer. Editor in chief Bob Harras spotted a rising star when he saw one and decided to cater more to Jim's needs than whatever Chris set out to do.

While Lee wanted to revisit X-men classics like the Sentinels and the Imperial Guard, Claremont wanted to look forward but was repeatedly overruled... until he finally decided to quit in 1991 after launching the second monthly X-men title with Jim Lee.

Adjectiveless X-men # 1 was a smash hit, with a record 7.1 million (!) copies printed up. It involved Claremont's final status quo changing story for both the X-men and their arch enemy Magneto... and oh yes, lots of mind control...

The story opens with a battle in space, near Magneto's orbital home base Asteroid M. Involving himself in the skirmish, the master of magnetism is stunned to learn one of the involved parties is a band of mutants who have come to pledge them to his cause. Intrigued, he takes them in...

The fight didn't go unnoticed on Earth either. The Russians picked it up, handed it over to SHIELD which sent Nick Fury to deliver it to the X-men.

The X-men go on high alert and split up into two teams: X-men blue and gold. A clever way to maintain seperate casts of characters for the two main X-men titles. X-men blue, scheduled to be X-men's main cast, was comprised of Cyclops, Beast, Gambit, Rogue, Psylocke and Wolverine. 

After fighting the X-men in the Atlantic, Magneto makes an appearance in Genosha where his newly minted Acolytes are cutting a bloody swath through the mutant oppressing magistrates. He has a bit of news to share with the world...

Proclaiming Asteroid M a sovereign nation and threatening to avenge any mutant is bound to get a response from the global super powers... But for now, the X-men fought Magneto and the Acolytes while Genosha burned. So just who are these Acolytes, what can they do?

Well, there's their red headed leader Fabian Cortez for one. After planting a kiss on Psylocke, he used his abilities to regulate mutant powers to amp her telepathy up to the Nth degree... Causing her to lose control of her self as her mind almost drowned in other people's thoughts.

Luckily, she recovered in time for the next Acolyte to make his move. Meet Chrome, he can do stuff like this...

Yup, he turned most of the team into living statues with just a wave of his hand. Of course, he could have done it half an issue earlier, but then it wouldn't have been much of a slobberknocker, now would it?  Magneto takes the X-men blue team prisoner as he and the Acolytes return to Asteroid M where a stunning discovery awaits them.

Someone has been messing with Magneto's genetic codes... And he knows full well who is responsible...

Way back in the 1970s, Magneto fought the Defenders and professor X with the help of Alpha, the ultimate mutant. During the fight, Alpha realised Magneto was the real enemy and turned him into a baby. Charles Xavier took the helpless child to Moira's Muir Island facility so the young Magnus might have a chance for redemption. 

Unfortunately, Moira instead used all her time to mess with Magneto's mind, in an attempt to 'cure' the once and future master of magnetism of his more... insane... tendencies. Let's see how Magneto appreciated her efforts.

Comparing Moira to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele might be a bit harsh... Then again, both doctors experimented on young children with complete disregard of their professional ethics and morality. 

It is truly horrific to see what Magneto puts Moira through. Torturing her until she agrees to something that will truly haunt her for the rest of her life: using the same techniques to mind control the captured X-men. The procedure goes off without a hitch and the X-men blue team swear allegiance to Magneto's cause, just as the X-men gold team is mounting a rescue operation. The clock is ticking though, because the UN has decided to blow Asteroid M out of the sky, no matter who's on it.

But, how can Storm, Jean Grey, Colossus, Archangel, Iceman, Banshee and Forge possibly beat their fellow X-men, the Acolytes ánd Magneto?

Not easily. 

But sometimes, the only way to end a fight is to fight.

Rogue's back to her old self again and the others are soon to follow as the third issue of X-men draws to a close. Y'see, Moira's mind control technique doesn't really stick because, well, let's have her explain it... She's the Nobelprize winning geneticist here after all...

Yup, Moira's mindwipe won't stick if a mutant has already used his or her powers. It's a bit of a pop psychology psychobabble cop out, but hey... At least it established Magneto's fully responsible for his own actions and can't pin his crimes on Moira's handiwork. With that established, the UN deadline conveniently runs out and, as promised, Asteroid M gets hit with an orbital laser cannon.

Preferring to go down with their home, Magneto and the Acolytes stay behind as the X-men race for their ship. And in the closing moments of a 15 year run, Chris Claremont has professor Xavier offer up a few last nuggets of wisdom

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