Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Secretly Sinister Mind Control part II: Return Of The Back Issue Babe

Say what you want about Chris Claremont, and yours truly most definitely has... but the man is nothing if not persistent and consistent when it comes to his characters and storylines.

Case in point: Dr. Robyn Hannover, a minor supporting character Claremont introduced in 1989's Classic X-men # 41. She started out as the physician at the Nebraska orphanage where Scott Summers spent most of his childhood.

There, he shared a room with Nate, an odd boy who acted like he owned the place. And in a way he did, as Robyn learned when she angered the kid and he confronted her in his guise as Mr. Sinister... mind controlling her in the process as well...

That's how the two part back up story left her. She almost seemed destined to remain consigned to comics' limbo... until Chris dusted Robyn off, changed the color of her hair... and put her mind controlled butt to work in X-Men Forever vol. 2

"Very nicely done, doctor. I don't think I could refuse you myself!"

The one speaking directly into her mind was none other than Mister Sinister himself. Well, the way Chris Claremont had originally imaged the villain, that is. Instead of being a mid 19th century British geneticist who got his powers from Apocalypse, young Nate was actually a mutant with a lifespan of a 1000 years or so and an appropriately retarded ageing process...

So while he still looked like a 10 year old, he was already pushing 50, with all the emotional maturity and... adult... urges of that age. All things he simple wasn't able to express. That made him a little cranky, to say the least.

"I liked Scott better as an orphan. Which means, eventually, they'll all have to be dealt with."

Cheerful little fellow, isn't he? And yes, that decapitated robot corps in the back is Mr. Sinister. In an interview with Comixology.net, Claremont revealed the reasoning behind this interesting twist. 

"Of course, looking like an 11-year-old, who'd take him seriously in the criminal community? [...] So he built himself an agent in a sense, which was Mister Sinister, that was, in effect, the rationale behind Sinister's rather - for want of a better word - childish or kid-like appearance. The costume... the look... the face... it's what would scare a child. Even when he was designed, he wasn't what you'd expect in a guy like that." 

Or, as Claremont rephrased it to work Sinister into his current storylines... 

By the time this scene from X-men Forever vol. 2 # 7 was published, the X-men were trying to cure a newly discovered, deadly disease they called burnout. In all fairness, it wasn't a disease in the traditional sense of the world. Despite all their great powers, mutants still had basically normal human bodies that were never designed to handle the strain this put on them. Mutants who used their powers often and at high intensity, ran the risk of, well, burning out.... literally.

In the world of X-men Forever, burnout was what actually killed Magneto (instead of burning up when Asteroid M fell to Earth). It was also the cause of Wolverine's failing healing factor (a plot point Claremont first brought up in 1990). Heck, the affliction even put professor Xavier back in a wheelchair.

Basically it struck older mutants first. Which had the middle aged evil kid genius decidedly worried...

And that brings us to just why Sinister ordered Robyn to Alaska to befriend Cyclops' family. At first, he was just scouting them out, but then he spotted Scott's young son Nate.

"Such things are trivial compared to the boy. The key to ending burnout is in him."

Just why Sinister thinks Nate Summers would be of any use to him isn't explained. But for the next several issues, we have Robyn befriending the Summers family, meeting the X-men and the Starjammers and generally charming everyone she comes across..

Heck, even when Sinister had the Marauders attack the Summers family and Robyn tried to kidnap Nate by taking off in a plane with him, she got away with it... by lying through her teeth. Also, as Phoenix discovered, she possessed an unusually impenetrable mind.

" s'okay, we all had a happy ending"


Alright, my mind's out of the gutter again.

After the three issue battle against the Marauders, Robyn hang around with the Summers in Alaska for a while, not raising any suspicions whatsoever. Although Scott did have a bit of an epiphany about her in the penultimate issue of the series... 

"I remember her... from the orphanage."

But by that time, there wasn't a whole lot he could do about it. The X-men were involved in a complicated conflict involving an evil clone of Storm who ruled Wakanda, the equally evil Consortium and a whole slew of forgettable baddies. And while all of this was going down, Corsair finally took  Robyn on that flying trip across Alaska she'd wanted to hire him for in her first appearance. Nate happily tagged along...

And then it all went horribly wrong.

"So, no matter what, you can always be blind-sided?"

Using some previously unknown power, she knocks Corsair out and takes charge. Nate is understandably worried about his grandpa, but Robyn assures him she'll fly them to 'the best doctor' she has ever known...

"He wanted to meet you for a long time."

"He has such plans for you."

The Robyn Hanover arc ends with her flying off  into the sunset, ready to deliver Nate to Mister Sinister. Just what the villain had in mind with the child, we'll never know... X-men Forever was cancelled with this issue. A shame, it would have been intriguing to see Cyclops face off against his 'old friend' from the orphanage.

And dollars to donuts, Sinister would have had a mind controlled, empowered Nate ready to fight his dad and the X-men. Hey, this is still a Chris Claremont comic, after all!

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