Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mind The Concealed Controller Part III: Oh Goth, Not This Again!

Y'know, every so often one has to feel a bit sorry for Chris Claremont.

Just this week, as I was compiling the third and final part of the X-men's war with the Neo, Uncanny published a fascinating piece on how Claremont got treated by Marvel. Editors casually changed year long, already okayed storylines on him which caused him to think on his feet and still make the books feel organic. That takes talent, professionalism and a lot of patience.

"The comic that inspired X-men the movie"

The same editorial meddling occured in the Neo storyline. Originally, Claremont had planned to keep Wolverine's team seperate from Storm's X-men in their own titles. But all of those plans got trashed when the first X-men movie did surprisingly well at the box office and Marvel decided to capitalise on its success.

One problem though: even though Uncanny X-men had inspired the movie, the comic and the characters looked nothing like their movie counterparts. It would take Grant Morrison's 2001 New X-men to adapt the look and feel of the team to the movie with the introduction of all purpose black leather outfits.

But for now, the editors deemed it necessary to at least reunite the two teams and have them live at Xavier's school. And that's just what Uncanny X-men # 385 set out to do, in a workmanship style tale that tried to wrap up as many plotlines as possible while still relying on an awful amount of mind control.

Let's set the scene: several factions of the Neo had been kidnapping humans and X-men alike for the interdimensional slavetrade. Storm, Gambit, Cable, Colossus, Psylocke and Thunderbird had been abducted by the Neo clan known as the Goth. Eventually freeing themselves, the X-men struck a deal with the Goth and their fellow Neo the Crimson Pirates to work together, all the while planning to betray them at the first opportunity.

Meanwhile, X-men like Rogue, Wolverine, Phoenix, Beast and others had been searching for their teammates, unaware of the deal they'd struck. That's why when the two teams finally met in Madripoor during another slave razzia, they inevitably came to blows.

Unfortunately, the Neo weren't beyond mind controlling their X-men allies...

"You're being far too gentle. Let me help."

Beldame uses her powers to override Storm's control of her own powers and forces the weather goddess to push her abilities to the limit, thereby weakening Phoenix' defenses long enough for her to fall prey to the Neo slavers who recognise an opportunity when they see one.

"And that window of vulnerability is all Bess requires to affix a slaver cowl and take her prisoner."

But the Goth-allied X-men were less free than they imagined themselves to be. For instance, when junior member Thunderbird had trouble pretending to fight his fellow X-men, it seemed the Neo had a little assurance for cooperation built in...

"Thunderbird's wearing a slaver collar! Activated by remote control!'

Mind control made easy... It does make you wonder why the X-men didn't ditch their slaver collars the minute they escaped from the Neo's prison. The previous issue made it seem as if Gambit had convinced the X-men to simply play along and when the fight started in # 385 Phoenix claimed she didn't sense any mental coercion whatsoever... but let's see what happened next...


Before Beast has a proper chance to investigate the workings of the slave collars, Colossus seems determined to kill him. Not exactly what you'd expect from a teammate who is actually working with you undercover. The same thing occured when Rogue finally had a moment alone with her paramour Gambit. She wanted to know what kind of game the ragin' cajun was playing. And the second he managed to win her confidence, this happened.

So, how mind controlled are they? It's never made clear. But for my money, if Gambit's team was uncontrolled the whole time, there's no reason they wouldn't have switched sides the minute the other X-men showed up so that the reunited team could take out the Goth, the Crimson Pirates ├índ the Neo slavers at once. 

"It has nothing to do with Gambit's caper. This is something wholly within me!"

Ah yes, the actual story... Consider Cable's musings after defeating Wolverine. It seems he is being influenced from within. This might be the Neo, but it's more likely that Stryfe is inside him causing mischief. After Cable is able to knock out even Wolverine, Gambit's team takes Rogue and the others to the Goth's secret Chinese hideout and slaver distribution center. They present their captured teammates to slaver Tullamore Voge, the Goth and Killian of the Crimson Pirates.

"Dis how you treats your friends, Goth?"

Looks like the massive Neo known as Goth had all but forgotten the deal he struck with Gambit. And look, there's Colossus clearly enthralled and ready to as Sanguine claims 'once more embrace glory'. What could he possibly mean by that?

"You will rejoin your compatriots... as slaves!"

Things sure looked bleak for the X-men, still... it's always darkest before the dawn, as this scene proved between Beldame and Tullamore Voge, the gluttonous but ever indulgence ready slavemaster. 

"That sounds naughty. Like someone's breaking the rules."

Well, surprise, surprise... Beldame is actually Phoenix who used her telepathic powers to disguise herself as the Neo. The real Beldame was wearing a slave collar (even though it's never explained how  Jean was able to overcome the effects of the collar, but hey... comics). Naturally, this ruse meant Beast wasn't enslaved as well... and mama McCoy's favorite blue haired bouncing Beast used his scientific genius to do the thing everyone was expecting...

It's an interesting claim: thanks to Jean's telepathy Hank is now able to access the inventive genius of the mutant inventor Forge, which added to his own brain power, makes every task easily achievable. So unlocking a few slave collars really isn't that hard. Guess what effect that had in the Goth throne room.

"The X-men are now free!"

Talk about creating a diversion. With all of the X-men now uninhibited by mind control or slave collars alike, the Neo scrambled to defend themselves. While meanwhile in Tullamore Voge's control room, Psylocke made sure the Slaver's business would be critically crippled by destroying the operation's transmat teleportation system. Without it, they wouldn't be able to pop in all over the world and claim new victims...

But the Goth wasn't too impressed by this achievement and attempted one final, mind control heavy attempt at winning the day...

"I am darkness absolute, the avatar of iniquity! As I drain the brilliance of your lives, I shall lay waste to the landscape of your souls! Until you are but hollow vessels... aching to be filled with mine own corruption."

Gods of earth and air, that *is* an impressively verbose way of saying your evil is so intense and dominating it will eventually cause everyone to turn into a bunch of mindless vegetables willing and able to receive whatever programming you see fit.

It even makes you wonder why the Goth faction even needed other Neo or human agents for that matter. Wouldn't it have been far easier for them to simply use their transmat technology to transport the Goth into the middle of any mall in America? Just have the guy sit down at the food court, sit back and watch as his evil turns every shopper into a mindless zombie ready to be processed?

As the X-men are pelleted by the Goth's evil, Rogue kisses Gambit, takes over his mind and powers, learns of his secret plan to deal with the Goth and then proceeds to use both their mutant abilities to actually kill the big, bad Neo...

And that's the last we saw of the Neo in Uncanny X-men, the comic that inspired the movie...

Sort of.

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