Tuesday, March 17, 2015

You Get What You Pay For

If you're looking for a copy of Uncanny X-Men #177 just to get ahold of its insert that makes a contribution to Marvel's Assistant Editors' Month theme, hold that thought. Because once you have a look at it in a minute, you might come to the conclusion that you should instead be seeking out this issue for its opening focus on Mystique, leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, as she confronts the entire team of X-Men on her own. Assuming she survives the assault of the X-Man least likely to let her walk out of this deserted circus alive:

But the deadly Wolverine's attack proves to be short-lived against this resourceful assassin:

"...even your mutant healing factor won't prevent your bleeding to death." Ah, those were the days, weren't they? Obviously Mystique is getting her intelligence on Wolverine from a period when there were yet ways for an attacker to work around his ability to heal from injury--whereas today, it's hard to tell if even the Beyonder would be up to the task of ending his life.

But in early 1984, even the youngest X-Man is willing to believe his life has been ended. Unfortunately, it turns out her eyes are playing tricks on her--and Mystique claims her second victim of the day:

That's two X-Men slain in as many minutes. What the heck is going on here? If we know Mystique, she's not yet through adding to the body count. But with the murder of Kitty, there's another X-Man who feels like responding in kind:

With both Colossus and Cyclops on her tail, it looks like the odds are finally turning against Mystique, especially if the rest of the team joins them. On the other hand, whoever heard of a fun house rigged with a deadly trap?

Given that this is all happening during Assistant Editors' Month, you might be thinking at this point that this is all some kind of dream, either of Mystique's or of one of the X-Men. But no, everyone is wide awake--and so are you, as Mystique is confronted by her next target:

Well, either Uncanny X-Men is coming to a sudden, unannounced end, or it's becoming apparent that something's up. True, Mystique is out for blood, and she's no stranger to thinking on her feet--but a combat suit? Weaponry? Traps? This is all beginning to resemble some kind of training exercise. And with her next two opponents, Mystique discovers that the enemies she must overcome are not only physical but also psychological:

We catch up with Mystique again while she licks her wounds in the care of her friend and confidanté, the precog known as Destiny--to be joined by their host for this exercise, the appearance of whom certainly helps to explain the circus backdrop:

It's an odd statement from Mystique, claiming she was fooled into thinking the X-Men were real. Let's assume for the sake of argument that Arcade kept secret just who Mystique would be going up against in the exercise--even though her goal here is to evaluate Arcade's setup as a possible training facility for her Brotherhood, which makes it likely that Arcade would spring the X-Men on her right off the bat. Unlike the X-Men's own encounter with Arcade, Mystique is fully aware of what she's getting into, and that the opponents she's facing are products of a control booth. Arcade's proficiency with technology may excel at making the exercise more real for her--but despite the battle's pace and the threats coming at her right and left, in the back of her mind Mystique would be aware that who and what she faces are threats she paid to face. She might compliment Arcade on his workmanship--but "fooled" by it?

Yet in this sequence's closing panels, it becomes clear that Mystique is consumed by something other than a facility for training her crew:

As for that AEM insert you might be curious about--you might end up being more curious about why it was inserted in the first place, since it seems to have been thrown together at the last minute. We find the book's assistant editor, Eliot Brown, doing some work in the maintenance bay for the X-Men's Blackbird aircraft. The entire sketch comes across as something of an inside joke--and it wouldn't surprise me if some of you feel like doing exactly what Xavier resorts to:

COMING UP NEXT in our look at

Tony Stark's downward spiral brings down some neighborhood kids who turn their backs on "Iron Man."


Anonymous said...

I assume it wasn't yet established that Mystique was the mother of Nightcrawler...?

Comicsfan said...

That's right, Colin. Kurt at this point in time had noted the astonishing resemblance between himself and Mystique, but had yet to learn the truth behind it.

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