Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Birth Of An X-Man!

Once the decision was made to admit Rogue to the X-Men on a probationary basis--over the strong objections of none other than the X-Men themselves--there was nowhere to go but up for the young mutant, who had come to Charles Xavier seeking help not only in controlling her power to absorb the abilities and memories of those she came into physical contact with, but also in dealing with the anguish she suffers from wrestling with the memories of one woman in particular. Prior to this point, Rogue was persona non grata with those unfortunate enough to cross her path--with the Avengers, for instance, who barely survived her ambush when she fought with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants... and certainly with the X-Men, whose friend Carol Danvers was also ambushed and suffered the loss of her abilities as Ms. Marvel as a result, as well as any feelings of familiarity with what memories were left to her.

And so when the X-Men arrive in Japan to attend the wedding of Wolverine and Mariko Yashida, Wolverine--who had history with Carol and knew her the best of all the group--has already made his decision of how welcome he plans to make her.

And yet, judging by the cover of the following issue, writer Chris Claremont has made an interesting decision regarding the development of these two characters--the results of which may surprise you, and them.

To set the stage here: Mariko is involved in a clan dispute with her half-brother, Keniuchio Harada, the so-called Silver Samurai, who vies for control of Clan Yashida after the death of their father, the crimelord Shingen, whom Mariko feels disgraced the family. The Samurai, of course, has his own criminal history, and Mariko has stated her intent to retain control and atone for their father's crimes, despite the Samurai's claim to the position as Shingen's only son. To complicate matters, the Samurai has been working at the behest of the Viper (the former Madame Hydra, who took the name as her own), as do the Japanese assassins known as the Hand.

To take the X-Men out of the picture, Viper manages to poison them--with the exception of Storm, who has disappeared, while both Wolverine and Rogue are able to recover more quickly due to their unique makeup. Wolverine now plans to go after the Samurai--and he has little choice as to the only X-Man remaining who insists on acting as his wingman.

From there, it's just a matter of tracking down informants which will lead the pair to those they seek. Of course, there's the matter of securing their cooperation--a task of "persuasion" which Wolverine is well suited to.

Wolverine speaks of the man who had been asked to arbitrate the conflict between Mariko and the Samurai--Nabatone Yokuse, the rival crimelord that Shingen once spared; and since Mariko had earlier taken a meeting with him, it's logical for Wolverine to assume he knows the whereabouts of the Samurai, as well as the Viper.

It's only when he and Rogue catch up with Yokuse that they realize how expertly they've been played in order to arrange for Mariko as well as the X-Men to be vulnerable.

Like John Byrne, artist Paul Smith--who would be on the Uncanny X-Men book for less than a year--seems a good fit for Claremont's penchant for scripting character moments that are part of the story and yet separate unto themselves. For action enthusiasts, however, one can't help but make the observation that his scenes emulate the style of Frank Miller, which often don't include the display of sound effects or motion indicators.

As for Rogue reverting to type in her brazen treatment of Wolverine, it's a confusing scene considering that risking a repeat of what happened to her as a result of her attack on Carol Danvers is probably the last thing that she wants, to say nothing of putting Wolverine's life at risk--so what are we seeing here? Intimacy? If so, what does she expect to happen, given the restrictions her power places on her? Seduction? Again, what would be the point?

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, the Viper makes her move--and with the Hand and the Silver Samurai doing her bidding, she's arguably brought enough support to ensure her success.

Mariko interceding on the Samurai's behalf and imploring Wolverine to spare his life seems another odd choice by Claremont, given that she previously had no such objection to Wolverine ending the life of Shingen, her own father. On a somewhat related note, in a way it's almost been a blessing having the X-Men sidelined during Wolverine's dealings with the Viper and the Samurai, since they likely wouldn't countenance the Samurai's death any more than Mariko--further drawing attention to their mixed feelings on their fellow X-Man's methods. A strange arrangement to be sure, the X-Men's look-the-other-way approach when it comes to Wolverine--they don't seem to mind having a killer in their ranks, as long as they're not privy to the killing.

At any rate, the Viper makes Wolverine's quandary regarding the Samurai moot, as she assumes her stance to fulfill her mission--only to be foiled by a young woman who acts to save an innocent life, and, in so doing, takes the first step toward proving herself to the X-Men, and to one X-Man in particular.

We all know how Rogue worked out on the team, though having Wolverine (presumably) vouch for her character after being so dead-set against her no doubt carried a good deal of weight with the other X-Men, most of whom were not at all pleased with Rogue being pushed on them. Sadly, things don't work out well for Wolverine in the closing scenes of this issue vis-à-vis Mariko--a mystery that would eventually unravel when this issue's other villain is finally revealed.

Uncanny X-Men #173
(with scenes from #172)

Script: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Paul Smith
Inks: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski


Tiboldt said...

This is a pretty standard 'I hate you/forced to team-up/I grudgingly respect you' storyline that are ten-a-penny on tv superhero shows. I'd like to think that if I read this as new today, I would still enjoy what Claremont did here.

Ah Wolverine. Well on his way to becoming the unstoppable killing machine and here we have him facing a guy in armour with an energy sword. It was never in doubt. Note that, once again, he is stopped from killing someone by a female.

And Paul Smith. I wish he could have stayed longer.

Big Murr said...

Paul Smith was the reason for one of my sporadic returns to collecting X-Men. And, pretty much when he left I was close enough behind him we could have carpooled. Claremont's story telling sure wasn't enough to hold my interest without fantastic artwork.

It took me a lot more than this little team-up for me to accept Rogue crossing the aisle to the Hero ranks. I was still collecting Avengers at this time and her decimation of my favourite heroes, while gloating and cackling with glee, meant she was a Villain, plain and simple.

dbutler16 said...

Yeah, I liked Paul Smith. Not quite as much as Byrne or Cockrum, but his art was very good. The art on the X-Men fell off a cliff when John Romita jr. took over, as far as I'm concerned.

Comicsfan said...

As I allude to above, Paul Smith's work was an acquired taste for me, though I've come to feel his stint on Uncanny X-Men was quite distinguished and, from other accounts, well regarded. As for Rogue, her shift from outlaw to a more sympathetic character was the most sudden I've ever seen (to the extent of even softening her features considerably), depriving us of a juicy villain just as she was taking off as someone who relished her ability to take her foes off-guard and trash her opposition without an ounce of scruples. How interesting it might have been instead, I thought, to have her come to Xavier's school with the same plea for help, but in actuality as a mole for Mystique and the Brotherhood in order to gain intel on the X-Men (and Charles Xavier, in particular) and cripple the team at the proper time. It would also have been a rare look at an instance of misjudgment on the part of Xavier, who had the best intentions regarding Rogue but perhaps should have listened more closely to the opinions of Storm and the others--and certainly Carol Danvers--on the subject.

George Chambers said...

I can't help thinking that if Rogue had been male, he'd have remained a villain forever. Claremont had an agenda (a welcome one from my standpoint) of amending the gender balance with regard to dynamic heroes, as opposed to 'strike a pose and point' characters, and Rogue was perfect for this.

Haydn said...

Rogue's attempted kiss of Wolvie doesn't make much sense, as you say, but it makes for a nice parallel with the closing scene, where he returns the favor to save her life.

Warren JB said...

"As for Rogue, her shift from outlaw to a more sympathetic character was the most sudden I've ever seen (to the extent of even softening her features considerably)"

You said it! It's almost like a different character. In some of her villainous appearances, she's skating close to a Cruella DeVille type. In the first image of this article, she might pass as Anna Paquin...