If we accept the premise of this cross-over following a three act play, then Uncanny X-Men #271 is the start of the second act. Just look at it like the original Star Wars trilogy. The first act introduces you to the players. We learned about Genosha, Cameron Hodge, and the X-men. The second act builds the action and tension as the characters find themselves in worsening situations. The third act will contain the climax, but we’ll get to that later.
This issue sees Boom-Boom and Rictor (who’ve apparently rejoined after the last chapter) running from a gang of Magistrates. Just before the magistrates kill them, guess who shows up? That’s right, it’s Wolverine and his two sidekicks! Of course, the magistrates are easily dispatched and Wolverine has the great idea to leave Jubilee with the two New Mutants while he and Psylocke dress up in Magistrate armor to infiltrate the citadel and rescue the others. Meanwhile, Storm has already decided to take a hostage, hoping it will buy the freedom of the others. She finds the Genegineer, but she also finds Cameron Hodge who easily subdues her (with no powers and in a child’s body, she’s pretty much screwed). Genegineer volunteers her for the mutate process immediately. Who says government isn’t expedient?
Of course the start of the mutate process triggers such a wave of psychic pain that Psylocke is immediately taken down. She manages to feign injury, allowing another group of Magistrates to take both her and Wolverine into the citadel. Unfortunately, guess whose uniform Psylocke decided to take? That’s right, she donned the uniform of Tam, who is the girlfriend of the brainwashed Havok, head of the magistrates. And before you ask, yes, he notices.
Wolverine and Psylocke subdue Havok, leaving him unconscious, but their battle takes them into the room where the Genegineer is transforming Storm into a mutate. Hodge immediately takes the battle to the mutants, leaving the Genegineer to proceed with his own plans for Storm. We don’t really get to see what those plans are, but we do get to see an epic battle between Wolverine and Psylocke versus Cameron Hodge. Of course, the battle goes poorly, ending with Psylocke and Wolverine captured and Storm a mindless mutate. See what I mean about worsening situations?
I’m not making quite as many clever quips (hey, they’re clever in my head) about this issue because honestly, this issue is damn near perfect. Jim Lee and Chris Claremont will forever remain one of my favorite artist/writer duos. Too bad it couldn’t last, but whenever I miss the golden age, I just pick up these issues and smile. This issue in particular I paid $15 for and it was my most valuable and oldest X-Men issue at the time. The sad thing is, I only got it about 6 months after it came out. These Jim Lee issues were insane back in 1990 and 1991. But it was well worth it.
It’s hard to know where to even start with the praise. The art is of course top notch. I especially love how we finally get to see that the Genoshan Magistrates aren’t just one-dimensional villains. We get to see that they are just honest soldiers trying to do their jobs for a county they believe in. Yes, the country is built on the backs of slaves (Claremont even admitted that the original Genoshan saga was based on the South African division between the ruling white class and the slave class), but these are people who genuinely believe they are in the right. They also believe that Cameron Hodge has co-opted their country and does not represent their country. Tam would rather kill the New Mutants than see them given up to Hodge’s “tender mercies”. Genegineer plots against Hodge in secret, believing that the monster will ultimately destroy Genosha. Even though both the Genegineer and Tam are villains in this story, we can learn to sympathize with them.
The action in this story is intense as well. It feels like watching a Hollywood movie. When Havok sees that Tam is actually Psylocke, the slow close up as he gets going is fantastic. But I also love how Psylocke pokes fun at the typical bravado we see in comics (and in movies). Wolverine and Havok face off against each other and she points out just how stupid their machismo really is. Of course this is at the same time as she is driving a psychic knife through Havok’s skull.
Bottom line is that this issue is the best that X-Tinction Agenda has to offer, but that’s saying a lot.
What do you guys think of this issue, either as a stand alone or as part of the x-over? Am I coming across as a bit too much of a Claremont/Lee fan? Or is it well earned? I’ll see you next time with New Mutants #96!