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Month of Cool Avengers/X-Men Comic Book Moments – Psylocke Decides to Break Up the X-Men

All month long we will feature brand-new Cool Avengers and X-Men Comic Book Moments in celebration of their fiftieth anniversaries this month. Here is an archive of all the past cool comic moments that I’ve featured so far over the years.

Today we look at the temporary end of the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #251 by Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri and Dan Green…

The concept of Uncanny #251 is that Wolverine returned to the X-Men’s base in Australia after some solo missions and arrived to learn that the X-Men were all gone and the Reavers were waiting for him. They defeat him and crucify him on a giant X. Gateway uses some sort of weird power to give Wolverine fever dreams that show him what happened while Wolverine was gone (stuff like Rogue going through the mystical “emergency exit” known as the Siege Perilous and Storm seemingly being killed by Havok). The X-Men were down to just Psylocke, Dazzler, Havok and Colossus. The Reavers are preparing to do to them what they eventually do to Wolverine. Psylocke knows this, so she comes up with a plan of her own…

I love how Claremont takes something that Professor X used to do constantly back in the day (manipulate people’s minds) and gives a nice spin on it where he completely addresses the somewhat immoral nature of Psylocke’s actions here. Yes, she saves her teammates and in the end, that’s the important thing, but she does so by corrupting herself a bit. Great, great scene by Claremont and excellent artwork from Silvestri and Green.

39 Comments

[…] of being in a situation that allows for such a statement? I was reading this comic book scene Month of Cool Avengers/X-Men Comic Book Moments – Psylocke Decides to Break Up the X-Men | Com… and the last few panels bring a variation of that statement. My reading of it is that the […]

Dan Green really made the X-Men in the last half of the 80’s. I always loved his inks for John Romita Jr and then he brought a real looseness to Silvestri’s pencils. Once Silvestri jumped to Image I don’t think Green inked him and Silvestri’s finished art became a bit too polished and just “Imagey”.

Looking back on it now, I’ve noticed a very John Buscema influence to Silvestri’s X-Men and Wolverine work that I didn’t pick up on back in the day.

Mostly because I was 13 and didn’t put stuff like that together.

always found it interesting that Pylocke was having to become more and more like xavier to help her fellow xmen survive including as havok the mind is her playground .which always thought maybe she was though not shown or stated using her powers to get her other team mates to use the siege.

This was my first X-Men I ever bought when I was a kid and I was hooked from there on out. This issue blew my mind. So good. And the cover? One of the best.

Psylocke was certainly never the same character again after this. Just turned in to a ninja assassin is all.

Yes,the inkers are the unspoken heroes. They don’t get the credit they deserve.

I really hated this story line. After all that training in the Danger Room. With four of the most powerful members of the team. These X-men are going to run away from The Reavers? The Reavers are just a bunch of cyborgs with guns. Peter could take them by his self. Remember, these Reavers are not at full strength. When the X-men first came to the Outback, there were a lot of Reavers. Now you’re telling us that a man made of metal, a woman that can turn sound into light, a man that basically can shoot the power of the Sun at an object, and a woman that can fry someone’s brain can’t take out 8 cyborgs with guns? I didn’t understand that when I was 17. I don’t understand it now. Yeah, Lady Deathstrike was there. So what? Let Havok blast her. Let Peter pound out the rest of them. With all that noise, Alison could laser whoever she felt like. Besty could twist their brains inside out.

That whole Outback era was the first time since I started reading X-men, I thought that “maybe this is not my cup of tea”.

Yeah, I never understood this storyline either. Seems like Claremont wanted to shock the readers by “killing” the X-Men one by one, until only Wolverine was left: first Rogue, then Storm, then four others in this issue. But at least the “deaths” of Rogue and Storm made some sense story-wise, whereas this issue felt like Claremont was merely rushing the plot to the point he wanted to reach, with Wolverine seemingly the only X-Man left. But to get to that point he tries to make reader believe a woman who had always been portrayed as exceptionally brave and selfless (by writers like Alan Moore and Claremont himself) suddenly decides these four hardened heroes can’t and shouldn’t fight against a bunch of cyborgs, it’s better she manipulates them into doing something that essentially (for all she knows) makes them die and be reborn as someone else. I would’ve bought it if the enemy they were about to face was someone Psylocke knew they couldn’t defeat, like Galactus or something, but these were a bunch of faceless goons the X-Men hadn’t even met before… How can Psylocke know the Reavers are bound to to kill the X-Men, and hence she is saving them? Can see she the future all of a sudden?

For me, this story was one of the definite signs Claremont and X-Men were becoming increasingly shitty. I stopped reading X-Men not long afterwards.

For me, this story was one of the definite signs Claremont and X-Men were becoming increasingly shitty. I stopped reading X-Men not long afterwards.

Strongly agree with emac and Tuomas. A huge jumping the shark moment for me. I stuck around a few more issues because I thought it would at worst be a 6 issue storyline. When I realized it wasn’t going to be a long-term storyline, I lost interest. It wasn’t even a good moment that led to a bad story. Even the moment was bad, for the reasons emac and Tuomas describe.

I always liked this iteration of Betsy’s costume. Armored, yet stylish, mysterious and yet…purple and pink. It gave her a great look, and it was a shame when they changed her into the ninja assassin who favored close quarters combat.

I think some of you haters fail to remember that in an earlier issue (249 if I;m nor mistaken) Betsy gets thrown into some water and has a premonition that the four of them are killed by The Reavers. She did this to ensure that her premonition did not happen. As I recall, Havok and Colossus and Dazzler were all mentally checked out by this time. To me it made perfect sense after all they had been though up to this point (Havok killing Storm, Colossus frustrated and angry tearing up paintings, Dazzler in annual #11).

Love this moment. I might be slightly biased toward the Outback era (these were the back issues I was buying up and worshipping as a kid), but I actually like what Claremont did here. I understand posters feeling that it doesn’t make sense. Personally, I see this group as a rag tag team of sorts. Several of the members were still fairly new to the book, they hadn’t fully learned to function as a team yet, they’d just went through the experience of “losing” Storm and Rogue, Wolverine was out of the picture, and the Reavers had shown up to hunt them… on Reavers turf!

Beyond that, I love how comics of this era still allowed for creative teams to plan long term. And things like “killing” the X-Men and slowly bringing them back together over a year’s time was approved by editorial. This is an example of fun comics that aren’t really possible today–whether it be due to the Internet, editorial interference, merchandising concerns, etc.

@emac: You have to remember that the Reavers outnumbered the X-Men 2:1, and they were severely worn down from fighting them. Rogue, Storm, and Longshot were gone, and Wolverine was still recovering from being crucified and left to die for days. Plus the Reavers were more familiar with the terrain and could easily catch up to them via Gateway’s portals and tracking technology.

Yeah, story-wise these actions totally make sense. Besides, you get to play with all these characters ending up in all sorts of crazy places just by walking through a door. Also, Jubilee.

This is still one of my favorite X-men issues and I love the fact that Claremont was willing to let team escape the way it did with their backs against the wall. I do agree that these 4 X-men could probably put out a good fight against the Reavers, but Betsy’s premonition stated otherwise and I don’t blame her for taking the course of action that she did.

Although I liked this story, it also unfortunately marks the end of the Claremont era to me. I enjoyed some parts (including the following two arcs), but a lot of the story meandered for the rest of his run. I don’t know if it was editorial interference or a change of mind, but I don’t think the story plans Chris had when he went forth with this storyline were the same ones when the team reformed after X-tinction Agenda. The group that did form in Agenda’s wake was only temporary and Chris never had a chance to reestablish a team identity before leaving the books.

I think some of you haters

“Haters?” Really?

Also, Jubilee

I almost forgot, another terrible thing this storyline led to.

This issue was one of the main reasons why I was so annoyed that Donald Pierce and the Reavers were killed off right after Claremont departed Uncanny X-Men. Here they are presented as an extremely dangerous group who possess the ability to defeat & kill the X-Men, so much so that Psylocke feels compelled to take drastic, manipulative measures to save the lives of herself and her teammates. Yet a few years later, we are supposed to accept that they can be casually taken out by a bunch of Sentinels dispatched by that clown Trevor Fitzroy? Oh, well, whatever. Like practically everybody else, I think all of the Reavers eventually came back from the dead anyway.

Yeah, it is important to note that Psylocke had a premonition of their deaths, so it made sense that she figured that they would lose the fight, whether you personally agree with her or not.

People hating on Jubilee now?

Bomb this comment section from orbit, Brian

Yeah, but the premonition was a result of Gateway using his powers to interact with hers- presumably he could alter it however he saw fit. And Gateway is at best, Ambiguously Evil- he helped the Reavers kill people and brainwash Tyger Tiger, didn’t offer to help return the stuff the Reavers stole until Rogue talked him into it, hid from the X-Men that Maddie had turned into the Goblyn Queen, etc.

That really is such a cool, iconic moment. And when I originally read it — when I was in like 5th grade, after only starting the book around “Inferno” 10 or so issues earlier — I didn’t fully grasp what was happening, much less Psylocke’s role in influencing her teammates’ decisions. That adds another fascinating angle to her character. (And like an earlier poster, I love that version of Betsy. Nothing against ninja Psylocke, but I loved the armor, I loved how she deployed her powers for subterfuge and misdirection instead of straight-up offense. She was a really strategic character and that appealed to me even as a kid.)

I’ll counter the argument that Pete, Havok, Bets, and Dazz could have taken the Reavers. I don’t think so. Peter would have been fine, but even if Alex had taken out one or two Reavers with a plasma bolt, they all had high-powered rifles, and the X-Men were at the top of a hill with no cover. Bets and Alison would have been picked off in seconds. Havok would have been next. Colossus would survive for a while, but that was an impossible battle. Coupled with Betsy’s premonition, I don’t see anything wrong with that scene. Again, Betsy was using her tactical mind.

But the bottom line was, Claremont had decided he needed to change things up in the book, and this was a very dramatic moment toward making that happen. As a kid I was captivated by it — why are you destroying my favorite team?! What will happen next?! Now I applaud his long game, as others upthread mentioned. It was basically a full year with the cast of the book in flux. Not all of those stories were great (I remember specifically hating the issues where Jean and, I think, Forge were mucking about with the Morlocks — blech). But it was pretty audacious to scatter the team in that way and use it as a reset button for several of them.

And the X-Men did need something new at that point. The Outback was played out completely. It, in a way, was as cowardly as walking through the Siege Perilous. (I think it’s funny that Havok’s speech in those pages actually dovetails nicely with his “no m-word” rant recently in Uncanny Avengers.) That team formation had existed for nearly two years. There weren’t a ton of existing, non-active X-Men at that point for them to fill the ranks with, with the original five busy in X-Factor and Kurt, Kitty, and Rachel over in Excalibur. And the New Mutants team sure wasn’t ready to move up the ranks yet.

So Claremont made a storyline where the team had to be rebuilt from scratch. He moved some of the less-compelling characters off the map completely (Longshot was gone for literally years after that), majorly revamped others (Nu Psylocke, de-Carol-ing Rogue), and he brought in some new blood with Jubilee and Gambit. We even got Banshee back in action after a loooooong break and Forge finally on the team.

It was a transition period, but looking back on it, I think it actually holds up pretty well. And this, coupled with the Storm “death” and Rogue departure, was an awesome way to kick it all off. No complaints!

@Eric: You’re completely right. The series needed a shake-up from the constant stream of issues devoted to the Reavers and the Outback. The Siege Perilous was a giant Reset Button/Chekov’s Gun, and Betsy had a very good reason to pull the trigger, so to speak. Sometimes you have to burn the fields before you can grow new crops.

RE: Betsy’s armor. I also preferred this to her “stripper ninja” look. Even though it wasn’t as practical as her armored look, I liked her previous outfit with the poofy sleeves the most, but as you can tell from my avatar name, poofy sleeves are obviously OK in my book.

I didn’t mind the change of the status quo. I just didn’t care for the set up. I think these issues came out in the summer. At that time, X-men came out two times a month for the summer. IIRC, Amazing Spider-Man also came out two times a month. (Double shipping is nothing new). Claremont had time to let his story breathe. To me, the story was not that effective. I felt that there was too much filter. And after it was all said and done, the status quo returned. Not saying it was Chris’ fault, that’s just what happened.

This was a highly trained team. They dealt with Savage Land Mutates, the Marauders, Master Mold, and just got past the Inferno. And they couldn’t stop the Reavers? I see where you people are coming from, but c’mon. The only reason the Reavers were so powerful is Claremont wanted it that way. I know that’s how comics are done (really all fiction). But sometimes you can run across a story that kills your willing suspension of disbelief. For me, this story did that for me.

@ FuryOfFirestorm
The X-men that went into the Siege Perilous had just came back from the Savage Land. Zaladane and the Mutates were the foes. Logan wasn’t even with them. The first time the X-men fought the Reavers, (who at the time had many more members) they kicked their asses. Yes the team was in disarray. That was just the way it was set up. It still looked silly to me. As always YMMV.

@ Eric

Betsy’s tactical mind was kill them (like when Havok rejoined the team) or run away (as we see here). There is a reason that she didn’t lead the team.

emac: I forgot about the adventure in the Savage Land (That was when Zaladane stole Polaris’ magnetic powers). Regardless, this was when that team was it it’s lowest, in terms of members and morale. The Reavers had the upper hand – more members, more firepower, better knowledge of the terrain, and even if a Reaver got injured, they could easily get patched up. The only X-Man there who could have withstood a frontal attack was Colossus, and even he would have gone down with over half a dozen cyborgs shooting him on all sides. Havok and Dazz might have been able to take one or two down before getting shot in the back or sniped from a distance, and since the Reavers had psi-shields and half-mechanical brains, Betsy’s powers wouldn’t have been much use.

Since Betsy didn’t make the “right” choice, what is it specifically that you think the team should have done?

@FuryOfFirestorm

Hit and run tactics. Take the Reavers out one by one. The X-men could hide out from the Reavers. Remember, Jubliee was there for weeks and no one found her. As I said, this was a highly trained, powerful team used to working together. And they had a telepathic member to keep everybody in contact with each other. As for snipers, look at the panels. They didn’t try to snipe them at all. They were waiting for the X-men to come down the hill and when they didn’t, they just rushed up the hill. Like I said, that’s how the plot was set up. It was not impossible for the X-men to win the fight.

Ok, I just reread the issue in question, There was just six Reavers coming for the X-men. Pierce and Lady D was not there yet. These Reavers tactics were to wait for the team to come down to fight and when they didn’t, the Reavers just rushed the hill. The Reavers were not smart guys.

As for the hit and run tactics, that’s just what Logan and Jubilee (!) did in the next issue. They got away. Cyborg dogs and all.

I look at this situation just as I looked at the MOS situation. I’m not one of the people that feels that Superman should not kill. I look at it like the plot was set up to put him in that position. If I’m with my family and two guys come crashing through the roof and get up to fight, I’m getting my fam the hell out of there. We are not going to stand there and watch. Everybody I know that saw the movie said the same thing.

Eric said : “Chris never had a chance to reestablish a team identity before leaving the books.”

Claremont did reestablish a team identity, with the finale of his first X-Men run, X-Men #1 – 3 . He set up the Blue and Gold X-Teams.

Michael said : “And Gateway is at best, Ambiguously Evil- he helped the Reavers kill people and brainwash Tyger Tiger.”

No, Gateway had nothing to do with brainwashing Jessan Hoan/Tyger Tyger. Pretty Boy of the Reavers did that personality-altering all on his own.

Ben Herman said : ” Like practically everybody else, I think all of the Reavers eventually came back from the dead anyway.”

Yes, and now they are in Character Limbo, not being used at all ! Which is bullshit…The Reavers were good X-Villains.

Who knew this was a sticking point for people? This happened 25 years ago. Wow. What would this have been like today?

I remember getting this issue at the local Jewel supermarket when they had a comic book rack right next to the dairy section. I was getting back into comics after a brief absence of about a year or so. This thread has made me nostalgic and reminds me why and when I fell out of love with the X-Universe.

I agree with Eric and FuryOfFirestorm’s comments above. This issue was special in many ways.

It marked the end of the Outback era which I never expected to last too long.

It was Betsy’s last appearance before the character was reworked from scratch into the more popular killer ninja version which I’ve never cared for at all.

The Reavers were new to me but I knew who Donald Pierce was and the grief he put Logan though here (“SCREAM! What will it TAKE to make you SCREAM!”) made him and his team a dangerous threat.

It was the last time I’d ever be genuinely moved by a Wolverine story. He gets crucified and still keeps his dignity right to the end. Also, an excellent introduction to Jubilee, as Logan must place his fate in an underage kid’s hands once more.

Dazzler’s remark about having been Galactus’ herald was fun, yet poignant. Peter displayed his usual childlike naivete which makes him so charming, even in the face of death. And Havok lived up to the Summers name by questioning the changes around him while feeling frustrated that he couldn’t do much about anything by that point.

Claremont was clearly wiping the slate clean and the next year would take the series into all sorts of directions. Banshee’s return and Forge’s search for the team, then finally joining them, were my favorite moments. Both the old and new X-Men wouldn’t begin to reunite until X-Tinction Agenda, the Shi’ar arc where they got Professor X back, the Muir Island battle with the Shadow King, and finally, the relaunches where the Blue and Gold team were introduced along with the newer, Image-ish 90’s looks and attitudes.

I quit the series after Claremont left and Bishop was introduced as there were far too many characters and the plots were becoming difficult to follow. I think Trevor Fitzroy’s debut appearance nicely sealed things up for me as the whole franchise had lost its appeal. Killing the Reavers, the Hellions, and (seemingly) Emma Frost was a pointless move in my view.

X-Man 2281- I meant that he transported the Reavers to and from the bank that they abducted her from.

I think a lot of this comes down to something that we end up discussing a lot: To a lot of us, the ’90s X-Men were “our” X-Men. While there was a lot of inarguably bad stuff in the ’90s, a lot of us will always love Jubilee, ninja Pylocke, etc. while many others hate them and view them as everything wrong with later X-titles. For the latter group, this was the end of “their” X-Men.

Another interesting thing to think about is that, during this time, the Marvel universe was a very dark and hopeless place. Just the X-Men alone had recently gone through the Mutant Massacre and Inferno. Kitty and Nightcrawler had almost died, then gone off to join Excalibur. Elsewhere, Dr. Strange had destroyed most of his artifacts and let a host of evil beings back into the 616. The Masters of Evil destroying Avengers Mansion, the fracture of the Fantastic Four, the death of Iron Fist… all of these things happened within the previous few years.

Whether because of ’80s “Watchmen”/”Dark Knight Returns” grim-n-gritty fallout or just a change of taste in the market/creators, things had been pretty damn bleak for a while at this point.

@ Eric

Betsy’s tactical mind was kill them (like when Havok rejoined the team) or run away (as we see here). There is a reason that she didn’t lead the team.

Yes, pre-Ninja Psylocke was AWFUL. First, we get a borederline Mary Sue-ish issue of her versus Sabretooth which is so obviously calculated to get X-fans on board with the character by giving her badass bona fides overnight. The issue, even to me as a kid, was so transparently manipulative and a hard sell on the character that I already didn’t like her. Then her constant go-to advice of “kill them” for everyone they came across along with her other favorite tactic of running away made me hate her even more. Fall of the Mutants started a weird Claremont trend of swapping out perfectly fine characters for new characters who were either no better than who they were replacing, or in most cases, significantly worse. Perfect example is swapping out Kitty Pryde for Jubilee, who is just Kitty Pryde with interminable whining and brattiness, a terrible valley girl speech pattern so obviously written by an out of touch white man, and cringeworthy self-hating dialogue (“No speakee Chinee?” Really?) Although swapping out Longshot for Gambit may have been the one improvement. Both are terrible and neither is a good replacement for Nightcrawler as resident lighthearted swashbuckler, but Gambit is definitely lesser of two evils. Longshot by Nocenti was good, but written by Claremont was terrible. Claremont seemed to be going for childlike niavete with Longshot but it ended up coming off as being borderline mental defective.

I love this moment. It’s pure Claremont over-the-top melodrama, but it haunted the X-Men up until the Blue/Gold era.

FWIW, the “rebuilt’ team that emerged from its dissolution in this issue actually showed up after “X-tinction Agenda”, starting in issue #273, a little bit before the expanded rosters and Blue/Gold split that occurred after the launch of X-Men vol. 2.

Reading this how much more I enjoyed pre-Ninja Psylock than Post-NinJa Psylock. If this story haden’t happened this way I would have wanted to see her be used as the new leader. Plus that last shot of her is pretty awesome.

I’m not looking to add to the could they have taken on the Reavers or not debate but just wanted to address Anonymous’s idea that they use hit and run tactics like Jubilee and Wolverine would later on. It would not have worked because no one knew Jubilee was there and later on when it was Wolverine doing it while they knew he was there, they did not know where. The X-Men here where in full view of everyone.

I actually wrote a Story where Psylocke decides to fight the Reavers, and they barely win. But win they do. The secret being that Psylocke always knew Jubilee was there since the mall. She calls on Jubilee to use those same tactics to distract the Reavers, while she coordinated the team into action. Dazzler lights up the sky blinding them, Havok tears up the ground as they retreat. Colossus escorts Psylocke to keep her protected.
Since Wolverine would arrive that day, he would be the linchpin.
Psylocke and the others pick off the Reavers one by one. But eventually Pearce and Deathstrike show up, As they fight the X-men begin to drop. But the Battle has lasted long enough for Logan to arrive. When he does, Jubilee is able to Short circuit Pearce as he’s hoisting up Psylocke. She is able to then tap into his mind and shuts him down. Wolverine and Deathstrike end their battle in stalemate, as she knows the cause is lost.
Again Impressed with Psylocke, Wolverine offers her the leader role. But they realize the Outback offers them no safety anymore. They leave and return to New York, where Banshee and Forge are in search of the X-men.

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