[Jason Powell continues his EPIC look at ever issue of Claremont's X-Men, in the process inspiring other people not only to love Claremont MORE, but also to do their own issue by issue projects.]
Why did Claremont turn Psylocke Asian?
The character’s transformation into a ninja is explainable in the context of Claremont’s extended Miller homage. Indeed, the eventual plan was to have the Hand succeed where they fail during the Mandarin trilogy, brainwashing Wolverine into their master assassin – a development that would have lasted a year. (Editorial nixed it, and when the time came Claremont had already quit anyway.)
But the desire to transform Betsy into a different ethnicity seems purposeless. I say “seems” because as I write this, there have just been some fantastic comments made to the blog entry for Uncanny 247, wherein Gary and others helped to beautifully explicate some of my difficulties with that issue’s ending. So while I’m inclined to say that Psylocke’s transformation was arbitrary and ill-considered, I will wait and see if any commentators can shed some light.
(I tend to put Storm’s transformation into a child in the same category. Developments like Ororo’s and Psylocke’s feel very much like the massive narrative chess game that was Claremont’s X-Men ended with “Inferno,” and that everything afterward amounts to him just idly pushing the pieces around on the board.)
At any rate, apart from the odd changes made to Betsy Braddock, the final chapter of the Mandarin trilogy is surprisingly conclusive by Claremont standards. In terms of plotting, it’s all very superhero-by-numbers, with an ending so perfunctory that Jubilee even comments on the lack of credibility at the end.
The execution, on the other hand, is delightful, containing several fantastic “stand up and cheer” bits (Claremont always excelled at crafting such moments). See: Logan slashing his way out of the sensory deprivation tank; the phantom Nick Fury gunning down a roomful of ninjas (with telepathic bullets!); the Mandarin caught between two of Wolverine’s claws; etc.
It’s a genuine thrill-ride of an issue, and once again Jim Lee hits homeruns throughout. The Mandarin trilogy isn’t one of Claremont’s most ambitious arcs on X-Men – there is little depth of feeling beneath its flash-bang surface – but Lee helps make it a first-rate comic-book blockbuster, one that holds up far better than many big-budget action films of the day (such as Tim Burton’s Batman, whose horrific dialogue is mocked by Wolverine in this issue).
Though the partnership turned out badly for Claremont in many ways, he was fortunate to have Lee as his final collaborator, someone whose talent, enthusiasm and drive – along with an abiding love of old-fashioned superheroics -- made him the heir to John Byrne’s X-legacy. (That comparison is only meant in artistic terms, of course. In terms of their professional and personal relations, Byrne and Lee are miles apart, by all accounts.)