X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Seventeen (1988)

X-Men Vignettes 17

X-Men Vignettes #17 (1988)
“A Taste for Vengeance!”
Writer – Chris Claremont
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Colors – Petra Scotese
Edits – Kavanagh, Nocenti, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #17 (January, 1988)

Today’s Vignette is… a pretty weird one — though, I suppose that’s par for the course, innit?

Well, lemme ‘splain.

This backup feature is actually the lead-in to the main story (which appeared in X-Men #111 – June, 1978) — which has the cover with the circus barker who everybody (including me) thinks is Arcade when we first see him? Yeah, that one.

Now that issue is weird in and of itself — and, if I’m remembering right (which I very well may not be), kinda just “happens”. It’s got former-X-Man/current-Avenger, Beast as a point-of-view character. He winds up tracking a group of “freaks” to a Dallas circus (not the State Fair, sadly), where he discovers that the new X-Men (who he hasn’t yet met) are part of the sideshow.

This Vignette is kinda the “How did we get there?” for that story. And, yeah – it’s weird.

Oh, by the way — if there are any WordPress Doctors in the house — this “new look” is, ya know, “new” — so, I haven’t figured it all out just yet. Anybody out there know how to fix this weird, ugly, and inconsistent “zoom”-effect on some “Featured Image” thumbnails I’m getting on the front page?

Thanks!

Our story opens with Mesmero… happening into Jean Grey around some corner in town — as though he’s the Alphabet Pet running into Wolverine. Upon seeing her, he instantly mesmerizes her. Jeanix is powerless against his glowing eyes… and accompanies him back to his apartment, where it looks as though she’s about to be initiated into his harem. Mesmero is being tended to by some PYT’s as he waits for his latest “attendant” to change into something a little bit less comfortable.

Moments pass, and our gal finally presents herself — and, she’s in quite the get-up. Well, actually — I think it’d require about 5x the fabric to be considered a “get-up”. Considering the tone of this bit of the story, I should probably stop saying “get-up”. Anyway, she’s in a sheer-ish nightie and panties. Mesmero clearly likes what he sees, and attempts to, uh, “seal the deal” here. Elsewhere, Professor X is kicking himself for taking the less-straightforward approach with his favorite Silver Age student.

Now, we all know that — this isn’t really Jean, yes? This is the Phoenix-in-Jean-Clothes… so, Mesmero’s mesmerIZing, isn’t x-actly effective. Well, I mean, it got her here, yes — but, it’s not allowing him to increase the ick-factor of the scene, if you catch my drift. He’d like to, ya know, touch her — however, it turns out he can only keep up the hypnosis until making physical contact. Talk about a monkey’s paw wish for our green-skinned baddie, eh?

So, given the situation, what is a pervert to do? Well, since he can’t ride the Jeanix, he may as well use her to take down the rest of the X-Men, yes? And so, that’s x-actly what he intends to do. Before long, they arrive back at Xavier’s to start putting his Mesmerian plan into action — starting with Nightcrawler.

These bits are gonna come at us hot ‘n heavy — there really won’t be a whole lot for me to opine or commentate on — it’s really just a string of hypnotization. Not entirely sure why Jeanix was required for this little caper — as Mesmero himself is doing all the eye-gazing. I dunno, maybe he needed directions to the Mansion? I mean, that’s gotta be the reason, right? Anyway, with Kurt already in his pocket, the next to go down is Banshee.

Then Colossus, in mid-tooth brushing — and Cyclops, who’s busy brooding about how awful his life is. Hey, isn’t that my gimmick?

Next, is Storm — who manages to fire out a panicky bolt of lightning before succumbing to Mez’s “charms”. This blast alerts Fonzie… err, Wolverine who is out on the grounds doing Wolverine things.

Logan rushes back to the School… only to discover that Mesmero has, ya know, pretty much accomplished his goal of mind-controlling the Uncannies. I mean, imagine jobbing your all-new team to friggin’ Mesmero? Anyway, Wolverine ain’t at all pleased by this turn of events, and quickly finds himself on the business-end of Mez’s ambition. Our baddie attempts to get into Wolvie’s mind… but, is only intermittently successful.

Over the course of the next several pages, the combined forces of the X-Men beat the holy hell out of Wolverine. Now, considering he’s, ya know, Wolverine — he’s able to withstand the onslaught, and even looks like he’s got the upper-hand at various points throughout. We must never forget how cool and powerful Logan is, right?

Here’s the thing, though — Mesmero, who at first appeared to be quite enjoying this li’l melee… has grown bored. And, well, not a panel too soon, right? He looks at his handiwork, realizing he’s done the impossible – he’s beaten the X-Men. But, now what? He commands his charges to desist… and everybody just collapses to the ground.

He stomps the house for a bit, damning his own lack of imagination — citing that someone like Magneto would know x-actly what he ought do. He then happens across a framed photograph of Nightcrawler doing some circus-y things, and has himself an idea — he’s going to, well, put the X-Men in… a circus?

Like I said — weird, right?

Now, I may’ve already mentioned this a time or two during our Vignette-visits (visnettes?), but it’s been a pretty long while since I last read the early Claremont stuff. I’m kinda keeping myself “purposely ignorant” at the moment, as I wanna be able to x-perience it as purely as possible if and when The Essential X-Lapsed ever makes it to this point. Which… if that’s the case — well, the Vignette project may not have been the smartest thing to jump into, eh?

Anyway, I say that – so I might say this: I was completely lost when I started reading this one. It felt like I was reading recent-ish/post-HoxPoX Excalibur — I thought maybe I missed an issue. Obviously, I didn’t — I was just a tad bit lost. Happens to the best of us. Reading though it, and getting to the non-ending… I was even more confused. Ya know, until I was able to mentally “place” the lead-off story.

Even before I realized the “when” and “how” of the story… and amid my cloudy confusion, I did like this. I thought it was pretty fun. It’s not often we see Mesmero, who was a baddie I put a whole lot more stock into when I was a kid — even before I saw him on-panel! My first run-in with the fella was in a trading card set… can’t remember exactly which one, either a Marvel Universe or X-Men set — more likely the latter.

I’ve talked before (at least I’m pretty sure I have) about how the trading cards over-inflated the import of a lot of characters, concepts, and events. I thought if something had “earned” a trading card, it was important. Which likely (and hopefully) explains that short-stack of Slapstick comics I’ve got right over’chere. It was with these trading card sets that I learned about stinkers (in my opinion) like Atlantis Attacks, Operation: Galactic Storm, and the Evolutionary War — and made them seem vital and larger than life. The same could be said for a B (or C… maybe even D)-Lister like Mesmero.

The open does feel quite convenient — almost to the point where I think I am missing something. To be honest, I probably am. Like I said, I suppose I’ll know better if/when The Essentials reaches the late 70s… which, at the rate I’m going might actually occur in the late 70s of this century?

I do have a lot of questions about why Mesmero needed Jeanix with him to take down the X-Men. Well, I suppose it’s just one question — and that question is “Why?” Sure, he explains here that her telepathy “supercharges” his own powers… but, it kinda makes you wonder how he’s able to mind-control her, but needs her help to hypnotize the likes of… Banshee? I mean, nothin’ against me boyo, but — he ain’t no Jean. I dunno.

Maybe this is a sign that some stories don’t really need a “How Did We GET Here?” preface? Maybe X-Men #111 should’ve just stood on its own? Maybe this is a case of “subtraction by addition”? Or, ya know, maybe I’m just an idiot?

Yeah, it’s probably that last one.

Story weirdness aside, I think it’s been a minute since I last apologized to John Bolton for initially not liking his art — so, howsabout we have another go-round of that? The art here… is gorgeous. The facials here are amazing, the action is tight — I mean, it’s just beautiful work from Bolton… who I really ought to be more vigilant about “shouting out” during our Vignette visits. It’s really some dazzling stuff – worth a look all on its own.

Overall, like I said – I had a lot of fun with this li’l ditty… I just had to do a little contorting of my pea-sized brain to make it “work”.

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2 thoughts on “X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Seventeen (1988)

  • April 3, 2022 at 6:31 am
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    I agree that (in what I think you mean) some of these vignettes, although nice to look at, really donโ€™t add much to the original stories. And possibly in this specific case, might dragged it down a bit?

    Oh and of those 3 crossover events you mentioned, Iโ€™d say Galactic Storm was the best, but that ainโ€™t sayin much. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

    Reply
  • April 3, 2022 at 1:13 pm
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    The early part of this story reminds me of Jessica Jones and the Purple Man. I wonder is Bendis knew this story even existed when he used such a similar plot in Alias.

    This was kind of like a foreshadowing of Dark Phoenix. Jean is mind controlled, starts wearing a black leather outfit, and aids the villain in defeating the X-Men. Perhaps Claremont was using this story to explain why Mastermind was able to control Jean in the later more famous story. I think that he uses a lot of these Jean-centric vignettes to excuse Phoenix’s latex behavior that we all know is coming. It’s interesting to see that Mesmro couldn’t control Phoenix sexually while Mastermind could control her romantically. Subtle difference in powers or end goal? Did this earlier hypnosis make her more susceptible to Mastermind later? Only Claremont knows for sure.

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