Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Uncanny X-Men #287/X-Men #8: Bishop's Gambit

These two issues are both plotted by Jim Lee, and scripted by Scott Lobdell.  Despite this they tie in quite well to each other, and are basically a two-issue story split across the titles.

The main focus is Bishop.  I still don't really see the point of Bishop - I suspect I never will.  We see a bit more of his backstory (or, forestory, I suppose I should say), both the immediate events leading up to the hot pursuit of Fitzroy across timezones.  His attempt to confront a group of remaining time criminals ends with him getting his mates Malcolm and Randall killed.  (Can I just say how lucky is it that the one of them left alive was called "Bishop", by the way, can you imagine the new X-Man being called "Malcolm"? Oh god, I wrote that sentence with the intent to mock it as a bit of a boring name, but then I realised... Malcolm X).  The X-Men turn up well after the nick of time.  Bishop still thinks something is wrong with them, largely on account of their "don't be evil" policy, what with him coming from a time in the far future, well after their IPO.

And after their fall.  Our flashbacks result in a future timeline like this:
  • 1992: "now"
  • the X-Men are betrayed and fall
  • the emancipation
  • 2060 : XSE formed, based on the X-Men ("thirty years of peace")
  • 2090: Bishop's time (just short of a a century)
At this point it is still possible to reconcile Bishop's timeline with the future that Rachel Summers comes from.  We can read the Great Betrayal as the same incident depicted in Uncanny X-Men 188.

This moves into a more oblique fragment about the last man to see the X-Men alive: a wizened future bloke called "LeBeau", aka "The Witness".  In all my reading, oddly, this is possibly the first time I feel that a surprise has been properly spoiled by my basic foreknowledge.  I knew this was Gambit, you see.  Or at least, I knew there was a very good chance it was Gambit, because LeBeau is his surname - but this is a name that has not actually been attached to Gambit the character yet.  In Claremont's X-Men Forever, he ends up as Remy Picard, instead.

All a good bit of flashbacking, Bishop comes around in the X-Men's care, has a quick side-meeting with Xavier and is then introduced as the latest member of the X-Men, I guess because Xavier has got a reputation of dickery to maintain.  BELIEVE IT OR NOT, the other X-Men are not terribly impressed, a fact that is not changed when Bishop accuses Gambit of being the LeBeau (myth confirmed) and being a future traitor (myth unclear).   Everyone vouches for Gambit, which is funny because although he has yet to become the future traitor (and might not yet because of how prophecy works), he is secretly an actual traitor already, as he will later be retconned into organising the Mutant Massacre.  Bishop was right!

Now, this is the part I guess where it becomes obvious that Jim Lee is plotting this issue because it is literally right at that moment that Jean Grey suggests they all go for their picnic.  I've illustrated the picnic with a rare full-page quote, to the right here.  I do not need to explain what is wrong with this, do I?  Oh?  I might as well?  Well, it is the most gratuitously sexualised piece of art in X-Men thus far.  It explicitly presents the male gaze - Cyclops's eye movements are followed, and he's almost mesmerised by this woman appearing partly-clothed in his view.  And it doesn't even make sense in context - a promising everyone argument was interrupted to bring us this sequence.

Because it's not just this.  There's more, including Gambit creepily hitting on Rogue.  The way he is behaving here is appalling, he repeatedly violates boundaries that Rogue has tried to set about her not wanting to be touched.  This isn't just a "oh, I'm willing to take that risk" thing on Gambit's part.  Rogue has only recently got rid of the Carol Danvers within her - and the last thing she wants now is another resident in her cranium.  Touching her is dangerous for Gambit but also for her, and it is against her repeatedly expressed wishes.  But obviously this is not how we are supposed to read it.  Instead, it's supposed to be romantic.  Rogue defends him against Bishop (she had her own issues with being trusted, I guess), and spends lots of time preparing food for him at the picnic (4 hours cooking, she says, which is surely a bit try-hard!)   But honestly I just want her to be able to get rid of this creep.

And then Gambit's wife turns up.  Of which more later.

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