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Nov 13

Fallen Angels #1 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 by Paul in Annotations, x-axis

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers are for the digital edition.

FALLEN ANGELS. The original Fallen Angels was a much-liked eight-issue miniseries from 1987-88, in which Sunspot and Warlock run away from the New Mutants and wind up on a team of misfits under the charge of the Vanisher, including Siryn, Madrox, and a bunch of characters rarely seen since. This was back in the days when X-minis were still uncommon enough to be a big deal. This series has no obvious connection with the original, beyond reusing a nice name.

COVER / PAGE 1. The cast in Tokyo.

PAGES 2-5. A young Apoth user seizes control of a Tokyo underground train and crashes it.

We’ll learn more about Apoth later in the issue – including its name – but it’s pretty clear that it’s the device which the girl places on her head, and which apparently gives her powers. We’ll also find out at the end of the issue that the girl seen here is Kwannon’s long-lost daughter. Again, more of that later.

Accompanying all this is an internal monologue by Kwannon thinking about her missing daughter and hoping that she is leading a better life. Kwannon has never mentioned the girl before in order to keep her safe (she says), but now she wants to bring her to Krakoa. All of this makes much more sense on a second reading.

Kwannon. I covered most of this in the Excalibur #1 annotations, but it’s essential to this book too, so we’d better run through it quickly again. In Uncanny X-Men #256 (1989), the original Psylocke was transformed into a ninja by members of the Hand, though means that were left vague and surreal. A few years later, a woman claiming to be the original Psylocke showed up, alleging that the ninja was in fact an impostor.

Eventually, it was established that Psylocke had actually had her mind swapped with an assassin called Kwannon, though they had also had their minds mixed up a bit too (which explained Psylocke’s personality change). Kwannon (in Betsy’s original body) then hung around for a while as “Revanche”, before dying from the Legacy Virus in X-Men vol 2 #32 (1994). There matters rested until Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor, where Psylocke’s body was destroyed, and she re-created herself in her original body. A resurrected Kwannon – also in her original body – appeared at the same time, apparently as a side effect, though it wasn’t very clearly explained. Kwannon showed up during Matthew Rosenberg’s run on Uncanny X-Men, and Excalibur already established that she had moved to Krakoa.

“Kwannon was the Goddess of Mercy.” Not really my area, but “Kwannon” is a Japanese name for the goddess Guanyin (though the more common Japanese name is Kannon). Guanyin is a boddhisatva associated with compassion and mercy; the name literally means “perceives the sounds of the world”.

“In that time of darkness, when I was no one…” Here and elsewhere in the issue, Kwannon seems to be saying that she was locked inside while Psylocke stole her body. That’s not what was shown at the time (see above), so there are several possibilities here, leaving aside continuity errors. Maybe Kwannon’s mind returned to her body, locked in, after her Revanche body died. Or maybe this is the part of Kwannon that was left behind in her original body all along.

“If they marked you, be more than that.” As we’ll see later, the people who took Kwannon’s daughter said they would mark her with a butterfly. That butterfly is a major repeating motif through the story. But the purple butterfly was associated with Betsy Braddock long before she had anything to do with Kwannon, so that’s curious. Since Kwannon’s mentor talked about making her a butterfly, so perhaps marking the girl as a butterfly implies bringing her up in the same way.

PAGES 6-7. Recap and credits. Note that the original Psylocke is listed here as “Captain Britain”, following Excalibur #1 – thus freeing up the name. (We see her briefly in the issue, but Kwannon just refuses to talk to her.) The title is “Bushido” (the warrior code of honour, broadly analogous to chivalry). The small print reads “Warrior X limited sword”, which seems like gibberish.

PAGES 8-10. On Krakoa, a mystery voice warns Kwannon/Psylocke about Apoth.

“Psylocke.” Despite her monologue about having her identity stolen, Kwannon has taken on Betsy’s established codename and costume. In the flashbacks which show her prior to the bodyswap – in X-Men vol 2 #31-32 (1994) – Kwannon wore a black ninja outfit.

Krakoa as paradise. It’s a little odd for Kwannon/Psylocke to be giving us this speech in a story set after the assassination of Professor X in X-Force #1, but that’s the publication sequence for you. The themes of the series are based around not fitting in on paradise, so there we are.

The mystery voice. No idea. We only see him in blurry form, aside from what looks like a male hand. He also claims that Apoth has “already taken something precious from you”, so he knows both what Apoth is up to, and that the girl is Psylocke’s daughter. He’s also weirdly determined to be treated as the voice of God – literally – despite the art clearly showing us that it’s a human. Basic story logic would say it’s going to be either the supposedly-dead father, or somebody associated with the people who raised Kwannon.

Apoth. Seems to be new. It’s presumably short for apotheosis (becoming a god).

“Mankind is evolving itself.” As described later, Apoth seems to be another example of post-human technology, something that Powers of X told us to be very worried about.

“Apoth is the tetragrammaton.” The tetragrammaton is the word Yahweh (as written in Hebrew, when it has four letters). The mystery voice is not underselling Apoth.

PAGES 11-13. Psylocke asks Magneto if she can investigate her dream; officially he says no, but he points her to Mr Sinister.

Since Professor X is inconveniently dead right now, Psylocke approaches the next best thing, Magneto. The island is understandably on lockdown after the attack in X-Force #1, but for whatever reason Magneto sends her to Mr Sinister, apparently hoping that she’ll get out in some untraceable way. Maybe he sees the connection with Powers of X.

PAGES 14-16. Mr Sinister agrees to help Psylocke off the island, but tells her to get help.

Mr Sinister. This depiction of him seems much more rational than the version seen in Hickman’s stories – though no less sadistic, since he asks Psylocke a string of questions about the impact of her body swap that seem to serve no purpose beyond trying to upset her. At any rate, Sinister is able to grant passage, as Magneto apparently anticipated. Quite how Sinister gets her off the island, we don’t see – but remember that we saw Sinister supposedly arrive with all the other villains even though he had clearly been involved with the cloning operation from a much earlier stage. It seems he has his own route on and off the island.

PAGE 17. Flashback to young Kwannon and her hooded mentor.

The mentor is new – what little we’ve seen of Kwannon’s pre-X-Men life was after she had become a full-fledged assassin. Mainly, we establish that Kwannon’s mentor appears to have raised her to see civilisation as a shared fiction, and violence as a part of the balance of things. The name “Kwannon” is given to her on the dubious philosophical view that this necessary violence is mercy. Young Kwannon seems devoted to this guy, who is raising her with some very odd ideas. There’s also more butterfly imagery here, despite the butterfly being associated with Betsy Braddock long before the body swap.

PAGES 18-22. Psylocke recruits X-23 and Cable to join her. X-23 agrees, but insists Cable stay behind.

As recommended by Sinister, Psylocke picks “someone else here [who] needs something to destroy”. X-23 and Cable like fighting and are bored on the island; that’s pretty much the entire reason for picking them. The loose theme is that none of them really belong in paradise. (The dialogue seems to describe X-23 as a soldier and Nate as a predator, which is surely the wrong way round.) X-23 signs up but argues that Cable does indeed deserve Krakoa and should be left there.

“Your name is Kwannon”. Psylocke is having flashbacks every time she disavows the Kwannon name, though she doesn’t seem to be letting on.

“A life without Logan’s shadow.” X-23 was cloned from the DNA of Wolverine and her creator/mother Sarah Kinney. The parallel here is that both X-23 and Psylocke are overshadowed by more famous iterations of the same character (or at least are liable to be seen as such). Psylocke, of course, is leaning into that. X-23 isn’t.

PAGES 23-27. In Tokyo, Psylocke and X-23 investigate Apoth, learn about Overclock, and find out that Psylocke’s missing daughter was involved in the train crash.

Motoko. New character – she’s a black market tech dealer. Unusually, she instantly recognises and accepts Psylocke as Kwannon.

“Call it respect for Matsu’o.” Matsu’o Tsurayaba, Kwannon’s lover before the body swap. He was high up in the Hand, and a regular Wolverine villain for some years. Psylocke (the original) killed him in the 2010 Psylocke miniseries.

Overclock. We learn more about this in the next data pages, but basically it’s a black market technological high, which Apoth is rumoured to be behind. Motoko says here that it can kill you and make you decide to take everyone else with you – which is presumably what was meant to be happening in the opening scene. Overclocking, of course, refers to speeding up a computer’s clock so that it runs faster than intended; given what we’re told later about the time dilation effect of using Overclock, it seems to do something comparable.

The flashback. Kwannon’s unseen mentor takes her daughter away from her because “love is weakness.” He wants her to remember this so that she’ll know in future what she can endure. Lovely. He refers to a “we” who killed the child’s father for similar anti-love reasons.

PAGES 28-29. Data pages on Overclock, the black market technology that you can build from legal parts and behaves like a designer drug. Overclock, of course, is new.

“To date, no deaths have been reported from Overclock usage.” This contradicts what Motoko said in the previous scene, but perhaps she can connect the deaths to Overclock in a way that the authorities – being quoted in these pages – cannot.

Hikikomori. Broadly, a term used in Japan for modern-day recluses who rarely venture out of the home and withdraw from society. Despite what it says on the data page, it doesn’t refer specifically to young men, though it used to be seen as principally a psychological issue affecting the young.

Senator Kenneth Wind. Probably just an easter egg, but Ken Wind was the presidential candidate who was possessed by the Beast (the demon worshipped by the Hand) in the 1986 miniseries Elektra Assassin. He was a Democrat in that series, not a Republican as stated here.

PAGES 30-32. Psylocke and X-23 trace Apoth to a barn which turns out just to contain some Overclocked children that taunt them before dropping dead.

Apoth repeats the idea that the mutants are an irrelevance on their island exile, while he’s helping humanity to evolve. He sure seems like his worldview is in line with Kwannon’s trainers.

PAGE 33. Another flashback of Kwannon and her hooded mentor.

She kills a butterfly with a sword, for metaphorical reasons. The other point here is that they trained her to look for someone worth killing, and that’s effectively what she’s still doing now.

PAGES 34-35. Psylocke, X-23 and Cable make a deal with Sinister to work with him as long as she gets to kill the bad guy.

Straightforward enough: Psylocke is explicitly repeating the dialogue of her mentor as she promises to mould X-23 and Cable. This is clearly Very Bad. It’s also a downright arrogant way for her to talk to X-23 and Nate, given their respective histories. On top of that, it’s flagrantly against the kill-no-man laws of Krakoa. Relying on Sinister to keep things hidden seems… risky.

PAGES 36-38. Trailers and Stan Lee. The next issue trail reads NEXT: CHRYSALIS.

Bring on the comments

  1. Taibak says:

    SanityOrMadness: Jean was telepathic going back to the 70s at least. That’s how she learned how to fly the space shuttle right at the start of the Phoenix Saga.

  2. Arrowhead says:

    Now that I think about it I’d bet good money that Archangel shows up in “Fallen Angels” at some point. I mean, it’s right in the name.

    I think you could get a good story out of the two characters reconciling – send them on a black ops Otherworld adventure together, they learn to respect each other’s strengths, and come to terms with and find solidarity in their shared trauma. Could be a good read with the right creative team. (Are Marguaret Bennet or Margorie Liu still at Marvel? Liu’s X23 in particular was a really underrated, off-kilter, character-driven X-Book, and Monstress is fantastic stuff.)

  3. SanityOrMadness says:


    Jean lost her telepathy while she was in Jamaica Bay, and was without it for practically all of her membership in the original X-Factor – it was finally restored in the Portacio/Claremont arc with the Dark Riders right at the end. (Louise Simonson had dropped occasional pointers it was returning, but those were cut off after she left)

  4. SanityOrMadness says:

    Fallen Angels is going on “a break after the first arc”.

  5. Col_Fury says:

    Oh boy…

  6. “The original Fallen Angels was a much-liked eight-issue miniseries from 1987-88, in which Sunspot and Warlock run away from the New Mutants and wind up on a team of misfits under the charge of the Vanisher, including Siryn, Madrox, and a bunch of characters rarely seen since. ”

    Eh, Boomer?

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