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Jan 16

Fallen Angels #5 annotations

Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and the page numbers go by the digital edition.

COVER / PAGE 1. Pin-up art of Psylocke and Cable. Is it just me, or is Psylocke’s left arm bent at a very strange angle?

PAGES 2-3. X-23 recruits Cable, Husk and Bling! as her squad.

Cable has been in this book all along; he’s a bit shaken by his encounter with the wraith thing from the previous issue, but mainly he wants to stop Apoth from “ending all difference”, which he considers genocidal. Despite this being the penultimate issue, however, he’s joined by two characters we haven’t seen before in this book.

Husk. This is the first time we’ve seen Paige Guthrie since she was killed and resurrected during House of X. She’s a weird character to use in this book. Psylocke and X-23 are here because they don’t really function well as part of Krakoan society; Cable is a bit of an outsider too, given his very different background and recent arrival in this timeline. But Husk has always been a very enthusiastic team player, even during her periods of instability. She seems to be here because she understands Krakoa’s policy to be that mutants no longer take action against threats that only affect humans, and she’s not comfortable with that.

Bling!. This is the first time we’ve seen Bling! in the Krakoa era; she was last seen in Age of X-Man: NextGen. Before that, she was a main character in the last run of Generation X. Roxy Washington was created by Peter Milligan and Salvador Larroca, and debuted in X-Men #171 (2005); she’s supposed to be the daughter of two famous rappers, but nobody’s ever really done anything with that. Bling! isn’t exactly an obvious fit for this book either; she’s a recognisable face who’s hung around on the fringes of the X-Men for over a decade with relatively few chances to take centre stage. The only reason she gives for joining the group is that she doesn’t trust Krakoa – she gives no reason why not. Maybe we’ll get to it. The common theme here seems to be not so much an inability to fit in on Krakoa, but a distrust of the place and its attitude (in a population which mostly seems to be suspiciously on board with the whole radical agenda).

“We’re not X-Force. We’re unofficial.” An obvious question is why the Apoth affair has to be dealt with by an unofficial team. Presumably the official Krakoan line is that they leave it to the humans and the other superhero teams to deal with threats to humans. Most likely, this is partly a matter of the X-Men choosing their priorities, and the Quiet Council not wanting rogue Krakoan vigilantes screwing up their diplomatic policies. Still, there’s no obvious reason why the X-Men wouldn’t at least pass on a warning about Apoth to the Avengers or the Fantastic Four (and while he may not be a threat to the mutants on Krakoa, due to their technological isolation, he’s still a threat to mutants living in the wider world).

PAGES 4-5. Recap and credits. This is “Sensei” by Bryan Hill and Szymon Kuranski.

PAGES 6-7. X-23 reports back to Psylocke.

Psylocke’s vision. For whatever reason, X-23 has apparently waited until now to discuss with Psylocke the vision that she had at the end of the previous issue. According to Psylocke, her vision was of some sort of opposite of Apoth (or maybe the side of him that disapproves of his actions) which is trying to give her a chance to defeat him. She largely declines to try and make sense of it beyond that.

Psylocke brings up the topic of God, and then says that as a child, she would have called the vision “kami”. In other words, it’s something that would have been venerated in Shinto, presumably the religion that she was raised in. So she seems to be comparing her vision to a religious experience, though she may simply mean that it’s the sort of thing she would have interpreted that way in the past – but Apoth has also been keen to draw religious parallels.

PAGES 8-12. Mr Sinister gives Psylocke a device which can track Apoth when he’s nearby.

According to Sinister, the Overclock devices contain a gateway through which Apoth can access users’ minds, and he has allowed Psylocke to reverse the process. He claims that this has to be tested through some insanely dangerous and incredibly painful test, which Psylocke signs up for without hesitation – either because she doesn’t believe him or she has something of a death wish. Either way, it does work, and she sees Apoth and the wraith causing rioting in Dubai. Asked why she’s bothering with any of this, Psylocke makes a cryptic comment that her conscience is driven by her new sense of purpose.

PAGE 13. Flashback. Kwannon’s teacher invites Kwannon to kill her as a final lesson.

The teacher’s role is complete, and her death is partly intended to cement Kwannon as a killer. Going back to the butterfly motif, this is presented as Kwannon’s metaphorical emergence from the chrysalis.

PAGES 14-15. Data page. An extract from the teacher’s journals, making the same basic point: she’s raised Kwannon to make her into a killer for the Hand.

“I am the reflection of Bishamon.” Bishamon is a Japanese war god, though usually presented as a noble and heroic protector figure.

PAGES 16-17. Psylocke considers approaching Captain Britain, but doesn’t.

Psylocke indicates here that she can still feel Betsy and will “forgive” her once they are finally separate. Obviously part of the idea here is Psylocke’s resentment at the idea that she’s very closely similar to the woman who she sees as having stolen her identity; it undermines her sense of individuality, even though she seems to realise that she can’t really hold any of this against Betsy, who had no hand in it.

PAGES 18-22. X-23 trains with the team, and Psylocke introduces her to the team.

“She always this dramatic?” The problem is that Psylocke’s tone is the tone of the whole series.

“My daddy died in a coal mine.” EDIT: As pointed out in the comments, this is wrong, at least if you take it literally – Paige’s father died of black lung (pneumoconiosis). That was established back in Marvel Graphic Novel #4, the first appearance of her big brother Sam. Somebody may be confusing it with the mine collapse which takes place in that story (but which befell Sam, not the father).

PAGES 23-24. Magneto approves of Psylocke’s mission and gives her a jet plane.

“When I was a boy in the camps…” Magneto is implicitly comparing his own traumatic childhood to Psylocke’s as a formative event. He sticks to the official line that the Krakoans have no interest in saving humanity for itself, but given what we know about the significance of posthumanity in House of X and X-Men, he probably has wider reasons for approving of Psylocke going after a rogue AI.

Magneto appears to have been keeping a fully functional hi tech jet buried under Krakoan soil, where there isn’t supposed to be regular technology. The Krakoan authorities must surely know about this; Krakoa itself would notice.

PAGE 25. Apoth prepares to face Psylocke and co.

Basic set-up.

PAGES 26-27. Trailers. The Krakoan reads NEXT: APOTH.

Bring on the comments

  1. Thom H. says:

    I think that Byrne (2000) was trying to cover up the fact that he couldn’t figure out what to do with the characters once he got them.

    To give him some credit, he did actually flesh them out quite a bit. While some of the origin stories he wrote were a little thin, he certainly made Northstar, Aurora, and Snowbird more compelling. Which is why I don’t buy that they’re too 2-dimensional to carry a book — his own work with them proves otherwise. That’s just a lazy excuse for bad writing in any case. Plenty of boring characters have been rejuvenated by talented writers.

    Looking over Byrne’s run, it’s clear that he just couldn’t create good villains for them to fight. There are a bunch of his stock evil women who are quickly incapacitated or killed at the end of their 2-issue arcs (e.g., Gilded Lily, Pink Pearl). And there are internal threats to the group from a bunch of angles. But aside from Delphine Courtney and Omega Flight — again, killed and/or largely incapacitated within two years of their debut — we’ve got who? The Master of the World? Nemesis? The Great Beasts? They don’t have half a motivation to share between them.

    And I think that highlights one of Byrne’s weaknesses as a writer. Without a writing partner (as on X-Men) or a deep bench of existing villains (as on Fantastic Four), he just isn’t that great at creating on-theme, memorable villains for his protagonists. I mean, look at the first year or so of his Superman comics. Those villains are dire.

    Anyway, just my two cents. I love Alpha Flight, and I think if Byrne hadn’t been so intent on killing everyone all the time (including the main cast), then it would have been a better book. I mean, that whole deception Courtney pulled off was kind of amazing. She and the original Omega Flight should have stuck around for longer.

  2. Chris V says:

    Can I just say that I really enjoyed John Byrne’s Alpha Flight?
    I never had a problem with the book.

    Also, Thom is right. There is no such thing as a two-dimensional fictional character.
    A writer can write a character as solely two-dimensional, but it’s not as if fictional characters are born two-dimensional and can never become anything else.
    Look at Grant Morrison on Animal Man.

    If Alpha Flight were “too two-dimensional to carry a book”, that is because Byrne failed to flesh them out to a greater extent.
    However, as I said above, I didn’t see that to be true with the comic.
    The series lasted for over one hundred issues too. I mean, it eventually got really, really poor. I wouldn’t say that Alpha Flight was totally “unable to carry a book” though.

  3. Mark coale says:

    I wonder how AF would have gone if he and Mantlo hadnt switched books.

  4. Chris V says:

    I was a real fan of the Mantlo AF too. I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I thought it was suitably weird.
    Mantlo did a lot with gender and body horror on the title.
    And, no, I don’t blame the stupid “Northstar is a fairy” on Mantlo either, as Shooter messed that up for Mantlo.

    It was after Mantlo that I thought the book got pretty unreadable.

  5. Moo says:

    Being a Canadian kid, I really wanted to like Alpha Flight, but I could never quite get there. Later, I found them to be a bit embarrassing (a character based on a hockey puck, for heaven’s sake).

    Mantlo’s run had its moments, but I found it to be equal parts interesting and, well… stupid, frankly. I mean, he basically turned Jeffries into a Transformer which reeeeeally stretched the whole metal manipulation thing.

  6. Chris V says:

    I liked that Byrne tried to be representative of the different aspects of the Canadian nation though.
    An Inuit woman. An Indigenous Canadian man. Sasquatch from the west coast. Puck to represent the “red neck” western Canadians. Quebecois siblings. Then, the more Americanized team leader from Ontario.

    Being someone born in Canada, who then grew up in the United States, and is now engaged to a woman from Ontario, I like Alpha Flight.

  7. Moo says:

    You’re marrying a Canadian woman because you like Alpha Flight?

  8. Moo says:

    Never mind, I see you were just displaying your Canadian credentials, lol.

  9. Chris V says:

    Ha! Yes! I am marrying a Canadian woman to infiltrate your country and spread American Imperialist propaganda about the wonders of Alpha Flight comic!
    You have figured out my evil American plan!
    Hopefully, Liberal Canadian Moose and Squirrel do not stop my plans!

    My Canadian fiancée did find the idea of a Canadian superhero team interesting though.

  10. Mark Coale says:

    As an American Canuckophile, I liked the dual layered gag of Puck’s name (hockey and Shakespeare).

    Also, as I was not yet watching Who when reading AF, I did not get the Master pastiche until years later.

  11. Moo says:

    I’m pretty sure your fiancé was just being polite, Chris.

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