Jun 20, 2016

Jubilee: The Girl Wonder

Jubilee: A Detailed Introduction to an X-Men Legend
Part 2 – The Girl Wonder
Back Issue Ben
Ben Smith

For a generation of fans raised on the ‘90s cartoon, Jubilee is one of the core members of the X-Men. Despite not having any emotional attachment to that awful cartoon, Jubilee is just corny enough to be one of my favorite X characters. Unlike Gambit, who always has and always will suck (except when played by the man, the myth, the legend, Tim Riggins). Spurred on by my ongoing obsession with covering in obscene detail the most absurd of comic book characters, I set my sights upon the young firecracker. The following transcribed police reports, detail exactly what happened after that choice was made.

Last week, Jubilee, a teenage mutant orphan living in the Hollywood mall, followed a group of the X-Women through a portal, back to their secret hiding base in the Australian outback. Jubilee secretly hid among them for several weeks, until the X-Men, spurred by recent crushing defeats (and a psychic push from Psylocke) all decided to start over by walking through the magical Siege Perilous. With the rest of the team gone, Wolverine was left alone to face a band of killers named the Reavers. Wolverine was captured and tortured, but eventually was able to free himself despite grievous wounds, and turned to a overwhelmed Jubilee for help.

If you understood even half of that, then you are clearly an X-Men fan.

Writer: Chris Claremont; Guest Penciler: Rick Leonardi; Guest Inker: Kent Williams; Editor: Bob Harras

Donald Pierce is livid after finding Wolverine missing. He commands his band of Reavers to scour the grounds and find him. Jubilee, in the middle of scrounging up some more supplies, watches on as they futilely search. (It’s obvious that Leonardi was influenced by Aliens in these scenes; Claremont even makes a reference to the movie in the dialogue of the Reavers. Either that, or Claremont asked for it in the script. Regardless, it is by far the best movie of that series. James Cameron may have gone on to make Avatar, something which he can never be forgiven for, but we’ll always have Aliens.)

Her internal fear masked by her flighty exterior, Jubilee returns to the badly wounded Wolverine, sleeping in her makeshift secret bedroom.

Wolverine is still hallucinating, this time seeing images of former confidants Carol Danvers and Nick Fury. Confused and disoriented, he pops his claws at the young stranger, and the shocked Jubilee responds with some fireworks to his belly, sending him back to sleepy-town.

The Reavers are having fun tearing apart the little town, especially Wolverine’s private quarters. Lady Deathstrike, still believing herself to be a samurai of honor, takes offense to a Reaver daring to hold the honor sword of the Clan Yashida, and takes it from him. Later, Jubilee is angry when she finds Wolverine outside, mediating with the mysterious Gateway, neither of them paying any attention to her complaints, even as they get increasingly louder. Jubilee gets lost in the stars for a moment, when they’re both pulled out of whatever vision they were sharing, because the Reavers are bearing down on them. (Pointless visions, a staple of the Claremont playbook.)

Wolverine holds them off the best he can with some stealth ambush tactics, taking out almost all of the Reavers, but eventually Pierce and his robo-mutts track him down. Pierce has Wolverine cornered, face-to-face, probably thinking he has the advantage against his injured nemesis. But he doesn’t know about Wolverine’s new sidekick, and Jubilee catches Pierce off guard with a devastating blast of fireworks, burying him under a wall of machinery. With all of the Reavers momentarily defeated, Wolverine and Jubilee have time to escape.

In 1989, I don’t know if you were going to find a better rotation of artists on one book than Silvestri, Jim Lee, and Leonardi. Leonardi was just a guest spot, but still. I wonder with Jim Shooter having created Boom Boom, a young teenage mutant girl with explosive light-based powers, if Claremont was sticking it to his former boss by not using her and creating Jubilee. I’m going with yes.

Writer: Chris Claremont; Artists: Marc Silvestri and Steve Leialoha; Editor: Bob Harras

This is, I believe, the introduction of young Storm. Her seeming death during the conflict with Nanny was one of the catalysts for the X-Men walking through the Siege Perilous, and now she has mysteriously returned as a young girl. I also distinctly remember purchasing this cover fresh off the new comics rack in 1989.

As Donald Pierce puts his damaged Reavers back together, Lady Deathstrike actually has Wolverine and Jubilee in her rifle sights. Again, believing herself to be a samurai warrior of nobility, she is not going to strike down her enemy in such a disrespectful manner, leaving their inevitable clash for another day.

Writer: Chris Claremont; Penciler: Jim Lee; Inker: Josef Rubinstein; Editor: Bob Harras

In the previous issue, Psylocke was found and brainwashed by the Hand, becoming a psychic ninja assassin. She is also mysteriously now an Asian woman. Whether this was a result of traveling through the Siege Perilous, or by the work of the Hand, is unclear. It might be clear, but there’s no way I’m reading allll of that dialogue. So much dialogue. Regardless, she is now a smoking hot Asian ninja assassin in a bikini with purple hair, and a British accent. Some might say she was turned into an unrealistic male sexual fantasy, and to them I say, “what’s your point?” All kidding aside, this version of Psylocke was a major part of the book when I became a regular monthly reader of the X-Men, and I’ll always like the character because of that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know that she ever looked any different for a long time. Did I also like the pinups of her in the Marvel Swimsuit Magazine that came out not too long after this? Of course I did. Okay, I’ve said enough, let’s get back to Jubilee.

Jubilee and Wolverine (in his identity of Patch) arrive in Hong Kong. (Jubilee is now clad in what will become her familiar attire; a yellow trenchcoat, red shirt, and green shorts. It’s very clearly a homage to Robin, the Boy Wonder, or maybe even Carrie Kelly. If there’s one thing Jim Lee has always been known for, it’s subtlety.) Wolverine is still in really bad shape, his healing factor not working nearly as effectively as it used to. He continues to hallucinate seeing Carol and Fury, to the point that he openly talks to them, and looks at Jubilee like she’s the crazy one when she points out there’s no one else with them.

Young Storm is surviving on the streets of Cairo, Illinois, which wasn’t too far from my hometown growing up. My local comic shop was very excited about this fact. It’s probably the first time I saw recent issues marked up past cover price for some arbitrary reason. Something fans that lived through the ‘90s know occurred with much more regularity in the years to follow. Later on, I remember an issue of Wolverine that allegedly confirmed that Sabretooth was his father being marked up to $5 on its date of release. Was this turn of events eventually discounted? Of course it was. Was I glad I spent the $5 to get a comic revealing something that eventually wasn’t true? Of course I wasn’t. Is this just one of the many reasons I don’t collect comics for value anymore? Absolutely.

Wolverine meets up with an old contact named Rose. They quickly pawn Jubilee off on Rose’s granddaughter, Ruth, and the two youngsters leave to do some shopping. Rose warns Wolverine that the Mandarin is consolidating control over the local underworld, and that he doesn’t want to get caught in the middle of it. Wolverine assures her that as soon as he gets what he needs, they’re out of there.

Psylocke is under thrall to the Mandarin, making his appearance in the X-Men as part of the Acts of Vengeance company crossover. Which I now realize is probably the first crossover I experienced as it was happening. That could be why I have such irrational affection for it.

Jubilee and Ruth are out on the town, doing some shopping, when Jubilee is hit on by some local boys. She turns him down, and gets insulted for not being true to her heritage. Ruth pulls Jubilee away before she does something stupid like revealing her powers. As they laugh it off a few blocks away, they’re snatched from behind by a mysterious kidnapper.

Wolverine is out on the docks alone at night, wondering what happened to Jubilee and Ruth. He’s quickly surrounded by Hand ninjas, but meets them head-on (in his black outfit, one of my least favorite as a child) despite his injuries.They’re all distracted by a Jubilee light show, and Wolverine is unnerved to discover that she is under the control of someone named Lady Mandarin. Her and Wolverine tussle, with him trying to figure out why this Lady Mandarin seems so familiar as they do.

He slices off her helmet, and is stunned to learn that his opponent is really his former teammate Psylocke. (I’m not really clear on the whole history of Psylocke’s body switch, but does she still look like her former self, or is this an error for story convenience? I know walking through the Siege Perilous could have given her a new but familiar body, but I thought it was revealed later that she stole someone else’s body. If only there were a quick and easy way to research this. Some kind of world wide database of information.) Psylocke seizes the opportunity given by her shocking reveal, and stabs Wolverine in the brain with her psychic knife. (Not yet the focused totality of her psychic powers, at least not via monologue.)

With Wolverine incapacitated, Psylocke gloats over having discovered his big secret, that the mysterious Patch is actually sworn enemy of the Hand, the Wolverine.

I always found it Superman-level ridiculous that nobody realized that the short hairy man with claws in his hands, was really the infamous Wolverine. If eyeglasses work, why not a patch. But I digress.

Writer: Chris Claremont; Penciler: Jim Lee; Inker: Josef Rubinstein; Editor: Bob Harras

Since between you, me, and the wall we all know that Wolverine’s going to break the Mandarin’s control over Psylocke, the only question is how he’s going to do it. Is it going to be the power of love? I bet it’s going to be the power of love. Platonic love — it is still Wolverine.

The Hand is using their brainwashing techniques on Wolverine, using Psylocke’s telepathic abilities. So far, the results have been less than successful.

Jubilee isn’t very happy about what’s going on, and makes a play to escape. She does pretty well up until the point where she runs directly into the Mandarin.

Later, the Mandarin has had Jubilee dressed up to better reflect her Chinese heritage, but no amount of clothes or makeup is going to kill her upstart spirit.

In Wolverine’s head, the psychic warfare with Psylocke continues. She pulls out her psychic knife (only the “ultimate focus of my psychic powers” at this point) and hits Wolverine with hit again. But this time something goes very wrong for Psylocke. Psylocke now shares Wolverine’s mental apparitions of Carol Danvers and Nick Fury. While she fights with Logan’s invisible friends, Wolverine breaks himself out of the liquid tank, claws drawn.

Moments later, the Mandarin and Jubilee are interrupted by Psylocke, carrying the unconscious body of Wolverine, who appears to have been slain.

Jubilee freaks out, and lets loose with all her mutant power, blowing a hole in the room all around them.

Obviously, it was all a trick, and Psylocke is back on the side for good. Using the opportunity of Jubilee’s distraction, she attacks the Mandarin.

But the Mandarin is too much for her, and he has them both at the mercy of his ten deadly rings of power.

But he forgot about Wolverine, who sneaks up behind him and uses the ole’ two out of three claws popped trick. (With a reference to the Tim Burton Batman movie to boot.)

After negotiating a ceasefire, the three X-Men are on a slow boat out of town. (Wolverine and Psylocke take the last page and a half to explain how her using her psychic dagger on him shared his psychosis with her, and that broke the Hand’s brainwashing and returned her to her normal …blah blah blah. It’s all a little ridiculous, but who am I to say how telepathy works in real life. Because it’s not real you see, it’s all fake. Still, that’s a bit of a stretch.)

The three strike off on their own, with only themselves to rely on.

It’s weird to say, but Jim Lee’s art on this book, which was pretty early in his career, is still looks pretty good to me. I like it a lot more than his current work. I still think he peaked on Batman: Hush, but you can’t really beat him on the X-Men. At least not with the healthy gloss of nostalgia I have painted over it.

Wolverine, Psylocke, and Jubilee was one of my all-time favorite little teams within the team, and it was always a highlight when they showed up in the series during this time period. As I’ve mentioned before, Claremont had the X-Men separated and spread out all across the world, which was one of the most frustrating things to read on a monthly basis for 11 year old Back Issue Ben. It’s probably why I have attachment issues to this day.

Next week, more Jubilation!

1 comment:

Nathan Adler said...

Did you know Claremont intended Psylocke and Jubilee as a team in Wolverine's ongoing while Logan was getting brainwashed by the Hand?

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