X-Men Black #3
Mystique - “One Short Day”
William Blake, junior senator from Massachusetts, is on a date with Tiffany Norton, a socialite, and philanthropist. According to her introductory caption box, though, she also doesn’t seem to truly exist. Tiffany’s phone rings and, though they had agreed to no phones on the date, it’s allegedly Tiffany’s sister who has been calling, and she hasn’t been well. Tiffany excuses herself goes to the bathroom to take the call. The call, it turns out, was for a new job – a target is vulnerable, an asset is available, and she has forty-eight hours to get the job done. As she reapplies her lipstick in the bathroom, her face shifts subtly so that she has a black eye, just in time for another woman to walk in and come to the wrong conclusion – that William Blake, who ran on a platform of morality and reform, is an abusive boyfriend. The woman – Tiffany – if it wasn’t obvious enough already, is actually Raven Darkholme, aka Mystique, and the senator wasn’t really a mark of hers, she was just out to have some fun.
The real job begins when Mystique, disguised as a flight attendant, goes across the country to an unspecified location, rapidly switching identities as she goes. She switches from a flight attendant to someone working in airport security, and from there she transforms into a famous pop star named Lindy Starr, and from there to another woman before transforming into a fair-haired, middle-aged woman. All the way, Mystique manipulates her situation so that she can get from the airport to the hotel without having to run into any security or leaving a trail that would lead back to her. Through her narrative caption boxes, we learn that Mystique is in town to release a seventeen-year-old mutant named Whitney James, who has been captured by Trask Industries (the company behind the production of the Sentinels) because she killed her parents.
The next morning, taking the form of Whitney James, Mystique makes her way to an outsized big box store and grabs some supplies – including rat poison. Making her way back to the hotel, Mystique shifts into the form of a bellhop and then a red-haired business woman who accuses someone on the night staff of being a pervert before she leaves the hotel. She then arrives at Trask Industries in the form of a maintenance man. Unfortunately for Mystique, the actual maintenance man that she’s pretending to be catches Mystique in the act of infiltrating Trask Industries and asks her what she’s doing. Morphing into her natural form, Mystique knocks the man out and then proceeds to dump all the rat poison she’s bought into the water main. Afterward, in the guise of a janitor, she makes her way to another floor, grabs someone’s id badge, morphs into her, then morphs into the form of who had bumped into her. She throws a quick tantrum as him, thus getting him sent to HR by the site manager, whose form she takes once she leaves that floor. From there, she makes her way to a secured server room – a place which never has any cameras, because security tends to think that cameras will compromise data – and makes her way in, stealing data that was harvested from a fragment of Mothervine.
Unfortunately, Mystique’s caught by the security there before she can make a clean getaway. Morphing back into her natural form, she proceeds to take all of them down before going to get Whitney James out of confinement. At first, Whitney doesn’t seem to want to go with Mystique – and is worried she’ll harm her until Mystique explains that she’s immune to most poisons. They walk past the guards Mystique had knocked out, and make their getaway, Mystique lying to Whitney and telling her that the people in the office are simply gassed to fall asleep and will be awakening soon, though the panels clearly tell a different story. They drive away, and Mystique leaves Whitney outside of Portland, Oregon, having successfully framed her for all of the deaths at Trask Industries, and having gotten the information she needed, without anyone being the wiser for it.
Apocalypse - “Degeneration Part Three”
Apocalypse, having survived the questionable water he drank at the end of the last installment, has taken to looking and dressing more like a caveman, which is inevitable, given that he’s on some mysterious, uncivilized planet. His mind is quickly deteriorating, but he’s found some primates that he hopes he can help him, but no. They’re savage, cruel beings, and Apocalypse isn’t the man he used to be. He realizes that the primates mean to harm him, once they’ve noticed he’s there, and they savagely attack him, beating him down and getting away with the back of his own things that he’s been carrying. He needs to get it back, because the Finch is part of that pack, but he’s not really able to fight until he gives way to his baser instincts, getting all savage on them, even as his brain shrinks and he deteriorates more. A flash of light sends the primates running scared, though, while Apocalypse holds on to his pack and notices that a group of men who look suspiciously like his test subjects from back home have arrived, holding all manner of weaponry. As he stares at them, he has only one thought – survival.
Mystique – “One Short Day”
This story plays mostly as a day in the life of Mystique, when she’s not off tormenting the X-Men or working with any other team of mutants to accomplish her goals of the day. While Mystique hasn’t really had this sort of singular focus since her solo series from 2003, it’s nice to get into her head and see what she’s thinking and how she chooses to live her life. We don’t usually get much of a chance to get into her head because Mystique is duplicitous by nature, and in most stories, that would mean giving away any twist the writer has planned for her. Here, we get to see the twists play out in her mind as she goes through a series of identities to get some vital information that she’s been hired to get, all while conveniently framing an innocent teenage mutant. That one detail is one of the most striking things about her: while Xavier and Magneto – and even Emma Frost – have worked to save mutant teenagers in one way or another, Mystique has little qualms in framing an innocent girl for something she didn’t do, simply to get a payday and accomplish a mission. It’s a dark turn for the character, but absolutely in keeping with who she is. Though the reader may be waiting for Mystique to have some sort of change of heart, it never comes, and that’s oddly satisfying for a change. Though she’s worked on the side of angels from time to time, Mystique has never been good, and that’s very evident here.
Seanan McGuire has an easy touch when it comes to Mystique and crafts a fun tale that any fan – new or old – can enjoy. Her Mystique is quick on her feet and crafty, and she never gets caught up in the details, always managing to figure things out at the drop of a hat. She’s an awful person who revels in her awfulness, and that makes her someone you root for, even if you know that you necessarily wouldn’t if she were facing off against the X-Men or any of the other heroes she’s gone up against during her storied publishing career. There’s a lightness and a comedic bent to the story as she leaves chaos in her wake – the confusion with the flight attendants at the airport, what will be confusion for Lindy Starr once the paparazzi figures out she was somehow in two places at once, her using the form of an office worker to have a meltdown and get him in trouble. They’re fun bits of detail and characterization that show what a wild and unruly character Mystique is, despite the fact that she’s seemingly always in control of her situation. Whether the plot tidbit about the Mothervine plot fragment will go anywhere remains to be seen, but it was a good way to place the story into current X-events.
Marco Failla has a lot asked of him in this issue, given all the changes Mystique goes through, but he is more than up for the challenge. Even as she changes appearances from page to page, it’s always easy for the reader to remain aware of who Mystique is because he’s imbued her with a specific enough body language that she’s easy to follow – there’s that perpetual, haughty little smirk on her face as she’s having the time of her life messing with people. This is also evident in how he draws Mystique in the guise of Whitney James, versus Whitney James as herself – their body language and expressions are totally different, with Mystique being very self-assured in that form, and Whitney herself being cautious, scared, confused. It’s a very well-crafted, subtle difference, but it says volumes when you compare and contrast the handling of both versions of Whitney James. Jesus Aburtov has the far less enviable task of having to color in lots of busy industrial and corporate places – airports, office buildings, hotel rooms – places known for having not a lot of character, being mostly seas of beige and other neutrals. Despite this, he manages to make the pages pop with color and brightness, choosing eye-catching palettes for clothes and characters. It’s a very good-looking story in every way, and a lot of that has to do with how Aburtov’s colors complement Failla’s pencils.
Apocalypse – “Degeneration Part Three”
This installment of the Degeneration story – the middle installment – feels very much like filler. Not much happens except for Apocalypse regressing more and more, and most of the story is just a fight between Apocalypse and the primates before his test subjects show up at the end. It’s a necessary cliff-hanger because it finally gives a clue as to how Apocalypse might come out of his predicament, and without it, I might not have wanted to know what happens next. Geraldo Borges manages to make the fight scenes kinetic and interesting to see, wonderfully illustrating how Apocalypse is regressing into a lesser state, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s palette really makes the alien world pop.
A fun, breezy, entertaining story about one of the X-Men's more popular foes, this story leaves you wanting to see what more McGuire can do with Marvel's premiere shapeshifter.
X-Men Black #3: Art of Survival
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 7/107/10
Art - 7/107/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 6/106/10
User Review( votes)