Sunday, January 8, 2017

Mystique & Sabretooth (Marvel) (Ltd. 1996) [COMICS]

Twenty years on, Mystique & Sabretooth has not aged well.  Though, I strongly suspect it wasn't any good even back then.  This four-issue limited series features two long-time X-Foes teaming up together against the forces of AIM and Hydra for a barely coherent reason.  Apparently, both Mystique and Sabretooth were members/prisoners of X-Factor at the time, so there's some exposition about how they left/escaped that team at the beginning of the series and why they return to that team at the end of the series.  The first thing one notices with this series: it is so 1990s X-Men in terms of crap artwork and muddled plotting.  Just look at the cover to the first issue:  Mystique is either a midget or Sabretooth is now twelve-feet tall.  *Sigh*  I read these so you don't have to!

The "Runaway 1st Issue" (as the cover proclaims) starts with Sabretooth and Mystique breaking into a SHIELD Helicarrier to find a capsule hidden inside the body of a dead AIM agent.  Well, I have to give them props for an original beginning at least.  The twosome recover the capsule, but AIM attacks the Helicarrier and a battle ensues.  Mystique changes into a winged gargoyle so she can fly herself and Sabretooth off of the Helicarrier.  I don't think I've ever seen Mystique take on a winged form and been able to fly before, and I suspect that might be a distortion of the nature of her shape-changing powers.  But anyway, the commander of the AIM forces (a scantily clad cyborg woman named Cypher) is trying to catch Mystique and Sabretooth.  There's some confusing X-Factor backstory, and a flashback to some time in the past where a Hydra villain named Catalyst has captured and is torturing Sabretooth and Mystique.  The cliffhanger at the end of the issue is the arrival of AIM's "techno-sassins" (worst name ever) to confront the pair.  At this point, I had no idea what was going on with the capsule, why Sabretooth and Mystique stole it, why AIM cares, or what the flashback to Catalyst had anything to do with anything.  The only redeeming value was a text page eulogizing Mark Gruenwald, one of my all-time favorite writers.

Semi-fortunately, Issue # 2 starts with a text-box explaining what the capsule is all about: it contains a computer chip that has the schematics to an abandoned Hydra fortress wherein a computer program can be found that is "capable of usurping the existing world order."  I have no idea what that means.  The "techno-sassins" are dudes wearing generic tech-armor, so you know as much creativity went into the concept as did the nomenclature.  Anyway, they put up a good show against Sabretooth and Mystique, forcing the two mutants to flee.  Another flashback takes us back to Catalyst's lair, where he has Destiny in a cell--I think flashback Mystique and flashback Sabretooth have been sent to rescue her.  Catalyst, by the way, is also a mutant: he has the power to control all chemical reactions around him, including within the bodies of humans.  There's a million ways this power could be cool and interesting, but you won't see any of those ways here.  Back to the present, Mystique and Sabretooth travel all the way to Newfoundland (where the abandoned Hydra base is located) and find that a) it is not actually abandoned; and b) AIM is invading.  Using the Hydra-AIM battle as cover, Mystique and Sabretooth try to sneak in but Mystique is captured by two Hydra mutants: Dismember (a hulking freak) and Corrosion (acid powers).  The visuals on these last two are appropriately grotesque, to be fair.  Halfway through the series, and I'm still fuzzy why Mystique and Sabretooth are together and why they care about this mysterious access program.  I don't need a map to the plot, but at least a compass would be nice.

Issue # 3 features a piranha-filled moat, which I can't complain about.  Sabretooth falls into said moat, but pulls some Hydra agents into it to give the piranhas another target.  Yet another flashback: Sabretooth and Mystique rescue Destiny from Catalyst, and the villain apparently dies in a vat of acid.  In the present, the captured Mystique is taken before the Hydra facility's leader and it's  . . . duh . . .duh . . . duh . . . CATALYST!  Utter shocker, I know.  So Catalyst wants to be the new # 1 leader of all of Hydra, and he wants to use the computer access program to put the world at his mercy.  I'm still confused about who created this program and where it's been and why it hasn't been used before.  Do despair, for we will not get answers.  AIM attacks the Hydra base again, and this time they break through.  Although Sabretooth rescues Mystique from Catalyst's clutches, both are caught in the facility when Cypher releases a lethal gas!

The bald cyber-S&M woman on the cover to Issue # 4 is Cypher, just in case you were wondering.  So, Mystique again grows wings, this time to fan the lethal gas away while Sabretooth forces Corrosion to melt an exit through the wall.  I'm really not a fan of this version of Mystique.  Anyway, Catalyst confronts Cypher but flees when Sabretooth and Mystique arrives.  Mystique chases Catalyst while Sabretooth fights Cypher.  Cypher uses the program to order NORAD to launch a nuclear missile at Russia for the old "Start WWIII and reign over the ashes" plan, which I have never thought was a good idea.  Have super-villains never watched War Games?  The only way to win global thermo-nuclear war is not to play.  Sabretooth likes Matthew Broderick, because he lets Cypher go in order to destroy all the computer stuff and save the world.  Meanwhile, Mystique scares Catalyst off the edge of a cliff and into the piranha-filled moat below.  Then she forces Sabretooth to return with her to X-Factor.  Thank god, the end.

The plotting here is dismal.  As best I can surmise, the idea here is that Mystique wants revenge against Hydra for their ret-conned kidnapping and torture of Destiny.  Why now, or why Sabretooth is involved, I have no idea.   Nor do I know why the two went to a Hydra base that they thought was abandoned, or why they cared about this mysterious "access program."  What I do know is that whatever vices these two characters have, they deserved better than to be in this series.

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