Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Strike File Strike File

I had started on Stryfe’s Strike File as an entry for the Advent Calendar, but after nearly doubling the 250-word limit I had set for myself on Advent entries, I realized it required further study, and additional jokes.

The X-books were obsessed with G.I. Joe-esque character profiles for a while in the early ’90s. They filled the back pages of issues of X-Factor and X-Force, and finally got a full book of their own at the end of the "X-Cutioner’s Song" crossover, written by the man in the spiky metal costume himself (through his servants Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza) and full of melodramatic screeds and portents of plotlines yet to be abandoned.

At 13, I pored over this book ceaselessly, looking for clues to the future. At 34, I read passages like “So do I love you or hate you? Do I nurse at your breast or do I tear at your throat? Do I look for you, if I survive the final curse of my mad song?” and chuckle while shaking my head.

Among the events and new characters the one-shot foretold:

-Colossus’ defection to the Acolytes

-Illyana’s death from the Legacy virus

-Graydon Creed, though it’s pretty much spelled out that his dad is Sabertooth.

-Threnody, who would appear months later in X-Men #27 as a pawn of Mr. Sinister.

-Sienna Blaze, who would later get shunted into the Malibu universe.

-A sketch by Larry Stroman that hinted at the coming of Revanche, aka The Other Psylocke, a confusing storyline that served as my introduction to the X-Men comics.

Other things worth noting:

-“Collectable” is misspelled on the cover

-It miscounts the number of Upstarts: Under a listing for Graydon Creed, they are called a quartet. In fact, not including their referee, the Gamesmaster, the Upstarts included Fabian Cortez, Graydon Creed, Trevor Fitzroy, Shinobi Shaw, Sienna Blaze and the Fenris twins.

-Gideon is referred to as the “Ziggy Stardust of the corporate boardroom,” which may be my favorite phrase in the whole book.

-Cannonball is foretold to be a major leader of mutantkind, which, as I wrote about during the Advent Calendar, hasn’t quite panned out 20 years later.

-It introduces Holocaust, but an exoskeleton-less version of the character, who would not actually appear in the comics for two years, and then in the Age of Apocalypse reality, though he would eventually cross over. Stryfe’s file on the character is all questions and vagaries, as if the writers themselves were like, “Yeah, somebody did a sketch of this guy, and we’ll probably use him, but we don’t actually know anything about him yet.”

The writing itself is exceedingly melodramatic. Of course, Stryfe had just spent the entire "X-Cutioner’s Song" ranting and raving and giving verbose speeches, so it’s not like it was out of character. But it made me yearn for the Stryfe of the Askani’Son limited series from 1995, when Scott Lobdell and Jeph Loeb wrote the Chaos Bringer as more of a young Joker.

The framing device for the issue is that Xavier finds a computer disk with the files on it at Stryfe’s base on the moon. Xavier looks through all the files, decides information about the near future would make Scott and Jean’s fragile hearts explode, and erases the disk. It wouldn’t be long before he ended up doing the same thing to Magneto …

… which is ironic, because of all the 1993 plotlines he foretold, Stryfe completely misses the climactic event of the biggest X-story of the year to come. Because Stryfe actually believes he killed Xavier during the "X-Cutioner’s Song" and that Magneto died on Asteroid M back in 1991. What a dummy.

Earlier “strike files” in X-Factor and X-Force featured the private files of Apocalypse and Cable, respectively.

Apocalypse’s “Manifesto” files ran in X-Factor #65 and #66 and featured portentous ramblings on the five members of the team, which were then the original five X-Men. Though X-Factor was written by Chris Claremont and Whilce Portacio at the time, Nicieza wrote the Apocalypse files, and you can see the same love and care went into writing these as did the Stryfe files, when he calls Archangel “The birth spawn of my soul, if not my loins.” Great, now I have to picture Apocalypse’s Apoca-loins!

Cyclops’ file reminds readers he is one of The Twelve, “the archetype beings that will one day save or damn mutantkind.” This refers to a comment made by the Master Mold waaaaay back in the series’ early days. The Twelve subplot would lie largely dormant for nearly an entire decade before coming to the fore in a year-2000 X-Men crossover about Apocalypse attempting to siphon the mutants’ powers to achieve omnipotence. The rest of The Twelve were Xavier, Magneto, Jean Grey, Iceman, Polaris, Sunfire, Storm, Cable, Bishop and, fresh from obscurity, Mikhail Rasputin and the Living Monolith. Nate Grey was additionally revealed as The Thirteenth, intended to provide Apoc with a new body.

There was one neat moment of most-likely-unplanned foresight in Apocalypse’s files. Of Beast, he writes, “If not for the rape of will performed by Xavier, Hank could have been a son of my own heart, my own pain, my own fears.” This perfectly vaguely describes the so-called Dark Beast of the Age of Apocalypse, who would not meet the page for almost four years.

Cable’s files, which appeared in X-Force #1, featured then-new characters Deadpool, Feral, Shatterstar and G.W. Bridge, and, according to Comic Book Legends Revealed, were apparently a cheap way to cram Deadpool into the issue without actually including him in the story.

Of the walking cat with Bride of Frankenstein hair known as Feral, Cable writes: “Feral will sit on your lap, purring for attention one second, and just as easily kill a passing bird and drop it at your feet for approval the next.” Also, she hates Mondays and there is video of her playing a keyboard on the Internet.

Another one-shot character guide was published during the Age of Apocalypse, in which En Sabah Nur separated the alternate reality’s major players into categories of Chosen and Forgotten. Despite being a proponent of survival of the fittest, there were more Chosen than Forgotten. This one doesn’t work as a vague prognosticator of the future, however, as this version of Earth was meant to go away with the storyline in just a couple months’ time. But hey, it’s nice to know there’s a world where characters like Wild Child, Abyss, Mikhail Rasputin and Aurora are elevated to stations of importance.

Dan Grote has been a Matt Signal contributor since 2014 and friends with Matt since there were four Supermen and two Psylockes. His two novels, My Evil Twin and I and Of Robots, God and Government, are available on Amazon.

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