Mystique, vol. 1: Dead Drop Gorgeous
Collects: Mystique #1-6
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Jorge Lucas
By Michael David Sims
In the mid-90s Marvel attempted to recapture the popularity of Wolverine by turning several hardcore villains into reluctant heroes and antiheroes. Sabertooth, longing to have the demons that have plagued him all of his life silenced, approached Xavier for help. Venom, who once would have eaten Peter Parker's face if given the chance, suddenly found himself stalking the night, protecting the innocents. And Mystique, international terrorist (or freedom fighter, depending on how you look at it), joined X-Factor and fell in love with Forge. But, as it is with comic books, the status quo was returned, and all three characters resumed their villainous ways. Mystique, however, has been given another chance to redeem herself — at least in the eyes of Charles Xavier.
Having been outed, Xavier can no longer allow his X-Men to take part in politically sensitive missions — so he requires spies. With his top agent having been murdered, he's in need of a replacement. That's where the shape-changing Mystique comes in. Because her mutant powers prevent even the greatest telepath from locating her, Charles enlists Forge to assist in locating her. It's his hope that Forge's ability to create any device he can imagine will allow him to construct one that can track the blue-skinned Raven.
The problem is, the Department of Homeland Security has already found her — and wants her executed posthaste. To free her, Charles must take extreme action, and disguises himself as Magneto, simulating his powers to knock the guards and executioner out. He simply cannot be fingered in her escape, so, as Xavier says, a bit of misdirection was necessary. As it is, Mystique reluctantly opts to help the professor — truthfully, she has no choice — and is briefed on her first mission.
It would seem that Russia created their own mutant-hunting Sentinels after the nuclear accident at Chernobyl spawned a new crop of mutants. After the Cold War, Xavier was able to convince Russia to destroy most of the robots, but some were mothballed — just in case. Recently, a pair of the robots were stolen and sold on the black market — to Cuba. Despite their push towards equality, several of Castro's men have convinced the president that just one unchecked mutant could overthrow the government — forcing him to purchase the Sentinels as a deterrent. It's Xavier's concern that one overzealous generalissimo could turn these so-called deterrents into a preemptive strike, wiping out Cuba's small but growing mutant population in one fateful night.
Worse yet, many mutant children have recently been reported missing from the island country, causing great concern in Xavier.
Her mission, should she choose to accept it — and again, she really has no choice — is to infiltrate Cuba, pose as a human, and destroy the robots. Hopefully, Xavier, says, "If Castro believes his own people are willing to fight against the threat of mutant genocide, he might consider less incendiary alternatives."
Not really wanting to help an old enemy but willing to do whatever she can to further mutant rights and safety, Mystique heads to Cuba disguised as a dance student. However, when her papers are discovered as forgeries, she has an early altercation with the law and must outwit the unsuspecting Cubans by quickly changing her appearance — so as to blend in.
Once safely from the throng of armed guards, she meets her contact and is given further details. She's also informed that many of the friends and relatives of the missing mutant children are about to stage a demonstration, demanding to know where their loved ones have been taken. And there's no doubt that General Luis Diosvil — the man with the anti-mutant plan — will be there to quiet the protesters. So it becomes Mystique's job to distract him. And distract him she does. Posing as a seductive local, the two head for a motel, but she beats the classified info from Luis before knocking him out.
Now, posing as Diosvil, Mystique makes for the hanger where both the Sentinels and mutant children reside. However, her plan to quietly infiltrate the base is thrown asunder when the now-armed protestors storm the base and the Sentinels are launched.
With little time, Mystique must find the computer that controls the robots and deactivate it, free the mutant children, and escape with their lives. To her horror one of the children — one with the ability to control/talk to machines — is the computer. And the only way to shut Evangelina down and save the mutant population of Cuba is to kill her, something not even the murderous Mystique is willing to do.
And here's a problem I have with comic books. Often, characters are presented with tough, morally wrenching decisions, but, just as often, fate or another character makes the decision for them. Mystique raised her gun to Evangelina head, but was reluctant to fire. Would she have killed a child to save a few dozen mutants (and herself)? Or would she have let them all die to save this one girl? She'll never know, as Lazaro (one of the protestors) stepped up from behind Mystique and killed his own little sister. It's a decision he'll be forced to live with for the rest of his life, but, in his heart, he knows it was the right one because, as he says, Evangelina couldn't go on knowing she had doomed so many people — mutants and humans alike.
Not to play know-it-all critic, but had Mystique pulled the trigger she would have become a much more involved character, instead of simply being the once-villain, now-reluctant hero, always-seductive Raven. For the remainder of the series she could have carried the guilt of having murdered a child — even in the name of mutantkind. This could tear at her very soul and serve to remind her of how she threw an infant Nightcrawler (her son) from a cliff, planned to assassinate Graydon Creed (her other son), and used Rogue (her adopted daughter) for her evil schemes.
And what of Xavier, who demanded Mystique keep from spilling any blood? Because he can't read her mind, Raven could have hidden this one detail from him for years — and imagine the sparks that would have flown when he did eventually discover the truth.
This, people, is conflict and drama. But, for whatever reason, Brian K. Vaughan or Marvel didn't want (think?) to go this route and this moment — once loaded with future conflict and potential — will be forgotten by many.
In the end, and this is no spoiler, Mystique saves the mutants and destroys the Sentinels. Before returning home, however, she meets a man who asks her to play double agent. Because she's attracted to him and there's a certain mystique about him (no pun intended), she accepts. But little does she know there are darker forces at play.
In the end, Xavier personally thanks her and releases her from her duty — if she'll turn herself in. Not willing to do that, she remains under his secret employ and awaits further missions.