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Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #268

Issue Date: Late September 1990

Story Title: Madripoor Knights

Staff: Chris Claremont (writer), Jim Lee (penciler), Scott Williams (inker)Tom Orzechowski (letterers), Glyns oliver (colorist), Bob Harras (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in chief)

Brief Description:
Madripoor 1941: A fledgling Captain America comes to the aid of a Russian, who is being attacked by Hand Ninjas. Both of the men are rescued by the help of a newcomer who makes the island his home and hates the Hand – Logan. After they win the battle, Logan takes them to the bar Seraph’s, where he tags Baron von Strucker and another Nazi, almost starting a fight. The Russian, Ivan Petrovitch tells them that the Nazis and the Hand are planning an alliance and that they have kidnapped a child in his charge – Natasha Romanoff. A little later, the three men attack the Nazi limousine where Natasha is being held. One Nazi intends to kill the girl, rather than give her up. However, Logan throws himself between Natasha and the gun, seemingly sacrificing his life to save her. Ivan and Cap decide to take Natasha to the American consulate instead of following Logan’s plan. Unfortunately, the consul is working with the Nazis and sells them out. In the Hand hideout, they learn that the Hand intends to make Natasha a master assassin, her first test being the murder of her would-be-rescuers. Fortunately, they are all rescued again by a very much alive Logan, who takes them to a getaway plane. The present: The Black Widow went to Madripoor as a favor to Nick Fury to learn everything about a meeting between Fenris (Strucker’s children) and Tsurabaya, the new leader of the Hand. She ends up in a trap by the Hand, but is rescued by Wolverine, Psylocke and Jubilee. Later, they question the underworld and learn that the meeting between Fenris and Tsurabaya is to take place on a certain yacht. They infiltrate the yacht and take out the gangsters, but find out they are impostors: the real meeting took place somewhere else in the meantime.

Full Synopsis:
Madripoor in the late-summer of 1941:
Captain America dives from a roof to waiting swords. Though this is still all very new to him, in times to come, he’ll make moves like this without a second thought. But that’s then, this is now. And the thought bubbling across the base of Steve Rogers’ skull is how he could have been dunce enough to take on the mantle of Captain America. But then he is in the middle of the fray and there’s no time for fear, only action. His foes are a bunch of Ninjas, whom he thinks of as looking as though they are from some kind of Fu Manchu serial, and they have attacked a Russian man.

The Ninjas note that the gaijin fights well, but he is no match for the Hand. One of them rakes his back with claw-like blades. As Captain America goes down, the Ninja intends to decapitate him with his sword.

Hey there, comes the voice of a stranger. Addressing the Ninjas as genin, he warns them that this is their only chance to get away. One of the Ninjas gives orders to slay the stranger who knows them. It’s music to his ears, as he begins to attack them with the two ends of the metal pipe he’s been carrying.

In the meantime, Cap has caught his wind and remarks that he hopes the stranger doesn’t mind some help. Plenty to go round, the newcomer retorts. But he wasn’t the one in need of it. Cap admits he is right and thanks him. The Russian, in the meantime, has managed to break free and also does his share.

Cap observes that he has never fought anyone like these people before. Their combat style takes some getting used to. He’ll know better next time. Good for him, always providing he gets a next time, the stranger remarks.

In surprisingly short order, the fight is over with the genin having fled or the bodies of the dead dissolving. Cap asks what “genin” are and the newcomer explains that they are common assassins of a demon ninja clan called the Hand. They are Japanese, but work for whoever pays them. Cap offers his hand, as he thanks the stranger and introduces himself. Moving the brim of his hat away from his eyes, the other man mockingly admires the suit. Just the thing for playing it sly and sneaky. Not his style, Cap explains. He is supposed to be a symbol. Never met one of those before, the stranger replies. He’s just a guy. He shakes Cap’s hand as he introduces himself as Logan, and welcomes him to Lowtown.

The present:
The Black Widow finds herself in quite a hassle fighting against a group of Hand Ninjas. She berates herself for her carelessness. Spiders are supposed to set traps, not rush headlong into them. Time to swallow her pride and leave, she figures. She’s not that lucky, however, as one of the Ninjas ensnares her with a length of chain. As the genin get ready to finish her off, Natasha grimly figures it is fitting for things to end here like this, almost where they began…

Suddenly, the Ninjas get very nervous at the sound of a “snikt,” followed by Jubilee’s lightshow. Not bothered by the lights, the telepath Psylocke is next to attack, joined by Wolverine who reminds the ninjas that he made it clear long ago: Madripoor is his turf. They aren’t welcome.

A short while later, the battle is over and the dead genin have melted away. Jubilee comments on how disgusting that is, annoying Psylocke with her motormouth. Wolverine asks Betsy to psi-scan the neighborhood. She reports that there are no other genin in the immediate vicinity.

Natasha gets up and greets Wolverine, remarking that she shouldn’t be surprised. Saving her from death and worse seems to be a habit. She succumbs to her injuries and faints into his arms.

1941:
Seraphs (nowadays known as Princess Bar), the place to go if you want to cut a deal and not worry about getting your throat cut in the process. Carrying several beverages, Logan’s head turns, as he whistles appreciatively after a blonde. In the process, he doesn’t watch where he is going and runs right into Baron Strucker, spilling his drink on the latter’s dinner-jacket. Not overly repentant, Logan half-heartedly apologizes, managing to enrage Strucker’s bodyguard, who complains that this used to be a respectable establishment. Till they let the goose-steppers in, Logan retorts. The bodyguard demands Logan apologize properly and then leave. Logan refuses, spoiling for a fight, until a voice from below them reminds all three men that this is her place.

A small, feisty blonde informs them that she decides who stays and goes. She then turns to the bodyguard, telling him that it takes all sorts to make a good saloon. And it isn’t always the clothes that brand a man as class or riff-raff. She climbs onto a table and informs the Germans that she is the only person there entitled to throwing her weight around or to making a scene. Recalling his manners, Strucker apologizes with a kiss to Seraph’s hand and assures her it will not happen again.

As he angrily leads off Kreutzmann, Seraph grabs Logan by his lapel and reads him the riot act. By rights, she should toss him out. He knows the rules. She tells him to take whatever he has planned outside. Yes, Ma’am, he replies with a grin and returns to his table with the drinks.

Steve Rogers, now in civilian attire, instantly protests that he doesn’t drink. Logan replies that he knows that, as he couldn’t smell even the slightest residual taint of alcohol on his scent. It’s mineral water for Rogers, beer for himself, vodka, for Major Petrovitch, ‘Ivan,’ the Russian corrects him. Steve observes that Logan bumped into those Germans deliberately. Logan explains that both Cap and Petrovitch are after Strucker. He has now tagged his scent and can follow him anywhere on the island. That sounds like something an animal would do, Rogers points out hesitatingly. With a glare, Logan informs him that humans are animals, though most animals probably wouldn’t take that as much of a compliment.

Apologizing, Steve asks what Logan’s interest in this is. The way he came to their rescue was awfully convenient. Nothing convenient about it, Logan replies. He is interested in the Hand. He figures any enemy of them is a potential friend of his. Seems the Hand and Strucker have an interest in common. Ivan chimes in. He knows the reasons. It’s why those assassins were trying to kill him. Baron Strucker, one of the Reich’s top operatives, reporting to Hitler himself, has abducted a young girl left in Ivan’s charge: Natasha Alianovna Romanoff.

the present:
Natasha Romanoff awakes, instantly sensing somebody close by. She makes an attack gesture trying to use her widow’s bite (which doesn’t work as she is only wearing lingerie). She realizes the presence is Logan, sitting guard at her bedside and apologizes. How does she feel? he asks. Better than he looks, she retorts. Like Indy said, “it ain’t the years that take the toll, it’s the mileage.” They hug. Calling him “Little Uncle,” she asks if he is really all right. He assures her he is and she instantly realizes that he is lying.

From outside on the balcony, Jubilee is spying on the scene, much to Psylocke’s disapproval. Jubes retorts that, since she isn’t a telepath, she just has to do her spying the old-fashioned way. How come every old buddy Wolverine has in the whole world seems to be gorgeous babe? And what’s with all this “little uncle” nonsense?

A little while later, the ladies are called in and the Widow briefs them on the situation: a while ago, she thought that she and Daredevil had dealt with the Hand once and for all. Calling her “princess,” Logan challenges that assumption, adding that she should know better. But if their involvement was a surprise what brought Natasha here? A status surveillance of the Strucker twins as a favor to Nick Fury, Natasha replies.

While the grown-ups are discussing things, Jubilee can’t help but stare at Psylocke and the Widow, both gorgeous full-figured women, and then to pout about her own… shortcomings.

Natasha continues that the Struckers are on Madripoor for a meeting with Matsuo Tsurayaba. Jubes interrupts that he is the Hand’s boss. He and Fenris. Talk about an unholy alliance, Wolverine adds. Interesting choice of words, the Widow observes. How long ago since they…? Nigh on fifty years, Wolverine replies. Jubilee doesn’t get it. There’s no way the Widow looks anywhere near that old. Are they trying again after all this time? the Widow asks. Logan replies they should find out.

1941:
A Mercedes driven by Kreutzmann is stopped by Logan, whom Kreutzmann identifies as the crazy Amerikaner from the bar. He intends to just run over him. Instead, Logan jumps onto the car’s hood, through the winshield and kicks him. For the record, he quips, he is Canadian and proud of it.

Cap and Ivan join the fray, fighting Nazis while Cap wonders whether Logan thinks he is some kind of superman. Nothing at all like the Captain, right? Ivan mocks. Cap thinks to himself that at least he has Professor Erskine’s super-soldier serum to give him an edge.

One of he Nazis fires into the back of the limousine, announcing that, if the Reich cannot have the child, no one can. With a cry of despair, Ivan guns him down, but too late. He runs to the car, expecting to find the child’s corpse. Instead, he finds the little girl safe, with a seemingly dead Logan having covered her. Ivan wonders why he did this. He had no stake in this, yet he sacrificed his life for the girl.

Ivan suggests they head back to Seraph’s as Logan had told them to, but Captain America disagrees. This’ll be the first place where people will look for them; he suggests the American consulate.

As they knock at the consulate’s door, Cap asks why the child is so important. Does this have anything to do with her name? Ivan though isn’t at a liberty to say.

The U.S. consul opens up and leads them inside … into a trap. Strucker, Nazi soldiers and Hand genin are already waiting for them.

The present:
The Widow is dangling a man called Soong from the ceiling, while below them Wolverine is waiting with unsheathed claw. Terrorized, the man informs them about Tsurabaya’s and Fenris’ meeting place.

1941:
The captured Captain America calls Consul Sydenham a traitor. The consul replies that he considers himself a patriot, who believes it is the true destiny of the United State to join with Germany in an Aryan hegemony that will eradicate the scourge of Bolshevism from the globe. It is only fitting that a key instrument in the destruction of the communist evil should be forged from one who bears the name of the imperial dynasty the Reds so ruthlessly tried to murder during their bloody revolution.

Natasha is led up a flight of stair to an old man, the Hand’s leader. Strucker, in the meantime, explains that the girl has an extraordinary aptitude for the martial arts. Under the Hand’s leader’s tutelage, she will become his master assassin. Cap protests she is just a kid. Precisely the point, the Hand’s leader remarks, as he hands Natasha a sword. The younger the soul, the more easily it may be molded.

The present:
A luxury yacht in Buccaneer Bay, the yacht where the Fenris / Hand meeting is to take place. For the guests’ entertainment, Soong has sent several escort ladies, as well as what seems to be a young boy, carrying supplies. With the diversion aboard, Wolverine also enters and the ladies shed their disguises to begin fighting the mercs and Hand soldiers, after Jubilee has taken out the yacht’s engines and internal power.

1941:
Natasha’s test is to use the sword to kill her would-be-saviors, Ivan Petrovitch and Captain America. Against her will, she raises the blade above Petrovitch’s head. Suddenly, another blade shatters her sword and the next blow takes the Jonin’s head.

The cavalry, a torn-up Logan, jokingly asks the two men if they have seen a ghost. They saw him shot, Cap stammers. He got better, Logan replies curtly, as he frees them from their ties. With them loose, the three men now take on the Nazis and Ninjas.

A little later, they are in a getaway car, driven by Seraph, en route to a getaway plane and chased by several Nazi limousines. Logan explains that he had this all set up. They would have gotten away clean if only they had done as told. Seraph chides him to give it a rest. He is loving every minute. Logan just replies that there are some things no kid should have to see.

Ivan and Natasha board the plane and Cap is about to. However, he pauses to tell Logan that they work pretty well together. Be a shame to break up so potential a team. Logan replies that he appreciates the thought. But he works alone. Shaking Cap’s hand, he announces that he needs no sidekick. Somewhat flustered, Cap doesn’t quite say that. Actually, he intended it the other way around. He tells Logan to take care as he boards the plane.

The present:
After all their work, the heroes realize that they have been had. They have captured impostors of Fenris and Tsurayaba. The real meeting was held somewhere else. Psylocke scans crew and impostors, but they possess no knowledge to help them. Logan figured as much. Jubilee protest that they can’t just give up. Can’t win ‘em all, Logan shrugs. From now on, they have to be more careful and make sure this never happens again.

From not too far away, they are being watched, as Fenris and Tsurabaya toast to their union and intend to prove Logan wrong.

Characters:
Jubilee, Psylocke, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Black Widow

Matsuo Tsurabaya (leader of the Hand)
Andrea & Andreas Strucker (Fenris)

Actors impersonating the Struckers and Tsuarabaya
Ninjas from the Hand

Soong

In the past:
Logan
Captain America
Young Natasha Romanova
Major Ivan Petrovich

Seraph

Baron Strucker
Kretzmann
Geoffrey Sydenham
Jonin (The Hand’s leader)
Ninjas from the Hand

Notes:
Daredevil and the Black Widow thought they had finished off the Hand in Daredevil #185-190.

Fu Manchu: Character from a popular pulp novel series by Sax Rohmer.

This Issue has been reprinted in:
X-Men Visionaries: Jim Lee (Trade Paperback)
X-Men Visionaries: Chris Claremont (Trade Paperback)
Marvel Visionaries: Chris Claremont (Trade Paperback)

Issue Summary written by: Ruth


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