Dark X-Men: The Beginning #3
Though not enumerated as a chapter in Utopia, a crossover between the Dark Avengers and Uncanny X-Men set in the Dark Reign storyline, this issue takes place at an unspecified time before the events of Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1 and has the Utopia logo on the front. In the last of 9 attempts to recruit mutants into the Dark X-Men, Norman Osborn finally fails. Aurora appears in the third story of three in an extensive appearance across 11 pages, including a new costume! Northstar also appears in flashback in one panel.
By the time this issue was released, we already knew that Aurora wouldn’t be joining the Dark X-Men, as the full roster had already been shown. She had been seen previously to this in Uncanny X-Men #508 as a civilian, running operations at her brother’s sports business. Here, she’s shown in psychoanalysis with an unnamed doctor (possibly Bosson from Alpha Flight #7?) who Osborn bribes with a bag of cash into convincing Jeanne-Marie to wear a thalamizer, a device that has unexpected consequences. After briefly reminiscing to an unspecified time when she and her brother fought an evil forked mechanical tentacle of some sort (ah, the memories…), she puts on the thalamizer. This causes her to drop out of her Jeanne-Marie personality and revert to her Aurora persona.
After introducing himself and blathering on for a bit about yet another diabolical scheme related to how the thalamizer works, Osborn presents a new costume: a red and white version of Aurora’s classic black and white starburst costume. In a truly comic moment, she instantly changes into her costume and rushes outside, leaving a pink bra on Osborn’s head. This type of humor could only work in a panel-by-panel comic format and Simon Spurrier should be commended for it!
Outside, Jeanne-Marie has already pilfered through Osborn’s files, found the bag of cash and a gun, and has sent the unscrupulous doctor through the windshield of his own car. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Thinking he has her hooked on the thalamizer’s ability to retain Aurora’s persona, Osborn invites her to enjoy drinks on the H.A.M.M.E.R. helicarrier where she somehow is able to stop him from expostulating on his maniacal plans for a record four panels. When she declines his offer to join, he quickly starts in again by pressing some button and starting in on what the button does by manipulating, oh, blah blah blah, can it already, Norm. The button unleashes a series of ever-increasingly reckless personalities in rapid-fire sequence, one of which pops him on the nose.
Another personality takes down three guards with a single sweeping kick, and yet a few more take down more guards. A seventh personality is finally stopped by Osborn, who pulls a gun on her. Facing the mortal terror of this moment by developing an eighth personality, she then punches the butt of the gun pointed at her head, causing it to fire off-mark and then rips off the thalamizer. Forcing it on Osborn’s head, he becomes unintelligible, thankfully, and she walks out on him dressed in her original Jeanne-Marie business attire, disheveled and assuredly braless.
Her dissociative identity disorder has been an ongoing and central theme with Aurora’s character over the years. It is a horribly misunderstood and controversial psychiatric disorder. Commonly referred to in popular culture as “split personality” or even worse, the incorrect but even more popular term, “schizophrenia”, her disorder was generally cured in X-Men Annual #1 (2007) when her and her brother’s minds healed themselves. In her single panel cameo in Uncanny X-Men #508, she exhibited no signs of the disorder as she celebrated with her brother among a crowd of drinking revelers. The thalamizer either undid that cure or gave Aurora the ability to switch among a library of personas at will.
The type of voluntary personality shifts and unstable behavior exhibited in this issue cannot possibly be taken as a serious manifestation of her disorder; rather it’s just Spurrier having some fun with a great character who plausibly takes down the most powerful villain on Earth. Usually, mental health conditions aren’t subjects for casual humor (and beware! You will be called out on this blog, insensitive writers!) but in this case you have to make an exception on the side of comic relief. The three-issue series up to this point had been filled with a seemingly unending stream of threats, blackmail, deceit, secrecy, hidden agendas and other wonderfully dark and depressing themes, but in this story, we get a doozy of an appearance from an original Alphan that really lightens things up.