The primary discourse surrounding the X-Men and mutants in Marvel Comics focuses on metaphor. A less nuanced element in X-Men comics revolves around characters who struggle with mental health issues. In writing, approaching topics like trauma, psychological afflictions, or any other facet of psychology requires sensitivity. Sadly, many writers either lack a basic understanding of individuals who deal with real disorders and mental illness, or their depictions of characters with these afflictions appear erroneous.
Mental health is a subject that I feel deeply and passionately about. My desire to learn more about psychology and sociology stemmed from several college courses I took over the last few years. I took a class called Sociology of Murder and it completely changed my perception about aberrant behavior. Since the topics of murder and genocide also surface in X-Men (a comic book series I have only skimmed the surface of reading) I am fascinated by their representation in the expansive X-Men history. As a general disclaimer, I want to put forth the knowledge that, in no way am I an expert in psychology, or the X-Men for that matter. To broaden my knowledge in both of these subjects, I have decided to research and analyze the portrayal of mental illness in the character of Lorna Dane, most popularly known as Polaris.
I have never read any Polaris-centric X-Men comics until now, so this experience will be a combination of discovery and extensive research. Lorna Dane has a complicated origin story, as her relationship with Magneto has changed back and forth several times since her inception. Unsure where to begin, I consulted the trusty internet for some background information about Polaris and found some reading orders. I first read the original Lorna Dane appearance and arc from X-Men #49-52 (1968-69), also titled Uncanny X-Men. This four-issue origin story does not provide much information and is contradicted by later issues in the run. Nevertheless, enough material is provided to start considering Lorna Dane in terms of analyzing a character with mental health disorders.
Part One: Uncanny X-Men #49-50
X-Men #49-52 first establishes Lorna as a character. Interestingly, Lorna is not given the code name “Polaris” in these issues. From what I understand, Lorna first starts using the Polaris handle in X-Men #97. Because of that distinction, this assessment will refer to Lorna simply by her given name — Lorna Dane. I’ll start by discussing the first two issues (#49-50) in this initial four-issue arc, while my next article will cohesively pair with this first one.
Right away, I noticed startling issues in Lorna’s mental health– from both a psychoanalytical and sociocultural perspective. I’ll briefly describe Lorna’s role in the storyline along with my analysis/observations for context. Again, these are just my thoughts and opinions as an observer and avid fan of psychology and X-Men!
If there are any misconceptions or ignorance found in this article, I hold myself fully accountable. This exploration is meant as entertainment and a personal learning journey for myself, and anyone who would like to join me. Also, this is an analysis of these four X-Men issues only (seeing as how Lorna’s storyline and character traits are either explained and/or changed in future issues).
Writer: Arnold Drake
Pencilers: Don Heck & Werner Roth
Inker: John Tartaglione
Letterer: Herb Cooper
Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Arnold Drake
Penciler: Jim Steranko
Inker: John Tartaglione
Letterer: Herb Cooper
Editor: Stan Lee
In X-Men #49, Bobby Drake (Iceman) discovers Lorna Dane after Mesmero unleashes a “psyche-generator” upon mutants in North America. Mesmero plans to draw mutant pre-potentials toward him in San Francisco. He plans to awaken mutants with the inactive X-Gene, otherwise known as latent powers. Professor Charles Xavier senses the effects of Mesmero’s device. With the help of Cerebro, Bobby finally locates a disoriented Lorna Dane in San Francisco. Lorna accidentally slips on ice left behind by good old Iceman. He catches her, helping jolt Lorna out of her frozen (pun not intended) reverie. Bobby, like the helpful guy he is, instantly offers room and sustenance for the confused Lorna.
Although Bobby is clearly kind-hearted in his intentions, Lorna’s dialogue here raises a red flag. This is our first introduction to Lorna in the entirety of X-Men history, so this interpretation can be taken lightly. Regardless, I feel it’s important to note that Lorna willingly leaves with a random man off the street while also admitting that she can’t refuse his offer, even if she “wanted to.” Mesmero’s machine obviously altered her memories and mind. Her condition proves a direct result of the “psyche-generator” and Mesmero’s sinister plans. I’d still like to take this dialogue into account because of its implications. Not knowing anything about Lorna as a character up until this exact instance, we can infer that Lorna’s latent powers have had little to no effect on her personality. She’s obviously dependent in a time of mental distress, as anyone would be. But what’s bothersome (and a similar issue surfaces again soon), is the extent of her dependence on a total stranger for help. Would her first instinct not be to find a hospital, as opposed to saying yes to a seemingly well-intentioned man? Mine would be, anyway.
I also must account for the year in which this was written (1968). Maybe times were different back then, but if I found myself indescribably stuck in a city 1200 miles away, I would fear a guy off the street who has offered absolutely zero information about himself or his “pad” close by. This is more of an observation than a critical analysis of a minuscule instance in the scope of Lorna’s story. But I can’t help but wonder about Lorna’s mental state and history with trauma here, even before receiving her mutant powers. Her readiness to trust a stranger while she’s in mental flux may speak to a more authorial interpretation of women and not Lorna’s character herself. Dialogue and story pacing move along quickly in the comics medium. I’m probably overanalyzing a facilitating factor in progressing the story, but this scene creeps me out — especially as a woman. Don’t go to random guys’ houses if you hit your head, ladies. Seriously.
After Bobby brings Lorna to the mutant apartment to rest (thank god Bobby’s not a serial murderer, Lorna), Hank detects a mutant energy impulse from inside the apartment. Hank quickly deduces that Lorna is the latent mutant they’ve frantically been searching for, but not before he discovers that Lorna . . . dyes her green hair! Her popular green hair color distinguishes Lorna as a recognizable character in the X-Men universe. Even people unfamiliar with Lorna Dane could probably point out this jade-haired mutant. Furthermore, I find it fascinating that Lorna admits she dyes her hair color to fit into society. (Note: A later X-Men issue informs readers that Lorna’s adopted parents forced her to dye her hair, but this is not mentioned in this first issue.) This intrinsic desire for social acceptance falls into the analytical category of social psychology. She didn’t want to attract curious eyes because of her green hair, and this is before even learning of her latent mutant abilities. (It should also be noted that green hair wouldn’t be as noticeable in today’s society).
As an individual without powers (yet), Lorna has already yielded to what conformity psychology describes as normative conformity: “. . . changing the behavior of oneself to fit in with others.” This branch of social psychology can be defined as, “The general belief and concept that refers to a change in behavior that’s created by other groups and people, and the fact that the person acted this way because of other people.” Lorna, like Nightcrawler or Mystique, has a physical difference that inherently delineates them, not only from other people but from other mutants. This brief interaction implicates Lorna’s human want for conformity. The theme of conformity permeates these first issues in a dramatic, psychologically aware fashion.
After the rest of the X-Men team discovers Lorna, they begin their interaction by talking a lot about her and not necessarily to her (a different issue I’ll just attribute to exposition). Their welcome team could use some serious help. They immediately begin to throw out informed assumptions behind the reasoning for Lorna’s memory loss and presence so far from home. Lorna’s undeniably overwhelmed by all this talk of mutants and her latent mutant powers and a dead Magneto . . . by these people she has never met before. Anyway. . . Another detail to mention — that may be a result of a tight script — is that Lorna never mentions where she’s from or any family that might be concerned about her back home. Instinctively, most individuals in this predicament would want to contact people they know that might be genuinely terrified over their loved one’s safety.
Attachment theory describes the effects of affectional bonds that are forms of behavioral attachment a person has toward another. An overview of these affectional bonds mentions two criteria that would distinctly apply to Lorna’s current situation: (1) “The relationship involved in an affectional bond has strong emotional significance. These affectional bonds have a major impact on the lives of those who share them” and (2) “The individual seeks contact and proximity with the person he or she has an affectional bond to. We desire to be physically close to the people we share affection with.” Attachment theory and affectional bonds are probably the most obvious psychological topics to discuss when talking about Lorna Dane. Later in this mini-arc, Lorna will question her loyalties and attachment to Magneto.
Here, Lorna never thinks about her attachments to anyone back home. She’s frightened but instantly latches onto Bobby as a grounding source. This proves that Lorna is highly susceptible to easily forming affectional bonds.
Therefore, in this particular X-Men #49 Lorna Dane issue, a question can theoretically be posed: Why do Lorna’s parents hold either no “. . . strong emotional significance” or no desire for her to be “. . . physically close” to them? This conflict emerges in many later X-Men issues as a huge source of tension in Lorna’s character development. X-Men #49 is only Lorna’s conception as a character, so my application of affectional bonds quickly becomes a moot point. Thinking about attachment theory this early on — even if this analysis holds no water because of future events and retcons — will better inform an understanding of Lorna’s behavior in subsequent storylines.
Bobby doesn’t do a great job of protecting Lorna, in the end. Mesmero and his android team burst into the X-Men apartment and Mesmero incapacitates Bobby. As a result, Lorna is left to cower in fear at Mesmero. Without any powers to protect her, Lorna assesses the danger and proclaims how terrified she is. When Mesmero and the Demi-Men bow down at her feet, Lorna still calls on Bobby for help.
Lorna’s already generated an emotional attachment to Bobby, as I stated earlier. Her instantaneous bond with Bobby cannot be severed. In this moment of extreme emotional duress, Lorna’s self-preservation instincts trend in a more dynamic direction than usual in this “fight or flight” scenario. Lorna does not want to fight, nor does she want to flee: She wants Bobby to fight for her. Once again, attachment theory proves that her affectional bonds with others hold great sway over Lorna’s behaviors. Whether it’s authorial intent or not, Lorna’s character has thus far been largely influenced by the males around her in #49. The entire X-Men #49-52 arc showcases Lorna as powerful, but either as a love interest for Iceman or as the daughter of Magneto. Later X-storylines more harshly relegate these roles to Lorna, but the male gaze/failure of passing the Bechdel test will be discussed in detail in future articles.
Fortunately, these skeleton characteristics prescribed to Lorna’s personality in her first appearance issue profoundly influence the physical metamorphosis Lorna undergoes in the subsequent issue. The set-up in X-Men #49-52 paves the way for differing interpretations of Lorna’s character and origins. Not all of these interpretations pay off, but these first issues give readers a first glimpse into Lorna Dane’s mental state and inner conflict with herself as Mesmero dubs her, “Queen of the Mutants” in X-Men #50.
Moving onto issue #50, we see Mesmero capture Lorna and Bobby, taking them to his headquarters. There, Mesmero uses the psyche-generator machine seen in the previous issue to awaken Lorna Dane’s mutant powers. In an astonishingly gorgeous set of panels, Lorna’s magnetic-based powers finally surface. I do love the sheer ferocity and intensity the art provides for Lorna in these scenes. The artistic rendering of unhinged power imbued onto Lorna vigorously juxtaposes the previous narrative depiction of a timid and unsure woman.
After Lorna’s mutant powers are awakened, Iceman internally posits the encapsulating theme of this storyline: Will Lorna’s newfound power change her personality as well? Mesmero is cognizant of the fact that Lorna is an extremely powerful mutant — enough to even call her their “invincible leader.” In essence, Bobby asserts that Mesmero’s evil social influence might coerce Lorna into either conformity or compliance. The idea of social influence — that “Individuals are likely to change their behavior according to the social environment in which they find themselves” — is paramount to the rest of this narrative. Humorously, Bobby is fairly astute in making this assumption, despite having only known Lorna for a short time.
Again, the artistry and green color palette enhances the cinematic facets of Lorna’s transformation. Where Bobby is given an internal dialogue just two panels before, the visual sumptuousness delegated to Lorna shines the spotlight back onto our star character. This pacing perfectly builds up the tension before revealing Lorna in her new mutant state.
Lorna Dane appears, beautifully dressed in her green, cut-out, one-piece embellished with yellow accessories. Where she got this gorgeous costume, who knows? Still, I will continue to marvel at this boldly appropriate fashion choice. She looks like a majestic badass.
Promptly, Lorna is immediately oversaturated by both her environment and her personal reflections. In any social or psychological science, the social environment contributes to altering or affecting our state of mind. Mesmero and his evil Demi-Men revere Lorna and shout their affections toward her. After learning of her parental lineage, Lorna immediately acknowledges her physiological bond with her dead father, super-villain Magneto. Based on attachment theory and Lorna’s proneness to affectional bonds, Lorna would be expected to feel some familial loyalty to her father, no matter his past. Social influences and her social environment subconsciously challenge Lorna’s morality before she’s even had a chance to accept the bodily changes that couple with acquiring mutant powers. This quintessential page proves that its creators took all of the thematic, psychological, and characterization factors into account and executed the dialogue and art with aplomb.
Although Mesmero tries to force Lorna to conform to his ideologies by using coercion and psychological manipulation, Lorna sublimely underpins the foundation of everyone’s expectations. Lorna’s physical awakening appears to have simultaneously induced a mental alteration. Before, Lorna exhibited character traits like hesitancy and dependence on Bobby to guide her. By refusing to succumb to the negative social environment Mesmero placed her in, Lorna shows a new side of her personality: self-efficacy. A facet of social cognitive theory, self-efficacy is key to self-management. Self-efficacy is the “. . . belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” Lorna demonstrates superior situational management in this moment of extraordinary conflict. Nevertheless, Lorna will again struggle with her allegiances in issues #51 and #52. There’s a lot to be unearthed concerning Lorna’s self-efficacy that will be covered in other articles.
Lorna chooses to defend the X-Men against Mesmero and his crew, exerting power and control she had previously lacked. Her inherent urge for paternal attachment led her to question whether she should destroy the X-Men who had murdered her father. Magneto had been an uninvolved parent up until this moment. The revelation of her parenthood causes Lorna to mentally stumble, but Magneto’s paternal absence allowed Lorna to emotionally comprehend her attachment to those who directly involved themselves in her well-being. As a result, Lorna saves the X-Men she is psychologically tethered to by affectional bonds.
The final panel of X-Men #50 drops another bomb into the overarching narrative storyline: Magneto is alive! Even before Magneto’s announcement, Lorna senses Magneto’s existence. Interestingly, she says that she feels “unspeakable evil” radiating from Magneto. The adjective “unspeakable” indicates Lorna’s sentiment toward her dead father. Magneto’s evil horrifies and shocks her. The familial attachment she had wrestled with when she thought Magneto was dead now presents a new psychological quandary for Lorna. How will she deal with an evil father she has never met? How will it affect her personhood?
X-Men #51-52 builds on the thematic and psychological pantheon that Magneto’s existence presents in Lorna’s life. I will do a deep dive into these topics in my next article. Lorna Dane is a product of pathos, neglect, trauma, and eventually grapples with bipolar disorder. I hope this first analysis brought insight or raised questions for anyone curious about her character. I care deeply about accurate representations of mental health in writing since it requires sensitivity to fully execute. Writing this has taught me so much more about psychology and mental health already. I look forward to all of the learning opportunities and moments of self-reflection ahead. Lorna Dane is a mutant, yet she is a stark representation of what it means to be human.
Part Two: Uncanny X-Men #51-52
Lorna Dane’s powerful character remains utterly underutilized in X-Men comics history. Restating the takeaway themes from Part One, psychological concepts such as attachment theory and social influence are quintessential facets in describing Lorna’s X-Men #49-52 depiction. In particular, these two ideas remain a touchstone of analyzing Lorna’s character throughout her numerous and varying comic representations. Here, we will again examine Lorna from a non-psych major, psychoanalytical and sociocultural perspective in the concluding issues of her first appearance arc in Uncanny X-Men.
Writer: Arnold Drake
Pencilers: Jim Steranko & Werner Roth
Inker: John Tartaglione
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Arnold Drake
Penciler: Don Heck & Werner Roth
Inker: John Tartaglione
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Editor: Stan Lee
First, I can’t help but point out the severe lack of Lorna on the X-Men #51 cover. Instead of hinting at the story inside -- a significant story where Lorna is faced with incomprehensible conflict -- it relegates Lorna to a status she will find herself in during several X-Men plotlines: Lorna has already begun finding herself primarily characterized as “Magneto’s daughter.” Thus, the title for X-Men #51, “The Devil Had a Daughter,” immediately detracts focus away from Lorna and pushes our attention onto Magneto.
Compare issue #50’s cover to X-Men #50. This issue presented a solitary and goddess-looking Lorna drenched in green tones on the cover. The beautifully rendered cover conveyed the narrative magnitude of Mesmero awakening Lorna’s latent powers and assigning her the title, “Queen of the Mutants.” Not only does Mesmero activate her dormant X-gene, but Lorna must grapple with newfound immense power and a tribe of Demi-Men hailing her as their literal queen. Therefore, the X-Men #50 cover gives readers an accurate glimpse at the story unfolding inside its pages.
The cliffhanger revelation at the end of issue #50 narratively segues directly into issue #51. Magneto, previously thought to be dead, reveals himself as the mastermind behind Mesmero’s machinations and Lorna’s abduction. Oh, and in the first panel of issue #51, Magneto informs Lorna that he is her real father. His proclamation that Lorna is “the daughter of Magneto!” begins Lorna’s unwanted conscription into this ridiculously minimizing title.
(As this column progresses, I will discuss this characterization problem at length in more defining X-Men issues.)
Social influence substantially affects an individual’s willingness to conform or comply with someone’s wishes. As opposed to merely conforming to gain acceptance, Magneto essentially assumes that Lorna will demonstrate a social influence branch of psychology called compliance. In psychology, compliance refers to “ . . . any situation in which individuals change their behavior because they’re requested to do so.” The first page of this issue gives us a lot to unpack already. The key thing that stands out here is Magneto’s desire to force Lorna into social compliance with his domineering mindset, but, as Bobby contemplates, compliance in this social situation remains “ . . . partially voluntary.” Because Magneto needs to convince Lorna to voluntarily adhere to his wishes, he instantly employs the filial angle in his spiel.
Magneto appeals to two of Lorna’s sensibilities, noted by Beast and Cyclops: “Filial duty and the inner need for power.” Here, the X-Men acknowledge that Magento makes a strong argument for his daughter to join his side. Magneto is manipulating the social situation, taking advantage of a disgruntled Lorna’s mental capability for rationalization -- given all, she’s just endured after barely obtaining her new magnetic powers. Additionally, Magneto preys on Lorna’s assumed “need for power” to gain her fidelity. The need for power is a basic, inherent human need, “ . . . defined as the desire to control or influence others.” Although Magneto has just met Lorna, he naturally vocalizes a human desire that he can easily fulfill for a new powerful mutant like Lorna. It makes you wonder how long Magneto practiced this speech. It’s extremely insightful for a man who just emerged from the shadows.
The theme of compliance is also affirmed by Hank’s dialogue here. Filial duty -- otherwise known as filial piety -- is psychologically defined as the “ . . . cultural value and responsibility to treat one’s parents with the highest respect” A further breakdown of the words themselves is this: “Filial refers to anything related to a son or daughter, and piety refers to the virtue of being reverent and compliant.” Compliance, quite literally, is found in the textbook definition for the very offshoot of social influence that Hank addresses. Because Magento has placed high expectations on Lorna, he demands Lorna’s compliance through urging filial piety. He wants to sway Lorna by praising her power but requiring her personhood -- because she’s his daughter (so he claimed five sentences ago).
This page would be narratively astounding if not for a crucial issue. Curiously, readers see Lorna’s slightly indifferent facial expression on only one panel during Magneto’s speech and the X-Men’s speculations. It takes almost two more pages to see a visceral response that features Lorna’s thoughts about the whole traumatic scenario. In between those pages, Lorna speaks one line of dialogue that only hints at Lorna’s internal conflict over what decision she will make. But her words are directed at her “savior,” Iceman, which negates the emotional impact of Magneto’s coercing words.
After a page’s worth of dialogue directed straight at or about Lorna, it’s a shame that the X-Men sort of steal the pathos of the encounter.
While the X-Men fight Magneto, we finally see a visually effective panel. Lorna clutches her head in agony while the jarring crimson background and pointed black lines above her head stunningly illustrate Lorna’s mental anguish. She is caught in a moral battle with powers she hardly knows how to control. All around her, men (plus Jean, who hasn’t received any dialogue so far) attempt to manage the situation. Lorna mentally and physically shuts down. Her helplessness reaches a breaking point in this panel, and we feel enormous empathy for Lorna’s visibly distraught character.
Bobby eventually decides that Lorna’s vulnerability and indecision have made her incapable of fighting either for or against Magneto. Before the battle, Bobby’s affections for Lorna have been evident since the moment he found her on the streets of San Francisco. Bobby’s feelings toward Lorna in this mini-arc set the stage for many future storylines with a negative portrayal of Bobby. Aside from that, the pretty sexist era of the late 1960s had to include the dialogue below:
“Warm hunk of girl” physically makes me cringe.
Also, I can’t even attribute Lorna’s inaptitude for Bobby’s motivations here to her current disrupted state of mind. In my last article, I talked about attachment theory and Lorna’s immediate formulation of an affectional bond toward Bobby. How can she possibly not comprehend why Bobby is “singl[ing]” her out here? He rescued her the first time he met her. Lorna didn’t want Bobby to leave her alone in X-Men #49. Lorna’s budding feelings must be convoluted because of emotional distress. Or, the writers wanted to give them a “moment” to build upon in the future. This is a scene I will move on from now because Lorna and Bobby will have many more “moments” that deserve a closer analysis than this generally irritating panel.
Magneto proves that his time spent away from the X-Men has only made him a more intimidating foe. After deflecting every mutant power directed toward him, Magneto’s magnetic hold nearly decimates the X-Men. Lorna finally speaks up, trying to bargain with her father by questioning why the X-Men must face death by his hand.
Lorna’s dialogue here asserts that she has succumbed to the social influence of filial piety, yet has not quite established an attachment to her father. Her affectional bonds to Bobby and the X-Men hinders her capacity for full loyalty. Consequently, Magneto chooses not to heed Lorna’s words and causes the X-Men to retreat. Because Lorna does not follow the X-Men, they assume Lorna has complied with her father’s influence.
Magneto goes into full rage mode while Lorna stands at his side. His call to “Kill the X-Men” doesn't appear to affect Lorna’s demeanor in this panel, but Magneto’s words resonate with Lorna in the next issue. The image shows Lorna’s outstretched hand pointing to the chaos in the foreground. Visually, readers can interpret Lorna’s wordless action as a physical resolution to her previous “decision” of whether to band with her father.
Meanwhile, the X-Men find themselves irate at Bobby. Without hesitation, they deem Lorna their “mortal enemy” and Bobby’s intentions toward Lorna manifest in a frenzied argument with Scott. Bobby’s audible response both rivals and confirms his equal affectional bond with Lorna.
Bobby storms off in a heated frenzy after his shouting match with Scott. Bobby’s attachment to Lorna and defenselessness against thwarting Magneto’s control results in a major emotional displacement toward Scott. Sure that Bobby needs time to work through his twisted inner turmoil, Scott dubiously divulges that he has a plan to defeat Magneto.
The conclusion of X-Men #51 features a domineering mutant who calls himself Erik the Red. After decimating a distant wasteland, he proclaims that his evolved mutant powers rival that of Magneto’s. X-Men #52 begins after Erik the Red’s initial display of destruction. He demonstrates highly evolved powers, violently overpowering the Demi-Men and forcing Mesmero and his lackeys to flee. Unfortunately for them, Mesmero and his Demi-Men become trapped under debris erupting as a result of Erik’s force beams.
Finally, the scene shows a contemplative Lorna watching the chaos from afar. She recognizes the danger of the situation and ruminates on the truth of what she’s been told about her father versus her filial obligation toward the villainous man who claims to have fathered her.
Issue #52 offers a substantial amount of insight and character development for Lorna that has thus far been lax in this four-story arc. Readers are granted full access to her uncensored thoughts. Her dialogue offers unhinged characterizations without the banality of cliche platitudes. According to moral psychology, humans are born with an innate awareness of right versus wrong behavior and attitudes. Moral psychology discusses immorality, in which an “ . . . an immoral person knows the difference, yet he does the wrong thing, regardless.” But Lorna is not necessarily choosing immorality out of spite or ignorance. Because filial duty is a constituent of Lorna’s moral dilemma, she cannot exhibit immorality by choosing the side of evil. Lorna believes that her filial bond of loyalty to her father usurps his evil past that she fully acknowledges over her affectional bond with Iceman.
Lorna’s emotional distress also might counteract her rationalization here. When expected to choose a side under extreme psychological distress, stressors can manufacture physical and mental “. . . demands that are difficult to cope with.” Her decision does not come lightly, the weight of future repercussions discernible by her facial expressions. Morality, stress, and loyalty all subject Lorna to impossibly difficult predicaments that everyone instantaneously expects her to cope with. Even so, she has not had sufficient time to process her mental trauma. Instead, she attempts to cast aside the burdens of social influences around her by communicating her filial duty to Magneto as she faces a befuddled Erik the Red.
Erik the Red uses the power of social influence to again manipulate Lorna’s emotions. Surprisingly, he reveals that he’s a Magneto fanboy who wants to be recruited into Magneto’s mutant army. Just as Lorna has come to terms with her feelings, Erik throws a wrench in her mental struggle to retain her personhood. At this point, Lorna’s ability to trust anyone appears lenient on Magneto’s instructions. Lorna has surrendered her identity to filial piety. Her rapid formation of affectional bonds has been subconsciously expedited, due to her perceived obligation of familial allegiance to Magneto.
Magneto tells Lorna to trust Erik the Red, despite her reservations. He needs new bodies for his squad. Still, Lorna’s deeply empathic personality shines through. Her morality has been challenged. Control over her identity has begun slipping away from her. Unhinged power has been bestowed upon her. Nevertheless, Lorna happily pledges obedience to Erik the Red and assuages his fear of betrayal. Social influence and filial duty have coerced Lorna into compliant submission. But, her inner characteristic of selflessness and gratification show that Lorna’s free will has not been completely ripped away.
The X-Men head over to Mutant City with a plan in mind. Erik the Red and Lorna work together to free Mesmero, who immediately starts mouthing off to Erik. Lorna, bolstered by Magneto’s trust in her leadership abilities and satisfying her innate need for power, insists that Mesmero display his loyalty to her father by accepting Erik into Magneto's mutant militia. Lorna’s bold show of command suggests that Lorna has garnered emotional control. Inner dialogue discloses Lorna’s distrust of Erik the Red. Here, her ability to recognize possible fabrication in Erik’s story indicates a positive character trait of Lorna, deep in the throes of her emotional trauma.
Magneto relentlessly communicates his desire for Lorna’s devotion as the two of them rule over the earth together. Because Lorna publicized her filial obligation to Magneto, he knows his social influence has drawn her to his side. Lorna still internally wrestles with Magneto’s plans for them. She fears an entirely loveless life in supremacy with Magento. This implies that Lorna’s affectional bond for her father tethers them together solely out of filial piety. She’s trapped in an attachment without love, and her downcast expression induces extreme empathy for Lorna.
In a shocking turn of events, Erik the Red reveals that he is none other than Cyclops! Scott and Jean reunite as the X-Men vocalize their plan to line Magento’s floor with copper wire to enact a disabling electric current. Iceman hurries to catch up to the X-Men with some damning information that could drastically alter Lorna’s fate. In his hurried attempt, Iceman gets slightly electrocuted when the X-Men release the 1,000 volts of electricity that sabotage Magneto’s power supply. Of course, now Iceman can’t reveal the big secret about Lorna. Ah, plot devices.
Mesmero and the Demi-Men discover the X-Men, leading to an aggressive battle. Eventually, Magneto demands that Lorna destroy the X-Men. Not only does Lorna capitulate to her father, but she even articulates that she has “no choice” in the matter. The sway of filial piety daunts Lorna. Her self-efficacy and autonomy swiftly diminish as she conforms more to Magneto’s social influence and parental instructions.
Parenthood in Lorna’s story is a topic that has radically changed in X-Men canon. In this issue, Bobby finds Lorna and tells her that Magneto is not her true father. Bobby contacted Lorna’s family back home. Their investigation revealed that her real parents died in a plane crash shortly after her birth. I’ll discuss this plot point when it changes in later issues, and then changes again? Sliding timelines and retcons continue to confuse my thin X-Men lore knowledge.
Upon hearing this news, Lorna’s relief eviscerates the roiling conflict that had plagued her throughout this issue. It’s a moment of catharsis that Lorna undoubtedly deserves (which is why the later story about Lorna killing her parents prompts major trauma). Psychoanalytic theory corroborates the realistic relief Lorna experiences here. She is released from her filial obligations and the moral conflict that supplemented her psychological dilemma. Her catharsis generates the “ . . .release of strong, pent-up emotions” that mentally imprisoned Lorna.
Lorna revokes Magneto’s pretense of parental autonomy in an epic display of physical catharsis. Her pent-up anger toward Magneto breaks loose in a breathtaking exhibition of her powers. While Lorna’s conflicted feelings bubble over, readers see the extent of Lorna’s mutant abilities. It makes you consider Lorna as an upcoming, immensely powerful addition to the X-Men team.
Sadly, Lorna Dane’s first arc ends demeaningly. I hate this last panel. I hate to show it.
All our attention is directed toward the men and Bobby’s well-being. I understand Lorna’s affections toward Bobby and his savior complex, but after everything, Lorna endured, why are the mental and physical repercussions of Lorna’s trauma not once considered in this last panel? Instead, Bobby and Lorna have a little flirtation rendezvous while the other X-Men sit around and watch them? She’s going to repay Bobby for his help by acting as his nurse now? At least Jean and Lorna get some praise for quite literally saving the guys’ asses against Magneto. And Jean overrides Hank’s comment by admiring Lorna’s “competency” as Bobby’s “nurse.” IN the words of Lemongrab, “Unacceptable!”.
Unfortunately, Lorna’s story ends on this strange note. Does this first arc pass the Bechdel Test? It’s not hard to deduce the answer. Overall, X-Men #51 and most of issue #52, strengthened Lorna as a two-dimensional character and laid the foundation for further character exploration. Additionally, all four comics discussed here established Lorna as a character who will remain rooted in mental trauma, acquiescence to social influence, and inner conflict with her identity as a person. They aren’t perfect comics. They were written in a different era without much thought to Lorna’s agency, and that’s understandable, considering how much feminism and representation have evolved in the comic sphere. However, whether intended or not, X-Men #49-52 inspects how social and psychological factors affect Lorna’s sense of self. Lorna Dane is an endlessly fascinating character I am honored to critically and psychologically analyze -- and appreciate.
(Part One of this article was previously published at comfortfoodcomics.com, now edited and combined into the current article posted here at CBY.)