Sage was one of the first mutants that Professor X found when building his original X-Men. Sage was much older and far well versed in her abilities. So, Professor X sent her to spy on the Hellfire Club operating under the name Tessa. Professor X spent most of the early years of the X-Men creating a mutant underground between various organizations, international concerns and within the US government. Tessa stuck beside Sebastian Shaw, as she was meant to detail his powers and how he was influencing the government to gain Sentinel contracts away from Trask Industries. Tessa first met Professor X, after answering his telepathic call for help after his fight with Lucifer.
While Xavier would lose the use of his legs for the first time, Sage/Tessa would manage to get him to a United Nations aid convoy for help. Tessa would stay hidden in open for ages until Donald Pierce began to deduce her role of influence over Shaw. Professor X and the New Mutants had to rescue Tessa without tipping Xavier’s hand about Tessa’s true role. Donald Pierce was expelled from the Hellfire Club and that began his long road to creating the Reavers. Tessa would continue to hide out with the Hellfire Club, while her secondary mutation began to appear. She would only consider leaving, as the Destiny Diaries started to draw her into the mix.
Tessa joins the X-Men after the villainous Bogan ruins her importance to Sebastian Shaw. This ruination also included Bogan branding Tessa’s face with some graphic tattoos. While it’s not the most violent thing to happen to a woman in the X-Universe, nobody wants to go through life looking like Mike Tyson. Shortly after Tessa becomes an X-Man, she has to use her secondary mutation to save The Beast’s life. She jumpstarts his feline mutation further and starts to give him the appearance of The Beast in Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast”. Hank feels like he’s losing his humanity, but Sage saved his life. Sebastian Shaw would pull Tessa back into the Hellfire Club, as a means of revenge for having found out that she was a spy for so long.
The problem with Sage is that she keeps getting split between hunting down the Destiny Diaries and working with the new iteration of The Hellfire Club. So, while the Sebastian Shaw revenge angle is interesting, the Claremontian aspect of the Destiny Diaries keeps killing that momentum. Eventually, she rejoins the Hellfire Club to monitor Sunspot’s rise to the position of Black King. From there, she was sent to join New Excalibur and joined the Exiles. This was part of the whole Chris Claremont loved his creation and was damned if anyone else was going to touch her. Sure, Morrison used her well in the Emma Frost “death” investigation and the creation of the modern XSE, but Tessa stayed in Claremont’s custody for a solid decade.
For the longest time, I was led to believe that Tessa was a cyborg. She has a pressure point on her body that allows her mind to be reset. She has sunglasses that allow her a degree of cyber manipulation. Basically, she’s a telepathic Johnny Mnemonic without all of the Reeves bullshit. It’s been a few years since Sage was returned from the Crystal Palace with Sabertooth and the other Exiles, but nothing has come of it. She’s an interesting character with a deep reach into X-Men history. However, nobody seems to want to touch a character that is considered Claremont property. To hell with that, I say! It’s not like the character can be knocked around worse than what the Image kids did in the 1990s.
The retcon that made Sage into one of the first mutants that Professor X found paid off. While it shows and establishes that Professor X can be manipulative, it shows that the scope of the X-Men is a lot more than sending a bunch of kids in brightly colored outfits after ridiculously overpowered misfits. The reframing between Tessa and FBI Agent Fred Duncan suggests that Xavier knows his dream is flawed from the get-go due to the manipulations of others in higher positions of power. If anything, it suggests that while he won’t use his telepathy to change minds, he’s not above manipulating people and committing political power plays to get what he wants. Sure, it goes alongside the history of others making strive in civil rights, but there’s something off about it here.
Maybe, it’s because Professor Xavier has ultimately created a paramilitary training camp in upstate New York to impose his worldview on the populace. It’s not a bad worldview, but it’s not like he offers up any counterpoint to his take on the matter. Charles Xavier gives the ultimate “MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY” by simply being. Maybe Sebastian Shaw was right to be as mad as he suggests in later decades, as Tessa was his closest confidante. Shaw was a businessman who was doing exactly what Xavier was trying, but Shaw wanted to make a profit at it. If anything, this means that the X-Books are a battle of political ideologies rather than good guys vs. bad guys.
What I find the most intriguing about Sage is that there is still so much to be done with the character. She’s a psionic power type that can manipulate technology with ease. She’s not a cyborg, so much as she’s just a super powered person that functions in an almost autistic way while dressing like a high class hooker for the Hellfire Club. What was up with Claremont putting every other woman in fetish gear during his classic run? There’s a world of material to say about the man’s love of putting men and women in black leather during his run. But, I’m getting distracted.
Ultimately, Sage/Tessa works as the ultimate remainder that the battle for mutant equality will be dirty. Most hard fought wars aren’t always committed on the battlefield, so this shouldn’t be any different. If anything, Sage would work insanely well on Cyclops’ team over in “Uncanny X-Men”. But, the Bendis takes the mutants that he wants and he left Sage to suffer. Tessa deserved better.