Sunday, 5 June 2011

UXM #2: "No-One Can Stop The Vanisher!"

(Or ”When the Working Week Defeats Us”)
Issue #2 manages to be less sexist than its predecessor, though that probably says more about the initial instalment than it does about this one.  Marvel Girl still has to faint into Angel’s manly arms after over-exerting herself (by throwing aside a gaggle of giggling adolescent girls gagging for Angel’s autograph”, no less), and suffer the indignity of Worthington issuing her combat commands using the codename “Gorgeous.”.
At least this time she gets to threaten a pair of hoods with their own weapons, though.  “She’s more dangerous than the others!” one notes, in what actually a pretty impressive piece of accidental foreshadowing when you think about it.
Beast is still without any real individual traits – he claims to be smarter than the others, but that’s treated as boastfulness rather than an accurate assessment. He’s pretty much a fractionally more mature Iceman at this point.
Xavier didn’t really come across to well last time, between his ridiculous obsession with punctuality and creepy comments about his new student’s attractiveness.  Now, though, he’s moved into petty tyranny; demanding absolute silence during briefings (imagine how well that would have gone down with, say, Wolverine or Gambit) and handing out demerits to those who don’t toe the line.  His decision to face the Vanisher and his army of hoodlums is also difficult to tie in to his desire to remain anonymous.  Presumably he wiped everyone’s mind off-screen.
To be completely fair to Lee, although this issue is once again crammed with low-level sexism, ridiculous plot developments (what’s the point of having four men with guns guard a briefcase against a teleporting foe if they talk about his sudden arrival at such length that he teleports out again; one of those times that a duo-specific panel is not only annoying and redundant but actually harmful) and incomprehensible jokes ( “I’d like to help him too.  With a cactus plant!”), he’s now eight for eight in introducing mutant characters who will have at least recurring roles in 21st century X-books.  One could be cynical and point to this as proof of the line’s creative bankruptcy, but I prefer to credit Lee with a knack for coming up with attention-grabbing characters. 
Bonus points are also given for the speed with which the media turn against the X-Men the instant they lose a fight against a supervillain.  "I knew it... If they were really so great, they wouldn't keep their identities a secret!" It's not exactly an Aaron Sorkin script, granted, but '60s Stan Lee is already orders of magnitude better at talking heads commentary than what you find in Miller's Dark Knight Strikes Again. [1]
Lastly, I’m happy to see the word “Zoweee!” getting an airing.  As a term, it’s only second to “Zounds” on my list of outdated expletives starting with Z.  I hope there’ll be more of this coming later.
This story takes place over a minimum of five days, if we assume that by “In a few days” Vanisher actually means “The day after tomorrow”.
During the first day of the story, the Vanisher puts a gun on a bank manager as part of a heist.  On the same day, Cyclops obliterates a crumbling wall threatening to squish some construction workers.  I’m not sure whether these events preclude the possibility of it being a Sunday (‘70s US labor laws not really being a particular strength of mine) but it does mean the story can be no more likely to be set on a Sunday than on a Monday, so we’ll assume the story takes place over the working week.
The problem with reading these issues in black and white has become obvious; I can’t tell whether the deciduous trees outside the Whitehouse are green or autumnal.  From the front cover, though, the leaves in question are mercifully free of Fall’s onslaught. I dug out a picture of the Whitehouse in the second week of September:

So greenery at that time is not completely beyond the realms of possibility.  Therefore:
Monday 4th to Friday 8th September, 1978.
X+3 to X+7.
Compression Constant
1 Marvel week = 6.78 standard weeks.
Contemporary Events
The start of the conference that will lead to the Camp David Accords.
Georgi Markov is stabbed with a poisoned umbrella in London.
Stand-Out Line
“Call the cops!  Even jail would be better than those corny puns of yours!” A rare moment of self-reflection from Stan Lee.  Though having said that, if terrible puns are your thing, this comic is thing of beauty. 
[1] Not hard, because Miler is a disgrace to fiction.  Either he completely lost the ability to write with any competence whatsoever before starting TDKSA, or - as seems more likely - he decided that hating the idea of writing another Batman book was reason enough to make sure it was total shit, but not reason enough to turn down the fucking money.

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