Monday, 27 June 2011

UXM #24: "The Plague Of... The Locust!"

("It wouldn't be an irrational fear of bees if I could just pull myself together!")


I don't want to get all Kathy-Bates-from-Misery here, but this issue feels like a distinct cheat following on from the last one.  "I must leave the X-Men forever" us a great cliffhanger (despite how tiring this constant doe-eyed moping has been getting), but it just doesn't translate into "I'm going to a nearby college so will only see you at weekends".  She's basically joined the superhero equivalent of the TA, which hardly strikes me as the end of the world.

Especially when actual world ending is very much on the agenda, thanks to a plague of giant mutant locusts.  This was a somewhat tricky issue for me to read, because it managed to flare up my entomophobia.  Not so much the artwork as the general concept.  If it's all the same to you, I'm going to spend the rest of this review pretending that Doctor Hopper has perfected a method of creating giant mutant Lucases.

Actually, that's probably even scarier.  Never mind.

They really don’t make villains like the Locust anymore.  Not with a straight face, at least.  Even Stan Lee seems unable to understand why anyone would make the leap from “humans are weak” to “humans must be replaced by giant insects”.  And if Stan Lee can’t get on board with something, you know you’re in some trouble.
I’m sorry. I should have said  “Humans must be replaced by giant mutant insects”. Apparently that’s the only reason Xavier wants the X-Men involved.  I guess if they’d turned out to be robots, Albany would have been on their own.  Still, maybe the team are strapped for cash – I think this is the first time since the comic started that they re-use a vehicle (the stumpy but cute helicopter from issue #19).  They’d love to respond to all super-powered threats, but what with the economy the way it is...
Oh, wait.  We’re assuming this is 1978.  Not the economy.  Gas prices. Fucking Jimmy Carter.
Of course, halfway through, Hopper’s plan suddenly pulls a 180.  He doesn’t want to have the locusts destroy mankind, he wants credit for being the one who stops them.  That’s quite a turnaround.  Or maybe this was the idea all along, and he just got dressed up as a locust and egged his hideous creations on to lull them into a false sense of security.  “Eat and grow large, my children! That is exactly what I wish! I’m certainly not planning on gassing you to look like a hero, if that’s what you’re thinking!”
I love the Professor’s investigative style when he gets into Hopper’s lab.  Step 1: mentally probe the machines to see if they offer any hints as to Hopper’s research. Step 2: study an empty jar of locust eggs and ponder whether the good doctor was involved in the earlier attack. Step 3: look at the giant fucking map on the far wall with the location of that attack marked with a huge “X”.  The comic even underlines this by describing it as “a previously unnoticed wall.”  As in, “Fuck me, four walls? I’d best give this the once over, lads!”  He really hasn’t been the same since he discovered he could play with himself again (as well as dress-up as Gandalf the Grey, apparently).
Don’t call Bobby “Blake”, Hank!  You’ll let loose the secret of your forbidden love! And after Iceman had covered so well earlier when he welcomed Jean back: “I was already gettin’ tired of looking at the Beast!”  You’re fooling no-one, Bobby...
Obviously, given how much they terrify me, I’m not an expert on insects, but I’m not sure wasps consider locusts their mortal enemies.  Having said that, in an issue that’s divested entirely from reality and story-telling logic even by ‘60s standards, I do like the idea that the X-Men catch a break because giant-sized insects act just the same as normal insects, rather than rabid killers.


(This issue marks the third anniversary of the comic's run)
This issue follows quickly on from the last one.  Issue #23 ended with Jean announcing she was leaving the X-Men following a mysterious letter, now revealed to be from her parents, telling her to get her arse in gear and go to college.

The general impression is that this has been a fairly rapid process.  Just how rapid is difficult to say, but let's make it pretty quick.  We know that the X-Men have their first battle with the giant locusts the day Jean leaves, but we then fast-forward "a few days" to see her at Metro college.  The day after that, she visits the X-Men for the weekend.  Working backwards, then, we can think of her leaving the X-Men four days after she received the letter, on a Tuesday, and visiting on the Saturday morning.


Tuesday 5th to Saturday 9th of June, 1979.


X+431 to X+435.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.52 standard years.

(Iceman is 34 years old.)

"Nothing like a nice fresh ice spear
for cooling down a rampaging locust, I always say!"
Contemporary Events

First direct elections to the European parliament.

Standout Line

“My apologies, but it’s essential that you stick around for a short tete-a-tete.  That means a heart-to-heart talk, if you’re behind in your French lessons!” Meh. I guess even the mighty Hank McCoy can’t be right about everything.

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