Sunday, 31 July 2011

UXM #58: "Mission: Murder!"

("Resistance is futile.")

Comments

This is really good, actually.  There's plenty of action as the mutant population of the world fights back against the encroaching "Neo-Sentinels".  Nice to see that the robots are just as happy to kidnap Mesmero and the Living Monolith as they are our heroes, and that not everyone is going meekly into that good night.  Banshee's attempt to play possum and then wreak havoc (no pun intended) from within us particularly cool, even if it gets him nowhere. I'm less convinced by Magneto turning out to have been a mutant for the last eight issues or so, but whatever.

The Neo-Sentinels are far more compelling than their antecedents.  Not only does their adaptive technology make them a far more dangerous threat (they're pretty much thirty-foot Borg at this point), but they spend far less time standing around offering soliloquies. They haven't shaken the habit entirely, but what's left consists mainly of stating how essential their task of neutering mutantkind is, which at least serves the overall metaphor.

Yes, I said "metaphor".  Hard as it is to believe, Thomas has upped his game to the point where his story has a subtext.  OK, he blatantly references it ("Sounds a bit familiar, doesn't it?"), which means that to quote Rupert Giles "the subtext... is rapidly becoming, er, text", and moreover he's just stolen the idea from Lee's original Sentinel story in any case, but at least he's able to competently develop it.  Trask is clearly modelled on McCarthy, in that whilst his methods are despicable and his thought processes a disgrace to the term, he genuinely, completely believes that his approach is the only one that can keep humanity alive.  As aggravating as it is to watch Trask frame Iceman by making it look like Bobby tries to attack him without provocation, what's really scary is Trask's unshakable belief that a single video of a homo superior attack will be accepted as proof positive by the world that all mutants are equally dangerous.

This, of course, is eventually what brought McCarthy down - he became convinced that the Communist threat had become so great that he could literally accuse anyone, on any evidence, of being a Pinko, and that would be enough to condemn them.  He confused his own unending, all-consuming crusade for the will of the people, and he over-extended himself.

Trask is clearly headed down the same road, to the point where the instant he realises he can't ignore Judge Chalmers, he immediately accuses him of being a mutant. Like McCarthy before him, Trask can't conceive of anyone disagreeing with him unless they're secretly one of the enemy.  "You're either with us or against us" is almost never true.

All of which makes the final page reveal that Trask himself is a mutant thoroughly brilliant.  OK, it's astronomically unlikely (unless issue #59 gives us more to work with), but thematically, it's total genius.

Just as an aside, it's interesting that it was Trask that gave Alex the name Havok, and that Thomas finds time in this issue to give us the first indication of the Bobby vs Alex rivalry over Polaris.  Returning the book to twenty pages (rather than fifteen + five back-up) was clearly a sensible move.

Clues

This story follows directly on from the previous one, and continues into the following day.

Hank finally confirms that he is the oldest of the five X-Men.

Trask continues to insist it's been three years since the X-Men murdered his father.  Of course, now that we know that Trask Sr. gave his son a medallion to mask his mutant powers, God only knows what crazy shit has been going down in his cerebral cortex.

Date

Friday 23rd to Saturday 24th  May, 1980.

X-Date

X+2Y+53 to X+2Y+54.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.71 standard years.

(Iceman is 33 years old.)

"Bite your tongue, Beastie!"
Contemporary Events

The International Court of Justice demands the US hostages in Tehran be released.

Standout Line

"Jet home? Sorry, little buddies!  That's not my style!" Angel demonstrates the true nature of heroism by attempting to fly from northeast Africa to America in the time it will take Scott and Jean to check in at Cairo airport.

By which I mean, the man is obviously a total fucking idiot.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

UXM #57: "The Sentinels Live!"


(Cairo emo)

Comments

Like I said yesterday, Alex is definitely his brother's brother.  In fact, not only is he determined to wring every ounce of self-pity from his brand new super-powers, but he decides the best way to maximise his self-inflicted, self-absorbed misery is to go and live in a cave, thereby forcing the X-Men to search for him.

Every hour they spend searching for his sorry arse, of course, is one less hour they can spend saving people from super-villains.  We learn at the end of the issue that the Sentinel who grabs him was dispatched to Africa after Larry Trask watched a news report on the X-Men being in Egypt, but frankly I prefer to believe that the robot simply followed the waves of self-indulgent solipsism that only a young mutant can generate.

On the other hand, at least Alex doesn't refer to the local police as "camel jockeys".  I get that Cyclops is upset and all, but... Dude.  Uh-uh.

Still, it's not a good day for law enforcement on either side of the Atlantic.  The NYPD make another appearance, and who could have guessed?  They immediately try to arrest our heroes as soon as they lay eyes on them.  OK, they do at least have a slightly better case this time, since Bobby and Hank are in the middle of a trashed apartment, but then they start throwing furniture at our heroes, and that's just downright unprofessional.  To paraphrase Austin Powers, what kind of person throws a swivel chair at someone, honestly?

Clues

God damn you Thomas, you've done it again!  Everything was going perfectly well, with Beast and Iceman presumably taking a single day to return to the States, and all of a sudden Larry Trask is in our faces telling us its been three years since issue # 16.

Interestingly, that's not even true in real time, so either Thomas was mistaken (hardly impossible), or he at least tried to put some effort into time compression.  Even so, though, "three years" just isn't going to work. We know issues #32 to #47 more or less follow directly on from each other, with only brief gaps in between issues if there are gaps at all. Obviously, I've tried to condense everything as much as possible, but the six week period I've set those issues in can't be too far from the mark.  Moreover, issue #32 took place on Bobbys eighteenth birthday.  Even if Iceman had only turned sixteen the day issue #1 took place, there can't have been more than eighteen months between Bolivar Trask's death and the birthday shindig in "Coffee-A-Go-Go."

Which means that Larry Trask's assertion can only be right if a year or more has passed between issues #47 and #56.  We know issues #54 to #56 took place over the same 48 hours, and that issues #49 to #52 took no more than a week, though, so that means the time between issues #47 and #49 and #52 and #54 must total about a year.

I don't deny that that is possible, but it certainly raises questions: why aren't Bobby and Lorna closer if they've known each other for six months?  Why did it take so long for the X-Men to find cover identities whilst they were split up?  Why was Xavier allowed to take a fifteen-year-old boy into his care at a school for those in their late teens?

I think a rather simpler explanation is that Trask has gotten it wrong.  Perhaps he misspoke, and his father started work on the Sentinels three years ago, rather than dying then.  Perhaps the rigorous mental gymnastics he's had to perform to twist the X-Men into his father's killers requires a change in timings.  Hell, for all we know, Trask has concluded that our heroes replaced his father with a double at the very beginning of the Sentinel program, so as to discredit the man's work.

Maybe this reads as a cheap get-out, but as far as I'm concerned, taking Thomas' characteristically thoughtless approach to chronology as valid generates significant problems elsewhere, so I think it best handwaved away as far as is possible.

Date

Thursday 22nd to Friday 23rd May, 1980.

X-Date

X+2Y+52 to X+2Y+53.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.68 standard years.

(Iceman is 33 years old.)

"Just be glad the X-Men aren't
the killers you humans think we are!"
 Contemporary Events

Mount St. Helens releases an explosion of steam.

Standout Line

"We'll commandeer the next freighter U.S. bound!" Remember when the X-Men would gladly risk public humiliation to gain the coinage necessary to travel overseas?  Well, that's just for when they're trying to rescue their mentor and leader!  When some chick Bobby wants to fuck is in danger, it's time to turn to piracy!

Friday, 29 July 2011

UXM #56: "What Is... The Power?"


("If only we could share the sun.")

Comments

I love that cover, mainly because the Monolith is clearly about to beat Cyclops to death with the title of his own comic book.  If cover images aren't going to depict specific scenes from the issue (and there's nothing wrong with that approach at all), then it's nice to see attempts at making use of the fact every now and then.

Alex and Scott really are brothers, aren't they?  Give them powers undreamed of by mortal men, abilities that they could use to re-forge the world itself should they choose, and all they do is whine because they can't control them yet.  Pricks.

Still, Cyclops seems to be toughening up to some extent, at least.  This issue he takes a low-flying skimmer to the back of the head and he hardly feels it.  I guess he must have toughened up his skull whilst using it as a wrecking ball last time.

Maybe his new tough-guy attitude helps explain page 15, which contains a lovingly-detailed image of Cyclop's arse thrust towards the reader.  I tried finding a picture to show you, but you don't even want to know what came up when I googled "Cyclops' ass".

After two issues of the Living Pharaoh prancing around like the second coming of Ramesses II, it's a nice idea that he's really just a lunatic archaeologist, albeit one with fairly impressive mutant powers.  Having him kidnap Alex because they share the same power source is also quite interesting - it's certainly more compelling than the usual "I will rule the world/destroy mankind" justification.

Clues

This issue carries on directly from the last one, and covers a period of only a few minutes.

Date

Thursday 22nd May, 1980.

X-Date

X+2Y+52.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.64 standard years.

(Iceman is 34 years old.)

"And here's where the Iceman makes you holler ankhle!"
Contemporary Events

Phil Donahue gets married.

Standout Line

"It's Warren -- streaking out of the Holiest of Holies!" And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the exact instant that Roy Thomas breaks your sanity forever.  Assuming you've seen Pulp Fiction, at least.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

UXM #55: "The Living Pharaoh!"


("Long way to go just to get your butt kicked, huh?")

Comments

Boo!  This is another one of those beginnings that would have Annie Wilkes on her feet and screaming at the theatre.  We've gone from last month's "I will kill you, Cyclops!" cliffhanger to "You will join me, Cyclops!" It might not have been quite so obvious is the opening scene didn't contain Cyclops dialogue word-for-word from the previous issue, only for the Living Pharaoh to say something different in response.  I guess if there's any time at which this can be forgiven, it's when you've switched writers, but even so; grrrr.

Also, too: who the Hell is the glowing green figure on the front cover?  He's nowhere to be seen inside!  Unless he's a metaphor representing the dangers of stereotyping ancient cultures in order to justify their vilification.  Maybe.

This issue has given me a grudging respect for Cyclops, kind of.  You have to give at least some credit to a man willing to break his brother out of a sarcophagus by head-butting it to splinters.  Not sure why he didn't use his fists, of course, but let's not back-seat coffin-wreck.

However, as impressive as Scott's manning up might be, it's small potatoes compared to The Living Pharaoh on page 8, who leans out of a jet flying miles above the Atlantic in the hope that his magic
ping-pong bat can damage an Avengers quinjet [1].  That takes no small amount of balls, my friends.

And it would have worked, too.  Especially when Beast broke the joystick trying to regain control.  Thanks to Bobby's "ice-wings" (who knew he had a degree in aeronautics), though, along with Angel's ability to adequately counteract the force of gravity on a plane, they make it down OK.

But how, I ask you, do the X-Men manage to get their vehicle working again in time to rescue Cyclops and Alex.  Well, I shall tell you, dear reader.  Hank motherfucking McCoy.  Strong enough to break your joystick, smart enough to put it back together again.

Man, that needs to be on a T-shirt...

Clues

This issue follows on directly from the previous one.  It takes a few hours to get Cyclops and Alex to the airport, after which the Living Pharaoh flies them to Egypt.  That's about an eighteen hour flight, so back in New York it's presumably early morning on the Thursday by the time the battle outside the pyramid begins.

From the back-up strip we learn that Angel was invited to join the X-Men in the winter of early '63 ('80 in our timline), which puts his arrival only a few weeks at most after that of Iceman.  Beast must have joined soon after.

Date

Wednesday 21st to Thursday 22nd May, 1980.

X-Date

X+2Y+51 to X+2Y+52.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.60 standard years.

(Iceman is 34 years old.)

"Then step on the gas, Beastie baby!"
 Contemporary Events

Pac-Man is released, changing the face of electronic entertainment forever, even if said face was now without a nose and possessed of staring, soulless eyes that gave me nightmares as a child.

Standout Line

"Lafayette, we are here!  I think I read that, someplace!" That's a surprisingly obscure reference from Iceman, but it's a nice one - a quote from the First World War from a US military officer standing over Lafayette's tomb.  Lafayette had fought with the Americans during the Revolutionary War, helping them overthrow the British, and the idea that the Americans entered WWI to repay that debt is a nice one. 

Well, it's a nice one compared to how hideous and brutal the war itself was, at least.

[1] Which presumably Warren still hasn't returned.  It's always the filthy rich who you have to pester to give back what they owe...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Full Timeline: Take 4

Stan Lee

1.   The X-Men: Friday 31st March to Saturday 1st April, 1978.
2.   No-one Can Stop the Vanisher!: Monday 3rd to Friday 7th April, 1978.
3.   Beware of the Blob!: Saturday 22nd April, 1978.
4.   The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!: Sunday 23rd April to Tuesday 2nd May, 1978.
5.   Trapped: One X-Man!: Saturday 6th to Sunday 7th May, 1978.
6.   Submariner! Joins the Evil Mutants: Saturday 13th to Monday 15th May, 1978.
7.   Return of the Blob: Thursday 29th to Friday 30th of June, 1978.
8.   The Uncanny Threat of... Unus the Untouchable!: Saturday 1st to Saturday 8th July,
      1978.
9.   Enter: the Avengers: Saturday 15th to Wednesday 19th July, 1978.
10. The Coming of... Ka-Zar: Tuesday 15th August, 1978.
11. The Triumph of Magneto!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
12. The Origin of Professor X!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
13. Where Walks the Juggernaut!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
14. Among us Stalk... the Sentinels!:  Tuesday 5th to Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
15. Prisoners of the Mysterious Master Mold!: Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
16. The Supreme Sacrifice: Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
17. ...And None Shall Survive!: Wednesday 6th to Thursday 7th September, 1978.
18. ...If Iceman Should Fail!: Thursday 7th to Friday 8th September, 1978.
19. Lo!  Now Shall Appear -- The Mimic!: Wednesday 1st to Thursday 2nd November, 1978.

Lee's tenure: 31 months.  Time passed for X-Men: 7 months.  Compression constant: 1 Lee month = 4.42 standard months.

Roy Thomas

20. I, Lucifer...: Monday 6th November, 1978.
21. From Whence Comes... Dominus?: Monday 6th to Tuesday 7th November, 1978.
22. Divided -- we Fall!: Thursday 31st May to Friday 1st June, 1979.
23. To Save a City: Friday 1st June, 1979.
24. The Plague of... The Locust!: Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th September, 1979.
25. The Power and the Pendant!: Monday 20th to Thursday 23rd September, 1979.
26. Holocaust!: Thursday 23rd to Friday 24th September, 1979.
27. Re-Enter: The Mimic!: Sunday 26th to Tuesday 28th September, 1979.
28. Wail of the Banshee!: Sunday 1st November, 1979.
29. When Titans Clash!: Saturday 5th December, 1979.
30. The Warlock Wakes!: Sunday 6th of December, 1979.
31. We Must Destroy... the Cobalt Man!: Friday 11th of December, 1979.
32. Beware the Juggernaut, my Son!: Wednesday 19th of March, 1980.
33. Into The Crimson Cosmos!: Wednesday 19th of March, 1980.
34. War -- in a World of Darkness!: Wednesday 19th to Thursday 20th March, 1980.
35. Along Came a Spider...!: Saturday 5th April, 1980.
36. Mekano Lives!: Saturday 5th April, 1980.
37. We, the Jury...: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
38. The Sinister Shadow of... Doomsday!: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
39. The Fateful Finale!: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
40. The Mark of the Monster!: Saturday 12th April, 1980.
41. Now Strikes... the Sub-Human!: Sunday 13th April, 1980.
42. If I Should Die...: Sunday 13th April, 1980.
43. The Torch is Passed...!:  Saturday 19th to Tuesday 22nd April, 1980.
44. Red Raven, Red Raven...!: Tuesday 22nd April, 1980.

Thomas's tenure: 25 months.  Time passed for X-Men: 17.5 months.  Compression constant: 1 Thomas month = 1.43 standard months.

Gary Friedrich

45. When Mutants Clash!: Wednesday 23rd April, 1980.
46. The End of the X-Men!: Sunday 27th April, 1980.
47. The Warlock Wears Three Faces!: Thursday 1st May, 1980.
48. Beware Computo: Controller of the Robot Hive!: Friday 2nd May, 1980.

Friedrich's tenure: 4 months.  Time passed for X-Men: 1 week.  Compression constant: 1 Friedrich month = 17.43 standard months.

Arnold Drake

49. Who Dares Defy... the Demi Men?: Sunday 11th May, 1980.
50. City of Mutants: Sunday 11th May, 1980.
51. The Devil had a Daughter!: Sunday 11th to Friday 16th May, 1980.
52. Twilight of the Mutants!: Friday 16th May, 1980.
53. The Rage of Blastaar!: Tuesday 20th May, 1980.
54. Wanted: Dead or Alive -- Cyclops!: Wednesday 21st May, 1980.

Drake's tenure: 6 months. Time passed for X-Men: 3 weeks.  Compression constant: 1 Drake month = 9.05 standard months.

UXM #54: "Wanted: Dead Or Alive -- Cyclops!"


(Walk like an Egyptian.)

Comments

It's the end of another rather short tenure as Arnold Drake offers us his swan-song.  Like Friedrich before him, Drake wasn't really around long enough for me to get much of a handle on his work, but I can safely say that I'm not looking forward to Roy Thomas once again taking the reins, starting next issue.

This is an interesting final story, though.  It introduces Scott's younger brother, who of course becomes a major player in the X-Books (though is it really likely Scott wouldn't have mentioned him in two years, buttoned-down or not?), and also suggests the idea that the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt were actually mutants, which is something returned to during the fleshing out of Apocalypse's character decades later.

The idea of framing an X-Man for murder has potential, too.  OK, it's some distance from being original, but there's definitely some mileage in the suggestion that the cops might automatically assume someone is guilty because they're a mutant.  The execution doesn't really work, though.  Even granting how stupid the New York cops have proven themselves in the Marvel universe, it stretches credulity that upon finding one man dead and another unconscious they would assume the latter was faking and had actually murdered the former.  I'd not be surprised by them taking Cyclops in for questioning, but arrest for murder?  That's just stupid.

Also stupid, but this time hilariously so, is the idea that the Living Pharaoh keeps his guards inside gilded sarcophagi just in case his base is attacked.  What are they supposed to do the rest of the time?  Do they get magazines and reading lights?  Don't these people belong to a union?

Lastly, I'm not entirely convinced Scott would tell his brother about being Cyclops.  I thought one of the big advantages of a secret identity is that it protects one's family?

Clues

This issue takes place over a single day.

Cyclops mentions that this story takes place during Spring, but that works out fine, happily.

The issue of Cyclops having a younger brother who has just graduated from "Old Landon College" is interesting.   The legal age for buying alcohol in 1969 (and, as it happens 1980) in New York was 18, so how is he graduating college?  It would make more sense if he was graduating high school, but the specific references to "on campus" make me wonder.  Is that a common phrase to describe American high school life?  I don't know.

Still, Alex being 21 would cause massive problems in terms of Scott's age.  Best to assume Alex is indeed 18 (and either OLC is a high school, or he's a wunderkind who got into college three years early), and that Scott has just had his 20th birthday.

Specifically, let's put his birthday on the thirteenth, since that day was skipped over during issue #51.  We now have four birth dates, then.  Xavier was born in 1935, Hank 30.03.60, Scott on 13.05.60, and Bobby on 19.03.62.  The idea of Scott being only six weeks younger than Hank won't last indefinitely, of course, but it will do for now.

Date

Wednesday 21st May, 1980.

X-Date

X+2Y+51.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.57 standard years.

(Iceman is 34 years old.)
"Buster -- you're lookin' for an ice cube kimono!"
Contemporary Events

The Empire Strikes Back is released.

Standout Line

"[PD Helicopter] Seventeen reporting!  No sign of Cyclops in the fourth sector!  Any further orders?"

"Yes -- move into sector five now!"

Yes, good plan, NYPD.  Five comes after four.    Don't they have flightplans, or something? " We've flown eight miles so far!  Any further orders?" "Yes! Fly for a ninth mile!"

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

UXM #53: "The Rage Of Blastaar!"


(They tame lions with their fists!)

Comments

Is it weird that I can't stop looking at Blastaar's briefs?  It's just that they seem to change shape and colour every panel.  It's hypnotic.

What exactly is the purpose of the machine Jean Grey is trying out?  From what Beast says, it might be a teleporter (though he doesn't say anything about being able to rematerialise, which makes it essentially an exceptionally snazzy furnace), but Jean's experience whilst running it suggests it might have a... different application:
Internal vi -- vi -- vibrations -- beginning to b -- b -- build!... OOOO! W -- what was that?  S -- sudden burst of energy!" 
Whatever floats your boat, love.  "This machine was totally built by a dead guy who said I could use it, honest!"

This whole issue has a distinctly thrown-together feel, both in terms of Drake's writing and Barry Smith's artwork.  Given that the story promised at the end of last issue ("Wanted: Cyclops, Dead or Alive") is showing up in issue #54, I suspect there was a delay somewhere that required this be
rushed through instead.

I mentioned a little while ago how much I liked the idea of Cyclops using his optic blasts to hurl himself out of harm's way.  This issue he uses them to fly, though, about which I am less pleased.  On the other hand, Iceman's use of his powers to create tiny wisps of liquid oxygen is a really good idea, and I presume it would work to rouse people from unconsciousness, though potentially in a pretty painful way.

Having him create and animate ice-men is a pretty neat idea as well, it's a shame he doesn't do it more often.  Mind you, since this first outing led to the melting constructs accidentally electrocuting Blastaar, maybe he figured it was more trouble than it was worth.

Clues

This issue plays out in real time.

Iceman is clearly back on his feet after the beating he took last issue.  Of course, it's already been established that Bobby has exceptional healing ability, so that needn't slow us down to much (besides, it was pretty heavily implied that Bobby was faking last issue, in the hopes he might get a pity ticket to Lorna's friskoteque).

We'll give him four days to recover, then.

Date

Tuesday 20th May, 1980.

X-Date

There'll be a new approach to X-Date from now on: X remains the day that Jean Grey first joined the X-Men, but we'll start counting the years separately (as Y, natch), so as to keep the numbers from getting too big.

X+2Y+50.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.53 standard years.

(Iceman is 34 years old.)

"Sometimes I think we made our biggest
goof when we gave women the vote!"
Contemporary Events

A public referendum in Quebec rejects the plan to claim independence from Canada.

Standout Line

"A living rocket -- aimed at your vitals!"  Yeah, I've tried that chat-up line a few times too.  Didn't do me any more good than it did Blastaar.

Monday, 25 July 2011

UXM #52: "Twilight Of The Mutants!"


("It's two doors down from the boulingerie")

Comments

It's Erik the Red!  The Marvel universe's go-to disguise for undercover mutants.

This is his first appearance, though.  It's strange to think how at this point no-one has any idea that he's merely an alias.  And if they did, the issue puts at least a little effort into implying that he might be Iceman, since he's the only X-Man not involved in "Operation: Twilight."

That's a smart move, actually.  So too is the fact that the story doesn't drag out the reveal of who Erik is.  What most impressed me, though, was Erik's opening line upon breaching Magneto's base: "Perhaps.. you have never read that most practical recipe for roast chicken which begins... First, catch a chicken!"  Erik is specifically referring himself to a chicken, one issue after Bobby called Scott exactly that.  It's a brilliant nod to what's coming, even though that little clue is kind of muddled by Erik's ability to fire bolts of yellow energy from his fingertips (it's never explained how Cyclops was able to do that).

Of course, all of the team's precisely timed strategy comes undone when Iceman rushes in at the last minute.  It makes one wonder why Cyclops pulled him off "the case" for being emotionally attached to Polaris, when it would clearly have made more sense to bench him for being a total bleeding idiot.

He does come good in the end, though, persuading Polaris she's not Magneto's daughter.  Man, remember back when that was true?  Good times...

Clues

This issue takes place over a single day.

Date

Friday 16th May, 1980.

X-Date

X+777.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.51 standard years.

(Iceman is 35 years old.)

"I kid you not!"

Contemporary Events

Paul McCartney releases McCartney II to a baffled public.

Standout Line

"Now how about some more muscular therapy... at the Friskoteque?!"  I have no idea where Polaris thinks the friskoteque is, or how it's liable to aid Bobby in his recovery, but all I can say to him is: Godspeed.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

UXM #51: "The Devil Had A Daughter!"


("Oh Romeo, Romeo!  Wherefore art thou a chauvinistic prick?")

Comments

Holy giant space cow!  It's the X-Men do Shakespeare!

No, really.  This is Romeo and Juliet, pretty much.  Polaris is Juliet, and Magneto is both Capulet and Tybalt; he's invoking his patriachal authority and he's spoiling for a fight.

Iceman is Romeo, of course, so blinded by love he's willing to beat down anyone fool enough to stand in his way.  Cyclops is Mercutio, unwilling to fight but prepared to defend his closest friend.  That's why he throws the first punch - once he realises Iceman won't back down, there's no option but to fight to keep the love-blind idiot alive.



This gives Angel the Benvolio role, of course - he talks a good fight but ends up doing sod all.  Given how many gay jokes I've made about Bobby and Hank, I don't really have much choice but to make Beast into Balthasar.

Jean Grey is, er, Mrs Mercutio.  Or Queen Mab, I suppose.  She's certainly done a number on Mercutio, am I right?

That makes the opening scene of the comic the run-up to Tybalt and Romeo's duel, only with Romeo as much an instigator as Tybalt ("A plague on both your houses!", indeed).  The major differences: most of the Montagu clan is on hand to help out, the duel takes ten pages instead of a few lines of stage directions and questionable puns, no-one dies, and it's a bit rubbish rather than one of the greatest plays ever written. [1]

It also doesn't really sit well with 20th Century sensibility, even with - I'd hope - the conventional wisdom of 1968.  Of all the people in the room, it's somehow Magneto who actually bothers to ask Polaris what it is she wants.  Everyone else is to busy arguing whether or not it's fist o'clock (turns out: it is).  Indeed, Beast - motherfucking Beast - concludes that Polaris can't possibly refuse Magneto, due to her "familial duty and... inner need for power!"  Because God knows, no woman can refuse her father when power is involved.  That's... kind of uncomfortable to think about.

As an aside, the dialogue in this issue is really weirdly apportioned to the speech bubbles.  There's an art to splitting up speech, as even Steven and I have learned, you can't just do it at random.  Otherwise you get this kind of thing: 
I've had it up to here with a guy who'd even...

...con his own kid into joining his pillage and plunder act!
See what I mean?  It just doesn't...

... work.  Maybe if had been iambic pentameter, I guess...

Clues

This issue takes place over a single day, with the exception of the last page, which takes place several days later.

Date

Sunday 11th to Friday 16th May, 1980.

X-Date

X+772 to X+777.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.47 standard years.

(Iceman is 35 years old.)

"You -- you're chicken!"

Contemporary Events

An F-2 tornado hits Michigan, leading to President Carter declaring it a federal disaster area.

Hugh Griffith, who one an Oscar for his portrayal of Sheik Ilderim in Ben Hur, dies aged 67.

Standout Line

"But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she."

No, wait.  Wrong one.  Erm...

"...I need this icy protection against a warm hunk of girl like you!"

That's better.

[1] Well, so popular opinion would have it.  I always thought my friend Bronwyn had a point when she described it as "Too self-absorbed children who kill themselves before they have time to figure out that they're both bloody idiots".  She also has been known to point out "It's basically a story about a teenager who persuades a young girl that death is more attractive than finishing puberty".

Saturday, 23 July 2011

UXM #50: "City Of Mutants"


(Second generation blues.)

Comments

I think that's the title of the issue, anyway.  It might alternatively be "Hail, Queen of Mutants", but if that's so, Mesmero ("Keeper of the flame of Magneto, emperor of evil mutants!") has put a lot of time an effort into carving CITY OF MUTANTS into the rock face beside his hidden metropolis, and that strikes me as distinctly counter-productive. 

That's another lovely cover, by the way, marred only by the sheer unwavering awfulness of Polaris' costume.  It's little wonder she turns against Mesmero and his plans for her, if that's what he offers her in the way of wardrobe.

M-2 is a great codename for the secret weapon that turns out to be "Magneto the Second".  Shame Cyclops spoils it by claiming he'd already considered it, but assumed it must refer to a son.  See, people?  Unthinking chauvinism can get people killed!

Clues

This issue takes place over a single day.

Date

Sunday 11th May, 1980.

X-Date

X+772.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.44 standard years.

(Iceman is 35 years old.)

"Don't do it, Lorna!"
Contemporary Events

Pam Higgins wins the Lady Michelob golf tournament in Roswell, Georgia.

Standout Line

"Time to end this tasteless comedy!" I love this line.  It's pretty difficult to stand-out as a purveyor of panto camp in '60s comics (it's like being noticeably green in a field of grass), but somehow Mesmero manages it.  Props, dawg.

Friday, 22 July 2011

UXM #49: "Who Dares Defy... The Demi-Men?"


("Be sure to wear some flowers in your green hair")

Comments

This is encouraging: only two issues in and Drake has introduced us to two long-running characters, Polaris and Mesmero [1].  I'm not completely clear on why Mesmero considers himself the acolyte of Magneto, given that we've never seen him before, but that's a fairly minor complaint.

Also in this issue: Hank becomes furious when Bobby brings a girl home for coffee.  Surprising, this is not (mind you, Beast is presumably still annoyed that when Bobby suggested taking the plunge and forming a couple, he was only talking about becoming a skydiving act).

It's slightly more difficult to understand what happened to Lorna Dane in the first place.  Obviously, Mesmero's hypnotic signals explain why she was headed to San Francisco, but it's a little harder to discern how she managed to travel 1200 miles within a page and a half.  To paraphrase From Dusk 'Til Dawn, people don't travel at the speed of light when you call them, I don't give a fuck how hypnotised they are.

Cyclops is also pretty lucky that the "mutant squad" he sees (who I presume are the "demi-men"of the title) and then attacks actually were bad guys.  From what I know of San Francisco, the fact that someone is dressed like a freak tells you absolutely nothing.

Hank once again proves his worth this issue.  Twice over, in fact: he creates a portable Cerebro unit to go mutant-hunting, and also demonstrates that when the X-Men go into battle without him, they end up with Angel shot and nearly killed.  That never happens when the Beast is around.  Uh, unless, y'know, Cyclops does it himself.

Clues

This issue is a bit blurry on the details, but it seems to take place over a single day.

Angel describes the mansion as "a suite of musty, shrouded silent recollections!", which suggests some time has passed.  Mind you, Xavier was so anal he probably kept the place spotless at all times (presumably getting Marvel Girl to telekinetically wield a dustpan and brush).  Combined with Warren's parents being indescribably rich, it's plausible that his definition of "musty" bears little resemblance to what we understand by the word.

Let's assume then that the X-Men broke up a fortnight ago.

Date

Sunday 11th May, 1980.

X-Date

X+772.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.40 standard years.

(Iceman is 35 years old.)

"You won't thaw out of this
until next Spring!"
Contemporary Events

The mobster Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas) is arrested for drugs possession.

Standout Line

"We come not to harm you -- but to  -- worship you!"  Now that's how you write an ending.

[1] The idea of latent mutants is explored for the first time, too.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Thor's Poetry Recitals

(With apologies to Edgar Allen Poe..

Once upon a midnight dreary, when I awoke both pale and bleary
My head still swimming fiercely from mead quaffed the day before,
With stomach swelled and bowels flapping, suddenly there came a tapping
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my Thrudvang door.
‘Tis some mortal,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my Thrudvang door.
Only this, and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember, ‘twas my own day, in December,
And the ale-horns and the goat-bones spread their stains upon the floor
And I wished not for tomorrow, for ‘tis hard to make men follow
Gods who retched themselves out hollow, hollow even to the core
And with rare and radiant Sif gone, I was frozen to the core
Thunderstruck forever more
And the ne’er before unnerving rustling of each trollhide curtain
Now thrilled and filled with terrors a heart that had known none before
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
‘Tis some mortal who’ll prove helpless against my Thrudvang’s door
Some lost mortal who’ll prove helpless against my Thrudvang’s door
That is it, and nothing more.’
The pain in my skull grew stronger; I could bear the noise no longer
‘Fool,’ said I, ‘Of Midgard, Mighty Thor’s head is so sore,
That if you don’t hold fast your rapping, you’ll soon be found a’napping
Since your skull I'll put a gap in, when through your head Mjollnir bores
So begone before I smite you’ – here I flung open the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, I stood with my innards searing
Until I felt my stomach heaving and ran through the privy door;
And the silence was then broken by sounds of a Norse God choking;
For his churning guts had spoken and he must throw up his core;
But I swore that from the doorway I heard a whisper ‘Sif’; no more.
Merely ‘Sif’, and nothing more.
Back into my chamber turning, with stomach and bowels both burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
‘Surely,’ said I, ‘surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and then back to bed to snore –
Let my head be calm a moment and then back to bed to snore –
‘Tis a headache, nothing more!’
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In stepped one of father’s ravens, jet black from beak to core.
And no tribute did he pay me; for no raven will obey me
When they’re of the lord or lady who’ve ruled since days of yore –
Perched he on the skulls of giants I’d piled by my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
For indeed I spied my father in the countenance it wore,
‘Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, still I recognise you raven,
And since Muninn is no craven who would quake behind my door –
Tell me what thy lord is wanting from the great and mighty Thor!”
Quoth the raven ‘Sif I saw.’
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl chose to speak so plainly
For my father’s raven’s riddling was often best ignored
But I could not help agreeing that if honest he was being
And he had been blessed by seeing Sif on ocean or on shore
Then welcome was this raven to sit on skulls beside my door
For who else claims ‘Sif I saw’?
But the raven sitting lonely on the gleaming bones spoke only,
Those three words, as if his souls in that one phrase he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered ‘I have heard such tales before –
On the morrow hope will leave me, as will the bile that burns my craw’
Then the bird said ‘Sif I saw.’
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so quickly spoken
‘Doubtless’ said I, ‘what it utters Odin taught it, to anger Thor,
Damn you, unfeeling master, who would take my heart’s disaster
And use it to remind me that I am bleeding from my core
This dirge you’ve made from hope weights burdens that you knew I bore
Say no more ‘Sif I saw.’
But the raven still beguiling my fur-lined mouth into smiling,
Rubbing my aching forehead I sat down beside the door,
Then my mind still slow from drinking I began to start the linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this Odin-bird of yore –
What this grim, unsettled memory made flesh as Odin-bird of yore
Meant in croaking ‘Sif I saw!’
Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose eyes were burning what only Sif had lit before;
This and more I sat divining, with my brain cells wailing, whining
For to sit with thoughts entwining is no fit state for mighty Thor!
No, to sit with thoughts entwining was no fit state for mighty Thor!
‘Til first my Sif I saw.
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from some holy censer
Swung by some impish elfling who would creep across my floor.
‘Wretch,’ I cried, ‘Odin hath lent thee – as Memory he has sent thee
To remind me he hath rent me in pieces forevermore
Alone, ‘tis he who could have rent me, by sailing my Sif from shore!’
Quoth the raven ‘Sif I saw.’
‘Muginn!’ said I, ‘thing of evil! – Memory still, if bird or devil!
Whether Odin sent, or whether Frigga tossed you to my shore,
Desolate yet all undaunted in this land of fields enchanted –
This home by lonely silence haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is she – is she still in Asgard? – tell me – tell me, I implore!’
Quoth the raven ‘Sif I saw.’
‘Muginn!’ said I, ‘thing of evil! – Memory still, if bird or devil!
By the bones of all the Aesir – by each goat and bear and boar –
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the flight of raven
I can find a dark-haired maiden by swimming from my shore
For I will find her where I must, though I pass through Jormungand’s jaws
Quoth the raven ‘Sif I saw’.
‘Be that line our sign of parting, Odin’s crow!’ I screamed upstarting –
Head and belly both forgotten as thunder rolled and lightning clawed
‘Leave no black plume as a token of the lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken, lest you be hammered to my door!
Take thy feet from off my skulls, and take thy form out through my door!’
Quoth the raven ‘Sif I saw’.
So the raven, never flitting still is sitting, still is sitting
For I cannot take a hammer to one who claims that Sif they saw;
For Memory gives no way of knowing what has past and what’s ongoing
And whether Sif might yet be rowing her way to some new land's shore
And still there might come a day when the raven will say more.
And so waits mighty Thor.

Full Timeline: Take 3

Time for a recap of the situation so far, now that Friedrich's brief tenure is over.

Stan Lee

1.   The X-Men: Friday 31st March to Saturday 1st April, 1978.
2.   No-one Can Stop the Vanisher!: Monday 3rd to Friday 7th April, 1978.
3.   Beware of the Blob!: Saturday 22nd April, 1978.
4.   The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!: Sunday 23rd April to Tuesday 2nd May, 1978.
5.   Trapped: One X-Man!: Saturday 6th to Sunday 7th May, 1978.
6.   Submariner! Joins the Evil Mutants: Saturday 13th to Monday 15th May, 1978.
7.   Return of the Blob: Thursday 29th to Friday 30th of June, 1978.
8.   The Uncanny Threat of... Unus the Untouchable!: Saturday 1st to Saturday 8th July,
      1978.
9.   Enter: the Avengers: Saturday 15th to Wednesday 19th July, 1978.
10. The Coming of... Ka-Zar: Tuesday 15th August, 1978.
11. The Triumph of Magneto!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
12. The Origin of Professor X!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
13. Where Walks the Juggernaut!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
14. Among us Stalk... the Sentinels!:  Tuesday 5th to Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
15. Prisoners of the Mysterious Master Mold!: Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
16. The Supreme Sacrifice: Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
17. ...And None Shall Survive!: Wednesday 6th to Thursday 7th September, 1978.
18. ...If Iceman Should Fail!: Thursday 7th to Friday 8th September, 1978.
19. Lo!  Now Shall Appear -- The Mimic!: Wednesday 1st to Thursday 2nd November, 1978.

Lee's tenure: 31 months.  Time passed for X-Men: 7 months.  Compression constant: 1 Lee month = 4.42 standard months.

Roy Thomas

20. I, Lucifer...: Monday 6th November, 1978.
21. From Whence Comes... Dominus?: Monday 6th to Tuesday 7th November, 1978.
22. Divided -- we Fall!: Thursday 31st May to Friday 1st June, 1979.
23. To Save a City: Friday 1st June, 1979.
24. The Plague of... The Locust!: Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th September, 1979.
25. The Power and the Pendant!: Monday 20th to Thursday 23rd September, 1979.
26. Holocaust!: Thursday 23rd to Friday 24th September, 1979.
27. Re-Enter: The Mimic!: Sunday 26th to Tuesday 28th September, 1979.
28. Wail of the Banshee!: Sunday 1st November, 1979.
29. When Titans Clash!: Saturday 5th December, 1979.
30. The Warlock Wakes!: Sunday 6th of December, 1979.
31. We Must Destroy... the Cobalt Man!: Friday 11th of December, 1979.
32. Beware the Juggernaut, my Son!: Wednesday 19th of March, 1980.
33. Into The Crimson Cosmos!: Wednesday 19th of March, 1980.
34. War -- in a World of Darkness!: Wednesday 19th to Thursday 20th March, 1980.
35. Along Came a Spider...!: Saturday 5th April, 1980.
36. Mekano Lives!: Saturday 5th April, 1980.
37. We, the Jury...: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
38. The Sinister Shadow of... Doomsday!: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
39. The Fateful Finale!: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
40. The Mark of the Monster!: Saturday 12th April, 1980.
41. Now Strikes... the Sub-Human!: Sunday 13th April, 1980.
42. If I Should Die...: Sunday 13th April, 1980.
43. The Torch is Passed...!:  Saturday 19th to Tuesday 22nd April, 1980.
44. Red Raven, Red Raven...!: Tuesday 22nd April, 1980.

Thomas's tenure: 25 months.  Time passed for X-Men: 17.5 months.  Compression constant: 1 Thomas month = 1.43 standard months.

Gary Friedrich

45. When Mutants Clash!: Wednesday 23rd April, 1980.
46. The End of the X-Men!: Sunday 27th April, 1980.
47. The Warlock Wears Three Faces!: Thursday 1st May, 1980.
48. Beware Computo: Controller of the Robot Hive!: Friday 2nd May, 1980.

Friedrich's tenure: 4 months.  Time passed for X-Men: 1 week.  Compression constant: 1 Friedrich month = 17.43 standard months.

UXM #48: "Beware Computo: Commander Of The Robot Hive!"


("You will never find a more wretched hive of robot villainy!")

Comments

Well, that didn't take very long: it's out with Friedrich, and in with Arnold Drake (just in time for the comic's fifth anniversary) as well as gratuitous cheesecake, apparently.

Yes, this is the infamous issue in which Jean Grey becomes not only a model, but "the tastiest package of goodies we've opened around here in months!".  It's like watching a car crash, if both vehicles were packed with immodestly dressed babes of brobdingnagian boobage (sorry, Dean Swift!).

Drake attempts to distract us from all this horrible sexism by having Jean secretly avert three "disasters" whilst she's working (though how a photographer getting his hair singed by a falling spotlight could be considered a disaster is not explained), but he then tears off what little camouflage he's assembled by having the boss slime all over Jean until Scott arrives to rescue her.

And what's Jean's response?  To give just as good as Cyclops does?  No.   She just drags him away jealously when the other models take an interest in him.  Girl power, indeed.

It would also help if Drake could keep his stories straight.  Alright, so he co-wrote the previous issue with Friedrich, but you'd hope he'd have at least been sufficiently on the ball to remember that said story (set post split-up) featured Bobby and Hank in New York, which rather contradicts this issue's suggestion that Agent Duncan ordered them to head for California.

Still, I'm not sure story logic is Drake's strong suit.  After all, do robots in "electronic hibernation" really require waking with a "reviva-ray"?  Isn't electronic hibernation just, y'know, being switched off?  For that matter, do you really need to give your robot-crushing device like "the automatic canceller"?  Does the "inverse ninja law" genuinely stretch to super-powered killer robots?

Finally, while I'm not entirely sure what noise is made when you angrily grab someone's tie in a brawl, I'll bet all the money in my pockets that it isn't "WOINNG!".

Still, Drake at least manages to avoid predictability, I suppose.  Like how it turns out that Computo's base was built by Quasimodo.  I did not see that coming.


The back-up strip in this issue is great: a five-page run-down of Hank McCoy's unquestioned awesomeness.  His reading list is especially interesting: "Shakespeare, Plato, Tolstoy, McLuhan, and, uh... Thor!"  I assume that last one is an in-joke, but I prefer to take it literally, and assume that the Thunder God of the Marvel universe also has a side-line in vanity publishing.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills
When all at once, I saw a crowd
Of trolls to smite 'til each lay still
Beside a lake I at once seized
And then drank dry, for it was mead!
HAVE AT THEE!
Well, I'd buy it.

Clues

This issue takes place over a single day.

There are two things to take into account here.  Firstly, how quickly can Jean Grey get a modelling job.  Secondly, why does she think Beast and Iceman are in California, when the last we saw them they were desperately trying to score some touch from their NY paramours?

I suppose the answer to the former question is fairly unambiguously "Whenever she damn well wants to".  Pretty much the entirety of the X-Men have been salivating over Jean since she arrived at the school (even if last issue's stats seemed to be going through the motions somewhat), so it's not too much of a stretch to assume she'd have no problems landing a modelling gig, even if she's yet to evolve into the pneumatic-breasted woman of the '90s.  As to Beast and Iceman, we can suppose, I assume, that California is indeed their destination, but that they stayed in the Empire State long enough to give their other halves a decent farewell (which, it turns out, said other halves had to pay for, but no-one ever said being a super-hero was easy), and are heading to California as Jean speaks.

Let's set this story as happening the day after Beast and Iceman defeat Merlin, then.

Date

Friday 2nd May, 1980.

X-Date

X+763.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.39 standard years.

(Iceman is 36 years old.)

The aptly-named "Sir Not Appearing In This Issue"
Contemporary Events

The football player Zat Knight is born, which I mainly mention to keep my friend Christopher happy.  "Don't you mock Bolton!  Bolton's your mother!"
Standout Line

"I've even invented a machine that can open pop-corn bags noiselessly in movie houses!  There's only one minor flaw -- the machine makes up three rows of the theatre!"  Ah, Hank.  How I love you.  But how many rows would it take to set up a machine that crotch-punches anyone texting during a movie?  Because I'm pretty sure that would be worth trying.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

UXM #47: "The Warlock Wears Three Faces!"


(Deep in the ectoplasmic core of thine own existence...)

Comments

Looks like someone finally paid attention to my suggestions from the future.  Today, for one night only, we present: the Iceman and Beast show!  Henry might refer to himself and Bobby as "The best of friends...", but we know what's really going on here. 

Speaking of Hank, AKA The Only Thinking Mutant In New York, it's nice too see that he shares my opinion that Fred/Amos Duncan is entirely full of shit: "I only hope that person doesn't have to die.. just to prove to the FBI that we should've remained a team!" (sic).  Damn, but than man is smart.  Well, except with women; I really don't see how calling your date a "wondrous wench" is a good idea [1].  It's almost as if he wanted to be dumped, to leave the path clear for someone else...

They seemed to have replaced Bernard the Poet at Hank and Bobby's usual haunt (though not the fishnet-clad dancer, who seems as oblivious to the outside world as always), and "Fat Man" seems decidely less willing to respond to constructive criticism.   Anyone who fails to genuflect to his satisfaction gets a cisit from some decidely unpleasant (to say nothing of pun-reliant) hoodlums.  I criticised this kind of pointless fracas more than once when Roy Thomas was in charge, but at least back then the "X-Men vs. human mook" fracas only got trotted out to pad two-parters.  Why Friedrich thought it was a good idea to make use of it in the middle of a single, fifteen-page story, I have no idea.  Perhaps he was worried that two X-Men battling motherfucking Merlin wouldn't sustain the readers interest. [2]

Actually, that turns out to be true, but that's only because Friedrich decides that the Warlock would become terrified of exploding lights (clearly all that time he spent amassing a secret army of heavily armed hoodlums under the surface of the Earth didn't teach him anything about explosives, or lightbulbs [3]), and then go mad after witnessing the "lambent luminescense" of the lightshow his prosaically-named "killer gem" would generate after being thrown into a circuit board - "just as [Iceman] had figured".  It's hard to believe I spent all this time thinking that Beast was the brains of the operation, now that I know that Bobby can successfully predict the psychological effects of combining arcane artifacts with electrical current. 

Though even then, it takes the vicious and unstoppable assault of modern music to defeat Merlin for good.  That seems distinctly fishy, even by '60s comic standards, but I guess if it worked on Noriega...

Clues

This issue takes place over a single evening.

Bobby mentions that it's been days since the X-Men parted ways at the end of last issue.  Since there's no qualifier ("a couple", "a few", "several") I shall - with my trademark arbitrariness - assume four days have passed.

Date

Thursday 1st May, 1980.

X-Date

X+762.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.36 standard years.

(Iceman is 36 years old.)

"Maybe if Hank and I talked it over..."

Contemporary Events

The "Special Economic Zone" of Shenzhen is formed just North of Hong Kong by the People's Republic of China.

Standout Line

"In spite of the supremacy of mind over brawn... every man must at some time lash out and prove himself still capable of acheiving victory by the lesser asset!"  I have to say I'm not convinced by the Mahi's philosophy here.  Of course, that might just be because my "lesser assets" in this sense are so much lesser than most, they're hardly worth mentioning.

[1] Unless your date is the incomparably lovely Talia, obviously...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

UXM #46: "The End Of The X-Men!"


(No-one tell Ed Tudor-Pole there's a job going.)

Comments

At it's heart, there's an interesting story here (Friedrich's first one to be free from Thomas' influence).  An examination of how Cain Marko might process the death of his step-brother would definitely be interesting, I'd have thought.

At least it would be, if his reaction wasn't to a) lament not killing Xavier personally, and b) accusing everyone of lying to him.  Sure, denial and anger feature pretty strongly in the early stages of grief (or so Kubler-Ross would have us believe), but it's a shame we don't get to see Juggernaut move beyond that before his temporary return to this dimension is up.

We do get to see him fire an awful lot of explodey discs, though, so let's not pretend the adventure was entirely wasted.

Apparently Xavier can't learn from his mistakes, though.  Having secretly hidden Marko in the basement, only for Juggs to rampage through the mansion and almost kill the X-Men, Xavier's next move is apparently to secretly hide a machine capable of returning Marko in the basement, which leads to Juggs rampaging through the mansion and almost killing the X-Men.  At least the professor was sensible enough to ensure the machine would return Cain to the crimson cosmos unless Xavier turned it off. 

Or maybe the idea was that the Professor would only let Cain stay if he completed a set task in a given time-limit.  Perhaps Xavier had dozens of different machines, to allow groups of hopeless reprobates the chance of winning big if they can navigate the fiendish puzzles and obstacles Xavier laid out before him.

Ah, well.  With Xavier dead, I guess someone else will have to pick up the slack.

"Three dead X-Men is an automatic lock-in."
I mentioned not long ago that I thought Xavier's funeral was bizarrely quiet, but apparently our heroes were all the people Xavier had in his life: his will (read by that half of Nelson and Murdock possessing the power of sight) mentions no-one else, not even Agent Fred Duncan, Xavier's friend at the FBI, who has now changed his first name to "Amos" [1]. Obviously this is changed later on, as it becomes increasingly clear that Xavier pretty much fucked his way across the world after his step-brother was lost in Korea.

Whilst on the subject of Duncan, you have to wonder whether the FBI puts any effort at all into ensuring its agents can tie their own shoelaces.  The X-Men at this point are pretty much an elite fighting unit, who have trained for years to support each other in combat.  Why the hell would you split them up?  Duncan argues they're too tempting a target, but you could say that about the Pentagon and no-one seems to think it should become five trapeziums spread out across the Eastern seaboard.

I suppose the "rapid response" argument makes slightly more sense, but the X-Men have a jet, let's not forget.  A jet they attached helicopter blades too just in case they needed to hover above something.  I mean, quite aside from the fact that the jet makes quick call-outs distinctly possible, who's going to actually get the damn thing when the X-Men split up?  I remember arguing with an ex-girlfriend during the stuff-splitting when she tried to tell me my hair-dryer was hers (it wasn't, not that I'm still bitter).   If she'd tried to take my faded red Corsa, I'd have tried to run the bitch over with it.  There's no way I'd let anyone get their hands on my plane, particularly after all the effort I'd gone into to personalising it with VTOL capability (which is so much cooler than platinum rims, by the way).

Still, it looks like this is going to be the status quo for a little while (after all, what better way to recover from a profound personal loss to your adopted family than to immediately split that family up?).  At least it confirms Jean is no longer at college, since her only reason to fear being sent to the other side of the country is how much harder it's going to be for Scott and herself to not ever bother to tell each other how they feel.

This issue's origin story back-up strip concludes the story of Iceman joining the team.  It's not very good, frankly, but it does at least involve Xavier wiping the memories of the Drakes, so they don't remember Bobby's mutant powers of what the professor's school actually entails.  Given that Bobby's father is shown to be an anti-mutant bigot in later years, this is an interesting development.  I wonder how many Thanksgiving dinners Bobby sat through listening to his pop go on about how mutants are all scum?  And even if Drake Senior wasn't so anti-mutant, I'm not sure about the ethics of making parents forget a piece of the identity of their children.  It would be like making Steven Gately's parents forget he was gay, or ensuring Eddie Izzard's parents can no longer remember he was in The Avengers.
OK, so it wouldn't be all bad.

Clues

This issue takes place over a single day.

We learn that it's been weeks since Xavier's death, so we can place this story as occurring a fortnight after the battle with Grotesk.

The strange naked tree disease is apparently still sweeping New York State. 

Date

Sunday 27th April, 1980.

X-Date

X+758.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.33 standard years.

(Iceman is 36 years old.)

"Don't bet on it, Chuckles!"
Contemporary Events

The Dominican Embassy siege ends, having started 61 days earlier when the embassy in Bogota was captured by armed guerrillas.

Standout Line

"It must have been set to activate automatically at some pre-determined time!"  Well, obviously, Cyclops.  Because what do you do when you've been diagnosed with an incurable terminal illness?  You set your "unstoppable homicidal maniac machine" to activate automatically!  Without letting anyone else know!

Man, Xavier is a dick.

[1] Is it coincidence that this is "soma" spelled backwards?  Soma is a divine drink of prodigious enervating abilities, which presumably means "amos" will be suffused with substandard and soporific mediocrity.  One hopes this is not a moment of honest self-appraisal from Friedrich, but from my memories of his brief run, I am very much afraid it will prove to be.

Monday, 18 July 2011

UXM #45: "When Mutants Clash!"



(That should be "sense-shattering", surely?)

Comments

This issue is actually the first half of a two-part story that concludes in Avengers #53.  Well, really it's the third part of an X-Men storyline that concludes in Avengers #53 - which is a pretty shitty way to treat your readers - but either way it means I thought it a good idea to read the aforementioned Avengers issue immediately after, even if it isn't part of our study.

It's a good job I did, since not only does the story end there (with Toad finally getting pissed off enough to abandon Magneto, and Mags himself falling into the Atlantic and presumed drowned), but it offers a few words of explanation as well. It turns out the disintegrator ray left beside Angel's cage was deliberately put there to allow him to escape.  That's nice to hear, at least, since it retrospectively makes issue #44 look a little less terrible, and that book can use all the help it can get.

After that, though, everything gets ridiculous again.  Magneto boasts that he deliberately placed a homing tracker on Angel so as to arouse suspicion amongst the Avengers.  But why assume Angel would head for the Avengers at all?  It's hundreds of miles to Avenger's mansion (see below); is it really a slam-dunk to conclude that's who he'll ask for help?

On top of that, whilst Magneto's plan to hypnotise the X-Men into attacking the Avengers is pretty cool (a bit over-elaborate, but certainly fun to watch), he laments the fact that Angel escaped too soon for the conditioning to take hold.  So why let him escape so soon?   Why not hypnotise Angel first, then send him out without a homing beacon at all?  Or even get the X-Men to call the Avengers by telephone?  And why start torturing Toad because Cyclops escaped, which is pretty much exactly what Magneto wants?

I suppose the answer to that last one might be that Magneto didn't want Cyclops running around until Magneto had had chance to get his hypno-beam or whatever working.  Indeed, the whole plan might not have worked at all if when Cyclops bumped into the Avengers immediately after they arrived (before Magneto activated the X-Men's post-hypnotic suggestions), he hadn't chosen to be a thoroughly petulant prick.

(Mind you, if this issue is anything to go by, attacking people because they ask him to stand still for a minute is very much what Cyclops does.  "[N]o-one tells Cyclops to halt--", "[N]obody tells an X-Man what to do!"; it's a master-class in aggressive childish preening.)

By that point we're in Avengers #53, which makes it all Roy Thomas' fault (again), but the only thing more irritating than watching one superhero pick a fight for absolutely no reason is for that superhero to then flee the battle he initiated, asking himself "Why did they treat me like an enemy... WHY??

One interesting development amongst the chaos: the conversation Quicksilver has with Cyclops (once the latter has stopped trying to chop Quicksilver into chum on general principle).  Not only is it another example of pre-Claremont argument on how mutants should treat humans (which once again takes baby steps towards developing an honest-to-God theme), but the idea of Cyclops angrily rejecting the idea of a mutants-only island where homo superior can exist away from the press of humanity is brilliantly ironic, even if it took 40 years for that to become apparent.

Once again, the issue ends with a back-up strip about the X-Men's formation.  We're still following the events that led to Iceman signing up.  This is a deeply strange story, actually.  Iceman is arrested, basically for walking whilst mutated, but decides to sit and wait for charges to be pressed so he can clear his name in court.

Cyclops, though, has decided that the law of the land can't be trusted, and so breaks into Iceman's cell and, when Bobby refuses to leave, actually tries to knock him unconscious so that he can be dragged to freedom!

That, to me, sounds an awful lot like something an X-Man villian would do, and raises all sorts of questions about where Xavier sees  the team's position in the grand scheme of things.  Indeed, all Cyclops' manages is to badly beat Bobby up, and cause an angry mob armed with shotguns to give chase.  The issue ends with the sherrif - who was adamant that Bobby would get a fair hearing up until Cyclops staged a jail-break - threatening to shoot Iceman if he doesn't immediately surrender.  I'm not sure whether we're actually supposed to be rooting for Cyclops here.

Mind you, that's not exactly the rarest of circumstances...

Clues

This issue starts very soon after the last one ended.  Angel has now arrived at New York.  How long the flight took isn't discussed, but we learn in Avengers #53 that it takes a quinjet less than half an hour to find Magneto's hideout.  A half-hour flight at full speed for a quinjet would cover about 800 miles.

Comparing that to (what else?) the velocity of an unladen swallow, it would have taken Angel 19 hours to fly that far, assuming top speed could be maintained indefinitely. 

Of course, Angel bigger than a swallow, but that's not to say he's necessarily faster (though he'd presumably need fewer rests).  There's also the stop at Red Raven's base to consider.  All in all, it seems reasonable to assume that this issue takes place the day after the previous one.

Date

Wednesday 23rd April, 1980.

X-Date

X+754.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.30 standard years.

(Iceman is 36 years old.)


Contemporary Events

The brilliant named Nicolas Douchez is born.  He doesn't seem to be very famous, from what I can tell, but then I used up all my football knowledge with that Brazil crack yesterday. 

Standout Line

"[A]s Cyclops ponders what may well be the most fatefully important decision in his career..." Sometimes, the level of insane hyperbole this comic generates is quite exhausting.  Cyclops most fateful decision so far?  Which of three doors he should enter to follow the Toad. 

I'm not saying stopping Mortimer before he can tell his master about the escape would be a bad idea, mind you.  Just maybe slightly less important than deciding whether to trust a man claiming to be Xavier when he tells you how to save the world from eternal slavery.