Wednesday, 31 August 2011

X1C (v2) #11: "...Canon"


(First-Class Post-Modern?)

Comments

Wait, what?

I really can't decide what to make of this one.  It seems pretty clearly to have been born from the comparatively recent idea that because people love Deadpool, and because Deadpool is as likely to piss against the fourth wall as he is to lean against it, that must mean that anything absurdly self-referential must be a good thing.

Well, maybe it is.  I've never been too sure of that, though.  Much as I love a lot of Deadpool stories, I think they work only because we understand what we're going to get right from the start.  Wade Wilson's adventures should not be read by those without a sense of humour about their love of comics, or who (and consider the source here) take the concept of continuity too seriously.

All of which is fine, so long as it's compartmentalised.  But letting Deadpool lose across the wider Marvel universe (he showed up in Messiah War, for fuck's sake, the most ultra-serious po-faced bloodbath of a story imaginable) has had the effect of forcing pretty much everyone to be pulled out of the narrative, whether they wanted to be or not.

"...Canon" has a similar problem.  At heart, it uses a similar conceit to the She-Hulk stories of the mid noughties, namely that Marvel comics are actually historical documents within the 616 universe.  The "Continui-Teens", as our new friends call themselves, have access to "docoments" from the future, and use them to erase continuity glitches - in this case, those arising from the strange effect the catalysthad upon the nexus of realities within Man-Thing's swamp, which apparently includes allowing Mysterio to create illusions of Marvel villains to use as minions, including those who haven't appeared by the the 1960s.

It's all very funny (well, somewhat chucklesome, at least), and I'm not even slightly against giving die-hard comic fans the occasional good-natured knocking.  I just have something of an aversion to picking up a comic that's determined to remind me that not only are comics not real, but that there's no point in ever investing in them.  That's a little too cynical, even for me.

Clues

This story takes place over the course of a few hours.  The fact that Cyclops is missing at least suggests that this issue is intended to take place more or less at the same time as the last one.  Presumably Cyclops is en route back to the mansion, and the other X-Men have only just recovered from their unfortunate experience with Montezuma's revenge.  Other than Angel, apparently - I guess his spoiled rich-kid system just couldn't handle the strain.

Date

Sunday 16th April, 1979.

X-Date

X+Y+15.

Contemporary Events

Alexei Kosygin attempts to combat Soviet economic stagnation by introducing a series of reforms designed to centralise the economy.  These reforms are never fully implemented, and are generally considered a failure.

Standout Line

"THAT DOES NOT EVEN LOOK LIKE THE ULTIMATE NULLIFIER." - "Galactus".

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

X1C (v2) #10: "Frederick"


(Miner's strike.)

There is, or at least there should be, a rule in fiction writing that states "if your story starts at the end of some other story, make damn sure no-one wishes they were reading that story instead."  I mention this because this issue takes place soon after the team returns from searching for El Chupacabra (the legendary Mexican goat-sucker, as if you didn't know).  This might initially seem like a violation of the above law, but Parker gets away with it, I think, as the team a) doesn't find a monster that interacts with goats in any way, and b) they all drink the local water and get the shits.

Except Cyclops, of course.  Poor ol' Scott gets a fair amount of ribbing in this issue about being so tightly-wound and boring, but if "never drops his guard" translates to "doesn't drink the local water that turns bowels into riot-hoses", I'd say he deserves to be let off.

Either way, this unfortunate turn of events colon-wise leaves Cyclops the only X-Man available when he goes searching for a group of missing people.

I can't decide if this story's refusal to suddenly reveal hidden depths to Cyclops is a comment on how competence is more important than flashiness, or just makes the story a little bit flat.  Nice to see the X-Men (well, one of them) doing their thing of searching out/dealing with new mutants, without a bevy of cameos trying to steal the show.

Also in the plus column, there's a nice layer of ambiguity lightly dusted over Frederick's actions.  Sure, he's abducted several people, but at least some of them genuinely are at least partially responsible for making him a mutant and making his father a corpse.  Their (horribly overstated) argument whilst Cyclops tries to free them makes clear that, even having been kidnapped for the damage they've done, they still have no intention of taking responsibility for the lives they've ruined.  On the other hand, Frederick's definition of "responsible" for his situation is fairly expansive, which means he can't really be cast as a wronged vigilante either (though be honest, who amongst us hasn't thought about taking those who teased us at school and shoving down a disused radiation-soaked mine-shaft?)

That's not to say I don't feel sorry for him, buried alive by a cave-in Cyclops starts as he's leading the prisoners to freedom.  Frederick seems pretty clearly to be mentally ill, and whilst that doesn't excuse his multiple abductions, I'm not sure Cyclops is really sufficiently upset about the first fatality his actions have caused. 

Who knows, though?  Maybe there'll be more on this next issue.  Hell, he might spend the whole of the rest of the series agonising over what he had to do.  It's not like we'd know, is it?

Clues

This story takes place over a single day, but we need to include another day for the mission to Mexico.  The foliage tells us that we're out of winter again, so we'll set this story two days after X1C (v2) #8.

Date

Sunday 16th April, 1979.

X-Date

X+Y+15.

Contemporary Events

The aftermath of a 7.0 earthquake which hit Montenegro and Albania.

Standout Line

"What's got four arms, twenty toes, and one personality?  Cyclops and ANYbody else!" - Bobby

Monday, 29 August 2011

X1C (v2) #9: "The New Recruit"


(Fury's Angels.)

Comments

Isn't this getting a little bit ridiculous.  I don't mean a superhero battle in an undersea HYDRA base, obviously, that's just how these comics work.  I mean the fact that this story takes a significant step forwards from the "special guest issue" tendency that already felt a little overused, and essentially marginalises the X-Men within their own book.  For those of us with both an interest in and a reasonably extensive knowledge of the Marvel universe, this maybe isn't too much of a problem, but for semi-casual readers and fans of the X-Men only, it must be kind of baffling to open a copy of X-Men: First Class and find that you've bought a story about SHIELD trying to recruit Wanda Maximof.

Maybe I'm still not getting what this comic is trying to do.  If Parker wanted to put together some kind of anthology series set in the early days of the Heroic Age (the first one, not the post-HAMMER period), that would be interesting in itself.  Piggy-backing one through on the back of the X-Men seems a bit... confused.

Once again, though, on its own terms, this is definitely another fun issue (maybe Parker wanted to focus on an entirely inconsequential romp after the very slightly heavy going of "Adventure into Fear").  It's totally over the top, of course ("Eat Dugan's knuckles!"), but then it's a spy story in which the two competing organisations are called SHIELD and HYDRA, so a certain application of hyperbolics is probably a good idea.  Ass-kicking female spies are always fun, too (shame they only get out alive by the intervention of a rich middle-aged white guy).

Also, without wishing to contradict myself too much, I am beginning to warm to having Wanda around the place as X-Man 5.5.  There's something quite telling in the way Wanda responds to Jean's "cheating" at skating by plunging her into freezing cold water.  Even at this stage, the girl is clearly not entirely right.

Clues

This story takes place over a single day.  Warren mentions his (massively solipsistic) concern that saving Wanda will make her think he's carrying a torch, which places this issue after X1C (v1) #7.  It's also clearly mid-winter, giving the ice-skating scene early in the issue.

We can therefore place this issue in the winter of 1979, which we've previously had to skip in any case (note that this issue confirms that there was well over a year between Jean arriving at the school and the end of Mimic's brief tenure on the team).

Date

Tuesday 2nd January, 1979.

X-Date

X+277.

Contemporary Events

Morena Baccarin (Firefly, V) is born.

Standout Line

"Wha -- How did you change so fast?" Poor Wanda.  So innocent in the ways of KGB strip-training.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

X1C (v2) #8: "Adventure Into Fear"


(Apocalypse later.)

Comments

Into 2008 properly this time, and it's special guest time again!  Double trouble, no less, with both the Man Thing and Curt Conners making appearances.  Actually, having Connors in again is a fun call-back to "The Bird, The Beast, And The Lizard" - I particularly like how nonchalantly he reminds Hank and Warren about that time he nearly ate them.  Ah, memories.

Man-Thing pretty much seems to be here entirely to facilitate the "X-Men glimpse their potential futures" idea, which seems fair enough.  It's certainly a nice idea for a single issue, especially since the nature of the book means that these glimpses of possible fates don't act as teasers (which can get tiring in comics), and just allow the characters to react.  This spectres of the future approach is helped along by Nguyen's pale, shadowy artwork.

As for the visions themselves, they're all quite short, but interesting nevertheless ("Do any of us end up happy and retired?").  Beast gets his first glimpse of his upcoming transformation as they face off against a grey-furred feral Hank somewhere in a snowy forest (kind of a cross between Beast and Wolverine, in that sense).  Jean ends up inside the body of her Phoenix Force-possessed older self, at the conclusion of a Days of Future Past style war (which is kind of interesting giving the hints Bishop's been dropping about how things turn out for Hope).

Bobby's future is perhaps the most interesting, as it finally returns to the only hint of an ongoing storyline First Class has had so far - the Midgard Vanir's interest in Bobby's potential destiny as an Elemental.  In the reality the X-Men visit, this is indeed what has happened to hi, which has required Thor (special guest #3, for those keeping score) to show up and try to deliver a quick Mjolnir-ing to Iceman's sub-zero testicles.  I don't know whether this is a sign that Parker will return to the idea, but it's good to know he hasn't completely forgotten about it.

There's also a brief Heart of Darkness river ride in the middle that seems a bit tangential, but as various enemies from history and myth start to attack, it's definitely fun, and provides the best lines of the issue (see below, also: "Oh, like a winged horse is perfectly natural and I'm all weird!").

Clues

This issue takes place over a single day, and Jean's narration tells us that last issue's rocket launch took place the day before. We also have to set this issue after X1C (v1) #2.  Happily all of that can be done with the timeline we've already built.

Date

Friday 14th April, 1979.

X-Date

X+Y+13.

Contemporary Events

Yusufu Lule is sworn in as President of Uganda following Idi Amin's ousting by Tanzanian forces.

Standout Line

X-Men versus Nazi submarine! 

"Das ist kein Deutsches Boot!"
"Die sehen wie Franzosen aus!"

Saturday, 27 August 2011

X1C (v2) #7: "The Catalyst: Part 2"


("Have you seen the loneliness of the infinite-distance runner?")

Comments

Eek!  So many Sentinels!  I like the idea that they were programmed to lie low until their numbers reached a sufficiently awesome size.  Seems very mechanical to me (see also Zion, attack on).

I did wonder about the robots attacking the team after they'd been stripped of their powers; this issue immediately deals with that, and the Sentinels move on ("Yeah!  You don't want none! That's right!").  That might have seemed like a bit of a cop-out had I been reading this in monthly installments, but at this pace it seems entirely fair, and pretty logical.

Besides, it allows Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to be dragged into the story, which is welcome (I'm not a huge fan of them in their early stages, in general, but I like Parker's handling of them).  Short though it was, it was definitely enjoyable to watch a slice of their home life without it tipping into ultra-creep Jeff Loeb Ultimates territory.  Seeing Quicksilver fret about chatting up women whilst he puts away the groceries is exactly the kind of quiet moment that I love.

Then everything explodes, obviously.  This is a comic.

I love the idea that an alien species would try to enhance life, but would have no idea about how that would actually affect the creatures they were working on.  They can understand Cyclops power, and can enhance it to a ludicrous degree, but it doesn't occur to them for one second that fiddling with force beams whilst on a plane is an idiotic idea.  I may be reading too much into this, but it feels at least a little like a deliberate nod to the difficulties inherent in enhancing things you can't understand.  The Outer Limits had a whole episode about this, in which nanites designed to heal people then started giving them jellyfish stingers and quite literal eyes in the back of their heads.  Also, there were tits, obviously.

Also, just for the record, I'm not sure how Angel manages to slow a plane down just by beating his wing's really fast. I can't imagine a thrush trying to pick up a particularly heavy snail thinking "Christ, I wish I was a hummingbird".  On the other hand, Warren healing Pietro with a touch is a nice nod to the "Angel's healing blood" idea Chuck Austen came up with and which was never really spoken of again.  Of course, a more cynical reading of this page is simply that Angel wanted an excuse to feel up Quicksilver's remarkably developed chest, and it luckily turned out he had healing powers. YMMV.

Clues

The action in this issue takes place over a single day.  The launch of the alien creature/machine happens some unspecified time later.

I guess it would take at least a little time to organise another launch. Still, the Marvel Universe has always involved more space travel than our own, even in the "recent past".  Plus, a glowing blob of green energy that can make superhumans unstoppable?  That is exactly the kind of shit you want to be able to launch into space at short notice.  There might just be a rocket standing by at Cape Citadel with the words "HELL NO!" painted on the side, just for such an occurrence.

Let's say they got the launch ready within a few days, and that this two-part story took place over a week.

Date

Saturday 8th to Thursday 13th April, 1979.

X-Date

X+Y+7 to X+Y+12.

Contemporary Events

Idi Amin flees after Kampala is taken by Tanzanian troops.

The la Soufiere volcano erupts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Claire Danes are born, and Nino Rota (who composed the music for the first two Godfather films) passes away, aged 67.

Standout Line

"Perhaps... I could say I forgot something and go back.  No, women do not like forgetful men, do they?" Ah, Pietro. If the "former mutant terrorist" thing doesn't prove a problem, you should probably not sweat the small stuff.

Friday, 26 August 2011

X1C (v2) #6: "The Catalyst"


(Baffled beyond the stars)

Comments

(For the record, it seems I was wrong.  This is the first issue of X1C to have 2008 on the cover, but it hit the shelves in 2007). 

Man, it's good to be back reading a comic with momentum.  This is probably one of Parker's less fun romps, in all honesty, but since it involves the team losing their powers that's perhaps unsurprising.  Warren's devastated reaction to losing his wings, in particular, is very nicely done.  All the talk at the start seemed a little too long - and it's difficult to square Xavier's willingness to tell NASA he's a telepath with his usual total secrecy on the subject (maybe he plans to wipe everyone's minds after he's seen their data analysis) - but such is the nature of set-ups I suppose.

Cyclops' use of the the Danger Room is pretty much identical to how Jean-Luc Picard finishes off two Borg drones in First Contact, but since Parker's version of the trick is roughly ten million times less idiotic than Braga/Moore's, I'm content to let it go. [1]

Clues

This issue takes place over two days, which from Bobby's sleepy complaints are a Friday and a Saturday.  The arrival of the Sentinels once more puts us at some point after UXM #18, so we'll start filling up the space between UXM #21 and #22.  There's clearly too much vegetation around for it to be winter, so we'll startthis story on the first Friday in April.

Date

Friday 7th to Saturday 8th April, 1979.

X-Date

X+Y+6 to X+Y+7.

Contemporary Events

The PRC joins the IOC.

Standout Line

"I am now entering the comet's coma." A bit of a barren issue quote-wise, so I figured I'd note the line that at least taught me a little something about astronomy.

[1] Seriously, I fucking hate that holodeck scene.  We're supposed to believe that the Borg are capable of developing technological counter-measures to any weapon they've encountered, more or less instantaneously, and we're expected to believe no species in the last three hundred years (at least) has ever tried to hit them with small projectiles launched at high speeds?  That's some bullshit right there.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

XHY #3: "On Wings Of Angels"


(Do angels often wear feather thongs?)

Comments

Bryne obviously realises that getting into the '00s is a pretty major event, because this time around, he's stuck a joke in.

It's another decidedly retro and generally bloodless issue.  There are two lovely moments here - one where the Beast climbs a tower with his hands whilst holding Cyclops with his feet, and another a few moments later when they come across a truly lovely airship - some kind of cross between a fleet of clippers and a Mon Calamari cruiser, held aloft by dozens of emerald and amber balloons. As slow and uninteresting as I'm finding this storyline, Bryne's art is periodically fairly strong.

It really isn't enough, though.  Alex and Lorna arrive and meet Ka-Zar, Angel learns the story of the city, and the other X-Men sneak about a lot.  Iceman doesn't show up at all.  Ho-hum.

Still, back to X1C tomorrow.  That'll be nice!

Clues

Havok tells Ka-Zar that the ship carrying his fellow X-Men crashed about a day ago, which suggests we've missed a night somewhere (presumably whatever mysterious forces keep the Savage Land from freezing also stop it being near-permanent night near the end of winter). The easiest option here is to assume Cyclops, Beast and Marvel Girl have spent the night searching the mysterious city, whilst Angel spends it recuperating from his injuries.

Ka-Zar mentions that he's been travelling for three weeks to find out what's going on in this part of the Savage Land, but that works out fine; it's been almost four weeks since the X-Men last saw him.

Date

Tuesday 24th to Wednesday 25th June, 1980.

X-Date

X+2Y+85 to X+2Y+86.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.02 standard years.

(Iceman is 31 years old)


Contemporary Events

The Muslim Brotherhood attempts to assassinate Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, without success.

Standout Line

"I'm called Havok and this is, ah..."
"Call me Magnetrix, Blondie!"

I didn't say it was a particularly good joke.  Besides, she clearly should have gone with Friskoteque...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

XHY #2: "The Ghost And The Darkness"


("Shot through the heart!")

Comments

This is definitely an improvement on the first issue, albeit a minor one.  At two pages, the recap is eight times shorter, and although the issue isn't much less po-faced, it does have some momentum to it.  Having Zelda, Vera and Candy form some kind of under-appreciated X-girlfriend group is a nice idea, and I'm genuinely interested to see how that turns out, given Candy alone knows what's really happening at Xavier's.

Points are also awarded for the priests working with Magneto; revealing that their cloaks are actually both hiding their true appearance and part of their true appearance is quite nice, and they look pleasingly strange and otherworldly.  Indeed, it reminds me a great of a Cockrum design for Giant-Size X-Men #1 that was ultimately dumped in favour of Nightcrawler.


It's entirely possible that this is coincidental, of course; I suspect any humanoid creature with bat wings is going to look very similar to every other one.

There's also a few shades of grey in here, which is good.  The natives attacking Cyclops and Beast are doing so because the X-Men have deliberately trespassed on their sacred ground, and the bat-winged priests are likewise, at least from the X-Men's perspective, entirely innocent.

It still badly needs a humour injection and and to pull itself out of the morass of nostalgia [1], but I definitely enjoyed it a little more. "Slaughter in the Savage Land" is a despicably misleading cover title, though.  Even the T-Rex makes it out alive.

Clues

This issue takes place over a single day.  From the narration over Cyclop's moping, and since Iceman has clearly spent the night in Zelda's apartment after quitting the X-Men, it seems clear that this issue is set the day after Xavier sends the team back to the Savage Land.

Date

Tuesday 24th June, 1980.

X-Date

X+2Y+85.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.98 standard years.

(Iceman is 32 years old.)

"Uh-hrrr..."
Contemporary Events

Boris Kaufman, cinematographer of many famous films including On the Waterfront and 12 Angry Men (a personal favourite of mine) as well as fighting against the Nazis in France during WWII, passes away aged 82.

Standout Line

"From our speed I estimate we have come many miles already from the embarkation point!" Really, Beast?  Your boat was in bow-range from the jetty just two panels ago.  That river must be breaking the sound barrier!  I guess that means the boat's going to need a... sonic boom?

BAM!

[1] I forgot to mention this yesterday, but another problem with this storyline is that we already know what happens.  It's one thing to know the X-Men will all make it out OK, one tends to assume that in any case.  But by starting this series off with dealing with Magneto's base in the Savage Land you're in a situation where you know not only will our heroes escape, but so too must the villain. Formulae that this mean you have to work even harder to generate surprises - you can't just give up on them entirely.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

XHY #1: "Once More The Savage Land"


(Feels like hidden decades...)

Comments

Simply put: this is not a good start.

Over at MotCC, I've already laid out my cynicism regarding allowing artists, however highly thought of, to be given the job of writing comics.  Obviously, it can work out just fine, and there's plenty of examples where it's worked out much better than "just fine" (Maus, Cerebus and Palestine jump to mind immediately). 

At least with regard to Marvel, however, the end results are often problematic (Alan Davis suffered a marked deterioration of both writing and pencilling skills when he took on both jobs simultaneously in his late '90s/early '00s X-Men run), and occasionally disastrous (Whilce Portacio, Rob Fucking LieFuck).

On top of that, I'm also distinctly leary about the idea of '80s colossi returning to the books they shaped, after the best part of two decades have elapsed.  Claremont's deeply uneven return to the X-Men at the turn of the millenium is an obvious case in point, and it rather looks like Jim Bryne provides fuel for the fire in terms of this particular hypothesis.

After an astonishing sixteen pages of recap - because it's apparently really important we know the X-Men fought Sauron back in 1969 at that Sunfire was all up in their shit - Bryne sends the team back to the Savage Land to check that Magneto really is dead, because faking his own death is what he always does.  That's actually a nice idea (though it's not played with anything even approaching self-awareness), but, as I've mentioned with regard to First Class, there's a difference between trying to inspire nostalgia and trying to get away with reusing the same old ideas.  X1C manages to (mainly) stay on the right side of this line, even if it does get too close to being a Marvel U Who's Who at times, but whilst Parker's book merely flirts with The Past, Bryne's seems intent on propositioning The Past on The Past's wedding day whilst she's busy trying to make sure The Future gets to catch the bouquet.

There's something horrifyingly self-congratulatory about an artist from the '80s writing stories about the '60s a few months before the third millenium arrives.  It's like watching your grandfather play video games, and suddenly realising that not only does he entirely suck at Super Street Fighter: Space Streets Turbo Streets Fist (they must have made that by now, there's only so many nouns and adjectives in the English language), but that he genuinely can't process just how much things have changed since he was your age.  It's like giving a dinosaur a typewriter and asking it to turn in a 4000 word essay on earlier, crappier dinosaurs.  Just because dromiceiomimus can remember when abrosaurus was getting all the face time in Dinosaurs Monthly, it doesn't follow she'll be able to competently grasp the fundamental nature of what it is to be an abrosaur.  Or resist drinking all the ink.

I think all of this would be more forgivable if Bryne at least had some fun with the title.  It doesn't need to be X-Statix levels of self-referential fan-baiting, obviously, but if someone could just crack a joke or two, instead of being earnest and furrow-browed all the damn time.  I have absolutely no faith that Bryne understands the fundamental absurdity of the task he's attempting, and that makes me worried.

Clues

Part of this issue replays the final panels of UXM #66. The remainder of the story takes place over a single day, and the narration states these events take place three days after Xavier is healed by Banner's gamma device.

Date

Monday 23rd June, 1980.

X-Date

X+2Y+84.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 2.95 standard years.

(Iceman is 32 years old.)

"I don't talk, I do!"

Contemporary Events

The 1980 US heatwave begins.  By the time it ends in September, it will have claimed 1700 lives.

Standout Line

They're all rubbish.

Monday, 22 August 2011

What Once Was Hidden Has Now Been Found

The first three issues of X-Men: The Hidden Years (XHY) have arrived, so I'm going to leave X1C alone for a few days (this is a good time to do it since we've just finished 2007) and go through those.

I think then that it's worth briefly considering how to deal with the title.  As most people reading this blog will know, there is a five year publication gap in-between UXM #66, and Giant-Size X-Men #1 which relaunched the franchise in 1975.  XHY was an attempt to fill that gap.  Indeed, since the issue following Giant-Size... was labelled UXM #94 [1], it makes sense to consider XHY #1 to #22 (which is as far as it got before Quesada cancelled the series in 2001) as being the "real" UXM #67 to #88.

This is the plan, then: we'll pretend these 22 issues stretch from 1970 to 1972, and calculate the compression constant and Iceman age approximator accordingly. As usual, we start tomorrow at 8am.

[1] Well, OK, that's not strictly true: the adjective "Uncanny" hadn't shown up yet.  Still, UXM #94 is how it is now known.

X1C (v2) #5: "Smash"


("Condition red!  Condition red! It's green! Wait... I mean he's green!  It's red!  The condition is!  Red!  So red! Totally red! OH MY GOD IT'S SO GREEN!")

Comments

I guess three whole issues was long enough without a guest spot, then.

There's really not a lot to be said about this issue; it's basically just all one long fight scene, punctuated by Hulk's "teenage sidekick" Rick making the odd reasonable point.  The Hulk doesn't really seem to be in character, from what little I've read of his adventures during this period (mainly UXM #66), but I can see why Parker made the change - having his wise-cracking teenagers try to beat up something only one stage up from a super-powered green refrigerator might look a bit like bullying.

I can't decide whether Xavier's inability to control the Hulk due to constant interruptions from the military is a sly dig at the army's capacity for getting in its own way, or just a crappy hand-wave to explain why the fight doesn't end more or less immediately.  I have enough faith in Parker to suspect the former, though.

Clues

This story takes place in approximately real time.

Aside from the X-Men's unfamiliarity with the Hulk, which means this issue must take place before UXM #66 (which we'd assume anyway), there's nothing to date this story at all, so we'll stick it into continuity as early as possible.

Date

Sunday 30th July, 1978.

X-Date

X+121.

Contemporary Events

Ethiopia launches a massive offensive against Eritrean guerrillas during the eighteen year of the Eritrean War of Independence.

Standout Line

"All I ever do is catch X-Men" - Angel.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

X1C (v2) #4: "Road Trip"


(Stolen cars and stolen glances.)

Comments

It's another outing for the X-Books' most promising bromance as we're once again reminded that these adventures might as well be entitled "Hank And Bobby Help The X-Men Out Of Charity".  After all, those other losers are clearly just taking up space.  Note how Bobby turns down every offer for a holiday buddy until Hank pipes up?  That shit ain't accidental.

As you might expect from a story about a road trip, most of this issue is a series of vignettes and flashes, which suits Parker's writing very well.  This structure lets him make full use of his sweet and funny dialogue and character beats without his oftentimes fairly simplistic plotting causing problems. 

Sure, the issue climaxes with Hank and Bobby saving people from an unseasonal hurricane, but for the rest of the ride it's Hank driving with his feet, Bobby freezing every mosquito dumb enough to bite him, and the two of them finally opening up to each other. "Is this what the cool kids do?" Hank asks.  "I have no idea what the cool kids do," Bobby replies.  Because jokes about coolness aren't what's needed here, not even from Iceman. Guy-love is in the air.

Oh, and as much as I loved Beast before this issue, his willingness to toss aside his flip-flops and hang upside-down from the ceiling to cheer up a child he accidentally upset increases his awesomeness still further.

Clues

This is a tricksy issue.  I finally remembered to search back through the early posts on the blog to remind myself as to when exactly the X-Men graduated.  I had a feeling that it was earlier than X1C makes out, but I couldn't remember the exact issue.

Turns out it's UXM #7.

That means that in the original Lee run, the X-Men graduated before any of them (save possibly Cyclops) even knew that Cerebro existed.  I think we're going to have to ignore the orignal graduation date if we're going to get anywhere with this title, then.

There's also the matter of Alex (who Bobby refers to as Scott's brother) showing up this issue, despite everyone being surprised when Scott reveals his sibling in UXM #54.  By that point, Xavier is believed dead, and it's pretty tough to imagine this issue taking place after his return (why is Alex just visiting? Where's Lorna?)

Given all of these problems, then, and since Hank mentions that this issue's excursion is markedly superior to their time on Monster Island, we shall follow the standard practice of fitting this issue in somewhere between UXM #18 and #32.  Indeed, Hank states that this adventure happens at a time which "early for hurricane season", which would put it somewhere around May.  Fortunately, due to Roy Thomas' notoriously slack approach to continuity, we have months of spare time between UXM #21 and #22, which includes May 1979.  We'll give them the whole fortnight off, so as to save me having to work out exactly how long it took our intrepid heroes to squeeze in all their activities.

Date

Wednesday 16th to Wednesday 30th May, 1979.

X-Date

X + Y + 46 to X + Y + 60.

Contemporary Events

Gay men riot in San Francisco after Dan White receives a five year sentence for the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk.

Standout Line

The X-Men's greatest foe yet: campsite toilets! "I'll recover through therapy, one day."

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Full Time-Line: Take 7

UXM 1.     The X-Men: Friday 31st March to Saturday 1st April, 1978.
UXM 2.     No-one Can Stop the Vanisher!: Monday 3rd to Friday 7th April, 1978.
UXM 3.     Beware of the Blob!: Saturday 22nd April, 1978.
UXM 4.     The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!: Sunday 23rd April to Tuesday 2nd May, 1978.
UXM 5.     Trapped: One X-Man!: Saturday 6th to Sunday 7th May, 1978.
UXM 6.     Submariner! Joins the Evil Mutants: Saturday 13th to Monday 15th May, 1978.
UXM 7.     Return of the Blob: Thursday 29th to Friday 30th of June, 1978.
UXM 8.     The Uncanny Threat of... Unus the Untouchable!: Saturday 1st to Saturday 8th July,
                  1978.
UXM 9.     Enter: the Avengers: Saturday 15th to Wednesday 19th July, 1978.
X1Cv2 1.  The Job Shadow: Saturday 29th July, 1978.

UXM 10. The Coming of... Ka-Zar: Tuesday 15th August, 1978.
UXM 11. The Triumph of Magneto!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
UXM 12. The Origin of Professor X!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
UXM 13. Where Walks the Juggernaut!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
UXM 14. Among us Stalk... the Sentinels!:  Tuesday 5th to Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
UXM 15. Prisoners of the Mysterious Master Mold!: Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
UXM 16. The Supreme Sacrifice: Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
UXM 17. ...And None Shall Survive!: Wednesday 6th to Thursday 7th September, 1978.
UXM 18. ...If Iceman Should Fail!: Thursday 7th to Friday 8th September, 1978.
X1C 1.    X-Men 101: Saturday 9th September, 1978.

X1C 2.     The Bird, The Beast, and the Lizard: Monday 11th September, 1978.
X1C 3.     A Life of the Mind: Sunday 17th September, 1978.
X1C 7.     Who Wants to Date a Millionaire?: Sunday 1st October, 1978.
X1C 8.     The Treasure Hunters: Monday 2nd to Tuesday 3rd October, 1978.
XICv2 2.  Island X:  Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th October, 1978.
XICv2 3.  Island X (Part 2):  Monday 9th October, 1978.
X1C Sl.    Museum of Oddities - The Soul of a Poet - A Girl and her Dragon: Tuesday 10th
                 to Monday 30th October,1978.
UXM 19.  Lo!  Now Shall Appear -- The Mimic!: Wednesday 1st to Thursday 2nd November, 1978.
UXM 20.  I, Lucifer...: Monday 6th November, 1978.
UXM 21.  From Whence Comes... Dominus?: Monday 6th to Tuesday 7th November, 1978.
UXM 22.  Divided -- we Fall!: Thursday 31st May to Friday 1st June, 1979.

UXM 23. To Save a City: Friday 1st June, 1979.
UXM 24. The Plague of... The Locust!: Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th September, 1979.
UXM 25. The Power and the Pendant!: Monday 20th to Thursday 23rd September, 1979.
UXM 26. Holocaust!: Thursday 23rd to Friday 24th September, 1979.
UXM 27. Re-Enter: The Mimic!: Sunday 26th to Tuesday 28th September, 1979.
UXM 28. Wail of the Banshee!: Sunday 1st November, 1979.
UXM 29. When Titans Clash!: Saturday 5th December, 1979.
UXM 30. The Warlock Wakes!: Sunday 6th of December, 1979.
UXM 31. We Must Destroy... the Cobalt Man!: Friday 11th of December, 1979.

UXM 32. Beware the Juggernaut, my Son!: Wednesday 19th of March, 1980.
UXM 33. Into The Crimson Cosmos!: Wednesday 19th of March, 1980.
UXM 34. War -- in a World of Darkness!: Wednesday 19th to Thursday 20th March, 1980.
UXM 35. Along Came a Spider...!: Saturday 5th April, 1980.
UXM 36. Mekano Lives!: Saturday 5th April, 1980.
UXM 37. We, the Jury...: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
UXM 38. The Sinister Shadow of... Doomsday!: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
UXM 39. The Fateful Finale!: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
UXM 40. The Mark of the Monster!: Saturday 12th April, 1980.
X1C 4.    Seeing Red: Sunday 13th April, 1980.

X1C 5.    The Littlest Frost Giant: Monday 14th April, 1980.
X1C 6.    The S-Men: Tuesday 15th to Wednesday 16th  April, 1980.
UXM 41. Now Strikes... the Sub-Human!: Tuesday 29th April, 1980.
UXM 42. If I Should Die...: Tuesday 29th April, 1980.
UXM 43. The Torch is Passed...!:  Monday 5th to Thursday 8th May, 1980.
UXM 44. Red Raven, Red Raven...!: Thursday 8th May, 1980.
UXM 45. When Mutants Clash!: Friday 9th May, 1980.
UXM 46. The End of the X-Men!: Tuesday 13th April, 1980.
UXM 47. The Warlock Wears Three Faces!: Saturday 17th May, 1980.
UXM 48. Beware Computo: Controller of the Robot Hive!: Sunday 18th May, 1980.

UXM 49. Who Dares Defy... the Demi Men?: Tuesday 27th May, 1980.
UXM 50. City of Mutants: Tuesday 27th May, 1980.
UXM 51. The Devil had a Daughter!: Tuesday 27th to Sunday 1st June, 1980.
UXM 52. Twilight of the Mutants!: Sunday 1st May, 1980.
UXM 53. The Rage of Blastaar!: Thursday 5th June, 1980.
UXM 54. Wanted: Dead or Alive -- Cyclops!: Friday 6th June, 1980.
UXM 55. The Living Pharaoh!:  Friday 6th to Saturday 7th June, 1980.
UXM 56. What is... the Power?: Saturday 7th June, 1980.
UXM 57. The Sentinels Live!: Saturday 7th to Sunday 8th May, 1980.
UXM 58.  Mission: Murder!: Sunday 8th to Monday 9th May, 1980.

UXM 59. Do or Die, Baby!: Monday 9th June, 1980.
UXM 60. In the Shadow of... Sauron!: Monday 9th June, 1980.
UXM 61. Monsters Also Weep!: Monday 9th to Tuesday 10th June, 1980.
UXM 62. Strangers... in a Savage Land!: Tuesday 17th June, 1980.
UXM 63. War in the World Below!: Tuesday 17th June, 1980.
UXM 64. The Coming of Sunfire!: Thursday 19th June, 1980.
UXM 65. Before I'd be Slave...: Saturday 21st June, 1980.
UXM 66. The Mutants and the Monster: Sunday 22nd June, 1980.

X1C (v2) #3: "Island X: Part 2"


("I am sooo stoned!")

Comments

Right.  So this is Monster Island, then.  It did seem a little unlikely that you'd get two such places (Monster Archipelago?), but I'm not sure it was the best idea to revisit the place so soon after the special issue, particularly as it means that either this story has to take place before that issue, or that Jean's dragon must have stolen a fair few of her IQ points as a parting gift.

That complaint out of the way, though, it's another good issue, if somewhat slight.  I had considered the possibility that Mastermind was behind all this somehow - the way last issue both began and ended with his statue on display rather suggested he was going to show up.  The idea that he's been conscious ever since the Stranger petrified him is actually quite unpleasant, but then if there's anyone who doesn't get to complain about his brain being divorced from the outside world, it's Jason Wyngarde.

Clues

This issue begins shortly after the previous one ended, and continues into the following day.  Since, as noted above, this story has to take place before Jean meets her dragon, we'll swap the dates around.  In order to not mess up the timings of the UXM issues, I'll also truncate the time said creature stays with the team by a single day.

Date

Monday 9th October, 1978.

X-Date

X+192.

Contemporary Events



Standout Line
"GIANT HEAD FIGHT!"
"Go for the cerebellum, Sir!" - Iceman and Beast.

Friday, 19 August 2011

X1C (v2) #2: "Island X"


("This is insane!" "Fascinating, though!")

Comments

Ooh!  A two-parter!  This is new.  And there's not a special-guest appearance to be found!  Lovely.

Also: it's a really funny issue, whether it's Bobby conquering his Wizard of Oz-induced phobia of flying monkeys ("That's right, childhood trauma!"), Jean freaking out over the same ("Not in my hair!") or the occasional sly rejoinder ("Considering the fauna, I believe it best to stay under the cover of the canopy!" I share your beliefs, Hank".) Given the more than slightly ludicrous nature of the set-up - something which Cyclops cottons onto at the end of the issue - playing it at least partially for laughs was probably the best option, and Parker certainly makes it work here.

Beyond the giggles, this is really just an extended travelogue through monster country, but that's certainly fun enough in itself.  The plant that mimics sound to catch prey is a particularly nice idea (albeit one used by Scott Smith a year earlier).  Plus, any story that drives home the limitless evil of butterflies is worthy of respect.

Clues

The events on the island take place over a single day, but working out how long it took the X-Men to arrive there might require some effort.  Presumably they chartered a ship that took them through the Panama Canal and out into the Pacific.  Since there's no real clue as to where this island is, lets put it close to the entrance to the Pacific Ocean near Balboa. That makes the boat trip at somewhere around 2400 miles or so.  Assuming a speed of 25 knots (which is at the upper end for container ships, apparently), that's around three and a half days travel.

Let's assume the whole issue takes place over four days, then.  Once again, Mastermind's petrified presence places the story between UXM #18 and UXM #32, so let's place it just after the team released their dragon onto Monster Island (after giving them two days to get back from there - clearly this is a busy season for the X-folk).

Date

Thursday 28th to Sunday 31st October, 1978.

X-Date

X+211 to X+214.

Contemporary Events

Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin share the Nobel Peace Prize.

Geoffrey Unsworth, who was cinematographer for (amongst many other films) Cabaret, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Bridge Too Far, and the first two Superman films, dies in his mid sixties.

Standout Line

"What is this place?"
"Proof the professor hates us!  And always has!" Bobby and Warren.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

X1C (v2) #1: "The Job Shadow"


(How not to be invisible.)

Comments

Hmm.  This is becoming a little repetitive.  The Fantastic Four's appearance in this issue brings the ratio of X1C issues (other than the special) to feature established Marvel characters to eight out of nine.  You can certainly make an argument for including Juggernaut and Blob in X1C #3, and the Maximoff siblings in X1C #7, since they're at least X-Men villains and thus tie into the aura of nostalgia this title is seemingly trying to create.  But that still leaves six issues - fully two-thirds of the run to date - that hinge on characters with little or no logical ties to the team or to mutant-kind in general.

That, as far as I'm concerned, is too much.  Yes, the characters are generally well used (Ken Hale was brilliant in issue #8, for instance), and this is true once again in this issue, but I'd still like to have a break from the wider Marvel Universe, at least for a little while.

That gripe aside, though, how does this issue stand up?  Pretty well, actually. As I say, the Fantastic Four are at least well used here, and having Jean hang out with Sue Storm so she can use the Invisible Girl as a role model is a perfectly serviceable idea.  It also allows Parker to point out that Jean is badly undervalued by her usual team, or at least badly underestimated.  Whilst the X-Men admonish her for trying to develop her powers without her help, the Fantastic Four are perfectly happy for her to throw herself into whatever she feels like.  Both her resulting joy and the X-Men's concurrent terror over losing her are great fun to watch.

There's also a panel of Cyclops' reaction to Johnny flirting with Jean that singlehandedly justifies the entire issue.

Built into this fear that Jean might leave the team is another point, however - how much the X-Men wish they could be like the Fantastic Four (nicely demonstrated by Iceman trying to impress Sue with a wall of ice that he's trying to make invisible). As Cyclops points out, Jean does the exact same things in both teams, but in the X-Men she's viewed as potentially "the real threat", and alongside the Richards, she's an instant celebrity.  I guess that makes a lack of appreciation the overall theme, which certainly makes the story more than just a standard super-hero team-up. 

Obviously, teaming-up is exactly what happens at the conclusion - this is a super-hero comic after all - but there's a nice element of vindication and catharsis to the proceedings.  It's then all brought full circle by Sue admitting she's envious of the X-Men for having a mentor to prepare them for the life they've chosen, and then asking Xavier if the true purpose of the "job shadow" was for Jean to see how other superheroines deal with their male counterparts.  The overall message here is that the two teams really aren't all that different.  Perhaps this isn't much of a surprise to the reader, but it's a nice thing for the X-Men themselves to consider.

Just as an aside, since I don't really read much Fantastic Four, I have a question.  Is building a giant android with a head shaped like a hammer something that Reed Richards would spend his time doing?  Because even for him, the cost-benefit analysis surely can't have looked that promising.  The Thing seems to have similar concerns: "Why didn't ya give this thing a face?"

Clues

This story takes place over a single day.

Apparently the first meeting of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four takes place in FF #28, which was published between UXM #7 and #8 (that issue also featured the Mad Thinker and his stolen android, and ended up with Richards reclaiming it, presumably that wacky old MT managed to swipe it again). Nothing else gives us a clue as to when the issue is set, beyond a passing reference by Bobby regarding how the team "Cerebro-ed" Jean's location.  If we assume that Iceman knows about Cerebro as some kind of team tracking technique, and not the specifics (which aren't revealed to him until UXM #12), and that Bobby doesn't consider "Go save Jean" to technically be a mission, then we can actually place this issue between UXM #9 and #10.  That's what we'll do, then.

Date

Saturday 29th of July, 1978.

X-Date

X+120.

Contemporary Events


Standout Line

"[Jean's] blasting off in a sweet air car while we're all cramming into a minivan on missions."
"That van gets excellent mileage." - Bobby and Charles.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

X1C Special: "The Museum Of Oddities", "The Soul Of A Poet", "A Girl And Her Dragon"


(The ghost is a gargoyle.  The dragon is a pussycat.  The poet is a prick.)

Comments

Heh.  Even by the standards of this title, this is entirely lightweight and throwaway, but it's a lot of fun.  "The Museum of Oddities" finds Hank and Bobby (a duo which once again proves the rest of the X-Men are completely unnecessary) pretending to be ghost-hunters in order to find a mutant.  It's a lovely idea - ironically so much better than their stint years later pretending to be mutant-hunters. Alistair the living gargoyle is oddly cute as well.  I think he's underselling his abilities, actually.  Yes, standing still isn't much of a power, but he snaffled Hank's lunch with unbelievable speed.  Having Alistair on the team would be the next-best thing to fighting the Brotherhood alongside Yogi Bear, and who the hell wouldn't be glad to see that?


 
"The Soul of a Poet" reintroduces one of the original run's most underappreciated characters: Bernard the talentless beat poet.  The idea of "neo-mutants" (mutants who only gain their powers when other mutants are nearby) is maybe kind of silly (though that's a relative term in X-books, of course), but for such a short story that hardly matters. Bernard is just as love-to-hate as always, and having Iceman swipe one of his CDs with which to terrorise the team later on is a nice touch.

"A Girl and her Dragon" is the longest story in the collection, and I'm not sure why.  There doesn't seem much point to the initial fight between the X-Men and the dragon except to fill some kind of action quota.  The second half of the story, which is about how Jean deals with learning she must let her new friend go (sort of an inverted "Puff the Magic Dragon") is strong enough to stand alone, I would think.

Still, dragon vs. Sentinel?  That's a pretty awesome idea right there.  "Best dragon ever", as Jean says. (Sorry, Lockheed!)

Clues

"A Girl and her Dragon" is clearly set after issue #18, as seems to be the case with all X1C issues; we see the dragon dealing with the Blob, the Juggernaut, and a Sentinel.  Since this story takes place over the course of several weeks, we can easily assume the first two stories take place within that period, as neither of them seem situations in which the dragon was liable to be involved.

It is of course difficult to sensibly extrapolate the amount of time necessary for a teenage girl to grow particularly attached to a hydrocephalic dragon, but I think three weeks should just about cover it.  We'll therefore assume the X-Men meet the dragon the day after returning from Africa with the professor, and take their new mascot to Monster Island three weeks later.

There's also a ten minute interval we have to find somewhere for Scott to tell Kitty the story of Jean's dragon.  That could happen at any time following one of Jean's deaths, though.

Date

Thursday 5th to Thursday 26th October, 1978.

X-Date

X+188 to X+209.

Contemporary Events

Pope John Paul II becomes the 264th Pope, suceeding Pope John Paul I.

Nancy Spungen dies and boyfriend Sid Vicious is arrested on suspicion of murder.

Standout Line

"My calculations refute Cerebro's -- otters are cuter!" - Hank

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Full Time-Line: Take 6

Now that First Class is being placed within the original comic's initial run, I'm going to stop separating the issues into writing runs.  I shall return to the practice (in some for or another) once we move to events that happened in-continuity after UXM #66.  Note that the need to extend the gap between UXM #40 and UXM #41 (brought about by including the First Class issues) has moved all dates after UXM #40 forward by 48 hours.

UXM 1.   The X-Men: Friday 31st March to Saturday 1st April, 1978.
UXM 2.   No-one Can Stop the Vanisher!: Monday 3rd to Friday 7th April, 1978.
UXM 3.   Beware of the Blob!: Saturday 22nd April, 1978.
UXM 4.   The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!: Sunday 23rd April to Tuesday 2nd May, 1978.
UXM 5.   Trapped: One X-Man!: Saturday 6th to Sunday 7th May, 1978.
UXM 6.   Submariner! Joins the Evil Mutants: Saturday 13th to Monday 15th May, 1978.
UXM 7.   Return of the Blob: Thursday 29th to Friday 30th of June, 1978.
UXM 8.   The Uncanny Threat of... Unus the Untouchable!: Saturday 1st to Saturday 8th July,
               1978.
UXM 9.   Enter: the Avengers: Saturday 15th to Wednesday 19th July, 1978.
UXM 10. The Coming of... Ka-Zar: Tuesday 15th August, 1978.

UXM 11. The Triumph of Magneto!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
UXM 12. The Origin of Professor X!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
UXM 13. Where Walks the Juggernaut!: Tuesday 22nd August, 1978.
UXM 14. Among us Stalk... the Sentinels!:  Tuesday 5th to Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
UXM 15. Prisoners of the Mysterious Master Mold!: Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
UXM 16. The Supreme Sacrifice: Wednesday 6th September, 1978.
UXM 17. ...And None Shall Survive!: Wednesday 6th to Thursday 7th September, 1978.
UXM 18. ...If Iceman Should Fail!: Thursday 7th to Friday 8th September, 1978.
X1C 1.    X-Men 101: Saturday 9th September, 1978.
X1C 2.    The Bird, The Beast, and the Lizard: Monday 11th September, 1978.

X1C 3.    A Life of the Mind: Sunday 17th September, 1978.
X1C 7.    Who Wants to Date a Millionaire?: Sunday 1st October, 1978.
X1C 8.    The Treasure Hunters: Monday 2nd to Tuesday 3rd October, 1978.
UXM 19. Lo!  Now Shall Appear -- The Mimic!: Wednesday 1st to Thursday 2nd November, 1978.
UXM 20. I, Lucifer...: Monday 6th November, 1978.
UXM 21. From Whence Comes... Dominus?: Monday 6th to Tuesday 7th November, 1978.
UXM 22. Divided -- we Fall!: Thursday 31st May to Friday 1st June, 1979.
UXM 23. To Save a City: Friday 1st June, 1979.
UXM 24. The Plague of... The Locust!: Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th September, 1979.
UXM 25. The Power and the Pendant!: Monday 20th to Thursday 23rd September, 1979.

UXM 26. Holocaust!: Thursday 23rd to Friday 24th September, 1979.
UXM 27. Re-Enter: The Mimic!: Sunday 26th to Tuesday 28th September, 1979.
UXM 28. Wail of the Banshee!: Sunday 1st November, 1979.
UXM 29. When Titans Clash!: Saturday 5th December, 1979.
UXM 30. The Warlock Wakes!: Sunday 6th of December, 1979.
UXM 31. We Must Destroy... the Cobalt Man!: Friday 11th of December, 1979.
UXM 32. Beware the Juggernaut, my Son!: Wednesday 19th of March, 1980.
UXM 33. Into The Crimson Cosmos!: Wednesday 19th of March, 1980.
UXM 34. War -- in a World of Darkness!: Wednesday 19th to Thursday 20th March, 1980.
UXM 35. Along Came a Spider...!: Saturday 5th April, 1980.

UXM 36. Mekano Lives!: Saturday 5th April, 1980.
UXM 37. We, the Jury...: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
UXM 38. The Sinister Shadow of... Doomsday!: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
UXM 39. The Fateful Finale!: Sunday 6th April, 1980.
UXM 40. The Mark of the Monster!: Saturday 12th April, 1980.
X1C 4.    Seeing Red: Sunday 13th April, 1980.
X1C 5.    The Littlest Frost Giant: Monday 14th April, 1980.
X1C 6.    The S-Men: Tuesday 15th to Wednesday 16th  April, 1980.
UXM 41. Now Strikes... the Sub-Human!: Tuesday 29th April, 1980.
UXM 42. If I Should Die...: Tuesday 29th April, 1980.

UXM 43. The Torch is Passed...!:  Monday 5th to Thursday 8th May, 1980.
UXM 44. Red Raven, Red Raven...!: Thursday 8th May, 1980.
UXM 45. When Mutants Clash!: Friday 9th May, 1980.
UXM 46. The End of the X-Men!: Tuesday 13th April, 1980.
UXM 47. The Warlock Wears Three Faces!: Saturday 17th May, 1980.
UXM 48. Beware Computo: Controller of the Robot Hive!: Sunday 18th May, 1980.
UXM 49. Who Dares Defy... the Demi Men?: Tuesday 27th May, 1980.
UXM 50. City of Mutants: Tuesday 27th May, 1980.
UXM 51. The Devil had a Daughter!: Tuesday 27th to Sunday 1st June, 1980.
UXM 52. Twilight of the Mutants!: Sunday 1st May, 1980.

UXM 53. The Rage of Blastaar!: Thursday 5th June, 1980.
UXM 54. Wanted: Dead or Alive -- Cyclops!: Friday 6th June, 1980.
UXM 55. The Living Pharaoh!:  Friday 6th to Saturday 7th June, 1980.
UXM 56. What is... the Power?: Saturday 7th June, 1980.
UXM 57. The Sentinels Live!: Saturday 7th to Sunday 8th May, 1980.
UXM 58.  Mission: Murder!: Sunday 8th to Monday 9th May, 1980.
UXM 59. Do or Die, Baby!: Monday 9th June, 1980.
UXM 60. In the Shadow of... Sauron!: Monday 9th June, 1980.
UXM 61. Monsters Also Weep!: Monday 9th to Tuesday 10th June, 1980.
UXM 62. Strangers... in a Savage Land!: Tuesday 17th June, 1980.

UXM 63. War in the World Below!: Tuesday 17th June, 1980.
UXM 64. The Coming of Sunfire!: Thursday 19th June, 1980.
UXM 65. Before I'd be Slave...: Saturday 21st June, 1980.
UXM 66. The Mutants and the Monster: Sunday 22nd June, 1980.

X1C #8: "The Treasure Hunters"


("I wanna be like you-hoo-hoo!")

Comments

Well, it's not exactly a fireworks-strewn finale to the run or anything - though that might be at least partly because the comic is about to graduate to ongoing status - but it's a nice fun issue to finish off a nice fun series.  No earth-shattering threats, no dark secrets, just eight books about some of the lighter aspects to being a mutant in a world that hates and fears you.

This time around, there's the barest bones of a continuation from previous issues: the holiday Xavier has been taking for the last three issues (or just the last one, depending on how you arrange the continuity) may have taken a worrying turn, based on Jean's possibly prophetic dream.  The resulting metaphor - that the team are treasure hunters but what is truly valuable is their friend and mentor - is laid on a bit thick, but it manages to avoid being too saccharin.  I like the idea of a trap for the obsessed, as well, though I'm not entirely sure who would go to the effort of building it.  Mind you, that's also true of whoever slapped together the Oak Island money pit Ken mentions.

Speaking of Gorilla Ken: that is one awesome ape.  "I'm fascinating", as he puts it.  If I'd been the X-Men, I would have been sorely tempted to leave Xavier to his fate and just study under Mr Hale instead.  I mean, who's going to prepare you better for a life of fighting supervillains and dodging lynch mobs?  Is it a liberal intellectual? Or is it a tough-talking immortal gorilla who can tear you apart with his bare hands?  I think we all know!

Clues

This story takes place over two days.

We can assume Jean wakes from her dream of Xavier after midnight, which allows us to sneakily make use of our "one adventure a day" rule, and so have the team board the flight to Africa the day after Wanda breaks up with Warren.  By the time the team land in the Congo, it's just past midnight on following day back in New York, meaning that since the X-Men's rescue mission happens entirely during daylight hours, it's still the day after they left in New York by the time Xavier is saved.

Date

Monday 2nd to Tuesday 3rd October, 1978.

X-Date

X+185 to X+186.

Contemporary Events

A superjam organised by Paul McCartney takes place at Abbey Roads studio, involving James Honeyman-Scott, Hank Marvin, Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Bruce Thomas (or so Wikipedia says, at least).

Standout Line

"Just humor the gorilla, OK?"

Monday, 15 August 2011

X1C #7: "Who Wants To Date A Millionaire?"


("Never was there a tale of more Wanda.")

Comments

Aw.  Such a sweet little love story.  Nice to see at least one super-power romance (albeit a brief one) that ends not because of some cosmic battle or supernatural alteration or divided loyalty, but simply because two people who find each other very attractive turn out to be ill-suited for one another.

Indeed, considering Wanda's mature (off-panel) decision to break up with Warren, it's surely by no means coincidence that the childish battle between Angel and Quicksilver that starts moments later takes place in a playground.  It's two young men fighting over a woman who neither of them have any right to.  Of course, the playground metaphor works for much of superhero fiction, actually (as has been noted many times before).  It's summed up by one angry woman's response to Pietro and Warren agreeing to a truce: "Well how great that you super-teens have settled your differences.  But the playground is ruined!"

Returning to Pietro for a moment, Wanda's appraisal of her relationship with her brother is quite interesting, and adds nuance to something that was painfully one-note when it originally appeared.  It makes some sense that she would place her trust in the hands of her stronger, more capable brother.  Of course, Jean's point that Pietro's domineering attitude will either drive Wanda away or destroy her free will is entirely correct.

Jean has a pretty good time of it this issue, actually - she's clearly far ahead of Cyclops and Iceman when it comes to deductive powers.  From now on, Jean should be in charge of all investigations, at least when Beast is probably implicated somehow.  

All in all, it's a really pleasant issue, which ends on a lovely note as Iceman once again saves the day, this time by creating a new playground out of ice and snow for the kids to play on. "Stand aside, lame ones" indeed.

Clues

A-ha!  This is it, folks!  Proof positive that the issues of this title are not in chronological order! (Man, I can't believe this is exciting for me...)  Issue #4, as we've discussed, cannot have happened prior to issue #33, but the petrified Mastermind in the hallway this issue means Warren and Wanda's tryst cannot have taken place after UXM #37.  Of course, every issue in-between those two books described Xavier as having been kidnapped by Factor Three.

Since his absence in this issue is explicitly referred to as a vacation (forcing the team to travel by mini-van, apparently - what happened to the rolls?), there's nothing for it but to set this issue before X1C #4.

Mastermind was cursed by the Stranger in UXM #11, and the exchange between the X-Men and the Maximoff siblings referred to in this story took place in the same issue.  The implication is that several weeks have passed since then, which given the run of uninterrupted stories between UXM #11 and UXM #18 puts us at around the same time-frame as X1C #1-3.  Let's assume that Xavier becoming trapped inside Cerebro convinced him that his last vacation didn't do the job, and has headed off into the wild blue yonder again (this explains why Jean is leery about creeping around inside Cerebro's frontal lobe).

We can therefore place this story the just after X1C #3, which happily also means it really has been several weeks since the X-Men last saw Wanda and Pietro, as well as making Cyclops comment about blasting Warren out of the sky an ironic comment rather than a joke in exceptionally poor taste.  Since it's unlikely Hank and Warren would have snuck in to Cerebro whilst Xavier was still around, we'll assume that the professor has been gone for the "couple of weeks" Hank mentioned.

This story takes place over a single day.

Date

Sunday 1st October, 1978.

X-Date

X+184.

Contemporary Events

Vietnam attacks Cambodia.

Tuvalu gains independence from the UK.

Standout Line

"GO WARREN!"
"Iceman!"
"Oh, sorry.  GO ANGEL!"

Sunday, 14 August 2011

X1C #6: "The S-Men"


("I pity the Foo!")

Comments

These Skrulls are fun!  They're all clearly at the Ford Prefect end of the "approach to research" spectrum, but that's what makes them brilliant.  Watching ur-Cylops declare "I will destroy the cage lock with my death eyes!" as Marvel Girl orders Iceboy around is great fun, made all the better by the fact that the X-Men clearly find these impressions of their friends hilarious ("Oh man, Scott!  Why'd you free that thing? "What? Shut up, Drake!"), even as they're finding their own doppelgangers distinctly unflattering ("Platitudinous!  Indubitably!  Ontogeny!  Verbosity!", as "Bestial" puts it).

Go the "S-Men", then!  Mind you, I think they've missed a trick here:

Ironically, Sgt. B. Angel Baracus was scared of flying.
Anway, the young aliens are a gas.  Throw in two oddly cute Mole Man-spawned giant monsters, and you've got a lovely little story going on.

There's a good point buried in here, as well, namely that the X-Men have put massive amounts of time and effort (not to mention repeatedly risking their lives) into building up reputations as heroes, only for the media to instantly paint them as villains the instant some obvious pretenders show up.  As usual, speed and exclusivity beats the crap out of sensible fact-checking. At the end of a week in which major news outlets gave time to commentators to decry an anti-Mormon attack that Obama never used and for which no evidence exists he ever would use [1], it's a point well worth repeating.

Clues

This story takes place over two days.

Apparently either Bobby and Zelda are no longer an item, Bobby is hiding it from his fellow X-Men (Beast aside), or there are two Zelda's who work at Coffee A Go-Go (now renamed Coffee @ Go-Go; that's progress for you).  Or maybe they've had a fight?  We certainly know Bobby is still seeing Zelda at least as late as UXM #47, which is set after this issue.

Date

Tuesday 15th to Wednesday 16th April, 1980.

X-Date

X+746 to X+747.

Contemporary Events

The Americans detonate a nuclear bomb in the Nevada desert.

Standout Line

"Building up trust is hard.  Tearing it down is nothing."- Warren.

[1] Isn't interesting that the people who keep claiming accusations of racism against Obama are typically hysterical liberal over-reaction are suddenly telling us that when the Whitehouse suggests Romney is strange, they must secretly mean Mormonism isn't a proper religion?