Every X-book considered and assembled into a slipshod time-line, September '63 to May '86.
Saturday, 6 August 2011
UXM #64: "The Coming Of Sunfire!"
(Peace is never found, or won, or even bought; it is merely rented.)
At long last we leave the '60s behind forever, and enter a new decade. And what better way to embrace that bright, uncertain future than with a story about the damage caused by the WWII?
It's safe to say that the Japanese are not sensitively or delicately handled here. It's all "For the glory of the emperor!" throughout, and though it's not unfair to say that a distaste for foreigners is not entirely absent from the Japanese cultural psyche (though you can say that about pretty much anyone, more or less), Shiro and Tomo are just hideously over the top; frothy-mouthed gaijin-loathing nutcases.
If you can get past that, though, this issue is far from irredeemable (even if one rather assumes the reason Thomas takes the next month off is so he can be given some gentle "re-education" on what one can get away with in comics). As much as Shiro and his uncle are walking time-bombs of xenophobic rage, Shiro's attitude at least can be understood as coming from Tomo, who presumably played a large role in Shiro's upbringing, since Shiro's mother was dead and his father (a diplomat) could have been absent for much of the time.
In that sense, this is a story about how one's upbringing can dominate your political and moral compasses. Shiro hates the US because Tomo has told him, over and over, that he should.
And what about Tomo? How many people did he lose in the Hiroshima blast? We know his sister-in-law was crippled by the explosion, but how many other family members, or friends, or people he nodded to in the Shinto temple, were annihilated by "Little Boy"? Maybe his rage is understandable. The first X-Men issue of the 1970s is hardly the place to go looking for complex political commentary, but to Thomas' credit, he has no problem portraying just how horrific and emotionally damaging the destruction of Hiroshima must have been. Even Shiro's father, the consummate diplomat (though gifted pimp-slapper), pleads for Sunfire to stop not because innocent lives could be lost in his attacks, but because trying to take revenge for the nuclear strikes will simply start the war all over again. Peace is something you have to pay for.
Indeed, flense away the Holocaust connection - along with a fair chunk of some of the less edifying dialogue - and this could be a story about pretty much any extremist's desire to take their revenge within an inferno. That makes Shiro arguably the first mutant the comic has introduced who's powers reflect their emotional drive, but it also allows for the bleakest ending the book has produced since Xavier passed away in issue #42. Tomo ultimately demonstrates two common attributes of the fanatic: the absurdly short-trem nature of their tactical planning and their willingness to turn on their fellow countrynmen whenever they disagree. When he comes across his brother Saburo, Shiro's father, trying to convince his son to give up his quest for violent revenge, Tomo doesn't wait to see how the conversation ends, or try to offer his own voice as a counterpoint to Saburo's arguments. He simply shoots his own brother; the father of the man Tomor wants to obey him.
The instant he fires, Tomo's cause is lost. His life, too; Shiro burns him to ashes almost instantly. Moments later, as he kneels by the side of his dying father, Sunfire sees the truth: the blast at Hiroshima just claimed two more lives, for no good goddamn reason at all. The X-Men shake their heads and leave, hoping the next mutant they meet can be reached in time, and Shrio is left completely alone.
Changing direction completley, and just to revsisit something from a couple of days ago: Angel continues his run of headstrong incompetence when he requires saving twice in this issue. The second time is after Sunfire sets his wings on fire, so there probably wasn't a great deal he could have done about that. But his first sticky situation comes about when he allows himself to be sucked into a jet engine.
Did Xavier not teach basic physics? Did it not occur to Angel that close-range inspections of planes in flight might carry an element of risk? Sure, Iceman saves him by creating an ice barrier between Angel and the rotor, but not only was Warren massively lucky that worked, but it involves Bobby essentially rendering one half of the airplanes engines functionally useless. If it wasn't for the fact that I suspect an "angel-strike" would have been even more dangerous than temporarily blocking one engine, I'd have been severely tempted just to let the blond berk get splattered. He's been a liability ever since he stopped on Red Raven's island to do some mid-rescue mission sightseeing.
Maybe the other X-Men make him wear his Magento-created costume, actually. Just as a constant reminder of what a gullible, useless prick he is. They're still calling him "Scottie" from time to time, as well, though at this point I can believe it's just a way of reminding him that Jean had no interest in his advances.
This issue takes place over a single day.
The X-Men have returned from their trip to the bottom of the world. Given the amount of time they'd have needed to return to the surface of Tierra Del Fuego, and then fly back to New York, it would presumably be at least reasonably late on the following day by the time they settled down in their apartment in NYC.
So let's assume this adventure begins on the following morning.
It's been a while since we saw the local vegetation, actually. Luckily everything is nice and green, despite this issue being published in January (ten days almost to the day before I was born, in fact).
Tuesday 3rd June, 1980.
1 Marvel year = 2.91 standard years.
(Iceman is 32 years old.)
"Let's see if these fresh-frozen flying saucers'll cool things down"!
Grand Island, Nebraska is struck by a series of powerful tornadoes. 5 people are killed and over $300 million in damage is inflicted.
"... We'll wait over there, son...!" It's just a little line, from the policeman who's arrived to arrest Sunfire on the final page, but it's a nice understated nod to just how devastated Sunfire obviously is, and a reminder that his last taste of freedom will be kneeling beside the cooling body of his dead father.