Tuesday, 9 August 2011
X1C #1: "X-Men 101"
("Did I ever tell you about the time...?")
I definitely liked this first issue - light, breezy, and fun. Nothing earth-shattering, but then there's an inherent limit to what Parker can do with a book that by definition can't contain anything the X-Men felt worth discussing at a later date.
Iceman makes for a nice way in to the X-Men's world, lacking the solipsism of Angel, the repressed coolness of Cyclops, or what would surely be the impenetrable verbosity of Beast. I think Marvel Girl would have worked as well, but I've no problem with the choice made here, especially since there's a nice idea in here that Iceman writing down his observations of the rest of the team is actually helping his own development. Indeed, I was going to note that Bobby can't send letters home to his parents - not ones that reference his powers, at any rate - since Xavier wiped their memories of Bobby's mutant abilities , but ultimately Bobby destroys the letter in any case, because it was the process of writing it that was the important part.
It also gives us a view of how strange life in the mansion is. Bobby notes that the Professor forbids emails, and that Hank has no idea as to what an X-Box is. It's a nice nod to the old comics: they didn't take place in the '60s, it's just that the two resident geniuses were both totally uninterested in modern technology, at least as far as recreation went. Iceman also manages the occasional flash of genuine insight, such as noting how difficult life is for Hank because no-one but the professor has any hope of really understanding him (which contrasts nicely with '60s Beast's depression over never being able to look entirely normal).
All in all, the book does a pretty good job of providing a reminder to old hands, and an introduction to newcomers. Even the seemingly tacked on mutant threat the issue introduces turns out to help in this regard - a seemingly hostile organism proves to be only trying to defend itself from the unwitting humans who have replaced it. By watching the way in which this creature is helped by Xavier (who is nicely played as the unreachable and arrogant taskmaster he was back when the X-Men were young), we see how the professor hopes to deal with humanity's own upcoming exposure to the fear of replacement.
The only thing that spoils the issue is some bad jokes. A swipe (no pun intended) at the idea of Wolverine-style claws falls particularly flat, and reminded me of the That Mitchell and Webb Sound sketch about "Thatcher: The Early Years", in which the "writers" discuss how dropping in a reference to future events can make one look witty and funny without having to bother thinking of a joke.
This issue takes place over a single day, as evidenced by Iceman's letter. Frankly, there doesn't seem sufficient time for everything that takes place to fit into daylight hours, but I guess having a private jet is a lot of help when it comes to squeezing the most out of a day.
Since these issues are entirely based around retcons , we need to put some effort into ensuring they're correctly placed within the original stories.
The X-Men all know about Cerebro's existence in this issue, which means it must take place after UXM #12, in which the team learn about the machine during the first appearance of the Juggernaut.
Issue #13 follows directly on from #13, and issue #14 begins with Beast still recovering from his injuries sustained at Cain Marko's over sized hands. Issues #14 to #18 all form a single narrative, which means the earliest this issue can take place is between #18 and #19. Fortunately, from observing the foliage, we've already been forced to assume that the gap between those issues is almost two months in length, stretching from the first Friday in September to the first day of November.
We'll therefore assume this issue begins on the day after Iceman saves the X-Men from Magneto's hot air balloon.
Saturday 9th September, 1978.
Jack Warner (of Warner Bros. Studios) passes away, aged 86.
"Now I believe Professor Xavier would like you to report to my frontal lobe chamber."
 I'm off-topic already, but can the internet please start using that word correctly? A retcon is when continuity is retroactively added, either via an "untold story" (like this one) or when we learn information about a character's past that was previously unknown to us, and for which there's no reason to believe was originally intended to exist (one example would be the ex-fiancee who suddenly becomes really important to Lee Adama in exactly one episode of BSG, and is never mentioned again).
Resolving a mystery is not a retcon. Deliberately leaving something ambiguous and then making it explicit later is not a retcon. And massively restructuring the cast, locations or narrative of a series isn't a retcon, either. I don't care how many people were pissed off that Hicks and Newt died off-screen three minutes into Alien3, that isn't a retcon. It's merely exceptionally fucking lame.
 Not that I'm expecting a 2006 comic to stick slavishly to back-up strips from the '60s, but just because I don't mind doesn't mean I don't notice.