Tuesday, 13 September 2011

AMA #11: "The Beast!"

("Tale as old as time")


There are two reasons I love the opening to this comic.  The first is that it's in second person, which is both very rare and exceptionally difficult to make work (the latter almost certainly explains the former, of course).  It would probably seem absurdly melodramatic these days, but in a comic from the early '70s - especially one about humanity's "inner beast" - it works quite well.

The other reason is that the guy who's trying to steal secrets from the Brand Corporation (earning him a drop-kick from McCoy) is doing it purely because he's deep in debt.  He's not a violent criminal, or a Kingpin hood, or an agent of HYDRA, he's just some normal schmuck down on his luck and desperate.  Again, for the time in which this is written, that's pleasingly unusual.  (Plus, there's some in media res, for the record).

Of course, then the issue goes and pisses away all that good will by trying to make me believe Hank McCoy, a man with an IQ score so high you could beat the Indian Test team with it (not that that's particularly difficult these days), would lose track of time on an evening when failing to get back in time would cost him his humanity.  I suppose you can put together an explanation about the formulae screwing with his awesome brain powers (particularly since Beast apparently completely forgets about his intended mission), but it still feels massively weaksauce.  I guess that's something I just have to get over. And at least the ego-stroking angle to him taking the solution in the first place makes perfect sense (like there's no other option to take down Professor Maddicks other than swigging down a totally untested serum designed for non-mutants.)

The issue also manages to include a flashback to Beast leaving the X-Men which feels neither unnecessary nor mawkish. As introductory issues go, it's working extremely well, even if it must surely have been possible to come up with a better explanation for Hank getting stuck as the Beast (just off the top of my head: the security guards who open fire on the snooping mook take out a vital component of Hank's lab as well).

This is the first time I've read this issue as anything higher up the academic ladder than a PhD student, and I have to admit it made me chuckle in sympathy for poor old Hank.  Lesson number one about research fellowships: there is a 90% chance that any given person you work with will be an intolerable shitburger, as Hank finds out.  And whilst they don't all turn out to be enemy agents actively plotting your death, if they were, you could bet they'd be stupid enough to leave their door open whilst they talk to their boss-slash-assassin.

It's interesting that Hank has spent his time distilling " the chemical cause of mutation!", and immediately starts thinking about how it could turn average people into mutants.  It's a nice inverse to Joss Whedon's Kavita Rao story, thirty years later.

And, as much as I love the beginning of this issue, the ending is better - a dip back into second-person perspective and the revelation that Beast's new girlfriend is an enemy agent? What better way to rewrite Beauty and the Beast could there be but to make Beauty secretly a conniving, murderous bitch?


Just as we did when starting First Class Finals, we'll add a week on to the count to leave us some wiggle room.  We then have to add to that the time it takes for Hank to court and fall in love with Linda, and for the weeks that follow their first kiss. I'd have thought that would require at least a month, but Hank implies its only been three weeks.  I guess that guy falls in love fast.


Friday 2nd October, 1980.



Contemporary Events

Larry "The Easton Assassin" Holmes beats Muhammad Ali by TKO.

Standout Line

"Should have thought about clothes--"

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