Monday, 24 October 2011

UXM #117: "Psi War!"

(Exploding head syndrome.)


When last we tuned in the X-Men went to see in a beautiful pea-green boat shitty raft that would probably get them all killed, especially when they manage to fling themselves straight into a rather lethal-looking squall.  Fortunately, Storm is able to blunt the, er, storm for long enough for the team to be spotted and rescued by the Jinguchi Maru, a Japanese vessel operating under strict (and from a plotting perspective, distinctly convenient) radio silence.

Most of this issue belongs to Professor X, though.  Understandably, he's having trouble coping with the apparent death of six of his X-Men, and all the bagels and coffee in the world don't seem to be helping.  Apparently, though, an almost entirely irrelevant extended flashback clumsily shoehorned into the ongoing narrative might just do the trick!

Xavier discusses the collapse of his relationship with Moira with admirable brevity: he was drafted, she promised to wait, then left him by letter - as he lay wounded in a hospital, no less - and asked he never try to speak to her again.

Man, that's some cold shit right there.

Charlie doesn't take too well to this development (and who can blame him), and decides to bum around first Europe and then Africa for a while.  Whilst in Cairo, a young girl who he later learns is Storm steals his wallet, and whilst chasing her (and ultimately recovering his wallet), he's punched in the brain-pan by an immensely strong and deeply malevolent psychic emanation from a nearby saloon.

The wielder of this vast telepathic power is none of than Amahl Farouk, the Shadow King, long-time tormentor of the X-Men and their allies, and who gets his first showing here.  Clad in a white suit, a magenta fez, and at least one spare tyre for one of the larger species of off-road vehicles, Farouk presents his villainous bona fides to Xavier in such an offhand, callous manner that Charlie swears on the spot that this mind-blasting manatee is going down.

Indeed, Xavier seems to go pretty quickly from "you will be brought to justice" to "I will explode your skull with mind-bullets!"  Maybe that's Farouk's influence, though.  He's certainly immensely powerful.  Whether he's more powerful than Xavier is an open question, but it's certainly a close call, and he clearly has the edge in experience.  Charles uses gladitorial combat as some kind of psychic metaphor for their true battle, but that limits him in how he can fight.  Like Neo's first sparring match with Morpheus, Xavier is crippled by not understanding the difference between the laws of reality and the laws of imagination. 

Fortunately, he works this out in time, mainly because the Shadow King is overconfident enough to blurt it out whilst they clash.  Xavier responds by marshalling his strength, offering no resistance as Farouk continues to threaten, and bluster, and create new and hideous images for Charles to look upon.  After a few seconds the disparity in expenditure has reached the necessary levels, and Xavier simply burns a hole through Farouk's mind, like a sniper ignoring incoming fire as they line up and take their shot.

One evil mutant down, then.  But how many to go?  With no way to answer that question, Xavier decides to found the X-Men (stopping off briefly along the way to get his legs crushed by an alien spy, as one does).  The rest, as they say, is history...


Urgh, this is where it all starts getting complicated.

Claremont has changed his mind since last issue.  The storm tossing the X-Men around as this story begins isn't "the worst winter storm in a century", it's actually a summer storm, for which Wolverine tells the team they should be grateful.  I suspect this is less likely an attempt to change at what point the story is supposed to be taking place, and more someone pointing out to Claremont that the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere.

Confusing things still more, however, is the foliage at Xavier's mansion, which clearly shows that it's somewhere in mid-autumn right now.  But when Beast visited to check up on the suddenly silent X-Men, the foliage was still green, and that was only four weeks ago.

In other words, as far as the northern hemisphere is concerned, it's simultaneously winter and early and mid autumn.  Even if we consider early autumn as being correct, that still suggests ten months have passed since Jean became Phoenix in UXM # 101.

But how, exactly?  We know that Jean's transformation took place just after Christmas, and the X-Men fought the Juggernaut and Black Tom a week later (UXM #102-103).  They then visit Muir Island and clash with Magneto, which leads to a run of consecutive adventures that ends only after their visit to the Shi'ar galaxy (UXM #104-109).  Add in the similar run of adventures from UXM #111 and now, and the only possible explanation is that six months have gone unreported between UXM #103 and #104, and on either side of UXM #110.

We've talked about this before, but generally speaking, I tend to view any timeline that requires that a comic be moving more slowly through continuity than it is through its publication schedule, without specifically referencing it, has screwed up somewhere.  I've also mentioned the difficulty in increasing the distance between #103 and #104 any further, because a) it makes the X-Men's holiday at Cassidy Keep into a full-on sabbatical and b) it breaks the rhythm of the building Emperor D'Ken storyline too much.

There are alternatives, though.  The most obvious one is to note that we already had to assume Storm was keeping the mansion green through her powers, which makes it entirely plausible that the trees are turning brown now that she's gone.   Combine this with last issues description of the storm in the Drake Passage as being a winter one (another of our general rules: narration trumps dialogue as regards accuracy), and we can add just enough to the timeline to place this issue at the beginning of summer.  It's not ideal (and it's going to get a lot worse; we're headed for another Claremont Xmas), but it'll have to do.

(The issue itself takes place over the course of a few hours).


Monday 21st of June, 1982.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.63 standard years.

(Storm is 35 years old.)

"Even my powers have their limits."
Contemporary Events

HRH Prince William is born.

Standout Line

"On a deserted side-street, I stopped her with a gentle force bolt." Pfft.  Whatever, Charlie.  "Force bolt."  Tell that shit to the judges.

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