Wednesday, 30 November 2011

UXM #150: "I, Magneto!"


(The prices we will pay.)

Comments

It's issue #150 (kicking off the nineteenth year of X-mania, no less), and that means: time for action! Magneto is on the war path, international incident style!  He's got a holoprojector, and he's using it to lay out terms to the world leaders of 1980.  Reagan!  Thatcher!  Brezhnev!  Hua Guofeng (I think)!  King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, probably!  Kenyatta, who's so scared of Magneto's plans for Kenya he's come back from the grave to cower in person!  All of them must abandon their weapons and accept Magneto as their benevolent dictator.

And why?  Because that way all the money they save can be used to feed and clothe their own people.  That's... well, that's not an entirely terrible idea, in theory.  It seems we've finally begun the era of Magneto as lethally dangerous antagonist, rather than cackling villain (he also mentions for the first time the murder of his entire family in Europe, though the specifics are still left out).  Even Cyclops - held hostage by Magneto on the island, his powers inhibited by his "host's" machines - admits that it might actually be a net positive for the planet, at least until Magneto dies.  And whatever you might think about his methods, Magneto's basic point - that freedom isn't much of a concern to him considering less people are actually free than are starving to death or being consumed by disease - isn't exactly easy to refute.

Of course, there's the standard irony here - Magneto lambastes the leaders of the world for being willing (and perhaps even eager) to allow the possibility of a global nuclear holocaust, and decides to put an end to it by threatening any country that disobeys him with the obliteration of its cities.  Sure, Magneto uses some freaky tectonic-shifting weapon to get the desired results, rather than an H-bomb, and he does have enough sense to allow those who live in his first targeted metropolis to escape before he razes it to the ground, but even so, "Give up the ability to destroy your cities or I'll destroy your cities" doesn't strike me as the most ruthlessly logical of positions.  No wonder the Russians try to fill his face full of nuclear missiles, which of course just pisses him off, and causes him to sink the Leningrad, with a death toll of over one hundred.

In response to the attack, Magneto destroys the Russian city of Varykino (last mentioned in Doctor Zhivago), and in yet another attack of comic book coincidence, the resulting magnetic field causes the returning X-Jet to crash into the Atlantic Ocean near to the island.  Storm manages to blunt their landing just enough to keep them alive, and they use emergency breathing apparatus to make it to Magneto's island, where they too come under the effects of his power-nullifier.  On the plus side, they do at least find Cyclops and Lee, and the former fills them in on what's going on.

It's time to take on Magneto again, then, and this time without any powers to make life easier.  Of course, that's almost a perverse kind of advantage, in this situation.  Whether there's anything to be said for Magneto's mutant uber alles philosophy or not, it's clearly blinded him to the possibility that anyone who can't shoot lasers from their eyes or call down bolts of lightning on command could possibly do anything to harm him.

The team splits into two - Storm, Kitty and Lee head to Magneto's computer suite to see what damage they can do, and Cyclops leads everyone else into the bowels of the island to wreck the tectonic machine.  Team Sausagefest make a decent fist of wrecking the mechanisms below, but Kitty's not even begun wreaking hacker hell on the computer systems before Ororo discovers Magneto's bedroom and, being unable to kill him, allows him to awake and toss Storm out of the window.  When Xavier, still on board Corbeau's boat, tries to join the fight, Magneto grabs him with his power and drags him to the island.

Mags then takes his captives downstairs, intending to use them as hostages to secure the X-Men's good behaviour.  Things look pretty cut and dried at this point, especially when he rebuilds his earthquake device almost immediately, but he's underestimated Storm, who's still alive, kicking, and very much able to smash up a series of computer banks.  The resulting damage destroys the power nullifier, and the battle is back on.

Ultimately, the X-Men fail once more to defeat Magneto.  Instead, he beats himself, by attacking Kitty, who he believes he's killed.  It's interesting to watch his response: he's horrified that he's murdered a child, but it's by no means clear whether or not he'd have the same response - or any response at all - if that child had been human rather than mutant.  Magneto chokes out a confession that he's become exactly what he hates, and flees, but we're left to guess whether he means he's become the same kind of callow butcher as dwells within the ranks of the humans he hates, or if he simply means he's a member of the underage-mutant murderers club as well.

Either way, this is definitely my favourite of Claremont's double-sized issues, and a fitting storyline for the 150th issue.  As well as being entertaining on its own merits, it represents a clear line between the comparatively simple, two-tone tales Claremont has told up to now, and the more complex and involved stories that will follow.

Clues

This story takes place over the course of a few hours.

Kitty is still wearing her ridiculous costume from last issue (though the stripy socks and roller-skates are mercifully missing).  This, combined with the fact that she's aboard the Blackbird, and there's no mention of a mission explaining why the team is in the air, suggests that this issue begins as the X-Men are flying back from their Antarctic expedition.  Presumably Xavier took his own jet to Florida and started searching for Scott whilst his team was in the Southern Hemisphere; there's certainly no indication as to how long they've been out there looking.

Date

Monday 8th of March, 1983.

X-Date 

X+4Y+341.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.66 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old).

Also an X-Man, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Contemporary Events

The American House Foreign Affairs Committee endorses a freezing of the nuclear arsenals of the US and USSR.  On the same day, President Reagan describes the USSR as an "evil empire."

Standout Line

"Search throughout my homeland, you will find none who bear my name... Speak not to me of grief, boy."

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

UXM #149: "And The Dead Shall Bury The Living!"


(Rite of passages.)

Comments

We learn in this issue that Professor Xavier, in addition to being potentially the world's most powerful telepath and an electronic and mechanical genius, is able to sense upcoming disasters whenever authorial fiat requires it.  That's a handy skill to have, or at least it would be if it kicked in a little earlier.

Still, better to show up late than not at all.  Whilst Scott and Lee find themselves dining at Magneto's pleasure, Professor X frets about what makes him think the X-Men's first ever foe is about to make his appearance.  He's so wound-up and distracted, he ends up psionically screaming at Kitty, merely because she enters his room uninvited, wearing an unusable and unbearable home-made costume, and short-circuits every computer he has running.  Unreasonableness, thy name is Charlie.

Kitty is pretty upset by this dressing-down.  Of course, dressing down is pretty much exactly what she should be considering:

but teenage girls are teenage girls, and there's nothing to be done about that. Case in point: Kitty responds to breaking the rules of both the mansion and of colour co-ordination by hiding on the Blackbird, just before the team takes a jaunt over to Magneto's lava-smothered Antarctic base, in the search for evidence that it's former owner is still alive.

One of the problems with Kitty is that she's endlessly annoying.  Either she annoys me by not sounding or acting like any teenage girl I've ever encountered (and three years of secondary school teaching means I have at least a little authority on the subject), or she annoys me because, well, your average teenage girl (or boy) frequently is annoying to anyone who's graduated from university.  I guess the latter is preferable, if only because if everything else is equal, believability is desirable.  And Sprite's stowaway stunt is certainly an example of the latter situation - hiding until discovered and then claiming she can't have been wrong to hitch a ride because no-one specifically forbade it is just the kind of jutted-jaw sophistry that defines one's early teens.

Storm decides the team is too close to its polar destination to make it worth turning around, and so allow Kitten to tag along (presumably working under the assumption that she wouldn't stay on the jet in any case). The base rapidly proves to be partially excavated, for reasons unknown.  Everything seems quiet, but Storm is nervous; she's hearing the voice of Garokk, the rock-god she was unable to save months ago in the Savage Land.

Soon enough, the man (?) shows himself, jumping Colossus and Kitty, despite being handicapped due to being partially melted.  Apparently Magneto has forced him through means unknown to keep an eye on the base whilst it's being dug out.  Sprite manages to hurt Garokk by phasing through him, and he responds by punching a hole through the passage wall to allow the surrounding lava to flow in.  You have to respect a half-melted guy who'll cover himself in magma in order to kill his foes, that's what I reckon.

Garokk quickly defeats the X-Men, and gouges out a pit with his eye-beams, hoping to throw Storm to her death just as (in his mind) she had done with him all those months ago.  It almost works, too, but Kitty, who survived the lava flooding the passage by phasing through metres of solid rock to get to the next tunnel over, pulls off a last-minute save.  Huh.  I guess she was useful after all.  All that time spent telling her she wasn't ready, and she should stay home, and yet she's proved her mettle and won the admiration of her comrades.

Man, why hasn't anyone used that idea before...

Meanwhile:


Scott and Lee are trying to get used to staying with Magneto, but his choice of wardrobe for them isn't particularly helping: Cyclops looks like a high priest of Cthulhu, and Lee looks like a hooker who's only expecting business from LSD-addled drag queens with a taste for sushi.  Still, at least Mags bought Scott's fake name.

Except turns out: he didn't!

Dum dum DUUUM!

Clues

This story takes place over a single day.

Storm mentions that it has been months since Garokk was assumed to have been killed.  Our timeline tracks with this,  having placed it as happening around nine months earlier.

Date

Monday 8th of March, 1983.

X-Date 

X+4Y+336 to X+4Y+341.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.65 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old).

Once part of the greatest girl's gymnastics team in Europe.
Contemporary Events


Standout Line

"Isn't America wonderful, my friends? Where else could a woman revered as an African goddess become a mechanic instead?"

Monday, 28 November 2011

UXM #148: "Cry, Mutant!"


(The dating game)

Comments

Hmm.  Well, if this isn't sunken Ry'leh, then it was definitely put together by the same architects.  There's giant statues of squid-headed men all over the place.  My kind of locale, obviously.  With his eyes tied shut, Scott needs to rely on Lee to describe what's around them, but she's rather more interested in sexy kissy-times.  Scott doesn't exactly give her the mosr sypathetic brush-off, though since he lost his fiancee less than two months ago and Lee jumped him whilst he was blind, that's probably not too surprising.  It's certainly more forgivable than Lee's childish flounce-out (leaving a blind man in an alien city) or Cyclop's decision to destroy all ceilings until he feels better.

Over in Westchester, there are also storm clouds gathering.  Quite literally, since Ororo is finding it difficult to control her powers, either due to after-effects of being turned into a statue a little while ago, or over Xavier and Warren angry argument as to whether Wolverine has any place on the team.  Since Angel's case is based mainly on Wolverine ripping the face off the Stormbot, this seems pretty weaksauce.  "Would it have made any difference if he'd faced a woman disguised as you?"  My driving instructor once told me of someone who failed their driving test for driving through a deep puddle.  "If a pedestrian had been there, they'd have been soaked."  Warren's argument is just as ill-considered: "If the situation had been different, we can assume the reaction would have remained the same!"  Angel wonders aloud whether he can bring himself to stay on the same team as Logan.  Everyone else is polite enough to not point out that the team can probably get by without a dude who has wings, and if he set up a direct debit from his considerable accounts, no-one would ever need to bother speaking to him at all.

It's not all doom and gloom, though.  A visitor arrives for Sean Cassidy, who's staying at the mansion - along with Moira and Ilyana - and informs him that she is his daughter.  It's not yet clear why it's taken her so long to reveal herself to him, but that doesn't stop him being ecstatic about her arrival (Moira is somewhat less enthused, of course).

A few days later, it's time for a girl's night out.  Ororo, Kitty and Stevie Hunter head to the nightclub Infinity, along with Spider Woman who they met during the "Secret Wars", in order to watch Dazzler perform another audio-visual tour de force.  Whilst they wait for the star to emerge, however, Caliban is approaching, a man from the sewers dressed like a scarecrow, and with strong lines in mutant detection, emotional reading and manipulation, and referring to himself in the third person.

The entrance of Caliban causes some disturbance, and first Kitty, then Ororo and Jessica, head away from the stage to investigate.  By the time the two women have reached the scene (delayed by having to change clothes inside a pea-soup fog), Caliban has already grabbed Kitty.  He's rather more powerful in this issue than in future appearances, being able to not only prevent Sprite from phasing away, but puhnching Spider-Woman through the side of a wall when she attacks him.  Despite his power, though, Storm is able to lightning-bolt some sense into him (nice trick if you can pull it off), and he agrees to let Kitty go.  Poor bastard just wanted some company, and no-one was around in the sewers to explain how polite society and/or prostitutes work.

Meanwhile, back on the mysterious island, it turns out Scott and Lee aren't alone with the Cthulhu bas-reliefs after all.  They're sharing the city with the only person in the X-books egotistical enough to require his own personal metropolis: Magneto.

Clues

This issue begins soon after the end of last issue, and continues until Sunday morning.

This is a difficult issue to place, because the timings inside it don't add up.  On a minor level, Lee mentions that the city she and Cyclops are investigating wasn't there yesterday, but Scott mentions that it's been two days since his eyebeams were revealed to Lee, despite the latter happening during the huge storm which occurred the night before the island appeared.

More concerning is Lee reminding Scott that her father's funeral was only two months ago.  This doesn't make sense, since Scott had been on the Arcadia for a month before Jock Forrester killed himself, which in turn took place after Christmas Day, and yet Nightcrawler mentioned only this morning (or yesterday morning; see above) that it was still the middle of winter.

Given all of this, there's no chance of a particularly satisfactory solution.  The best compromise would be to move UXM #145-147 forwards, to allow at least some time for Jock's funeral, and assume Kurt's "mid-winter" reference wasn't entirely literal.  We'll therefore assume that this is the day after the island appeared, and that the the team escaped Doom's castle at the beginning of March.

Date

Wednesday 2nd to Sunday 6th of March, 1983.

X-Date 

X+4Y+336 to X+4Y+340.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.63 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old).
Ghostface killed 'er.
Contemporary Events

Bertha Wilson becomes the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada.

Helmut Kohl is elected Chancellor of West Germany.

Due to an economic crisis, the Irish government introduce a charge for applying for various public sector jobs.

Standout Line

"If Ororo could see me now, I'd bet she'd be so proud." - Sprite
"If I get my hands on that child, I'll wring her neck!" - Storm.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

UXM #147: "Rogue Storm!"


(Not those well-behaved storms like you're used to.)

Comments

The recaps in this comic are getting shorter and shorter, and more interesting as well: this time we get a kaleidoscope of monochrome flashback panels radiating out from Nightcrawler's face.  Works for me.

Speaking of Kurt, this is definitely his moment to shine.  Teleporting two miles straight up (we learn this issue that the difficulty of a jaunt is determined by it's direction relative to Earth's magnetic field, which is interesting), contorting his body until he finds an updraft in the surrounding tempest, waiting until his momentum is zero, and then teleporting over a freezing cold lake before swimming for an hour to get to shore?  Even Wolverine would be impressed, if he weren't too busy being Clockwork Orange'd in one of Doom's more mental X-traps.

But there's more to come!  Once 'Crawler has taken a breather, he's back on the clock, making his way through the apocalyptic storm (the military has already alerted the president that New York might end up being tossed into Oz if things don't turn around quickly), and jumping two of Doom's goons and gaining access to the castle.

(Just as with the Hellfire Club, we're told that Doom has spared no expense to hire the finest mercenaries in the world.  And again, just with Hellfire, this seems pretty doubtful.  The narration explains that these men are so highly trained and ruthless that it only takes them a second to react to Nightcrawler's sudden appearance.  A second.  From two men hired as lookouts on a night when they know an enemy operative is somewhere on the grounds.  Once they have responded, they try to riddle Nightcrawler with lead, despite Doom's orders being that he be taken "alive and relatively unharmed."  This does not exactly suggest great competence.  Mercenary Phil and his buddy are going to be in a lot of trouble.)

Whilst Kurt is demonstrating the Teutonic ninja technique (which I've actually seen before), his team mates are escaping Doom's traps, one by one.  Colossus realises that the gun turrets preventing him from escaping will only fire on him when he's metal.  Angel discovers that the laser beams which switch on whenever he leaves his perch form a tight but navigable aerial maze.  Wolverine works out that if he just keeps slashing everything he'll get free eventually, which doesn't really seem like that much of an intellectual challenge, if I'm honest.

Of course, the moment Logan is free, he sprints upstairs to sharpen his claws on Doom's ribcage.  For a moment it doesn't look like this fight will go any better than the last, but Nightcrawler's timely arrival allows them to overpower the deposed despot, and force him to restore Storm from her statuesque state.

That's when things get really bad.  Turns out taking a severe claustrophobic and essentially paralysing them is a massively stupid thing to do, and Storm has reacted by going crazy.  I can't say I blame her, I'm a little claustrophobic and just the idea is giving me shivers, despite the number of times I've been buried under the rubble of my house and the broken bodies of my parents is exactly zero.

Her first move is to try and kill Doom (fair enough, I'd say), but Colossus arrives in time to save him (boo!).  By this point she's gone full-on Dark Phoenix.  I'm not sure whether this works or not, actually.  Noting both in the dialogue and on the cover that this is deliberately reminiscent of what happened to Jean Grey all of one year ago (real time) doesn't do much to assuage the feeling that this is a bit unoriginal.  Why is it always the female X-Men who end up becoming exceptionally powerful and utterly bonkers?  Is it so the increasingly infuriating "power of love" resolution can be employed?  Would anyone believe that a staggeringly powerful Wolverine would stop slashing up entire continents if the team reminded him to be nice to puppies?

Still, at least the resolution here is stronger than it was last time around (I'm talking about how the Dark Phoenix was defeated, not Jean's suicide-by-Imperial Guard) - basically, the X-Men tell Storm: "Hey! Remember when Jean turned into Dark Phoenix?  Wasn't she a total bitch?  That how you wanna go out?"  Ororo gets the point, and smooths the storm out until the surrounding weather is just at the normal shitty levels you'd expect in winter in New York.

With everything back to normal, Storm asks Doom one more time to release Arcade. But... wasn't the whole point that this was a trap all along?  Why were those flunkies from last issue guarding an empty cell, if not to trap the X-Men?  Doom argues he was only responding in kind when the team attacked, but that doesn't really make much sense given Arcade admits having manipulated the team into the assault in the first place.  And now Doom is reluctant to let Arcade go because of how the man insulted him.

None of this makes the slightest sense, and pretty much reads as Claremont wanting an excuse to make use of Arcade and Doom at the same time, and also setting up a potential, er, doomed romance between Ororo and Doom.  There were parts of this arc I really liked (mainly the strategies and counter strategies of the first issue, and Nightcrawler's exploits in this one), but it really doesn't hang together.

But something new and interesting is on the horizon!  A strange city has arisen from the sea just off Scott and Lee's island paradise.  Has Cthulhu decided on a Caribbean holiday?  Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Clues

This issue continues on directly from UXM #146, and takes place over the course of several hours.

Nightcrawler confirms we are still in the middle of winter, mainly by complaining (understandably) about the negative effects of a moonlight swim at such a time.

Date

Monday 7th of February, 1983.

X-Date 

X+4Y+314.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.67 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old.)
The Clash at Demonhead.
Contemporary Events

Shergar is stolen from a stud farm in County Kildare.

Standout Line

"And I thought I was ruthless." - Doom, watching Wolverine tear the Stormdroid's face off the instant he arrives.

Friday, 25 November 2011

UXM #146: "Murderworld!"

(The other guys.)

Comments

We kick off with Doom and Arcade celebrating their victory over a cup of mulled wine (fetched by Doom's Stormdroid, which he put together with suspicious speed).  I still don't quite understand exactly what's going on here.  Arcade is upset that the X-Men didn't beat Doom, even though he was never a prisoner in the first place.  So what is this?  A bet, perhaps?  Doom implies that Arcade really is on his enemies list (for not being respectful enough).  Is this a contest, somehow?  I'll admit to being confused.

Not so confused as the X-Men are, though; they've been placed in another assortment of fiendish traps, this time designed by Doom.  Presumably he wanted to show Arcade exactly how it was done, but whether or not these trials are any better designed than Arcade's efforts, they're certainly not any more interesting.  Well, OK, I do like Nightcrawler's - he's just inside an opaque box, with no idea of where he is or how much air he has.  Sooner or later he'll have to teleport out blindly, and hope he doesn't materialise inside anything.  It's nice and simple.

Whilst her teammates are trapped in boxes, fun houses, and bird-cages, Storm is stuck inside the chrome statue Doom made out of her last issue.  That's enough to mess with anyone's head, but Storm's severe claustrophobia is making it all the worse, and as a result, there's a hell of a storm brewing outside.  It stretches all the way to the Bahamas, giving the shipwrecked Scott and Lee a fresh headache, and it's building all the time.

But what about the second team, sent to locate Murderworld?  Turns out they did OK, using Polaris' magnetic powers to find the tunnel from the fairground the X-Men escaped too after their last tangle with Arcade, back to his HQ.  Of course, finding an international assassin's hidden underground base and destroying an international assassin's hidden underground base are very different things, as Beta Team discover when they're captured almost immediately (though Lorna has enough time to severely damage the facility's power systems).  This, of course, is Banshee's second involuntary stay at Murderworld Towers.  I presume there'll be a complementary breakfast before he's slaughtered.

Muderworld might be new for everyone else on the team, but we've been here before.  It's just more of the same.  Which isn't a phrase you'd think I'd use about a comic in which a robot ice hockey team is dissolved by acid, but there you go.  There's at least a twist this time, in that Miss Locke has seemingly released some of the hostages into the complex so they'll be squished unless the team can save them, but they inevitably turn out to be robots anyway (doesn't everyone these days)?

Eventually Havok gets loose, and destroys the control room, making mopping up pretty easy.  By the time the team depart, however, they too are caught in the gargantuan storm building above the Eastern seaboard.  Doom is watching that same Storm from his castle, musing on what it means.  Arcade, however, has noticed something a little closer to hand: Nightcrawler has teleported from his cell...

Clues

Some of this issue takes place simultaneously with the second half of UXM #145, and the rest takes place immediately after.

Date

Sunday 6th to Monday 7th of February, 1983.

X-Date 

X+4Y+313 to X+4Y+314.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.63 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old.)

Doo DOO doo, doodleoo...
Contemporary Events

Chrissie Hynde and Ray Davies become parents. 

Michael Patrick Bilon passes away.  He played the eponymous character in E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.


Standout Line

"Thanks for the light."

I cannot for the life of me understand why Doom doesn't immediately kill him in outrage, but you have to give even the unlovable Arcade respect for using Doom's armour to ignite his matches.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

UXM #145: "Kidnapped!"


(Doom with a view.)

Comments

It's not every comic that starts at a ballet.  Props for originality there.  Ororo has taken an ill Kitty's place in escorting Stevie Hunter to a show as a late Christmas present, but they're only halfway through the adagioes when Arcade's flunky Miss Locke bursts in.  Seems Doctor Doom has kidnapped her boss for some reason (presumably he finds Arcade just as aggravatingly tiresome as I do), and Locke wants the X-Men to spring him. 

Since Locke is holding the Greys, Moira, Illyana, and both Angel and Nightcrawlers' girlfriends, there doesn't seem to be any way for Storm to refuse, especially since Locke doses her with poison to cover her escape, and steals Stevie with her for added insurance.

Having checked that the people Locke claims to have kidnapped are actually missing (smart), she heads home.  Xavier calls Beast to get hold of the Avenger's file on Doom, which smells a little too much like capitulation for Logan's tastes.  Our diminutive psychopath takes the "no negotiating with terrorists" line.   Which I guess isn't an entirely watertight argument - it's a lot easier for criminals to notice a country caving to extortion than a superhero team, but it's still a good point.  I can't help noticing that Mariko is safe and sound, though.

At any rate, Storm has a plan - send the current team to Doom's spare castle in the Adirondacks, whilst a crack team of former members finds Murderworld and burns it to the ground. Xavier calls up Bobby, Alex and Lorna, and Sean, but can't reach Scott (because he's shipwrecked in the Bahamas, but we'll get to that tomorrow).

The teams go their separate ways.  Storm arrives in the courtyard of Doom's swanky mountaintop New York castle (formerly "Toadworld", apparently - it's so nice to see former supervillains going straight) and demands Arcade's release.  You have to admire her metaphorical cohones, and Doom certainly seems to appreciate them (amongst other things), inviting her in for a spot of dinner.  "My chef sets a superb table.  He dare not do otherwise."

Whilst Ororo distracts the former ruler of Latveria, the rest of the team sneaks their way in.  They find their way to what should be Arcade's cell, except, inevitably, it's a trap.  Doom's been monitoring them since they arrived.  Only his desire to flirt with Storm seems to have kept anyone alive, and that's about to get tiresome as well (for a sorcery wielding super-genius, Doom has never had much of an attention span).  The X-Men defeat the welcoming committee and head to rescue Storm, but they're too late.  Doom and his house guest Arcade (he was never a prisoner!  Psyche!  That never made any sense anyway!  Though neither does this!) have turned her into a statue.  The cads!  Then they set fire to Wolverine's costume.  The bounders!

Oh, also, everyone we like gets knocked unconscious and captured.  Unfortunate.

Clues

This issue begins in the evening, and takes place over approximately twenty four hours.

It takes around two hours for a modern ferry to get from Florida to the Bahamas, so it's entirely possible that Cyclops and Lee are shipwrecked on the same day they set off from Shark Bay.  That in turn means that we can set this issue as beginning on the day following the death of Lee's father, assuming she's the sort of person who'd want to throw herself into her work whilst she waits for the funeral.

Bobby Drake is described as a college sophomore, which would most likely make him in the school year in which he turns from nineteen to twenty.  Our timeline actually has him as close to his twenty first birthday, but it's not hard to imagine him having taken a gap year to beat up various hoodlums.

Date

Sunday 6th to Monday 7th of February, 1983.

X-Date 

X+4Y+313 to X+4Y+314.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.62 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old.)
Remember when people actually looked
forward to watching Heroes? Crazy times, man..
Contemporary Events

Harry Boot passes away, aged 65.  Boot was one of the three UK inventors of the cavity magnetron during the Second World War, a device which allowed radar systems to be miniaturised to the point where submarines and escort vessels could carry them.  Not surprisingly, this proved critical in the war effort.

Standout Line

"We can't protect all those we care for.  We'll always be vulnerable that way.  Our only chance is ta stop it before it starts.  We fight back!  We make certain no-one ever tries ta get at the X-Men this way again -- by makin' the price of doin' it too high ta pay."

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Timeline: 1982 (Take 5)

January

1st   UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
2nd UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
3rd  UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
4th  UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
5th  UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
6th  UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
6th  UXM 102: Who Will Stop the Juggernaut?
6th  UXM 103: The Fall of the Tower

February

8th    UXM 104: The Gentleman's Name is Magneto
8th    UXM 105: Phoenix Unleashed!
8th    UXM 106: Dark Shroud of the Past (present)
8th    UXM 107: Where no X-Man has Gone Before!
8th    UXM 108: Armageddon Now!
9th    UXM 108: Armageddon Now!
9th    UXM 109: Home are the Heroes!
10th  U1C 1: Refuge
10th  U1C 2: To Err is Inhuman...
12th  U1C 3: The Next Life
13th  U1C 3: The Next Life
19th  U1C 4: Sisters of the Dragon
19th  U1C 5: The Knights of Hykon
20th  U1C 5: The Knights of Hykon
20th  U1C 6: The Sky is Falling
20th  U1C 7: The Shattered World
20th  U1C 8: The Curse of Craeliach
21st  U1C 8: The Curse of Craeliach
22nd U1C 8: The Curse of Craeliach

April

8th  UXM 110: The 'X'-Sanction!

May

25th UXM 111: Mindgames!
25th UXM 112: Magneto Triumphant!
26th UXM 112: Magneto Triumphant!
29th UXM 113: Showdown!
29th UXM 114: Desolation
30th UXM 114: Desolation

June

1st   UXM 114: Desolation
2nd   UXM 114: Desolation
3rd   UXM 114: Desolation
4th   UXM 114: Desolation
5th   UXM 114: Desolation
5th   UXM 115: Visions of Death!
6th   UXM 115: Visions of Death!
7th   UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
8th   UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
9th   UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
10th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
11th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
12th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
13th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
14th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
15th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
16th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
17th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
18th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
19th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
20th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
21st UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
21st UXM #117: Psi War!

August

2nd   UXM #118: The Submergence of Japan!
3rd    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
4th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
5th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
6th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
7th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
8th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
9th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
10th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
11th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
12th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
13th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
14th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
14th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
15st  UXM #120: Wanted: Wolverine!  Dead or Alive!
15st  UXM #121: Shoot-out at the Stampede!
22nd UXM #122: Cry for the Children!

September

14th   UXM #123: Listen -- Stop me if You've Heard it -- but This One Will Kill You!
14th   UXM #124: He Only Laughts When I Hurt!
15th   UXM #124: He Only Laughts When I Hurt!
20th   UXM Annual 3: A Fire in the Sky
21st   UXM #125: There's Something Awful on Muir Island!
22nd  UXM #125: There's Something Awful on Muir Island!
22nd  UXM #126: How Sharper than a Serpernt's Tooth...!
23rd  UXM #126: How Sharper than a Serpernt's Tooth...!
23rd  UXM #127: The Quality of Hatred!
23rd  UXM #128: The Action of the Tiger!
29th  UXM #129: God Spare the Child...
30th  UXM #129: God Spare the Child...

October

1st    UXM #129: God Spare the Child...
2nd   UXM #129: God Spare the Child...
2nd   UXM #130: Dazzler
3rd   UXM #130: Dazzler
3rd   UXM #131: Run for Your Life!
4th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
5th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
6th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
7th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
8th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
9th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
10th  UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
11th  UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
11th  UXM #133: Wolverine: Alone!
12th  UXM #133: Wolverine: Alone!
12th  UXM #134: Too Late, the Heroes!
12th  UXM #135: Dark
12th  UXM #136: Child of Light and Darkness
13th  UXM #136: Child of Light and Darkness
13th  UXM #137: The Fate of the Phoenix!
14th  UXM #137: The Fate of the Phoenix!
18th  UXM #138: Elegy
28th  UXM Annual 4: Nightcrawler's Inferno
29th  UXM #139: ...Something Wicked this Way Comes!
30th  UXM #139: ...Something Wicked this Way Comes!
30th  UXM #140: Rage!
31st  UXM #141: Days of Future Past
31st  UXM #142: Mind out of Time!

December

24th  UXM #143: Demon
25th  UXM #143: Demon

(Titles in red represent specials).

UXM #144: "Even In Death..."


(Misery loves company.)

Comments

It's something of a special guest issue today, as the inscrutable Man-Thing and the villainous D'Spayre show up.  They've both been drawn to the same source, a man named Jock Forrester, diagnosed with terminal cancer who's wandered into the Florida swamp to take his own life.  Man-Thing is there to end its own empathic suffering by killing Forrester.  D'Spayre just wants a new meat suit, and he gets it when Jock blows his own brains out ("Did he fall... or was he pushed?").

Being not much of a fan of fear, Man-Thing prov s to have something of a grudge against D'Spayre, but it's hardly a fair fight: the swamp creature's touch burns anything that feels fear, and so D'Spayre's aura of terror actually causes him to burst into flames.  Unfortunate.  After the inevitable cackling and gloating, D'Spayre slinks off to cause damage somewhere less soggy.

In addition to our guest stars, this story is the first to feature Cyclops since UXM # 138, aside from his brief appearance last issue.  Apparently he's joined the crew of the fishing trawler Arcadia and, apart from a certain degree of curiosity about his red sunglasses, he seems to have slotted in pretty well.  Just as well, really, given they've been out on the Atlantic for a month - imagine how awkward things would have been if everyone thought he was a turd.  Having said that, he might still have been alright, considering how obviously desperate the captain, Aleytys "Lee" Forrester is to jump his bones.  Lee is the only daughter of Jock, which means that whilst this is clearly going to be another case of ludicrous comic coincidence, at least this time we've gotten it out of the way early on.

Indeed, Scott barely has time to sneakily use his eye-beams to win a pool game (which surely has to rank as one of the stupidest things he's done up to this point: "I'll test myself to see if I can avoid breaking this table for no reason and assume no-one will turn around or glance my way whilst I'm at it") before trouble swims into view - something's wrong at the Forrester homestead, and Lee wants Scott's company whilst she heads over to check on her father (concerned trips home always being the best time to try and persuade someone to screw you, as I think we're all aware).

Of course, we already know what's going on, and D'Spayre is pleasingly direct at filling the duo in on recent events.  "'Pop' killed himself this morning.  I helped him do it."  Then it's on to stage two: building a huge fuck-off obsidian tower of evil right where the house used to be.  It's so cyclopean (no pun intended) and horrifying that it exudes its own aura of nastiness, so much so that "both Scott and Lee find their senses literally drowning in a miasma of pure despair."  To paraphrase the Yes, Minister Diaries, we presume Claremont did not literally mean "literally", here.

Whatever it is that causing Scott to "drown", it quickly starts throwing hallucinations at him; traumatic events from his past but twisted to maximise the psychological damage.  First he relives the "death" of his parents aboard the aeroplane he and Alex just barely escaped.  Then he finds himself once more fighting Sentinels in Larry Trask's secret base, only this time the Sentinels wear the faces of his team-mates, like those of Project: Wideawake.  Even then, though, it's the wrong faces, and this particular model has a disconcerting habit of resurrecting itself as creepy-ass zombies.

The next vision is worse: Jean, alive again, walking arm-in-arm with him down the aisle.  There's no nightmare imaginable that's worse than the dream that gives you what you've always wanted and can never have, and no trick life plays that is crueler than making sure you think you've a chance just before it's all snatched away.  No sooner have the happy couple reached the altar, has Scott begun to believe that just maybe, the Phoenix could rise again, than Jean snatches away his glasses and his optic beams blast her to ruin.

With his mind reeling from the beating D'Spayre has given it, Scott flings himself from halfway up the mile-high tower.  That would be, er, half a mile up, then, but miraculously he survives the fall undamaged.  He's still busy trying to get a grip when Man-Thing surfaces from the swamp, apparently keen for round two with the demon in the tower.

The rematch doesn't go any better than the first bout - Man-Thing's in flames almost immediately.  It does provide sufficient distraction for Cyclops to grab the comatose Lee, at least, and spark a question: why is D'Spayre apparently so intent on letting them live.

For a man who'd risk his deadliest secret in order to cheat at pool, Scott can be surprisingly quick sometimes.  D'Spayre doesn't want his victims afraid, he needs to make them afraid in order to generate what he really wants: despair.

(Here's a hint, supervillains: don't name yourself after your power source/only method of sustenance. You didn't see General Zod calling himself General Yellow Light At All Times Or Else I'm Fucked, did you?)

Cyclops lures the demon in by intentionally recalling Jean's transformation into Dark Phoenix, but it's a trap.  Fear only becomes despair when you let it.  Cyclops' defiance causes some kind of change in the empathic Man-Thing, so that when the beast attacks once more, it's D'Spayre who gets toasted instead.  Scott takes advantage of the respite and legs it, carrying Lee.

So, yeah.  It's another one of those "power of the human heart" endings that we still don't seem able to shake off as a species.  Still, the refusal to surrender to hopelessness is at least a slightly different angle to the "love conquers all" nonsense we usually have to wade through, so that's at least somethi-

"Yielding to you, D'Spayre, would have been the ultimate denial -- and betrayal -- of... love."

Ah, shit.  Never mind.

Clues

It's been six weeks since Cyclops met Lee Forrester, which we know from last issue took place on Christmas Eve.

Cyclops notes that the event of UXM #59 and Giant Size X-Men are over a year apart.  Amazingly, our timeline has the interval as being thirteen months.  Go us.  Well, mainly me.

Date

Friday 4th to Saturday 5th of February, 1983.

X-Date 

X+4Y+311 to X+4Y+312.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.60 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old.)

Knowingly participated in
maintaining the career of Russell Brand.
Contemporary Events

Karen Carpenter passes away, aged 32.

Standout Line

"If you need money, sir, all you have to do is ask." - Angel.

Actually, all Xavier needs to do is nudge Angel's brain into thinking he wants to donate more of his family fortune to repairing the damage done by a thirteen year old girl who has no business being with the X-Men in the first place.  Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it, especially given all the shit we found out in the mid noughties about the Professor's past actions.

Still, it's nice to see that Claremont's addressing the whirlwind of destruction visited upon the mansion last issue.  It makes a change from every issue featuring a new Blackbird.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Timeline: 1980 (Take 2)

1980

March

19th UXM 32: Beware the Juggernaut, my Son!
19th UXM 33: Into The Crimson Cosmos!
19th UXM 34: War -- in a World of Darkness!
20th UXM 34: War -- in a World of Darkness!

April

5th   UXM 35: Along Came a Spider...!
5th   UXM 36: Mekano Lives!
6th   UXM 37: We, the Jury...
6th   UXM 38: The Sinister Shadow of... Doomsday!
6th   UXM 39: The Fateful Finale!
12th UXM 40: The Mark of the Monster!
13th X1C 4: Seeing Red.
14th X1C 5: The Littlest Frost Giant.
15th X1C 6: The S-Men.
16th X1C 6: The S-Men.
29th UXM 41: Now Strikes... the Sub-Human!
29th UXM 42: If I Should Die...

May

5th   UXM 43: The Torch is Passed...!
6th   UXM 43: The Torch is Passed...!
7th   UXM 43: The Torch is Passed...!
8th   UXM 43: The Torch is Passed...!
8th   UXM 44: Red Raven, Red Raven...!
9th   UXM 45: When Mutants Clash!
13th UXM 46: The End of the X-Men!
17th UXM 47: The Warlock Wears Three Faces!
18th UXM 48: Beware Computo: Controller of the Robot Hive!
27th UXM 49: Who Dares Defy... the Demi Men?
27th UXM 50: City of Mutants.
27th UXM 51: The Devil had a Daughter!
28th UXM 51: The Devil had a Daughter!
29th UXM 51: The Devil had a Daughter!
30th UXM 51: The Devil had a Daughter!
31th UXM 51: The Devil had a Daughter!

June

1st    UXM 51: The Devil had a Daughter!
1st   UXM 52: Twilight of the Mutants!
5th   UXM 53: The Rage of Blastaar!
6th   UXM 54: Wanted: Dead or Alive -- Cyclops!
6th   UXM 55: The Living Pharaoh!
7th   UXM 55: The Living Pharaoh!
7th   UXM 56: What is... the Power?
7th   UXM 57: The Sentinels Live!
8th   UXM 58: Mission: Murder!
9th   UXM 58: Mission: Murder!
9th   UXM 59. Do or Die, Baby!
9th   UXM 60: In the Shadow of... Sauron!
9th   UXM 61: Monsters Also Weep!
10th UXM 61: Monsters Also Weep!
19th UXM 62: Strangers... in a Savage Land!
19th UXM 63: War in the World Below!
21st UXM 64: The Coming of Sunfire!
28th UXM 65: Before I'd be Slave...
28th UXM 66: The Mutants and the Monster.

July

1st  XHY 1: Once More the Savage Land.
2nd XHY 2: The Ghost and the Darkness.
2nd XHY 3: On Wings of Angels.
3rd  XHY 3: On Wings of Angels.
3rd  XHY 4: Escape to Oblivion.
4th XHY 5: Riders on the Storm.
4th XHY 6: Behold a Goddess Rising..!
4th XHY 7: Power Play.
5th XHY 7: Power Play.
6th XHY 7: Power Play.
7th XHY 7: Power Play.
7th XHY 8: Shadow on the Stars.

September

4th X1F 1: Senioritis.
4th X1F 2: Beginning of the End.
4th X1F 3: Higher Learning.
4th X1F 4: The Mind of Jean Grey.
5th X1F 4: The Mind of Jean Grey.

October

26th AMA 11: The Beast!
26th AMA 12: Iron Man: D.O.A.
27th  AMA 12: Iron Man: D.O.A.
27th AMA 13: Evil is All in Your Mind!
28th AMA 13: Evil is All in Your Mind!
29th AMA 14: The Vampire Machine.
29th AMA 15. Murder in Mid-Air!
30th AMA 15. Murder in Mid-Air!
31st AMA 16. ...And the Juggernaut will get you... if you Don't Watch out!

UXM #143: "Demon"


 (In Westchester, no one can hear you scream...)

Comments

We begin this festive issue with a flashback to the days just after Thunderbird's death, and the battle with flesh-hungry N'Gaari demons that led to Storm obliterating the magical cairn through which they pored, somewhat coincidentally, into Xavier's grounds.  Apparently the resulting damage kept the extra-dimensional horrors quiescent - until now.

On a Christmas Eve lit by a full moon, another creature of darkness has slithered out into the world, seeking prey.  Gaze upon its hideous form and despair:


No.  Sorry.  I meant:


Easy mistake to make.  Anyway, the N'enomorph quickly finds an unsuspecting couple to act as an entree, and then it's off searching for the main course.

Meanwhile, in the mansion, Xavier is drilling Kitty on the workings of the Blackbird, a textbook example of what writers call "Chekov's suffocatingly boring lecture".  Charles rewards all her hard work by disappearing along with all the other X-Men (along with Mariko), leaving her all alone on Christmas Eve.  I know he's off to secretly pick up Kitty's parents as an Xmas surprise, but he couldn't have left someone else at the mansion.  How about that nice Colossus boy?

Of course, if he did that, then we couldn't watch Claremont re-write Alien with the ability to phase replacing flamethrowers and resourcefulness (and, to be fair, a bunch of other people to get eaten first).

Well, OK.  There's still resourcefulness.  Sprite works out pretty quickly that the marauding demon is faster and stronger than she is, as well as capable of killing her even whilst she's phased.  Her first move is to phase into a basement cupboard and so end her scent trail, but it's too smart for that. Plan B is to head for the hanger.  With only one working arm and half the mansion on fire around her, Kitty makes nine hundred metres in three minutes (!), gets to the Blackbird, and uses the afterburners to toast the Xeroxed rape analogy before it can so much as caress her with its tail.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh with how much I'm ragging on this issue for its cut and paste job.  It's not like Scott, O'Bannon et al created the idea of a woman being chased through darkened rooms by an unstoppable killer, and at least Claremont's script is honest enough to acknowledge its debts.  Plus, whilst ghost stories are fairly standard Christmas fair, a full-blown festive creature-feature is a little bit rarer, and therefore a bit more interesting.

Also, as hard as it is to admit, the "family" scenes that bookend the action are genuinely quite sweet.  If you don't count Wolverine's attempts to disembowel Nightcrawler for kissing Mariko beneath the mistletoe, that is.

Clues

This story begins on Christmas Eve, and passes midnight into the early hours of Christmas Day.

The narration during the flashback to Storm's battle with the N'Gaari implies that the demons' first appearance took place in autumn of the previous year.  This actually tallies perfectly with our timeline, though not, in fact, Claremont's own.

Date

Friday 24th to Saturday 25th of December, 1982.

X-Date 

X+4Y+269.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.69 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old.)

Also chased around empty houses.
X-Xmases

3.

Contemporary Events

It's my little sister's first Christmas, all of twelve days into her life.  She was actually really sweet, until my parents insisted on teaching her to talk.

Louis Aragon, French poet and Communist party member, passes away, aged 85.

Standout Line

"Too bad I don't have some king-sized flame-throwers handy.  They used them to fight that monster in that movie!  It didn't work, though -- but I remember what did!"

Who's letting Kitty watching these R rated movies?  No wonder she turned out to be a mutant.

(I guarantee you, there's someone in Arizona who would think that.)

Monday, 21 November 2011

X1F #4 "The Mind Of Jean Grey"


(A dream of Jeannie's.)

Comments

Let's take a break from Claremont's record-breaking UXM run, and finish off X-Men: First Class Finals.  When last we checked in, those team members furnished with Y chromosomes were headed into Marvel Girl's subconscious, in an effort to ascertain why she was manifesting previous foes all over the place.

Most of this issue, then, takes place within the mind of Jean Grey (as indeed the title helpfully reminds us).  Xavier's rather worried by Jean's recent habit of pulling people into her dreamscape, and given the books we've been looking at this month, he clearly has a point. 

Their first stop is to review their last conversation with Jean before she passed out (explaining the strange blue-dialogue X-Men shades we saw last issue).  The team try to piece together the puzzle - creating Juggernaut to floor Frederick makes some sense, but what about the Magneto junkpile, and why is she letting herself get punched around by her own illusions - but their brainstorming is interrupted by the Hulk.

Fortunately, Jean is there to step up to the plate, single-handedly juggling the Hulk ("HULK NOT LIKE!") until she gets bored and tosses him away.  It's clear at this point that Jean is somewhat selectively editing her memories (how like a woman, amirite?), casting herself as the team's biggest gun and last line of defence. One moment Cyttorak turns up from nowhere and gets clobbered by our redhead, the next the team are back on Monster Island whilst Jean defeats Mastermind in a psychic duel.  The team fly after her (being inside a dream is not devoid of advantages) and finds her defeating angry hippos in the middle of the Florida everglades, something you'd ironically have to be from Florida to not realise is ridiculous.

Xavier tries to lecture Jean into snapping out of her revenge-a-thon, but doesn't get very far.  Scott manages where his teacher failed, though, by just stepping forward and engaging smooching.  "The power of luvvv", as Warren notes.  Usually that kind of stuff irritates me, but I can see how kissy-time would have more of an effect than the Professor's droning.

The only problem is that Jean's subconscious ain't exactly playing ball right now.  It responds to Jean starting to recover her wits by pitting the team against every foe they've faced throughout the X1C run, with Magneto and Toad thrown in for good measure.  Jean manages to dispel the slavering hordes, but her hind-brain has one more punch left to throw: the car that killed Jean's friend when they were ten years old.

Jean concludes that this incident, which caused a flare in Jean's nascent powers that revealed her to the Professor, has been simmering in her subconscious ever since, creating a feedback loop somewhere in her synapses that she won't be able to save her friends when they're in danger.  It's a nice idea, and ties up the miniseries, but I can't help wondering why this has happened now, after 66 issues of UXM and 24 of X1C.  Obviously, the reason why it couldn't happen sooner is clear enough, but I'm not sure stories get a pass for happening too late merely because no-one thought of it when it would have made sense. 

Of course, X1C was never going to be an easy title to wrap up, by it's very nature - not just the "untold tales" format, but the book's unwillingness to introduce it's own rogue's gallery.  Again, though, I'd say that would more suggest that First Class Finals wasn't a great idea from the outset.  Still, whilst the lightweight nature of Parker's approach to the series might stretch a little thin over a four part story, it's still nice and breezy, and with Parker's trademark charmingly irreverent dialogue.  Indeed, though this seres as a whole has been slightly sub-par, it's really only the final page that causes any real problems; a dashed set-up for  Giant Size X-Men that makes no sense in context and tarnishes the book's previously excellent record in avoiding contradicting the events of its parent title.

Clues

Judging by the colour of the sky at various points in this issue, this story begins immediately after X1F #3, and concludes on the following day.

The issue ends with the team heading to Krakoa, an hour after they graduate.  Obviously, this is impossible, both because there's no sign of Havok and Polaris being with them, and, more importantly, Hank was still pink and comparatively hairless earlier in the day.

Date

Friday 4th to Saturday 5th of September, 1980.

X-Date

X+2Y+157 to X+2Y+158.

Contemporary Events

The world's longest highway tunnel is opened in Switzerland.

Standout Line

"I have a feeling my mind isn't this big." - Bobby.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

UXM #142: "Mind Out Of Time!"


(Point of inflection.)

Comments

2013

What's left of America's heroes have reached the Sentinel headquarters in the Baxter Building.  Leaving Rachel behind to look after Kate, Ororo, Peter and Logan take out the Sentinel er, sentinel, and gain access through the Fantastic Four's secret elevator.

But its a trap!  Wolverine is incinerated as soon as he leaves the elevator.  Storm and Colossus die moments later, and Rachel is left alone, cradling her friend, waiting for something to change.

1980

The Battle of the Senate kicks off!  The X-Men get some help when the impressively unfazed Senator Kelly sics the capitol police on the Brotherhood, but there's not much they can do against the marauding mutants.  Storm's got problems as well; not only is this the first fight the full team has been landed in since she became leader, but she's got to worry about Wolverine managing to gut somebody in a room filled with TV cameras.  Future Kitty isn't any help, either - she's too focused on keeping Kelly alive to do anything else.  In the confusion, Mystique manages to gas Xavier and Moira and drag them away.

By the time the fight has spilled out into the Great Mall, a tank division has arrived, and starts firing indiscriminately.  Charming.  It does distract the Brotherhood at least, though not for long, and once the flamethrowers arrive, they're literally just adding fuel to the fire (Pyro hopes that the soldiers he burns have good pensions, though, which means he cares more about what happens to US vets than the Republicans do.  Politics!)

Wolverine is horribly burned (this I think is the fist time his "fast-healing ability" is mentioned as being more than just somewhat preternatural), sending him into a killing mood, which means Storm has to waste even more time ordering him to keep his claws sheathed.  Fair play to her, though, she manages it; Wolverine's next move - gloriously - is to act as a fulcrum for an I-beam used by Colossus to throw Blob into the air.  He even quotes Archimedes!

With her mooks beaten and in custody, Mystique beats a hasty retreat, stopping just long enough to be pointlessly cryptic about her similarity to Nightcrawler.  Fifteen years of pointless runaround begins here.  Destiny, though, has managed to corner Kelly, and being blind doesn't seem to be giving her any problems aiming her crossbow (crossbow?).  Kate saves the Senator, diving through Destiny and shoulder-barging her on the way out, and the resulting time-shift throws Kate back to whatever she's made of her future.

Four weeks later, Senator Kelly and Sebastian Shaw are summoned to the Whitehouse by the new president, who introduces them to the man now in charge of the mutant "problem": Henry Peter Gyrich.

Clues

This story takes place in real time.  Except the future bits, obviously.  And the epilogue, which takes place a month later, but doesn't include any of our heroes, so we can ignore it for now.

Date

Sunday 31st of October, 1982.

X-Date 

X+4Y+215.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.80 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 21 years old.)

"Hello, retard!  Goodbye, retard!"
Contemporary Events


Standout Line

"It's too bad you revealed your identity, wings, The Feds are gonna try an' crucify you for this caper."
"That, short-stuff, is why I employ the best lawyers in the country."

Saturday, 19 November 2011

UXM #141: "Days Of Future Past"


("It's all a little bit of history repeating itself.")

Comments

2013

Kate Pryde makes her way through the ruins of New York with a medkit under her arm, an "M" on her jumpsuit, and a neural inhibitor around her neck.  She's on her way to meet Wolverine, but she's jumped by "rogues" first.  Bluffing her way out by pretending to be on "official Sentinel business" doesn't work, but Wolverine showing up to kick them in the junk does.

Logan's a major now, in the Canadian Resistance Army, part of a global resistance movement against the seemingly unstoppable Sentinel forces.  He's brought Kate the last part of the jammer she's building, just in time for her to catch the last horse-drawn tram back to camp.  Say what you want about the Sentinels, but they made the trains all blow up on time.

Kate leaves her fellow passengers behind (they're all "baseline" humans, or "anomalous" people, who are too close to mutants to be allowed to breed) and returns to the mutant internment camp.  The Sentinels have put the seemingly endless cemetery right beside the front gate, because someone at some point programmed them with the ability to fuck with people's heads.  A lot of the names on the headstones are familiar.  The heroes of this world, the ones that fought and died to save people from the depredations of the Sentinels, they're all in the first row.  Those programmers certainly knew what they were doing.

Most of the X-Men are there, too.  Aside from Logan and Kate, only Ororo and Peter remain alive.  They've formed their own resistance cell, along with Franklin Richards and his telepathic girlfriend Rachel, and a crippled Magneto.  They're pretty sure the Sentinels are planning an all out offensive tomorrow, which in turn more or less guarantees global nuclear war, so someone has to step up and be Matthew Broderick.  It looks like Kate's volunteered for the job, despite the fears of her husband Peter that not only will she get herself killed, but she'll bollix the time stream whilst she's at it.  Apparently, it's time for a little temporal topiary.  They find a secluded spot and set off the jammer, freeing them from the effects of the neural inhibitors, and Rachel lifts Kate's mind from her body, and sends it spinning through the time stream.

Wolverine succeeds in breaking them out before the Sentinels discover them, and with the comatose Kate in tow - and Magneto left behind to throw his wheelchair at the first robot to start something - they attempt to escape through the sewers.  The Sentinels jump them and fry Franklin, but the rest fight their way clear, and head onwards to the Sentinels' HQ.  If Kate fails in the past, then destroying that is the only way to stop a new world war.

1980

There is, of course, one tiny flaw in the plan, which is that thirteen year old Kitty Pryde is a goddamn idiot.   Who in God's name walks into the Danger Room because the door wasn't locked?  We don't knock during potentially lethal training exercises?  Of course, she should be entirely safe in any case due to being entirely untouchable, but she panics and freezes up, forcing the less invulnerable mutants around her to stick their necks out. 

Fortunately she's recovered her nerve by the time her own training session starts, allowing her to just walk through everything Xavier can throw at her.  This is the problem with trying to train someone who can't be touched.  Though I guess we know just letting her wander around the mansion would do the trick.

Anyway, people are only halfway through congratulating Kitty for walking forwards when her future self arrives inside her cranium and takes over.  Kate demands the X-Men take her to Washington, where Xavier and Moira are about to testify before a congressional panel on the mutant issue.

Whilst en route, Kate offers up a history lesson.  Today is the day Senator Kelly, mutant rights skeptic and Hellfire Club member, is assassinated by mutant terrorists hoping to scare humanity into leaving them alone.  It doesn't work.  The American people respond by voting in a rabid anti-mutant bigot, who in turn hands over responsibility for the "mutie problem" to the Sentinels, hoping their superior minds can keep humanity safe.  It doesn't work Just like they did the last two times, the Sentinels overthrow their fleshy masters, and everything goes tits up.  And what with this being comics, that's a lot of tits.

(Incidentally, this whole set-up reminds me of the McCarthyite riff that I thought the Sentinels represented when they were first introduced.  Apparently, once Kelly dies, people will be so scared of evil mutants that they'll be only too happy to assume every mutant is evil, and then willingly hand over the reins of power to whomever is most likely to persecute mutants mercilessly,until one day they realise that the cure is worse than the disease.  Of course, this is hardly a story that first played out with Tailgunner Joe.   Same actions, expecting different results).

Back to ample bosoms, though, somewhere deep in the Pentagon a woman steps into a side office and shifts our form.  It's our first meeting with Mystique!  Somehow, she's managed to smuggle Destiny, Pyro, Avalanche and the recently escaped Blob into the building as well.  Displaying some fairly impressive leadership skills, Mystique manages to stop her boys from brawling for long enough for them to head off to kill someone.

At the congressional hearing, Senator Kelly is busy playing to the cheap seats about the upcoming genetic apocalypse.  Moira tries to talk him down (clearly she hasn't had much experience with US senators), but hasn't got too far when the X-Men arrive. Storm gets a telepathic warning out to Professor X, but it's too late!  The wall explodes, and Mystique reveals the New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!

(Christ, but Raven needs to fire her PR guy.   Even Al Qaeda has sense enough to not call themselves "Muslims for baby-eating".)

Clues

This issue is set on Halloween, the Friday before the US presidential election.  Obviously, out in the real world, this would mean it can't be set in 1982, but who knows how the Marvel Universe operates?  If moving the dates forward two years was good enough for Aaron Sorkin, then it's good enough for the X-Men.

Even so, some small degree of reshuffling is needed.  There might not have been a presidential election in 1982, but the midterms were held on Tuesday the second of November.  If we try and place this on the preceding Friday, we would have to remove six days from the timeline.  On the other hand, the issue is also specific about it being Halloween, which in 1982 as only two days before the midterms.  There's no reason to choose one over the other, so we'll stick with the Halloween idea to minimise our worries.

So, we need to get rid of two days.  It would make the most sense to do so after UXM #131; since that issue is set on a Sunday, removing less than a week before it wouldn't do any good.

That really only leaves the period after Jean's funeral.  This causes us some problems regardomg the X-Men's concern over hearing so little from Cyclops since he left (as it will now be only a week and a half after he resigned), and it rubs uncomfortably against the ending of last issue (in which Wolvie and Nightcrawler were taking the long route home and the Blob had only just escaped), but it's definitely the best option available.

Date

Sunday 31st of October, 1982.

X-Date 

X+4Y+215.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.78 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 21 years old.)

Starred in Ballet Shoes.
Contemporary Events

The future of pop music changes forever when the Cheeky Girls are born.  Brought into the world on Halloween, in Transylvania.  Draw your own conclusions.

Standout Line

"Where were you, Kurt?  I know it was your turn to clean the breakfast dishes, but that shouldn't have made you late for this training session."   Life in the X-Men: not as fun as you might have hoped.

Friday, 18 November 2011

UXM #140: "Rage!"


(Wendigone)

Comments

We interrupt this ongoing monster attack to bring you: Days of our X-Lives, in which Colossus clears a hectare of land for (presumably) future arable farming, and Angel points out Wolverine is a psychotic killer who possibly shouldn't be allowed to play with others. Also in this episode: Storm gets hit on by a jive buster, and Sprite gets her dance on again.

Back at Hudson Bay, Nightcrawler is trying to dodge his assailant, and gets creative with his powers to do so.  Since he can't 'port through the woods without risking rematerialisation inside a tree, he jaunts a few hundred feet into the air, finds a clearing, and jumps to it before he has time to start falling too fast to survive when he reappears.  The wendigo's sheer speed means it doesn't do him much good, but it's still a great idea.  As a reward, the creature punches Nightcrawler clear out of the forest, but straight at the cabin where the other heroes are planning.  Hearing the resulting THWUMP! (though not, oddly, the monster constantly bellowing its own name), they pile out and attack.  Within seconds, the wendigo has taken an exploding truck to the face, and beat a hasty retreat.

Whilst Shaman and Vindicator deal with the resulting forest fire, Wolverine and Snowbird track the fleeing beast to its lair. Logan sends Anne back to gather reinforcements, but the wendigo suddenly decides it's peckish for man-flesh, and Wolverine has to attack before back-up can arrive.  He manages to overpower his foe for long enough for its prisoners to escape, but is then knocked out just as his friends arrive.

With the wendigo resurgent, and Logan unconscious, our heroes seem desperately short of stopping power, until Snowbird hits on the bright idea of morphing into a giant wolverine herself.  The resulting brawl leaves wendigo battered and defeated, but Snowbird has gone too deep: the irresistible raw power of the wolverine (seriously? They always looked like dogs dressed as bears to me [1]) has overwritten her gamma waves.  Wolverine manages to talk her down, in one of those "what did they actually say?" Lost in Translation scenes that always annoy me more than they probably should do.

With Snowbird calmed and returned to her human form, Shaman works his Tsuu T'ina mojo, and the wendigo once more becomes a rather confused-looking Georges Baptiste, who looks even more befuddled when Guardian immediately arrests him.  Hudson reasons that since Baptiste willingly became the wendigo, he's legally responsible for everyone he then ate.  That's a court case I'd like to read the verdict from.

As Alpha Flight depart, Nightcrawler asks the awkward question: what exactly separates Baptiste's desire to become wendigo, and Wolverine's bellicosity and beserker rages?  Logan explains that no-one he ever killed wasn't trying to kill him, and Nightcrawler concedes that point, but notes that having justification isn't the same thing as having the right.  It's a good, believable exchange between the characters (and far from the last time they will have the conversation), and they both have solid bases for their opinions - Logan because he's only ever killed in self-defence, and Kurt because Logan chose to end up in situations in which killing in self-defence became necessary.  No-one who insults as many people with guns as Wolverine does gets to claim their hands are entirely clean when the violence starts.

We end with two brief diversions.  In Ottowa, Guardian learns that the government are shutting down Alpha Flight (maybe Operation: Nick A Cyborg didn't work out to well) and in New Mexico, Fred Dukes AKA The Blob escapes from a maximum security prison, swearing to join the New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants under a mysterious new female leader...

Clues

This issue takes begins just before midnight, and continues into night the following day.

The opening narration tells us that this story takes place in the final days of summer.

No.  No no no no no no no.

No.

We went through this yesterday, but let's review. Consider the following: Jean Grey became the Dark Phoenix in the middle of winter (UXM #134), and was buried less than a week later (UXM #138). Are we really supposed to believe that UXM #139 is set in early September?  That Kitty Pryde was at the school for seven months before she saw the Danger Room or got around to returning to her dancing hobby?   That more than half a year passed before Xavier had time to test Angel's ability to work in a team after so long alone?

Je dit "la merde de vache", and that's before we get to the true killer: Kitty was described as thirteen and a half when she first appeared before Jean's death, and she hasn't turned fourteen yet.

I know why Claremont is doing this, actually.  The next story (spoilers!) is "Days of Future Past", which takes place on the eve of the 1980 presidential election - thus unwittingly presenting us with the thorny question: just how much of a cunt would Senator Kelly have to be to make him a worse executive than Ronald Reagan? Clearly Claremont doesn't want to wait, which is why Jean Grey dies around mid January and the wendigo attacks in September, despite every other indication being that only a few weeks have passed.

Anyway, we'll doubtless come back to this tomorrow.

Date

Wednesday 3rd to Thursday 4th of November, 1982.

X-Date 

X+4Y+218 to X+4Y+219.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.74 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old).

Chased by zombies or bigots,
depending on the film.
Contemporary Events

The US midterm elections widen the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

Standout Line

"I understand, Logan.  What you say is reasonable, logical, justifiable.  But does that make it right?"

[1] No conversation on this topic can go without a shout-out to by dear friend Ibb, who resolutely refused to believe that the wolverine existed as a creature at all, and was convinced I had invented it, using the name of Marvel character so as to confuse her.