Wednesday, 23 November 2011

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

(Misery loves company.)


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.


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.


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


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.

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