Saturday, 31 December 2011

Wolverine #1: "Wolverine"


(Trouble and strife.)

Comments

This is the first issue in a miniseries that may or may not have been intended as a trial balloon for an ongoing Wolverine title.  In the end such a thing didn't come into being for another four six years.  It's still kind of hard to imagine a time in which interest in Wolverine might only be thought enough to sustain four books, especially how much faith was being shown in Dazzler.

There's definitely a very different tone here than in Claremont's UXM.  These kinds of tonal switches were something of a speciality of Claremont's back in the day - that's what made Excalibur so difficult to read.  In this case, though, it's very atmospheric (and somewhat decompressed, which adds to the sense of lonely space the issue trades in).  Wolverine's taciturn, weary narration in the opening pages as he hunts down both an insane, man-killing grizzly and the hunter responsible for its state gets right to the heart of what makes Logan, when written well, so interesting: not his capacity for rapacious violence, but his melancholy resignation of the fact that that's all he's really able to be. 

Indeed, the question of exactly what Wolverine can be is pretty important here.  With the set-up over, Logan flies to Japan to discover why his true love Mariko has vanished from New York.  Wolverine is convinced Mariko is completely out of his league, and not just culturally, something the art beautifully rams home by the way it presents Wolverine's photo of his love in amongst the muted panels.


Gorgeous. The whole book is well put together, in fact - full credit to Frank Miller - all muted tones and long shadows, colours standing in for emotions and silhouettes representing those deeds done at night best not thought of in daylight.

Once Logan arrives in Tokyo, he learns Mariko's presumed-dead father has returned, and has married Mariko off in order to pay an outstanding debt.  Despite her obvious wish to be left alone in her misery, Wolverine is determined to see her one last time, and breaks into the mansion he last saw in UXM #119.

He finds her beneath a Buddha statue in the garden.  She is not pleased to see him, there is too much pride in her.  It's amazing the lengths some people will go to in order to avoid an offer of help.  Not that there's any help to be given, at least as far as Mariko is concerned.  She loves her family's honour more than she does Logan, and that's simply all there is to it, despite the fact that her new husband is clearly beating her.  They are interrupted by the man himself, and Wolverine, of course, is immediately ready to gut him.  Mariko persuades him otherwise, however, and he leaves, heartbroken.

He doesn't get far - poisoned shuriken fly out from the darkness, and his healing factor drops him into a coma whilst it expels the deadly concoction.  He awakes before Lord Shingen - Mariko's father - and his two sumo bodyguards.  Mariko sits to one side, grief-stricken.  Shingen berates Wolverine, pouring scorn upon the arrogance that could make him consider himself worthy of someone of Yashida blood (yes, clearly Logan is the one with a superiority complex), and challenges him to a duel in order to humiliate him further.

Logan accepts immediately, and the surprisingly spry Shingen springs into action.  Brilliantly, it's all an exceptionally devious trap.  By choosing wooden swords, Shingen lets Mariko believe the duel is merely for show, but he immediately attempts to kill Wolverine by breaking his neck.  Lacking the necessary skill with a katana (he's good, but Shingen is exceptional), Logan's forced to toss his wooden blade aside and pop his claws, therefore giving the impression that a playful (if sour-natured) duel is enough to unleash his killing instinct.  Even with his claws, Wolverine cannot beat Shingen (though the Japanese Lord does not escape without injury), but that no longer matters: he has seemingly proven himself to Mariko the animal her father accused him of being.

He passes out, either from the pain, or the poison, or the overwhelming shame.  When he regains consciousness, he's out in the street, being threatened by some rather unpleasant "keep Japan pure!" types.  He lacks the strength to see them off, but luck is with him when they're dispatched for him.

Or is it really lucky?  His saviour, a woman strong enough to lift him into the air, has a simple message for him.  "mine, Wolverine.  Now -- and forever.>"

To be continued...

Clues

Wolverine's Canadian adventure lasts two days. He flies out to Japan the following morning, and the duel with Shingen (and presumably his return to consciousness) happen the following day.

We'll assume for now that this issue takes place immediately after UXM #160, which was published in the previous month.  Whether this assumption remains plausible after reading UXM Annual #6, which is next on the list, we shall see.

Date

Wednesday 21st to Saturday 24th April, 1983.

X-Date

X+5Y+21 to X+5Y+24.

Contemporary Events

The nuclear reactor at Kursk is forced to shut down following failure in its fuel rods.

Buster Crabbe passes away, aged 75.  Crabbe was probably most famous (especially for geeks) for portraying Flash Gordon in the 1936 serial (and its two sequels) that so enraged Annie Wilkes in Misery.

Standout Line

"Wooden practice swords?  Why not the real thing?"
"To be frank... you are not worthy of a true sword."

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

DAZ #3: "The Jewels Of Doom!"


(UNemployable.)

Comments

Dazzler's grand tour of the Marvel Universe continues this issue as she heads off to visit the Fantastic Four.  In short order, this leads to Johnny flirting, Ben complaining, and Reed trying her out against one of his inventions: the "deluminizer", which seems to be an intensely complicated machine which can almost perfectly replicate the effect of some heavy curtains. Alison gets so bored in the process that she has to put out the Torch with a fire extinguisher just for something to do.

Further time-wasting is mercifully avoided when the group learn there are plans afoot to put on display some of Doctor Doom's former jewels, that have been loaned to the UN by Prince Zorba, current ruler of Latveria after deposing Doom.

Johnny is concerned that showing off all his shiny rocks will bring Doom out of hiding, but over at the UN, it's Latveria's ambassador Doctor Frazen who's planning to half-inch the treasures, before Zorba can sell them to boost the country's flagging economy. 

As luck would have it, Dazzler's headed for the UN as well, as an opener for a UNICEF benefit gig.  Alison is rather unimpressed that the only gig Osgood has lined up for her won't actually gather her any scratch, but apparently Osgood has blown all his time hiring a cocky pretty-boy fashion reject to order Dazzler around, so there's nothing to be done.

With nothing else to do for the next three weeks but fail to pay her rent or fill her pantry, Alison decides it's high time she patches up her relationship with her father, and heads for his house.  Fortunately, he's delighted to see her.  Unfortunately, that's because he immediately assumes she's come back to start taking orders.  Things rather go downhill once that misunderstanding is rectified.

There are worse things in the world than having a authoritarian gitchimp for a father.  You could be one of Doctor Doom's lackeys, a job which has apparently become no easier now that he's been deposed (I guess he's still smarting over the loss of his diplomatic immunity).  If you're supremely lucky, interrupting him with a message will result in you being allowed to live ("Rewarded beyond your worth!", as the man puts it). It's probably just as well the economy of Latveria is as crappy as it is, otherwise you'd have to imagine Doom would have significant HR problems.  As it is, though, one of his grovelling toadies lets him know about the UN exhibition, which will include something known in hushed whispers as "the Merlin Stone".  This, suffice to say, is something Doom wants back very, very badly.

Fast forward to the day of the UNICEF concert.  Frazen is planning to use the event as cover whilst he swipes the jewels, using a bunch of heavies disguised as glam rockers to do the dirty work.  Given that his hired goons think a shiny skintight outfits and a face plastered in stars makes someone "punk", I don't hold out much hope for the success of Frazen's caper, even before you factor in Dazzler and Doom (best... buddy cop show... ever!)  The first stage of the plan is to sneak backstage, but already things go south when Alison's new minder Lance catches them in the act.  Outnumbered, he calls for help (well, he screams like a girl, but the end result is the same) and Dazzler leaves her dressing room to investigate.  The hoodlums have just enough time to register her approach ("Holy sucking spit!") and then battle is joined.

It's a pretty postmodern fracas, as well.  "Why do all my singing engagements turn into free-for-alls?" "Today's woman demands total equality -- and that includes fight scenes!"  Hardly Deadpool level, admittedly, but not bad for 1981.  Whilst Dazzler cracks wise and bang heads, however, Frazen and his remaining lickspittles have broken through to the jewels, only to find Doom got there first, and is in no mood for sharing.  With the flunkies dispatched and the pretty boy saved, Alison heads for the exhibit herself, interrupting Doom's recovery operation.

"Do not fear!" the soulless former dictator assures her, "Doom does mot make war on helpless civilians!"  Unless they're his citizens, of course, particularly if they work for him directly.  Still, he admits the only thing that stopped him from killing her was the fact he recognised her as being on the concert bill.  Maybe Doom is secretly a fan?


Yikes.  But clearly he's taken with her "noble, courageous spirit", so much so that he fills her in on what's going on: the Merlin Stone is the first in a set that will make the owner invincible, and Doom's finally worked out how to use this one to get ahold of the rest. Credit where it's due, Alison does her best to stop him, despite knowing full well she's horrifically out of her league, but it's not long before she's unconscious at Doom's feet.  Rather than killing her, though, Doom kidnaps her.  The next Merlin stone is a little difficult to reach, after all, so it really makes more sense for him to send someone else into peril after it...

Clues

This story takes place over three weeks, and can once again be placed between UXM #142 and #143.

Date

Tuesday 9th to Tuesday 30th of November, 1982.

X-Date 

X+4Y+224 to X+4Y+245.

Contemporary Events

Yuri Andropov succeeds Leonid Breznhev as general secretary of the Soviet Union, following the latter's death

Thriller is released, becoming th best selling album of all time.
Anne Hathaway is born.

Standout Line

"In a building dedicated to international peace and cooperation -- yet more often used for inflammatory propaganda and calculated deceit..."  Tom DeFalco describes the UN.  Thank God inflammatory propaganda's been taken off the table, huh?

Monday, 26 December 2011

UXM #160: "Chutes And Ladders!"


(The passing of childhood.)

Comments

It's a somewhat sinister opening for us all this time, as we watch a shadowy, ill-manicured figure as they observe the X-Men through what looks like a cross between a scrying pool and a magic mirror.  We already suspect he's evil, and this is confirmed a moment later as he crows over the possibility that Storm has been injured during a training session.  Clearly malevolent, then (also: a dick).

But it's Illyana who our mysterious malefactor is truly after, and he uses some mystical mojo to tempt her (and Fozzie Bear) away from the X-Men.  Kitty follows her, but gets herself sucked into another dimension.  A six year old and a fourteen year old kidnapped.  The Daily Mail would have a field day with this.  Can the X-Men hope to ban this sick filth?

Well, they'd have to notice first.  Storm's too busy taking her clothes off and bathing in her rainstorms.  She even invites her teammates to join her ("MUTANTS HOLD SICK ORGY WHILST CHILDREN DISAPPEAR").  Before things get too disturbing, though, Colossus realises who they're missing.  Nightcrawler makes the excellent though somewhat     point that no-one has really bothered exploring this mysterious and sinister island, which might have finally come back to haunt them ("Let's set up shop in an unexplored city once populated by terrifying squidmen - what could go wrong?").  And, indeed, our heroes are only a short way into their search when they too find themselves beset by glowing circular portals, and spirited away to the dimension of long-nailed kiddy-fiddlers.

That's not just inappropriate hyperbole, either.  The instant Kitty arrives, a weirdly-dressed Nightcrawler bounds up to her and starts feeling her arse.  At least, I hope it's her arse, the art is mercifully unclear on this point.  Apparently Kurt's shirt was the only thing preventing his promotion to slightly slimy opportunist to casual purveyor of sexual assault. Unsurprisingly, Sprite rejects 'Crawler's offer, and tries to escape, only to run into a sinister man on a no less sinister throne: Belasco.

Colossus and Storm, meanwhile, have landed together in a series of corridors.  Storm finds a silver armband, and immediately puts it on, which strikes me as staggeringly unwise, even when you ignore the petty larceny aspect.  Maybe this is the accumulated caution of years of Fighting Fantasy adventures talking, but I'd think an accessory something in a demon dimension thought causes too much shit to be worth hanging onto might not necessarily be anything you'd put on just because it matches your hair.  Also, as soon as she does it, she's attacked by a pack of acid-dripping tentacles, which is exactly what my mother would say would happen if I ever stole her jewellery. Colossus is snatched away before he can help, but Storm gets a lucky break when she suddenly transforms into an amalgam of herself, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus.  At no point will this be explained.

Somehow, Kitty's situation makes more sense: she's trapped motionless inside a giant crystal whilst topless sex-criminal Nightcrawler bothers Illyana.  On the floor is Wolverine's skeleton, handily placed for Belasco's pet demon S'ym can use the claws as toothpicks.  Belasco, it turns out, has been banished to this dimension for failing to conquer Earth for his dark masters, and apparently his jailors were too stingy to put in indoor plumbing or linear time.  Indeed, shirt-endowed Nightcrawler is watching the entire scene as Belasco magically removes Kitty's skeleton (which, honestly, I was expecting something worse) and attempts to win Illyana's affections with a magic necklace of evil.  It's all about the accessories this issue, isn't it?  Well, that and the manipulation and torturing of abducted minors. 

I like the jewellery better.  Jewellery sparkles.

Storm has more jewellery too, amongst other things, having woken up after fighting the squid-beast in a comfy bed, next to a swimming pool, and with gifts of a mysterious necklace and a bikini in her size.  Storm flies away without any idea as to who has saved her, but we get at least a glimpse of Shadowy Figure #2, wearing the same necklace as Storm, and the same armband.  DRAMATIC IRONY!

Back at Disturbing Behaviour Central, Nightcrawler battles Nightcrawler.  Two elves enter: one elf leaves, possibly with a shirt.  But when the brimstone clears, the victor remains defiantly half-naked.  Oh no!  Our Nightcrawler lost! Also, he tells us his opponent was brutally dispatched.  Oh no!  Our Nightcrawler is dead!  What other explanation could there possibly be?

(In fairness, I don't think we're supposed to buy the story: it's too obviously fake.  It still makes Belasco look like an utter idiot, though.  Repeat after me: stories reliant on your characters suddenly becoming disgracefully dense are shitty, shitty stories.)

At least things are starting to fall into place, though.  Partially Clad Nightcrawler confirms that he's the real deal, a future version who went dark side after some exploratory surgery courtesy of Belasco.  Also, Wolverine runs into Colossus' corpse, long dead, with silver streaks in his hair-steel.  Further investigation is stymied by the arrival of S'ym, hungry for a violent death or two.  Fortunately, the timely arrival first of Colossus and then a handy teleportation disc to chuck the demon through saves our heroes' bacon, though I imagine surviving such a close shave lacks some of its thrill when you're standing next to your own broken body.

And even this narrow victory proves only possible thanks to intervention of SF#2, who Wolverine has just enough time to recognise before she whisks them to their final rendezvous with Belasco.  Storm arrives moments later, and Demi-Wrapped Nightcrawler reveals his true colours, forcing BelascoNightcrawler went mental in the first place.  Instead, Future Storm, who's spent the intervening decades studying sorcery, frees Kitty, opens a portal back to the island, and does her best to fend off Belasco's hordes whilst our heroes make their exit.

It doesn't quite work.  Illyana ends up with quite literally feet in different worlds, as the X-Men try to save her, and Belasco tries to reclaim her prize.  As is so often the case with tugs of war (literal or otherwise) nobody ends up entirely with what they want.  Belasco is denied Illyana, at least for the moment, but the temporal warping effects of the passge between dimensions causes Colossus' sister to age seven years in as many seconds.

I'm almost never a fan of this form of storyline.  It's not that I don't think it has any potential, that's clearly not the case.  It's more that the actual mechanism always feels like an admission that the child character (or baby, in the case of Angel's Connor) isn't of interest on their own terms, and needs to be "improved".  To me, that reads a bit like an admission of defeat. I'd have thought there was enough material to be mined from trying to juggle being an outcast superhero with keeping your six year old sister safe.  Of course, Marvel eventually compounded the error by spending years on the development of Illyana (or Majik, as she eventually became) and then reintroducing the child model once again. 

Still, that's a discussion for another time.  Right now, we've got the teenage Illyana to contend with.  More importantly, we have a teenage Illyana who's brought something back with her to the island: the magic trinket Belasco had always intended her to keep...

Clues

This story takes place over the course of several hours.

Nightcrawler notes that it's been "barely a day" since Storm threw off Dracula's curse.

Date

Tuesday 20th April, 1983.

X-Date 

X+5Y+20.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.74 standard years.

(Colossus is 25 years old).

""
Contemporary Constants

The Soviet Union launch the Soyuz T-8 mission, in which a manned spacecraft was intended to dock with the Salyut 7 space station.  Ultimately, the mission was aborted, after the craft was damaged during the later stages of lift-off.

Standout Line

"Obey me!  If nothing else, I have seniority." - Future Storm.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Timeline: 1983

February

4th   UXM 144: Even in Death...
5th   UXM 144: Even in Death...
28th UXM 145: Kidnapped!
28th UXM 146: Murderworld!

March

1st     UXM 145: Kidnapped!
1st     UXM 146: Murderworld!
1st     UXM 147: Rogue Storm!
2nd   UXM 148: Cry, Mutant!
3rd    UXM 148: Cry, Mutant!
4th    UXM 148: Cry, Mutant!
5th    UXM 148: Cry, Mutant!
6th    UXM 148: Cry, Mutant!
8th    UXM 149: And the Dead Shall Bury the Living!
8th    UXM 150: I, Magneto!
12th  UXM Annual 5: Ou, La La -- Badoon!
16th  UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
17th  UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
18th  UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
19th  UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
20th  UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
21st  UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
22nd UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
22nd UXM 152: The Hellfire Gambit!
23rd  UXM 152: The Hellfire Gambit!
24th  UXM 153: Kitty's Fairy Tale

April

6th    UXM 154: Reunion
7th    UXM 155: First Blood
7th    UXM 155: Pursuit!
8th    UXM 155: Pursuit!
8th    UXM 157: Hide-'N'-Seek!
13th  UXM 158: The Life That Late I Led...
16th  UXM 159: Night Screams!
17th  UXM 159: Night Screams!
18th  UXM 159: Night Screams!
19th  UXM 159: Night Screams!

UXM #159: "Night Screams!"


(Bleeding inconvenience.)

Comments

Spring Break!  The X-Men have relocated to New York City whilst Moira tends to their stricken mentor.  And what better way to usher in some R&R time than to charge uninvited into your friend's apartment?  You can't just teleport into the middle of someone's flat, Nightcrawler! What if Misty had been getting her sexytimes on, huh?

Kurt Wagner.  Sisterbanger and sex pest.  A few years after this, he joins the priesthood.

Worse still, Misty isn't even in, so the team just end up freaking out her roommate.  She's a famous model, apparently, which is lucky for Kurt; it gives him someone to perve over whilst Logan steals beer from the fridge.  These are clearly not people you want in your house, even before you consider the chances of a supervillain attack or Sentinel strike when their scrounging Twiglets from your bottom cupboards, but Harmony takes it well, apparently out of a desire to see Colossus naked.

Apparently this sojourn into the city is to allow Kitty to meet up with her parents (something which clearly requires the entire team - sans Cyclops, still visiting Alex and Lorna with his father), so Harmony graciously offers Kitty and Ororo some street clothes for dinner.  I'm not sure why Sprite didn't just bring her own clothes, and what's happened to Storm's deeply impressive ability to change her threads at will, but the resulting delay does allow Wolverine the time to steal an entire six-pack, so it clearly wasn't effort wasted.

Being prettied up by supermodels can have its cost, however.  It soon becomes apparent that Storm has gone missing after leaving Kitty and her parents.  Soon after, the team are phoned to tell them Ororo has been admitted to hospital.  She's been attacked, her throat slashed causing extreme blood-loss, but nothing was stolen.  "Mugging by a maniac" is the hospital's best guess. You'd think the X-Men might be smart enough to connect the dots - it's not like they haven't fought demons and sorcerers, plus they went to Hell that time - but I guess everyone's too worried about Ororo to think clearly.  In any case, she's made a miraculous (one might even say.. supernatural?) recovery, though the incident has left her somewhat wary of the night, which seems entirely fair enough.

Despite such misgivings, Storm discharges herself from hospital, and is put to bed in Misty's room.  Once her friends have departed, though, it's time to throw open the windows and invite in the Prince of Darkness.  Man, Dracula would have been so scuppered if Misty's windows had been a bit smaller.  That's why vampires are all so insufferably bourgeois: it's not snobbishness, it's just about the likely distribution of bay windows.

Over the next two days Storm becomes allergic to sunlight, unwilling to leave her bed, and starts wearing a silk scarf sporting an ornate "D" around the neck wound that seemingly didn't puncture the jugular but still resulted in severe blood loss.  None of the X-Men find this strange, and just assume Storm has given up on life.  Kitty pieces it together in five minutes the moment she returns from visiting her folks, and heads off to get supplies.

Sure enough, Dracula returns by the light of the moon, but before Ororo can give herself completely to him, Kitty returns, dressed as Van Helsing and brandishing a crucifix.  The cross itself turns out to be no use at all, but the Star of David Kitty wears around her neck gets the job done, and Dracula flies off into the night.  Unfortunately, Storm can also fly, and she heads off after her new prince, warning Kitty that following them is a sure way to end up dead.

(As an aside, I've always been a big fan of the idea that the methods of scaring away vampires would be faith-specific.  There's an old film - who's name I've unfortunately forgotten - that introduced the idea that a Jewish vampire would only be scared of Stars of David.  That's a neat idea, but I think it works even better when it's the person brandishing the artifact whose faith matters.  Indeed, that then immediately raises the question: how does an atheist see off a vampire.  To my knowledge, the only story to deal with this was "The Curse of Fenric", still my favourite Doctor Who adventure by some distance, in which it was suggested that your best course of action was believing that your cause was just, or that there's always some subset of your friends that you can trust without question.)

Kitty fills in the team on what's gone down, but of course not everyone believes her.  "Are you sure she didn't just flip out?" Logan asks, which is logically equivalent to asking "Are you sure you didn't just imagine motherfucking Dracula, huh?"  Even the scarf doesn't sway him: it's apparently much more likely she borrowed it from Misty or Harmony so as to look particularly rakish in bed.  Clearly Wolverine sees no contradiction in a woman who no longer wants to live but still wants to look preppy in her death bed.  Fortunately, Kurt's from Bavaria, and they take the "vampyr" seriously over there (when they're not busy draining their litre glasses of weissbier, of course).  And even Logan has to admit that having Storm flying around whilst clearly off her nut is probably a low quality idea.

And so, the X-Men go hunting, and find Storm's scent trail ends in Central Park.  Apparently, Dracula has taken up residence in Belvedere Castle, which rather suggests he hasn't taken advantage of his centuries-long life to learn anything about decent architecture.



Dracula comes out to meet them, and to set a variety of supernaturally-enhanced rats and dogs against them.  The creatures themselves aren't too much of a problem, but once Dracula himself gets involved, things very much take a turn for the worst, and not even Wolverine's attempt to form a crucifix with two crossed claws can save them.

However, the scuffle (that'd be a great Hammer film, wouldn't it? The Scuffle of Dracula) does by time for Kitty to sneak into the castle, holy water in hand, on a mission to sanctify Dracula's coffin.  Storm quickly finds her, however, and announces that Sprite's next up for an involuntary undeading.  Kitty's kind of surprised that Storm has turned so quickly (she's putting an awful lot of faith in the idea that Dracula is a rigorous historical document), but refuses to fight her.

Outside, Dracula is the last freak standing, and is apparently playing "Eenie Meanie" over which X-Man to brutally slaughter first.  Kitty's impassioned pleas have shaken Storm out of Dracula's grasp, however (that's "Power Of Wuv" ending number 26,381, if you're wondering), and denouncing him, she forces him away with a violent hailstorm.  Dracula tries again to dominate her, but her resistance has become too strong, and ultimately, the Prince of Darkness realises that there is little point in forcing a woman to become his queen.  He departs empty-handed (pointing out to Storm that whilst he has no further use for her, threatening him remains an exceptionally bad idea), and for the moment, our heroes have won the day.

Except... exactly what has Ororo become?  She is free of Dracula's control, but not of his bite.  Is this really the end of the story?  Maybe not.  But there's no time to worry about that now: Moira's on the phone.  Professor Xavier has taken a turn for the worse!

Clues

This story begins on a Friday evening, and ends after sunrise on Monday.

Date

Friday 16th to Monday 19th April, 1983.

X-Date 

X+5Y+16 to X+5Y+19.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.73 standard years.

(Colossus is 25 years old).

"Be calm, tovarisch."
Contemporary Events

63 people are killed when the U.S. Embassy in Beirut is bombed.

Standout Line

"Great White North, Eh?" - Wolverine's beer of choice.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

UXM #158: "The Life That Late I Led..."


(Spy vs Spy.)

Comments

Ho ho ho, what's this?  If the cover to this book can be believed - and that's not always the case - we're about to enter a whole new era, that of Rogue's tenure specifically, and the idea of reformed supervillains joining the team (Changeling's retconned tenure and Mimic's three issues of being a colossal dick to everyone notwithstanding).

First, though, an update on the current state of play. Xavier is still in a coma, and the team is more or less just cooling its heels while it waits to see if he can recover.   They're joined in this rather tense holiday period by more than a few members of their extended family.  These include Carol Danvers, whose trying to gauge just how much skill Rogue has left her; Peter Corbeau, whose helping her by running drills and analysing the results; and the three non-terrestrial Starjammers (Scott has taken Corsair to Rio Diablo so he can meet his other son), who are trying to help by testing out exactly how difficult it is for them to beat Danvers to a bloody pulp. Spoiler alert: it's not so easily as they'd like.

Also present (aside from Illyana) are Lilandra, Moira, and the Imperial Guardsman Oracle, all of whom are bending their own unique talents (which in Lilandra's case is pretty much just the ability to give orders and look worried) to reviving Charles.  Oracle attempts a mind-link, but Xavier is far too gone, and far too powerful, for it to work - the professor immediately possesses Oracle and tries to use her to destroy himself.  Between them, Wolverine and Storm foil his plan, but no-one can work out why he tried it in the first place. Oracle couldn't help but see the creature inside Charles (still not specifically referred to as a Brood, but I doubt we're not supposed to recognise it), but found it so foul and evil she forced herself to forget it.  Which is damned convenient, to say nothing of flat-out unprofessional.  I doubt an oncologist would get very far arguing their patient's tumours were so horrific that she forget they were there at all.

Just to add to the X-Men's worries, Kitty catches an edition of Panorama being broadcast which features an interview with Senator Kelly explaining his views.  I actually rather like his presentation of his standpoint, not because I agree with it (though it's always a lot easier to disagree with such people when a) your main experience with mutants is the X-Men, and b) none of this is real), but because it seems so plausible as a political framework.  Kelly slides effortlessly between criticising mutants and those with super-powers, preventing his interviewer from pinning him down on the central point: the X-Men weren't acting any differently from any other group of superheroes (including the time they saved Kelly's life, of course).  By switching the goal-posts, Kelly's able to first argue that the problem is unsanctioned super-powered people, and then pirouette to claiming this makes all mutants a concern.  One is an action, the other is an identity, but Kelly's hoping that no-one will notice the distinction.

An uncommon approach, this is not.

The X-Men have more on their minds than rhetoric, though.  Back in happier times, Xavier gave a copy of the files on the original team to the U.S. Government (presumably through FBI Agent Duncan).  If Kelly really is gearing up for a round of investigative hearings (are those ever anything other than vicious farces?), then the team had better make sure he can't get his hands on their predecessor's info.

Not for the last time, then, the X-Men dispatch a team to break into the Pentagon.  On this occasion, Logan and Carol take the lead, dressed in their respective uniforms, and Ororo joins them in her finest civvies.  Things initially go well (though I love the fact that when Wolverine's skeleton sets off the metal detectors Storm is immediately terrified that he'll ruin everything by hacking everyone in sight to pieces), but this is Uncanny X-Men.  Going right is for other people.  Turns out our intrepid trio aren't the only people trying to worm their way into E-Ring (either this is another one of those unbelievable comic coincidences, or the Marvel Universe Pentagon's security is fucking terrible).  And, just to make things more interesting, it's Rogue, swanning around like she owns the place, and also the powers she's stolen from Carol.

In other circumstances, this could have led to something of a dilemma for the X-Men: would it be worth risking their own cover in order to unmask Rogue?  Indeed, if they didn't, it would in some sense already count against Kelly's plan: making mutants too scared of revealing themselves to help stop supervillains from breaking into government buildings doesn't seem like a smart strategy.  Of course, if Kelly wasn't being a dick in the first place, our heroes wouldn't have been there to see Rogue in the first place.  Kelly himself would probably also point out that having one group of mutants catch another group of mutants infiltrating the Pentagon whilst they're infiltrating the Pentagon themselves probably isn't a good argument for the benefits to society mutants could offer.

(If indeed that's what Rogue is doing there, Storm is terrified she's somehow working for Senator Kelly, which may or not be paranoia - I've genuinely forgotten).

It's a complex and difficult issue, is my point.  It's also entirely academic, because the instant Carol catches sight of Rogue, nothing matters but vengeance.  The resulting fracas ends inconclusively; Rogue steals Wolverine's powers, but Storm escapes in one direction (carrying the unconscious Logan), and Carol sneaks off towards the main computer.

Both have been followed, however.  Rogue uses Wolverine's senses to track down Storm, and Carol finds herself being trailed by Mystique, though she only works that out once the shapeshifter has shot her in the head.  It's lucky an ageless assassin like Mystique still needs to bend right over a fallen enemy to check they're dead, huh?  Where would fiction be if it were possible to use a pistol to shoot a motionless target from several feet away?

Fortunately, even in a world stuffed with the super-powered (if you listen to Senator Kelly, at least), such an act would be impossible to credit, which means that Carol gets to jump to her feet [1]  and beat Mystique into a pulp.  Meanwhile, Storm manages the same trick with Rogue (having called in Nightcrawler, who's been waiting for the go to teleport in as back-up, which is neat).  With little time before the MPs are crawling all over the place (or Rogue shakes off the tornado Storm packed her into and comes back for Round 2), the X-Men beat a hasty retreat.  Carol follows at a more leisurely pace, having deleted both the X-Men's files and her own.  Which I suppose makes a weird kind of sense, from the perspective of wanting to start a new life, and no sense at all, from the perspective of wanting to walk unchallenged out of a Pentagon on maximum alert.

Still, fair play to her, it works like a charm.  Mission accomplished.  Next time around: Dracula!

Clues

This is the first issue in which Kitty describes herself as being fourteen years old.  By our timeline, her birthday was somewhere around a fortnight earlier, sometime during the team's move from the mansion to Magneto's island.

The Panorama programme that the X-Men watch describes the team's fight with the Brood in New York as taking place "just days ago".  It's not clear how long ago the program was originally broadcast, though - would the X-Men get it in the Bahamas straight away?  Or are they using their extensive array of computer banks to receive signals direct from the source?

Either way, we're also told that it's been a week since Cyclops learned that Corsair was his father, so we'll assume this story takes place seven days after the Sidri destroy Xavier's mansion.

Date

Tuesday 13th April, 1983.

X-Date 

X+5Y+13.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.72 standard years.

(Colossus is 25 years old).

"<Those are Martians, little Snowflake.>"
Contemporary Events

Despite trade union activities having been banned by the military government, a meeting of the heads of the twelve largest trade unions in Bangladesh brings about the formation of Sramik Kharmachari Oikya Parishad, a mainstream trade union movement.  Their actions led to the re-establishment of trade union rights just over a year later.

Standout Line

"That fight in New York destroyed a 200-million dollar building -- hardly the act of heroes."

Has Senator Kelly ever watched or been told about a superhero fight.  Like, ever?  There's a reason Damage Control had a job.

(Also: my Other Half has suggested I keep a closer eye on the degree of implausible boobage displayed in any given issue.  What do people think?)

Sunday, 18 December 2011

UXM #157: "Hide-'N'-Seek!"


(Playing dress-up.)

Comments

We left the X-Men having escaped Deathbird and her Brood allies, but having sustained too much damage to the Starjammer in the process for them to get back to Earth before Araki's deadline ran out, and humanity ended up in the red, homeworld-wise.

The issue opens with the two teams (both "heroes in the truest sense of the word", the narration assures us, though Corsair's callous willingness to murder dozens of civilians whenever it makes his life easier rather puts the lie to that) co-operating to repair the ship.  They've even found a space-suit for Wolverine that has gaskets through which he can extend his claws.  Space science.  Is there anything it can't do?

Well, apparently it's not too keen on letting Russkies into space - Logan is convinced that whilst hardly any humans at all have gotten this far out (just inside Pluto's orbit, apparently), none of them will have been from the CCCP.  Really?  The vast array of interstellar lifeforms that keep using our shining blue sphere as galactic pit-stop all took our side in the Cold War?  Let's not who got into space first, tovarisch.

Stung by this remark, or possibly having been stabbed in the heart that morning, Colossus keels over, and has to be rushed over to Sikorsky - the universe's most anatomy-savvy mechanical dragonfly.  I love Sikorsky.  Not only is he an excellent doctor, and a firm adherent of the Master Yoda School of dialogue inversion, but he's not even remotely afraid to grab hold of Wolverine and chuck him out the door when the latter is being an arse.

We're saved from the rather uncomfortable sight of Logan attempting to claw open the med-bay door so he can "assist" in some life-saving surgery (and/or murder the surgeon) by a summons from the bridge - Lilandra can't get ahold of Araki to arrest the countdown.  Hardly surprising from our perspective: Samedar has killed the poor bastard.  I've still no clue as to why the Admiral Lord is so keen on obliterating Earth (it can't even have anything to do with killing Lilandra in the process, since Deathbird took her off-world), but it's definitely one step closer to happening.  At least this crisis has brought Cyclops and Corsair closer together, I suppose.  Every intergalactic planet-killing space ray mushroom cloud has a silver lining, I suppose (especially for Galactus, the Skrulls, the Z'Nox, and so on).

Luckily, there's a back-up plan, and Xavier deploys his mighty mutant mind to contact Kitty and Kurt.  For a moment it works, and another cortex download begins, but it all goes horribly wrong when the professor discovers "an anomaly within himself", and lapses into a coma.  And what is this mysterious invader?  Well, it looks an awful lot like a Brood, only even closer to a Geiger xenomorph than usual, which probably isn't a good sign.  Indeed, the Brood are intent on acquiring the full team to act as "breeders", a term which at this point doesn't seem to need any translating, and are willing to forgive Deathbird the casualties and damage her coup has caused them this far in exchange for her promise to provide a mutant smorgasbord.

Back on the Shi'ar flagship, Nightcrawler and Sprite have pieced together enough of Xavier's abortive signal to realise they're in trouble.  Kurt has sprung into action immediately, and with the engineering skills and total dedication that typifies the Teutonic peoples, he's built a portable costume generator.  Useful.  That'll come in damn handy if Herr Wagner finds out he's watching the inevitable destruction of his homeworld with someone else in the same outfit.  Kitty's plan is somewhat more proactive: to generate a pressure suit and bypass their guards by walking along the hull.  Unfortunately, the costume generator can't provide oxygen tanks (which seems strange, you'd think at the very least they'd be able to create something you could store standard atmospheric gases in, even if it wasn't concentrated O2), meaning Kitty will have to hold her breath the whole way.

This, by the way, is one of the most impressive things I've ever seen Shadowcat do.  That might just be my extreme phobia of suffocation talking, though [1].  At any rate, she makes the trip, and arrives outside her erstwhile cell just in time to witness a trio of Shi'ar warriors psyching themselves up to brutally execute everyone inside.  Their efforts fail thanks to Kitty's warning, and now both she and Kurt are loose, armed and dangerous!

It's a bit too late for Chancellor Araki, though, he's already undergone an involuntary chestectomy.  Sprite is horrified to see his still-smoking body, which is a nice touch in a medium which, even at this point, is beginning to sink into the trap of mistaking body counts for drama.  Not unreasonably, they assume Samedar is responsible, which means it's time for a plan B, B in this case standing for "Dress Kitty up as Phoenix and use her to scare the shit out of the Shi'ar."

Looks like Kurt's portable costume generator came up trumps after all.  Who could possibly have seen that coming?

Whilst the duo perform their one act play "Phoenix's Back and She'll be Melting Your Face Now", they spirit away Oracle, a telepathic member of the Imperial Guard who can read their minds and confirm their story.  Once that's done (which takes a while because Kitty has deliberately dressed as the scariest thing imaginable to everyone on board), Oracle summons her fellow guardsmen to explain the situation.  Unfortunately, though, not all of them are as loyal to Lilandra as she is - a lot of the "border" guardsmen report to Samedar directly, which is a nice burst of politics in the middle of a rather black and white story.

Needless to say, the two groups of Imperial Guards start smacking each other around the head, but the distraction has gone on long enough for the Starjammer to arrive in time for Lilandra to demand the armada stand down.  It's perhaps a little anti-climactic, but you have to give Kurt and Kitty credit for raising enough hell for it to happen.  Plus, Earth (and Colossus) might be saved, but Xavier's still in a coma.  So there's always that.

Clues

This story takes place over the course of several hours.

I've decided I've gotten a little bored of constantly trawling through pictures of pretty twenty-two year old women, so in the interests of fairness, we're going to be using Colossus as our time-keeper for a while.  If we assume he's only just turned eighteen (thus minimising the nastiness factor of him cavorting around with a thirteen year old), we can assume he was thirteen himself when the original team formed.

This issue also marks the first time since this project begins that the publication date and the timeline date are within a year of each other.  At this rate, the two should meet around UXM #170.

Date

Thursday 8th April, 1983.

X-Date 

X+5Y+8.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.72 standard years.

(Colossus is 25 years old).

"It is so hard to think..."
Contemporary Events



Standout Line

"Slaying a friend is always... distasteful." - Admiral Lord Samedar.

[1] I blame my childhood asthma, which was so bad I needed to be plugged into a nebuliser every day for years as a child.  That, or it's the time my mother let me play with her engagement ring and I immediately swallowed it, coming a hair's breadth from choking to death.  Apparently, I was only saved when my father held my upside-down over the bath and started punching me in the stomach.  Still, you can't argue with success.

Friday, 16 December 2011

UXM #156: "Pursuit!"


("There's always a bigger fish...")

Comments

When last we left Marvel's merry mutants, Colossus was dead.  In this issue: Colossus is not dead!  It's a miracle.

Instead, he's only super-nearly dead, but Wolverine pronounces him beyond help, thanks to the detailed medical training one presumably receives as an amnesiac multiple murderer.  Whilst the X-Men crowd round their fallen friend, Tigra attempts to placate the recently arrived NYC cops. "You can't arrest us!" she insists "My... associates and I were doing our job, battling a notorious super-villain."  That can't be how it works, surely, even if she is flashing her Avengers membership card (amongst other things, natch).  The head cop isn't having any of it, certainly, pointing out that they've levelled an IBM skyscraper.  Maybe that's the rule, actually - the Avengers can beat up all the ne'er-do-wells they like so long as no-one wealthy accrues any property damage.  Occupy Wall Street take note: the Avengers are tools of the one percent!

In any case, both problems are resolved when the Starjammer arrives overhead, beaming the X-Men up and chucking Colossus into its advanced medical facilities.  Cyclops is panicking somewhat, and making rash promises.  "I won't let him die!" Which, well, yeah.  Not really up to you.  But you'd let it go, wouldn't you?

Not if your Corsair, you wouldn't. "There was fuck all I could do when your mother was stabbed to death", he tells his son, "So I'm well aware of the fact you're full of shit about stopping your friend from keeling over."  

I may be paraphrasing.  Frankly, I'm not sure Cyclops should feel obliged to take advice from a man who refers to his dead wife by four different names within two pages ("I never got over the death of Katherine-Ann, or as I called her, "Kate", and also "Anne"), but there you go.

(Incidentally, we learn this issue that Colossus is eighteen, which is... interesting, given he's been having kissing times with a girl not yet fourteen.  Still, wait until Pete Wisdom arrives; that's when it gets really icky.)

Meanwhile, Kitty and Kurt cool their heels on Lord Admiral Samedar's vessel.  Samedar himself calls them up to show them a video of Colossus getting stabbed, which seems a fairly dickish move, even for someone who hates humans.

But that's because he was evil all along!  Which is a shame, actually - it's always more interesting when the racist ones aren't always villains as well.  Apparently, Samedar has been paid by Deathbird to ensure the X-Men fail to rescue Lilandra - fair enough - and to guarantee the Earth is obliterated, which I don't really see the need for.  Still, we know that Deathbird's a major bad 'un; she only has to show her face outside Lilandra's cell (which is also now Xavier's, which proves that Deathbird has either some lingering threads of compassion, or only one cell) for the Shi'ar Empress to go so crazy she starts screaming "Matricide!"  You know someone's pissed off with someone when they can only start naming the crimes they've committed.  Like if you ran into Dan Brown and could only bellow "Shit writing!"  Though obviously that would be worthwhile in itself.

Whilst Deathbird taunts her prisoners, the Starjammer has crept up behind her ship.  Unfortunately, Deathbird's other ship has crept up behind them.  This new vessel is truly gigantic, and looks much like some kind of transporter accident involving flying fish, sharks both hammerhead and basking, and a TV aerial the size of Luxembourg.  Later on, having witnessed this giant monstrosity, all fins and eyes and row upon row of jagged teeth, Storm will pronounce herself amazed to have learned this is actually a living creature.  This is really not Storm's day where observation is concerned (see Standout Line, below).

The X-Men are in no mood to fool around this time, and the instant a docking tunnel connects to the 'Jammer, they blow the seal and commence punching out every Brood soldier that comes at them, led by a newly revived Colossus, and with the Starjammers on back-up/callous murdering duties.  The panicking Brood turn off the artificial gravity to slow their enemies down, but it doesn't do any good.  It also means that the instant Cyclops and Corsair free Xavier and Lilandra (having sneaked into Deathbird's vessel whilst the guards are distracted by dying in droves), Charley can start bouncing off walls and punching Brood in the face.  Which, credit where credit's due, Baldie, is absolutely awesome.

The team rendezvous outside the 'Jammer, all save Storm, who got careless fighting Deathbird and has been sucked into space (ruh-roh!).  Fortunately, since this is space and thus no rules apply, the team can simply blast their way through the side of a void-born leviathan, transport Ororo to the medbay, and turn on their all-purpose wonder-bed.  Must be nice.

Once Storm has recovered, it's time to go save the Earth.  Just one problem - the Starjammer is completely knackered, and will never get to Earth before the deadline runs out.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuur!

Clues

This story begins a few hours into Araki's 24 hour countdown, and ends around six hours to go. 

The arrival of the Starjammer on page 3 is described as happening "late in the day", but the dogfight between the Sidri and the X-Jet in UXM #154 happened at roughly the same time, and is described by FAA traffic control as happening "the other day".   Combined with Araki's timescale, the only way out of all this is to assume the X-Jet was beamed aboard the Shi'ar flagship the morning following the Sidri attack on the mansion.  I've no idea where they were flying to, but there it is.

Date

Wednesday 7th to Thursday 8th April, 1983.

X-Date 

X+5Y+7 to X+5Y+8.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.70 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old).

"I'm gonna let ya finish, but Maggott is the most
underrated X-Man OF ALL TIME!"
Contemporary Events

An 80 000 year old skeleton is found in Egypt, the oldest human remains yet discovered (depending on how strictly one defines "human", of course).

Standout Line

"Everyone's floating!  What's happening?"  For God's sake, Storm.  This is the second time you've been in space.  People float in space.  It's a minor goddamn miracle of alien technology that up until this point you haven't been floating.  You might as well unplug the freezer and ask "Why is everything reverting to room temperature?"

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

UXM #155: "First Blood"


("It's a bug hunt.")

Comments

Hoo, boy.  There's a chill in the X-Jet even Storm can't sort out, as Cyclops demonstrates once more his almost infinite capacity for petulant sulking.  Not that finding out your friend has kept secret the fact your dead father is actually still breathing isn't a fairly decent justification for getting the hump, of course, and Storm doesn't exactly help matters by putting on the blame on his dead fiancee.  Corsair, for his part, argues he'd always assumed Scott and Alex had died when their parachute caught fire, but Cyclops seems less bothered about the twenty years his father has been gone, and more about the fact he's such a dick now he's returned.

In keeping with last issue's constant interruptions, however, the recriminations have to be put on hold when the entire Blackbird is beamed onto the transporter deck of an orbiting Shi'ar Dreadnought.  Xavier and the X-Men in the Caribbean are likewise dragged upwards moments later.

The Shi'ar have, as Corsair claimed, come to retrieve their kidnapped Empress.  Their plan is pretty simple: use Xavier's psionic rapport with Lilandra to pinpoint her, and then send all the troops they've got to blow up everything between them and her, up to and including Earth (Corsair has been grabbed so he can be executed for treason, which rather damages the meaning of the word, if you ask me).  This doesn't particularly sit well with Xavier, who demands the aliens follow his lead as the Empress' lifemate, which grants him exactly twenty-four hours to find Lilandra himself before the big guns start firing.  Chancellor Araki also demands two hostages to ensure Xavier doesn't try and take on the Shi'ar armada if he runs out of time. 

Which is a pretty major acknowledgement of how much respect he holds the X-Men in, when you think of it - to need a human shield to ensure the cream of the Shi'ar Navy doesn't get its arse kicked by a half dozen "barbarians."  In the event, the professor justifies Araki's nervousness, choosing Nightcrawler and Sprite to remain on the ship - the two X-Men most capable of fucking up an interstellar battlecruiser and getting out alive, especially after Xavier sneakily gives Kitty a psychic crash-course on Shi'ar technology.  Smart thinking, I reckon, even if Sprite's first use for her new found knowledge is to program the clothing replicators on board to play dress-up.


Also in the "unusually bright move" column: the first move the team makes upon returning planetside is to call in the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.  Unfortunately, only new recruit Tigra (best known these days as being one of the last women in the Marvel universe to doggedly stick to the tradition that superheroines should dress like hookers in a heat-wave) is available to answer the call to arms, but them's the breaks sometimes.

Charles manages to get a rough fix on Lilandra, and the team head off to save her, newest kitty kat in tow.  For some reason, though, Corsair and Storm have already left, which no-one noticed, for some reason, but fortunately, for some reason, they've ended up where Lilandra is being held hostage anyway!  How lucky is that?

Well, perhaps not all that lucky, considering their immediately gunned down by an alien sniper.  The Brood have arrived at long last, presumably because Claremont concluded that the N'Garai weren't quite ripping off Alien quite enough.

Actually, the Brood don't just riff off Alien - alien blood, embryo implantation - but share a devotion to their queen that resembles that seen in Aliens, despite Claremont's critters predating that film by four years.  So maybe the whole thing is a wash, especially considering how the Brood themselves seem to have been shamelessly ripped off twenty years later by a certain major UK gaming, er, workshop. 

1979
1980












1982

2004
 This particular band of gribblies has apparently allied itself with a Shi'ar rebel calling herself Deathbird, who's about to execute our injured heroes when the rest of the team show up, and an inter-species dust-up takes place.  One on one, the Brood are no match for the X-Men (especially Wolverine, natch), but Colossus is doused in acid which eats away part of his chest, meaning he has to be left behind with the smart-but-unable-to-fight guy whilst the alien nest is stormed.


Ultimately the Brood are unable to hold the line (that's what you get for infesting an IBM building and hoping it'll double as a fortress), but whilst the X-Men have been bunker-busting, Deathbird has kidnapped Xavier!  Forced into surrender, Deathbird zaps them all and, believing them dead, hops into the spaceship hidden within the building.

Our heroes, however, have managed to survive, but as they clamber out of the rubble left by Deathbird's exit, they discover how their enemy was able to snaffle Professor X in the first place: she's stabbed Colossus through the chest, killing him.  And, if that wasn't bad enough, the cops have shown up, guns pointed at Cyclops and co., and they don't seem all that concerned about having to read mutants their Miranda rights...

Eastenders drum roll!

Clues

This story follows on quickly from the last one, and takes place over several hours.  It's difficult to tell exactly how long this issue lasts, but considering the fact that last issue's Sidri attack took place after dinner, and the X-Men spend hours at the Avengers mansion but the streets are still crowded once they leave, I'm guessing we've passed into a new day at some point.

Date

Tuesday 6th to Wednesday 7th April, 1983.

X-Date 

X+5Y+6 to X+5Y+7.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.69 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old).

With the Skins and such.
Contemporary Events

The space shuttle Columbia returns to Kennedy Space Centre, having landed a week earlier at White Sands, the only shuttle ever to do so.

Standout Line

"I will withold Imperial action for one rotation of your world around its planetary axis..."  - Araki.

God, but I hate crap like this.  If an alien knows the words for "rotation", "world", and "planetary axis", it fucking knows what a "day" is, right?  Hell, it's been five years since my last Japenese lesson, but I could still say "one day" if I was trying to extort something out of battleship Yamato.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

DAZ #2: "Where Demons Fear To Dwell!"


(The second most troll-filled disco I've ever seen.)

Comments

"Far out!" Dazzler tells us, this time talking to her dressing room mirror to "disguise" another round of exposition.  She's both excited and nervous to be the headline act at Numero Uno, having beaten the Enchantress - "one weird mama", or so it says here - at the audition last issue.  She's also worried that her ludicrous face-paint might be a mistake too (and yakking away about things she's already entirely aware of probably isn't helping her apply it), but I'm sure that's just stage-fright talking.  How could the liberal application of blue paint to the face possibly go wrong?


(In fairness, she does have much better hair. By which I mean - hair.)

Probably a fair amount of her panic is down to her audience - tonight will see appearances from the X-Men, most of the Avengers, and the two most pussy-centric members of the Fantastic Four. There's someone else watching, of course: the Enchantress, determined to gain her revenge and bend the upcoming dimensional rift to her own purposes. The sorceress must tread carefully, however, as unleashing too much magic will destablise the "cosmic matrix" holding open the rift.  Why, it's almost as though this is a really stupid time to mount an attack!  If only there'd been any other time to strike.

Still, better late than never, I suppose.  The Enchantress steps out on the stage and works some Asgardian mojo, causing Dazzler to begin to age at a terrifying rate.  Fortunately, Allison is able to stun her opponent by focussing her light-show through the dance hall's giant disco-ball - disco-balls being renowned for how they concentrate light, as we all learned in physics - reversing the spell and giving the dozen or so heroes in the club time to change into costume.

The Enchantress responds by summoning a horde of trolls and jotunn (wouldn't you start with that?) to murder everyone in spandex within a fifty-foot radius, and your typical Marvel throw-down kicks off.  In truth, as cynical as this gathering of Marvel heavy-hitters feels (especially two issues into the series), there's something undeniably exciting about seeing them work together as a team.  It beats the crap out of Secret Invasion, certainly.

Whilst our heroes fight against a seemingly endless mob of special guest stars from Midgard Crimestoppers ("Thou couldst receive a Community Action Trust Reward, indeed!"), Dazzler confronts the Enchantress.  "I want you, mama!".  It's too late, however; the rift is open, and something truly gargantuan is forcing its way through.  This results in what is easily the best moment in the comic (or the one before), as Dazzler sucks away every sound in the entire disco, and turns it into an unbearably bright and utterly silent explosion of light.  If this were film instead of strip, there'd be plenty of slow-motion and white-out going on, and the thought of acts of such power happening in total silence is a really cool one.

The Enchantress slinks off defeated, but Dazzler's victory seems pretty phyrric considering the state of the venue.  Fortunately, however, there was one talent scout who failed to escape before the battle heated up, and his first act following his ludicrously unlikely survival is to offer Dazzler a meeting with a potential agent, Harry Osgood.  Come Monday morning, her extensive fanbase of superheroes give her a lift to her appointment.  Not that she's made an appointment, obviously, because she's an idiot, but hanging out with the Avengers apparently works almost as well. Especially when they smash their way through Osgood's window and demand he listen to her sing (Iron Man even provides the music, which I suppose is an ability that can come in handy during strip-club power-cuts).

So it's a happy ending at last, as Osgood agrees to sign Allison up.  Given her last manager turned out to be a mobster, though, no-one should be breaking out the champagne just yet.

Clues

Much of story takes place on a Friday night, with a Monday morning coda. That places it between UXM #142 and #143.

Date

Friday 5th to Monday 8th of November, 1982.

X-Date 

X+4Y+220 to X+4Y+223.

Contemporary Events

Ahmadou Ahidjo resigns as President of Camerun, citing health reasons.

A group of bishops call for a freeze of nuclear armaments in Catholic Herald Magazine.

Standout Line

"Though I strain with Herculean effort... 'tis hopeless!"  - Enchantress.  I doubt DeFalco was thinking this at the time, but I love the idea that the Enchantress would make references to entirely different pantheons to the one she's a part of, presumably because she thinks their all dicks.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

UXM #154: "Reunion"


("My parents went to space and all I got was this lousy attack by killer alien spiders.")

Comments

It's a bitty but expansive set-up this issue, which seems appropriate, since we're about to dive into another of Claremont's Very Important Epics.  The X-Men have split in two for the moment - Cyclops and Storm are staying in the now seemingly rebuilt mansion, presumably acting as custodians, whilst the rest of the team, along with Illyana, Peter Corbeau and the de-powered Carol Danvers, have moved to sunken Ry'leh Magneto's mysterious island.  Xavier is concerned about the number of recent security breaches, which makes sense, since there's no way to know how many people in the Hellfire Club Shaw shared their location with.  Instead, he's moved them to an island location without an easy escape route, inside a spooky city of unknown function or provenance, at a grid reference the entire world watched the USSR launch a nuclear strike at in order to kill Magneto; which makes no sense at all.

Meanwhile, out in space, Christopher "Corsair" Summers is returning to earth, with a Shi'ar dreadnought in hot pursuit.  Clearly he's come back for more than the opportunity to finally discuss the facts of life with his son ("Fact of life 1: I'm your dad").

There's a nice little scene in this book where Wolverine tries to comfort Carol Danvers.  Not only does it give us another rare (at this point) insight into Logan's character beyond grrrsniktkill, it makes total sense that Wolverine would reach out to someone who's suffering from a near total loss of memory, especially since (ironically) he remembers his friendship with her perfectly well.  Indeed, he might actually have gotten through had Kitty not chosen this moment to come blundering in.  Sooner or later that little brat is going to have to figure out that people knock on doors for reasons other than an inability to simply walk through the adjacent wall.

Back at the mansion Scott and Ororo are finally confronting the elephant in the room - which of them gets to be Boss X - when their socially awkward conversation is fortuitously interrupted by a loud roar outside, and they get to go and confront the wrecked spaceship in the lake instead.

The craft's sole occupant is Corsair.  His ship was shot down by the Shi'ar, and whilst rescuing him, Cyclops finds his USAF dog-tags, along with a locket containing pictures of Scott, Alex, and a rather familiar-looking woman.  Clearly, someone needs to start talking, but this is apparently the day for interruptions in serious conversations, because now there's alien spiders ("Sidrian hunters", or so we're told) with frickin' laser beams coming out of their heads crawling all over the mansion and shooting shit up like there's no space-tomorrow.

Cyclops drags Corsair to the monorail which leads to the blackbird, leaving Storm behind to cover their escape.  This prods the senior Summers into a rant about Scott being cold-blooded, which considering Chris left the rest of the Starjammers to their fates in a Shi'ar ambush a few days ago, rather suggests that being "the best pilot in space" is a position that doesn't require much in the way of long-term memory.

In the end, Storm gets out alive in any case to rendezvous with the plane (now named "Kitty's Dragon", bless).  Unfortunately, the creepy-crawly cosmic coin-loving killers have a) completely destroyed the mansion [1] and b) the ability to combine their bodies to form a gigantic spacecraft.  The chase is on!

Happily for our heroes, the X-Jet has a new feature - a windscreen made of plastiglass mixed with ruby quartz which allows Cyclops to fire straight through it.  For a moment or two that sounded completely ridiculous to me, but in retrospect it makes no less sense than anything else involving Cyclops' power, so fair enough.  Even with the added focussing power provided by this special glass, though, the giant flying death-spider (which now looks a bit like a manta ray as well, just to be thoroughly confusing) is one tough cookie, so as the two vehicles dogfight over NYC, Storm leaves the plane to help out.

There's a nice comparison here between two of the characters fighting the Sidri. Despite being fully aware that even a glancing shot from the Sidrian mothership will easily finish her off, Storm's biggest fear is that the gale she'd need to generate to damage her enemy would be so big as to risk the surrounding inhabitants.  It occurs to her, indeed, that willingly engaging in such violent confrontations in the middle of a population centre is dangerously close to a Magneto-style move, a particularly interesting insight considering how Magneto ended up being beaten last time around.  The difference from our perspective is obvious, Storm halts her assault when a nearby chopper is damaged so that she can save its crew.  Still, it seems entirely reasonable that these would be the sorts of doubts Storm has, and that she'd also be worried that Cyclops never has them.

Corsair, on the other hand, waits until the Sidrians have fallen to the ground inside what just happens to be a petrol refinery, and then immediately blows it up, workmen and all.  Cyclops tries to stop him, earning him Corsair's disgust "You sanctimonious fool!"  So, if you haven't kept up: abandoning your crew to Imperial troops whilst you run away: necessary.  Abandoning your son's teammate whilst you run away: heartless.  Objecting to blowing up dozens of innocent people so as not to risk another fight against alien attackers: sanctimonious.  I wonder if Cyclops might feel a bit less numb about his father's sudden reappearance if the man in question wasn't such a colossal tool.

He does at least finally explain what's going on, though: Lilandra's been kidnapped by terrorists, who appear to have stashed her on Earth.  The Starjammers were framed, but the bigger problem is that half the Shi'ar fleet has begun arriving in near orbit, determined to rescue their empress by whatever means necessary...

Clues

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

We need to account here for the time it's taken the X-Men to relocate from Westchester to the island, and for a postcard from same to have found its way back to New York (one imagines Kitty probably wrote it soon after arriving, in order to feel a connection with Storm.)  It also looks like at least some repair work on Xavier's home has been completed, though since the mansion is thoroughly destroyed in this issue, there's no opportunity to judge how far through the restoration the team had gotten.

We'll deal with all this by assuming this story takes place a fortnight after the X-Men first began clearing up the mess left by Shaw's attack.

During Corsair's flyby of Voyager 2 we learn that the probe is still between Saturn and Uranus, putting this story between 1980 and 1986.

Date

Tuesday 6th of April, 1983.

X-Date 

X+5Y+6.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.67 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 22 years old).

Chemie likes to pretend she's her
whilst making me dance.
Contemporary Events

Diora Baird is born.  She's an actress and model, but also qualifies as a Person of Interest for the geeky, since she appeared in JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot a few years ago.  Her scene was cut from the movie, but this still allows me to post a rare glimpse of the woman fully clothed.

(Actually, that's a nice little scene.  Space racism is hilarious!)

Standout Line

"So often it seems that we must choose -- not between good and bad but the lesser of two evils." - Storm.

[1] I loved the first issue of Wolverine & the X-Men, which was full of great lines, but I was particularly amused by this advice from Xavier to Logan "Keep the number handy for a good debris removal company.  No matter what you do, this place is bound to get blown up with alarming frequency."