(Nazis in Kenya, mutants in space.)
The present day
The X-Men are gathered around Xavier's bedside, having finally come to the conclusion that no-one's going to be switching his lights back on. Scott is taking it particularly hard - losing people after he's finally learned to trust them completely has been something of a recurring theme for him ever since childhood. Frankly, he's a bit unbearable on the subject, but in his defence he both realises and admits it. It's also interesting to learn that Wolverine has worked out a great deal of this for himself. He notes to Kitty that the two are quite alike in how they deal with loss, and it suddenly occurs to me that from this perspective, you could almost see Logan as simply being Scott about another two dozen unbearable losses down the line. Amnesia or no, a century's worth of repeated bereavement has to leave its marks.
Whilst the X-Men ponder what to do next, Xavier is dreaming. And, happily for us, it's a very important dream, historically speaking. We are therefore proud to present: When Xavier Met Magnus or Retcon 101.
Xavier has come to see his old friend Dr Shomron in Haifa. Shomron is a psychiatrist, and right now he's in Israel to help treat Holocaust victims.
This brings us back to an old problem - using the Holocaust as a story point in a superhero comic. A great deal has been written on this subject (including by me, from time to time), so I won't go back over it, except to say that for anyone who believes that the subject is an awkward fit in the world of capes and KAZAMs, including it alongside cackling supervillain Nazis wielding "Satan gloves" really doesn't help.
Alas, cackling supervillain Nazis is exactly what we get. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Xavier has been summoned in the hopes he can get through to one of Shomron's patients, Gabrielle Haller, a concentration camp survivor who was rendered completely catatonic by the experience (presumably the fact that Xavier himself is in similar straits right now is why we're getting this story in this issue; I can't see any particular reason otherwise). After a few moments of soul-searching, in which Charles considers whether he (and by extension psychiatrists in general) automatically have the right to try and unpick an unwilling - or at least not clearly willing - patient's mental defences, however unhealthy they seem to be (I've read some interesting articles on this - how exactly is "sick" defined in the psychological arena, and who gets to decide when someone needs to be "healed"?), Xavier goes for a stroll around Gabrielle's synapses.
It transpires the young woman has reforged her memories into the abstract - giant swastika demons drag her away, torture her, and finally turn her to gold. This spares Claremont and Cockrum from having to directly represent the Holocaust (again, though, if there are very good reasons why you don't want to tackle the Holocaust directly, it's at least arguable that you need to think twice about using it at all), and also provides us with a mystery. Why does Gabrielle think the Nazis turned her to gold?
Whatever the answer, Xavier's ministrations awakens her, and for a few weeks, she, Xavier, and a volunteer at the hospital (another Holocaust survivor, tattooed in Auschwitz) become good friends. Indeed, Gabrielle and Xavier fall for each other, and strike up a romance. I shall note without comment that Xavier spent more time debating whether he had the right to wake Gabrielle from her fugue than he does wrestling with whether or not it would be OK to shag her.
That's when the Nazis attack, and kidnap Gabrielle. During the attack, Magnus reveals his astonishing mutant powers by massacring a few Nazis, starting off the first of his endless arguments with Charles over under what circumstances perforating one's enemies with metal shards constitutes a proportional response. Fortunately, Magnus missed one, and Xavier gets Gabrielle's location from his mind. In front of everyone. Whilst specifically telling the man what he's doing. Later on, he will be surprised Magnus knows he's a mind-reader, which in this case is functionally equivalent to being surprised that man with a Central European accent can speak German.
Two days later, upon arrival at the HYDRA Bruderschaft's camp in Kenya, our intrepid duo learn Gabrielle's mind contained the location of a massive stockpile of Nazi gold, hidden in a cave system beneath a mountain. The two wait for a chance to free her (interestingly, it's Magnus that counsels caution; one wonders how things would have played out had Gabrielle been a mutant) whilst her captor, Baron Struker ("One of the most wanted Nazi war criminals!") digs out the gold to rapturous seig heiling.
The two of them manage to free Gabrielle, but she retreats back into her catatonic state, and HYDRA spot them trying to spirit her away. A fight breaks out, giving Magnus another opportunity to berate Charles for his wishy-washy empathy, and the chance at long last to beat the tar out of an honest-to-God Nazi. In the process, Magnus gets to explain his philosophy - the Third Reich was just the ultimate expression of the most common side of human nature, and his only interest now is to ensure the next lunatic with a thing for black uniforms and ethnic cleansing can't get their hands on the mutant population. Having used his power to collapse the cave on top of Struker, save Charles and Gabrielle, and steal a quite extraordinary amount of gold, Magnus flies off to begin his campaign to keep mutants safe.
Even at this early stage, it's clear to Charles that this means bad news down the road. In the plus column, however, Gabrielle has broken out of her catatonia again -
- and now, so has Xavier, following Lilandra's voice back to consciousness much as Gabrielle did with his two decades ago. Clearly, this is good news all around, but it's tinged with meloncholy - Lilandra has spent far too long on Earth nursing her beloved; she must return to her empire almost immediately. First, though, she organises a huge feast on the royal yacht (now orbiting Earth). Charles is still too shaky to attend, but the X-Men bravely go on without him, determined not to let his weakness stop them from dressing up like idiots and eating all the space-caviar.
Such bravery! And yet all for naught. Lilandra is only a short way into her toast when she too collapses into a coma (what is it with Xavier's taste in women?). Our heroes have no time to react before Deathbird reveals herself, taking credit for her sister's catatonia, and detonates an explosive device hidden beneath the table, taking the whole team out. Deathbird then presents their prostrate forms to her Brood allies, who declare themselves well pleased. These are exactly the sort of gift you'd give to the discerning Brood Queen, a stylish range of super-powered mammals in which to store her eggs...
This was our last chance to make sense out of UXM Annual #6's odd continuity, and it looks like Claremont's blown it. We're about to head off on another of his interstellar epics, and the state of play upon our hero's return is entirely incompatible with their situation during their adventure in Cornwall.
We'll have to stick with the rather leaky patch slapped together last time around, and that the team came back to the island just after rescuing Storm. As far as the timing of events in this issue, it's possible to believe it all takes place in around a day. That doesn't give Lilandra's servants too long to put together the opulent banquet, but I presume Shi'ar cookery techniques are light-years ahead of our own.
Even so, since the issue begins at sunset, the story must straddle two days.
Tuesday 15th to Wednesday 16th of May, 1983.
1 Marvel year = 3.71 standard years.
(Colossus is 25 years old).
|"You look exquisite, Katya."|
Neville Wran, then premier of New South Wales, steps down amidst allegations of attempting to influence magistrates.
"Hate is more popular than love." - Magneto