Saturday, 28 January 2012

UXM #163: "Rescue Mission!"

("To save thousands of lives, turn to 363.  To whine like a dick and acheive nothing, turn to 25.")


Ooh, this is interesting. Apparently we've started off at Brood University, Broodtown!!  Presumably, Broo might end up here one day, if he keeps up with his schoolwork and agrees to start eating people.

Right now, Scholar ScienceBrood is giving a lecture to some visiting academics about the difficulties posed by Carol Danvers weird-ass DNA.  Shit's so messed up they don't want to risk implanting her, which means there's nothing to be done but constantly torture for shits and giggles, and see what interesting forms they can morph her into.  All in the name of science, obviously.  You cannot stand in the way of progress, gentlemen!

Unless you're Wolverine, of course, who breaks into the lecture theatre and summarily rips apart everything he can find with more than two legs.  Now that's how exposition should be handled!  Logan frees Carol from the Brood machines by slashing up the surrounding hardware until she falls naked from the central chamber.  Which is pretty lucky, but Wolverine admits as much - there wasn't really any alternative.  Once he's found the spaced-out but otherwise just-about-OK Carol a convenient yet oddly revealing robe for her to put on, the two of them head off to find the rest of the team.

Back on Earth, Xavier's mansion is in the early stages of reconstruction, but those gathered there - Havok, Polaris, Corsair and Moira, have other concerns.  Havok is furious over his brother's kidnapping, whilst Moira is mainly worried that the loss of the X-Men and Lilandra at the same time might destroy Xavier completely.  Corsair takes her aside and announces he's heading back into space (secretly, so he can leave Alex safe behind) to find his eldest son, or avenge him.

And what of Cyclops himself?  He's stuck in the same endless nightmare as the other X-Men, past experiences mixed in sloppily with visions of the Brood.  Eventually though he's rescued by Xavier, or by an image of Xavier, presumably speaking for his subconscious.  Whoever or whatever is talking, the message is simple: "You've been trained to resist psionic attacks".

The reminder gives him the strength he needs to claw his way back to consciousness.  He finds himself in a strange room, in an alien landscape, and in torn and tattered clothing.  Storm is with him, similarly bedraggled and still unconscious.  Whatever dreams afflict her, they're causing her to call down the lightning playing across the sky outside.  Risking whatever mental damage that might result, Scott shakes Ororo awake, and they flee from the building.  Just outside, they meet up with Logan, who's been following their scent.  A few minutes later, and they've found the rest of the X-Men, though Lilandra is still missing.

Our heroes split into two teams. Storm, Nightcrawler and Sprite head upwards through the gigantic rib-bones surrounding the city, in the hopes of liberating Lilandra's yacht, tethered there in the upper atmosphere.  Cyclops, Colossus, Carol and the Canuck, meanwhile, head off on a rescue mission to liberate Lilandra herself.  That plan lasts just as long as it takes for Logan to find a fork in the tunnel ahead.  Left leads to Lilandra, right to the Brood Queen.  Gods, but I hate this kind of "Choose Your Own Adventure" crap in fiction.  If Logan just happened to have picked up the scent at some point, that would be fine; it's the two identical openings that might as well have doors with numbers painted on that annoys me.

Anyway, this sudden dilemma causes an argument.  Logan wants to kill the Queen immediately, whilst Cyclops is clinging to the team's standard "We doth not kill" philosophy.  I'd say that at a minimum I'm 90% with Wolverine here, and a lot of the wavering is entirely because it might have made more sense for him to tell Cyclops exactly what was going on, rather than just get all annoyed and shouty.

Still, we know that Cyclops at least already suspects what's inside himself and Ororo, which means he already has a fairly good handle on what's going on here (though he claims ignorance a few panels later).  This isn't a bunch of individual villains, or people who've killed because they've gone mad, or potentially reformable criminals who Cyclops doesn't want to kill over philosophical or political differences, no matter how extreme.  This is a race whose entire existence is based on kidnapping and torturing other sentient species, before inflicting agonising death.  Every Brood which surrounds them in this corpse-nestled city required some other thinking organism to be eaten out from the inside.  Letting the Brood live is like giving cancer a pass because it's learned to talk.  Secret motivations notwithstanding, Cyclops is pretty much playing the Burke role here, which isn't a good look for anyone.

(Well, perhaps you could argue he's taking Guinan's position in "I, Borg", which puts him in a better light.  The difference there, of course, is that Guinan knows that it is physically possible to rescue someone from the Collective.  Had he decided that the difficulties of doing so on anything like the scale necessary to negate the Borg threat, and wiped them out anyway, I'm far from sure I'd have objected.  Since there's no reason to believe this is true with the Brood - who themselves believe the process is irreversible - we're clearly not in that situation).

The closest I can get to Scott's position here is the fact that Wolverine has no reason to believe killing the Queen will do any good.  It might just delay the inevitable.  Hell, it might cause the Brood to attack Earth, which isn't exactly the best scenario I've heard lately.  Wolverine is entirely right when he points out that this is a war - abducting Lilandra and slaying her council was unquestionably casus belli against the Shi'ar, no matter what Deathbird might argue if she takes the throne - and even if the Shi'ar and Earth aren't allied to the point where we could claim casus foederis (and I'm pretty sure we couldn't), the X-Men have been abducted, tortured and in effect slated to be executed by a foreign power that has already murdered citizens of Earth on its own soil. 

Put it all together, and Cyclops' stand doesn't read as principled, so much as cowardly.  Well, maybe prudent is a better word, but disguising caution as moral superiority doesn't win one too many points either.

In any case, the X-Men have only just begun the argument when a Brood patrol finds them, and a fight breaks out.  Carol slips through the enemy and frees Lilandra, whilst Wolverine swipes his way to an encounter with the queen herself.  By now reinforcements are pouring in from all directions, though, meaning a withdrawal might well be impossible even if anyone can convince Wolverine to try it.

Miles above, Storm has carried Sprite and Nightcrawler to the limit of her range. Nightcrawler teleports Sprite the few remaining miles to the Z'reee Shar (an exceptionally difficult jaunt, which they almost don't survive), whilst Storm distracts an incoming Brood patrol vessel.  Since Kurt can't teleport inside the ship without knowing where he's going, and because Kitty isn't yet able to phase anything beyond her body and whatever she's wearing (don't get any ideas, 'Crawler - stick to incest), the plan is for her to go in alone and open an airlock to let Nightcrawler through.  Since they're still inside the planetary atmosphere, Nightcrawler has a few minutes in which he won't quite freeze and won't quite asphyxiate, but the timing is damned tight, and it doesn't help that Kitty stumbles across a Brood guard just seconds after she enters the ship.

Sprite manages to lure the Brood into an airlock with her, but finds herself unable to flush it into space.  This makes a lot more sense than Cyclops' earlier anti-killing stand, because Kitty's not trying to invoke any kind of grand principle, she just doesn't want to end up a callous murderer like Wolverine.  In other words, if she's being selfish (and the fact that her dithering might well kill Kurt would rather support that hypothesis), she's at least prepared to admit it.

Fortunately for her, the alien manages to space itself, which really pissed me off as a massive cop-out at first, but on reflection is maybe just about bearable considering the Brood presumably knew little to nothing about Shi'ar controls systems.  How Kitty avoided the same fate is another question; I guess we're supposed to assume she can phase herself through the decompression, much as she can gravity. Nightcrawler has just about survived outside, and she drags him in.

Down on "Sleazeworld", Wolverine has finally gotten within killing distance of the Queen.  But wouldn't you know it?  Before he can deliver the final thrust, the Z'Reee Shar beams everyone up, and the X-Men head from the system as fast as possible.

That might not be fast enough, though.  They're still too close to the local star to enter warp space, and the whole of the Brood armada is liable to be converging on their position.  Indeed, something has the Shi'ar yacht in its sights right now, and is preparing to fire...


Once again, we're at the mercy of an alien planet's rotational speed, but from Wolverines comment about it taking almost a full day and night to get back to the city, and the several hours that the story itself seems to unwind over, it doesn't seem unreasonable to place this adventure as taking place on the Earth day following the last one.

Watching the mansion get rebuilt also tells us two things: this issue must take place before the New Mutants' introduction in MGN #4, and UXM Annual #6 now makes even less sense than it did at the time.


Monday 21st of May, 1983.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.74 standard years.

(Colossus is 25 years old.)

"Cyclops, I am confused."
Contemporary Events
Kenneth Clarke dies, though not the one we might have hoped for, were we less charitable souls.
Standout Line

"Dzilos, provide some refreshments for our guests".

The Brood scholars might be a touch on the vicous and torture-happy side, but you can't deny that they make sure seminars come accompanied with tea and biscuits.  We used to have cake, actually, but then we never got to turn hot naked ladies into various different monsters.  Had to make up for that somehow.

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