Tuesday, 28 February 2012

XHY #11: "Destroy All Mutants!"

(The iron giant douche.)


We kick off this issue with rosy memories of a halcyon age.  Specifically, the final stages of Larry Trask's attempts to polish off the nascent mutant population.  This takes three pages, which seems unnecessary (though certainly not atypical), but we eventually get to the point where five partially smashed Sentinels manage to combine their less battered sections into a single workable whole.

Fast forward four weeks and thirty years, and this motley collection of technically indistinguishable machines has arrived to make life difficult for Xavier and Beast.  Fortunately, young Ashley's mutant power has now become clear - she can somehow subconsciously re-program machines to follow her instructions.  Handy, if somewhat prosaic.  I'm getting the distinct feeling that one could resolve any given cliff-hanger in this book by simply applying the Marvel Universe's equivalent of Occam's Razor.

Ashley's mother chooses this moment to arrive, and is rather upset to see that her daughter is playing with strange men.  And a robot.  That has smashed up their house.  Xavier explains that Ashley is a mutant, which probably doesn't help, but you can't blame him for that.  Ashley's influence over "Big Bot" is enough to get him to explain where he came from (which we already knew, save that he landed in the Martin's backyard to destroy Ashley, only to find himself with more repair work to do first), but with that tale told, he reverts to his original programming - destroy all mutants, and wreck as much real estate as possible in the process.

Ashley finds herself unable to re-establish complete control and force the Sentinel to stand down, but she has sufficient power (and, it must be said, imagination, this is easily the best moment in the issue) to have the residual parts of the other four Sentinels declare war on each other, and rip themselves to pieces.  In terms of immediate survival, Xavier and Beast's chances just went up a notch or two, but something seems to have clicked inside Ashley's cerebellum.  Glowing eyes and sudden mood changes are rarely a good sign in children.  Just ask John Wyndham.

On the other side of the world, we learn that the crucified form found by Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Candy Southern wasn't the Angel, merely an angel, specifically Warren's mutant saviour from the Savage Land city.  She's still alive, and the X-Men try to fight their way back to the jet and get her some medical attention. They don't get far - the leader of the low-grade mutants ("freaks", they say they're happy to call themselves) arrives, walks unimpeded directly through Cyclops beam, and introduces himself as Krueger.  He claims to know all about the X-Men, though his briefings can't have been too thorough; he immediately assumes Candy is Marvel Girl due to her costume, despite her being brunette, and despite their being another woman in the team who does have red hair, and an almost identically shaped face-mask.

Still, maybe the guy doesn't really feel the need to pay that much attention.  He certainly has plenty of power - the instant he grows tired of his captives he knocks them all unconscious with a neat special effect, and goes off to talk to one of his clients.  Krueger's decided he's going to sell the X-Men to Blob, Unus and Mastermind.

Back in the Savage Land, Amphibious has found the Nazi outpost where Karl and Bobby have made camp, and decides would make a more fitting place for Magneto to recuperate than a dingy cave.  The next thing we know, the base is under attack.  Iceman gets clear (though he still can't remember that he has rather more options at his disposal than a sneaky retreat), and does Karl, but the latter is wounded in the process, and can't help but reach out for the nearest life-source in order to juice himself back up.  Moments later, Bobby is unconscious, and Sauron is reborn.


The narration describes the events of UXM #57 to #59 as happening "four weeks earlier."  Astonishingly, our timeline has the time at precisely thirty days, which is either an amazing coincidence, or evidence that Bryne is no less anal than I am.

Or at least it would do, if the arrival of the Sentinel apparently happened a week earlier.  I think the easiest way to extricate ourselves from this is just to assume the scene in which that happened, at the very end of XHY #9, wasn't supposed to follow on directly from the X-Men's second victory over the Z'Nox.  Given that the various separate strands of the book's narrative already don't entirely match up, that doesn't seem unreasonable.

Speaking of which, the "not quite meanwhile" discovery of Karl's shack by Amphibious, just after having arrived with a soggy Magneto, makes the Savage Land timeline even more confusing than it already was.  I think I'm going to wait until everyone is back in the same place before I worry too much about exactly what was being done when and where.


Wednesday 9th July, 1980.



Contemporary Events

Two Tube trains collide in Holborn Station.

Standout Line

"He thinks Candy is me!  Of course!  There's no way he'd know she's just wearing one of my costumes..."


Friday, 24 February 2012

DAZ #13: "Trial... And Terror!"

(Courtroom melodrama.)


This is interesting.  Even more so than last issue, this book has gone in completely the opposite direction to the bog-standard superhero title I was afraid Galactus' arrival heralded.  The main story here revolves around the aftershocks of the Project: PEGASUS debacle, but had Klaw gotten himself killed in a more prosaic fashion, there's very little here to differentiate Dazzler's travails from those of any other woman trapped inside an unabashed melodrama.  She has another desperately frosty encounter with her estranged father (who in all fairness can probably be forgiven for not being too happy when he comes home and finds her boosting his dead wife's jewellery), she finds her agent still has nothing for her (a quick gig as a singing telegram prevents her from total destitution), and Doctor Crotchthrob breaks up with her in a crowded restaurant. 

(Which, by the way, is an act of total and utter gittitude.  Don't invite your girlfriend to a swanky joint, knowing she'll spend hours getting ready, just so you can tear her heart out before she can even start her entree.  Once you've made that fateful decision, it can be hard to work out how best to deliver the news without doing too much damage,  but if find it happening whilst your partner is a black satin evening dress, you have Fucked Up.)

Dazzler is almost home from her humiliating heave-ho when she runs into two men claiming to be federal marshals.  They're under instructions to arrest her for Klaw's murder.  It seems odd that PEGASUS would want to press this, actually, given they must presumably want to remain under the radar as much as possible, especially given they held Alison, a US citizen, hostage for a week or so.  Indeed, a paranoid mind might assume the feds are actually there to make sure she can't talk. Maybe that's why Dazzler blasts them, and makes a run for it.

Dazzler doesn't seem to be any better at keeping her head down than PEGASUS are, even though she goes to the effort of stealing a wino's hat to act as a disguise (the evening wear doesn't really help in this regard).  She hides for a while in an all night cinema, but decides to turn herself in the next morning.  Given her earlier attempt to escape, she's thrown into a Ryker's Island cell for the night (her pro bono lawyer tells her there's pressure from high up the food chain to get her trial underway the following day, presuambly PEGASUS is pulling some strings).

This is where we reach the only part of the comic which really reads like a superhero story, and not coincidentally, it's also the least interesting.  Don't get me wrong, I don't wish every issue was like this, but it's a shame Fingeroth shied away from running with the "slice of life" angle for the whole issue.  Dazzler, whilst wearing a cut-off top so skimpy you can only assume a porn studio across the bay is having to film "The Shawshank Erection" [1] with full jumpsuits due to a hilarious mix-up at the dry cleaners, is dragged from her bunk by the local supervillainesses.  They want a look at the woman who they've heard shut up Klaw permanently, and having looked at her, then want to beat her up.

Worse luck for them, they've forgotten a cardinal rule of the super-powered community: if someone who looks entirely harmless has fatally messed up a known bad-ass, then assume there's more to them than there appears.  All it takes is one sound-attack from Screaming Mimi (and holy God, I can see why she switched to being Songbird), and Dazzler has enough juice to level her assailants, and get herself back to bed.

Day dawns soon enough, and Alison's trial begins.  The jury have been sworn to secrecy given PEGASUS' top secret nature, which I guess is something, though I still don't see what their endgame is.  Are they hoping to be able to swing custody of Dazzler somehow?

Not they really have much of a case.  For a start, they're arguing that Dazzler signed away her right to leave the facility, which should have immediately had them laughed out of court ("I can't have kidnapped her!  She signed this form in triplicate!".  Their other argument isn't much better - she should have sufficient control over her powers to have not had to kill Klaw - but I can see why the prosecution would use it and hope the jury were sufficiently anti-mutant to convict on that alone.  Actually, that could be turned into a much more interesting story than this one, and I'm not sure it's ever really been done.  Magneto's trial doesn't really count, given he was a self-confessed terrorist, and these days Cyclops' X-Men tend to fight tooth and nail to stop mutants form ever having to see the inside of a courtroom in the first place.

In the end, Dazzler wins out, due to Quasar breaking ranks to testify on her behalf, and because her lawyer pulls out a bit of last-minute A Time To Kill style soliloquising.  Forcing Meeker to admit on the stand that he was following Alison around for weeks probably helped as well.  A happy ending all around, then, though it doesn't seem to have done much for our heroine's hatred of lawyers.


There's no real reference to how long ago last issue took place, which is unusual for this title.  Indeed, the timings are a little hard to figure out here.  On the one hand, Alison's grandmother tells her that Carter dislikes having his daughter in the house even more following her disappearance, which suggests that at least some time has passed.  On the other hand, the implication during Dazzler's conversation with Harry Osgood is that this is their first meeting since she saved him from Techmaster, just a few days after her return.

We'll try and balance everything out by assuming a fortnight has passed, putting DAZ #13 between UXM #144 and #145 (which were actually published one year earlier).


Tuesday 8th to Friday 9th of February, 1983.


 X+4Y+304 to X+4Y+305.

Contemporary Events

Standout Line

"Ladies and gentlemen, consider this: could you or I describe sight to someone blind from birth?  I doubt it.  Neither could we even begin to understand what it is like to possess power like that of Alison Blaire.  It is beyond your, my, or anyone's comprehension -- as is the magnitude of the threat she faced in the person of Klaw, the aptly named murderous master of sound.  I ask you ... do you have the right to judge this woman?  Are you -- could anyone be -- a 'jury of her peers'?" - Kenneth Barnett, closing statement.

(Let's all try to not notice the fact that you could wield that argument in defence of pretty much any mutant at any time.)

[1] Turns out this is a real film, which I guess I should have assumed, due to some kind of weird corollary to Rule 34.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

XHY #10: "Home Is Where The Hurt Is..."

(Party-splitting headache.)


Gah.  This is getting complicated; clearly Bryne is not a man to shy away from juggling multiple parties.  By the middle of this issue, the eight main characters are in five separate locations.  I'm having flashbacks to Cthulhu sessions just thinking about it.  Three groups was hard enough - thank God Jamie was accommodating enough to get himself torn to pieces.

Before we get to the full split, though, there's a few things to cover first.  We rewind the clock a little way (a fortnight, by my reckoning) to watch the mutate Amphibious save an unconscious Magneto from drowning in the Antarctic Ocean, having presumably fallen in after jumping from the collapsing escape vessel built by his bat-winged former allies.

Leap-frogging (sorry) over to the other side of the Z'Nox caper, we find ourselves on Muir Isle, where Xavier and Moira are checking Jean out after her freak-out in space.  This actually makes me more well-disposed to the whole thing, actually.  It still seems pointless in the context of the story itself, and the whole "dream as cliffhanger" aspect still guarantees Bryne a spot in Writer's Hell.  Nevertheless, using it as a springboard to establish Moira's relationship with Charles a little earlier than was originally the case results in a nice cameo that, unlike the shoe-horning in of Storm back in issue #5, actually makes total sense.  Indeed, it allows us to get near probably the most worthwhile thread in this whole project: the idea that no-one can tell if something is wrong with Xavier since his return from the "dead", or if he's just keeping more things back from the X-Men for what he thinks are good reasons.

Jean calls him on all this, and Charles waves it away as a necessary precaution given no-one but he and Jean could resist a psychic probe, but she isn't convinced, and we're not supposed to be either (Hank worries about this same point later in the issue).  This "what's Xavier hiding" story has been bubbling since the first issue, so I'm hoping - somewhat naively, perhaps - that there's something good coming down the road.  Beast and Cyclops meet the plane as the two telepaths return to the mansion.  Cerebro's picked up a new mutant, and it's time to go hunting.

Cut to last issue's little girl, Ashley, who's looking pretty good considering her run in with a Sentinel.  Presumably she's the new mutant, and she's playing in the barn a lot these days because she's stuck the robot in there.  Not sure why she hasn't been fried already, but who can you trust more to give satisfying explanations than John Bryne. [1]

Back at the mansion, Cerebro's best guess puts the new mutant close to where Hank's parents live, so Beast and Charles drive out there to do some digging and surprise the McCoys.  It's at this point that we reach five different parties, which we'll deal with in no particular order:
  1. Beast and Professor X themselves pay a flying visit to Hank's mother and father, and then head on to their best guess for the location of their target (Cerebro can't be precise because of an "overlapping signal": the Sentinel?  That wouldn't make sense, would it?).  It's definitely Ashley's house and, indeed, there's something huge, red and purple lurking in the barn, that quickly gets the drop on Beast.  Outside, Charles meets Ashley, and confirms her mutant status, but that's all that can be done before the Sentinel smashes through the barn after the badly beaten McCoy.  The two adults are overwhelmed almost immediately, but the Sentinel (one of five, it claims) seems oddly willing to listen to Ashley, despite knowing she's a mutant herself.  Was she bait, then?  Or is something more interesting going on?
  2. Jean and Scott are left holding the fort, using Cerebro to try and locate Warren.   They think they've finally found him, apparently surrounded by other, weaker contacts, just in time for Candy Southern to re-appear.  She's still looking for Angel to pass on some news she apparently needs to deliver personally, so she invites herself along for the rescue mission.  She puts on one of Marvel Girls old costumes (it suits Candy better) so as to ensure no-one can recognise her and trace her back to their secret identities.  Of course, as soon as they board the freighter we know Angel is on (having used "stealth mode" to park their jet in the sea right next to it - I call bullshit on that one), they both start referring to her as Candy, which probably doesn't do the plan all that much good.  Upon the freighter, the trio are attacked by a mob of what may be mutants, or what may just be deformed humans, but fight their way to where they think Angel is being held, only to discover...
  3. Angel has apparently been crucified. Dun dun DUUUUUUR!
  4. Alex and Lorna are still flying over the Savage Land with Ka-Zar riding shotgun, and they've finally picked up Bobby's signal, though they're still not quite sure why he's here at all, or where exactly the signal is coming from.
  5. Actually, Iceman is still amnesiac, and still in the company of Karl Lykos in his Nazi boudoir.  This wouldn't be XHY if we didn't have at least one overlong flashback sequence, and this time around it's Karl's, but at least this one goes a little beyond what we already knew to explain how Sauron ended up here, which is nice (see footnote).
Phew.  That about does it.  When does our favourite super-team get to be, you know, a team again?


Given the length of time it presumably took to return from space, fly to Muir Island, and run through Moira's battery of tests, we'll assume this story starts two days after the last one ended.  The issue itself begins some time in the very early morning (from the American perspective) and continues until the mid afternoon.


Wednesday 9th July, 1980.



Contemporary Events

Disney release The Fox and the Hound.

We all need a little cuteness every now and then.
Standout Line

"Well, Professor?  Are there [more secrets]?"
"I cannot answer that without knowing what you already know, Jean.  And I cannot learn what you already know without possibly revealing things you have no immediate need to know."

[1] I'm being slightly unfair here.  In fact, one of the things I appreciate about this book is Bryne seems very keen to make sure everything makes sense, in as much as the Marvel universe ever can.  His explanations might be unimaginative and long-winded, but it's still an effort that's appreciated, especially coming so close after the era of ridiculously drawn-out and increasingly contradictory mysterious sub plots. 

Take Amphibious' appearance at the start of this issue: a quick explanation of why Magneto isn't dead, which is definitely preferable to his constant hand-wavey escapes throughout the other X-books (though I acknowledge that such on-screen reprieves would rather spoil suprise returns, something which this title uniquely doesn't have to worry about).

Monday, 20 February 2012

Gary's Ghost

Just passing along this post from George R R Martin regarding the plight of Gary Friedrich, who wrote four issues of X-Men back in the '60s.  As I recall, I wasn't tremendously impressed, but of course it's very easy to sneer at stories that are over forty years old, especially in what was at the time a comparatively new medium, at least as far as the general public was concerned (if you haven't already, you should really read Scott McCloud's brilliant Understanding Comics for a full history of the comic form, though that's a post for another time).

In any case, my opinion on my small experience with Friedrich's writing notwithstanding, it's certainly not difficult to see something wrong in a studio making millions of dollars off a character created by someone who won't see a cent of the profits.  I think Martin's suggestion of sending Friedrich the cost of a ticket to the film is a really nice idea, so, as I say, I'm passing it along.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

DAZ #12: "Endless Hate"

(A dish best served with lasers.)


After Alison's ridiculous-yet-interesting adventure with Project Pegasus, and her ridiculous-yet-tiresome encounter with Galactus, it's apparently time for our heroine to get back to her life.  Hurrah!  Job one is to arrange a dinner date with Dr Tightpants.  Frankly, she seems entirely too enamoured of the man, telling him she loves him.  It's only been a few weeks since you met, kiddo!    Maybe it's a comic-time thing (in terms of publication dates, it's been more than half a year), or maybe Fingeroth has no respect for a woman's self-control. 

Or, I guess, "true love" is actually real, or some shit, and I'm a bitter coal-hearted Grinch.  Answers on a postcard.

Job two is trying to patch things up with Harry Osgood.  Unsurprisingly, this proves difficult, partially because Alison can't tell the truth about where she's been (or so she thinks, though he's already aware that she's both a mutant and the sort of person to stick her nose in supervillain-wise), but mainly because he's still on edge following Techmaster's attempt on his life.  He and his family are now escorted by security guards everywhere they go, which is clearly not too much fun.  That said, it's obviously not an unwise decision, since Techmaster is clearly planning another attack, having built a voice-changer to lure Harry to a dinner date... with DEATH!

Harry's mood is black enough to palm Alison off on Sid, a promoter of dubious repute. Soon enough, Dazzler finds herself making ends meet by singing at a grand opening for Generic Fast Food Chain #1 (whose mascot is "the burglar clown"; good luck figuring out that riddle!).   Still, a gig is a gig, and maybe now she'll have some money for food, or possibly to fix her broken fridge, which is so messed up things stored in it apparently go bad overnight.  Those winter New York nights are just too damn hot, I guess.

When Alison shows up for dinner that evening we learn Dr Smoulder-Eyes has an ulterior motive for the occasion - they're double-dating with Dr Sloan and his wife, and Dr Firm-Biceps has his eye on a promotion.  Unfortunately, the date goes awry.  This is of course entirely predictable - any readers who are aware of a "you need to impress my boss" scene in any fiction anywhere that goes right all the way through are encouraged to mention them in comments - but there's at least an amusing level of (accidental?) parody here.  Not only are the Sloans total dicks (was there really anyone in the '80s who still held a grudge about what Elvis Presley did to music?), but Alison is idiotic enough to invite two tight-arsed opera fans to a Plasmatics gig.  All things considered, Alison bringing things to a close by spilling a vase of flowers on Dr Sloan's lap is probably one of the best conclusions possible.

Dr Widejaw doesn't really see things that way, though, and he has himself a bit of a sulk when they get back to Dazzler's apartment.  Fortunately for him, Alison is classy enough to apologise for being off her game, as oppose to pointing out turning their first date in weeks into an attempt to climb the greasy pole is a bullshit move of epic proportions.  Eventually he works that out for himself, and the pair make up with some implied sexy-time, but when he leaves, Dr Stronghands is concerned.  How can he stay with a beautiful, passionate and understanding woman who's not good at impressing dickheads?

The next morning, Alison gets a call from Sid.  He has more work available, and Dazzler is still sufficiently desperate to say "yes".  There's just time for a few shots of Alison, clad in manners known by man as "scanty", and then the door, she is out of it.

Alas, that voice she heard at the end of the telephone was a trick!  'Tis really Techmaster who has summoned her.  Let's see if Dazzler can pick up on the subtle clues that something is askew.  A new rendezvous in a huge but unnamed building in Long Island?  No.  Fine with that.  An escort from the "company chauffeur", arranged by a man who's business is providing back-up singers for McSomebody's openings?  Nope, that's cool.  The revelation that she's been taken inside a gigantic, fully automated factory, where there are no witnesses and no conceivable connection to Sid's agency (apparently, talent scouts are known for branching out into hi-tech laser to create transducers)?  Not a problem.

Sid showing up and actually being Techmaster?  Ah.  That seems to have induced a penny-drop.

Interestingly, Techmaster isn't after either help with killing Harry, or revenge for her ruining his last attempt on the man's life.  Instead, he wants the secret of Dazzler's stage show, so he can either use it sell it on.  That's a nice little fake-out, actually, though since Techmaster promises he'll do Alison some major harm if she doesn't spill the beans, I guess it doesn't really matter one way or the other.  For reasons I don't entirely understand, Techie locks Dazzler inside a booth with a four-hour lock on the door so she can think over his final offer (loads of money and not being hideously injured), whilst he goes off to ruin Harry's lunch.

And ruined it most definitely is.  Harry's enforcer doesn't stay around long after Techmaster crushes his magnum and threatens to do the same thing to his testicles (I may be extemporising slightly here), and Harry himself goes along meekly once he's informed his house is wired with explosives, and so his only real choice is whether or not his family will die alongside him.

Back at the factory, Dazzler is almost ready to attempt escape, having spent some time slowly charging up using radio static.  It took me a while to work out why Techmaster locked her in a sound-proof room, actually, that seemed far too convenient.  Looking back, though, I think Techmaster is assuming she's using a variant on his own sound transducers to create her light shows, so maybe he hit on the right strategy for the wrong reason.  Either way, Daz has finally got enough juice to start generating lasers, and she's free pretty quick after that.

The first thing she sees upon escape though is Techmaster escorting Harry through the factory.  Techie is cackling loudly about his intention to disappear forever once Harry is dead.  I suppose that explains why he was willing to abduct Harry from a crowded restaurant, and Alison works out that the four-hour lock on the booth was to keep her out of trouble whilst the hit went down.  Was all that stuff about her stage tricks just a bluff, then?  Why go through with that at all?  Or is he planning on rising from the underground later to press her for information again?  I'll admit to being slightly confused.

Dazzler tries to take out Techmaster before he can feed Harry to the factory lasers, but the villain has already put on his anti-glare goggles, keeping him safe.  Dazzler manages to blast them off his face, but by that point, Techie has pushed her back into the sound-proof booth.  The issue gains bonus sexual equality points for having Alison being the only person smart enough to work out that the Techmaster isn't really all that dangerous - he's just an executive with very strong hands, and so vulnerable to Dazzler's significantly better reflexes and general physical fitness - only to lose them all again for having her defeat her foe by, I swear to God, repeatedly hitting him with her purse.

Unable to withstand the unstoppable assault of this Gucci accessory (seriously, she specifically mentions it's a Gucci), Techmaster beats a hurried retreat, and manages to fall over the gantry railings towards his own lasers.  Fortunately, Harry grabs him just in time, and, after considering his options for a second or two, drags his nemesis to safety.

Humbled by what's happened, Techmaster vows to leave them both alone, and leaves.  Harry and Dazzler, for their part, apologise to each other for the last couple of days.


This story begins "a few days" after Dazzler's return from Galactus' thrall.  We'll assume that means four days.


Monday 24th to Tuesday 25th January, 1983.


 X+4Y+289 to X+4Y+290.

Contemporary Events

The US, as always, found itself at loggerheads with Iran:

Standout Line

"You're one of the few people I've ever trusted with the knowledge that I'm am mutant -- and yet you seem totally unaware that I might have any special problems because of that fact!"

It's not a brilliantly written slice of dialogue, admittedly, and if Dazzler had said this at the start of the issue rather than the last page, it probably would have helped.  Still, there's a nice nod here to the books sometime metaphor of persecution by the majority, and how claiming to have no problems with someone isn't really worth shit if you run for cover the moment your relationship with them causes you the slightest inconvenience.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

XHY #9: "Dark Destiny"

(False astro-tising)


Right.  "Thanks" to the money-sucking wonder that is Ebay, I've managed to sentence myself to four more issues of hard labour in John Bryne's mediocrity mines.  Will this title seem any better when I'm not directly comparing it to X-Men: First Class?  Read on to find out, my friends.  I see no reason why I should have to suffer alone.

Last time on XHY, the team were divided.  Angel was the comatose captive of at trawler crew somewhere off Antarctica, and Havok and "Magnetrix" were searching for Iceman, lost somewhere in the Savage Land.  Meanwhile, Cyclops, Beast and Marvel Girl had joined forces with the Fantastic Four (which at the time had swapped out Invisible Woman for Crystal, the Inhuman) and headed into space to deal with the retreating Z'Nox world-ship.  Quite what they intend to do specifically is unclear, since I don't see an endgame that wouldn't result in either our team being slaughtered, or the genocide of an entire race.

In any case, the initial skirmish with Z'Nox fighters seemed to be going pretty well, only for Jean Grey to erupt into flames.  Apparently the Phoenix Force has arrived a little early...

The resulting psychic disturbance is strong enough for Sue Richards to feel back on Earth.  Well, that or her concern is a cheap way to build tension. I leave you to decide.  HINT: the narration describes Jean's transformation as the stuff of nightmares.

Aboard her husband's reverse-engineered Skrull vessel, the Phoenix Force has apparently taken Jean over completely, and she selects Mr Fantastic and her first victim.  Cyclops halfheartedly blasts his girlfriend as a distraction, and immediately finds himself top of the list for a vicious dose of killin'. Scott goes down like a bitch, burnt to a crisp, and Beast is likewise fried moments later.  Gosh, this really is like a nightmare, isn't it?  But presumably it's clearly real.

Except it's not!  It's not real!  Reed is OK, Scott and Hank are alive, and last issue's cliffhanger was total bullshit.  Time for another of SpaceSquid's rules of fiction: "It was all a dream" is overused as a beginning, and insulting as an ending.  As a cliffhanger resolution, it's an authorial cry for help, and the only way to answer that call is through a vicious session of crotch-punching by a T-1000 coated in sandpaper and shards of glass.

(Even all of that wouldn't be quite so bad were the front cover and the title of the issue both strong indications that the Phoenix would be a major part of the story one way or another.  Calling this issue "Dark Destiny" is like renaming Star Wars "The Adventures of Captain Antilles".)

Meanwhile, the sheer number of Z'Nox are beginning to turn the tide (it's almost as though sending eight superheroes in against a planet isn't the best of ideas).  It's time for action!  No, wait.  It's time for an exposition flashback!  Jean runs a mental slide-show of all that crap we know.  Thank God it only took "one searing instant".  Or one shitty page, to be more precise.  Following our latest encounter with Bryne's defiantly uninspiring recap skills, Beast returns to the ship to point out the obvious - the entire Z'Nox armada are outside, and it's going to take more than two guys punching them to hold them off, even if they are being supported by a flame-caster whose usefulness is directly proportional to his access to oxygen.

Reed accepts the critique, conceding that their current tactics aren't getting the job done.  Eager to shake things up, Mr Fantastic settles on a new strategy: plunging into the planet's atmosphere to burn up in minutes!  It suppose I can hardly argue that it doesn't at least have the element of surprise going for it. Moments later, though, we learn he's not trying to burn the spacecraft down to its component elements after all.  He wants to ram his way into a Z'Nox building instead.  Obviously.

Actually, objectively that's probably cooler than my brain is willing to concede right now.  I guess I just don't have any goodwill left.  That said, how did Reed know which building to ram?  This place could be a sewage plant.  Or a creche.

(I'm just being facetious here.  Clearly Reed used Science.  All hail Science!)

Mr Fantastic's ram-raid has put our heroes right in the path of a giant Z'Nox monster, but also within range of the machine the Z'Nox use to move their planet.  Reed begins tinkering with the apparatus whilst the rest of the team take out its guardian.  Things get a bit hairy when the vital systems prove to be so far inside the planet that only the Thing can stand the pressure to get to them, but Reed talks Ben through the final tinkerings, and the plan comes together.  There's just time for our heroes to get back into their (curiously undamaged) ship and blast back into space before the entire Z'Nox planet is sucked into the Negative Zone.

Which is a solution, at least.  Mr Fantastic seems convinced there will be sufficient energy to keep the planet alive, which answers my earlier query about what exactly they planned to actually do against the aliens.  Of course, that just shifts the question to what the X-Men thought they were going to do against the aliens, since Reed refused to fill them in on the plan (indeed, there's no indication he'd even come up with it until they were in orbit).  Still, as endings go, it's perfectly serviceable.

Unless it turns out to be a dream, obviously.

Meanwhile, on Earth:
  • A young boy girl plays with dolls in the back yard, only to be threatened by a Sentinel;
  • Angel's girlfriend Candy Southern has muscled her way into Xavier's mansion, and been escorted by his robot butler to the man himself.  She has a message for Angel, something connected with Hamlet, possibly the only play Bryne could think of that takes longer than this comic to get to the point;
  • Iceman is still the house-guest of Karl Lykos in his done-up Nazi research station, and still completely unable to remember who he is, or why he thought those briefs were a good idea.


This story continues on directly from XHY #8, and takes place in approximately real time.


Monday 7th July, 1980.



Contemporary Events

83 people are killed in the Safra Massacre during the war in Lebanon.

Standout Line

"It's as if all her natural inhibitions have been stripped away!" - Cyclops

I'm glad I got a chance to bring this up, because it's been bugging me ever since Red Dwarf 4 and "Polymorph".  It never made the slightest sense to me that Lister sans fear would threaten to beat Kryten up, because the only logical takeaway from that is that it was only Lister's fear of... something... that stopped him popping his best friend in his oddly-angular jaw.

It's the same here.  Exactly which inhibition did Jean once harbour that was preventing her from killing Mr Fantastic?  Fear?  Laziness?  A dislike of having to wash out bloodstains?  Still, I guess at least here we can just put it down to Cyclops being an idiot.  That's rarely a bad policy in any case.

Monday, 13 February 2012

DAZ #11: "...Lest Ye Be Judged!"

(I guess those kangaroos aren't so bad after all.)

Now that Dazzler has implausibly managed to survive her trip inside a black hole, she finds she has a new problem.  Galactus has charged her - as well as with massive levels of power - with forcing his errant herald Terrax back to the fold, but Terrax isn't particularly thrilled with the idea.  More worryingly, he intends to make his stance completely clear by massacring Dazzler with a giant axe.  Outside the event horizon, the R-II drone watches the resulting battle on the monitor.  Nothing can escape a black hole except Terrax and a TV signal, apparently, except for Dazzler - so long as she's tied to a spaceship, obviously.  Gods, but all of this is painfully stupid.

Anyway, "The Tamer" still has enough juice from his time as Galactus' Herald to be essentially invulnerable to Dazzler's attacks, and the only reason he doesn't kill her straight away is that he thinks she'll make a fitting queen when he leaves the black hole and heads for a new dimension in which to carve out his next empire

Realising the mission is in danger of coming to an abrupt, axe-heavy end, R-II goes to Galactus for help.  The Destroyer of Worlds rebuffs his serf, however.  Indeed, not only will he not help, he's taking his ship elsewhere, meaning Alison is boned even if she somehow defeats Terrax.  As the spacecraft departs, however, someone (and I think we all know who) activates the mega sound system that supercharged Dazzler last issue, and begins beaming the resulting noise backward into the black hole.  The resulting jolt to Daz's powers, combined with Terrax's exhaustion from trying to stay alive within a singularity, quickly hands her victory.

She's tempted to end things there, to leave Terrax to his fate and climb the beam of sound (ARRRRGH!) back to Galactus' ship.  Fortunately, the pillar of sound (ARRRRGH! ARRRRGH!) is strong enough for her to drag Terrax up with her.

Galactus is none to pleased to learn his drone has acted on its own initiative, but R-II points out that Galactus had left on the devices keeping Dazzler alive in the black hole, which implied he isn't totally indifferent to Alison's fate.  I'm not sure that's quite the right line, here.  The right line is that leaving Dazzler unaided but keeping the machines running is just a pointless waste of power, meaning R-II should have either saved her, or killed her.  The drone took the option that meant the mission wasn't automatically a failure, and which also meant not murdering someone - Galactus can take his pick over which of those arguments he finds more compelling.

This then leads into a brief but pretty interesting summation of Galactus' mental state.  It's not that he has no emotions, so much as he's forced to repress them all, Vulcan-style, otherwise he'd never be able to do what he has to in order to stay alive.  Which makes sense, in a rather brutal way; there's only so many sentient species one can wipe out before you stop caring or you throw yourself into a black hole (which used to be fatal, if you recall).  What that means in practice, though, seems to be that Galactus will take any excuse to take the compassionate route under the disguise of logic.  He allows R-II to continue sending energy to Dazzler.  Moments later, Alison and Terrax burst from the singularity.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, the disappearance of Alison Blaire is causing multiple problems.  Judge Carter Blaire, her estranged father, has discovered his mother has lost contact with his daughter, and concluded that it's time for a reconciliation, now that no bugger actually knows where she is.  Doctor Paul Sexytimes is headed to Daz's place too, determined to sit outside her apartment until she arrives to dump him properly (dude - have you no self-respect?)  Finally, Alison's band mates and her management are headed over to see what's what, having lamentably learned that she was clearly the only person in the entire outfit with any actual talent.

Dazzler awakes back onboard Galactus' vessel, having been healed by R-II, so that she can attend the trial of Terrax, where "trial" in this case means "Galactus stares at you for a while and then does whatever the fuck he wants."  Rather wonderfully, the lessons taught to Alison by her father kick in, and she decides this show trial is entirely not on.  Entirely without suger-coating, she points out that Galactus knew Terrax was a turd when he hired him, and also that whilst there is no small number of people who could condemn Terrax for enslaving entire worlds, the guy who consumes whole planetary systems doesn't get to claim to be one of them.  I really hadn't been too impressed by this rather shapeless and generic cosmic jaunt up to this point, but a brief burst of "Sexy Mutant Lawyer" has gone a long way to improving things.  Galactus even agrees to give Terrax a second chance, though as the narration points out, that may have been his plan in any case.  Heralds must be a bitch to find.

A few minutes later, and Dazzler is back home, returned by Galactus to stop her annoying him.  Unfortunately, the trip leaves her befuddled and nearly unconscious, and coincides precisely with her building's super letting Carter Blaire, Dr Hotbuns, and 90% of her work colleagues in through her door.  Given her current state, and her week-long disappearance, the unanimous verdict is "rock-star drugs binge", and the men leave, either disgusted (Carter), angry but concerned (the band, Harry and Lance) or plain old confused (Dr Firmpex).

'Lison!  You got some 'splain' to do!


This story takes place over the course of several hours.  There's no way to tell how long Dazzler was being tended to in R-II's healing chair, so we'll assume the action has spilled over into the following day.


Thursday 19th to Friday 20th of January, 1983.


 X+4Y+284 to X+4Y+285.

Contemporary Events

David F. Lawler, not yet fifteen, enters his school in Missouri carrying two handguns, filled with ammunition he received as a Christmas present, and shoots two fellow pupils (killing one) before committing suicide.
Standout Line
"Hey -- take it easy, Pops.  Be mellow."
"'Be mellow'!  That's all you musicians do, isn't it, with all the drugs you take!" -  Beefer and Carter.

It's interesting that in the 1980s there was a comic which, whilst not being pro-drugs, was willing to paint someone who is anti-drugs as a hysterical douchewad.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Timeline: 1983 (Take 3)


6th      DAZ 6: The Hulk can be Hazardous to Your Health!
7th      DAZ 6: The Hulk can be Hazardous to Your Health!
8th      DAZ 6: The Hulk can be Hazardous to Your Health!
8th      DAZ 7: Fort Apache, the Hulk!
9th      DAZ 7: Fort Apache, the Hulk!
11th    DAZ 8: Hell... Hell is for Harry!
12th    DAZ 8: Hell... Hell is for Harry!
12th    DAZ 9: The Sound and the Fury!
13th    DAZ 9: The Sound and the Fury!
14th    DAZ 9: The Sound and the Fury!
15th    DAZ 9: The Sound and the Fury!
16th    DAZ 9: The Sound and the Fury!
17th    DAZ 9: The Sound and the Fury!
18th    DAZ 9: The Sound and the Fury!
19th    DAZ 9: The Sound and the Fury!
19th    DAZ 10: In the Darkness... a Light!


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


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!
9th      WOL #1: Wolverine
10th    WOL #1: Wolverine
11th    WOL #1: Wolverine
12th    WOL #1: Wolverine
13th    WOL #2: Debts and Obligations
20th    WOL #3: Loss
23rd    WOL #4: Honor


7th   UXM Annual 5: Ou, La La -- Badoon!
8th   UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
9th   UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
10th UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
11th UXM 151: X-Men Minus One!
11th UXM 152: The Hellfire Gambit!
12th UXM 152: The Hellfire Gambit!
13th UXM 153: Kitty's Fairy Tale
26th UXM 154: Reunion
27th UXM 155: First Blood
27th UXM 156: Pursuit!
28th UXM 156: Pursuit!
28th UXM 157: Hide-'N'-Seek!


3rd   UXM 158: The Life That Late I Led...
7th  UXM 159: Night Screams!
8th   UXM 159: Night Screams!
9th   UXM 159: Night Screams!
10th UXM 159: Night Screams!
11th UXM 160: Chutes and Ladders!
13th UXM Annual 6: Blood Feud!
14th UXM Annual 6: Blood Feud!
15th UXM 161: Gold Rush!
16th UXM 161: Gold Rush!


6th   UXM 162: Beyond the Farthest Star
7th   UXM 162: Beyond the Farthest Star
8th   UXM 163: Rescue Mission!
8th   UXM 164: Binary Star!
9th   UXM 164: Binary Star!
9th   UXM 164:Transfigurations!
10th UXM 164: Transfigurations!
12th MGN 4: Renewal
13th MGN 4: Renewal
14th MGN 4: Renewal
15th MGN 4: Renewal
16th MGN 4: Renewal
17th MGN 4: Renewal
18th MGN 4: Renewal
19th MGN 4: Renewal
20th MGN 4: Renewal
21st MGN 4: Renewal
22nd MGN 4: Renewal
23rd MGN 4: Renewal
24th MGN 4: Renewal
25th MGN 4: Renewal
26th MGN 4: Renewal
27th MGN 4: Renewal
28th MGN 4: Renewal
29th MGN 4: Renewal
30th MGN 4: Renewal


1st   MGN 4: Renewal
2nd  MGN 4: Renewal
3rd  MGN 4: Renewal
4th  MGN 4: Renewal
5th  MGN 4: Renewal

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

UXM #165: "Transfigurations!"

(The Jonah Variation.)


When last we left our heroic space-faring mutants, Binary had just sworn to avenge their imminent deaths by accidentally killing them all.  Fortunately, by using Colossus as a temporary plug and having Kurt bamf Lilandra to the control room and start pouring in more air, Cyclops and Wolverine have time enough to carve out an internal hull piece large enough to cover the hole.  There is little in the way of celebration over another bullet dodged - freezing in hard vacuum might well be preferable to letting what's growing within them reach the point where it wants out.

Certainly, Storm thinks so, as she drifts in her stolen shuttle.  Just one problem: even in self-defence, or to save others, Ororo's isn't sure she can bring herself to take a life - a position that lasts right up until the minute that the transformation begins (funny how that works).  Fortunately, just then the shuttle drifts out of the nebula containing the Z'Ree Shar and into range of the galactic core.  To which I can only say: holy lizard-balls, Claremont.  If you're not going to take into account the unimaginable size and emptiness of the celestial realm, then what the hell do you think you're doing having your characters pissing around up there?  Storm just happened to stop at the edge of the nebula, which just happened to be right by the galactic core.  Which just happens to be the only known method of temporarily reversing a Brood transformation. Fuck, as the kids say, off.


Anyway, Ororo decides that murdering another sentient isn't so bad an idea after all, and grabs all the galactic energy from nearby that she can (apparently, this is the space equivalent to controlling the weather - I'm too tired of this crap to care anymore), hoping it will kill the Brood embryo.  Which it does, though with the unfortunate side-effects of a) blowing up the shuttle and b) killing Storm as well.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Illyana, Stevie Hunter and Moira MacTaggert are enjoying the sunshine outside Xavier's now fully-rebuilt mansion. The two women are concerned about Charles, who's retreated into himself after the disappearance of the X-Men.  Moira has a plan, though, she's received a letter from Reed Richards regarding a newly-arrived foreign mutant, and suggests Charles might want to tutor her.  (We know about this letter already, of course, it's about Xi'an Coy Mahn, and was mentioned in MGN #4).

Xavier, to the surprise of precisely no bugger at all, is decidedly unenthusiastic about the idea.  Moira tries to goad him into accepting by threatening to take Xi'an to Magneto or Emma Frost.  That's kind of like a sex-starved husband telling his wife that unless she puts out soon he's going looking for blowjobs from puff adders, but Xavier relents, not seeing another choice.

(I can see another choice, for the record - letting Xi'an learn to use her powers by herself.  I'm sure Xavier is a great teacher, and all, but he managed to get his power under control on his own.  What makes him so sure he's so indispensible to Xi'an he can repeatedly risk her life?)

Aboard the Z'Reee Shar, repairs to the warp drive are almost complete, and the question is raised: what next?  Wolverine is all for heading straight back to the Brood hive and trying to tear the Queen to pieces.  Scott points out the mission is almost certainly suicidal, and Wolverine notes in turn that he himself is the only one on board who won't be dead in a matter of days in any case.  Scott sees the logic behind that, and agrees to the plan.

Before the repairs are complete and the frontal assault can begin, though, there's one night left for reflection, prayer, and - just possibly - the removal of clothes.  Nightcrawler chooses the first two options, which surprises Wolverine, who apparently never saw Kurt as the religious type.  It would be interesting to know exactly what Logan's conception is of what the devout should look like, but his comment leads to a brief but very nice conversation, of the kind that always made these two mutants one of my favourite pairings - the demonic-faced religious man of peace, and the broken-hearted murderous volcano of repressed love.  Logan's description of his friend in UXM #524 is one of my favourite moments from my favourite comic.  On this occasion, their argument is about what one needs in order to not be alone: a God, a friend, or a beer.

Kitty, meanwhile, doesn't really have any idea of how to feel less miserable  Risking death is one thing, as she tells Peter, waiting for it is something completely different.  Peter, for his part, argues that there is no sense in fearing the end, or going to pieces as it approaches.  Everyone is in a race against death, and everyone always loses sooner or later.  There's no point in getting worked up about the precise moment you trip, and your lead vanishes to zero.  I think I can buy that philosophy coming from someone as generally stoic as Colossus, but I suspect he's saying it more for Kitty's benefit that because he thinks it's true. 

Sprite, though, would rather get her comfort somewhere else.  The dangers and immorality of statutory rape seem an awful lot less relevant when one has only hours to live.  I kind of vascillate between not liking this scene and thinking it's brave and well-done, and I've never been able to pin down exactly how I feel about it.  I think my problem with it is simply that the X-Men's universe is too melodramatic and the team too constantly on the verge of total slaughter for me to be comfortable with the idea of a fourteen-year old girl arguing she should get to have sex at least once before the end.  Were the stakes noticeably higher than usual, or indeed were this a different kind of story, I think I'd be happier with it.  Either way, having made the decision to do it, I can't really fault the execution.  Kitty has a reasonable point, and Colossus' polite but firm refusal does exactly what it should, and play into and strengthen his character, rather than feeling like a bum note written in to avoid Claremont getting fired for all time.

Further negotiations are interrupted by the sudden return of Storm.  She appears to Kitty and Peter first, then to Logan and Kurt, who initially put ths vision down to a hallucinogenic effect brought on by their experiments in replicating beer.  Soon enough, though, it becomes apparent that this is the real Storm, or at least a projection of her.  The response to her return is somewhat muted, partially because the team have difficulty believing what they're seeing, but mainly because her arrival coincides with that of one of the Broodship creatures - apparently called the Acanti - which swallows the yacht and our heroes whole. 

When Ororo announces, seconds later, that she has become one with the mammoth space organism that has just eaten them, there is little comfort to be had.


Moira mentions that it's "been weeks" since the X-Men were abducted, and the narrative places this story in summer.  We're also informed that Kitty has reached and passed her fourteenth birthday at some point whilst in space.

These three references put us in a little difficulty.  The primary aim of this blog is to squeeze the adventures of the X-Men into the bare minimum of time, and even so, it was impossible to place the X-Men's abduction any sooner than seven months after Kitty's first introduction, back when she was referring to herself as thirteen and a half.  Confusing things further, Kitty is also referred to as fourteen in UXM #158, which itself is a minimum of a week and a half before the assault on Lilandra's yacht.

On the other hand, extending the amount of time the team has been in space allows the formation of the New Mutants to seem somewhat less immediate than would otherwise be the case, as well as allowing the reconstruction of Xavier's mansion to no longer be nearly instantaneous.

As always in these situations, we compromise, using the most honest definition of the word: something which is equally unsatisfactory in all directions.  We can add time in first by assuming the X-Men lay comatose for quite some time on the Brood homeworld. This will allow this story to take place about a fortnight before true summer begins (perhaps late spring was simply unseasonably warm), and will mean that Shadowcat's birthday is moved backward by less than a month.

(None of this actually helps regarding Xavier's mansion, in point of fact, but that seems clearly an error on Claremont's part).

The story itself takes place over the course of a day and a night.


Thursday 9th to Friday 10th of June, 1983.


X+5Y+84 to X+5Y+85.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.69 standard years.

(Colossus is 26 years old.)

"The universe is full of surprises."
Contemporary Events

First day after the UK General Election that saw Thatcher's Conservatives re-elected in a landslide.

Standout Line

"Our lives our finite things.  We live our alloted span and no more.  Regardless of what we do, how hard we try, the best we can hope for is a brief delay of the inevitable.  It is sad, even cruel.  But it is also our most fundamental reality, to be faced and accepted." - Peter.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

That Was The Year That Was: 1981

1981, by my reckoning, was the year in which Marvel's mutant population became the subject of a franchise.  I'll admit up-front that this is very much arguable.  One could choose 1975 instead - that was the year that saw both Uncanny X-Men return and The Champions debut, both of which included mutants in their line-up, as well as seeing Beast join the Avengers (which had already featured Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in their ranks).

To my mind, though, it wasn't enough for mutants to simply feature as main characters.  I don't think the X-Men truly became a franchise until multiple books were available about being a mutant.  The Champions and The Avengers were both "standard" superhero team books (I mean to imply no criticism in that phrase).  Dazzler, by contrast was, like UXM, about - at least in part - the difficulty faced by being part of the mutant race.  That, to me, is when mutants stopped being the concern of just one book. 

There's probably also others that might want to go for 1982 instead, since that's when Marvel Graphic Novel #4 introduced the New Mutants, and also when the first limited X-Men series, Wolverine, was published.  I guess it comes down to whether you see Dazzler as part of the X-books series (since it's about a mutant who originally appeared in UXM and who struggles with her genetic status) or not (because it's about a singer who has no interest in getting involved with the struggle for either mutant rights or the punching of evil in the face).

All that said, then, what did 1981 bring us?  Well, as mentioned, we got Dazzler, which grew from a rather underdeveloped and throwaway special guest-athon into something perhaps ahead of it's time - a book in which superheroism isn't just seen as an interruption to everyday life (Spiderman had that covered) but an imposition to the point where the heroine actively tried to avoid any contact with the abnormal.  That angle, combined with the significant sub-plots involving Dazzler's career progression and love life, ultimately caused sales to drop, which is a shame, and I wonder if that led to the book attempted to return to its original roots.  Galactus sending Dazzler into a black hole is after all pretty similar to Doom sending her into the realm of nightmares, but in the later story there's no fretting over getting gigs under the belt to at least bring some spin to the rather by-the-numbers storyline.  Even without completely dropping the slice-of-life stuff, I don't see how the book could become anything other than ludicrously schizophrenic.  I guess I'll see when I finish the first Essential volume.

Over on the book that started it all, meanwhile, Claremont was now into the seventh year of his run, and by this point he had most certainly got his eye in.  Some of the most famous X-Men stories had already been and gone - the initial Shi'ar/D'Ken storyline, the "Dark Phoenix Saga", but 1981 saw the first full year of Shadowcat in the team line-up (I may not have liked the character back then, but I can hardly claim she wasn't important), along with the now-classic "Days of Future Past" story.  If a story's impact can be measured by how many times future writers return to it (at least in name), then this must surely be in at least the top five X-Men stories ever written.

This was also the year that provided some long-overdue complexity to Magneto, the X-Men's oldest foe.  UXM #150 re-cast the man as a principled man so deluded by his experiences that he'd somehow become a callous terrorist.  This new approach to Magneto would be template for later years, and lead to him regularly featuring in the top echelons of "greatest comic villain ever", and with good reason.

All this, and the Brood too!  I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say 1981 was a pivotal year for the comic, so much as part of a pivotal era that lasted for a great deal (though by no means all) of Claremont's run.  Having said that, we're clearly at the start of something, and by the end of the following year, there can be no doubt that we'd reached the point at which the X-franchise was up and running.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

DAZ #10: "In The Darkness... A Light!"

(Into the black.)


Welcome to Drone R-II's[1] Powerpoint presentation on Alison Blaire, AKA "Dazzler".  During this presentation, please refrain from smoking, drinking, or consuming entire planets along with their inhabitants.

We can skip over most of this talk, actually, since we're already up on Dazzler's history.  One slide's worth noting, though:

I would dearly like to know how one calculates a person's "confrontational quotient" and "dysfunction potential", and how high Daz is scoring in either case.

(Also, what the Hell is going on with her shoulders up there?  There's no way those three pictures are of the same person unless her clavicles are attached to her spine like curtains on a rail.)

Galactus listens patiently to his drone's lecture, and concludes his minion is correct.  It's time to pay Earth another visit.

Back on the slopes of Mt Athena, Dazzler has done a runner before the Feds can either recapture her or get their faces burned off by her now-uncontrollable power.  Unfortunately, the combination of the epic destruction in her wake and the near-blinding brilliance of her body make tracking her an embarrassingly simple task, and Quasar catches up with her within minutes.  Alas, Galactus gets there first, and no amount of "limitless energy... from distant quasi-stellar bodies" (I never knew that's what quasar was short for - who says comics ain't edookashionul?) can stop Dazzler's abduction.

Drone R-II stands ready to receive Alison (I guess Drone C-III is busy employing one of his over six million forms of cowering in a corner), and tells her first that she's been brought here by a transport beam packed with tranquilisers to calm her down, and second that Galactus wants a word with her, which you'd think would counteract the sleepy-ray, quick-sharp.

Dazzler can't understand what Galactus could want with her, and decides to go find him and get some answers.  Upon reaching his inner sanctum, however, she finds herself entirely unable to gain his attention.  Fortunately, of course, she was granted phenomenal cosmic power back when she accidentally killed that guy that time, so she's confident that she can disrupt Galactus' reverie by shooting him in the spine.  Points for chutzpah,  I guess, but I'm definitely starting to think R-II has underestimated Alison's dysfunction quotient.  "I don't see how things could get any worse!", she tells her robot buddy.  Here's a clue, Daz: Galactus hasn't yet killed you instantly.  Not that it matters in the end, even when Galactus finally feels her blasts, he merely asks R-II why he's being disturbed by a mortal "flee."

It seems Galactus is feeling rather sorry for himself.  Frankly, I'd have more sympathy for him if he hadn't already told R-II that there's no point in feeling sorry for the billions of people Galactus chomps through every few weeks).  Turns out, I don't get a vote, though, because...

Welcome to Galactus' Powerpoint presentation on his own history.  During this presentation, please refrain from smoking, drinking, or repeatedly shooting the speaker with lasers whilst he's trying to get some work done.  Long story short: all of Galactus' heralds have been men of principle, who ultimately rebelled out of distaste for his interstellar rampage of genocide, so this time he chose Terrax the Tamer, an unprincipled, hard-hearted villainous bastard, only to learn that those guys are pretty experienced in sneaky treachery as well. Terrax tried using his Herald powers to rule over an entire planet, and when Galactus found out, the Tamer fled into a black hole to escape his master's wrath (as well as, you know, every fucking thing else).

This, we learn, is why Dazzler is here: Galactus wants her to retrieve his former herald from the black hole.  Because, I swear to God, her light can defeat the "dimension of anti-light" that a black hole apparently is.  To think I complained about lightning in space.  Alison meekly follows R-II to the other end of the ship - perhaps a surprising move, given that a few pages earlier she was willing to blast Galactus in the back purely because she was too small to tap him on the shoulder - and is locked into some kind of chamber.  There, she's bombarded with sound, super-charging her powers.

The resulting flow of energy oscillates between breaking her mind, and bringing her to photogasm, but she manages to keep her head and keep her clothes on. She's also now powerful enough to be worthy of Galactus' attention, although his mission briefing basically amounts to "I'm tying you to my ship and chucking you into a black hole - try not to die."  Once inside said celestial phenomenon, Dazzler finds Terrax almost immediately, but he's not particularly happy to receive visitors, especially those sent by Galactus.  His first move is to cut through Alison's life-line, and it looks a great deal like stage two is going to involve him stabbing her to death...


This issue begins a few minutes after Dazzler's escape from Project PEGASUS, and takes place over the course of an hour or two.


Thursday 19th of January, 1983.



Contemporary Events

The Apple Lisa is released.  Due to its high price, the Lisa was not particularly popular, though NASA was a big customer, leading to problems when Lisa was discontinued.

Standout Line

"The only honor I want is a gold record!"  - Dazzler refuses to be grateful for the chance to die horribly as an enforced favour to Galactus.

[1] See what they did there?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

UXM #164: "Binary Star!"

(White holes and revelations.)


When last we checked in with our heroes, we'd left them aboard a Shi'ar pleasure yacht, desperately trying to escape "Sleazeworld", only for them to run straight into their pursuers' gun-sights.

This issue begins, then, with a blizzard of plasma fire.  Fortunately for the X-Men, though, the incoming Brood fighter-craft are under strict orders not to harm their quarry (except Wolverine, who's no longer of any use).  You have to feel a bit sorry for Hunt-Master T'Crilee, actually, under orders as he is to persuade a spaceship to stop by repeatedly failing to shoot it, hoping that its occupants will eventually decide they'd rather return to the clawed embrace of their erstwhile torturers, rather than risk the chance the Brood will accidentally take out their life-support by failing to miss.  His queen will kill him if he fucks this up, as well.

Inside the Z'Reee Shar, it's all hands to battle stations.  Logan, Carol and Peter man the weapons consoles (there's a nice moment where Colossus fesses up to himself that he's just not quick-witted enough to make for a decent shot, which makes a change from the usual "everyone has been trained for everything" approach employed in today's hyper-militarised X-Men), and Cyclops gets to fire his eyebeams through a spontaneously-grown ruby quartz hull blister.  Storm gets a similar vantage point, only to find that the surrounding void makes her lightning super-powerful. Which, of course, is bollocks on a stick.  This is an old argument I'm about to start up again here, but even in the context of superhero comics, there's a difference between ignoring the laws of physics and swinging your dick in their face, giggling.  Either way, though, she becomes too scared of killing the Brood or their unwilling organic vessels to keep fighting.  I don't know about anyone else, but I'm officially sick of Claremont pulling this "I dare not use my awesome powers!" crap, which is kind of worrying considering we have another decade of his stories still ahead of us.

Whilst the rest of the team fend off the Brood (or in Nightcrawler's case, try very hard not to die from near-vacuum exposure), Kitty gets into a pressure suit, and heads out to try and fix the warp-drive, which has been badly damaged now that T'Crilee has realised he'd better start aiming at the Z'Ree Shar after all.  Time is quickly running out, though, not only is Storm throwing a strop rather than saving herself and her dearest friends, but Carol keeps freaking out for reasons unknown.  Something is changing inside her, an interaction between her half-Kree DNA and the after-effects of the Brood using her body for silly putty.  Power is building, reaching astonishing, dangerous levels.

She ignites at the same moment as the warp drive.  Kitty has saved the day, though not without cost - a piece of shrapnel escaped her attention, and both her pressure suit and her shoulder have taken a pretty bad hit.

Back on Earth, Xavier sits in his now-rebuilt mansion.  Which, given it was just yesterday we stood outside the skeletal superstructure of the barely-started repair job, means the Shi'ar construction devices Charles mentioned must be impressive indeed.  I'm not sure how they knew how to replicate all the furniture just so, but really, after the bullshit of unstoppable space lightning, this barely raises an eyebrow.  The Professor is dining with Ilyana, trying perhaps to figure out just how extreme the changes wrought on her during seven years in Limbo really are.  Right now, she seems entirely stable and undamaged, but when has that kind of luck ever lasted around here?

On board the Z'Ree Shar, a wounded Kitty awakes to discover that Carol has become a being of sentient stellar flame.  I think.  Or, she's just on fire and hasn't noticed yet.  Either way, she's able to use enough of her new-found power to kick-start the ship - which had floundered after the initial warp hop - and still has enough energy left to start waxing philosophical on the matter of what exactly she is now.  "My energy source is the primal fabric of a universe!" she concludes, deciding she can tap directly into "white holes."  Quite frankly, I think she's making this shit up off the top of her head, though I wouldn't want to say that to her scary burning face.  She also names herself Binary, presumably due to the two stars that adorn her new costume, and I guess we're not supposed to talk about how that makes no sense, either.

Something else isn't adding up aboard ship, for that matter, though this time the X-Men have noticed: the serious injuries Kitty sustained during her EVA have healed completely.  Wolverine (who's also healed up, though that of course is to be expected) lacks the acting chops necessary to hide that he knows what's up, but he still won't spill the beans, preferring to shout at Cyclops again for not letting him gut the Brood Queen.  It's Storm, in the end, who figures it out, sensing the presence of another life within her.  It doesn't take her long to put two and two together, and when she does, she steals a shuttlecraft and blasts off.

With Kitty magically healed but Storm inexplicably mental, Cyclops tells Wolverine he's run out of time - exposition better be forthcoming now, dammit.  Logan finally relents, and explains to everyone that they've each got anew Brood Queen growing inside them.  Oddly, he forgets to mention that Carol is safe.  The results of this are disastrous: swearing revenge for herself and her friends, Binary launches herself into the void on a mission of vengeance.  Which is good of her, and all, but the resulting explosive decompression doesn't look like it's going to be good for anyone...


This story follows on directly from the previous one, and continues into the following day, at least in terms of ship-time on board Lilandra's yacht. We do however learn that this story doesn't start on a Monday, which requires shifting things forward by a day (we can easily assume the X-Men were in their Brood-induced comas for a little longer).


Tuesday 22nd to Wednesday 23rd of May, 1983.


X+5Y+52 to X+5Y+53.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.74 standard years.

(Colossus is 25 years old.)

"My thoughts are too slow."
Contemporary Events

Radio Moscow announcer Vladimir Danchev is removed from the air after praising Muslims in Afghanistan for standing up to the Soviet invasion.

Standout Line

"Everyone to bed!"

Empress Lilandra.  Zebedee.  You never see them together, do you?