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.

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