Friday, 27 April 2012
(Imaginary sex and violence.)
Gods, are we still at little Ashley's place? Byrne once said he could imagine XHY going on for at least 75 issues before getting close to Deadly Genesis. I can well believe it. This is running slower than a season of 24.
We'll split this into the three story strands, as we've been doing for the last ten or twelve years.
First up, Jean Grey awakes in a strange but opulent room, in a strange but opulent bed, with Cyclops leaning over her. Jean is understandably keen to know where exactly she is, but Scott insists it doesn't matter. "Come on baby, don't waste time." Sensing a rat in Cyclops' nob-heavy behaviour, Jean resists the illusion. And illusion it is, cast by Mastermind, with the Blob as the romantic lead.
Basically, then, this is a scene about attempted rape (a return to the Silver Age my arse). That said, it's actually quite interesting. It seems completely in character that Fred Dukes would never even consider the fact that a woman might notice a sudden change in their "boyfriend's" speech patterns, or that they might not necessarily be in the mood moments after they awake from their supervillain-induced coma. Mastermind blames the failure of the illusion on Jean's psychic powers, but really it's just a question of Jean knowing Scott isn't a dick.
Failing spectacularly to comprehend this, Dukes blames Mastermind for the failure. Mastermind for his part points out it's tricky to fool a telepath (it would take months of subtle manipulation, apparently...) and that the Blob needs to shut up anyway, because he was a chartered member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He deserves the slap he gets, in other words.
When the actual genuine Cyclops awakes, it's to find himself in a steel cage above a circus ring. Warren and Candy are in similar cages, and there's just enough time for Angel to summarise his adventures to date and query exactly why his girlfriend is here in another woman's clothes before the Blob and Unus arrive. They've paid more than a hundred grand to get their hands on the X-Men, and this is round one of the upcoming entertainments. The trio are dropped to the ground and immediately set-up by elephants, bears and gun-toting clowns, and neither Angel nor Cyclops can get their powers to work.
Just in time to save his skull from being shattered by the Blob, though, Scott works out what's going on: it's all a Mastermind illusion. Their powers were never really shut off at all. Knowing this allows Scott to start blasting again, and for Warren to take to the skies. This is a general point rather than a specific dig at Byrne (there's certainly enough of those here), but I'm not quite sure how this is supposed to work. How does knowing what they're seeing isn't real allow them to get back their powers? I can see why Scott firing at random could cause his enemies some considerable problems, but how could he actually see the effect? Warren knows he can fly now, but how does that translate into watching himself leave the ground?
I am confoosed squid right now. This isn't helped by the suggestion that this is an actual circus, and the audience's perceptions are being manipulated by Mastermind as well. Why? What could possibly be in it for Mastermind? Is he pocketing the gate money? They just blew six figures on four X-Men; how much difference is filling a big top gonna make?
Whilst Candy and the boys are trying to work out whether they can take down those elephants without getting angry emails from the WWF, Jean Grey is trying to escape from Dukes' love bunker. It takes her awhile to telepathically pick the lock (I like that; just because she can move the tumblers doesn't mean she knows what she's supposed to be doing with them), only for her to encounter Krueger, who puts her back into unconsciousness.
Back in the States, Beast and the Professor are still trying to keep Ashley from getting anybody killed. She's certainly not making things easy, as soon as she's done dissing the Prof, she starts trying to re-assemble her pet Sentinel. Terrified that once it's back together everyone is going to get blasted to atoms, Xavier reaches into her mind, and shuts off her mutant powers. Which is... interesting. Pressed for time or not, I'd have expected Charles to at least try to reason with the kid before moving on to impromptu psychic field surgery. Quite aside from the risk of killing her, if he severs the links between her consciousness and her powers, will she ever get to use them again? It all seems a bit heartless. But then maybe this fits in to the "something is off with Xavier" idea this comic has been teasing for a year now (or, more accurately, teased for about nine months, and then stopped mentioning it).
Lastly, we check back in at the Savage Land, only to find that our heroes there are, at long last, planning on leaving (there's been at least three X-Men in the Savage Land since the tail end of XHY #1). Salvaging the flyer the team first used to get there, the trio head back to the mansion, only to find it abandoned.
Epilogue: the Worthington mansion, where Kathryn, widow of Warren Worthington II, is planning to marry once again. Her fiance? Her late husband's brother...
We learn in this issue that Lorna, Alex and Bobby leave the Savage Land only a day after the rest of the X-Men did in XHY #4. That's not unreasonable, actually, though the idea that they don't arrive at the mansion until after the arrival of the Fantastic Four at the end of XHY #7 certainly is. How did it take them longer to fly directly to New York than it did the others to be blown by a storm to Kenya, fight against Deluge, return to the States, send the Z'Nox planet into another dimension, and set off on their current missions?
I think we're going to have to go with "unrecorded adventures" again, aren't we?
The other two stories in this book also can't really be taking place at the same time, so we'll assume Scott, Jean, Candy and Warren are now a day ahead of Hank and Charles.
Thursday 10th to Friday 11th July, 1980.
X+2Y+98 to X+2Y+99.
Richard Queen, abducted during the Iran Hostage Crisis, is released, due to a medical condition which is later diagnosed as multiple sclerosis.
The League of Women Voters criticise Republicans for rejecting equal rights for women. 32 years later, Wisconsin Republicans repeal their equal pay act, because after more than three decades, the GOP are still a collection of worthless shits.
"Wh - where are we?"
"Finally alone, babe. Them other losers have run off on their own somewheres."
Nice try, Blob. Only, you know, not really at all.
Saturday, 21 April 2012
Ah. The old dream sequence opening. Better than a dream sequence ending, obviously, especially when there's no doubt regarding what we're watching. Today, we start off inside the subconscious of Carter Blaire, who is still catatonic over his daughter's "betrayal" (which isn't surprising, since this is the same day we last saw him). From his mad ravings (he keeps dreaming Alison is trying to kill him), his psychiatrist has worked out who the proximate cause is, but they can't get ahold of her. Not that it might matter, laments grandmother Bella; "they're both so full of pride." Which, respectfully, is not the problem here. The problem is that Carter is full of being a dick, and Alison is full of not liking people who are full of being a dick.
(Well, she's 95% full of that. The remaining 5% is kleptomania.)
It's all too much for poor old Bella, but fortunately she's drawing support from a very uncomfortable-looking Warren Worthington. He got into this to boink a hot blonde, not cuddle an old biddy! It's so awful when that happens...
One comparatively unobjectionable part of all this, the tussle has caused the locket to finally open. There are two pictures inside. One is of Alison's father, the other is of an unknown man. Dun dun duh!
By this point, Dazzler has arrived at the lunch party, but there's not much time for her to relax. She's no sooner headed for the telephone in the back room (to see if Harry's found her anything to do yet) when the front door is blasted open, and in walk: Doctor Sax and Johnny Guitar.
The 20th Anniversary Doctor Who Celebration is held at Longleat House. There's some great pictures of the event over here.
"Hunch, he looks more like you every day."
"Too bad - I was hopin' he'd be good-looking."
I guess the old ones really are the best sometimes. Especially when they're the only part of this whole issue that isn't completely ridiculous and/or insufferably unpleasant.
Monday, 16 April 2012
(Took me longer to read the title)
Most of this issue is taken up with a single extended fight scene. Which I guess makes sense, really, considering it's the final act of a story UXM has been telling for more than six issues, and which has dragged NMU into for two more.
The moment the X-Men touch down on planet Earth once more, they smash their way into the mansion. They have no idea why it's been rebuilt, and why there's a half-dozen teenagers watching Tom Selleck in the living room, but the only issue of any consequence is whether or not they can get to Charles Xavier before he becomes the first Brood victim we've seen to transform into an alien insect with no discernable loss of hair.
(I consider it a lovely character moment by the way that as Cyclops is wading through teenagers, using his optic blasts to pulverise an entire building, that he tells himself it's unfortunate he has to beat up this many children, but that there's no time for an explanation. It's not just that he's willing to blast thirteen year olds in the face, it's that he'll do it because it doesn't occur to him that they could possibly put up a fight that would last longer than the time it takes to say "You're professor is secretly an alien, kthankx". There's a direct line between that attitude and the events leading to X-Men: Schism almost fifty years later.)
Whilst all hell breaks out downstairs (the New Mutants are untrained, not helpless), Kitty phases onto the first floor, Brood blaster in hand, desperately hoping she'll fail in her aim to be the first X-Man to find Xavier. She knows she won't be that lucky, of course, and she's right. When she gets to her erstwhile teacher's study, however, she's too busy looking for an excuse to not have do what needs to be done to actually do it. Her reward is to be thrown back down to the ground floor by the creature that was once Charles.
The rest of the X-Men watch in horror as Xavier completes his change - and Claremont does a good job of selling just how much of an emotional gut-punch that must have been - but it's very quickly back to the fight. With the New Mutants now onboard, and with some timely back-up from Binary, the new Brood queen doesn't last too long. Wolverine, as always, is keen to get some murdering done, and this time, his take on the situation is almost unanimous. Even Charles himself, now briefly back in control after his alien half took too much of a beating to recover from for now, is adamant that it's too dangerous to let him live.
Cyclops isn't having any of it, however. Xavier's mind is clearly still, if not whole, exactly, then at least capable of occasional re-assembling, and the team now has the resources of the Starjammers to call upon. It's time for a trip to Doctor Sikorsky, number one on my list of the universe's least hideously unpleasant insects.
(Number two, in case you're wondering, is the ever-resourceful N'Grath. Now there was a bug who knew how to get shit done.)
|"Mighty Narn Empire. Soldiers. Guns.|
And you come to N'grath?"
These sessions of introspection are broken up when a visitor arrives. Gladiator has come to pledge himself to Lilandra. Apparently he's learned his lesson over the D'Ken debacle, and has no interest in following Deathbird as she brings her own strain of raging insanity to the Shi'ar Empire (seriously; how does that place ever get anything done?) He also brings news from rather closer to home: Reed Richards has saved Galactus from death, an action with a potential body count in the hundreds of billions at least. I assume this is a set-up for a later FF story (I certainly don't remember this coming to anything in the pages of UXM), but I have to admit I'd have liked to see where this all ended up. Some of my favourite stories about the wider Marvel galaxy have hinged on this kind of thing: the total unwillingness of earthbound heroes to consider the logical consequences of their locally virtuous actions (see also: The Doctor, ridiculous Christmas paddy of).
There's no time to delve into this further, though, as Lilandra has no sooner sent a holographic message to the Richards (loose translation: fuck you and the cosmic rays you rode in on) than Charles appears, his brain patterns now safely nestled in a whole new host body. As an added bonus, his new spine is entirely uncrushed, meaning he can walk. Alas, his subconscious stubbornly refuses to accept his new-and-improved vertebrate structure, and so he can't stand without feeling agonising pain.
I think there are two ways to respond to this idea. You can either be pissed off at such a despicably transparent attempt to have one's cake and eat it ("We can only return to the status quo by giving Xavier a new body which also happens to not be able to walk!"), or you can simply assume Xavier has spent the last decade with a stick so far up his unfeeling arse that reinserting it into his brand new anus has left him in too much pain to stand. God knows, there's plenty of circumstantial evidence on that score.
There's one more wrinkle in the custard before the issue comes to a close, though. Now that the team is back, and the New Mutants have been founded, Charles sees an opportunity to correct an earlier decision. It's time for Kitty Pryde to leave the X-Men.
Gods, this is a mess. The difference between our placings of UXM #166 and NMU #3 suggests the X-Men have been travelling back from Sleazeworld for a month or so, which makes no sense considering the urgency of their mission, and how quickly they got there in the first place. The most obvious solution would be to try and "average out" the trips there and back, but we can't do that, because UXM has already demonstrated that the mansion still wasn't built, and the X-Men not too long gone, by the time Wolverine escaped the Brood's clutches. In other words, any time we add to the journey to Sleazeworld has to be added to the time before NMU got going as well.
Just to make things more annoying, Moira clearly refers to the period just before/during the assembling of the New Mutants that it's summer, which means if NMU #3 is to be believed, at least nine months have passed since the X-Men were kidnapped. That's difficult enough to believe - it means the comic is actually 1.5 times slower than its own publishing schedule - before you factor in Kitty, who was described as fourteen before she was kidnapped, and yet turned fourteen during this adventure (her fifteenth birthday is shown in the '90s).
Given all of this nonsense, I think the Occam's Razor approach is to assume there was simply some extensive delay to the team's return that just hasn't been explored yet.
The story itself begins in the early evening. It's not entirely clear how long the team spend on the Starjammer, waiting to see how things have gone with the Professor, but it seems reasonable to assume that the issue spills over into early morning of the following day.
Saturday 9th to Sunday 10th of July, 1983.
X+5Y+100 to X+5Y+101.
1 Marvel year = 3.70 standard years.
German composer Werner Egk passes away, aged 82. Egk, the "enigmatic opportunist", was active during the Nazi era, and his career intersected with the politics of the day in various very interesting ways.
"No shame in bein' what you are." - Logan.
Sunday, 8 April 2012
("What's that, Lassie?")
This weeks burning question: what happens when you accidentally transform a supervillain into a fifteen-foot giant being of very angry light?
For Dazzler, the answer is probably not quite as bad as she fears - Creel has bigger fish to fry and, after smashing Richards' sonic device, he takes off to net himself some Avengers. Alison tries to call the mansion to warn them, but she's so hysterical that Jarvis assumes she's a prank caller, a terrified young woman and a giggling boy being almost entirely indistinguishable, obviously.
Dazzler tries the Fantastic Four instead, but only the machine picks up. She decides to skate over to the Baxter Building, in the hope that they're just screening their calls.
Meanwhile, Angel (who has started referring to himself as "WWIII", which is just the right level of stupid cheesiness for him to think it's cool) is considering how to get out of the cul-de-sac his search for Alison's mother has led him down. His crush's grandmother wasn't any help; she confessed to secretly knowing Dazzler was a mutant (which is a nice touch), but basically points out what I'd already said: if she isn't going to give any clues to her daughter, she certainly won't help out some guy who happens to share the same genetic declension. WWIII isn't even sure if he wants to go any further, having finally cottoned on to the fact that there are real people with actual feelings involved here, and it might be best to not trample all over their pasts merely to increase his chances of copping a feel.
Back in the A plot, Alison has gotten to the Baxter Building, and takes advantage of a distracted security guard to sneak in. I was briefly pissed off at the idea that the guy in charge of guarding the FF could be so egregiously incompetent, but I suppose for the rogue's gallery we're talking about, a glorified doorman would be about as discouraging a roadblock as the tape across a race's finish line. Besides, if she hadn't been able to generate specific light frequencies she'd never have gotten in the lift, and if Reed hadn't already programmed her in as "friend", she'd be dead dozens of times over by the time she reaches the team's comms system, and starts casting around looking for someone to help.
Finding a console that's still warm, Dazzler presses the ON button, and finds herself connected to the Inhuman throne room. The moon-dwellers aren't particularly delighted by getting phone calls from random earthlings, but Alison makes her case with sufficient clarity that Black Bolt himself teleports to the Baxter Building to help take out Creel. Dazzler sees this as something of a mixed blessing, since the Inhuman ruler can't actually say anything to her, so she's got no idea what the plan is. More importantly, she's not sure he's understood her most important point: she wants nothing to do with Operation: Stop Giant Murdering Bastard.
Whatever his thinking actually is, all we can say is that he grabs Alison and flies her to the Absorbing Man's location, but leaves her a little way away whilst he attacks. The fight itself does not go well: Black Bolt's energy blasts just get absorbed, and attempts to punch Creel lead to "devastating light-feed-back", which is playing pretty fast and loose with the English language but, you know, welcome to comics. Eventually the Inhuman falls, forcing Dazzler to wade in lasers blazing to save him, which in turn are absorbed by Creel, making him still more powerful.
Help is on the way, though! The police have arrived with a camera crew, which means Angel has seen the battle on the news, and is en route to help (so is Ken, but I don't think it unfair to ask how lawyering up could help right now). For the moment, though, Blackathor and Alison are on their own. The Inhuman creates an energy shield to keep them safe from Creel's attacks whilst he attempts to outline his thinking,
Here's Alison's responses to Black Bolt's gestures: "You've got a plan?", "You need my help?", "Yes... I can create intensely powerful light." Where the fuck is she getting all this from? The last time I played charades it took people ten minutes to work out Wuthering Heights. It's lucky Dazzler guesses the precise nature of Black Bolt's power, or they'd be there all night.
(The Inhumans live on the fucking moon, by the way. They've developed weapons that could smash this planet into something you could fit in a Subaru. How the fuck has Black Bolt not got a Stephen Hawking's style electronic voice-box. Or, you know, a pen and paper.)
Dazzler quickly draws in all the power the Inhuman can direct at her (whilst spouting some fairly disturbing dialogue, it has to be said), and uses it to rise aloft and devastate Creel. The resulting power expenditure cuts short her brand new flying ability, but Angel arrives just in time to save from a twenty foot fall that she's convinced would have killed her. Ken arrives moments later, to make things incredible awkward, and Black Bolt catches the Lockjaw Express back home.
Two codas: at the Blaire residence, a psychiatrist is checking out Judge Carter, who keeps babbling incoherently about his wife's betrayal. Realising that events are coming to a head in any case, Carter's mother decides to phone Warren, in the hope that he can help. Meanwhile, Alison meets up with Vanessa, her new friend and fellow singer. Alison has just enough time to tell the story of her missing mother before Vanessa has to leave for a singing lesson. At the Upper West Side house of Barbara London, Vanessa finds an exceptional singing teacher, an impressive-looking piano, and something beyond comprehension lurking in the kitchen...
The story follows on directly from last issue, and continues into mid morning the following day.
Saturday 2nd to Sunday 3rd of April, 1983.
X+5Y+32 to X+5Y+33.
The City of Greenville, filled with crude oil, collides with a bridge in St Louis. Two barges sink, and a third bursts into flames before drifting downstream, damaging various other vessels.
Football player and manager Jimmy Bloomfield passes away, aged just 49.
"Yeah... that's it Black Bolt... fill me with power! Power! Cause that's what I need... to take care of business! Ohhhhh. I feel so good... So powerful... So powerful..."
To quote Koothrappali: "He must be doing this deliberately."
Monday, 2 April 2012
(The war at home.)
There is literally only one thing worse in the entirety of fiction than the "It was all a dream" ending, and that's the ending that goes "it was all a dream... OR WAS IT?" The former conclusion is horribly cheap and massively aggravating; the latter manages to be all those things and deliberately nonsensical on top of it. Fist of Fun did a brilliant riff on this, but the only clip I could find unaccountably misses off the last three seconds:
(It's supposed to end with Rich screaming "OR WAS IT?" whilst brandishing a lobster he's found in his bed.)
So, Dani is in bed when the Brood Queen appears at her window, only to turn into some kind of glowing-eyed man of shadows. She tries to stab it with her knife, but that does no good, and it chases her through the mansion, passed the rooms of all her friends, all of whom it's killed with their greatest fears. When it finally grabs her, she rips its mask off in the struggle, only to find herself face to face with the demon bear who killed her parents.
She wakes herself with her own screams.
Unsurprisingly, since none of them have been brutally murdered, the unanimous reaction of her friends is that she simply had a nightmare. Dani can more or less get behind that scenario too, until she looks at her knife, and finds blood upon the blade. OR WAS IT?
Xavier uses this latest outburst as an excuse to phone Moira, arguing that Dani is going crazy. Presumably, Brood Charles is trying to discredit her in case she picks up on his/her true nature again, but Dani overhears the conversation and worries that the Professor might be right. I'm surprised she concludes this so quickly considering a) she was right about the Danger Room being applied as a weapon against her, and b) the Brood embryo specifically told her she had to die to keep the alien hidden, but that's easy to say at a distance.
Across the Atlantic, though, Moira's certainly not having any of this "Pyche's damaged psyche" bullshit, basically telling Xavier to either mindscan the girl or fuck right off, and to feel free to choose more than one item from the menu. Banshee, who overheard, suggests that Moira might have been just a wee bit aggressive, and she confesses she's mainly just pissed at the guy for having a child who's only too autistic to function, rather than a sadistic serial killer, now deceased. She still can't help wondering what might have happened if they hadn't broken up, and she'd had Charles kid herself.
I'll come right out and say it: massively autistic serial killer. And since you dumped him like a callous bitch whilst he was busy patching up wounder soldiers in Korea, allow me to take this opportunity to tell you to shut the hell up and never pull this crap again, huh?
And what's Banshee supposed to do with this information? "Sometimes I wish I hadn't chucked my fiancee in the most cowardly way possible". Frankly, he handles it better than I would, and suggests they get married and start a new family, rather than keep living in the past. I presume they've discussed this previously, because otherwise this is a piss-poor time for a marriage proposal, but in any event, Moira isn't going for it.
Back across the pond, Dani has had time to calm down and think, and has concluded it's less likely that she's going crazy than someone is trying to get rid of her, one way or another. She shares her fears with Shan, and together they arrange a secret meeting, using Shan's powers to possess each of their friends in turn just long enough for them to write down "meet us in the boathouse".
That's a nice lateral thinking use of Shan's abilities, actually, but it does have a down-side, namely that Roberto and (especially) Sam are kind of pissed-off by the intrusion. From Sam's perspective, this just makes Xavier's opinion that Dani is losing it seem pretty plausible, especially as her evidence boils down to arguing "just because you're all alive doesn't mean my dream didn't happen." Unconvinced to say the least, Sam turns to go, but his plan to storm out is undercut by the outside world having been transformed into a hellish alien landscape. Awkward! Dani tries to help the situation by taking the team through the mansion's subterranean tunnel network she's been secretly exploring (apparently she ha a secondary mutation that has allowed her to watch Aliens a year before its release), but alas, the Brood is waiting for them there.
Neither Karma nor Psyche can use their powers against the creature, it's just too alien, and evil as all hell into the bargain. Wolfsbane and Cannonball have more success with a bite/blast combo, only for the alien to disappear entirely. In its wake, the tunnel ahead has changed from sterile metal to dark flesh. Between Dani's sudden and painful headache, and Shan pointing out the fleshy walls haven't so much replaced those of the tunnel as formed atop them, it seems pretty clear what's going on. Before the New Mutants have time to work it out for themselves, though, the walls grow tentacles and attack, creating a distraction whilst the Brood kidnaps Psyche.
Dani passes out in the struggle, and awakes bound - almost cocooned, really - inside Xavier's study. The Brood is with her, in full-on Explain The Evil Plan mode. It's spent the last few hours inside Dani's head, manipulating her abilities and building on them, creating solid illusions at will. The original plan had just been to kill everyone nearby, but like the last Brood Queen, this one can't resist the idea of implanting mutants to create the Brood ubermensch.
At that moment, the intended incubators burst in, determined to free Dani. With Pysche trapped, though, and Karma quickly dominated by the alien, the battle goes badly. Dani pulls everything out of the fire a the last moment by demanding Cannonball knocks her out. Once she falls unconscious, all her unwittingly created illusions fade to nothing, including the Brood itself. Corporeality is still a little way off, and Xavier is apparently still sufficiently in control of himself to pissed off that his students have seemingly broken into his study.
So what's next? Dani still isn't sure. Whatever tried to take her over is still out there, the Professor is still a distinct suspect, and she still can't decide whether this is the place for her in any case. Roberto manages to convince her to stay, for the present at least. If nothing else, there's shooting stars in the sky, and Magnum PI on the television. What could go wrong on a night like this?
Banshee presents us with a major problem here, by suggesting Kitty's birthday has come around. We've already just about managed to squeeze together a timeline that allows Kitty to turn fourteen in space (despite having already been referred to as fourteen before she left, but that's Claremont for you), but since this is the actual day the X-Men return, there's no way this can be taking place before UXM #165, which was when we learned Kitty's birthday had passed.
While we're on the subject of UXM #165, that issue was specified to take place in summer. In this issue, Dani comments that the weather is so warm it's "like summer", which presents us with another problem. Showing more respect for precedent than the US Supreme Court, I have no choice but to rule that Sean was mistaken, and that Dani is an idiot. Well, that, or as bad at simile as Richard Herring. " A gnat's chuff is literally as tight as a gnat's chuff."
This story itself begins in the middle of the night, and continues until the following evening. Dani mentions that she's been on edge for days, so we'll set this three days after her close call in the Danger Room.
Saturday 9th of July, 1983.