Tuesday, 24 July 2012

UXM #171: "Rogue"

("House guests - like fish - begin to smell after three days." Benjamin Franklin (attr.))


There's a new sheriff in the Undertown.  Storm is handing out her commandments to the Morlocks, which basically boil down to "knock off all the anti-surface shit, and get on with being your own society."  The gathered masses aren't particularly pleased by her speech, but as Queen Stabby, her word is law.

Unless Callisto decides to give mortal combat another whirl, of course, though right now she's so badly injured she can barely stagger out of bed to make ridiculous threats.  Storm basically tells her that her absolute best case scenario is that Storm will wait until she's back on her feet before stabbing her again.  Nightcrawler is surprised at Ororo's vehemence, and I can understand that, but Callisto has crossed too many of Storm's lines at this point.  An underground community of mutants alternately hiding from their oppressors and attacking them is something Storm can understand if not permit.  Callisto is a kidnapper and a would-be rapist, and if she's not a cold-blooded killer yet, it's not for lack of trying - certainly she'll use the approaching agonising death of a teenage girl as a bargaining chip.  There is, we're starting to learn, only so far that you can push Storm.  At least the Brood had the excuse that they were predatory aliens.

Back above ground, big trouble's brewing.  Carol Danvers has returned to Earth to visit her parents, but with  so much of her personality gone, she's got nothing for them but some distant sense of affection. This is of some concern, of course; phenomenal cosmic power combined with no real connection to humanity tends to lead to some fairly poor outcomes.  Meanwhile, over at the mansion, Colossus finds himself prevented from getting his cook on by a knock at the door. And it's... Rogue?

This is another one of those issues which would have been far more interesting if the cover didn't give away what was coming.  Still, that explains what Binary's doing in the book.  I assume there's going to be a fairly major grudge match going down before we reach page 22.  And, whilst the cover art ensures Rogue's arrival isn't much of a surprise, I still love her first line here: "Don't hit me, please -- don't hit me!".  It's so far removed from anything you'd expect from the erstwhile supervillain that you know something serious must be up.

Specifically, Rogue is losing control of her powers, and she's terrified that robbing people of their secrets and memories and putting them in a coma whilst their own abilities are used against them and their friends won't come cost-free anymore.  The X-Men, not surprising, pool their fucks and conclude they ain't giving so much as one of them.  So angry are they over the idea of a known criminal asking if she can get help in mastering the very powers she's used to damage their friends, Xavier has to ask them all to leave so that he can talk to Rogue without their burning desire to see her eaten by rabid ducks messing with his internal monologue.

Less then elated, our heroes head to the Danger Room to blow off some steam, but even this goes wrong for them, when Illyana subconsciously programs the computers to replicate the horrors she faced in Limbo at the hands of Belasco.  I assume that Claremont's building to something here, though my memory is patchy enough that all I can say at present is that I wish Illyana's resulting soul-sword freak-out had finished Kitty off, rather than cut her just badly enough to allow for another round of self-absorbed sulking.

Speaking of introspection, Storm is having problems dealing with what she now realises is a fairly extreme change in her recent temperament.  Contra Nightcrawler's earlier fears, she's very much bothered by the idea that leading the X-Men is making her cold-hearted and calculating, but as she notes, it's probably not a bad trait in someone tasked with keeping other people alive in the midst of combat.  There's a fair amount of mileage in this idea, actually, particularly when you think about the comics of the time, in which the traditional concept of the heroic character is for the first time (in mainstream comics, at least) starting to look incongruous when compared to their own violent adventures.  How deep can you submerge your basic humanity before you can't bring it back to the surface?  If you train yourself not to care, then where exactly lies a reason to be a superhero in any case?

Storm's musings on the subject are interrupted by a psychic communication from Xavier: he's come to a decision.  Rogue gets to stay, not just as a house guest, but as a probational X-Man.  No-one looks happy about this, but Ororo is particularly angry, not just because the Professor has made such a baffling choice ("Are we expected to fight alongside someone we do not -- dare not -- trust..."), but because he thinks so little of her as team leader he didn't discuss the matter with her or even inform her of his decision in private.  Whatever you might think about his plan regarding Rogue, that's not cool.  Fortunately, further recriminations are halted when Binary returns from visiting her parents, and punches Rogue into high orbit.

Colossus manages to hold Binary back for long enough to stop further fisticuffs, but Binary is furious, and she's far from alone.  Xavier insists Rogue is under his protection, which just makes things worse. Storm doesn't help (not that she's trying) when she chooses this moment to finally give sarcasm a test-drive: "The child repents, my friend, and has been forgiven.  Behold our newest X-Man."  Nightcrawler pipes up, letting Charles know that none of the team intend to stay if Rogue does.

It's at this point that Xavier makes a fascinating point: why deny Rogue the help they offered Wolverine?  Yes, the nature of Logan's past is exceptionally murky, but the man has put enough into implying he's killed more than a few people in his time that hiding behind unknown specifics isn't going to cut it. That said, can it really be true that the only logical choice is to decide which crimes can be forgiven, sight unseen, and apply that criteria with total fairness irrespective of circumstance?  Would Charles demand Lilandra allow Deathbird to stay with them? I've been turning this over in my head for a little while, and I still don't know where I stand on it.  Which, of course, is what storytelling is supposed to do.

Storm sums it up best: "Carol is right, professor, and you are right."  Whilst the other X-Men unhappily agree to stay, and Binary takes off in disgust, Ororo alone is unsure about what comes next.  She wasn't too happy about her life in the team before Rogue showed up, and now it must seem like a well-constructed but horribly vicious joke. Who will she choose, she asks herself: Ororo, or Storm?

Meanwhile, up in Alaska, Scott and Madelyne are still getting to know one another, and this time, is Ms. Pryor's turn to drop a bombshell: she's suffering night terrors over the day she crashed her plane and was dragged almost dead from the wreckage.  It was the same day that Jean Grey died.  I'm not sure what Claremont is going for here, this doesn't make any sense in terms of where the character ends up, unless she genuinely was originally intended to be a reborn Jean Grey, something which to the best of my knowledge has always been denied.  Still, it's not like anything else about her makes sense, is it?


Yet another issue in which we're told it's spring, and once again we'll have to ignore such foolishness.

We're also told that Jean Grey passed away on the 1st of September, 1980.  That's surprisingly close to our estimate of the 14th of October (especially given that at the time, Claremont was insisting it was winter), but by our count it happened just the previous year.  Clearly Claremont intends for two and a half years to have passed since Jean's death.  This, though, would make Kitty sixteen years old, which we know isn't true.

In-between last issue and this, Plague has cured Kitty and the Morlocks' healer has saved Callisto.  There's no other indication of how much time has passed, so we'll assume the story starts on the following day.  The story itself takes place over the course of a few hours.


Thursday 4th of August, 1983.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.71 standard years

(Colossus is 26 years old)

"Quiche lorraine.  It looks simple enough."

Contemporary Events

Thomas Sankara becomes the president of the Upper Volta, through a coup d'etat.  Precisely one year later, the country is renamed Burkina Faso.

Standout Line

"Have fits and tantrums become your solutions to everything, Kitty?" - Illyana

Actually, and it causes me physical pain to write this, Kitty's in the right here, and Xavier's way off.  Asking teenage girls to keep their mouths shut is fair enough (though somewhat optimistic), but shouting at them because you don't like what they're thinking is bullshit on rye, especially if you're in the middle of deciding whether to forgive someone who's only not a murderer because those she's tried to kill keep escaping.

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