Friday, 31 August 2012

UXM #172: "Scarlet In Glory"

(Outlaw in-laws.)


So a few years ago, my cousin - let's call him Bob, found out his wife - er, Bitchface - was having an affair with his best mate and erstwhile best man, also called Bob.  One quick though acrimonious divorce later (Bitchface never did get over Bob I's refusal to forgive her unconditionally), and we figured the problem was solved, especially when Bob I got remarried, also to someone called Bitchface (who's actually lovely, but I'm committed to this naming scheme now.  Should really have thought ahead).

How naive we were.  Another cousin of mine - Pete, we'll say - was convinced that Bob I had been planning an affair with Bitchface II, and was only interrupted in the process of pulling this together by Bitchface I's infidelity. This was not an opinion he was shy about expressing.  This led to a schism in my family, depending on whether one chose to side with the betrayed and laconic Bob I, or I guess just wanted to cause a shitload of trouble, or something.  This all came to a head when at Pete's urging, his sister invited both Bob I and Bitchface II to her wedding, whilst secretly ensuring the attendance of Bitchface I, with her baby (belonging to neither Bob) as flower girl.

There is a point to airing all of this dirty laundry, I assure you, and it is this: even my lunatic cousin would have thought twice before inviting Bitchface I if, rather than screwing around on her cousin and then stalking him after he moved out, she'd stolen the memories and abilities of the groom's best friend, and then left her to  die.

So you can imagine how surprised Logan is when Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Sprite arrive in the run-up to his wedding and prove to have Rogue in tow.  This just doesn't make the slightest sense.  The decision to include Rogue in the team was questionable enough, but if you squint hard enough you can maybe just about see it given Xavier's obsession with redemption and not letting the past stain the future. Having her tag along with the others as they head for Logan's wedding, without even discussing it with him ahead of time, is a supremely dick move that serves no damn purpose whatsoever.  It's the difference between being willing to parole a convict guilty of terrible crimes, and demanding they be allowed to show up when their victims' friends tie the knot.

And all of this, remember, is coming from someone who's original exposure to the X-Men was the '90s cartoon and comics written more than a decade after this one. That is to say, I know Rogue comes good, and more than justifies Xavier's choice in UXM #171.  I can't imagine how much more of a bum note this idea must have seemed at the time.

Never mind, though.  She's here now, as Mariko points out (though with considerably more finesse), and there are many other things for us to consider.  Who will be Logan's best man?  Is Wolverine more or less likely to threaten to stab people for talking to Mariko once they're married?  And did Charles Xavier just not get an invitation, or has he blown the whole thing off to help a mutant couple he just met yesterday get hitched instead?

Whilst we bend our noble brows to such weighty matters, however, dark deeds are afoot.  The Silver Samurai has returned to Japan, and is poised to attack Logan and so gain vengeance for his murdered father (killed by Wolverine in WOL #4).  Fortunately for the ol' canucklehead, though, Kenuchio-san isn't the only one that's been keeping tabs on him.  His former lover Yukio has taken it upon herself to watch his back, which is pretty decent of her when you consider he dropped her like a burning bar of soap the instant Mariko came back on the market.  I'm not too proud to admit that in her situation I'd be more likely to cheer the Silver Samurai on than I would be to kick him in the face.

She kicks him in the face, starting a battle that Logan overhears. Once Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Storm join the brawl, Kenuchio beats a hasty retreat.  Yukio takes off as well - I guess a post-fracas conversation with Logan would be all kinds of awkward - but in her haste she falls from a rooftop, only to be saved by Storm.

The contrast between the free-spirit act-on-impulse Yukio and the wound-tight-to-the-point-of-constriction Storm is played for all its worth here.  It's one of the two themes Claremont is returning to in this issue (we'll come to the other in a few paragraphs).  Storm is scared that continuing to keep everything under wraps will leave her incapable of caring about anyone or anything, but just as scared that cutting loose will end up getting herself or someone she loves killed.  It's not just Yukio's choice to live in the moment that she envies, then, it's the fact that the ronin's choice came with no apparent cost.

Back inside Mariko's rooms, Logan finds himself facing the unpleasant task of explaining that they can't pump Shingen for information over the Samurai's intended attack, owing to how he disemboweled him last winter.  There's an interesting implication here that Kitty manages to love and idolise Logan mainly by being able to lie to herself regarding exactly what he is, and her occasional brushes with the truth are therefore exceptionally painful.  This leads into the second theme played with by the issue, but it's not time to bring that in just yet.

Whilst the X-Men try to figure out how to respond to the Silver Samurai, Mariko has her own problems.  She's been summoned to a secret meeting concerning her family, and specifically her late father.  Having no wish to drag Logan into the machinations that stained the honour of her clan, Mariko slips out into the night alone.  Moments later, Viper quietly punches her way into the house.  Mariko is walking into a trap, and the former Madame Hydra doesn't want the X-Men in any shape to help her get back out.

Viper dresses as a maid and serves our heroes their tea, which we can assume will not end well.  Which is a shame, as the conversation Logan and Ororo get down to before the poison overwhelms the former (just in time to warn Storm not to drink) is very interesting indeed.  The second theme that I've been teasing is here: Wolverine hasn't the faintest fucking clue how to help his fiancee get out of the hole her criminal father dug her family into, because he can't see any way that slashing people up will help.  This is basically a slight re-jig of a similar theme from NMU #7, but this time it's explicit rather than (barely) subtext.  It's also, to my mind, much more interesting this time around, tied up as it is in Wolverine's psyche.  It's both a reminder that he sees himself as no more than a killing machine (and thus, he argues, not worthy of Mariko in any case), and a look at his strange conception of women.  He's clearly not a misogynist, but he does have a marked tendency to underestimate women, and treat them almost as children.  It's no surprise that his longest relationships with the opposite sex have been platonic ones with very young women.

In short, it's strong Claremont-era character work, and pleasingly free of histrionics to boot.  Like I said, it's a shame it's all interrupted when everyone but Ororo is poisoned.

Across town, Mariko has arrived in her car (not realising that Yukio has "replaced" her chauffeur) at the rendezvous she was given, a deserted dockland warehouse.  There she meets Viper, Harada Kenuchio, and Nabatone Yakuse, obayun of the Yakuza, who has stepped in to officiate.  Negotiations go poorly, partially because Harada is so bloodthirsty and intractable, but mainly because Mariko's position can best be summarised as "Your dad was a prick, you're a prick, and you get nothing, ever."

Except, as Yakuse has already worked out, it isn't Mariko at all, but Yukio in disguise.  The Silver Samurai attempts to kill her for the deception, but she's too light on her feet.  Meanwhile, Viper heads to Mariko's car, sure she must still be inside, only to be knocked out by Storm, who's been waiting in the back seat.  When Ororo arrives to help Yukio against Kenuchio, Yakuse is ecstatic.  Storm has fallen right into his trap.  We're given no clue as to what that means (though his ability to recognise Yukio as Mariko, and his apparent impervious to colossal explosions suggests there's much more to this guy than just being Yakuza), but the immediate effect is that Storm's powers go out of control.  She almost electrocutes the Samurai with her first lightning bolt, and in trying to stop from killing him outright, Storm seems to charbroil her own skin, as well as set fire to the surrounding boxes, which prove to be filled with fireworks.

Yukio saves the day by smothering Ororo with her disguise and tipping them both into Tokyo Bay.  Storm seems miraculously unhurt by her ordeal, but perhaps she just doesn't notice the pain whilst staring in terror at the burning warehouse, the flames of which have unmistakeably taken the shape of the Phoenix.  Kenuchio has made it out alive, as well, and carries away a stunned Viper, swearing that Yukio and Ororo just made his list, right underneath his half-sister.

(Yakuse is unharmed as well, as mentioned above, and watches our heroes from the shadows as they stumble away.  I don't see this ending well.)

Meanwhile, in the intensive care wing of the hospital the X-Men have been taken to, Logan is back on his feet, but just barely.  So too is Rogue, her alien metabolism "borrowed" from Carol Danvers having helped her shrug the poison off.  The others are still in critical condition, but Wolverine, obviously, doesn't want to wait.  Just as with NMU 7, a story with nods to problems that cannot be solved with violence ultimately gives way to solving problems with violence.  Or that's the idea, at least.  Wolverine's so keen to carve Kenuchio up into hibachi he's even letting Rogue come along.  Time for some counter-vengeance!


This is liable to get complicated. First of all, this story clearly takes place after NMU #7, since Storm tells Wolverine of Karma's death. We can also assume that the X-Men didn't abandon the search for their missing comrade the instant the New Mutants headed southeast to Ipanema.

On top of that, a commercial flight to Japan from New York takes the better part of 24 hours, and I'm assuming the flight isn't all that much faster on the Emperor's 747 than it is on any other one.  Given all this, we can assume the X-Men couldn'tarrive in Japan somewhere around a week after the destruction of Viper's Big Sur base.That's still a few days before where we'e placed UXM #171, though, so everything works out just fine.

The chief wrinkle in all this though is that the narration makes it clear Wolverine killed Mariko's father ten weeks earlier.  We've timed it at something more like nineteen.  Ten weeks ago by our count, the X-Men were comatose and undergoing Brood implantation.

The two options here are to ignore the "ten weeks" comment, or to place the Wolverine limited series after the X-Men return to Earth. Publishing dates very much notwithstanding, the latter approach is unambiguously to be the one Claremont intended to take. Not only does a text box in UXM #169 explaining Logan's absence by referring to the limited series, but Claremont seemingly hurriedly rewrote the backdrop to various X-books to replace summer with mid spring and then winter, as he tried to tie UXM, NMU and WOL together.

Bringing Wolverine forwards means ignoring the dialogue in that issue regarding the seasons in those issues.  Leaving it where it is means either ignoring the dialogue here, or trying to further fiddle around with the already entirely screwed seasonal chronology problem that's already present.  I don't intend to go anywhere near that particular clustercuss if I can avoid it, and the other two options mean either altering earlier continuity in favour of later continuity (which I'm keen to avoid where possible) or treating events in the spin-off books as taking precedence over their parent title.

So, when there's no clear rational course to take, I shall fall back on aesthetics: Wolverine is just too well crafted and atmospheric a miniseries for me to fiddle with its dates here.

The issue itself starts in the late evening in Japan, and seems to continue until morning.  I'm not sure if that's quite true; it's difficult to tell, but there's a scene in the final third of the book in which Alex and Scott have a conversation late at night in Anchorage about the remarkable coincidence of Madelyne Pryor surviving a plane crash at the exact same moment, and so stretching the Japanese time-frame past dawn at least makes sense of that.


Saturday 6th to Sunday 7th August, 1983.


X+5Y+155 to X+5Y+156.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.67 standard years

(Colossus is 26 years old.)

"It is good to see you, tovarisch."
Contemporary Events

The US sends F-15s to Chad to aid their government in it's fight against Libyan-backed rebel forces.

Standout Line

"This kind'a scrap's too subtle f'r me, I don't know how to handle it."

No comments:

Post a Comment