Sunday, 5 August 2012

XHY #14: "Yet No More Like My Father..."

("If any person here present...")


Whilst browsing the quite exceptional TARDIS Eruditorum (which I was turned on to by our newest follower Abigail, who is running a blog similar in spirit to this one, only with less pedantic obsession with time or clumsy dick jokes), I happened to come across Sandifer's appraisal of John Byrne:
[T]he fact that John Byrne thinks comics are for stupid readers is fairly clear to anyone who has actually read a John Byrne comic...
This, of course, is entirely true, and manages the rather irritating feat of effortlessly compressing much of my last fourteen issues worth of complaining into a single sentence.  You could argue, I suppose, that XHY being so constantly teeth-grinding in its patronising approach is genuinely retro, which isn't so much an illogical argument as totally beside the point.  There's clearly nothing wrong with retroism as an idea, but generally speaking, the idea should be to recall the faults of the past and have gentle fun with them, not repeat them verbatim.  When people walk around Beamish, they do not expect to run the risk of contracting smallpox.

All of which is just a bit of throat-clearing before I go on to savage another issue of Hidden Years.   Four months after that story began, Xavier and Beast are still facing off against Ashley Martin.  There's simply no way anyone can think that's good storytelling. Two X-Men against a young girl and her pet robot and it's taken five issues to work through.  We finally get to the end of that strand here, as the police arrive and Xavier puts together a half-true explanation of what happened, but with the Sentinel already in pieces and Ashley psychically separated from her mutant power, this is a pointless epilogue to a pointless story in a pointless place.

"Not quite meanwhile" (how many times did Byrne write that over the last ten issues?  And how high did he get before he realised how terribly structured all this is?) at the mansion, the newly returned Iceman, Havok and Lorna use Cerebro to locate Scott's group (Florida, apparently, and we'll come back to that).  Rather than go ask them what's going on, of course, they decide it makes more sense to search the mansion, since there's a mess in the lounge.  This is spectacularly out of character for Iceman, of course.  This is a guy who a year ago travelled across the Antarctic Ocean by ice-sled in order to fight through dinosaurs until he found his team-mates who might have been in trouble. Maybe that act of foolish bravado has temporarily cowed him.

At least over at Blob's place, there's some action going down.  Cyclops and Angel are still fighting their way through Mastermind's illusions and Blob's mooks.  They also have Candy Southern to worry about, but Angel leaves her on an acrobat's platform to keep her safe.

This is where thing get interesting, because they start unravelling.  Angel is sure Candy will be safe atop the platform, because Mastermind can't create solid objects.  Which, of course, doesn't make any sense.  Back when Wyngarde was messing with Jean's mind, she certainly thought the horses and daggers were real enough.  Which isn't to say Angel isn't wrong.  Mastermind can't create solid objects.  But he can create what appear to be real objects, and that's what matters.

I think Byrne is trying to argue here that Mastermind's illusions become intangible once you know he's involved.  But that doesn't really make a great deal of sense, either.  How does knowing one thing is an illusion help you with anything else?  Why don't the X-Men automatically assume Mastermind is involved at all times, if it's that simple?

In fairness, this kind of confusion isn't something you can really blame on Byrne, or even on Marvel.  These are just the problems every character of this type produces.  That said, Byrne contradicts his own position a few pages later, when the now defeated evil mutants are bundled into paddy wagons, and Cyclops later frets that the fuzz might also have been illusions. One handshake, and that would all be cleared up, but Scott is still baffled.  That, at least, is all on Byrne.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes.  So the X-Men escape from the Blob's clutches, essentially because - and this part I genuinely do like - Kruger shows up to take revenge over the fake payment they gave him.  I'm not sure how he found them (though given how ill-defined and expansive Kruger's powers are, there's no reason to assume he didn't totes just know where they are), and the timing is awful convenient, but there's something at least slightly interesting about the X-Men blundering around until someone else shows up to sort everything out.

Once Kruger has taken out the old guard, someone has to deal with him, and Candy's ridiculous boots are up to the job.  But after she kicks him in the face, yay, even unto his lapse of consciousness, things take a turn for the worse.  Kruger has brought some of his circus freaks as back-up, you see, and they're understandably none too happy about watching their leader and protector getting knocked out by a pair of bright yellow go-go boots.  He might have been a slaver, but he was their slaver, keeping them safe in a world more than happy to let them fall off a cliff, and maybe give them a nudge as well.

That's a sound basis for a strong ethical debate: how do you persuade the people who owe their home and security to a criminal to let that criminal be handed over to the authorities.  Naturally, Byrne blows this, and here, he blows it bad.  Jean Grey, apparently one of the most gorgeous women in Marvel from the way everyone goes on about her, ambassador of perfection from the ranks of the beautiful slice of homo superior, tells the forgotten, marginalised unpowered mutants that they've been wrong all along.  Kruger may have clothed and fed them, protected them from the baying mob, but he was a total dick to them as well.  It's a poor argument, and their immediate willingness to abandon Kruger once the pretty ones point out the "truth" to them leaves something of a sour taste.  Learning out later that Jean "nudged" Kruger's followers into agreeing with her doesn't make it any better, either, though at least Scott displays the proper distaste when he learns what his girlfriend has done.

With Kruger, Blob, Unus and Mastermind apparently on their way to jail, the three mutants and Candy board the X-Jet, helpfully left nearby by Kruger, and head back to base.  En route, Candy finally reveals the reason she came looking for Warren in the first place: Warren's uncle, a supervillain long thought dead, has suddenly resurfaced, and plans to marry Warren's mother!

This leads us to another problem: Warren hasn't told her mother about who murdered her husband, for fear of piling too much onto her.  God forbid the woman gets closure, of course, but this is a implicit nod to something which rapidly becomes entirely explicit, the idea that Warren's mother is incapable of being given bad news of any kind, in case "her grief would utterly consume her".  That's an actual diagnosis from the family doctor.  Which leaves Angel and the other original X-Men (Xavier is still helping Ashley and Alex and Lorna haven't been invited to this, the world's most ridiculous intervention) determined to stop a wedding without actually being able to say anything to the upcoming bride.  I can buy Warren being dumb enough to not want to upset his mother with this, but getting everyone else to sign up to this pisses me off.  "Never been strong" is not a diagnosis.  It's a piss-poor reason to treat a woman like she's made of eggshells.

It's certainly not like trying to talk to the would-be groom is going to help; the man's so lunatic the last time Angel fought him he punched his way out of Angel's grip whilst being saved from a burning building, and was presumed dead following his resultant fall.  How he survived we don't know, but he's back, and his light based powers (this guy was the original Dazzler) are more effective than ever, as he's more than willing to demonstrate.

But what can our heroes do? They may see right through Uncle Burtram's act - "Your feigned hurt feelings have all the veracity of the declarations of love with which I'm sure you wooed Warren's bereaved mother.", as Hank tells him (or maybe Scott does, there's some sloppy pencilling or colouring work which makes it hard to tell), with Byrne's typical ear for natural dialogue, but they're under doctor's orders to not let Kathryn Worthington find out the truth.  The resulting broken heart, we learn, would only kill her!

Lame, lame, lame...


We learn here that the Blob picked up his captives from Kruger in the Antarctic Ocean, and took them to Florida.  That's a distance of just under 6,500 miles, which the villains travel by boat.  This causes some problems, since it already makes no sense that Alex, Bobby and Lorna got back to the mansion to find it already empty.  It's ridiculous to think Jean, Scott and Warren could already be in Florida by the time they think to check Cerebro; that's a sea journey of a week at best.

This isn't the first time Byrne has failed to put any thought into travel times, of course; another reason why he shouldn't be allowed near split timelines, or really word processors.  If we take into account the journey time, though, we run into problems both with the Iceman et al storyline, and also that of Beast and the Professor's.  We'll just have to assume Fred Dukes has some kind of supersonic catamaran, or something.

It's difficult to determine just how long this issue lasts, but it seems likely that the group set off to deal with Warren's family woes the day after their reunion at the mansion.


Thursday 10th to Saturday 12th July, 1980.


X+2Y+98 to X+2Y+100.

Contemporary Events

A group of Iranian soldiers are arrested and charged with plotting with the US, the USSR, and Israel to overthrow Ayatollah Khomeini.

Standout Line

"Hey, rube!!"
"That traditional circus call for help won't do much good, friend!"

What? How? How could anyone possibly think that this is how people speak?  You could mail random dictionary pages to a Burmese monkey house and get back scripts that ring with more natural dialogue.

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