Wednesday, 12 September 2012

UXM #173: "To Have And Have Not"

(Turning Japanese.)


With most of the X-Men coughing up their stomach linings, we'll be focusing on Wolverine and Rogue this issue.  They're smashing their way through Tokyo, looking for someone who knows where Nabatone Yakuse (the crimeworld "mediator" from last issue who seemed to know far more than he should), and they're not too picky who they have to repeatedly hit in order to get the information.  Eventually someone cracks - as an alternative to bleeding to death from the face - and our heroes are on their way.

Nabatone's hideout turns out to be deserted, barring the occasional automated laser cannon.  The strain on our duo is probably more of a threat, though.  Rogue's stolen powers might well make her immune to getting shot, but they're also a constant reminder of why Logan hates her as much as she does, and her flirty attitude isn't helping either.  We don't quite get an answer for those fans who've always wondered if Wolverine's claws could cut through Rogue's skin (and these people exist, I promise you), but we certainly come close.  Indeed, probably the only thing that prevents a murderous scuffle is the discover of Nabatone's long-dead body.  They've been punked!

On the other side of town, meanwhile, Yukio and Storm are dithering over whether to hole up for the night or head for the hospital and their critically ill friends, but bands of roving thugs keep showing up to render their discussions moot.  Unfortunately for the waves upon waves of hapless mooks, Ororo has finally made her choice between extreme self-control and total self-release, and she's gone for door number 2, the one adorned with a wood relief showing a one hit point lickspittle taking a lightning bolt to the testes.

While Storm is embracing her inner sadist, Rogue and Wolverine are hot-footing it back to the hospital, assuming Viper will take advantage of their absence and mount an attack. Which, in fairness, she does, though the Odd Couple show up before anyone's blades can enter anyone else's flesh (anyone with a name, anyway; guarding unconscious superheroes must come with some pretty spectacular danger pay). Rogue takes on the assembled swarm of Hand ninjas, and Wolverine spends four pages fighting the Silver Samurai in near-total silence. I assume Claremont is trying to recapture the atmosphere he and Frank "increasingly utterly unbearable" Miller applied to such effect in the Wolverine mini-series, and in truth Paul Smith comes close to pulling it off.

Logan breaks Harada's arm and is all for moving up the skeleton, but Mariko intercedes, preferring to see her half-brother humiliated, rather than perforated. Further debate on the topic is cut short when Viper arrives, pointing a gun at Wolverine and Mariko and ordering them to release the samurai. It's an odd kind of Mexican stand-off, this, with Viper and Logan threatening each other's other half. That said, the fact that Kenuchio-san had to get a limb snapped before he could be as helpless as his sibling rather underlines the problem with Mariko, which is her lack of agency. Aside from being nice to Rogue (aka the woman who tried to kill her fiance's oldest friend), Mariko's only real choice through all this was to confront her half brother, and even that got co-opted by Yukio.

Of course, if we're going to talk gender politics, it's worth noting that not only did this issue quickly pass the Bechmel test, but that when Harada passes out in agony, Logan is the only male among the six characters still standing. So it's not all bad.

The moment the Samurai goes down, Viper opens fire, but Rogue appears in time to operate as a superhuman shield. Viper is firing something much worse than bullets agony, though; Rogue quickly absorbs enough energy to cause serious damage, but the blaster overloads before she does. Weaponless and sans samurai, Viper withdraws. Rogue looks horribly like she's going to be taking her own journey soon enough, but Logan donates his healing factor as repayment for shielding Mariko.

A week goes by, and we reach the eve of the wedding, at Mariko's ancestral home just outside Agarashima. Mariko is waltzing around in an ecstatic haze; it's sickening. She's so out of it, she can't even remember when strange men show up to wish her well in distinctly sinister tones. Maybe, though, that's because something else has just occurred to her.

The big day. The guests of good cheer: the now-recovered X-Men (with Rogue in a wheelchair); Charles and Lilandra; Lorna and Alex; a somewhat uncomfortable-looking Corsair, and Scott and Madelyne, whose arrival nearly causes an intergalactic incident when Lilandra makes the entirely reasonable assumption that she's in the presence of the Phoenix reborn. Charles intercedes, insisting that Madelyne has no connection to Jean Grey (with rather more confidence than Scott can summon), and all is once more well.

Except that someone is missing. Well, two people, including Carol Danvers (nice work there, Charlie), but I'm talkin' bout Storm, who arrives late in skin-tight leather and sporting a mohawk. Kitty is horrified by the idea her friends might unilaterally decide to change their style (this is one of Sprite's tantrums that actually works really well, it being about the common teenage desperate need for utter stasis in their surroundings, even as they desperately wish they themselves could change as quickly and completely as possible), and it always did strike me as quite silly, but really the only problem here is how inappropriate her get-up is for a wedding. Style crises can wait, lady, this is about Logan and Mariko.

That was the plan, anyway. At the height of the ceremony, Mariko suddenly calls everything to a halt. Logan is a foreigner, gaijin, and unworthy (you might think halfway through the wedding attended by the Emperor himself is an inelegant time to raise such objections; I believe Robby Hart once made a similar point). Mariko is icily unconcerned, the guests are thunderstruck, and Wolverine is utterly crushed.

The stranger standing outside, though, looks delighted. He also looks more than a little like Jason Wyngardes, aka Mastermind, aka the man directly responsible for turning Jean Grey into the Dark Phoenix. Which means, needless to say, that things are about to get very bad.

(By the way, this issue represents the twentieth anniversary of the X-Men's existence.Which isn't bad going. On the other hand, it's taken me more than fifteen month to get this far. Once the '90s arrive, I'm in real trouble. Perhaps I should start measuring my own progress as well as the comic's, and ultimately disappear into an endlessly recursive self-referential analytic tunnel.)


This issue begins soon after the last one concluded, and takes place over eight days.


Sunday 7th to Monday 15th August, 1983


X+5Y+156 to X+5Y+164.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.67 standard years.

(Colossus is 26 years old.)

"It is good to be out of  hospital, tovarisch."
Contemporary Events

Meryl Streep's daughter Mamie is born, as is the almost unbearably cute Tina O'Brien.

Standout Line

"Take a hike, shorty! Lemme do mah good deed f'r the day." - Rogue.

Actually, this is really only noteworthy in context: one of the most ridiculous "Talking is a free action" moments I've seen in some time. Observe:

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