Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Timeline: 1983 Jul - Dec (Take 5)


1st   MGN #4: Renewal
2nd  MGN #4: Renewal
3rd   MGN #4: Renewal
4th   MGN #4: Renewal
5th   MGN #4: Renewal
6th   NMU #1: Initiation
6th   NMU #2: Sentinels
9th   NMU #3: Nightmare
9th   UXM #167: The Goldilocks Syndrome (Or: "Who's Been Sleeping in my Head?")
9th   MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
10th UXM #167: The Goldilocks Syndrome (Or: "Who's Been Sleeping in my Head?")
10th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
11th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
12th UXM Annual 6: Blood Feud!
12th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
13th UXM Annual 6: Blood Feud!
13th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
13th DAZ #25: The Jagged Edge
14th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
15th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
16th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
17th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
17th UXM #168: Professor Xavier is a Jerk!
18th UXM #168: Professor Xavier is a Jerk!
18th OBN #1: Something Slimy This Way Comes
19th UXM #168: Professor Xavier is a Jerk!
20th UXM #168: Professor Xavier is a Jerk!
22nd DAZ #26: Against the Wind
22nd NMU #4: Who's Scaring Stevie?
23rd DAZ #26: Against the Wind
23rd NMU #5: Heroes
24th DAZ #26: Against the Wind
24th NMU #5: Heroes
24th NMU #6: Road Warriors!
25th NMU #6: Road Warriors!
27th DAZ #27: Fugitive!
27th DAZ #28: Vendetta!
27th NMU #7: Who's Scaring Stevie?
28th DAZ #28: Vendetta!
28th NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
29th DAZ #29: Fame!
29th NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
30th NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
31st NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!


1st    NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
2nd   NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
3rd    UXM #169: Catacombs
3rd    UXM #170: Dancin' in the Dark
3rd    NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
4th    UXM #171: Rogue
4th    NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
5th    NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
6th    UXM #172: Scarlet in Glory
7th    UXM #172: Scarlet in Glory
7th    UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
8th    UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
9th    UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
10th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
11th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
12th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
13th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
14th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
15th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
20th  NMU #8: The Road to... Rome?
21st  NMU #8: The Road to... Rome?
21st  NMU #9: Arena
22nd NMU #9: Arena
29th  UXM #174: Romances
31st  UXM #175: Phoenix!


1st   UXM #175: Phoenix!
2nd  UXM #175: Phoenix!
3rd   UXM #175: Phoenix!
7th   UXM #176: Decisions
17th UXM #176: Decisions

UXM #176: "Decisions"

(Just count the fucking tentacles!)


After all the sound and fury of UXM #175, it seems it's time for something of a breath-catching exercise. This issue is made up of one major storyline and three major ones, but all feel like they're either marking time or setting up stories further down the road.  There's nothing with taking this tack from time to time, of course, though later examples of the approach are generally somewhat more cohesive, and it has the distinctive advantage of allowing me to split up my comments like so:

1a. The Storm

Scott and Madelyne are onboard the latters' plane as they head across the Pacific [1] to Boragora (either Claremont is thinking of Bora Bora, or he's a Tales of the Gold Monkey fan) for some time in the sun, whilst they try to decide whether to take Christopher Summers' offer of berths on the Starjammer.  This being a superhero comic, nothing proceeds as planned, and a large storm on the horizon bodes ill.  Our plucky duo are unable to outrun it, and when the high winds preceding the main storm hit, Madelyne's rather creaky plane is pitched into the drink.

With time rather running out before the oncoming storm sinks their plane and their chances of survival, Scott gets to work trying to fix their broken engine, only to come within a hair's breadth of being swallowed whole by a twenty-foot great white shark. Cyclops blasts it to discourage further attacks - in one of only pages which feature any application of mutant power in the issue, interestingly - but what actually finishes it off is an attack from below, as long sucker-lined tentacles wrap around it, and drag it down towards an unseen mouth.

1b. The "Squid"

So, something large and betentacled is lurking beneath the plane, and rising fast.  No sooner has Scott finally managed to repair the engines than Madelyne is plucked from atop the plane and dragged into the deep.  Cyclops dives in after her, and comes face to face with a giant octopus.

Or as he calls it, a squid, because clearly we all look alike to him. This is nothing less than cephalopod racism.

Hungry for human flesh, or possibly just enraged by offensively poor taxonomy, the octopus (which is at least three times too big to be real, but I guess freakishly oversized aquatic carnivores are as close to a Halloween link as we're gonna get here) grabs Scott as well, but a barrage of optic blasts rather changes its mind on the matter.  It's a long, difficult swim back to the goose, but the pair eventually make it, spark up the engines, and escape from mollusc and storm both.  Scott announces he's decided to remain on Earth, and Marvel's newest married couple fly off into the sunrise.

2.  The Spurning

Mariko awakes in Agarashima to find a sword on her bed, and an angry ex-fiance on her case.  Wolverine has flown out to tell her exactly where she can stick her high-falutin' sharp-edged presents.  Turns out that jilting someone at the altar and then posting them an ancient and priceless family heirloom doesn't really work as an apology, so much as make the jilting even more difficult to process.  Not unreasonably, Logan demands to know what kind of messed-up thought process leads Mariko to decide he's worthy of the symbol of her clan's honour, but not of her.

So, here's a thing.  I really want to be careful here, because my two years of Japanese language courses notwithstanding, I'm nowhere near sufficiently versed in Mariko's culture to judge whether her interpretation of honour is appropriate.  Maybe Claremont has a handle on the country that I've not attained yet, I don't know.  With all that said by way of disclaimer, though, to these western eyes Mariko's position seems utterly ridiculous.  She was forced by Mastermind (I'm still not quite clear on how) to reforge her family's ties with the underworld that Logan severed in the Wolverine limited series, and this has stained her family's honour.  That I get, though she's clearly being too hard on herself.

But the idea that this stain is so great she can't marry her true love? What possible sense can that make? It's not like Logan is exactly a paragon of honour either.  That's what makes him so interesting, in fact; he combines a strong moral compass with a near-total regard for any kind of formalised system.  The guy sweats Chaotic Good from every grimy pore.

I think what Claremont is trying to get at is that Mariko figures she must clear up her mistake, and the only way to stop Wolverine from interfering is to dump him, but that still feels distinctly weaksauce.  In fact, this whole thing smacks of Claremont not wanting Wolverine to get married, and pasting together a justification that wouldn't hold up against a gentle summer breeze.

3.  The Senate

Up on Capitol Hill, NSC Agent Henry Gyrich has been summoned to a meeting by no less than the President's National Security Advisor, Judge Petrie, and he has no idea why.  Turns out, Petrie has put together representatives from critical governmental agencies and departments pretty much across the board so that they can discuss the problem of the super-powered.

It seems the CIA have been busy since Magneto's destruction of the Soviet city of Varykino six months earlier (X-Date reckoning).  They've been chasing up reports of mutants around the globe, and even run a simulation to determine how difficult the Avengers would find it to conquer the world.  Turns out: not that tricky at all (which seems a little unlikely, quite frankly, but it's not like overwhelming paranoia isn't a standard CIA feature).  The CIA want something done about it, and Petrie's staffer Val Cooper (Hello, Val!  Glad you could finally join us!) figures she has the solution: a government-sanctioned mutant team they can use to beat up all those nasty foreign superheroes.

This starts off an interesting (albeit brief) debate, and I mean "interesting" in the sense that neither side is clearly wrong; which still feels like something of a novelty in the X-books up to this point.  Gyrich, like Kelly before him, isn't entirely devoid of a point when it comes to being worried about the risk of mutants within the population.  It's their prescriptions that are problematic, not their diagnoses.  I think a more full discussion regarding Kelly's approach at least is worth its own post, but for now just let me say that I'm not writing Gyrich off as a clear-cut villain.

Interestingly, though, the Gyrich we see here doesn't really seem to line up with the one that put together Operation: WIDEAWAKE.  This Gyrich is arguing that signing mutants up to fight other mutants is exactly the kind of move Magneto would be liable to find provocative.  Which isn't a bad point; just because one refuses to negotiate with terrorists doesn't mean one must ignore their likely responses to a given action.  What I don't understand here is why Gyrich didn't figure sending Sentinels out to abduct mutant teenagers wasn't equally as provocative. Was he hoping Magneto just wouldn't hear about that, or something?

Inconsistency aside, Gyrich's point is well made, but I think Val gets the better of the debate. Magneto has already demonstrated he is willing to hold the world in general for acts, so once other countries start assembling mutant task-forces, there's really no reason to not get in on the deal.  That said, I think Gyrich is wise to suggest waiting for a little while, if only because it would be worth checking other countries are assembling such teams, rather than assuming (as Val seems to be) that the Russians are just bound to do it because they're all smelly jerkfaces.

4.  The Subterranean

A thousand feet below Manhattan, Caliban has visitors.  Callisto, along with Masque and Sunder, have arrived to check up on him, since he's not been around much.  Apparently these four were the original founders of the Morlocks, though I assume they carried Sunder for most of it; if that guy found God he'd lose Him behind the sofa.

Caliban is still mourning over Kitty, who promised to stay with him forever in exchange for his assistance in saving the X-Men from Callisto, only to renege on her word once her friends were sage.  Callisto swears to return Kitty to him, ostensibly to see moral justice done and to cheer up her old friend, but she's not putting any real effort into hiding the truth: she's hoping Storm will get in the way and give Callisto another crack at carving herself up a weather witch.


Madelyne mentions it's been weeks since the couple took off for their honeymoon, so we'll place this exactly a fortnight after their wedding.  The issue itself takes place over several hours.

That said, though, I think there's some value in splitting up the issue into two time periods.  Mainly, this is because there seems no reason to move the whole narrative forward in order to fit in with conversations between two characters we're not going to see for a little while in any case.  If we ignore the Summers' honeymoon for the moment, we can assume only three days have passed since the events of UXM Annual #7, since that gives enough time for Wolverine to receive the sword sent by Mariko and to get to Japan to confront her about it.

One problem in all of this is that Madelyne says they're not in hurricane season, which would place this story somewhere between the start of December and the middle of May.  It's possible Madelyne just got this wrong, of course.


Wednesday 7th and Saturday 17th September, 1983.


X+5Y+187 and X+5Y+197.

Compression Constant 

1 Marvel year = 3.66 standard years.

(Colossus is 26 years old.)

Contemporary Events

Vanessa Williams becomes the first black woman to be crowned Miss America, a racial breakthrough in the field of sexist anachronisms that presumably caused progressives at the time no small amount of confusion.

Standout Line

"New York City... Everyone thinks of it as reaching for the stars, skyscrapers turning its streets into man-made canyons.

They forget it reaches the other way, too."

[1] Strangely, they're heading east to do it.  Maybe they stopped off in Japan first, actually; I presume Wolvie had a few things arranged for his honeymoon that he ain't going to be needing no more.

Friday, 26 October 2012

UXM Annual #7: "Scavenger Hunt"

(It was never like this with Anneka Rice.)


It's interesting that Cyclops is up on the cover there, since he doesn't appear in the comic at all, presumably being busy on his honeymoon.

The rest of this comic is not interesting.  I've said it many times at the other blog, and I think at least once here, but Claremont is always at his very least interesting when he tries to be zany.  Sure, his melodrama tends to be desperately over-egged, but at least you can latch onto it.  Carefree Claremont is just a rickety assembling of mutually incompatible ideas, with more than a hint of self-indulgence to it.

Exhibit A is "Scavenger Hunt".  More precisely, there's a section inside this book that perfectly encapsulates the very worst Claremont excesses.  Since that's what I want to focus on, we'll power through the bits that lead up to it.  The one sentence pitch to this story goes as follows: the X-Men are playing baseball when Galactus shows up and steals their house.

Now, fair enough, that's a fantastic idea (no pun intended).  Anyone who doesn't think that's a great start to a story is frankly in the wrong hobby. I can fully understand anyone who might be worried the payoff can't possibly match it, of course, but as kick-offs go, that takes some beating.  And in any case, Claremont drops at least one hint that "Galactus" isn't actually the real deal (it's hard to imagine The Hunger That Does Not Cease describing anything as "neat" in it' literal sense, let alone as slang).

The X-Men attempt to give chase, and as the story progresses they meet more and more superheroes, each of which has something stolen from them, and most of whom decide to blame the X-Men.  One could argue that this is in itself a form of self-indulgence - Claremont deciding he's going to drag the entire Marvel Universe into one of his foolish flights of fancy - but if you're going to link in the X-Men to rest of the Marvel line, an annual is a good place to do it.  It's the execution that's problematic here.  It's one thing to decide you want to have a Nick Fury cameo in your silliness, it's another to have him fail to notice when a shape-changing alien steals the eye-patch off his face.

But it's the last item on the alien's shopping list that causes the real problems: he wants Stan Lee.  Now, in terms of meta-narrative, that makes perfect sense.  What's a collector going to go for after he steals things from every major superhero but the guy who created most of those superheroes in the first place?  As a subdivision of a narrative, though, it's a total disaster.

OK, so, one should always admit their biases.  I hate fourth wall breaking. For some reason it pisses me off even when it shouldn't, like in 30 Rock for example, but I really can't stand it in any situation where I have invested in the narrative (which is not the same thing as suspension of disbelief, I hasten to add, lest Dr Sandifer show up and start shouting at me).  I think I just love fictional histories too much (witness the growth of this ever-more ridiculous blog) for me to see it as anything but a frustrating and self-destructive interruption.  That said, I'm generally perfectly alright with Deadpool, which suggests either that it's different when the idea is baked into a character from the start, or, and I think this the more likely option, it's not so much that the fourth wall mustn't be broken, so much as if you're going to do it, you better damn sure you stick the landing.

This is not a landing that has been stuck.  It has not been velcroed.  It hasn't even been that thing where you've been lying naked entwined with someone else and you have to peel yourselves apart when it's time to make a cuppa.  This is an astonishing seven and a half pages of Marvel bullpen references built around the X-Men fighting an alien, during which they run into seemingly every employee on Jim Shooter's books. I'm at a loss to understand who this is aimed at.  I've read every X-book from 1963 to this one, and I only dimly recognise most of the names here.  I certainly have no idea about whether the personal traits they're exhibiting are accurate, or funny caricatures, and the fact that every person here (save Claremont himself) has their name and job title included suggests plenty of people weren't supposed to know who was who. 

In which case, what was the point at all?  There's a great moment in the first season of The Office in which David Brent, with typical cluelessness, describes how sometimes people are left confused by his jokes, and he has to explain to them why they're funny. "And then they say 'oh, yeah.  Yeah, you are the best'.  It's their opinion!".  It feels like the same thing here: "Michael Golden is a prodigal freelancer working with Marvel.  Meeting actual Marvel characters is thus amusing."

Not only is this self-indulgent and unfunny, but it throws the pacing all to shit as well.  If you've got a shape-changing alien calling himself "The Impossible Man" running around town nicking everything that isn't super-nailed down, you have to keep the pace up, just so as to stop people thinking too much about how ludicrous this all is.  Forcing your readers to trudge through panel after panel of names and titles absolutely kills that.  Even if you do end it with the lovely image Colossus hugging a sabretooth tiger to try and keep it calm.

The long chase finally ends when Rogue grabs the alien from behind in an attempt to absorb his powers.  The resulting backlash, but it also encourages the alien - "last survivor of the planet Poppup" - to stop and talk.  He's pretty pissed off about Rogue's attack, but soon becomes upset when he realises just how much grief he's been causing, and takes the X-Men to his secret stash in the Gobi Desert.  This has all been a trial, he explains, a method to decide which of his family who fled Galactus eating their planet (so he's not the last survivor, I guess) gets to be in charge.

This, needless to say, is full-on ridiculous soup.  And even if it wasn't, I don't think it would be racist to tell the Poppupian to go fuck himself; he's on our world now, and we have our own ideas about how to gain and apply authority.  You don't get to just steal everything in sight and justify it through your own crazed desire for influence. <INSERT BANKER JOKE HERE>.

Before the team can decide what to do about all this, though, a rather large alien armada pops into existence in the Mongolian sky.  The Impossible Man's relatives have been causing quite the interplanetary stir, it would seem.  Luckily, Empress Lilandra is on hand to demonstrate her flair for inter-species diplomacy, promising to adjudicate the Poppup's competition and see the stolen items home, in exchange for the Poppup's promising to behave, and the other aliens to not attempt reprisals, something which as Lilandra points out could well go badly in any case.

So all's well that ends well.  Unless you're the Impossible Man, that is, who somehow loses the competition despite having spent all that time filching from the great and the good (presumably he was beaten by whichever Poppupian started half-inching from DC superheroes; if you manage to nick Batman's bat-pants then You. Have. Won.). At least he gets to stick around long enough for an iced lolly, though, so he can't claim this has been a total waste of time.

Would that we could say the same.


The presence of both Wolverine and Rogue places this at least after UXM #174, and more likely after UXM #175.  The introductory narrative implies spring has just arrived, but this is impossible since Wolverine's aborted wedding took place in mid spring.  Also, it's hard to imagine Kitty and Illyana wanting to hang by the pool wearing bikinis and eating iced treats in a New York spring.


Sunday 4th September, 1983.



Contemporary Events

Six men walk underwater across Sydney Harbour.

Standout Line

"What are these?"
"Hulk's trousers, looks like."
"Wow." - Sprite and Rogue.

What I wouldn't give to have read that story instead.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Time Line: 1982 (Take 7)

It looks like we'll finally be able to drag Alpha Flight kicking and screaming into the same year every other X-book is set in at the time, so hopefully this will be the last 1982 time line I'll have to do.


1st   UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
2nd UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
3rd  UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
4th  UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
5th  UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
6th  UXM 101: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes!
6th  UXM 102: Who Will Stop the Juggernaut?
6th  UXM 103: The Fall of the Tower


8th    UXM 104: The Gentleman's Name is Magneto
8th    UXM 105: Phoenix Unleashed!
8th    UXM 106: Dark Shroud of the Past (present)
8th    UXM 107: Where no X-Man has Gone Before!
8th    UXM 108: Armageddon Now!
9th    UXM 108: Armageddon Now!
9th    UXM 109: Home are the Heroes!
10th  U1C 1: Refuge
10th U1C 2: To Err is Inhuman...
12th  U1C 3: The Next Life
13th  U1C 3: The Next Life
19th  U1C 4: Sisters of the Dragon
19th  U1C 5: The Knights of Hykon
20th  U1C 5: The Knights of Hykon
20th  U1C 6: The Sky is Falling
20th  U1C 7: The Shattered World
20th  U1C 8: The Curse of Craeliach
21st  U1C 8: The Curse of Craeliach
22nd U1C 8: The Curse of Craeliach


8th  UXM 110: The 'X'-Sanction!


25th UXM 111: Mindgames!
25th UXM 112: Magneto Triumphant!
26th UXM 112: Magneto Triumphant!
29th UXM 113: Showdown!
29th UXM 114: Desolation
30th UXM 114: Desolation


1st   UXM 114: Desolation
2nd   UXM 114: Desolation
3rd   UXM 114: Desolation
4th   UXM 114: Desolation
5th   UXM 114: Desolation
5th   UXM 115: Visions of Death!
6th   UXM 115: Visions of Death!
7th   UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
8th   UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
9th   UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
10th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
11th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
12th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
13th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
14th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
15th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
16th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
17th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
18th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
19th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
20th UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
21st UXM 116: To Save the Savage Land
21st UXM #117: Psi War!


2nd   UXM #118: The Submergence of Japan!
3rd    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
4th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
5th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
6th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
7th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
8th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
9th    UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
10th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
11th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
12th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
13th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
14th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
14th  UXM #119: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...
15st  UXM #120: Wanted: Wolverine!  Dead or Alive!
15st  UXM #121: Shoot-out at the Stampede!
22nd UXM #122: Cry for the Children!


14th   UXM #123: Listen -- Stop me if You've Heard it -- but This One Will Kill You!
14th   UXM #124: He Only Laughts When I Hurt!
15th   UXM #124: He Only Laughts When I Hurt!
20th   UXM Annual 3: A Fire in the Sky
21st   UXM #125: There's Something Awful on Muir Island!
22nd  UXM #125: There's Something Awful on Muir Island!
22nd  UXM #126: How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth...!
23rd  UXM #126: How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth...!
23rd  UXM #127: The Quality of Hatred!
23rd  UXM #128: The Action of the Tiger!
29th  UXM #129: God Spare the Child...
30th  UXM #129: God Spare the Child...


1st    UXM #129: God Spare the Child...
2nd   UXM #129: God Spare the Child...
2nd   UXM #130: Dazzler
3rd   UXM #130: Dazzler
3rd   UXM #131: Run for Your Life!
4th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
5th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
6th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
7th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
8th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
9th    UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
10th  UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
11th  UXM #132: And Hellfire is Their Name!
11th  UXM #133: Wolverine: Alone!
12th  UXM #133: Wolverine: Alone!
12th  UXM #134: Too Late, the Heroes!
12th  UXM #135: Dark
12th  UXM #136: Child of Light and Darkness
13th  UXM #136: Child of Light and Darkness
13th  UXM #137: The Fate of the Phoenix!
14th  UXM #137: The Fate of the Phoenix!
18th  UXM #138: Elegy
28th  UXM Annual 4: Nightcrawler's Inferno
29th  UXM #139: ...Something Wicked this Way Comes!
30th  UXM #139: ...Something Wicked this Way Comes!
30th  UXM #140: Rage!
31st  UXM #141: Days of Future Past
31st  UXM #142: Mind out of Time!
31st  DAZ #1: So Bright This Star


5th   DAZ #2: Where Demons Fear to Dwell!
6th   DAZ #2: Where Demons Fear to Dwell!
7th   DAZ #2: Where Demons Fear to Dwell!
8th   DAZ #2: Where Demons Fear to Dwell!
10th ALF #1: Tundra!
23rd DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
24th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
25th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
26th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
27th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
28th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
29th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
30th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!


1st DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
2nd DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
3rd DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
4th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
5th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
6th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
7th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
8th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
9th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
10th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
10th ALF #2: Shadows of the Past
10th ALF #3: Yesterday's Man
10th ALF #4: Resolutions!
11th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
12th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
13th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
14th DAZ #3: The Jewels of Doom!
14th DAZ #4: Here Nightmares Reside!
14th DAZ #5: Tell Joey I Love Him!
15th DAZ #5: Tell Joey I Love Him!
16th DAZ #5: Tell Joey I Love Him!
17th DAZ #5: Tell Joey I Love Him!
24th  UXM #143: Demon
25th  UXM #143: Demon

(Titles in red represent specials).

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Things Past: Take 2

Because I forgot a Nightcrawler's birthday last time, and also: spaceships!

c 38 000 BC: An alien spacecraft crashes in the Arctic, and lures an exiled tribesman to millenia of torture.

1935: Charles Xavier is born to Brian and Sharon Xavier, workers on an American nuclear project never revealed to the general public.

1945: The Trinity nuclear test at Alamogordo on the 16th of July kills Brian Xavier.

1946: Sharon marries Kurt Marko - also at Alamogordo, and blamed by Charles for his father's death - who then moves into the Xavier family home.

c1948: Kurt is killed in a lab accident.  Soon after, Xavier discovers his psychic powers.

1953: After joining the army, Xavier (along with Kurt's son Cain) is deployed to Korea.

1957: Ororo Munroe is born.

1958: Jean Grey is born.

1961: Bobby Drake and Kurt Wagner are born.

1962: Xavier meets both Erik Lensherr and Gabrielle Haller, the latter of whom will one day bear him a son.

1964: A crewman is washed from the deck of the trawler Mary D and finds a golden egg on the sea-bed; this rapidly hatches into a hominid girl her finder names Marinna. Piotr Rasputin is born.

1968: Xavier faces Lucifer in Tibet, in a struggle that costs him the use of his legs.

1969: Ororo Munroe gives up her life as a street-thief in order to follow a strange compulsion drawing her to the Serengeti.  Katherine "Kitty" Pryde is born.

1972: James Hudson learns his mechanical suit design is to be used by the US Army in Vietnam; he responds by destroying the blueprints.

1977: Xavier founds the X-Men.

ALF #4: "Resolutions!"



It's crossover time!  I figured the arrival of Sue Storm and Namor at the end of last issue was some kind of fake-out, but no, it's them, trying to figure out what drove a barbarian horde south in Fantastic Four #260 (or so we're told). Namor's preternatural senses lead them to a massive structure buried under the Arctic ice, but their only reward is to be shot out of the sky in exactly the same manner as Alpha Flight was between issues 2 and 3.  Outside the complex, Snowbird hears the resulting explosion, but decides to follow her team-mates inside rather than investigate.

Under the surface, Guardian and Sasquatch have their own problem: Jeanne-Marie.  Sasquatch is appropriately angry that James was prepared to sign up someone with multiple personalities to be part of a superhero squad, and Hudson's defence that he met Northstar's sister as Aurora first doesn't really get him anywhere, as indeed it shouldn't. Fortunately, Jeanne-Marie recovers in time to interrupt the brewing argument with her outrageously stereotypical Frenchiness.  "Do not call me zat name!", etc.  This sounds like something that could get old fast - even given the likelihood of Byrne using the woman's speech patterns as a way of demonstrating which personality is dominant -  but the angry Quebecois quickly runs away, which is probably for the best.  Guardian wants to go after her, but Sasquatch argues that he's the best man for the job, because he totally fucked her once, or something.

And what do you know, it works.  All that it takes to reach the lady with MPD is to be reminded of the time a nice guy did her in New York.  This really isn't one for the sisterhood, right here, even if the memory of doing the nasty with a clump of orange shag-pile doesn't so much placate Jean-Marie as cause her to punch Walter in the face.

While all this is going on, Guardian has found Northstar, and convinced him to leave his sister with Sasquatch  so they can find out what's going on in the heart of the complex.  Bryne then winds the clock back a few minutes, partially to show Sue Storm and Namor extricating themselves from the crashed Fantasti-Car and entering the ship, but mainly to allow "the Master" another opportunity to fire exposition at poor old Marinna, who at this point might be happy to have the pain dials on the machine torturing her cranked up all the way to 11 if it would shut this guy up.

Long story short: Marrina is the scion of a race that attempted to seize control of every primitive world in the galaxy. The plan was to land a ship in inhospitable terrain, use hypnosis to draw life towards it, and seize whatever poor mook with enough wherewithal to arrive so it could be dissected and studied as the presumed dominant species.  The results could then be used to massage the DNA contained within the egg-sacs carried by the colony vessel, which would then be spread across the world.  This would have been Earth's fate, had not the ship crashed rather than landed, causing premature ejaculation.  Apparently only Marrina survived, partially conditioned and abandoned underwater; hence her current amphibious state.

I'm not sure how this fits in with the idea of her "brood-mate", suggested all of one issue earlier, but then Byrne clearly has no interest whatsoever in ensuring the two books match up; there's no continuity at all between last issue's arrival of Sue and Namor and this one.  That always annoys me in comics, but it's particularly galling here because I don't see any reason for the change being necessary. It's just pointlessly sloppy.

In any case, the Master realises he's out of his depth here, and throws a few giant mechanical arms at his opponents as a distraction whilst he flees the scene.  Apparently letting the heroes think they "control their own destiny" is critical to his plans.  Also of seeming importance: letting Guardian and Northstar beat the crap out of the ship's vital systems, which they prove only to happy to do.  As explosions rock the complex and entire sectors go dark, Snowbird arrives and frees Marrina, and all eight heroes assemble to decide on their next move.

Finding the Master or fleeing from the rapidly collapsing complex seem the only options.  Guardian is for the latter choice, there's not much point looking for the Master if whilst they're doing it the entire complex explodes.

Then the entire complex explodes.

Actually, it's more like it dissolves, and along with it any trace of the Master.  Sue uses a forcefield to keep everyone alive through the collapse, but it's still not clear whether the team can chalk this up as a win.

At least Marrina was saved, of course, although she decides to follow Namor home to Atlantis rather than stay with the team, reasoning the underwater kingdom is a more logical place to explore exactly who and what she is. This leads to a rather nice little scene where James Hudson has to explain to Marrina's sort-of brother that she won't be coming back.  It's difficult for me to feel much regarding her departure, since as a long-time reader my only response to Marinna in the first place was "Why haven't I heard her name before?", but there's still something affecting in watching James struggle to explain what's happened.


According to the opening narration, it's still summer, but we've already dismissed this as impossible back during ALF #1.  This story takes place over the course of a few hours.


Wednesday 10th of December, 1982.



Contemporary Events

That stuff what happened last time.

Standout Line

"Hold, "Master". Namor of Atlantis forbids this action!"

That's just begging to get the internet treatment.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

NMU #9: "Arena"

(Am I not entertained?)


So, when I covered the issue immediately proceeding this, I pointed out that a white girl pretending to be an Amazon tribeswoman in order to avoid detection sailed somewhat too close the the Sea of Bigotry.  Abigail was somewhat more direct in the comments section, going with "profoundly offensive racist bollocks".

This issue, if you're wondering, is a good deal worse.

The basic set-up is this; the New Mutants have been captured by the forces of Nova Roma, an attempt to replicate the glory of Rome in the middle of the Amazon Basin.  Amara Juliana Olivia Aquilla - briefly the mutants' captive and now pretending to be part of their party in order to avoid detection - was born in said city, but has been in voluntary exile for some time, in fear for her life.  Her father, Lucius Antonius Aquilla, is "first senator", in the midst of a political struggle that has the capacity to turn violent enough for him to want his daughter safely out of the city.

None of that is a problem, obviously.  Crazy, but not a problem.  What is problematic though is the nature of the struggle. The conflict is between the original Roman settlers (however they got here) and those descended from a large contingent of Incas that fled when the Spanish invaded in the 16th century.  The former want to keep Nova Roma a republic, the latter want to resurrect their monarchy and carve out a new Incan Empire.

In other words, all those nice white dudes who love them some senatorial action are in danger of having their vision for South America quite ruined by those pesky South Americans.  If only those natives would shut up and let the colonials decide what's best, everything would be fine, and the beautiful blonde girl the team has met would be safe from harm.  PROTECT THE BLONDE GIRL!

And it all that wasn't bad enough, it seems that those nasty, interfering foreign types have hooked up with some kind of murderous priestess, too, who's all about black robes and chucking people into calderas.  Human sacrifice, in other words.  In other contexts, it would be interesting to juxtapose a writer's condemnation of vilifying a native culture with me suggesting including one of that culture's religious ceremonies itself marks them out as villains.  I'm not going to do that here, though, because frankly the source material isn't worth it.

With the racism angle set aside (an analytic move, not a moral choice), there's actually some interesting stuff going on here.  The team itself is going to be split into two groups: those that fight as gladiators, and those that are sold off as slaves, which is hardly inspired, but the political shenanigans behind the scenes are at least diverting.  Amara's father doesn't know she's been captured, of course, but he does know three girls of around his daughter's age, along with two boys, have been seized, and he's more than willing to sacrifice all five of them so as not to give his opponent Marcus Domitus Gallio a possible opening.

Of course, Aquilla genuinely believes that beating Gallio is important enough to let five children die or be enslaved.  And given Gallio is shacked up with Selene, who even now is revealed as basically Lady Macbeth with added "dark arts" (and later becomes one of the X-teams most enduring adversaries), and had planned on using the New Mutants as troops in a coup d'etat, it's not like the guy is entirely without a case.  All that said, though, it's clear we're dealing with shades of grey battling it out, and whilst one shade is clearly darker than the other, Claremont deserves some credit for not trying to make Aquilla particularly sympathetic.

(That said, we know Amara is going to be the sixth person to sign up to a team whose fathers thus far have been dead, dead, dead, evil, and dead and replaced by an evil uncle.  Having Lucius turn out to be a bit of a dick doesn't seem quite so interesting in that context. We're not actually told Amara is a mutant just yet, actually, but she's shown to be immune to drugs and susceptible to bouts of agonising, idiopathic pain, which is pretty much case closed these days.)

Anyway, on with the plot.  With the mutants now out of bounds, Selene introduces Gallio to Castro, the saboteur from last issue, who claims Emanuel DaCosta would be up for an exchange: the resources of Nova Roma in return for enough boomsticks to take control of the city.  Gallio is suitably intrigued. Selene herself decides to check out the captives her husband mentioned, and is delighted to discover not only have two of them been drugged (in order to make them more compliant and get full enjoyment out of their friends' dismemberment in the arena the next day), but that the third is Amara, Lucius' daughter herself.

Noon the next day, and the games are about to begin.  The gladiators' handlers, having helpfully drugged Sam and Roberto to keep them docile all night, now show equal consideration in hepping them up on some kind of berserker drug, so at least they'll die in style.

(They'll also die in some kind of bright white war-briefs, too, which leave very little to the imagination.  Especially if you've been imagining both of them as eunuchs.  Which is fine.  I'm not judging.)

The problem with Nova Roma, though, is that for all the talk of the Romans' phenomenal gifts to civilisation in general, they never got around to slapping together power dampers, which means they now have two psychotic mutants on a rampage without the slightest idea about how they can stop them (though the oversized death rollers the gladiators are employing as APCs was a decent attempt, I suppose).  Indeed, the only the reason they don't destroy the entire stadium is that their drug-addled minds decide they're time would be more productively spent beating the shit out of each other.

This probably saves a lot of lives, actually, and it has the added bonus of shaking Rahne inside her own drugged state; she's terrified of losing Sam, who she's apparently secretly in love with.  She wolfs out and attacks Sunspot, and her transformation brings Dani to her senses.  A quickly-assembled illusion of Professor X later, and everyone is more or less back in their right minds again, just in time to be trampled to death by an enraged mob, who frankly just saw the most awesome show imaginable and should just shut up.

Gallio apparently feels the same way I do, and tells the crowd to shut up.  After all, was not Rome itself founded by two men raised by a she-wolf?  And now another walks among them, alongside four others with amazing powers.  The Gods have returned to the Roman Empire!  That's actually a really nice idea, tying Wolfsbane into this civilisation's creation myth.  It's not going to turn around my opinion on this issue at all, but still, well played there.  It's also an ending that neatly ties in with the plotting of Amara's father earlier; he was willing to sacrifice the mutants in order to stop the power-crazed would-be-dictator Gallio, and Gallio himself has now saved their lives.


This story takes place over approximately 24 hours.


Sunday 21st August to Monday 22nd August, 1983.


X+5Y+171 to X+5Y+172.

Contemporary Events

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson talks to the Guardian about his decision to cut back on his lavish lifestyle, presumably in the hope that quotes like "I can't abide to eat in an inferior restaurant" are just the ticket if he wants to persuade the common man that he's one of them.

Also, this seems more than a little appropriate right now:

Standout Line

"Minerva protect you if your master finds you attractive!" - Amara

This is not one of those lines that stands out in a good way.  Every time I read it I get shivers of horror.  Just why does Claremont write so many plots involving slavery anyway?

Friday, 19 October 2012

DAZ #29: "Fame!"

("Light up the sky like a flame!")


OK, so this is a little different.  First of all we've got Springer and Shooter sharing scripting duties.  This issue is also a little shorter than usual, as well, so that it can end with three pages of slightly disturbing Dazzler "pin-ups".  That's bad news for feminism, but good news for the poor schlub that has to summarise this issue: i.e. me.

So what have Frank & Jim managed to squeeze in?  Well, Dazzler is having a whale of a time at her sort of stepdad's mansion.  It's all lounging by the pool and dreaming of her name on the marquee for her right now. Lois is a little more torn about the whole thing, because she was actually around for Nick's "beat the shit out of my wife" phase, which is rather wrenching the olive from the martini, so to speak. This puts Alison in something of a bind, since right now she's pretty much entirely reliant on Nick to get her career going again, but fortunately for her, Lois is smart enough to realise that, and not push too hard for for advice on how to deal with a formerly abusive father.

(Of course, in an ideal world, I'd be insisting Dazzler refuse any offer of help from Nick after what he did to her mother and her sister.  That said, I already have a job.)

Whilst we're on the subject of how Nick can help Dazzler; today is her meeting with Roman Nekoboh, the music business big-shot who can jump-start her career.  Being the audience, however, we get to meet him first.

When we are introduced to him, it's pretty interesting.  I could be wrong, but I think Roman's first few panels represent the longest continuous set of wordless comic panels so far in any X-book; nine of them taking up a full page's worth of space.  Basically, Roman is very old and more than a little fat, and so it takes him a full page of panels to get into his disguise - contact lenses, girdle, false teeth and wig. Like William Shatner before a convention, or when he's telling people he wrote TekWar.

Alas, Roman has bigger problems than encroaching senility; his accountant has arrived to tell him he's flat broke. His music career is in tatters, his Hollywood portfolio a smoking ruin. His ex-wives all want their alimony, too. Faced with such dire financial circumstances, Roman agrees to have his butler light his cigarettes with matches rather than a Zippo. Because sacrifices must be made.

With financial business concluded, there's time for a little fencing practice (and associated angina), and then Roman has to run off to meet Dazzler, or as he calls her: "One I haven't married yet."  Smooth.

Back with our heroine, and Alison is starting to get a good idea of the deal she's making here; Nick's determined to replace Osgood as her manager.  Honestly, that's not necessarily the worst career move imaginable, but Dazzler wants it on her own terms, thanks very much.  Further discussion on the topic will have to wait, though, because Roman has arrived to offer his "advice."

Except, obviously, the only advice he wants to dole out regards carnally satisfying the ancient and deluded.  He seems to have his approach down pat - one assumes he's done this more than a few times already - the basic plan being to keep bowling Alison over until she leaves her clothes on the floor.

(Actually, he's pretty entertaining whilst he's trying this. "Enough talk about me, you ravishing creature!  Let's talk about you! Tell me, how did you love my last album?"  "Let's take my plane.  This car is beginning to bore me!  Does it bore you? It bores me!"  It's almost charming, in a sweaty, unpleasant way, and as long as you avoid dwelling on the fact that any cocktail Dazzler chugs in Roman's jet will have far more drugs in than just alcohol.)

For her part, Alison doesn't really care how many swanky cars he buys fresh off the lot; she just wants to know if he has any career advice he can dispense in-between demonstrations of ludicrous opulence.  Ever the optimist, she allows him to drive her to his private jet, certain that once he has her up in the air with no-one but his employees to talk to, he'll definitely stop the borderline sexual harassment and dole out the secrets of fame.

Needless to say, this is exactly what doesn't happen.  Roman has decided Alison is to be his co-star in his next film, and is determined to start practising the love scenes as soon as possible.  Dazzler is finally pissed off enough to fend him off, but this awkward scene is interrupted when an incoming fighter jet tries to shoot them down.  Frankly, I suspect Alison considers this something of a relief, but even so, she'd rather not be spread across the landscape.  Using the onboard stereo system (originally engaged by Roman to help in rocking her world), she generates enough power to take out the attacking plane, but Roman's pilot is shot during the battle, which means a rapid interaction with terra firma might be in the cards after all...


Dazzler mentions that her battle with Rogue was the day before.  The story itself takes place over several hours.


Friday 29th of July, 1983.



Contemporary Events

Standout Line

"Let me look deep into those magnificent eyes and take your trembling hands in mine!"

Is there anyone this line could fail to work on?  THE ANSWER IS NO!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

UXM #175: "Phoenix!"

(Use Your Illusion.)


It's the 20th anniversary issue! More or less, anyway. And what better way to celebrate two decades of stories than by re-heating a tale three years old?

Not that this story brings absolutely nothing new to the mix.  For a start, we get to see the X-Men doing some gardening.  Maybe that's not the most exciting idea in the world, but at least it gives the newly-returned Wolverine to tear into with his claws. Unfortunately it also gives Storm an opportunity to bitch about how much her new outlook has cost her.  Look, lady, Logan just got his heart ripped out and eaten right in front of him, and Rogue's only just gotten back on her feet.  No-one cares if you can't tell when a tree's had its chips any more. It'd also be easier to sympathise if you hadn't sold off your entire attic garden the instant you decided punk rock and leather jackets were more fun.

Before anyone has the chance to tell Ororo to buck her ideas up, a flare of energy announces the arrival of the Phoenix Force.  It disappears again almost immediately, but leaves behind a gift; Cyclops, falling from out of the sky. Storm and Rogue bring him safely back to earth, but the Phoenix clearly is not messing about.

The Professor calls his X-Men together and outlines the plan.  It's... not very good.  The fact that Cyclops survived gives Xavier enough hope to play things cool, and try to make contact with the Phoenix before going in powers blazing.  To that end, he points Cerebro towards the unstoppably powerful cosmic entity, and gets his brain flash-fried for his trouble. He's lucky the Phoenix didn't kill him.

Still, we can't blame Charles entirely.  Whilst 'Crawler teleports him to the medical wing, Logan points out that Cerebro has safeguards in place precisely to make boiling its operator's noggin a tough things to pull off. The list of suspects basically has one name on it: I-Scream Scott, who's been possessed by the Phoenix all along!

Phoenix has the whole team on the ground in moments, but announces she'd rather play with her victims for a while than executing them immediately, because that plan has never gone wrong for any supervillain ever.  At least her definition of playing is pleasingly warped; her first order of business is to blow the Starjammer out of space, the second to reduce New York to a smouldering ruin.

Now, obviously, any remotely genre-savvy individual will be pricking up their ears at this point, figuring a two-panel farewell to some fairly major supporting characters (including Charles' lover) is implausible enough even before the largest city in the United States gets itself glassed.  To Claremont's credit, he doesn't waste too much time in making that point explicit: Cyclops has a weird trippy coma-dream in which he meets his dead mother and is denied access to the afterlife, but once he recovers from this he immediately figures out the team is being manipulated, and he has a pretty good idea who's pulling the strings.  After all, how many people outside the X-Men saw the Dark Phoenix the first time around, anyway?

But how can he get the word out?  Everyone saw how at one point he was possessed by Phoenix before she left to blow up New York! Maybe he's still possessed!  How can the X-Men be sure except immediately trying to punch him to death when he shows up!  This month on X-Men: all the X-Men are fucking idiots! Because thirty-eight pages aren't going to fill themselves!

(That's enough exclamation marks for now, I think.)

Being a master tactician and their former field leader, Cyclops gets the upper hand very quickly, until Lockheed forces him to retreat, for fear he might accidentally injure the little dragon otherwise.  You'd think refusing to fight the same monster Phoenix punched in the face a few minutes ago might cause the penny to drop, but today the X-Men are determined to be as irritatingly stupid as possible.  The fight continues through the mansion and into the Danger Room, where we learn Scott has spent the last ten minutes rewiring the controls to lock everyone else out (he calls this a gamble; I call it an utterly ridiculous move that gets no points just because it ludicrously happened to pay off).

The fact that "Phoenix" seems to want to fight this battle using holograms and trickery at least makes the team stop and think for a few moments, but Rogue insists that all this proves is that Phoenix isn't as powerful as she's making out - this on the same day Phoenix obliterated New York.  Storm too is determined to tear Cyclops to pieces - interestingly, not one of them seems to give two shits about where the real Scott is - and even he admits to himself that she's making the right call.  I can only assume that Mastermind's powers have reached the point where he can make people unable to see the part of their brain that makes them not act like total berks.  Either way, out in the simulated Savage Land under Xavier's mansion, the hunt is on...


So if all of this is just so much smoke and mirrors, then where's the real Madelyne Pryor?  Turns out, she's an unwilling guest of Jason Wyngarde.  His plan, which he insists on going to great lengths to detail (presumably this is why he didn't let the X-Men kill her already; who would be left to hear how great he is) is simple.  He's persuading the X-Men that the Phoenix is back in town, and make things look so desperate that they take out Madelyne, to the horror of all and sundry once Mastermind pulls back the curtain.  He's still a little sore over how the real Dark Phoenix made him lose his marbles some forty issues back - as a direct result of him trying the same on her, but never mind - and he's been trailing the X-Men for months. It was he who uncovered Yukio's ruse when she dressed up as Mariko in UXM #172, and who dropped the photo that sent Scott over the edge last time around.  This, of course, would be the perfect time for him to fess up to have manipulated Scott's perception of her appearance as part of his master plan, but, no.  Apparently it really is coincidence that she looks exactly like Jean Grey, and crashed her plane at the exact same moment Jean died.  This will eventually be addressed, of course, but that doesn't make it any less annoying right now.

Back in the Danger Room, Cyclops is running rings around his team-mates.  His superior knowledge of the program is proving decisive.  He even had time to whistle up some poppies based on Rogue's medical files that stun her the instant she breathes in their pollen.  Which, obviously, is bullshit on a bollock-stick, but whatever. It's a nice Wizard of Oz reference, at least (though horribly overplayed). With Wolverine and Storm unconscious, and Colossus trapped in simulated quicksand, Cyclops grabs the drugged Rogue and flees the scene.

Scott's hoping he can get the newest X-Man to Xavier and have her absorb his powers, so she can scan his mind and figure out what's going on.  With calm analysis this probably wouldn't convince anyone, since Xavier didn't figure out Scott was possessed earlier, but then Cyclops just needs to get everyone talking for a little while.  Of course, since Rogue has never to his knowledge borrowed the powers of a telepath, this could all end up going a wee bit Scanners:

funny gifs


Scott gets away with it, though, using his acquired vicarious experience via Xavier and Jean to keep Rogue more or less functional.  Just in time, too, the other X-Men have escaped the Danger Room and are now more pissed off than ever.

And ohhhh! Now I get it. Mastermind has been making Cyclops look like Phoenix all this time.  That wasn't very clear at all.  He obviously reverted to looking like Scott when he fainted after "Phoenix's" initial attack, otherwise they'd not have put him in the medical wing, but Mastermind must have re-started the illusion after Cyclops woke up.  It's not often one would say this, but it wouldn't kill Claremont to have spelled that out a bit more.

Rogue's attempts to calm the team down are only partially successful, but Mastermind must be panicking that she'll get through to them, because he immediately sends in another Phoenix illusion.  Just to make things more interesting, though, he's brought along a silenced pistol as well, so he can shoot those people his illusions are targeting.  He hits Cyclops in the shoulder this way, but unfortunately for him Wolverine's hyper-senses pick up the pistol's "PHUT", and the jig is up.

That still doesn't mean they can find Mastermind himself, though. Storm solves that particular problem by unleashing a tempest of terrifying force.  It smashes Mastermind into unconsciousness, but the X-Men don't fare that much better, and both Kitty and Rogue realise that Ororo doesn't really care either way.  Still, it's a happy ending at last, as they pump Mastermind full of drugs to keep him quiet until the authorities arrive, and an exhausted Madelyne is finally freed from the villain's confusing influence.  Of course, she came within a hair's breadth of drowning in Storm's squall, but let's not get bogged down in the piddling details.

X-Men weddings, huh?  You wait for ages...

Mercifully, this one goes off rather better than the last one.  Scott spends some time in the grounds explaining his feelings to Jean's grave, which seems entirely reasonable, and then he goes back inside and ties the knot with her exact double who almost died on the exact same day, which, y'know, doesn't.

But let's not worry about the future we're all fully aware of.  The whole Summers clan is reunited; Beast has popped over to quaff champagne (though if I can be blunt, it rather looks like he might want to lay off the booze for a little while, lest he find himself unable to squeeze into his black super-briefs); Banshee and Moira are there, it's all very nice.  Congratulations, Mr and Mrs Summers.


Scott notes that twelve hours have elapsed since he was first attacked by the Phoenix (indeed this is a critical plot point, as it starts him thinking about what's really going on).  That doesn't give Wolverine time to get back from Japan according to last issue's proposed timeline, but we can easily extend that by one day and have everything converge.

It's not clear how much time passes between Mastermind's defeat and the marriage of Scott and Madelyne, but under the circumstances - what if Madelyne goes all Mariko on Scott's ass? - one can understand how they might not want to let the grass grow and further under their feet, so we'll put the wedding day as being the very next Saturday.  It's not like the superhero wedding guests lack for transport to get them there at short notice.

Storm also mentions that it's been weeks since she saw a Phoenix flare in Japan, but that tracks just fine.


Wednesday 31st August to Saturday 3rd September, 1983.


X+5Y+180 to X+5Y+183.

Compression Constant 

1 Marvel year = 3.67 standard years.

(Colossus is 26 years old.)

"You will not escape our vengeance!"
Contemporary Events

Korean Airlines Flight 007 is shot down by a Soviet interceptor, after it strayed into USSR airspace due to a small autopilot issue.  All 269 people on board were killed, including a US Congressman.  The USSR denied the incident, switched to accusing the passenger plane of espionage once the truth was discovered, and refused to hand over the flight recorder until eight years later, following the Union's collapse.  How lovely.

Standout Line

"Jason Wyngarde, ma'am, at your service. Or, as the X-Men know me: MASTERMIND. I am a villain."

You have to respect a man who loves his job.  A man who's gone career evil.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

ALF #3: "Yesterday Man"

(Warhammer -40K)


Another Byrne missive then, is it?  Actually, I really like the start to this one (as well as the rather striking cover).  Rather than continuing directly with either Marrina's encounter with the Master or the team's flight following her beacon, we move sideways to catch up with Snowbird, who's en route to join her companions and help out with the search.

What she finds is the Alpha Flight "sky-craft", crashed and abandoned, with a hole torn through its side.  That's more than passing cool, I think.

Snowbird, handily, has some kind of universal playback amongst her powers (I'm sure this has never been mentioned), so she spools up the local threads of causality to see what they're attached to. So, yes, it's another flashback scene - what would a Byrne comic be without one of those? - but at least this is a flashback to events we haven't yet seen, which improves matters immensely.

The resulting time-wimey-slidey-show reveals the vehicle was blasted from the sky by some kind of laser, but that the four occupants - Vindicator (now calling himself Guardian), Sasquatch, and the Beaubier twins all got out unhurt.  That latter part of course could have been quickly determined by the nearby footprints, I suppose, but when one has all the fancy powers of the Canadian Gods or whatever, it must be very tempting to use them as often as possible.  Her investigation concluded, Snowbird transforms into a polar bear and lopes away, following her team-mates tracks.

Eventually she happens across the entrance to an underground complex, as technologically-advanced as it is comprehensively trashed (Sasquatch's handiwork, she assumes).  A sense of evil pervades the place, which is never something you want.  I have to confess, I really love these first six and a half pages; the idea of breaking off the team's hunt for Marrina so that Anna can search for them is really quite nice, and the abandoned, wrecked base is a really atmospheric location, especially when you imagine the freezing winds of northern Canada whistling through them.  I might have been tempted to string this out a bit, but I suppose with the back-up strip Byrne only has 16 pages to work with, so at this point we shift to Guardian and Sasquatch, who are trying to free Northstar and Aurora, cut off from them by a shifting wall.

On the other side, the twins aren't too happy; it's pitch black, and they have the strangest sense that the wall that sprung up behind them is somehow growing (which is a neat idea).  Rather than wait for Hudson and Langkowski to get through (if indeed they can), they crank their illumination powers to their maximum ("driving away every shadow", because Byrne didn't pay the slightest attention in physics class), and head off to find an escape route elsewhere.

Instead they find... only death!  Well, that and some cool and cunning traps; heavy ball-tipped poles spring from the walls to bludgeon Northstar into unconsciousness, and Aurora finds herself first trapped and then near-suffocated by a constricting net of extending metal rods.  I seem to remember Timothy Zahn employing a similar trap (with the added twist of changing gravity wells) to catch Jedi in (I think) Spectre of the Past, and any day you're pre-empting Zahn has to qualify as a good one.  Fortunately for our favourite Quebecois, Guardian and Sasquatch took an alternate route of gratuitous smashing, and arrive in time to save Aurora.

Except she isn't Aurora anymore; the stress has caused her to shift her mind back into her buttoned-up schoolmistress persona.  I've said before that I'm less than impressed with making a female superhero so profoundly mentally unstable (at least when the person writing her is as unsubtle as Byrne), and this is hardly helped by the fact that one of the other female members of the team has now turned out to be an untrustworthy would-be killer because some dude in a cape has taken her over. Between all this and Heather's arse, things are getting uncomfortable around here.

Oh, and apparently only Aurora's more stable useful brother can snap her out of being totally wet and rubbish and a girl.  Spare me.

Northstar himself is once again trapped, this time by the ball-rods that knocked him out.  When he comes to, he hears screams of pain which he identifies as coming from Marrina.  The comic tells us this is due to unique acoustics making her audible despite being several miles away, on which I'd call bullshit, but that feels pretty much redundant at this point, especially since "several miles" would take mere seconds for him to cover (just last issue we learned 900 knots an hour would be too slow to escape him).

He must be feeling a bit slow after his concussion, because the Master apparently has plenty of time not just to torment Marrina (apparently her torture is literally the worst ever doled out in human history, which seems unlikely, mainly because she isn't dead), but to explain his back story as well.  Not sure how much attention the unbearably tormented Marrina will be paying, but never mind.  Flashback time once more!

Forty thousand years earlier, the last great ice sheet covers North America, and on a rather smaller scale, a man is thrown from his subsistence nomad tribe for being an utter dick.  Banished by his peers, he resolves to wander across the frigid trackless wastes until he finds death or a decent meal.  What he finds instead is a powerful psychological compulsion to change direction, and the remains of various other animals likewise impelled that he can snack on while he walks.  Eventually he gets to what he later learns is a crashed alien spaceship, apparently entirely abandoned, which nonetheless captures him, straps him to a table, and proceeds to dissect and reassemble him in every order conceivable, all whilst he screams in agony.  Now that is twisted.  I love it!

With its vivisections completed, the ship once more reassembles him, and plugs his brain into its systems, presumably so he can run the place while it ticks over waiting for a crew.  Eventually, though, he learns the set-up well enough that he's able to not just escape the ship's control, but reverse it. With domination of the ship, he learns, comes complete control over his physicality, and total knowledge of all activity on Earth.  Which must be nice.  All of which rather raises the question of what the ship was doing stranded here for at least forty thousand years.

The Master has a partial answer: it's somehow tied up with Marrina and her "brood-mate", but that doesn't really get us anywhere.  If it's been here for four hundred centuries, why did she only break out of her egg twenty years ago?  Apparently it's because this is "the hour of conquest", which doesn't sound like brilliant news. The Master isn't too keen on it either, though only because he doesn't want "to rule a world of fish-things."  Still, it looks like that point might be moot, because a pair of superheroes have arrived, determined to stop him: Namor and the Invisible Woman.

Looks like "totally aware of all things on Earth" might have been a bit of an overstatement, huh?

We turn now to our back-up strip, "Purpose." Dr Hudson is in something of a stress, waiting as he is for the authorities to knock down his door and ask some very pointed questions about who used his prototype mechanical suit to burn his notes and steal the suit's helmet controls.  Fortunately for him, Heather McNeil arrives with some groceries - because men don't shop when they're depressed, unlike women AMIRITE GIRLS - and a proposal of marriage, because she's just sooo adorably giddy and impulsive.  I may be about to stain my keyboard with bile. The script makes sure we know she's only seventeen, presumably to make us buy this ridiculous notion - because teenage girls, eh? - but that really doesn't help.  Indeed, as James is explaining that her age makes it more likely he'll be put on a register than put on a ring, you wonder why Byrne didn't heed his own character's objections and drop the whole horrible idea.

Heather promises to have a plan to get James out of hot water, at least, and the two of them head to Ottowa, staying in different rooms.  A few days later, they find themselves on Parliament Hill, where the Canadian government agrees to smooth things over with Am-Can, in exchange for Hudson meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau.  The Right Honourable gentleman has a project in mind...


This issue notes that Jean-Paul's visit to his sister happened "several months ago in issue 1", but it's not clear whether that time line is supposed to be in-universe or just a reference to publication dates.  The latter seems more likely, since the alternative is that the team sat on their hands for a eight weeks between reforming and having their first training session.

With that decided, our considerations can cease, as this story takes place over the course of a few hours.


Wednesday 10th of December, 1982.



Contemporary Events

We did this date last time, of course, so let's take a look at what was going on whilst James Hudson was becoming Weapon Alpha:

Apollo 11 approaches the Moon, and lands there the following day.

Brian Molko is born in Belgium.

The USSR performs a nuclear test in Semipalitinsk.

Standout Line

"Good.  The crash was recent enough for me to use my post-cognitive powers." - Snowbird.

I'd just like to point out for the record that post-cognitive means the ability to see things after they've happened, and thus we all have post-cognitive powers, with the possible exception of goldfish and American political commentators.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

NMU #8: "The Road To... Rome?"

("The Count, with his pyjamas-on!")


Field trip!  The four remaining New Mutants have headed off to the Amazon jungle with Roberto's mother, so that whilst she examines the local area for archaeological remains (I didn't realise there were any in the jungle, but what do I know?), they can lark about and generally try to get over the apparent death of their team-mate, Shan.

This provides Claremont with an opportunity to re-introduce the team, which is probably a savvy move coming off the back of the more-or-less three-parter than ran through NMU #5-7 (it also works really well for the Classic New Mutants trades as well, actually).  Claremont demonstrates how this should be done (are you listening, John Byrne), by presenting the teenagers' powers and personalities through them larking around, rather than pages of strained flashback.  There's a particularly nice (if uncomfortable) moment where Rahne almost faints in the heat, because she refuses to wear anything less than her full uniform whilst there's a chance the boys might see her.

Not that it's all fun and games south of the Equator. Not only do the teens have to send Xavier updates on their training exercises (an Open University kind of deal which is really helping Chuck out, what with Rogue to deal with and Team America still under his tutelage), but there's the occasional bout of carelessly swimming in piranha-infested waters to worry about (not that piranhas are anything like as dangerous as myth would have it, but maybe they're particularly partial to mutant flesh).  This might sound harsh, I know, but frankly I say anyone who forgets the river they're on is teeming with killer fish pretty much deserves to be eaten the instant they start their back-stroke.

And apparently someone on the expedition's boat feels the same way, pouring slops into the water on the other side of the craft so as to stir up the fish.  You'd think that would make the fish, you know, head for that side, rather than be whipped into such a frenzy they immediately swim in the opposite direction, but then who knows how the brains of fish work?  Namor doesn't think redheads are attractive; these things are all lunatics.

Fortunately for Dani (the one stupid enough to try and swim to a boat amid unknown currents, caiman, piranhas and the occasional bull shark), Sam is on hand to save her from an entirely deserved fate.  On the other hand, this not only reveals his powers to those on the boat, but he overshoots with his blast and lands both himself and Psyche among a group of natives, who obviously immediately attack because that's what primitives do or something oh God this is racist.

Or is it? Dani and Sam fight off these Amazon women in the mood, but manage to capture one and, once they get back on the boat (following a brief fluttering of mutiny now they're known to be mutants. put down by the very man planning on killing Dani, which is interesting), Roberto's mother can't work out exactly where the warrior has come from at all. One might be tempted to chalk this up to archaeologists making for poor anthropologists, but I guess everyone has to have a hobby.

And in any case, the knife she's carrying isn't anything you'd find out here in the wild.  And why do the other warriors call the New Mutant's captive "Lady Amara"?

Meanwhile, back in Rio, Roberto's father and Sebastian Shaw are arguing again.  Emanuel is irritated that Castro - the saboteur Shaw sneaked onto the expedition - hasn't done any, you know, sabotaging (Emanuel wants to exploit the area for its resources and for some reason is worried his wife will be able to stop him), and Shaw is fed up of Mr DaCosta not being able to decide whether he wants his estranged wife dead as hell or not.  It's a good job they laid some whores on to keep everyone happy, I tell you that.

It's dawn on the Amazon, and the expedition has reached the Maderia, a range of mountains that put the Rockies to shame.  The captain of the boat tells his passengers that there are legends of a lost civilisation somewhere amid the peaks, a city of gold ruled by Gods from halfway around the world.  Just for once it might be fun if a local legend just turned out to be total bullshit. Not even a little true. Not a misunderstanding, or poetic license, or even a way to scare off interlopers.  Just one hundred percent bollocks, made up for the craic by some drunken local.  "Yah, ye youngun; 'tis a beast with the head of a badger and the legs of an Irishman!  It can turn noodles into gold!  It's breath brings on visions a' Pan's People cavorting in a piella!  Yah!"

The mysteries of the Maderia will have to wait for a little while, though; there are other problems rather closer. Rahne catches Castro beating their captive for information and, after scaring him away with a quick change into wolf-form, pours her heart out to Amara, confessing her terror that those who fear her for her mutant powers might be in the right after all.  I always liked this aspect of Wolfsbane's character, at least when it was treated with some subtlety.  The question of how religion would intersect with mutants is an endlessly fascinating one, and Marvel have gotten good mileage out of it with both Rahne and Nightcrawler, though the "right-wing Christian fanatics try to purge mutants" storyline certainly wasn't played out too rarely.

Even for those who haven't read this issue before, the very moment Rahne says "I'm glad [you don't speak English]... 'cause I'd ne'er dared ha' said all that if you did", you can see what's coming down the length of the Amazon. Which makes it a nice little sideswipe when Rahne steps out of the cabin straight into first the captain's dead body, and then Castro's rifle-butt.

Rahne goes down cold, and when she awakes, she finds the captured woman, her New Mutant comrades (recovering from drugged food), and no-one else. Wherever the crew have gone, they left our heroes in a hell of a mess, they've only just smashed out of their cabin when Roberto spots they're moments from tumbling off a waterfall.  The resulting free-fall and crash at least throws Sunspot's mother back into view, but she's washed away as Sam is forced to rescue the unconscious Roberto first.

Meanwhile, Rahne is trying desperately to keep Amara from following Mrs DaCosta, but in the process she discovers their former captive was wearing a disguise: she's really a white-skinned blonde!

I gotta say, Europeans blacking up to pass as Amazon natives doesn't really sound like it's too great of an idea in any case, but how exactly is this supposed to work?  Did literally no-one in all the time they spent moving Amara, tying her up, watching her and trying to communicate to her at any point notice she was slathered head to foot in stage make-up? A sweaty Sam had to damn near bear-hug her into unconsciousness to get her back to the boat; you're telling me none of this brown shoe polish rubbed off on his arms?  Or is it going to turn out she has some kind of image inducer that somehow escaped the notice of the captors who were keen to disarm her and only had to search a skimpy bikini.

Come to think of it, why wasn't the bikini a clue?

Also, how come she can speak English? The issue ends with the bedraggled New Mutants and Amara staggering from the river, Roberto frantic over his missing mother, only to bump into the "4th Maniple, 1st Cohort, Thunderclap Legion".  The lost tribe is a bunch of Romans.  Who know English... how, exactly? From all the Amazon tribes-people they've been hanging out with?

I guess that's a question for next time around, though.  Right now are heroes are slaves of Imperial Rome, and that's presumably going to be taking up a great deal of their time.


It's been two weeks since the expedition started, and this story takes place over around a day.


Saturday 20th August to Sunday 21st August, 1983.


X+5Y+170 to X+5Y+171.

Contemporary Events

The opposition leader in the Philippines is assassinated in Manila Airport after returning from exile. The official government report blamed Communists, but Ferdinand Marcos' cousin General Ver is a more likely suspect.

Standout Line

"Why'm I always th' one... t'get her head bashed...?" - Rahne.