Sunday, 7 October 2012

UXM #174: "Romances"

(Love, Actually actually.)


Aw, isn't this sweet.  Multiple vignettes on the topic of love, along with a few loose ends tied up, and a truly impressive cliffhanger. It's like watching Richard Curtis actually trying again.

Three of these pieces belong to Scott and Madelyne, and provide the through-line for the issue, so we'll start there. We begin with Earthrise.  The Starjammer won't be in port much longer, which means it's time for Scott to decide whether or not to sign up with his father, and Madelyne to decide what to decide about whatever it is Scott decides. Mainly this is about setting up Binary as the latest Starjammer crew-member (though there's at least some CCA-friendly hints that Corsair and Hepzibah's love stems from or is at least intertwined with a healthy mutual desire for steamy sexy-times - personally I don't think I'd like all that fur), but there's a sense of uncertainty hanging over the whole thing, of not being able to work out what one wants or how to get it. Of how a woman dead for almost a year fits in with the idea of moving on. And whether he's made one of the oldest mistakes possible, mistaking loving someone for who they are and loving the memory of someone else that person inspires; like nostalgia for something you never really put in the past in the first place.

This is of course tremendously familiar territory for Cyclops, and hence for us, and ordinarily that would irritate me. In the larger context, though, this works, especially since it's immediately contrasted with Charles and Lilandra. Scott and Madelyne have a surfeit of attractive options (roam the galaxy or stay and build a life together, either with out without being attached to a superhero team).  Charles and Lilandra have the opposite problem; they have no options at all.  Charles must stay with the X-Men, and Lilandra must return to her home galaxy to challenge Deathbird. It's a nice inversion.

(It's also confirmed here that the Professor's inability to walk is indeed a physical problem, which manages to make even less sense than the "psychosomatic pain" angle, so well done there.)

Back to our primary lovebirds, however. We catch up with some dozen pages later aboard a commercial flight Madelyne is piloting, where we discover that Scott has proposed off-panel. To say this is an odd choice for an issue named "Romances" is a severe understatement; the only thing I can think of is that Claremont couldn't get the scene to work. Regardless, it's clear he's made at least one choice; whether he takes his father's offer or not, he wants Madelyne to make the same decision.

Except nothing is ever truly settled, not really.  The ghost of former loves is always somewhere in the back of your head, throwing things around when you least expect it.  This is more literal in Cyclops' case, of course, owing to how he's secretly being tailed by someone who can change his appearance at will and apparently generate objects out of thin air, or maybe just appear to (sound familiar?). Whilst Scott checks out the passengers, our mysterious figure passes him a photo that Scott "dropped".  It's a picture of Jean he was never given, and which is of her in a place he never visited.  In other words, it's a dream of a former love; and those are always the most dangerous dreams of all.

Maybe that's why Scott takes leave of his senses that very evening, when he finally decides this isn't about untangling his feelings for Jean for those for Madelyne, but that he's genuinely afraid his fiancee is really the Phoenix (creatures that destroy entire planetary systems for entertainment clearly being willing to settle for marrying buttoned-up workaholics).  More likely, it's the scheming figure outside, now wearing a new shape that's unmistakably that of Mastermind-as-Jason-Wyngarde. Did Scott's new attitude stem straight from being handed that photo? Or has Mastermind upped his game to start fiddling with people's minds? Is that what happened to Mariko, come to think of it?

We'll come to that in a moment, actually, but let's get through the Ballard of Scott and Maddy first. Cyclops finally plucks up the courage to ask the real question; "Are you the reincarnation of Jean Grey", and is - entirely properly - punched in the chops as a result.  He loses his glasses in the process, and has plenty of time to realise just how gigantic a fuck-up he's made and he is before he can get his spare specs into place.

Just in time for Dark Phoenix to blast him into unconsciousness.

Elsewhere in our ruminations, we come across Wolverine wrestling with one of the great mysteries of life: how are you supposed to cope when the person who once told you they loved you completely dumps you without warning and will not tell you why.  Or, as in this case, is more than happy to tell you why, but not in a way that makes the slightest sense.  Of course, there's every possibility that those who tell themselves that if only they knew why, they could move on - as oppose to still being heartbroken and insulted into the bargain - are utterly deluding themselves. But the cruelest cut eventually heals once bandaged; internal bleeding is far harder to staunch.

Rounding off this study of love, we see Lockheed's jealousy over Kitty's relationship with Peter (dragons are people too! In a very loose sort of sense!); more of the first stumbling steps in the young mutants' relationship (still so difficult to define, with Kitty 14 and Peter by now almost if not actually 19); Storm's revelation that she's dispensed with her attic garden, her new outlook on life having completely eclipsed her love of botany; and a short but very nice scene in which Kurt demonstrates his spiritual love for all humanity by nursing the injured Rogue back to health (as well as touching on his sexual relationship with his foster-sister, which I guess counts as love, whatever else it counts as).  A busy and lovely issue.


The narrative boxes tell us it's been 'a few weeks' since Mariko jilted Logan at the altar (or whatever the Japanese equivalent of an altar is, I'm ashamed to confess I don't know).  We'll put this a fortnight later on.  It's interesting that Amanda Sefton sends Nightcrawler a Christmas doll, in that case, since in Claremont's head this is all going on in the first weeks of spring.  Of course, it's clearly a call-back to Kurt's similar gift from a few issues ago, so it's entirely possible we're not about to run into another ridiculous sideways shift in continuity.  We'll see.

This story itself takes place over one day, I think.  You could certainly make the case for two - mainly because Scott and Madelyne's plot is ridiculously speedy otherwise - but if anything the implications point to it having all taken place within the same 24 hours.


Monday 29th August, 1983.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.66 standard years.

(Colossus is 26 years old.)

"I would prefer being left alone."
Contemporary Events

Guion Bluford prepares for his role as the first African American in space.

First anniversary of the synthesis of the element meitnerium in Darmstadt, Germany.

Standout Line

"C'mon Peter, stop being such an old stick in the mud!"
"Sorry. Merely a sense of self-preservation."

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