Wednesday, 31 October 2012

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment