Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Timeline: 1983 Jul - Dec (Take 6)


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 DAZ #29: Debt
29th NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
30th DAZ #30: Debt
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
23rd NMU #10: Betrayal!
23rd NMU #11: Magma
24th NMU #11: Magma
29th  UXM #174: Romances
31st  UXM #175: Phoenix!


1st   UXM #175: Phoenix!
2nd  UXM #175: Phoenix!
3rd   UXM #175: Phoenix!
17th UXM #176: Decisions
17th UXM #177: Sanction
20th UXM #178: Hell Hath no Fury...

UXM #178: "Hell Hath No Fury..."

(The Cuckoo Inversion.)


So, to summarise the state of affairs at the end of last issue: Professor X ain't getting no extra-terrestrial lovin' no more, and Colossus appears to be spectacularly dead, on account of having been heated to incandescent levels and then doused in liquid nitrogen.  The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are responsible, but Nightcrawler is too busy making kissytimes with his foster sister (and no, I will never let that go, because ick) to have noticed.

After what looks an awful lot like Colossus' death, Kitty sends a panic psychic call to Xavier, appraising him of the situation.  At that moment, he's busy sulking over the fact that his soul-mate has moved house to a different galaxy whilst his first student is banging a gorgeous redhead, but once the call comes him he snaps into action and delegates like a motherfucker.

What's interesting here is that he only sends Storm and Wolverine as back-up; he doesn't want to involve Rogue due to her ties to the Brotherhood.  I'm not sure I'd necessarily disagree with his motivations here, but it's worth contrasting this decision with his scolding the X-Men just seven issues earlier when they objected to the idea of putting a known criminal and would-be murderer on the team.  Clearly he's not as convinced as he claimed that Rogue will choose his side over her foster mother's.  Either way, this seems like a pretty short-term plan; if Colossus is indeed dead and the rest of the team show up bruised and limping, it might be difficult to keep a cover story straight, especially with Kitty involved.

Speaking of Kitty, this issue is unusually structured in a way that's either incompetent or very interesting, depending on your point of view.  Kitty's role in the narrative here is to run to the Baxter Building - looking to "borrow" some kit from Reed Richards she saw in Scientific American she hopes will revive Colossus - get shot by the Fantastic Four's security system as she tries to get out, and apparently fall to the ground dead, the pieces of the machine scattered all around her prostrate form.

Now, obviously, the chances of Kitty actually having been killed are utterly minuscule.  That said, it still seems on the surface to be a very odd choice to show the Morlocks about a quarter of the way through the issue using Masque to transform the body of a dead junkie into an exact duplicate of Sprite.  If Phil Sandifer is right and this kind of cliffhanger is only there to provide people with an exercise in trying to figure out how the story gets out of a corner (and in fact he isn't, at least not entirely), it seems ridiculous to offer such an unusually obvious clue.

Except, and this is the rather more positive way to spin it, Claremont is offering us two cliffhangers here, and in a really clever way.  The final image is striking because it centres around the body of a dead girl, but it's the smashed machine that's really the problem. We know exactly how the comic will (or at least can) return Kitty to us.  With Reed's device wrecked, we have no idea how Colossus can be saved.  The narrative and the artwork are pulling us in entirely different directions regarding what we should be focusing on, which is really rather neat, I think.

Much of the rest of the comic is taken up with an extended action sequence which, as usual, I don't really have much to say about.  It's fairly standard fair.  We can add a few points on for a nice point about Destiny's powers; she can see exactly where and how each X-Man will attack but hasn't time to actually say anything about it, so really her teammates are getting punched just as bad as they ever would. But then points are lost for the old cliche of "We have no choice but to trust this villain" raising its head halfway (when Blob inevitably fails to release Amanda in exchange for Nightcrawler's surrender), though this does tie into something potentially interesting later.

Suddenly we encounter a further sting in the tail! We know the Brotherhood used fake explosion used last issue to distract Colossus before an attack, but that in itself turns out to have been a distraction so that Mystique could get into the mansion and execute Charles, who she's convinced is mind-controlling her foster daughter.  She almost manages it too, just missing out the kill-shot, but striking him in or near to his spinal column (good job he's too crazy - sorry, strong-willed - to be using it).  Rogue however interrupts before she can finish the job.

The resulting argument doesn't go too well for Mystique.  She's convinced herself that Xavier brainwashed Rogue to join him, which is obviously ridiculous.  I mean sure, she's right that Professor X could do it (though actually maybe not with Rogue, who's always been tough to mind-read), and Rogue would have no idea it had happened - something similar is actually the case anyway, just with Mastermind responsible - but there's nothing even approaching a plausible motive.  If Xavier really was in the business of acquiring recruits through brainwashing, why would he stop at Rogue?  Imagine how much use Destiny would be to him, for example, or indeed Mystique herself.

Faced with such terrible arguing skills, Rogue has little trouble standing her ground, and it appears that Mystique's operation is over. Except, not quite, because her goons have gone and gotten themselves captured by the X-Men whilst she was sneaking around the mansion, and need extraction.  This is another moment in this issue where Claremont is straddling the line between incompetence and impressiveness, though here it might be fairer to say he's managing both at once.  Basically, the Brotherhood play a holographic message from Mystique offering to spare Xavier's life in exchange for the release of her comrades.

Except that we know she's in no position to carry out her threat, thanks to Rogue.  That means that for the second time this issue the X-Men have to decide whether to rely on the word of a villain, and for the second time they immediately conclude they have no choice (suckers!).  That's pretty annoying.  It's also an irritating oversight that we don't learn exactly what's going on here.  Did Rogue let Mystique make the call and pretend to have Xavier's life in her hands?  As a favour to her foster mother, or in retaliation for not being told the team were fighting the Brotherhood that night?  Did Rogue just let Mystique leave and not keep tabs on her, thereby allowing the call to take place?

Or did Mystique just record a whole bunch of messages, relying on Destiny to pick the most appropriate option depending on how events panned out?

Ultimates reference, bitches!
That pretty much wraps things up for these comments, then, except to mention the agonising mental probe Xavier suffers this issue from origins unknown.  Intriguing!


This story takes place in approximately real time.

It also causes more than its share of issues (no pun intended).  The implication of Charles moping about how Scott gets to be happy rather implies this story takes place after Lilandra departed [1], which means that my oh-so-clever attempt to run two time periods has failed utterly.  We  also need to consider how quickly Cyclops' letter has arrived. If we assume the newly weds spent only one night on a Pacific island before heading to Alaska, I guess we could compress things down to a two or three days (I confess to knowing nothing about the US postal system).

We therefore are forced to place this issue as taking place on Tuesday 20th September, 1983.


Tuesday 20th September, 1983.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.68 standard years.

(Colossus is 26 years old).

Contemporary Events

Saint Kitts and Nevis celebrate their first full day as an independent state.

Angel Labruna, joint highest goal-scorer in the Argentinian Primera Division, died aged 64.

Standout Line

"Sometimes it is better to be silent than wrong." - Destiny

[1] I should mention that Teebore over at Gentlemen of Leisure (where he's running his own X-book retrospective, amongst other things) points out Lilandra's remarkable willingness to let her loyalist followers bleed themselves dry out amongst the stars whilst she enjoys her access to alien cock.

Personally, that makes complete sense to me.  Lilandra may be by some distance the most stable and peaceable of the Nermani clan, that's a phenomenally low bar.  She might not want to risk reality itself in order to achieve (presumably very brief) apotheosis, or slaughter millions of her own citizens in order to gain sufficient power to slaughter billions of aliens, but she'll think nothing of delaying her return to the civil war which has torn her people apart so that she can spend more time trying to persuade her talking ape to tag along and fuck her between space battles.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Things Past: Take 3

Now with added child neglect!

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.  Dr Michael Twoyoungmen loses his grandfather and his pregnant wife; the latter of which his young daughter blames on him.

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.

1978: Doctor Michael Twoyoungman becomes a shaman (named Shaman, obviously) under the tutelage of his grandfather's ghost.

ALF #6: "Snowblind"

(It's like, how much more white could it be?)


This issue is, of course, absolutely infamous in comic circles; a book in which some six pages are entirely free of art in an attempt to replicate a blizzard and/or save time and money.  Much of what one thinks about this issue (or at least it's main strip) will be based on how one reacts to this particular conceit.

For my part, I think it's hilarious.  Then again, I didn't pay for this issue (at least not specifically; I guess I could've been spending my time reading something else on Marvel's online database that actually had pictures).  Byrne doesn't take the obvious route of having what goes on in the snow obviously lunatic or impressive, which might make the joke funnier, but who knows?  Maybe he was just attempting to avoid cliche.  Alternatively, he just couldn't be bothered drawing a picture of a bear turning into an owl.  But that's hard to believe.  Look how fun they are!

Since I've been banging on about it for most of my ALF posts, I should note for the record that this issue does much better on the gender politics angle than previous instalments.  Snowbird gets a solo adventure, so there's no-one around to complain about her being creepy, and at no point does she screw anything up and need a man to step in and fix it.  That this is in any way remarkable is kind of depressing, but progress is progress.

So what exactly is Snowbird up to today?  Well, first of all, she's getting thrown in the cells, because her new boss doesn't like the fact that her old boss used to let her skip off work without giving an explanation in writing. Which is what the hell?  This guy isn't happy with previous arrangements in this police station, so he throws an officer into the cells?  I refuse to believe that can possibly be how Canada runs its affairs, even if Byrne was careful to draw a Hitler moustache on his bureaucratic antagonist so you know he's, like, really bad.

What's interesting here is that of course Snowbird isn't inconvenienced in the slightest by her incarceration; indeed she flies straight through the wall the instant she learns something is up.  Her only problem is whether it's worth having to abandon her civilian identity in order to do it.  That kind of dilemma is fairly common in superhero comics, of course, but with a spirit form like Snowbird, it's more an annoyance than an existential crisis.  Setting up a new identity wouldn't be too much of a problem, it's just a pain to have gotten so far up the Mountie ranks and then to have to chuck it all away and start over.  She may just decide to turn into a bear and eat her new boss, actually.  It's exceptionally hard to argue the guy doesn't have it coming.

In any case, there are bigger things to concern herself with right now.  In traditional fashion, some careless riggers have ignored the warnings proffered by the laws of physics a local tribesman, and as a result have utterly screwed the Gulf of Mexico awoken a hideous malevolent spirit.  This is the second time this has happened in six issues, which isn't a good sign. Byrne has Snowbird specifically note this, implying that there's something larger afoot, which prevents this from seeming like a total retread, and at least you've got the "snowblind" gimmick to mix things up.  Again, though, if you didn't like that idea, you may just see this as an unimaginative plot that's not even fully pencilled.   Kolomaq's design is quite nice, though.

Even so, we're talking about an issue with one original concept, which pissed off a lot of people, and improvements in story-telling that merely rise to the level of basic competency the book should have been displaying all along.  Oh, and there's a B-plot in which Guardian gets a surprising letter from an oil company, but we'll have to wait to see if anything interesting results from it.

On to the back-up strip: "The Old Ways".  It's been ten years since Michael Twoyoungmen lost his wife and his grandfather on the same day, and his young daughter flew into a rage over his failure to save her mother's life (which means this story takes place after the X-Men have been formed). Two days later, a mysterious package arrives from his departed grandfather, and Michael takes off into the wilderness.

Since this is a back-up strip, these developments are all hurriedly rushed through, but the implication is that Michael didn't wait around to see how long it would take for his daughter to forgive him.  He just gave up on her and headed to the wilds to meditate as a hermit.  So, you know, fuck him for that.  When your young girl freaks out about the death of her mother, and decides to blame you, you fucking well suck it up.  You don't skip out of civilisation so you can engage in a decade-long sulk.  In all that time he was heeding "the call of the white man's science" (and, much as last time, we must once again tell Byrne to stuff that up his arse), he didn't have time to read a book on childhood bereavement?  When the package he waited ten years to open proves to be a human skull, and the resultant revelation causes his grandfather's ghost to swirl into shape before him, neither of those developments is half as surprising as the fact that Gramp's spirit doesn't start off by calling him a cock.

Instead he brings the Yoda on him, training up to be a shaman, pushing him to the peak of physical and spiritual exertion until one day, his skills are such that he can reach into a bag and pull out pine needles that weren't there before.  How useful.  Ten years of shirking his responsibilities and he can spontaneously generate the raw materials for a car air-freshener.  That was definitely worth skipping out on his daughter for.


Byrne is sticking to the idea that it's still summer in Canada.  We've discussed already how this directly contradicts the events in UXM that he chose to base this spin-off on, as well as making James' declaration this issue that he's been in the dumps for several months since ALF #1 difficult to square away as well.  That said, if we move this issue forward to the following summer, it helps get this title closer to the other X-books being published at the start of 1984, so we'll go ahead and do that.  This perhaps goes against Snowbird's concern that Kolomaq has risen only "very few months" after Tundra, but when we're talking about millenia old monsters popping up, I guess two in under a year seems like a very swift turnover.

This issue itself covers only a few hours.


Tuesday 21st of June, 1983.



Contemporary Events

The UN General Assembly holds a meeting of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Presumably Richard Branson is too busy producing sheep pop songs to request the entirety of the interstellar void be ceded to him.

Standout Line

"The sound is like a legion of brontosaurs moaning in mutual agony."

Such poetry.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

NMU #11: "Magma"

(A werewolf is for life, not just for enacting coup d'etats.)


After what, if we're being honest, was significantly too long a build-up, we at last get to the fireworks display that brings the Nova Roma story to an end.

So, for those of you who've just tuned in, evil witch-mutant Selene's decision to chuck Amara Aquilla into a lava pit as a human sacrifice has rather literally backfired, as Amara arises as a creature of molten rock and starts hurling streams of magma at her would-be killer.  Unfortunately, her enthusiasm and anger is no substitute for experience, and Selene knocks her back into the caldera almost immediately.  The effort is not without cost, however, and Dani looks on in horror as Selene ages before her eyes.  Selene for her past is non-plussed, and regains her youth and beauty almost immediately by simply sacrificing her own followers, using her control over rock formations to push each cultist screaming into the lava.

The fact that this works at all is quite interesting, because it raises questions about the whole set-up. If Selene can kill anyone in order to gain power, why put so much effort into preparing scantily-clad nubile girls as her prey?  I mean, sure, if I were the sort of person to push innocents into a volcano for my own nefarious ends, I'd probably want to involve bikini-wearing young women as well (though I'd have them as my followers and the ugly beefed-up dudes as the victims; that just seems a more sensible allocation of resources), but the whole set-up seems needlessly convoluted.  In fact, when Amara rises once more from the caldera and Selene simply drains her life-force straight out of her, the ritual seems more pointless than ever.  It's possible, I suppose, that the bells and whistles surrounding Selene's murders in some way enhance the experience (or even just make her butcher's bill easier to swallow), but I suspect it's more likely that Selene just does it this way because it's more fun.  Why shoot a fox when you can hunt it?

Up on the surface, Roberto is learning the truth of that old saying: assist in the murder of dozens in haste, repent at leisure.  There's no time for moping, however (somewhat unusually in a Claremont book, one might argue - still, he manages to get some done "on the job"); he's seen a red-haired woman amongst the slaves captured in the battle, and sneaks after her, hoping that she might be his missing mother.  Finding his objective under guard, Sunspot knocks out one of Gallio's soldiers in order to gain a disguise.  He complains about the size differential after the fact, which is an odd objection considering he chooses to leave his fluorescent orange boots on.

Sneaking into Gallio's dungeons, Roberto learns that the mysterious woman is indeed his mother. Even better, she's in the middle of being taunted by Castro, which gives him the opportunity to punch someone unambiguously unpleasant ("CARAMBA!"). The unfortunate downside to all of this is that it forces Roberto to face up to how callous a dick his father really is.

"Callous dick" is something of a comparative term, however. DaCosta Senior might be planning to exploit the natural resources of Nova Roma's location, but over in his audience chamber, Senator Gallio is having the skin flayed from Aquilla's back, and is about to poison Sam and hand Rahne off to the slavers. Just before the deed is done, though, Amara smashes through the floor, begging her father for help. Apparently Selene didn't quite finish the job.

The arrival of Aquilla's daughter, now revealed to be a creature of living magma, gives Gallio the perfect cover to execute the pair of them, but this murder too is interrupted when Sunspot arrives, leading those troops loyal to Aquilla who survived the attack on his mansion, along with the fake Amazonian tribe that Aquilla had been using to protect young girls from Selene's predations.  With the New Mutants joining in, Gallio's forces don't last too long, and Gallio himself gets a brief and fatal lesson in swordplay from Amara's father.

Things aren't wrapped up just yet, though; Amara informs the youngsters that Selene still holds Dani, and plans to convert her into a "psychic vampire" like the priestess herself.  Sam and Roberto, accompanied by Amara, follow Wolfsbane as she sniffs out Dani's scent through the artificial tunnels that stretch out under the city.  They make short work of Selene's outer defences, but once they meet her in person, the battle quickly turns against them.  Fortunately, the team provide sufficient distraction for Dani to get off a spirit-form, scaring Selene with an image of her long-delayed death, and giving Roberto chance to stab her in the heart.

Except Selene turns out to not actually have a heart.  How wearyingly literal.  Sunspot's plan B is to have Amara dig a new lava pit with her powers, and then toss Selene into it.  This works rather better, but horrifies Roberto's team-mates, who remind him they had all sworn never to kill.

I've mentioned before how aggravating this kind of bright-line moralising can be, so it's nice to see how utterly uninterested Roberto is in hearing it.  We're talking about a woman who has killed at least seven people that very night, and tried to kill an eighth.  A woman who we know from Amara has been doing this for some time.  A woman who both has to murder in order to survive, and who delights in the act each and every time.  Not to mention a woman who is trying to kill three of their number and subjugate a fourth, and who nobody has any idea how to stop short of killing her.  This is not a situation in which the "we're supposed to be better than that" line can possibly hold the slightest water.  Sunspot just saved countless lives, Sam, including your own. Fuck off with your hand-wringing.

But is Selene really gone for good? Roberto fears not, and given her ability to control rock, it's entirely possible neither the lava nor the cave-in has actually finished her off.  Right now, though, the team has more immediate problems.  How do they get themselves and Senora DaCosta back home, and what are they going to do with a terrified girl who's just learned she's a mutant?


Apparently I was a little off in my estimates last time around. It's still evening when this issue begins. Regardless, this story carries over into the following day.

Sunspot mentions it's been days since his mother was lost in the Amazon rapids, but that's fine. Besides, Claremont's been most helpful in counting the days the team has been in Nova Roma.


Tuesday 23rd to Wednesday 24th of August, 1983.


X+5Y+173 to X+5Y+174.

Contemporary Events

Standout Line

"We're s'posed to be better than that."
"An easy rule for Professor Xavier to follow, Sam... safe in New York."

Saturday, 17 November 2012

DAZ #30: "The Debt"

(Barney unleashed; Bob unbound.)


You can tell things have gotten serious around here. On the very first page, exclamation marks outnumber full stops nine to one!!!!!!!!!

Actually, "serious" is not really a word that applies to this issue.  Apparently it's "assistant editor month", which seems in practice to mean a large degree of clowning around.  This affords us an interesting contrast with UXM Annual #7 which we looked at not too long ago, because this comic too is determined to break the fourth wall as obviously as possible, but does much better at getting away with it, almost entirely because it's so much funnier.

Indeed, I'd say this is the funniest single X-book Marvel had produced up to this point.  There is admittedly not a massive amount of competition for that accolade; Claremont seems to go in more for zaniness rather than outright comedy (though his humorous writing is so miserably unfunny that it's difficult to be sure), and Obnoxio the Clown was less funny than the restaurant menu of the German hotel I read it in.  This, though, is not just funnier, it's funny, at least sporadically.

It also seems in some haste to polish of last issue's cliffhanger so as to get to the new stuff, so let's similarly run through the preliminaries (short note on that cover: that cover is fucking awful). At the end of DAZ #29, our heroine found herself on the private plane of exceptionally famous musician/actor/movie producer Roman Nekoboh, only for her host to be knocked out and the pilot, Hack, shot in the chest when an incoming fighter craft opens fire.

Fortunately, Roman reveals the plane carries parachutes, though only two ("I wanted to expand the liquor cabinet!"). Dazzler straps Roman into one and rather unceremoniously tosses him out of his own plane, which now that I think of it is flying oddly level considering its pilot is bleeding to death.  Maybe he had enough strength left to hit the automatic pilot before he passed out, or maybe planes are designed to fly level if you're not holding the controls; I can see how that would be useful. Anyway, Dazzler straps Hack into the other parachute, grabs onto him with all her strength, and throws them both out into freefall. My physics isn't good enough to know if this would work (though I guess Dazzler doesn't weigh that much, ample bosom notwithstanding), but in comics land, at least, everything's good.  A quick light burst to attract attention, and Hack is whisked to hospital.

Alison follows in a police car alerted by her skyflash, to find Hack is going to be fine and that Roman has made his way to the hospital too, where he's engaging in bragging and autograph signing in strict rotation. Alison gets back to Brown's mansion, where he berates her for not sticking around in the hospital and pretending to be mortally wounded. What's the point of nearly getting killed if you can't milk it for cheap publicity!  That's just the kind of unpleasant cynicism you'd expect from a former wife-beater and drugs-pusher.  Mind you, his theory that the fighter plane was piloted by an enraged fan who hated Nekoboh's last album is pretty funny.  I wonder if any Metallica fans were tempted to try something similar after St. Anger?

(Which reminds me; whilst Pitchfork remains an entirely useless site for anyone with any interest in reading anything that fulfils the most basic qualities of a useful review, their evisceration of Metallica's eighth album is a work of genius.)

None of this goes down well with Alison, of course, and things only deteriorate when he admits he basically whored her out to Roman. Disgusted by Brown's moral bankruptcy, and more than a little put out by Lois taking his side simply out of a refusal to risk having to make her own choices, Dazzler walks out of the mansion and into the California rain.

Except it isn't rain, so much as some kind of shimmering cataract standing in for the fourth wall; Dazzler has barely gone three steps when a guy names Ralph pulls up, offering her a ride out of town, perhaps as far as his final destination of San Diego, where he's going to a comics convention.  He's an editor, you see.

If it weren't for the front cover mentioning assistant editor's month twice, this might seem like nothing but a little nod, or even slip under the radar altogether.  Clearly, that will never do, so we switch scenes to Bob Harras in a funk the next morning, waiting impatiently for Ralph to call while the staff plot universal domination and/or multiple lunch breaks. Perhaps it's being surrounded by such egotism and apathy that does it, or it's the constant teasing Bob takes for refusing to do anything without Ralph's say-so, but something snaps in his head, and the comic world's newest dictator is born.  His first order of business: banning Frank Springer from drawing any more dodgy pin-up girl shots. "There'll be no more of that!"  Frankly, it's worth all this post-modern noodling just to call that sexist bullshit out.

Over in San Diego, trouble is brewing. Elements of an entirely undeveloped and generic military force are out to kill Alison for being a mutant, and having failed to shoot down her plane, they plan to get up close and personal.  They follow her into Ralph's comic convention so she can repay him the $20 he lent her last night (I don't wanna know how she raised the money overnight in San Diego). With their military gear drawing no odd looks amongst the eclectically-dressed crowd, the group set up a machine designed to make any nearby mutant lose control.  One wonders how they got their hands on such a device.  One might also wonder why such mechanisms are never referred to again, though it's likely someone pointed out the risks inherent in causing super-powered beings to go indiscriminately mental inside crowds of people.

And if that doesn't persuade people, you could always just show them video of what happens next.  Alison is hit by the wavefront of the strange device and immediately starts struggling to hold in her light bursts, but she's not the only mutant in range.  In an all-too bitter irony, one of the soldiers is a mutie too!  Which is a nice touch, but maybe a bit obvious, you know?  Even in some senses cliche?  Well, McDonald's got you covered, never fear.  You want original?  How about a guy who spontaneously changes into a giant purple lizard man!

No, wait.

YAARRH! He's a bit... piratey, isn't he? That costs him a little in the way of scariness, I'd think, though obviously nothing is ever going to knife you through the heart with fear like Barney the Dinosaur.  Not with this shit going on.

But I digress.

Right, so.  Giant purple lizard smashing up comic convention.  What's Dazzler gonna do?  Well, first of all, she has to release all the energy the machine has set percolating inside her.  Sensibly, she uses the resulting laser burst to gank the device itself (not sure if this qualifies as being unreasonably prescient; no-one told her what the machine does, but it's fucking huge and the thing-that-once-spake-as-Zalme is stood right next to it).  Destroying the generator restores Alison to normal, but the dino-beast is as rampagey as ever.  Sterner measures are required.  Dazzler alternates between pleading with the beast and shooting it in the face, before eventually enough damage is done for the roof to collapse on it.  This seemingly returns Zalme to normal, and he flees whilst Dazzler is saving Ralph from being flattened by a falling pillar. 

Having been handed his twenty, Ralph wanders away to find a phone and call in, and therefore ends Bob's reign of terror just as he's demanding each cover features a picture of himself. Sic transit gloria Harras, I guess.

Like I said, this all works better than Claremont's similar take, and it's not only because this version is funnier (though as I say, it is).  The fact that we get two brief trips to Marvel that bookend the plot is part of it; it intrudes far less than the pages and pages of fight scenes in the bullpen that we had to suffer through in the previous year's annual.  You've also got the fact that no-one at any point suggests Dazzler is a Marvel character, whereas "Scavenger Hunt" was very clear that Claremont himself was responsible for the X-Men's rampage through Marvel HQ.  Not so much fourth-wall problem as an issue with recursion.

Anyway, that's enough justifying my hypocrisy for one post.  We'll leave DAZ #30 on its final panel, as Alison boards a bus to return to LA. This time she's determined to make it work. Her half-sister's father might be a worthless turd, but at no point was she in danger of being eaten, and for a woman like Dazzler, those kinds of details are still worth something, dammit.


This issue picks up immediately from DAZ #29, and carries on into the following day.


Friday 29th to Saturday 30th of July, 1983.


X+5Y+102 to X+5Y+103.

Contemporary Events

Tony and Emmy winning stage actress Lynn Fontanne dies, aged 95.

Standout Line

"And furthermore, I want all dialogue balloons coloured red!" - Bob Harras.

Monday, 12 November 2012

UXM #177: "Sanction"

(Magenta knee-highs finally carry the death penalty!)

(For those wondering, if indeed anyone is, the TWTYTW post for 1983 will be along just as soon as I can get hold of the first issue of the Magik miniseries, the only X-book with a 1983 cover date that I've yet to read)


Let's talk a bit about audience intelligence, because it's going to be pretty important to the first third of this book. I've always been interested in what has to happen in a given narrative before  a given person begins to suspect they've been suckered.  When does a Star Trek fan start to think what they're watching is actually all taking place on a holodeck?  When does an X-Men fan start figuring Mastermind has slapped together another illusion?  When does pretty much anyone decide that they're probably watching a dream sequence?

And, as a corollary, how much difference exists between when that suspicion dawns, and when the writer intended it to dawn.

Take "Last of the Time Lords", for example, the season finale of the revamped Doctor Who's third year.  At the end of the previous episode, the Master has ordered the execution of ten percent of the human race, and as this episode opens, we learn that's exactly what happened, because the Doctor is now a fucking boggart or some damn thing.

The instant you know that the murder of some six or seven hundred million people did in fact take place, any remotely genre-savvy viewer knows that what we're seeing isn't sustainable, that something will happen later on that means those deaths "didn't happen", where I'm using quotes simply to forestall the sort of idiotic "but it's all fiction" comments such discussions elicit, despite the context being entirely clear.

Now, the fact that this happens so early into the episode and the entire thing immediately becomes an exercise in trying to work out whether we should care about anything that subsequently happens is an excellent illustration of why Davies is so infuriating a writer, but that's a rant for another time (and the other blog).  My point is that any writer who wants to negate the narrative validity of events needs to put effort into ensuring they do it in the right way.  Most importantly, you don't want the gap between realisation and reveal to be very long at all, and once the curtain has been pulled aside, you don't want the audience to feel any investment they've put in to have been completely wasted.

The way Claremont tackles all this here is quite interesting, in part because he ends up working against himself.  But six paragraphs into this post, let's talk about what's actually going on.  The issue begins in media res, as Mystique runs through a funfair with Wolverine hot on her heels.  The choice of location is already a clue; generally speaking (though this is of course not an immutable law), one doesn't set a fight to the death next to a rollercoaster unless one is making a point.  If one stops to consider which of the X-Men's past foes is most associated with a funfair (narrowly squeezing out Mesmero for that time he hypnotised the team into thinking they were a carnival attraction), alarm bells might already be ringing.

What seals the deal, though, is when on pages 2 and 3 Mystique murders first Wolverine, and then Sprite.  There's just no-one with any experience of narrative who's going to believe Logan and Kitty are dead, or at least that there won't be some eleventh hour miracle that will return them to life.  This sequence goes on for over six more pages, however, as the shape-shifting villain kills her way through the entire team (along with Cyclops; another clue, albeit an entirely redundant one).  So, if we assume no-one is going to fear that the book's eponymous super-team really will be wiped out, what's the point?

In all truth, some of it does seem a little like indulgence on Claremont's part.  The sequence where she uses a mechanism she set up inside the hall of mirrors to use Cyclops' eyebeams to kill Colossus is just utterly ridiculous, the kind of ludicrous over-planning that couldn't possibly work, but Claremont seems to think is badass.  Mystique's use of her new combat suit is equally problematic; how can she shift into a perfect copy of Wolverine is she's wearing a full-body suit?  And how lucky she morphs into it at the exact moment the X-Man it's designed to counter (Storm) attacks.

That's not what we're supposed to be focussing on, however, even if it's silly enough to make bypassing it tricky.  The point to all this obvious fakery is the truth it reveals: Mystique has no problem murdering the foster daughter she and Irene took in as a young girl, but she can't bring herself to kill Nightcrawler.

This is not the first indication of some relationship between the two characters, but until now it hasn't been followed up on (perhaps Claremont is setting up the Nightcrawler miniseries, which ends up being released in the following year), and the implication here is that Mystique's training session is illuminating for precisely this reason.

The problem is in how the truth is revealed: Mystique hired Arcade to build robot X-Men she could train against.  That's not a silly idea in itself (or at least, no more so than we're used to around here), but to justify why Mystigue couldn't gank a robotic replica of Kurt, she has to state outright that she was fooled into believing the robots were real.  In short, it's one of those get-outs that Claremont employs from time to time that entirely rely on a character being indescribably stupid, and which hurts the previous narrative as well (why should we be surprised that Mystique is immune to the after-effects of a 'Crawler port if she was merely fighting a robot all along). It's particularly ridiculous when we learn that Mystique is going through all this in order to be able to defeat (and possibly kill) the team, just so she can get her foster daughter back.  If that's true, it makes no sense that she can destroy a Roguebot, but not a Crawler one.

In any case, once Mystique chickens out of deactivating a robot, the simulacrum knocks her out, and the session is over.  I quite like Arcade's approach, actually; he's giving Mystique use of his hideout and robots for free, but in each session one robot is programmed to murder her (in this case, Rogue, which as Arcade notes is a nice touch).

With that dealt with, the comic presents a small moving forward of the Ororo/Kitty sub-plot, as Kitty tries to convince Stevie Hunter that Storm has undergone a more serious change than a simple loss of fashion sense. Stevie finds this somewhat difficult to believe, which I'm sympathetic to considering Sprite's talent for hyperbolic drama, but Ororo somewhat unnerves her when she arrives and admits Kitty may well have a point.

Somewhere in near orbit, the Starjammer is finally ready to depart. Both Xavier and the Summers brothers have chosen to remain on Earth, and after the earthlings have been beamed down, Corsair and Lilandra take the ship into warp, on a mission to take back the Shi'ar Empire.

Back in New York City, it's ballet time. Peter and Kitty are double dating (if they're actually technically dating at this point) with Kurt and Amanda.  Kurt is feeling restless, aware that he hasn't chased up on Mystique's mysterious clues about his heritages last time they fought, and determined to be more proactive.  This is clearly being built up to be a big thing, though obviously the fact that Mystique and Nightcrawler are simultaneously brooding over it is quite ridiculous.

Sprite and Colossus have their own problems.  Having parked the Rolls some distance from the venue, they're trying to enjoy a moonlit walk, but Kitty is rather spoiling it by brooding over her new friend, Doug Ramsey (who'll be showing up in New Mutants a few months from now).  Her usual self-involved rambling is mercifully cut short when the top floor of a nearby building explodes.  Colossus rushes up to help before Kitty can talk any more, only to find it's a trap!

The Blob is up there with a holographic projector and a mean pimp-slap, that knocks Colossus through the wall and into a flamebird fashioned by Pyro.  Once the fires have brought Colossus to white-hot temperatures, Pyro drops him to the ground below, where Avalanche throws a half-dozen liquid-nitrogen tankers straight at him.

The result?  Not good...


According to Stevie, it's been several weeks since the X-Men returned from Logan's aborted marriage, but that's entirely consistent with what we have.

And we're finally back in synchronicity with the comic's timeframe!  After spending so much time telling us it was winter immediately before Wolverine's wedding ceremony, we're told here that "several weeks" later, we're in early autumn.  Clearly this is ridiculous, but it works for our purposes, so I'm not particularly concerned.

The story itself takes place over a single day, but once again I'm running a parallel time stamp for Cyclops' appearance.  Since the Starjammer could beam him up from anywhere on Earth, there's no reason he can't have said goodbye to his father immediately after landing following his adventures with Madelyne in the Pacific.


Thursday 8th and Saturday 17th September, 1983.


X+5Y+188 and X+5Y+197.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.67 standard years.

(Colossus is 26 years old.)

"A fire is of little danger -- to Colossus!"
Contemporary Events

Two-time Brownlow Medal winning Australian rules footballer Chris Judd is born.

60th anniversary of the Honda Point Disaster, in which seven US destroyers ran aground in California; the largest peace-time loss of ships in the nation's history.

Standout Line

"What good is... the ability to see the future, if no-one listens?" - Destiny.

Friday, 9 November 2012

ALF #5: "What Fools These Mortals Be..."

(Don't carry on, nurse.)


If pushed, and not that anyone asked, but if I had to name my favourite Alpha Flight character, the only way Puck would fail to win would be if I decided to rank him joint top alongside Sasquatch (who's brilliant, but a bit too obvious of a Beast clone).  So whilst the running joke of him failing to get to the action in Alpha Flight's first issue was genuinely funny, I was disappointed not to see him in action (it's difficult to see what he could have done against a colossal magical earth elemental determined to destroy mankind, but that's exactly why it would have been fun to watch).  Then, we only got a few pages into ALF #2 before he got his guts ripped out and he had to be hospitalised, sitting (lying?) out issues 2 to 4.

In short (no pun intended), a nice slice of Puck-related action is definitely overdue.  And this time round, he's going to provide it, the fact he's basically two pieces of Eugene stapled together be damned.

While everyone else has been skipping around the Arctic Circle making nuisances of themselves, Michael Twoyoungmen has been working on fixing Puck up.  Puck himself has been catching up on his reading and flirting with every nurse within reach. Not that he has much of a reach, you understand, but the nurses seem quite willing to move within range.  Everyone loves a silver-tongued dwarf with a war-wound you could fit a microwave into.

Whilst we're on the subject of those of the feminine persuasion, I should state up front that to no-one's surprise, this is going to be another post about gender politics.  Also to no-one's surprise, Byrne isn't going to do too well out of what I'm going to say.

The basic plot of the first half of the comic is that one of Judd's nurses is acting strangely.  Not the one who keeps giving him sponge baths he doesn't need - that's merely unprofessional, though since Eugene is enjoying it I don't suppose it particularly matters, so long as she's off-duty.  No, we're talking about the one who goes missing in the middle of the night, forcing Puck to drag himself out of bed in exceptional pain and stagger through the hospital, looking for someone who can fill him up with morphine.  He eventually finds the nurse who was supposed to be on the desk, and it looks rather like she's sampling the wares, so to speak.

On its own, this wouldn't be worthy of comment.  It's a bit of a prosaic storyline after four issues of extinction-level threats, but that makes for a welcome change of pace.   And if nothing else, the comic's comparatively low on sledgehammer moral messages; Puck just wants to bust a potential drug ring, not make speeches about how smacking up is bad for you.

So what's my problem?  Well, here's the thing.  Nurse Daly is a woman who's supposed to be looking after Puck, and instead she's ignoring her duties.  Marinna was a woman who was supposed to have Puck's back, and instead she attacked himl.  Aurora is a woman who's supposed to work alongside Alpha Flight, but keeps working against them or even putting them in danger.  The reasons are different each time - the down-to-earth in the form of drug addiction or mental illness, the fantastical in race-memory mind-control - but that's three instances in five issues of a woman dropping a fairly important ball.

A pattern, in short, is emerging.  Hell, this issue opens with Puck and Shaman talking about how they don't really get on with Snowbird.  None of these are objectionable in isolation (indeed Daly might be the least objectionable of all), but all together, it's hard to avoid noticing.  The fact that it variously takes Puck, Northstar and Namor to keep these wayward broads on the straight and narrow just makes things worse.

Outside of this problem, there's actually more than a little to like in here.  I don't think watching Puck go about the business of punching hoodlums could get old; it's like watching Wolverine without claws and with more of a sense of showmanship.  There's also a neat swerve out of comic coincidence when it looks like Puck just happened to stumble onto the crooks the very first night he went looking, only for it to transpire the head doctor (in who Eugene confided) was in on the drug ring all along. And since the "How the band got together" backup strip has returned, the whole thing is nice and breezy (and as always, at least twenty-seven times more bearable than Hidden Years).

I'm just not shaking the unfortunate undercurrents, though.  Mind you, neither can Byrne, as the issue reaches its conclusion, Puck mentions his conviction that Nurse Daly couldn't be in charge.  There must be a top guy, eh?


On to the back-up strip, "Deathwatch", in which we travel back in time fifteen years, where a young surgeon, brash and arrogant, ignores the truth of the mystic arts, sure that his medical skills are all he will ever need.  Seriously, how cool would it be if Shaman's real name was Strangeyoungmen?  The answer is very.

Alas, this prideful man, filled with foolish cupidity, does no better than any other prideful man, filled with foolish cupidity.  He learns from his own doctor that his pregnant wife is seriously ill, and though he works for months to save her, he fails, losing both wife and baby, along with his daughter, who thinks he lied to her by promising to save her mother, and his grandfather, shaman of the tribe, who's died on the same day, in a way some might see as ironic, but I choose to consider selfish.

Oh, and it turns out his daughter and Guardian's wife-to-be were friends as children, which seems kinda pointless, but maybe something will get made of it later.


There's no real suggestion of how much time has passed since Marinna left with Namor at the end of last issue, so we're left trying to figure out how long it would take for Puck to partially recover from being almost disemboweled.  I've no inside knowledge on this score - mostly I deal with diabetes and IVF, though recently I've taken a sidestep into septic appendices - and the nebulous nature of mutant healing prowess would make such info questionable in any case.

I think it's safe to say a month is at least not wildly implausible, though.

The story itself takes place over two nights and two days. It's not clear if it stretches into a third day, but given how far behind schedule this title is, we'll assume it does.


Monday 10th to Wednesday 12th of January, 1983.


X+4Y+289 to X+4Y+291.

Contemporary Events

Nikolai Podgorny, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR until six years earlier, dies aged 79.

Standout Line

"Come on in, sweet thing, and this time let me tell you about the time I went tiger-hunting in Nepal..."

So much cooler than Wolveirne.

Monday, 5 November 2012

NMU #10: "Betrayal!"

(Nova Pompeii?)


OK, so; good news first.  This issue manages to avoid the various flavours of racism that plagued the last two instalments of the title.  Bad news: this is presumably due to lack of space owing to all the teenage girls in bikinis that show up halfway through.

It's been twenty-four hours since Rahne was declared the reincarnation of Julius Caesar, and it's apparently been wall-to-wall processions and feasts since then. As one might expect, the pious Wolfsbane is more than a little bothered at the idea of being considered a god, but on balance, you'd have to say things have taken a better for the team, even if there's still no sign of Roberto's missing mother.

There are a couple of nice moments as the New Mutants relax in the palace Senator Gallio has loaned them. Roberto notes his own father was a slave like those now waiting upon them, which is a nice callback to his character's history.  It's also interesting watching Gallio argue the Roman gods themselves might in fact have been mutants; he does this to placate Rahne, which probably demonstrates his political instincts, but it's a nice idea in any case.  Nowadays the "myth X was mutants" idea has been done multiple times, but the overuse of "proving" such things shouldn't detract from the idea of people wondering how much of what they assumed to be fiction and legend was actually brought about by superbeings.  It's one of those logical reactions to the appearance of "the Marvels" that doesn't get enough play.

Gallio also explains to the team what's going on in Nova Roma; there's a battle of wills taking place between himself, and the plebian Aquilla.  It's interesting that Gallio would frame things in those terms.  He goes to pains to note plenty of plebians (descended from slaves, basically) make for fine citizens, but even so, the way he casually suggests that Aquilla's heritage is to blame for his misdeeds is striking.  This is basically classism, just as surely as we've had racism and are headed for some rather dodgy scenes of scantily-clad girls, but the difference here is that Claremont can plausibly be argued to be criticising rather than engaging.  I have to confess, I quite like the idea of a citizen of Nova Roma saying something so hideously objectionable to contemporary sensibilities (see Andrew Mitchell, resignation of), and it not even occurring to them that there'd be a problem.  It would have been even more interesting coming from the mouth of someone we didn't already know was a villain, of course.

Despite his regressive views on class and heritage, however, Gallio has no trouble winning over Rahne. Partially this may be because she's more pleased than she'll let on about being feted as a goddess (particularly now Gallio's given her an out by suggesting Caesar, Romulus and Remus might all simply have been homo superior as well), but mainly it's because Gallio has set himself against Amara's father, and Rahne despises the blonde girl for the unforgivable crime of getting Sam to like her.  She's so disgusted by the possibility that Sam might have the hots for Amara that she announces the entire team will serve Gallio's cause.  Not surprisingly, this starts off an argument. Sam claims to simply be leery of taking sides without really having any idea as to what is going on in the city, but it's entirely possible his position is no less hormone-fuelled than Rahne's.  Either way, it's pretty obvious that the group needs a replacement for Xi'an as leader. Inwardly, Roberto votes for Dani, though that might be for the sake of a quiet life as anything else.

Not that a quiet life could possibly be on the cards in any case. Sunspot is so distracted by everything that's happened - everyone he's lost - that he doesn't even take up a sexy slave-girls offer to "ease [his] sadness" (that's not how I remember my hormones working when I was thirteen/fourteen, but there it is). But no sooner has Roberto headed outside to get away from Wolfsbane's quarrel with Cannonball, and he thinks he spots his mother being manhandled by two other women.  The guards outside the palace won't let him past, though.  For his "protection". For once Roberto manages to keep his temper under control, and heads back inside, but for those of us less distracted, the implication is clear.  Our heroes are not guests, but prisoners.

Once this sinks in though, the mutants settle on a plan: Dani sneaks out of the palace (using her ability to generate enticing illusions to distract the guards with surround-sound floozyvision), hoping her Native American heritage won't seem too out of place in a city with a sizable Inca population.  It's not a bad plan in theory - though in Nova Roma I don't think Sam would stand out any more than she does - but unfortunately all it gets her is swiftly kidnapped.

As the hours pass the three remaining New Mutants become concerned about Dani's failure to return. Rahne is in a particularly bad way, since in addition to fretting over Dani she has to deal with having been spectacularly unpleasant to Sam, worry about whether her pretence at godhood will have pissed off the guy upstairs, and scared that the wolf side of her nature is gradually winning the battle over who she really wants to be.  Roberto does his best to console her, but it's a tough job, especially after he gets shot and falls out of the window.

Sam blasts his way to Roberto, catching him before he hits the deck, whilst Rahne wolfs out and pounces on the hidden assassin.  Turns out it's Castro, the guy who knocked out the New Mutants back on the boat, and thus caused the crash that almost killed them all and got Roberto's mother swept down the Amazon.

None of the three kids are happy to see him, of course, particularly not Roberto, who would happily have caved the guy's face in even before he shot him in the shoulder.  Presumably this is why they don't see the cracks in what follows.  When Gallio and his guards rush in, Castro gives up the name of his employer with almost comical speed (ostensibly in fear of what Sunspot will do to him otherwise). This was all the evil plan of Senator Aquilla!

None of this makes any sense, or at least requires further answers.  How did Castro sneak past the palace guards? How did he make such a hash of shooting at a stationary target from point-blank range? Did Aquilla not have any professional assassins unlikely to either botch the job or give him away seconds after being captured? What made him sabotage the boat before anyone had even seen Nova Roma? How does being Gallio's political opponent immediately translate into attempting to murder children?

Alas, these are not considerations the mutants are willing to entertain.  Their blood is up, and in Roberto's case, somewhat out all over the floor as well. Gallio orders his men to head to Aquilla's villa and arrest him, and our heroes sign up to help.

Maybe they're hoping Aquilla has Dani stashed away somewhere, because otherwise it seems like they've forgotten her entirely in the excitement.  Of course, we're not expecting her to be Aquilla's at all, and it looks like we're right.  Instead, she's in some kind of cave system with Amara and Random Victim #1, all of them in bikinis and drugged to the eyeballs.  Looks like they're set to be sacrificed by some kind of fire cult (helpfully if unimaginatively named "The Cult of Fire", which apparently is only interested in chucking young girls into a caldera if they're dressed for a beach party.

This all looks pretty grim for our heroine, and she's appropriately terrified (in a nice touch, though, she insists to herself that her fear could only be down to the drugs she's been hit with, as oppose to her imminent death in boiling rock).  It gets rather worse still when Selene  - "Daughter of the Moon, Mistress of the Fire" - teleports into the cavern, and kicks Random Victim #1 into the lava pit.  Poor old Random Victim #1.  Only ever there to demonstrate the stakes for the people with names. Thinking about it, though, I wonder how long its been since an innocent person was explicitly killed in an X-book?  We're still a ways off from the hideous, deadening death tolls of the early '90s.

Of course, no-one's told Selene that.  She's feeling pretty good right about now.  Another one in the thousands of sacrificial ceremonies she's hosted over the years is about to go down without a hitch.  The victims are assembled, her psychic powers have left Dani unable to generate her spirit forms; what could go wrong?

Over at the Aquilla place, it looks like things are going pretty well for Selene's husband, too, as Sunspot and Cannonball make short work of the mansion's defences. Roberto is more than happy to just wade in and maximise his head-busts-per-minute speed, but Sam is a little more circumspect, having begun to realise that all of this is perhaps a little too convenient.  And once Gallio's men start massacring Aquilla's guards, it becomes clear that aside from anything else, it's probably a good idea to make sure Aquilla survives being arrested, which they ensure by capturing him themselves. Gallio is rather annoyed when he learns his planned "stabbed to death whilst trying to escape" approach has failed, which perhaps leads him to reveal a little too much whilst gloating over his defeated enemy.  Since he's crowing in Latin, he thinks he's safe, but Roberto has been hiding his knowledge of the language, and quickly realise they've been on the wrong side all along.

Back underground, and Selene is in the middle of a traditional villain's gloating monologue.  Apparently, Amara's mother was fed to the volcano some years ago, and Selene can't wait to make it a generational thing.  Once the gloating's done, that is.

Dani doesn't intend to give her the chance. She breaks free of both her guards and Selene's psychic dampening, and throws herself at her captor.

It doesn't work. Selene is just too powerful, and when the distraction briefly shakes Amara from Selene's mental power, the older woman simply kicks her straight into the lava.

Pretty much everyone reading this, I'd have thought, knows what happens next: one of the most aggravating examples of ludicrous comic coincidence ever seen, which is no mean feat, especially where Claremont is concerned (I ranted at length about "Madelyne Pryor was supposed to just be a coincidence" argument in the comments thread here, where this very issue came up in response). Amara, we learn, is not only a mutant, not only a mutant of just the right kind of age to make her New Mutants material, but she learns she's a mutant just as she's thrown into a volcano, and because her powers are volcano-based.

There's not much to say about all that, it's pretty much self-explanatory in its ridiculousness.  The best defence one could muster - and it's an interesting one - is that Amara (or Magma, as we should start calling her) wasn't necessarily going to turn out to be what she became.  What if her abilities were more along the lines of Darwin's, only with a greater power level (Darwin could certainly survive being chucked into a volcano, but actually casting lava around would presumably be beyond him), and either got stuck, or were always intended to just stick at whatever life-threatening situation she first encountered.  Had Selene tried to drown her, would she have grown gills? (Update: turns out Abagail considered this idea just days before me, and came up with the same example as well.  Spooky!)

Obviously, all this is academic.  For whatever reason, command over molten rock is what Amara has been handed, and she's more than willing to use it to fry Selene to a cinder, even if the resultant earthquakes look like exceptionally bad news for the city above.  Who will gain the upper hand?  Tune in next time!


This issue begins the day after the team's battle in the arena.  It continues late into the night.  It's not clear if they move past midnight, but I'm inclined to believe they have, if only because that seems the appropriate time for Selene to be pushing scantily-clad girls into volcanoes.

That said, Brazil is two hours ahead of New York in any case, so from the perspective of our NYC-centric system, we can assume this all takes place over a single day.


Tuesday 23rd August, 1983.



Contemporary Events

James Collins is born, a player for West Ham United and the Wales national team, a fact I only mention because my Welsh girlfriend might shout at me if I don't.

Standout Line

"Amara's dad! Ah thought ah noticed a resemblance!" - Sam

It's fucking uncanny, is what it is.

Later on, we learn Amara is adopted.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Kelly Problem

I mentioned in my post on UXM #176 that people like Senator Robert Kelly and Agent Henry Gyrich have motivations that are a bit too complicated, even in some ways sympathetic, to be simply written off as heartless villains.  I also threatened to go into this in more depth, which is the purpose of this post.

With the US presidential election not half a week away, it's perhaps timely that my overall point here is going to tie in to the difference between Democratic and Republican policies. Not that it will be unique to those two parties, the left-right divide in my own country would work just as well (perhaps better, since it's hard to call the average Democrat a leftist with anything approaching a straight face).

So, here's the thing.  There is no doubt in my mind, none, that the fear Kelly and Gyrich have about the potential destruction mutants can cause is entirely rational.  The best expression of this is probably in the first X-Men film, where Kelly makes the point that any number of mutant children could prove as dangerous to their classmates as, say, the Columbine shooters. That's a strong enough point that it can't be waved away with "mutants are people too" type protestations - usually what the comics rely on, if we're being honest - so we need to put together something a little more robust.

Here's the thing, though.  If the Kelly's of the world proposed some kind of detailed process by which mutants could be judged in control of their powers, arguing against it would be much more difficult.  It would not by any means be impossible, since the central problem - people hate mutants and so mutants don't like the idea of revealing themselves - remains, but it would move the debate into genuinely morally complex terrain.  I'd be hard pushed to come up with a coherent response to it.  Moreover, all the metaphors the comics have played with over the years would start to fall apart as well.  Homosexuality no longer works, because we're specifically talking about a minority who are a potential danger, and doom-saying religious pricks aside, no-one's claiming that about gay people.  The AIDS metaphor that Scott Lobdell (among others) seemed to be playing with when they introduced the Legacy Virus doesn't really work either, since the circumstances of HIV infection are so different to those of a child suddenly manifesting destructive powers when they hit puberty.

Fortunately, we can sidestep this genuinely difficult issue, because Kelly never seems to consider it.  Rather than putting any effort at all into figuring out how a confidential screening process for mutants genuinely posing a threat to human life might work, he just wants to have all the mutants identified to make his life easier.

This is what makes me think of the Mitt Romneys and George Osbornes of this world. Conservative attacks against the welfare state take many forms, of course, but one of if not the most common is to argue that too many people on the receiving end don't really deserve what they're getting.  Actually putting more effort into checking everyone's getting what they're supposed to be would cost too much time and money, though, so it's best just to slash the funding instead.

This is the inevitable result of a thought process that concerns itself first with ensuring that no-one gets an easier ride than necessary, and second with keeping costs down.  And it's this approach that most closely parallels that of Kelly and Gyrich; they don't want to let dangerous mutants threaten lives - deliberately or otherwise - but working out how to handle that problem case-by-case is just too damn hard, so they want to make mutant registration (or even incarceration, in Gyrich's case) mandatory.

The problem Kelly identifies is (within the Marvel universe) entirely real, but his solution is defiantly impersonal, and that's where the problem truly lies.  Because doing it on the cheap doesn't lesser costs, it merely transfers them, and if the history of what happens when the Republicans in America or the Tories over here get into power has taught us anything, it's that the costs tend to get forced onto those least able to pay them.

In that regard, at least, the metaphor hasn't truly failed at all.