Wednesday, 28 November 2012

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.

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