Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Majik: Storm & Illyana #1: "Little Girl Lost"
("What good is the ability to see the future, if no-one listens?")
For those that don't already know, Magik: Storm & Illyana is a four part miniseries that deals with what happened to Illyana when she fell into Limbo back in UXM #160, describing her development from an innocent seven year old child into a twisted thirteen year old sorceress.
Unsurprisingly, it's pretty dark. I say that not just because a Limbo-based story isn't something you'd expect to be draped in rainbows and kittens, but because Claremont's last foray into the world of the spin-off mini was Wolverine, which was very dark indeed.
It was also very good. This is less so.
The obvious hurdle, at least for this first issue, is that Illyana cannot possibly hold down a narrative in the same way Wolverine can. When Illyana was a seven-year old, she was the blankest of blank slates, something that didn't particularly bother me at the time (she was hardly in the comic at all, for one thing), and there's been almost no effort put into fleshing out her post-Limbo character over the last eighteen standard months since she returned to Earth a teenager.
This is not necessarily a crippling problem, but it does mean the story has to rely heavily on at least one of the following three things: Storm, an intriguing plot, and/or artistic spectacle. The trouble is, none of those are working in this first instalment. There's nothing bad about the artwork here Tom Palmer finishing John Buscema's layouts) but it's nowhere near as good as the stark, shadowy Wolverine, with its evocative palette.
The plot doesn't really do much for me either, and again there's an obvious issue: we already know how this turns out. I've no problem with the idea of filling in the blanks, of course, but when we know the story starts at A and ends at B, there needs to be something more for us to hang our interest on than the simple transistion from one point to another. In this issue, Illyana has her soul corrupted by the demon and would-be world-ender Belasco, only to be rescued by Storm and Kitty (now calling herself Cat), the only two X-Men still alive from the previous timeline in which Illyana escaped but each of the rest of the team was killed, corrupted, or abandoned. Belasco now wants Illyana back to complete the process, Storm wants to find a way to uncorrupt her, and Cat wants to kill her to ensure Belasco's plans don't come to fruition.
That's by no means a bad set-up, but as I say, we already know Kat doesn't get her way, because Illyana survives, and neither does Belasco, because to quote Oz "We know the world didn't end because: check it out." So a lot of weight is getting put on the moral quandary Storm is in: risk the world to save a little girl, or kill her to keep humanity safe. Again, there's nothing wrong with that set-up on paper, but even if we didn't know everything works out fine - and as much as Claremont tries to convince us Illyana is a real threat by having her beat the crap out of Storm in the psychic realm - it's just impossible to imagine Marvel in 1983 green-lighting a project in which a seven-year old girl is murdered by two long-time superheroes, alternate versions or not. So now we're a step back again; the story can't even rely on that dramatic tension narratively, because it doesn't plausibly exist. It can only rely on it emotionally, in terms of how the characters respond to it.
But even this isn't really possible, because Storm is so far removed from how we know her, and Katherine Pryde even more so (it turns out her time in Limbo has partially changed her into a literal cat, a revelation Claremont holds back until page 18 and is quite the best thing about this book), which means two characters who are more or less strangers are arguing rather heavy-handedly over a choice both historically and narratively inevitable. And by "heavy-handedly", I mean Storm tries to argue that if they kill Illyana, they're no better than Belasco, which is easily the most enragingly idiotic example of an enragingly idiotic argument we've seen yet. Killing a seven year old girl in order to save six billion people is not no better than twisting a seven year old girl into a demonic sorceress in order to kill six billion people, and anyone willing to base the central character clash their story relies on on such an obviously terrible idea isn't capable of taking the one escape route left for this story.
There are some nice bits in here - a brief nod to the difficulty in teaching children respect and self-discipline when others are offering them immediate self-gratification, and an ending which suggests Cat may have found an alternative method to save Illyana, or may be lying in order to kill her - but really, it's a poor issue, and poor for such fundamental structural reasons that I don't have high hopes for the next three installments.
Since almost all of this issue takes place in flashback during a period we already know to have been mere hours according to "our" time, there's very little to say here. All we need is to place where Illyana is whilst she's relating this story. I don't see any reason not to put that in line with that month's issue of UXM. Excitingly, since Illyana tells us it's her fourteenth birthday, that gives us an opportunity to cycle out Colossus from the age tracker, and put her in there instead.
Saturday 17th September, 1983.
The Lebanese army begins an attempt to flush Syrian-backed militiamen and Palestinian guerrillas out of the mountain ranges overlooking Beirut. US President Ronald Reagan argues that attempts by Congress to exert authority over the length of time US troops spend in that country would send a "dangerous signal" to the Middle East and the USSR; one more interesting data point in the repeated attempts by the executive branch to argue Congress has no authority in military matters.
"Laughter helps me maintain my perspective." - Storm