Monday, 28 January 2013

XHY #17: "Hunter And Hunted"

(Character problems.)


Nice cover. Note how Kraven has hidden the phrase "the hidden years". This may be another one of Byrne's hilariously bad puns (visual this time, but it still counts), but I prefer to think of it as an attempt to fool people into thinking they were actually buying this:

which, now I think about, plenty of people also hated.  Incorrectly, because it wasn't too bad at all. It certainly craps all over "Hunter and Hunted".

Alas, this is a post about Byrne, not Lobdell.  Let us drag us back into the morass of mediocrity that is The Hidden Years. Once again, as is Byrne's want, we are arrive in media res.  Beast has agreed to be hunted by Kraven, in exchange for the antidote to a poison he's administered to the unconscious Avia.  Unfortunately, Kraven has rather loaded the deck here, having taken advantage of the X-Men's Nepalese adventure to rig death-traps all over the mansion grounds.  There's a good idea in here that Beast is actually finding evading Kraven more difficult in familiar ground, because he's constantly fighting an ingrained sense that he knows where everything is, and that it's all safe.

There will be no further good ideas.

The big problem with this issue is Kraven. I don't have a problem with borrowing villains from the rogue's gallery of other heroes, but if you're going to do that, you should at least put some effort into using them properly.  I'll admit I know very little about Kraven (I've read Kraven's Last Hunt, and that's it), so I can't be sure if poisoning his quarry to gain an advantage or begging for mercy after being defeated are as out of character as they seem to me (come to think of it, what kind of hunter secures the agreement of their quarry in advance?), but even if that's all perfectly consistent (UPDATE: and from asking a peerless Spiderman scholar, AKA my mate Chris, I'm more convinced than ever that it isn't), Beast's whole deal is that he's the agile, smart one, and Kraven's attempts to use poisons to dumb Hank down rather makes you wonder why he wants to go after Beast in the first place. Why go to all that effort to find one person you're desperate to hunt (apparently to get some practice in before he tries to kill Spiderman again) if you're going to negate what makes them special in the first place.

The reason seems all too clear: Byrne wanted to write a story about Hank losing control and becoming a true beast. In Byrne's head, this works because Hank has always been terrified of becoming a beast in fact as well as name.  Which is bullshit, quite frankly.  I've no doubt Hank has always worried that others will only ever see him as a beast - or perhaps, less pejoratively, as the dumb jock - but there's never really been any attempt to cast him as a man concerned about unleashing the beast within (he's been worried about how his experiments and later mutations may effect him, but that's very different).  The reason for this is because it would entirely redundant, as it's quite clearly Wolverine's thing.

In sum, then, Byrne has borrowed a Spiderman villain in order to tell a Wolverine story, and just crudely grafted it onto Henry McCoy with very little thought. The final page, in which Hank begs to have his memories of the fight erased rather than live with how violent he became (under, lets remember, the influence of drugs specifically designed to break down his higher brain functions), is clearly supposed to be affecting and tragic, but there's just been too much stupidity required to get to that point: the road-map that led us here was both far too obvious and far too badly assembled.  And this is just the biggest problem in an issue crammed with bum notes. Why does Iceman break off trying to save his best friend in order to fight with Havok over Lorna?  Why does Jean Grey start issuing verbal directions because it would take too long to think them? Why does Cyclops insist they can't hand Kraven over to the police for fear of being recognised, as though a captured villain could never possibly get to the police without being escorted by superheroes in plain clothes?

Whilst all of this is going on, the strange group who approached Lorna in issue 15 are preparing the next move in whatever scheme they've cooked up.  They don't seem to be any great hurry about it, though, possibly because they're ageing at the rate of one week for every decade they spend on Earth.  That's impressive even by Marvel standards.  Eventually they do make their move, though, lifting Lorna remotely into the air and spiriting her away in front of an astonished Alex, providing the issue's cliffhanger.

Oh, and Xavier is still at the Martin household, working to figure Ashley out.  Our old friend Fred Duncan has shown up to lend a hand (and check that Xavier genuinely has returned from the "dead"), which Mrs Martin seems oddly willing to tolerate, possibly because she's quite clearly decided she wants to jump the professor's bones.


Judging by Teri Martin's change of clothes, it seems likely Xavier's story has moved forward a day, and is now only a day behind the main team.  Kraven's hunt seems to be over in a matter of hours.

Tad notes that it's been a little over twenty four hours since he made contact with Lorna, which in turn makes it a little over thirteen hours since Lorna returned to the mansion. Actually, that number should be more like twenty four, given the eight hour journey to and from the Himalayas that she and Alex completed before the X-Men even started giving chase, making the whole period somewhere around thirty three hours.

Interestingly, Byrne gives a value for how long it's been since Iceman joined the team: almost three years.  Since we have it as around two and a quarter years since Jean joined up, that actually tracks remarkably well.


Saturday 12th to Sunday 13th July, 1980.


X+2Y+100 to X+2Y+101.

Contemporary Events

Five hundred children in eleven different marching bands meet in Kirby-in-Ashby in Nottinghamshire, only for more than half of them to collapse without explanation over the course of a few minutes.  The official conclusion was "mass hysteria", a diagnosis which was hotly contested.

Standout Line

"You chatter like a tree full of baboons."
"You dispense pronouns the way Congress hands out tax cuts."

Superbeing smack-talk still had a long way to go before the Avengers movie.

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