(The horrors we have witnessed.)
It's a bad day when a title like that isn't the most tasteless part of a comic book. The first four pages of this issue are awash with alien blood as the X-Men and Micronauts - now all under the control of the malevolent entity - carve their way through one of Baron Karza's "outpost kennels". Thanks presumably to the link Xavier shares with their enemy, he witnesses the slaughter in a dream, and is suitably horrified, but that does little to alleviate what is a major problem here: each of the X-Men are now mass murderers (except Kitty, who we now learn is still trapped in Karza's body; I thought they'd swapped back at the end of last issue, but I must have been mistaken). The peace-loving "soul of a poet" Piotr gets to crush people's skulls together. Storm incinerates dog soldiers with bursts of lightning. Wolverine, well, he's just acting like normal, I guess, just with no-one to stop him.
Making a character into a callous mass-murderer, even under mind control, is not something to do lightly. It's horribly uncomfortable to watch whilst it's happening, and the ramifications are deeply problematic: memory-wiping is cheap (almost as much as time-reversal), and rather suggests that the deaths of dozens of people is only a tragedy insofar as it upsets our heroes, and any other response tends to ring hollow, and/or pass far too quickly. No writer who doesn't want to deal with the fall-out of their stories should be allowed to put pen to paper (I'm looking at you, Russell T Davies).
None of this, in short, is encouraging.
Xavier isn't enjoying seeing "dog soldiers scream and die in droves" either, but the entity now seems to have complete control, and even falling out of his bed in horrified terror doesn't seem capable of waking him up. The New Mutants spring into action immediately, talking about how they're all worried, and they might have to do something about all this first thing in the morning, maybe. Not too soon, though; this new wheeze of having everyone hypnotised is making splitting the writing duties in half much harder to detect.
The entity decides to leave one enemy soldier temporarily alive, so he can record events as the entity and his thralls leave, and then blow up the planet. Kitty-as-Karza receives this rather upsetting youtube link, and makes DeGrayde suspicious when she first starts fretting about the battle's body-count, and then orders the dog soldier program shut down, to spare any further innocent civilians from receiving unwanted upgrades. Fortunately for her, Karza's detachable rocket gloves are stray-thought-activated, meaning she's capable of remote pimp-slapping her truculent lick-spittle. As he scurries away, Kitty tries to come to terms with what she's become. She's so upset even the discovery that Karza can change shapes at will doesn't seem to cheer her up.
But all this death and misery must have finally gotten to the writers, because it's time for a radical change of tack: let's sexualise a fourteen year old girl!
|Why is he calling her Ariel? |
YES, THAT IS BOTHERING ME AS WELL!
And before anyone argues that the comic isn't condoning this, and that this is just to make clear how evil the entity is: bollocks to that. We already know the entity is evil. We've seen him destroy two planet's worth of sentient creatures, and engage in brainwashing through unbearable torture. Which means that whilst I agree there's no sense that the script is looking on this with anything but disgust, there's absolutely no need for the scene whatsoever. If you don't need anything this vile, and you stick it in anyway, your hands are not as clean as you might want to think. "We should have Kitty threatened with rape because... er..."
We should also note that the entity wants to get hot and heavy with a teenage girl despite having access to the implausibly-proportioned Storm and Marionette, women who respectively have been repeatedly described as stunningly beautiful, and capable of holding the attention of a phantasmic (sic) crowd with their lewd dancing. I mean, Marionette hasn't even got a ridiculous hairstyle.
The absolutely most positive spin I can put on this is that the Entity targeting Kitty is specifically to make him seem even more evil. Which, see above, but more than that, this is an example of what we shall call Baron Harkonnen Syndrome. One of the many things about Dune that make it such a phenomenal work of fiction is the sheer number of factions in the novel that all have their own desires and philosophies, and how fascinating their intersection proves to be. There is no-one in the book who could be considered an unalloyed hero (Duncan maybe the closest the novel comes, and he's killed off as soon as things get tough for the Atreides), and plenty of the characters we might consider villainous - the Emperor Shaddam IV, Gaius Helen Mohiam - are given their own believable motivations for acting the way they do.
The Baron Harkonnen, in contrast, fucks children.
Every time I read Dune, this sticks out like a sore and festering thumb. Making your villain a paedophile is functionally identical to writing WHO IS REALLY FUCKING EVIL FOR SERIOUS every time their name pops up in the text. Shades of grey just disappear in their entirety. Which is an appalling shame as regards Herbert's masterwork. And whilst I'd obviously be utterly insane to suggest an '80s X-book should be held to the same standards as one of the greatest science-fiction novels ever written, it's still aggravating, because if there's one thing that doesn't improve lazy writing, it's associating it with the abuse of minors.
(If I wanted to really pile on, of course, I'd note that all of this is taking place whilst Kitty's mind is outside her body, that is, we're literally watching a male character attempting to sleep with a female character with no anima of her own. I think I've spent quite enough time discussing this wretched five panel scene, however.)
So, where was I? Ah, yes. Whilst Karza-as-Kitty is trying to talk his way out of an utterly horrendous situation, the other X-Men have been chucked into a dungeon, and left undominated, along with the Micronauts. Wolverine decides to take this opportunity to off everyone before they're forced to carve up another army, but unsurprisingly he's heavily outvoted, with everyone else keen to attempt first escape and then vengeance. Whilst our heroes wander the entity's domain, giving each other inspirational speeches whilst they try and find an exit, Xavier finds a way out of his coma by using Psyche as a stepping stone, and challenges the entity. At first the battle goes well, with the professor gaining unexpected help when Karza stabs the entity's inert body whilst his mind is elsewhere. For a moment, it seems the good guys have this all wrapped up, but Xavier freaks out when he tears off the entity's psychic helmet and discovers what was entirely obvious to everyone else since the midpoint of XMM #1: the entity and Xavier are one and the same!
Yes, it's our old friend, the suppressed dark side. Which has now killed the population of at least one civilised planet, along with a space fleet and two or more large armies. Mass murder and genocide; didn't that lead to the Marvel bigwigs demanding Jean Grey be taken out of circulation? More to the point, after this horrendous explosion of diarrhetic bullshit, how could anyone get bent out of shape over Onslaught?
I digress. The resulting shock gives Dark Charles an opening, and the professor finds himself replaced by his negative image. Meanwhile, Karza decides to celebrate his apparent stabbing of the entity to death by finding a sniper rifle, and training it on our heroes...
This story takes place over the course of several hours, picking up soon after the previous issue ended and continuing into the following day.
Monday 27th to Tuesday 28th December, 1983.
X+5Y+302 to X+5Y+303.
Founding Beach Boy member Dennis Wilson passes away, aged just 39.
"I've become a rocket-powered centaur!" - Kitty explores Karza's powers, and insists of being whiny about it. Of course.