Saturday, 2 February 2013

XHY #18: "Promise Of A New Generation"

(Anything worth doing is worth avoiding for as long as possible, and then trying to horn in on later.)


With this series mercifully close to concluding, it's time for Byrne to start tying his plots up.  At this point there are three left, by my count.  We still don't know why everyone is insisting there is something "off" about the Professor (this seems likely to be dropped, actually).  There's still no end in sight for the Ashley Martin story, which at this point just seems entirely pointless.  It's not just that nothing is happening (this issue, the Professor and Teri Martin explain entirely obvious things to each other, and she continues to try and get the professor to notice she wants him to - I was going to say "jump her", but that's probably pretty insensitive).  It's that it isn't even noticeably building, or working with tension.  It's just two pages an issue of the Professor staying at a strange woman's house and fiddling with her daughter's mind.  It's not quite as creepy as that sounds, but it's no less boring.

The third dangling plot is what this issue concentrates on.  Angel is flying back to the mansion, having left Candy to wrap up the fall-out of his parents' murders and his uncle's arrest - this being what we can all agree exactly what girlfriends are for, obviously - when he catches sight of Lorna flying through the air, seemingly in a trance.  Naturally, he gives chase.  Ordinarily I might be annoyed at this coincidence, but at this point anything that can move the plot along is probably to be welcomed.

Back at the mansion a fight has broken out between Alex and Bobby over Lorna, because Bobby is a disgraceful prick. Seriously, let it go: she's made her choice.  This time around he's being particularly ridiculous, insisting Alex is to blame for failing to stop Lorna's assumed abduction.  Alex shoots him down spectacularly by pointing out the only thing he could have done for Lorna have been to, er, shoot her down spectacularly.

In any case, Angel then phones with details of where Lorna has been taken to, and the X-Men saddle up.  Angel guides them to what looks like an office building surrounded by woodland and a sturdy looking wall.  Also, it turns out, some kind of forcefield that makes people fall asleep when they touch it (Angel rather cruelly lets Alex try this out rather than explain it, though since he was taking a leaf out of Bobby's "I don't know what's happened but I assume you're incompetent for not dealing with it" book at the time, I can't really blame Warren).

Also also, there's a giant yellow underground monster on guard duty.  Unfortunate!

Meanwhile, inside this well-protected structure, Lorna is introduced to her captors. Tad Carter she already knows, having been stalked and hypnotised by him a few issues earlier.  The group is led by Tobias Messenger (guess what he has to impart?), a mute man with VERY LOUD telepathic powers, perhaps because Byrne considers this ironic.  All are older than they look (one is a kid claiming to have been born in 1945), and most were previously captive workers of the quite hilariously racist villain the Claw.

(Seriously, Byrne; you couldn't find an old-time villain slightly less offensive?  This guy makes Doctor Who's Celestial Toymaker look positively progressive.)

Once the Claw was killed, Tobias contacted the group and they came up with a new mission: go into suspended animation, and pop out for a week each decade to check whether the time is right (they also named themselves "the Promise", presumably for fear their timeline-monitoring plan didn't make them seem ridiculous enough).  They want Lorna to sign up, apparently because she's the X-Man least affected by Xavier's "indoctrination". Messenger even goes so far as to ask "What did [Magneto] do that was very different from what Xavier has done to his X-Men", which, once people start chucking out false equivalences that horrendous, it's time to smile politely and start shuffling backwards towards the door.

Except that outside the door, things aren't going at all well for our heroes.  They've managed to avoid being squished by the giant subterranean yellowbeast (which is like yellowcake, only alive and not radioactive and Colin Powell never made shit up about it but still expects us to listen to his opinions), but now the monster -apparently and hilariously called "Craig", by the way - has acquired back-up, in the form of an emaciated masked angel-zombie, which is pretty grim.  Except it's also a monstrous Jack Frost-type-thing, too! And a flame-belching sludge beast!  And, er, a really ugly redhead.

Wait a minute!  Craig isn't a monster at all!  He must be an illusion caster. Iceman sees Angel as the flying zombie, and Iceman sees Angel as the Judderman (do not watch that video unless you are incapable of feeling fear).  Beast sees the fire-vomiter when he's looking at Cyclops, and Cyclops, well, he sees the yellowbeast and the more familiar version.  Jean sees and knocks away her doppelganger, only for Cyclops to then see her as some twisted riff on Polaris, somehow.

None of this really makes any sense, but in Craig's defence, confusion is exactly what he's going for.  Unable to tell what is and isn't real, the X-Men do a fine job of beating each other into unconsciousness, save Alex, who being the last man (because the Summers brothers' inability to hurt each other with their powers has been put in abeyance here because whatever, fanboys) standing has to be taken out by the Promise's resident shape-shifting energy-vampire (at least, I think that's what she is).

Back inside, and the Promise are laying their cards on the table: they're convinced an all out mutants vs human world war is coming sooner or later, and their plan is wait until the war ends, and then explain to all the blood-drenched, hollow-eyed mutant survivors busy trying to shake off the guilt and PTSD brought about by eliminating their parent species that having hidden in stasis tubes like total goddamn cowards - rather than helping to either avert the war or help their side win it - they're obviously exactly the kind of people to be in charge of the post-human deserts of earth.

Seriously, just how far up your own arse do you have to be to assume the only reason mutants don't consider you their greatest mind is because of all those humans still running around? It's crazy enough when someone like Doom talks about himself as the natural ruler of inferior minds (i.e. all of them), but at least he gets his hands dirty.  Messenger's plan is to enter the top tier of control in a mutant-only world by specifically avoiding the power struggle that will form those tiers.  Every now and then I toy with the idea of starting the Supervillain Blackboard blog, in which we could take a look at the early planning stages of amazingly stupid schemes (like this one); I'm guessing Messenger's looks like this:

Foolproof. At least the Underpants Gnomes managed to keep the plan simple, and none of them had to watch their familes grow old and die whilst they hid in tubes.

Not that Lorna can do much about it, with her team-mates unconscious and imprisoned, and in a complex made entirely of non-metal materials.

At least, I assume it's made entirely on non-metal materials. Otherwise the fact that on the final page Lorna's forced into a stasis-tube-suit (maybe they have a better name for it) and then forced into a stasis-tube-suit-suitable-stasis-tube (they definitely have a better name for that) is utterly fucking ridiculous! Why, it's almost as though the comic has completely bypassed both Polaris' agency and capacities entirely, in order to advance the plot. Unpossible!


The narration in this issue tells us summer is coming to an end.  This is an odd slip-up for Byrne to make, given how well he's generally been doing at keeping the timeline consistent with what happened in UXM before it was cancelled. It UXM #54, Alex was graduating during spring. XHY #8 specifically states that was four weeks before the X-Men and Fantastic Four teamed up to strike back against the Z'Nox in that issue. We assumed late spring for Alex's ceremony, but even so, it's hard to see how two months could have passed between XHY#8 and this issue, what with each adventure following directly on from the last, and with the overlapping story lines making it tough to insert time mid-issue.

I honestly don't see any sensible place to add any time between XHY #8 and here, so we don't really have any option but to ignore the comment on the season, or assume that summer is ending in that it's become unseasonably chilly.  This makes little sense in the middle of July, but them's the breaks.

This story itself picks up twenty minutes before the last issue ended, and continues late into the night/early the following morning.

(As an aside, Byrne pretty much explicitly states that this adventure is supposed to happen a decade before the "dawn of a new millennium".  Depending on how loosely he means that, this presumably means his view is that The Hidden Years is set between ten and twelve years before the contemporary X-stories at the time (Eve of Destruction being the first that comes to mind).  Whether this makes much sense or not is something we'll come back to eventually.)


Sunday 13th to Monday 14th July, 1980.


X+2Y+101 to X+2Y+102.

Contemporary Events

The mathematician and physicist Felix Berezin passes away, aged just 49. Berezin contributed to supersymmetry, supermanifold and quantum field theory, and the "Berezin integral" is named after him.  Berezin joined the mathematics department of Moscow State University at 25, and remained there until his death, despite the university having refused to let him undertake his graduate studies there due to his Jewish origin (a policy of discrimination abandoned during Khrushchev's liberalising reforms).

Standout Line

"Lorna?  Since when can you... fly?" - Angel

Well, it amused me, anyway.  Even if it is the kind of non-joke Mitchell and Webb skewered in their Thatcher: The "The Bits That Haven't Been Done Yet" Years sketch:
"When you're writing something that's set in the past, you can make lots of references to things that you know are going to happen". 
"People love that. It makes you look really clever and witty without having to think of a joke."

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