Friday, 8 February 2013
XMM #4: "Doppelganger!"
("And so we write finis to a very ugly story.")
OK, so remember how last time I was all up in this title's grill about putting a teenage girl with no mind of her own in a situation where she was almost raped? Well, this issue kicks off with a half-naked teenage girl attacked by her formerly trustworthy teacher, who whilst crowing over his new access to pretty young playthings" which will be "easy pray to my insatiable lust", uses his "psychic fingertips" in a "sensual caress" until she collapses "in the throes of indescribable... pleasure", which then turns her evil.
I ask you, people of the internets; what the fuck am I possibly supposed to do with that? Almost thirty years after this comic came out, there are still powerful forces in the US who want to ban gay people from teaching in schools, in case their gay suddenly surges up and gets all over the kids and they turn gay and sinful too. I don't want to think how much worse public was in the mid '80s, and this is the plotline we're going with, here? An evil teacher who orgasms his students into becoming evil like him? Holy shit, but shut that down.
Horribly, there's still twenty-one more pages to get through after this. Though I guess if nothing else, a few pages of mediocre team-up action look a lot better in comparison to unbearably skeezy mind-rape.
When last we left our heroes, they'd escaped from their prison, not realising this was brought about by Baron Karza (still in Kitty Pryde's body) stabbing the entity apparently to death, which in turn Karza doesn't realise didn't really make any difference, now Xavier and the entity have swapped places. Karza tries to lever his apparent victory to his maximum advantage by trying to shoot Commander Rann with a sniper rifle, but Wolverine sounds the alarm in time and Colossus' armoured chest takes the shot instead. Nightcrawler jaunts over to the sniper's nest, and is understandably astonished to see who's holding the rifle, but bigger problems appear when Karza's fleet arrives in orbit and begins trying to blow the entity's planet to bits.
This, at least, is an idea I love: swapping Kitty and Karza's minds around, but then put the X-Men under threat not from Karza, but Kitty herself, who's ordered the bombing without knowing her friends are below. It doesn't last for long, though; the mortally wounder Professor manages to get through to her, and she beams down to the planet to rescue him, leaving explicit instructions with DeGrayde to cease the bombardment. Naturally, he ignores her, having decided his lord's recent erratically empathic behaviour makes this the perfect opportunity to stage a coup, especially since the only action required on his part is to not press the button marked "Cancel bombing planet to dust".
Down on what she quickly realises is a still very much beleaguered planet, Kitty runs into Karza, and she finally has an opportunity to make a grab for her body. Naturally, this is exactly when the X-Men and Micronauts arrive, having followed "Kitty's" trail, and a standard hilarious superhero misunderstanding seems wearyingly inevitable. Fortunately, Claremont and Mantlo have it in them to at least spare us that, with Xavier very quickly explaining what's happened. Of course, he's doing all this from inside the entity's body, so his "mind-swap" story has more than a slight ring of self-service to it. The X-Men buy it anyway, though, thanks to some rudimentary detective work from Wolverine.
Of course, this just means they know who everyone is on this planet that's moments away from disintegration. Our heroes call in their Bioship (who has been waiting all this time to be asked to help out, something which is either a nice idea about how sentient ships might not reason the same way we do, or just as stupid an idea as having him sing old American spirituals; I'm really not sure which), who whisks them away, just as the bombardment by Karza's fleet is joined by the entity's attempts to obliterate the entire Microverse! It seems he's taken time out of his busy child raping plans in order to redesign Cerebro as a weapon of interstellar destruction.
(It always strikes my cold, dead academic mind as interesting when something like this happens, i.e. a character decides rather than raping a teenager they're going to kill billions of people and this comes a relief to the reader. The human mind is a strange device.)
The entity quickly obliterates Karza's fleet (along with the luckless DeGrayde, which is a bit of a shame as he was kind of fun) along with an unknown number of frontier worlds, not all of them uninhabited. If last time the X-Men's involvement in the mass slaughter made the whole affair seem horribly unsettling, this time round it's just entirely unaffecting. Once you get above a certain level of off-hand destruction, it just stops having any effect, other than cheapening the story. The old quote attributed to Stalin that "the death of one man is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic" might be deeply unpleasant and cynical, but in fiction at least, there's no doubt he was on to something.
Amidst all this pointless bloodshed - including the entirety of Karza's war machine, which as I understand it included vast numbers of conscripts across multiple inhabited world - the Micronauts realise the entity plans to destroy the "Enigma Force" that somehow maintains the Microverse. With no way to battle their foe whilst still inside the Microverse, Fireflyte uses her connection with the Enigma Force to throw Bioship and his passengers out into our reality, and onto Xavier's lawn. Alas, by this point all of the New Mutants have been orgasmed into being evil, and they've more than happy to kick the heroes diminutive heinies back into the collapsing Microverse. As it turns out, a half-dozen amateurs against two highly trained and experienced teams at one-twelfth scale is actually a surprisingly fair fight, though Magma's decision to start pouring lava into Bioship's breached hull doesn't look like it will end particularly well, and it hardly helps when Lockheed shows up and decides the best way to protect Kitty's mind is to destroy her foe, and so sets about trying to burn Kitty's body to cinders.
Really, though, the X-Men and the Micronauts are just buying time whilst Xavier's astral form searches the mansion for his adversary. Finding his own body proves little challenge, but working his way through his co-opted mind (visualised as endless mirrors reflecting each other's images, which I freely admit is a really nice idea) is somewhat more challenging. Fortunately, the entity is distracted, busy both directing the New Mutants in their attack, and trying to get Kitty and Karza to kill each other, as punishment for "deceiving him" (read: allowing him to almost rape a young girl with the mind of a fully-grown man - Gods I hate this series). Ironically, the resulting stress of the situation ends up causing Karza to finally figure out how to phase, and by passing through his own body, the mind-swap is finally reversed. Obviously, this makes absolutely no sense, but then there was no reason to expect that it would, and at least it's all finally sorted.
Meanwhile, Xavier's mind faces off against the entity, even while the damaged body he's stuck in evacuated from the dying Bioship by Nightcrawler. With time fast running out for the Microverse, and more importantly with only three pages left, there's no time for subtlety, and Xavier simply causes his own brain to undergo an embolism that apparently obliterates his dark side, though induces a stroke at the same time. With that wrapped up, there's just enough time for Bioship to use the last of his life-force to grow the X-Men back to their normal size, Fireflyte to sing the Micronauts back home, and for... Xavier to start talking?
Yes, gentle readers, we end on one final dose of the purest nonsense, as Xavier reveals he only pretended to give himself a stroke, so his dark side would flee and, finding his body destroyed, pass away. How such a trick is supposed to have worked on someone actually in Xavier's brain at the time is not discussed, other than Xavier insisting that because the entity would know he was prepared to do it, he'd believe that he had done it. You know, just like you can persuade someone you're so murderously angry you've actually shot them.
Anyway, that's how it all ends. And now that everything is back to normal (unless you're one of the inhabitants of a bare minimum of two sentient worlds now obliterated by the entity, of course), how does the whole series shape up? Well, I've kind of shown my hand here already, so I'm basically just reiterating here: this is four issues of the most uninspired team-up-by-rote storytelling imaginable, spiced up with occasional moments of levity that I'll go so far as to call "interesting", but certainly won't stretch to "funny", and which is then inexplicably mixed with massively hyperbolic body-counts and at least three separate counts of really, really disturbing moments in which women/teenage girls are mixed with threatened rape/forced sexualising in ways that don't so much leave a bad taste in your mouth, as screw the bad taste to your soft palate and so your lips up on the way out.
I did quite like Bioship, though; even if he did look like a Gobot. Also, he's dead now.
This story is confirmed to take place before Xavier once again learned to walk in NMU #14. It begins immediately after the previous issue's conclusion, and takes place over the course of several minutes.
Tuesday 28th December, 1983.
"I ain't so hot on the idea o' stayin' trapped at six inches, neither."
"You'll >tik< get usedta it."
"But will the frauleins?" - Logan, Bug and Kurt.