Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Timeline: 1984


2nd   NMU #14: Do You Believe in Magik?
3rd   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
4th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
5th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
6th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
7th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
8th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
9th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
10th UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
10th SWA #1: The War Begins!
10th SWA #2: Prisoners of War
11th  NMU #15: Scaredy Cat!
11th  SWA #3: Tempest Without, Crisis Within!
11th  NMU #16: Away Game!
11th  SWA #4: Situation: Hopeless!
11th  NMU #17: Getaway!
11th  SWA #5: The Battle of Four Armies!
11th  SWA #6: A Little Death...
12th  NMU #17: Getaway!
12th  SWA #7: Beserker!
12th  SWA #8: Invasion!
12th  SWA #9: Assault on Galactus!
12th  SWA #10: Death to the Beyonder
12th  SWA #11: ...And Dust to Dust!
13th  NMU #17: Getaway!
13th  SWA #12: ...Nothing to Fear...
14th  NMU #17: Getaway!
15th  NMU #17: Getaway!
16th  NMU #17: Getaway!
17th  NMU #17: Getaway!
18th  UXM #181: Tokyo Story
21st  UXM #182: Madness
22nd NMU #18: Death-Hunt
23rd  NMU #18: Death-Hunt
28th  UXM #183: He'll Never Make me Cry
30th  UXM #184: The Past... of Future Days

29th DAZ #33: Chiller!
29th ALF #11: Set-Up


1st  DAZ #33: Chiller!
1st  ALF #11: Set-Up
2nd DAZ #33: Chiller!
2nd ALF #11: Set-Up
2nd ALF #12: ...And One Shall Surely Die

DAZ #33: "Chiller!"

("Without the soul for getting down...")


"Chiller!" is another example of the new direction Dazzler has taken, where encounters with Marvel A listers or even super-powered villains are becoming less common, with the title exploring instead how Alison's mutant status and powers informs and interacts with what would otherwise be an entirely... well, not normal life, but pretty much physically possible.  Last issue was certainly superpower themed, but other than that there's been nothing but a rampaging purple dinosaur to spice things up since the end of issue #28.

We rejoin Dazzler more or less where we left her; trying to keep her new job as an aerobics instructor whilst periodically attempting to re-start her music career.  Apparently she also takes time out now and then to see a movie, though apparently she's not much of a horror fan, fleeing "Bloody Mary" (alas, not a real film) the instant things get dicey.

The horror film angle will unsurprisingly become important later, so we'll come back to it. After walking out of the cinema, Dazzler's found herself at a loose end, so she quickly accepts an invitation from her womanising agent Roman Nekoboh to attend a swanky LA party.  The plan is for her to schmooze with as many of the great and good as possible, hoping to find inroads on a project or two, but for some reason Roman won't let her talk to one gentlemen in particular; noted film director Bob Benson.  Bob directed the film Dazzler only just ran out of, but even after she blurts this out, he wants her to audition for a music video he's putting together.  Hmm.  Music video? Zombies?  Rhymes with "Chiller"?  What on Earth are we referencing here?

Roman is far from happy about the idea of Alison working with Benson.  Given his earlier behaviour, there's every chance this is just jealousy, but he insists Benson isn't nearly so careful with his talent's well-being as he should be.  I thought that's the sort of thing unions were supposed to jump on? Then again, whomever looks out for bit-part dancers in LA probably doesn't have quite the muscle you'd see from SAG.  Maybe it's all academic anyway, because just after Benson leaves the party, his car explodes.

Except somehow he survives it.  Indeed, he's several metres away, amongst the undergrowth, when Alison finds him without a mark on him.  Hmm...

The next day, Alison is too busy scanning the papers for her name and hoping Benson still wants her as a dancer to wonder about how Benson's "curse" can generate such significant geographical irregularities.  Fortunately for her (in the short term), the gig is still on, so Alison shows up, gets the gig after a five-second audition,  and the next day gets a zombie makeover, ready for the shoot.

By this point Dazzler is finally beginning to smell a rat: dance auditions usually last longer than a strong sneeze, and also there's the little matter of Benson disappearing to make a phone call about a disaster on set that hasn't actually happened yet.  Curious, Alison decides to play along, to see what Benson is planning.

Actually, what Benson's planning is utterly, inescapably ridiculous. He wants all the dancers to be buried alive on set so that they can rise up and threaten Lingard as he does his "pelvis thing" along a nearby road.  Alison, however, is to be secretly buried without a breathing tube, so that she suffocates, and Bob can get another hit of publicity as his "curse" claims another victim.  That's... a rather strange plan to begin with, to say the least, but what rises it to the level of batshit lunacy is the idea that neither the guy shoveling dirt onto Dazzler's head, nor Dazzler herself, will notice the lack of feeding tube whilst the burial is ongoing.  I'll admit that I've never been buried alive, but I'm confident suggesting ensuring access to oxygen is something one would do prior to saying goodbye to daylight.

Benson plan somehow works, though, at least to begin with.  Perhaps he bribed the stage hand he intends to kill Dazzler, and Dazzler herself simply uses a tiny laser to create her own breathing hole once everyone's backs are turned.  Once Benson's had enough time to believe she's dead, though, he starts the scene, pretends to be concerned when Alison fails to rise from the dead, and heads over to check up on what's going on.

Which, of course, is when Alison thrusts her hand through the dirt she's already weakened with her lasers, and grabs the guy's leg. Nothing beats the classics.

Terrified by the possibility that the girl he wanted to pretend to be the living dead might not be pretending to  the living dead, Benson flees, and when Dazzler rises and chases after her, he breaks down and confesses to trying to kill her, and blowing up his own car, all in front of the news crews he himself had tipped off would gt to see something noteworthy at the video shoot.  Ooh, the irony.

With Benson led away by the cops, everything is right with the world.  Except, of course, for Dazzler not getting paid.  It's always the little things, isn't it...


This story takes place over three days.  On the second day Dazzler's calendar is clearly open on March.  That's something of a hefty leap forward time-wise, but Dazzler's recent (comparative) job stability means it's not unreasonable.  We'll set this story as early as we can, though, bridging the end of February and the start of March.


Wednesday 29th February to Friday 2nd March, 1984.


X+5Y+365 to X+6Y+1.

Contemporary Events

Canadian premiere and sometime Alpha Flight guest star Pierre Trudeau announces his retirement.

American actor Jackie Coogan passes away.  On-screen, he was probably best known as Uncle Fester in the original iteration of The Addams Family, but arguably he made a bigger contribution to American screen acting by suing his parents over their squandering of the money he earned as a child actor, a court case that led to the Coogan Act, the first ever legal protection for the earnings of child actors.

Standout Line

"I like your work and I like to think that you like my work like I like your work." - Teddy Lingard.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Timeline: 1983 Jul - Dec (Take 7)

Here is what's hopefully my final stab at the 1983 timeline.  Things get pretty light towards the end of the year, due to Claremont's somewhat inconsistent handling of the arrival of Amara.


1st   MGN #4: Renewal
2nd  MGN #4: Renewal
3rd   MGN #4: Renewal
4th   MGN #4: Renewal
5th   MGN #4: Renewal
6th   NMU #1: Initiation
6th   NMU #2: Sentinels
9th   NMU #3: Nightmare
9th   UXM #167: The Goldilocks Syndrome (Or: "Who's Been Sleeping in my Head?")
9th   MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
10th UXM #167: The Goldilocks Syndrome (Or: "Who's Been Sleeping in my Head?")
10th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
11th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
12th UXM Annual 6: Blood Feud!
12th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
13th UXM Annual 6: Blood Feud!
13th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
13th DAZ #25: The Jagged Edge
14th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
15th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
16th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
17th MGN #5: God Loves, Man Kills
17th UXM #168: Professor Xavier is a Jerk!
18th UXM #168: Professor Xavier is a Jerk!
18th OBN #1: Something Slimy This Way Comes
19th UXM #168: Professor Xavier is a Jerk!
20th UXM #168: Professor Xavier is a Jerk!
21st ALF #7: The Importance of Being Deadly
21st ALF #8: Cold Hands, Cold Heart
22nd DAZ #26: Against the Wind
22nd NMU #4: Who's Scaring Stevie?
23rd DAZ #26: Against the Wind
23rd NMU #5: Heroes
24th DAZ #26: Against the Wind
24th NMU #5: Heroes
24th NMU #6: Road Warriors!
25th NMU #6: Road Warriors!
27th DAZ #27: Fugitive!
27th DAZ #28: Vendetta!
27th NMU #7: Who's Scaring Stevie?
28th DAZ #28: Vendetta!
28th NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
29th DAZ #29: Fame!
29th DAZ #29: Debt
29th NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
30th DAZ #30: Debt
30th NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
31st NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
31st DAZ #31: Tidal Wave!
31st NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!


1st    DAZ #31: Tidal Wave! 
1st    NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
2nd   DAZ #31: Tidal Wave!
2nd   NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
3rd    UXM #169: Catacombs
3rd    DAZ #31: Tidal Wave!
3rd    UXM #170: Dancin' in the Dark
3rd    NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
4th    UXM #171: Rogue
4th    NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
5th    NMU #7: Flying Down to Rio!
6th    UXM #172: Scarlet in Glory
7th    UXM #172: Scarlet in Glory
7th    UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
8th    UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
9th    UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
10th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
11th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
12th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
13th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
14th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
15th  UXM #173: To Have and Have Not
20th  NMU #8: The Road to... Rome?
21st  NMU #8: The Road to... Rome?
21st  NMU #9: Arena
22nd NMU #9: Arena
23rd NMU #10: Betrayal!
23rd NMU #11: Magma
24th NMU #11: Magma
29th  UXM #174: Romances
31st  UXM #175: Phoenix!


1st   UXM #175: Phoenix!
2nd  UXM #175: Phoenix!
3rd   UXM #175: Phoenix!
9th   NMU #12: Sunstroke
17th UXM #176: Decisions 
17th UXM #177: Sanction
20th UXM #178: Hell Hath no Fury...


3rd    DAZ#32: Moon Lighting
4th    DAZ#32: Moon Lighting


10th ALF #9: Things Are Not Always What They Seem
10th ALF #10: Blood Battle!
11th ALF #10: Blood Battle!
12th ALF #10: Blood Battle!
13th ALF #10: Blood Battle!
14th ALF #10: Blood Battle!
15th ALF #10: Blood Battle!
16th ALF #10: Blood Battle!
17th ALF #10: Blood Battle!
26th NMU #13: School Daysze
27th NMU #13: School Daysze

UXM #184: "The Past... Of Future Days"

(Interlude with a vampire.)


Another piece of the X-Men's fiendishly difficult historical jigsaw is fitted into place here, as we meet Forge for the first time.  Whatever else it is, Claremont's introduction is pleasingly brief; Val Cooper and Raven Darkholme (an undercover Mystique, for those not in the know) arrive at Forge's Dallas penthouse to discover he's rebuilt it as a holodeck.  He's also in the middle of a blazing row with Naze, a shaman from Forge's tribe, who the inventor has turned his back upon.  Naze is insistent Forge embrace his spiritual ancestry in order to fight some kind of murderous foe, but Forge is far too busy creating technological phenomenons to crack open any magic books.

I'll confess, the idea of a technological whizz who everyone assumed would become a spiritual leader is a good one.  But is there any Native American character in the Marvel Universe who isn't defined either by their embracing of or their rejection of their heritage?  Even Warpath spent years desperate for revenge over his dead brother, which is a matter of heritage when you come right down to it.  I realise I'm the last person anyone should listen to on matters of the importance of heritage - as a white male my heritage is what society defaults to in any case.  But really, shouldn't there be at least one Native American whose opinion on their tribal history is "Whatever, never really thought about it, let's go get a burger"?

From Forge we learn that the United States is at war with a force of alien gribblies known only as the Dire Wraiths.  Quite how hostilities were declared isn't explained, though twenty quid says the Dire Wraiths are using weapons the CIA sold to them ten years earlier.  In the hopes of defeating their extraterrestrial foes, Forge has designed the world's most obvious (and literal) Chekov's gun: the power-disabler.  I don't really fault Claremont for introducing it so obviously; there's no way you could have snuck that idea into a book centred on the double-edged nature of mutant abilities.

Speaking of which, Forge has also developed a mutant-detector, rather cementing his earlier insistence that there's nothing in the world he gives two shits about.  Working for the US government and creating a device to out mutants?  How could that possibly end up being misused?  Forge in fact comes damn close to death when he turns it on, leaving Mystique terrified she's about to be discovered.  Fortunately for her (and himself and Val), Forge turns the machine off once it detects his own powers, but it's clear this is a problem Mystique will have to take care of sooner rather than later.

Back in New York, the mystery girl from NMU #18 is still wandering around feeling sorry for herself.  Given this issue's title, and her concerns over changes to our future, it's now inescapably clear that we're dealing with Rachel Summers here.  We're also dealing with Selene, apparently, who thinks in Rachel she's found a potential disciple.  Apparently surviving being tossed into a pool of molten lava is something of a Nova Roma fashion.  Rachel manages to escape Selene's initial attack, and finds sanctuary with a kindly nightclub owner.  Whether Rachel senses an ulterior motive or not, it doesn't strike me as unreasonable to wonder whether this guy would have taken Rachel home had she been sixty years old, or a dude.

We'll never know.  That would be a difficult experiment to adequately set up under the best of circumstances, and this is pretty far from that, what with Selene breaking in and sucking out all his life force.  Rachel does her best to fight off her vampiric sorcerer, but even some fairly hefty psychic powers don't match up against the ability to manipulate both inanimate matter and flame (which I assume between them explains why she didn't get herself Terminator Two'd at the bottom of a Brazilian caldera).  Luckily for our heroine, Xavier has been keeping an eye on Cerebro, and the X-Men arrive to diffuse the situation in their traditional fashion: with punching.  Selene doesn't much care she's outnumbered, but she's smart enough not to want to take on Rachel and Xavier at the same time, so she retreats, taking just enough time to munch a little on Rogue's life-force on the way out.

With the immediate threat gone, it's time to take stock of the situation.  The whole building is ablaze and can't be salvaged; Storm gets to work putting out the fire whilst sadly admitting to herself that Xavier is actually as competent a field commander as he assumed he would be, leaving her worried over what her place in the team is now.  Rogue, meanwhile, is rather overcome by the experience of having a part of her - however small - sucked out by Selene.  It reminds her far too much of how her own power works, and makes her wonder if her victims suffer as much as she so briefly did.  It strikes me as strange that she'd never really considered this before - the victims of the process have certainly never looked like they were being cuddled by kittens - but I suppose I can understand why Rogue might want to avoid having to think about it.

Lastly, we have Selene's intended target to deal with.  No-one among the X-Men recognises her, of course, but she knows who she's facing all too well.  And, in addition to Illyana's premature teenager status of Illyana, Rachel is now confronted with an Xavier capable of walking, and a Storm sporting a historically awful haircut that history never actually recorded.  As I mentioned last time round, one might think these demonstrations that the Days Of Future Past reality will now not come to pass would prove some comfort to Rachel, but not so.  This, she informs the X-Men, is proof that the entire world is doomed...

Let's take a moment to add a new question to our list of burning queries, last considered in my entry to NMU #15.  I've removed the questions we already have answers to, but we now have a new one to think about:
  1. How did Magneto find the X-Men's base to strike at them in UXM #17?
  2. Who built the Magneto robot Mesmero was unwittingly working for until UXM #58?
  3. Who was the mysterious mutant detected outside the Sentinel base in UXM #59?
  4. What is the relationship between Nightcrawler and Mystique?
  5. Why can Kitty see Illyana whilst the latter is using spellcasting to travel from her body?
  6. How did Selene escape her two millenium exile in Nova Roma?

Curses! My attempts to be oh-so-clever with the placement of NMU #18 have been for naught.  This issue is very clear on the fact that Rachel visited the mansion the day before this issue is set, which means the events of NMU #18 must indeed have taken place after UXM #183.  The sequence of events is now that the X-Men returned from Japan at roughly the same time as the New Mutants escaped Emma Frost.  A week then passed in which Xavier took the New Mutants somewhere, and which ended with Colossus breaking up with Kitty.  After that - possibly on the same day, Charles and the junior team returned, only for him to leave again. 

It was at this point that Rachel arrived at the mansion.  Xavier then returned later that day, and this issue chronicles what happens the day after that.  All of this taken together means that there is at least one full day missing between last issue and this one, and following standard blog rules, that's what we'll assume.

This story itself takes place over the course of a few hours.


Monday 30th January, 1984.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.53 standard years.

(Rogue is 27 years old.)

"Seems like we're not wanted, Petey!"
Contemporary Events

Standout Line

"But your hair should be long!"

Rachel joins Kitty and myself in the Storm-Your-Hair-Is-Wack Club.  We're thinking of having jackets made.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

NMU #18: "Death-Hunt"

("All black and brown, and covered in hair!")


Well, isn't this pretty?

OK, so "pretty" probably isn't the right word.  It's too angular and off-kilter for that, all bleached palettes and deep shadows.  But it's certainly effective.  Any time someone inspires me to discuss artwork, it's usually a good sign. Sienkiewicz has done a great job here.  This is exactly the kind of experimentation Marvel should have tried, and should continue to try.

Mind you, such forays into less common approaches can have their cost.  It's slightly unclear whether Dani's dream which starts the issue is a different dream to the one immediately following it, in which the mansion is attacked and Xavier killed.  Is Dani dreaming the future, or is the red-headed teenager shown there dreaming of the past?  Or remembering it?  Sienkiewicz's artwork really helps in giving these events a dreamlike quality, but it makes it difficult to understand what's going on.  This may be the point, of course, but I like my fractured narratives to have rather more precision to them. It's not confusing because we know Xavier has not yet been shot to death, but because I can't tell who the girl at the top of page 3 actually is.

Whoever is dreaming this, though, its clear it's a memory of the redheaded girl.  She's not identified, but from her hair, her reference to her mother helping her with her telekinetic abilities, and her memories of events not yet taken place, it seems pretty clear this is Rachel Summers, last seen trying to rewrite history along with the adult Kitty Pryde in Days of Future Past.  Somehow she's now in "our" present, and is looking for the Professor, though right now she doesn't seem to have plucked up the courage to do more than lurk around outside the gate.

Meanwhile, inside the mansion, Sam, Amara and Bobby are busy practicing in the Danger Room, whilst Illyana and Dani (neither one with powers particularly suited for beating up the robots currently in use) observe. Even when they're not fighting foes Dani is no use again, though, she's having trouble integrating with the rest of the team right now, on account of seeing last issue a parallel future in which all of them had signed up with Emma Frost's Massachusetts Academy.  Having missed a whole week of their friends' incarceration due to Illyana's imprecise targeting skills, it's clearly occurred to Dani that some of the White Queen's intended damage might already have been done.  Who knows what might be buried in their subconscious?

Oh, also; she keeps dreaming she's about to be eaten by a giant demon bear.  Which can't be much fun.

The doorbell goes, and Illyana answers it.  'Tis the girl we're assuming is Rachel, but the instant she sees Illyana she freaks out and runs.  Apparently Illyana shouldn't be so old just yet.  I'd have thought Rachel would be quite pleased to learn the future has already become something different from the hideous extermination of the X-Men she remembers, but then who knows how temporal jet-lag manifests itself?

(We interrupt your scheduled programming to bring you news of Warlock, a jet-black robo-punk from another star system, currently being chased around by his murderous father, who apparently is willing and able to detonate entire planets just in the hopes his son is caught in the blast.  Clearly another of the New Mutants most famous members will soon be joining the fold).

Back in the Danger Room, Dani has decided to get some practice of her own in.  Where the rest of the team tried their hand against robots, though, Dani plumps for savage bears.  When Illyana discovers what's going on, Dani fobs her off by claiming she's practicing her bow skills so as not to be utterly useless against any foe her mental projections are useless against.  The young Russian doesn't believe a word of it, and is kind of annoyed at the obvious lie, but really, doesn't Dani's claim make perfect sense?  This is exactly the sort of thing she should be doing, especially given her frequent crises of conscience about whether her powers are too torturous for her victims.  Far better to shoot them full of arrows instead.

First on the list for a good arrow-stuffing: a giant demon bear.  Dani's sick of waiting for the other shoe (paw?) to drop.  The bear killed her parents, but it was always her it was after.  Time to give it exactly what it wants.  Dani drags some Cheyenne warpaint across her face, and strides out into the deepening snowdrifts to call out her family's ancient enemy.

It doesn't take long to get a response.

There's really no chance this could ever end well. Dani has sense enough to generate an image of what the bear fears most - and it's Dani herself, of course - but otherwise, she's a teenage girl going after a supernatural bear twelve times her weight with claws taller than she is.  She gets points for managing to loose enough arrows to make the bear decide it's easier just to play dead and get to Dani that way, but in the end she's no less bleeding to death in the snow...


This story takes place over the course of two nights.  We can be sneaky here, because there's nothing here that suggests this issue must take place after the July issue of Uncanny X-Men. Illyana looking after Lockheed suggests Kitty has already left, but it's certainly not definitive.  All we know is that Xavier is away and the New Mutants are in residence, which means it can't take place alongside UXM #183, in which the New Mutants were away somewhere with Xavier.

We'll therefore start this adventure on the day after the X-Men return, which in turn we'll assume takes place the day after Rogue's adventures with Michael Rossi.


Sunday 22nd to Monday 23rd January, 1984.


X+5Y+328 to X+5Y+329.

Contemporary Events

Standout Line

"Shoo, Lockheed!" - Magik

Pesky dragons.

Monday, 22 April 2013

ALF #12: "...And One Shall Surely Die"

(...And Some Shall Maybe Care?)


I'm sure there can't be many people in this world for whom the phrase "double-sized John Byrne issue" ranks near the top of things they most want to hear.  It certainly put a dampener on my day (though since I'm writing this on the 18th, it's not like my day wasn't going to be damp in any case).  Let's try to approach ALF #12 with something approximating an open mind, however.  With plenty of room to play with - not just a double issue, but a story that doesn't need to leave space for an Alpha Flight Origins back-up strip - can Byrne pull something impressive out of the bag?

Well... no.  He can trot out his usual assemblage of tricks and perform them at greater length, is what he can do, and what he does.  This thirty-eight page comic begins with two pages of Heather Hudson having last issue's plot explained to her by the villainous Courtney (which could be done in all of one speech bubble), and then four pages of flashback to explain why Jerry Jaxon wants revenge on Guardian.  Four pages!  Dedicated to a character who's been in about six panels of the comic's run to date; two of which involved him being such a dick about James Hudson's objections to him appropriating Hudson's designs to make a new weapon that Hudson turned thief just to shut Jaxon down.

So what's Jaxon's motive for revenge?  If you guessed that it's the fact Hudson turned thief just to shut Jaxon down, congratulations! You just graduated from John Byrne's Academy of Comic Book Motivations.  Much of this flashback explains in great detail how Roxxon shafted Jaxon (where do they get these names?) following Hudson's act of sabotage.  They fired him, his wife (the boss's daughter) left him with their children, Roxxon made sure he could never work again, and he eventually tried to kill himself, only to be left without the use of his legs. 

That sure sounds like he should have a grudge against Roxxon to me.  Fired because an underling resorted to criminal lengths to screw you over?  It's almost like working for an international corporation of tar-hearted pricklizards might come with inherent risks!

(Actually, I'm not being entirely fair.  I do think Jaxon's beef should be with Roxxon, but I can understand his fury at Hudson as well.  Everything Jaxon did at Roxxon was entirely above board, if not particularly moral, and as a result of playing by his employer's rules he's been rendered unemployable, whereas the guy who turned criminal to undermine an entirely above-board business transaction is now hailed as the superhero who represents all of Canada, whilst wearing the helmet Jaxon's patronage helped him assemble.  I can't pretend I don't see why that would sting a mite).

There is absolutely no reason this needed to take six pages.  One page would have sufficed, and still leave time for the scene where Heather tears Courtney's face off.  This would have had the additional advantage of making it look like Heather did some unsolicited epidermal re-arrangement out of anger, rather than just extreme boredom.  Be honest now.  Who among us hasn't occasionally felt the need during one of Byrne's flashbacks to rip off our own faces and smear the bloody pulp across the page?

Eight pages of set-up (it takes two pages for Heather to get around to the face-tearing stage of enforced captivity) give way to six more pages detailing Alpha Flight's rendezvous in the wake of Guardian's emergency signal (sent last issue).  Shaman and Snowbird stand around discussing the unpleasant mystic vibrations that are washing around - Shaman is scared that someone... shall surely die - and Sasquatch tries to persuade Aurora that emergency signals are there to be responded to immediately, not after an hour's swim and some light fucking.

I can't decide if Aurora insisting they needn't worry about saving James until after she gets laid is another point of this book's treatment of women (which is already deeply in the red on that score), or a reasonable reminded of Aurora's mental landscape just not being able to encompass the concept of urgency.  Mind you, the idea of a woman's personality being made up of the uptight, buttoned-down side and the utterly self-centred carnal side isn't one we should be encouraging.  "Hey guys, you know how women are all sluts or frigid?  Well this chick's both!"

On the other hand, I do like Walter's flight-suit, which he's built so he doesn't instantly burst into flames from the air resistance when Aurora hits supersonic speeds with him on her back.

While we're discussing issues of progressive lapses, we also get two pages of Puck as he waits in Toronto for a lift to the action (this eventually proves to be a very ill-tempered Northstar, who's not looking forward to meeting up with his sister again).  Again, this scene is too long (though the idea that he's set up a pick-up system to make sure he isn't left behind again like in ALF #1 made me smile), but that's not the problem here.  The problem is that Puck is described as "distorted by the cruelties of dwarfism".  I'm not sure of my ground here, I'll admit, but this strikes me as incredibly ableist.  It's not that there are no conditions associated with dwarfism that humanity as a whole wouldn't be better off without.  But Byrne is confusing possible specifics with the generality.  Drepanocytosis is not the cruelty of being black.  Period pains are not the cruelty of womanhood, no matter how bad they get.  If you want to include characters from outside the able-bodied majority, that's fine in theory.  But don't pass comment on their physicality, hmmkay?

Anyway, Northstar carries Puck away, and we head over to check up on one other member of Alpha Flight, Marrina. Despite her having left the team to spend some time with Namor of Atlantis, we knew the partially-aquatic alien would be showing up this issue because she was shown at the end of ALF #11.  Indeed, I thought she was a prime candidate for being bumped off this issue.  Turns out I was wrong, though, because not only does she not die, she doesn't even fight, not being in the room when her alarm goes off.  And at this point, I'm pretty much just thinking Byrne is trolling me.  Fourteen pages into the issue and characters are showing up just to not be relevant?  So that Namor can kiss them whilst the narration tells us Marrina is "the most tantalizing child-woman he has ever known?"

Tantalizing child-woman. There are days even I am lost for words.

Once everyone bar Marrina has assembled, it's time for Alpha Flight to head into battle.  But not just yet!  There's still a full regular comic's worth of space; it wouldn't do to get stuck in too soon.  First, there's multiple pages worth of intra-team slap-dancing to get through.

Not that this is entirely unreasonable.  Putting Northstar and Aurora on the same hilltop is just asking for trouble at this point, and once Aurora asks Walter to back her up, a peaceful resolution seems less likely than ever.  Aurora is simply too hot-blooded, Walter too devoted to her, and Northstar an all-round egomaniacal arsehole.  Heated words and super-powered threatening are obviously par for the course.

Even so, I'm pretty sure things could have been resolved fairly quickly, even after Walter becomes Sasquatch, had Puck not decided the smartest way to alleviate tensions would be to dropkick Sasquatch in the face.

Sasquatch loses control completely, uprooting a nearby tree to use as a club.  There follows several thought bubbles from Shaman about how he's been afraid for a while that Sasquatch was undergoing "subtle changes" as his "bestial nature is coming to the fore", but I'm not buying any of that.  He's clearly furious because his friend dropkicked him in the face. A better reason to get up and go clubbing (the painful kind, not the... well, the other kind is pretty painful too) I have not heard.

Indeed, I don't like the whole idea of Sasquatch being unable to control himself.  It's desperately cliche, it lessens the character's utility as he collapses into spirals of second-guessing and self-doubt, and whilst it might under other circumstances made Walter Langkowski seem a little less like a poor clone of Henry McCoy, regular readers of John Byrne and/or myself already know that Byrne thinks Hank struggles to avoid unleashing his inner beast as well, making the parallels even more obvious, based on false premises though they may be.

So, internecine punching-times. Shaman uses his mystic powers to tie Sasquatch up in vines, stopping the fight almost immediately.  Or at least, it would have, if Northstar didn't use Sasquatch's helpless, immobile state as an excuse to start repeatedly punching him in the head (this, at least, is entirely consistent characterisation).  Snowbird then attacks Northstar to try and shut him down, and Shaman is forced to immobilise both of them as well until they calm down.  Meanwhile, Aurora speaks softly to Sasquatch until the boot-prints of his friend fade from his furry face.  Eventually everyone is sufficiently under control that Shaman can teleport them all to New York.  Our final score: six pages, bollocks-all resolved.

It's difficult to tell how long Guardian has been fighting Omega Flight single-handed.  It took Sasquatch an hour to get to the rendezvous and at least several minutes to calm down after Puck kicked him, so presumably it's been at least a little while, depending on when Guardian sent the signal (it can't have been too long before the punch-up started).  Ordinarily this would be irritating - if Guardian has survived for so long on his own, there can't be too much of a threat.

Except Byrne explicitly mentions this.  Jaxon, fool that he is, has assembled a team of capes who have no way to fight someone who can fly.  That's just hilarious.  Omega Flight has been reduced to shaking their fists at Guardian, hovering by the ceiling, whilst Flashback summons future self after future self to drop on Guardian's head, only for them to be summarily punched out.  It doesn't entirely make sense (why doesn't Box throw Wild Child or Diamond Lil at Hudson?  Why doesn't Hudson aim for Smart Alec with his force bolts rather than the indestructible Lil?), but it made me laugh pretty hard, so mission accomplished on that score, at least.

Once Guardian's reinforcements arrive, it's time for a proper super-battle, and as usual, I'm not going to be providing a literal blow-by-blow account.  I will though note two ideas I really like.  The first is the idea of Diamond Lil using her own indestructible hair as a garrote upon the dying Snowbird (taking the latter out of Canada apparently causes her to age and wither, and apparently if she bleeds terrible things happen, which doubtless we'll come back to).  I seem to remember this idea cropping up somewhere else (Superman?) but since I can't be sure I'll credit Byrne with it for now.

The second nice touch is Smart Alec stealing Shaman's magic bag, applying a full spectrum of sensory sweeps to analyse the contents as he peeks within, and then just having his mind instantly erased by whatever's lurking in there. Creepy.

Whilst this throwdown is unfolding, Heather has her own problems.  Now that the cat's out of the bag - by which I mean the false face is off the robot - Ms Courtney is now busy revealing her true mechanical form.  It turns out she was programmed to assist Mr Jaxon, but interestingly, he doesn't know what she really is.  Courtney seems to be playing the angles here - or at least, she's been built by someone who is (almost certainly Roxxon, given where she and Jaxon met).  Underlining the point, she wanders out of the room, apparently leaving Heather free to go.  Whether this means she has a limit to how much she will obey Jaxon (who's ordered Heather suffers along with her husband), or whether this is part of a trap, Heather can't be sure.  This will become important very soon.

Back at the fracas, Box finally works out how to attack Guardian; wait until he's distracted giving orders to his team, and then jump him, forcing him into a hidden shaft and beating the crap out of him once they hit bottom.  Box reveals he's actually under the control of Jaxon, who's tied up Roger Bochs (a bit unkindly, since the man is quadriplegic)  and is controlling Box remotely from elsewhere in the building.

Despite being horribly mauled, James keeps it together for long enough to tear out the wires from his own power pack and jam under Boxon's mecha-chin, causing the robot to detonate (and fry Jaxon with the resulting feedback).  That's what you get when you try to kill a man with a machine he helped design, I guess.

Except that Guardian isn't out of the woods yet.  Between Boxon's punching and its close-range detonation, the Guardian suit has taken a terrible pounding, and its power-pack is liable to detonate in ten seconds or so.  

As calmly as possible, Guardian opens the pack to access, strips away the connections, slides it out of the suit, and then...

And then something terrible happens, in more than one sense.  Heather somehow manages to arrive at that exact moment through the only exit, distracting James and denying him anywhere to throw the pack.  It explodes a heartbeat later, utterly disintegrating him.

Now this is horrible.  Properly tragic.  It's not quite an earned tragedy, because it relies far too much on the convenience of Heather just happening to be in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time.  It's possible this was the Courtney robot's intention all along, to fulfill her orders to make Heather suffer by making her responsible for the death of her husband, but even if that's true we simply swap an utterly unbelievable coincidence for an utterly unbelievable degree of manipulation.  I don't care how well Courtney's creators slapped together her AI, there's no way to have predicted this scenario.

So there's some structural problems to this, even if the final result is still has much of the force Byrne must have been going for.  The larger problem is in regards to the book's more general gender politics.  I've mentioned before the problems here, which in brief come down to every female member of the Alpha Flight team being unreliable at best (Snowbird demonstrates this in this very issue), and actively untrustworthy at worst (Marrina, and to some extent Aurora), and all have been described at various times by various male characters as being problematic or unsettling.

For all that she was pretty much introduced arse-first in the great Van Helsing tradition, Heather has more or less escaped this problem (not being an actual Flight member herself).  But now she's had her first exposure to filed operations - unwilling as it was - and that experience concludes with the death of her husband through her own actions.

I'm certainly not unsympathetic to the idea that I'm reading too much into this.  But after a while the assembled evidence of a crack team of male superheroes forever being fucked over by their unreliable female counterparts just starts to get wearying.  Puck broke up a drugs ring (after his female nurse turned out to be unreliable, naturally) despite having the two halves of his body stapled together.  Sasquatch took on a supervillain who'd taken out the entire Fantastic Four, and he did that even with a broken arm.

Heather wandered around a building at random until her husband exploded.

Based on what I know of Alpha Flight history and from upcoming cover art, I'm assuming Heather will now join the team, and perhaps she can bring a bit of gender balance to a book that absolutely desperately needs it.  I hope so.  Reading books I don't enjoy for this blog can be struggle enough without finding their politics objectionable as well.

Please, 1984 Byrne.  Let this crap die with Guardian, okay?


This story begins either during or just after the conclusion to ALF #11, and continues over the course of several minutes.

Snowbird mentions that this is the anniversary of the death of Shaman's wife, but since we have no idea what date that happened, this doesn't effect the timeline.

Walter mentions that the fight against the Ravager was the previous year, which fits with what we've got.


Friday 2nd March, 1984.



Contemporary Events

The Iran-Iraq war continues with the failure of the latest Iranian offensive.  Donald Rumsfeld  will visit Baghdad three weeks later to visit his good friend Saddam Hussein.

Standout Line

Nothing's going to beat that "child-woman" line, is it?  To think I used to find Namor's fixation on MILFs concerning...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

UXM #183: "He'll Never Make Me Cry"

(Three mutants walk into a bar...)


Regular readers of this blog will know I have little love to spare for Kitty Pryde.  Given that almost half of this issue is dedicated to Peter dumping her, then, and the other half focuses on Logan telling Peter what a chump he is for dumping her, you'd think I'd hate this issue.

For whatever reason, it doesn't work out that way.  In large part this is due to the subject matter.  Kitty frequently annoys me with her hyperbolic reaction to the slightest setback (and to restate my position: the fact that this is a realistic teenage response does not make it any less enraging), but one's first heartbreak strikes me as an entirely reasonable thing to respond to by dialling everything up to 11.  There's also the fact that I think Kitty takes Peter's series of gut-punches absolutely as well as can be expected.  She's obviously mortified, but she manages to remain civil and assure Peter that as X-Men they will remain close, but she doesn't let him get away with too much self-pity either, which can't be easy when your boyfriend says "I've met someone else and I'm leaving you and also she died in my arms". Her story ends in an ellipsis this issue as she decides to take some time to herself, but that too strikes me as entirely reasonable.  Good work all around.

Not that Kitty has never been in the right before, of course; UXM #149 springs most immediately to mind.  What make this issue unusual is that Kitty comes across well without the whole of the rest of the cast acting like utter imbeciles in order to make her look good by comparison (a rather aggravating dramatic approach described in different circumstance as the Helo suit).  Peter is just as valid in what he says and feels as Kitty, and so is Logan, more of which later.  Only Storm comes across as particularly ridiculous as she wishes Colossus had died on the Beyonder's world rather than return to break Kitty's heart.  I don't care how close Storm and Sprite have become, that'd be an appalling thought to have about a stranger, and for a colleague and friend like Peter, it's just offensively hideous.

Once the deed is done, Logan decides to take Peter to the local watering hole to slap the Russian around for his treatment of Kitty, with Kurt tagging along as "referee", which whenever Wolverine's involved might be just as well described as "blood-mopper".  Logan wants to have it out with Peter RE his dumping antics earlier in the day.  This is a very difficult conversation to watch.  It's not so much that both sides are right, but that both sides are utterly wrong but have phenomenally good reasons for it.  Logan is almost certainly right that the feelings Colossus has labelled "love" have been misidentified.  Even if Logan's theory (mentioned in Secret Wars) is wrong, and they weren't brought into existence by Zsaji's healing powers, I steadfastly refuse to believe that one can genuinely fall in love over the space of six days, with someone who spent the first two days with someone else, and with whom you are entirely unable to communicate.  That isn't love, that's infatuation.

On the other hand, Zsaji's just barely in the ground (depending on her species' death rituals, of course). For all that Colossus has been living with her death longer than he knew her alive, telling the guy she sacrificed her life for and who held her as she lay dying that his feelings aren't what he thinks they are is just horribly fucking cruel, and it's no less horribly fucking cruel because it led to Peter breaking up with Kitty.

Actually, Logan's feelings on all of this seem really jumbled up.  He's basically being powered by his deep platonic/paternal love for Sprite, which is understandable, but you can't just use "my friend has been hurt" as the basis of an argument and expect it to make sense.  At various points during the conversation Logan's position seems to be that Peter didn't care enough about Zsaji to make it worthwhile to dump Kitty, that the manner in which Peter did the deed was needlessly hurtful, that he's just scared of commitment, and that Kitty's done so much for Peter - up to and including agreeing to marry another man in exchange for saving his life - that Peter should show more gratitude.  Because there's nothing a teenage girl dreams of more than a boyfriend who kisses her out of gratitude.

I guess the commitment angle does hold some potential merit, but only insofar as it can't be easily disproved.  Maybe that really is part of what's going on here.  That's a point to be raised, though, not an accusation to be thrown.  Of course, Logan might be a little more patient with Peter were the Russian not so insistent on digging his heels in: constantly repeating that his love was true and real and boundless and no-one could understand, but when you start a conversation about a man's private life with the words "You owe us an explanation!", you're not aiming for a discussion, you're aiming for a fight, as Logan happily admits to Kurt.

So it's a good job the Juggernaut happens to be favouring the same bar.  Comic book coincidences, huh?  On detecting Cain Marko's scent, Wolverine tries to get everyone quietly out of the bar, but the drunk and furious Colossus makes a scene, spilling his beer on Juggernaut and igniting a bar-room brawl.  For those keeping score, that's fifteen pages without super-powers coming in to play, if you don't count a brief training session between Rogue and Storm earlier.

The fight itself is fairly standard fare, though it does contain one of my favourite panels of the period as the Juggernaut attempts to swat Colossus with the bar's, um, bar:

but the scuffle also serves a larger purpose; a reminder to Colossus that he needs the other X-Men around.  It's a lesson that comes kind of out of nowhere, to be honest.  Logan's trying to make the point that the X-Men stick together no matter what, but that's not really relevant when you're talking about whether a couple should stay together.  Again, there's precisely zero chance Kitty hoped Colossus would be with her forever because of how they're both on the same superhero team.  To make all this work Claremont has Logan point out that Peter never actually thanked Kitty for being prepared to marry Caliban in exchange for his life.  Which, fair enough, if he never said thank you, that's a gigantically shitty thing to do.  It just doesn't tie all this together in the way Claremont thinks it does.

That probably sounds like I'm more down on this issue than I actually am.  I've always loved these superpower-light issues which try and inject a greater sense of character and family into the proceedings.  And frankly, a drunken lovesick nineteen year old and a bitter brawler with anger-management issues probably would end up having conversations that were disjointed, unfocussed and basically just an excuse to verbally beat the crap out of each other (Peter telling Logan he had no interest in being lectured on love by a man who left his fiancee in another country was a particularly low blow).  So whilst this issue is a mess, it's a mess that's pretty easy to appreciate.

Anyway, the fight ends, and Juggernaut (having paid for the damage, interestingly) heads off into the night.  Meanwhile, in unrelated news, Val Cooper is driving around town spilling the security-beans to her driver, without the faintest idea that said chauffeur is in reality... dun dun DURR... Mystique! Whomever this new mutant "Forge" is that Val mentions, I doubt he'll be alive for long...

Oh, and Selene's back, which doesn't sound like it's going to end well for anyone.


The narration mentions that Kitty has been at the mansion for almost two years.  By my count, it's more like fifteen months.  Of course, Kitty-time never makes any sense either from our perspective or from the perspective of other Marvel characters; Kitty's fifteenth birthday is still years away in real time, despite her having been thirteen and a half when she was originally introduced.  This reference is just one more problem to note in the middle of all this continuity craziness.

Storm mentions that this is the weekend, which we also had as true last issue.  Either the X-Men got back from Japan in record time, or this is the following weekend.  The latter makes more sense - especially since the Professor has apparently gone on vacation with the New Mutants - though that does mean Peter has been avoiding Kitty (or vice versa) for a full week, which is a little depressing to think about.

Peter mentions that he is nearly twenty.  I may have forgotten something, but by my recollection the last time Colossus' age was mentioned was way back when the X-Men first fought the Brood somewhere around UXM #157.  That was nine months ago by our count, when he was described as eighteen.  Had he turned nineteen soon after, of course, then "nearly twenty" would be a reasonable description, though the idea of a guy three months shy of his twentieth birthday dating a girl not yet fifteen is somewhat concerning.  I'm not sure why everyone's so outraged that the two of them have split up, really.


Saturday 28th January, 1984.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.52 standard years

(Rogue is 27 years old)

"Ah am a madwoman!"
Contemporary Events

The Challenger disaster claims the lives of seven astronauts.  By way of some compensation, the Fates allow Jessica Ennis to be born.

Standout Line

"Thank goodness your insurance covers super hero battles!"
"Hey, these days, inna Big Apple, you can't survive without it."

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

NMU #17: "Getaway!"

(Those who are about to fly...)


I mentioned last time on NMU that the Hellions, in making their initial appearance, didn't really manage to make too much of a first impression.  I also acknowledged that this issue might help out on that score, and in general that is indeed what we get.  In truth, I feel like the Hellions have always been more well-known and referenced as a group and as a concept than they've generated specific important characters (James Proudstar being an honourable exception) but NMU #17 does at least make a fair stab at giving distinct personalities to Emma Frost's new charges, as well as giving us further insight into how her approach differs from that of Charles Xavier's.

Turns out, she's not doing so well.  Which is no surprise, really.  One of the first things they taught me when I started my teacher training course was that no-one would learn lessons I taught whilst wearing nothing but a corset, panties, and high heels.  We know now that Frost will come to care for her charges, but right now it seems pretty clear that she sees them only as useful powers, and has no interest in teaching them to interact, just to shut up and follow orders.  This kind of approach might work a little better when you're telepath, since you can have at least a distant feel of how one's students behave when you're not in the room, but it's still a ridiculously short-term approach.  Much like Cersei in A Song Of Ice And Fire/Game Of Thrones, Frost knows she needs powerful flunkies to prop up her power base, but she has no idea of how to maintain it other than throwing her metaphorical weight around.

This is how you end up with a problem like Empath, a stone-cold monster - and obvious racist - with no interest in anyone other than how much fun they might be once he's commanding them.  He almost got Jetstream killed last issue, and his response to this is to control the young man into apologising to him.  He's quite obviously gearing up for an attempt on Emma's position, but she's seems confident she can deal with it when the time comes.  I can't see anything going wrong there.  Elsewhere we have the equally unpleasant and sadistic Roulette (who's kind enough to wear revealing negligee in bed so we can all know she's one of those horrible slutty sluts our mothers warned us about); the bonkers Tarot, who's so obsessed over the meanings of her cards she'd probably think a game of Happy Families was pushing her to become a greengrocer; Thunderbird, who has no thought other than to revenge himself against the X-Men (because when your brother jumps onto a jet in mid take-off and is inevitably killed, the most logical course of action is to blame the people he voluntarily joined and who taught him self-defence); and Catseye, whose hatred of her human form and bizarre Yoda-style baby-talk are symptoms just screaming out for immediate therapy.  Hell, Jetstream's the most normal amongst them, and he has rockets that come out of his calves.

Whilst most of our titular team - along with Kitty Pryde, who turns out to have some mad massage skills that seem to make Roberto much happier about having damaged his back - stew in a power-dampening dorm somewhere on campus, Dani and Illyana are trying to recover from their sudden jaunt into Limbo.  With this being a Claremont book, Illyana finds herself knocked unconscious and wakes up to find someone has changed her into sexier clothes.  Dani is standing next to her in scraps of animal fur, though there's no suggestion that Dani was unconscious, and frankly you can imagine her picking a minimalist furkini over almost anything that didn't include nipple tassells. S'ym has brought them back to his place, now that he's working for Illyana (after the deal they made three issues earlier).   Apparently he'd rather work for a fourteen year old in a slit dress with a plunging neck line, which is pretty unsettling, and given Illyana immediately drops him into a teleport disc upon awakening, I'm guessing she thinks the same thing.

After a time out to run through some healing spells, Illyana and Dani are ready to rescue their team-mates.  Unfortunately for them, the young sorceress' teleporting is more than a little erratic, and they end up some eighteen months in the future, when the rest of the team is already fully in Emma's sway, and have joined the Hellions.  I'm not entirely sure what this scene is supposed to accomplish other than fill two pages - and make Emma Frost look entirely idiotic - but it'll be interesting to see just how different the X-books' status quo looks when we get to the X-Men's eighth year of existence.  It already seems ridiculous that the main book's protagonists couldn't break out their younger colleagues over a year and a half, but for the sake of a dozen or so panels, there's not much point thinking too hard about it.

Illyana's second attempt at zeroing is somewhat more successful, in that she ends up a week too late rather than two consecutive pregnancies (always an interesting method of measuring time, especially in comics).  Sure she can't do any better, Illyana suggests they just live with the missing time, and get on with the rescue.  Dani phones the mansion but can't get an answer (this is presumably the call that leads to the message Rogue failed to hear in UXM #182).  It's up to the two of them to rescue their friends.  Girl power!  Finally, the sisters are doing it for themselves!

Except they utterly botch it.  Dani manages to sneak into the dorm where the others are being held captive, but the Hellions are right behind her, having taken out Illyana off-panel.  Looks like our maidens need some assistance from those with the Y chromosone, huh?  Fortunately, Jetstream is on hand to enable some sausage application.  He's not at all happy about the idea of kidnapping and brainwashing new recruits; he joined voluntarily, and the last thing he wants is to watch people getting press-ganged (I imagine he's also keen to prove to himself that he really did sign up willingly, rather than being manipulated by the White Queen).  He suggests a duel; one Hellion and one New Mutant fight, with our heroes being freed if they win, and agreeing to join up with Frost's mob if they don't.

Seeing little alternative, Dani agrees, and everyone decamps to the Hellion's rather spartan Danger Room.  For whatever reason, the duel turns out to be between Sam and Jetstream.  That makes sense for the New Mutants, I guess, what with Sunspot with limited juice and Illyana unconscious after being jumped earlier, but I'm not sure Jetstream would have been my choice from the Hellions, except in that he happens to have similar powers.

After a few pages of alternate dodging and colliding, Cannonball wins the duel, but Jetstream refuses to yield, which rather demonstrates the flaw with this whole not-to-the-death approach to ritual combat. It soon turns out not to matter, however, because the White Queen chooses this moment to return from Boston, with Sebastian Shaw in tow. She's brought him here to check out her latest acquisitions, and she has no intention of letting them go home just because one of her students thinks he has the slightest scrap of authority around here.

Cannonball vs Jetstream therefore becomes New Mutants vs Hellfire, and our heroes find this a much tougher match.  In fact, the only reason things don't go horribly pear shaped for our protagonists is that Shaw and Frost are still playing with their catch when Kitty phases into the nada-Danger Room's control booth and shorts everything out.  In the resulting confusion the New Mutants get out of harm's way - oddly, with the help of Catseye, who doesn't seem any more interested in obeying her mistresses wishes than any other feline - and Illyana teleports everyone back to the mansion.

But when have they arrived? The surroundings are at least still smothered in snow, so there's that, but until they can find their way back into the locked mansion, who knows what year this might be?

At least they have one clue: it's at least after the point in history when Dani's parents were brutally murdered by evil spirits. How do they know this?  Because the monstrous apparition that did for the Moonstars has arrived to inform Dani that she is very much the next course on the menu.

Dun dun DUUUR!


OK, I'll admit it: my concerns about how this issue could possibly fit in with UXM #182 were unfounded.  I'd assumed Dani's phone call had come the night of the battle with the Hellions, rather than almost a week later, which also clears up the questions about how long Michael Rossi had spent being interrogated by SHIELD.  In my defence, having Illyana and Dani return one week after they initially left seems purposefully done to escape these issues. There's no benefit to the story from their delay, and nothing is actually said about what happened in the meantime. 

Still, it's all worked out in the end, and we can end this story six days after it began.  That might have to change if we learn Illyana screwed up her final teleport, of course, but it will do for now.


Wednesday 11th to Sunday 17th January, 1984 (and Wednesday 17th July, 1985).


X+5Y+317 to X+5Y+323 (and X+7Y+97).

Contemporary Events

Your humble scribe turns four.  Meanwhile, Ray Kroc, the man most directly responsible for making McDonald's into the global titan it is today, dies aged 81.

Standout Line

"Resistance is useless... and flight quite impossi - good Lord!"

Emma Frost learns an important lesson about not gloating over the impossibility of escape in front of a character with time-travelling teleportation powers.

Friday, 5 April 2013

UXM #182: "Madness"

("... All the memories that I'd be better off without.")


Welcome, one and all, to the great Claremont Continuity Snarl of 1984.

I've mentioned more than once here that Claremont's attitude to the passage of time in his comics is holistic rather than detail-oriented; the passage of seasons is noted and more or less in keeping with those in the real world, but the individual issues don't come within a thousand miles of matching up.  This is already slightly irritating, though probably only to people like me (if indeed, any more such animals exist), and it only gets worse when Claremont is attempting to match up storylines over multiple titles.  This issue probably isn't the most egregious example, but it's likely the most obvious.

The problem in a nutshell is this. The X-Men disappeared the night Kitty Pryde was abducted by the White Queen, which in itself was the day before the New Mutants went to try and rescue her.  The X-Men returned over a week later in Tokyo, and sent Rogue to check up on what was going on.  Even if Rogue could reach luminal velocity, that means it's been a full week since the New Mutants first took on the Hellions in NMU #16.  This might all make sense come NMU #17, of course, but there's still the problem that when Rogue arrives at the mansion she fails to hear the New Mutant's answerphone message RE their latest antics, because she's already intercepted a distress call from Michael Rossi, last seen helping the younger team out of a Sentinel-related jam.

I've never owned an answerphone other than those connected to my mobile, so I might not have understood their workings, but I'm given to understand that generally speaking, messages are played back in the order received, which means Rossi's mayday arrived before the New Mutants checked in over a week ago.  Has it really been that long for him, trapped somewhere aboard the SHIELD helicarrier whilst agents work him over.  Those same agents say their attempted interrogation has lasted for "days", but eight days or more?  Possibly as many as twelve, depending on how fast Rogue can fly?

Rossi, we learn, was discovered whilst trying to hack into SHIELD files aboard the helicarrier, and Fury has delegated his slow-burn questioning to two lower-level agents.  One of them, Garman, is a double agent, and he informs Sebastian Shaw that Rossi was trying to access SHIELD's data on the Hellfire Club - an action that leads to a death sentence from Shaw.  The SHIELD crew pick up on this conversation, but can't do anything about it, because a half-page of jawing happens too quickly to trace, and also because it was in code, and clearly that's a problem when you want to triangulate the source of a signal.  Honestly, can't anyone on that carrier do their jobs? No wonder they get shot out of the sky every second Tuesday.

(Of course, it doesn't help that they assign two agents to an interrogation and one of them turns out to be a double agent for the very people their captive is interested in.  Apparently SHIELD recruiters don't take their jobs any more seriously than do their helmsmen).

Rogue shows up to try and break Rossi out, and it transpires she isn't too picky about how much damage she does in the process.  Her attack plan is certainly novel: chuck a coin at the radar room with sufficient force to wreck up the place.  I'm not sure that really fits in with basic physics - Rogue uses the example of a straw pushed through a tree by a hurricane, rather missing the point that with the hurricane the force is applied to the straw at all times - and it certainly doesn't make any sense that the coin starts to ricochet once it's penetrated the room.  For a moment I also wanted to object to Rogue knowing just where on the ship that particular location is, until I remembered she has the memories of Carol Danvers, former spy, pushed into her brain pan.  This becomes important very quickly.

Returning from his clandestine conference call, Garman gets as far as shooting his colleague to leave no witnesses before Rogue crashes through and swipes Rossi.  With SHIELD interceptor pilots no more competent than the rest of their colleagues (though in fairness catching a flying bullet-proof mutant is probably a fairly tough ask), Rogue gets Rossi away from the helicarrier, and they hold up in her parent's beachouse.

Alarm bells are ringing here, of course.  This casual arrival at the Rogue homestead doesn't remotely fit in with what (admittedly little) we know about her past.  Moreover, Rossi seems convinced they've met before, though he was pretty out of it at the time.  Are we finally to see some of Rogue's backstory fleshed out?

Alas, no.  Rogue's just regressed into the stolen memories of Carol Danvers.  Seems the former Ms Marvel spent some time knocking boots with Rossi, and his close proximity is making Rogue's mental record player skip from groove to groove.

I recognise the importance of facing this issue head on if Rogue is going to work as a character - we've seen Carol's view of her trauma, but this is the first time we've really dealt with our newest X-Man's most well-known crime.  Knowing this needed to be done isn't the same as enjoying it, however.  It's all a bit too classically Claremont in its over the top melodrama.  It doesn't entirely make sense, either; why would Rogue start having visions of Carol's childhood memories from a viewpoint outside of Carol's body?  That's not how memory works, as literally almost every human being can tell you. 

There are a few nice touches here, admittedly.  I like the idea that it's not until now that Rogue had really figured out she'd stolen Ms Marvel's emotions as well as her memories, so even the people Carol still remembers, she might be entirely devoid of emotional connection to.  This was already explored back when Carol became Binary, of course, but confronting Rogue with it is still interesting.  How do you respond emotionally to the emotions you feel from somebody else?  How does the contaminated mind deconstruct itself.

I'm also a big fan of Rogue explaining this to Rossi and he decides, rather than going the traditional hero way of trying to understand and be supportive, just storms off announcing he'd happily murder the woman who saved him from certain death just hours earlier.  That's both bad-ass and entirely believable.

And speaking of that rescue... Nick Fury has returned to his hapless force of treacherous incompetents, and he's none too happy to learn their newest prisoner has skipped town in the company of a known criminal.  An injured Garman has managed to pin his partner's murder on Rogue as well (Countess de Fontaine realises this makes no sense, since the guy was shot and Rogue wouldn't need a gun, but for lazy narrative reasons she decides not to mention this incredibly obvious point), which infuriates Fury still further.  It's time for a good old-fashioned mutant hunt...


This one is a bit difficult to sort out, actually.  The first question to be answered is this: how long would it take to fly from Tokyo to New York?  That's a distance of just under eleven thousand kilometres, and from the internets I've learned that Ms Marvel's flight speed (and hence Rogue's as well) is "sub-sonic", though I doubt that's been kept constant.  If we assume though for the sake of argument that Rogue flew back home at just under the speed of sound (343.2 m/s, natch), we're looking at a flight time of around four days.  I assume Rogue flew over the Pacific, which from her position relative to the sun suggests she arrives in the evening. Complicating this, we have the Kitty Pryde/New Mutants problem mentioned above.

Maybe more explanation on that latter point will arrive in New Mutants #17 (Frost briefly appears in this issue to tell us she's "acquired" our teenage mutants).  For now, we'll assume this story starts some three days and change after the X-Men return to Earth.

Rogue states that this is midwinter, which works out fine for us.  We also learn that she's currently 18, which is useful, because we can now use that to extrapolate her current age.  From what we've already established, Rogue must have been 12 or 13 when the X-Men first batttled Magneto.  Let's assume more or less at random that in fact that confrontation happened on Rogue's 13th birthday.  Using that and our current compression constant, we'd have that Rogue turned 27 last month.

The story itself takes place over a few hours.


Saturday 21st January, 1984.



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.52 years.

(Rogue is 27 years old.)

"Ohgollygee, am ah interrupting?"
Contemporary Events
Mr Excitement himself, Jackie Wilson, dies aged just 49.  I am ashamed to confess that I only really know the gentlemen due to the epic cock-up when Dexy's Midnight Runners covered "Jackie Wilson Said" on Top of the Pops whilst backed by an enormous photograph of darts star Jocky Wilson.  Kevin Rowland insists to this day that this was a deliberate joke, but then he insists to this day that "My Beauty" wasn't, so we clearly can't take his word too seriously.
Standout Line

"Your people haven't changed, Nick Fury -- they're brave but oh-so-dumb."

Monday, 1 April 2013

X-Men & She-Ra #1: "To Scream Alone In The Halls Of Hordak!"

(What is this I don't even.)


Well, nothing's going to top that title, is it? Not even your humble blogger's stab at a little investigative journalism - by which I mean rank speculation - regarding this comic's co-author. But I'm getting ahead of myself. How, in the name of all that's holy, could an X-Men and She-Ra crossover ever have been given the green light in the first place?

The answer, of course, is money.

There are two central problems to the discerning fan's admittedly ridiculous attempts to combine fifty years of X-Men stories into a coherent whole. The first is the constant friction between writers with often violently different approaches and viewpoints, and just as often seemingly minimal interest in what their peers and predecessors have gotten up to. The second are the cold facts that Marvel is a business, a business exists to make money, and one can make plenty of money by whoring out one's characters in the most cynical way imaginable.

Sometimes this is done internally; we talked not long ago about using the X-Men to shore up support for the Micronauts series. Sometimes, though, our heroes travel a little further afield. This is a prime example, and one can only imagine what promises - both creative and financial - were made behind closed doors. Certainly Marvel has never to my knowledge remarked officially on this comic - never actually available on its own, instead coming in reduced form alongside various figures from the Mattel line - indeed every effort seems to have gone into vanishing this comic into the memory hole; a Star Wars Christmas Special for Marvel's merry band of mutants. Had it not been for friend of the blog Abigail helping me out, I'd never have been able to read it at all.

Spoiler alert: there are plenty of reasons to think Marvel was right to shove this down the memory whole. 22 pages stuffed with two full teams plus villains plus the necessary dimension-hopping means the results could never have strayed too far from the level best described as "hopeless, horrible mess". Especially considering one of those writers is J. Michael Straczynski. Yes, it's JMS, whatever the title page says. "Dom Jon Seepyus?" Please. If you're not going to make it difficult for us, then don't even bother, OK?

By his own admission, Straczynski is not the easiest writer to collaborate with, and his utter loathing of having his work re-written seems to have resulted in he and Claremont writing alternate pages, a kind of ping-pong story in which everyone tries not to upset each other's apple carts too much. It doesn't work. It can't work. '80s Claremont and '80s Straczynksi share a certain melodramatic style, and both are firm feminists in theory without always being able to make their politics quite work in their scripts (though of course comics as a medium have a tendency to amplify such problems). Fundamentally, though, Claremont wants to write about a tight circle of friends coming under internal pressure as they beat the crap out of bad guys. Straczynski wants to make a serious point about - so far as I can tell - either Torquemada or the HUAC hearings. That's never going to be a recipe for coherent storytelling.

Okay, so I'm five paragraphs in and I haven't even mentioned the plot yet. Mainly that's because the plot falls into two areas; the inevitable and obvious, and the batshit indecipherable. The X-Men are working in space, helping out Starcore, when a wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey cosmic whirlpool snatches them from our reality and into the realm of Etheria. That's all in one page, which is clearly Claremont's. The next page is just as obviously Straczynski's; there's just no way Claremont would ever come up with this exchange:
ROGUE: Ah don't think we're in Kansas no more, y'all.
COLOSSUS: I still do not know your country well enough, Rogue. Is Kansas where all the racists live? 
(I've no idea how that got past Marvel's editors, actually; clearly no-one was paying attention).

From there our heroes discover She-Ra's forces mid-battle with a bunch of bat-chested robots and a chick that turns into a panther, and they rather presumptuously join the fight. After their victory, there's time for some awkward inter-team bonding. Some of that works pretty well, in fairness. Watching Lockheed chasing Kowl around was never not going to be funny, and there's an exchange between Wolverine and Bow that's almost work the price of admission in itself:
WOLVERINE: “That bow yer carryin’ is almost as pretty as yer moustache. Is it any more use?”
BOW “I do just fine, thank you.”
WOLVERINE “Yeah? That frail a' yours could pick up a grizzly and use it to knock down a rhino. What do you bring to the party?”
BOW “I could hit a fly on the wing at three hundred paces, little man.”
WOLVERINE “Easier to shoot something when it ain’t firing back, huh?”
BOW“Oh, I’d never actually want to shoot anybody.”
(That's Claremont, by the way).

Not everything works so well, though. Trying to have Xavier bond with Madame Razz on the grounds that his powers might be considered witch-craft is ridiculous, though still worse is the idea that Light Hope fears Storm because he's basically a hyper-sentient weather system.  That's so stupid it can only have been the result of Grant Morrison heading back in time and writing the thought in as a cruel joke.

Once all the hob-nobbing is over and done with, we learn that the terrifying animated pig skeleton Hordak has acquired a dimensional gate (hence the anomaly that snatched our heroes as the comic opened) and is planning to conquer all of reality. This might seem a rather grandiose plan for a creature so gain total control over his own territory because of the actions of a tiny bunch of rebels with only one ranged weapon between them, but apparently we're supposed to find all this very dramatic.

Which, thank you, no. You can't take a comic seriously when it involves a tiny purple dragon riding atop a flying talking koala bear. You can't take a comic seriously when a four-legged bug-eyed monster is apparently punched in both pairs of testes by a Mississippi river-rat. You certainly can't take it seriously when every other page is crammed with hyperbolic narrative boxes insisting the entire universe is under threat, and the pages in-between are filled with characters staring directly out of the panels whilst they deliver political monologues (and how would She-Ra be able to quote Susan B. Anthony in any case?).

In short, it's all rather a mercy when She-Ra and Storm join forces (lightning bolts being exactly the sort of thing you'd want to back up with a sword) and destroy the portal machine's power system, leaving just enough charge for one more tear in space-time to get the Marvel characters home. There's then time for a one-page Important Lesson for the readers - presumably a nod to the closing moments of the He-Man series - in which the X-Men remind us of the dangers of throwing bleach into one's face (Straczynski somehow manages to work in a reference to Cesar Chavez here, too, proving the man is nothing if not versatile), and we're done.

In sum, much like with the Micronauts cross-over, one's left wondering how exactly this was supposed to boost the profile of the minor partners here. "The Great Rebellion fails to defeat its villains without help" doesn't strike me as reflecting particularly well upon Mattel's characters, though I suppose She-Ra's inability to use her superhuman strength smash a dead pig to bits is a central tenet of the source material, and I can't really blame either Claremont or Straczynski for that.

For every other part of this insane misfire, of course, the two of them - along with first-and-last-time artist P R LaFolio - are entirely fair game.


The Secret Wars are explicitly mentioned here, but Rogue's adventures in UXM #182 don't seem to have happened, putting this insanity somewhere between that issue and UXM #181 (hence why I'm covering this issue now, despite it hailing from 1986).  It's hard to tell how long this story takes place over, given Etheria may not have the same length days as Earth does.  Assuming it does, however, this is a two-day adventure.  We'll also give the team a two days to get back from Japan and get into space, as well as to pick up Kitty, who I'm not sure should really be there given her escapades at Frost's school, but we'll deal with that in greater detail later.


Friday 20th to Saturday 21st January, 1984.


X+5Y+326 to X+5Y+327.

Contemporary Events

Nuclear war is narrowly averted when the US mistakes an incoming Russian ICBM for a flock of geese.  Fortunately the nuke fails to attain critical mass, and does not explode.  North Dakota resident Jameson Franklin attempts to gain compensation after the missile flattens his "spittin' shack"; the case is still working its way through the courts.

Standout Line

"Kitty, Catra, that weird frail with the cat-eyes. You considered professional help, Petey? Or at least buying a kitten..." - Logan