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."

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