(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:
- How did Magneto find the X-Men's base to strike at them in UXM #17?
- Who built the Magneto robot Mesmero was unwittingly working for until UXM #58?
- Who was the mysterious mutant detected outside the Sentinel base in UXM #59?
- What is the relationship between Nightcrawler and Mystique?
- Why can Kitty see Illyana whilst the latter is using spellcasting to travel from her body?
- 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.
1 Marvel year = 3.53 standard years.
(Rogue is 27 years old.)
|"Seems like we're not wanted, Petey!"|
"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.