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


  1. This is Straczynski. Sorry to disappoint you, but I never had anything to do with this book. I didn't write it, didn't read it, have never worked with Claremont, I don't work from the shadows without my name on the book...and yet here you are, beating the crap out of me for something I never wrote. Well done.

    You, sir, are a chowderhead.


  2. The JMS chowderhead call is well-deserved. Research next time

  3. Ah. Not the sort of thing one hopes for for April's first comment.

  4. Well that takes some doing, taking 2 and 2 and getting 47. I really would think about rewriting this entire peice given that JMS has stated he had zero involvement with this which undermines your arguments against whoever did write this.

  5. Maybe you ran over his cat (or whatever these creatures are called, feathers, long bill, webbed feet, go "quack")?


  6. Dude. You need to pull this piece.

  7. Pull the piece? That'd make me look pretty foolish when I put the piece up, and pretty foolish now.

  8. Don't pull. It's brilliant.