Saturday, 6 July 2013

NMU Annual #1: "The Cosmic Cannonball Caper"

("We stole this planet with rock-and-roll!")

  1. Focus-wise, this is something of an odd fish (though given the bewildering abundance of piscine variation, just how batshit a fish’s construction would have to be before it could be reasonably labelled ”odd”. is not clear). Considering this is the junior team’s first annual one might expect a team-focused story, particularly given the title’s two new arrivals. Instead our focus here is mainly upon Sam.

    Since the parent series has spent so much of its time recently focused first on Magma, then Magik, and finally on Dani Moonstar, a case could certainly be made that Sam deserves his turn in the harsh glare of audience focus - arguably he’s the least developed of those characters introduced back in ”Renewal”. Even granting that idea, however, it’s a strange choice to apply that idea to a special, rather than in the on-going series. Particularly when an immediate consequence is that Warlock and (especially) Doug Ramsey are relegated to mere afterthoughts. Warlock’s ability to appear human isn’t even mentioned until a dozen pages in and if Doug has indeed joined the team there’s no evidence of that here.

  2. I’ve said this before, but if Claremont can repeat himself I don’t see why I can’t: I hate ludicrous coincidence in comic books. Our group of mutant teenagers go to a gig that just happens to be headlined by a closeted mutant, who just happens to be outed that night by an angry ape-croc from space? I call bullshit on that, my friends.

    Of course people have been making this point since Aristotle, so I needn’t rehash the general case (though I will note once more that I personally find it professionally insulting). I do think, though, that the problem is particularly severe here.

    The X-books have an overarching theme that makes them so interesting; the choice between revealing oneself in order to fight for acceptance, and hiding from the struggle in the hopes of escaping notice. Even the New Mutants, who are not intended to man the barricades, have clearly taken the more dangerous path. Just turning up at Xavier’s door carries its own risks, after all. How one chooses to live one’s life as a mutant is a central question across the line.

    And it doesn’t apply here, as our heroes get caught between an alien killer and a teleporting rock-star whilst on their downtime. That’s just a bog-standard superhero plot (in structure if not specifics) that any book could use under any writer, so long as neither took themselves too seriously. It would be far too strong a statement to argue this isn’t the sort of story the X-books should ever do, but if you’ve slicing out the central metaphor you need to have something interesting enough to replace it. Nothing like that is evident here.

  3. Cheney as a character is a real problem here. Rewarding Sam with a kiss for saving her life (following our extra-terrestrial’s first attempt on her life) could perhaps be dismissed as merely terribly presumptuous - stemming perhaps from daily experience of desperate fans screaming for her body. Once Lila upgrades to kidnapping Sam and repeatedly propositioning him - whilst occasionally nibbling on his earlobe – though, we reach genuinely unsettling territory. Imagine an adult man whisking away a teenage girl to his house - with no way for the girl to get back - and demanding she change into more revealing clothes in preparation for a later two-person party, all whilst repeatedly touching her and consider just how likely that man would be to avoid jail time once the girl found her way home.

  4. At last, the plot. When Lila Cheney isn’t dodging alligarillas or committing obvious sexual assault she lives in an abandoned Dyson Sphere, planning to steal the planet Earth in order to sell it at auction. Only two things stand in her way: the New Mutants, who have used Warlock’s various abilities to track Sam, and her drummer, who wants to sell her out to another alien who’s not keen on bidding for a second-hand planet with six billion sentients on the clock.

    The two groups arrive simultaneously, and immediately the aliens attack our friends. The fight is strangely rushed; Rahne, Dani and Warlock being captured immediately, and Sam and Lila being subdued off-panel. This is ridiculous. There’s space in this annual for Sam and Roberto to lust after Lila, and for various comments about Sam’s new look (best described as ’80s gay German parody-metal), but not for the epic arrival of a living starship into a Dyson Sphere or to see Lila and Sam fighting for their lives?

    In fact pacing in general seems pretty off here, with the conclusion to this tale happening at far too fast a pace. The aliens haven’t managed more than some preliminary throat-clearing in their post-battle gloating when those New Mutants still free crash the party and defeat them. We’re then told that battle damage during the resulting fracas has damaged the teleport web Lila intended to use to steal Earth, meaning that it will now destroy the planet instead. Who the hell builds something like that? Who masters the technological miracles necessary to transport matter instantaneously across the galaxy and doesn’t think of a feature that will move it when it’s about to explode?

    Fortunately, Doug is able to read the instructions helpfully written on a nearby wall, and disaster is averted. Grateful for the save, Lila teleports the New Mutants back to Earth, though London we learn is the best that she can do.

  5. Lila’s post-scenario contrition leaves as great deal to be desired. All that de facto date-rape was a terrible start, and she makes no effort to redeem herself here. The sum total of her justification for trying to sell her entire planet into slavery is that she was sold into slavery first. Sam more or less swallows this whole, but he’s a teenager in love. We should try to be more objective.

    So let’s be objective. This is an utterly appalling justification: I suffered an indignity and hated it so therefore everyone on the planet should be subjected to it too? That’s disgraceful. There are children not yet born when Lila was sold and she intends for them to be slaves. There are people who’ve never heard of her and aren’t from her country and have never possessed any form of influence upon the government who happened to be in power when she met her fate, and she wants them to suffer as well. She wants Tuvalu to be enslaved, for God’s sake. What did Tuvalu do to her? Don’t they have enough to do what with global warming and all? Let us not forget our Russell:
    I found one day in school a boy of medium size ill-treating a smaller boy. I expostulated, but he replied: "The bigs hit me, so I hit the babies; that's fair." In these words he epitomized the history of the human race.
  6. To summarise: an obvious sex-pest tries uses her past as an excuse to attempt an atrocity but changes her mind when her life is saved in improbable circumstances at improbable speed. This annual could transmit botulism to every reader and not be any more objectionable.

According to Sunspot, Lila’s gig is ”on Saturday”. This in turn means it can’t be Saturday when he acquires the tickets nor is it likely to be Friday. We’ll therefore kick this issue off a few days after NMU #21.

It takes the Warlock-craft a day to get to Lila’s sphere following the gig, and much of another day before they get anywhere in their search.


Sunday 1st to Monday 8th April, 1984


X+6Y+31 to X+6Y+39.

Contemporary Events

RAF Major Sir Arthur Travis ”Bomber” Harris passes away. Harris is something of a controversial figure these days due to his ”bomb the shit out of everybody” policy during the Second World War.

Standout Line

Sunspot reacts to Sam’s extreme wardrobe change.

Sam?! My dear friend, what have they done to you? The fiends! Let me at them -- How dare they torture you..."

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