Saturday, 3 August 2013

XHY #21: "Let Loose The Dogs Of War!"

(Toothless poodles of impotent shouting.)


Last time around, I tried to be as generous as possible to John Byrne, figuring a series being cancelled out from under you is a pretty solid reason for stuffing up your timing. This time round, I'm less inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Because this issue is just as weirdly paced and frustratingly slow as last issue. Could Byrne really have been informed his book was being cancelled with his very next issue? Maybe, I guess, but if that's true, then why was last issue so badly put together? Just how long had Byrne been planning to have Xavier sitting around being hit on by Mrs Martin? How many issues was Angel going to spend failing to rescue Alex and Lorna?

The cancellation excuse, in other words, only works once. By the end of this issue events still haven't moved on regarding almost any front. The Martins' are still hanging around discussing this strange newcomer in their house (Ashley wants rid of him, her mother... doesn't). The four X-Men trapped beneath the ground are still there, indeed with their escape attempt last issue thoroughly foiled here, they're actually moving backwards. Namor's army has invaded New York, but apparently in the same way the Occupy Movement invaded Wall Street; there's just an awful lot of them there, and they could start trouble pretty quickly if they felt like it. There's even time for an utterly gratuitous cameo from two characters I didn't even recognise, and whose only role here is to delay Angel further.

At least the Promise storyline is moving onwards. With the Robinsons' affair concluded, Angel and Lucy are able to rescue Havok from his bio-tube by tricking it into thinking a decade has past. Somehow this interferes with Havok's power, though (it thinks it's been building up for ten years, which makes about as much sense as setting the clock on my laptop forward six hours and expecting it to recharge instantly as a result), and the resulting explosion damages Lorna's tube, leaving her close to death. Xavier insists Havok join him on the surface to join the cold war against Namor, and Angel is sent to try and rescue the other original X-Men. Naturally, he fails, having been intercepted by Ikaris and Pixie (who have no reason to be here at all), who turn him to stone with pixie dust. It's tempting to laugh at how stupid this is, but the irony of a main character in an utterly unmoving story being literally turned into a statue is a far more worthy target of derisive laughter. Ha ha ha.

With all of this not going on, it's down to the freshly awoken Havok to push things forward. This he does, and I'll gladly admit, he does so in glorious fashion. By which I mean a gloriously dumb fashion, but one that fits in very well with his character at this point in his life. Havok runs out into the street, and immediately blasts the first Atlanteans he sees. The Atlanteans that are everywhere. The Atlanteans who seem to be almost looking for an excuse to tear down New York. Those fellas. SHRAKOWed. There's a bit here where some locals arrive just after his initial assault and assume that he must be working with the Atlanteans - because bad mutant-hating humans are bad - but really, had they gotten their sooner, they might have been just as enraged because attacking the blue-skinned newcomers was so obviously a stupid thing to do.

Meanwhile, back at Antihero Central Command, Namor has discovered that Magneto has kidnapped not just Sue Storm - apparently having stumbled into her by chance, I think, but it's tough to tell, there's no time to explain such things when space has to be taken up explaining Mole Man's actions after his previous appearance four decades earlier - but also the Lady Dorma (Namor's fiance at the time, I believe), too. That backfired pretty quickly. Or did it? I'm not seeing Magneto's endgame here? Get Namor to start banging the war-drums and then blackmail him into destroying humanity? Even by the '60s standard of Magneto arrogance Byrne is approximating here, that's pretty out there. How does one get from "I lack the power to destroy mankind" to "Namor has sufficient power to destroy mankind" to "I can challenge Namor without fear due to my greater power"? This is Marvel warfare, not Rock-Paper-Scissors. And yes, maybe Mags is gambling that Namor won't be able to react quickly enough (and/or call in his air force - which I still don't see why the King of Atlantis would need), but really? You're going to bet your plan on Namor the Submariner not being impetuous?

So, that's the state of play as we move into our final ever issue of Hidden Years: five X-Men captive, one a statue, one prepared to declare war on, like, the ocean. Magneto and Namor argue while Xavier looks on helpless

Will Lorna survive? Will Angel recover? Will the other X-Men actually get back to the surface? Will Magneto ever create a plan that makes sense this side of UXM #150? Soon, we shall know. Soon, this will all be over.


This story begins at dawn the day after Magneto and Namor forge their alliance. Actually, dawn broke at the end of last issue, so I'll need to add that to the timeline. Of course, the - for now - definitive 1980 timeline will be up after I've gone through XHY #22. So close to freedom!


Tuesday 15th July, 1980.



Contemporary Events

Your humble blog writer turns six months exactly.

Standout Line

"Your actions come a moment too late, Iceman! My fingertips were already in contact with the button I was reaching for!" - Mole Man.


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