Thursday, 31 October 2013

DAZ #36: "The Human Touch!"

("Those who have seen your face
Draw back in fear")


Fun fact: this is the only issue of the initial 42-issue Dazzler run to be written by a woman.  I mention this for historical interest, mainly, trying to use this fact as a springboard to discuss how this issue differs from its predecessors would be problematic both in terms of gender politics and basic statistics.  I'll simply note that this is the first issue for a few months which doesn't include anything that could plausibly be described as cheesecake, and leave it at that.

It's also the first time for a little while that Dazzler has fought an honest-to-Gods supervillain in the title. I'm ashamed to admit that I had to look up Tatterdemalion - both as a character and a word.  He apparently turns up from time to time as a Z-list villain on either side of this issue.  Since this story basically works as his origin, however, it doesn't particularly matter, especially since this is all basically a repainted Gaston Leroux - Grant might have well entitled this as The Phantom Of The Hip Lounge Club.

Reilly's Ace of Clubs has itself a problem - its headline singers keep quitting. Unbeknownst to management, that's because Tatterdemalion - a mad tramp with burning hands and the common villain trait of referring to himself in the third person - keeps threatening to melt their faces if they don't cheese it.  Things have gotten so bad the manager is prepared to hire a mutant like Dazzler (here operating under the alias Dolores Rudolph, but her new boss sees right through that).  At last it's a chance for Alison to get money doing what she loves doing.  Even better, it doesn't seem as though her new boss is a murdering fame-whore or a would-be slaver, which is nice.

If only death-tramp didn't keep trying to kill her.

As I said, this is Tatterdemalion's origin story, and it's not remotely difficult to see what's going on.  The man seems determined to scare away every young singer who joins the club, but the older lady who provides piano accompaniment is left entirely unmolested.  Once the mistress of the ivories is revealed to be Julia Walker, one half of Wyatt and Walker, a movie dance duo that were once ubiquitous and now washed-up, with the male half having disappeared years ago, it's not hard to guess who's beneath Tatterdemalion's weighted scarf. An obligatory fight scene, and the misguided villain is unmasked as Wyatt, and is forgiven and taken back by Julia.

Tatterdemalion's story does not end up there - he shows up again as late as Civil War - but there seems every intention here that it should have ended with this. So taken as a whole, does it work? Well... not really. Whether one considers the return of supervillains to the title as a welcome change or an unfortunate reversion to a tired mean, the fact remains that Tatterdemalion is really basically just a Scooby Doo villain wearing oven gloves he just used to get out his lasagna. Which, fine, not every villain has to be a threat to humanity.  But in the process we lose the focus on Dazzler's life in general.  Indeed, whatever Tatterdemalion's problems, he indirectly actually helps restart Alison's singing career, and helps make her seem like a better bet than her mutant status would suggest.

With those two strands removed, what we have here is an obvious story about two people we've never seen before being reunited a half-dozen pages after we discovered they were ever together or ever broke up.  Worse, it reduces the theme of the title from the difficulties of making ends meet as a persecuted minority, making it instead about the unique difficulties of celebrity (OK, breaking up over a career divergence and then hitting the skids when trying to go it alone isn't only applicable to the famous, but it's still most recognisable as one of the cliched problems with fame). There is pretty much nothing I care less about than Alison worrying about whether fame will come with drawbacks. It's a terrible basis for self-pitying pop songs, and it's little better here.

Still, at least this is a tale about how a middle-aged woman can have a second chance with the love of her life, rather than about how young and nubile women can take their clothes off and it's all sexy and stuff.  If only this title could be interesting and non-exploitative all at the same time.  Hopes aren't high, though.  This is the mid-eighties, after all, and there are only six more issues to go...

(Also, that cover might be our first clear sign that we're slouching inexorably towards the infinite barren wasteland men call... the '90s.)


This story takes place over a full day, and creeps into the following morning.


Thursday 5th to Friday 6th October, 1984.


X+6Y+217 to X+6Y+218.

Contemporary Events

Glenn McMillan is born, the Brazilian Australian acting powerhouse who later found fame as the Yellow Wind Ranger in Power Rangers Ninja Force.  Frankly, I could make a joke about "yellow wind", but I find myself too queasy to attempt it.

Standout Line

"If you want to work with us normals you got to learn to take a little kidding, kid." - There's no evidence Grant realised that, but this is easily the most politically charged line in the whole book. "Of course you can part of our society. You just have to do it entirely on our terms."

Saturday, 26 October 2013

UXM #191: "Raiders Of The Lost Temple!"

("My world was shattered, I was torn apart.")


Well, this is mainly fight scenes, which is good news for summarising, if not necessarily for reading.  There's just nothing interesting here.  It's not that I can't find anything to appreciate about a good comic book scrap - I'd be very much reading the wrong comics and writing the wrong blog were that the case. But if you're going to fill page after page with super-person X sticking super-person Y's head through window Z, then I need a reason for the fight, and an idea of what's at stake for the characters. Here, the former is too silly to grab me, and the latter is completely missing.  Not only are the characters entirely unaware of who they are, but the instant Cannonball dies in the first few pages we're reminded of what we realised reading the previous issue: there is simply no chance any of this is going to stick.  Major Avengers characters are not just going to disappear in-between issues because Claremont did them in over in UXM.  All those murdered children would be something of a problem, too.

With no consequences post-victory  - and a victory which is even more certain than usual - we've really not much to do but look at the scenery.  Which, in fairness, has a few things to recommend it.  The idea that the Vision has been transformed into a golem is a very neat one, as it the idea that Rogue's bulletproof skin has been reinterpreted as her being made of crystal.  There's an awfully cool idea buried in here that the spell Kulan Gath has unleashed must either be under the direct control of some other being, or be sentient in some sense itself.  How else can it have the capacity to interpret?  When Rogue is grabbed by a human guard, her powers are activated and she absorbs his, er, uncrystalness, which a) gets her killed and b) makes absolutely no sense. Rogue doesn't absorb not being a mutant from people, otherwise her long-running problem with her powers would be sorted pretty quickly.  Something somewhere re-wrote her powers to fit in with this insane new world.  I'd love to know how that works.

That's not what we get, though.  What we get is an exceptionally standard two-fight set-up, where our heroes lose the first altercation, launch a rescue attempt to save their fallen comrades, and succeed whilst on the very cusp of utter defeat.  It's nice that this victory involves not just Spiderman - Gath's intended target, which I argued last time was a poor grudge-match to host in the pages of UXM - but Storm and her light-fingered thief skills.  Even so, there's not much here.

Things become more interesting at the eleventh hour, when it's revealed Amara is actually a disguise being worn by Selene.  The fact she'd double-cross everyone was entirely obvious, so having her dressed up as someone else is a nice way to generate surprise.  It doesn't feel like a cheat, either, since Illyana has already noted Amara hasn't been using her powers to help out in battle (presumably the Selene Gath thought he'd captured was some kind of magical simulacrum). I also appreciate that it takes Warlock and Storm working together to stop her grabbing control of Gath's spell (having killed the sorcerer himself), which means the world was saved that day by Spiderman, Storm and Warlock.  That's just such a brilliantly non-obvious combination, and a nice reminder of how rich the shared history of the Marvel Universe is.

It also makes me wonder whether the world would have actually been better off had Dr Strange and Illyana not warped time and returned everyone to the point before the spell set off. Assuming the spell had been halted by Gath's death, I mean - obviously if it continued to build that would have been catastrophic.

But if not, if New York had remained a LARPers dream, would that really have been too high a price to pay to be rid of Selene?  How many people has she killed since UXM #191?  "Mutopia" alone sees her responsible for the deaths of, like, 2% of the remaining mutant population.  And whilst Gath's reign was obviously not free from death, the vast majority of New Yorkers remain alive, and can be brought back to their senses by being brought out of the city.

None of this was known by Strange and Rasputin, of course - though they did know casting their spell was a horrendously risky move that could do untold damage, so on behalf of everyone outside of New York; cheers for risking our lives, people.  There's also the fact that getting rid of Selene would also cost the lives of Warlock, Storm, Cannonball, Rogue, Colossus, Vison, and others, which has it's own knock-on effects that would be far less pleasant.  Of course, on the other, other hand, you'd be rid of dozens of New York supervillains.

Actually, what did happen to the supervillains?  They surely must have remained just as selfish, violent and venal as they did before Gath swapped their Uzis for crossbows.  There's no reason to think they'd sign up for his insane plans.  Why didn't any of them show up here?  I'd have loved to see, say, Doctor Octopus re-imagined as a fantasy character.  A tale of alternate-reality villains would have been so much more interesting than an X-Men/Avengers team-up where no-one knows who the hell anyone is.

Ah, well. It's all over now.  In fact, thanks to our spell-casters, it never even began. But magic always has consequences, as every single fantasy saga ever insists reminding us.  On this occasion, the consequence would seem to be the arrival of a white and pink Gobot who blows up muggers.  Which, you have to admit, you didn't see coming...


This issue seems to take place over a single night.  That doesn't matter, of course, since the conclusion sees time thrown into reverse, meaning we end this adventure the day before we began it.


Thursday 3rd May, 1984



Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.49 standard years

(Beast is 32 years old)

Contemporary Events

Second day of the Liverpool International Garden Festival.

Standout Line

"Mourn not for thy werewolf..." - Kulan Gath.

Monday, 21 October 2013

BAB #2: "Heartbreak Hotel"

("Down at the end of Lonely Street...")


Come with me now, ladies and gentlemen, as we take to the highway in search of Metaphor City.

Young Alison Blaire dreams of being a star. She dreams of it so totally that she actually shines herself, and the less control she feels she had over her career, the more she loses her grip on her radiating. All this existential stress has finally become too much for her, so now she lives in a broken-down commune with people who like her for what she is, not what she can do.  Their powers are useless, even ridiculous, but it doesn't matter, because showing off for people isn't what it should all be about.

Young Hank McCoy dreams of the normality Alison seems so afraid of. He's got a really good heart, he just can't catch a break, owing to how he's he's kind of simian, and covered in blue hair.  You couldn't get much further from the George Clooney-type an aspiring singer-actress with a white hot body would be expected to court. He sees something to love in Alison, and doesn't understand why she can't. Women with low self-esteem can be so alluring, can't they? Well, they can if they're also unfeasibly beautiful. It's strange how that somehow becomes unattractive in those that aren't attractive.

As the days go past, Beast's constant drooling attention somehow begins to make Alison feel better about herself.  But she still yearns to be a star, even knowing the damage her ambition has already done to her, and when Alex Flynn arrives to ask her to honour her deal with Longride, she finds she cannot resist.

What Longride has in mind is entertainment for the rich and powerful of Hollywood. They want to see the young and the desperate for glory tear each other apart in front of them.  Dazzler simply singing for them doesn't hold their interest for more than a few bars.  What is talent without cut-throat competition? Why give fame to those who haven't proved they themselves hungry enough for it, by climbing over the bodies that got in the way? Even when Dazzler learns the truth, she can't break free.  "It's all pretend", they tell her; "all just a game". Desperate to believe anything that will get her her dream, she believes this - her reaction to the drugs her new "friends" are spiking her drinks with no doubt help here.

Only Beast can save our damsel in distress!  But will he stick by her, despite her poor decisions, and the fact she is no longer relying on him totally to validation? No!  No, he'll throw a tantrum and abandon her, so he can sulk all alone.

Tough when a woman leaves you for her career, isn't it? And by "leave you", I mean "not let you utterly control her every step of the way through that career".  Gods, I love Beast more than any other character in the X-Universe.  But that Beast is not this Beast.

Fuck this Beast.


The narrative here uses the phrase "days pass" twice here, and it seems clear we're rejoining the action at least a day after the previous issue ended, so we'll more or less arbitrarily assume we're looking at around a fortnight of time.

As mentioned when looking at DAZ #35, that issue clearly takes place before this miniseries, so we'll move all dates one week into the future to compensate.


Sunday 22nd October to Saturday 4th November, 1984.


X+6Y+235 to X+6Y+248.

Contemporary Events

The EEC stump up £1.8 million to help combat the famine in Ethiopia.

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated.

Standout Line

"Sometimes just getting up in the morning is like getting hit with a shovel full of dirt."

Poor old Hank. It's not easy being an unpretty academic. Of course, it may be that I'm over-identifying.

Monday, 14 October 2013

ICE #2: "Instant Karma!"

("Pretty soon you're gonna be dead.")


Well, this is certainly uncompromising in its lunacy.  It actually comes across as something of a forerunner to Claremont's Excalibur wackiness, what with all the time-hopping antics, and Alan Kupperberg's pencils being not a million miles away from Alan Davis' approach.  Also, there's a fleet of giant flying killer spiders.  You know, for when a fleet of giant scuttling killer spiders just isn't going to get the job done.

Said arachnid air-force is under the control of Kali, who has been sent to finish the job White Light and The Idiot messed up in the first issue. Before she gets the chance to impinge on the narrative, though, Iceman needs to get out of his current predicament: arrested by an obnoxious mutaphobe cop for the crime of not saving his neighbours' house when suddenly attacked by supervillains.

The solution to this problem turns out to be absurdly simple: Iceman simply tells the police chief the beings that attacked him were Communist agents, and he's immediately sprung.  That's kind of ironic, when you consider Iceman was part of the original Sentinel storyline back in the '60s, which Stan Lee seemed very clearly to be using as a commentary on HUAC and the Blacklist.  You'd think a mutant would be more careful about the idea of using institutionalised bigotry in order to make others out as villains. Even when the people he's fingering are violent kidnappers, it just reinforces the underlying problem.  In his defence, Bobby does at least realise this is a concern, though not quite fully. His problem is how easy it is to lie to people when one has high level government clearance (given to the New Defenders recently), which is fair enough, but given that clearance, couldn't he have come up with a less damaging lie?

Anyway.  Bobby heads home and finds a strange box in the ruins of the Smith house.  He scoops this up and climbs into his bedroom window, only to find his parents waiting for him. They are less than pleased.

In later years it becomes standard shorthand for Bobby's father that he's a bigot.  Here the initial seeds for that are planted, but it's worth noting that things are clearly more complicated than the man simply hating mutants.  What drives Willie Drake is clearly fear.  The man is terrified his son is going to get himself killed by embracing who he is, rather than just pretending to be normal and keeping himself safe.  Sure, Willie tells Bobby he has "brought [his] poison right to our doorstep", but again, it's not clear he's referring to his son's nature, as oppose to his insistence on flouting that nature.  I'm obviously not trying to excuse this attitude. Everyone gets to make their own choice as to whether to out themselves, and to whom. My point is just that fear for his son's life - and, yes, his wife's and his own - is a more complex motivation than Willie Drake tends to get in the X-books; at least until Operation: Zero Tolerance.

Bobby's mother Maddie gets to contribute to all of this as well, of course.  She points out his father has a weak heart, and so Bobby will kill him if he doesn't do exactly what he's told.  "Don't kill your father!" she wails.  In summary: fuck Maddie Drake.

Having this blazing row with his parents makes Bobby nostalgic for his youth, looking at a holiday snap of him and his parents when he was three years old in (according to our timeline) 1964.  He starts to ruminate on how his parents were about his age back then.  This, for the record, is ridiculous.  Bobby's mother was thirty-nine in '64, and his father, if anything, is slightly older than that.  There is quite simply no way a twenty-year old is going to describe people hovering around forty as "not much older" than themselves. A twenty-year old is well ahead of the curve if they can see people two decades over as more than shambling, pointless zombies.  For someone as self-absorbed and superficial as Bobby, forty must seem almost literally unimaginable.

Implausible or not, though, Iceman's thoughts are picked up by the strange box he rescued from what remains of the Smith house, and it begins to beep.  A few seconds later, it has thrown him back through time.

(Somewhere in England, 1892, Maddy Smith and her family detect the "bounce-box" as it activates. Maddy is irritated that they clearly left one of their time-travelling devices in 1984 when they made a bid for freedom at the end of last issue, but she resists calls from her family to assist Bobby.  Much better to stay in hiding during what the comic calls "Days of innocence", presumably because all the violent English types were over in Nigeria hosing down native infantry columns with machine guns.)

Bobby's impromptu time-jaunt comes to an end in 1942 New York. Unfortunately,  he materialises next to another unpleasant cop - this isn't really much of an advert for New York's Finest, really; every cop is either a bigot, a trigger-happy lunatic, a gullible rube, or too stupid to close the door during a snowstorm - who shoots him for the crime of running away whilst scantily-clad.  Somehow - half-remembered photos, maybe, or the influence of the box - our hero finds himself outside the home of the wartime iteration of his parents. Bleeding badly and clutching his strange box, he passes out, but his mother- and father-to-be take him in and bandage his wound.

(OK, seriously.  How pissed off would you be if you had a box that could take you anywhere in time and you wasted it on visiting your parents?  I mean, maybe if one or both were dead it'd be nice, but two still-living and exceptionally difficult models? Screw that.  There are way too many more interesting options available.

See what I mean?)

When Bobby awakes he understandably finds events a little difficult to process, but fortunately he doesn't have to negotiate the emotional mine-field for long, because Kali chooses this moment to attack with her winged spiders (which apparently come with back-mounted heat rays as standard - handy). Marge Smith - watching events on some kind of time-scanner - still refuses to help, too scared of capture, but Willie Drake rushes out to lend Bobby a hand, grabbing the strange box on the way in case Iceman has some use for it.

Outside, Iceman gets as far as persuading Kali that Marge is nowhere nearby, but that just changes her mission from capturing Marge to torturing Bobby until he gives Marge up.  Eventually, Marge relents, and sends Kali a message giving away her location to save Bobby.  Kali beats a hasty retreat, but by then it's too late: Willie Drake has fallen in battle. Bobby Drake has killed his father! Foreshadowing, bitches! Do you see?

With Bobby's father dead nineteen years before Bobby's birth, the Grandfather Paradox kicks in with a vengeance, and Bobby disappears from causality.  Which, let's be fair, is a pretty good cliffhanger. Tune in next time, etc.


This story takes place in three time-zones, though the majority of time is spent in 1942, which is where we'll focus.  The Daily Bugle Iceman catches sight of upon arrival mentions that General McArthur is now in Australia, and gives the date as March 15th, 1942.

(Given McArthur had only been in Australia for three days by that point, I wonder if that news really did break so quickly?  It wasn't until the 20th of March that McArthur gave a speech about his return to the Australian people.)


Saturday 15th March, 1942.



(Roughly) Contemporary Events

General McArthur arrives in Australia after escaping with his family and staff from the besieged Corrigedo island. 

Australia and New Zealand declare war on Thailand.

Standout Line

"Funny, when you get the high level government clearance... people start believing whatever you tell them! I don't think I like that."

Monday, 7 October 2013

KPW #4: "Rebirth"

(Three men and a stupid baby.)


There's a strange moment on page 6 of this issue, when the narration tells us:
I'm Wolverine. This is my story.
The reason this qualifies as strange isn't particularly difficult to see.  It's right there in the title. At best, Wolverine should be sharing equal time in this story with Kitty, if not taking second billing.  It wasn't particularly surprising that Logan took centre stage in the previous issue, what with Sprite suffering from barinwashing (though that doesn't address the wisdom of sidelining your main character like that in the first place).  Here, it's harder to understand, and it gets us into a rather fundamental problem.

The overall plot of this issue is pretty simple: Logan wants to free Kitty from Ogun's unpleasant influence, and he figures the best way to do that is to train her properly, rather than by evil info-dump.  This feels partially like the old idea of earning something instead of being given it for free - Kitty might think Logan doesn't look the part, but there's a definite Empire... "quicker, easier, more seductive" idea going on here - but mainly this is an exercise in having Kitty reclaim her identity. If she can't unlearn what Ogun has given her, she can at least contextualise it - if she has ninja skills and goes through ninja training, it shouldn't matter too much which of the two came first.

That's a perfectly fine idea, and were we seeing it from Kitty's perspective rather than Wolverine's, I might have left it there.  The problem is that in getting Logan's view of the situation, we end up with three men - Logan, Ogun and Kitty's father, Caermen Pryde - fighting over how a young woman should spend the rest of her life.

At first blush, this might seen at least a little unfair.  Logan, at least, is insistent at every point that Kitty has a choice here.  Whilst Ogun clearly doesn't have any interest in Kitty's opinions, and Carmen seems unable to think about his daughter in any context beyond sulking over her refusal to speak to him, Wolvie at least wants Sprite's input.  But consider what that choice is, in Logan's framing. Either Kitty spends weeks having her body banged up or being thrown into freezing water, or one day Ogun will come back and that, to all intents and purposes, will be the end of her - unless she wants to run back to Xavier and hide behind him forever.

That, to me, is too close for confort to telling Kity she has to do what Logan wants, or she has to do what Ogun wants - with the only options giving herself over entirely to Xavier's largess, or  to do what her father presumably wants and burying her head in the Illinois snow. It's not hard to understand why Wolverine believes the pressure is necessary given previous events, but that just makes the problem structural.

The issue salvages itself somewhat towards the end when we return to Kitty's internal narrative. First she belatedly figures out Logan's angle - re-running Ogun's approach but with the option to quit - and then extrapolates that by deciding to face Ogun down rather than run back to the States. And in truth this does fit into the larger idea this series seems to be playing with - contrasting Logan and Kitty begore actually making them more similar.

The problem is that the agency in on Logan's part, and the changes on Kitty's.  It's a surprising choice to tell a story of personal growth and change from a man who - in this issue - does neither.  I'm hardly unsympathetic to the idea that Logan is a fundamentally more interesting character than Kitty - in their mid '80s incarnations, that is - but that's exactly why I wouldn't have paired them together as title characters and brainwashed the junior partner.


The narration during Kitty's attempts to become the new Wolverine mention that "days pass" as she trains.  That gives us plenty of leeway to work within.  Ordinarily we'd interpret this to mean as short a time as possible - perhaps as little as a week - but such an alternative isn't open to us here. Xavier's phone-call informing Logan of Storm's loss of power and James Hudson's death force us to extend the time-period significantly, since the latter occurrence explicitly takes place at the beginning of March.  I could try and move forward the whole of KPW to compensate, but that causes problems with this story having clearly begun in midwinter three issues earlier.

There's also the fact that Logan mentions Kitty having been in Ogun's clutches for a week.  This directly contradicts earlier issues, in which Wolverine arrived in Japan the night after Kitty, and crosses swords with her the night afterwards.  That said, I think the longer period makes more sense - to the extent that's a quantifiable quality when discussing mind-washing techniques to make people ninjas.  We'll therefore assume Kitty spent one week with Ogun, and two and a half weeks with Logan as shown here.


Monday 13th February to Friday 2nd March, 1984.


X+5Y+343 to X+6Y+1.

Contemporary Events

The 1984 Winter Olympics are held in Sarajevo.

Standout Line

"You're too tall -- an' too darn ugly -- to be Yoda."

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

ALF #19: "Turn Again, Turn Again, Time In Thy Flight"

("But you can't rewrite history! Not one line!")


ALF #19 is the title's first time-travel story, in which Shaman takes his daughter into the past - along with Snowbird and Puck - to try and discover how Lucas Stang's demon problems first kicked off.

It's also the issue in which we learn Elizabeth Twoyoungmen is the subject of a millennia-old prophecy. This is actually the least interesting aspect of the issue, so we'll deal with it fairly briefly. Prompted by her father, Elizabeth reaches into his medicine bag, and pulls out a tiara that transforms her into the sorceress Talisman. In theory, this is a useful idea, because it takes the standard trope of alienated family members learning what they have in common and compresses it into a single panel: Elizabeth is now a magic-user like her father.  In practice what happens is that Talisman is so powerful and ethereal she's impossible to relate to, and Shaman spends the whole issue alternating between freaking out over his daughter's transformation and refusing to help her with it.  "No time to explain now!" is a fucking awful thing to say to your daughter (estranged or otherwise) when she clearly needs help adjusting to an utterly unexpected life-changing event.

But then Shaman doesn't come off well here across the board. He hands the medicine bag to Elizabeth without warning her that if she isn't actually Talisman looking into the bag will drive her insane.  That seems like a pretty important thing to point out, but Shaman's only comment is the fact his daughter hasn't just had her mind sucked away into nothingness is further proof that Snowbird has the right person.  Once Elizabeth has become Talisman, and Shaman has taken the group into the past, he then commences lying to people - mainly by omission, but directly to Snowbird - about what their mission is.

Snowbird, you see, thinks they're there to stop Ranaq the Devourer from achieving corporeal form in the first place; to stop him gaining the foothold into the real that led to the supernatural egg-based battle in the previous issue. Shaman assures her this is the plan, but it isn't. Shaman doesn't believe the past can be changed, and is just hoping to learn the circumstances of Ranaq's arrival to more usefully battle him in the present.

This is more or less in keeping with the original Marvel policy on time-travel, which stated that one could not change the past to alter the future. Rather, an attempt at time-travel creates a new reality, one which then operates entirely independently.  Shaman's non-interference policy is presumably intended to ensure he and his companions can return to the same Earth they left behind.

The problem here of course is that it's obvious nonsense.  I'm not talking about the multi-dimensional approach to time travel; that seems as sensible a way as any to handle the idea in a setting multiple authors. Nor am I particularly interested in exploring whether total non-interaction following a trip into the past would get one around the reality-hopping issue - though one would think it wouldn't, since the new dimension should be created by the act of travel itself, not by what happens once that act is finished.  There's no need to look at that too deeply because the idea of total non-interaction is so obviously ridiculous in the first place.

What needs to be understood here is that what causality considers interference bears no relation to what the human mind considers interference. Heisenberg's observer effect tells us that, as does basic common sense. The world they return to must be different to the one they left - it is inescapable.  The best one can hope for is a world indistinguishable from the one they left behind.

None of this seems apparent to Shaman, who seems relatively unconcerned with the idea of his companions fighting Ranaq, so long as none of them actually defeat him (that honour goes to the young Lucas Stang, who banishes Ranaq and so ensures the rematch one hundred years later).  That's an insane solipsistic approach to time-travel - what matters must be ensuring the event they came to witness goes ahead. Yes, that goal can be considered as an attempt to avoid a Grandfather Paradox, but really, that's just further evidence of why the Grandfather Paradox is so unworkable in the first place. Any reasonable conception of the idea has to include it being paradoxical for a time-traveller to succeed in changing what they want changing, and that immediately dilutes the laws of causality with the petty drudgery of the human mind.

It is simply not workable that what a time-traveller can do should be determined by what they know.  The past cannot possibly become more flexible in areas the time-traveller is less expert. Going back to change what we ate for breakfast yesterday should not be harder to do than going back to change what we had ten years ago just because we don't remember the specifics of the latter. The past is mutable or it is not, and in the case of Shaman's excursion, the former is clearly the one that holds.  Some attempt to bypass this fact by arguing time is like a jigsaw puzzle that always works out in the end (Pratchett specifically states that this is how things work with the Discworld, but that strikes me more as an attempt to avoid having to come up with anything more complicated, which; fair enough), but that won't cut it either.

Let's say I write two letters to my young self, one free of useful knowledge and another mapping out the mistakes I've made in the last twenty years, and place them in identical envelopes. Then I choose one at random, head back into the past, and post it. The argument that both letters are "destined" to be somehow intercepted or destroyed is very unpersuasive, but the suggestion only the "useful" letter would meet that fate is less sensible still.

No, if the past can be reached at all, if we really can traipse our way back down the highway of causality and poke at what we find there, the Grandfather Paradox cannot hold - one of the reasons I like Marvel's time-travel policy as much as I do, though it's been some time since it was rigorously maintained.  Shaman's touch-but-don't-stop policy simply doesn't cut it.

Still, by the end of the issue everyone's back in the present. It may even be the same present. We can dispense with all this noodling about the nature of time-travel and get down to something simpler, like how do deal with vengeful women turning people into gold. How relaxing that will be.


This story takes place in approximately real time. Plus, obviously, the past.


Monday 15th April, 1884.



Contemporary Events

The Siege of Khartoum enters its second month, and Adolf Luderitz prepares to place his South-West African holdings (now part of modern-day Namibia) under the protection of Imperial Germany to deter British aggression.

Standout Line

"Time travel is one of the few things I haven't tried." - Puck.