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
1 Marvel year = 3.49 standard years
(Beast is 32 years old)
Second day of the Liverpool International Garden Festival.
"Mourn not for thy werewolf..." - Kulan Gath.