Tuesday, 5 November 2013

NMU #25: "The Only Thing To Fear..."

(Whose cloak is it, anyway?)


At long last the interminable Suncloak/Wagger story limps to a conclusion.  It happens over twenty pages here so that Claremont can fit in two more page-long character descriptions.  Interestingly, one of them is about Legion, which marks his first ever appearance.  It's an interesting idea to bring him in here, rather than wait for him to appear on-panel.  We'll discuss how well this works when he arrives in NMU #26.

For now, though, we still have Tandy and Tyrone to deal with.

There are two things our heroes have to nail down to bring this story to a close. First, they need to figure out how to transfer the Cloak and Dagger powers from Rahne and Robero back to Tandy and Tyrone. Second, they need to keep Tyrone calm enough for long enough that they can get the first job done.

OK, so. Tyrone.  We may have some problems here.  I mentioned last time around that I quite liked Tyrone insisting to Tandy that without their powers there was literally nothing they had in common (whilst confessing that a white British guy like myself could only speculate on whether this was actually a sound idea).  Here, I'm not sure things go so well.

We'll start with page one, in which we are told the pair's lives were "cursed forever, they thought, by the powers they wielded as Cloak and Dagger." Really, though, how true is this?  Cloak was certainly in trouble; the darkness he bore was never fully under his control, and recently that seemed to be getting worse.  He had to balance his desire to use his abilities with the fear that doing so would injure or even kill him. Tandy, so far as I can see, got the ability to shine really brightly.  When Roberto - also a dark-skinned youth - acquired Cloak, he started trying to eat his friends.  Rahne became Dagger and just looked like a million dollars whilst staying in a swanky hotel.

It is, in short, hard to believe the two kids have suffered equally.  This, in a story about the white daughter of a rich supermodel and a stuttering black teenager who blames himself for killing his best friend and ran from somewhere in Harlem that was, like, not fun, is an issue.  I'm not saying the power to look totally gorgeous is necessarily the best thing ever - and you better believe I recognise the underlying problem of having a white teenager be super-pretty and a black teenager be super-sinister - but making the two of them out to be equally screwed over by life strikes me as the exact wrong way to go about the duo.  Cloak and Dagger are a team because their shared need and ability to help youngsters overrides the fact that they have almost nothing in common.  It's a statement that what unites us is more important than what divides us, or what we allow to divide us.

This problem of unreasonable comparisons resurfaces when Xavier decides to give Tyrone a psionic pep-talk.  Or does it?  This is one of those intersections where I have no idea which side to come down on.  Is it a rich white man telling a young black man that he understands his pain and things aren't as bad as he thinks?  Or is it a man who survived domestic abuse - abuse for which his special abilities formed at least part of the 'reason' for - explaining that things can, in fact get better?  I prefer to think it's the latter, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's both.

Maybe we should just fall back on an old classic, and have a go at Professor Xavier. Even if we decide his pep talk to Tyrone wasn't self-absorbed whitesplaining, the fact he secretly includes Tandy in their telepathic tete-a-tete is an utter dick move. If Xavier is, as he claims, not reading Tyrone's mind, he has no idea what revelations could come spilling from the terrified teenager. And if he is poking around, he's just a flat-out liar, and worse, a white guy lying to a black kid because he's sure he knows best.

Xavier considering himself the ultimate and only arbiter of morality is hardly a new phenomenon, of course. So let's move on to the proposed cure for all these troubles.  I'm somewhat less interested in this section.  It's not that magickal shenanigans don't grab me.  It's more that magic in comics is so nebulous and slapped-together that it holds no interest as a concept.  All that matters is that what gets done with it is interesting in itself.

And I'll credit Claremont with this: the plan is certainly pleasantly out there.  Basically, since Illyana's attempted exorcism failed last week because she could neither contain the power sets nor pass them on to anyone else, Charlie has called in Rogue - much more experienced with such matters, of course - to absorb and keep hold of the errant energies until Illyana has time to transfer them to their original owners.  All whilst inside Limbo and therefore vulnerable to demonic attack at any moment.

At least it's adequately manic, then.  It's also nice to see Xavier calling in a specific X-Man for a specific task, rather than the usual approach of throwing as many mutants as possible at a problem until it somehow more or less resolves. I'm a little less sold on the specifics here - the idea the Xavier can control precisely which parts of a person Rogue can absorb despite being unable to read her mind seems a little out of left-field - and I don't remember this being mentioned again despite its obvious utility - but really, Ty's crisis of confidence has been just about the only particularly interesting part of this whole damn story line, and with that out of the way anything that wraps this all up gets my vote.

And wrap things up it does, despite a last-minute bid for freedom by Suncloak (I tell you, a couple of issues centering around exactly what Tyrone's "power" really is and wants would have been a lot more interesting, though no more relevant to this book), and an alarming moment where it seems Xavier's connection through Rogue to Wagger will grant him full access to Dagger's power set.  Fortunately this takes the form of gaining a glowing white ring around one eye, rather than the desire to wear a skin-tight catsuit with strategic sections cut away.

So everything's fine now.  Roberto and Rahne are safe and well, and Cloak and Dagger have gone back to beating up stereotypical pimps to keel white kids safe. Everything is back to normal by the end of the issue.

Just that "Legion" idea to worry about, then.  Still, a long-lost son of Xavier with at least three powers, one of which is the ability to set shit on fire just by thinking about it?  I don't see that being too much of a problem...


This story takes place over the course of a single night. 


Saturday 11th May, 1984.

X Date


Contemporary Events

Eight teenagers are trapped and killed when the Haunted Castle attraction at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey burned to the ground.  Six Flags was taken to court where the prosecution noted multiple warnings from safety consultants that the Haunted Castle should have sprinkler systems had smoke alarms.  The defendants argued the fire was an act of arson, and so a total lack of basic fire-safety systems wasn't really to blame for the deaths.  You know, like how if you leave your toddler in a bear pit and a bear deliberately bites them, there's absolutely nothing wrong with your parenting skills.

The defendants were found not guilty.

Standout Line

It's Slick the racist comedy pimp again! "These fo' you, m'man. Try'm on an' strut your stuff befo' yo' fox, show her you be one muy macho stomper."

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