Monday, 20 January 2014
NMU #28: "Soulwar"
(Gaps and divisions.)
This is the concluding part to the "Legion" trilogy, and probably my favourite issue of NMU to this point.
The first reason for this is structural. From the very first page, Sienkiewicz goes to work:
It's not all that original an idea to represent the mind as a building, of course, but the point here isn't the structure, it's the gaps within it.
At first sight, the suggestion here is that these empty spaces represent the separations in David's fractured mindscape. But really, don't all of our minds work like this? We don't walk through door frames as we stroll from room to room. We jump from place to place like a drunken Nightcrawler. The process between our thoughts are voids just as much as they are walls.
Which is a way of saying our consciousness is like a comic strip.
In case this idea is missed upon entering the comic, Claremont and Sienkiewicz take pains to remind us when our heroes - and their Legionette hangers-on - finally make their way inside the Arab's mind-fortress and find the remains of his original memories represented by interlocking panels of shape and colour. An arrangement of distinct images and ideas with the spaces between gaps of implicit motion and time. Just as we have inside our own minds. We're spending time here flicking through the comic that appears in our head as we watch the comic inside David's head, which of course is simply the comic of and from Claremont's head. It's panels all the way down.
The second reason this issue scores big is the explanation behind the the behaviour of the Arab boy (now identified as Jemail Karami). He really was a terrorist whose mind was absorbed into David's during the attack that killed David's godfather. The resulting access to both David's mind and to the accompanying telepathic powers, however, forced an epiphany. Apparently there's just no way the solipsistic obsession with random murder can withstand exposure to other people's viewpoints and experiences. Maybe at heart this is no less cheesy than any other iteration of "the power of love" ending, but rarely is it so appropriate. Making robots' heads explode or un-Dobbying David Tennant is bullshit. Forcing a fanatic to face the human nature of those he wants to believe less than himself works just fine for me. Frankly I wish it were possible to subject pretty much everyone to that kind of empathy injection.
(This also ties in nicely with the ongoing saga of Magneto's relationship with Lee Forrester. It's impossible for him to feel emotional and physical attraction to a flatscan without it shaking up his hierarchical worldview, which is exactly what happens, for all the good it does. Sex in a bed floating above the ocean is all very nice, and all, but apparently it can't make up for knowing a year or two earlier your lover would have killed you and not even noticed.)
Of course, it makes absolutely no sense that Jemail has acquired David's telepathic powers - it's the telepathic equivalent of arguing that getting thrown in jail give you access to all the best keys - but in narrative terms, it tracks perfectly. Of course the side of David's mind that sees the worth in others is running the telepathic show. Just as Jack Wayne - the insular xenophobe with no interest in anything but himself - has access to telekinesis to physically force away everything he doesn't want to deal with. Just as Cyndi's omni-directional pointless anger results in the manipulation of flame. Each personality has made literal their approach, just as these three strands - unabashed sentimentality, outrageous self-obsession, and hyper-sensitive disagreeableness - are literal intepretations of the core of every teenager.
Which makes Dani's ultimate resolution to the chaos inside David's mind - to force the various players to rebuild his shattered psyche under each other's suspicious attentions - not just a neat bit of negotiating, but an important life lesson. Balance is important, even if it's an equilibrium born of every part of you pulling in different directions. A kind of negative feedback system for the soul. Xavier is disappointed when he learns Jack and Cyndi hage both survived Jemail's rebuilding project - though it brings back David himself, which is far from nothing - but then that was never an option. David is Jemail, and Jack, and Cyndi. You can look at yourself holistically, or you can break yourself into pieces and run through them one by one. You just can't remove them. Not permanently, not really. You can rearrange. You can learn to grow what you need and minimise everything else.
But none of you is going anywhere.
Meanwhile, in subplot corner, Empath takes a trip to the Hellfire Club to see if they'll help him gain revenge upon Emma Frost for mentally blocking his powers. It's not entirely clear why De la Rocha figures this is a smart plan; he's basically asking the Club to back the losing side. Maybe he's hoping they'll figure he'd be more use to them than Emma is, once his powers are returned. Which doesn't seem all that plausible either, actually, but I can buy someone as deliriously narcissistic as Empath believing otherwise.
This issue follows on directly from NMU #27, and ends a fortnight later when Xavier awakes from his coma. Poor dude missed Christmas!
Lee Forrester mentions that it's been weeks since she saved Magneto. Which might be fine had Claremont not fast-forwarded everything by "several months" a few UXM issues ago. Tricky thing, this continuity.
Sunday 23rd December 1984 to Sunday 30th December, 1985.
X+6Y+296 to X+6Y+303.
The internet Domain Name System is created.
"The creep! He reminds me of the heroes in old-time Westerns -- the ones that went around cheerfully massacring every Indian in sight." - Dani.
Heroics is all in where you're standing.