Friday, 27 June 2014

NMU #33: "Against All Odds"

(You'll find them in the club.)


Part five of the sprawling Shadow Karma epic, and we're still not done.  I have to confess to flagging somewhat at this point. Which is interesting, considering how common five- and six-parters are these days as people "write for the trade", but I guess decompression does in the end have its uses.  After 110 of Claremont's dense pages, I'm very much ready to move onto something else.

Putting that aside, though, what does this issue have to offer us? Well, a lot of it is standard Claremont meat-and-potatoes superhero punching, which as usual is neither too inspiring nor too calamitous for us to discuss fruitfully (as always, though, Sienkiewicz gives everything a nice twist, though the law of diminishing returns might be starting to make its presence felt at the edges it isn't Sinkiewicz, of course, it's Leialoha, and I'm an idiot).  The linking theme here is Storm and Illyana's contrasting approaches to fighting Shadow Karma (currently residing in her Pharaoh nightclub and making couples fall out with each other, which seems a bit penny-ante).

At least, I think that's it, assuming that the first attack against Karma is Storm's idea. It seems to be, given Illyana is calling her boss" during the initial fight, which ends with Dani using her psionic rapport with Rahne to shake off Karma's influence for long enough for the two of them to escape along with Storm and Illyana. From this I assume Storm's plan is to slowly chip away at Karma until her captives are all free and rather more violent tactics come into play.

If this is indeed Storm's approach, then it makes some sense; grind away until the enemy has no super-powered bodyguards and then launch your offensive.  The trouble is that I've no idea how this is supposed to work in the long term. Wolfsbane was uniquely easy to free because of her rapport with Mirage and because SK didn't actually understand what was being pulled. It's not clear how Storm plans to proceed from here, if indeed any of this was Storm's plan to begin with.

And that's all very frustrating, because the back end of this issue is about how Illyana wants to tackle the problem, and instead of contrasting that with a strong alternative approach from Storm, we sort of see our heroes maybe succeeding despite themselves and not deciding where to go next.  Considering this issue references the Storm and Illyana miniseries, which contained a major thread about how Storm wanted to play the long game which Illyana lacked the patience for, not being explicit as to whether this is the same problem appearing in very different circumstances seems like a wasted opportunity.

We're also left uncertain as to why Illyana wants to shift tactics.  Is she worried the long game gives SK too much time to establish a power base?  Does the possessed New Mutants' attack on their hideout suggest they have no way to escape constant assaults by SK, forcing Illyana's hand?  It's not clear.  When she has the opportunity to grab Magma and drag her to Limbo along with Warlock, why doesn't she take it, and at least see whether that releases Amara from control (it'd be pretty amazing if it didn't, I think)? All of this matters because the eventual plan Illyana formulates is so reckless and unpleasant - teleport first Dani and Rahne, then Ororo to SK so they can be mind-controlled, presumably in the hopes of striking against her once her guard is down - it becomes critical to understand what drove her to it.  Can she literally see no other workable option? Or is this just the sort of plan that appeals to her?

Maybe Claremont is holding back on that in case he can sucker a few readers into thinking Illyana really has switched sides, but you'd have to have a fairly low opinion of one's readers to try that, and I hope Claremont would be too smart for that.  The question here shouldn't be whether Illyana has turned traitor, but how she expects pretending to will get her what she wants.  Well, that's one question, the other as noted as why whatever Plan A was has been rejected, and why she doesn't at least try something a little less galactically unpleasant before resorting to selling her friends down the river. How much of a problem this all is depends of course on whether you think Claremont is missing obvious alternatives to get a bit of nastiness on the page, or whether it's plausible Illyana herself would end up concocting a horrible plan like this and put it into action without considering less unpleasant approaches.  In the end, I think it's the latter - again, the reference to her actions in Limbo reminds us that her sadistic streak is never fully under control. I actually think this is pretty much the best way to make use of Magik (I think Zeb Wells figured this out in NMU Vol. 3, in fact); not as a character who is actively evil, but as one that's somewhere between chaotic good and chaotic neutral who just can't help coming up with vicious plans for victory that tend to be high on collateral damage.

So I really like the idea of Illyana's scheme, even if its specifics are jaw-dropping in how hideous they are (seeing Ororo under SK's control is especially horrific, but then for some reason my brain associates mind-control with claustrophobia, so what do I know?).  It's just a real shame that the first half of the issue had a golden opportunity to give the second half much greater heft and tie things together in a compelling way, and it simply doesn't really try.


This story takes place over a single night.


Tuesday 22nd January, 1985.



Contemporary Events

This induces a lot of strange half-memories (note the post-Doctor Who Tom Baker voice-over, too):

Standout Line

On occasion, despite myself, I cannot avoid finding Claremont's corniness rather cute.

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