Saturday, 29 November 2014

Timeline: 1984 Jan - Jun (Take 5)


2nd   NMU #14: Do You Believe in Magik?
3rd   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
4th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
5th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
6th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
7th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
8th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
9th   UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
10th UXM #180: Whose Life is it Anyway?
10th SWA #1: The War Begins!
10th SWA #2: Prisoners of War
11th  NMU #15: Scaredy Cat!
11th  SWA #3: Tempest Without, Crisis Within!
11th  NMU #16: Away Game!
11th  SWA #4: Situation: Hopeless!
11th  NMU #17: Getaway!
11th  SWA #5: The Battle of Four Armies!
11th  SWA #6: A Little Death...
12th  NMU #17: Getaway!
12th  SWA #7: Beserker!
12th  SWA #8: Invasion!
12th  SWA #9: Assault on Galactus!
12th  SWA #10: Death to the Beyonder
12th  SWA #11: ...And Dust to Dust!
13th  NMU #17: Getaway!
13th  SWA #12: ...Nothing to Fear...
14th  NMU #17: Getaway!
15th  NMU #17: Getaway!
16th  NMU #17: Getaway!
17th  NMU #17: Getaway!
18th  UXM #181: Tokyo Story
21st  UXM #182: Madness
22nd NMU #18: Death-Hunt
23rd  NMU #18: Death-Hunt
23rd  NMU #19: Siege
24th  NMU #19: Siege
28th  UXM #183: He'll Never Make me Cry
30th  UXM #184: The Past... of Future Days

3rd   KPW #1: Lies
4th   KPW #1: Lies
5th   KPW #1: Lies
6th   KPW #2: Terror
6th   KPW #3: Death
13th KPW #4: Rebirth
14th KPW #4: Rebirth
15th KPW #4: Rebirth
16th KPW #4: Rebirth
17th KPW #4: Rebirth
18th KPW #4: Rebirth
19th KPW #4: Rebirth
20th KPW #4: Rebirth
21st KPW #4: Rebirth
22nd KPW #4: Rebirth
23rd KPW #4: Rebirth
24th KPW #4: Rebirth
25th KPW #4: Rebirth
26th KPW #4: Rebirth
27th KPW #4: Rebirth
28th KPW #4: Rebirth
29th ALF #11: Set-Up
29th DAZ #33: Chiller!
29th KPW #4: Rebirth


1st  DAZ #33: Chiller!
1st  ALF #11: Set-Up
1st  KPW #4: Rebirth
2nd DAZ #33: Chiller!
2nd ALF #11: Set-Up
2nd ALF #12: ...And One Shall Surely Die
2nd  KPW #4: Rebirth
4th   KPW #5: Courage
4th   KPW #6: Honor
5th   KPW #6: Honor
29th MGN #12: Dazzler: The Movie
30th UXM #185: Public Enemy!
30th NMU #21: Slumber Party!
30th MGN #12: Dazzler: The Movie
31st MGN #12: Dazzler: The Movie


(MGN #12: Dazzler the Movie continues throughout)
1st  UXM #186: Lifedeath
1st  UXM #187: Wraithkill!
1st  UXM #188: Legacy of the Lost
2nd UXM #188: Legacy of the Lost
7th  ALF #15: First Date
13th ALF #14: Biology Class
13th ALF #16: ...And Forsaking All Others...
14th ALF #16:  ...And Forsaking All Others...
14th ALF #17: ...Dreams Die Hard
15th ALF #17: Dreams Die Hard
15th ALF #15: First Date
15th ALF #18: How Long Will A Man Lie In The Ground 'Ere He Rot
15th ALF #19: Turn Again, Turn Again, Time In Thy Flight
18th ALF #20: Gold and Love Affairs!
19th ALF #20: Gold and Love Affairs!
19th ALF #21: ...Love Wraught New Alchemy...
21st ALF #22: Rub-Out
22nd ALF #22: Rub-Out


(MGN #12: Dazzler the Movie continues throughout)

3rd   UXM #189: Two Girls Out to Have Fun!
3rd   UXM #191: Raiders of the Lost Temple!
4th   UXM #190: An Age Undreamed of
4th   UXM #191: Raiders of the Lost Temple!
4th   UXM #192: Fun 'n' Games!
4th   UXM #192: Fun 'n' Games!
4th   XAA #1: The Gift
5th   XAA #1: The Gift
6th   XAA #1: The Gift
6th   XAA #1: The Gift (Part II)
7th   XAA #1: The Gift (Part II)
7th   ALF #21: ...Love Wraught New Alchemy...
7th   ALF #22: Rub-Out
8th   ALF #23: Night of the Beast
10th ALF #24: Final Conflict
24th ALF #25: ...And Graves Give Up Their Dead../ Up From Lazarus' Box


2nd  NMU Annual #1: The Great Cosmic Cannonball Caper!
3rd   NMU Annual #1: The Great Cosmic Cannonball Caper!
4th   NMU Annual #1: The Great Cosmic Cannonball Caper!
5th   NMU Annual #1: The Great Cosmic Cannonball Caper!
6th   NMU Annual #1: The Great Cosmic Cannonball Caper!
7th   NMU Annual #1: The Great Cosmic Cannonball Caper!
8th   NMU Annual #1: The Great Cosmic Cannonball Caper!
9th   NMU #23: Shadowman
11th NMU #23: Shadowman
12th NMU #23: Shadowman
12th NMU #24: The Hollow Heart
12th NMU #25: The Only Thing to Fear...
24th ALF #26: If At First You Don't Succeed...
24th ALF #27: Betrayal
24th ALF #28: Cross-Over
24th ALF #29: Cut Bait and Run!

ALF #30 "Enter... Scramble!"

(Physician, mutate theyself.)


This might not take very long. With his initial justifications complete, Mantlo seems like he might be settling into the most well-worn grooves possible, offering a done-in-one scrap with a new villain. Which of course is a set-up twenty years old just in the X-books, of course, but then Alpha Flight under Byrne was defiantly old-school in a lot of ways, and if Mantlo's aim is to continue the retro-approach (if indeed we want to consider this retro, as oppose to Claremont's approach being ahead of its time) whilst removing the uglier aspects of the gender politics, then that is I suppose progress of a kind.

Still, this is all very Stan Lee. More specifically, it's very Stan Lee when he came up with the idea of the Juggernaut: create a new villain and give him a family tie to the team. To briefly summarise: now that Alpha Flight is once more operating under government auspices, the team have had Langkowski's old mansion rebuilt as a headquarters. There's even a floor-plan, which is a hilariously unnecessary touch, though it is nicely melancholy that they've insisted on putting in rooms for Marrina and Talisman, just in case (I'm also not sure I'd have put in a swimming pool over the lab, either, but I'm not an architect). But a shiny new base isn't too much use if you have no-one to staff it, and with Sasquatch and Guardian dead, Marrina, Talisman and Shaman absent, and Snowbird, Northstar and Aurora increasingly difficult to rely on, Heather figures it's time for fresh blood. Her first port of call: the brother Madison Jeffries has curiously never mentioned before. Maybe he's got powers too! There's surely no reason Jeffries has kept his sibling on the down-low.  Sure, it turns out he's spent years inside a hospital, but why would that be an issue?

So Heather comes across as not desperately bright here, as she almost immediately gives Lionel Jeffries the opportunity to escape, but that's not really my problem here. Nor is it how well-worn the path is. It's that the issue has a genuinely good idea at its centre that it seems to have no idea what to do with. Lionel, it turns out, has a very similar power set to his brother, only where Madison manipulates machinery, Lionel is all about the flesh.  This may be my childhood love of Transformers speaking, but I think there's something to be mined out of he comparison here. The difference between mechanics and medics (the two roles the Jeffries brothers performed in Vietnam before Lionel's squad was obliterated and his attempts to resurrect them generated a flesh golem), how close the human body is to being viewable as a machine, that kind of thing. I'm not talking anything amazingly insightful, obviously, but even a simplistic compare-and-contrast would have added some much needed flavour to what is otherwise the most standard of superhero runarounds.

Instead, the team simply chase after Lionel - "Scramble" - as he runs around messing up people's DNA codes in the belief that he's "curing" them.  The result is visually interesting - if not, you know, pleasant in any way:

but little else. Lionel's motivation - turn everyone into flesh blancmanges because doctors should be able to have total power over life and death - is one of those ideas that manages to somehow be desperately cliche and totally nonsensical at the same time, which is an accomplishment of a sort, I suppose, but not one I feel like applauding. The story concludes with Madison persuading Lionel to use his powers on his own mind, restoring him to sanity and allowing him to heal the damage hes caused, which is nice, but the overall feeling here is of an opportunity wasted.

But all that means the issue is disappointing, rather than actively bad. And again, at least I'm not spitting in rage over the subtexts here - though rather more is made of Puck's stature being a curse than I'm happy with - and it's clear from the final panel, as a fleshy figure slopes towards the exit of the hospital morgue, that this has been building up to something. It may well be when that storm breaks I'll look more favourably upon the initial gathering of clouds.

Though since said figure is apparently the deathly boring nightmare-pun Deadly Earnest, I'm not interrupting my standard respitory pattern.


This story takes place over a single day.  Happily, there's no sense of how much time has passed between this issue and last. Indeed, one assumes it must have taken a while to build Alpha's new base.  Given how far this title is lagging behind the others, then, I'll move the action forward a full month. At last I can have a new time-line up!


Tuesday 24th July 1984.



Contemporary Events

President Reagan calls for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget, because he was just the goddamn worst.

Standout Line

LOL no.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

NMU #35: "The Times, They Are A'Changin'!"

(Change your career, keep your spots)

Trigger warning: attempted sexual assault & (briefly) pederasty.


Much like Alpha Flight #29, which we covered recently (though not so recently as I would like; damn this house-move snorting up all my time), this issue is more or less forced into a familiar structure by outside events. With the former, this involved the title attempting to prove itself viable following the departure of its creator/writer/penciller. Here, the shake-up is entirely in-universe, as Magneto becomes head-teacher to the New Mutants, but the end result is broadly equivalent: the team members question the new status quo - just as the audience are - and ultimately accept it - just as the audience hopefully will.

Tightening the bindings still further, there are two overlapping points that need to be covered during an average "controversial new leader" story - and this really is entirely average. First the newcomer needs to prove there exists some benefit to the new regime, and then everyone else has to conclude those benefits overwhelm whatever baggage us being hauled alongside. Claremont essentially divides these beat between the two halves of the issue.  The first part can be dismissed fairly quickly, since it simply involves Magneto gathering the team in the Danger Room (minus Cypher, who doesn't get to play) and sets about slapping their internal organs out from whatever orifices are to hand. There's not really all that much to say about this, so we'll move straight onto the second stage of Magneto's second job interview. 

This is where things get very interesting and in no small way problematic. Claremont needs an inciting incident through which he can demonstrate Magneto's new-found restraint, and he settles on a trio of drunken men attempting to rape Danielle Moonstar.

Obviously, this is profoundly distressing.  There's never any actual danger the deed will be done, but that doesn't change the fact that a) Dani is physically assaulted by men who want to sexually assault her, and b) this sort of horror is inflicted on thousands of young girls every day, none of whom are lucky enough to have a winged horse to sweep them away to safety.

There's a lot to not like about this.  Firstly, we need to be very careful about the idea that a situation like this turns out OK if the assault is countered whilst everyone still has their clothes on.  And by "OK" here, I mean that there are profound psychological issues an attempted rape can bring on, and there's simply no way Claremont can tackle that sensitively or well. Secondly, the idea that the best way to have a white guy show his heroic chops is to punish people who beat up a young Native American girl ties into all sorts of lousy tropes. Our heroes are the white guys who determine for themselves what's best for Native Americans but with good intentions [1]? I'm not at home to that, especially since it's clear here that Dani's trauma exists in the narrative purely for the sake of Magneto's development.

There's also an issue of narrative laziness to this move, something I like to call "Baron Harkonnen Syndrome" after Frank Herbert's character in DuneDune is a wonderfully complex book absolutely stuffed with complicated, multi-layered characters, all of whom have essentially valid reasons for doing what they do.  No-one is purely good, no villain is entirely bad.  Except Baron Harkonnen, who had sex with young boys. It's a grotesque revelation in a book otherwise dedicated to the complexities of political conflict, and reads like Herbert feared so many shades of grey would lose the reader unless someone emerged as an utterly clear-cut villain (see George RR Martin's Ramsay Snow for a contemporary parallel).  It's a very bad idea, partially because it undermines the complexity of the work, but mainly because it treats victims as disposable objects that exist purely to demonstrate how evil someone is. This is bad enough when framing a character as a callous murderer, but at least there the resulting trauma to the victim is something we don't have to dwell on.

And really, this is how we're supposed to conclude that Magneto might not be all that bad?  Because whilst he's a mass-murderer, he at least hates rapists? Talk about your low bars.  Pretty much everyone hates rapists. Hell, I'm sure most actual rapists hate rapists, because of the horrifically effective way culture has evolved to reassure rapists that their rapes don't really count. I made this point when discussing UXM #200, but if you want to rehabilitate Magneto you really have to process his own mistakes; simply pointing out the Nazis and/or rape gangs are objectively worse isn't going to cut it.

On top of all of this, it's completely obvious just how hard Claremont is pressing his thumb on the scale here.  Magneto's plan is to head to the criminal's hideout and threaten them with death if they ever show up on his radar again.  Apparently this is impressive and represents personal growth because he doesn't kill them on the spot.  But this only actually works our because Magneto scares the three men enough that they decide themselves they'd be better off turning themselves in. What would have happened if they hadn't? Are we really supposed to believe Magneto would keep tabs on them indefinitely? What if the next time they decide a woman's consent is irrelevant Magneto's off saving the world? What if next time they go after someone who isn't a mutant and suddenly Magneto has better things to do?

Really, there's no plausible way to interpret Magneto's actions here other than a reminder that he'll protect his own.  Which is laudable in it's own way, but because his own are our own in the context of reader sympathies, it's easy to miss the fact that his approach here will really allow him to only protect his own. Which is exactly what led Magneto to become a killer in the first place; he decided his own subjective beliefs about who got to live and die - who got to be punished - trumped everybody else's.

In short, a lack of body-count notwithstanding, this issue is the most Magneto that Magneto has never been. That the New Mutants lap it up because on this occasion they know and love the person whose decisions he is co-opting makes this all worse, not better.

I'll give the issue this, though. It has made me more willing to accept the idea of Magneto as the New Mutants' head-teacher. Not because it's made me think more of him. Because it's made me think less of them.

[1] Tellingly Sam's biggest problem with Magneto deciding he's going to deal with the rapists himself is that it should be the team's job, which ignores Dani just as much.


Since this story involves the New Mutants learning who will be their new head-teacher, I assume it takes place on the same day the X-Men return from Paris.


Monday 11th March, 1985.



Contemporary Events

Thousands of Doctor Who fans wake up two days after "Timelash" began and discover to their horror that it still isn't all a dream.

Standout Line

"I can yell 'Don't shoot' in any language there is..." - Cypher.