Monday, 31 December 2012

X-Factor #14: Crushed Dreams

X-Factor #14 sees Cyclops fight that Sentinel.

He's been arrested by the Anchorage Police Department, for smashing his house up, which he rationalises by saying he didn't want the person who stole it from him to get the benefit of it, rather than the truth which was his hallucinations. Which are continuing: he sees Professor X, who is Not Impressed with Scott.

Our Sentinel (well, Master Mold) is insane, as Sentinels often are, and it has sadly noticed that all humans are mutants, and has added them to its list of things to exterminate. It's also concerned with The Twelve, or The Strong, something which has come from Lang's influence. Scott is one of these, and therefore belongs particularly dead. According to the caption, this group constitutes "Twelve Mutants who will lead... around whom the others will gather. Lang discovered them. Master Mold will destroy them." Who are they? Well, a panel on page 2 gives a clue: some faces, which we can make out as Cyclops, Apocalypse, Punk Storm, Jean Grey (or at least someone who looks like her - this issue notes that Jean and Maddie are indistinguishable to third parties in photographs), and Franklin Richards, along with a number of unidentifiable silhouettes. This is going to be one of the slowest-burning plot arcs that X-Men has ever had.

Cyclops rescues the cop from the Sentinel, and in reward is let go. But they've got some bad news for him about a dead redhead.

Scott's self-mythologisation (that he left Alaska to lead X-Factor) has reached the point where even the students at X-Factor believe it. Boom-Boom, Rusty and Skids sit around and chat about the love lives of the X-Men, while watching the adult team deal with matters.

Angel is still refusing amputation, and may be investigated for fraud (so, foolishly, he used Worthington Enterprises money rather than his own personal money for bankrolling X-Factor?). Trish Tilbit doorsteps him in his own hospital room, and mentions a "court order". Jean just shoos her out rather than ask "what court order?", which is a shame because it's to declare him incompetent. At whose instigation, I wonder? We are told he has no living relatives (his father was killed in the Siegel story in Kazar #2-#3 and Marvel Tales #30 which I have not covered due to expense; but his mother survived that. Byrne kills her off in The Hidden Years, I see. Hodge, then, perhaps? I never trusted that guy.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Best wishes to Peter David

Peter David, writer of stuff, posted today that he had a stroke. I'd like to express my best wishes to him and to his family, and hope that he gets the best treatment possible.

I have been reading Peter David's stuff since the early 1990s. I wasn't into comics then, but I read plenty of his Star Trek novels. X-Factor is one of the series that dragged me deeper into the Marvel universe in 2007, and that I'm going to read his original run on that in context is one of the brighter prospects in continuing this project after 1991.

X-Factor #13: I'll Ask Her

The checklist says that in X-Factor #13 that Scott Summers fights a Sentinel. This is not in fact true. There is a Sentinel, Master Mold, who has been imbued with the brain patterns of Stephen Lang, and it's certainly in two of the same states as Scott Summers (Alaska, and confused), but there's no fighting. Instead, this is a story of Scott Summers's descent into madness.

It's a year after Scott Summers abandoned his wife and child (well, in publication time, in-universe it's only been a couple of months), and now he's returned, worried, with her not answering his phone calls, and there having been recent news of relatives of mutants being attacked. It provides a mild contradiction of #1 - we are told that he left because of not just Jean's resurrection but the offer to lead X-Factor, which is just not what happened - but is very slightly less horrible than what did. Is this Scott telling lies to himself to feel better?

The house is still there, at least. The locks have been changed, and it's for sale, and it's empty, just like Sara Grey's was. But there are no records of Madelyne Summers ever having existed. The estate agent says some chap called Summers put the place on the market (not Scott); her employers are Under New Management and have no records of her. Now, if I were Scott, I might try and then contact my grandparents, because they might verify my story that I had a wife and child and am not just insane, especially given what happened with Sara. There's no records of her giving birth at the hospital, either, which is hardly surprising because she gave birth at the mansion, didn't she, in #200/#201 (although that seems to have been forgotten). Finally: he looks into this plane crash that she was supposed to have walked away from. He remembers the date, because it was the same day that "Jean Grey" died on the moon. There was a crash that day, but with no survivors. Oh. Returning to the house, he starts hallucinating Maddie as Phoenix, before letting lose with the optic blasts. He finds one piece of physical evidence: a rattle, behind the radiator.

During all this, the Master Mold is waking up and locating Scott. And, a body has washed up, a woman with red hair. Wonder who that might be?

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Uncanny X-Men #214: Malice Aforethought

Uncanny X-Men #214 starts soon after #213. Cerebro was trashed, Psylocke has joined the X-Men but is still dealing with the fight with Sabretooth. It's to her credit that she merely survived. What's next? Apparently, a trip to Dallas to warn Dazzler about the Marauders - for Psylocke, Rogue, Storm and Wolverine, anyway. Dazzler is there as part of Lila's tour, but it misses a trick and treats Lila more as a generic singer; the interaction with them and Lila is bereft of anything real. Have they told Lila about the Massacre, and what happened to the New Mutants? (Are they back yet?)

Again, the X-Men find themselves incapable of using telephones. It's contagious? It works out well, though, as Alison has been possessed by a strange entity called "Malice", which is associated with the Marauders somehow. It's able to flip between hosts, but makes a mistake when it tries to get Storm: who is developing power self-control, now that she is recovering from her fall. In the end, the real reason for the visit becomes apparent: it's a recruitment drive. Dazzler accepts the offer of membership in the X-Men, and she's off to Westchester with the rest of them.

Friday, 28 December 2012

New Mutants #46-47: In Limbo

So, while the main team in Uncanny were out rescuing, the New Mutants were left with strict instructions to stay at the mansion.

They of course do no such thing, and by the end of Uncanny #212 they are missing, presumed incinerated. What happened to them?

Well, Karma tried to call her siblings at their Manhattan flat, and they didn't pick up. This is worrying. Magik and her check it out, only to be greeted by an exploding bomb (which is taken to by the Marauders, although I don't think there's any actual evidence). When they don't return, the other New Mutants go looking for them, via that Manhattan-Westchester tunnel. They go straight to Karma's, skipping any Morlock interludes, and find the fire brigade attending a burning apartment building and Xi'an and Illyana safe and sound. No sign of the younglings, though.

Then Warlock goes a bit crazy and Magus turns up, which is possibly not the best timing ever. Happily, there's a 'porter on the team, so they all wake up in Limbo. Wait, did I say happily?

This is possibly the longest extended time that the non-Russian members of gang have spent in Limbo, and it is not to their liking, especially as Bobby and Amara's elemental powers don't work very well there. And worse, they're not even safe: Magus breaks through the dimensional barrier, somehow. So they 'port randomly away again. This time to somewhere in Europe during the Scottish War of Indepenence, where they do the superhero fight-truce-teamup thing, only with Robert the Bruce. Which is at the very least novel.

Meanwhile back at the mansion (there should be an HTML entity for that, I have decided), Moira is worrying about the kids (particularly Rahne) still being missing, in between moments caring for injured X-Men and Morlocks. Magneto makes sure she eats properly, possibly the most leaderlike thing he's done in 23 years. But no action is taken by anyone. I suppose Cerebro isn't what it used to be.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

X-Factor #12: Shake it Baby

X-Factor #12 comes right after the Mutant Massacre, and several plot elements are immediately picked up.

Firstly, Warren. He was hospitalised (it turns out money can overcome prejudice - who knew?), but his wings are in a bad way, and the doctors say they'll have to come off. The sheer weirdness of his anatomy is alluded to (they consult bird specialists), but not wholly developed. Think about it for a bit. Warren has six limbs: two legs, two arms, and two wings. How does that even work? He must have structures in his back that don't exist or have analogies in any living vertebrate. It's a miracle this sort of congenital abnormality has left him functional, but until this point, it's always been just something we're supposed to accept as part of the premise, but this, along with the mention of the "X-Factor" (which will later be identified as the "X-Gene") demonstrate a new attitude, which wants to look at the premise a bit more as science fiction. In fact, Angel is physically impossible: even if things as heavy as him can fly, his wingspan simply isn't large enough. Hollow bones only take you so far. So, either we ignore that, or we assume his mutation comes along with access to some wacky physics (like the way Wolverine violates the laws of thermodynamics.) Anyway, Warren would rather die than lose his wings, and so he prepares his will.

Next, there are still Morlock refugees at the X-Factor headquarters: Ape, Caliban, Dreamer, Erg (who is rather excellently cooking the toast with his eyelaser thing), Skids and Tar Baby. Skids has an MC Hammer power, and is having difficulty eating (but somehow manages to put on clothes? I suppose it's not the first instance of powers working weirdly with clothes... maybe clothes are made of a fundamentally different type of matter in the Marvel universe.) We're told it's getting busy at the HQ, which is odd because the building seems large from the outside. Maybe they lease out space?

A further plot is people phoning home, so you can tell Claremont isn't writing this. Jean and Scott watch the tellybox news and see that the relatives of a mutant have been firebombed; and Jean's sister, Sara, is on as a talking head, supporting mutants. Sara Grey had, by the way, been pitched by Claremont as a possible fifth member for X-Factor. Anyway, that gets Jean very worried about Sara's safety. But she hasn't contacted her family since she came back alive. Awkward. Scott, who had an epiphany in the Massacre that abandoning his wife and child was a really shitty thing to do, has meanwhile called Madelyne, finally, but there has been no answer. He's so self-absorbed that he reaches the conclusion that "Maddie's left [him]". No, mate. You left her.

Jean and Scott go visit Sara's house, and find it empty. There's a threatening message on the phone, the place explodes, crap. Well, at least Sara got out safely? Apparently, though, this is then basically dropped, and not followed up again until seven years from now, in X-Men #36! I'm hoping that she's at least mentioned in future issues - we'll see. This poses an obvious question regarding Maddie's safety, even to those of us who haven't been reading Uncanny, and Scott resolves to go up to Alaska to check on her himself (I don't know why he doesn't start by asking the local police to do a wellness check.)

What is ostensibly our A-plot is Boom Boom, who is a street urchin first seen in the Secret Wars II series. She has the power to create so-called "time bombs" which can detonate and do some damage; and she's fallen under the wing of the Vanisher (crikey, it's been ages since we saw him!), but is unhappy at the cut he is demanding from her thievery, so has reported him to X-Factor. She is eventually recruited for X-Factor, which might just be the quickest regret that Hank and Bobby (for it is they) have ever had.

Finally, in Cleveland, Ohio, Apocalypse recruits his second horseman: a young mutant named Autumn Rolfson, who has the unfortunate and surely completely useless in combat power of turning food to dust. Famine, then.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

X-Factor #10-#11, Thor #373-#374: Mutant Massacre, part 2

If the Uncanny X-Men issues of the Mutant Massacre were a disaster movie, then the X-Factor and Thor issues are a slightly darker disaster movie.

I've of course covered the Power Pack issue a couple of posts ago. Somewhat facetiously, but at the core of it was a serious point: this is atypically dark stuff. Power Pack crossed over with this because of the Simonson connection - it looks like we cross over into Thor for that same reason, rather than there being any solid story logic.

In these issues X-Factor search and rescue for survivors, find quite a few (in a number of batches), and take them home. The worst thing that happens, though, is poor Angel, who is separated from the group, pinned to a wall by his wings, and severely injured. This will have Consequences in subsequent issues, and is probably the third most significant character nobbling we've seen at this point (after killing Jean and depowering Storm). It's the issue where you can tell that Simonson has set aside Layton's initial set-up of X-Factor: a rather slavish recreation of the X-Men before Roy Thomas, and made it its own thing.

What else have we got? Well, X-Factor properly meet the Morlocks, finally. This has been long coming: the street book and the sewer mutants clearly belong in the same kind of universe (and they make a lot more sense here than randomly popping up in Westchester all the time). Contrasts can be drawn between the different groups stances (there are two identifable groups of Morlocks here with different positions) on mutant integration, and comment is made on whether X-Factor's shell game might not be counter-productive (a clue: yes). These surviving Morlocks are more prominent than ever: what didn't kill them made them more interesting.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Uncanny X-Men #211-#213: The View from Westchester

X-Marathon would like to wish its readers a merry X-Mas, and peace and goodwill to all mutants.

Uncanny X-Men's Mutant Massacre issues are #211-#213.

Our Westchester team are having a quiet but productive day, when a Morlock (who doesn't get named here, but he looks like a mole so let's call him Mole) comes from below, bearing news of the Marauders' attack on the Morlocks. Or rather, he passes away, but not before Psylocke gets the skinny out of his brain. Good thing they had a teep.

Storm rounds up the team (minus Magneto) and they immediately teleport - courtesy of Magik - to the Morlocks tunnels. They land right by some causalities, including Callisto. They are soon attacked by Vertigo and Riptide. Nightcrawler (who was hurt badly in the battle with Nimrod and is still recovering) takes Vertigo out, but is then nearly killed by Riptide, who runs away with his fallen comrade.

Magik is sent back to base, with Nightcrawler and the other wounded (the art here only shows one body other than Kurt, but we have to assume there are more?), but is ordered not to bring reinforcements and implicitly not return - an odd decision by Storm, and one which is surely a mistake.

Throughout the issue there is more fighting and massacring. Wolverine gets a scent of X-Factor, also in the tunnels that day (see the posts either side of this), including Jean, who logically must have a different scent to Maddy; this is confirmed by a sighting of one of Cyclops's optic blasts. They do not get to talk, as rocks fall. During the fight, Kitty becomes permanently phased. A second evacuation is made, with everyone they can muster, except Wolverine, who is left behind, with instructions to bring one prisoner. Storm very strongly implies that Wolverine should kill everyone else.

Wolverine goes a-huntin', and eventually finds a Marauder, by the name of Sabretooth. In those two pages (issue #212 13-14), everything we need to know about their pre-existing relationship is lain in front of us. They're rivals, but Sabretooth thinks Wolverine is beneath him. And we get our first hint as to who has ordered the massacre: someone called "Mr. Sinister".

At the mansion, things are not going very well. Storm is having a crisis of leadership, but is given a pep talk by Callisto, of all people. Morlocks are still dying, they daredn't use a normal hospital, and Colossus, despite Magneto's efforts, is in paralyzed. Wolverine never gets his prisoner, and leaves Sabretooth buried under rubble (but under no illusion of his death), but gets a prize survivor: Healer, who will help with the survivors. They make a final trip back to check the tunnels: Magneto, Storm, Wolverine and Callisto, but find nothing other than Thor's cauterisation of the tunnels. Has this killed the New Mutants, who disobeyed instructions and went down there? Well, that's better answered in New Mutants.

While that was all happening, Sabretooth was making his way to Salem Center. First he attacks Rogue, then Psylocke (incidentally, Psylocke says here that Kitty is "half [her] age", making Psylocke 28/29, and possibly older than pretty much all the other X-Men? Huh. Never figured that one.) Psylocke puts up quite a fight (even in her pre-ninja days), but she's not exactly a match for Sabretooth on her own, and has to be saved by Storm. Finally, it's time for the main event, and Logan and Creed fight again, while Psylocke probes Creed's mind for any information about the Marauders and Sinister she can get. Wolverine is given the all-clear, and launches them over a cliff-face. So, that's Creed properly taken care of, right? In a short epilogue, they discuss regrouping at Muir Isle, which probably makes sense, and agree that Betsy should join the X-Men.

So, what has happened here is that the X-Men have failed their fellow mutants. Hundreds are dead, the worst anti-mutant incident yet, and practically on their home turf. Three of the team themselves are critically injured. Why did they fail? Was it because they were simply outgunned, or is it due to mismanagement? The evacuation was not very well handled, and one wonders whether Magneto and Magik had been involved whether more lives might have been saved. And in the middle of this, Storm had a meltdown. Charles Xavier would have been very disappointed.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Power Pack #27: The Mutant Massacre

Welcome to the latest post in my Power Pack readthrough! Power Pack #27 opens with the kids recovering from their recent abduction by aliens. Or rather, being totally fine with their recent abduction by aliens, but dealing with their parents being worried about them. Despite their concern about this aspect of their life, the Powers continue to demonstrate their legendary inattentiveness when it comes to the fact that their children are a superhero team.

They are watching the tellybox. There's a news report about a recent battle between the X-Terminators, a group of mutant freedom fighters, and X-Factor, a mutant investigation company. The kids of course immediately favour the X-Terminators. Power Pack aren't strictly speaking mutants, but mobs are not known for their discernment of subtleties.

Away from the 'rents' eyes, they play around with their powers - swapped around in #25. Let's remind ourselves of the new powers, in order of age: Alex (the eldest) has disintegration; Julie has density; Jack has gravity; and Katie has flight. Their friend Franklin Richards, son of Reed and Susan Richards of the Fantastic Four, you will remember, is also a member and has been staying with the group as the Four are in space or the Negative Zone or the Microverse or something like that. Franklin is a mutant, but his full reality-warping powers are in abeyance. Currently he has a dream power, and is using the codename Tattletale.

In the middle of the night, Franklin becomes aware that their friend Leech and another mutant are in trouble. Bearing in mind the recent news, the kids don their costumes and enter the sewers. Soon enough Power Pack find the trail of dead left by the Marauders (and an alligator!) These are a group of hired killers who, for whatever reason, have been engaged to wipe out sewer-mutants known as the Morlocks.

The first Marauder that the gang encounter they take for Wolverine, who last appeared in these pages in Power Pack #19. But they're wrong: it's the similar, but taller and nastier Sabretooth. After a brief fight, they get away, only to bump into the actual Wolverine, who is down there too, on the trail of Sabretooth. Wolverine is, even at this stage in his development (I'm sure that lots can be written about this) concerned about the welfare of children, and so makes them promise to go back to the surface.

Of course, Power Pack, pre-teen superheroes, do no such thing. They've still got Leech to save, after all. After some searching, they find Annalee, Leech's adopted mother (introduced in #12), who has been killed. They find Leech with Caliban (the mutant-locating Morlock), but are then attacked by a group of Marauders Arclight, Scrambler and Harpoon. Incidentally, I've complained about names of characters before, but this really takes the biscuit. Scrambler's real life name is apparently "Kim Il Sung". Fairly popular name in Korea, I hear. Sigh.

Our group of kid heroes keep these three Marauders at bay - driving them off, just as Marvel Girl and Cyclops, of X-Factor/X-Terminators (it turns out they're the same team: it's complicated) turn up. The kids break the news about his mother to Leech, Cyclops gets a moment of reflection about what it is for a child to lose a parent. I'm not sure what that's all about. Perhaps it would mean something to readers of X-Factor.

Beast and Iceman are dispatched back to X-Factor headquarters with Caliban and Leech, and Power Pack are now able to go home safely. The other two members of X-Factor: Cyclops and Marvel Girl, remain underground, looking for Artie and Angel.

This is the Mutant Massacre writ small, then. The Marauders go and kill the Morlocks, for no obvious reason. Faceless bodies are everywhere. It feels like disaster porn, or the aftermath of well, a massacre. But there's an underlying message of hope. Like the later Decimation, most of the named Morlocks we care about survive (Ape, Beautiful Dreamer, Caliban, Erg, Leech and Tar Baby escape in this issue, for example), with only a few characters taken off the table - the point of this is to reduce the size of the faceless crowd. When looked at in storytelling potential, this far from destroys the Morlocks, but instead brings the characters out of the sewers and integrates them with the larger Marvel universe.

The decision to cross Power Pack over into this story was an odd one. Mutant Massacre is proper grimdark, and not what I'd think would be natural fare for this title. Merely sharing an author (Louise Simonson) isn't a strong reason for doing this. But the Morlocks have been part of the Pack's reality for a while now. And after #19, with Annalee and Leech, this moment really did have to be here.

Fun though this entry was to write, this is not my final word on this storyline: I'm not quite that perverse. There will be two subsequent posts: one on Uncanny and one on X-Factor / Thor.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

New Mutants #45: It Gets Better?

New Mutants #45 is disturbing, in a good way. It might be the first teen suicide in comics; it certainly was before it became the Issue of the Day to tackle in film.

As we've seen, the New Mutants (and for that matter Magneto, as "Michael Xavier") are establishing relations in the local community as an actual school, which is something that never took place in the 1960s. In this issue, they attend Salem Center High's spring mixer.

One of the young lads there is Larry Bodine, who is the subject of random bullying (using anti-mutant rhetoric, although in a way detached from any actual evidence that he's a mutant... like say, homophobic bullying that can occur for no reason) from his classmates, which he takes very badly, especially when they threaten to call X-Factor on him. Watching Dani leave (on a pegasus), he realises she might be a mutant, but a subsequent attempt at socialising with the children from Xavier's are thwarted when he starts telling mutophobic jokes, apparently to fit in. I still find the word "mutie" stilted, but I suppose that's the problem with made up slurs (and ones that don't even have an actor saying them with the full force of emotion they can bring). And real pejorative language tends to be more varied: we gladly welcome Si Spurrier's new (to me, at any rate) word "genequeer", which punningly spices things up.

Our Larry goes back home, thinks about drinking, and then (off-panel) commits suicide, information which is relayed by Magneto to the New Mutants the next morning. The reaction to this is not what I was expecting. Bobby thinks him a coward. Illyana takes the line that it was his choice to make. Warlock is confused. Amara notes that it would have been acceptable back home in Nova Roma, but differs, reckoning that yielding to despair is the "worst crime imaginable".

Kitty and Rahne scope out his room, where he kept the light-sculptures he made (for that was his mutant power). Kitty accidentally the last surviving one: "I acted without thinking", she thinks, "and destroyed it. Just like Larry". Knowing that he was a mutant, they have a better idea of what happened than the others did, perhaps, and mourn him.

They think about taking revenge (Rahne wants to) but decide not to. And in the end Kitty delivers a rousing speech, telling people that words really can hurt, and maybe they should actually think for a change before they dole out abuse. She's right, of course, but the cynic in me (which is a big chunk, possibly even as much as half or over) wonders whether there's any point - are the people who do this type of thing the type to listen to and take to heart moralising lectures? As someone who had similar experiences myself, I wonder whether the problem might not be very creation of artificial but mandatory cohort groups. In adult life, there's a better chance of being able to walk away from bullying (practically, mind, this might be difficult, due to the need to work), but at school this is practically impossible. This is what the "it gets better" message seems to imply, that if you just stick it out through your teenage years, things will be fine in adult life. Even if it's not wrong, it's unhelpful fatalistic bullshit. If we are to stop this, we need to do something real. We need to do better than create a generation of survivors.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

New Mutants Annual #2: Not A Bloody Ninja

New Mutants Annual #2 is the first appearance of Psylocke, sort of.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Braddock is a character who has been appearing in Marvel UK for years. I'd probably better introduce the concept of Marvel UK, hadn't I? They were a subsidiary of Marvel who reprinted American material, and, from 1976 printed their own original stuff, starting with Captain Britain Weekly, which headlined Captain Britain, created by our very own dear Chris Claremont, with Herb Trimpe.

He's a very odd character, derived by taking the American tradition for patriotic superheroes and then just porting it directly onto an entirely different culture, and then treating the entire thing with more-or-less a straight face. Super-strong guy in a Union Jack, call him Captain Britain, give him an alliterative secret identity - Brian Braddock. For bonus points we can associate him with a kind of pseudo-Arthurian background, and a mythos that thoroughly mishmashes the Goidelic and Brythonic and then, compounding the error, conflates them with Englishness. Any other nation might be offended by this, but instead we just take over your comic book industry and try to bring it down from within.

Cap was brought into the US titles by Claremont quite quickly - appearing in a 1978 issue of Marvel Team-Up, with Spider-Man. Brian's sister Betsy, though, hasn't made the jump. Until New Mutants Annual #2, obv.

None of this material had been published in the United States, so we open with a very careful recap. Psylocke is a telepath, was recently Captain Britain for a while, but then was blinded (in Captain Britain #13). She is taken captive by Mojo, and then brainwashed and forced to appear in a TV show called "Wildways". Bobby's been captured too, and this results in the New Mutants and Captain Britain arriving at the same building in Manhattan at about the same time for a rescue mission. The ins and outs of Mojoverse are not something I'm deeply into, so to suffice it to say that she ends up liberated and hanging out at the X-Mansion.

Given this setup it's curious she doesn't end up on the New Mutants team, but the main line-up. But they did need a telepath, anyway, now that Rachel ran off. Even if she's not some kind of ninja.

Friday, 21 December 2012

New Mutants #44: Legion

I'd put off writing about New Mutants #44 for a while, because I didn't find Legion very interesting to write about. I was wrong, and X-Men: Legacy #1 has put me firmly in my place. Still, not much to say about him here.

Legion's telekinetic personality, Jack Wayne, is let loose by Haller when a poorly secured piece of Kirby Tech nearly kills Moira. Rahne is there to witness this. In Westchester, Mirage feels this happen, and then furiously tries to phone Muir Island. I love her narration during this.

Scotland -- phone -- hurts -- I'm burning -- I'm not -- flames -- don't exist -- what's the number -- remember the stupid dialling codes -- this can't be happening -- so much fear -- her emotions, sensations, shared over the psychic rapport that links our minds when she's in her wolf form -- oh Rahne Rahne -- I won't let death claim you, I won't. Answer the phone, girl, c'mon.

This would be a nice stream of consciousness piece if it weren't for the clunky stock exposition embedded within it. Oh, Claremont, how I love you.1 The New Mutants teleport over, track Legion to Ullapool, and engage in a fairly unengaging battle with him. We're missing either of the redeeming things I can find in Legion: the mindscapes or the relationship with his father (Xavier being in space recently). What works a bit better is Rahne's inter-fight encounter with her father figure, Reverend Craig, but that is all too brief.

This comic has the strangest use of Magma's powers yet, as she uses them to prevent an oil tank catching fire.

1. no hetero.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

New Mutants #43: Lack of Empath

New Mutants #43 is really quite unsettling.

The Mutants have unfinished business from the recent arc (#38-#40) where they were sent to the Massachusetts Academy, and while Emma Frost is untouchable, there is still the matter of Empath, who very nearly killed Sharon and Tom, staff at the school.

So, having agreed that he can't just be allowed to get away with it, they take revenge upon him. Cold, pre-planned sadistic revenge. I dunno, it's 1986 and suddenly everyone thinks they're the Punisher. Empath's team, the Hellions (led by Thunderbird) come to rescue him before they actually get as far as doing anything irreparable.

And then, that's it. No consequences (well, not in this issue, at least), just a warning from Thunderbird that the Hellions will look after their own as much as the New Mutants did. If things had had got worse, would they have expected the X-Men to step in and save them? Um, not that that actually has happened, as a rule, in New Mutants, obv that would be fairly rubbish if the title characters weren't the heroes in their own book. But then, here we have a clear case of that.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

New Mutants #42: Sam and Lila

New Mutants #42 is the second issue in a row to deal with a homecoming. In this case, Sam Guthrie visits his mother and his innumerable siblings in Kentucky, and prepares to introduce his girlfriend, Lila Cheney, to them.

Like the previous issue, it's a quiet one, almost entirely lacking in superheroics (there's a dream sequence, and then a rescue of Lila from a crashed plane at the end.)

Sam spends most of the issue blundering into things (without even needing to fly), so that's quite an apposite codename for him. He offends Lila by assuming that a gift she proposes to give to his mother is stolen; they later reconcile after he and his brother save her life. And as the eldest son of the departed Thomas Zebulon Guthrie, he assumes that he's the "head of the household", which is (a) fairly silly, on account of him probably not being 18 yet and having a perfectly functioning adult mother, and anyway (b) hardly a thing he can manage from Westchester. He realises (b), but his answer to it is initially to move back in and, I don't know, suddenly start being the man of the house. Some sense is talked to him, and he returns to Xavier's in the end.

Joshua (Jay) is worried, too, about becoming a mutant himself, and then reveals at the end that his mutant power is singing. I... was not expecting that, and this seems to have been entirely swept under the rug, since he goes on to become Icarus.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

New Mutants #41: Of Gods and Mutants

New Mutants #41 is going to be the topic of my weirdest tangent yet, so bear with me while I set the scene for newcomers who haven't been following the blog (and may know little of this part in X-history). Magneto has been running Xavier's school for a while, but in the last story arc, sent away most of the kids off to Emma Frost's school. Danielle Moonstar, known as Mirage, a young Cheyenne mutant with illusionist powers, stayed on for a while, and then has gone home to visit her recently resurrected parents. On her pegasus which she acquired in her capacity as a Valkyrie. Comics, man.

Her return is a payoff that has been delayed rather too long, I would say, so I'm looking forward to it. But not without nervousness, as it's a portrayal of a culture that comics have, um, not always done with great sensitivity or accuracy.

So. Dani's back with her parents, near Denver. Apparently when they had died (or rather, been turned into a Demon Bear... at any rate: they got better), she hadn't immediately gone to her grandfather, but had instead stayed with family friends the Roberts. After a week with them, she used her mutant power, to the distress of her friend and now foster-brother Pat. She ran away to her grandpa, and then you know the rest of the story from Marvel Graphic Novel #4. She has a decent enough time chatting with the folks, but since it's an X-Men comic, drama ensues. Specifically: she bumps into Pat at the local mall. In her absence Pat has turned into a massive racist, and gives her all sorts of abuse. But she's less shocked about that and is more surprised that using her Valkyrie powers, she can see he's going to die soon.

When Dani arrives back home, she hears him make an emergency call over the CB. She can't call 9-1-1 (the Moonstars' doesn't have a landline?), and sets out to rescue him. She fights a personification of death for his life, and wins. She appears to reconcile with him: it was only his discomfit at her powers - which may have outed some embarrassing secret of his - which was making him a racist, so that's alright then (!) She's a little easy to forgive him, but he has just nearly died, so I can buy that. Anyway, fighting off death turns out to have been merely metaphorical, and he dies in hospital.

So. This issue directly raises an obvious question for Dani: if Asgard is real (which it is and she's got the flying horse and Shinigami eyes to prove it), does this mean that her gods are real, too? It's probably for the best this question, while posed, isn't answered definitively. One of the many things I'm not an expert on is Cheyenne mythology, but I'm going to take a stab at this anyway. The names and phrases used when she's invoking them appear to be real, although I'm shocked at how little information there is on say, Wikipedia about this topic.

I think it's fair enough for people in the Western cultural heritage to play with making the Æsir and Olympians be aliens pretending to be (or taken as) gods. As an extension of this it's also reasonable to suppose that other pantheons are similarly inspired. In fact, it would be just wrong otherwise - they can't say "well, European polytheistic religions are of course based on actual happenings and persons, but everyone else, no, you're just making shit up." But then instantiating them, and trying to make other culture's religions fit a nice neat model of classical European paganism is difficult, and can lead to hilariously wrong results (as we'll see, very soon now, when Celtic mythology starts being brought into X-Men), even if not being outright offensive.

And then there is the question as to how many pantheons there are anyway. Marvel, for example, merges the Roman and Greek pantheons - something that was done by the Romans themselves. The link between Zeus Pater and Jupiter is not difficult to see. But comparative study of religion can go back further: there was a Proto-Indo-European religion, which we can take a good guess at, which features as its head figure a "Dyēus ph2ter" †, which is reflected in the Vedic religion as Dyaus Pita. They also then have the Germanic gods - although specifically the better-preserved Norse versions rather than the Woden and Þunor as Odin and Thor would be known in English. Having had separate Norse and Greek gods they can hardly deny Hinduism - the one major surviving descendant of Indo-European paganism - its place as an equivalent pantheon, and so there are Marvel Hindu gods. But this is different, as here you are dealing with a major world religion with millions of followers, and you need to be careful not to have Thor beat up Shiva. For obvious reasons there's no Marvel Jesus or Muhammad, either; and while there are demonic figures, the identification of one of those as Satan is left studiously ambiguous. (Kieron Gillen did an excellent riff on this in Journey Into Mystery last year, with the Devil's Advocacy, a group of figures who are all very carefully not claiming to be the Devil.)

I mean, if you were doing this as a proper piece of science fiction, you wouldn't have the aliens inspire gods that we know from pop culture, you'd have them inspire figures in Proto-Indo-European paganism, and then have everything descend from that in accordance with currently accepted scholarship. There was a real world tree: and Yggdrasil and Ashvattha are but reflections of it. But in detaching the premise from the myths, you would loose the cool stories.

Given that approach was rejected (or rather, never considered), does that mean that every distinct polytheistic tradition will get its own set of aliens-masquerading-as-gods in the Marvel universe? Potentially, yes. How different do they have to be from each other to get a different set? Unsurprisingly, the answer to this is mostly related to how well-documented they are in accessible texts in English.

So, what does have to do with New Mutants #41? Well, as I say, the names check out. Presumably Claremont has done his research by reading Grinnell's ethnology, or something based on it. But here we come to the problem: it's not a case of whether it's right or not, but how authentic is it? There's some dispute as to whether "Heammawihio" is a traditional term - apparently "Maheo" was used prior to missionary contact. And it's not like Marvel is saying the gods are caused by belief (although it sometimes toys with this idea). So, like I say, it's probably a good thing that he doesn't wander on page, under whatever name, as this will be a white guy's take on what a real life Native American god would be like, and, quite apart from whether it would be cultural appropriation or otherwise objectionable, Claremont simply has nothing of interest to say on the subject.

Lucky escape, then.

† that "h2" is the second laryngeal, by the way, a consonant that has left no evidence in its daughter languages apart from subtle traces in vowels. This is not a topic which I never expected to be covering in an X-Men blog, but there you go, life is full of surprises.

Monday, 17 December 2012

X-Factor #8-#9/Uncanny X-Men #210: Prelude to a Massacre

X-Factor #8-#9 and Uncanny X-Men #210 cover basically the same timespan and share moments, so they're here, together in the same post. Also, the next post (well, not the next post actually, I've got a run of New Mutants, I want to sort out first) is going to be even more of a nightmare. So consider this an experiment.

X-Factor #8 starts with Scott and Jean mopping up after the recent attack by Glow Worm and The Bulk. Jean berates Scott for leaving his wife and child and not telling anyone or allowing anyone to tell her.

Upstairs, Hank, Warren, Bobby, Vera, Artie and Rusty are watching the tellybox: Vera was being interviewed by Trish Tilbit, and there is news footage of the five X-Factor members (really Rusty, Vera, Hodge, Jean and Warren) fighting with the X-Terminators. Rusty worries he might be recognised from the news footage, but Bobby and Warren reassure him that that's impossible.

In the Pentagon, Mystique is briefing the team on their new target: Rusty Collins, who is wanted still following the events of X-Factor #1. Destiny has detected he is somehow entwined with X-Factor, and examining the news footage provides a match.

"Later that night", X-Factor are called by the Mayor's office about the battle between the X-Men, Hellfire Club, and Nimrod in Uncanny #207-#209, and decide to go as X-Factor. Rusty wants to come but is told no.

After X-Factor leave, Artie gets a vision, of Freedom Force's helicopter, and him and Rusty try to alert Hodge to it, but he is rude and dismissive. Rusty decides to go warn X-Factor himself.

Just as X-Factor arrive at Central Park - at the Sheep Meadow, they are apprehended by Freedom Force, who accuse them of harbouring Rusty, "a known mutant and a criminal". Unfortunately, this Rusty has just caught up to them. Before the general fight starts, Spiral vanishes (she's off to tempt Rachel with the Body Shoppe at the end of #209).

See "Party in the Park".

Another young mutant who is passing, named Skids, rescues Rusty from Freedom Force, and they run away, before they are identified by a passing mob. X-Factor are left behind having been attacked by Avalanche.

X-Factor #9 starts with Freedom Force having caught up to Rusty and Skids. X-Factor are in hot pursuit (it is now "this morning", I'm not sure how that happened).

"Party in the Park" concludes. Rachel is sent to Mojoverse.

In Uncanny X-Men #210, it's the morning rush hour. Rogue can't find Rachel. She does a random construction rescue, and then goes for a makeover at Bloomingdales. Leaving, she spots an advert for X-Factor, which is news to her, and figures that's why there's been so much anti-mutant nonsense going around lately.

At the mansion, Colossus has changed into his only good uniform: his old-style one.

Kitty is fixing up Cerebro so that non-telapaths can use it.

Magneto approaches the Hellfire Club, after a battle that was "hours ago".

X-Factor are thanked for turning up at the Central Park battle, but point out they really should have called the Avengers.

X-Factor and Magneto spot each other in the street, as Magneto is entering the Hellfire Club.

Rusty and Skids are cornered by Freedom Force, but the local mob interpret this as some mutants attacking a couple of humans. The mob stones Freedom Force, and X-Factor are forced to protect them.

Rusty and Skids slip away, and head into the sewers.

Artie sees something terrible is going to happen to Rusty, and after another dismissive response from Collins, goes after him, leaving a message which X-Factor find. He's gone to the Morlocks' tunnels.

X-Factor change into their X-Terminators outfits and go underground.

In the tunnels, Artie finds Leech and Caliban.

Elsewhere in the tunnels, Rusty and Skids find a dead body, but are soon found by Freedom Force. The X-Terminators arrive - and are recognised by Blob as the original X-Men - and there is a proper battle. Freedom Force withdraw.

The X-Terminators split up. Warren and Jean are sent with Rusty and Skids back to HQ, while

The Mutant Massacre begins.

Back at the Pentagon, Mystique realises that Warren is out as a mutant, and decides to see what dirt she can get, to give to Trish Tilbit.

Magneto is invited to be White King by Sebastian Shaw (the Black King). He promises to consider it.

A mob chases Nightcrawler. Kitty (along with Illyana and Piotr) are able to talk it down.

Logan, with Ororo, tracks Rachel's last position to the Delacorte Theatre (which is in Central Park at 79th, well north of the Sheep Meadow at ~68th).

Tommy, a mutant who had fled from the west coast on trains, is arriving into Grand Central station, as she is killed by a group identifying themselves as "Marauders".

First thing I notice laying it all like that is that the timing is impossible. X-Factor get called to the Battle of Sheep Meadow at night, encounter Freedom Force and there's no obvious break before they bump into Magneto. But for Magneto it's clearly been hours since the battle was over. Another little oddity is the dialogue in the shared scene. It's not exactly the same. Today, it would be. And the content is a little odd: they're being thanked for having turned up to the Sheep Meadow battle. Which they hadn't. Still, it's a pretty impressive first effort at a crossover between the titles. And it gets bonus points for maintaining comprehensibility even when read individually.

Over in X-Factor we have some fun role-reversal between the G-Men of Freedom Force and the evil mutants the X-Terminators (the bits where Mystique has to tell Blob to stay in line as he's a federal agent now are hilarious. and she transforms herself into Uncle Sam to make the arrest! worth the price of admission alone).

Uncanny is rather more of a mish-mash of random things, but generally setting the mood for the events which are about to come. The significant step it makes is deigning to acknowledge that X-Factor is happening, even if it is a horrible mistake.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Uncanny X-Men #207-#209: Party in the Park

Uncanny X-Men #207 starts with the X-Men staying with the Morlocks. They're using the services of Healer, on Wolverine, who was pretty beaten up after #205. Rachel goes off to kill someone. She does that. Possibly she should get it looked at. In this case, the target is Selene, who she still has a grudge against and reckons she ought to be able to beat up with her shiny new Phoenix power level. She's tracked by Wolverine, who she's been bringing into her dreams, and knows exactly what he's going to have to do. You'll have to kill me, to stop me killing her, says Rachel. Snikt, says Wolverine. Wolverine goes downstairs to debrief. The X-Men are, well, not exactly keen on what he did, but agree to search for Rachel, to help her if necessary.

Meanwhile, Selene goes to her Hellfire Club buddies, who soon agree that it should be the policy of that club that this action should be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet UnionPhoenix.

The X-Men, with the help of Caliban, trace Rachel to Central Park, where she's been able to use her TK to keep the bleeding in check, but is in a bad way. This is of course the best possible time for the Hellfire Club to find her. A general fight emerges, only ceasing when Nimrod arrives, who wants to kill all mutants, which after a bit of three-way causes a truce between the two factions of mutants.

During all this, Rachel has slipped away quietly, to Spiral's "Body Shoppe" (now actually spelt like that), in hope of healing. This is a rather different and more mystical Body Shoppe to the cyberpunk one which we saw in #205, and I think I needed to have read the Longshot miniseries for this to have made any sense. Oh well.

After the battle's done Tessa offers the X-Men sanctuary at the Hellfire Club for a brief while. I think this (or rather, her battle analysis earlier in the arc) is the first clear indication we get that Tessa is actually important. First appearance: Sage?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

X-Factor #7: Who's Maddy?

So, X-Factor was launched against the protests of Chris Claremont, and it's been entertaining to watch him argue with it in Uncanny, by rehabilitating the Phoenix and having Madelyne wind up nearly-dead in a San Francisco E.R. That stage is over, as Claremont will find Louise Simonson (who took over writing from #6) much more amenable, and the two series' begin to acknowledge each others' reality.

X-Factor #7 sees our team arrive back as X-Factor, to a media furore. They've been been linked with their X-Men identities, courtesy of Tower, and Vera is interviewed on the telly by Trish Tilbit (note spelling: I choose to regard all subsequent appearances of her as Trish Tilby as misspellings).

Scott makes some phone calls (!) and can't find where Maddy is, while Jean asks some questions of the others, and deduces that the boy has only gone and got himself married. Accidentally calling her Maddy didn't help, probably.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the tunnels, two new mutants (Glowworm and Bulk), rejected even from the Morlocks (for being radioactive), are ready to demonstrate one of the more obvious flaws in the X-Factor plan, by attacking it. The guys have no clue what to do, and improvise wildly, dressing up as X-Men and teaming up with the Morlocks to attack X-Factor. (Hank, Scott, and Bobby anyway - Jean is missing and Warren is left behind because his wings would make him too distinctive, which I'm afraid is too little, too late!) "Free the mutants! X-Terminate X-Factor!" goes their slogan, and so they are quickly dubbed the "X-Terminators" by Tilbit, who can hear missing Es and hyphens.

After some "friendly fire", the second part of the game plan goes into effect, and five people in X-Factor uniforms leave the building to engage in a battle. That'd be Warren, Cameron, Jean, Rusty, and Vera. They "defeat" the X-Terminators, who then run away, with the Morlocks. Back at a safe location, they don't even explain what X-Factor really is. This is only going to lead to continued future embarrassment. But at least they've cleared up any holes in their story that X-Factor and the X-Terminators are separate. Yes?

Friday, 14 December 2012

X-Factor #5-#6: Apocalypse, Finally

One of the many things X-Factor has brought back from the 1960s is the random sexist comments by characters portrayed as heroic. I didn't miss that in Claremont's work, I can tell you. Here, on page 3 of #5, it is Bobby, saying to Jean "the last thing any of us wants is for you to lose that shape, Jeanie! Va-va-va-voom!". Oh dear. Perhaps Claremont is an anomaly, and this is just how comics were usually written in the 1980s? They're even saying "Holy Hannah" again, I haven't seen that for a while, either.

Anyway. This arc's mission is the recovery of Michael Nowlan, who is a mutant with the power of enhancing other mutant powers. He's been taking drugs to suppress this, and has run away from the "Alliance of Evil", which consists of Tower (can manipulate his mass/size), Frenzy (invulnerability, strength) and two new characters: Stinger (who can discharge electricity) and Timeshadow (who has short range time travel). This Alliance reports to Apocalypse, and there's four of them, so I wonder if they were candidates for Horsemen (by all accounts Apocalypse was a last-minute replacement so this was not intended by the writers, but it's nonetheless an interesting coincidence).

They fail, and Michael is spirited away. This results in some introspection. This wouldn't have happened in the old days. I mentioned briefly before that the revived Jean is not a telepath. There seem to be two chief reasons for this. Firstly, a mobile telepath is way overpowered compared to the rest of the team - it's the same reason they rarely let Xavier be all three of walking, on the team, and telepathic. Secondly (as Teebore has pointed out in the comments for #1), if she were able to read people's minds, this whole plot with Scott and Madelyne wouldn't work, as Jean would know about it and insist on Scott doing right by Maddy, right? It's telling that the original Scott/Jean plot petered out more or less at the same time she got those powers in the first place. Scott has made that call to Maddy, by the way, and had no answer. He reckons she's left him. Which is completely ridiculous of him. He has left her. Jean reckons that Scott's in love with someone else... Phoenix. Actually, I can't see a good reason why she hasn't guessed there isn't another woman involved here?

Anyway, Michael knows X-Factor's secret, but was kindly keeping it. Apocalypse arrives fairly well-developed, being centuries old and wanting mutants to kill mutants so that the strongest will remain. Our final battle sees Michael kill himself rather than allow the Alliance and Apocalypse continued access to his power.

We don't know very much about Apocalypse, but he makes an instant impression in a way that immediately marks him out as an Important Villain. This (thanks Louise!) is X-Factor's first slam-dunk.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

X-Factor #4: F is for Frenzy

X-Factor #4 opens with the original X-Men - calling each other their popularly known codenames - beating up Tower at LaGuardia Airport (I'm assuming that in addition to divvying up the mutants, they've also split New York. Claremont gets JFK, Layton is stuck with LGA), in a supposed attempt to intimidate him into not associating with X-Factor. And they think this is going to improve the reputation of mutants? Senator Thompson points out to their PR guy, Cameron Hodge, that it might backfire. I can see how.

Tower escapes them, but Frenzy (for it is she) has been sent to keep an eye on him and then try to "rescue" Rusty Collins, for her mysterious employers. This proves unnecessary, when Collins simply runs away from X-Factor HQ. This is the first time any of these guys have been teachers - and they're rubbish at it, especially Cyclops, who is demonstrating his famed leadership ability. They'd be better off sending them to the school, perhaps, except that Magneto is also a rubbish teacher, and they think he's evil. When are they going to make contact, anyway? I get the feeling Scott is only not suggesting it as otherwise he'd have to explain to them the Jean/Madelyne situation. Yet another element in my "Cyclops hates telephones" theory, too. Come to think of it, does Jean even know they have children there at Westchester now? If so, why hasn't she suggested a rescue mission?

Anyway, #4's mission is X-Factor being sent to Ferreden School, to deal with a suspected mutant. Only it's someone pretending to be a mutant. Which is an interesting enough idea, but one given nowhere near enough time. Bendis did this better in Alias (#11-#14, if you're interested.)

They arrive back just in time to change into X-Men costumes and fight Frenzy for possession of Collins. They reckon she's an evil mutant, even though she's trying to liberate a mutant from what she thinks is an evil anti-mutant organisation? Sigh. I mean, what are they planning on doing when the X-Men proper turn up? Anyway, they take him back, and he agrees, saying he's too confused to say no. I can't say I blame him. The guys apologise to him for treating him rubbishly, and he makes up with Artie, after having called him a freak and worse earlier.

Man, I hate to say it so bluntly, but this book is just stupid. I hope it gets better soon.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Uncanny X-Men #206: FRDM

After a couple of guest artists, Uncanny X-Men has John Romita Jr back on pencils.

Storm is looking for trouble in San Francisco's Chinatown. She quickly finds it, and defeats a gang beating up some civilians. She then makes the acquaintance of Bree Morrel, SFPD Lieutenant (and semi-regular in Claremont's Spider-Woman run), who says the X-Men are fine by her and that she hopes they stay. (They missed a trick by not having her be Head of Police or something after Manifest Destiny).

They're hanging out at Jessica Drew (that is, Spider-Woman)'s house, where they get a postcard from Alaska, from Scott. "Is all well with his family, Rogue?" asks Colossus, pointedly. "Seems so, Pete." replies Rogue. Given they're in CA already, might they pop over to AK for a visit? Rachel thinks this isn't a very good idea, for entirely incorrect reasons.

Kitty has gone to a Lila Cheney gig - in fishnets (I suppose she's finally got over Storm's change in look and is now emulating her), and on her way back she and David Ishima - Jessica Drew's landlord and love interest - are attacked by the ironically named Freedom Force, which now consists of Avalanche, Spiral, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), Pyro, and Blob but minus Mystique. They are there on official business, supposedly, to arrest the X-Men, but they've been very badly briefed, as they are not aware that Storm has lost her powers.

With the X-Men beaten, Lieutenant Morrel arrives, and you can already see where this is going. Where the X-Men failed in combat, she defeats Freedom Force with her power of bureaucratic stonewalling.

Meanwhile, Madelyne Pryor winds up in a San Francisco hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. Given the earlier postcard, this is surely another swipe by Claremont at what Layton is doing with Scott. It's fascinating to see comic books argue with each other like this. In a way, I almost regret that things will soon be smoothed over, as it might have otherwise reached epic levels.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Carry On X-Men

Chris Weston just drew this. I post it without comment. My non-British readers might need to read this for context.

New Mutants #38-#40: And They Woke Up And It Was All Real

New Mutants #38-#40 deals with the aftermath of Secret Wars II. The New Mutants were resurrected, but as soulless automatons, talking but not caring. Only Dani seems a bit more active, crying, and explaining what happened to Brightwind for us. Thor appears to her in a vision with a message of hope. As a frog. (Never mind Loki being a girl or a kid, Thor was a frog! Blame Walt Simonson.)

Magneto, now going by the name "Michael Xavier", Charles' cousin, isn't able to do much about this, and, after much consideration, takes Emma Frost up on her offer of taking the students off his hands. He closes down the school, with only Dani and Warlock refusing to leave. The X-Men are still in San Francisco, otherwise they'd surely put a stop to this.

I think we're supposed to reckon Emma is causing all this, especially once Empath is found lurking around the school grounds, using his powers to forcibly rpslash Sharon and Tom. At the Massachusetts Academy, we find out it is instead real damage from the Beyonder, as Empath simply can't work on them, and Emma fixes the kids at least part of the way.

Meanwhile, Magneto is wondering whether he did the right thing, Dani goes to visits her parents, and then Sharon and Tom turn up, almost dead, reporting what Empath did to them. Magneto decides that he'd been emotionally manipulated too, and sets off to rescue the kids.

Emma sees this coming, and via her local police force summons the Avengers, here consisting of Captain America, Wasp, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Hercules, Namor and Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), and tells them the mutant terrorist Magneto is planning on abducting some of her students. In doing so, she sort of gives herself away to the Avengers, as they realise that the only reason Magneto might be interested in them is if they are mutants. Anyway, Avengers and Magneto fight, but the New Mutants - who have been partly fixed by Emma, show loyalty to Magneto and defend him. The Avengers are at least temporarily persuaded of his reform, and allow him to leave with the students. As does Frost - she knows she can't hold them against their will, and gets some brownie points for next round by not trying.

The story has a detached mood matching its subject material, and it's not immediately obvious what is happening or is motivating any of the characters. I'm not entirely convinced by the ending: but I guess Emma can't be as much as a hardass as we'd been led to believe.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Uncanny X-Men #205: Kate P & Wolverine

Uncanny X-Men #205 is a very odd comic. It's Barry Windsor-Smith's fourth issue of X-Men (after #53, #186 and #198). Here he focuses on Wolverine, who teams up with a young girl named Kate P, which would be completely explicable were it not for the fact that she is Katie Power out of Power Pack, rather than Kitty Pryde. I can only assume that there was a bad phone line, or something.

You can sort of imagine a cute story with the two of them, but this isn't it. This is the start of the second phase of the development of Wolverine (the first phase being the Wolverine-in-Japan stories), as we consider the adamantium. (Windsor-Smith, of course, will go on to write the Weapon X serial in Marvel Comics Presents only five years from now). We know Wolverine has adamantium attached to his skeleton - we've known since Kitty Pryde & Wolverine that it was something that was done to him. But we don't know anything about how that might happen.

Enter Spiral, owner of Ye Olde Body Shoppe (my spelling), who has given Lady Deathstrike - aka Oyama Yuriko - a cyborgification treatment, along with those three Hellfire goons that Wolverine almost killed in X-Men #133 and have re-appeared in #152 and the New Mutants graphic novel. They are all very stupid - pursuing a vendetta against Wolverine is possibly the most dangerous thing for your health in a comic (unless you're Sabretooth, I suppose). At least they have a reason. Lady Deathstrike has a grudge against him for entirely abstract reasons of intellectual property.

Cut to Kate P, who finds Wolverine being attacked by the quartet, and hurting badly, regressing to a feral state, even. Wolverine is grateful that she's bought him time to heal, but as soon as he comes around, immediately tells her to hide, refusing her offer to help with her powers. After everything's done and dusted he reassures her and takes her home.

There is a fight. Wolverine wins, but spares Lady Deathstrike, in what can be read as either an act of mercy or a cruelty. She doesn't have that healing factor, and the link that the adamantium might kill her isn't quite made. But at any rate, she chose this, and if there's a monster, it's her, not Logan. At worst, he's an animal.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

X-Factor #2-#3: I Want It All Back, The Way That It Was

X-Factor #2-#3 is where we can see what Layton Guice really brings to the table. Between them, Claremont Cockrum, Claremont Byrne, Claremont Smith and Claremont Romita have been doing X-Men for ten years, and at no point have any of them done a "mutant cure" plot. I think the last time it was played with was in #19, with Mimic's cure machine, and #20, when Scott briefly entertains seeking a doctor to help him deal with those optic blasts. Technically there is the gun that depowered Storm, but that's treated as a weapon rather than something that someone might seek out. Whereas, the mutant cure is Layton Guice's first story after #1.

So, welcome back to this blog for Beast's supporting cast. Firstly, there's Vera, who has moved back to New York and has become some kind of radical. She's been appearing in Defenders on and off, and I don't know how compatible her appearance here is with where she'd been left off - Hank certainly seems surprised! Also, there's Carl Maddicks, who'd last been seen ages ago, in Amazing Adventures #11. He's a funny character to bring back after so long, especially as he was killed off in that single appearance (retconned here). He hires Tower, a new mutant with the ability to size-shift (but who is not as awesome as Axe. Nobody can be that awesome), to kidnap Beast. X-Factor respond (in character, which definitely involves calling each other things like "Warren" and "Jean" in public), and start trying to track down Beast.

Maddicks is being used because of the storyline he appeared in: Beast, way back, isolated what the comic is still not calling "Mutant Growth Hormone", and Maddicks wishes to see if he can develop a cure, too. There's still one loose end to dispose of, though: Tower. So Maddicks sics X-Factor on him. That backfires very slightly - the X-Men are able to extract the information needed out of Tower, and rescue Beast.

Beast has had Maddick's "cure" tested on him, prior to its proposed use on Artie Maddicks, Carl's son. This is like the fourth time we've had someone motivated by their son being a mutant (previously we've had Mimic's father, Bolivar Trask, and William Stryker), which is an odd pattern. Nobody seems to care about their daughters? This sort of works, insofar as it cures his blueness and furriness, reverting the one remaining significant character development that any of these people had happen to them since 1970. Apart from the nostalgic element, it also means can "pass as human" now - as X-Factor #1 puts it. They're trying to make that premise work, even as they undermine it by having the team refer to themselves as X-Factor even in their mutant garb.

So, after killing his father, they get Artie as a ward. Or rather, they seem to just take him - at the urging of Carl, it has to be admitted - without any official state approval. He looks young, probably younger any of the New Mutants. His mutation leads him to look very different, and he's mute, so he communicates by projecting images of stuff, instead. I don't know why he hasn't been taught sign language or writing or something: we'll see later on that he's capable of using symbols, I believe.

Throughout the arc, Scott is being avoidant about telling Jean about Madelyne, or vice versa, even though Warren has told him he needs to, and Jean knows something is wrong and wants to have a talk with him. And as I said for #1, he's not out of character, this is exactly the sort of cretinous thing that he'd do. The bastard.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Uncanny X-Men #204: The Dark Nightcrawler Returns

Uncanny X-Men #204 is a break in format, again, in an issue drawn by June Brigman. What, it asks, happened to Nightcrawler? (He wasn't in #203, nor the resolution of Secret Wars II).

This business with the Beyonder has really tested his faith, and in frustration, he drives off Amanda. While moping, he discovers a truck used by Arcade.

Oh. This is going to be another short post, then. Sorry. Tomorrow's is longer, I promise!

It's only 1986 and Kurt is complaining about the increasing grittiness and darkness of comics, these days, they used to be much better and lighthearted back when he was a kid you know. It's a wonder he doesn't go on about how things seem to take much longer now. Little does he know: The Dark Knight Returns hasn't finished, and Watchmen won't even start until September. Oddly, the woman he rescues from Arcade (Judith Rassendyll, the new Queen of Ruritania, or something) makes a point right out of DKR at him: if Arcade didn't exist he'd have to invent him. Kurt doesn't have an answer. There can't be an answer.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Bisecting Wolverine

It's the eternal question: what would happen if you divided Wolverine in half from the top of his head down to his crotch? He has mad healing powers, so we can assume that if you destroyed the left half, a new right half would grow; if you destroyed the right half then a new left half would grow. But if you merely separated the two halves, what would happen?

We asked some of Marvel's top writers. Well, Paul and Kieron, anyway.

WriterTitlePosition on the problem of Wolverine bisection.
Jason AaronWolverine,
Wolverine and the X-Men
Actually, I forgot to ask him that. Damn.
Paul CornellWolverineNo. It wouldn't work. You'd still only get one Wolverine.
Kieron GillenUncanny X-MenYou would get two Wolverines. They then wouldn't fight. They would do the other thing.

[Update on December 11, 2012: SpaceSquid has considered the implications of Wolverine bisection more deeply than I personally would have admitted to.]

Secret Wars II #9: Finally

I was going to write about the conclusion to Secret Wars II here, but you know what? It's now less than a month before this post goes live, and there aren't enough hours in the day.

For me, this has been the anti-pattern of events. It's randomly interfered with the comics I've been reading, without improving them or contributing any significant developments (well, I suppose Rachel becoming Phoenix counts, but that reads more like Claremont taking advantage of the opportunity to stick the boot into X-Factor more than anything else.) And it having thoroughly annoyed me, the last thing I want to do is read more of it.

So, that's it. We resume tomorrow, with a post about Uncanny #204. Meanwhile, to make up for the lack of any substantive content on this, there is a very special post about Wolverine scheduled half an hour after this one.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Uncanny X-Men #203: Redeeming the Phoenix

A significant life event happened for one of the X-Men in San Franscisco, as Uncanny X-Men #203 reminds us. We see in flashback the Rogue/Ms. Marvel fight, mentioned in Avengers Annual #10 and passim, which has the odd implication that Rogue apparently stripped Ms. Marvel naked and redressed her in civvies, while on the Golden Gate Bridge (and removed all labels, as told in #10). I know they have fast costume changes in comics, but this is ridiculous. She helpfully exposits this, and reminds us why the X-Men are in New York (the Beyonder), before catching up with Kitty.

Kitty has been bequeathed Illyana's armour and soulsword (which we saw in New Mutants #36 would devolve upon her if Illyana gave up her responsibilities). The Beyonder has supposedly made it as if the New Mutants had ceased to exist, but apparently that power doesn't extend to Limbo and its workings, so Kitty has not only the equipment, but also the memory of the New Mutants. Rogue denies that Colossus even has a sister.

Rachel has remembered that the Beyonder never took the power back at the end of #202, and figures on an excellent idea to kill him: if she destroys the entire universe, she'll also destroy the Beyonder. As a plan, this would seem to have one obvious downside. Rachel goes around collecting personas, like she's suddenly got Rogue's ability. She grabs Kitty, Rogue (erm), Ms. Marvel, Jessica Drew (who is just randomly popping by), Colossus, Wolverine, Magneto, Storm.

She then becomes a giant fiery space bird, and goes via the Starjammers to the M'Kraan crystal. Here, she sees the totally of existence, and we learn the exact type of fiery space bird she is: chicken.

This successful attempt to control the Phoenix power by Rachel, appearing in March 1986, can be read as a direct attack on the Phoenix-related flashbacks from Fantastic Four a couple of months ago, that sought to blame the Phoenix for everything. In a couple of years we'll get to see Claremont's take on the Jamaica Bay incident in Classic X-Men: I'll be sure to cover that when it comes up.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

New Mutants #37: No New Mutants

New Mutants #37 has our New Mutants home alone, while the X-Men and Magneto are off in San Francisco dealing with the Beyonder. They are watching a John Wayne film. Amara provides popcorn, by holding a bucket of corns and turning into her Magma form, which is an innovative and novel approach to the problem. Illyana and Sam are making comments that Rahne calls as being inappropriate, given that Dani is in the room.

Dani is trying to make a long-distance phone call (at least someone in this comic knows how trunk dial!) to her parents. She tells them about the horse she recently acquired, but not about its wings or about the fact that she can see culturally-appropriate figures of death over everyone's head. She bolts, only to catch her reflection in a window, of her in full Valkyrie getup. Sam comes looking for her and is able to talk her down. Quite what this all means for her is a little confusing. She seems to matter-of-factly accept that it's possible, while still being upset by it.

Bobby is in Manhattan, and comes across a construction accident. Aha! Excellent! He transforms into Sunspot, and is barely able to keep aloft some of the wreckages before it crashes down and is stopped by She-Hulk, who saves the day and then does a press call. The bloke he saved thanks him - those few seconds were important. When Magneto was training him at greater strengths in #36 - he was right. But Bobby, being Bobby, can't admit that, and decides to abandon the New Mutants and go to his family in Rio.

Back at the mansion, the Beyonder has turned up, with predictable certainty (it's like he's got a rota). Illyana offers herself up as a sacrifice (seriously, get another personality trait, Rasputins), but the others won't let that good grief he just killed her. Suddenly. there's a big superhero fight. Well, if that's what you can call some kids futilely trying to lay a finger on the Beyonder, anyway. He kills them, one by one, vowing to make it as if they had never existed. And that's it. No New Mutants. They never existed. How are they going to get out of that one, eh?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Uncanny X-Men 202: brb killing beyonder

Uncanny X-Men #202 starts with a message from Rachel: she's gone to kill the Beyonder. Fair enough. I'm sick of him too, as you might have been able to guess.

She finds him in San Francisco. She can't kill him, of course, because it's not yet time for that to happen: but the way that happens is more interesting than I was expecting. She's given the power to kill him, sure, but wouldn't sure rather use the time saving her fellow X-Men from the giant mutant-killing robots that have been brought through time from the distant future year of 2013?

Yes. Yes, she would.

There's a lot of property damage to deal with, and the X-Men decide to stay for a while to clean up the mess - starting their long association with that city (well, after a flying visit in #49).

This is Magneto's first official mission with the X-Men now that Xavier has gone. He is able to operate Cerebro to try and find Rachel - but it's not working too well because of him earlier messing around with the Earth's magnetic field. (I suppose that's how there got to be so many mutants without the X-Men noticing?)

Monday, 3 December 2012

New Mutants #36: Beyond Help

New Mutants #36 is another crossover issue with Secret Wars II. To be honest, it's a wonder that the launch of X-Factor wasn't tangled in with that.

Kitty is researching Norse mythology after the X-Men's recent Asgardian experience. She's supposed to be meeting up for food with Illyana later, but instead ends up with Magik's armour and soulsword, and is attacked by a demon. Meanwhile, another one ends up at the mansion and attacks the New Mutants - but Warlock takes it out.

Illyana has been delayed by the Beyonder, and turned into a complete version of herself. She takes a subway car (quite literally) to Westchester, and explains what has happened to the New Mutants, making an analogy with Clarke's Childhood's End, says that Beyonder is here to help, and is very firm indeed on the fact that she certainly hasn't been brainwashed or anything like that.

When she realises that her cleansing meant that her responsibilities as Magik devolved upon Kitty (who is now in grave risk from demons), she gives herself freely back into corruption to save her. After all, if she doesn't, she can't very well keeping calling herself good. Those Rasputins are screwed up, I tell you.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

X-Factor #1: Putting the Band Back Together

It's 1986. It has been over a decade since anyone except Chris Claremont wrote an X-Men comic. This changes now, with X-Factor #1, which is a curious mix of the regressive and the new. This is a street-level book, and the first real opportunity to see what happens when other writers play with Claremont's ideas. In this case the writer is Bob Layton, alongside Jackson Guice on pencils.

As we saw last post, it's been revealed that what emerged from Jamaica Bay in X-Men #101, and died on the moon in #138 was not in fact Jean Grey, but a copy. Reed Richards has put her back in contact with Warren (Angel). Scott (Cyclops) isn't in the X-Men any more - he's just retired, in Alaska, with his wife (Madelyne Pryor) and his newborn child (as yet unnamed). He gets a phone call from Warren telling him that Jean is alive and he should come... and he walks out on wife, just like that.

The terrifying thing about this is not that it's an arbitrary editorially-mandated act that we're supposed to pretend is acceptable, as is generally contended, but that it's completely in character for Scott, and is treated as a despicable thing right there in the issue. Scott and Madelyne's story was simply not leading towards a happy ending, and I do not buy for a moment Claremont's line. More seriously, we need to consider the lead teams. There was the opportunity for some of this to have not been written - little Nathan was only born just last month - Claremont by his own account found they were going to be using Jean for X-Factor when he was doing the plot for #198. Given how long X-Men/Alpha Flight was (it was several months pencilling no doubt), I can believe that the baby had been planned for a while, but they could have changed the dialogue, no? Is the baby basically just brinkmanship - Claremont making a last throw of the dice to make Cyclops unusable in X-Factor, and them doing it anyway?

So, the three of them are together in a room. Scott has regressed to his state, 20 years ago, of being unable to tell Jean important information about who he loves. Nobody else has told her the news, either, even though who one is married to is a matter of public record. Sigh. Jean appears to have acquired a personality from somewhere while she was in the cocoon, at least. She's taken a good hard look at the state of the world (Xavier gone, Magneto working with the X-Men, and mutants more hated than ever) and wants to do something. She suggests forming a new team.

Two weeks later, and Hank is failing to get hired due to employment discrimination (it's not that the dean is prejudiced against mutants himself, you understand, it's just that he's concerned about what people might think!) Bobby has got a job as an accountant (is this where we find that out? Maybe his accountancy course was a long-running subplot in Defenders) Both of them are happy to accept the opportunity of work with Angel's new corporation, X-Factor. But first, they have to find Scott, who has skipped out on the people he skipped out on his wife to be with. Bit of a pattern there.

He's found soon enough, overlooking Jamaica Bay (I suppose he must have been there the whole two weeks?). So, the original five, together again at last! Cameron Hodge, Angel's old roommate, and now a PR person, outlines the business plan to them.

They will set up as "X-Factor" (named for the "X-Factor mutation", a term coined here and which justifies the name, but also is an example of the more details-oriented approach to the actual mechanics of mutation that Layton Guice will bring in this short run), a sort of mutant Ghostbusters, using their civilian identities. This will give them leads on new mutants facing problems, who they will then rescue and train. They retain the option of using their costumes and powers if necessary, but will keep that separate from X-Factor.

The plan has one glaring flaw which ought to make it impossible: Angel is out. He doesn't have a secret identity to hide behind. He can't pretend to be Warren Worthington III, backer and employee of X-Factor one the one hand and Angel, mutant renegade on the other. I can only assume that Layton and the others overlooked this, as it doesn't make the slightest bit of sense otherwise. The fact that the X-Factor costumes look awfully like the X-Men costumes (they have the same X-in-a-circle design) is a minor problem in comparison. One nice touch here is that in their X-Factor guise, the others also wear sunglasses, even indoors, making Scott stick out less like a sore thumb. The outfits also include great big backpacks, which Warren apparently uses to hide his wings in.

So, anyway, first call comes in, and it's about a chap named Rusty Collins, a young US Navy recruit, who has manifested uncontrollable fire powers. They rescue him, and take him back to New York for training (managing to extort $42,000 out of Chief Fisher in the process.) That's all right, then. Except that the place they'd rescued him from was prison, where he was legitimately being held after an incident where he had given severe burns to a local prostitute (Emma La Porte). Sure, he says it was an accident, but that's for a court to decide. So X-Factor have transported a fugitive across state lines. They really haven't thought this through, have they?

So, that's X-Factor for you. Everything back, as it was - Jean's been rolled back before the #30s even, as she's missing her telepathy. Beast still looks weird, mind. I can't imagine that this #1 would have been accessible to anyone who hadn't read X-Men before. The rot of giving fans what they say they want set in here.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Avengers #263/Fantastic Four #286: The Absolution of Jean Grey

Although Chris Claremont's run on X-Men was an astounding success commercially by the mid-1980s, there were always unsatisfied fans who want things back the way they used to be. These days they'd be sounding off on the internet; back then they they were doing things like writing in letters suggesting that the New X-Men be moved to New Mutants, while the original team comes back and stars in Uncanny.

Claremont had little interest in doing that, and six years ago he more or less made it impossible (at Jim Shooter's insistence), by killing Jean Grey after she, as Phoenix, had caused a genocide. If you want those original five back, you have to resurrect Jean, but her death was her absolution. If she is simply brought back to life, she will be unredeemed.

This, though, is not an insurmountable problem. It's Marvel Girl they wanted back, anyway, not Phoenix, so if we rewind the clock to when Marvel Girl became Phoenix, there's a natural point to insert a swap. In this case it is supposed that the Phoenix force created a copy of Jean and was wandering around in her place - and that it's responsible for the destruction of that Shi'ar sun, not the real Jean Grey, who is safely cocooned in Jamaica Bay, still.

The story goes out of its way to emphasise that the Phoenix duplicate was identical to Jean in every respect, and that it was Jean's humanity that was responsible for the Phoenix's sacrifice, in a way that is supposed to absolve her. But if the duplicate really was that good, then wouldn't she have reacted in that way, too? Sure, it wasn't actually her who did it, but there's no need to be quite so smug. They could have gone another route here, and had the Phoenix be an imperfect copy all along: certainly Scott never seemed to reconnect with her - and had trouble mourning her, even.

Ignoring the philosophical problems with the story (and let's face it, it's not the most morally objectionable thing to happen as setup for X-Factor), mechanically it's handled competently enough. You can see in Fantastic Four #286 a strong engagement with the details of the original story, in a continuity-obsessed way which anticipates Byrne's approach to The Hidden Years. Yes, it makes sense that she thinks she's still fighting Lang and his X-Sentinels, but she has been unconscious for a good long period: she didn't need to remember it.

So, what next? The Fantastic Four and Avengers don't think she should go back to the X-Men: they're working with Magneto. But Reed has an idea for someone he might call...

Friday, 30 November 2012

Uncanny X-Men #201: Baby X

Uncanny X-Men #201 features a long-brewing fight, that will decide the future of the X-Men. Yes, that's right, Scott and Madelyne are finally going to have it out.

They had a very quick romance (they met in #168 and were married in #173!), and I've never been entirely convinced by Scott's part in this, as I've been pointing out along the way. Not so long ago he was seriously considering going to space with the Starjammers, leaving her on Earth. In this issue, Scott (and the rest of the X-Men) arrive back at the mansion following the trips to Asgard and Paris, to find that Madelyne has given birth. On her own, at Westchester. (I dunno if that works - surely Sharon and Tom were there? Perhaps they've gone back to Muir Island). Madelyne complains that Scott never phoned her from Paris, even though other X-Men did. Little does she know that the man has an almost pathological aversion to telephones, even worse than mine.

There is also the small issue of leadership, which is even more crucial now that Magneto has effectively usurped control of the New Mutants. Storm was made leader by Xavier when Cyclops left. After she lost her powers and went to Africa, Xavier made Nightcrawler field leader. Cyclops now wants back in (despite his wife's position on the matter), and Storm has got back from Africa and reckons she can do it. Neither of these candidates are ideal, but there's no obvious third option: Nightcrawler has no interest in the role - he thinks he didn't go a great job. Wolverine - who we will remember was tapped by Hudson to head up Alpha Flight - still sees himself as a follower. Wolverine reckoned Kitty would be a good leader in the future, but she's still only 15 (we think). Colossus, nope. Banshee is retired. Phoenix is dead. Rogue, even if she were up to it, would be too divisive.

This is the first team they've had a leadership dispute, and rather than having elections, or something, they have a duel. Well, that's how they settle things in the Morlocks, anyway. Admittedly here, the rules aren't "to the death". This is quite short, at 5 pages. Storm wins. Scott goes home with Maddy (assuming she'll take him). And so a new chapter is about to begin, which will last for all of a month.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

New Mutants #35: Radically Different Than The Old Boss

The New Mutants return from Asgard to the school only to find their new headmaster, Magneto, in charge in New Mutants #35. Well, I suppose he must have caught the flight back with them, only to have told them on arrival.

They are suspicious. Well, you would be, wouldn't you? Bobby points out that this isn't really any better than, say, Emma Frost taking over their tuition. And Magneto is really starting to wonder about what he's let himself in for.

Fortunately for him (but less so for Dani), he soon gets the opportunity to prove his worth to his charges. When Dani arrives back having nearly been assaulted (we don't really have to read between the lines to deduce that's it's an attempted rape), Magneto goes looking for the perpetrators, and here demonstrates the difference between him and Xavier.

Professor X would have mindwiped them, or something. Magneto just puts the fear of Magneto into them, and they decide that confessing to the police would be a really good idea.

This is some good character development: Magneto is protective of the children, which is entirely in line with his revelation in #150, but useless at management or leadership skills (he's been a solo villain since the break-up of the original Brotherhood in the 1960s, and he was a fairly imperious and ineffective leader of that). Here, he learns that he needs to be loyal for the kids for them to be loyal to him - an important step forward, which combined with his missing of Lee make him appear to be an actual rounded person. Please don't screw this up, Magnus. But I question the point of having a story with an attempted rape and then somehow making it all about a man. Can we not find something less gratuitous?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Uncanny X-Men #200: "The Trial of Magneto"

So. Trial of the century. It's all going on in our special double-sized celebratory issue of Uncanny X-Men #200.

Magneto is to be tried by an ad-hoc international criminal court akin to the Nuremburg trials. (I suppose the United States wasn't willing to hand him over directly the Soviet Union? Sadly, the claim that it is the first court of its kind would no longer hold up, because it has been necessary to set up special ad hoc international criminal tribunals for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and eventually a standing International Criminal Court was established. Americans: you really should get around to joining that one of these years, it's making you look ridiculous.)

Our impromptu tribunal is in Paris, rather than the Hague, presumably as reference images of the City of Light are a tad easier to come by.

For the prosecution, we have Sir James Jaspers, Attorney General of England and Wales. This is slightly weird - Attorney General doesn't have the same hands-on role in prosecutions as they do in the United States (that department is headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions), but it's at least true that he represents the British government at the ICJ, so we'll give it a pass.

More worrying is Magneto's defence team, which is the Ambassador of Israel to the United Kingdom, Gaby Haller, and Charles Xavier. Now, let's accept that Haller and Xavier have perfectly good in-story reasons for supporting Magneto right now. Nonetheless, what on Earth are they thinking. Were they not able to find an actual legal team? Does Xavier really want to be known in public not only as a "mutant-lover", but also as an actual Magneto apologist?

And worse than that: what is the Israeli government thinking? Is Haller acting in an official capacity? If they wanted to do an Israel-offers-mutants-asylum storyline, that would be pretty interesting, but that's really not what's going on, and instead it seems like Haller is going rogue. She gotta end up being sacked as a result of this, right?

To the the trial itself. Our first bit of business is the stuff prior to X-Men #104. The defence argues that that was a different Magneto, and that the current one can only be held responsible for actions after he has been restored to adulthood. Which might be true, but the court just accepts this assertion without questioning how it can be proven. The defence asserts that it's an established fact that Magneto went to Auschwitz, must therefore be in his 60s, and has clearly been de-aged since, and this all means he shouldn't be put on trial for stuff before he got turned into a baby. No evidence is presented of this remarkable claim. I don't know how this works - maybe they got Johnnie Cochran to give them pre-trial coaching? - but it does, and so the trial is confined mostly to the destruction of the Soviet ship Leningrad and the city of Varykino.

Magneto gladly 'fesses up to both of these, but doesn't see the problem. The Leningrad had just tried to nuke him, after all, and he destroyed the city in a relatively nice way.

Meanwhile, back at the mansion, tumbleweed sits down and starts singing about gold.

The X-Men and New Mutants are in Paris for this excitement, having been 'ported there by Loki following the shenanigans of New Mutants Special Edition #1/X-Men Annual #8. There are anti-mutant demonstrations and, very worryingly, someone is framing the X-Men for a series of terrorist attacks. But there's hope, too: the largest demonstration Paris has ever seen, in some kind of solidarity with our mutants. Maybe some of them say "Magneto avait raison"?

During all this, Xavier has been getting weaker and weaker. He's totally unprepared for the moment when the Strucker twins - the ones who had gone after Storm in Africa arrive, and become Fenris by touching their skin together. They are the children of the Strucker seen in the flashback in #162, and they want their revenge. There is fighting. Magneto stops Jaspers from killing one of the Struckers after they've been separated, which gets him points with the judge. More scuffling, and Xavier is injured beyond any normal human healing, but is fished out by the Starjammers using a stargate, for Sirpinksi to heal. Xavier's parting wish is for Magneto to take over the school and the X-Men, although he doesn't do so within earshot of anyone other than Magneto himself, which will lead to complications.

The trial is left in ruins. The defendant absconds, although since he's very shortly to be found at his defence attorney's country mansion running his school for gifted youngsters, it should hardly be a problem to track him down. And maybe he was about to be acquitted anyway?

And that's the first two hundred issues of X-Men. There have been line-up changes, there have been fake-outs. But never before has it done anything like this - sending Xavier away and having their former archenemy in charge. This is gonna be fun.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

New Mutants Special Edition #1/X-Men Annual #9: For Asgard!

I'd known that the New Mutants share some vague sort of link with Asgardian stuff for a while - Dani goes and asks for that boon in Utopia if nothing else. And then of course Exiled happened. But it was always a bit obscure. Those stories were rather taking the relationship as read, but it wasn't the type of character background you can absorb through osmosis. Dani has Valkyrie powers and a horse, yes, but the effect that has on her character is not something that can be easily expressed in a one-sentence potted summary. It's an complex event that happened to her, and it's I suppose the same problem that legacy characters have. Mind, it's a sorry state of affairs when having complex chararacter motivations and background is a problem.

So, New Mutants Special Edition #1 and X-Men Annual #9 - which together consist of over 100 pages of comics - gave me my answer, and I feel better for having read them, in much the same way as I have a fuller understanding of Magik from reading Magik: Storm and Illyana.

There's too much plot to summarise sensibly, especially as the nine New Mutants are spread throughout the Nine Worlds (although seemingly not one per world - I think they missed a trick there). Consequences that matter are: Dani is a Valkyrie, with a pegasus, but doesn't understand the full implications of that yet. Karma loses weight. Rahne makes a friend, in Hrimhari, a more mythological wolf shapeshifter. And Rachel Summers new identity of "Phoenix" becomes known to the group, although she still hasn't told Scott who she is yet. He thinks it's a bit tasteless, which is a fair point. And Loki's plan, to make Storm a new thunder goddess and take control of Asgard, fails, as it must.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Uncanny X-Men #199: The Writing on the Wall

Mystique can see the writing on the wall: it reads "MUTIES". She's gone to Val Cooper and given herself and her Brotherhood up. See, I'd read a summary of Uncanny X-Men #199, but summaries are only good at saying what happened. They're no good at pointing out what doesn't happen.

In this issue, what doesn't happen is that Mystique blows her cover identity - Raven Darkholme, assisant to Val Cooper. The incident is therefore much easier to read as Mystique being typically tricksy, and much less a shocking moment for her character than I had thought it would be. Having said that, the idea of Mystique-as-betrayer doesn't really exist yet, does it? She's just a perfectly ordinary evil shapeshifter, not a perfidious one.

Val Cooper agrees for an amnesty for Mystique's team - to be renamed "Freedom Force" - if they are able to bring in the Mutant Enemy No. 1: Joss Whedon. Er, no, I mean, Magneto.

Magneto, Lee Forrester and Kitty Pryde are at a holocaust event in New York. Kitty's great-aunt died in it, and Magneto himself, as we've discussed, is a survivor. Kitty wonders aloud about her great-aunt, and it just so happens that another set of Holocaust survivors attending had heard of her. Someone also recognises Magneto, and therefore presumably know his real name, or at least the one he was using in the 1940s, but at no point refer to him by it. Coincidence is just how superhero comics work, but I think it's worth a special mention here: this is woeful plotting for something which is trying to make a point out of how large in scale the Holocaust was.

So, while they're there, who should arrive on the scene but Freedom Force! Or rather, Lee Forrester reveals herself to be Mystique really. It's not entirely obvious when the switch was made: but it seems likely Mystique has been delaying the confrontation specifically to do it in the Holocaust museum, so that she can score some extra points.

There's a little bit of fighting (during which Pyro calls someone "cobber" - so he's Australian now, or possibly just Claremont doesn't clearly distinguish different types of Commonwealth slang), and ultimately Magneto realises he can't win and more to the point, shouldn't. He gracefully gives himself up for trial.

While this is all happening, Rachel Summers is visiting the Greys in Annandale-on-Hudson (well, creepily trespassing in their house, anyway). She finds the memory crystal thing that had been left there in #136, and laments the fact that she'll never exist in this universe. Scott is about to has a child, certainly, but with Madelyne Pryor, and not her mother.

Oh, and she declares herself to be Phoenix, and makes herself a new costume. This will be awkward to explain to Scott, who still isn't aware of her connection with the Greys, and with him. There's something about Scott Summers and people not wanting to admit to his face about being his relative.