Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Uncanny X-Men #264: Alphabet Hunt

Uncanny X-Men #264 starts with a couple of New York cops witnessing a Genoshan state kidnap squad attacking Forge.  The elder partner is killed, natch, leaving the more junior partner, Officer Jones, alive.  Jones had previously appeared in X-Factor #51, not that I picked up on her importance then.  The Genoshan magistrates are there to abduct Jenny Ransome and Phil Moreau, our escapees, who are staying with X-Factor. (Jean, by the way, is now aware of the Muir Island X-Men, Excalibur, the New Mutants, and is feeling very interlinked, but still no mention of phone calls.)  The Genoshans are roundly defeated by a teamup and handed over to the authorities, who then in turn send them back to Genosha with some harsh words.

This apparent willingness to tolerate continued existence of paramilitary death squads on US soil is fairly out of character for the US government, but can be read as something like extraordinary rendition.  There must have been  high-level contacts between the US and Genosha about this sort of thing, even if nothing is written down.  How high, though.  To Cooper and Gyrich, sure, but this must be going to the the President, surely?  I wouldn't want to be a mutant in America in 1990.

Oppressed people form communities in enclaves, safety in numbers.  Back in the 1960s we saw the X-Men find a kind of sanctuary in Greenwich Village, associated with the counterculture.  In this issue we see the start of another: Forge is found in New York's "Alphabet City", which consists of Manhattan east of 1st and north of Houston.  This is the same place that will later become known as "District X"/"Mutant Town" in Morrison's New X-Men and Peter David's X-Factor.  But here Claremont has this already, as a place mutants hide.  From my sofa 3,500 miles and 23 years away, it appears that Alphabet City is exactly the right sort of place to have set a mutant enclave in 1990.  It's gentrified now, of course, but where isn't?

I wonder where the mutants live in London.  There's lots of them working in Camden Market, of course - there are any number of stalls selling mutant-made wares (or at least, so they say, although who can tell if that pot was really glazed with mutant fire or just gas power...?), and lots of the more visually distinctive mutants like hanging out in an environment where they don't stand out too much.  But apart from the ones who got in early and bought, it's got too expensive to live round there, so they've had to retreat towards the Holloway Road, if not beyond.  Finsbury Park is pretty good for flying practice and other training, I've heard.  The sapiens-passing ones with more economically-useful powers are scattered throughout, of course, and not necessarily always in contact with the greater mutant community.  Quite a lot in Highgate for some reason.  Mutants never really did discover Shoreditch and East London, I mean, why bother, when they had Camden?

Monday, 21 October 2013

a comic

You may remember that having attended Thought Bubble last year, I said I would be posting a bit less, and spending more time making comics.

Clearly, it has dropped a little bit more than I intended (although overall the rate for the year will end up being what I was going for!), but I have not been idle on the second front.  The first project, a 1-pager for the Thought Bubble Comic Art Competition, is now available for your viewing pleasure.  Some other things are in the pipeline.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

X-Factor #55: Vera

X-Factor #55 is the first issue to be written by Peter David! But other than that it is not a forward-looking issue in any sense: it features another couple of blasts from the pasts in the persons of Mesmero and Vera. Mesmero hasn't been seen in an X-book since he made all the X-Men work at a carnival, although he has made other appearances, most recently in Alpha Flight #43, and Vera Cantor was last seen in X-Factor #8.

Unsurprisingly given that Mesmero and Vera are in this, the plot is that Mesmero has brainwashed Vera, to mess with Hank. This was apparently commissioned by Infectia, for reasons which I am sure are to be made clear in a couple of issues' time. It's a fairly light story, and is presumably a fill-in.

According to the Chronology Project, Vera Cantor hasn't been seen since this issue, which is a shocking oversight. Because of this I was half-expecting her to be killed in this issue (just as Candy was gotten rid of as a plot point), but no, she survives and returns to her life as a school teacher. That was a bit surprising. But in fact, it shouldn't be: the X-Men's original non-mutant supporting cast has been gradually phased out over the years: Candy is dead, Zelda has already made her last appearance, Stevie Hunter made no appearances between early 1987 and late 1990.

This is a general ongoing heroification or dropping of non-superhero characters on superhero books (as James Hunt pointed out). This is perhaps clearest in what has happened to the Hulk supporting cast over the years: the Rosses are now Hulks too, and Rick Jones is A-Bomb. But it's also a bit political: by 2013 X-Men is no longer interested with non-mutant allies: it's about mutants doing it for themselves. It would have been incongruous to have Vera pop up during, say, the latter part of Gillen's run. But now, an opportunity has presented itself: Bendis's All New X-Men seems the perfect opportunity to revisit Vera (and Zelda, for that matter - who inexplicably failed to appear in a storyline about All Iceman's Exes in Astonishing recently). What say you, Bendis?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Uncanny X-Men #262-#263: I Heard You Like Tentacles

I posted my "help wanted" ad for "Ukko" on Tuesday, and by Sunday night I had sketches of the first panel in my inbox, from a artist I'm thrilled to be working with. I've posted them to the Ukko twitter account if you want to check them out. So, that's one New Year's resolution ticked off.

Uncanny X-Men #262-#263 will always be known primarily as the story in which Jean Grey's arms are replaced with tentacles by Masque and she kinda likes it.

Let's review how we got here (for I have been disregarding subplots). Banshee and Forge have left Muir Island searching for the X-Men, having heard a rumour. They've been trying to keep things on the QT from Moira, because she has been wearing clothes that are frankly quite inappropriate in a work environment. They saw a news report about Dazzler being alive, so decided to go to North America, and seem to have stopped off at the X-Mansion, possibly to check what's going on with Callisto who hasn't reported back after being sent to make sure the security systems on the basement are fine. There they meet up with Jean Grey and get involved in an adventure with Morlocks.

So. Masque is our villain here. Masque does things that are a bit twisted, even for Masque: apart from the tentacles on Jean and the I-Have-No-Mouth routine on Banshee, there's recognising the amnesiac and powerless Colossus and altering his skin to look metallic even though it isn't really. This sets up a great scene later on when he breaks through into his steel form and this comes as a great surprise to the smashees. But the more disturbing action is the one that goes against his usual M.O. - restoring Callisto's beauty.

We don't know a massive amount of Callisto's backstory yet, but it's plain here that she had to do a lot of mental work to accept her physical appearance. This is also tied in to her status as a Morlock - because of that convention of Masque altering them all. Suddenly changing her appearance back again, and playing mind-games is a savage attack on her identity, and a deliberate rejection of her from the group, by someone who sees her as a race-traitor. This book just got political again.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Uncanny X-Men #261: Wolverdickery

Hello. It's been a while. I got ill, and then eventually the queue ran out. I have decided to start posting, but on a more leisurely schedule, as I promised before! In the the meantime I've been doing other writing: I put a collaborators wanted ad for Ukko, and am very excited about the replies, and am also working on The Apocalypse Bug.

So, where were, anyway? Oh, Uncanny X-Men #261. Let's remind ourselves of where we were (frankly, at this point I need to remind myself) with a quick recap:

As an official team the X-Men are no more. They faked their own deaths in the "Fall of the Mutants" crossover, soon moved to Australia and then were picked off one by one. Wolverine got back (from one of his frequent trips abroad to have solo adventures) to find the team missing (what's happened to them isn't important right now). He was briefly tortured by the Reavers and then rescued by new girl Jubilee, who then tags along with Wolverine. Wolverine and Jubilee then rescued Pyslocke from captivity in Hong Kong. She's a ninja now, by the way. And Japanese.

#261 starts with a mercenary group called "Hardcase and the Harriers" getting a commission to go after Wolverine and the girls. These guys are treated like a first-class villain team, with a box on the cover and a double-page spread introducing them with code names and earth names. There's a special credit for their creation: Claremont and Silvestri. The core: "'Axe" and "Shotgun" (these names, I swear, it really is the 90s, isn't it), came from Wolverine #5 - and want to take revenge on Wolverine (interesting that they know him by name: wasn't he going by the name Patch at that point?), but most (all) of the others have never been seen before or since. This issue is thus immediately marked as a failure by history. It is trying to establish a new antagonist team. We never see them again. It can't work, then.

But I'm cheating. I'm using hindsight. And get this: I'm wrong. Because it's a training scenario: Wolverine has hired the mercenaries to try out Psylocke and Jubilee in the field. I've fallen for the ostensible premise hook line and sinker, just as much as Braddock and Lee have. It's just a bit of silly throwaway action to mess with his charges. Xavier, clearly, has been a bad influence on Wolverine.

This wouldn't be a late-Claremont period X-Men comic without some random subplots. Banshee and Forge have arrived at the X-Mansion on a recce. They've been combing the world for X-Men and are worried about Moira MacTaggert's behaviour. Something's changed her: she's wearing much more risqué clothes than she used to, which obviously means she's evil now. And there's a bit of Jean, too, she's gone to the same place... Some paths are about to cross!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Iron Man 3 analysis

Please note that this analysis contains spoilers. Seriously, don't read it unless you've seen the film or are already spoiled about The Mandarin.

Earlier this month I posted about the Lady Mandarin story, noting that the Mandarin himself would be appearing in Iron Man 3. I couldn't quite see how that was going to work, but didn't lambaste them for doing that because I always like to criticise from a position of knowledge.

I am very glad I held fire.

So, let's talk about it. The way people were coming out of the theatre saying it wasn't orientalist at all but they couldn't talk about it gave me an idea of the shape of the twist.

The idea that I'd already had was that Ben Kingsley's character would not call himself the Mandarin, and that name would be either not used at all, or be bestowed on him by the media. That's what they did with Obadiah Stane/Iron Manger, after all. The problem with this, though, is that the Mandarin is the comics character's only name: there's no Earth name for him to go by. They'd have to make something up. I didn't think that likely, and that's hardly a twist worthy of a spoiler warning.

So, here I am watching the film carefully. Noting the lack of actual cutaways to the Mandarin: we saw footage edited together, but always presented as broadcasts. Then, when we do get the cutaways, noting the obviousness of the Mandarin's surrounds being a studio - we even see his teleprompter.

And then we meet Trevor Slattery. I was a little ahead of them - figuring out that the Mandarin was a front man hired to claim responsibility for Extremis malfunctions - but not by much more than a literate audience was supposed to be. And then the film - already quite good - took a step up to be damn good.

I'm told, though I haven't seen it, that some people identifying as comics fans have been very disappointed with what they did with the Mandarin. Did these people seriously expect a sub-Fu Manchu caricature that should have been embarrassing even in the 1960s in a film that Disney are hoping will do quite well in China?

This Mandarin is a composite of multiple figures (he has, for example, Warren Ellis's beard) but most strongly resembles Osama Bin Laden. Or rather, resembles Osama Bin Laden's public persona. Bin Laden initially denied doing 9/11. And you know what, I believed him, in the sense of him having direct personal responsibility. Al Qaeda is not the type of terrorist organisation the west is used to facing, it's not hierarchical in the same way as say the IRA, which has set itself up as an army. Al Qaeda does not have committee meetings with apologies for absence, as I imagine the IRA Army Council doing. Instead, that structure was imposed onto Al Qaeda and Bin Laden's retinue by a western security apparatus desperate to get a scalp that could be sold to the people as sufficient revenge. And after several years of manhunt for him he decided he might as well take credit. Whether or not it's true (and I'm not now saying it isn't) is frankly irrelevant. Bin Laden was blamed because we had to find someone with ultimate command responsibility and that had to be someone with something of a public persona.

Enter the Mandarin. Killian knows exactly how this works. He and AIM can stay in the shadows while he leads the US government on a fruitless search for terrorists who have a better hiding place than the Pakistan/Afghan border - that of not even existing. This is a rejection of one of Iron Man's flaws. Iron Man used this imagery of generic foreign terrorists allying with a US domestic villain without the slighest bit of irony (one of its two main flaws alongside a lacklustre third act boss fight.) Iron Man 3 rejects this as ridiculous, a scenario that plays well in the American media but has no underlying basis in reality and falls apart on even the slightest investigation. It also shows more directly the problem with drone strikes - that all the accuracy in the world is no good if you don't have the intel. And there's that bit about the Vice President - I'm sure that's some kind of commentary on something, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

So, Iron Man 3 blasts the political naïveté of Iron Man. It provides the savage criticism of the theatre that is the War on Terror that has been wanting for ten years of action films. Yet it manages all this while being fun and engaging, having a third act that wasn't just a tedious slug-out, and passing the Bechdel test. And almost as an afterthought it demonstrates that you can do a film which is "just" a superhero having an adventure, without an origin story or large existential threat (Happy and Tony go looking for trouble, they find it.) That this is a genre in which you can tell stories about other things (something The Dark Knight Rises, for example, tried and failed at). Well done that Shane Black and Drew Pearce.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Uncanny X-Men #259-#260: Whatever Happened to the Children of the Atom?

Uncanny X-Men #259-#260 sets aside Wolverine and Jubilee, Storm and the Muir Island set to look mostly at a couple of other X-Men: Dazzler and Colossus. They are opposite sides of the North American mainland, in familiar surrounds (LA and NY respectively), but without their specific memories.

Both of them have enormous luck: Dazzler that she's ended up at Lila Cheney's LA house, where Guido (making his second appearance) is able to tell her basic informationa about who she is. And someone digs up footage for Dazzler: The Movie and releases it. Not showing up on cameras makes a publicity tour rather difficult, though. In New York, Peter Nicholas finds himself in a loft apartment with a bunch of friends, acting as handyman for the building.

Of course, both plots have some action: Eric Beale is trying to assassinate Dazzler; while Colossus's friends are mutant refugees from Genosha being persued by a Press Gang. That, of course, has some diplomatic implications that are more readily apparent when your illegal paramilitary group are operating in the urban United States than in the Australian outback.

Both our X-Men retain their essential qualities of selflessness and heroicity after passing through the Siege Perilous.

We have the briefest of scenes to do with the Muir Island gang: Legion is now trusted enough to be hooked up to a Cerebro. And Moira is definitely acting weird, it's just not the penciller: Banshee and Forge have gone on a Special Mission to avoid her and try and find the rest of the X-Men, as per Lorna's intel. This is I take it the first hint of the Muir Island Saga?

This is the last daily post in the current run. Posts will resume at a more measured rate (like I'd originally warned would be happening back in November!)

Saturday, 6 April 2013

New Mutants #86-#89: Cable

New Mutants #86 starts the run by a new, up-and-coming artist, Rob Liefeld (he'd done fill-ins and annuals for the X-Office before). Simonson is scripting him, at first.

There's no immediate stage of Liefield writing Simonson's plots: the book is changed from day one. If we look back at New Mutants so far, it can be divided into three main eras. Firstly, there is the period from #1 to #34, which is the original format of the New Mutants having wacky adventures while attending a school run by Professor X. From #35 Xavier went into space and was replaced by Magneto. The New Mutants then engage in increasingly outlandish adventures which they handle with aplomb, marred only by the killing of Doug and the loss of Magik, while evading the tyrannical Headmaster Magneto. This era ends when they decide to quit the school and join up with X-Factor (#75).

However, the problem that was present with the setup during the Magneto era is still present with the ship and X-Factor. They've had adventures while X-Factor were out on missions, and have got trapped in parallel dimensions. One team can't very well mentor the other when they both want to be off doing their own adventures. Eventually, the franchise will figure out how to do this reasonably acceptably, by swelling the student numbers and having the adult team as peripheral characters who can't give the juvies their full attention (i.e. copying the format of Buffy back). But for now, this is stagnant. It's the third attempt at this, and despite changing location this time, it still doesn't work.

Enter Cable. He turns up out of the blue, with a big but not yet ludicrous gun, looking to defeat Stryfe and the Mutant Liberation Front (who are violently protesting against the capture of Rusty and Skids by Freedom Force.) By issue #89 he's graduated to using weapons he can probably only carry because of his telekinesis. But it's not all just ridiculously stupid violence. There's also ridiculously stupid character scenes, as well (mind, the page or two where Rahne is looking at her mementoes are great). Oh dear. Cable's introduction and adoption as the team's mentor here is just so clumsy and rushed. Sigh.

I think my attempt at Reading All The X-Men ends here. Although there was no way I was going to read all the 1990s material, I'd hoped to get as far as X-Force proper. I can't. It's April now, and I'd started to draft the entries for this era in January, and I stopped. In part this was due to poor health, but there was also a component of not wanting to have to write about Rob Liefield pissing on the corpse of New Mutants. So, we'll concentrate on Uncanny, X-Factor and Excalibur only from now on...

Friday, 5 April 2013

X-Factor #51-#53: Blasts from the Past

X-Factor #51-#53 is a welcome return to street level for a series that has spent quite a lot of time in space lately. The Ship has landed them right back in New York, on their old plot, which I welcome, even if the burghers of New York do not. After having a press conference about their zoning violation, Scott and Jean and Hank and Trish go on a double-date at a fancy restaurant where they are attacked by a plague of insects launched by The Locust, of all people, one of the Thomas/Roth run's more memorable but less successful villains. It appears that Hank and Trish are an Item, so I'll mark them on the chart as from #52. It seems, by the way, that X-Factor's identities are completely public knowledge now. Scott uses his real name in a restaurant and people recognise them in civvies. The place gets trashed, but it's fine, there's talk of "superhero insurance", and it's just part of the hazards of being in New York: like you accept the possibility of a quake if you live in California. Locust's attack ties in to their celebrity, too: he got agitated by recognising X-Factor on the tellybox. Following this, Scott proposes to Jean, and she turns him down. Which is fair enough. He did abandon his last wife, after all.

Another plotline features Mole, the Morlock from Uncanny #211, who is on the run from Sabretooth (here defeated by Archangel). He hides in a record shop, where he is discovered by Opal, who shows him kindness and allows him to continue hiding under the staircase. Bobby happens by the store subsequently, and hits on her, and even gets a date out of it, making this Bobby's first love interest since, well, possibly the Champions or New Defenders, but if not, then Zelda! Mole tries to cockblock, but ends up being Sabretooth fodder. And Caliban and Sabretooth fight Archangel!

The letters page of #53 provides a nugget of information about how language changes. X-Factor #47 was a flashback fill-in which is the subject of general praise. Daryl Edelman apologises for the "out-of-continuity" story, by which she means that it is set out of continuous order; rather than the modern understanding of that term which would be that it the events cannot or should not be reconciled with the main series: that it is "non-canon". But that's another rant entirely.

Baby Christopher is talking now. His first word was "ba[ll]", and he's also learned "da". He's being drawn as if he's about 1, I would say.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Excalibur: Cross-Dressing Caper

Excalibur now engages in the Cross-Time Caper, where Claremont and Davies invent Sliders 6 years ahead of schedule. Like that show, it uses its settings principally as sources of comedy, rather than seriously as a tool to examine history; and any drama that arises comes mostly from the characters and their reaction to being stranded. Unlike that show it features a massive BDSM subtext.

I'll skip most of the immensely tedious details of the various alternate timelines (although the gay ogres, the royal marriage of Prince William and Catherine are worth a mention, as is the the world which is a a horrifying preview of what comics will be like in the 1990s. Captain America is a cyborg. Galactus comes in at the end to arresteat everyone for being too silly.)

Instead on Earth-616, Nigel Frobisher continues his long-running plotline. You remember what I wrote about body mod fic in the Lady Mandarin entry. Well, that's not the only fetish stuff that appears in late 1980s X-Men. Nanny would just about slip under the radar if we weren't looking for it (as has pretty much everything involving heroes being tied up), but now we're primed to see what we can find, there's adult baby and ageplay, well before the mass media coverage that that attracted in the early 1990s. The Frobisher plotline has feminization, where Frobisher is briefly transformed - against his will but in line with his innermost desire - to the form of Courtney Ross. It's immediately brushed off as a joke, but those few panels are no more an accidental invocation of this than I am a steeplejack.

Phoenix's costume is kind of a bit, too, and I don't just mean the spikes, when suspended upside down; Kitty is able to wriggle out from her boots (amateur work tying them up). But Ray admits that her boots go up to her neck. This sort of garment exists but is very specialist; typically catsuits are worn with separate boots, even in the fetish community. Even by comic book costuming standards, this is impractical. Catwoman doesn't wear one: the cover of the recent Catwoman #1 shows this quite clearly. And there would have to be a zip or other fastener, something Ray's costume does not appear to have. We know that Ray can shift atoms around to make clothes: is that how the Phoenix costume works? Did she magic it up around herself? She's three openings in her costume away from being Fetishman. Of course, this all ignores the fact that the costume was forced on her, back when she was a hound in the future, which isn't fetishy at all, no. In #16, she dresses up in a different costume entirely, to enter a tournament. This one is a bit more ponygirl.

This stuff, put together, makes the Hellfire Club and Emma Frost look vanilla.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Uncanny X-Men #256-#258: Lady Yellowface

Going by the cover dates Uncanny X-Men #256-#258 contains the first issue of the 1990s. And as if they already know what the decade is going to be like, the first thing they do is make one of their characters into a bloody ninja.


The Mandarin. He's primarily an Iron Man villain, and he's going to be played by Ben Kingsley in this film that's coming out later this month. Do I need to go into his name? Mandarin is a word in English that originally referred to Chinese imperial bureaucrats. In this sense it has a bit of a perjorative usage. Because of this, it also the name used in English for the standard spoken Chinese used by the Chinese government, and also that of the northern varieties of Chinese spoken in the north. In both senses it is an exonym: a word applied to a group by others. Do you imagine Stan Lee knew any of this in 1964 when he invented the character? Of course not. Why then do I bring it up now? Because hey, it is the 1990s, and people really ought to be thinking.


The Mandarin. Hong Kong. They tried to book Madripoor, but it was in use by a Wolverine storyline. OK, so can we get Wolverine? Psylocke. Mojo. Ninja brainwashing. Obviously ninjas have to be East Asian. Skin colour. Epicanthic folds, installed on a face hidden behind a mask. Psylocke becomes "Lady Mandarin", Mandarin's chief enforcer. Wolverine and Jubilee arrive on a boat; Wolverine disguises himself as "Patch", which worries Mandarin, and Psylocke is sent to deal with him. When the mask is revealed Wolverine recognises her. It's her face, just changed a bit for the 1990s. Psylocke takes a rare look inside Wolverine's head (and sees the Nick Fury and Carol Danvers inside there), a sight so shocking it breaks the conditioning.

The body transformation thing is just dropped in there as a minor detail. Well, beyond the Mojo-y dream sequence thing which reads awfully like bad transformation fic. I find it hard to believe this got published in a Code comic as far ago as 1989, before comics had really given up on the teenage market; but there it is, in front of me, in four (or more) colours. The colourist is told to draw her skin one shade darker. Betty doesn't even really acknowledge what happened to her physically, the real problem is the brainwashing. Lots of things will go back at look at the corporeal aspects. For now, the Japanification is just there as a fetish element.

And that's why it's - without question - problematic. If you had the exact same story elements used differently in a story that was actually about race, then could one make a case that it was worthwhile. That's not happened. It's a gimmick.

Still, we've not had much post-Lady Mandarin Psylocke to deal with yet; perhaps there will be some thoughtful consideration of identity (you'll note that in addition to having her appearance taken from her, she remains in the swimsuit with ribbons that she was assigned in this storyline - her codename had come from Mojo, too, back in the day) And she can compare notes with Sharon and Tom, who had a similar experience. But this story isn't it.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Uncanny X-Men #255: She Did, In Fact, See It Coming

Uncanny X-Men #255 forms one continuous story with #254, but for a change I've split this into a post per issue, as two kinda momentous things happen, one in each. The last issue we celebrated the speed of X (a new X-Men team forms immediately on dissolution of the last one, like monarchy travels instantly and makes the new heir King or Queen). This time around, we have a very significant death which will haunt the series well into the 2000s: Destiny.

Irene knows what is to come, but is keeping Raven from it, because it's the only way to keep Raven alive. Both of them would sacrifice themselves for the other. This Destiny/Mystique thing is quite blatantly being portrayed as a relationship now, especially in the bits where Irene gives the future Raven/Forge thing her blessing. (So, welcome to the chart, you two. I'm sorry it didn't work out better for you in the end.) Raven (we're told here that's a self-picked name, by the way, but any idea that it was a cover identity has been forgotten) ought to have seen this coming. Destiny's quite old at this point.1 One day she was going to die. And Destiny would inevitably win at the sacrificial game. There's no way she'd allow Mystique to beat her to it, and no way Mystique could prevent it.

Mystique doesn't quite see it that way, of course. She already blames Forge for the end of Fall of the Mutants, where she believes Rogue died, and considers this another black mark against him. I can see another long-running plot arc starting there.

Monday, 1 April 2013

X-Men/She-Ra One-Shot

This was posted on April 1st, as part of a joint effort with SpaceSquid and Teebore. We never imagined that anyone named would see it. My apologies.

Hello! I'm writing this on 30th of March, somewhat in a hurry, as I've realised I've got another hole to fill. I had planned to cover the backups in Classic X-Men with Nate in them, but I forgot to even bring them up to Bradford with me! I guess those will have to wait for a while. But I don't want to have to readjust all the dates subsequent posts are being made on again, and leaving another gap so soon seems not very classy.

Fortunately, there is one thing I can do: the X-Men/She-Ra promotional one-shot for a while. And since I missed by some time the actual era-appropriate position, the fag end of the Claremont era seems as good a time as any. I discovered it a couple of months ago, when I was at a Local Comic Shop with an extensive back issue collection.1 I found it in a 25p bin, quite damaged (frankly, it was the worst condition I have ever seen a comic), and at first it looked like just another 1980s X-Men issue, but I wanted to figure out which one, because I do have some gaps in that era. And then it turns out to be something else entirely.
So, anyway. This is a rare writing collaboration by Chris Claremont, who might have plotted with other people, but very rarely co-writes - in this case with a Dom Jon Seepyus, presumably coming in from the Masters of the Universe side of things. The pencils and inks are provided by P. R. LaFolio, and are about satisfactory. Like the earlier X-Men/Micronauts miniseries, it seems to exist to sell toys and/or provide interest in another comic line; but instead of being published as a normal comic, it seems to have been bundled with toys instead.

I simply don't have the context for this, because I don't remember very much of He-Man/She-Ra. I certainly have watched bits of He-Man - it broadcast on ITV in the mid 1980s, but I remember finding it stupid, much preferring ThunderCats. I don't remember ever watching She-Ra specifically, either, which makes my memories of limited use here. I certainly wasn't aware of the involvement of J. Michael Straczynski in it, 'cos that was the very start of his career, before even The Real Ghostbusters (which I do definitely remember watching and enjoying.)

I'm not even sure I really found He-Man to be stupid on its merits, rather than because of peer pressure. Although BBC and ITV were as direct rivals as you can get - and both were free-to-air - there was still, in the time and place I was growing up - a whiff of classism about them. CBBC was slightly more respectable than the crass populism of CITV. And we were trying to be middle class (and trying to be middle class affects your activities a lot more than actually being middle class, it turns out). Yes, some of my favourite children's programmes were CITV ones (Woof!, Knightmare, Press Gang2, Bad Influence) - but that's all live action stuff. The cartoons I liked tended to be broadcast on CBBC. I believe my first exposure to X-Men/Marvel would have been the repeats of Spider-Man on his Amazing Friends on CBBC.

So, having realised I was in no position to comment on this comic, and finding that the fragments of it were in too poor condition for me to risk transporting again (or even to scan - not that I actually own a scanner), I asked the comic shop in question whether they had heard anything more about it. And jackpot! They had a transcript of it! I have sent this to my colleagues SpaceSquid and Teebore (links to their blogs are in the blogroll), and they tell me they plan to do actual analysis of this soon.

1. I am blessed to work near Orbital Comics and live an Overground stop away from Krypton Comics. If you're reading this, hi guys.

2. Steven Moffat's first TV series. Apparently it still holds up. I also really liked Dark Season by a certain Russell T. Davies, which... doesn't so much. But Marcie is a really good Doctor.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #254: New New New X-Men

The X-Men are dead. Long live the X-Men. Uncanny X-Men proclaims what's going to happen with the costumed team on the cover.

Our New New New X-Men (counting the O5, the All-New, and then the post-Massacre team as our first three teams) assembles at Muir Isle, as was inevitable. They don't form with a plan, but because of an attack by the Reavers (who have presumably got sick of waiting for Wolverine to arrive back from his solo adventure... now Uncanny is twice a month that might be quite a while...)

The ad-hoc team here created consists of Banshee (who has healed), Lorna Dane (now), Amanda Sefton (who seems a more powerful sorceress than Magik ever let herself be), Sandy (who can wield a gun), Sunder (who dies), Moira (who keeps looking more glam than usual, huh, but still knows how to use a machine gun), Sharon and Tom, and kinda sorta Legion. (Callisto is back in the States, on a special mission involving the mansion, but is sidetracked into a subplot involving Masque, some kind of unhappy family reunion.)

They all don the training uniforms, after a brief incident in which Sefton inadvertently clothes them with a different set of X-Men uniforms, ones with just the blue X straps, forgetting any of the yellow bits. I can't get why people say that Claremont likes to use bondage as a story element all. There is FIGHTING, and the Reavers are definitely on top. With a bit of training in how to work together, they might do fine, but they haven't had that luxury. Things are not great. But Val Cooper has a plan! She's decided to sent Freedom Force and Forge to intervene. Keeps the British government, and W.H.O. on-side, I suppose.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Marvel Comics Presents #38-#50

Marvel Comics Presents ran a Wolverine feature from issues #38 to #47, named "Black Shadow, White Shadow". This was written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by John Buscema. It offers a fairly simple story about monochromatic monsters that turn out to be manifestations of some guy's mind, and emphasises the idea of Wolverine as a someone who is by temperament a family man, but has been prevented from such from fate and his own decisions. I like how Logan starts wearing the Wolverine costume half-way through, and people call him "Patch" (with scare quotes, in dialogue).

#48-#50 runs another story, "Life's End", by Erik Larsen. This is one of the first Wolverine/Spider-Man team-up stories (the first was I believe Marvel Team-Up #117 from 1982). It's a combination that will later form (with Luke Cage) the core of the New Avengers, and I kind of like their chemistry here. The comedy aspect might be a bit too much for some, though: the story is a fairly simple team up to defeat a villain, but with added fourth-wall breaking. In particular: Spider-Man has become aware of how amazingly improbable his life is, and how all his supervillains turn out to be people that Peter Parker happens to know, even though so far as he knows his secret ID is solid. What gives? Having set this up, it then delivers a payoff by having one of the minions of Critical Mass be... Peter Parker's... dentist. Hah. Well-played, Mr. Larsen. Well-played.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #253: It Never Rains

Uncanny X-Men #253 gives us a clear direction as to how the band will get back together again. The Reavers predict Wolverine's next moves and rule out Madripoor and Japan. Instead, he'll take sanctuary at Muir Island, just as Lorna Dane is attempting to. Moira's there, as is Banshee, who is just about recovered from his long-running injuries. Magneto is visiting, to resign as teacher of the school. Rather oddly, Moira berates him for giving up his responsibility rather than saying "about time too", which would be my reaction.

Wonder who else might be found on Muir Island? I think Jamie and Terry are still with the Fallen Angels. There's Legion, of course. Tom and Sharon, presumably.

We check-in with other X-men characters over the world. Forge is ruminating. Amanda Sefton visits the Excalibur lighthouse (implied by a caption to be in northern England, by the way), only to find that Kurt and Kitty are missing. She's met by Alysande (like, how confusing must it have been in the Stuart household growing up? Sibling names should be clearly phonetically distinct, I feel.)

In Cairo, IL (not to be confused with Cairo), a young Storm is in a hospital bed. We know she's Storm because she has that multinational face (I think this is the first time that gets mentioned in text?) and more importantly she fails to show up on electronic equipment. Which is a bit of a bummer. You can't even fax her fingerprints. Not unreasonably, they conclude that she is a mutant and this is her mutant power.

And that's about it, apart from a brief check-up on Forge, who is still ruminating. The X-Men are dead. Long live the X-Men.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

New Mutants #81: Of Gods and Mutants 2

New Mutants 81 gives me cause to revisit Of Gods and Mutants, the post I made three months ago about how it was probably, on balance, a good thing that Dani's Cheyenne gods did not walk on page.

What I didn't note was that there was another member of the New Mutants who worshipped gods that definitely have been part of the Marvel universe. Amara, a.k.a. Magma (for her lava powers), is from a lost Roman colony in Amazonas. I called the story that she was introduced in profoundly offensive racist garbage, and I continue to stand by that. This story, while working with elements previously introduced, sort of understands what's gone wrong with them and seems to make amends. Claremont (for it is he, this is a fill-in issue set before Amara left the New Mutants, but with a hastily added extra three pages to make it a flashback) in the first page acknowledges the atrocities of actual European colonialism done in the name of Rome.

Magma, for all that she's supposed to be a product of a Rome/Incan hybrid culture, has instead been essentially treated as a time-displaced person from Ancient Rome. This story goes definitely takes that line, being about about what happens when someone comes face-to-face with one of their gods: it needs to be Hercules she believes in, not some syncretised version. She doesn't believe Hercules - who comes to her when she prays - to be him. It could just be a superhuman pretending to be a god, after all. Especially as Zeus plays the role of trolldad, by refusing to allow them to go to Olympus to show off. Amara eventually recognises Hercules. And although it's mostly played for laughs, Amara's underlying faith in her gods is treated with a profound respect, something that it would be easy not to.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #251-#252: Needlessly Messianic

Uncanny X-Men #251-#252 sees the X-Men reduced even further: to Wolverine and Jubilee.

Wolverine was out when the Reavers originally came, and they've since watched a variety of supervillain attacks on the X-Men do some severe damage. They'd better move soon, before it's too late.

Wolverine arrives back to find the team gone through the Siege Perilous. He is tortured by the Reavers, and nailed to a cross (a saltire, of course). They make the very basic mistake of leaving him for dead, something you should never do to people you are crucifying, and certainly not to Wolverine. Wolverine and Jubilee (finally revealing herself, and proving herself to be a regular Valley Girl in her dialogue) team up and escape.

So Uncanny X-Men lasted as a team title for 26 years, from 1963 to 1989, when, after a series of disastrous reorganisations it ended. Odd coincidence of timing, that. Circumstances are different, though: Uncanny is doing a provocative move at the height of its popularity. And other books are busy doing the X-Men team thing better than Uncanny has been for a while: it'll be good to see what this series is like removed from the shackles of the team structure.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #249-250: Polaris

Uncanny X-Men #249 asks us to believe that Storm genuinely is dead. The Reavers still are holding off, due to lack of Wolverine. There's another mutant lurking in the abandoned town, Jubilee, but she's not yet made her presence known, although did helpfully take a message from Lorna, who claims to be devoid of the influence of Malice and has been calling Alex (how the hell did she get the phone number?)

They backtrace the call to Chile, visit, and get involved in a plot regarding the Savage Land Mutates and Zaladane, a villain first introduced in Astonishing Tales #3. She claims, on the basis of her name, that she is the sister of Lorna Dane.

#250 uses the word "katabatic". That's a good word. I like it. Shame about the rest of the issue, which consists of an old-school team-up between the X-Men and Kazar to kick Zaladane's ass and save Lorna. This series has completely lost its way now, which is possibly meant as a kind of metaphor because so have the X-Men, but still.

Monday, 25 March 2013


Apologies for the missing post today. This caught me by surprise just now when I checked to see what ran today. I have plenty still in the queue; it's just I'd apparently forgotten that March had a 25th day. We resume tomorrow with a post about Uncanny.

Meanwhile, I might as well post an update. I had a fun weekend engaging in some other fannish and geeky behaviours: I went to Big Finish Day 3 in Barking on Saturday and on Sunday we played our sixth, seventh and eighth games of Risk Legacy, the last of which involved opening the two big boxes. I wrote about the fifth game in a carefully spoiler-free way here, but I think it probably impossible to talk about what happened yesterday like that. And while I don't usually care about exposure to spoilers, Risk Legacy is different - I've been studiously avoiding them, because I've assumed knowing would change my strategy during the game. Maybe when we're done...

I am up in Bradford this coming weekend for Eight Squared Con, the 64th EasterCon. I am making my programme début, on the What's On Webcomics panel. It would be bad if I chose Pokey the Penguin as my favourite, wouldn't it?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

On the Tellybox: Pryde of the X-Men

There have been various screen and film adaptations of X-Men. The first of these was Pryde of the X-Men, made as a pilot in 1989. Mercifully, it was never picked up, meaning that I only had to watch 25 minutes of it. The kindest thing I have to say about it is that the animation is great.

X-Men generally somehow avoids the needs for endless recapitulations of an origin story. I guess this is partly because the X-Men didn't have have an origin story: they've just always existed. Way back, when I looked at #1, I noted

there's already a school with X-Men in training

Later in the 1960s we get backups showing how the various guys were recruited, but it is not until the 1990s and the introduction of Amelia Voight that Xavier's decision to found the school is examined.

So, without an iconic opening story to adapt, Pryde of the X-Men replicates the situation more-or-less at the time that Kitty Pryde was originally introduced, but have her turn up invited instead of being involved in Events. The X-Men are an adult team (Professor X, Cyclops, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, only with Dazzler instead of Phoenix). Having arrived and had a demo of the team's powers in the Danger Room, she then gets involved in a supervillain attack. The antagonists are a mixed bunch of people from various Brotherhood line-ups (with added Juggernaut and Emma Frost). Except, there being one child hanging around a team of professionals was silly in the comics already - that situation didn't last more than a few years - and it certainly doesn't make sense as Xavier's actual plan, rather than a happenstance. This is where the isolation of the pilot possibly hurts it: maybe with time it would have become more like New Mutants. (And maybe if it had gone to series they'd have redubbed Wolverine to be Canadian.) But this is all we have.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

X-Factor #43-#50: Judgment War

X-Factor #43-#50 is a quite long plot arc that takes place away from Earth-616. For some reason all the team books apart from Uncanny did that in summer 1989: Excalibur has started its Cross-Time Caper, and the New Mutants are in Asgard. I assume they just want to keep the other teams off-planet to make the plottings of Uncanny X-Men work.

X-Factor accomplishes this quite directly, by having the Ship take off into space, where they meet Celestials ("space gods") and get involved in all sorts of hijinks, before returning home in time for Acts of Vengeance. I have barely anything to say about it, so short post. Scott is still keeping little baby Christopher with him at all times, at least until Jean makes a telekinetic bubble for him to live in. I suppose he's overcorrecting. Really they ought to sort out a nanny, but Steve Ditko's finest creation has yet to come.

Excalibur #11: At Least We've Still Got The Omniverse

Excalibur is based on the Marvel UK stuff, of which I know little beyond which I have read on Wikipedia. As I understand it, a key element of it, introduced by Alan Moore, is the omniverse and the responsibility of the "Captain Britain Corps", consisting of multiple alternate versions of Captain Britain, for maintaining it. One of my favourite little examples is Captain Airstrip One, who is from a world similar to that of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four 1. Yes, he might be a participant in one of the most brutal regimes in fiction, but he's still your colleague. So you can see that Excalibur semi-cooperating in a swap of Lightning Force for Moira and Callisto back isn't quite so terrible. Excalibur, bless them, find this appalling, especially when it comes to Evil!Nightcrawler.

Invariant across timelines.
In Britain, of course, the authorities have had a long tradition of dealing with general weird crap, and we have this all be managed by our first predecessor to MI-13: the Weird Happenings Organisation. It's led by Brigadier Alysande Stuart (no relation to the Lethbridge-Stewart appearing in Uncanny #218, I take it), and her brother Alistaire, their scientific advisor. They have a headquarters under the Tower of London, which Doctor Who will borrow back as an idea in 2005's Christmas Invasion (and again in 2012's Power of Three, which featured a Kate Stewart, chief scientific advisor to UNIT.)

Incidentally, I have failed to post about the Nazi train so far. It swapped with a real train in a tunnel under freak circumstances involving Widget, which is why Moira and Callisto are stranded. This Nazi train is from "Reichsrail Englande", which is terrible German (they want Reischsbahn, and that's ignoring the extra 'e' which also makes its unwelcome appearance in "Hauptman Englande"). But that's not even the funny part - the Nazi British Rail has somehow managed to also devise the British Rail double-arrow logo, which was created in our timeline in 1965. And why not. It's a design classic, after all, much better than those Dutch or Polish or Swiss rip-offs, and I'm glad it remains part of our signage even though British Rail is now but a distant memory.2 Slightly disappointed they didn't try and swastika-ise it, though.

The swap is made, but Widget freaks out and there is an explosion and all the player characters vanish. Oh noes! I have a feeling we're about to get the prototype for Exiles.


"Thames River". I don't care that it's the editorial voice reflecting U.S. usage. The name of the thing is "River Thames". If you call it "Thames River" you are wrong. Just as wrong as I would be if I started calling those watercourses either side of Manhattan the "River Hudson" or (even better) the "River East".

1. When other kids were reading comics, I was reading George Orwell. And by that I don't just mean Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. Sure, I enjoyed those. In fact, I liked them so much that I decided to read all his other books. The school library had Down and Out in Paris and London, Keep The Aspidistra Flying and The Road To Wigan Pier, which a 12-year-old me somehow managed to get through (when she wasn't reading Peter David's Star Trek novels, or Tolkien's History of Middle-Earth). It's a shame they didn't have Homage to Catalonia, I didn't read that until much later. In 33-year-old me, well, I recognise a certain pattern of intensity in reading projects.

2. Bet you didn't expect to read about the privatisation of British Rail on a blog about the X-Men, did you?

Friday, 22 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #248: They Keep Losing X-Men

Uncanny X-Men #248 sets up the Reavers as an alliance consisting of people who have a grudge against the X-Men and Wolverine: that is original reavers plus Donald Pierce, Lady Deathstrike and those three guys who had originally been Hellfire Club minions.

Headcount: Wolverine is off on a solo series. Rogue went through the Siege Perilous in #247 and hasn't been seen since (she'll make only two more appearances until 1991). Longshot leaves in this issue, and won't appear again until Chris Claremont leaves. The X-Men are down to a mere five: Storm, Colossus, Dazzler, Psylocke and Havok: the smallest that team has been since the 1960s.

So, since the Reavers wish to attack Wolverine, and he's not around at the moment, they wait and watch as as Nanny and the Orphan-Maker attack the X-Men. This results in some transient de-aging, and a dead Storm, which I am going to be enormously cynical about and will therefore predict will not last very long. Four X-Men! X-Factor outnumber them! All in all, this Australian trip is proving to be a bit of a disaster. No wonder they don't like to talk about it much.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

New Mutants #79-#80,#82-#85: Return to Asgard

Have you ever had one of those days when all you've tried to do is get some medical attention for your colleague who is a young mutant originally with the power of manifesting illusions, which lately have been actually solid, you end up in a fight with a government-sponsored mutant strike team where you have to defend another teammate from being taken away back to the naval prison you broke him out of, before you are then teleported, without warning by a surgeon-cum-sorceror, to Asgard? Yeah, me neither.

This story (New Mutants #79-#85, except that #81 is an unrelated fill-in issue) seems to go on far too long, though, and I'll have to confess that I kind of skimmed most of it. In what I flicked through there's a nice dynamic between the ex-X-Terminators and the original New Mutants. I imagine that's why they did the Return to Asgard story now, because it provides a background for the New Mutants to show off their otherworldliness to the X-Terminators.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wolverine #10: What Day Is Today? It's Logan's Birthday!

Wolverine #10 is a rather important issue, and kicks off what I will call the second phase of his development. In the first phase, he grew as a character, but his backstory remained mostly a blank book, other than that he seems to know everyone and everywhere. (Clearly Wolverine is a networker as well as a multitasker.)

Now we start to look at that history through the gloom of hazily-remembered flashbacks, as we find out that Wolverine isn't just some generic man of mystery, but actually cannot remember his past (if you know your Logan you'll be able to take a good guess where I'm going to declare the third phase of Wolverine to start). In this issue, Wolverine is in Madripoor, still going by the name of Patch (natch). He is attacked by some people on his birthday, and as he defends himself and his friends from them, he is surprised to find them turning up dead. He knows why when he gets back to base, to find a letter proclaiming that nobody kills him (especially not today), apart from the writer, Sabretooth.

This Wolverine/Sabretooth rivalry occupied a few pages of Uncanny's Mutant Massacre issues. As I wrote there:

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.

I stand by that. Those pages were a manifesto for the Wolverine/Sabretooth dynamic, which sprang unusually clearly right from that first appearance. If it were anyone other than Claremont I'd say it was surprising that it took so long to explore it. But... it's Claremont. He still hasn't explained the Mystique/Nightcrawler connection and that's been seven years. So by that standard, this is quite hasty.

Many years ago, we are shown in flashback, Sabretooth killed Wolverine's lover, Silver Fox. No particular motive is shown to us other than sadism, we don't even have the context of knowing when this took place (we know it's before he's been implanted with adamantium bones, and he doesn't have any claws), or anything about Silver Fox. In one way, she's just one of the many people Wolverine has known who has ended up dead (this time before we even met Wolverine).

But she's more than that: she's his first lover. Wolverine has always been - and make sure you're not drinking when you read this as I will not take responsibility for drowned keyboards - a figure with a touch of asexuality about him. And I don't mean that he reproduces asexually. He makes a show of lusting after Jean (Inferno has emphasised this), but back around 1980 he was more a soppy romantic - he picked up flowers for Jean in #101. His admiration for Mariko has been a little self-denying. And yes, I link him and Yukio on the roof; but let's remember the context here - Yukio was lusting after him and he was sating her so as to keep her onside. The man, to put in in a nutshell, fucks. Animalistically. But he has fuck-buddies, not lovers.

So for us to finally hear of an old lover of Wolverine. Someone he had given his heart to, only for it to be ripped out. Well, that makes sense of his gingerness around Jean and Mariko, then. As to Sabretooth? Well, we don't know much more about him and Logan than we did already. But I will note that his repeated use of "runt" implies a familial relationship, to me at least.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Classic X-Men #36: We Need To Talk About Proteus

Classic X-Men #36 reprints the Dazzler introduction story, alongside a backup written by Fabian Nicieza that puts Proteus to rest.

It's a two-hander, with Moira and Sean, and considers Moira's reaction to her son's death. She wants to try and bring him back. This time his creation will be out of love, which will make him not be evil. And for all that this is a lovely little character piece it gets tainted for me, because of the promulgation of this idea that a child conceived by rape is somehow biologically likely to be evil. It's irrational, harmful, hateful crap. A sperm is a sperm. And even if you can handwave and say that that's not how it is in the Marvel universe, what's the point of that exactly? What is that a metaphor for? Oh. Itself.

(Incidentally, I don't usually comment on my post titles, but I am feeling particularly pleased with myself for this one, especially as nobody else on the Internet has put these words together.)

Monday, 18 March 2013

New Mutants #77-#78: Strange

New Mutants #77 finally gets round to sorting out the Illyana problem. They never did address, on-panel, anyway, the issue of Illyana's family and her premature Limbo-caused ageing, so she can be dropped off in Siberia quite easily without any awkward conversations (other than the "oh, here's your daughter back after a year and change, oh and you son is dead or in hiding or whatever")

That's the first three pages, anyway. So, back to New York. Dani has been getting these headaches. I quite sympathise. Ship recommends she goes to a doctor, which is quite good advice. Doctor Strange. He's spending the year dead for tax reasons, or something, but he still manages to help out in a multi-page mystical battle. Which is nice.

#78 then deals with another member of the New Mutants who really oughtn't be there: Rusty, who had surrendered himself to the Authorities at the start of X-Terminators. Freedom Force have come to arrest him (despite his pardon - Destiny says it's important and when Destiny actually makes a specific prediction that you can act it you should probably listen). There is a general fight and the New Mutants win/escape. And then suddenly they end up in Asgard, for reasons to do with Dani and Hela and Strange. Next up in New Mutants will be an excessively long Asgard story.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Uncanny X-Men: A Crap Game

Brood killing the X-Men, yesterday.
I was going to try to review The Uncanny X-Men in the style of Your Sinclair for this entry, natch.1 But (but! But!) my heart's not quite in it. I can't do a full review, just a denunciation, 'cos it's a crap game, if I ever I saw one. I got about ten minutes in. If I'd had a cartridge for it I might have thrown it across the room in frustration, an activity that I gather the kiddies today call "rage quitting".

Part of the problem is that this is a shallow reskinning of another game (probably). It features 6 characters - Wolverine, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Colossus, and Storm, which you can choose from. Note the ordering there. Yes, they've moved Storm (the leader) to the end. These are really just two characters with different sprites: a Cyclops/Iceman/Storm type, with a ranged attack, and a Wolverine/Nightcrawler/Colossus sort, who needs to go right up close to things to hit them.

It is certainly not any fun to play. Erm, what else? It made me wonder what my tastes were like when I was 10. I didn't have a NES (the first games console I bought was a Wii, in 2009), and wasn't in to X-Men, and this probably wasn't even released in the UK, so it's not exactly likely I'd have played it; but were the games I played and enjoyed this terrible?

And I remember what other retrogaming I have done lately, and I know the answer.


The Uncanny X-Men - or X-Men or whatever you want to call it - is a crap game.

But I've read enough of Project NES (Phil Sandifer's impossible blog project before he started TARDIS Eruditorum) to know that it is of a type of crap game that is not that uncommon on this format: that Nintendo's vaunted licensing didn't imply a whit of QA. So it's not even exceptionally crap.

There seem to be a lot of X-Men games out there. I'm going to try the 1992 Gauntlet clone in due course, if I can figure out how to get a four or six player version of that going. This may depend upon how tolerant my friends are.

1. I spent a lot of my childhood reading YS. It is my default form for games journalism. And there's a tenuous but important X-Men link.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #246-#247: Bastion of Insanity

Uncanny X-Men #246-#247 features two pairs of interlinked minds. Rogue and Carol, and Master Mold and Nimrod. We touched on this a bit in the Genosha entry, but it appears now that Carol Danvers is a persona within Rogue's head that she can switch to at-will and is quite functional as. This is sudden enough that I went to the trouble of looking up her chronology to see whether there was some story I missed where that had this as a consequence - no. It's just shifted gears.

Another thing I looked up on the Chronology Project was Sebastian Shaw's timeline. Yes, he appears here in the Hellfire Club after he was purged from the Inner Circle in #75 by the new Grey King, Magneto. He was all "you do realise this means war" in that, but they didn't even bar him from the building or anything. Huh. Shaw is proposing a new Sentinel project (the reason he became unfeasable as an ally of the X-Men), and plans a new more adaptable Sentinel that can might be able to deal with more complex threats like two different mutants at once.

By an amazing coincidence, Senator Kelly encounters a confluence of two Sentinels on his way home. Nimrod and Master Mold kind of merge. Kelly's wife is fridged, which provides him the motivation needed to overcome his reservations about authorisiation precisely the sort of next-generation sentinel that has resulted in the death of his wife...1 Rogue/Carol isn't able to prevent this, but the rest of the X-Men soon 'porting in from 'Straya, fighting the merged Sentinel, and then sending it through the Siege Perilous, to re-appear seven years later. It was babbling about The Twelve, says Rogue/Rogue, whoever they are.

Meanwhile, back at the X-Men's headquarters, Jubilee is growing bored and sneaks in and takes a look at their stuff. Jubes youth and innocence is emphasised by her not having heard of the X-Men or Dazzler, and considering Lila Cheney to be "old fogies" music, strictly for the over-20s.

This is evidently supposed to amp up the threat level, but I don't see the need for that given that the consequences of mutant registration have hardly been looked at, the X-Men are still trying to keep rumours of their death from being understated, which provides constraints enough. Still, I'll keep reading, obv.

1. these guys can't cure cancer, so he's gonna fund research into new forms of cancer, is what he seems to be saying.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Wolverine #9: Iraq

Wolverine #9 is by Peter David and Gene Colan. This makes David the first person other than Claremont to script solo Wolverine. It's a pared back story, told mostly in flashback, about a Logan (in blue-and-yellow costume) who took revenge on some mercenaries for driving a nun to despair during a hostage crisis.

This is minimal enough that it is difficult to even call it a character study, but it certainly considers how Wolverine has changed over the years: he himself doesn't think he'd do that sort of thing today. And it's true, he has undergone an enormous transformation from his introduction in #181 as a Hulk antagonist who didn't play well with with others, to his appearance in #7-#8 as a man who is an essential part of the X-Men, has his own supporting cast, and can manipulate a Hulk into doing good.

That was the first phase of Wolverine development: 1974-1989. Now it's time for the second act.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

X-Factor #41-#42: Don't Feed The Trolls

X-Factor #41-#42 features the long-awaited Mutant Registration Act competition winner: Alchemy, aka Thomas Jones, a young boy who has the power of transmuting elements, natch. This attracts the attention of a passing troll, who abducts him.

Back in New York, X-Factor are wondering what to do with the kids. It's that age-old question, do you treat them as children and teach them lessons and try and provide a nurturing environment and stuff, or do you train them to be a paramilitary squad ready for combat actions? This is interrupted by news of the above. The adults go troll-hunting, with babe-in-arms, which is beautiful. There is fighting! X-Factor vs. a lot of trolls. The trolls have a crazy plan involving sabotaging the British economy by dumping large quantities of gold on it, forcing British people to emigrate leaving the country for various endangered magical creatures. Goldbug trolls. What. They'll be telling me they support Ron Paul supports gay rights next. Mind, comics are not known for their grasp of economics, and dispensing with the snark, it's nice to see a different supervillain scheme for a change.

There is fighting! The resolution is peril monkey stopping being a peril monkey, by turning the trolls into solid metal. Tommy declines an offer to join X-Factor, instead deciding to go to university to study chemistry.


Simonson's Britain really does make one appreciate the attempts Claremont is making, at least. Young Tommy Jones lives with his mother, Ophelia Jones, at a "boarding house" which is straight out of the 1930s.

It's sort of implied to be within eyeshot of the Palace of Westminster. Other tourist attractions that are part of the comic include the White Tower in the Tower of London (which is good! you should visit!), and Buckingham Palace (which seems awfully dreary and overpriced), and Hyde Park (which is just a park, innit). Those are all justified by the plot, at least.

The most ridiculous part of the portrayal of London is the idea that they would be building an underground railway during Thatcher's premiership. Of course, with the sliding timeline, where you end up with Korea becoming Vietnam and Vietnam becoming Afghanistan, it's presumably Jubilee Line Extension, or possibly HS1.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

New Mutants #76: Union

What next for the New Mutants? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? They're going to join up with X-Terminators and live on the Ship. They may not have said so in the pages of New Mutants yet, but in Excalibur they invited Kitty Pryde with them. At least it only takes them until page 4 of New Mutants #76 to remember this.

Meanwhile, on the ship, the adults are out, and the X-Terminators are bringing weird shit from the sea aboard in the form of a horn, which summons an enormous sea-monster when blown. Bloody typical. Also typical is the fact that the New Mutants arrive just at that moment, followed moments later by Namor. It's like Piccadilly Circus around here. 1 There is a Team-Up. Then, the adults of X-Factor (Scott, Jean, Bobby, and Hank) arrive back, and ask what's going on. Skids introduces them, and then Cyclops is all "we've met! Oh, and we were totally going to find you one of these days and invite you to join." They found out the students were being taught by Magneto in what, #1, if not before? *cough* bullshit *cough*

How will this new team work? Will they have personality clashes that they will gradually be able to overcome and work as a fully integrated team? Will Bobby punch things? Will Illyana know English or not? Will X-Factor fail as spectacularly as mentors to the New Mutants as Xavier and Magneto did? Onwards!

1. One of the best things about working near to Piccadilly Circus is the way I can be all "It's like Piccadilly Circus around here" when I spot people I know on the way between the tube station and the office.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Excalibur #9-#10: Deutsch verwendet mehrere Buchstaben in Earth-597

Excalibur has quickly defined its mission: X-Men in Britain, but funnier and quirkier. Which is why before its first year is out it is also the first X-book to do a "Nazis Win" AU. Nazis Win AUs have a long tradition in comic comics, to the extent that Misfits did one in 2011, in its course of working through comic book tropes in a Thameside council estate setting (the episode that I have named "The One Where Kelly Kicks the Shit Out of Hitler", or series 3 episode 4, if you must insist). It wasn't quite as well-worn in 1989, though - Claremont beat Fatherland by three years. But it came from somewhere and as he often does, he acknowledges his source explicitly in the text, which would be the 1964 film It Happened Here, one of those films I've been meaning to watch for years.

But that isn't what's going on here (or anything like Dick's 1962, The Man in the High Castle). Instead, this more closely resembles another tradition, which includes "Mirror, Mirror" from Star Trek, and the Crime Syndicate of America (both 1960s again). In these, rather than a serious attempt at doing a what-if, you make history a mirror image in order to justify an evil version of the team, which each member having a malicious analogue. In "Mirror, Mirror", there was an Evil Captain Kirk, an Evil Spock, and suchforth. In the Crime Syndicate, a bunch of folks with the same powers and names were all villains instead, and decided to band together. Never mind what a remarkable coincidence it is that the ISS Enterprise happened to be at the Halkan homeworld at the same time as the USS Enterprise - that's completely besides the point, and is a misunderstanding of the genre of story being told here.

In this case we want an Evil version of Excalibur. Excalibur is very much a British team, and Britain's defining national identity myth - in the absence of any independence struggle - is the Second World War. By default the Evil version of any British superhero team will be a Nazi version. And that's what happens here. Hauptman England is fair enough: Captain Britain with a swastika. He's an English aristo, so frankly that's a natural fit (I like how the Internet hasn't quite realised that Hauptman England is very likely just an alt-Braddock). Reichsminister Moira MacTaggert makes sense, too. And Nightcrawler is German already! So he makes an excellent political officer. And who doesn't enjoy an evil Nightcrawler, eh? Evil Meggan is a bit difficult given her background, but the real problem is Kitty. Kitty Pryde is Jewish. Very Jewish. So, Earth-597 has an evil tortured ghost Kitty, bald and with a star of David tattooed on her forehead where the others have swastikas on their costumes. Worst. Idea. Ever.

Curiously, there's no Phoenix. Like the lack of Doctor in Inferno (Doctor Who, known for its genre-hopping, did this the first season it got a stable home base), perhaps this is because Rachel Summers is a time traveller, not bound by the laws of mirror universes. Can you imagine a Days of Future Past future for the Lightning Storm universe? I wouldn't know who to root for: the Sentinels or the Nazis.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Classic X-Men #34: "Power Games"

Classic X-Men #34's backup is a short interlude with Emma Frost and a n00b servant at the Hellfire Club, where Emma explains why she is not a sexist character. She may as well be talking directly at the reader.

I tend to agree with the case for the defence. Frost is a fantastic, complex, well-drawn character. How she chooses to dress and behave, and the contradiction between the tools she has learned to use and her sincere desire to teach is a vital part of that. That's the point of her, after all.

Which is not to say that what Frost says here isn't bullshit. Again, that's fine: it's exactly the sort of nonsense a character like that would say.

"There's no such thing as sexism, unless you give them power."

Look, it works for you, Miss Frost, that's fine. But you are a upper-class white woman with mind control powers. Check. Your. Privilege. If you can use sexuality as a weapon, to get ahead in a sexist world, fine. But it has its limits, as Rocket finds out in Sucker Punch (another thing that people who weren't paying attention wrongly think is sexist). I think that's a good examination of the sort of attitude spouted here by Frost. Valtyr writes of it very well:

Babydoll is dancing to distract men, and the other women are stealing items from men undercover of it, and this is terribly fucking dangerous. Sexuality is the only weapon that has been left to them, and it's a dangerous weapon to use because the second the men realise it's being used, it's over. When the music fails and the dance stops, the man notices what's happening; it's over. The music starts again, but it's too late. A woman dies. Again, later, a man is surrounded by all these beautiful women in scanty clothes; their sexuality can't save them, it's a weapon they're allowed. Women die. Babydoll can dance; Blue's got a gun.

The unnamed new hire realises this too. She knows the only way for someone like her to survive the Hellfire Club is to quit. So she will. While Emma continues living in the spaces that men allow her, even though she could do so much more.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Excalibur #8: An Englishman, Two Americans, a German, and a Roma in New York

Excalibur #8 makes it worthwhile having gone to New York. There are several main plot threads. Firstly, Kitty has gone to the mansion to get some stuff. She meets the New Mutants there, before they tangle with Magneto. Words are exchanged, and she appears to have reverted back to that rivalry with the X-Babies that I thought we'd got over 5 years ago. But most of this is the bad news about Doug and Illyana. They invite her back to X-Factor, but she declines.

There are minor continuity wrinkles with this: for example, the Kid!Illyana in this knows English, whereas the Kid!Illyana in New Mutants doesn't. But a more important problem is that Kitty still thinks Colossus is dead, and the New Mutants do not correct her on this. It could hardly be otherwise, of course, but it is a shame that a book whose one consistent moral lesson has been the value of solidarity and teamwork can only exist because of poor communication between friends and colleagues. Still, we're in the phase where this is being addressed, and different X-books are acquiring identities beyond merely "X-Men, but in Australia/San Francisco/New York/London/wherever": Excalibur is already developing its distinctive humour and New Mutants has started its slow mutation into X-Force (well before Cable or Rob Liefeld turns up).

Another strand is the interleaved tale of Cap and Meggan. Meggan has gone missing, as far as Cap's concerned (she's illiterate and so didn't leave a note), and he tries to track her down. But his power is on the fritz, for unclear reasons that might have something to do with his geographic location or his costume. This provides some amusing culture clash, as the denizens of New York are unfazed by Cap's antics. As an adopted Londoner, I might take issue with the details - we're the spiritual home of studious ignorance, and I have disregarded stranger things on the tube than many people have seen in their lives. But it's a gag that wouldn't work with a Londoner-in-London or a New Yorker-in-New York, and New York is the epicentre of superheroes in the 616.

Meanwhile, Meggan is hanging out with randoms at Coney Island1 and such places, and finding her power has gone wonky as well - she's losing the ability to hold her identity - and worse, isn't even noticing this. She's recovered, eventually, but doesn't realise the fuss that she's caused.

1. In my one trip over the Atlantic, in April 2009, I made sure to visit Coney Island 2. We were the only goyim on the dodgems. This has no relevance here, I just wanted to use that phrase.

2. I visited other islands, as well, such as Manhattan, Long and Staten; although all I did on the Isle of Staten was to watch the video extolling the many supposed virtues of that isle at the ferry terminal before then heading back on to the ferry to go back to the Island of Manhattan. I heard there was a larger landmass nearby, too, but I didn't go there. I'm sickeningly metropolitanized, me.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #245: Conquest

Uncanny X-Men #245 makes little sense outside of its context: it is an outright parody of DC's Invasion! event. There, as here, an alliance of aliens invade Earth via a beachhead in Australia. But here, nobody cares. The Daily Planet declines to run the story, focusing instead on the Bush/Quayle inauguration.

Both stories feature a device pronounced /dʒiːn bɒm/ - in Invasion! this is a bomb which will alter the genetic structure of many humans - in effect making them mutants. In #245, this is a bomb which will destroy relationships. Yes, the aliens have done their own Grey clone.

Somehow Wolverine playing poker is vital to the resolution of the plot. I don't know. Comics, man. This is silly as anything in Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius, and one of Claremont's few attempts at comedy outside of Annuals and Excalibur. And although patchy it works better than those. He does this better when he is parodying something specific?

Friday, 8 March 2013

X-Factor #40: Nanny

They've just had Madelyne Pryor's second funeral in X-Factor #40. We get a touching scene of life and rebirth and suchforth. And then we get this:

"You know, since his mother was a genetic duplicate of our daughter, he really is our grandchild"

- actual dialogue from this comic

Jean's parents are concerned about Sara's children, of course (they don't know that they prioritised rescuing baby Christopher over them). Post-Inferno there are other children to distribute back to their parents (you'd think this would come before the funeral, but eh). Jean and Christopher's relationship is confusing, but she has memories from Phoenix and the Madelyne now, and feels some level of maternal responsibility towards him.

Nanny and Orphan-Maker attack! Nanny is given a nonsensical origin story which makes her a mutant turned into a cyborg by The Right. X-Factor best them in combat, find Joey and Galen hidden in a wall cavity, and bring them back home to their grandparents. Aww, isn't that nice? And to tie it off with a bow, Rusty gets a stay!

Hang on, did we get an issue of X-Men where a bunch of happy things happened? That can't be right...

Thursday, 7 March 2013

New Mutants #74-#75: The Morning After The Nightmare Before

New Mutants #74 starts the morning after Inferno. New York is getting back to normal, after its collective trip. It's a lazy come-down Sunday, I hope; and the X-Terminators and New Mutants have bonded. The X-Terminators invite the Mutants around to their place. Ship is a bit skeptical about Warlock, but agrees after sufficient analysis that he's a mutant of his kind. Little Illyana is accepted as a latent mutant, but Ship takes a harsher attitude to Gosamyr, thinking she can't be trusted. Gosamyr agrees, and Ship provides another ship, to take Gosamyr somewhere where she might learn self-control.

Meanwhile, at the Hellfire Club, Magneto and Shaw argue, with bonus punching. Shaw blames Magneto for the events of Inferno, which on the one hand is a bit harsh (he never asked for the job). But I kind of see Shaw's point. Magneto has been weak and ineffectual: he was brought in so the Hellfire Club could work through him to form an alliance with the X-Men and the New Mutants; and now what?

The New Mutants have decided to abandon Magneto and possibly join X-Factor permanently, and so turn up at the mansion to give him his notice. Unfortunately, it's been destroyed, as we find out in #75. They rescue a survivor from the wreckage: Sabretooth, which is a bit of an unlucky catch for them. Soon enough the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club turn up. Magneto's first wants to find out what's going on with Illyana. Given his previous experience as a baby it's no wonder he quickly accepts that she has become a 6-year-old.

Shaw continues angry, and him and Magneto continue their "discussion". Magneto makes all sorts of outlandish claims to try and get Shaw on side, like saying he was in charge of the X-Men (he really wasn't), and that the reformation was just an act and he had been plotting to use the New Mutants as minions. I'm not sure how much of this is nonsense he's making up on the spot, and how much is a real undermining of Magneto's purported change of heart. The discussion here is notable for being the first mention of Genosha in Magneto's presence : the fact that it is a mutant-based economy is taken as read by everyone.

Fighting comes to a standstill and the matter is decided by the votes of the White Queen and the Black Queen, who both stab Shaw in the back: Emma ostensibly because she'd disagreed with the Sentinels project (fair enough, but bit too late now!); and Selene because she wants a free hand in South America. Shaw flees, vowing revenge, and the club decide not to elect a new Black King. Instead, Magneto becomes Grey King, representing new morality (even though like the Black and White was nothing to do with that, but whatevs). It's hinted that he and Emma will seek to depose Selene eventually. Magneto then accepts the resignation of the New Mutants, wishes them well and hopes they will join him in the coming race war.

And cut.


Illyana says "Нет, мие зто ие иравится". Joe Rosen (or possibly whoever fed Joe the text) has made a mistake here: it should be "Нет, мне это не нравится" - i.e. he has substituted и (I) for н (n). This means "No, I don't like it". She also says "Меня зовут Illyana", which does indeed mean "My name is Illyana".

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #244: first app. Jubilee

The guest author of this blog post, Cristian ("Casby") Asby, is a government agent employed to have as little as possible to do with silly comics as current laws allow. He is hopeless at this job however and therefore owns a copy of every comic that Jubilee has ever appeared in, a vast array of her merchandise, an army of over three hundred Jubilee Heroclix figures and frequently gives away spare copies of recent Jubilee-featured comics because (a) everyone should read comics Jubilee is in; and (b) he's accidentally emptied Forbidden Planet of all its Jubilee-related stock while his sanity wasn't looking.

Like many 30-something comicbook and X-Men fans, he was introduced to the Marvel universe through the mid-200 issues of Uncanny X-Men, leading to the (for its time) excellent X-Men animated series in which Jubilee represented the audience. This has led to a skewed perspective of the (Marvel? entire? 1) universe, where the Jubester is central and following recent X-Men history is simply a matter of counting down months until she appears once more.

In this instalment of Uncanny X-Men, the heroic Captain Claremont recovers from his titanic battle with the evil Dr. Story Arc and celebrates by organising a relaxing shopping trip for his harem of (ahem) superheroes with breasts 2;. His angst-weary angels try on some dresses, defeat the not-Ghostbusters in a curb-stomp battle and succeed in being followed out of the comic by a recycled 1986 cameo super heroine who doubles as a youthful audience point-of-view character and happens to have a long X-career ahead of her as...let’s take a deep breath here...Kitty Pryde, Boom Boom, Carrie Kelly, Wesley Crusher, the 1980s incarnate, the final X-Man, Genki girl, the Deux Ex Machina, Janine Melnetz, reluctant I-beam, M-Day poster girl, Old Man Logan’s personal berserk button , Drill Sergeant Nasty, Lucy Westerna, Bella Swan, Marjorie Liu’s personal Pokémon, Pixie 0.9 and the individual that most long-time X-Men fans think of as their gateway first crush character into the X-universe.

Currently residing in editorially-mandated limbo despite the impassioned requests of several writers who are keenly aware of how incongruously fanatical the character’s (let’s face it) tiny fan base is, Jubilation Lee has taken a long, hard, questionable and at times downright baffling road to get from UXM #244 to the present day.

Whether you love or love-to-hate her, Jubilee is still alive and kicking. Well, kicking anyway.

Her accidentally vast array of personae now stands as a monument to editorial mismanagement rivalling that of Wonder Woman or Ms. Marvel, so it’s interesting to cast one’s eye back to the very beginning and witness the simple, clear-cut origin of the character.

Our story (the real one) begins in Hollywood Mall, Los Angeles. A young woman who has dubbed herself “Jubilee” (because with her, every day’s a celebration) is rather unwisely showing off her mutant powers to a crowd of mostly appreciative bystanders. Probably for money, since it appears the mall, for one reason or another, is currently her home.

Mall security express ambivalence towards Jubilee’s antics, with their boss Lou shouting the loudest and marshalling his heart-warmingly reluctant forces to neutralize the disrespectful brat once and for all.

Unfortunately for them, Jubilee happens to be quite the gymnast and with some fireworks, acrobatics and a little assistance from others, manages to avoid and infuriate her first nemesis: Chief Lou Marcelli.

But Lou’s had enough, so he’s gone and called the Ghostbusters. Or rather, the Ghostbusters as they would be if written by Ben Edlund, or in a universe where Dan Ackroyd preferred militaria and racial purity to Wicca and gadgetry.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world; Psylocke, Storm, Dazzler and (for a split second) Colossus are having their collective patience tested by early-Rogue being her early-Rogue self. Fortunately, only minor structural damage and comedy fan service ensues before Rogue’s other personality, Carol Danvers, takes over and calms everything down. Dazzler then proceeds to channel Chris Claremont directly, holding a lecture for the other ladies on the merits of meaningful dialogue and characterisation over mindless action and recycled peril. With the lesson learned, Alison proposes a practical demonstration to reinforce the message: a shopping trip.

Yes, let’s take Rogue to a place where she can do some real damage.

Back in Los Angeles, the not-Ghostbusters have arrived in a Deathstrike missile launcher, sporting epaulets. Bonus points to anyone who is now comparing Jubilee to Slimer. Dazzler simultaneously convinces Gateway to teleport the X-gals to the same location and the group’s first stop is a salon where all four are bestowed with brand new hairstyles. Stop number two is clothing, for the inevitable comedic fashion parade. Stop number three is party-time, where Dazzler sets Storm up with a Chippendale.

Unbeknownst to the X-women, their path is veering dangerously close to both the not-Ghostbusters and their newly-acquired admirer/stalker Jubilee, the latter of who’s reaction to the female foursome is strong enough to lead her into more trouble with mall security – this time a club bouncer who refuses to let her in until she’s old enough.

Yeah, that guy’s in for a LONG wait.

While Storm surprisingly softens to the affections of the proto-Gambit male stripper, beam spam breaks out as the not-Ghostbusters finally track down Jubilee. Things seem evenly-matched, until the not-Ghostbusters unveil the mutant equivalent of a ghost trap, shaped improbably like a mini Sydney Opera House. Jubilee struggles in the proton beams of the trap, but not for long, as the X-men leap to her rescue and demolish the monstrous contraption with a combination of their respective powers. Dazzler delivers the final blow (pew pew), but it’s noteworthy that in the midst of the chaos Psylocke is the one who actually rescues Jubilee, while indirectly learning that she’s an orphan.

In the aftermath of the short battle, the not-Ghostbusters are accosted by the very security guards who called them in to begin with, while the X-ladies decide they’ve had enough excitement for one evening and hop back into the portal to Australia. Not before revealing yet another fun fact about Jubilation Lee – she’s invisible to psi scans. Who knew? Who will remember?

Following their departure, Jubilee hesitates at Gateway’s portal, unsure of whether or not to continue stalking her rescuers and escape the now hostile environment of the mall. Yes, this story isn’t just a tween-arc comedy breather, it’s a prologue and Miss Lee is about to make a blind leap of faith into the golden age of the X-franchise to take centre stage as a full blown X-person for a long time to come.

She bites her lip at the precipice, with a world of adventures, yellow raincoats and Wolvies ahead of her, then dives in.

1. Definitely entire. Ed. 3

2. Exhibit A in the “how to shoot yourself in the foot when accusing some else of being sexist” showcase of commentary fail. Claremont had some stupid critics.

3. Wow, I get to be Ed. I feel like my whole life has been leading to this moment. Ed.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #243/X-Factor #39: Postferno

But! There's two issues of Inferno left to cover. Uncanny X-Men #243 and X-Factor #39.

The X-Men and X-Factor met up during the crossover and formed a single team. That's worth talking about, right? The way Wolverine and Jean interact, I've got to be able to wring a few words out of that. The stuff that goes on between Polaris/Malice and Havok, where she claims to have merged into one being, and Havok is wondering what on Earth is wrong with him and why do women he is into keep turning evil.

And then there's Mr Sinister, and his raid on the school (making it, what, the second complete destruction of the school? I'm surprised it's so few, surely I'm forgetting some.) I could talk about how Sinister turns out to be responsible for Scott's "coma", and that's why Scott has never learnt to control his power, because it would involve accepting Sinister. He's been manipulated by Sinister for just as long as Jean! And yet, Sinister's dialogue here really does point toward him being a child (he calls Summers a "sissy"), as apparently was originally planned (Sinister is a child's idea of what a supervillain might look like... the art here in #39 makes it look like an actual face, with frown lines, rather than the mask it previously seemed like).

And certainly I could extract a few sentences about the final few pages, where Scott Summers lets rip with full intensity, reducing Sinister to a skeleton in a page mostly coloured in red, one of the best single panels lately. And then how on that last page the teams unceremoniously split again without exchanging contact details or discussing what they should do now they know everyone is alive and cool; because that would undermine the logic of both series.

But I've got people coming round to play Bridge at 1pm and I'm still not dressed. So, you'll forgive me, this once.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Excalibur #6-#7: Inferno

Excalibur #6-#7 is the crossover with Inferno. Because what this new British team title really at this relatively early stage while it's still establishing its own identity is a trip to New York.

Ray, in what I can tell is going to become a pattern, provides our entry into the story, through her psychic link with baby Nathan. She bolts, and the rest of Excalibur go follow: Cap carrying Nightcrawler and Meggan taking Kitty. One of Claremont's more successful attempts at outright humour follows, as the practicalities of a multi-hour flight over the Atlantic and what this mean for bladders are considered. ("Can't you just phase?", says Cap, to Kitty's disgust.)

When they arrive in New York, stuff is weird, in a way similar to and yet more lighthearted than the Inferno issues of the other X-Books. Ray has been nobbled, and a demonically-influenced Meggan provides our main antagonist. There is some fighting. Cap goes bad too; Kitty has to use the soulsword to free him. Oh. She has the soulsword. That was probably a bad sign, right?

The basic premise of Excalibur: i.e. that Kitty and Kurt think that the X-Men are dead, necessitates that there can't be any crossover with the other titles, so once they're here, all they can have is a different viewpoint of the same apocalypse happening, not meet any of the other teams, and not then contribute towards the overall resolution (because that's already being taken care of in too many titles already). Should have stayed at home, really.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Uncanny X-Men #239-242/X-Factor #36-#39: Inferno

I am, for a change, lost for words. Here are some other people's, instead:
So you've gone for the obvious. Turn Maddie into a synthetic villain to get Scott off the hook and back with Jean. Shame on you!
Morag G. Kerr (letter, Uncanny #248, 1989)
CYCLOPS: So we just defeated her like any other supervillain, and she committed suicide. Things sorted themselves right out after that!
Doctor Disaster (tumblr, 2012)

(I like looking up the names of people whose letters I quote. I believe this is the same Morag G. Kerr who is a veterinarian, and was at the time Chief Scientist at VetLab Services. If you are reading this, Morag, hello. You were the first to call it. And you were right.)

Saturday, 2 March 2013

New Mutants #71-#73: Inferno

New Mutants #71-#73 shows us Inferno from the perspective of the New Mutants and their new buddies the X-Terminators.

First issue we spend mostly in Limbo, and Magik gives us a tour of her backstory for those of you who had followed my colleague SpaceSquid's advice and stayed well away. Specifically: the bit about the dead X-Men littering Limbo (to your left is a bit of Nightcrawler's foot; on your right you can see Kitty Pryde's skull). I'll reply to some of SpaceSquid's points here (he hasn't done the thing for #4). So, SpaceSquid reads this as a morality play about ends vs. means, and he regards the idea (expressed by Storm and Magik) that using imperfect means - such as dark magic - to save - can possibly be described.

But it's not just a morality play. It's about actual demons and actual souls and actual dark magic. If you accept that logic of that using dark magic - even if for a beneficient end - can corrupt and deprave - then the rest follows. The soulsword is not a metaphor for the atomic bomb, and Magik is not President Truman. She is someone who is literally losing her humanity, her ability to empathise with others, and afraid to show herself to her friends, because of the acts of self-abuse she is committing. Whether or not it her actions are morally acceptable in their own right is besides the point. They come with a cost: can she live with it?

The answer here, of course, is no. She, the blonde girl imbued with magical powers and who has been fighting a very powerful figure who wishes to open a rift between dimensions so that demons might invade Earth, must commit one final action, of self-sacrifice, to close the portal, in the culmination of a long-running storyline. Her devoted sibling makes one last-ditch effort to talk her out of it, but fails. Oh, and the issue in question is called "The Gift". I've mentioned how Buffy-ish New Mutants is getting at this point, but this is uncanny.

Buffy died, but Illyana didn't take quite such an extreme measure. Instead, she survives, as if she'd never been to Limbo, had never spent those years there. ("The Gift" of the title, I think, rather than the Gift of death that the Buffy episode is referring to.) With that done, the portal closes and all is saved? But there's a back-up plan, shenanigans involving Baby X (Chris/Nathan/whatever) and Maddy Pryor.

Inferno the first proper complicated inter-title crossover that the X-franchise has really had: the massacre prelude was fairly minor; the Massacre didn't have any substantial shared scenes (you can't sensibly trace the comings and goings of the Marauders between series - I tried); and the Fall of the Mutants was just a parallel of unfortunate events (with oblig watching events elsewhere on telly). The meeting with their contemporaries from X-Factor plays out completely differently to the version in X-Terminators - and not just in the dialog and timing but different things happen. And this despite Louise Simonson writing both issues! I daresay this is due to the Marvel method: Blevins and Bogdanove must have gone different ways from Simonson's plot.

It would be an intersting exercise to steal panels from the four or five main titles here (changing dialogue where necessary) and see if you could put together a coherent Infero miniseries, to which the others are merely tie-ins. Artistically it would be an abomination, of course, but it'd have made my life easier, and that's really what counts, isn't it?