Thursday, 31 January 2013

Fall of the Uncanny X-Men (#225-#227)

DALLAS, TEXAS -- The mutant militant group known as the "X-Men" perished tonight after a pitched battle.

Around 3am CDT a "crack" appeared in the sky above Dallas, showing daylight. The downtown area of the city was soon attacked by people and creatures from elsewhere, and Freedom Force, who had been sent to arrest the X-Men, were forced to intervene.

Speaking after the battle, Mystique, of the government-sponsored Freedom Force paid tribute to the X-Men, declaring that although they were fugitives under the recently-passed Mutant Special Powers Registration Act, they had given their lives - even their souls - for Dallas, and possibly the world.

Confirmed deaths were the X-Men Wolverine, Storm, Havok, Colossus, Rogue, Dazzler, Psylocke, and Longshot, along with a non-powered woman using the alias Madelyne Pryor. It is thought that other members of the X-Men may still be at large.

The X-Men were founded around 8 years ago, and were originally mostly sighted in the New York metropolitan area. Government mutant expert Henry Gyrich said "We believe they have schismed into two factions. The old guard have stayed in New York, taken the name 'X-Terminators', and campaign against X-Factor, Warren Worthington's mutant self-help organisation. Another set have moved to San Francisco. This group recently fled to Dallas after a mutant gang war with 'Marauders', that destroyed much of the area around Emperor Norton Memorial Hospital. We cannot continue tolerating these special rights for mutants, and frankly I find making tributes to them - even in death - highly distasteful."

This is the first incident of its kind to take place in Dallas this year. It is hoped by local authorities that this does not presage a larger "mutant creep", and that most near-apocalyptic superhuman activity can be safely confined to New York, home of the popular groups the Avengers and Fantastic Four.

They got better, obviously. And Gyrich's statement became rapidly outdated, as we'll see in the next post.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Uncanny X-Men #224: Welcome to the X-Men, Madelyne Pryor

Uncanny X-Men #224 is the calm before the storm. Well, I say calm. And actually come to think of it, it's got a lot of Storm in it.

Let's try that again.

Uncanny X-Men #224 is the final issue before the Fall of the Mutants. The main body of the X-Men are still in San Francisco, on Alcatraz, doing local superheroing where needed. Freedom Force is officially unveiled to the population in a press conference. Destiny believes that the X-Men are shortly to go to Dallas to die: Mystique warns Rogue of this. They decide to go anyway, to confront their destiny. All of them: including Maddy, even though she's not a mutant. Still no mention of finding Scott or their child, though. And it's hardly as if Scott should be difficult to find right now: Xavier recognised him off an X-Factor ad that the Mutants had watched.

Meanwhile, Storm is still going after Forge, on Naze's information. Naze claims that Forge wishes to unleash a bad'un called the Adversary and destroy the world. Turns out that's a lie; Forge is trying to save the world, which makes a lot more sense. Naze just wanted to get them in the same place for more convenient prevention of this.

Doom. Doom! Doom!!!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

X-Factor #21-#23: He Would Have Gotten Away With It, Too

X-Factor #21-#23 is a tight three-part story that finally pulls the trigger on the whole Cameron Hodge thing. Angel's will is read, and he has left all his money to X-Factor. Well, to a trust administered by Hodge. Bollocks. Hodge is not just misusing his position to undermine popular opinion of Mutants, but he's an actual black hat villain complete with a private exoskeleton-armor-wearing army.

It's bad. Trish Tilbit has managed to put some things together, but before the guys can blow the truth to her on camera, but Hodge triggers an immediate exosuit attack. Exosuit people also attack X-Factor HQ and abduct all the children. Bollocks.

A rescue attempt is eventually made, and is succesful (points to Boom-Boom who, returning from Fallen Angels, gets most of the way to liberating the kids herself). Hodge unconditionally hates mutants, has control of X-Factor, is responsible for driving Warren to suicide, was the man behind Rictor's capture and torture, and to cap it all, the Hodge they defeated was actually a Hodgebot. Bollocks bollocks.

Some minor continuity notes: Boom-Boom is 14, we are told; and Rusty gets a codename (bestowed by The Right). Rictor destroyed a city once. And in the background, the Fourth Horseman: Death, is prepared and declared ready by Apocalypse. Bollocks bollocks bollocks.

Monday, 28 January 2013

X-Factor #20: Snow Fun

It's a good thing Rictor has joined the cast X-Factor because he is in an ideal position to point out how stupid it all is. (Boom-Boom is still appearing in Fallen Angels and in any case does not quite have the analytical thinking skills). #20 deals with the aftermath of the fight in Central Park between X-Factor and the Three Horsemen of Apocalypse. As the tellybox puts it: "when mutants fight mutants... all humanity is the loser".

The specific complaint in this instance is the vast amount of snow and ice in Central Park, which for whatever reason will not melt naturally. While the main team are taking care of Bobby, the kids decide to warm things up outside. Eventually they manage it: a a combination of Rictor to shake the snow down from the trees, Skids to protect Rictor, and Rusty to warm it up once its own the ground without setting fire to the trees. They leave a message asking for mutants to be judgement not by the colour of their tentacles, but the by their deeds. Well done, those mutants. Certainly scoring a few PR points there. Ah, PR. Cameron Hodge has scarpered, unsurprisingly...

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Classic X-Men #16: How I Met Your Mother

Classic X-Men #16 reprints X-Men #109 (which shows us Sean and Moira getting it on), backed up with a new tale of how Sean met Terry's mother. I'm afraid we'll have to wince through Claremont's Ireland. First up, he describes the Partition:

Sixty-odd years ago, the island was split by treaty into the Irish Republic and Ulster -- the five counties of the north, which remained part of the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.)

Either someone involved in the making of this comic has made a very basic mistake, or County Fermanagh is part of the Republic in the Marvel universe! Let's go with that latter one. So, a young Sean Cassidy is being harrassed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary's finest. He is returning home to Mayo after having gone to a concert in Derry. Presumably a county and western concert, given his established taste in music. This is described as a "long way off his patch". He says he missed the last train. Given the journey he's making, possibly by several decades.

Anyway, while the RUC are harrassing our Sean, a passing motorcyclist rescues him. The situation quickly degenerates, and the RUC follow Sean in hot pursuit over the border. They lose the motorcycle, fall, and Sean demonstrates his mutant abilities by flying them back to the castle.

There he is surprised to discover that his new associate is an attractive young woman - Maeve Rourke (Terry's mother). They are soon taken with each other. His cousin, Tom, attempts some cockblocking and provides a third point in a love triangle, which possibly is the cause of their longstanding emnity.

The story stops rather abruptly.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

New Mutants #57-#58: Who is the Mysterious Bird Boy?

New Mutants #57 has our kids dressing up Bird Boy - who they still haven't managed to talk to yet - in some clothes and taking him to the mall. They cause a scene at the Malt Shoppe, and see House II, which is a plug for Marvel's adaptation of that film, produced by New World, who had purchased Marvel Comics in 1986. It has a 0% fresh rating on rottentomatoes, but a 5.1/10, so it's probably a terrible terrible film that they'll like because they're kids who don't know any better. Curiously, although given a 15 certificate by the BBFC, it was rated PG-13 by the RIAA, which means they don't need to sneak in.

What they thought of it, we'll never know, because Bird Boy tries to eat a pre-movie advert. This causes general chaos, and then finally Cypher tries to talk to Bird Boy, which he'd previously thought was impossible on account of it being hard. Some progress is made. In #58 the kids try and teach Bird Boy English, which works, after a fashion. Soon he acquires enough English to make simple orders at McBurger's. With the full moon approaching (something he is concerned about - apparently it is the "time of testing"), he flies away to the North Atlantic ("thousands of miles away" from Westchester, apparently, rather than the few km it really is to Long Island Sound), with food for his friends.

Who is he? We still don't know. He's clearly been experimented on, although what or who he was before is another matter. But what matters is he has friends to help, and those New Mutants are going to go with him.

New Mutants #58 has a piece of card bound in, promoting the upcoming launch of Excalibur and the Fall of the Mutants storyline. It also contains a competition, being a slightly creepy "Mutant Registration Form". Fill in your mutant name, send it in with your name and address, and win the prize of appearing in a subsequent issue of New Mutants. Genius.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Uncanny X-Men #223: More Character Moments

Uncanny X-Men #223 is another issue without a strong central focus. There is the ongoing adventures of Storm and Naze, who are looking for Forge. This gets quite a few more pages than usual, but nothing conclusive happens. Freedom Force get three new members, in the persons of the Super Sabre, Stonewall and Crimson Commando: the trio of older heroes that Storm and Wolverine had fought in #214. Most of the issue is taken up with a series of character moments for the X-Men, who have made a temporary base on an island in San Francisco (Alcatraz, specifically).

The chief of these is Maddy and Alex. They have both been let down by loved ones: Alex's girlfriend has been mindcontrolled into being evil (again); and Maddy's husband deserted her, her entire life was erased, and her son has been abducted. Alex finds Maddy very upset, and talks her down from a clifftop, by sharing his own tale of woe, and urging her to think of little Baby X. They find some solace. This is what, the third issue of X-Men or associated books dealing with suicide in about a year?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Classic X-Men #15: The Secret Life of Chris Summers

Classic X-Men #15 reprints #108, with a backup story about the Starjammers. #108 wasn't their first appearance, but it revealed to us that Corsair was Scott's dad.

Here we find out about the origins of the Starjammers, which started as a slave rebellion. Corsair is motivated into action by Hepzibah, which makes sense, and he volunteers to be a pilot, in the *Starjammers transition from a planet-bound slave revolt to space pirates. We also learn that "Corsair" was Major Summers's callsign back on Earth. Which makes him really stupid - going by the callsign that his son knows and then expecting the detail of his identity to remain secret. Sure, we can make up an explanation that Cyclops didn't know because of the braindamage, but that doesn't explain why Corsair thought it was plausible.

Not the best backup in Classic X-Men, but serviceable enough.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

New Mutants #56: When Outside Rome

New Mutants #56 starts immediately after #55. The issue's main plot are attempts by the New Mutants and the Hellions to rescue Bird Boy (who I figure is probably the source material for the Weekly World News's character Bat Boy.)

The teams clash without having any real dispute, it's just their usual setting for interaction. The Mutants end up taking Bird Boy home: we'll find out more about him later. But that's calling that the A-plot is like saying whatever scientific expedition the Enterprise is on that week is automatically the A-plot.

What this issue is actually about is Magma, who Claremont spent so much time setting up and then has mostly ignored. She's far more foreign than anyone else there, having grown up in a culture that was completely isolated from the "modern world", even by reputation. But in practice she's not been the one who has been getting the culture shock, and beyond a rivalry (if you can call it that) with Selene and being handy in a fight may as well not have been there.

She's had a letter from her dad saying that her letters have been very useful but that she should come back home now. She likes Empath of the Hellions (this was teased a bit in #53-#54), and she wonders whether she wouldn't be treated better at the Mass Acad. So, assuming that Emma's offer is still open, she decides to transfer. Perhaps she's thinking that'll keep her dad happy. All a bit sudden, though. And that Selene, she's still Black Queen. Has she thought about this much?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Uncanny X-Men #221-#222: Feeling Sinister

X-Men has been running out of good recurring villains lately. There's Magneto, but he's on the team now. The Hellfire Club are allies. Juggernaut was always a bit rubbish and his personal connection is in space. Sentinels are all right, but we're still in the shadow of Days of Future Past. Nimrod just doesn't have what it takes. Sauron? Hah, now you're having me on. Marauders are interesting though: what's the deal with them?

Uncanny X-Men #221 shows us the mastermind behind the Marauders: Mr. Sinister, rather boldly using a splash page on the first page (rather than the cover!) Sinister has pale white skin, black hair, a diamond in the middle of his forehead, solid red eyes, hollow cheeks, shark's teeth, and a goatee that mirrors his widow's peak and aligns perfectly with his diamond. Mr. Sinister looks more like a geometrical design than a human face.

Sinister is tearing the Marauders (Scrambler, Arclight, Scalphunter, Vertigo, Sabretooth, Harpoon and now Polaris) a new one about their failure to adequately kill Madelyne Pryor. Meanwhile, she's woken up, called the X-Men from San Francisco and demanded to know what is going on: where is Scott and what has he done with the baby? Which is fair enough. What I'd also like to know is if the Marauders were trying to kill her how did she end up in SF? I suppose we'll find out soon enough.

They go, with Wolverine leading a team consisting of Psylocke, Havok, Rogue, Dazzler and Longshot. They arrive at the hospital (incidentally can I just say how awesome it is that it locates it near the Emperor Norton Bridge) just at the moment the Marauders arrive to finish the job. An absurd coincidence as presented, but one we can fix by assuming that the cutaway to Maddy in #215 was really just immediately prior to this.

There's a fight. You may have expected that. X-Men win, eventually. Dazzler saves Rogue, which gives some resolution to their fractious relationship (Rogue was a longstanding Dazzler enemy in her solo series.) Lieutenant Sabrina Morrel makes another appearance. And Havok finds out that Polaris is the new leader of the Marauders. Well, thankfully he finds out that Polaris is possessed by Malice. Whether he's convinced or not by Malice's protestations otherwise is another matter...

This story is exactly the kick in the teeth this series needed at this point. Don't get me wrong: I like the little character stories. They're great. They are what X-Men is about. (And I'm not massively a fan of 1980s action comics action sequences, you may also have guessed!) But sometimes, when you've got injured and/or dead bodies, you need to remember that from time to time and concentrate on that main plot, lest your characters start appearing at Harry Potter 7 Part 1 levels of ineffectuality.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Classic X-Men #12: Magneto: Not All Evil, Then

If I had to rank the things that Chris Claremont did for the X-Men in order, at number one would certainly be Magneto's backstory. Lots of stuff is written about the attempt to rehabilitate Magneto in the here-and-now: a little less about how Claremont has seamlessly worked in a set of motivations for his historic pattern of behaviour, and gave him a rivalry with Xavier that predates the start of the series. It's an integral part of who Magneto is now: they even made a film about it, eventually. A Magneto-without-the-holocaust is inconceivable now, even though it's becoming increasingly implausible chronologically. It's a rare thing indeed for a writer to come along 20 years later and do that to an already well-established and iconic character: it's as substantial a re-work as "The Anatomy Lesson".

Some people say they can discern elements of this in the Lee material: my colleagues at Children of the Atom say that Magneto and Xavier's telepathic battle in #4 is hinting at it. I can't agree, as Lee's run was simply not that subtle, and it wasn't shy of giving backstories when it wanted to: see the Juggernaut, Lucifer, and so on. But I will agree that Lee/Kirby's depiction of Magneto was certainly conducive to what Claremont later did. It worked out fabulously.

Let's see what we've had over the years.

X-Men #4Magneto rescued Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch from a mob in central Europe.
X-Men #125Magneto had a wife called Magda, whereabouts unknown. No mention of children.
Avengers #186A woman named Magda fled to Wundagore after her husband manifested powers and proclaimed his superiority to normal humans, where she gave birth to Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
Uncanny X-Men #150When Magneto manifested, he was avenging his and Magda's murdered daughter, Anya.

He had been an inmate at Auschwitz.

Uncanny X-Men #199Magneto saved lives during the Holocaust.
New Mutants #49Magneto survived a firing squad that killed his parents, (by use of his magnetic powers?)

This is all skillfully woven together in this in Classic X-Men #12. The framing story is set just after the events of X-Men #104, in which Magneto is not so much defeated by the X-Men as abandoned by them. Magneto recuperates in a hotel room, and remembers his life with Magda. They had escaped from Auschwitz soon before the war ended (dovetailing with the end of Magneto Testament), survived, and when the war was ended moved to Ukraine, with the idea that Magneto might go to university. Unfortunately, unscrupulous gangmasters kept taking commission and Magneto got angry. Crowbars were flung. Magnetokinetically. Oops. He then went back home, noticed his house was burning down, and is arrested while he would quite like to save his Anya, please. He lashed out, burning everyone, much to Magda's horror. She ran off, while he went on to become a mutant terrorist.

Except: in the present day, he's watching a house burning down with a mother and daughter inside.... He saves them. Not all evil then.

There's not much here we didn't already know, but it's still nice to actually see it happen, and the framing story sets up his later reformation. Yet, he's still going to act like a Silver Age villain for a few more encounters with the X-Men (in the reprints: he's already well on the wagon in the 1987-current comics). He needs time to work things out.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

New Mutants #55: A Very Special Issue

New Mutants #55 is written by Louise Simonson. Yes, we reached Peak Claremont. Well, the first stage of Peak Claremont. Subsequent supplies of Albertan Claremont stories are being developed and are expected to come on stream in 1988, which will lead to another Peak Claremont period around 1990.

Er, what was I going on about?

Ah, yes, New Mutants #55. First up, the dialogue style is immediately different. Simonson has the characters much closer to saying actual things that people might say, and her New Mutants use language to manipulate, to cajole, to deceive and to flatter; rather than just provide a running commentary on their internal state. So that's good.

Sam and the New Mutants are going to a party hosted by Sam's space thief rock star girlfriend, Lila Cheney. After a suitably lengthy sequence of "oh noes what are we going to wear" (and having been sternly informed by Magneto that they must be back home by one), they end up there. Our Plot comes in the form of some aliens who want to get Cannonball out of the way so they can do an evil scheme the precise details of which I have forgotten already, but probably involve Lila and some thievery.

To do this they give Sam some pills and tell him to take them as they will make him cool. Yes, it's that subtle.

There's a little wrinkle in the denouement, though, as he gets away with pretending to have been drugged, rather than having succumbed to the "drugs will make you interesting" message. That's a bit off-code, surely.

So, in conclusion, not a terrible auspicious first issue, but certainly shows signs of doing things that Claremont wouldn't, in ways he wouldn't, which is certainly what this title needs.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Uncanny X-Men #220: forger

Having brought Havok onto the cast last issue, Uncanny X-Men #220 is instead a Storm solo story, with guest appearances by Wolverine, a holographic Forge, and Naze. Well, I suppose this is because the main "team story", as it were, is currently taking place in Fantastic Four vs the X-Men.

Storm is after her powers back. Her only lead is Forge: she visits his apartment, only to find it abandoned and playing back memories of the first Lifedeath. Yay for the handy plot reminder. It's all a trap set by Naze, though, who also is looking for Forge. Together, the two of them decide to go looking elsewhere...

The story continues into the next issue BUT something else comes up in #221 which I want to dedicate priority to AND this seemed important enough not just make it a "and meanwhile" part. What can it be...?

Friday, 18 January 2013

X-Men vs. Avengers: Magneto Was Right Here, A Moment Ago, I Swear

X-Men vs Avengers is a four-issue limited series written by Roger Stern and pencilled by Marc Silvestri. It is now almost impossible to Google. As the name suggests, the X-Men fight the Avengers, but while that might be the headlining attraction, it's not really what the story is about. Instead, it is a belated follow-up to the abandonment of Magneto's trial in Uncanny #200, and like the X-Men vs. the Fantastic Four limited series we covered last post, covers the reaction of the superhero community to his freedom and his association with the X-Men.

Storm • Dazzler • Havok • Magneto • Rogue • Wolverine
Captain America • Black Knight • Captain Marvel • Dr. Druid • She-Hulk • Thor
Soviet Super-Soldiers
Vanguard • Crimson Commando • Darkstar • Titanium Man • Ursa Major
The U.S. government have set a trap for Magneto, by downing Asteroid M. Magneto finds out about this and immediately goes to recover what he can from it, and destroy the rest, lest it fall into the "wrong hands" (yes, he uses those exact words.) He is intercepted by both the Avengers, seeking to arrest him so he can stand trial again; and a Soviet super-team, who just want to see him dead in revenge for the attack in Varykino in Uncanny #150. There is lots of punching in various ways for the first three issues. The Interesting part of the plot starts with issue #4. The X-Men are placed into protective custody, while Magneto is hiding in Singapore. Magneto is contacted by a local group of mutants who acclaim him as a leader. Among them is a chap named Light who used his power of truth discernment to amass a fortune.

Eventually Magneto surrenders and submits to a trial, but not without consulting Captain America about whether he should use his mass-prejudice-removal device on the entire world (which he cobbled together from bits of Asteroid M - now only practical that Xavier has left the planet). Cap says no, Magneto blasts him with it and is surprised to find his answer still the same. Cap never had been prejudiced against mutants.

This breaks Magneto a bit. It's time for his retrial (again with Haller defending and Jaspers prosecuting. The defence tries a new argument, that Magneto is a state actor in his own right, part of a new nation of mutants, and hence not bound by the Geneva Conventions. As an argument, I'm not sure this works: the Geneva Conventions are part of customary international law, but it's not like this comes up much. But if we're bringing the real world into it, it's far more likely that Magneto would be shipped to Cuba in an orange jumpsuit. The court rejects this argument, and then evidence is taken about Magneto's atrocities. Stern knows his stuff (he was editor for this part of Uncanny's run, after all) and the evidence here presented is a decent hatchet job on Magneto.

The court now retires to consider its verdict. Magneto is worried the ruling is going to go against him, and there will be an uprising by his Singaporean fan club and other such mutants. He'd really rather avoid that. Can the judges be trusted? One item of bizarre random paranoia is his belief that one of the judges is secretly a mutant and wishes to martyr Magneto precisely to start the race war, which mutants will win. Some investigation proves this false: the more prosaic and explanation is that that the judge is a mutophobe. Fortunately, Magneto's got an app for that.

Magneto gets let off: the revised non-bigoted judges accept his argument of lack of jurisdiction. It stops rather abruptly, as he leaves the court building he sees an angry crowd and wonders whether he didn't just make a terrible mistake. The idea that we can go back to business as usual (or rather, to Uncanny X-Men #220) after this is nonsensical, and I was almost expecting an issue #5, with the pogroms beginning.

The miniseries has to fit here because there's nowhere else for it to go: they just got Havok in #219 and then Storm goes off in #220. But it doesn't actually fit here. Apart from the difference in tone (apart from the scary ending, we'd simply not get something as Silver Age as a global anti-prejudice ray in the main series in 1987), we're seeing a different Magneto to the one we've been seing lately. Claremont's is just headmaster of the school and is kept at arms length from their other activities, whereas this one appears to be a fully-fledged member of the X-Men. Claremont's has reformed. This one just thinks he has. This Magneto has all sorts of wacky psychic powers that Magneto hasn't exhibited since Uncanny #4. Claremont's is the master of magnetism. I did this out of order (it's Christmas Eve, if you're wondering), and I can tell you that the Claremon/Simonson Magneto isn't going to put on that helmet for a good long time yet; whereas this Magneto doesn't even give it a second thought.

And yet, although he on paper he is examining a less well-developed Magneto, the ground this is covering is a far more interesting use of the character than the ineffectual sub-Xavier that Claremont/Simonson have him be at this bit in the run. That Magneto is never really tested, not until Inferno, at any rate. What are his limits? This title is willing to ask and answer that, and the answer, though less definite, is more convincing. And there's this idea of Magneto as a revolutionary hero to a mutant underground. Well, that's gonna have legs...

I originally wrote this post more or less as it appears above. Then I happened to look at the last few pages of the collection, that contained behind-the-scenes notes. And suddenly, it clicks into place why the last issue was so different to the others. Tom DeFalco wrote it, not Roger Stern. Stern's original treatment is presented: it presents a much less noble Magneto, still definitely wearing a black hat under that metal helmet. I said "Stern knows his stuff"; he only went and went through every single issue of any comic Magneto has ever been in and documented all crimes, however slight. He poured scorn on the rejuvenation defence, too. But this was not to be. Then, as 16 years later, Marvel would see value in a redeemable Magneto, but this time they caught it before it went to press.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1-#4

Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men is a four-issue limited series by Claremont and Jon Bogdanove (who has drawn Power Pack for Weezie). As the name suggests, it is is a crossover between Fantastic Four (well, Five, really, as She-Hulk/Jen Walters is a supernumerary member - Franklin tags along too - although since Betsy has replaced Rachel as team teep then there's no creepy first meeting for them.)

Kitty Pryde is stuck. Stuck! Stuck! Stuck! But enough about her art. She's been permanently trapped in phased form. I don't know how she's supposed to eat or drink or breathe whatever, but I assume Marvel Physics takes care of that. She's so far gone that she can't be heard, which is a great idea - she's reduced to telepathic communication with Betsy. But what can they do? Especially when they have no idea how to get in contact with Beast.

Ask Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, obv. Unfortunately, it turns out he's useless. Well, that's what it looks like from the X-Men's point of view. Really, he's having a big crisis of faith having discovered evidence that he had secretly known about the risk posed by cosmic rays prior to the FF's transformational first journey into space. He agrees to go with them to Muir Island to do some tests, but after doing them demurs. Wolverine threatens him blah blah steal the equipment blah blah Doctor Doom blah blah blah offers to help blah blah blah Storm blah blah blah Reed blah blah blah Yancy Street blah blah blah Latveria blah blah blah Reed changes his mind blah blah Doom and Reed's rivalry blah blah blah Kitty is healed.

Yeah, I'm that enthused about it. Part of the problem is that most of the interesting internal dynamics are FF stuff, and I've no context for that. Is the "Did Richards secretly plan this all along?" plot a new idea that Claremont has somehow managed to have after 25 years of FF comics, or is this a hackneyed old thing? There's some mileage to be had about the "Can the Fantastic Four trust the X-Men now that they are working with Magneto?", but the answer is "what the heck, why not", eventually turning into a handshake between Magnus and Reed.

The relationship between the X-Men and Doom is more interesting. To my knowledge they've only met once before, in that Murderworld arc. In this story, Doom spontaneously offers help after Reed rejects them. He says "my reasons [...] are my own", but you don't need to be a Fantastic Four fan to figure out that succeeding where Reed gives up has got to be part of it.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Wood/Coipel's X-Men vol. 4

A Marvel NOW book was teased last week, with the names Wood, Coipel and the codeword 'XX'. This was rather exciting, implying as it did a female-heavy continuation of Wood's enjoyable 8-issue run on X-Men last year.

This was confirmed yesterday, as a book featuring Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Summers, Psylocke and Jubilee. I said when it was teased that
It needs to justify its existence somehow apart from its gimmick, but I'm sure Wood can do that.
There's always a danger with this sort of thing with looking gimmicky. Happily, there's less risk of this in the X-Men franchise, because it has so many great female characters. Four of the six above constitute the core of the senior staff of the Jean Grey School already (with the unreliable Wolverine and Gambit, the ill Beast and the equally unreliably but for different reasons Iceman), so they've got a perfect reason to be associating. But I don't think Wolverine and the X-Men has taken advantage of this group as characters (admittedly, it only just got Storm, and mostly just ignores Rogue, possibly so she can headline X-Men: Legacy). Jubilee is a vampire right now, so it remains to be seen how she will be brought into the fold. And Psylocke will be juggling this with leading a new Uncanny X-Force team (also featuring Storm).

All of these characters are ones that Claremont either created, co-created, or (in the case of Storm) defined. But he never quite had the team like this: he spread around these characters between the teams. So that looks like it is the distinctiveness this book needed in an increasingly busy X-line: More Claremont than Claremont. Both Jubilee and Kitty fulfilled the role of "the kid", but have had very different paths after that. Psylocke and Rachel are both "the telepath/telekinetic", but are, again, very different. Four of the team have been leaders in their own right lately (Storm in vol. 3, Rogue in Legacy, Psylocke in Uncanny X-Force and Kitty in Wolverine and the X-Men and now in All-New X-Men). The actual punching plot (return of Sublime!) looks quite interesting too.

I have seen the criticism made of this that it should have had a woman writer. Now, certainly there are not enough women writing for the X-Office or comics in general, I won't dispute that. But they are not entirely absent at the moment: Marjorie Liu did 21 issues of X-23 and is now the regular on Astonishing; Kathryn Immonen did Wolverine and Jubilee last year (she's now doing a Sif-led Journey Into Mystery). Elsewhere at Marvel, Kelly Sue DeConnick is writing both the long-awaited Captain Marvel series and is the current writer on Avengers Assemble. In the past comics publishers have been (rightly, in my opinion) criticised for ghettoising women writers by employing them only to write female characters. My view is that women should pitch and write whoever and whatever the hell they like; as should anyone. If that means some of them write mixed titles while a couple of men write female-only titles, then whatever.12 And at a more practical level, what was supposed to happen here at editorial - Wood came along with his pitch for what to do with his return to Adjectiveless - and let's assume that "they're all women!" was part of it (it might not have been - the chances of putting together a woman-only X-Men team are actually not terrible) - was Editorial supposed to say "hey, great idea, let's get someone else to do it?" Obviously, that would be nonsense.

1. Cullen Bunn is doing "Fearless Defenders", another all-woman title; this one with a firm in-story justification, viz. they are Brunnhilde and her Valkyries.

2. There are three female solos right now, too: the excellent Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Red She-Hulk by Jeff Parker, a continuation of his run on Hulk, and Kathryn Immonen's run on Journey Into Mystery, about which it is too soon to tell. This is up from zero ten months ago.

New Mutants #53-#54: Pleased To Meet You

New Mutants #53-#54 is a two-part story set in one night. The gang have been grounded for weeks, Sunspot and Warlock have run away, and Magneto thinks he has just the idea to cheer them up: a party at the Hellfire Club, which the Hellions have also been invited.

This is not one of Magneto's better plans. And some of his have been real doozies.

It actually turns out surprisingly OK. Everyone gets little character moments. Wolfsbane and Catseye bond; Cannonball and Jetstream develop their rivalry; Magma discovers that Selene might be her ancestor (a distant very-great-grandmother - so I think we're supposed to believe that Selene actually is the Roman moon goddess at this point); Karma goes snooping for intel about her brother and sister; and Moonstar and Thunderbird face off about their respective teams. They end up in a challenge to find out who had sold a dodgy copy of a statue of Selene to a Hellfire club member; the Hellions win, by pointing the New Mutants at the early levels while the Hellions go straight to the boss fight. Sneaky.

Cypher and Roulette end up in bed together (after Cypher got lucky), where they are caught by the other New Mutants. This might possibly warrant adding them to the chart, except that the dialogue seems more pre-coital, so it will remain unadjusted.

And, while they were having all that fun, they've been basically driving off Karma, who has now left the team (again), on a quest to find Leong and Nga. According to the letters page in New Mutants #65, this was to have been a plot in Fallen Angels 2, which never did happen for various reasons...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Classic X-Men #11: Chris and Ororo

Classic X-Men #11's original backup, "Hope", is a story about a writer. That always gets my attention. He's called Phil Halloran, he's late for a deadline, and he thinks everything he writes is garbage. He has facial hair carefully trimmed in a particular way. I don't think I'm being too adventerous in saying this is a representation of Claremont. And not the kind of joking cameo that we have of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but a more sigificiant instrospective sort.

He meets Storm - one of Claremont's favourite characters - at the top of the GPO Tower, where he'd possibly gone to commit suicide. She takes him flying and there is Adventure. The standard format of stories like this is that the guy is left happy and inspired, but this instead has a far more ambiguous ending. It's his life, to do with as he pleases, he says. Unexpectedly honest stuff for an authorial self-insert, if that's what that is.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Uncanny X-Men #219: Havok and Polaris

Uncanny X-Men #219 (and #218) feature the return of Havok and Polaris after... Quite a while. How long has it been, exactly? Let's have a look at Havok's character chronology:
UX 177 [January 1984]
UX 232-FB [August 1988]
UX 218 [June 1987]
UX 219-FB [July 1987]
Three years between appearances! He and Polaris have been living the quiet life in New Mexico. We can assume Alex knows he's a nuncle, but apart from that they've not been in contact at all. Alex is not impressed with what's been happening in his absence: Magneto joining, the alliance with the Hellfire Club, the plan to "kill" the X-Men. But then, who would be. Once they explain Recent Events, he feels obliged to offer to sign up on the team again.

Meanwhile, Lorna has been left in New Mexico and is promptly attacked by the Marauders. She does well, but is massively outnumbered. They weren't seeking to kill her, though: she is possessed instead, by Malice. There's still a lot of Marauders payoff to come: this issue strongly teases the name of Mr. Sinister (mentioned in passing during the Massacre); and it appears they are responsible for the attack on Maddy Pryor, the disappearance of little Baby X; and the kidnapping/bombing of Sara Grey and Leong and Nga.

This issue is fairly weak, and suffers from just moving around people in preparation for something bigger. The main team are still mostly injured, and the lack of progress on this plot line is frustrating - instead they are introducing the new guys. We know X-Books don't tend to have more than about 8 characters at a time, so either some of these n00bs are not staying long, or some of those injuries are going to be permanent.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Fallen Angels #1-#8: the Original Misfits

Fallen Angels is an 8-issue 1987 miniseries created by Jo Duffy (writer) and Kerry Gammill (penciller, although not for the entire run). It's not got "X-Men" on the covers (well, not the original covers anyway), but treating it here, as we'll see, is a no-brainer.

Our main X-characters are Bobby (Sunspot) and Warlock, who you know; Theresa Rourke (Siryn), who we just caught up on, and James Madrox (Multiple Man), who we thought we knew. I'd had difficulty seeing Peter David's Madrox in the young James we'd seen before, and this is why: Duffy invents him here. Bobby has run away from the mansion after a tantrum/ostracism escalation, and Terry and Jamie are sent to locate him in the bustle of New York City. They are shown to have a strong pre-existing friendship, and are being written as older than the New Mutants but still teens, perhaps Karma's age. Madrox is still a noob (this is only his second trip to Manhattan), but he quickly becomes a far more confident man than the mouselike chap that Claremont had him. There is even a rogue dupe!

It also picks up Boom Boom and the Vanisher, from X-Factor. Throw in a few new characters: Chance, Gomi, Ariel (who vanished without trace until the X-Office brought her back for 2010's Second Comings), and even a dinosaur, and voilá. In this it serves as much a prototype for Runaways as anything (Bobby, Warlock and Terry have supervillainry in the family, you'll note), except that Vaughan's group have no Fagin.

To describe it as lacking a strong plot would be entirely true. One of its chief weaknesses is that it's just events happening, with no real overall through-line. And yes, at the end nothing has changed, if you look at it that way. Unless you count that little detail of Bobby's personal growth - the thing that led to the series in the first place. And for all the faults with its dialogue (which are numerous), it manages to portray a much more relevant street scene than Claremont and Simonson are doing with the Morlocks: these are actual people, even the ones who are aliens and technoörganic entities, whereas the Morlocks - even those who are seeing development, such as Masque and Callisto - are treated as the Other, their backgrounds and motivations left obscure. What is missing is the marriage of the two approaches: the working out of the political and social implications of a real mutant subculture: a genuine look at the question "what if there were mutants with special powers? how would society treat them" from the tradition of speculative fiction. I am afraid we're going to have to wait until X-Men #114 before we get it. If not later.

Right, entry done. Now I'm going to watch series 4 episode 8 of Misfits on E4. It's this funny show about a bunch of delinquent youths who got powers in a storm one day. One of them is a chap who makes duplicates of himself which have different personalities. Funny how these things work out.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

X-Factor #18-#19: No "I" in Horsemen

X-Factor #18 tries a sneaky retcon. It would have us believe that Scott and Jean never were romantically involved until the cute "I wanted to see your face, that's all" moment in Uncanny #132: the implication being that Scott and Jean had never been involved - it was only ever Scott and the Phoenix. This is clearly nonsense: they kissed on-panel in #98, which was so canon that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby actually were there in character to comment on it! And if you look back at the appropriate page of #132, Jean's immediately preceding speech calls him "Scott Summers, lover of Jean Grey". Not sure what they're trying there, other than complicating the Shag Chart.

Anyway, Scott has got very confused about the Jean/Phoenix/Madelyne/Jean thing, and frankly who can blame him. It's mostly Hodge's fault, though. Hodge, whose PR campaign - which is now pretty clearly an act of delibarate sabotage - is being treated as some kind of immutable natural order of things. The gang could try to fire him, or walk. Except for the fact that he's buggered off now he's been rumbled.

Meanwhile, Apocalypse is putting the finishing touches on his final Horseman: Death (the mutant formerly known as Angel), and sends the remaining three into action against the X-Terminators in #19 to learn the value of teamwork. This is now going very slowly and I'd like it just to get to the reveals already.

Friday, 11 January 2013

X-Factor #17: I regret to inform you that Warren Worthington is Death

X-Factor #17 has Angel's funeral. Very sad, etc. Slightly spoiled by the fact that he's not really dead, he's Death. We'll come back to that later.

But first, there's an evil mutant threatening to earthquake San Francisco. Much to Jean's umbrage, the chap, named Rictor, is taking the good name of the X-Terminators to do it with. You remember the X-Terminators: the fake "evil mutants" that X-Factor sometimes pretend to be. She's worried about their reputation being besmirched, is she? In fairness, they probably have better reputations than X-Factor itself at this point. Except by page 17, the group is called "The Right" by Bobby. So Hodge lied (he certainly appears to have set the whole thing up, down to using cheap reverse psychology to make them go), and the radio that they'd been listening to on the way set them right.

So, they (as X-Terminators) fly over to the left coast to sort things out. Joining the four of them is Caliban, now with a costume. I am greatly pleased by this. It's about time they started treating him as an equal. And it's a completely practical decision too: they have to find a mutant quickly, he's the mutant tracker. This works out well, and they are able to find Rictor in no time, and rescue him (turns out he was just being used). This is not going to plan, not for Hodge.

So, is "Rictor" in this issue just a misspelling or what? Because if I were making up a codename for an earthquake-themed mutant which was pronounced /ˈrɪktər/, it wouldn't be spelled like that. It's especially funny given that we'll find out later down the line that his real name actually is "Richter". I'm not sure whether to hail it as an example of nominative determinism (my favourite recent example being the head judge in England and Wales, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge), or whether to decry it as the Worst. Codename. Ever.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Spider-Woman #37-#38: Siryn

I should have done this one in September or October. Oh well. Still, not too late now. So, let's pretend it is six years ago, 1981 again. Uncanny is still in the #140s, there's no Rogue, no New Mutants, Kitty Pryde is a n00b. Jean Grey is dead, there are no Morlocks to massacre, Magneto is evil, and nothing could stop the Juggernaut. That last one's easy, at least.

So. Spider-Woman #37-#38. Jessica Drew wants to get a P.I. license, and is trying to persuade Nick Fury to be a character reference, but without admitting her name to him. (hmm, a superpowered private detective, there's mileage in that idea.) She is caught in a scheme by Black Tom, the Juggernaut and Black Tom's niece, Theresa, using the codename Siryn. She is Banshee's daughter that he never knew existed and gets rescued from their clutches, obv, but is mostly there as a story hook. The X-Men arrive, tracking her on Cerebro (it still being early enough that they seem to be following every lead they can, even though we'll later find out this cannot be true). Siryn's relationship with her father ought to be part of this, but it will not be immediately explored: Banshee isn't even part of the team at this point. Siryn makes a brief appearance in Uncanny #148, but then is just forgotten about, and won't appear again until 1987's Fallen Angels.

Her absence from New Mutants is difficult to explain. One could make the case that Moira wouldn't send her not!stepdaughter to the Westchester meatgrinder... except that she did send Rahne. And why did the Mutants never meet her when they visited? They even met Jamie! In this context the fact that Michelle vanishes makes a lot more sense.

Incidentally, I found the use of a character called "Ben Disraeli" in this story really distracting. Imagine if a British comic called a character "Ulysses Grant" and then didn't have anyone make any jokes or references to it.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

New Mutants #52: Didn't This Book Used To Be Set In A School, Or Something?

The New Mutants are back at Westchester. They left during the Mutant Massacre to rescue Karma but then things have happened, and they've fought Magus, been to Limbo, met Robert the Bruce, seen two different futures, and encountered Professor X and the Starjammers. Although they've often only scraped through these adventures, this clearly puts them at a power level and competency that questions the premise.

So. Back at Westchester, and they are in the Danger Room with an extended sequence versus the Marauders. They lose badly, which conveniently nerfs them back to an appropriate power level for the format of the series: a bunch of students who get into japes despite the wishes of their teachers and escape by the skin of their teeth.

That's half the plot, anyway. The rest is Magik and Magneto. The comparison between the two is made a little blunter than usual: Magik has her demons to deal with (they're rebelling against her, and she dare not use the full extent of her power to put them down), and so does Magneto, as he points out. Except that his are metaphorical, and hers are literal. You see what he did there! Subtle.

So, that's about it. Nerfing and some characterisation. Will it work, though? The New Mutants have and done so much in the last few issues that going back to the school feels so... small. Coming back to my Buffy analogy, it feels like that scene of "The Body" where we're just following Dawn at school and she has no idea what's happening. After what has happened, you can't go back. You just can't. And there is still that outstanding question of Karma's brother and sister (Magneto assures her that he's doing what he can - presumably through the Hellfire Club).

In a reply to a letter, an announcement is made that Louise Simonson will be taking over New Mutants from #55 for a brief period while Chris Claremont takes a break to write a novel, "Firstflight" (Ace). I know the publication history: Claremont'll never come back, and eventually Rob Liefeld will start doing the art, and turn the series into X-Force. You can see the germ of it here.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Mutants #51: Starjam

New Mutants #51 is more about the mentors than about the teens themselves. Our kids are still in space (after the events of #48-#50), and Xavier is deciding whether or not to return with them. He hoovers up memories: the Mutant Massacre is shocking, but not enough. The real surprise is seeing an advert for X-Factor on the tellybox: he recognises his original X-Men on screen.


So, the main team really were just not paying attention: they only started noticing the adverts for X-Factor around the time of the Battle of Sheep Meadow. Maybe the kids just watch more TV?

Xavier decides to let go. The Starjammers need him and he can rely on Magneto. I suppose he must have done research on how that had been working out. One problem though: Magik is on strike. This is quickly worked round by Xavier ordering Karma to possess her and do it directly, something that is ruthless even for Professor X. Dani protests, so good on her.

Can Magneto be trusted? That's the question that Magneto himself has been pondering. He's got an offer to join the Hellfire Club as White King, and consults with Storm, who strongly urges he take it up. He doesn't, though - not on their terms anyway. Instead, Storm and Magneto join together, and wearing their own costumes. This is supposed to be an alliance, after all, not a supplication.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Uncanny X-Men #217-#218: The B-Team

Uncanny X-Men #217 follows the adventure of the X-Men on Muir Island: Rogue, Dazzler, Longshot and Psylocke. Rogue is their leader more by default than anything else: all the others have only been here five minutes, and compared to them she's practically an old hand. They train, under the supervision of Banshee, who is a bit more experienced but not able to take an active part himself.

Dazzler is feeling particularly unwelcome at the island, and after fraught exchanges with Rogue (who was Dazzler's arch-enemy for a while, in the Dazzler solo-series) and a well-characterised clash with Callisto (yes, they really wouldn't get on, would they), she pays a quick visit to Ullapool. Here she encounters some céilidh (spelled "kaylie"), and does some Dazzling.

After all this, she spots Cain Marko, a.k.a. the Juggernaut. I suppose she'd been briefed, a recent innovation that the X-Men have introduced, although it seems that the briefing did not include the circumstances of their last meeting: when they ended up picking on him for no reason and doing a lot of property and public relations damage. Dazzler is left (presumed dead?) by Juggernaut, but is rescued by the X-Men.

They soon find out that Juggernaut is rampaging in Edinburgh. They rally, go there, and stop him in a decent action sequence that shows Claremont's familiarity with the geography of Scottish capital. Marc Silvestri clearly has some decent reference material to work with, too, even if the locomotive on the "Inverness Flyer", looks like no British train I've ever seen. Our focus here - apart from the city - is on this group's ability to work as a team, which they eventually manage.

Of course, the Juggernaut's frenzy was merely a distraction. Black Tom has been robbing the Bank of Scotland. Oops. This has the air of something that doesn't quite make sense - what was Juggy doing in Ullapool to begin with? - but we're left in enough darkness that it doesn't seem blatantly silly.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

X-Factor #16: Masque

X-Factor #16 shines a spotlight on the Morlocks, something they are not accustomed to. Back in their early appearances they were villainous and untrustworthy: they shunned the surface world and abducted children; and their leadership was determined by a fight to the death. The best of them were neutral. Since then, the portrayal of them has softened a bit, and not just because of sympathy engendered by the Massacre: Callisto has become Storm's loyal second-in-command, and Caliban is becoming a hero. And the thoroughly reasonable Erg is the leader of a friendly faction, who stayed with X-Factor a bit before then going back to the tunnels.

The main remaining "evil Morlock" is Masque, who has the power of reshaping faces. Like the baby-stealing, this is a very primal horror. That a hard-line separatist like Masque has it - and is willing to use it so pettily - confirms our worst fears about such isolationism. We don't know Masque's story, of course. The Morlocks didn't just come from nowhere - they all had mothers and names, but keeping this obscure makes it hard to understand Masque as a victim of the system, and he becomes the most horrific X-Men villain so far.

But think about it a bit and we can infer a back-story. Masque's power is amazing. We see it used here to restore the woman that Rusty had accidentally burned the face off. He can use it at will, and well, to put it crudely, money > bigotry. Not always, not often enough. But enough that he'd have a fair chance setting up a practice on Harley Street (or whatever the New York equivalent of that is) and getting enormously rich. He's not an idiot, and he's bitterly against integrationism. So, he's tried that, and it backfired spectacularly. Maybe more than once.

In the end, no permanent changes are made, to faces at least. Emma (Rusty's victim from #1) refuses having hers back when she learns it comes at the cost of Rusty's, and she instead plans to teach the Morlocks about the Lord. I hope this fails: the addition of evangelism to the already fractious Morlock society could explode it. During all the action, Skids learns to drop her forcefield in a moment of need. And a rather abrupt last page to the issue indicates her and Rusty want adding to the Chart.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

X-Factor #15: Clipped Wings

X-Factor #15 is the one where Warren appears to commit suicide (see below). Unless you are a particularly inattentive reader you wouldn't buy for a second this would be permanent, but nevertheless it is a clear message that things have changed, that things can change. Something that the series has been doing repeatedly since Simonson came on board, but never clearer now.

But that's not the main point of the issue, not really. Instead, it's about our Scott again. He's in Anchorage, identifying his wife's body, and making wild presumptions that his son (who still hasn't got a name, so we're just gonna keep calling him Baby X) is dead too. He calls home! He ended up with one dead body in Alaska because someone he was close to needed him and he wasn't there. Does he want to make it a second? He races back. Too late. Warren's dead. Scott, you suck.

Businessman, superhero, mutant and socialiate.

Warren Worthington III, who has died at the age of 25, was born into wealth as son of Warren Worthington II, the CEO and majority-owner of Worthington Industries. But it was as the superhero and member of the X-Men the "Avenging Angel" (later "The Angel") that he became known to the public. Worthington was one of the first mutants to "come out", while attending UCLA, where he joined the superhero team The Champions. Worthington's parents died relatively young, and perhaps exemplifying the principle that wealth does not survive the third generation, he had little interest in management of his companies; instead being content to flit as his attention was attracted, while leaving most of the day-to-day supervision to his fiancee Candice Southern.

Worthington recently was embroiled in controversy when non-family shareholders in Worthington Industries discovered that he had been financing the mutant troubleshooting agency X-Factor with company money, and was facing possible criminal charges of fraud. According to Worthington's close friend and co-worker at X-Factor, Cameron Hodge, this, combined with the amputation of his wings after severe injuries, may have pushed him over the edge, although according to the local authorities no note has been found and mechanical error has not yet been ruled out.

Warren Worthington III was 25 and has no surviving relatives.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Classic X-Men #8: Jean and Phoenix

Classic X-Men #8 presents Chris Claremont his first opportunity to say what really happened with the Jean Grey/Phoenix thing, in a backup story set during 100 and 101, comics he wrote eleven years ago, with no idea of what controversy might later erupt.

His version, as you might expect from what he's done to rehabilitate the Phoenix force by having it manifest in Rachel, emphasises the continuity between Jean and the Phoenix. His Phoenix is the real deal, but the old Jean is left as a kind of backup version. And his Jean consents to having her body and mind taken by the Phoenix, rather than having them ripped away, like the original version in Avengers/Fantastic Four implied.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Classic X-Men #7: Shaw and Frost

It's not always obvious what Classic X-Men's back-up strips are trying to do. Some of them provide characer moments that fill in gaps (we've had the lovely Scott/Jean silent backup in #6, and Thunderbird's funeral in #3). This one seems to be more for the continuity wonks, as it provides some backstory for how Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost took charge of the Hellfire Club; and how Michael Rossi came to be alive to turn up in New Mutants.

But that's not all that's going on. In the main books being published in 1987, the X-Men are on the verge of an alliance with the Hellfire Club, and therefore Shaw and Frost's reputations need to be repaired. This story shows therefore how they were taken for mugs by the original Black King Ned Buckman, who is the real evil mastermind behind using the Sentinels to kill all mutants. Shaw and Frost had merely wanted the Sentinels to give them a good going over, or something, in some odd scheme to identify the X-Factor.

Shaw and Frost are betrayed by Buckman, and use that as the excuse they need to assassinate him and his cronies, and install themselves as the new Lords Cardinal.

I'm not sure this ultimately works. They're still too closely associated with the Sentinel program after this is supposed to be set for it to be blamed entirely on Buckman. But at least it's going in the right direction.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Uncanny X-Men #215-#216: Aftermath

Annuals are strange beasts. They do not form part of the regular publication pattern of a comic, instead being off to one side. Which is fitting, as their stories often do not form part of the continuous narrative, either.

Look at X-Men Annual #10, for example. The Chronology Project puts it between Uncanny #210 and #211, despite there being no actual gap for it to fit into, merely because it is the least worst position. There is no true ordering of events, because this is fiction: #215 is a sequel to both the Massacre and this Annual, without caring that they are contradictory. Also, it has Mojo in it, and I've not really been covering the annuals unless they are absolutely essential to the plot or thematically interesting. So, let's skip that, simply noting that Longshot is a regular in Uncanny now, and he along with Rogue, Dazzler and Psylocke are sent to Muir Island with the wounded. We'll pick up their story later.

While Scott is dealing with the disappearance and apparent death of his wife Madelyne Pryor over in X-Factor, those of us who have been reading Uncanny X-Men have known since #206 that she's actually alive, if not well, in San Francisco.

What we still don't know is how we came to be there. Back in #206 itself it looked like an attack on idea of X-Factor. Now, with the Simonsons taking over that series, it can be dealt with collaboratively. Pryor wakes, identifies herself to the hospital staff, and we get enough flashbacks that I think we're supposed to believe she's nothing more complicated the first victim of the Marauders.

#215 picks up another plot thread introduced by X-Factor: the attack on Sara Grey's home (also Maurauders? They presumably also did Karma). Storm and Wolverine visit the place, after Sara doesn't answer any calls. You might think that the firebombing of a mutant rights activist might end up on the tellybox and they'd know already, but it's apparent that the X-Men don't watch any New York market television (otherwise X-Factor wouldn't have been such a surprise to them).

They're not the first mutants to have visited the place, of course: Wolverine can smell Scott and... Jean. Jean?

With our subplots dealt with, we get to the villains of the arc: Storm is captured by a trio of powered people: Super Sabre, Crimson Commando, and Stonewall (all appearing here for the first time). Stonewall is a funny name to give this one, I note. They have a career structures that could have come straight out of Watchmen, and a litany of complaints about modern America's supposed moral decay 1 that closely mirrors Rorschach's. They don't even know about her mutant history: they found her at an arson site, and that's good enough for them to go all Running Man on her. Some fighting later, and unlike Rorschach or the Punisher, they are persuaded of their own hypocrisy: if what's illegal is wrong, and taking the law into your own hands is illegal, what they are doing is wrong. Well, I say persuaded. There's some level of threat involved, it must be admitted.

1. i.e. it starting to live up to the high standards that the framers accidentally expressed in the document they wrote.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Mutants #48-#50: With Jetpacks

We've seen the future before in Uncanny X-Men, but it's New Mutants, with its themes of youth and forward-looking, that starts using it as a regular setting.

This initial post-Mutant Massacre arc sees two future dystopias. The first, in New Mutants #48, is your Days of Future Past timeline (apparently different enough that it's reckoned to be a different version, but I don't see that myself), and the origin of that is explained. But the grimness of that future as Uncanny had it cannot withstand the optimism and wish-fulfilment of New Mutants and we soon discover that in addition to the few surviving New Mutants (Dani and Sam), Lila Cheney is alive and has helped them set up a colony on her Dyson Sphere.

In #49's future dystopia, what was left of the X-Men, led by Magneto, have allied with the Hellfire Club to take over the world. New York has become a dystopia in part modelled on 2000AD's Judge Dredd: complete with Arbitrators (not Judges) with eye-obscuring visors. The more sinister part is their resemblance to the New Mutants uniforms, and the revelation of Bobby and Amara's leadership role in this regime. Our kids are helped by an elderly Kate Power, who clings to the ideals of the past.

Both groups are rescued by Magik, who brings ideal help for dealing with the future in the form of their mentor: Professor Xavier. He's been worried about what Magneto might be getting up to in his absence (having nightmares about the Holocaust and joining the Lords Cardinal of the Hellfire Club would seem to be the order of the day), and he's happy to, with Binary, join Illyana in a rescue mission.

Another father figure is part of the story, of course: Magus, who they had gone into Limbo to escape. Thanks to the power of teamwork (and Xavier and Binary, and willing self-sacrifice from Cypher and Warlock), the Magus is regressed to a state of infancy. Will he grow up better this time? Or will someone pretending to be Eric the Red age him back to distract them, as when the same trick was played on a character with one more 'n'. At the end it looks a lot like Xavier is going to return to Earth and stay... I'd wondered how long that would last: this is shorter than I was expecting.