Thursday, 28 February 2013

Uncanny X-Men #238/X-Factor #35: Before Combustion

Uncanny X-Men #239 and X-Factor #35 are both issues on the periphery of Inferno. Let's start with Uncanny #239 first: in New York, weird happenings occur: the chief and most noticeable of these being the growth of the Empire State Building.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the X-Men are going about their business. Danger room, singing, etc. Storm is fiddling around with the Reavers' computers, doing a vanity search, and finds reference to X-Factor coming out as mutants and sees a woman who looks awfully like Jean Grey. She grabs Wolverine, who sheepishly admits that he knew all along. Or at least, he'd caught her scent a couple of times. Is this the reason why this bunch of X-Men was put in Australia, as much to sequester them from the X-Factor news, as to avoid word leaking out about their survival? And, Maddy and Alex are added to the Chart after the end of page 26.

Sinister still thinks the X-Men are dead, and is eulogising them one-by-one, not dissimilar to his obituary for the team in #544. We learn a little about Sinister. He says that he knew Havok had "potential", "from the first", "in those longago days before you ever heard the word 'mutant'". And he calls Madelyne is his "pride [and] joy". And he is interested in Baby X: which he here calls "Nathan Christopher Charles Summers". A screen shows he's in a tube somewhere. Since Rachel already knew that he was called Nathan, I think it's fair to assume that this is in fact the name of the baby as registered, rather than Sinister's invention.

We learn a bit more about Maddy's plans, too. She wants the baby back, has made a deal with N'Astirh, where she'll be told the location of the Marauders so she can find Baby X and take revenge.

Meanwhile, over in X-Factor #35, Scott and Jean have gone to Scott's old orphanage in Nebraska, which Destiny's clue interpreted by Ship has pointed at. Some hints are dropped here: expansions of what we know about Scott's backstory. A mysterious kid called Nathan is mentioned, who Scott had always saw as a simple bully, but we can see he knows Scott will get his optic blasts (he might have seen an accidental use of them when Scott was first brought in), and is trying to goad him into using them.

Downstairs they find a collection of babies. Young Baby X, (Christopher), is among them. Jean and Scott resolve to save them all. Unfortunately, demons have been sent, looking for children (see tomorrow's X-Terminators post), and another new villain, Nanny is seeking to take custody of them, too. The demons get Christopher, Nanny gets the others: including Sara Grey's children who are also here. Well, that's two steps forwards, three steps back...

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Wolverine #4-#8: What Immortal Hand or Eye

Wolverine #4-#6 continues immediately from that first arc for Jessica Drew and Lindsay McCabe, but Wolverine's chronology at the MCP places Uncanny #232 though to #243 - including all of Inferno between the issues. Apparently they've just been hanging around there for weeks waiting for Patch to get back? There's a long rationale for it, which brings in non X-Men books, so I don't care, I'm doing it now.

The story opens with the by-now familiar trope of an old friend of Logan's, who we've never heard of before, and is generally either dead already or is killed in the first few pages. Teebore identifies it here as starting with Asano in the Claremont/Miller miniseries. There's a structural reason it has become so commonplace in the Claremont/Buscema run already, and that's the tension between the attractive idea of Wolverine's backstory being explored by meeting old friends, and the narrative's need to keep his identity quiet. If the X-Men hadn't have been in hiding and presumed dead when Wolverine's solo title launched, there'd be no need for all these people to die. And then he'd be able to actually use the name "Wolverine" in a series called that.

Our old friend this time is Chancellor Ranjamaryam, an advisor to the prince, who is killed because he is sympathetic to Tiger Tyger's burgeoning new crime empire. When this comes to Wolverine's attention he decides to look into the matter himself. He'd had dinner that night with a person with a smell he's sure he recognised: Karma.

Karma hasn't been seen since New Mutants #54; where she'd left to look for her brother and sister. Logan confronts her alone without letting on who he is. She misses the opportunity to explain what had motivated her to work for her crimelord uncle again. (Logan would surely have added it to his TODO list). Nyugen Ngoc Coy is planning on making a play to be Kingpin of Madripoor (after having been ejected from San Francisco), with the connivance of the prince now that Ranj has been removed and a couple of new entries for Wolverine's rogues gallery: Roughouse and and Bloodscream.

Logan is still not exactly an enthusiastic supporter of Tyger Tiger, but she's cracked right down on the slavery and the drugs, whereas Nyugen has no such compunctions. Logan takes a typically direct approach, by going to the appropriate section of the Golden Triangle (real), and destroying a very large amount of Nguyen's heroin, with the help of Archie Corrigan (a potential traitor), which will put him out of action for a bit.

Meanwhile, an injured Tyger Tiger (she survives an attack by Nyugen's minions thanks to sabotage from Karma) and the Drew/McCabe team seek refuge at Landau, Luckman & Lake, and the mysterious Mr. Chang. This bit is very curious: it appears Chang is acting as a supplier for the X-Men, as he is able to supply a metal battlesuit like the sort we've seen Psylocke wear, being held for Logan. And they notice a tintype (misspelled tinytype here) photograph of Logan with Mr. Chang, which they date to the 19th century, implying a Logan who is as old - if not older - as the one ultimately revealed by Origin. The inquisition is cut short, though, by some fighting, which kills Mr. Chang and leaves the building in rubble.

Issue #6 is a massive fight scene between the parties (the captured three, Patch, Karma, and Nyugen's henchman). This is stopped by the Prince, who had (a) wanted a quick coup, none of this messiness, and (b) turns out to be a Lindsay McCabe fanboy. A compromise is reached. This is very sudden and I detect an editorial hand behind the pages. We then progress, for #7-#8 into a fairly throwaway story with Mr. Fixit (aka the Hulk: at this point he is grey, intelligent, and only comes out at the night), who has been sent to assist? Nyugen but ends up being suckered by Patch into destroying his operation.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Excalibur #4-#5: Excalibur Meet Arcade

Excalibur #4-#5 features Arcade, and despite not being any different to normal, he's understated in it. This is because he has hired Wimbledon F.C. as minions. I think I've got that right, anyway. Arcade's plan is the usual: capture a loved one (in this case Courtney Ross, as Brian's actual girlfriend, Meggan, is powered), and set traps waiting for the heroes to arrive. In this case he's doing it for revenge rather than cash. And he's doing it as a disused steelworks in Strangeways in northern England.

They go stumbling in and there's a new element in an Arcade story as his minions bodyswap with Excalibur. Ray is taken out of action by possession, lest she break the story. (There's some linkage with Inferno setup there, but it's not clear to me what's going on. Interesting fact: she thinks Baby X is called Nathan. She should know, since she was with the team around the time he was born.) Kitty remains free, and is able to convey to Courtney the information necessary to bodyswap everyone back.

And... in the soap opera bits: Meggan nearly manages to seduce Nightcrawler (I'm going to need to carefully examine their next appearances); Saturnyne swaps places with Courtney; and Brian takes some flowers to !Courtney. Kissing happens. Chart might need updating.

Issue #4 wins my prize for best cover yet:

Alan Davis writes about it here, and spoils the mystery. It was just a cheap gag because the first issue was all setup.


Well. Chris Claremont takes several hundred Brit points by having it be a plot point in #4 that Marks and Spencers refused to take credit card payments (that's why Kitty had to use cash to pay, which was subsequently found to be bogus).

I almost forgive him for having Captain Britain say "strewth". Curiously urbandictionary makes the same mistake, and perhaps for the same reason Claremont did. Yes, it does appear in episode 1 of Monty Python's Flying Circus, said by a man from Guildford. But it is put in the mouth of a man who is called "Bruce Foster" and has, for that one syllable he utters, a bad Australian accent.

It is clarified that the lighthouse is on the western coast of England. This consists of two distinct stretches from the Solway Firth to the River Dee; and then from the the Severn Estuary down to Cornwall. My guess would be that it is on this second, south-western stretch, because that would be more Celtic; but somewhere in Cumbria is always an option. It appears to be not that far from a major town. Kitty calls it the "middle of nowhere", but then she is a Chicago girl who spent much of the last year in suburban New York.

There is a real Strangeways, in Manchester, better known as the location of HMP Manchester, and immortalised in the album by the Smiths. But Manchester has never been known for its steel.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Uncanny X-Men #235-#238: Holiday in Genosha

Uncanny X-Men #235-#238 is a ridiculous retcon that shouldn't work. We are supposed to imagine that there has been a highly-advanced nation, Genosha, built on mutant enslavement, all along, and that nobody mentioned this until now (its existence is outright contradicted by dialogue in #200 which explicitly mentioned systemic oppression of mutants as a theoretical thing rather than something happening in the world right now.)

But, actually, I don't care. Genosha is a fantastic idea, and yes, it would have been better if Claremont had written it in a hundred issues ago, or even if Stan Lee had written it into #4 as the nation that Magneto was overthrowing, or whatever. But that didn't happen, and it's only now (possibly to provide an example of what Mutant Registration could lead to if the government tries to enforce it).

So, what exactly is going on in Genosha, anyway? Well, we're told it is an island country north of Madagascar, and that it owes its wealth - which supports a first-world lifestyle for "ten million" people - to the results of slavery of a "few hundred" mutants. This is seems like unfortunately broken worldbuilding. Mutants should be really very rare, and yet we see them randomly in city scenes. You wouldn't waste one by using their extra-long limbs to pick up garbage, for example. And there would be no need for mutant-only railway platforms. Still, it's a very powerful idea, and it can withstand the details now being quite right yet. The enforcers are called Magistrates, and the chief of their number a woman named Anderson, in what I take to be another Dredd reference.

We're also told - in an attempt to justify why it had never been mentioned in the more than 300 other X comics that - that they have been able to keep the oppression secret, despite open segregation on the streets, and despite the country sending "Press Gangs" abroad to abduct people. Fine, whatever. Just get on with it.

Apart from the concept, there is some character work for some of our team who had been stuck in a rut. Wolverine admits that his claws kinda rely on his healing powers to not kill him: when he is depowered he starts to die (possibly from adamantium poisoning although I don't think that's made explicit). Rogue, when depowered, takes on the persona of Carol Danvers. Together, the two of them, as Ace and Patch, take a tour of Genosha and expose its nature to the Genegineer's son. He and his girlfriend - whose extrajudicial extradition had been the proximate reason for the X-Men getting involved - leave with the X-Men. Wolverine threatens that Genosha had better get its shit together, or they'll blow the entire thing sky high.

The fact that enslaving a few hundred mutants can result in such a boost to a country's economy - and we're not talking a tiny little island nation here, but talking something with the population of Portugal - implies that similarly powered mutants in less segregationist parts of the world would be able to get a very good wage, which is a curious result. Mutant dominance of the world could be economic dominance?

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On X-Men

If, as SpaceSquid agrees, the Carry on X-Men poster is the pinnacle of human achievement, then it is surely a calamity of the greatest order that the art (without the distressing or lettering, if you're wondering) was still available for sale in Chris Weston's art folder at London Super Comic Con this weekend. I briefly but seriously considered buying it before realising that I did not in fact have a thousand quid burning a hole in my pocket.

That is all.

Wolverine #1-#3: Multitasking Is My Mutant Power

Wolverine #1-#3 is much stronger than the Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine story. That had somehow ended up feeling like a generic Wolverine-in-Madripoor story, even though it was the very first one. This is another Wolverine-in-Madripoor story, but despite being an immediate follow-up is a little more distinctive, as his worlds collide.

Wolverine is in Madripoor on Wolverine-in-Japan-related business travel. There's a talisman being couriered to Mariko, and someone had murdered an entire 747 of people to get information about it. Wolverine has revenge to take, and people to protect.

Problem is the courier is Lindsay McCabe, Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman's business partner, who knows him as Wolverine. And he doesn't want to break the "X-Men are dead" line. So he wears and eyepatch and calls himself Patch. What he doesn't do is skip the morning hair routine, but then how else would we know it was him?

Lindsay is just a decoy: Jessica is being sent with the real thing. The Silver Samurai finds out and attacks her, and we find out that the item is the Black Blade, which is like the Black Blade, but more Japanese, which is to say it gives its bearer supernatural powers. Drew uses it to defeat the Samurai, and then we discover it has possessed her and Wolverine has to take her down. Unfortunately, this doesn't work out very well and he merely becomes the latest victim of the weapon.

This is probably not a great thing to happen, especially as its plan is to sacrifice Jessica. So, Lindsay, Samurai and O'Donnell from the MPC story team-up. The end is an anticlimax: the Samurai takes the blade, is not transformed because handwaving, and then Wolverine allows him to walk off with it, apparently content that none of his allies died. The 747 of people is forgotten. It's plain that Samurai recognised Logan for who he was, even if Lindsay and Jessica are none the wiser, so perhaps Logan is doing the discretion rather than valour thing.

The Black Blade is described as a "dai-katana", which is not in fact the name of a type of sword; but that didn't stop John Romero making a game called it, which features a sword with special powers (of time travel, as I understand it). Romero attributes the name to a D&D campaign that he and other people at ID played when they were just starting (in the early 1990s). I'm guessing John Carmack got it from here: he certainly knows his comics. In any case, "katana" (かたな) is just Japanese for any type of sword. Its use in English to mean a Japanese sword is a typical example of semantic narrowing when words are borrowed. Wolverine should know better: but unfortunately Claremont does not.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Classic X-Men #26: The Tony Slattery of Mutants

Who is Tony Slattery, you might be asking? And what does this have to do with Classic X-Men #26.

I grew up, as I think I've mentioned before, in a telly-obsessed middle-class family in the English Midlands in the 1980s and 1990s. We used to watch a lot of panel shows. The British culture of panel shows is a thing of particular uniqueness. Sure, other countries might have a panel show or two or three, but they likely don't have a panel shows circuit. When I was was growing up we would watch A Question of Sport, Have I Got News For You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, They Think It's All Over, Whose Line Is It Anyway, Vic and Bob's Shooting Stars, and (if school was out) Call My Bluff. Different in content and tone, but likely to have much of the same sort of guests. HIGFNY is still part of my adulthood (I watch irregularly, if I remember, and go to a recording every couple of years - last time I hit the jackpot by getting the one with Nigel Farage and Harry Shearer), supplemented by a bit of Mock the Week; and a smidgeon of QI, although I tend to find that too smug.

Now, you may be very well be wondering what this has to do with X-Men. And you would be right. So perhaps I had better cut to the explanation: Tony Slattery was an actor and comedian, and a regular on many of these so-called "panel shows". He was on quite a lot of them. And I mean that in the English sense of "quite", which is to say a metric fucktonne. Sometimes you would be watching Tony Slattery on a panel show and change channels and then there he was on another panel show.

In other words, Tony Slattery is a lot like Wolverine.

In this backup story from Classic X-Men #26, it is revealed that Wolverine is more ubiquitous than previously implied, and he used to know Sean Cassidy back 20 years ago, and this just hadn't been mentioned before. This is part of a new wave of plot development, in which Wolverine will be given a secret history with every named Marvel character, including those he probably shouldn't, like prominent Avengers such as Captain America.

Mr. Slattery vanished from our screens in 1996, and people, who had previously made jokes about his omnipresence, were worried. It was eventually revealed he had a breakdown. He got better.

Hope the same thing doesn't happen to Wolverine. He's on every team going now, after all, and the load is surely going to get to him. Although this is often attributed to cynical sales-grabbing, I think he works well as a character in environments where he's out of his depth a bit. Since he is unbeatable in combat, he therefore needs to be presented ethical or social problems he can't solve simply with his claws. And some of the criticism I've seen of this is just straight facile nonsense, as if it a character saying one thing ("I'm a loner") but doing another (join all the teams) was incomprehensible, rather than, you know, a basic literary technique.

Meanwhile, Britain's addiction to panel shows continues unabated. Red Nose Day 2011 saw a 24-hour panel marathon in which David Walliams took part in all 19 shows. It can only get worse.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Excalibur #3: Excalibur 1 - 0 Jugger

Excalibur #3 is a single-issue story with Claremont's by now standard formula of a superheroic plot to give us our action, along with about as much emphasis placed on Internal Team Drama. Action plot. Someone breaks info HMP Crossmoor (fictional, by the way), and breaks out the Juggernaut, who had been languishing there since the events of Uncanny #218. There is a brief fight. Excalibur win, because Phoenix.

Excalibur are getting ready to move into the Braddock Lighthouse, which means he and Meggan are having to compact all their stuff. Meggan didn't tell Brian before making the invite, which is a bit difficult on him. The next morning he's forced to deal with a teenage kid hogging the bathroom and the bunch of them moralising about his alcohol consumption (the guy's sister just died, and now her ex-teammates all just moved in with him, give the man a little space already). Ray destroys his whisky collection; which I'm sorry but pretty clearly puts her in Dark Phoenix territory in my book (see footnote in my bio to the side). He storms off and meets up with his ex, Courtney Ross, but gets called away before anything steamy happens. He and Meggan reconcile for now.

This is a fairly bland issue. The action is pro forma, and the character development is mostly just a recapitulation of the existing position of these characters, with added moving-in fun. Needs more artifice.


No major howlers! I would quite like to know where the lighthouse is, though. It says it is on the "west coast of Britain", which as a location is infuriatingly vague, 'cos of the way the country is oriented and the sheer crinkliness of that part of it. It could be anywhere from a few miles from the presumed location of Muir Isle down to to Lizard Point in the southern reaches of Cornwall, which form several different cultural areas (the Highlands of Scotland; the Central Belt; the Borders; Cumbria and northern Lancashire; industrial Lancashire and Merseyside; north Wales; west Wales; south Wales; the West Country; and Cornwall...) And I don't feel like I can connect to it without knowing where it is in a cultural sense, even if I don't know the geographic location. What type of people are its neighbours, is the question?

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Marvel Comics Presents #1-#10: Wolverine

Marvel Comics Presents was a biweekly anthology series launched by Marvel in 1988. Each issue had 4 8-page stories. It debuted with stories featuring Man-Thing, Shang Chi, Silver Surfer, and Wolverine. Wolverine's first story was to last ten issues. They are collected together. I cannot tell you how many times I read that Wolverine has adamantium claws and a near-magical healing factor in the couple of hours of my life I spent reading it. Actually, that's a lie. I can take a very good guess. 10.

Wolverine's had that four-issue limited series before, and he co-headlined Kitty Pryde & Wolverine. Now Chris Claremont with John Buscema write a new solo series, in preparation for Wolverine's first ongoing, which they'll do together. Those earlier series had taken Wolverine outside of the superhero context and focused on Logan's adventures in Japan.

The story in MCP #1-#10, "Save the Tiger", sees Wolverine in another environment: Madripoor - a city of sharp contrasts in wealth where money can buy you anything... and he gets involved with a woman and in a tangled web of gangland struggles.

This is needlessly derivative stuff. We don't find anything new out about Logan - other than that he's been to Madripoor in his pre-history. He is perfectly at home in this murky world, and that makes it kind of pointless. Who wants to read about a man in his depth, after all? And yet. It helps that it's quite fun : there's an almost Liefieldian villain called Razor Fist (not new here), who has, well, razors for fists. And it's probably rather more engaging when read in 10 servings over the course of 4 months than it was in a dreary London evening: it takes real adavantage of the hyper-serialised form with cliffhangers and twists galore. Knowing that Jeesan Hoan from Uncanny #229 = Tyger Tiger = the gangland boss, I barely even noticed that this would have been quite a surprise, which can't have helped it...

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Classic X-Men #20/#23: Peter and Kurt Go Large

I never did really believe that the X-Men spent 6 weeks on a boat without incident. Their lives simply don't work like that. Classic X-Men #23's backup story proves me right, providing a solo adventure for Nightcrawler and a member of crew on the boat, Eiko Shimura.

Eiko goes overboard for some reason, and Nightcrawler 'ports out to rescue her. This doesn't work out very well, and they awake on a deserted island, where Nightcrawler can rescue her again (this time from a cult intent on sacrificing them, but it's all OK and compatible with the agenda of the story, because they're not human in some indefinable way, so that's all right then. We end with them on the island, with Eiko wishing she could find some way to repay Nightcrawler. He can think of a way, he says. Again, sigh. At least I suppose the subsequent search (not depicted) explains why the X-Men would tolerate spending so much time at sea?

Classic X-Men #230 does a similar thing, where Colossus saves two young women - Fahe and Nereel, and then apparently has a threesome with them. And that's a confirmed one for the chart, and Young Peter will show up in Uncanny X-Men Annual #11.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Excalibur #1-#2: Warwolves

Excalibur had what was basically a Marvel Graphic Novel (complete with more sophisticated colouring) to launch it. I found it kind of dull. For one thing "Some Left Over X-Men, but in Britain" isn't really a premise; not when Uncanny has already demonstrated its ability to shift its setting at a whim (Scotland, New York, San Francisco, Australia, lately.) And the special protectors of the Omniverse (by appointment to Roma) shtick that you can do with the Marvel UK stuff is already being done in Uncanny. What? It's rather haphazard, this integration of Marvel UK with the X-Men...

#1-#2 is much more to my taste, though. Excalibur fight the Warwolves, who never had been properly defeated in that Special Edition. These Warwolves are much better antagonists: they steal skins and can carry on a conversation. They're looking for Rachel still, so Kitty cosplays as her, which leads to all sorts of hilarity. Well, if you think being et by a warwolf and then have it gradually transmogrify into you is hilarious. Which I kinda do.

The Warwolves are rounded up in the end, and are donated to London Zoo. And we also say hello to a significant new character from Marvel UK: Courtney Ross, Brian's ex. I'm surprised how much tie-in there is with the first few issues of New Excalibur there is here (Ross, the warwolves escaping from the zoo): suddenly New Excalibur almost makes sense.


A new regular feature where Abigail notes minor details of Britishness that Excalibur gets wrong and right, to keep that from overpowering the rest of the entry.

A caption has "Fraser's Bank, Thameside", which is much more plausible as a place name than the "Thames-side" it had mutated to by 2005. It still isn't anywhere in particular in reality. Perhaps it's just because "Fraser's Bank, Bankside" would sound stupid, or perhaps it's supposed to be a fictional place.

The backgrounds and locations are fine. The tube station is dead on.

A policeman says "strewth", which appears to be Claremont mixing up his English and Australian slang again. (The policeman could be an Australian immigrant, I suppose. We'll come back to this later for #4.)

The story is partly set at the fictional Hob's End tube station, a reference to the 1967 Quatermass and the Pit film. The plot of that bears a strong resemblance to the 1971 Doctor Who story The Dæmons, also namechecked here with the improbably titled "Loch Daemon".

Meggan suggests watching various television series: Coronation Street, EastEnders, Doctor Who, Star Trek, or Wildways. Ignoring the scheduling issues, if we assume it is set on cover date to the issue (October 1988), then the Who she'll be watching is Remembrance of the Daleks, which is popularly regarded as a good one. It was written by Ben Aaronovitch, who recently wrote the urban fantasy police procedural Rivers of London/Midnight Riot (and its sequels), which you should read. His next Doctor Who was "Battlefield", which is based around Arthurian mythology and inter-dimensional travel, which is a funny coincidence if nothign else. Ben Aaronovitch and Paul Cornell both wrote for the Virgin New Adventures, and Aaronovitch provided Cornell with a nice quote for the front of his London-based police procedural urban fantasy, "London Falling" which you should also read, and is about as different a book as you could get while still having that label. Cornell, of course, will write what is essentially a renamed Excalibur (Captain Britain and MI-13) in 2008. In case you are wondering, yes, there are only actually about 100 people here in the UK. The rest of us are props.

Monday, 18 February 2013

X-Factor #32-34: Hodge Podge

X-Factor #32 is essentially a throwaway. Against a backdrop of mutant registration being implemented, the kids protest about the idea they will be sent to summer school; and X-Factor are attacked by a bunch of random aliens pretending to be the Avengers for no readily apparent reason. I accuse it of being a fill-in.

#33 sees things progress. The Alliance of Evil break out of jail to prove the point that mutant registration is, regardless of whether or not it is a good idea, effectively unimplementable.

I think I've put my finger on what my colleague SpaceSquid calls the Kelly problem. The problem is: mutants as presented in the Marvel universe really are dangerous. Terrifyingly so. Yes, there are plenty of harmless ones, and many mean well, but, to repurpose a phrase from elsewhere, intent is not magic. If we just look at the kids in X-Factor: Rusty almost burned a woman to death accidentally; Boom-Boom is ridiculously irresponsible and it's a miracle she hasn't killed anyone yet; and Rictor destroyed a whole city when he first manifested! No wonder people are scared.

The Registration Acts aren't just based out of prejudice, but out of a legitimate concern for the welfare of humans, and a worry about excess power in hands of people who might not be trustworthy. But any challenge to this order of things is held by those who have that power to be in contravention of their natural rights.

In other words, this is a metaphor for gun control. Mixed in with the other political stuff has been a pro-second amendment tone bubbling away there, for years now. And it's one that us Britishers are probably not going to be sympthetic towards. Kelly, Gyrich and Cooper have been using pro-gun control arguments - perfectly sensible ones in my view - that the books have been failing to deconstruct properly because they are simply taking the NRA party line - a massive defensiveness of the status quo, regardless of how much sense that makes. They do not engage in self-examination. Of course the Kelly-Gyrich-Cooper's program is nonsense, too: but that's because it's a strawman. Xavier could have gone to them at any point with a proposal to meet their legitimate concerns. He chose not to.

Anyway. Other things. X-Factor #3 regressed Beast to his 1960s form, you'll remember. Recent issues of X-Factor have taken him back even further, to before X-Men #3, when he was a dumb brute. Both of these things are reversed here, as we reach the classical form of Hank McCoy: smart and blue and furry. Both these things are an essential part of his character now, and one can't have the brain without the beast (and anyway, they're out now so it doesn't matter so much). Or, to put it another way: having Hank McCoy not be blue is stupid.

Our restored Beast signs the Registration Form, under protest, under his birth name (the series here tacitly admitting that he's been out since he was in the Avengers, at least). Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Iceman fill in the forms, but use only their mutant names. Rusty Collins, who's still wanted, refuses, but agrees to hand himself in to the Navy to stand trial. The rest of the kids are too young to register (making somewhat of a mockery of the entire rationale for the system, but there you go).

Issue #34 concentrates on Warren's quest to find Candy Southern, who has been kidnapped by Cameron Hodge. The Warren/Cameron confrontation has been long-awaited, but I don't think it gets the weight it deserved. Candy ends up dead, which is a shame. She deserved better than just being fridged, she'd barely appeared in the series since she dumped Warren, and she was entirely in the right on that occasion.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

New Mutants #67-#70: The Master of Magnetism

New Mutants #67 starts with Sam begging to be allowed to go attend one of Lila's gigs. He promises not to use his powers. This comic is getting really predictable now, and the relationship with Magneto is stultifying. For all that Simonson is Claremont's approved successor and all, she's not doing anything like what he did with the character. He's mostly just there as an authority figure.

In this, once the Mutants go AWOL again (to rescue Lila from space aliens, during with there is interpersonal drama and peril), he dresses in his classic red-and-purple duds (for the first time since Uncanny #199 - in 1985 - well unless you count X-Men vs. Avengers which so far Claremont hasn't acknowledged once), and visits the Hellfire Club for a special meeting regarding the Weird Shit that is happening all over the city as a lead-in to Inferno. There they call him "Magnus", which is I think the first sighting of that name in the present day? Shaw considers him to be a rather lax disciplinarian, which isn't exactly how I'd have imagined Magneto, but yeah, that's where he's at. He, like the government with its Mutant Registration Act, makes decrees that he can't possibly hope to enforce, and the Mutants have no reason to cooperate with.

If Xavier were around, he'd sack him.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Uncanny X-Men #232-#234: The Temptation of Madelyne Pryor-Summers

Uncanny X-Men #232-#234 has as its main action plot a Brood infiltration of planet Earth, starting in Denver, which the X-Men must prevent. This is rather a delayed follow-up to Havok and Polaris finding a Starshark in #218, over a year ago now. You'll be unsurprised to learn that they defeat the Brood invasion. The Brood are an odd fit for this storyline: they're usually more for the mass eating rather than the deep cover work we would expect from Skrulls. This all intersects with William Connover, a reverend who they rescue from the Brood, and is depicted as sympathising with the mutants, throwing the entire weight of his church behind them. This mirrors contemporary religious attitudes towards LGBT issues, where the more progressive groups were starting to "come out", as it were.

Meanwhile, Madelyne has been left in Australia. She catches a news interview with Cyclops and Marvel Girl in X-Factor costumes. She recognises Scott immediately, and then realises who that other person must be. Suddenly it all clicks. In that instant she understands why Scott left her. But little Baby X is still a concern. Where is he? S'ym has an offer to make.

Incidentally, I refuse to believe that the use of the name Harry Palmer, coming in a year when a cinema depicted in London was showing "The IPCRESS File", is a coincidence.

Friday, 15 February 2013

X-Factor #29-#31: Codename Infectia. Seems Legit

X-Factor #29-#31 introduces another new villain: Infectia. She can kiss people and turn them into short-lived slaves. She wants to get close to X-Factor, apparently to steal that Ship or something, and has a particular obsession with Bobby. Hank is suspicious, but in his dumbed-out state can't quite put his finger on it. There is a hilarious sequence in #31 where X-Factor's wards interrupt them as they are about to kiss, several times. Has X-Men actually had a femme fatale before? I can't think of one. Infectia isn't the deepest villain ever, but we need a bit of light in between all this grimdark, and she's, if nothing else, fun.

Meanwhile, Scott and Jean have gone to Dallas to ask questions of Freedom Force regarding Madelyne, Alex, and Baby X. This is rather fruitless: they don't know anything. They just tried to arrest them. Destiny isn't much use, either, but then again she never is: and the couple are with nothing to show for their excursion. Next stop: Omaha, apparently.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

New Mutants Annual #4: The Evolutionary War

The Evolutionary War was a 1988 crossover that ran over eleven annuals. The name refers to the High Evolutionary, who despite the name had little to do with the X-Men: he was originally a Thor villain. His backstory would eventually become a little more sinister, but in 1988 he has little other than a thematic link with the mutants, never even appearing as a villain to them. So, it's about time.

Our entry in to this from New Mutants is Magma, who has been captured by the High Evolutionary's Purifiers (not to be confused with Stryker's Purifiers, obv). They want to stop her being a mutant, on grounds of public safety, and frankly they have a point, as it turns out she had gone spare after the events of New Mutants #64, having had a severe case of reverse culture shock.

Amara's dad complains to Emma Frost; who then summons the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club. Including Magneto, who specifically forbids the kids to leave the mansion while he's gone. They arrive at Wyoming before he does. They've got Bulk and Glowworm, too, which indicates that they really are targetting particularly dangerous mutants. The rescue mostly works, but Dani gets caught in the power-removing machine, leading them to think she's lost her powers (like they'd do that!) But that's not what happened: it's triggered what Grant Morrison will later call her secondary mutation (the third to be artificially triggered in an X-man, I think, after Lorna's magnetic powers in X-Men #50 and Hank's change of appearance in Amazing Adventures #11). Her mirages are now "real", and start eating everyone. Fortunately, she can only have one outstanding mirage at a time, so is able to cancel the angry multi-toothed red monsters by calling up a spear instead.

At which point the Hellfire Club turn up. The Mutants put the goons into Limbo, and sneak back to Westchester, leaving Amara back in Nova Roma. Magneto arrives there eventually, explains what happened (yeah, had to save Amara, she just got teleported away mysteriously to Nova Roma when we were about to reach her, how weird), and presumably Illyana looks guilty as hell. But he says no more? He knows he has nothing to teach them, and can't control them... What is the point.

New Mutants #65-#66: She's Lost Control

New Mutants #65-#66 (July-August 1988), as we discussed last post, came out too late. But it's not just that Uncanny #231 is set after it; it also features an appearance by Shadowcat, setting up her situation in Excalibur Special Edition #1 (cover dated April).

Magik wants to kill Forge. Magneto refuses to get help, and grounds all the kids. I'm not even sure why he bothers to say that at this point. Magik goes to Muir Isle to check in with Shadowcat, who has got quite a bit better and is now able to turn solid if she can concentrate. Shadowcat declines to get involved in the killing-Forge plan. And then finally we get that bit from the end of #61 where the New Mutants dress up in the graduation costumes and agree to defy Magneto.

The Mutants teleport to Dallas, where Freedom Force are conveniently waiting, on Destiny's instructions (they must have spent Christmas there). There's a fight. Destiny seems to prophecise Inferno. Magik and Forge then proceed to a solo fight for #66.

Plotwise it's not as deeply connected to Uncanny #231 as I had expected from the latter. The flashback in that was to events between the two stories. But certainly Magik's attitude towards her brother's death follows a through-line that starts here (or rather, in #64) and continues in Uncanny.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Uncanny X-Men #231: Reunion of the Rasputins

Uncanny X-Men #231 is cover-dated July 1988, and picks up a thread from New Mutants. A footnote helpfully clarifies it picks up from #66. Which was cover-dated August. It looks like that fill-in issue over in Mutants screwed up a tight crossover. Let's do these in publication order, though, and see how comprehensible this is.

Colossus is moping. He's got good reason to: he's stuck in his armoured form, and has become incredibly hot to touch (he accidentally burns a picture of Illyana). Gateway summons him - possibly the most demonstrative that Gateway has been yet - and teleports him to Limbo.

In Limbo, Illyana is now back to fighting a full-fledged demonic rebellion, and is doing the appropriate spell to bring Piotr back to life. Well, to undeath. She didn't count on getting the real deal, and assumes Piotr is hers to command. She explains the plot to him, anyway, and gives what I take to be a summary of #65 and #66: that Baba Yaga (a figure from Russian folklore) had abducted the New Mutants. He succesfully rescues them, and during his mission finds himself able to transform to flesh again.

After this he delivers some homilies to Magik. She still is of the opinion that she is inherently evil, and any altruism is simply an act. But, as Colossus points out, thinking it is worthwhile putting on that act is what makes one good. Our Piotr wouldn't be so cynical as to think of the possibility that she's a very manipulative psychopath playing a long game. They part with Magik still believing that Colossus has perished, but having accepted it a little.

But why did Baba Yaga attack the mutants in the first place? Magik doesn't think to ask that. She should have: it's another front being by S'ym opened in the war in Limbo. Oh dear...

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

New Mutants #64: Dead Means Dead

What do you call the New Mutants in issue #64?


After two fill-in issues, it's finally time for his funeral. The mood at the end of #61, where the team donned their graduation costumes and seemed almost about to strike out and leave the school has gone, and instead they are worried about Magneto's opinion all of a sudden.

They view the body and meet Doug's family, who have had to be lied to (they think it's a hunting accident). There's going to be a police investigation too, most likely, so they need to get their story straight.

The main plot is Warlock's reaction to his friend's death. It's suitably done, with Warlock showing the complete lack of comprehension that you'd expect. This reaches almost Monkey Paw levels of horror, when Warlock takes Doug's dead body around on a tour of his family and friends, to try and persuade him to absorb lifeglow. The Mutants just about manage to get the body back before anyone notices it's missing. The entire thing is bookended with Magik studying the tapes of Colossus's death and preparing for the next issue of Uncanny.

This is the story we needed immediately after #61. It's a shame about the gap, but that's publishing.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Uncanny X-Men #230: Insert Australian Joke Here

Uncanny X-Men #230 shows us our new status quo for the X-Men: they are based in a deserted town in the Australian outback. They are still mopping up from the events of #229, and have the problem of what to do with the Reavers' loot.

By an amazing piece of luck, they are able to track down msot of the owners of the stuff, with Longshot's psychometric powers; and then deliver it all back to its rightful owners using Gateway's teleporting abilities. All in one night: December 24th (setting this at basically the same time as X-Factor #27).

There's still a great big treasure pile left for items which were unrecoverable; which presumably they'll fence and use to fund their efforts. Otherwise they're managing to settle in OK at the new base. Storm is providing water for the moment (oh, yes, she got repowered. I probably should have mentioned that. So that lasted four years, what must have seemed like an eternity), but there's no clear indication of what they're doing for food.

And then there's Gateway, who is sitting on the top of a peak, not consuming any sustenance, and not uttering a word. He's basically acting like the Aboriginal version of a Magical Negro. Again, we'll have to wait to see what happens with him.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

New Mutants #63: 1 x magik story, past use-by date

New Mutants #63 is a clear case of an inventory story, if ever I saw one. Even if it weren't for the split credit (plot: Claremont, script: Simonson), or the fact that it wasn't dealing with the aftermaths of Doug's death yet, then the unusual structure would give it away. The entire issue is a dream sequence, in which Illyana recalls events that took place around the time of New Mutants #21, which in turn involves time travel to before she became Magik.

Simonson has done what she can to contemporise the story: the outer narration sets it after Illyana heard about her brother's death on the television. But it ends up a mess. Nothing happens that matters and we don't have any new insights into Magik. But then, an inventory issue in these circumstances was never going to do that. Let's just be happy that it was scripted by Simonson with about as much deftness as was possible, and move on...

Saturday, 9 February 2013

X-Factor #28: Ship

X-Factor #28 is another issue set in the afterglow of X-Factor's successful defense of the city from Apocalypse. The shine is getting a little shorn, though, and there are complaints about the Ship, which is jutting out into the Hudson River, and inconveniently attacking tugboats.

Cyclops is about to catch a plane to Dallas, hoping to catch Freedom Force there to interview them about his wife (see, he really is allergic to telephones), but notices the news coverage about the Ship going wrong and returns to set things straight. They discover the Ship is actually sentient (although Apocalypse had blocked its higher-level functioning), and are left happier.

So. Our new premise for X-Factor is set up. What Bob Layton and Jackson Guice took one issue to construct has taken Louise Simonson two years and 23 issues to carefully demolish and replace with something more feasible. Plonking the Ship on top of the X-Factor headquarters was symbolic of this. But she's not just done it casually by trashing the status quo and letting the house of cards that the series was based on collapse; instead she's tried to find explanations for the things that never made sense, and then let the situation degenerate from there.

She's worked with the material that was there: we always knew that Hodge was a bad one, but during the Layton run I never got the sense that his plan was as big as we eventually saw. Similarly, the problem of Angel and secret identities was made out to have been plausible all along, but still a flaw in their plan. I like this fixing without repudiating. You wouldn't, as Teebore points out, get that today, someone would just come along and retcon it in a single issue.

In terms of characterisation we've moved on a lot too. I don't like what's being done with Scott and Madelyne here: I think it's being based on what Simonson and Claremont would have liked to have happened in X-Factor #1 rather than the text (the idea is drilled into us that she left him, which is simply not true, but it's repeated so often that I think they're just asking us to believe this new, more acceptable version of events rather than a 2-year-old back issue.) But what has been done to Warren is clearly an indication of a series not afraid to allow development. There's also Beast, who is suffering after-effects from the battle with the Horsemen and now has a Flowers for Algernon-style degeneration whenever he uses his strength.

In summary, this is a series that has redeemed itself, whose existence is now completely justified. It is not the worthless nostalgia fest that it started as, but something that can be used as a basis for telling completely different stories, that Uncanny X-Men has never been able to tell.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Uncanny X-Men #229: Girt by Sea

Well, we've seen the damage Claremont has done to London; now it's time for him to cast his eye toward Australia, where the prospects for cheerful insensitivity, along with the weather, are that much brighter.

A group of villains known as the Reavers have set themselves up as international bank thieves, forcing Gateway, an Aboriginal Australian mutant, to make portals for them. They rob the Hoan bank in Singapore, and bring back Ms. Hoan (they call her "Tiger"), to act as their accountant. The X-Men, who have recovered from their recent death quickly put a stop to this. But they are left with the problem of what to do with the Reavers. The X-Men would quite like to keep a secret of their resurrection. In the olden days, Xavier would just mindwipe the lot of them and that would be it. Happily, Roma (the cause of their resurrection) is at hand with the Siege Perilous, which sorts things out.

We're told that these revived X-Men cannot be seen by technology, which might explain them not calling Moira to let them know they're OK? Presumably they are also immune to Sentinels. This is going to be a very strange and shadowy existence for them.

Gateway's treatment is no surprise to those of us who've read Claremont's Native American characters, but he's only a very slight presence in the story so far so there is room for him to grow. What I wasn't expecting was for Wolverine to call him an "abo". And this is not even in a context where Kitty Pryde used that word she likes, just as a straightforward derogatory term. Wolverine knows better than that, surely.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Excalibur Special Edition #1: Welcome to London

And now we come to Exalibur Special Edition #1, also known as "Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn", by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis. Here is what I wrote about New Excalibur in September 2007, when I was first getting into Marvel.

I got hold of the first trade of New Excalibur, but it was hideously non-authentically British. Captions included "Thames-side", and "Dockland, London". Erk. However - Paul Cornell's recent miniseries Wisdom does one of these characters, Pete Wisdom, excellently. He even manages to have Wisdom call Captain Britain "You tosser!", and invents a few new characters for Wisdom's team, including Captain Midlands (hehe) and, rather oddly, a Skrull duplicate of John Lennon. Cornell takes over New Excalibur soon, and I'm looking forward to this.

New Excalibur ended up being called Captain Britain and MI-13, and surfaced in May 2008. That's one hell of a gestation period - I'd first seen him talk about it in May 2007 at a BSFA meeting. He had two major projects on the boil there: the other being the adaptation of his Doctor Who New Adventures novel, "Human Nature", for the screen. Neither of these had been officially announced, which must have been frustrating, especially since everyone in the crowd knew. He was forced to resort to answering hypothetical questions about Human Nature.

Enough of that, anyway. We're obviously going to be talking a lot in the posts about Excalibur about Claremont's relationship with these islands. He was born here. He appears to have a fair amount of affection for it, which is expressed through his writing. He uses British characters lots. But the time that Uncanny X-Men has spent in the UK has been in two particular touristy areas: the Highlands and Islands, and Edinburgh, and our British and Irish characters have a tendency towards owning islands or castles or being aristocracy. What we have here is a mild case of exoticisation, that he thinks he's exempt from having to do research about these islands and can just idealise it, like he has a blind spot or something. This is why I responded so well to Kieron Gillen's "Manchester Gods" arc in Journey Into Mystery, I think. I'm going to try and squeeze that into the remit of the blog later on, I expect.

So, excluding that backup in Classic X-Men, I believe this is our first actual appearance of London in an X-Men comic. What sort of London do we get? Page 27 provides a hint. There's an Odeon Cinema close by Palace of Westminster, showing the Ipcress File (1965), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and advertising the arrival of National Lampoon's Animal House (1978). Not Thatcher's Britain, then. But visually, it's fine: there's a street entrance to an Underground station that could have been drawn from life, and then an almost spot-on drawing of the Victoria line's 1967 stock †, both inside and outside. Sadly both of these things have been let down by miscolouring, but there you go.

Oh, and some plot happened as well. So Rachel Summers came back from MojoWorld and has teamed up with Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler (who are better now, finally), along with Captain Britain and Meggan and formed a new superhero team now that the X-Men are dead. They have decided to call it Excalibur, which is a pretty neat coincidence because it's a Britishy mythological thing that starts with an X already!

Despite my concerns, it more than justifies the $3.50 cover price with the first double-page spread with Wolverine having his nails done and reading a book on flower arranging, though.

† I went on the last in-service journey of 1967 stock, on June 30th, 2011. It was late.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

New Mutants #62: Rome Sweet Rome

New Mutants #62 drops the ball from #61. It seemed like they were about to do something decisive and defy Magneto; but instead they are grieving (fair enough), and reading a letter from Magma.

What's she been up to since she joined the Hellions? Well, she gets to be teased by a different set of people now. Progress of a sort. You'll remember that she transferred to the Hellions partly because of Empath but also partly because her dad wanted her back in New Rome. Her attempt at enrolling at the Mass Acad is possibly a last-ditch effort to continue to be of value in acquiring intelligence. It doesn't work. Dad wants her back anyway. For extra joy there is the prospect of an unwanted arranged marriage.

Empath goes with her - on Emma's suggestion. And then, since there has to be an adventure, their private plane crashes (sabotage?) Magma won't use her setting things on fire power because she's worried about burning down the entire Amazon and depriving the air of oxygen. She uses her survival skills to get them through the next few days, before they are found by her father and his troops.

I don't have much to say about this issue. It looks like it's a fill-in: Blevins, who is the regular artist on the article now (hey, don't I know that surname from somewhere) had to do a double-length #60 and won't be returning, with the main plot, for #64. And it's difficult to do a fill-in when you're in the middle of changing your status quo: your only options are the Flashback Adventure or the Meanwhile, Here's What Some Other Characters Are Doing. Same problem that Uncanny had around the same time.

And far from being a start of new storylines, Magma is being more or less written out of the series now. She won't be a regular on a series for a protracted period again until the 2000s. Good-bye Amara. Your potential was wasted.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

X-Factor #27: God Rest Ye Merry X-Men

Cyclops get all of a few hours happiness at the start of X-Factor #27 before he catches Maddy imploring him to find their son. Oh. He hadn't realised that was a concern, he says. Seriously, what? Last he knew Maddy was dead and there was no record of her or little Baby X existing. I guess he was assuming his son was dead too, but still. Someone did a number on them. He should never have come back from Alaska. He should have summoned his friends. But he can't go back in time to fix that, so he'll go looking again now.

It's emotional catharsis month in X-Factor, apparently, as Jean finally visits her parents and lets them know she's still alive (they had seen her on the tellybox, but weren't quite certain). The Sara Grey plot is revisited: they have no ideas, were in Europe in the time, the investigation has gone cold.

Now to me it still seems pretty clear the Mr. Sinister is behind all this: we know he was responsible for the attack on Maddy, even if we don't know what she was doing in San Francisco exactly; and Sara goes missing in a similar attack at the same timeframe. Leong and Nga too. Obviously this is all the fault of Mr. Sinister, I look forward to his elaborate conspiracy being revealed in the next year of X-Factor, for which Karma will no doubt join the cast. Oh, that's not what happens? Instead some of these plotlines are left unresolved for basically an entire decade? Sigh. Well, at least Baby X is being followed up. That's something.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Uncanny X-Men: #228: Inconvenient Fill-In Blues

There's never a great time for a fill-in issue. Remember that one in the middle of the first Phoenix saga? Uncanny X-Men #228 picks, however, the worst possible time: the series is between status quos. The Fall of the Mutants has happened and the X-Men are believed dead, but they have yet to set up their new base (to come in #229).

What's an editor to do? Well, dig out an inventory issue, apparently. A Dazzler-centric one, with the device being a letter written to O.Z. Chase, a member of the supporting cast in late-period Dazzler. I have nothing so say about it, other than that it is fairly bad, and makes me glad I didn't add the Dazzler solo to my list of things to read. I suspect if I'd have read this in 1988, I'd have wanted my 75¢ back.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Classic X-Men #19: Magnetokinesisgenesis

Classic X-Men has already fleshed out the details of Magneto's origin story regarding Magda and Anya. But clearly, he didn't suit up in the red and purple immediately after that. There was an interlude, during which we saw him battle Nazis with Xavier. Something happened to finally flip him. What was it?

The backup in Classic X-Men #19 gives us our answer. The problem is: it's not very good. He was hunting Nazis on behalf of Mossad, only he hunts the wrong Nazis and the CIA get mad at him. They murder his loverdoctor Isabelle (note: the difference between Charles and Erik is that Xavier has sex with his patients but Magneto seduces his doctor), right in front of him, and then are surprised that he he's a little bit unhappy with that. He proclaims himself homo superior etc.

As I say, this doesn't work. It's a third personal tragedy for Magneto, but it pales in comparison to the other ones. Either he needs to go down that path through simple logic, or something with emotional resonance needs to happen to him. And fridging someone we've never met before just is not enough, not given his previous history. X-Men: First Class got this dead on.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Fall of the New Mutants (#59-#61)

Fall of the Mutants runs in New Mutants #59-#61. Really, there are two stories here: the story with Bird-Brain and the Ani-Mator in #59-#60, and then #61.

The first part is a relatively standard New Mutants story at this point: they skip school to go on a mission. Specifically they are going to investigate Bird-Boy's origin story. We find he was created as an experiment by the maddest scientist of recent years: the Ani-Mator. The Ani-Mator has been hired by Cameron Hodge and the Right to investigate a mutant cure but instead has done a double cross, and is splicing together human and animal parts to create a new race of Ani-Mates (not to be confused with the Ani-Men). He'd quite like to study the New Mutants, as well.

The battle soon becomes a three-way when Hodge and The Right turn up, angry at having been deceived by the Ani-Mator. There is general confusion, but the New Mutants eventually win. But there's a price. Douglas.

Douglas's death is curious. I knew he was going to end up dead at some point, but I thought the transmode virus was going to be involved. It seemed like such a natural thing to do. Instead, Warlock's absence (he and Bobby arrived late, from being in Fallen Angels) was the problem. Yay cliche avoidance?

The reactions to this, and to telly coverage of the other Fall of the Mutants stories, are the focus of #61. There is plenty of self-blaming, as you might expect. And having let one set of friends die, surely they should go to Dallas and help Illyana's brother (she tries but can't get there due to a gridlock in the omniverse). They decide to defy Magneto, one last time. And not without reason: the scenario of these kids being in a school has really fallen apart since their jaunt to the future and to space. They can't be confined so easily.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Fall of X-Factor (#24-#26)

X-Factor #24-#26 is the Big Apocalypse Plot (following immediately from the Big Hodge Plot... things are really making moves here!) The Fourth Horseman, Death (the mutant formerly known as Warren Worthington) is unveiled, and Apocalypse sends all Four Horseman to attack New York City. It doesn't matter if they get defeated, just as long as they kill the weak. To this end he's also delighted by the Marauders, the Right, and so on. There is a big fight. Warren is shocked out of his brainwashing when he thinks he's killed Bobby (really an ice-decoy); they also win possession of Apocalypse's Ship. But Apocalypse takes Caliban, apparently to the a replacement Death. The Ship lands directly on the old X-Factor HQ, squashing it, which is I think is supposed to be symbolic or something. Warren explains the plot - he'd not committed suicide, it was all a setup by Hodge. Which may or not be a lie.

The gang (recognised as the X-Terminators) go on the tellybox to take credit for saving the city from the Horsemen, and out themselves as X-Factor. They evade arrest to help with clean-up and search-and-rescue (apparently having been shamed by Rictor/Rusty/Skids), which gets them enough PR points that when they do later surrender themselves to arrest the NYPD aren't interested. Tilbit secures an interview with Hank (much delayed), and a productive partnership begins. Neat. In fact, there's a ticker-tape parade that the X-Men have always dreamed of! Where's that other shoe...?

Now that this Hodge and X-Factor nonsense has been dealt with, it's as if a dam has burst within Scott, and he's able to explain what the hell happened with Maddy, from his point of view. The marriage, he says, was a mistake. He fell out of love pretty quickly, but stayed with her because he didn't think anything better was on the table once Jean had died. This was not Claremont's intent at the time, I'm sure, but it fits with my reading of Cyclops's otherwise inexplicable actions during this time. He and Jean kiss. But hidden in the background are the events in Dallas the same night: Maddy is going to be on the news the next time Scott watches it. No happy endings.