Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Uncanny X-Men #278-#280/X-Factor #69-#70: Muir Island Saga

Uncanny X-Men #278-#280 and X-Factor #69-#70 constitute the "Muir Island Saga", which is a mess in a completely different way than I was expecting.  I imagined it as overly long and tedious, with terrible gender politics.

TARDIS Eruditorum (an excellent Doctor Who blog, and one of the reasons I am writing this one) has a concept of "narrative collapse", a threat that falls outside the usual bounds of problemspace  and attacks the premise of the show.  It's not just your usual end of world scenario or possible death of the protagonist, it's stuff like the Daleks getting time travel, or an evil Doctor from the future putting the show on trial.

The threat in the Muir Island Saga is big - we have a culmination of a Claremont plot that has been in the offing since 1979.  The Shadow King, a kind of body-less super-Xavier, has been able to subvert the minds of the X-Men on Muir Island, and an initial raid by the main team had very marginal results.  And in a mirror of Second Genesis, the start of this era of X-Men, Xavier has to go back into the series's history to find the original X-Men and rescue his next batch from being captured on a perilous mission to an island.  But despite that this is all bit business as usual.

The narrative has collapsed, though, in another sense.  This story broke X-Men, and made it impossible to tell stories in the old model.  After 16 years on the title, Chris Claremont leaves.  His last sole writing credit is #278, and Fabian Nicieza is credited for bringing it to a conclusion in #280.

Well, I say conclusion.  The story, much to my surprise given that it was called a "saga", moves along at quite a place (in fact, I spent quite some time hunting for the other issues of it in comic shops, before I realised that there really were only 5).  Lots happens, and it doesn't stop.  In the last few pages of the fourth issue (Uncanny #280), I started wondering what was going on.  There was not much time and there was still a lot to go.   It felt an awfully lot like getting to the twenty-minutes-from-the-end mark of Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings.  And then it does the same thing, wrapping it up in no time at all, they just use Psylocke as a get-out-of-possession-free card with most of the action explained in captions or dialogue.

Still, there's issue #70 of X-Factor, written by Peter David, which is billed as an epilogue, but is much more integral to the narrative than that might imply.  He spends a lot of time on the main emotional storyline to be left dangling, whether Legion, who had been used as a tool by the Shadow King, can be saved and what Xavier is willing to do to save him.  This is a good bit.

The other main salvage operation he does regards Mystique, Val Cooper and Rogue.  This is a bit of a misfire.  The core reveal that Val Cooper could not kill Mystique, even when mind-controlled, is fine, and the revelation of the substitution of Mystique for Cooper also works (indeed, this blog had thought that was obvious already).  Where it goes wrong is the idea that Mystique would submit herself to a psychic procedure to make her truly believe that she was Cooper - and to leave the key to her identity in the hands of Nick Fury.  This is not Mystique, she's more tricksy than that.  Her reunion with Rogue also rings false, not so much in the affection involved but the specific dialogue.

Meanwhile, David sets up his run on X-Factor, by having Val Cooper mention that the government wanted a new iteration of Freedom Force, although not necessarily under that name.

Not only this is not the last we've seen of Chris Claremont.  In fact, due to some odd publishing history, it's not even the last of him we've seen this week.  Stay tuned!


  1. That's an interesting take on Bakshi's Lord of the Rings. As a child I utterly adored the action sequence that caps off the film. Obviously the hoped-for and never realised sequel means things do rather just stop with Sam and Frodo, but the battle of Helm's Deep was, whatever its flaws, sufficient to impress a squid approaching his teenage years.

  2. Yeah, this whole thing is kind of a mess. Characters appearing and disappearing without mention, the rushed ending, etc. But there's definitely a feeling of momentum to it, of things coming to a head, that helps carry it.

    Also, love your observation that this is the inverse of "Second Genesis".