Thursday, 26 February 2015

Uncanny X-Men #284-#286: There Lived a Certain Man in Russia Long Ago

Uncanny X-Men #284 is more literate than I was expecting.  It opens with a potted summary of the dispute between Japan and Russia over Sakhalin.  Some Russians, and then Sunfire, and then the X-Men all deal with this threat there, which turns out to be a kind of portal into a pocket universe occupied by human-looking aliens with boring factional disputes which turns out to be in danger of colliding into our world, destroying both (shades of Hickman's Avengers), and in which Colossus is heralded as a Messiah (shades of Whedon's Unstoppable).

This is all set-up for the real reveal, at the end of #285, where we meet Colossus's brother, Mikhail, who has been stuck in this dimension for some unspecified but long time.  He'd been mentioned in Uncanny #99, as having died in a space launch accident.  In #286 we find that was a cover-up, to conceal the fact that the Soviet government know that Mikhail was a mutant.  This is not really satisfactorily handled, and the only honest emotional beat that's comes near to the issue is Mikhail's surprise at having a sister, and Colossus's genuine inability to explain the horrors to which she has been subject.  There's all sorts of fridge logic that you can apply to this, but it's just the first issue of Mikhail's "return", and none of it is harsher than the point that surely we should have had some more significant mention of Mikhail in the last few issues if we're now expected to buy it as a big deal.  I imagine half the readership at this point didn't even know he was an existing (of sorts) character.

The B-plot is the adventures of Bishop.  Like it's done before, an X-Men title is here anticipating a successful live-action time travel series.  Unfortunately, rather than anticipating something like Terminator 2 again, here it brings us Time Trax, a couple of years early.  Oh well.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

X-Men #4-#7: Omega Red

X-Men's second arc, from #4 to #7 is a story immediately following up the business of Team X introduced in Wolverine #48-#50.  After a first issue with some characterisation of the team (including an attempt by Gambit to kiss Rogue... Oh, god, that's gone beyond creepy into assaulty please stop), we get some fighting with a Mysterious Enemy from Wolverine's Past story.

But it turns out that the Weapon X and Team X stuff has given some emotional weight to this.  Not very much, admittedly, but it's there.  There's a connection, not just to some braggart's past of the sort that featured in his solo, but to something that actually mattered to his life, that time when he teamed up with his archenemy and his dead lover.

They fought Omega Red back in the day, we're told, and he's back.  Omega Red is a post-Cold War creation, one of the first to be retroactively created as a legacy of that.  We've had a rather more prominent example of that lately - the Winter Soldier.  While the Cold War was active, Marvel Comics seem to have steered away from telling straight red vs blue spy stories, instead choosing to dress them up in allegory.  But now, with it over, it's free to tell to the types of stories it thinks ought to have existed, while blatantly foregrounding the fact that it is a relic (a line about "United Germany" here.  The contemporaneous story in Uncanny X-Men also deals with a retconned Cold War legacy hero of sorts, Mikhail Rasputin, who has a line about how strange American/Russian/Japanese cooperation is.)  Curiously, it asserts that Omega Red "was to be the world's first super soldier", despite his cold war (and thus post-Captain America) origins.  For that matter, isn't Wolverine himself a prior example?  Eh.

Omega Red kidnaps Wolverine, to extract from him the location of something called a "carbonadium synthesizer", which makes a sort of Waitrose Essentials adamantium without with Omega Red will die, and so plots to torture the world's most torture-proof man until he gives it up.  That works out about as well as you might expect.  (Most of the arc is much as you might expect.)  We get a fairly entertaining action sequence right at the end with Logan and Besty kicking ass, which is only mildly less objectifying of Psylocke than the gratuitous swimsuit panels in #4 ("I was in the pool", my arse).

I stopped here for a while.  I can see why.  It is only grim determination that has made me resume.