Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ye Olde Avengers Rhyme & Repetition...

Once again, this blog shifts its focus from Chris Claremont and his mind control shenanigans to reviewing Chris' fellow comics creator Kurt Busiek's most infamous quirk: repeating words. Today's entry: April 1998's Avengers III#3

"Back from the dead... Wonder Man!"

The Avengers had only recently reformed following their return to the Marvel Universe proper after 1996's Onslaught storyline. Right off the bat, the entire team was threatened by mystical menaces summoned by Morgana LeFay in a complicated scheme to get her hands on the Scarlet Witch. Through Wanda's reality altering magics, plus that of the Asgardian Twilight Sword, Morgana could alter all that is at will. At the end of issue 1, she rewrote history and turned the entire planet back to medieval times, with the Avengers as her personal guard, the Queen's Vengeance.

By #2, some of the Avengers saw through this fake reality and, led by Hawkeye and Captain America, started a small rebellion. The bulk of the Avengers remained under Morgana's spell while the others fled to the nearby forest to prepare for their next move. Oh and much to Morgana's chagrin, Wanda had vanished too. And that's where we pick up in #3.

                                                                        "I..I please"

Either it's a shameless repetition, or the man's misquoted and he was just saying "ay ay". Considering Moondragon, or Selene as she's called here, was sifting through his mind with the equivalent of a rusty poker I'd bet on the latter.

                                                        "They're nothing. NOTHING!
                                                                       But... But...
                                                   All that matters... ALL THAT MATTERS..."

For someone so concerned with the fact she has lost control over her power, Morgana sure doesn't mind unnecessarily repeating herself. And her nephew Mordred joins in on the fun... Guess repetition is a family trait.

"... And then... and then..."

If the seemingly all-knowing narrator feels the need to do a William Shatner style repetition, you know something dramatic is about to go down. Like the appearance of Wonder Man.

                                                                        "But... But how?"

You'll note Wanda used the word "but" no less than four times in the brief space of two word balloons... And who can blame her, ionic energy Wonder Man does have a but-icularly nice behind.

"Pass in, pass in... Pass in, pass in..."

While artist George Perez does the heavy lifting giving life to Morgana's medieval world, complete with Arthurian castle and ditto landscape, Busiek shamelessly repeats his repetition. And yet the editor let it pass through, pass through...

The Avengers sneak into the castle, dressed as monks, only to be discovered by the Queen's Vengeance, which led to a repetition heavy battle.

                                                       "And so it goes, and so it goes."

Well, now that particular Billy Joel classic is stuck inside my head, and you're the only one who knows.

In the end, Morgana gets involved in the fight and taunts the Avengers with the Twilight Sword, which leads to the arrival of Wanda who uses Wonder Man as a weapon of sorts.

                                                         "This... this is madness!"

I'll say, Morgana... but then again, so it goes, so it goes. Darn that earworm!

                                           "That... that can't be Wonder Man up there...
                                            This is... this is way more than I'm used to!"

Repeating yourself twice in two sentences is also a tad more I'm used to, Justice...

                                                   "Wh-what? Who... Who... Who did...?"

We get it, Justice... You want to be an Avenger so bad, you're already starting to talk like one.

Meanwhile, during a battle that actually matters...

"I don't think you can handle this!"

"Kelly, can you handle this? Michelle, can you handle this? Beyonce, can you handle this? I don't think Simon can handle this!" And yet, Mr. Williams can still emphasize the fact HE needs more strength... Which is something Wanda was willing to provide...

"I won't... I won't stand for this..."

"... But I'll bet you lay down for it!"

Classic Golden Girls comebacks aside. Morgana is thoroughly pissed off and goes in for a final offensive which would have easily overpowered Wanda if not for the fact the Avengers all added their power to hers to help empower Simon. You can imagine Morgana didn't stand for that either, which actually helped the fact she repeated her words make more sense.

                                    "I won't let you do this! I won't let you unite like this..."

Oh fine, so she didn't exactly repeat her words, guess someone didn't let her.

                                                           "I'M... I'M AN AVENGER!
                                                         ...And she can't... she can't....
                                                                   Vision? VISION!"

Don't mind me folks, or the triple repetition pattern, on to the climax...

                                                                          "NO! NO!
                                                                But it fades... it fades..."

                                                   "We... We're back to normal!"
                                                           I... I am fine, Firestar!"

Yup, Morgana's defeat immediately caused the collapse of the alternate reality she'd created, returning the Avengers to their real guises and identities. They seemed none the worse for wear... for the most part. Wanda's never been able to pick between Vision and Wonder Man and why not... they're so alike. For one thing, they enjoy repeating the bleeding obvious. Heck, even when one of them is obviously bleeding to death...

                              "He was... he was shattered... It's Simon, Vision... It's Simon..."

Considering the Vision's personality matrix was based on Simon Williams' brain patterns, that last bit of repetition feels a little like poetry. But with the threat of Morgana dealt with and everyone more or less back to normal, the issue neared its end... 

So, why not end with a panel that has no word repetition whatsoever, though it does repeat another classic Marvel sequence...

"What are we gonna do with 39 Avengers?!"

Who knows, Beast... Angel didn't know either, back in the day...

Come to think of it, Hank... You weren't even there for the Krakoa mission in Giant-Size X-Men I#1. How could you know what Warren said?

Ah well, so it goes... so it goes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Throwback Tuesday: Ms. Marvel's Mind Control Turn

Now, strictly speaking, since Chris Claremont barely writes any new comics any more, every entry is potentially a throwback, despite the day it's published. But for now, let's roll with the meme, even if isn't Thursday. Today, we're covering the mess that is Uncanny X-Men I#269.

As regular readers of this all too infrequently updated blog already know, the events of this particular issue have already been kinda covered in this entry from late 08. Still, upon further examination, it turned out we barely scratched the surface of mind control weirdness. Let's start with the basics...

Uncanny X-Men I#269 tells the story of whatever happened to Rogue after she sacrificed herself dragging the lethal robot menace Master Mold through the Siege Perilous back in Uncanny X-Men I#247. The Siege is a mystical portal that leads to a conventiently undefined afterlife where higher powers examine who you were and use it as a basis for your next incarnation. It's like the John Lennon song Instant Karma without Yoko's backing vocals.

Master Mold would return years later as the mysterious, mutant hating Bastion but Rogue was the first one to come back... As, well, herself... So much for advancing along the karmic wheel. She was returned to her old room in the abandoned Australian outback town the X-Men had been using as a base when she went through the Siege. And the minute she returned, she was in for some bad news.

                "It has now been confirmed that Mystique, leader of the federal government's
                                          super-powered strike team... has been killed."

Talk about an ominous home coming... After learning her surrogate mother had been killed, not even noticing the dark, brooding figure of Jacob Reisz behind Val Cooper, Rogue rushed out to inform the  X-Men of Mystique's demise. But, much to her own surprise, she found the X-Men had long since been driven off by the town's former inhabitants: the Reavers. The cyborg mercenaries were ready to kill Rogue, regarding her as little more than the one who got away. But, she was rescued by the most unlikely of people...

              "Surprised, Rogue? Feeling's mutual. We have unfinished business, you and I."

I'll say... Not to mention unreal business. That's Carol Danvers, better known as Ms. Marvel... A woman whose powers, mind and memories Rogue infamously absorbed in between scenes of 1981's Avengers Annual I#10. The real Carol Danvers survived, though robbed of her personality, experiences and superhuman powers. Eventually, due to a supreme effort on Charles Xavier's part, she regained most of her mind and memories and the Brood would ultimately mess with her genetic structure to turn Carol into the white hole powered Binary.

So, in a sense, the one, true Carol Danvers was alive and well... Which left Rogue stuck with a copy of Carol in her mind. The two would often struggle and vy for control of Rogue's body, before she got herself sucked through the Siege Perilous. In the afterlife, Rogue and "Carol" were seperated, spewing both women back out as seperate individuals, because hey kids, comics.

"Carol" was ready to hand Rogue to a knuckle sandwich or two for having been trapped inside her head all those years and she didn't care if she had to punch a hole through the Reavers to do so. An added wrinkle: it seemed that Rogue no longer possessed Ms. Marvel's super strength and flight. All she had to rely on to keep her safe were her original mutant power and personality absorption abilities... Luckily she was able to think (and walk) on her feet: she headed for the teleporter Gateway sitting on the outskirts of town.

                                       "What you won't (ah hope, because you cant) give...
                                                          Ah'm afraid ah'll haveta take."

So, in order to escape from a furious victim of your mind control, you decide to... mind control somebody else? Well, that's one way to solve a problem and hey, it does give you one magnificent tan.

"The bull-roarer opens the gateway portal.
But you have my word, dear friend. I'll be back."

And with that, Rogue is gone moments before "Carol" can catch up. Rogue was able to teleport herself to the Savage Land where she was forced to fend for herself for an extended period of time. Without any powers other than her own, surviving in a dinosaur filled realm that time forgot, Rogue slowly regained her self confidence. But, whatever became of Carol?

           "Welcome to Muir Isle, Carol. How delightful t'see you seperated from Rogue at last."

... Without any explanation whatsoever, "Carol" finds herself on Muir Island where things aren't exactly as she remembers. Moira MacTaggert seems vicious and cold, the sorceress Amanda Sefton appears equally evil hearted and what's Polaris doing there strapped to a wall? All is soon made clear when "Carol" meets the villain to beat.

"Stop it, stop it... I just wanted to play with everybody's head!"

"Carol" quite correctly identifies the astral projection as being Charles Xavier's son David Haller... But, just like everybody else on Muir, the boy isn't himself. So, who's to blame for all these mind control shenanigans... Ow, you guessed it: the Shadow King. And he means business. So much so that he turns himself into a particularly penis nosed reptile to charm Ms. Marvel.

      "My province is the mind. As I claimed this boy, Legion... and all the others on this rock..."

Oh, you can guess what happened next, right?

The Shadow King made sure Carol was his to control, mind, body and soul forever. But just how she arrived on Muir Isle was never touched on in the actual comics. Well, as it turns out, Chris Claremont had planned this particular issue to be but a minor chapter in a larger Shadow King centered storyline that should have run all through Uncanny X-Men I#300. Along the way, it would have been revealed the King didn't merely control Moira and the people on Muir, he was also in command of both the Reavers and Gateway. This would have explained the fact Carol popped up in Scotland... *and* the Savage Land, moments after her conversion.

"We don't possess sufficient life-force between us to sustain two independent beings.
As one prospers, the other rots!"

Mind controlled by the Shadow King, "Carol" is determined to absorb Rogue's lifeforce in order to regain her full potential. All this in an attempt to be able to serve her new master even better. And as it turns out, even being near the monstrous Ms. Marvel's form infected Rogue with the Shadow King's deep, dark influences.

"Her face... she's like a walkin' corpse! Shoot... the same's happenin' to me!"

And, just when things seemed at their bleakest, salvation was at hand from the most unlikeliest of sources... That is, if you didn't spot his helmeted cameo on the cover a little earlier. But first, let's indulge "Carol" in what would prove to be the final speech she'd ever deliver...

"The Shadow King finally managed to track you down. Once you're dust, your powers added to mine... I'll be able to serve him that much better!"

And with a well placed magnetic force blasts, a certain magnetic mutant decided to involve himself. He chose sides and made his presence known.

                                                                       "I chose you."

A good half a decade before the Pokemon craze, Magneto already coined that franchise' most popular catchphrase. With "Carol" dead, Rogue was safe, even though she was roped into fighting the magnetically powered Zaladane along with Magneto, Ka-Zar and SHIELD. After that adventure, she'd find herself on Muir Island only to end up mind controlled by the Shadow King after all in Uncanny X-Men I#278.

                                              "This is wrong! 'Cept it seems so natural."

If only Rogue had told Magneto what she'd been going through, even before the final confrontation against "Carol" in the Savage Land. As it turns out in Uncanny X-Men I#275, the master of magnetism had his own run in with the evil entity. 

"At last I confront the Shadow King. Followed by sick shame at the awful cost of my survival."

Knowing Claremont, he would undoubtedly have revealed the circumstances of Magneto's initial encounter with the King, leading up to the proposed climax in Uncanny X-Men I#300. This anniversary issue should be marked with the death of Charles Xavier and Magneto taking over for the professor full time.

Alas, Claremont more or less willingly left Uncanny X-Men with issue 279, already co-written by Fabian Nicieza and Jim Lee. So a lot of plot threads were left dangling, though Claremont confirmed the connection between the Reavers and the Shadow King in 2001's X-Treme X-Men Annual. It's also not unthinkable he meant to reveal a lot of Magneto's horrendous, evil deeds were indirectly caused by the Shadow King's lingering corruption, which would have made Magnus' intended status quo a lot easier to digest.

Maybe someday we'll know for sure...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Nightcrawler's Nearly Non-Existent Mind Control part III: Wrapping It Up As We Go

It's the third and final chapter of Nightcrawler's Nearly Non-Existent Mind Control in which the wrap up of his umpteenth bout against the Shadow King is prominently featured. It's a Claremont classic, meaning that all of Chris' beloved tropes are trotted out to shine... Let's dig in.

When we last left Kurt, he was in China trying to save his ladyfriend Bloody Bess from the Shadow King, who had used his massive psychic powers to take over the X-Men, the Bamfs and Bess' old teammates the Sea Dogs and the Crimson Pirates. In an impressive show of force, Nightcrawler defeated the possessed X-Men just as his pupils arrived in a stolen Blackbird, all ready to aid their fuzzy blue teacher.

"Watch me fool... as I break your would-be rescuers to my will."

Oh boy... the King is out on another recruitment drive... And in true Claremontian style, before bringing in the Bamfs, he first takes the time to introduce himself by shouting his own name. 

"They are my creatures now. As you soon will be."

The kids are in trouble, but there's really very little Nightcrawler can do to help out. At the moment, he's a little too busy trying not getting killed by Psylocke, who also appears to be enthralled by the Shadow King... Or is she?


Another Claremont trick: the last minute fake-out... Turns out Psylocke was only pretending to be possessed. Right after she went after the escaping Bloody Bess last issue she'd managed to free herself. So how did she escape the Shadow King's control? Well, wouldja believe it happened through mind control?

                                                    "We're sympatico psychics, elf.
Once Psylocke got inside my head, I stole her away from the Shadow King's control."

Sure, that makes sense... If you ignore all the implications of this statement. Apparently, this makes Bloody Bess a stronger telepath than both Psylocke and the Shadow King, who's supposed to be the strongest telepathic presence in the entire omniverse. But hey, the Nightcrawler series is ending in two months so it's only logical little facts like that are glossed over to get the story done in time.

Speaking of which... a hastily agreed on plan is put into action. The Shadow King needs to be put back in his proverbial cage before he escapes inside a new host. In order to prevent that from happening, a lot of punching is involved.

"Possessing Betsy was a mistake... and he failed to seize control of Bess...
their psi-powers protect them."

So, having psi-powers prevents you from getting mind controlled now? Well, can someone explain that to Rachel Grey, who the King controlled last issue without any noticeable difficulties? At any rate, Nightcrawler succeeded in locating and knocking out the King's latest host body forcing him to fully revert to his non corporeal form again. All part of the plan, just like this...

                                                              "Time to go to work!"

Using their psi-powers, Psylocke and Bess launch Nightcrawler's spirit on to the astral plane, sufficiently empowering him to take the Shadow King head on. And when you're fuelled by Betsy Braddock and Chris Claremont is writing you, chances are pretty good you'll get to do this...

                               "This psi-sword focuses every scrap of power from Bess and Betsy.
Plus the totality of my will"

Heck yeah, a last minute "psi-blade/sword/katana that represents the sheer totality of my will"- reference... Truly a can't miss evergreen, not including it would be like a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert without them performing Free Bird. Speaking of birds and freedom, the Shadow King ultimately gets defeated using a subtler form of mind control...

                        "Before the Shadow King can recover, we have to return him to his prison."

His "prison" is Omega Black, a comatose superhuman operative built from the remains of Omega Red. For some reason, the Shadow King can't escape from her mind. Because, well... mainly because the alloted 22 pages were about used up. Thus ends another thrilling Shadow King adventure. Not with a bang, but with a decidedly underwhelming whimper.   

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nightcrawler's Nearly Non-Existent Mind Control part II: Here We Go Again!

When we last left Nightcrawler... The Shadow King had just taken over the band of Neo called the Crimson Pirates to get his hands on their wayward member Bloody Bess. Nightcrawler and the X-Men came to her aid, but the King also took over Marvel's merry mutants forcing Kurt to fight his teammates. 

So, just guess what we got in Nightcrawler IV#9? Basically an issue long fight scene that sees Kurt trying to outsmart a team with two telepaths. 

"Possessed by the Shadow King. They mean to kill me."

No worries Kurt, your name is in the title so chances are you'll live to tell the tale. Still, he's up against rather impossible odds: the X-Men, the Crimson Pirates, the Sea Dogs ├índ the Shadow King. Luckily he has his tiny outerdimensional Bamfs to fight on his behalf. 

"Your Bamfs are mine, Bess.. And soon, you'll join them!"

Well, that was fun while it lasted.

As for Kurt trying to deal with his teammates, leave it to Claremont to make what would otherwise be a by-the-numbers fight interesting. Just check Uncanny X-Men I#175 where he has Cyclops fight off all the X-Men who were mind controlled by Mastermind to believe Scott was actually Dark Phoenix. Fun stuff... and while dodging his teammates, Kurt thinks back to how he used to hone his skills against them in the Danger Room. He even has a flashback to a talk he had with Kitty Pryde who i rather seductively stuffing her face with icecream.

"Ogun remade me in his image. He turned me into a weapon."

A flashback inside a flasback... about the time Ogun mind controlled Kitty into becoming a ninja assassin? Well, that's a new one. But wait, there's more!

"We even saved the universe... but we pay a price inside."

Well, it makes sense to include the Brood Queen in that flashback, after all she planted something inside the X-Men that would certainly have changed them, given the chance. But let's get back to the actual story. Nightcrawler's been busy fighting the X-Men, first taking out Psylocke and Rachel to make sure they can't read his mind and predict his moves. Which sounds like a smart move, as long as you're willing to gloss over the fact he is actually fighting Shadow King, an all powerful telepath. But hey, never you mind, time to continue the fight.

"True, the Shadow King controls Ororo's mind... but I know something he does not.
My friend is a proud woman with a ferocious temper."

I guess the best way to help one of your best friends regain control of herself and sense of selfworth is slapping her around until she snaps out of it... Right before falling unconscious.

"You have won nothing! I will claim her again.
She will be my slave forever!"

Ahhh, vintage Claremont lines... But there's no time for Kurt to savor that. After freeing Storm, it's time to move on to free the others... Unfortunately, Shadow King seems ready for that.

"Eventually you will tire and weaken... and make a mistake."
Then, Nightcrawler, you're mine!"

But it's nothing Kurt hasn't heard before and he remains defiant until the very end.

"Let's see how YOU fare, Shadow King".

Dem's fighting words, Kurt... and guess who you missed because she was too busy finding Bloody Bess and turning the Bamfs? Yeah, it's one of Chris' favorite female characters: Psylocke.

Next: well, we all know what'll be next. More mind control and two more issues to go before the inevitable end of Nightcrawler