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 ánd 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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nightcrawler's Nearly Non-Existent Mind Control

"Well, thát sure took him long enough..."

I know, I know... It's been a year to the day since this blog was last updated. It's not like yours truly had taken a break from comics blogging, though. I wrote several lengthy retrospectives for Marvel Comics of the 1980s, covering the X-Men's encounters with the Brood as well as the time the Fantastic Four added a fifth member who proved to be nuts. And let's not forget the work for the Marvel Appendix, the online take on the famous Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe for which I provided a fair number of noteworthy profiles. You got your Agatha Harkness, you got your Arkon the Imperion, you got your Stu Pfaffenberger... It keeps a body busy.

And, truth be told, I'd have been happy to let the 22nd of November come and go... But thank heavens for Chris Claremont, who returned to Marvel and monthly comics earlier this year with Nightcrawler. It took him eight enjoyable, rather quiet issues...but with the anniversary of absentia coming up there was last Wednesday's Nightcrawler III#8, 22 pages with all the mind control anyone could ever want. Let's dig in...

So, Nightcrawler returned from the dead a year or so ago. In his new solo book he coped with being back from beyond, getting reacquainted with this brave new world. Kurt reconnected with the X-Men and even his lady love Amanda Sefton (who he inevitably lost, hey... it's comics!). Kurt even had to cope with the death of Wolverine. And now, he was thrust headlong into some headgames, a Chris Claremont mainstay!

 "His thoughts are scrambled! There's another presence in his mind!"

... Sigh. It takes one back. 

So, while training Xavier's latest batch of students in the Danger Room, Nightcrawler is suddenly contacted by Bloody Bess. And no, it *does* make sense you don't quite know who she is, but Bess used to be one of the Crimson Pirates, a band of mutants Claremont dreamed up when he took over the X-books back in 2000. Bloody Bess and her teammates were reintroduced by Chris on more than one occassion, as the man has made no secret of playing favorites. In earlier issues, the Crimson Pirates were tasked to capture a young girl with powerful psionic powers.

But things didn't go as planned...

"BIG mistake"

 The Pirates were after her. Luckily Kurt came to her aid, courtesy of the teleporting Bamfs.

"Killian is possessed by someone I know... But who?"

Kurt is forced to save Bess, but he can't help but notice something familiar about all this. Talk about a great tongue in cheek moment. It's almost 40 (!) years since Claremont started his professional writing career... So after four decades of subjecting his characters to an, admittedly, limited number of mind controlling characters their dominating touch can feel familiar. And this one really is familiar, beyond the shadow of a doubt, even.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

"Your problem, psi-thief, is that you stole Broadside's body, but not his smarts."

So, who was behind all this, then? Not allowing Nightcrawler time to figure it out, the mysterious entity took over Bess and got rid of her. It also spotted the arrival of the X-Men and focused its powers to deal with Marvel's merry mutants.

"Your defenses are breached! Those who might have resisted me are the first to fall!"

Ignoring the fact that in previous stories, Claremont went out of his way to make Psylocke immune to any and all outside tampering... All of the X-Men found themselves getting slowly corrupted, with the mystery menace taking special delight in turning Storm...

"Foolish Storm. I don't need your soul. Not yet. I have your body.
For the moment that will suffice."

So, a mind controlling villain with a clear and distinct obsession for Storm? Well, I guess we all know who's behind this particular caper, then...

"... Shadow King!"
Urgh... Not this guy again. Still, in a world without Charles Xavier, it makes sense for the King to try and make his presence known again. He even tried to take over Nightcrawler, just to complete his set of fallen heroes. Unfortunately for him, that doesn't quite work.

"I'll simply seize your consciousnes as I did theirs... and turn you into my slave!"

And while Kurt was able to resist the King's might because dying and returning to life somehow makes you immune to the malevolent entity's influence... the same could not be said for his fellow X-Men, as we'll find in the closing pages of Nightcrawler III#8.

Ow boy... Se plus se change, eh, Chris? Thanks for bringing me back to the fold. It might as well have been mind control!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Post 100 of 2013 aka Meanwhile at Marvunapp...

Sooo... Yeah, hi again.

It may be the 100th new post of 2013, but if I can be frank with you (and no, I won't call you shirley)... This blog has been a little quiet these past few months. Not because yours truly is bored with either comics, Chris Claremont or Chris Claremont writing comics about mind control. Nope, quite the opposite: I've been joyfully suckered into writing for The Marvel Appendix.

I've long since admired the painstaking amount of detail the Masters of the Obscure put into profiling the somewhat lesser known characters of the Marvel Universe. And there are quite a few of those, after all they can't all be Wolverine, Iron Man or Spidey. In the past few months I've had the pleasure of profiling some of my personal relatively unknown characters...

For instance, there's Joe MacTaggert, the man who got controlled mind, body and soul by his own son Proteus. Gone but not forgotten Dire Wraith victim Joe Huntley, not to mention security guard and parttime Kulan Gath hostbody Gus Hovannes?

And who can forget how Selene turned Friedrich von Roehm into a werewolf decades before the Twilight Saga made it socially acceptable for rotund cosplayers to release their inner lycanthrope?

Those of you in the know most likely figured out that all these characters are original Chris Claremont creations, pulled right out of the Clarmindcontrol archives. Profiling them for has allowed me to tell more of their backstory, touching on their entire history and not merely focussing on what this blog specialises in: satirizing the mind control element.

But blood is thicker than water, so for the 100th Clarmindcontrol post of 2013, I figured why not have Chris Claremont mind control... Chris Claremont?

"Everyone fears insanity or senility...
The loss of intellect, of the very capacity of conscious thought."

Be sure to check out the full story in the Marvunapp profile I wrote on Chris Claremont in the 616 universe (better known as the mainstream Marvel U)... And for those of you who may think me lazy for not fully exploring on here what happened to Chris C back in Man-Thing I#11... I dare you to read the abbreviated version. Go ahead, I'll wait...


See, told you?

Anyway, long story short: the blog will continue, there are still plenty of stories to tell. Should be fun!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Grimly Reaping Mind Control

Today's entry just might be Chris Claremont's earliest credit: August 1972's Avengers # 102.

Remember the days when covers were connected to the story and even contained dialogue? Not to mention when the Avengers were giant, floating heads looking shocked and judgemental? The 70s were a wild and crazy time for all of us.

Fair's fair: Chris Claremont doesn't actually write this issue, regular Avengers scribe Roy Thomas is responsible for working out what the Grim Reaper wants the Vision to do. But he does give credit to Claremont for giving him the idea to tell this particular tale... And of course, it involves mind control. 

It all starts with Vision being summoned by the Grim Reaper, because apparently back in the 70s, Avengers paid social calls to their villains in their secret headquarters without telling the others. The Vision wasn't feeling very sociable, though. He had slowly developed feelings for his teammate the Scarlet Witch but felt his android nature would make it impossible for him to court her. Somehow, the Reaper had clued in on this and hatched a plan. 

"Join me, and I can transfer your present brain into that body... and make it live again!"

This story continued the Grim Reaper's longtime obsession with his brother and the Avengers. In fact, Eric Williams only became the Reaper so he could avenge his brother's apparent demise at the hands of the team. Now, with the introduction of the Vision, whose android mind was based on a blueprint of Wonder Man's brainwaves, the Reaper's obsession took on a whole new level.

"Well, don't mull too long! Even my patience is not without limits."

And here I was thinking homicidal maniacs with a scythe for a right hand weren't known for their patience. Anyways, the notion of gaining a body that's not made of red plastic in order to court Wanda is a tempting one. Still, Vision's a hero...

"What prevents me from capturing you here and now... then seizing my former human shell?"

Isn't that interesting? The Vision wants to do the right thing... and if the right thing is putting a villain behind bars, only to do exactly what he wanted and desecrate the corpse of his brother anyway... Hey, then so be it. But the Reaper wasn't born yesterday...

"In short: it is booby-trapped to the hilt!
Touch me... And you remain an android forever."

If the Punisher is any indication, men who wear all black and a skull for a costume aren't known for their compassion. But at least Frank Castle is a competent tactician. The Reaper's one bargaining chip was his brother's body, which he threatens to destroy if Vision tries to stop him. It's like threatening to kill a hostage when that person is actually the one thing that prevents the police from shooting you.

All that seemed lost on Vision, who simply wanted to leave. The Reaper didn't stop him, but he would be a lousy host if he didn't give his house guest a parting gift. 

"It seems... harmless enough! I'll keep it... as a memento of sorts"

That's right, the Grim Reaper gave Vision a crossbones medallion that doubled as a communications device... before revealing his secret headquarters secretly belonged to someone else. Someone who probably won't notice the cryogenic unit with the semi-dead superhero just sitting there. 

Roy Thomas soon left the book and incoming writer Steve Englehart eventually resolved this story in Avengers # 106 - 108. In this threeparter, the Grim Reaper teamed up with the Space Phantom to defeat the Avengers. Oh, and the whole 'have my kinda-dead brother's body' proposal turned out to be a convoluted lie, a ploy by the Reaper to plant the idea of obtaining a real body in Vision's head. Because the actual body the villain wanted his 'brother' to inhabit was Captain America's.

Just cos. 

Long story short, Vision kindly turned down the invitation to take over his teammate's brain. The Avengers took care of the Reaper, the Space Phantom and their flunkies and in the end, the experience gave Vision the confidence to open up to the Scarlet Witch and show his feelings. And with that, the first seeds towards their inevitable wedding were sown...

Not bad for a single Claremont idea! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Doomed If One Can Divine The Celestial Mind Control Motif

Today's entry, much to my own surprise, still deals with Claremont's Fantastic Four...

More specifically... # 25, a double sized anniversary issue cover dated January 2000, that properly reintroduced Doctor Doom to the Marvel Universe after the Heroes Reborn experiment of the mid 90s.

Before his triumphant comeback, Doom had spent most of his time as caretaker of the Heroes Reborn Earth, a world plagued by numerous catastrophies and natural disasters. That is, until Doom got involved in an attempt to save the world from itself ánd the dreaming Celestial who seemed to be at the core of all the shenanigans too convoluted or uninteresting to cover here.

What you need to know: Doom had just shifted 'his' Earth from the Heroes Reborn pocket universe into his home dimension and he now stood ready to deal with the Dreaming Celestial, along with his trusty aide Lancer (Samantha Dunbar) and his four generals: Lady Dorma of Atlantis, the battlemage Shakti, the mind controlling Divinity and the equally mind and body controlling Technarx.

Doom and his generals encountered the Fantastic Four in the opening pages of # 25 and, after the obligatory fight scene, decided to pool their resources to deal with their common enemy: the Dreaming Celestial who was now actively trying to destroy both groups in order to achieve, erm... something. Trust me, it really doesn't matter in the end.

So, how did he plan to achieve this? Well, have you heard of a little thing called mind control?

"Too much talking. Better by far to let Divinity assimilate them.
That gains Doom all of their powers... but none of their attitude."

As soon as the champions of two worlds entered the Dreaming Celestial's sanctuary, the mind controlling Divinity was attacked and absorbed by an equally shadowy creature that effortlessly took control of Divinity's form, as Doom's ebon general started claiming victims left and right. The Invisible Woman was the first to fall, when she got coated with the dark gunk. And well... you can guess what happened next, right?

"There's something else... as though the very darkness itself was a living entity!"

Ow boy, you're not kidding... and Sue and Divinity were just the warm up act. Moments later, the tendrils growing behind them struck out. While Johnny tried to burn through them, he was struck by something rather familiar...

"No joy, Reed. Something just hit me! It's Sue's forcefield!"

Yup, a mind controlled Invisible Woman was now working for the Dreaming Celestial, using her powers to knock everyone into the Celestial creature so they would share her fate. Overcome by emotions, Mr. Fantastic tried to free his brother and law, only to be saved by Doom, who stunned him into temporary helplessness with a shock blast. Doom ordered Lancer to aid the Thing in buying him, Mr. Fantastic and young Valeria Richards (another long story) time to solve this mess, by going deeper inside the Celestial's tomb.

So, in case anyone was wondering what chance one rockmonster and a woman with laserfire fingertips have against a Celestial born living darkness ánd at least 6 of their mind controlled allies?

None whatsoever. And they knew it.

Still, as they fell, they provided Reed, Doom and Valeria with a pretty important clue as they proceeded to venture deeper into the labyrinthian Celestial slumberpit (on a sidenote: don't you just love words like that?). The tentacle thing is taking over the FF and Doom's allies for a very good reason.

"You realize, of course, what will happen when all twelve are transformed."

Not specifically, no. Because Claremont's hopelessly convoluted, overly wordy script fails to clearly explain the significance of a Celestial guard dog taking over the form of twelve, apparently random, mortals. All Reed and Doom need to know from reading a few of the tomb's glyphs: they can actually stop the Celestial if they work together to simultaneously activate a number of switches that unlock a pair of levers that will allow them to deal with the Celestial.

In order to buy her two dads (I know...) the time needed to either stretch or manipulate the levers with a forcefield, Valeria quietly sacrifices herself as well.

"The brat is no more. And I am one step closer to my freedom!"

After consuming the daughter of two men (again, don't worry about it...), the Celestial sent his creature to deal with Reed and Doom. It proved remarkably capable of claiming both in record speed.

"Be so easy to give in! But they fought to the last for me. Can I do less?"

Doom's goading inadvertently fired up Mr. Fantastic and the two men manage to simultaneously hit all the switches ánd activate the levers in the exact way the glyphs instructed them. This set in motion a termination mechanism built into the Dreaming Celestial's tomb.

Apparently, the D.C. (surely a 'subtle' reference to a fellow New York based comics company) tried to to circumvent this lethal safeguard. Its idea was to replacing the essence of the twelve living Celestial guardian statues with those of others, any others. However, since Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom had managed to escape capture, the cycle wasnt complete so hitting the kill switch restored all twelve Celestial statues as they lethally wounded their wayward brother by proxy.

It also released some rather familiar faces...

"It was... Awful! I was aware of everything I was doing... But I couldn't stop myself!"

However, Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom weren't quite so lucky. In its dying moments, the Dreaming Celestial planned to take both of them with him to the grave. In the end, only one would survive...

Well, that's not exactly true, as these posts point out... 

Spoiler alert: It's actually Reed inside Doom's armor. Fun ánd games!