Monday, November 23, 2015

Home Is Where The Hurt Is

During his confrontation of three X-Men in the Scots highlands, the murderous threat known as Mutant X had at last unleashed his reality-altering powers and rechristened himself as Proteus, closing in on the injured Storm in order to use her as his new host body so that he can continue to survive. To counter his assault, Storm has raised hurricane-force winds in an effort to keep him from her--winds that now hamper the efforts of her friends, Nightcrawler and Wolverine, to help her. Storm is on her own--in what appears to be her last stand, in this third installment to the X-Men's deadly encounter with a being for whom reality itself reforms to his every command.

We've learned that Proteus is the mutant son of Moira MacTaggert, long-time friend to Charles Xavier and head of the mutant research facility on Muir Isle. Until recently, Moira had kept "Mutant X" restricted to a special cell, where energy fields allowed him to continue existing in his original body without fear of burning it out; but a battle at the complex between Magneto and the X-Men damaged those fields as well as the cell's integrity, allowing him to escape with no one the wiser. For awhile, Muir Isle was deserted--until Angus MacWhirter, a local businessman who had a grievance with the X-Men, stole onto the isle with the intent of destroying the facility and was found by a ravenous Mutant X and killed on the spot.

With a new host body that gave him time to plan his next move, Mutant X reprogrammed the main computer to make it appear that he was still captive in an undamaged cell, leaving him free to roam about undetected. Eventually, Moira returned, with four others in tow: Alex Summers, Jean Grey, Lorna Dane, and Jamie Madrox, all of them believing the X-Men dead from a more recent battle with Magneto and who were spending some down time with Moira on the isle.

We've seen during this story that writer Chris Claremont has cut quite a few corners in logic in getting us to this point--and this recap raises similar questions that make the circumstances of Mutant X's emergence and subsequent threat seem flimsy. For instance, we're told in the following issue that MacWhirter's "minor electronics skills" are sufficient for Mutant X to draw upon to reprogram a computer at a sophisticated research lab, an assertion which begs the question: When did Angus MacWhirter, whose source of income is managing a boat rental business, have occasion to program anything more than his clock radio? Further, why did Moira not feel the need to check on Mutant X's status immediately after Magneto's rampage through her lab? And did she really feel comfortable leaving him alone for weeks? Her own son? She didn't even feel compelled to see or talk to him after she returned?

As for Storm's current predicament, the story never does explain how Proteus is able to just stride through hurricane winds without effort--so we're left to assume that he's using his reality-warping powers to nullify their force, at least in his immediate vicinity. Yet if that's true, why does he let the storm continue unabated, when he finds himself in danger before he can reach his target?

Since he's basically a sitting duck and can't pinpoint the location of the gunfire bearing down on him, Proteus flees the area, leaving the X-Men to regroup--or at least try to. The X-Men who faced Proteus are injured not only physically, but also psychologically due to the reality-warping nature of Proteus's attack--particularly Wolverine, who relies so much on his senses to function in the field.

To help get everyone back on their feet, Cyclops improvises a mock battle that isn't mock as far as his angered opponents are concerned. Once it's run its course, and Cyclops has explained himself, it's served not only to assess the status of his teammates, but to tighten the bond between Cyclops and these people he's trained and been in the trenches with for awhile now. It's also notably given Wolverine a new perspective on Cyclops' leadership style, allowing the two to come to terms and cross the line from being antagonists to teammates.  The segment is a fine example of Claremont's writing and his attention to characterization, combined with artist John Byrne's nice choreographing of how the scene plays out from panel to panel.

In the meantime, Moira has made her way to Edinburgh, and to the home of her husband, Joe, a member of Parliament and a man on the fast track to becoming Prime Minister. Both are estranged from each other, with Moira having walked out on his physical and mental abuse twenty years ago; but she's nevertheless come to give him a warning about their son, whom she believes to be on his way.

But Proteus has made better time than Moira was expecting, and he arrives in time to sense her anguish from this meeting. Proteus still feels affection for his mother, and has always blamed his father for the hurt he's caused her--and so, when Moira has left the premises, Proteus strikes. His father dies, but lives on as a new host body whose memories are now Proteus's--memories, and, unfortunately, much of his character.

The X-Men arrive in force--too late to prevent the attack, but now acting to save Moira as well as contain Proteus. But with Proteus now having the drive and temperament of Joe MacTaggert, he becomes even more ruthless, as well as more possessive of Moira. Right away, Claremont nullifies the two characters most likely to bring this conflict to a quick end--Colossus and Phoenix, each deadly to Proteus in their own way. And by taking Moira hostage, their foe ties the hand of the rest of the X-Men, while forcing them into a course of action which will see this seemingly no-win situation through to a fourth and final issue.

It's the X-Men vs. Proteus, no holds barred! PLUS, the mysterious return of--Peter Rasputin!?

Uncanny X-Men #127

Script: Chris Claremont
Pencils: John Byrne
Inks: Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski


Colin Jones said...

Why did Angus MacWhirter have a grudge against the X-Men ?

Comicsfan said...

Colin, MacWhirter regarded the X-Men as "freaks" to begin with; but his grudge resulted from (a) the team using his hovercraft against his wishes (after he reneged on a paid reservation made by Moira and decided to keep the money), followed by (b) the destruction of the craft by Magneto. (We can be reasonably sure that Magneto didn't bother to reimburse him.)

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