Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reality, Checked

The ending to Uncanny X-Men #125 had us on the edge of our seats, didn't it? Mutant X had come out of hiding, and was attacking the residents of the Muir Isle research facility in Scotland in order to acquire a new host body for itself--while, back in New York, the X-Men were contacting the facility in order to let Moira MacTaggert and the others know that they were alive and well, when suddenly a scream was heard on the other end of the phone and the line went dead! The question was, who went dead with it?

And so the X-Men race to Scotland just as fast as their "Blackbird" jet will carry them, in the desperate hope they they won't be too late to save their friends from a threat that apparently has them at its mercy.

In prior stories, we've already seen examples of the X-Men conducting operations in a "by the numbers" method--carefully coordinated tactics where all team members were on the same page as far as the order of their strikes and what was expected of them. In those instances, the focus was on attack; but on their approach to Muir Isle, the first objective of the X-Men is reconnaissance, since the team has no information on the situation they're walking into. It's a sequence in the opening pages of this story that serves to ramp up anticipation of the potential danger awaiting them, as well as the unknown fate of their friends who have likely been taken by surprise.

Upon landing and making their way inside the complex, the X-Men, while remaining on alert, find no initial signs of hostilities; but, one by one, they do begin to encounter their missing friends, alive but in some cases unconscious. Moira is located armed and on foot, searching for the escaped "Mutant X"; Cyclops finds Jean Grey, unconscious and murmuring incoherently about a man known as "Jason," whom we know is associated with the Hellfire Club and has been infiltrating her thoughts; Havok and a disoriented Jamie Madrox, making their way through the complex in defensive mode, are located by Colossus; while in the residence, Lorna Dane is found unconscious, with one other.

With no sign of Mutant X, and with the situation stabilized at least for now, Cyclops gathers everyone in one place in order to compare stories and obtain much-needed information on who or what they're facing. Oddly enough, Moira at first refuses to go into detail on the subject of Mutant X, and for a very personal reason.

All we learn at present about Mutant X are facts we can assume just on the basis of Moira's disclosure and what we've seen so far--that Mutant X at some point developed a deadly mutant power, and Moira created a special containment area for him in order to keep him from "burning out" his original body as well as to prevent his escape. In the segments which follow throughout this story, we learn more of the specifics; but for now, the hunt is on, as the X-Men map out a search perimeter and set to work finding a virtual needle in a haystack.

The timing of the disclosure that Mutant X is vulnerable to metal seems rather off, to say nothing of conspicuous. (Even Moira seems to mention it off-handedly.) So soon in this story we're presented with the main and definitive weakness for Mutant X--too soon, since it almost renders any action the X-Men take from this point on superfluous. We now have information which pretty much telegraphs the fact that this threat will meet its end through fatal exposure to metal, when the X-Men are only now mobilizing to track it down. Whatever dread the X-Men may be feeling at meeting this threat, how dreadful can it be to us now? Particularly when you have an X-Man composed entirely of steel; you don't have to be a rocket scientist to do the math on what decisive battle scene we're likely to see at some point.

But aside from that, the story will need to side-step several plot discrepancies of its own making. For instance, Mutant X "can't abide nonorganic materials," yet has no problem using automobiles to transport himself. And why the focus on metal? Couldn't anything inorganic imprison or destroy him? That covers a lot of ground--the X-Men could arm themselves with weapons made of plastic, glass, stone, etc. (More on that train of thought later in this saga.)

In the meantime, Jason Wyngarde makes another incursion into Jean's mind--while Mutant X appropriates another host body after the clone of the "Multiple Man" that he'd taken control of burns out. Why Mutant X is so malicious can't help but raise questions as to how he spent his childhood in his cell at Muir Isle. We learn that he has fond feelings for his mother, to the point of wanting to punish her abusive husband--so why lash out in this murderous rampage, instead of seeking help from her? And why is Moira, who still loves him, willing (I dare say eager) to put him down with a bullet, when she's been content to keep him confined to a cell for so long? The story avoids these questions like the plague.

Fortunately, writer Chris Claremont hasn't neglected the fact that the X-Men have an experienced tracker among them--and so it's Wolverine who's ready to (literally) draw first blood in battle against this foe. But if you thought that you were being blindsided by the disclosure of this character's Achilles' heel, wait until you see the ability that this story practically pulls out of a hat to hand to him.

All at once, Mutant X, deadly menace, becomes Proteus, Master of Reality--now a major threat, who could have invoked this power at any time (say, to facilitate his escape?) but inexplicably chose the moment when he was being closed on. Funny that Moira, a scientist with a state-of-the-art research facility who must have run any number of diagnostic scans on her mutant son, failed to mention this little nugget of information to Cyclops or anyone else on the search teams who might encounter or be surprised by this foe.

The sudden attack of Storm, however, shatters Proteus' concentration, and reality snaps back to normal. But even the presence of Storm won't tip the scales in the heroes' favor--because Proteus finds her arrival most fortuitous, as it provides him with a fresh host body to inhabit, while Storm appears helpless to prevent it.

Yikes! Too bad Storm doesn't have something inorganic at hand--like powerful air gusts, eh?

Father, Mother, and Proteus make for one big unhappy family!

Uncanny X-Men #126

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


Colin Jones said...

John Byrne has drawn the hat on the policeman correctly - the famous domed helmets are only worn by the police in England and Wales, not Scotland.

Colin Jones said...

I mean the hat on the policeman/Mutant X :D

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