Monday, May 24, 2021

Rogue Storm!


We might as well dive in here and start with a bullet list of why the X-Men suddenly find themselves in what may be a no-win situation:

  • Arcade--the colorful mercenary who fulfills his contracts by trapping the soon-to-be-victim in his larger-than-life complex named Murderworld, where death is one's only escape--has made the mistake of insulting the armored menace known as Dr. Doom and now finds himself a prisoner and possibly marked for death!
  • Miss Locke, Arcade's henchwoman, manages to conscript the X-Men by presenting them with an offer they can't refuse: rescue Arcade from Doom, or their loved ones whom she's taken hostage will be killed!
  • One of the X-Men, Wolverine, is adamant about not giving in to Locke's demand--proposing that the X-Men instead leave Arcade to Doom and attack Locke's complex in force, retrieve their people, and destroy Murderworld!
  • The X-Men's field leader, Storm, counters with a plan that splits the team into groups--one to deal with Locke and retrieve the hostages, while the other heads to Doom's castle in New York's Adirondack mountains to free Arcade.

Having already gone over the merits of the positions of both Storm and Wolverine in a separate post, it's time to set things in motion and see where the chips fall in regard to whether the two teams of X-Men will be successful in their dual tasks. But after getting a look at two of the issue covers, frankly the odds don't look good for anyone but our villains!

We don't learn the full extent of Storm's plan until she arrives, alone, at Doom's castle and accepts a dinner invitation from her armored host. The success of that plan hinges on the other X-Men infiltrating the castle and freeing Arcade before Doom realizes what they're doing, which looks good on paper--after all, Doom has no reason to expect a raid on his castle to free Arcade, unless he felt the need to gather intelligence on Locke and somehow anticipate how she'll handle her employer's abduction. Regardless, it seems that Doom is prepared to respond to incursions at a moment's notice, as the X-Men discover too late.

Storm, as well, receives a surprise in the form of Arcade himself, who is not chained in a dungeon but instead is at liberty to roam freely. And while you and I have the luxury of assessing the situation enough to realize that Locke wouldn't consider Arcade's status as Doom's "guest" grounds to alter her demands of the X-Men, Storm for whatever reason considers it to be a game-changer and completely overreacts, with Doom taking full advantage of her confusion.

Unfortunately, the rest of the X-Men fare no better, cut down by weapons fire (and by Doom himself) even as they burst into the chamber.

But where Storm is concerned, even Doom may have failed to anticipate the consequences of his actions, though he has yet to put two and two together with any degree of certainty.

As for the other team of X-Men, clearly they've worked out a strategic plan to invade the Murderworld complex and see to their friends' release--but they make the mistake of underestimating Locke, and are consequently consigned to the perils of Arcade's deadly amusement park killing ground.

Meanwhile, Arcade continues to enjoy unheard-of privileges in Doom's company, up to and including indulging his whims at the expense of his host's dignity. I'm flabbergasted to understand in what world Doom would allow such disrespect of his person to continue without a metal backhand being delivered in response--but it's Chris Claremont's world, and we only live in it.

Unknown to either Doom or Arcade, however, Nightcrawler has escaped his imprisonment and has freed the other X-Men--and when Wolverine deals with a robotic creation of Storm which Doom had created to serve him, our good doctor discovers that his Canadian attacker is a dangerous foe when provoked, one who has no compunction about striking with deadly force if Doom fails to cooperate in setting Storm free. But in light of Storm's current condition, that freedom may have arrived too late--while this issue's cover doesn't hesitate to use an earlier tragedy which befell Jean Grey to milk the situation for all it's worth.

All tsk-tsk'ing of Marvel's promotional shamelessness aside, artist Dave Cockrum lays out a compelling scene to work through this crisis. No one believes that Storm can grow to be anywhere near the universal threat that Dark Phoenix was on her way to becoming, if only due to the fact that severe weather patterns fueled by air and water aren't going to amount to squat in outer space--but in terms of salvaging what remains of Ororo's being, the struggle being waged by those who care about her is worthy of the panels which Cockrum devotes to it.

Having been made to realize what's at stake, for both herself and the entire northeastern U.S., Storm heads to the skies and sets about undoing what she has unleashed.

Back at Murderworld, our other X-Men have managed to turn the tables on Locke and free the hostages--but once outside, they realize that their comrades may have run into more than they can handle.

Fortunately, Storm is successful, which only leaves Arcade's dispensation to be dealt with--a scene which would have been rendered moot, had the two teams of X-Men been able to contact each other (perhaps by, off the top of my head, using Xavier to keep tabs on both groups?) and thus learning that Locke's hostages had been saved. Here, however, we're only reminded that Doom, of all people, was surely more than capable of securing an apology from Arcade on his own (and not by giving him the run of the castle).

The explanation--or, rather, the excuse--for Doom's out-of-character behavior as observed in this story comes fifty issues later, when Arcade reveals the Doom who had kidnapped him to have been one of Doom's many robots. We can either regard the news as an Easter egg which Claremont tucked away for a rainy day (though the knowledge would accomplish nothing and amounted to little more than trivia)--or something of a slip-up, considering the robot also had Arcade fooled at the time, which only adds to the confusion given that Arcade still felt free to degrade Doom with impunity. The PPC leaves it to you, esteemed reader, to make sense of it all.



Factory Yoyo said...

I cannot begin to tell you how much of.a downer these Cockrum part deux issues were for me. The drop off from the Byrne-Austin art was so pronounced that in a few months I gave up on the mag, and comics in general soon afterwards.

Big Murr said...

Yoyo and I apparently shared similar experiences. I have to add, though, that while Mr. Cockrum was surely not bringing his "A-Game", a minimum of half the blame goes to Claremont's insipid stories.

There's a research project for someone that isn't me: how many dozens (I'm confident it is dozens) of times have feeble stories featuring Doc Doom have been later excused with "Oh, that incident was a twitchy Doombot".

Comicsfan said...

Please, Murray, don't give me any ideas! :D