Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Madelyne's anything but Pryor mind control...

Remember how Jean Grey watched as her clone Madelyne 'Goblin Queen' Pryor died during the final moments of the Inferno crossover?

Unfortunately, even in death the evil that corrupted Maddie was a force to be reckoned with. As Jean herself found out while she held her clone's dying body...

The scene of Jean crying out in agony as she holds a dying woman who is closer to her than even the most intimate of lovers nicely mirrors the moment Jean's telepathy first manifested itself... When she was about ten years old, her best friend Annie Richardson was hit by a car and Jean held her dying body while her mind instinctively reached out to Annie's fading consciousness. 

Naturally, Jean wasn't able to shield herself from Annie's final thoughts, which caused her to revert to a seemingly catatonic state she remained in until Charles Xavier helped her to deal with her powers. Interestingly enough, Jean had lost her telepathy at the time of Madelyne's death, yet she was affected in very much the same way. 

In an attempt to figure out why Jean was in agony, Storm had Psylocke take Cyclops and some of the other X-men inside Jean's mind where they made an interesting discovery.

"Oh Scott, please forgive me. I didn't mean to do that. I couldn't help myself. I've lost control!"

Jean's mind didn't really seem her own any more...For some reason, half of Jean's memory consisted of Madelyne's memories and the Goblin Queen appeared to be the dominant presence.

With her dying breath, Madelyne had successfully managed to transfer and merge her mind with Jean's. But how? Well... the answer is rather Sinister indeed.

"Even if the body lives... the mind... conscious and subconscious, spirit and soul... will be completely obliterated"

The aspect of Mr. Sinister that had invaded Jean's mind was busy destroying her personality so Jean would be a blank slate, ready for him to control her mind in whatever way he felt appropriate.
But even the visiting X-men weren't safe...

"Once I consume your essence... you'll effectively cease to exist. A tabula rasa, Storm, a blank slate, the emptiest of vessels... Which I will then fill to the brim... reshaping you in my psychic image... as I will miss Grey, once I've done the same with..."

It never ceases to amaze why villains don't just skip the exhibition and simply execute whatever evil plot they insist on explaining in the greatest detail beforehand... Their exposition always gies the heroes plenty of time to gain the upper hand.

Sinister was defeated, the X-men returned to their physical bodies and deduced Sinister and his Marauders were hiding inside the ruins of professor Xavier's school for gifted youngsters.

Making their way to Westchester New York, the X-men and X-Factor fought several Marauders, until their leader Polaris showed herself to face off against their assembled might. Needless to say, the Malice possessed mistress of magnetism was no match for the children of the atom...

After capturing Polaris, Storm figured turnabout was fair play so this happened...

Two can play that game... Psylocke forcibly extracted Mister Sinister's actual hiding place from Malice's mind without too much arm wrestling and Cyclops had a final confrontation with the criminal mastermind that didn't involve any mind control at all...

Ahhh, how utterly satisfying it must be to find you can utterly obliterate a seemingly unconquerable, insidious villain just by virtue of who you are... a mutant, born with the ability to fire deadly optic force beams. 

Cyclops ended the Inferno crossover by blasting Mister Sinister to smithereens. All's well that ends well, even though this panel basically made Cyclops a killer... 

But then again, killing a bad guy wouldn't make him any less unlikeable... not after the way he had previously ditched his wife Madelyne and their son Nathan the second he realised his first love Jean was still among the living... forcefully romancing her while still married and keeping quiet about that for months...

Luckily for poor adulterous Scott Summers, events after Claremont left the book showed he wasn't thát reprehensible... and even a little mind controlled at that...

Mister Sinister can handle optic blasts just fine, he just shifts out of the way. And, as a right of passage he had his Dark Riders kick the crud out of Cyclops.

Serves him right for not sticking to the one red head... 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Vipers, Spiders and mind control... oh my!

Oy, how did we get into this one?

Back in Spider-Woman # 44, Chris Claremont brought the grudge match between Spider-Woman and  Hydra to a head... but this single issue has one of the most surprising shifts in tone and subject matter that surprisingly manage to gel together and still feel natural, logical even. Not to mention all those startling revelations at the end!

So, how did we get to Spider-Woman dragging the supervillain Viper out of the drink? Long story involving Hydra, the Yakuza, Viper almost killing Spi's best friend Lindsay, a forgettable character called the Judas Man and more.

Lets just say Viper and her terrorist group Hydra had been after Spider-Woman for quite a while. She felt a seemingly inexplicable hatred towards Spi, which at times almost bordered on love. But when Viper fatally wounded Lindsay, Spider-Woman swore to kill her. Obviously that didn't really work out. 

"This, I knew, was DEATH."

Well, not really, Jessica... Actually, in a surprise twist that turned the story from gritty film noir revenge plot into an unexpected tale of horror, Viper reveals her left eye is made of more than just scar tissue. She casts Spider-Woman into a subdimension where she comes face to face with... 

"... For when you leave here I shall be your god..."

Viper had actually sent Spider-Woman to the dimension of Ch'ton, one of the first Elder Gods to walk the Earth and the creator of the Darkhold, a legendary magic tome that contains all of his dark arcane knowledge.
- warning: excessive continuity heavy rant ahead- 

Claremont really tapped a rich vein with this tale that has interlocking parts as it grows. Ch'ton had fled the earthly plane millennia ago to avoid destruction by the hands of the god slaying monster Demiurge. Foreseeing that creature's demise, Ch'ton had planned a way back: through a spell in his Darkhold, which had become popular enough to spawn a cult: the Darkholders.

In the 13th century, a group of Darkholders led by Morgana Le Fay attempted to summon Ch'ton back to Earth to use him as their servant. Of course, the Elder God proved much too powerful to control so Morgana locked his essence into a single location: Wundagore mountain in the Balkan nation of Transia... The exact location where Jonathan and Meriem Drew would bring their little daughter Jessica centuries later...

Jessica, who turned out to be Spider-Woman... who turned out to be a mortal enemy of Morgana Le Fay. Gee, almost makes you think people plan this stuff...

- Here endeth the rant, back to the demonic possession in progress -

As far as mind control goes, this is a pretty graphic and effective way of showing how Ch'ton is corrupting Jessica. By seeing her slowy become more and more demonic, until she mirrors him.

All kidding aside, this is powerful stuff. Heavy on symbolism and perhaps a tad campy, but the message about struggling against one's inner demons is quite eleganty portrayed here. Still, this is a comic book, not a therapy session... So, here comes another obstacle for the dark angel to overcome...

"I've never hurt you. Why do you  hate me?! WHY?!"

A good question, though it'd hardly be the first to come to my mind if I was dangling off a cliff in an elder god's subdimensional playground while being turned into a demon from the pit you're about to fall into.

Still, it proved the right question, because it made Viper think... and act.

... Your ploy failed, Meriem. Kick her over the edge . Send her to me, that I may claim her soul... as I claimed yours..."

Ch'ton's boast rubbed Viper the wrong way and she takes action...

Getting back to Earth, Claremont has Jessica make it a point to immediately strip and dive naked into the chilly ocean to... refresh herself. So, yeah, she really is butt naked when Viper teleports in for the denouement. 

"I've been his slave over fifty years. Unable to resist, yet allowed sufficient awareness to make that slavery an unbearable torment."

Having Viper turn out to be Spider-Woman's mother Meriem was an exciting and clever idea on Claremont's part. Unfortunately, J.M. DeMatteis soon debunked the entire story in Captain America, writing it off as one of Viper's delusions... She is quite insane, after all.

A pity, considering it felt like such a natural fit and would also have tied up yet another nagging, loose end in Spider-Woman's already convoluted origin story. After all, we never did learn what really happened to Jessica's mother when she left her husband and daughter in the late 1930s...

In conclusion: Despite the fact it features an almost criminal amount of mind control and soul claiming, Spider-Woman # 44 can be considered a textbook example of how to tell an engaging story that builds on past events, instead of being bogged down by them. Claremont cleverly uses established continuity to expand and enhance his characters. Not to mention that all these events take place in one issue, without ever feeling forced or even slightly rushed.

Quite a feat indeed.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mind control a la Asgard part IV: Do Mind Controlling Asgardians Bearing Gifts

The previous three posts covered the second part of the so called Asgardian Wars. This entry is a prequel of sorts, covering the events that led up to Loki's grudge match between the X-men.
... Doing a prequel after the actual three part saga? Hey, if George Lucas can get away with it...

It all started, as so many things in the Marvel universe tend to do, because of Loki, Asgardian god of mischief. 

In order to increase his own power and influence, Loki had to do one good deed for the people of Midgard, better known as Earth. Never one for modesty, Loki decided his small act of kindness would be to bring peace to the Earth. Let the meddling begin!

Cyclops and his new wife Madelyne Prior were piloting a plane carrying a group of government dignitaries, when all of a sudden they were attacked over Canada by what seemed to Shaman from Canada's premiere superhero team Alpha Flight. 

The plane went down, but fortunately their plight didn't go unnoticed, thanks to Rachel Summers... Cyclops' telepathic daughter from an alternate future. Despite the distance, Rachel felt her father's predicament and freaked out, forcing professor Xavier to mentally take over and calm her down. 

He even used her mind to power the holographic display screens in the Danger Room, so the entire team could see what was upsetting Rachel. Leaving aside the sheer improbability of such a move, wouldn't it have been a whole lot easier for the world's most powerful telepath to simply share the required memores with all the X-men?  

By now, the team was convinced Alpha Flight was behind the disappearance of Cyclops... so, they quickly made their way up north to confront Shaman. Fortunately for him, many of his Alpha Flight teammmates were on hand to help him defend himself.

Not that they were much good against a pissed off Rachel Summers, who barged into Shaman's practice sporting her red leg warmers of doom...

Using her telepathy, Rachel played with Aurora's multiple personality disorder... causing the flirty superheroine to lose control of her body to Jeanne-Marie, her pathologically religious, prim and proper other half. A pretty neat, if not cruel trick. Lets see how Xavier feels about it.

Yes, I guess its safe to say Charles wasn't pleased... but he ironically uses his powers to violate Rachel in the same way as she had with Aurora: by forcibly controlling her mind. Talk about being your typical holier than thou do as I say, not as I do kind of teacher...

"I will not tolerate such behavior, young lady. Ever again."
After having been properly chastised, Rachel helps Xavier undo most of the damage she caused. The two teams figure out Shaman wasn't actually involved in the attack on Cyclops. But who was, and better yet: where is Cyclops?

... Ah, thank you Snowbird...To Ungawa Bay it is then...

Once there, the X-men discover Cyclops is fine...better than fine even. They didn't really crash, but were brought down by the sudden eruption of the fire fountain... a source of magical energy that turned all the human passengers into super powered beings.

Madelyne Pryor gained a strong healing power and started calling herself Anodyne, an ancient Greek word for analgesic. But she could do far more than just dull pain. She fixed the brain damage Scott suffered as a child, that prevented him from controlling his optic blasts...  And she was ready to help the X-men and Alpha Flight too.

Sasquatch wanted Anodyne's help to control the inexplicable bouts of mindless rage he'd been suffering from back in his own book. That rage eventually turned out to be the resurfacing personality of the Great Beast Tanaraq, whose form Walter Langkowski unknowingly inhabited whenever he turned into Sasquatch. But never mind all that, Anodyne simply used her healing flame to restore Langkowski's sanity. 

And he wasn't the only one... Overjoyed, Sasquatch grabbed his girlfriend Aurora while still covered in Anodyne's flames which caused their healing effects to spill over to her. The Aurora and Jeanne-Marie parts of her personality were merged, essentially curing her multiple personality disorder. Thanks to Anodyne, Aurora could finally control her own mind.

Yes, its safe to say the Fire Fountain could potentially solve all of mankind's problems, eliminate war, disease and famine... Basicallycreate peace on Earth. But, at what price? The Fire Fountain was deadly to all creatures of magic, causing violent illness in Snowbird.

She ran off, with Wolverine and two of the recently mutated humans in pursuit. Unfortunately, they couldn't find her... and Wolverine came back empty handed, tired and ready for a nap. And then... this happened:

"You sayin', girl, I can't hack it as a man... only as a psycho?"

Well, no, you still have your claws so techninally speaking you can hack it any time you want, really...

Its interesting how Claremont writes the following scenes. Madelyne Pryor cured Wolverine's berserker rage... But, 'curing' someone, essentially by lobotomising them, without their prior permission isn't just unethical, its as close as one gets to being (mentally) violated. Yet, Wolverine isn't mad at her at all...

Might be an after effect of Anodyne's powers, might be cos he was more worried about his sudden case of mismatched sideburns.

The whole reason for Kitty walking in on Wolverine was to share what she had discovered some disturbing facts about the Fire Fountain. For one thing: the fountain burned away the human capacity for creativity and fantasy. 

Even worse: the fountain is expanding and will soon affect the entire planet... And ow yeah, Kitty went exploring underneath the base of the fountain and discovered the ancient ruins of a Norse village whose inhabitants worshipped... wait for it... Loki. 

Watching his little experiment in generosity go awry, Loki decides to take matters into his own hands. He shows up in person, along with some giants for good measure, to knock some sense into the X-men and Alphans... in hopes they will see just how kind and giving he really is. It doesn't go over well... 

His attempt at humility a distinct failure, Loki gleefully takes back all his gifts... the humans lose their powers and all of Anodyne's patients are once again suffering from their old ailments. Loki departs, but the scene has been set for the actual Asgardian Wars to commence here, here and here.

Forsooth and yea verily...