Friday, November 30, 2012

Captain's Marvel At The Early Mind Control

So, who knew Chris Claremont ever wrote the sensational... Captain Marvel?

I know I didn't... Thankfully, Chris' Wikipedia bibliography educated yours truly considerably. Yes, Claremont penned the September 1976 issue of Marvel's bi-monthly space epic in which so much happened I got lost... during the recap page. See how you do.

Frankly, Captain Marvel # 46 is a bit of a convoluted mess, even for the uneducated... which isn't Claremont's fault considering he only wrote this one issue that was supposed to cap off a multipart epic started by Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom. To give you an idea just how out there this tale was... Englehart had Captain Marvel and his companion Rick Jones ride mechanical cattle through space only three issues earlier. 

So, lets throw common sense out the nearest airlock and focus on condensing the story at hand. Captain Marvel is a rogue Kree officer who rebelled against the rule of his commander, the collective  mind known as the Supreme Intelligence. The Intelligence perceives Earth as a threat and seeks to destroy her, but both Captain Marvel and his young earthling sidekick Rick Jones struggle to prevent this, aided by people who for the sake of this review don't really matter that much. 

As Marvel's band of insurgents hurtle through space towards the Kree homeworld of Hala, they are intercepted by the Intelligence Supreme aboard the imperial dreadnought Star Of Vengeance. Their enemy arrived in the most powerful battlecruiser in the fleet to take them out.

And in true grand villain style, the Intelligence only takes action after some overly wordy recap/exposition...

Both heroes are zapped away, courtesy of the Star Of Vengeance's teleportation systems. Captain Marvel finds himself on Hala where he has to face the physical representative of the Supreme Intelligence... the Supremor.

Ah, yeah, the legend of the Millenia Bloom... we'll get to that in a bit. The Supremor was a tad too occupied with Captain Marvel, who in turn was upset about the disappearance of Rick Jones. The Captain's partner however, was teleported to the Star Of Vengeance and was about to face an oddly familiar foe.

What the...?! I'm not sure how I know, but I think I'm on that starship..."

Yeah, lets just say that by 1976, Chris Claremont characters hadn't quite mastered the art of natural exposition yet.

The Supreme Intelligence had become aware of the change in status quo Captain Marvel and Rick Jones, or Rik Jonzz rather, had recently gone through, In the old days, the two of them were bound together courtesy of the negabands. While one of them was running around the galaxy, the other one's body would be held in suspended animation inside the Negative Zone. 

They could only switch places when the one active in normal space/time banged the bangs together. Basically, think DC's Firestorm, the Nuclear Man with fancy jewellery. However, not too long ago Rick tired of his time share existence and entered the Negative Zone, courtesy of Reed Richards, to retrieve Mar-Vell... They decided to share the power of the Nega bands by each wearing one.

However, this new arrangement had a weak spot the Supremor was about to exploit... A massive demand on the bands' energies from one user, meant the other was left virtually powerless. And wouldn't ya know it, the Supreme Intelligence had his Supremor bodies attack both Rick and C.M. at the same time, sparking a desperate power struggle. 

By the by, all of these battle scenes and conflicts were solely meant as a distraction so the real villain could prepare and show itself... a villain that, as it turns out, had all the added threat level of a potted plant. Meet the aforementioned Millenia Bloom, a once in a generation sprout that had the Intelligence up in arms... obviously unaware of floral seed preservation and cloning...

"In mere moments, when the flower has fully bloomed, that song will reach into the core of your very beings... and then it will consume you, expunging all that makes you individuals unique unto yourselves..."

Man, that early days Chris Claremont sure was wordy... Yet, in the middle of worlds living and dying, the Kree supreme commander's biggest concern was the well-being of a plant, that somehow seemed capable of miraculously mind controlling the two of them. But, wait, there's more!

By mind controlling Rick Jones, the Supreme Intelligence hoped to control the Destiny Force it had awakened in him a few years back during the Kree/Skrull war. But because every Earthling had the capacity of accessing this all powerful energy source, the Supremor wanted to destroy Earth. It also helped to get those pesky, meddlesome superheroes out of the way.

Naturally, it didn't go as planned...

Nowadays, a plot like this may seem overly familiar and even cliched, but keep in mind that this was written in 1976, Star Wars had yet to premiere. That actually makes this kind of space opera seem ahead of its time. Incredibly hokey, sure, but innovative all the same. 

Captain Marvel uses the mental link he shares with Rick thanks to the negabands to send him a message: access missile control and fire the ship's rockets into Hala's sun. This caused a massive solar flare that threatened to destroy the entire planet... and well, just read...

So, by firing a few missiles into the sun, the entire Kree race shut down? Does this mean the Supreme Intelligence controls the minds of every single living thing on Hala? And where did both Supremor androids conveniently disappear to? Also, what of the soul sucking influence of the Millenia Bloom? Why did it suddenly stop having an effect? Where was that plant located anyways, if it was to influence both Rick and C.M. while the two of them were thousands of miles apart?

All in all, Captain Marvel # 46 is riddled with plotholes big enough for a stampede of Supremors to fit through. To be fair, Claremont only had 17 (!) pages to wrap up an ongoing storyline in what was essentially a fill in. That didn't stop the editors from using the closing captions to appease any exasperated readers, tho...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hording The Mind Control Part II: The Drop Becomes The Ocean

"I want you to break into the Citadel of Light and Shadow... and steal for me its legendary treasure: the CRYSTAL OF ULTIMATE VISION."

How's that for an instant recap, then? The supervillain Horde abducted the X-men and the visiting Captain Britain and Meggan to heaven knows where to do his dirty work. Agreeing to get this crystal for him, the team went inside the citadel and quickly realised they had entered something of a death trap when the entrance slammed shut behind them.

Wolverine set out on his own, trying to track the crystal while the rest of the team stuck together as they made their way through the citadel which appeared to have mind controlling capabilities. All of the X-men were presented with their ultimate desire, in an attempt to lure them away from reality and into the grasp of the citadel's consciousness...

Rogue was the first to fall prey to her deepest wishes... to actually live the life of a normal southern girl, unburdened by her mutant powers, free to touch whoever she wanted.

Giving in to her desires, Rogue disappeared... apparently absorbed into the citadel itself. But she was only the first to fall. Havok was next, as the structure preyed upon his growing frustration over his powers. Havok constantly converts solar energy into plasma, which means he has to be alert at all times lest his energy levels spiral out of control to cause untold devastation. In the fantasy presented to him, Alex finally goes all out and turns into an actual star, inadvertently killing his teammates. 

Two done, so many more to go. The next X-man to disappear is Longshot. He isn't tempted by anything at all, the citadel seemingly just absorbs his essence.

Of course, Psylocke's explanation for Longshot disappearing into the citadel makes little to no sense. Claiming the citadel couldn't stand Longshot not having any innate heart's desire doesn't fly, not with  Meggan right there... As an empathic metamorph, a creature whose very purpose is becoming whatever another person desires her to be, she's the textbook definition of someone lacking a hearts' desire. But hey, lets not allow a little pesky thing like logic to stand in our way. 

Longshot's disappearance caused Dazzler to throw a tantrum and run off... which allowed the citadel to undermine her already shaky self confidence with an array of roads not taken.

"Someone help me... tell me which is best... Which to choose! Its up to me."

Alison Blaire finds herself at a crossroads, presented with various versions of her life. This played nicely into her doubts about her 'career' as a superhero. She never really felt comfortable as an X-man, not when there was still the chance she could be the pop star she always dreamed of... And, failing that, living a normal life as a big time lawyer, the way her father raised her to be... Yet, there was also the nagging fear of total self destruction, represented by a vagrant baglady Ali in the alleys.

In the end, her inability to choose a single path condemns Dazzler to be taken over by the citadel. But in all fairness to Claremont, he really knew what he was doing. This seemingly throwaway dream scene was revisited a good two years later in 1989's Uncanny X-men # 246, when Ali used her light powers on the Siege Perilous and got a view of some very similar alternate versions of herself.

Getting back to the story at hand... With Dazzler out of the picture, the number of active X-men was dwindling fast. Next up were guest stars Captain Britain and Meggan who got suckered into believing they could have a normal life and even tried to include Psylocke into their idyllic, small town version of reality. Unfortunately, Betsy had an... ironclad... vision of who she was supposed to be.

In an interesting twist, Psylocke turned into her heart's desire yet didn't get claimed by the citadel like the others. She and Storm pressed on in their search for the crystal, eventually finding it right before Storm got tempted as well by a dream figure of her best friend, the Japanese daredevil ronin thief Yukio.

Storm proved powerful enough to withstand the temptation of outright embracing her idealised existence, despite the obvious impact it had on her. Meanwhile, Wolverine had clawed himself free from a similar fantasy involving both Mariko and Yukio before crashlanding near Storm. 

They both scramble to get to the crystal, when Horde all of a sudden shows up dragging along Psylocke's disembowled robotic form. Wolverine instantly decides Storm needs to survive by shoving her back into the mind control heavy dreamworld she denied only moments earlier.

And this is where the plot absolutely abandons all sense. Why is Horde even inside the citadel, within arms' reach of the prize when the entire story seemed based on the fact he couldn't get to the crystal himself? 

But if you think that's bad... take a look at what happens next. Wolverine fights Horde, but loses... badly. How bad is it? Well, Horde rips out Wolvie's heart just to watch him die... Yet, tearing Logan apart turns out to be the worst thing Horde could have done, as a speck of Logan's blood lands on the crystal and an incredible transformation takes place.

Yup... the crystal managed to resurrect Wolverine from a single drop of blood... Ignoring for a minute such painfully awkward repercussions like the question why Wolverine regenerated his adamantium skeleton while it was artificially grafted on in the first place... the newly revived Logan yanks the big crystal from Horde's brow and wins the day. As the villain shrivels away, Wolverine threatens to get overwhelmed by the influence and might of the crystal...which turns out to be able to alter reality. 

Wolverine is about to mind control all of existence before he realises what he's getting himself into and stops before ever changing a single thing. A remarkable feat of restraint, even though Logan's inner monologue does manage to raise an eyebrow or two.

"Thing I always hated most was a body muckin' with my mind an' soul. If I can't abide that bein' done to me...I got no right doin' it to others... No matter how fine my rationalizations."

Words to live by, Chris...

Wolverine destroys the crystal, thereby returning the X-men back to life and as the citadel explodes, they all find themselves back at Xavier's, safe and sound but unsure if what they had experienced was all that real. It sure felt like a dream, after all. Claremont put all of that to bed in the final page of the annual...

Hording The Mind Control Part I: Kiss Kiss No, Wait, Why?

The year is 1987.

Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered in syndication, Ronald Reagan urged Soviet premier Gorbachev to 'tear down that wall', Microsoft celebrated the debut of Windows 2.0 and Chris Claremont paired with Alan Davis to produce the undeniably odd, mind control ridden Uncanny X-men annual # 11. 

In many ways, this annual reads like a test run for Excalibur, the British spin off Claremont and Davis would launch a year later. Not in the least because the story prominently features future Excalibur mainstays Captain Britain and Meggan.

The annual opens with Wolverine staggering home to Xavier's after an intense night of boozing. Dangling a sixpack in one hand and loudly slurring an old drinking song, his approach wakes up the entire team, who appear genuinely concerned for his well being. But Logan slumps past them, ignoring their concerns. Turns out today was supposed to be his wedding anniversary, that is if Mastermind hadn't mind controlled Mariko Yashida into cancelling the proceedings.

Even after Mastermind's involvement was discovered, Mariko still refused to marry him because of the responsibilities she has as head of her clan. His greatest desire was to win her heart again, but honor and duty bound him from pursuing the matter. This caused him considerable pain, which he tried to dull by going on a bender. Unfortunately, not even an alcoholic stupor could provide relief. His healing factor treats alcohol as a poison and quickly counteracts its effects.

Of course, Wolverine never shared this information with his teammates, who were understandably concerned about his erratic behaviour. Then again, Wolverine's always been portrayed as a considerable drinker... It still has Psylocke and her British guests worried though, yet before long Brian Braddock turns the subject to how his little sister is doing after she decided to remain with the X-men in the 1986 annual.

Psylocke appears to be riddled with self doubt, questioning her role with the team and how she even fits in with them. The awkward discussion is cut short when Psylocke picks up a mental alert from Storm, who was right in the middle of getting mugged in her own attic by a mysterious assailant. After a quick mental summons, the team races to her aid only to find the villain of the piece hard at work...

Just how someone decides on the codename 'Horde' while still being just one person is never mentioned. He is too busy making his case to the X-men, making sure they know he means business. 

"Evidently, our initial encounter was an insufficient demonstration of my power."

This is a cue for the X-men to attack Horde with all they got. But the villain proves completely impervious to all their attacks. Which is fitting because, in true Claremontian style... Horde seeks to subject and dominate the X-men, especially Storm whose beauty pleases him. Must be because of the similar hair do. 

So, what is this 'great task' Horde wants the X-men to undertake? 

"Why sully MY nails, dollybird... when I can have menials do so FOR me?"

Horde wants the X-men to infiltrate the Citadel of Light and Shadow to steal its legendary treasure: the crystal of ultimate vision... A textbook MacGuffin if ever there was one. Horde's motivation for recruiting the X-men is flimsy at best. If he truly is as invulnerable as he appears, he wouldn't even need to rope along unwilling accomplices. But Storm agrees to it anyway, reasoning that Horde is lying and is actually too afraid of something inside the citadel to get the crystal himself.

But before the team enters the ominious looking building, we're treated to this scene...

Out of the blue, Logan and Storm kiss. There's absolutely no established, let alone legitimate reason for their behaviour, but this one scene set a precedence for the years to come...

For instance, Uncanny X-men # 245, in the middle of the X-men's time in the Australian outback. The men on the team had just returned from a rather eventful night on the town, which Logan capped off by going in for a repeat performance...

After Claremont left, the physical relationship between Storm and Wolverine was completely ignored, that is until Chris returned to the X-books for a third time in 2004 and we get this scene...

"I'm the best there is at what I DO."

And apparently what he does best is platonically snog teammates. Well, so long as they're having fun.
Speaking of fun, that's the last thing the X-men have in part two of Hording The Mind Control: The Drop Becomes The Ocean

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kitty's Mind Controlled Fairy Tale

Sometimes the most whimsical of tales can prove the most fruitful... Case in point: 1981's Uncanny X-men # 153, better known as Kitty's Fairytale.

"And now for something completely different!" 

With all due respect to Monty Python, Claremont did in fact use a completely new narrative when he had Kitty Pryde tell a bedtime story to Colossus infant sister Illyana Rasputin. The fairy tale featured all the X-men in different, yet familiar roles.

Kitty played a swashbuckling pirate, Colossus was her lover and comrade in arms, Wolverine was a loveable (notice the tiny purple hat) savage, Storm showed up as Windrider, a genie trapped in a bottle (nice reference to Storm's claustrophobia).

Nightcrawler served as inspiration for the cuddly creature called Bamf and even the X-men's trusty SR-71 Blackbird jet played a part, as the giant dragon Lockheed who semi grudgingly carried everyone around on his back.

The villain of the piece was Jean Grey, who got possessed by the evil Phoenix entity and threatened to destroy the world. In the end, Kitty and the others managed to defeat Phoenix and restore Jean to normal. One can't help but notice how Claremont used this opportunity to retell the ending of the original Dark Phoenix Saga the way he had planned before then editor in chief Jim Shooter stepped in.

Still, for such a sweet, little done in one story, Kitty's Fairy Tale had quite a few lasting effects.

For instance: the notion of Kitty having a temperamental dragon for a pet apparently tickled Claremont, eventually culminating in the introduction of Lockheed in 1983's Uncanny X-men # 166. 

Another unexpected break out character was Bamf. Artist Dave Cockrum was so taken with the cartoonish depiction of Nightcrawler, he created an entire race of these fun loving imps when he wrote the 1985 Nightcrawler limited series. The Bamfs have proven popular ever since and are nowadays popping up regularly in the pages of Wolverine & The X-men. 

"Mind control me!"
Heh. Clever.

But it all started with this scene from Uncanny X-men # 168. 

All in all, the impact of Kitty's one off bedtime story had not been ignored by both fans and creators. And, as Uncanny X-men Annual # 8 would prove, Illyana hadn't forgotten it either. Which says a lot, considering she spent most of her childhood and adolescene fighting for her life as a demon's apprentice in Limbo.

Nevertheless, after a campfire cook out with the X-men and the New Mutants, Illyana was all set to tell the unofficial sequel to Kitty's fairytale...  But this time, there was some mind control involved. Which makes sense, considering it was basically a re-telling of Kitty's rather violent history with Emma Frost, the telepathic White Queen of the Hellfire Club... IN SPAAAAACE!

In this particular tale, Kitty is the only child of the shipmaster of the giant space ship Chicago, that found itself under attack by the Hellfire Club somewhere in deep space. The ship was boarded and soon the evil leaders of the Club presented themselves.

"You, dear Katherine, like this precious vessel... Now belong to us."

When Chris Claremont is writing, you can be sure this means there's going to be at least a little mind control. And yes, despite Kitty's bravado... The White Queen tried to claim the young child.

Its interesting to note that 15 years before Grant Morrison would turn Emma Frost into a living diamond in New X-men, Claremont already incorporated that element into her backstory. The shock of being enslaved and transformed caused Kitty to manifest her phasing abilites and she escaped. She managed to join some space pirates led by the dragon Lockheed who sought to oppose the White Queen and the Hellfire Club. They accepted Kitty as one of their own and in the months that followed, trained her so she could have her inevitable revenge...

"With my psi-powers, I can exchange our psyches!"

A nice nod to the truly godawful story in which Emma Frost, allegedly among the world's premiere telepaths, used a gun straight from the Silver Age to exchange minds with Storm. For more on that titanic clunker, click HERE or read on to find out what happens next...

Using her recent training and innate willpower, Kitty was able to overcome the evil White Queen and they all lived happily ever after. 

The end.

Ow, except for that small, yet incredibly awkward hint Claremont dropped after Illyana's tale, suggesting that Kitty and Lockheed's relationship went a bit deeper than the obvious master/pet one.

"Gee, he's cute."

Sweet dreams, roomie indeed. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Days Of Future Mind Control's Ever Present

What better way to open a review about mind control in a semi alternate future than by showing an alternate cover to the tale?

This entry covers the Days Of Future Present story, an arc that ran through the 1990 annuals as the inevitable sequel to the ever so popular Days Of Future Past storyline. Back in Uncanny X-men # 141 and 142, Chris Claremont and John Byrne told a dystopian tale... set all the way in the far flung future of... erm, 2013... In which the Sentinels had taken over North America in their unending pursuit to destroy the mutant threat.

Most of the mutant population had either been killed or forced to live in concentration camps, outfitted with power dampening collars and  guarded by Sentinels who had pretty much taken control of North America. But even within the camps, the flames of resistance still burned. Kitty, or rather Kate, Pryde is seen smuggling in the final component of a jamming device designed to negate the collars so mutants can use their abilities freely. 

So, who had been residing at this particular camp? Apart from Kitty, Storm, her husband Colossus and a disabled Magneto, some of the younger prisoners were Franklin Richards and Rachel Summers, daughter of Scott and Jean Summers.

Franklin and Rachel were passionate lovers, determined to use the jamming device to break free via the Morlock tunnels. But unfortunately, their dreams of freedom were cut short by the Sentinels.

So, Franklin died in this alternate future and eventually Rachel would use her powers to travel through time and reality to join the X-men of reality 616. There, she slowly accepted her new situation and tried to make the best of it... Largely unaware that her fiance was already alive as little more than a toddler, the 1990 annuals addressed this rather odd situation when the adult Days of Future Past Franklin showed up alive and well in the past... Or rather, the then current present.

Using his formidable reality warping powers, Franklin goes about setting right what he thinks is wrong with the past he remembers. In the Days of Future Past timeline, the Fantastic Four only lived in the Baxter Building before the Sentinel uprising, so Franklin reverts Four Freedoms Plaza back to the old FF headquarters along with a similarly old fashioned FF-team. These shenanigans continue on for a while and include the FF, the New Mutants, X-Factor and the X-men before Chris Claremont got to tie all of this into a nice knot with Uncanny X-men Annual 14 and the character of Ahab.



Ahab is the enemy of the four annuals... a mysterious Houndmaster from the future who was responsible for breaking Rachel and overseeing her training into a mutant seeking Hound unit.

Travelling back to the past (sigh... then current present), Ahab tried to gain control of both the fugitive Rachel and Franklin. Instead, he found himself confronted with their respective parents.

But, like any good villain knows... When life hands you lemons, you capture them and you squeeze long enough til you get mind controlled lemonade. Or minions, whatever happens first.

Ahh... It might be a form of futuristic mind and body control, this still feels like a classic with both their body and mind being twisted into a new, ever so evil shape...

Sticks and stones might break no bones, but chains and spiky collars sure make enslaved meta humans hollah!

Ah, the whole kneeling shtick, along with the slave tattoos on the Invisible Woman... Ahab spares no expense.

But don't think Ahab is the only one using mind control to get what he wants. Future Franklin isn't exactly above it either. Once he's finally met Rachel, he uses his powers to push some buttons. 

Rachel and Franklin manage to get away, only to be captured by Ahab. In the end, it takes the combined effort of the Fantastic Four, the X-men, Cable and the New Mutants and X-Factor to take the Houndmaster down. Ahab flees back into the future, leaving the heroes with quite a few problems on their hands. First and foremost, just who is future Franklin supposed to be?

Sheesh, I've heard of relationships with moochers and leaches, but that's pushing it.

Poor Rachel is denied her shot at happiness, either way.And with only a few pages left in the final chapter of the story Chris Claremont pulls out the ol' Phoenix ex machina trick and uses Rachel's control of the cosmic force to hit the reset button.

The Phoenix reverts Cyclops and the Invisible Woman back to their non-Hound selves and future Franklin releases his hold on his younger self, so all's well that ends well. Even though there are still some people worried the Days of Future Past are still ahead of them, the annual ends on a positive note.