Northstar still gay, Jeffries still loves coffee

Uncanny X-Men #509
Jun 2010

The Sisterhood arc continues in this issue of Uncanny X-Men, as the X-Men settle in to their new San Francisco headquarters and face the first of many relentless attacks, both physical and political. Following a terrible insult to Alpha Flight in the last issue, Matt Fraction redeems himself with this issue with some decent characterization. Northstar appears as a new member of the X-Men, having joined up in the previous issue and Mister Jeffries appears as a member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in issue #505.

Scenes depicting the X-Men and associates in and around various locations in San Francisco include Surge and Northstar out for a run through Chinatown. A new old costume debuts here: he’s back in his classic black and white starburst costume with the addition of a red X on the breast. No more of that NASCAR style costume with the goggles from the last time he was an X-Man. He blurs by her, of course, and zooms on to the Castro for an interview. Along the way, his captioned thoughts read:

Nothing in the world a good run can’t solve. Well. World hunger maybe. The financial crisis. Other than that? Nothing. Nothing beats being the fastest.

Fastest? Bragging? Sort of, except Northstar is the fastest. This is a point rarely touched upon, but remember his power set as originally laid out in the original Alpha Flight series and later confirmed in various handbooks: It is theoretically possible for Northstar to reach 99% of the speed of light, so with the exception of teleporters, he is the fastest. Being the newest member of the team, Fraction had to get this introductory point across to the readers and he got it right, even in just the right little arrogant tone that we’d expect from Northstar.

By the way, the neighborhoods in San Francisco are utterly foreign to this New Yorker, so I’m totally doing the whole “everything I know about San Francisco I learned from the X-Men” thing, which feels an awful lot like the “everything I know about Canada I learned from Alpha Flight” thing I did 25 years ago.

Northstar, who is gay, comically speeds right into the interview, which contains some too-overt and simply odd references to his sexual orientation. Just as Fraction needed to point out Northstar’s power set to the reader, he feels equally compelled to get this business out of the way. The interviewer introduces him as, “The world-famous skier, snowboarder, and queer mutant hero” and later asks him in rapid fire, “Aren’t you dead? Weren’t you a psychotic killer? And are you still gay?” Fortunately, Northstar blows off the strange question and responds gracefully with a rehearsed little speech instead. The interviewer is asking, of course, about the unfortunate events of Wolverine v3 #25 when a mind-controlled Logan skewered him in the guts, killing him, and his subsequent resurrection as a mind-controlled operative for The Hand where he was, well, a psychotic killer there for a while. I think it was supposed to be a humorous attempt on Fraction’s part to give the reader a quick background into recent events in Northstar’s life and simultaneously mock those who believe sexual orientation is a choice, but it fell short.

Northstar’s interview is cut off just as he appears to either lose his train of thought or say something dramatic – word comes in that Proposition X, a ballot initiative to prevent mutant breeding by mandatory chemical sterilization, has been brought to public referendum. Proposition X is of course the comic book world equivalent to Proposition 8, a controversial ballot initiative that passed in November 2008 that effectively banned gay marriage in real-world California.

Northstar speeds back to Greymalkin Industries in Marin County where the team is gathered around in various stages of horror and shock in response to the news. Northstar then delivers some lines that allows a certain portion of America to see themselves through a Canadian’s eyes:

I take it back. I quit. Who wants to save a bunch of terrified American bigots? I’m going back to Canada where I enjoyed socialized health care, the metric system and tolerance.

Classic. Note that Northstar’s snobbery is justified: same-sex marriages have been legal nationwide in Canada since 2005 while at the time of this post, US citizens live under a Federal law known as DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), signed by Bill Clinton in 1996, which defines marriage as a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman and also relieves states from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Meanwhile, down in the Science Lab, the Science Team is working on their original stated purpose: to solve the mutant birth crisis. Mister Jeffries makes an excellent appearance over this three-page beat as he essentially comes up with a plan to build a time machine and travel into the past to gather data to study mutant genetics. He mentions that he had a discussion with a coffee machine, which is strange, since he never really had the ability to converse with machines until Matt Fraction started writing him. Back in issues #505 and #506, he used “binary-speak” to communicate directly with a few machines, but thankfully, none of that nonsense is shown here.

He mentions Forge while talking about the coffee machine.  This is interesting because Forge, a powerful mutant, shares a similar power set with Jeffries, though subtly different.  I’m glad this was mentioned here, because it serves the purpose of associating the two technomorphs in the reader’s mind, thus elevating Mister Jeffries into the class he deserves.

During his discussion about the time machine, he mentions a “time-leaper that we made.  The one that went into the future.” Later, he says, “We made a machine to go into the future. We figured it out. We did it.” This brings up what might be a continuity error, or at least a highly confusing continuity if one reads that as meaning the Messiah War. Otherwise, we are left to believe that in between the round-table discussion from last issue and this issue, that the X-Club figured out how to build a time machine, built it and sent it into the future for some reason never explained nor mentioned since. This could make sense if you think significant time elapsed since last issue, but the concurrent events of the Sisterhood was time-stamped with a psychic blast from last issue and immediately follows into this issue when they attack the X-Men. I could fill up this post with endless theories but will just say that Fraction finally lost control of his unmanageable simultaneous story lines.

The real reason why I want to build a time machine is to get my favorite black t-shirt back.

Greg Land continues to do a great job tracing Jeffries. His habit of tracing “prettier than pretty” women and men doesn’t work for some characters, but Madison Jeffries belongs on Madison Avenue with this new rugged handsomeness. Greg Land cleaned him up well, a far cry from the Byrne-era tough guy in the black t-shirt who showed up at Bochs’ apartment in Alpha Flight #16.

Later in the issue, Northstar returns to Greymalkin in civilian clothes with a very drunk Dazzler and a very drunk (and very underage) Pixie after a night of partying. They find Cyclops sleeping on the couch at 3AM and briefly commiserate about relationship problems. Northstar was first shown with a boyfriend (Kyle) in the last issue and presumably has moved into Greymalkin to live. We haven’t seen Kyle around so this implies some sort of stress in his relationship, but so little has been revealed so as to leave us wondering if it’s even this relationship he’s referring to or a past one.

Then, the Sisterhood teleports in and Cyclops, Dazzler and Northstar are quickly taken out (off-panel) by Lady Mastermind and Chimera.

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