Nation X #3
The anthology series Nation X continues in this issue with more “slice of life” stories about what it’s like to live on Utopia Island, the new headquarters for the X-Men. Consisting of 8pp stories by various writers and artists, we get to see a showcase for characters not usually put into the center of the stage, and for creators not usually associated with the X-Men. Mister Jeffries and Diamond Lil are featured in one of the stories, with a cameo appearance by Northstar in one panel.
The third of four stories, “Boxes” begins with the burial at sea for Diamond Lil, who was recently killed off unceremoniously and completely unnecessarily in X-Force #23. This issue was published so shortly after that issue that this story had been solicited as “a story that is so top secret we can’t tell you who is writing it or drawing it or who it’s about!” because it would have been quite a spoiler otherwise.
In a strange funeral scene attended only by Cyclops, Dr. Nemesis, Logan, Mister Jeffries and Northstar, Diamond Lil is put to rest inside of a glass coffin and tossed overboard from Utopia Island. The funeral is strange for three reasons. First, the attendance is so sparse compared to the general population of the island. Note that Dr. Takiguchi’s rooftop cremation funeral in Uncanny X-Men #515 was attended by about twenty mutants, including the entire X-Club, and he was barely known. Second, they encase her in glass rather than cremate her, but that’s likely because she still might be indestructible, even in death. It also raises the question why they didn’t also bury Dr. Takiguchi this way. Third, and strangest of all, Mister Jeffries is wearing a suit! Seriously though, credit goes to whoever decided not to dress up the few heroes who made it to the funeral in their costumes, as many superhero funerals are disrespectfully accompanied by way too much spandex.
The figure in the foreground is very likely Northstar, but he’s not mentioned by name. It marks one of the few times since the pair joined up with the X-Men that Northstar and Mister Jeffries are shown in the same panel.
The story itself explains the sad, sad story of Madison and Lil’s marriage after the unfortunate events of the Neverland mutant concentration camp from the Weapon X series. During that series, a mind-controlled Jeffries built Boxbot guards to run the horrific prison where his wife Lillian was an inmate. In fact, she had beaten nearly to death by one of his creations while temporarily depowered in Weapon X #5 (Mar 2003). The beating was so bad that at the time, fans assumed she had been killed off until it was revealed later in the sequel series Weapon X: Days of Future Now #3 (Nov 2005) that she had just been taken away.
Up until this little 8pp story, even inclusive of the unfortunate events of X-Force issues #22 and #23, the issue of “What’s up with Lil?” had not been asked nor answered. Fans who knew Lil was still out there, still powered after M-Day and knew she was married to Mister Jeffries had been wondering where she was, why no mention had been made of their marriage and why Jeffries, despite having appeared in over 20 issues as an X-Man until this point, had never mentioned her once. This story does a fairly good job as a ret-con explaining why he had been so reticent about the whole issue.
He had been in fact, quite affected by his role as the constructor of the Boxbot guards and was completely avoiding Lil for over a month, choosing instead to immerse himself in the behind-the-scenes construction of the facility on Utopia Island. Chris Yost, the writer who killed off Diamond Lil in the first place, does score points here by noting in one of Jeffries’ thought captions dated Day 9 of Utopia’s existence:
I bury myself in work. God knows there’s enough of it here. The entire installation is a disaster, and given my abilities, I’m the prettiest girl at the dance. Nemesis and Beast help brainstorm, but I’m left to do the work.
This is a very accurate observation, as we’ve seen Jeffries do it all in his many appearances, always the hard-working hands-on guy taking action while the rest of the team just blathers on and on and I’m glad Chris Yost mentioned this.
Another nice touch takes place on the 26th day of Utopia, when Lil comes down to the lab to call a truce just after the unfortunate events of Dark X-Men: The List #1, when Marrina was killed. Although Jeffries and Lil likely never really knew Marrina all that much, even back in the days of Dept H, it’s finally nice to see two of the precious few Alpha Flight members still alive mentioning her passing.
Along with plenty of gratuitous scenes of Jeffries using his powers to transmorph metal, glass and plastic into machinery, artist Karl Moline very smoothly inserts powerful haunting images of Boxbots into several panels. The evil robots aren’t actually there, but are cleverly placed visuals showing the immense depth of guilt suffered by Madison whenever he uses his powers. It’s a very serious insight into the character and is quite a nice touch on top of his otherwise cartoony style.
After forty-one days, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffries resolve their differences and continue the tradition of hooking up “on panel” that we’ve seen before in Nation X issues. See if you can tell which of the following images of Mister Jeffries are from scenes that occur before the sex scene and which is from the scene that occurs after:
Unfortunately, the events of Necrosha begin shortly after they get back together and Lil perishes within an hour after that. Chris Yost does manage to elevate himself with this story with a few good points, close characterization and excellent writing, but it all happened one issue too late.