X-Men: Blind Science #1
This issue is tied in to the Second Coming storyline as a “Revelations” issue and does not get a chapter number. It fits in chronologically between New Mutants #13 and X-Men Legacy #236, which are chapters 7 and 8, so this could be chapter 7.5. This one-shot is so successfully self-contained that it was released after chapter 8 of Second Coming, with no continuity problem. Mister Jeffries appears extensively as a member of the X-Men Science Team, having joined up in Uncanny X-Men #505.
Having previously been assigned to check out Bastion’s towers by Cyclops in Chapter 6 (Uncanny X-Men #524), the X-Club discovers hidden tech on the oil rig before it transforms into a red tower, engaging a countdown timer. This issue picks up at 00:00:13, a minor error since the clock had started at 00:00:06 in New Mutants #13. While Rao frets helplessly, Dr. Nemesis bickers with Jeffries, unleashing a torrent of insults against him which include, but are not limited to: Neurotic-machine-Canuck, Redneck, and later, Insane tech-guy.
Nemesis also calls Mister Jeffries, “La Forge”, encouraging him to “Save it for the balding thesp.” For those of you who were in a coma from 1987 to 1994, he is, of course, referring to Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, the Chief Engineer of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation; the “balding thesp” being Patrick Stewart, a Shakespearan actor (thespian) who played Captain Picard on the same ship. Simon Spurrier should know that he can’t sneak a Star Trek reference past Alpha Flight Collector so easily!
Two interesting panels are shown in this opening sequence. The first is one that shows the oil rig within sight of Utopia Island, the X-Men headquarters. As predicted in the post for New Mutants #13:
“The site of this rig is noted to be 3.5 miles off the coast of San Francisco, and we know from the recently released OHOTMU: A-Z Hardcover entry for the X-Men that Utopia is 4 miles offshore, so this rig must be very close, likely within sight of Utopia.”
Sure enough, it’s right there. The second image sets the comical tone of the book just perfectly. As the countdown timer approaches zero, Dr. Rao frets away, musing what the other X-Club members are thinking, supposing that they too are experiencing their lives flashing before their eyes. The text for what she imagines Jeffries is thinking displays quite a high opinion of him and reads:
“Madison Jeffries, a mechanical telekine. Sort of Rain Main with added diodes–” “Lingering, she figures, on some tech-head moment of cyber-success– just one among many…”
But the mismatched image hysterically shows Jeffries scampering away from a mechanical insect robo-beast creature, clearly something gone very, very wrong!
Note too the Rain Man reference – one Alpha Flight Collector made in the post for Uncanny X-Men #519 when Jeffries counted the nanobots with savant precision.
The X-Club is then apparently teleported to a dystopian future San Francisco where Hope has mutated into the Hub, a sentient collection of mutant energy destroying the Earth. Encountering a human-looking Hank McCoy along the way, the team is fit with collars to hide them from the Hub’s psychic senses. Jeffries is shown in several scenes in this adventure absentmindedly playing with floating bits of metal, including one of the best images of him yet on the painted cover by Gerald Parel.
When he finally uses his powers to create something instead of just floating bits of metal, he creates a nanotech oscillator when the Hub starts attacking. With all the metal and machinery around, he just as easily could have created an awesome-looking gun instead of a miniature spikey gadget. Later, he uses his powers again to create a mighty… mirror? Yes, a mirror, which Dr. Nemesis needed to perform a medical procedure on his own brain. It’s nice for Simon Spurrier to have remembered that Jeffries can also manipulate glass, not just metal, which is a nice touch, but again, it’s a huge underestimation of his powers. It reminds me of the coiled tentacle scene in the Utopia book Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus #1. The guy can transform into a Robot Tyrannosaurus Rex and rip out the throat out of a real T-rex and all we get now is tiny spikey gadgets and hand-held mirrors. He does create a nifty night-vision scope though, a respectable piece of military hardware which saved this from becoming a full-blown rant about his power set.
Simon Spurrier does get one thing very right, and that’s the common man ditch-digger dialogue. One of Jeffries’ lines in response to the silly barbecue kitten scene is:
A-and at least this way the critter’s got a fighting chance, Dr. Rao. That feller was sellin’ ’em with ketchup.
with many other lines peppered with “s’posed”, “typa” instead of “type of”, and other elements of the rough-edged dialect which we would expect him to be using instead of the highbrow technobabble we read in X-Men Legacy Annual #1.
Unfortunately, during one of the action scenes, Jeffries’ protective collar falls off momentarily, allowing the Hub to psychically invade his veins. He’s shown on a rooftop with the X-Club inspecting his own infected arm in a panel which could have used a small bit of explanation. Later, he borrows a page from Witchfire’s book and gets completely flamey-eyed and blows up when the Hub attacks, triggering the psychic infection. It’s not clear if this kills him or not but don’t worry though, it was all a holographic illusion (with another little ST:TNG reference made to the holodeck) set up by Graydon Creed, one of Bastion’s evil henchmen, to trick the X-Club into surrendering a mutant-power neutralizing serum formula.
There have been so many versions of Jeffries now that elements of his personality are chosen a la carte by whoever is writing him in any given month, some getting it right, some not so much. Jeffries’ behavior is flat out comical in this book as he plays against Dr. Nemesis’ persistent sarcasm and Dr. Rao’s cerebral hero. In fact, most of the panels in which he appears just shows him with an astonished look of a country rube on his face. Also, he unfortunately takes the insults from Dr. Nemesis rather passively. Contrast this to another time he got called a “redneck” in Uncanny X-Men #507 when he offered an actual retort. However, as a stand-alone issue to the otherwise over-the-top seriousness of Second Coming, the comical nature of the far-fetched plot is a welcome relief. I do wish Spurrier had toned down the “insane tech-guy” routine a bit, though.
The team ends up escaping from the rig just as Dr. Rao’s deus ex machina discovery of Graydon Creed’s plot results in a massive explosion. They bob up and down in the bay celebrating their harrowing escape as the big red sphere appears, whose radius is just shy of their position.