Posts Tagged ‘New Costume’

Northstar in X-Men: Legacy #245, Age of X Chapter 1

March 16, 2011

X-Men: Legacy #245
Apr 2011

The Age of X, a multi-title alternate reality crossover, officially starts in X-Men: Legacy #245 with Chapter One. Technically, the series started already in the Age of X: Alpha one-shot (not an Alpha Flight appearance), which is helpful to read but not required. Even more technical than that, the series really started with a series of cleverly marketed teaser images that contained plot elements – Historical Logs whose URLs were coded as QR tags embedded in Age of X solicit ads. We also saw an enigmatic closing panel in issue #244 suggesting reality was changing, but Rogue’s boobs distracted us from understanding its significance at the time. Northstar appears as a member of the X-Men in this alternate reality.

Patterned similarly to the epic Age of Apocalypse from 1995, the Age of X abruptly takes over a few X-books in a Xavier-less dystopia filled with “almost the same” characters. In this reality, a scenario similar to Days of Future Past has played out – mutants are hunted, rounded up and killed – with the exception of a few mutant survivors massed at a giant fortress surrounded by telekinetic force walls. Hints are being dropped that the inhabitants of this bubble world are not aware that it is inconsistent with reality, a similar scenario to the early House of M issues before the true nature of that warped reality became known.

After a typical brutal battle with an invading military force, a mysterious intruder who turns out to be this universe’s Kitty Pryde shows up. An emergency strike team is sent in to investigate by “X”, a machine intelligence (or is it?) with telepathic powers. Thankfully, writer Mike Carey has the sense to put a speedster onto an emergency strike team, and Northstar quickly takes out the intruder. Poor Kitty. Interestingly, two of Northstar’s teammates on the strike team are Angel and Dazzler, who are also his teammates in the de facto X-Men team in contemporaneous issues of Uncanny X-Men.

It’s not clear exactly how the Northstar from this reality (which, for those of you who keep track of these sorts of things, is Earth-TRN016) differs from his 616 version, but a few elements are apparent, most notably the red contrails from his wrists that in at least one panel seem to be rope-like additions tied onto his costume, but may be just luminescent bands that appear to streak in an afterimage effect so as to give the impression of extreme speed. Additionally, his eyes are colored red, but he’s drawn so small and in so few panels (on just one page and in one other panel very tiny) that it’s not clear if they are minigoggles or a bioluminescent glow.

Similarities are easier to spot: this universe’s Vertigo calls him, “Jean-Paul” in one panel. Also, this Northstar shows forlorn love for his dear sister (presumably Aurora), who unfortunately has been killed off-panel by a Cpl. Sejanus-423, one of the countless little green army men constantly attacking the fortress.

Note: this issue has two variant covers – a “50 years of Fantastic Four” variant by Paolo Rivera which wraps around to a low contrast reprint of the cover to Fantastic Four #4 by Jack Kirby, an incentive variant cover by this issue’s artist, Clay Mann, taken from a portion of a promotional poster for the story arc and a second printing variant with interior art by Clay Mann.

X-Men: Legacy #245 – Fantastic Four variant obverse
X-Men: Legacy #245 – Fantastic Four variant back cover
X-Men: Legacy #245 – Clay Mann variant
X-Men: Legacy #245 – second printing variant
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Northstar still gay, Jeffries still loves coffee

December 10, 2009

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.

Alphans appear in House of M: Masters of Evil #4

November 10, 2009

hommoe4coverHouse of M: Masters of Evil #4
Jan 2010

Set in the alternate reality of the House of M storyline where Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch) warped reality into a mutant-centric world in which her family ruled, the Masters of Evil spin-off series concludes with the defeat of the title characters. Sasquatch and Diamond Lil appear as members of Magnus’ elite Red Guard.

Sasquatch first appeared in the House of M storyline in issue #6 of the main series as a member of the Red Guard, but this story pre-dates those events, as Wolverine and the other heroes haven’t been made aware of the divergent reality yet. The Alphans appear on a splash panel naming several members of a strike force sent by Magneto to take out the Masters of Evil, who had just defied him in issue #3 by conquering the tiny nation of Santo Rico, formerly ruled by the Jeffries brothers.

hommoe4aSasquatch and Lil jump out of a helicarrier, without parachutes, all bad-ass, of course, and attack the members of the Masters of Evil who choose to remain after the coup. Diamond Lil isn’t shown in the attack, except very tiny at the top of the opening battle sequence, but Sasquatch is shown in a few panels, fighting the Wrecker and again later alongside fellow Red Guard member Sebastian Shaw, taking him out with a nice right cross. After the events of Omega Flight when a super-charged Wrecker beat the crap out of Sasquatch, it’s very satisfying to see the tables turned and see the guy go down, in this or any reality. Sasquatch is also shown about to battle Titania, but the Absorbing man scoops her up and tosses her to Mexico before they can fight.

Diamond Lil hadn’t made any other showing in the House of M storyline, so it was a bit surprising to see her, and it’s a shame she wasn’t used more extensively in the battle. Her membership in the Red Guard explains in part why she wasn’t with Madison Jeffries earlier in Santo Rico. This is also the first time we’ve seen her wearing this costume, a uniform similar to the ones worn by Northstar and Aurora in New X-Men #16.

hommoe4b

It’s still not clear why Sasquatch would be a member of the House of M Red Guard, as he isn’t a mutant, but speculation whether or not it was actually him or not in House of M #6 can be put to rest after this issue, especially since he’s identified by name. How they got him to put on a pair of pants is even less clear.

Aurora removes her bra!

October 15, 2009

darkxmtbeg3coverDark X-Men: The Beginning #3
Oct 2009

Though not enumerated as a chapter in Utopia, a crossover between the Dark Avengers and Uncanny X-Men set in the Dark Reign storyline, this issue takes place at an unspecified time before the events of Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1 and has the Utopia logo on the front.  In the last of 9 attempts to recruit mutants into the Dark X-Men, Norman Osborn finally fails.  Aurora appears in the third story of three in an extensive appearance across 11 pages, including a new costume!  Northstar also appears in flashback in one panel.

By the time this issue was released, we already knew that Aurora wouldn’t be joining the Dark X-Men, as the full roster had already been shown.  She had been seen previously to this in Uncanny X-Men #508 as a civilian, running operations at her brother’s sports business.  Here, she’s shown in psychoanalysis with an unnamed doctor (possibly Bosson from Alpha Flight #7?) who Osborn bribes with a bag of cash into convincing Jeanne-Marie to wear a thalamizer, a device that has unexpected consequences.  After briefly reminiscing to an unspecified time when she and her brother fought an evil forked mechanical tentacle of some sort (ah, the memories…), she puts on the thalamizer. This causes her to drop out of her Jeanne-Marie personality and revert to her Aurora persona.

Fond memories of the good old days.

Fond memories of the good old days.

After introducing himself and blathering on for a bit about yet another diabolical scheme related to how the thalamizer works, Osborn presents a new costume: a red and white version of Aurora’s classic black and white starburst costume.  In a truly comic moment, she instantly changes into her costume and rushes outside, leaving a pink bra on Osborn’s head.  This type of humor could only work in a panel-by-panel comic format and Simon Spurrier should be commended for it!

Outside, Jeanne-Marie has already pilfered through Osborn’s files, found the bag of cash and a gun, and has sent the unscrupulous doctor through the windshield of his own car.  It doesn’t get any better than this.

darkxmtbeg3b

Thinking he has her hooked on the thalamizer’s ability to retain Aurora’s persona, Osborn invites her to enjoy drinks on the H.A.M.M.E.R. helicarrier where she somehow is able to stop him from expostulating on his maniacal plans for a record four panels.  When she declines his offer to join, he quickly starts in again by pressing some button and starting in on what the button does by manipulating, oh, blah blah blah, can it already, Norm.  The button unleashes a series of ever-increasingly reckless personalities in rapid-fire sequence, one of which pops him on the nose.

darkxmtbeg3d

Another personality takes down three guards with a single sweeping kick, and yet a few more take down more guards.  A seventh personality is finally stopped by Osborn, who pulls a gun on her.  Facing the mortal terror of this moment by developing an eighth personality, she then punches the butt of the gun pointed at her head, causing it to fire off-mark and then rips off the thalamizer.  Forcing it on Osborn’s head, he becomes unintelligible, thankfully, and she walks out on him dressed in her original Jeanne-Marie business attire, disheveled and assuredly braless.

darkxmtbeg3eHer dissociative identity disorder has been an ongoing and central theme with Aurora’s character over the years.  It is a horribly misunderstood and controversial psychiatric disorder.  Commonly referred to in popular culture as “split personality” or even worse, the incorrect but even more popular term, “schizophrenia”, her disorder was generally cured in X-Men Annual #1 (2007) when her and her brother’s minds healed themselves.  In her single panel cameo in Uncanny X-Men #508, she exhibited no signs of the disorder as she celebrated with her brother among a crowd of drinking revelers.  The thalamizer either undid that cure or gave Aurora the ability to switch among a library of personas at will.

The type of voluntary personality shifts and unstable behavior exhibited in this issue cannot possibly be taken as a serious manifestation of her disorder; rather it’s just Spurrier having some fun with a great character who plausibly takes down the most powerful villain on Earth.  Usually, mental health conditions aren’t subjects for casual humor (and beware! You will be called out on this blog, insensitive writers!) but in this case you have to make an exception on the side of comic relief.  The three-issue series up to this point had been filled with a seemingly unending stream of threats, blackmail, deceit, secrecy, hidden agendas and other wonderfully dark and depressing themes, but in this story, we get a doozy of an appearance from an original Alphan that really lightens things up.