Tuesday, 6 January 2009

SpaceSquid vs. The X-Men #12: Tempus Mortis

Right, this isn't going to take long. Not only did Suzanne Chan, or Sway, spend her entire tenure as an X-Man stood right beside Petra, right up to the moment that her spine was divided into two non-intersecting subsets by a furious archipelago, but her back-story is a pretty close facsimile of Ms. Kristensen's as well. Remember what happens to Petra? Subconsciously uses her mutant power to save herself from a rock-slide but couldn't stop her family dying? Replaced "rock-slide" with "Chinatown hoodlums", and we're already done.

Sure, there needed to be a reason why Sway ends up under the care of Moira MacTaggart, and mutant without parents fits the bill, but even so it feels pretty lazy to have two team members have almost exactly the same defining historical moment (maybe that's why their origin stories ended up so buried that I'm still reliant on marvel.com to fill me in).

Given the unrepentant nothingness of the character, then, perhaps this is a good time to explain just what happened to the "Secret Team" all those years ago. After all, if you think of these articles as building up to a complete history of the X-Men, well, then you'll be disappointed, but at least if they can be cobbled into some bizarre Frankenstein's Monster of a timeline, then they'll be faintly less utterly useless than they obviously would be otherwise. Plus, I promised last week I would, and I tend to keep my promises, so long as they don't feature abstaining from alcohol or mockery.

Cerebro detects a massive mutant power signature in the Pacific, and Xavier sends the X-Men (at this point consisting of the original members, minus Beast, with Havoc and Polaris bolted on) to investigate. No sooner has the team landed on the island from which the energy spike was detected than something gets the drop on them, and Cyclops is forced to flee the island, his memory of what happened erased, and his powers gone. In the original story, way back in Second Genesis (confusingly entitled Deadly Genesis on the front cover) at the end of the Sixties, Xavier then founds a new team of X-Men, made up of what were to become household names: Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Storm. Banshee is in there too, who while less well-known is still integral to the history of the group. Also present: Sunfire and Thunderbird, though the latter lasts three issues before getting himself killed [1], and the latter is far more interesting after he has his legs cut off (I'm getting ahead of myself again, though). This new group, led by Cyclops (whose powers have returned) go back to the island, only to find that it itself is the mutant (gasp!), a hive-mind named Krakoa created by nuclear tests that now exists only to eat mutants, for some reason. Despite realising that Cyclops was only released so as to bring more food back, the neophyte X-Men still kick its arse, thanks mainly to Xavier's mental prowess and a newly-rescued Polaris flinging Krakoa into space.

What we learn in Deadly Genesis, though, is that in between losing the first team and assembling a crack team of whining foreigners, Xavier trained up [2] the four mutants who were under MacTaggert's care to do the job first. They succeed in rescuing Cyclops, but piss Krakoa off in the process. Refusing to join Summers in the plane, they return to the jungle to try and rescue the others, whereupon Sway and Petra are killed by the enraged landscape, and Darwin and Vulcan buried deep beneath the ground, to be accidentally cast into space by Polaris.

Traumatised by the loss of the team, and knowing Vulcan was his younger brother, Cyclops is distraught, so much so that Xavier decides to wipe his brain of what happened. Then he sets out to collect more mutants to throw at the problem, hoping this time he will achieve success (remember when I said that Xavier responds to failure by immediately choosing something else to try and succeed with? Well, there he goes again). Of course, this time his proteges pull the fat from the fire, and everything's dandy. Until Vulcan comes back to Earth...

So that's the whole ugly deal. To get back to my borderline-pointless profile, Sway's power is the ability to slow or freeze time around her, to an unknown but modest radius, and also to replay past events that occurred at her current location, so that they appear as ghosts to those watching. Cooler than manipulating rocks, probably, though out of the only two times she's actually needed it to save herself, the first time her parents died and the second she got torn in half. I guess as a skill it's better in theory than practice. She did at least her abilities to first find her parents' killers and then stop them shooting down the cops trying to arrest them, so she can have points for that. Certainly her levels of guilt and impotence are significantly lower than that of Petra.

Instead of her team-mate's feelings of isolation and inadequacy, Suzanne has, well, nothing really. She seems somewhat less confident in the use of her powers than her team-mate, (likely because she has had less experience in their application), but otherwise, aside from specific references to their abilities Sway doesn't say a single thing in Deadly Genesis to distinguish herself from anyone else (neither does Darwin, to be fair, but more on that another time). Even her ultimate death mirrors Petra's, not only because they die at almost the same instant, but because her final moments are used to give Petra enough time to save herself, Darwin and Vulcan (although that in itself doesn't entirely work out, of course), thus providing some measure of redemption for her failure to protect her parents.

And, er, that's it. A near carbon-copy of a character introduced at the same time, and never standing more than six feet from her side. Next time, we consider Vulcan, who was good enough to survive the incident on Krakoa, go crazy, kill Banshee, and then turn out to have been cut from his mother's womb by a psychotic alien tyrant who then had him grown in a vat and turned into a slave. Now there's a back-story I can get my teeth into...

[1] It is a well-known fact that no-one cared about Thunderbird ever. Really. Scientists have proved it in a lab, with lasers.

[2] Using his mental powers to make them think 48 hours was a months-long crash course on fighting evil. Odd that he never used the process again, though I guess it can be argued that once the people you've tried it on have been stomped by barely conscious mud, you probably want to rethink your methodology.

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