Monday, September 24, 2007

Days of Future Present Part 4: You Must Remember This (Marvel comics)
X-Men Annual #14 When: 1990
Why: Chris Claremont How: Art Adams

The story so far...
For humanity there exists a dark potential future.
A time where mutants have been hunted to near extinction, and humanity lives enslaved by the robotic Sentinel armies that police the streets so vigilantly.

Franklin Richards and Rachel Summers, refugees from this dark time, escape back to seek protection in a more placid time where their parents stood triumphant and hopeful against these evils. Unfortunately for them, their time travelling escape is not the only shift made from this future.

Dr. Roderick Campbell, the man-Sentinel known as Ahab, follows the two mutant rebels back through the timestream, hoping to use the environment to manipulate a final showdown with his longtime targets. Unfortunately for him, the mutants are far from extinct in this time, and despite his advanced technology and many powers, he may find himself overwhelmed...

Previous Form:
X-Men [#1]: The X-Men have defeated the future's super-Sentinel, Nimrod; among others.
Fantastic Four [#2]: Killed in a future where Death's Head II became AIM super-weapon, Charnal.
Invisible Woman (#12): Prominent victories over Iconoclast, Frightful Four and others.
Cyclops (#45): Invaluable in the X-Men's defeat of Xorn, and Executioner.
Ahab: Making his debut in the Infinite Wars.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Ms. Marvel 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Cannonball 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: Ahab 6 (Generator)
Agility: Warlock 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Cable 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Human Torch 7 (Solar Power)

Okay, so if you're a regular reader you might be scratching your head, trying to figure out what Ahab has to do with Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Rightly so, too, since this is a late post for Monday's on-going celebration of the villains from the video game.

Well, we're closing evil clone month off with a positively epic entry! Pictured to the right, an assembly of the Fantastic Four and X-Teams of the time -- but wait! Can you spy two notable exceptions?

Yes, in his timespanning mission to capture and destroy Franklin Richards and Rachel Summers, Ahab has transformed one of each of their parents into dark versions of themselves -- turning them into sadistic, sinister versions of themselves.

The missing parents in question are of course Invisible Woman and Cyclops, and they're going to be front and centre amongst the nameless Hounds, representing Ahab with mad respect, yo. Days of Future Past style, can you dig?

It might not surprise you to know I'm thinking about folding this section up to include only the statistical information, because I think we're reaching a point where I'm just killing time in this section. There are sixteen heroes assembled in the attack on Ahab, and while that doesn't sound like a lot, and scenarios or predictions are only going to be more boring than they usually say.

Suffice to say, there's a tremendous advantage in the number of heroes, and I'm going to probably just go along with that.
Ahab; a super baddy cyborg from a future where mutants are on the brink of extinction and Sentinels patrol the streets, is a tough customer, but come on.
You've got all kinds of Mr. Fantastic, Beast, Forge combinations there, and the Human Torch, and She-Thing, and all kinds of muscle power there...

The Math: FF/X-Men (Total) Ahab & Hounds (Average)
The Pick: Fantastic Four/X-Factor/X-Men/New Mutants

What went down...
The massive collective of heroes sound Ahab's mutant detecting alarms as they burst into his hi-tech stronghold. Distracted from his torture of the former-mutant hunting hound, Rachel Summers, Ahab turns to face many would-be rebels already deceased in a future where he probably killed many of them.

Reed Richards recognises the green garbed humans by Ahab's side as the twisted forms of Scott Summers and Susan Richars -- Cyclops and Invisible Woman, respectively. Boastful of his powers, Ahab sets his Hounds on the invaders.

The armoured Cyclops is the first to do damage, unleashing his optic blasts with enough force to shake even the She-Thing, Ms. Marvel!

Mr. Fantastic steps up to use his elastine body to absorb the brunt of the plasma blasts, while Jean Grey does her best to telekinetically stem the flow of Invisible Woman's malicious invisible forcefields.

The move frees Ms. Marvel up to do more damage where she's better applied, against the nameless bruisers of Ahab's sinister collective of Hounds. The young mutant Cannonball struggles with the moral fact that many of the Hounds were innocent mutants before they met the control of Ahab's machinery.

Meanwhile, Jean Grey suffers moral conflicts of her own, struggling to battle Invisible Woman without inflicting any mortal injury on her during this murderous state. Recognising the issue, Mr. Fantastic taps Banshee to disarm his wife with the non-lethal means of his sonic scream.

Busy grappling with Grey, Invisible Woman is easily blindsided.
Meanwhile, Cable comes up with a plan to use Warlock's tech receptors to absorb the power from Cyclop's power blasts.

Warlock neutralizes X-Factor's jaded leader, while the battle rages onward around him. Cable and Ben Grimm do their best to use non-lethal weaponry to subdue the Hounds, while Gambit, Ms. Marvel and Boomer opt for more physical methods.

Cable, having subdued the Hounds in immediate opposition, sees a path to make a frontal assault on their half-Sentinel leader, Ahab!

Cable lunges at the suspiciously similar looking Ahab, finding himself a little out of his own cybernetic depth. Clutching at Ahab's harpoon staff in the defensive position, Cable soon discovers it is directly connected to Ahab's own power.
With his hands burning, Cable finds himself unable to let go of the weapon, forced to stare into the face of the enemy. Ahab taunts him, asking the mutant whether he sees someone he knows, before swatting him away with the staff.

Storm, suffering the youthful affects of a previous encounter with The Nanny, finds her way to the imprisoned adult Franklin Richards. She does her best to summon Franklin's senses before Ahab can act, but it turns out his trump card affects more than the pod-bound son of Mr. Fantastic.

With the push of a button, Ahab levels the playing field of both his enemies and allies. An energy field attacks the heroes and Hounds alike, attacking their living tissue to the point of incapacitation. Only the mega-powered Franklin Richards is left standing, glowing with incredible mutant energies.

Ethereal, Franklin destroys Ahab's machines of harm with but a gesture.
Unsure and intimidated by the threat he's faced with, Ahab summons his Hounds to heel, including Rachel Summers. Courageously Summers defies her former master, prompting him to toss his harpoon spear for her defiance.

Franklin and Jean Grey intervene, stopping the spear in mid-air with their respective powers. The pressure situation proves more than the adult Richards is able to deal with, impeding his ability to exert his fantastic powers over the mechanical weapon. Likewise, Jean Grey struggles to maintain her telekinetic hold over it.

As Ahab's weapon propels itself gradually closer, Jean Grey unleashes all of her energy, diving between her daughter from the future and the weapon in a last ditch effort. Exhausted in her daughter's arms, Grey is successful.

Seemingly out of tricks, Ahab finds himself surrounded as Reed Richards declares his imminent defeat. The cyborg from the future taunts Richards with the promise that regardless of his fate in the past, Ahab has the last laugh in battle with the heroes. With that he teleports away, leaving the gift of his mark on their loved ones; Cyclops and Invisible Woman.

The hammer...
Woof, well, after all of that, your winners, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants. Since everyone is seen to be active in at least panel dressing, I think I'm forced to hand the win to everyone, regardless of the weight of individuals like Franklin Richards. Rachel Summers proved uninvolved in this fight, but for provoking Ahab to seperate from his harpoon, an assist stat.

So, with the pleasantries out of the way, we can finally wrap this one up.
Y'know, it actually turned out to be a lot more straight forward than I felt like it was going to be. I guess part of the issue was that it probably wasn't until the advent of the Fox/Saban cartoon series that I really became a fan of X-Men.

I could be wrong, but this might just about be the first X-Men comic I ever owned, and even then it was probably more because of the story running through from the Fantastic Four annual. Even so, I have to admit to fond memories of this particular issue. Crammed full of characters and action, it actually ranked considerably higher with me at the time than the more subdued FF instalment.

It introduced me to characters like Cable, who was appearing with the New Mutants, a book I was even less interested in than the more recognisable X-books. I mean, I had a passing interest in Wolverine, and Cyclops, and Colossus, and some of those characters, but the New Mutants were barely on the radar!

I couldn't say why that really was. Long before the internet blogosphere, I was pretty removed from the reading public, so I certainly didn't indulge in the Liefeld sensation, or the general X-boom. I can't say if it was all the tail-eating future stories, or the boring similarity amongst the costumes, but something just turned me away from that X-corner of the Marvel universe.

Of course, it's not like there weren't convolusions across the board at the time.
Ben Grimm was finally cured of his rocky predicament, metaphorically passing the curse to Sharon Ventura, who was mutated in much the same way, becoming the affectionately referred to -- She-Thing.
If you've been reading the Infinite Wars recently, you'll know Sharon Ventura eventually showed up, in her human form, to woe the emotionally conflicted Grimm who had again become the Thing [Fantastic Four #367]. If you stay tuned, we'll be filling in some more of those gaps in the coming month.

Fortunately, the combined brilliance of Forge, Beast and Reed Richards, all exibit expertise in fields of mechanics and genetics, are able to use intelligence from the wreckage of Ahab's abandoned facility to return their loved ones back to normal.

The story of Ahab, however, would never enjoy that kind of satisfaction. There are many fabled tales of editorial changes made throughout Chris Claremont's legendary affiliation with the X-Men, and the Ahab character is one of the many.

The reference to seeing someone he recognises during Cable's attack on Ahab alludes to the conceptual conclusion that Ahab was in fact the unfortunate progression undertaken by Cable. The trademark skunk streak, scarred eye, and expanded cybernetics were all indicative of a corruption at some point in the mysterious Cable's future.

Cable would undergo many permeatations, absorbing new pieces of his history and future to eventually become one of the many maligned creations of the X-Universe. His close association with Rob Liefeld and subsequent pad/weapon/pocket heavy design also made for a shakey relationship between fan and character coming out of the declining nineties.

I don't know if you could rightly call this comic fantastic.
It's got that event-heavy action packed quality of the time, with an execution typical of Claremont, occasionally creeping into the embarassingly explanatory.

At the same time Art Adams' artwork is thoroughly effective, and really sticks out in my mind for a lot of reasons. Quiet moments have an odd energy about them, but likewise carry a consistent emotional weight that's prevelant even in the action scenes. His style is beautifully complimented by a slew of inkers, and colours by Brad Vancata which somehow seem to exceed what was typical of the era.

I find myself searching for a reason to call this one of the most enjoyable comics you could ever read, but it's just so hard. Maybe I'm tainted by vague, fond memories from 1990, I do not know. I think what ultimately shines through here is everything positive about this kind of nineties comic book, still sporting the musk of the less spiteful decade of the eighties.

There's playful mystery to the characters, dynamic action sequences, and a pretty clear line between the heroes and the villains. It's not about the internal conflict, even though two heroes are turned to fight against their fellows. It's just about an evil killer cyborg from the future, and a massive collection of heroes culminating their efforts in one big battle.

I'm going to borrow from Bully's criteria, and just call this comic fun!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 6
[Days of Future Present ran in the 1990 annuals of the titles starring the four respective teams involved. The story played off of the previous decade's famous X-story, Days of Future Past, detailing a dystopian future where mutants are hunted to the brink of extinction. The Claremont/Byrne story from 1981 remains one of the most popular alternate universe tales, heavily influencing the grim future depicted in the recently returned NBC series, Heroes.]


Tyler said...

This was a "fun" comic series - all 4 annuals.

Too bad none of my x-party were in there - Wolverine was hanging with Jube and Psylocke during this story. . . (i think)

Mike Haseloff said...

I thought it started a little slow in FF, but ended very strong!

Yep! That trio appears in a back-up mostly devoid of combat, co-starring Rachel Summers and future Franklin.