31 – Chekhov’s Raygun

Art by David Wynne

Art by David Wynne

In which there is a whole, whole lot going on; we continue to have no use for Michael Rossi; Wolverine should be an advice columnist; Forge makes bold fashion choices; the health of a timeline is directly tied to the awesomeness of Storm’s hair; and the X-Men get their first dark-future refugee.

X-Plained:

  • Dire Wraiths
  • ROM
  • Tailoring
  • Uncanny X-Men #182-188
  • Just how much story can be shoehorned into seven issues
  • A dubious Silent Hill metaphor
  • The people in Rogue’s head
  • Inexorable momentum
  • Several profoundly uncomfortable conversations
  • Parallel narrative in comics
  • Being friends with Wolverine
  • Casual enmity
  • Forge
  • Miles’s X-doppelganger
  • Tiny shorts
  • Chekhov’s Raygun
  • Rachel Summers (again)
  • Timeline disambiguation
  • Rachel disambiguation
  • “Lifedeath: A Love Story”
  • Feelings
  • Storm, powers, and identity
  • X-Men Mad-Libs
  • Hound marks
  • X-Men: The End

Next Week: THE DEMON BEAR SAGA!


You can find a visual companion to the episode – as well as links to recommended reading and the winners of the stealth / plainclothes cosplay contest – on our blog.

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21 comments

  1. Sol says:

    Wait, wait, wait, Rachel went back and fixed her timeline in Excalibur? What issue(s)?

  2. Gee says:

    I believe Forge’s real name is Jonathon Silvercloud.

    • Rachel says:

      Only ever specified in the Ultimate Universe, AFAIK.

      • Jeff Polier says:

        This turned out to be a harder question than I’d initially thought. My first reaction was to go to “Fall of the Mutants.” I was sure we’d seen his dog tags close up but I was wrong. Even when attempting to call off the airstrike in war, he identifies himself as Forge.

        After some further digging, it seems that the Jonathan Stormcloud name comes from “Age of Apocalypse.” While he hasn’t been identified that way in the Prime, 616, universe, I think it is reasonable to presume that this is his name in that reality as well.

  3. pawpaw5771 says:

    Did you guys know that the X-Men made a two issue appearance in Rom Spaceknight #s 17-18? The issues were published the same months as Uncanny X-Men #144-145, and judging by Kitty’s costume (DRINK!) they take place at around the same time in continuity.

    http://returntofleet.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/rom-17-marvel-cover-art-wolverine-old-school.jpg?w=671

  4. gary says:

    Okay, only name I could find was Jonathan Silvercloud from the Ultimate Universe. He takes on the “Forge” name as his “mutant” name. While the 616 is different from the Ultimate Universe, sometimes the names do carry over. The Forge in the 616 only has the identity of Forge or Maker (from the Marvel Handbook). I don’t think he had another name.

  5. mommyesque says:

    I agree with gary – all I could find was the alternate universe Forge known as Jonathan Silvercloud. Also Master & Genesis, but those aren’t “real” names.

  6. Kyle says:

    Forge is a character I liked instantly upon first discovering him. Growing up Metis, I was always frustrated by portrayals of First Nations peoples in media as mystics, and noble savages. Forge is the the first First Nations character I can remember for whom it seemed like his ethnicity was a secondary trait to him as an individual. Even though in the early 90s when I began reading comics a lot of his visual cues — headband, pony-tail, tasseled uniform — were still coded “indian,” I really loved the fact that he was a very modern, very urban, very technology focused character.

    Question: Has Rogue ever used or even considered using a mutant power nullifier to control her powers? Generally the X-Men don’t seem to opposed to using technology to help them control or augment powers; Cyclops has his visor, Havok’s had various gauntlets and headgear, Nightcrawler and Beast have used image inducers. It seems like Rogue could have saved herself a lot of angst if she were to ask Forge to whip her up a bracelet or something that could turn off her powers with the press of a button.

    Anyways, another really enjoyable episode. Thanks for doing these.

    • Joe says:

      I have wondered that about Rogue for many years. When I asked on another site, the answer I got was essentially rule of drama. It would be too convenient for that to happen, take some of her angst away.

    • steve says:

      I always imagine that Gambit routinely buys Leech big bags of candy and comic books. “Now all you got t’ do t’ earn thees here treats is jus’sit right ‘ere on dis char by the door for an hour or two while Gambit an’ Rogue have a visit in dis room. Jus’ don’ go anywhere an’ for god’s sake, don’ come in, d’accord?”

  7. WizarDru says:

    Wow, forgot this would take place during the Cask of Eternal Winters sequence.

    One thing I felt the need to point out: I was about 15 when these comics came out, so I was the core demographic, I’d wager. Yes, there’s a lot going on here, as Miles notes. But keep in mind a few things that made reading comics different back then, IMHO:

    1) There were far fewer titles, Period. Example: May 1984, Marvel released about 38 titles for the month. That includes multiple non-MU titles like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Doctor Who reprints, Marvel Age, Micronauts and more.

    2) Back issues were a luxury that you could only get if you were lucky enough to have a comic shop nearby, went to a convention or sent a SASE with a check to dealer. Getting contiguous issues was actually a challenge: if the local spinner or shop sold out of X-men…you didn’t get it that month, generally. Reprints were a rarity.

    3) Multiple re-reads of a comic were expected. I have a VERY distinctive memory of my parents giving me a couple of dollars to buy comic books with for a road trip on summer vacation and getting X-men #111, which I read repeatedly. Especially when the X-men were still bi-monthly.

    4) The expectation that you might miss issues was another reason for editor’s notes and lots of in-comics summaries of what’s going on. Decompression only works if you get everything. Most comics were designed to allow a reader to jump on with virtually no history. You had a quick two line summary in the logo box and then you got most of the relevant details as you read.

    5) It also might just be that growing up with that style, it feels ‘normal’ to me. Often I now feel a little cheated by how little story some comics contain. As Chris Sims once pointed out, Fantastic Four #50 featured the defeat of Galactus…and then rolled right into the Human Torch going to college. Stuff happened and it happened A LOT.

    • Sam Williams says:

      And that’s exactly why I never got into comics as a kid. I had a cool local comic shop that I used to hang out in pretty regularly, but I spent my allowance on baseball cards instead. I was always tempted to buy a comic, but I was afraid that I’d start an arc and never find out what happens. I did buy a couple from a spinner rack at a gas station on a trip and I still have no idea whether Captain America and Paladin put their difference aside and teamed up or how Spider-Man survived his encounter with Silver Sable and the Wild Pack.

    • I am with you 100% on this (see my comment below). I didn’t mention the re-reads, but of course! By the time a new issue of X-Men came out I had read the previous one at least 5 if not 10 times!

      I was 13 in 1984 – so definitely the target age.

      I also think decompression sucks. While I think it works as a device to change the rhythm of a comic to emphasize something, the fact that entire series use that pace now feels like a rip-off every time. It is why I don’t read Bendis’ comics anymore.

  8. steve says:

    Forge’s real name is Forge. His superhero codename is Maker.

    Now to be fair, Forge wanted to test the power neutraliser to make sure it was temporary and there a plenty of legitimate uses for that tech that would be benificial to mutants in general: giving normal police a less than leathal force option to use against mutant suspects, allowing doctors to perform surgery on invulnerable mutants, etc.

  9. Bradley says:

    The Juggernaut issue was one of my favorites as a kid. It was like a Burt Reynolds movie erupted inside an X-Men book. Re-reading it though I can’t believe you missed Storm’s thought bubble “I love Peter, but better he have died on Battleworld than bring Kitty such grief.” Really Storm? Bit of an overreaction maybe?

    Also in my issue was an ad for the Secret Wars toys and specifically the Doctor Doom figure. I believe this was the first instance of thigh pouches in the Marvel Universe. I imagine Rob Liefeld tracing this figure in the margins of his Algebra book in 1984.

    https://actionfig.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/1984-secret-wars-doctor-doom-1128-124/

  10. I have so many feelings about this episode. Let’ see if I can touch on them all before I have to leave the house to go teach class.

    1. ROM. I love ROM. ROM is my all-time favorite comic. I own not only every issue, but his every appearance in every other Marvel comic and ever appearance of the Dire Wraiths in other comics(that were concurrent with the run of ROM, not some stuff from afterwards, like New Warriors). That said, I don’t want ROM to come back unless it was a total reboot that pretended the first series never happened. One of the things I love about ROM is that his story finished!

    2. ROM was the first place I ever saw Rogue and is also the first place you can see her having the doubts that would soon after send her the X-Men. In fact, ROM has a heart-to-heart with her saying he senses something better in her than the other evil mutants!

    3. My teenaged angst took the form of identifying with Rogue. I even had a streak of white hair since I was in 5th grade.

    4. I love Barry Windsor Smith’s art. It is his art that saves the otherwise poorly executed Machine Man 2020 limited series from the 80s.

    5. I love the pace of comics back then, and I not only read them month-to-month but as someone without regular access to a comic store and thus no pull-list I frequently missed months (it depended what local candy stores and pharmacies got in!) Part of reading comics to me was not only looking back at old issues to figure what the heck was going on in a current issue, but just having to use my imagination to plug the gaps. No sense of completism back then, just a form of macro-closure. The idea that I _HAD_ to own every issues of a series (as opposed to, I would just like to) started with the advent of mini-series.

    6. Rachel Summers is another favorite of mine and another I really identified with – her idealization of a family she barely knew, outsider. . . Also, since I had just missed the Dark Phoenix saga and Days of Future Past when they were first printed, her arrival felt like the beginning of something epic.

    7. I never knew she went back and “fixed” her timeline. I wasn’t into comics when Excaliber was being published. I will need to hunt that down.

    8. I found myself agreeing with Miles more than Rachel this episode about Life-Death. As someone who was closely reading X-Men and ROM at the time, it felt perfect.

    Thanks for another great episode.

  11. Forge actually became a supporting character in ROM for a little bit, drawn by Steve Ditko! ROM also featured some great Sienkiewicz covers around that time, as well as having Ditko primarily inked by P. Craig Russell (though a few other greats got to work on it too).

  12. ray says:

    This is the Claremont era which I think starting to get darker then before. You touched on the episode on some of the things which made me to not like this era of Xmen as much as liked the previous one. Mainly the randomness, the missing clear direction that the series held before. Xmen life death is a good example for that. In the beggining of the story it seemed to me like it’s going to be one of the most rememberable Xmen single issues of all time. Then came the dire wraiths…
    It also featured Rachel Summers and Forge, which in that I really disliked. Rachel part never seemed like it belonged to the book. She just came from the future of DoFP pysically without any explanation of how she has done it, which made it seems like a cheat after establishing in DoFP itself that a person can only send his psyche to the past, but not his or her body. Then she figured she isn’t in the correct timeline, yet she still, again for unexplained reasons, decided to stay and hang out with the Xmen instead of going farther to her correct timeline. It will put the foundation for the other time travelers to just leech on earth 616 1980’s-2000’s (and not any other time in the past) for seemingly no reasons at all.
    Like, does anyone even wonders anymore why Cable doesn’t try to fix his own time anymore and just decided to hang out in the past with his younger dad and be a walking action figure? Rachel Grey was the beggining of this. I remember reading the comics and every time she poped out I was thinking: “What are you still doing here? Go away!” She was without personality. Everything she did was just random: “Hey, why won’t I just grab the Phoenix force for myself from a crystal ball for no clear reason.”
    Then there was Forge who I didn’t like because he was so arrogant and never admitted his (colossal) mistakes.

  13. Kreniigh says:

    Wow, can I even make comments back this far? Is there any point or do I shout into the void unheard?

    There is an Iron Man story related tangentially to the first Forge storyline, and I hated it so much that I wanted to throw it out into light so that others may also hate it. (There was no Internet back then, so we had nowhere to keep our grouphate.)

    There was a mutant villain named the Termite who was proving difficult to contain due to his powers of dissolving his way out of any restraints or prison walls. Iron Man got so pissed off at the guy that he brought in the Scarlet Witch, who gave him Forge’s neutralizer gun — no, I don’t know why she had it — and WITH HER APPROVAL he PERMANENTLY DEPOWERED THE GUY. Which, as I believe Nightcrawler said about the same thing happening to Storm, is tantamount to maiming.

    I could see Stark doing this, maybe, but Wanda’s complicity, and the narrative attitude toward the act as a sort of clever solution, infuriated me and I dropped the book shortly thereafter.

    Whew. Glad I got that off my chest.

    BTW I agree totally w/Ray above about Rachel. I didn’t understand why she was there and I kept waiting for her to go away.

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