X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Thirteen (1987)

X-Men Vignettes, Chapter 13 (1987)
“Lifesigns”
Writer – Chris Claremont
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Colors – Petra Scotese
Edits – Kavanagh, Nocenti, Shooter
From: Classic X-Men #13 (September, 1987)

If this were an audio outing, this would be one’a them “interesting episodes”. Not interesting as in I’ll say anything worth hearing — that’s almost never the case, but “interesting” as, I’d just had a(nother) crown put in… and so, much of my speech has come through gritted teeth for the past 24-or-so hours.

Folks who have followed X-Lapsed will likely be familiar with the last few “gritted teeth” episodes. To be honest, those were the shows I did the least amount of back-end touch up on… because I just didn’t wanna know how awful they sounded! So, I guess, thankfully — this is a text-only affair. If you really want the “full x-perience” read these next several dozen paragraphs aloud through your own gritted teeth. Heck, that might actually make the story we’re about to discuss a little bit interesting!

We open with Jean on the beach sat before, what else, a fire. Much of this story is told in her Claremontian captions — and, I tell ya, it’s… odd. Not bad odd or good odd… just plain ol’ odd. Claremont is in a bit of a weird spot here, having to treat this character as something not entirely Jean, and not entirely Phoenix — but, somehow both in order to make it work. And, don’t get me wrong, I’d say he’s successful in doing so — it’s just a bit… ya know, odd. So yeah, Jeanix is sitting in front of a bonfire on the beach. A little ways down the shore is her roommate, Misty Knight – who after succumbing to a sudden blast of narcolepsy, begins to dream about her partners, Danny “Iron Fist” Rand, and Colleen “That other Daughter of the Dragon” Wing. Okay, it’s more that she’s thinking not dreaming — but, she’s drawn to look like she’s a corpse that washed up on the beach. I really thought this was a dead body!

Anyway, Jeanix can sense Misty’s worry — and so, she telepathically tells her where Danny and Colleen have gotten off to. They’re back at the beach house they’re sharing for the weekend, digging through the fridge for a midnight snack. Jeanix then facilitates Misty having an out of body experience fighting a gang of dancing (?) street toughs called the Sharks. She’s joined by Colleen. I… why?

Misty turns her head, and instead of seeing the inner-city, she sees a lush green field where Iron Fist is standing with a dumb look on his face. Our gal busts out of her DotD costume and into a white gown — but finds herself stuck between her love for Danny and her hetero-affection for Colleen? I think?

But, ya see, those two aren’t the only people vying for Misty’s affecattention — there’s yet another — there is Jeanix, who shares the bejeezus out of her by… ya know, performing that big ol’ flaming bird gimmick. I mean, didn’t Jean and Misty like just meet a couple weeks ago? Jeanix’s got some interpersonal issues, methinks.

It’s here where Misty snaps out of the Astral Whateverthehell. She let’s out a shout, which Jeanix asks her about. Misty sits down beside her to chat a bit. She brings up how, they’ve only known each other a little while, and yet — she feels closer to her than folks she’s known her whole life. She also comment on how Jean’s changed since her stint in the hospital. I think at this point we can safely say the jig is up, and that Misty knows that Jean is/was Marvel Girl. Jeanix comments on how she has in fact changed since her time in space. She’s no longer the woman she was. She knows she looks, feels, and acts like Jean Grey — however, there’s this ever-lingering “but”. This deep-dive into her psyche is cut short at this point, by a distant cry for help.

This story was… borderline, up to this point. It’s here that my thumb will go from “leaning down” to… just plain “down”. Jean rushes to the shore where she spies a small speedboat. She TKs her way onto the thing… then nabs her roommate with a TK fist to drag her along. So yeah, I’m goin’ with the idea that Misty does know about Jean’s Mutantness, eh?

The Daughters of the Phoenix arrive in… well, the middle of nowhere. Like a few miles out in the sea. Jean stops the boat and dives into the drink. Misty is left there, probably a little bit more bamboozled than we all are in the reading. She then sees a shark fin come up to the surface. Realizing that, if Jean gets eaten, she’ll have to come up with the entire rent next month — she dives in as well.

Underwater, Misty proceeds to punch the shark in the face. I guess that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re in a shark-attack situation? I suppose it helps that Misty’s got a bionic arm or whatever. Too bad it really doesn’t do all that much to slow the shark down. It’s too bad she doesn’t have a can of BaT ShArK rEpElLeNt… that would’a be the wOOoooOOooorst hilaaaaaaaaaarious. Misty winds up getting quite the shark-tooth back massage… which is usually the sort of thing you need to pay extra for.

Before Misty can be completely gobbled up, the shark is headbutted by a dolphin! Misty gets back up to the surface and safely into the speedboat. Jean is already there, and claims responsibility for sending in the dolphin to save her. I mean, if Jeanix is able to “dur hur, talk to fish”, why didn’t see, ya know, just tell the shark to back the eff off? I dunno. Anyway, it’s here that Jean informs Misty that they were out here to save that family of dolphins. This, as you might imagine, ticks Misty off. Which, I mean — sure, dolphins are cool and all — but, if I see one being attacked by a shark, jumping in to save the poor thing is wayyyyy down my list of priorities.

From here we get a couple of pages of Jean putting Misty’s mind into a dolphin to show her why she wanted to save it. I’m sorry gang, I’ve pretty much already checked out at this point. I get what Claremont’s getting at… I just don’t care. The story wraps with Misty and Jeanix hugging it out — with the latter saying that she. is. phoenix. for like the fiftieth time, and how she hopes Misty will “take her as she is”… which, I didn’t even know was a worry she had?

Wow… talk about a case of x-whiplash. We go from yesterday’s amazing Magneto Vignette to… this?

I didn’t really care for this one. While I like the idea of seeing how “Jean” is dealing with her new normal — this just felt a bit forced. Like, we know this isn’t actually Jean, they spoiled that whole eventual reveal several chapters back. We know from the main X-Men series that the Phoenix was supposed to actually be Jean, so it stands to reason we get a bit of… I dunno “personality dissonance”? The character who Claremont and Byrne crafted during their original go-round… wasn’t actually the character they thought. So, it takes a bit of straddling to smoothly add to the Jeanix mythos without contradicting anything that’s come before. It’s a big ask, and a big task — which, while successfully done here, just wasn’t all that fun a read.

This was kind of a “Dagwood Sandwich” story… in that, all we really needed to have was the Jeanix/Misty conversation on the beach. We didn’t need the Danny/Colleen bits, we damn sure didn’t need the shark attack. Just have the chat. We know Claremont is more than capable of writing an effective discussion… so, why not just do that? It’s not like this was the lead-off story in the issue, where it required “x amount of panels” of action or superheroics… it could’ve just been two new-ish friends becoming closer and comforting one another.

It’s clear from the telling that Misty is having some sort of concerns about Danny and Colleen… whether she feels like they’re both vying for her time/attention… or, perhaps it’s something more akin to distrusting them being alone together. I (like most people on the planet, then and now) never read Iron Fist, so I couldn’t say. While I maintain that this wasn’t a necessary nugget to drop into the story — the fact that Claremont did… and then did eff-all with it… makes it feel like an afterthought. Or, worse yet, CC plugging his own work from a decade prior… that, as mentioned — very few people seemed to have read?

I tell ya what, I usually give these stories a quick flip-thru before actually sitting down to read ’em… and, when I saw that panel of Misty laying on the beach (who I didn’t realize was MIsty — I thought it was just a random corpse), I assumed we were going to be getting into some sort of murder mystery… or, at the very least a Jaws situation where Jeanix was going to make the beaches safe again. I… think I’d have rather discussed either of those stories than the one we actually got!

Overall — a case of “ya can’t win ’em all”… but also (hopefully) a case of “your mileage may vary”. I hope you all enjoyed this one more than I did!

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One thought on “X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Thirteen (1987)

  • March 30, 2022 at 8:18 am
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    I think I can see what Claremont was going for here. Jean is not Jean. She is Phoenix trying to be Jean and her closest friends are just pushing the subtle changes in her personality to, “She’s been through a lot lately. She’s just stressed.” While someone like Misty who was only just learning who Jean was can see the changes clearer.
    Also Phoenix does not see life like humans do. To Phoenix it is just as important to save the lives of intelligent dolphins as it is to save humans. While humans just see dolphins as animals and below human standards of being deserving of life. Humans and dolphins are both animal species to Phoenix and are both just as important and deserving to live.
    It makes the fact that Dark Phoenix would destroy an entire planet of intelligent beings more tragic since it is shown here that Phoenix sees all life as valuable and doesn’t want harm to come to any living thing. Phoenix is good and the manipulation of her by Mastermind caused Dark Phoenix to go against everything that Phoenix held true.
    You really need to dig to see it but I think that is the message we are supposed to take away from this story.

    Reply

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