X-Men Vignettes, Chapter 14 (1987)
“What Stuff Our Dreams Are Made Of…”
Writer – Chris Claremont
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Kavanagh, Nocenti, Shooter
From: Classic X-Men #14 (October, 1987)
Ya know, I had this whole pre-ramble prepared today… was going to delve a bit deeper into the concept of my comixistential crisis. I’ve had some chats with a few of my closest pals about it, and planned to share some of my takeaways here with you all. Buuuuuut…
Realizing that, ya know… nobody really cares whether or not I still wanna read comics… I’ll spare ya all the trouble of having to scroll or finger-flick to today’s actual “content”.
I do wish I could think of something (anything!) to vamp and kill some time here above the dashes though… because, friends, we’re heading into Shi’ar space for this one! Joy.
Well… hrmm… if you know anything about my likes and dislikes when it comes to comic book storytelling, whether we’re talking X-Men, Teen Titans, Superman, Spider-Man… really most any character… mine eyes usually glaze over during stints of “space sh*t”. So, as we open this Vignette with a full-page splash of… Lilandra, I’m already trying to work out the physics on where I should lay a pillow or two, just in case my brain turns off and I pass out while attempting to discuss it! Okay, let’s do it… Lilandra and her crew of rebels are attempting to flee from her brother D’Ken’s Shi’ar Imperial fleet. It’s funny… sometimes I’ll use the Marvel Wiki to help me confirm minor characters I can namedrop… this time out… not even the Wiki cared enough to name anybody besides Lilandra herself! Man, if only this thing had six or seven variant covers, then I’m sure somebody at the Wiki would’ve given half a damn! So yeah, Lil’s being threatened by a hologram of D’Ken. He calls her a traitor, and pretty much vows to take her out.
Just then, a fleet of Pathfinders arrive on the spacey scene. These are Princess Lil’s “elite exploratory fleet”, and they’re here to aid in rescuing her. The Pathfinders proceed to blast, and amid the distraction, Lilandra is able to disarm one of D’Ken’s armored imperials. She then uses their laser blaster to start shooting her path to freedom.
She manages to escape to a little jumpship or something. Once inside, she finds herself bombarded by some stray psychic energies coming from Earth. Ya see, this is occurring parallel to X-Men #65 (February, 1970), when Professor X linked all minds on Earth to stop the invasion of the Z’Nox. This is a heckuva callback… though, was also revealed in the main story of this issue of Classix (X-Men #107). Lilandra like, immediately falls in love with the Prof… or, at the very least is quite enamored by him. Pretty odd how Xavier is usually overt with his mental perversion… whereas, here, it’s completely by accident that he’s able to mentally woo and win over an intergalactic Princess.
Lil’s still pretty shaken… and things begin to go wonky. It’s as though she’s become part Lilandra/part Xavier… mentally, that is. Sorta kinda? Her appearance has not changed… she’s still the birdy-lookin’ Shi’ar Whateverthehell. So, the Xavierish bits of her brain are surprised to see vestigial feathers on “their” forearms. The Lilandra bits realize that her legs can no longer carry her. It’s really not easy to explain with my limited writery abilities… so, here are the panels:
Our gal is able to make her way to a wall in order to hold herself up… while still struggling with the Xavierian hoo-doo that’s occupying her brain. She realizes that none of this makes any sense — as, this creepy bald man is but a stranger to her. But… she recognizes him as a friend, comrade, and maybe more. Once again, her legs give out. She wonders aloud what’s happening to her… and is reminded that “her” legs were once crushed by Lucifer. B-b-b-b-but, who’s Lucifer (don’t ask)?! What’s more… who is she?! I can’t say this isn’t well done… but, I also sadly can’t say that I give much of a hoot.
Lilandra drags herself over to a med-bed to undergo a health scan… or something, and discovers that she is in 100% tip-top perfect health. But, why then… won’t her legs work?! She notes her reflection in a monitor… and notes that her image has kind of merged with Xavier’s. Though, to be completely honest, it isn’t immediately clear to this observer. I mean, Lilandra’s design is fairly basic, right? She could very well have a bald head under that odd ugly headdress. I mean, does she? I honestly can’t remember! So, the image we see here… is only “telling” if we focus on it for a few moments. Thankfully the next panel clarifies it a bit more by removing the Shi’ar elements from the reflection.
This (rightly?) freaks her out to the point where she starts pounding the bejeezus out of the poor, defenseless monitor… causing it to actually explode? I guess BIG Jim Shooter said this one needed an x-tra beat of action? Maybe Claremont’s (already too long) script came in a page or two short? I dunno…
Anyway, as the dust (literally) settles, Lilandra changes into her more militaristic costume. She then checks out the situation outside, and finds that her fleet of Pathfinders have been soundly slaughtered by D’Ken’s Imperials. She buries her head in her hands knowing that the universe is doomed (to have to endure some x-tremely boring space stories).
Seeing as though her options are quite limited at this point, Lilandra recalls her odd connection with the creepy bald Earth mutant… and decides to don that off Minnie Mouse-lookin’ helmet we saw her in during her first few “Xavierian Nightmare” appearances… and… we’re off to the races. Odd, and barely worth noting… this story appears to have “run long”, and so this last bit is actually printed on the inside-back cover of the issue.
During several of our recent visits, I’ve commented on how deftly and concisely Claremont was able to tell his tales. In an era where even a single bowel movement would take five or six issues, seeing CC give us fleshed out, thought-provoking, and insightful stories… feels like such a feat. I’ve mentioned a few times already that in the age of decompression, many of these Vignettes would’ve spanned entire trade-paperbacks’ worth of pages.
I’ve thanked the comics deities for these concise, to-the-point, little ditties — and used our discussions here to poke a little bit of fun at the “current day” method.
Then… we get this chapter. Which, sure it doesn’t span multiple issues… but it still feels incredibly decompressed to fit a certain page count. That’s… I mean, I can’t really complain, as every issue of a comic book has a page count it needs to meet. Whether or not a story merits that page count is another matter altogether. Being that these are Vignettes, focused squarely on one character and/or moment in time, there are stricter parameters in play. Claremont can’t give us a “Meanwhile…” or an “At that very moment…” sort of segue, because the mission statement here kinda prohibits it.
Question is… did we need this story to be told at such length? Well, maybe it’s my own space-bias talking here, but I’d say no. From this very same issue of Classix, Lilandra basically tells this entire story over the course of a single page. I tell ya what, even this oner was a bit of a chore to read.
So yeah, not my cuppa tea… but, then again, this could’ve been the greatest eight pages ever put on paper, and I’d barely be able to even muster a shrug. If you dig the Shi’ar, if you enjoy intergalactic civil wars, if you have an affinity for bird-lookin’ humanoids — you’ll probably like this a whole lot more than I did!