X-Men Vignettes #31 (1989)
“Spigot at the End of the Universe”
Writer – Ann Nocenti
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Joe Rosen
Colors – Petra Scotese
Edits – Edelman, Harras, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #31 (March, 1989)
Is this our first Xavier-centric Vignette? I think it is…
Something I’m fairly certain I’ve neglected to mention was the fact that Xavier’s up in Shi’ar Space right now. In fairness, it hasn’t really come up. I think Colossus may’ve mentioned it during his trip back to the Motherland, though.
Anyway… let’s see what Chuck’s gettin’ up to!
We open with Professor X (ironically dressed in a Star Trek-like outfit) playing some three-dimensional chess… with himself. Before you ask – no, that’s not a euphemism. He’s up in the Shi’ar Throneworld at current — kind of the plaything-on-demand for the Majestrix Lilandra Neramani. He appears to have quite the chip on his shoulder, however, as he refuses to let the other aliens play with him. They scoff at him, calling him nothing more than a human… and, what’s more, just a consort. For one of the most brilliant minds on Earth, this is quite the humbling experience. Humans aren’t quite so revered up in deep space… which is odd, considering anytime anything goes sideways up there, it’s left to the humans to fix things. Anyway, he swats the pieces of the board and heads into Lilandra’s War Room to whine a bit.
Well, whine and passive-aggressively attempt to horn in on the planning session. A move that doesn’t go over all that well among the intergalactic hoi-poloi. Lilandra pulls Chuck aside and asserts that he’s kinda embarrassing himself (and her, I suppose) right now. She reminds him that humans are far lesser than the dorks in her council — and again, I get it — but, maybe if humans are so worthless and so far below these other aliens, maybe Marvel can have them not try and invade Earth on a monthly (weekly?) basis?
Lil suggests that Charles go out and get some air… and introduces him to a “lowly” plumber named Chakra… who is a lazy-eyed vegetable woman in overalls. Chakra’s gotta trek into the desert… and asks if Chuck might wanna tag along. He doesn’t seem all that keen on it, but Lilandra presses him til he decides to go. Once out in the wastes, Chakra calls the Professor a puss… err, wait, what? Oh! She’s probably talking about the look on his face, yeah? Charles responds by asking if she’s humiliated by the fact that she’s a plumber… which, I mean — plumbing is skilled work, innit? I doubt Xavier could fix a clog or re-pipe a house.
Chakra, realizing that Xavier is an idiot, doesn’t take offense to the stupid question — and instead, tells him that it’s essential work, and without her there to do it — the Shi’ar big-wigs’d likely be drowning in their own waste. She then goes to take a puff of oxygen, as they’re reaching a point in the wastes where the air isn’t quite so breathable — only to find that she’d forgotten to top off her tanks. Xavier, wisely, suggests they head back as to not, ya know, die a painful and lung-implodey death. Sounds logical, right? Well, unfortunately for him, Chakra sees a meteor shower in the distance she’d really like to stand under… air or not.
Chakra rushes toward the shower… and also the random spigot in the desert she’s out here to service. Charles gives chase to try and talk some sense into her — she tells him to shutuppahisface and save his air. Just then — bada-bing, bada-boom — the meteor shower does its thing. Xavier finds himself lost in the beauty of the cosmic event.
Once it passes, Chakra sets to servicing the spigot. Turns out, there’s also an oxygen refill gimmick on this pipe — so, she fills up their reserves so they might once again experience the pleasure of breathing air. This event, for whatever reason, causes Charles to deduce that Chakra is more than just a common plumber. Well, first of all — we’ve already established that plumbing is hard and skilled work… second — why would wanting to see a meteor shower make anybody… anything? What’s more, he asks why she “pretends to be stupid” by “acting like a common plumber”! So, are we to think that Xavier is an asshole… or that Ann Nocenti doesn’t realize that there’s more to plumbing than wearing a pair of overalls? Either way, our man isn’t coming off all that great here. Lucky for him, Chakra isn’t offended by his ignorance… and so, we can end the scene.
We head back to where we started… and (for whatever reason) Xavier’s a completely changed man — why, he even approaches that alien kid from the beginning and invites them to play some 3-D Chess. Lilandra notices Charles’ (abrupt?) change of heart and heads over for a kiss. Our hero then asks who that odd girl was — to which, Lil says that Chakra is the plumber… and she fixes things. I… think this was supposed to be a far “deeper” line than it actually wound up being. We actually close out with a pin-up of Chakra the Plumber… which is the last we’ll ever see of her. Maybe she headed back to the Asparagus Planet before Dark Phoenix did its thing?
Now, this was kind of a dumb story… but, I actually quite liked it. Maybe not for the reasons Ms. Nocenti might’ve wanted me to like it, as it didn’t come across nearly as deep or profound (to me, anyway) as I believe she expected it to… but, I liked it all the same.
The idea that “Professor Xavier is a Jerk!” is basically a meme at this point, right? Sure, we can talk about him wipin’ minds left and right and lusting after his students — but, it’s in a story like this that we actually see him acting like a jerk in a relatable way. In a human way. Here, we get a bit of insight into — and, as usual, I might be projecting — his own feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Having Xavier in this fish-outta-water type setting, where he is viewed as being “less than”, is quite interesting. Sure, on Earth, mutants are looked down on… however, that’s out of FEAR AND HATE. Also, Xavier isn’t publicly “out” as a mutant, so his x-perience with that sensation is (mostly) second-hand.
Here in space though, he’s viewed as lesser — simply because all the races and species around him are that much more advanced. I feel like there’s a lot of “meat” on this bone, should the then-current-year creative team chose to x-plore it. Rather than accepting his lot and role in this “consort” life, he lashes out. He tries to make those around him feel inferior — to the point where he directs his vitriol at a child who simply wanted nothing more than to play chess with him. And, again, I might be projecting — but, to my mind, one of the first things that leapt off the page to me was how Xavier is x-hibiting signs of poor self-esteem alongside a raging ego.
If you ever have the displeasure of being around someone who doesn’t think much of themselves… you might come to find that, despite their poor self-image, they still have something of an ego. It’s human to have an ego… however, when you lack self-confidence, that ego can become, and I absolutely hate using this word, toxic. Rather than projecting an aura of assuredness or comfort, you instead try to prove you’re the superior being by bringing everyone around you down to your level… or below. Xavier does that here. He’s in his own head “rass’m frass’ming” about how brilliant he is… how important he is. Rather, how brilliant and important he was. Here, he ain’t nothin’ more than a consort. A plaything for the Majestrix. I really feel like they could’ve (should’ve) done more with this.
Pairing Charles with a carefree and confident Chakra the Plumber was a good play. Not that I necessarily understand the “lesson” of their outing, or see the depth in the brief chat I think I was supposed to see… but, because it gave us another scene of Xavier verbally trying to make sense of his new role… while exhibiting great discomfort… and making these blithe, aloof, damn-near offensive remarks about Chakra. Even in the position of “passenger” during this outing… he still attempts to project that he’s above her. I mean, left to the desert wastes, only one of them knows what the hell they’re supposed to be doing and/or how to survive — and, it ain’t Chuck. And yet, he talks down to her all the same.
And the way in which he dismisses her… I mean, words have power, right? Only, the way he was “wielding” them, it didn’t seem like he was choosing them all that wisely. I’m going to assume this was intentional… and not a result of Ann Nocenti really thinking that plumbers are “idiots”. I mean, Ann’s the champion of the “common man”, right? Perhaps it’s a commentary on how we, as a society, might undervalue (or take for granted) the essential blue-collar workers, who do the unglamorous work of… ya know, making sure our toilets flush. That’s almost gotta be it, eh?
Having Xavier… a egotist, who, in this new role — provides and produces nothing (he’s basically Lilandra’s concubine)… aloofly slighting a hard-working essential worker, who has actual tangible value in this society… is very well done. There’s that saying, which I’m going to paraphrase to the point of butchering… where, when you believe in something strongly, and have it disproven, you only dig your heels in deeper… and believe harder. Here, Xavier is face-to-face with the fact that, he doesn’t offer any value here. He’s a jerk, a bully, a blowhard… and those are his good qualities! Chakra, lowly “common plumber” that she is… is called upon for a specific purpose. She’s needed — when something needs fixing, she’s on speed-dial. Charles couldn’t even offer a suggestion during the War Room session without getting sneered at.
Seeing this, it’s easy (for me) to understand why Chuck’s acting the way he is. It’s relatable… for better or for worse. At least it is to me. Like I said at the jump, I feel like when we hit the “lesson” portion of this piece, it kind of fell apart. I get that Xavier had himself an x-perience out there in the wastes… but, the complete 180… feels a bit outta nowhere. I’m okay with it, as it worked to close out the story in a somewhat satisfying way — but, it did seem a bit rushed, and a bit “happily ever after”.
Overall… I liked this. It made me think… it made me look inside myself… and it gave me a better appreciation for Xavier’s time away from the X-Men. Worth a peek!