X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Thirty-Six (1989)

X-Men Vignettes #36 (1989)
“Outside In”
Writer – Fabian Nicieza
Pencils – Mark Bright
Inks – Joe Rubenstein
Letters – Joe Rosen
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Edelman, Harras, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #36 (August, 1989)

Now, here’s an odd little ditty to revisit — taking into account the massive changes that hit the line in mid-2019. If “old” Moira is a new character or concept to you — I’ll do my best to make this as easy and unconfusing a read as possible. Well, to the best of my own somewhat lacking ability, anyway!

Basically, what you need to know is – Moira’s not a mutant, and her son’s conception wasn’t some odd “orchestration” between she and Xavier to ensure they had the most advantageous offspring(s). Now that I think of it — I hope I’m able to keep it all straight!

Anyway… let’s welcome Fabian Nicieza to the scribe-seat (we survived our detour though Nocenti-land, more or less unscathed!), and take a look at Moira’s first futzin’ with the concept of… Resurrection!

We open, I’m assuming on Muir Island, where Moira MacTaggert (Life Ten, for all y’all in the know) is stood before the gravesites of her son Kevin, and abusive a-hole ex-husband, Joe. This is shortly after the Proteus storyline in X-Men, naturally. Moira is chatting with herself about her current situation — and it’s pretty bleak. She notes that her beau, Banshee is waiting for her, a respectable distance away — by the car, while she mourns in the rain. She wonders why she hasn’t let him try and help her grieving process… as it’s clear he’d like to. She hops back in the hooptie, and barely even addresses Sean, other than to tell him to take her home. Which he does. Next we know, we’re at Moira’s place, where Sean is offering her a cuppa tea. She… snaps at him, calling him dense for not realizing that she’d like to be left alone for a bit. So… he leaves her be.

Banshee heads over to the in-house gymnasium to get in some upper-body work and wallow in his lost powers… leaving Moira to engage in some sketchy studies. Ya see, she’s been studying cloning. The potentially-peer-reviewed piece is titled: Cloning: The Possibilities and the Ramifications. So… Resurrection Protocols 1.0? Can someone hook a lady up with some Goldballs? It’s worth noting that Moira feels very bad about being such a “witch” to Sean.

Sean returns from pumpin’ iron a little bit later… only to find the living room empty, Moira’s cuppa tea still steaming on the coffee table. Wow, that was either a really short workout… or some really hot tea. Where’s Moira? Well, she’s in the lab, along with her freeze-dried son! Kevin MacTaggert’s corpse lay in an airtight tube for preservation… which might tell us that Moira’s been considering this clone endeavor from the very start. In her “voiceover”, it’s confirmed that Kevin’s conception was an act of hatred and violence — the implication is that Moira was raped — confirmation is forthcoming in just a few pages. It’s been many minutes, and I can’t remember if this was made clear in the original Proteus story… or, if it was only alluded to and still maybe too taboo a subject for comics to tackle in the late-70s? Of course, we “current year” post-HoXPoX types know that Kevin’s conception went down somewhat differently than this.

Sean somehow immediately knows what Moira’s got in mind… and he goes charging down to the lab. Unfortunately for him, it’s locked… and his personal access code (SUCRETS — geddit?) has been deactivated. He shouts through the thick metal door for Moira to truly consider her actions before… well, acting. She assures him… or, at least she narrates to herself… that she knows what she’s doing.

Sean retreats back to the living area, where he proceeds to… sit down with Moira’s family photo album. I’m not completely sure why he’s doing this… maybe it’s obvious and I’m just missing the point, or maybe it’s just a way to semi-organically fill in some of Mo’s backstory? I dunno. Anyway, Sean’s flipping through the album, reading it for “the articles” ya see… and he comes across a trio of photos. One from Moira and Joe’s wedding, another with she and Xavier clownin’ around, and finally the snap from when she was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Meanwhile, back in the lab, Moira is delicately removing a sliver of skin from her dead son’s corpse’s right shoulder. The sample plops onto a slide… and SHOOMPs outta the canister for further and closer study.

Moira’ ticker-tape lab gimmick starts squirtin’ out paper… which our lady reads. It looks like, with what she has available – cloning is an option. Looks like it might be a race against the clock though, as Banshee comes to the realization that he can override the Lab Access keypad gimmick. Not sure why he didn’t just do that the first time around, but… okay.

Sean enters just as Moira’s about to dump the contents of a wide beaker into a pool of… I dunno, maybe it’s the stuff from the Creepy Crawlers playset thing? Ya know, that goop that you’d heat under a lightbulb, ala the Easy Bake Oven, so it would harden into like (inedible… unless you’re really hungry, I guess) “gummy” insects. Maybe it’s a pool’a that stuff? Anyway, Sean tries to get Moira to reconsider her actions… but, she’s pretty set on going through with it. She sees it as giving her son a second chance… to live a more innocent life. This odd cloning “conception” removes the violent taint, of Joe MacTaggert’s rape. Moira reminds Sean that Proty is a reality warper… and could recreate himself. To which, Sean asks why he hasn’t done so yet.

Sean continues to try reasoning… and ultimately, Moira collapses into his arms, dropping the Creepy Crawler fluid canister, shattering it all over the floor. Sean reminds her of all the good she’s done for other mutants… and how, so much of her research came from her attempts at curing (or counteracting) her son, Mutant X. With that in mind, Kevin actually has left a legacy… a good one.

We get a couple of pages of them chatting about doing something to Sean’s throat… and having a whiskey, I’m not sure in which order. Before they leave the lab, however, Moira heads over to the console… and presses the button that disengages the airlock on Kevin’s tube. His well-preserved corpse is kissed by the air… and decomposes almost instantly. Moira says that thing Ezio says when he kills someone in Assassin’s Creed II, and we’re outta here.

Ya know, back in the long ago, when I first read that Chris Claremont was hesitant to x-pand the X-Men into a franchise… I thought he was dead wrong in his thinking… for a few reasons. Of course, there’s commercial and financial stuff — but, I also “bought in” on this huge cast of characters, who I felt all needed a place where they could shine. Like, without an X-Factor… how much “paginal real estate” could a Guido Carosella x-pect to get? It might go without saying that I was a much younger fella when I initially had these thoughts.

Coming in to the fandom when I did, I never had the opportunity to see/read X-Men as the semi-tightly-knit four-color soap opera that it had been for the decade and a half prior. For me, it was about the sprawl… and I had a “more books the better” mentality (so long as those books were a buck ‘n a quarter on the racks). I loved getting my “weekly fix” and couldn’t imagine living in a world where I only got to read one X-Book a month. To say my mind has changed in the years since… well, I mean, that’s pretty much what I’ve been building toward saying over the past couple of paragraphs…

Getting a story like this… which is, to my mind, so dependent on things occurring a certain way — makes me yearn for an era of X-Men I wasn’t even a part of. Sure plotlines were left to “dangle”, but for the most part, the stories presented were cohesive… made sense… and fit. That’s becoming my main takeaway in doing this Vignette Project. The X-Men were in the “seminal stages of sprawl” in the mid-late 80s. It was a family of five at this point (not counting Classix), if I’m not mistaken: Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, New Mutants, Excalibur, and Wolverine… there’s also Alpha Flight, where yer mileage may vary. We had that many titles already, and yet — everything still felt like it fit.

Even the oft derided (sometimes even deservedly so) 90’s glut of X-Books managed to, at the very least, try and make everything work. It really wasn’t until the “star writer era” after the turn of the century, where the X-Books kinda just went their own ways… contradicted one another… added and removed bits of history, which wouldn’t even be acknowledged across the board. Characters would die in one book, yet still be alive and kicking in another. It became a cesspool of editorial incompetence and indifference.

So, what is it about this story in particular that’s drumming up all these “entitled, gatekeeping, manbaby” (did I get them all?) feelings in me? Well, I suppose it’s, in a way, the most relevant to what’s going on today in the X-Books. A story like this… I suppose it could’ve happened in a post-HoXPoX world… but, it wouldn’t hold near as much import — at least not to me. I hesitate to use a word like “cheapen”… but, I’m struggling to come up with another that would fit as well. The current state of things… well, it kinda cheapens this, dunnit? Maybe it’s just me.

First: I mean, it’s all about the finality of death… and acceptance, which is something mutants don’t have to do anymore. If you’re following the current-year stuff, you’ll know that Proteus is alive and well… and is a very important cog in the Krakoan engine. It’s also been revealed (I wanna say I discussed this as part of the 12-or-so hour long X-Lapsed, Episode 200: X of Swords Handbook) that Moira and Xavier chose their mating partners with the x-press purpose of having some advantageous offspring. Charles with Gabrielle Haller (remember “X-Twitter X-Scholars”, Legion isn’t Moira’s kid), Moira with Joe MacTaggert. In the post-HoXPoX landscape, Moira didn’t marry Joe until her 10th Life… and, she only did so to produce Proteus. Was it still a rape? That I couldn’t say… as I honestly don’t remember. I’ve spent several thousand hours with the current year stuff over the past eighteen months… so, to say it’s mostly a muddled mess would be an understatement.

All’s I’m saying is… stories like this, sadly don’t stand the test of time — not by any fault of its own, but simply due to endless attempts at reinventing the wheel. In a vacuum, I quite enjoyed it… but, I gotta say, if I’d read this in 2018, I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it a whole lot more. All this to say, Chris Claremont was right. From a creative (and sensical) standpoint, the X-Line should’a remained “lean and mean”… even if that meant that 12-year old Chris wouldn’t get his weekly fix.

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3 thoughts on “X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Thirty-Six (1989)

  • April 27, 2022 at 10:14 am
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    Great post. I certainly began losing interest as the X-Men became a line of books. Didn’t even follow Excalibur regularly. I liked New Mutant and Peter David’s X-Factor. Never bothered with X-Force, still never willingly bought a title with Cable in it. Today the X-titles are indeed an unwelcoming mess.

    I love the line in this story – which I’d not read – about Moria being a gun-toting housekeeper. Indeed. A true Claremontwoman.

    You got me, why ‘ SUCRETS’?

    Reply
    • May 3, 2022 at 11:17 am
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      I’m pretty sure it is referring to the cough crop / throat lozenge brand called ‘Sucrets’.

      Reply
  • April 27, 2022 at 2:59 pm
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    Mark Bright is just one of those artists who remind me of the 80’s. I have always liked his art no matter what he was drawing.
    We seem to be getting more vignettes that tie into the reprint story lately. Maybe just before the action or just after it or even between panels. These are some of my favorites. I wonder if the readers of the time were commenting on this same thing in the letters pages and editorial pushed for more of those kind of stories.
    I have not read a modern comic book since 2009, and I have no intention of reading one anytime soon. There’s a thing I do with DC comics (that it seems may be necessary to do with Marvel now) where I see all the stories before a reboot as a separate universe of sorts. Everything golden age is one universe, silver age is another universe, bronze age is still another. Then pre Crisis and post crisis, then new 52. They all have value to someone and are equal in my eyes. So I can read this vignette safe in the universe in which it was written and no HoXPoX POS can affect me. My Moira only lived one life.

    Reply

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