Marvel Fanfare #40 (1988, October)
First, by Nocenti, Mazzucchelli, David Hornung and John Workman, “Chiaroscuro.” This issue is set during Mephisto vs. X-Factor, from May 1987. An old woman is reading the Bible with her grandson. She’s reading from Isaiah, and he wants to hear about a big battle she told him about, and she says it must have been something, with a flurry of wings and flash of swords. The bratty little jerk grabs her coin purse out of her pocket, and then leaves. She goes into the kitchen, where her toast has burnt, and she can’t figure out the plugs, so she goes outside. She tries to get an apple off the tree in her back yard, but a neighbour sees her standing on a basket and a bucket, and leads her back inside. She looks at a needlepoint sketch she’s done, and thinks it needs something. She turns on the TV, and it’s all about violence and death and mayhem. Which is a pretty accurate representation of TV news, really. Poor Josie feels old and useless and just wants to leave.
She thinks about when she was young, then sees an angel (or an Angel) falling in the rear view mirror. She goes to check it out.
She thinks he’s an actual angel, and he rambles about a battle, and needing his feathers, so she starts collecting them. She brings him inside and puts him on her bed, face-down, so she can start gluing his feathers back on. She decides to keep one. He mumbles about the Beast, which she takes as a reference to the Biblical Beast, from Revelations. It’s actually a pretty reasonable misunderstanding, honestly. As she works, she notices her arthritis pain is gone. She goes to make him some food, and finishes her sketch. She then decides not to steal the feather, and puts it back on, as well. She wakes Angel with the food, and he’s a good dude.
She does insist he eat something before he go.
Angel’s so good in this story, he actually makes an old woman become awesome.
This is a great story. It’s so nice. It starts with Josie feeling like a useless old woman who’s tired of life. But Angel’s presence renews her faith, and also makes her feel alive for the first time in years. Her arthritis pain goes away, she finishes a sketch she’s been working on for 15 years, and in the end, she reclaims herself and her sense of identity. It’s sweet. I’m assuming her arthritis going away was meant to be symbolic, but it does suggest that Angel actually does have curing abilities.
Mazzucchelli’s art is phenomenal. There’s a great use of shadow and light. There’s nice expressiveness, and some really subtle expressiveness, as well. He makes Angel look genuinely angelic, letting us see him through her eyes. And it’s just really, really pretty art. So pretty. I kinda wish Nocenti and Mazzucchelli had done more work together, because they mesh really well here.
And the second story, by Claremont, Craig Hamilton, Rick Bryant, Scotese and Novak, “Deal With the Devil!” This story is set between panels of Uncanny X-Men #185, from 1984. This story has dual narration, from Storm and Mystique. And right off: Hot damn.
Seriously, just look at that. That is magnificent. She goes into a bit of a dive club, to meet Mystique, who’s arranged the meeting. And is initially disguised as Storm’s “sister.” It’s, uh, something.
Mystique then shifts to resemble Kitty, which pisses Storm off even more. Though I do want to give Mystique credit: She includes a Star of David pendant. I appreciate her attention to detail. She changes back to Storm again.
I’m sorry, Mystique, but the swastikas completely ruin the illusion. Has there been a black person in the past 80 years who’s worn a swastika? I find that doubtful. Regardless, Storm’s had quite enough, as the crack of lightning and heavy rain demonstrates. Even Mystique finds it a bit scary. She asks where Rogue is, and Storm says she’s run away, and they argue for a bit until a waiter in what I will charitably call an outfit shows up.
Mystique, who still looks like Storm, gives the waiter a quick make-out, to rile Storm up some more. And finally, Mystique explains why she called Storm. She says Rogue’s being hunted by a task force. Remember, this was right after Rogue attacked the SHIELD Helicarrier to save Rossi. She also mentions the gun that can strip powers. She gives Storm a list of locations to search for Rogue, suggesting she start with Caldecott County. Storm wants to know why Mystique is asking the X-Men to find Rogue.
Storm leaves, so Mystique joins Destiny at another table. Destiny asks if Mystique told Storm about her vision that whoever goes to help Rogue will be hit with the Neutralizer. Destiny feels guilty about not warning Storm, and Mystique comforts her by asking for a dance.
This is an interesting story. It explains how Storm found Rogue way back in UXM #185, though we didn’t really need to know it happened this way. I’m pretty sure everyone assumed Xavier found her. Well, it’s still interesting. The dynamic between Storm and Mystique is cool. I get the impression Mystique actually kinda likes Storm, which is why she enjoys messing with her. She wants to see just how far she can push Storm, and what happens if she pushes too far. It makes for a fascinating tension between them.
This story is probably the strongest hint to date that Mystique and Destiny are lovers. They talk about how much they care for each other, Mystique thinks about how beautiful Destiny is. And then she turns into a man so they can dance romantically. It’s as close as Claremont ever gets to on-panel confirmation that they’re lovers. (Sadly, Claremont never had on-panel confirmation of any characters being queer, even during his returns to the franchise, when he would have been allowed to do it. He prefers to keep it subtext, which is bullshit. But whatever.) Mystique kissing the waiter does make me want to see a similar scene where she kisses a waitress, or another random woman, just for the fun of it. We’ve never actually seen Mystique kissing a woman. It’s a bit irritating that Marvel’s most prominent bisexual character only ever hooks up with the opposite sex. Someone get the hell on that. Let Mystique hook up with a woman. Just frigging do it already.
Anyway. The art on this story isn’t as strong as on the first one. For the most part, the art’s good, but there are a few panels where faces look off. That Storm panel, though. That’s one of the most epic Storm images I’ve ever seen, and Storm drips epicness.
So, yeah, this is a good comic. It’s really cool. Two solid stories. Not vital ones, but enjoyable ones.