Marvel Comics Presents #18, 19 & 20 (1989, May)
A couple young kids, Bobbie and Mary Campbell, are being taken away in a bubble of energy as they sleep. Moira is watching it happen. The next day, Banshee tells Scott why he wanted Scott there. Over the past few months, something has felt of about Moira. He felt like he was being watched, but he was sleeping unusually well, until he woke one morning and found Moira slumped against a wall in the hall. Scott says she might have been sleepwalking, but Banshee says there’s more. One morning, after a night with a fierce storm, he found her boots covered in mud, and he followed her tracks in the mud, and they disappeared at one spot. Moira rushes out to say that she’s been called out to see a sick girl, Mary Campbell. Mary’s brother, Bobbie, says little people in lights did it.
That night, a light floats into Moira’s house, and attacks Scott, while Moira follows a summons. She confirms that Mary is infected with a virus, and it turns out she’s working for Master Mold.
This is a really good installment. There’s a lot here. It starts off with some good Claremont-esque narration about the kids enjoying ghost stories. We get a bit of exposition from Banshee to explain why he called Scott in. We get a good scene as Moira angsts about the kid she can’t help. And then we get an answer to what’s going on. All in 8 pages. Harras uses the MCP format to maximum effectiveness here. It’s great plotting with some good character work. As for the art? Well, I talked yesterday about how great Lim is. It’s still true here. Lim kills it. This story has particularly good use of light and shadows to maintain mystery and tension.
#19, with Part III, “The Price of Retribution.”
Mary Campbell’s in a hospital, and a nurse is checking up on her. Mary’s eyes open and glow, and the room goes crazy, until she passes back out. Mary’s a mutant. But now, to Master Mold, who praises Moira for her creation of a virus designed to kill mutants. We’re just a few years from the start of the Legacy Virus story. The Legacy Virus happened while Bob Harras was editor of the X-Men line. I guess he really liked the idea of a virus that killed mutants. Presumably, he liked the idea as an AIDS metaphor, though it’s a really terrible metaphor, given AIDS was never a disease that specifically targeted gay men, it was only perceived that way by homophobic assholes. Regardless, I do find it interesting to see Harras doing something now that he’d later use his editorial power to spread across the franchise.
But anyway! Master Mold has Moira under mind control. He also mentions that he’s Stephen Lang, trapped in Master Mold’s body, as a result of Scott’s actions. He starts a rant, but gets interrupted by Conscience, to let him know that Banshee’s contracted the virus, and has been taken to the hospital by Scott. Master Mold sends some drones to knock everyone out and kidnap Banshee and Mary. Scott is attacked by little robot dudes, and blasts them away, and manages to stop Moira from going back into a teleportation beam.
Another good installment. Less happens here. We get some more explanations about exactly what’s going on, with Moira and Master Mold and the sick girl. It’s an interesting enough plot. Of course, there’s also some actual plot development, with Master Mold taking Mary and Banshee. Again, Harras uses the 8-page format very well, treating each part as a complete “issue” of its own. A lot of times, these multi-part MCP stories were written for the trade, so to speak, with no real consideration given to how they’d read serialized. So people wrote full-issue stories that would then be split up into multiple parts, with some parts often feeling lackluster. Harras avoids that pitfall, and clearly put effort into making sure it would read well in the format it’s presented in.
And #20, with Part IV, “Conscience of the King.”
Banshee and Mary are in stasis tubes, being carried by Master Mold’s robot Servitors. Master Mold is pouting at Scott stealing Moira from him, but Conscience assures him it’s a temporary setback. Conscience is a robot made with the engrams of Stephen Lang. He promises to take care of Scott and Moira. On Muir Island, Scott’s unable to contact Ship, and the weather’s too bad to get to the mainland, as Callisto notes. Moira gives him more bad news: he has the virus. Callisto guesses she has it, too, and she’s angry that she didn’t do a better job protecting Moira. Conscience attacks with a horde of Servitors. Fight fight fight, Scott, Moira and Callisto are defeated.
This is the first installment that doesn’t feel complete. It feels like it ends in the middle of a scene. It is a cliffhanger, but it’s a cliffhanger that shouldn’t really be a cliffhanger, somehow. Maybe that final panel just needed more space. I don’t know. This is the weakest installment of the story so far. The introduction of Conscience is fairly interesting, though he’s such a weird character. He’s supposed to be based on Stephen Lang, but he’s more darkly comic than Lang ever was. Cracking jokes and just acting odd, not at all like Lang. I’m not sure the character really works.
At least the art’s still great.