[Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Claremont's X-Men run. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the label below]
“Where Duty Lies”
A letter writer to the X-Men once pointed out the way Chris Claremont not only seems to favor the female members of his cast, but actually is a little bit cruel to his males. Issue 219 was cited by the correspondent as a case in point: After inviting Dazzler to join them in issue 214 – partly out of a desire to keep her safe from the Marauders -- their reaction to Havok when he arrives at the mansion is to erase his memories and send him back to New Mexico the first time. The second time, they seem to consider killing him (!). Certainly Claremont’s logic seems unaccountably bent in this issue. Also, his writing is sloppy. As established in last issue’s cliffhanger, Havok has come to the mansion with a specific purpose: to warn the X-Men that a Brood ship has landed on Earth. That plot thread is not even mentioned here – it’s lost in the massive logic-gap that seems to swallow up most of this issue.
Claremont also seems to have forgotten a lot of Alex Summers’ character history as well, if the narration is any indication. Alex’s rampant hatred for Magneto seems out of proportion, given that the X-Men never fought Magneto while Havok was a member. (This could perhaps be explained by Havok knowing about Lorna’s history with Magneto – although, Lorna actually only ever encountered a robot duplicate, but then again she might not realize that ... ah, the complexities of X-Men continuity....) Alex also makes mention of bad memories that he associates with the school, even though he attended the school only very briefly during X-Men history, and accrued few bad memories during that time as far as readers are aware.
Also, what are we to make of Havok’s narration on Page 12, “Professor X was associated with a lady scientist in Scotland, a good friend to the X-Men ...”? Alex – along with Lorna and Madrox – actually lived with Moira MacTaggart for a long stretch of time. Yet now he seems not even to remember Moira’s name ... ? Claremont’s writing is decidedly screwy here.
The one redeeming bit to this issue – with its skewed plot logic – is Claremont’s cleverly striking a parallel between Alex and Scott. At the start of the issue, Havok leaves Lorna alone to seek out the X-Men, and she is subsequently assaulted by the Marauders. This is, of course, exactly how Scott and Madelyne’s story played out roughly one year earlier in X-Factor #1 and X-Men #206 (albeit the Marauders’ involvement with Madelyne’s disappearance was revealed more recently, in issue 215).
To make sure readers pick up on the parallelism, Claremont spells it out in a canny two-panel sequence on Page 12: Just after a bus with a giant X-Factor ad drives by an oblivious Havok, he thinks to himself, “Why’d I leave Lorna behind? Summers stubborness [sic]. Summers stupidity.” Much the way Claremont struck a parallel between Scott/Phoenix and Corsair/Kate years ago – two generations of Summers, both losing the women they love under similar circumstances – he now does the same with the Summers brothers. And again, it involves the loss of their lovers. Only a few issues down the line, the “Greek tragedy” quality of the Summers saga will be further intensified by a quasi-incestuous angle, with Alex and Madelyne becoming romantically involved.
Repetition and resonance also play out in this issue’s use of Polaris, who – for the third time in her comic-book career – has her will suborned by a supervillain. (The first was by Magneto in Arnold Drake’s original Lorna story, the second by Eric the Red in one of Claremont’s very first X-Men issues.)
Despite some wonky storytelling in “Where Duty Lies,” the issue nonetheless contains these wonderful instances of recursiveness and parallelism that elevate it. Claremont is now in a fantastic position as a writer: He is the primary caretaker of a dense and multi-layered mythology, from which he can pluck elements at whim in order to complicate and enrich each chapter of his unending narrative.