Marvel Comics Presents #17-24 (Cyclops)
Issue(s): Marvel Comics Presents #17, Marvel Comics Presents #18, Marvel Comics Presents #19, Marvel Comics Presents #20, Marvel Comics Presents #21, Marvel Comics Presents #22, Marvel Comics Presents #23, Marvel Comics Presents #24 (Cyclops story only)
Normally when i see the editors or assistant editors of a regular series writing the characters from it in Marvel Comics Presents or similar books, i kind of roll my eyes. Let your writers tell their stories and stop giving yourself these little cheapo plum assignments. But Bob Harras was more or less the driving force behind Inferno which went through a lot of contortions to clear out Cyclops' baggage (yes, i know, not a nice way to refer to Maddie), so this could potentially be enlightening. With that out of the way, how did Harras see the character? What makes him interesting?
The story begins with Cyclops having gone to Muir Island "to find answers for a life unusually beset by tragedy and pain", but also in response to a plea from "an old friend". As soon as he gets there, he's attacked by an energy ball and then some automatic defense systems that he knows Muir Island shouldn't have. While he's fighting the guns, he sees Moira MacTaggert walk past without acknowledging him at all.
Eventually he fights his way past the defenses and gets to Moira's compound, only to find that Moira (wearing different clothes) and Banshee heard nothing of the battle, and when they go outside to look, they see no signs of it. Moira wonders if Cyclops stopped at the pub before coming over, but you really shouldn't joke about a guy that, as he himself acknowledges, has had his share of hallucinations in the past.
The first part of the story ends with Banshee walking Cyclops back to the compound while Moira stays behind to admire what will turn out to not actually be the sunrise. But it's worth pausing here because Harras has established some things already. The first is that intro, with Scott searching for answers to his unusually painful life. And the second is the acknowledgement of what can only be called a bout with mental illness (or at least a particularly bad "nervous breakdown"). These are things that could have been swept under the rug. Instead of "searching for answers", post Inferno Scott could have been "moving on from" a life of tragedy and pain. And Louise Simonson's revelation that Cameron Hodge was manipulating Cyclops with holograms initially seemed open enough that it could have been extended to cover all of Cyclops' hallucinations. It would have been clunky, but only as clunky as the other clean-up aspects of Inferno. The hallucinations also could have just been ignored going forward. The point is that Harras is continuing to embrace the 'damaged' aspects of Cyclops even though there was an opportunity here to move past that.
I'm not saying that's good or bad; just observing what Harras is doing.
At the beginning of part two, we see Moira spirited away by a glowing ball that has already taken two Scottish children. Then the next morning Cyclops and Banshee begin scouring the island for her but can't find her. And it turns out that it was Banshee that called Cyclops for help; he's been worried that something weird's been going on with Moira for a while.
She's been sleepwalking, and when he's traced her footprints he finds that she sometimes seems to have just vanished. That being the case, you'd think that he wouldn't have left her alone to watch the sunrise last night! But she does resurface, as she always has in the past, with news that one of the children that we saw in the bubble is sick. It turns out that the children's families are tenants of Moira's. So they go to their home so that Moira can inspect the girl. The family doctor is having the girl moved to a hospital, and Moira confirms that she can't do anything more. But Scott talks to the girl's brother, who is in a daze but says that the "little people... in the lights" did it to her.
The next night the lights come back again. Cyclops is attacked while Moira goes sleepwalking. And it turns out that when she's sleeping, she goes to Master Mold.
The robot had her infect the girl with a genetically engineered virus because she's a mutant.
The girl is just a test case before Master Mold releases the virus all over the world.
Master Mold has regained his intelligence and Steven Lang persona, something he didn't have in his recent appearances in X-Factor or Power Pack. He's also not going on about The Twelve.
In fact, this is a pretty poor use of Master Mold that doesn't really show how he got from his previous appearance to here (physically or in terms of character development), and since one fair turn deserves another, this story is similarly ignored in the Master Mold's next appearance in Uncanny X-Men #246-247.
What Cyclops is looking so shocked about in one of the panels above is that Banshee has also become infected with Moira's virus. When Scott takes him to the hospital, Master Mold attacks with his "little people".
Cyclops fights off the little people/servitors (surely they are a new strain of Moloids!)...
...and manages to grab Moira, but the servitors take Banshee.
Master Mold is working with another robot called Conscience which is more in the likeness of Lang.
Conscience was created by Master Mold "to ease your loneliness, to help shoulder your burden".
We finally run into Callisto in part four. She's supposed to be Moira's bodyguard, but apparently hasn't been much help with Moira's disappearances since Banshee had to call in Cyclops (it's said she was rendered unconscious, like Banshee, whenever Master Mold summoned Moira).
And now it turns out Cyclops has the virus too (and so does Callisto).
Then Conscience shows up to attack with a legion of servitors.
And Cyclops, affected by the virus, is too weak to stop them.
The good news is that Conscience has all the flaws of a typical supervillain, and he doesn't just kill Cyclops the way Master Mold would.
And then it turns out that Moira's virus has mutated and is starting to affect humans. This causes Conscience to have a change of, er, conscience and tell Master Mold that they shouldn't release it on a mass scale. But Master Mold estimates that the virus will kill all mutants but only 93% of humans, and that's acceptable. He'll personally watch over the surviving human population. So Conscience releases Cyclops, Callisto, and Moira from their prison so that they can help him stop Master Mold. Moira works on a cure...
...while Cyclops, Callisto, and Conscience go to fight the giant Sentinel and his Mold-oids.
Conscience is quickly destroyed and Cyclops' virus is still keeping him from using his optic blast. But that's just our cliffhanger for part 6. For part 7, Cyclops gets his blast back...
...and Conscience turns out to still be alive, and Cyclops convinces him to infiltrate Master Mold like a virus.
One thing i like about this story is the way Bob Harras writes Conscience as a deliberately over-the-top villain (note his comment about death rays in one of the panels above). And then after his face turn he's very Deapool-like in personality.
Conscience tries to infect Master Mold...
...but he turns out to be too strong.
So all seems lost, until Havok shows up to help out his brother.
Ok, that's just on the cover. What actually happens is that Moira discovers something about the virus and then turns to Banshee, saying that she doesn't have a choice in doing what she's about to do and she hopes he'll live long enough to forgive her. Then we see him flying in with Moira and the mutant girl.
It turns out that Moira had been subconsciously working against the virus all along, so she was able to find a cure, and the cure has at least temporarily restored Banshee's powers.
So Banshee has destroyed Master Mold...
...and the human side of Conscience's programming gets the better of him and he decides to destroy the remnants of the virus along with himself.
Storywise, i was supposed to be looking for how X-Editor Bob Harras was using Cyclops, but i kind of got distracted by the weird use of the Master Mold as well as the revelation that Moira MacTaggert invented the Legacy Virus!
Ok, it's called the Retribution Virus here, but the similarities are hard to ignore.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP have Cyclops appear after X-Factor #40-41, since with X-Factor being in England for that story it's not too far a trip to Muir Island. I've placed this before Atlantis Attacks, with the idea being that Jean might have been left behind with the rest of X-Factor to watch over baby Nathan before getting whisked away by Ghaur. I think Chris Claremont may not have been aware of this story when writing Uncanny X-Men #246, which has the Master Mold's remains still in the location from Power Pack #36. By part five of this story, which came out a month before UX #246, Harras seems to cover for that by having the Master Mold say that he can be in multiple places at once and get rebuilt from a single transistor.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Perhaps this is why Moira was the top person asked to look into the Legacy Virus.
Posted by: clyde | November 16, 2014 12:19 PM
I've always been unclear about whether at this stage there's meant to be only one Master Mold or several and whether the Lang MM is meant to be a reprogrammed Trask MM or not. The way MM talks about Cyke here, it seems like he has memories of X-Factor 14. But maybe his hatred of Cyclops is based on Lang's encounters with the X-Men in Uncanny 100.
It's weird how this story redundantly duplicates plot points coming up in Uncanny: a Master Mold rematch, restoration of Banshee's powers, and Moira getting mind controlled. Were Harras and Claremont fighting over how to do the same story right?
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 16, 2014 4:13 PM
While Ron Lim has effective enough storytelling, his pencils are so unpleasant in a 1990s way...
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 16, 2014 4:17 PM
@Walter- I think the idea in X-Men 253 was that Banshee's powers were restored as a result of Marvel Comics Presents 24. It's just Marvel had a no-footnotes policy at the time. I also think the idea was there was one Master Mold- hence, the reference to Summers having destroyed him twice.
Posted by: Michael | November 16, 2014 4:43 PM
Michael - Re: Sean and Moira - I'm sure they took an example of how to be friends from Scott who ignored his wife and kid for a long period of time.
Posted by: clyde | November 16, 2014 4:56 PM
I also wonder if Harras knew about Moira's appearances in Excalibur, because Sean doesn't mention Moira being trapped in a Nazi dimension or discuss Kurt's, Kitty's and Rachel's disappearance with Scott.
Posted by: Michael | November 16, 2014 5:34 PM
I suppose it makes sense that if Master Mold can rebuild himself even from fragments that the MM who fights Scott here is the main body of the one from Power a Pack and X-Factor, and has evidently got his programming and strategy in order, while some part blown off in the Poer Pack fight is what infects Nimrod in X-Men 246.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 16, 2014 6:44 PM
"I think Chris Claremont may not have been aware of this story when writing Uncanny X-Men #246,"
I hate to repeat myself, but - once again - if a writer is using a character, he or she should be expected to read through the history of that character up to the point of the issue that is being written. I see this a lot on this site that a writer may not have been familiar with what happened to so-and-so in such-and-such issue. IMO, that's inexcusable. It's not like they can't request the archived issues. I'm pretty sure Marvel would have back issues available. Otherwise, why not just write a story that won't have any possible impact on the character?
Posted by: clyde | July 15, 2015 11:52 AM
Clyde, according to dcindexes, Marvel Comics Presents 18 (the first issue to feature the Master Mold) came out on 12/27/88 and X-Men 246 came out on 3/21/88 (the same week as Marvel Comics Presents 24). When the contradictory issues are less than 3 months apart, then it's the editor's fault for not coordinating things properly, not the writer's.
Posted by: Michael | July 15, 2015 8:02 PM
This was just the kind of terrible, redundant story that made MCP pointless. I totally skipped over this and the only problem I had was when Banshee suddenly showed up Uncanny with his powers again.
Also, someone should have pointed out to the colorist that Moira is not a redhead. She seems to have almost Jean-like red hair in the early panels, then goes back to her more normal auburn.
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 3, 2015 7:24 AM
the MU is kind of obsessed with redheaded women. The ginger gene is as prevalent as the X-gene. so the colourist was just following his/her instinct.
Posted by: kveto | September 3, 2015 8:04 AM
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