On what looks to be a standard recognisance mission, to discover
if mutants are being mistreated, the X-Men run into something
unexpected. Waking up in a mental hospital would be a bad
enough way to start your day, but when Jean Grey discovers
that she is not even in her own body she realises that things
have really taken a turn for the worse. With her powers gone
and her friends in danger can Jean escape, or is she destined
to remain in the body of a man for the rest of her life...
Mirror is the new book from Marjorie M. Liu, a young writer
better known for her paranormal stories and a big Jubilee
fan. This young woman from the mid-west of America has done
a stunning job at revitalising the superhero genre with this
For the most part, a book based on comic book characters tends
to follow the pattern set down by their source material. You
know the drill, a bit of back story, a confrontation with
the villain and the inevitable fight scene, where the good
guys always win. However Marvel seems to be requiring a lot
more from their novelists at the moment, the recent Wolverine:
Weapon X book was a surprise, with its unrelenting
violence, and now we find Marjorie pulling another surprise
rabbit out of the hat.
How do you produce a superhero book where the protagonists
no longer have their powers? Well, the answer, with this book,
is very well. The various characters react to their new position
with differing degrees of success. Wolverine, understandably,
is just as resourceful regardless of the loss of his body.
His time as an espionage expert comes to be one of the greatest
resources the X-Men have in their attempt to return to the
mansion to discover just who has stolen their bodies.
Now, you would think that all this body swapping could lead
to a great deal of confusion for the reader, this is not the
case. Marjorie deftly keeps the characterisations spot on
throughout the book. I don't think it's giving anything away
to say that the X-Men are more successful at impersonating
the personas of their host bodies than the mental patients
that have taken up residence in the bodies of the X-Men. To
balance what could have been a very dark book, the author,
has taken it on herself to play with some of the characters.
Cyclops is now in the body of a woman, whilst his wife Jean
Grey finds herself in the body of a man. This allows character
exploration on a number of levels.
Firstly, there is the problem of just how resourceful are
the X-Men when they have been stripped of their powers and
dumped in the bodies of mental patients far from home with
no money? How much of the confidence that they normally exude
comes from the fact that they are super humans? Indeed, can
they make it as mere mortals? Secondly, whilst the gender
reversals that they suffer could just become an object of
cheap derision, Marjorie uses it to explore not only gender
roles, but also the concept of love. As husband and wife,
is Jeans and Cyclops's love stronger and deeper than the external
artifice of their bodies. Not sure that I'd feel the same
way about my wife if she looked like a twenty stone wrestler,
so does that make me shallow, are we loving the person or
a good thought provoking story. Ok, there is the inevitable
showdown at the end but I'm not sure that there is anyway
of getting around that one, not sure Marvel would have been
too pleased if she had left the X-Men powerless in the wrong
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