Dream Nails 3 – Blood Eagle
Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Ken Lashley, David Williams, Carlos Pacheco, & Larry Stroman (pencilers), Tom Wegrzyn, Mike Miller, Cam Smith, & Larry Stroman (inkers), Joe Rosas & Ariane Lenshoek and Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)
Peter Wisdom is locked in a room with Black Air agent Shrine. Shrine is a psychic who’s been assigned to test an alien-derived virus on Wisdom. The virus reacts to stress and destroys human flesh when it senses agitation. Shrine forces Wisdom to relive painful memories, including his previous missions and his mother’s murder by a spree killer. Wisdom pushes his memory of one mission to the front of his mind. Shrine observes Wisdom heartlessly killing every terrorist in an arctic base. Shrine can’t take the horror and collapses, as Wisdom breaks out of the room.
On Muir Island, Wolfsbane arrives to spend time with her adopted mother, Moira MacTaggert. Amanda Sefton checks on Rory Campbell, fearful that his treatment of Spoor might push him closer to becoming Ahab. Rory promises her that his knowledge of a possible future forces him to stay in control. During his session with Spoor, the mutant notices that Rory has run out of mood stabilizers. Spoor uses his mutant power to alter people’s moods to make Rory more angry and aggressive. After Spoor mocks his feelings for Amanda, Rory assaults him. The laser pen senses violence and attacks Rory, severing his leg.
Shadowcat searches the Black Air base for Wisdom. Hiding from the guards, she stumbles across a room filled with samples of aliens. The Uncreated, a group of captive aliens who have escaped during the confusion, target Shadowcat. They want to know if she has a God. When she says yes, they explain that they found their creator in space and proved their superiority by killing it. They want recognition for their accomplishment, and will kill anyone who still worships God. Shadowcat phases through the Uncreated and runs into Wisdom. Wisdom uses his hot knives to blow up the base’s generators, covering their escape. While on their way home, Shadowcat sets their aircraft on autopilot and kisses Wisdom for the first time.
Black Air has a sample of the Phalanx labeled “Phalanx using Skrull form as template. Recovered June 1982”. Kitty points out that Black Air has known about the Phalanx years before they did, but this doesn't work. The Phalanx were given an origin in X-Factor #106, which said that they were created by a group of scientists working with Warlock's remains. Black Air couldn't have known about the Phalanx for thirteen years at this point since they didn't exist until after a story published in 1990. Ellis probably meant the Technarcy, which is the alien race Warlock belonged to. Black Air also has a sample Brood drone donated by the Hellfire Club.
This is the rare double-sized issue that’s not tied to an anniversary. They weren’t totally uncommon in the ‘80s, especially during Claremont’s UXM run, but I think they had mostly died out by the ‘90s. The extra pages do make this issue feel more important, which is fitting since the title’s continuity does advance with the story. Wisdom officially quits Black Air and joins the team, Wolfsbane arrives, and Rory Campbell takes a giant step towards becoming Ahab. Since this series can’t seem to have a regular-sized issue without multiple artists, it’s not surprising that this is also a jam issue. The shifts between artists are jarring, but thankfully the artists are given specific scenes to draw instead of just random pages. Carlos Pacheco does a great job with the Uncreated, but those are really the only pages that stand out visually.
The scenes between Rory Campbell and Spoor have their moments, but having Rory forgetfully run out of his mood stabilizers is too convenient for me, especially after he gives a speech to Amanda about how important it is for him to stay in control. If the idea is that he subconsciously forgot the pills on purpose because he wanted an excuse to attack Spoor, that’s not a bad twist but there’s nothing in the comic to support that theory. Lashley’s storytelling also disappoints on the most important page, since it’s not clear what exactly happens to him. It’s not hard to see that Rory’s leg has been severed, but there’s another panel where it looks like the lasers might’ve hit his eye. Since he’s given absolutely no facial expression and he’s drawn in profile, it’s also possible that the panel is supposed to show that he’s just spotted the lasers becoming active. The outline of his right eye doesn’t match his left eye in the final panel, so I guess that’s supposed to confirm that his eye was damaged also, but it’s hard to say. Since this is the culmination of a storyline that had been building for around two years, it deserves better than this. I do like the fact that something actually happens to Rory, since I wasn’t expecting any major events that would obviously push him closer to becoming Ahab to happen so soon. I remember being excited when I first read this scene, and really being surprised that Ellis was willing to take things that far. I think the Rory/Ahab story has become another dropped storyline over the years (I vaguely remember it briefly coming up during the 1999 Apocalypse crossover and not going anywhere), but at the time this did feel exciting.
The Uncreated get a considerable introduction, taking up most of Shadowcat’s scenes, leading me to believe that Ellis intended them to become more important villains than they turned out to be (I think they were only used again in his Starjammers miniseries). I do like their bizarre origin and motivation, but they don’t prove to be a real threat to Kitty since she’s able to just phase through them (off-panel, at that). Peter Wisdom receives most of the attention here, as a number of pages are dedicated to flashbacks from his past. Ellis does a capable job on these scenes, but after a while they start to feel like the conventional dark material that most British writers bring to mainstream comics. The idea that Shrine just can’t take all of the nasty stuff in Wisdom’s past is a little silly, especially when he’s responding to Wisdom killing terrorists and not babies or anything. Did Black Air pick the wimpiest guy they could find to interrogate him? Revealing that Black Air has been designing weapons and viruses from the aliens is a cool concept, though, and I think Ellis gets some more mileage out of it as his run progresses. I liked this issue when it was first released, and I enjoyed rereading it today, even if the conclusions don’t exactly work. All of the setups are promising, but in the end, Kitty just phases past the aliens, Wisdom’s interrogator wimps out, and Rory Campbell’s fate is poorly conveyed by the art. It’s not bad at all, but it doesn’t feel like it has much of a payoff.