Waiting for the Trade – X-men

Waiting for the Trade
by Bill Miller

 
Marvel Masterworks
Uncanny X-Men vol. 11

by Chris Claremont
& Dave Cockrum with Len Wein

collects Giant Size
X-men #1 and X-men 94-100

 

Why Bought This: Surprisingly
this was in the discount bin of my favorite local comic store. I’d never read
these issues before despite their importance to comic book history, so when I
saw this on sale I was like why not?

 

The Plot – Now
classic X-men heroes Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler join the team
as Chris Claremont begins his legendary run on the title.

 

Chapter 1 – In Germany a mob with pitchforks and
torches is about to kill Nightcrawler when Professor X saves him and recruits
him for the X-men. He then recruits Wolverine away from the Canadian
government, former X-men foe Banshee, Storm out of Africa where she was being
worshipped as a goddess, Sunfire (whom he is previously acquainted with) from Japan, Colossus off a farm in Russia and
Thunderbird off an Indian reservation. He introduces the new recruits to
Cyclops, who recalls how the current X-men team (Jean Grey, Ice-man, Angel,
Havok and Polaris) met defeat on Krakoa while looking for a new mutant. Cyclops
had his powers drained but managed to escape, and now he and Professor X need
these new X-men to mount a rescue mission. Cyclops’ powers return and he leads
the new team to Krakoa. They split into groups of two to search the island and
each group is attacked by natural phenomena like vines or rock slides. They
eventually all find their way to a temple where the original X-men are being
held hostage and their powers drained by vines. When they free them the island
rumbles and comes to life as Krakoa itself is the mutant detected by Cerebro.
New and old X-men unite to throw every super power they have at Krakoa to
little effect. From across the Atlantic Professor X lends a telepathic hand,
which hurts the creature. Storm, Cyclops and Havok feed energy into Polaris to
enhance her magnetic powers and she then hurls the creature into orbit.

Chapter 2 – Professor X offers the new heroes permanent
membership on the team. All but Sunfire accept, who then goes home to Japan. With the
plethora of new members available all of the originals except Cyclops quit
noting they enrolled in Prof. X’s mutant school as teens and now they are
adults and want civilian lives. Scott and Jean share a kiss before she departs.
We get a training montage in the Danger Room as Scott forms the new recruits
into a team, although Thunderbird’s pride sees him have trouble fitting in.
Meanwhile a group of five animal people named the Ani-men take over NORAD under
orders from Count Nefaria (at this time just a rich crime lord and not the
Superman-inspired powerhouse he would later become in The Avengers). The military calls the Avengers for assistance, but
they are on a mission so Beast refers the call to the X-men. They fly the
Blackbird to NORAD, where Nefaria shoots it down forcing the X-men to bail out
sans parachute in mid-air.

Chapter 3 – With only Storm and Banshee able to fly (and
only by gliding on wind and sound currents) and only Colossus able to survival
the fall the team is literally short-handed as Storm can only carry two people
and Banshee only one and they have four non-flyers. As leader Cyclops orders
the others rescued first and Banshee is able to come back for him at the last
possible moment. Nightcrawler teleports into NORAD only to be attacked by a
frog man. They have a battle of dueling acrobatics that Nightcrawler wins. He
then opens the hatch-door for the rest of the X-men but once inside Nefaria
gasses them. The team breaks through a wall to escape. They are attacked by
hypnotized soldiers, whom Storm takes care of with wind and rain. Next all five
Ani-Men attack (a gorilla, frog, cat, dragonfly and bird) and after four pages
of battle the X-men win. Nefaria attempts to escape in a fighter jet and Thunderbird
jumps on the wing. The plane explodes in mid-air and Thunderbird dies.

Chapter 4 – Cyclops is blaming himself for Thunderbird’s
death alone in the woods. He loses his temper and shoots off an optic blast
which happens to damage an obelisk. The others are practicing in the Danger
Room when Wolvie loses his temper and tries to kill Nightcrawler, who teleports
away. Banshee chastises Wolvie, then goes with Prof X to meet new housekeeper
Moria MacTaggurt with whom Banshee is instantly smitten. We cut to Scott Lang,
who is maniacally building Sentinels for the government only to be confronted
by some military commander who intends to shut the project down. Back at the X-Mansion
Cyclops is suddenly thrown through a wall from outside by a demon he awoke at
the obelisk. Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler each attacking it one at a time
with marginal effectiveness until Wolvie steps up, goes berserk and slices it
to death. The demon however resurrects by draining off a portion of the life-force
of those in the room to do so. Pro X tries to read its mind and is nearly
driven insane until Banshee intercedes. Pro X did discover the Obelisk is its
weakness during the telepathy so Storm flies out to it and blows it up with
lightening killing the first of what will be many demons over the years.

Chapter 5 – Prof X is having nightmares that he is an alien
exile. He confides in Moria when he awakens. Meanwhile an unseen foe surprises
Havok and Polaris at home, defeating and hypnotizing them with ease. At the
airport the X-men are meeting Jean Grey’s plane as she comes to visit only to
be attacked by Havok and Polaris. In the course of the fight Havok blows up
some planes. The mystery villain is revealed as Eric the Red (apparently a
former identity of Cyclops). As the fight continues Polaris nearly kills Jean
and Storm, while Cyclops is forced to fight his own brother. Nightcrawler and Colossus
try to fight Red but he proves to be just as strong as Colossus and hits him
with a plane. Storm loses her temper and electrocutes Polaris. Even hypnotized
this pisses off Havok, who blasts Cyclops and then tends to Lorna. When Prof X
and Wolvie arrive, Red sees the numbers are not in their favor and the villains
retreat. Cyclops has a chance to shoot Havok to stop him but can’t bring
himself to do it causing Wolverine to criticize him.

Chapter 6 – It’s Christmas and the X-men are shopping in
their secret identities when they are attacked by Sentinels. Jean is captured
and Cyclops finds himself hanging from a building but is saved by Storm. Storm
uses a hurricane to defeat one but has to stop because they are in the middle
of NYC. Banshee and Wolverine are captured off-camera and the robots retreat.
Meanwhile Prof X is on vacation in the Caribbean
when he too is attacked by a Sentinel. For some reason his telepathy actually
shuts it down but then he has an alien nightmare again (while awake) and
another Sentinel is able to capture him. Scott Lang is gloating over the
captured X-men. He slaps Jean which annoys Wolvie enough to break his bonds. He
destroys a Sentinel then frees Jean and Banshee but not Prof X since they don’t
have his wheelchair and there are more Sentinels to fight. They destroy a bunch
but when they break a hole through the wall to escape they discover they are in
outer space.

Chapter 7 – The three heroes are about to die in the vacuum of
space when a Sentinel retrieves them. Lang gloats how there is no escape. The
remaining X-men figure out where their teammates are being held and somehow
arrange a space shuttle launch to save them. The shuttle is attacked by
Sentinels and breached, sucking Storm (in a space suit) out into space. The
remaining heroes ram the shuttle into Lang’s base. A Sentinel attacks Storm,
who discovers her powers are far stronger in space as she can manipulate
stellar storms of cosmic energy. In the base the heroes defeat some more
Sentinels then rejoice when Storm turns up alive. Jean is able to sense Scott
and telepathically let him know she and Prof X are in a different cell block
than Banshee and Wolverine. Scott sends everyone else to Wolvie while going for
Jean and the Prof himself. He finds Lang and pummels him with his fists for
taking Jean hostage; until Lang is assisted by an unseen foe to take them down.
The rest of the new X-men come looking for Scott only to find him with original
team in their original costumes out for blood.

Chapter 8 – We get a big fight between the two X-men teams
that leads to the first ever Wolvie-Colossus fastball special. Wolvie manages
to fight his way to Prof X (who is working with the originals) and confronts
him on what is going on. Prof X rises from his wheelchair and decks Wolvie.
Jean then uses telepathy on Wolverine. This reverts Wolvie to animal mode and
he disembowels Xavier, revealing a robot. We see Lang still has the real Scott,
Jean, Pro X and their astronaut pilot prisoner. Cyclops escapes and he and Lang
fight while the new X-men finish up the original X-men robots (aka
X-Sentinels). Lang gets more irrational as the fight goes on, and ultimately
kills himself when he tries to kamikaze attack Cyclops with a hovercraft. The
heroes still have to get back to Earth but there are severe solar/cosmic ray
storms and their shuttle’s shielding has been damaged around the ship’s
navigation controls. Jean realizes she is the only one who can pilot the ship
as she uses telepathy to read the pilots mind to teach herself how to fly the ship
and then hopes her TK force field will protect her from the solar storm as she
pilots the craft while the others are shielded. Scott and Wolvie both try to
talk her out of it but she mind zaps Scott and tells Wolvie off. After a
tearful farewell with Storm, whom she makes promise to tell Scott she loves him
she embarks on the most fateful flight in comic book history. And we see her TK
field fail before the onslaught of cosmic rays in the cliffhanger.
Critical Thoughts:
There’s a reason this run is legendary. It starts off good, as the new
characters find their footing on the team and quickly accelerates to great when
we get to the Sentinel story and Jean’s sacrifice. And as we all know the best
was yet to come with Jean.

I will say the demon story, while enjoyable as a fight
scene, is pretty clichéd and one-dimensional. Questions like why is there an
ancient obelisk with a demon in the woods near the X-mansion, would need a lot
more explanation in a modern story. Furthermore why does zapping the obelisk
free the demon but blowing up completely. It’s all very arbitrary.

Krakoa is also pretty lacking in explanation. It’s a mutant
island? Islands aren’t born, so how does it have X-gene? But let’s face it the
point of this story is to introduce the new heroes with a suitably big threat
that gets them together so they can overhaul the team, and by those standards
it succeeded beyond anyone at Marvel’s wildest expectations.

Ditto, the villains aren’t all that interesting in the
Thunderbird story, nor is Thunderbird a very interesting character before he
dies. But again the point was to show anything could happen in the new
reiteration of the X-men and in that case it set a tone that thrived in the
X-books for the remainder of Claremont’s
long run.

 

Grade: B+. That
Sentinel story is an easy A, the others are better for historic value than
actual stories. Still a trade well worth-reading and the ending makes me want
to buy the next one to read the Dark Phoenix slow build again.