21: UXM 174 - 180 (Mastermind and Mystique)

What’s Covered?

This time around we'll be focused on UXM # 174 - 180 and X-Men Annual # 6 & 7.


UXM # 174 - 176 gives us the return of Mastermind as he messes with the X-Men making them think that Maddie is turning into the Phoenix. Scott also marries Maddie and they go on their honeymoon.


# 177 - 178 gives us the return of Mystique and the Brotherhood as they try to ambush the X-Men.


# 179 - 180 includes the fake wedding of Kitty and Caliban.


Annual 7 has Dracula and 8 is very silly with the Impossible Man.


Roster Watch


My Connections

There is a scene in UXM # 180 where Storm takes Kitty up into the sky and forces them to talk. I go more into detail about this below, but this is one of the most moving character moments I have ever experienced across any medium. It is amazing writing and will forever cement my feelings for both Kitty and Storm for years to come, regardless of what other creators may do with these characters in the future.


I felt really annoyed to see Mastermind come back and tease us with the Phoenix stuff. I feel like we've milked the Phoenix enough and Madelyn either needs to be nefarious or not, no more of these fakeouts. I'm glad this plot at least ends with Scott marrying her and them leaving the comic. It has a sense of finality to it that helps.


It's always fun to see the Brotherhood brawl with the X-Men, but once again this seems like another tired plot line.


The Caliban and Kitty storyline has done nothing to make me love Kitty any less. Just warning you.


Creators


Per the usual, Claremont is the writer on each of these issues, but we see Paul Smith give way on #175 to John Romita Jr. who will be the regular artist for the foreseeable future. I have really appreciated how much attention Smith gives to the individual characters, bringing them to life and giving them more identity than Cockrum had. I dug up this old interview where Smith had the following to say about his approach:


"What I’m going to work with is characterization. I think it’s a book that requires it more than most in that the characters are so diversified, not only in their nationalities but their upbringings and 'so I want to concentrate on all the characters, not just any one character. Get into Colossus a little more; I don’t think he’s been given the attention he deserves. Kitty should be a lot of fun just because she really hasn't been touched yet. Cyclops is your mainstay. Wolverine’s a lot of fun, slashing, killing, blood ’n' guts... I think that’s one thing that’s been missing from the book for a while is, everyone’s been drawn the same. The appendages differ, the headgear differs, but the bodies are all drawn the same. And that’s not right. People are built differently."

This story also continued Storm in her new, transformed punk look. X-Men editor Ann Nocenti had the following to say about her in the documentary "Claremont's X-Men:"


"I think one of the best things that Chris came up with with Storm was that the Goddess thing was getting a little tired and he put her in a biker outfit. Characters age, and get stuck, the whole African worship thing started to get clunky and tacky and just right at the right time you need to re-create a character but they have to stay the same. "

My Rating and Review

UXM # 174 - 176: 6/ 10


# 177 - 178: 7/10


# 179 - 180: 10/10


Annuals: 1/10


Character Beats


Quick Check in with Carol Danvers

Carol Danvers as Binary announces that she will be joining the Starjammers. I'm a few issues ahead in my reading order and I have not seen this come back up so I'm curious if it ever will. Let's keep our eye on this!

Ok ok ok ok, is there something going on between Wolverine and Carol? We know they have a history from their time serving together (even though it was for different countries). Wolverine asked Carol to Dance in the Brood Saga and she was also the first one he went to save during that same story. Here, during Scott's wedding, they are showing a bunch of couples and they show Wolverine and Carol together. They are totally being shipped! I have no idea if this ends up happening but I have my eye on it. (P.S. I love Bri Larson as Carol in Captain Marvel so I am even more engaged in her story).


Human/Mutant Relations

We catch up with Peter Gyrich (who was a government appointee by Senator Kelly, who we know is clearly anti-mutant.)

He is late to a meeting where government officials are reviewing what Magneto has recently done.

FIRST ALERT

Here we get our first introduction to Valerie Cooper! She is a government employee who is very concerned about the threat that super humans, especially mutants, pose to the United States of America. She brings up a pretty interesting point that the USA used to have a monopoly on Super Powers, but that is no longer the case.

Gyrich suggests that strong government action could make Magneto's concerns a self-fulfilling prophecy and preaches caution. This is actually a big shock to me because I recall Gyrich being straight up evil from the X-Men comic, but this is clearly a more measured response. I wonder if this changes!

This was published in 1983, so keep in mind that this is still a high point in the Cold War. It's interesting that she is very concerned about the Soviet Union.


Kitty and Colossus

Ooh, ooh! Remember in the last blog I was talking about how they were just starting to give Kurt more realization, but Peter was being left out? Well what do we have here!? It looks like Peter now has a hobby as a painter. Not the most fascinating hobby, but I like that they are trying.

LOLZ. Kitty is like "I'm mad at Storm so I'm going to bring a boy into her room and soil it."

FIRST ALERT

This is the first time we see Doug Ramsey! At this point he is just a friend of Kitty's but it turns out he is a mutant with the ability to understand any language (including computers). He becomes Cypher and will soon join the New Mutants! You'll get a lot more Doug in future posts.

Holy shit I love this. Colossus is being a big baby and Wolvie calls him out. I put all the panels here so you can read the conversation for yourself. Let me tell you all the reason I love this:

  • Logan is a fricken philosopher. Always there on the sidelines giving great advice.

  • Wolverine is propping up Peter, but in his classic tough-love way.

  • Remember how much I love the Logan/Kitty relationship due to my reading of Wolverine: First Class? Well here he is having her back.

  • You wouldn't think the tough guy of the group would care about the emotions and relationships of his team-mates, but he's always there in the background holding everything together.


Nightcrawler

They are working hard to bring Nightcrawler to life. There hasn't been much with his faith in these story arcs, but we do see that he is now the official medic of the team.

This isn't impactful, I just thought it was fun. Months after Kurt sent her the little BAMF doll, she sends him this little witch doll. Love it!

This Mystique arc started digging up a bunch of Nightcrawler/Mystique stuff, but nothing definitive is revealed. In the above panel you can see that he wants to talk to his adoptive mom, however I'm a few issues ahead and this still hasn't happened.

I had mentioned earlier that Mystique fought all of the X-Men robots in Murder World. One thing I think is worth mentioning is that she had no trouble destroying the Rogue robot, but she hesitates destroying the Nightcrawler Avatar. Clearly there is something big here but we still haven't been given anything concrete.


Wolverine

Wolverine has a final conversation with Yukio, essentially ending this storyline for the foreseeable future.

This is a big step because Yukio admits that she loves him, yet she can't marry him. It hurts, but it's probably the thing he needed to hear.

This was an important point that I'm glad he raised. I'm still a bit confused on this. We are led to believe that Mastermind forced her not to marry him, so why is it different all of a sudden.

This still seems a bit thing to me, but it looks like due to the combined connections of her father and her possessed form with the Underworld, she now must take them on herself. I don't completely understand why she thinks she can't do it with Wolverine by herself. Maybe cause she knows he would succeed without her and her honor won't let him. Regardless, he says he understands and he vows to leave her be.


Xavier and Lil

This stuff still doesn't sit well with me. I always thought of Xavier being an older man, but this makes it look like he's still a man in his prime, he just happens to be bald. It's also just weird that he's not in his wheelchair. He's still walking! I know he'll go back in the wheelchair eventually and I need to know how that happens!

Lilandra is there by his side each time that he is working out his legs, but in this scene she tells him that she must leave and try to usurp the throne from her sister, Deathbird. I'm a few issues ahead and still haven't seen anything about this. I wonder when/if we will.

This is a tender moment with Corsair and Lilandra leaving together to fight the empire, unsure if they will ever see their loved ones among the X-Men again.


Storm: The best story in town


I created my longest blog to date focusing on Storm's transformation. By this point Storm is pretty much at peace with her transformation, but there is one loose end: Kitty.

This first exchange shows that Kitty is being very cold with Storm and it drives Storm to start questioning herself.

Storm goes as far as to ask Xavier to psi-scan her to make sure there isn't anything seriously wrong? He confirms that there isn't, just a typical mid life crisis.

Here is a fun little exchange between Kitty and Doug that show her thoughts.


This leads to one of the most amazing series of panels I have ever read in the journey and possibly one of the best character moments out of anything I have ever read. I decided to put it all here for you to read. It's that good.




UXM 174 - 176: Return of the Phoenix?

Scott had been having second thoughts for many issues, so he decides to come right out and ask prior to their wedding. He has been obsessing on the fact that Madelyn's plane crash happened on the same day as jean's death. Guess how she takes this.

Ouch. He probably had that coming. She disappears for a while and re-appears looking very different.

Ut oh.

Oh shit, it looks like our fears are realized. This leads us to conclude that Madelyn had been the Phoenix re-incarnated all along. This actually seemed to make sense. This is a comic book so of course them looking similar couldn't have been a mere coincidence.

Scott and the Prof gather the X-Men so they strap in for a big fight.

There are many pages of fighting between Phoenix and the new incarnation of the X-Men before she flees.

The X-Men are shown the deaths of the Starjammers and the Avengers at the hands of Phoenix. This is when I realized something had to be wrong. If Captain America was killed by the Phoenix, I think I would have heard of that at some point.

Scott realizes that this isn't Phoenix, but he doesn't say what's really going on. For some reason the X-Men think Cyclops is the Phoenix and they start attacking him.

This becomes the ultimate test of Cyclops' skills. He brings all of the X-Men to the danger room and sets up a Savage Land session. He uses his knowledge of each team-mate and the advantages that come with the danger room to his advantage.

If you hadn't already figured it out, this is all Mastermind's doing.

The Phoenix is not an illusion though. He is using Madelyn as the stand in for Jean. I love how they never explicitly talk about how ugly Jason truly is and how he uses his illusions to cover this up. We also learn that Mastermind has been poking around for the past 20 issues. He's been following Cyclops and getting him to second guess Madelyn. He was the one who forced Mariko to abandon Wolverine. He also impersonated a Japanese crime lord and was messing with Wolverine in his mini series. He had spent years without his mind after the events of the Dark Phoenix saga, so he spent all of this time planning his thoughtful revenge.

Eventually Cyclops is able to convince the other X-Men of the truth and Storm freezes everyone in the room to get Mastermind to expose himself.


Cyclops and Madelyn are re-united and move on to being married.

For some insanely dumb reason, there is an entire issue about their plane crashing on the way to their honeymoon and being attacked by Shark's and squids.

I'm going to take this moment to go on a longer rant. Most of my journey is spent blindly charging through each of these comics, but sometimes I can't help myself but to do a little extra research. From what I understand, Claremont had intended for Madelyn to be a normal human and for Cyclops to truly depart from the X-Men for good at this point. He had re-launched the X-Men with the new members and had always intended for Scott to leave the team. I still don't know exactly what will happen next, but I do know that Scott eventually re-joins the team and we haven't seen the end of Madelyn's twists.


Also, did Cyclops really send a picture of him and his wife naked after they got done banging? "Hey, I know! Why don't we send a sweaty picture of us after getting nasty to my mentor and father figure!" Also, who took that picture? I don't think there were advanced cameras in 1985, so they totally had someone take a picture of them naked.

UXM 177-178: Mystique Returns

Issue #177 begins with Mystique utilizing Arcade's Murderworld to train herself by fighting the X-Men. When she's done and struggling, Destiny is taking care of her. From what I understand, it was heavily implied that these two were a romantic couple and only recently confirmed that this was the case.

All of that Mystique training took place because the Brotherhood were planning on ambushing the X-Men. For some reason, they devised a really fucked up plan to kill Colossus. Pyro superheated him, then sent him to a crevice surrounded by 5 trucks filled with water. Avalanche sent the water hurling at him to essentially freeze him in carbonite.

A battle breaks out as the Brotherhood go all out on the X-Men (plus Sorceress Amanda Sefton).

Kitty is devastated by what happened to Peter, but immediately bolts to save him. She thinks that the Fantastic Four has some tech on hand that can help her, so she breaks into the Baxter Building (the F4 Headquarters) to steal/borrow the device.

The X-Men successfully stop the Brotherhood and are getting ready to put them all in jail.

It turns out that all of this was designed to allow Mystique to infiltrate the mansion and steal Rogue back. They two of them have a long exchange where Mystique assumed Rogue was being held against her will. Rogue explains that she is here of her own free will and asks that if Mystique truly loves her, she will let her stay and leave the X-Men unharmed. Mystique does the right thing and the Brotherhood and she leave peacefully.


This is an important plot point for Rogue as everyone (audience included) were left wondering if she would ever go back to being evil. This scene is a strong step towards her redemption showing that she had a chance to go back with her adopted mom but choose to stay with the team.


Issues # 179 - 180: The wedding of Caliban and Kitty

This plotline has been marinading for some time. Allllll the way back with Caliban's first appearance, Caliban was taken with Kitty. Then during the crazy Storm/Callisto story arc, Kitty made a promise that she would stay with Caliban if he promised to help her the team. Then back in #176, the panels above took place with Callisto egging Caliban on and reminding him that he cares for Kitty.

In #178, we see Masque changing a the face of a dead girl.

During #178, we saw Kitty jump off the top of the Baxter Building but we didn't see what happened to her. The next image we are shown is that of her body laying down outside.

The X-Men are brought in to identify the body, but Wolverine can tell something is wrong. The scent is off, he knows it's not really Kitty.

Meanwhile, Kitty was truly brought down to the sewers and is expected to fulfill her promise to stay with Caliban by marrying him.

At first Kitty freaks out, but then she is brought back by Leach and promises to keep her word. She only asks that Callisto use the healer to help Colossus in exchange.

Callisto asks if anyone has any objections...

Storm and the X-Men show up, ready to throw down to save Kitty.

Kitty re-emphasizes that she is her willingly and asks the X-Men to back down.

Kitty has a plan. Rogue will absorb the powers of Colossus, forcing him to change back to human. Then the Morlock's Healer character will quickly clean up his wounds.

A cute scene here with Kitty's best friend, Illyana, trying to convince her not to go back, but she explains that she needs to. I love this. MORE evidence that Kitty is badass.

While Caliban is shown as being simple, he is smart enough to realize that Kitty does not really love him. He releases her from this vow.

Kitty is relieved and agrees to continue to visit Caliban, as a friend.

The X-Men Annuals always seem to be isolated and are not a big driver of the major plot so I don't intend to spend much time covering them. Annual #6 was actually a pretty entertaining read focusing on Dracula showing up again and trying to entice Storm. She does fight it off and they stop him, but it reminds us that she is compromised. Annual # 7 is dumb as hell. Some alien named the Impossible Man goes around earth stealing things as part of an intergalactic scavenger hunt. The only plot point worth mentioning is that Kitty finds out that her parents are getting a divorce.



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