X-Men Volume 1 #104 - 108 (Jan '77 - Sep '77), Classic X-Men # 15 ('87), and Giant-Size Fantastic Four # 4.
XM # 104 tells a story of the X-Men battling Magneto at Muir Island.
# 105 - 108 involves an epic with Lilandra, Erik the Red, and gives us the introduction to the Starjammers.
Classic X-Men # 15, published in 1987, has a backup story giving us an origin of sorts for Corsair.
Giant-Size Fantastic Four # 4 is a Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man) origin story.
(Awesome pinup of the team, amiright!?)
With Special Guest stars...
# 104: Magneto at Muir Island
Writer - Chris Claremont
Pencils - Dave Cockrum
This issue begins with the X-Men (minus Cyclops) trying to find a boat off Ireland (since they just got done defeating Black Tom and Juggernaut at Cassidy Keep). They are suddenly brought by Magneto into Charles and Moira's secret Muir Island (More on Muir Island below).
It turns out that Moira has been keeping most of the villains, who had been defeated in the past by the X-Men, locked up here so she could study them and keep them away from society. Cyclops gets word that the new group of X-Men are fighting Magneto and races from the hospital at Jean's side to help because he realizes that he alone knows how to beat him where the other X-Men had never faced him before. Here they find the Multiple Man hurt and it looks like Magneto has escaped.
Scott essentially realizes there is no way to beat him, and while Wolverine and him have words, they all quick depart.
# 105 - 108: Meet the Starjammers
Writer - Chris Claremont
Pencils - Dave Cockrum
As soon as the X-Men get back to their mansion (after fleeing Magneto), they find Eric the Red and Firelord waiting for them.
Eric the Red is your typical bad guy (part of the Shi'ar Empire), but Firelord is a pretty clear good guy that has been tricked by Eric to think the X-Men are evil...or something like that. The X-Men are getting whooped but Phoenix goes all badass (as she does), and puts Firelord in his place, which also scares off Eric the Red.
This is where, after numerous issues of Charles having issues with his psychic powers and dreaming of a beautiful alien queen, Lilandra shows up.
Charles immediately trusts her due to their psychic rapport and she asks the X-Men to go with her into space and fight her evil brother, the Shia'ar Emperor D'Ken.
UXM # 106
Issue # 106 is so dumb. 105 ends with the X-Men going through a portal but this entire issue is like a big stall with another dumb fight scene. It begins with Prof. X using his psychic powers to explain to Firelord that they are not the bad guys. However the rest of the issue once again focuses on a pointless fight of the new X-Men fighting the original roster (Angel, Beast, Cyke, Marvel Girl, Iceman), however this time instead of them being robots...they are illusions! Snore! Get me back to Lilandra!
UXM # 107: X-Men in Space
Now, we're talking, look at this cool shot of all these aliens!
The Shi'ar empire is protected by the Imperial Guard, which is a ragtag collection of super powered aliens who fight to protect the empire. They are typically "good guys" and are led by the honorable Gladiator (one of my faves even though I barely knew who he was until this read).
Right now the empire is led by LIlandra's brother D'Ken, who in his evil ways wants to use the M'kraan Crystal to destroy (or control) all life in the galaxy. Of course the X-Men are going to introduce themselves by fighting the Imperial Guard (and getting their asses kicked).
There is a hilarious scene where Wolverine's clothes get ripped off so he beats up one of the aliens and takes his outfit!
While this is happening, D'Ken tries to kill his sister but Nightcrawler 'ports in to save her at the last minute. All seems lost until the Starjammers show up!
The starjammers are a group of space pirates led by Cyclops' dad!
UXM # 108: The M'Kraan Crystal
D'Ken tries to control the M'kraan Crystal but of course it spirals out of control. Issue 108 shows us how scary this ordeal is and the President, Avengers, and Fantastic Four are all called to tell them that the universe may be ending today.
Don't worry though, it all works out! The Phoenix (Jean, remember?) gets to show off how powerful she is by stepping inside of the crystal, overpowering it, and ultimately saving the day.
The X-Men are thanked for saving the empire, D'Ken is deposed, Lilandra put in power, and the X-Men are safely returned home.
Within this arc we learn about Muir Island. It turns out that all along Professor X and Moira have been capturing the supervillains they defeat along the way and studying them here. I love that they funnel our bewilderment through Cyclops getting pissed at Moira on the flight there about not understanding how this could have been kept from him for 104 Issues, lol.
I'm not too far ahead in my journey, but it becomes clear that Muir Island ends up becoming the place where the JV team live until they are interesting enough to appear in an issue. Multiple Man, Havok, and Polaris pretty much live here forever until they eventually join X-Factor. (I don't know that for sure, but I vaguely remember seeing the three of them on covers of X-Factor so I'm assuming they eventually get cooler costumes and are allowed out of Muir Island.) I won't spoil it, but one of the current X-Men will soon get banished to Muir Island for just not being cool enough.
My favorite part of my journey as I read through every appearance of the X-Men, is when we come across new characters. As much as it's cool to see how the original X-Men came up, I'm almost more excited to learn about the supporting characters who I know very little about. I had no idea that Multiple Man was introduced this early and he seems to be in the background consistently for a while alongside Havok and Polaris.
Dave Cockrum knows how to draw awesome characters. I doubt anyone, ever, has denied this. Issue # 107 is his last X-Men comic as penciler. He goes out with a bang bringing his new characters (Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus) and older characters with new designs (Phoenix/Jean, Cyclops, Banshee) through one of the most iconic arcs of all time. This is also the first appearance of the Starjammers, and in Comic Creators on X-Men, Dave Cockrum said
"I had originally come up with the Starjammers as a concept for an original series. Starjammers was originally going to be a stand-alone space pirate series - swashbucklers in space - and I wound up donating it to X-Men."
Cockrum had intended to create his own series, but since he was unable to convince Marvel, he decided to give these characters life in the form of the Starjammers within the pages of the X-Men. CBR takes this story further in a segment of Comic Book Legends Revealed, where a quote from Claremont provides even more context about this. In an interview with Margaret O'Connell in The Comics Journal #50, Claremont discussed how thought that that didn't seem particularly fair, so he noted,
"When I knew that Dave would not be pencilling #108, I suggested that we just drop the Starjammers from the plot altogether, we could make do without them, simply because I thought they were a great idea and I didn't want him giving it away. At least if they hadn't appeared in X-Men he'd have a bargaining point with Marvel, he could sell it as a series and perhaps get a percentage. This way, they've appeared, they're Marvel characters, Dave has no claim on them any more. But he wanted to do them. So I said, 'Fine.'”
Cockrum goes on during this issue to introduce us to Lilandra (officially) as well as the entire interstellar Imperial Guard. However, as mentioned above, Cockrum made the tough decision to step away from X-Men. In this quote from Comic Creators on X-Men, Cockrum says:
“At the time, I was also going on staff at Marvel and I discovered that it's kind of difficult to take the train into New York, work eight hours, take the train home again and then sit down and draw a comic book. So I gave up drawing for a while.”
With Cockrum on the way out, there was really no question who would be taking over. John Byrne officially takes over pencils with #108 and will begin a legendary run as the regular penciler, taking us through the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga. In Marvel Comics, the Untold Story by Sean Howe, John Byrne said:
"I made it known at Marvel, that men would die if Cockrum ever left and it didn’t come to me.”
In Comic Creators on X-Men, Claremont explains how Byrne found his way to the comic:
"At the time, John and I had been working on Iron Fist together, and I think we were also doing Marvel Team-Up. We were just doing great guns together. John's last issue of Iron Fist was essentially his audition for X-Men and after that it was a no-brainer.
John was dead brilliant. He could nail his deadlines and he loved the X-men characters. We were still speaking to each other in those days and he wasn't at the point in his career where they were going to put him on Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or any of the big books. We also wanted to make X-Men monthly and we figured John would be the guy to do it."
Notice in the quote above, Claremont says "we were still speaking to each other in those days." This breakup between these two behemoths will be the story of legend, but the following quote from Dave Cockrum in Marvel Comics, the Untold Story by Sean Howe makes me wonder if there is a clear person at fault for the break up:
"John was the heir apparent to that book and he was panting to take it over. But every time he came to the Marvel offices, he pissed everybody off. I stayed on a little longer just to aggravate him.”
We get our first appearance of Magneto during the Claremont Run. Magneto had been turned into a baby during Defenders # 16 (the X characters had a lot of random appearances after the series was cancelled in the Silver Age), but Claremont has aged him back up. He's slightly more developed in this series but only because he's just a few clicks higher than a psychopath. I can't wait until he starts getting more nuanced but for now he's not really the Magneto I know.
Cyclops and Wolverine
Claremont really start playing up the animosity between Cyclops and Wolverine, leaning heavily into that dynamic with this arc.
In a battle with Magneto, Cyclops realizes that Magneto was just a distraction leaving Xavier open for attack, so he orders a retreat. Wolverine isn't thrilled and responds by saying:
“The Blazes we are, bub! This fight aint over yet."
Later, as their vehicle explodes and heads to the ground, Wolverine takes the opportunity to rub it in:
W - “Whatsa matter, leader-man? This more’n you can handle?
C - “Get off my back, Wolverine!”
And then as they are losing in their fight with the Imperial Guard:
W - “Well, Summers, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.
C - “Back off, Wolverine. Or so help me, I’ll…”
There is a clear dichotomy as Cyclops is the strategic leader and Wolverine is simply the tanky bruiser, in there to knock heads together. There is also obvious tension between these two due to Jean, with Cyclops still dating her and Wolverine clearly pining for her. While the Classic X-Men will retcon this relationship a bit more to sell Jean flirting back with Wolverine, it's really not too present in this original run.
Jean is growing into her Phoenix powers and Claremont puts extra effort into showing off her power set. Intriguingly, Claremont's scripting shows that the power is also a bit intoxicating to her.
“Part of me wants to get firelord- to kill him! My power - it’s hitting me like a drug. I’ve never felt such…ecstacy. God in heaven, what have I become?”
This is a theme that will continue to build leading up to the Dark Phoenix Saga.
Moira is really elevated in this arc from a simple housekeeper to a Nobel prize winning geneticist and academic colleague of Professor Xavier. We also get the first appearance of Muir Island and Moira's mutant research center.
Charles and Lilandra
My guess is that it wasn't lost on Claremont that Professor Xavier has been a jerk (as I've been tracking this so far), so he tries to humanize him with a fated love story with Lilandra. We'll see a lot of Lilandra in the coming years and in some ways she becomes a more empathetic character than Charles himself.
Enter Multiple Man (Giant-Size Fantastic Four # 4: )
We will start here with a look at our friends the Fantastic Four as they introduce us to Multiple Man, and ironically this won't be the last time the FF serve as the entry point for audiences to get to know a new mutant.
The FF are called on to investigate a disturbance where they find Jamie Madrox, whom we will eventually call Multiple Man. A concerning theme takes place where a man is clearly in need of help but a super hero group is too quick to start beating him up. We get a little view into his backstory and learn that his parents have been helping him control his power (to instantly clone himself), but after they passed away he is strolling around aimlessly. Eventually cooler heads prevail and Professor X is called in to help.
Classic X-Men # 15: Corsair's origin
In this fun X-Men arc, Jean reads Corsair's mind and realizes that he is Major Christopher Summers, Cyclops dad! We learned in earlier issues that Scott was on a plane with his mom, dad, and brother when the plane caught fire and they sent Scott and Alex out with their single parachute. Scott was separated from his brother and raises in an awful orphanage.
Classic X-Men #15 shows us the backstory of Corsair. It turns out that the airplane Scott jumped from on the day he thought his parents died only caught fire because an alien ship fired on them. Corsair (Major Christopher Summers) and his wife were taken prisoner. His wife was killed and Major Summers spent years working hard labor as an alien slave.
This issue shows us that he would have died in that camp if he hadn't run into a few other aliens who he banded together with. They overpowered their slavers and escaped together to form the Starjammers! Sometime after this Corsair got to start indulging his furry fetish and hook up with the team's resident female alien cat. Meow! But that's a story for another time...
My Rating and Review - 9/10
So many iconic characters and themes introduced! Give me more Lilandra and the Starjammers please!
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