X-Men, Volume 1, #109 - 124 (Nov '77 - May '79), Annual # 3. Classic X-Men 17, 21, 27, 29 - 31, Uncanny X-Men Annual # 3, Iron Fist # 15.
# 109, published in 1978, marks the first appearance of Vindicator (AKA Weapon Prime and Guardian) trying to bring Wolverine back to Canada.
#110 is a bad story showing a one note villain named Warhawk bugging the danger room on behalf of the Hellfire Club.
# 111 is a goofy issue where Mesmero captures the team and makes them believe they are circus performers.
# 112 - 114 chronicles a battle with Magneto in his Antarctic base that leads the Jean, Beast, and the Professor to believe the rest of the team is dead.
#115 - 116 brings us back to the Savage Land with more Sauron.
#117 is a flashback with the Shadow King.
#118 - 119 takes place in Japan with a required Sunfire apperance. Wolverine meets Mariko Yashido for the first time, and Banshee exerts his power vs. Moses Magnum, taking him out of the lineup.
# 120 - 121 brings back the Vindicator along with an entire team of Alpha Flight to bring Wolverine back into the Canadian special forces.
#122 - 124 is a prolonged Arcade story arc and while Arcade is a beloved villain you won't see that love from me.
UXM110: Feel free to skip this one.
Writer - Chris Claremont
Pencils - Dave Cockrum
Some forgettable villain named Warhawk bugs the Danger room.
That's it, this issue sucked!
According to the letters column, this was the only fill in issue of the Claremont/Byrne era.
UXM111: The Goofy X-Files episode you expect each season.
Writer - Chris Claremont
Pencils - John Byrne
This is a pretty goofy issue. The villain Mesmero brainwashes all of the X-Men into thinking they are circus performers. The lone exception is Wolverine, he was immune due to his healing factor so they just lock him in a cage. We view this issue from the perspective of Beast. He took a break from the Avengers to investigate why his old friends had been out of contact for so long. They all eventually snap out of it and it turns out Mesmero was only leading up to the true baddie of this arc, Magneto!
UXM 112 - 114: Skirmish with Magneto
Writer - Chris Claremont, (John Byrne on #114)
Pencils - John Byrne
In Issue 112 Magneto gives a typical madman speech. In other words, he's still just a typical baddie, hell bent on destroying the X-Men and taking over the world. He brings them all to his secret base inside of a volcano in Antarctica. The X-Men try to fight but they are quickly overrun and the issue ends with them all captured.
In Issue 113, Magneto goes on a rampage attacking the U.S. military while the X-Men aren't around to stop him. Meanwhile Charles and Lilandra are trying to enjoy a romantic getaway but the powerful telepath starts to realize something is amiss.
This issue actually shows a really creepy display as the X-Men are cared for by a robot nanny who keeps them chained up and tends to their needs.
Storm uses her lock picking skills (from her years as a street urchin in Cairo) to free them, putting them in the position to attack Magneto when he returns. It's all going as planned until Phoenix uses too much power and sets off the volcano.
As the volcano blows, Magneto escapes and Phoenix is able to drag Beast to the surface leaving the core X-Men team (convenient to leave the core 6 members together) to die.
In Issue 114, Beast and Jean are rescued on the snowy surface. When they meet back up with the Professor and Lilandra, they assume that the other 6 X-Men are dead and they begin to mourn.
UXM 114 - 116: The Savage Land
Writer - Chris Claremont and John Byrne (#116)
Pencils - John Byrne
There are a lot of people out there who love Sauron, Ka-Zar, and the Savage Land. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.
The X-Men find themselves in the Savage Land. A land that is preserved deep below a part of Antarctica where Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures roam free.
Storm and Banshee try to enjoy the open air by going for a relaxing fly until Banshee is swooped up a flying beast. Collossus serves up Wolverine as part of a fastball special and save the day.
Don't worry, being in the Savage Land is a great opportunity to sexualize the X-Men!
Cyclops looks in the muddy water and realizes that his reflection looks like Corsair, now that he has a mustache.
Colossus invites Wolvie to have a good time with the locals but he passes and instead reflects on his love for Jean (Remember, he thinks she's dead).
Sauron appears and a typical fight begins.
Ka-Zar shows up to save the day! (I am so uninterested in Ka-Zar, it's not even funny).
We learn of a villain named Garrok being created and taking over the Savage Land.
The X-Men agree to help Ka-Zar against Garrok and are successful, but it cost Garrok his life. This is a pretty important scene as Storm dives down a cavern trying to save Garrok because she's sworn not to take a life, however she is unsuccessful and it weighs heavily on her.
UXM117: The Shadow King
Writer - Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Pencils - John Byrne
This issue begins with the 6 core X-Men fleeing the Savage Land and stuck in a nasty storm in the middle of the ocean. They are eventually picked up by a Japanese fishing boat, however the real story takes place with Professor X recounting the story of his battle with the Shadow King. As someone who loves the show Legion on FX, I was very interested in this!
In Chuck's early years, he spent some time in Cairo when he picked up the scent of another powerful telepath. He learned that the Shadow King was essentially running the underworld and using his powerful mind powers to control everyone. Charles challenges him to a mind duel for control of the city. Their Astral projections duke it out on the Astral Plane.
Charles is losing for the most part until he decides to bust out a Deus Ex Machina and essentially create a psychic explosion of power which kills the Shadow King (I'm guessing he's not really dead, but we'll see).
UXM118 - 119: Trouble in Japan!
Writers - Chris Claremont & John Byrne
Pencils - John Byrne
The X-Men arrive in Japan, only to find a giant fire.
Since the Professor thinks the X-Men are dead, he decides to leave the planet and go with Lilandra to live among the Shi'ar Empire.
Sunfire shows up to join forces with the X-Men.
Since Scott thinks Jean died, he can't go long without companionship. He catches the eye of Colleen Wing (portrayed in the Marvel Netflix Iron Fist series as asian, but white in the comics).
Wolverine meets Sunfire's cousin, Mariko, who he is instantly attracted to.
We are introduced to the balding Mosus Magnum who is behind all of the shenanigans we have seen so far. I guess his Magnum sized piece can cause earthquakes???
Banshee puts everything on the line by screaming as loud as he possibly can to outmaneuver Moses Magnum and he ultimately saves the day.
MAJOR PLOT POINT ALERT
While most of these issues come across as throwaway, this is a huge turning point for the Uncanny X-Men roster. As an editorial note, I try to write these blogs soon after I read them, but at the time of writing this particular section I am at 180. I bring this up because Banshee is STILL out of commission and I'm wondering if he will ever join the team again. I had made jokes in earlier blogs about how I think Banshee is boring and the writers seem to think that too. Well, I still can't believe that they essentially kicked him out of the X-Men by saying that he was "healing" for a long fricken time. Banshee joins Havok, Polaris, and Multiple Man in the land of the outcasts (Muir Island) for the foreseeable future.
UXM 109, 120 - 121: Alpha Who?
Writers - Chris Claremont & John Byrne
Pencils - John Byrne
Non Alpha Flight events in this arc worth mentioning...
Banshee and Moira officially start dating.
Storm still likes to take off her clothes whenever possible and go swimming. (This is a bit racist making it look like all people from Africa are against clothes).
Phoenix thinking about how she knows that Corsair is Scott's dad from reading his mind but she promised him not to tell Scott.
Nightcrawler has a girlfriend named Amanda Sefton (This will become more important later).
I recently found out that there is a Canadian Super hero team called Alpha Flight which got an extended spin off series in the 80's. Even though I bought some comics when I was younger and consider myself decently up to speed with X-Men, I'm shocked that I had never heard of them. UXM 109 is the lead in to Alpha Flight.
A Canadian Super Hero named Vindicator shows up and tries to take Wolverine back to Canada. The rest of the X-men intervene and you can probably guess what happens next. After a lengthy fight, Vindicator accidentally hurts Moira and he feels so guilty that he just flies off after apologizing.
Issue 120 - 121 show the X-Men making a crash landing in Canada on their way from Japan to home. The X-Men have a friendly battle with Alpha Flight (because they are supposed to be heroes too) with the winner getting to keep Wolverine. Here is a quick breakdown of the team (but keep in mind I barely know them at this point):
Vindicator is the team leader. He is a normal man with a suit that seems to give him flight and some sort of energy bolts. (Stereotypical Canadian Maple Leaf, check)
Sasquatch is a normal man who can turn into a giant Sasquatch. (Stereotypical Canadian mythical beast, check).
Shaman is a Native American healer who seems to use magic or something? (Canadian Native American population, check)
Snowbird is a God or something who can change into stereotypical snowy animals like polar bears and snow owls. (More use of stereotypical Canadian animals, check)
Aurora and Northstar are twins and I have no idea what their powers are. (French Canadian population, check)
In a passage titled"What's the story behind Alpha Flight's creation?, John Byrne had the following to say about Alpha Flight in Byrne Robotics.
"Several members of what became Alpha Flight date back to my fan days. Guardian is chief among them, being created when I was in my early 20s as the figurehead of a whole line of "Canadian comics" I was hoping to produce. Snowbird, in very different form, was born around the same time. Shaman, originally called Chinook (he had only weather-controlling powers) came next. ...When I was assigned the gig of penciling UNCANNY X-MEN, Chris Claremont mentioned that Dave Cockrum had an idea that the Canadian government probably would not be too thrilled to see their multi-million dollar investment -- Wolverine -- head south as had so many other Canadian resources. Surely, he suggested, Ottawa would send somebody, perhaps even a team, to get him back. This sounded like a great idea, to me, and, of course, I had just the characters to do it.
We decided to start with just one, tho[sic], the leader of the group. Since Marvel at that time was publishing GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY the Powers that Were nixed the name Guardian, and since my backup, the Canadian Shield, was equally problematic in the Marvel Universe, he was without a name for a while. Chris took to calling him "Major Mapleleaf", and Roger Stern said we'd better come up with a name before that one stuck. Chris then tacked on "Vindicator", which absolutely did not work for me. What does Canada need to "vindicate"? I began pushing for the restoration of Guardian, and eventually pushed that thru [sic]. Before that happened, tho[sic], we had our "sequel" to do, with that group of Canadians coming down to reclaim Wolverine. I dropped in the renamed (and power enhanced) Shaman and a redesigned Snowbird, and came up with Northstar and Aurora (super speed to counter Nightcrawler's teleportation), and Sasquatch (to balance Colossus) and off we went. In the process I came up with real names and some backstory for each."
UXM 122 - 124: Arcade!
Writers - Chris Claremont & John Byrne
Pencils - John Byrne
People fricken love Arcade and will probably be mad that I don't give this arc it's own blog. I'm amused but happy to lump it in with the rest of these mini-stories.
The X-Men train in the danger room, Professor X still hanging out in space with Lilandra, Scott is still galavanting around with Colleen Wing, Storm decides to take a stroll in Harlem,
Jean runs into a man named Jason Wyngarde who she feels is pretty cute (This matters later!)
Black Tom and Juggernaut hire Arcade to kill the X-Men. Arcade's goons start capturing the X-Men 1 by 1.
Arcade sets the X-Men loose in his custom Murder World where each X-Man needs to solve a deadly puzzle.
Colossus is brainwashed and briefly turns into The Proletarian.
The X-Men solve their individual trials, then come back together to beat Arcade and escape.
Classic X-Men 17, 21, 27, 29 - 31 & Uncanny X-Men Annual # 3
Writers - Chris Claremont, Ann Nocenti, John Byrne
Pencils - John Byrne, John Bolton, June Brigman
CXM # 17 gives a little more backstory showing how Beast became aware that the X-Men were missing and eventually found them in the circus.
My guess is that people were up in arms about Colossus having a threesome with some locals in the savage land so CXM # 21 tells a story of Colossus saving their lives and initially rebuking their advances...but then he still does it.
CXM # 27 is fun little story showing Jean and Wolverine trapped in the sewers being attacked by these creepy bug things. As they continue to run out of room, Wolverine hits harder and harder on Jean but you can tell she doesn't mind.
CXM # 29 gives more backstory about how Colossus got brainstormed by Arcade. There is a long story about him being recruited by the Russian government, but I still think it's a bit thin.
CXM # 30 shows Arcade's backstory and essentially tells us that he grew up rich and spoiled and was a sneaky bastard since his youth.
CXM # 31 shows what Xavier was up to while out in space. Apparently he felt very inadequate as most of the aliens were more advanced than he was, so Lilandra has him go out on a run with a goofy space janitor who helps him to find some perspective.
Uncanny X-Men Annual # 3 is a dumb story where a guy named Akron comes from another dimension to kidnap storm so she can sacrifice herself to save the planet. She ends up being able to save the planet without sacrificing herself and ends up being revered by this world's population.
Ok there, now we're ALMOST to the Dark Phoenix Saga!
As I was reading through these comics, I kept expecting the Dark Phoenix saga to start immediately, but boy was I wrong. I had no idea that Jean was existing as the Phoenix for a long time with an extremely slow (but excellently written) build up to her going bad. It didn't help that I found some of these stories to be boring, which is why I am packing a LOT of issues into a single blog.
Issue # 109 marks the end of Dave Cockrum's run (he did fill in on #110) and the beginning of the legendary John Byrne run. John Byrne is one of the most influential X-Men creators of all time, as he helped to craft both the Dark Phoenix saga, Days of Future Past, and many other iconic X-Men stories which put X-Men on the map. In addition to providing the pencils, he started receiving co-writing credit as of #115.
Almost as legendary as their creative works, is the feuding that took place between these two. Byrne would turn in plotting and pencil work, and then Chris provided all of the scripting. However, with Chris being the last one to touch the comic (through scripting) prior to the comics being printed, Chris got the last say on the direction of the story. These two creative behemoth's will eventually split ways, but for this period of time, they were in their prime. You can see some of this bleeding through in the following quote by John Byrne about what it's like to partner with Chris Claremont in "The Phoenix Effect: 25 Years of the All New Uncanny X-Men:"
"A perfect creative team is seamless...and invisible. No part calls attention to itself at the expense of any other part. That was what I liked about Glynis and Tom: they did their jobs so well that they were practically invisible.'
Asked what he felt "clicked" in his collaboration with Claremont, Byrne responded, 'almost nothing! That's kind of what made it work. I've always said we had kind of a 'Gilbert and Sullivan' relationship. We came at the whole storytelling problem from very different directions, and such sparks as there were came about largely from us banging into each other."
This run also introduced Alpha Flight, which Byrne later turned into it's own series that he both wrote and penciled. Byrne had the following to say about that project in "Comics Creators on X-Men" by Tom DeFalco:
"I never really intended for Alpha Flight to get its own book or books. That’s one of the things I had trouble with when I did Alpha Flight. Then though most of them had been fan characters, they really only existed at that point in my mind as these guys who can fight the X-Men.
That was really all the depth of character or personality they had. So when I came to do Alpha Flight, I spent most of my time shoe-horning in anything I could think of that make them three dimensional. That’s how Northstar got to be gay. I was just looking for anything that would make them interesting."
To be honest, this actually explains a lot as I find Alpha Flight to be quite one note and boring, but I'll save that feedback for my official Alpha Flight review.
I've talked a lot about how Cockrum's favorite character was Nightcrawler, and therefore he was featured a lot. Byrne's favorite character was his fellow Canadian, Wolverine. This is the era where Wolverine really started to get major screen time and he began to grow as a character.
These story arcs are where the idea of Wolverine being willing to kill is really featured. It actually begins with a great scene where Wolverine is being scolded by storm about hunting and he explains that he doesn't actually kill the deer, but he likes to see how close he can get to touch it without spooking it. Storm apologizes for misjudging him.
Later, in the Savage Land arc, it is strongly suggested that Wolverine kills one of the guards riding a pterodactyl. Chris Claremont gets incredibly defensive of this first on screen murder with the following quotes from Peter Sanderson's X-Men Companion Vol 1:
"As originally constructed in the plot, it was specifically set up in such a way that it was a wartime situation. You have Storm, Wolverine and Nightcrawler on the ground. You had the guard. You had an airborne patrol of pterodactyl riders a hundred feet overhead. The slightest outcry would have brought them down and would have defeated the X-Men. The man had to be taken out swiftly, silently, and permanently.
They could not afford to tie him ip. Maybe he could wake up and go "mmmm-mhmhhhmmm.:" The point was, Storm would have tried to do something. Storm would have tried to take him alive. Nightcrawler could not teleport to the attack because of the fact that teleporting involves sound, light and smell. They might have heard it, seen it, smelled it. It came down to Wolverine, and for Wolverine it's a killing situation. He has no qualms about it because he knows that the man would have no qualms about killing him if it came to that."
And then Claremont takes this further and you see more of the frustration between creators:
"I'm talking about the original plot I put down on paper in which I said this is how the scene is structured. John [Byrne] chose not to do it that way. He did not establish the threat - the pterodactyl riders flying guard patrols, who would have been alerted by the man's outcries I saw the way John had done it, we had no time to change it...In many cases, when there were artistic conflicts between what I had wanted as the writer and the person who wrote the plot and what John had interpreted from that plot, the change would not, could not, have been done in the two panels that were allowed. It would involved a structural change, it would have affected the rest of the book. Or so it seemed to me.
So, I would generally just not do it. In this case, I left out the "snikt". The inference was there; if you were a reader you could infer either Wolverine went up and killed the guy, or went up and just knocked him out real hard. Roger [Stern] and John talked about it and without consulting me, the sound effect was put in...Roger said as editor he overruled me, and I was furious, but there was nothing I could do about it. It was done."
It's also worth mentioning that Storm continues to have a strong reaction to Wolverine killing, such as her making the following quote after this Savage Land murder:
“He’s like the great cats on the veldt. When he strikes, there is no mercy in him.”
Theres also plenty more fodder for the Jean/Wolvie shipping watch!
In addition, after learning that Jean is dead (she wasn't), he makes the following remark to himself:
“Babe, you were the first person I ever really cared for…and I never even told you my real name. I had plans for us, Jeanie.”
There's even a quote related to Jean that shows a lot about his character:
"Hey! Razor-wings heading for cyke, an he ain’t spotting ‘em! If I just butt out, presto! I got a clear track with Jeanie."
Wolverine notices that a villain is about to kill Scott and thinks for a second that if he doesn't act, he can let Scott die and be with Jean. However, this quote is portrayed as we see Wolverine pushing Scott out of the way. This shows us that while he has beastly tendencies, he is still an honorable man.
When it's clear that Jean is unobtainable, Wolverine meets Mariko Yashida, a love of his that will remain fixture in the narrative for more than a decade until her untimely death in the Wolverine solo series.
Byrne has the following to say about this relationship in Peter Sanderson's X-Men Companion:
"I felt that [Wolverine] needed something delicate and fine to just counterbalance it. And rather than introducing a character in the X-Men or a member of the X-Men and add those qualities I thought I would introduce a girlfriend. And when we went to Japan I'd just finished reading Shogun the concept of a perfect geisha was exactly what I was looking for - this tiny doll-like creature, all frail with exactly the kind of things that would push all the buttons for Wolverine."
Storm's moral compass is a defining character beat of the Claremont era. She is constantly battling with her own beliefs about not taking a life, which doesn't make exceptions for villains who are trying to kill her. We see an important scene where a villain named Garrok is thrown to his death and she dives down after him, trying to save him, but is unsuccessful. We see that this weighs heavily on her.
Banshee is irreparably damaged in a battle with Moses Magnum in UXM # 119, leading him to be removed from the active roster for close to a decade!
Nightcrawler takes a big step forward in these stories by ditching his image inducer and going out in public, being proud of how he looks. Claremont even further normalizes him by introducing a girlfriend named Amanda Sefton (who we'll be seeing a lot of over the years). He also gives Scott a pep talk at one point and reminds him that things could be worse, he could look like him.
Colossus continues struggling with his perceived ineffectiveness, which is encapsulated best by a quote from # 119:
“But, once again, I have let my comrades down. I am supposed to be the strong x-man, yet of late I have been as much use to them as a talking punching bag. ”
His low self esteem makes him vulnerable and Arcade exploits that by using a fake Russian Colonel named Vazhin to convince Colossus that he has betrayed the Motherland by fighting with the Americans. Colossus announces himself as the Proletariat and begins pummeling his teammates. I haven't read a lot of future X-Men stories, but I do recall him eventually going bad and becoming one of Magneto's Acolytes, making this a bit of foreshadowing.
Oh. And Colossus has a threesome. Probably knocked up Nereel. So, that happened.
Claremont puts Xavier out of the picture by having him go off into space with Lilandra for quite some time.
Remember how I said that Cyclops came off as kind of a dick, but I was waiting for him to be likable? That definitely hasn't happened yet. In a quote that I barely understand, he doesn't seem to be mourning for Jean after he learns that she died:
"I mourned for Hank, but…for Jean there’s nothing there."
Now maybe that's a foreshadow related to this not really being Jean and instead being Phoenix, but I don't think that was actually planned at this time. Regardless, he wastes no time in hooking up with Colleen Wing while they are flying around. You dick.
We also get a solid dose of leader angst when Cyke is beating himself up when thinking Beast and Jean died:
“I…failed. I was in command. Everyone depended on me, trusted me, and I blew it.”
My Ratings and Reviews: 3/10
There are some decent issues in here, but most of them seemed like filler and I just found myself anxiously flying through them on my way to the Dark Phoenix saga.
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