8: X-Men (Volume 1) # 125 - 128 (Proteus!)

What's Covered?

X-Men (Volume 1) #125 - 128 (June '79 - Sep '79), Classic X-Men # 36 (Aug '89)


Moira's son, Proteus, is lose and only the X-Men can stop him. But he might be the most powerful mutant they've ever encountered.


Roster Watch

Synopsis


UXM #125: Reunions

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - John Bryne

Issue #125 begins with Moira experimenting on Jean to identify the limit (or lack thereof) of her powers.

We also see Jean prancing around Muir Island looking sexy and flaunting her powers, which Alex (Havok) remarks on how that is not like Jean to be doing.

We start to get a little backstory on a man named Jason Wyngarde who has been manipulating Jean. We see him recounting how he has been following her around for months, pretending to be various people she's met.

In fact you can go back a number of issues and see these various characters were right there in front of our face. His goal is to make her the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club.


Jean has her first "episode" of being psychically transported to the 1800's as the wife of Jason Wyngarde. FYI, this is Dark Phoenix stuff here!

Back at Muir Island, Moira is making rounds and ends up realizing that Magneto accidentally freed someone named "Mutant X" a few issues back and she seems terrified. For those of you who love serialized storytelling, this was a really cool "long game" being played because this happened back in Issue 104!


The JV team (Havok, Multiple Man, Polaris) realize something is wrong and call the X-Men.

The X-Men are having a normal training session as Beast sneaks into the mansion and is shocked to run into Cyclops. This is a really cool reunion as both parties thought the other was dead and they have an amazing reunion here!


At this point I couldn't wait for them to run into Jean!

Cyclops gets a phone call from Lorna that something is wrong before the call (and issue) ends with a scream...


UXM #126: Proteus is loose

Writer - Chris Claremont

Pencils - John Bryne

The X-Men once again scoot over to Muir Island where they find a dead husk of a man.

And the moment I couldn't wait for, the amazing reunion of Scott and Jean...

Wait, those panels aren't showing me much, what happened? NOTHING! Grrrrrrr! When Scott finds Jean she is passed out and then later they cut to her being awake and the group just strategizing about what to do with Mutant X. What the hell!? How did they miss this opportunity to have this great emotional moment. I mean...Beast lifted Scott in the air. Ugh, annoying. But we do find out more about Mutant X...

Mutant X is actually her son, Proteus, who she keeps locked up. Or kept locked up, until Magneto accidentally freed him. We learn that Proteus takes over the bodies of other humans and feeds off their life source until he's ready to move onto the next Mutant. He is also one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe because he can distort reality.

Meanwhile, Jean has another episode with Jason Wygarde.

The X-Men find Proteus and face off with him, but he REALLY messes with them, especially Wolverine. Wolverine is even more disoriented than the others because his enhanced senses typically give him a stronger grasp on his surroundings, but Proteus changes everything.

UXM #127 - 128: Stopping Proteus

Plot - John Bryne

Script- Chris Claremont

Pencils - John Bryne


While the X-Men are fighting, Moira shows that she's not messing around is ready to kill her own son to stop him from harming the world.

Proteus finds his way to his dad's house, who we learn is a real peach.

Proteus ends up taking over his dad (Moira's estranged husband) and begins torturing mum.

Jean flies the X-Men to help and a massive fight ensues.

The X-Men work together as a team and are able to defeat him with Colossus (of all people) to deal the final blow.


Classic X-Men #36


The Classic X-Men tells a tale of Moira contemplating cloning her son to see if she could raise him again without him being evil. Banshee ends up talking her out of it and pushes her to focus on her future, their future, together. This being released in the late 80's is actually set up for the Kings of Pain Crossover where we will see Proteus come back once more.


My Connections


Claremont and Byrne continue with the Proteus saga! I just want to start by saying that I enjoyed many comic arcs so far in my journey, but this one is by far my favorite up to this point and left a real impression on me.


As we discussed last blog during the 16 issue X-Men International Tour, the two halves of the team (Jean, Beast, Professor X as opposed to everyone else) spent a long time thinking the others were dead. They finally learn that the other half is alive, but I felt like this reunion was very cheap. My initial thought was that Claremont and Byrne must have made an error in judgement, assuming the readers wouldn't want a big reunion since we (the readers) knew they were alive, but I came across the following quote from Claremont in Peter Sanderson's second X-Men companion book that sheds a little light on the thought process:


"Sometimes I plot moments into a story and they've been shunted aside for various reasons. For example, the reunion of Scott and Jean in #126 after they've been apart for months and months and months - well, in the original plot, the reaction to that meeting was supposed to take place in #126...but John felt he didn't have space, and there wasn't really an opportunity to do it in the next two issues of the Proteus saga, because everybody was going boompetyboompetyboom, lickety-split to the end.
So we had to postpone it to #129. It was a structural decision for which we must both take the blame, but that's unfortunately how things work sometimes. To have added the scene would have meant adding a whole new page to the book and cutting a page somewhere else, or repencilling the last 15 pages, or nine pages, or 11 pages, and that's beyond the bounds of sense."

So it sounds as though it wasn't an oversight, but more a scene that got cut on the editing room floor. You can tell based on this quote that it's clearly not just me who has harped on them for this over the years, so I guess I'll choose to cut them some slack.


Creators


I need to give Claremont props because there was actually a long lead up to this Proteus arc that only the most eagle eyed of readers may have caught on to. The following panel appeared all the way back in Issue # 104 (as covered in 6: UXM 104 - 108 (Magneto, Muir Island, and Starjammers)):


In Comic Creators on X-Men, Dave Cockrum says:

"I recall talking with Chris about it, but for some reason he held onto that concept until Byrne came on."

So it seems unclear if Chris just wanted to wait a long time until he was ready for this story or if he didn't think Cockrum would be good enough to draw it, but regardless it was worth the wait in my opinion. Byrne offers some more insight in Comic Creators on X-Men:

"The notion that Moira [MacTaggert] had this son who she kept locked away had sort of been lurking around since the Claremont days. I don't remember how much of it had actually been revealed in the book by the time I came on board, but Chris and Dave had certainly already worked Proteus out, and were set to unleash him at some point. Ultimately, though, it was Chris and I who unleashed him.

One more point on Proteus. It appears that there was also some internal conversations about making Proteus the son of Charles, as detailed in the following quote by John Byrne in Comic Creators on X-Men by Tom DeFalco:

Chris had it in his head that it was Moira and Xavier's child. Xavier's bastard child, but I said, 'No, I don't think superheroes have bastard children.' So instead he became Moira and Moira's ex-husband's child. He was a huge menace - something big and really bad - because we were constantly trying to outdo ourselves."

Character Beats


Wolverine

One thing that I am very impressed with is how great Claremont and Byrne are at when it comes to mining every plot point for potential character moments. It's like something happens, and then they sit around and think through every character and decide if this event would impact any character's based on their history, then they brilliantly pull on those threads. So for instance, I'm guessing there was a conversation like this: "Ok so we've established that Proteus has the ability to disrupt reality. Would that impact anyone in any profound ways? Oh I know, that would really fuck with Logan because his enhanced senses give him an incredibly strong grasp on his surroundings."


The attacks by Proteus are most significant for Logan as we see vulnerability out of him for the first time in the series. Logan is the character always projecting strength, but when you disrupt reality and he can no longer trust his senses, he quickly becomes a liability on the battlefield. This is a brilliant way to take a character who is typically the most steady and demonstrate that even he isn't the perfect soldier. This makes the reader feel that if there are situations that even Wolverine can't handle, maybe it's ok that you cried last week when (input semi traumatic event in your life).


Cyclops and Wolverine


Cyclops decides that the only way to get Wolverine out of his funk is to challenge him directly. This scene is more fodder for the ongoing rivalry between these two characters. Richard Reynolds had the following to say in his book "Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology" about how this rivalry strengthened the creative genius of Claremont and Byrne:


"One of the main elements which gave the Byrne/Claremont run an extra dimension compared with other material of the period was the continuing use of unresolved conflicts between the individual characters. These unresolved conflicts outlasted any individual plot-line and were the main driving force of the comic’s development. These unresolved conflicts were not presented as arising from any specific misunderstandings or disagreements.
They were portrayed as inseparable from the life of a superhero team. To expedite this shifting perspective on the story, Byrne employed a style of sequential art that was ‘cinematic’ in the sense that it constantly interpreted each panel and each segment of the narrative from an implied and subjective point of view. The reader was drawn in, invited to take sides in the characters’ conflicts. Byrne certainly offers occasional bravura displays and double page splashes, but these are always paced to punctuate the story at key turning points."

Another example of this healthy rivalry is shown in the following exchange between them about how to approach Proteus:


Cyclops - “We have to know who Mutant X is…what his powers are, his strengths, weaknesses, needs…how he thinks and feels. It could make the difference between victory or defeat. Life or Death. You know I’m right, Wolverine.”
Wolverine - “I know-but I don’t have’ta like it!”

This shows that while these two love to bicker, there is mutual respect between the two. Or at least, you can see that Wolverine respects Cyclops' leadership skills enough to back down when a good idea is brought up.


Cyclops

Remember how I'm still waiting until I start liking Cyclops? Well, this arc didn't do him any favors. Jean's body is only cold for a few days (and not even truly dead), and he immediately starts macking on Colleen Wing. He's like the guy in high school who can't go more than one minute without a girlfriend, so he's constantly bouncing from one relationship immediately into the next. Luckily, this relationship ended quickly and John Byrne sheds some light on this in Peter Sanderson's second X-Men Companion volume:

"She was introduced for a very specific purpose: to create the conflict that never really came about when Jean came back. "Here's Jean back and here's Colleen, and oh jeez, I jumped into Colleen so fast and I did not care about Jean" and all that kind of stuff, which didn't happen because Mary Jo Duffy quite rightly demanded Colleen back to do stuff with her. Chris has an unfortunate tendency to think that once he's written a character it's his character, and I try to think that once I leave a book I leave the characters behind."

So once again, I made an assumption that this was a bad creator choice, but it seems more like an editorial problem. They had intended to use Colleen to make a love triangle (which I hate love triangles, but can respect here) out of these three, but they didn't go through with it because Colleen was needed back in the Iron Fist comic. This resulted in Cyclops looking like an insecure sleezeball for no reason. Oh well...


Colossus

Proteus's one weakness is steel/metal, which puts Colossus in a difficult place. Colossus has a big heart, but he is seeing innocent people burned to a husk, his strongest teammate brought to his knees, and Proteus's own mother convinced he has to die. He realizes that with being a hero and the only one who can stop him, he must act, but in taking a life, his own will be changed forever.


Storm

Storm continues to value human life, whether they are innocent or evil:

“That policeman must be Mutant X (Proteus). I can’t attack him directly. Evil though he is evil, he is also a living being. I will not take his life.

Magneto

Magneto is starting to get a little more personality. This is where we learn that he had a wife named Magda. In fact, there is a hint in this arc that Magda resembles Wanda. Editor Roger Stern had the following to say about the decision to officially make Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch the children of Magneto in Al Nickerson's "Claremont and Byrne: The Team that Made the X-Men Uncanny.":

"It's been so long ago, but either John Byrne, Mark Gruenwald, or Steven Grant - or some combination of those folk - suggested that Magneto was the father of Wanda [Scarlet Witch] and Pietro [Quicksilver]. It was my intent that the readers, but never the characters, would know ... and we've all seen how long that lasted."


My Rating and Review - 9/10


As mentioned above, I absolutely loved this story. Seeing Wolverine and Colossus humbled, feeling wretched about what Moira is put through, and the fascinating powers of Proteus all make this one of my personal favorites.



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