I don’t know what’s more upsetting: that almost a thousand people reviewed this movie or that all but two people who chose to rate the top review found it the most “helpful.”
I’ve been doing these on and off for almost two years and I’m posting them here because I’m tired of sifting through my old e-mails to myself to find them. Enjoy!
Carol Ann Lanechange
Silvestri Makes His Mark
(Uncanny X-Men #218-224)
Image co-founder Marc Silvestri rose to fame with the X-Men in the late 80s, bringing is energetic, new school, people-and-things-that-look-cool sensibility to a hit title that had not, arguably since Byrne, a truly trademark look or aesthetic feel to it. Much of Silvestri’s work early on is a bit rough, but due to a prolific schedule (the book goes bi-weekly for some stretches during his tenure) he is able to hone his skills quickly and give the X-Men a look that was a forerunner of many popular comics to come out of the late 80s and early 90s. For the first time since Byrne, the X-Men looked cool, which is ultimately a somewhat minor plus, but it’s a significant one. In the months before the game changing X-Crossover (what with cover banners and all) Fall of The Mutants, Claremont and Silvestri give us some new team members and inevitably more drama and more explosions.
Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde are on the road to recovery as the team lingers in Scotland. Back in the USA, we see Havok and Polaris, living their leisurely private lives together as grad-students in New Mexico. They have a near miss on the road with VW bus (which will be followed up much later on) and crash their Jeep. They are able to use their powers to free themselves and set right their vehicle in a cleverly subtle way to introduce newbies to these old classic characters who haven’t been seen in over a decade. Dazzler wakes up buried alive, presumably by Juggernaut who thought her dead (as well as the reader, for that matter) and is able to make mind-contact with Psylocke however briefly to get herself rescued. Everyone hugs and makes nice, except for Rogue who once again has to suffer insensitive asses who keep forgetting that she can’t touch others without hurting them and throws a small fit. They hear on the radio that Edinburgh is falling prey to a Juggernaut rampage and the X-Men heed the call. After some spectacular X-Fightin’, the authorities haul away the incapacitated Juggernaut, only to hear that across town, Black Tom Cassidy robbed the Bank of Scotland. The X-Men lament their gaffe, but come away pleased that they were able to gel as a combat unit. Dazzler and Psylocke use their powers to prevent photography of them and alter people’s recollection of their appearance. Havok and Polaris discover an odd trail and follow it to the remains of a Starshark - a space-faring Brood vessel.
Havok has a nightmare that he will return to the mansion and that the X-Men will try to kill him, with former villains Magneto and Rogue leading the charge. He soon after departs for New York and as he leaves, the Marauders come calling on Polaris, who puts up a good fight, but is ultimately knocked out. Havok has an awkward meeting with Magneto at the Hellfire Club where Havok yells at him and grumpily storms out of the place. He tails Magneto to the Morlock tunnels and eavesdrops on a meeting wherein Storm suggests the team be officially disbanded in order to operate more covertly in finding the Marauders. Havok freaks out and runs away but the team is able subdue him and explain their motives, that any active or reserve X-person is a target and that they need to keep everything on the down-low. Havok agrees and asks to join them in their hunt. Back in New Mexico, Polaris re-emerges as the new host for Malice, who claims formal leadership of the Marauders.
Storm can no longer stand being without her powers and resolves herself to seek out Forge. She makes Wolverine leader in her stead; he resists and first, but complies after she yells in his face. She revisits Forge’s holodeck loft and finds it empty. She dodges multiple-laser intruder countermeasures and when she calls out her name and who she’s looking for, the place switches to holographic replays of past events. She eventually finds Forge sitting alone with a mass of wires plugged into his head. He screams and pines for her, but he, too, is just another holographic illusion (and quite a disturbing one at that) and Storm abandons her search. Enter Naze, who greets Storm and informs her that Forge has been taken by the Adversary, the great evil that both he and Forge were trained as shamans to fight. He demands that Storm help him find Forge and defeat the Adversary, recalling the debt she owes him for saving her life when last they were together. At first she refuses, wanting forget the whole idea she had, but is swayed after a bit of soul searching while standing outside in the rain. As the pair set off, the get a glimpse of Naze, for those unfamiliar with his last appearance, that indicates his insidious nature.
And one of the best X-Men characters of the 80s finally makes his presence known: Mr. Sinister berates his Marauders for their incomplete work in failing to kill Madelyne Pryor. They make a move to get at her in her hospital room, but the X-Men are able to intervene. How Scalphunter and Sabretooth make it all the way into her room without being seen and raising suspicion looking as they do eludes all reason, but it is San Francisco, so maybe not. The fight between the Marauders and X-Men also devastates the hospital. Look what Scrambler made Havok do:
I mean, he just killed and/or injured dozens of people right there! Thankfully, the fight migrates to the nearby beach. As Rogue flies Madelyne away, a nearby building under construction starts coming apart and girders begin to swarm and give chase. Polaris makes a huge metal tendril that ends underwater, holding down Rogue and Madelyne. Dazzler swoops down and is able to get them free by narrowing her light into a lazer emitted from her fingertip (this happens a lot, by the way). Madelyne gets away, but as Dazzler and Rogue tread water and make amends for earlier spats, Polaris looms over them.
From afar, Polaris is knocked out by a blast from Havok. As the ladies make for the shore, much calamity strikes the beach as people flee frenziedly. SFPD Lieutenant Morrel reappears to give Havok and Psylocke a lift to the beach to meet up with the others. Dazzler recharges herself by absorbing all the ambient sound at the beach, which freaks the shit out of everyone around and Havok shows up in time to tell her just that. Then he looks over to the woman he just shot (from like a mile away!) to find that it’s his lover. And the he freaks the shit out. And then Polaris/Malice blasts him in the face. Meanwhile, Naze has Storm undergo a vision quest as the make their way to Forge. He conjures up a some animal-demons and she takes them out with a knife. Back at the beach, Polaris keeps her friends at bay and Vertigo and Harpoon zoom in to pick her up in a Corvette (awesome). She has a couple moments of breaking through Malice’s control to lament and frown about the whole horrible situation and they get away once Arclight punches the ground and the team falls into a small crevice. On the Golden Gate Bridge, Scalphunter gets ready to snipe Rogue, but is interrupted by Longshot and Wolverine. Scalphunter and Longshot both fall off the bridge and soon enough, Sabretooth and Scrambler enter the fray. After some brawling on an inexplicably vacant Golden Gate Bridge, it gets too hairy for Wolverine (Scrambler is a real motherfucker, to say the least) he jumps off the bridge to be caught by Rogue. Moments later, they find Longshot not only perfectly fine, but he has managed to find Madelyne. Longshot’s “power” is good luck, which sounds stupid, but if used well is often a charming way to tie up story problems. You ever notice how no one ever gripes about Domino’s good luck power? It’s because the uses guns and has breasts; that’s by theory. And then Havok and Polaris/Malice have this heartbreaking goodbye:
Malice is a biiiiiiiitch.
The three superpowered loonies who captured Storm earlier are tried and Val Cooper is able to snag them from sentencing to join Freedom Force. They are brought back and eventually settle in after a little roughhousing with the existing Freedom Force. Then Destiny screams and when Mystique and company go to her she tells them that she foresees that the X-Men will die very soon. While Wolverine leads some practice fighting with the team, Madelyne Pryor makes her way to edge of the San Francisco bay (more Vertigo imagery, everyone!) and mulls over the state of her life and what a shitty, shitty husband Cyclops is and considering jumping. Storm and Naze make their way up a mountain where Storm kills some even bigger and badder animal-demon-god-things and eventually finds Forge and kills him. But wait - it’s just a vision-dream-hallucination. Storm wakes with Naze in a smoke hut and she tells him that even though he actually loves Forge, she is prepared to kill him and Naze comforts her, grinning. Havok finds Madelyne and talks her back from the edge and affirms her as they commiserate over their fractured love lives.
Storm is finally ready for the final leg of her journey. She dons Native American gear and she bids Naze farewell with a hug and a kiss (which is just weird). Val Cooper holds a press conference in front of the remains of the hospital and announces the recently passed Mutant Special Powers Registration Act, which presumably would help prevent such collateral damage by licensing superpowered people. See? They could have done Civil War right here, since the exact same thing happened in that story, but they didn’t. Rogue works out at a gym that happened to have purchased an old weight press (meant for Thing) from the Fantastic Four. Mystique comes up next to her discreetly and warns her of the Destiny’s vision and Rogue maintains her desire to stay with her friends, which makes Mystique cry.
Dazzler sings a show at a bar and afterwards, is chastised by Wolverine for showing her powers off during her performance, warning her that it’s a dangerous time to be a mutant and she should be more mindful. Exiting a movie, Havok and Longshot witness some punks shoot down some cops and kidnap a couple girls in a convertible. Longshot deftly swashbuckles the girls from the car by throwing his knives at the car’s tires and scoops up them up swinging from a rope. The car stop in front of Havok, who threatens the punks. They step out of the car looking to rumble, but are put in their place when Havok blasts their car, melting it. Lt. Morrel comes by to clean up the mess and echoes Wolverine’s warning about public displays. As the X-Men gather and get ready to leave San Fran, Psylocke tries to call Storm telepathically and senses she is in danger. Storm scales the mountain and fights off scores of little demon monsters until she finally finds Forge at the summit. He is glad to see her and she stabs him, believing as Naze said that Forge was trying to open the gate to a netherworld. He tells her that he was trying to close it. They embrace as they finally admit their feelings for each other. He leads them both off the cliff and are sucked in through the gate as it closes. Below, Naze rejoices as he blows a chunk off the top of the mountain and revels that Storm and Forge - the only two that could stand in his way - are now gone.
Odds & Ends
- The Scottish police force is peopled by namesakes of Doctor Who characters: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Sergeant Benton are members of the UNIT organization that aided the Doctor for his time on Earth (primarily through the 70s).
- During this time, Marvel ran this in-house ad in their books for some clever cross-marketing:
All The Ladies
(The Uncanny X-Men #212-217)
From December 1986 to May 1987, Uncanny X-Men had a series of guest artists before new regular Marc Silvestri came on board. Perennial pinch hitter Rick Leonardi chips in, British fan-fave Alan Davis stops by for a few pints, Jackson Guice brings his elegant, moody stylings to bear, and Barry Windsor-Smith provides a regrettably less-than-spectacular outing. This segment meanders a bit, providing a lot of breathing room for characters to settle into their post-massacre paradigm and get to know each other, as Psylocke and Dazzler become full-time members and Longshot gets ported from his debut mini-series. Going forward into the next few years, the line up of the team is primarily female - a stark contrast to the male-dominated eras preceding and succeeding the late 80s. There are a couple of misadventures that push characters to certain limits, but it’s fairly apparent that the book is treading water during this time. Worthy of note are the two mini-series concurrent with Uncanny X-Men that have significant repercussions: X-Men vs. Fantastic Four and X-Men vs. Avengers (the former written by Claremont with art by Jon Bogdanove, the latter written by Roger Stern with art by new regular X-Men artist Marc Silvestri). I will funnel in events from those books in synopsis.
Post-massacre, we find Wolverine stalking the Morlock tunnels as Storm has herself an epic pity party while making the rounds among the injured back at the mansion. Colossus begins to pass out while talking to Psylocke and falls on top of her, injuring her in the process.
Moira MacTaggart has no luck with the metal man; Magneto steps in and does some magnetic voodoo and Colossus regains consciousness, but is completely paralyzed. Back in the sewers, Wolverine finds Sabretooth, who is in league with the Marauders. After a bit of catch-phrase posturing, they start trying to kill each other. Callisto finds Storm outside on the mansion grounds and gives her some good old tough love to try to snap her out of her funk and they begin to scrap. Wolverine is able to trap Sabretooth behind some rubble and is able to retrieve the Morlock known as Healer (you can guess what he does).
The team assembles in the sewers where they discuss everyone’s situation and catch up with each other, because when you have large, technologically advanced suburban mansion, an underground shit corridor is where you want to hold conferences. Psylocke, telepathically phoning in from the mansion, affirms her resolve and dedication to the cause and tries to sell them on the premise that she’s a deft telepath and that they kind of need at least one, despite the reservations of some that she could be a liability for being just a pretty lady with no aptitude for physical combat. As this anvil of foreshadowing falls, we see Rogue strolling the edge of the mansion grounds as she gets hoodwinked by Sabretooth, who proceeds towards the mansion. Psylocke manages to keep Sabretooth occupied in leading him away from the infirmary through a bit of psychic prodding and a lot of running and throwing stuff between them. Despite her aforementioned lack of athleticism, she is able to keep Sabretooth at bay at a reasonable distance and, thankfully, Wolverine catches up to take the burden from her. As they tear each other apart, Psylocke takes the opportunity to concentrate on probing Sabretooth’s mind and is able to discern that the Marauders are centrally organized and have a master who controls them. Once the temporal wounds are bandaged, Psylocke is officially brought on board.
The telepathic entity Malice starts actively manipulating Dazzler, beginning with an unexpected keyboard solo and light show while performing with Lila Cheney and her band. It flies in the face of the band in general and in particular her incognito status. Dazzler is in the band to avoid attention as in prior stories (mainly in her own series), she had become a celebrity that had been outed as a mutant and was effectively persecuted by the masses. Lila contacts the X-Men and asks them to come visit to check out Dazzler’s uncharacteristic behavior. They find her in a nightclub, cutting loose and not being shy about putting on a light show. When the X-Men approach her, she starts full-on fighting them. Malice begins jumping bodies, causing even more mayhem, as she is not only attempting to harm or kill X-Men, but is trying to make a big, violent spectacle to attract the police and press. They do indeed arrive in time and Malice, occupying Rogue, proceeds to claim all the destruction in the name of the X-Men to all present:
Which, as Storm notes later on, probably did more damage to the team than the Marauders’ assault. The team brings Dazzler into the fold despite the fact they are all extra wary of each other, knowing that Malice is out there and can infiltrate them at will again.
There is a brief and somewhat incomprehensible sequence where the incident of Madelyne Pryor walking away from a plane crash (she’d told Cyclops about previously) bleeds into her being kidnapped by Marauders masquerading as EMTs. She flees them and gets shot in the back, leaving us all to scratch our heads until the story comes back to her. Storm sends all but Wolverine to Muir Island via the Blackbird, so the injured can be treated at Moira’s medical facility. We later find that the weird scene with Madelyne sort of did happen - she is recovering in a San Francisco hospital. Storm and Wolverine respond to a distress call from Sara Grey, Jean’s sister, and take a small road trip. On the way, they discuss the dangers of Malice and debate whether it’s worth keeping the team together. They arrive to find the house on fire. Wolverine catches what he believes to be Jean’s scent and goes apeshit:
He ditches Storm, whom he has rendered unconscious, and runs off into the woods. She awakens in shackles, from which she frees herself fairly easily, reconnoiters a bit, and finds upstairs a modern, posh woodland home. Her keepers soon enter to find her there and begin to explain themselves. They are three superpowered individuals who had fought for the US in WWII and are now retired - Crimson Commando, Super Sabre, and Stonewall. They spend their days abducting people whom they feel are guilty of crimes (even if only circumstantially suspect) and hunt them in the woods. They capture their victims and let them go Most Dangerous Game style and in Storm’s case, they believe she is guilty of having set fire to Sara Grey’s house. She is let loose along with another prisoner, an insufferable young affluent girl who sells drugs to her peers. They obviously don’t like each other even in the slightest, but nonetheless agree to stick together to evade and hopefully get the better of their hunters.
Still wandering around the wilderness, Wolverine comes across a road and as he crosses it is hit by a truck. The young couple from the truck inspect the damage but cannot find who/what they hit, so continue on. Feral and angry, Wolverine begins tracking the truck to lash out at that which hurt him. Meanwhile, Storm and teen bitch Priscilla further debate how much of a little shit she is as they come to the notion of setting a trap for their pursuers. It is a lethal trap, meant to take out the speedster, Super Sabre, whom they assume would be the lead recon person of the trio. At the last moment, Storm does not spring the trap as the speedster passes them by. Priscilla freaks and Storm again extols the virtue of being decent and not being an asshole, which falls on deaf ears as she leaves Storm to fend for herself.
Ready to pounce on the pair that hit him as they are stopped with engine trouble, Priscilla runs at them and tries to hijack their truck, killing them in the process. Wolverine howls in lament, ready to come down on her, but she books it in the truck, spooked by his noise. Looking down on the two murdered youths snaps Wolverine back to normal. The hunters find Storm’s trap and are able to reason that she was prepared to kill them, but chose not to, thus sparking debate among them of the worthiness of their (completely fuck-nuts) system of “justice.” As Stonewall edges towards a sleeping Priscilla, Storm tosses him into a pond that turns out to be (like) quicksand. She promptly makes to save him, all the while Priscilla readies to bash her in the head with a huge rock (WHAT A BIIITCH), but gets a timely knife thrown into her chest by Crimson Commando. A conveniently back to normal Wolverine swoops in and he and Storm are able to finally reason and reconcile with the hunters, who agree to turn themselves in to the authorities.
Fantastic Four vs. The X-Men has the unique distinction of being one of the best FF stories despite having a predominantly X-centric plot. The X-Men are convinced that super-scientist Reed Richards can assist in treating their injured - specifically with Kitty Pryde’s permanent and uncontrollable intangibility. Magneto helps support a collapsing building under construction and She-Hulk and Thing join in to help. They chat afterwards and Magneto describes their plight and how he thinks Richards can help. Meanwhile, Sue Richards finds an old journal of Reed’s while unpacking that suggests that the space flight that changed them forever way back when was set up to intentionally bombard the Four with cosmic rays, rather than it being an accidental fluke. This revelation turns much of the team, mostly Sue and Thing, against Reed despite his denials that he was not in fact trying to turn them into superhumans. Richards claims he cannot do anything to help Kitty and before long, Dr. Doom enters the fold and offers his services. Kitty resolves to kill herself in order to keep the X-Men from being beholden to Doom, but is swayed from that idea by Franklin Richards, who astral communicates with her. Reed comes back to assist and together, he and Doom stabilize Kitty’s condition. Once that priority is dealt with, the Richards’ realize that the journal Sue found was a fabrication of Doom’s and they call him out, threatening harsh reprisal should Doom try such a below-the-belt move again (but come on, it’s Doom).
Then, we cut back to Scotland, where we see the team in a scrimmage hunt for Psylocke on the hills and cliffs of Muir Island. After a host of gotcha-no-you-didn’t turnovers, the team reassembles in the kitchen to breakfast with Banshee. He constructively criticizes their lack of teamwork and suggests they try not to simply do what they individually do next to each other and actually figure out some kind of synergy. Callisto does some I’m-a-bad-ass calisthenics in the gym and intimidates Dazzler for not being as killer-diesel as she is. Shamed and angry, Dazzler storms out and heads to a nearby village. She hangs out in a pub, tosses back a few, dances with folks, and belts out a song or two, and becomes the darling of the place. Near dawn, she leaves the pub as she and a new friend of hers are nearly cut down by a speeding convertible. She hops on a motorbike to give chase and comes face to face with the Juggernaut. There’s a brief bit of comedy when he recognizes who she is and tells her that he actually is a big fan of her music. Then, of course, he tries to beat the shit out of her. She doesn’t let him get a lick in, but in repelling him she literally uses all her juice; her mutant ability to metabolize sound into light knocks her out for her trouble. She collapses at his feet, and then one of the most awkward moments in Juggernaut history occurs:
In X-Men vs. The Avengers, the Avengers (seemingly out of the blue) want Magneto to finish the trial that was interrupted back in Uncanny X-Men #200 and so does the Soviet Union (also out of the blue - lots of blue here). The Avengers and KGB (represented by Marvel heroes from the USSR) both pursue Magneto and the X-Men defend him. Pieces of Asteroid M fall to Earth and Magneto demands the team help him retrieve certain pieces of technology he doesn’t want other people touching. He eventually finds what he’s looking for - a version of his old helmet that allows him to control minds. After an assortment of fisticuffs and misunderstandings, Magneto begrudgingly agrees to be tried. During the pursuit and struggle, Magneto meets an enclave in Singapore of mutants (not costumed people - just normie mutants) who are proud and militant and ask Magneto to be their leader. He gives it some thought, but graciously declines. The trial begins and there is the expectant amount of demagoguery against mutants in general and Magneto himself in particular. The following day, Magneto attempts to talk with the Singaporean mutants, but finds them all dead in their compound. This inspires Magneto to use his mind control helmet to dominate one of the arbiters (so he cannot be unanimously found guilty) and after the trial concludes, to the shock and disgust of many who wanted his head on a platter, he destroys the helmet.
Odds & Ends
- Starting in Uncanny X-Men #214, the presence of Malice is manifested physically by having a cameo choker around the neck of the possessed. This makes no goddamn sense. It’s not like Malice lives in the jewelry. Also, how do people not notice someone wearing something in clear view that they had never worn before? Case in point - when Wolverine was possessed however briefly, he looked like this:
WTF? Is everyone blind or taking crazy pills?
January 1986-November 1986 (#201-211):
Everybody fawns over Scott and Madelyne’s newborn son. Rachel gets especially emotional, as the boy is, a reality or two removed, her brother that she never had. The X-Men play some baseball and Rogue has to fly high to catch a hit by Colossus and kisses Air Force One. No, really, see?
What a missed opportunity to give Rogue the abilities and memories of an airplane. Scott and Madelyne have a big old row in Storm’s attic loft about his attentiveness, or lack thereof, to their marriage especially now with a baby as part of the equation. Storm walks in on them and ultimately it is decided that she and Scott will have a Danger Room duel to decide who leads the X-Men, whereas if Scott loses, he has to leave the team to be a good husband and father. So, I guess if he were to win, he would go on to be a horrible husband and father. But don’t worry - he goes on to be a horrible husband and father regardless. Storm bests him and he leaves, as agreed. Then Rachel goes back to the Grey household, this time with Jean’s parents sound asleep. She caresses the Jean-ball some more and adds a bit of her essence to it, reflects on her pseudo-connections to family in this alternate past she now lives in, and then kisses her pseudo-grandparents in their sleep. It’s not as creepy as it sounds, but it almost is.
Rachel goes a tad over the edge trying to engage the Beyonder in a two-part Secret Wars II tie-in. The omnipotent cipher comes to Earth to try and understand mortal existence by taking human form. It’s kind of like that movie Starman, but instead a sweet innocent sentient being learning about humanity, it’s an unfeeling innocent sentient being pondering the meaning of humanity. In order to make a stand against his blithe and sometimes catastrophic whims, Rachel takes the life energy of her teammates, as Jean Grey once did to take on D’Ken, who was made godlike by the M’Kraan crystal. The difference here is that there are no volunteers. Rachel takes what she feels she needs from teammates who are sleeping and even those who actively resist her. She is able to stalemate the Beyonder, who, mildly puzzled, turns away and leaves them alone. For a good deal of time after this, many of the team have a chip on their shoulder for Rachel.
Next is a solo Nightcrawler adventure. He has a tiff with his girlfriend, broods outside in the rain, Batman style, and witnesses a young female jogger get pulled into a car. Not one to leave a swash unbuckled, Nightcrawler pursues. Pretty standard action story - nothing to write home about. The quarry turns out to be, unbeknownst to all but those who had contracted Arcade to kill her, the royal heir to a small European nation.
Barry Windsor-Smith returns to introduce Lady Deathstrike and the cyborg ruffians, the Reavers. In this simple, yet hypnotic one-off, Deathstrike has a vendetta against Wolverine and she and her goons hunt him in downtown Manhattan in the middle of a snowstorm. Wolverine doesn’t fare too well for most of it and is fortunate enough to run across the little girl from Power Pack, who is separated from her parents while Christmas shopping and manages to help him dodge his pursuers for a spell, until he returns to his senses. He is so shell-shocked that for a time he speaks in Japanese, to Katie’s great confusion and worry. Deathstrike closes in and the surprisingly rare spectacle occurs of Wolverine by himself going head to head against someone else by themself. This story is about as straightforward as the Nightcrawler one, but the atmospheric art and sporadic flashbacks to Deathstrike’s genesis set it far apart, presenting many aesthetics that will echo into the classic Wolverine story ‘Weapon X.’
Windsor-Smith’s fine craft creates an immersive tableau of snow-covered South Street Seaport:
And strikingly visceral and gritty (and wordless) action:
It’s astounding that a sweet young girl going shopping with her parents is in the same book as this scene, but it all ties together very naturally for an off-beat, hardcore, in media res snippet of the stark and harsh life of Wolverine.
Recovering from their encounter with the Beyonder, the X-Men (save for Nightcrawler and Wolverine) are hanging out crashing at Jessica Drew’s (Spider-Woman) house in San Francisco. Storm takes to prowling streets for some vigilante crime fighting to keep up her unpowered edge. She makes friends with police Lieutenant Bree Morrel, who apparently has a Jim Gordon complex. The Freedom Force confronts the team outside the door to arrest them and mayhem ensues. It is ultimately drawn to a close by Morrel, who shows up and gives Freedom Force a tongue lashing about jurisdiction and forces them to leave.
The team returns to New York to check on Wolverine, who is convalescing with the Morlocks. Rachel is haunted by nightmares of comeuppance for her deeds in dealing with the Beyonder where, in various scenarios, Wolverine stalks and kills her. After a brief verbal altercation with Rogue, Rachel flees and wanders about the city wracked by guilt and self-loathing. Upon discovering her flight, Storm orders that the team disperse and bring her back. After some soul searching, she resolves herself (again) to take out Selene. She infiltrates the Hellfire Club and finds her in her bedroom. They clash and Rachel gains the upper hand. Wolverine stands behind her in the doorway and he tries to talk her out of murder. She calls bullshit on him and they argue. She tells him that he can’t stop him. He snikts and stabs her in the abdomen.
Back in the sewers, Kitty freaks out on Wolverine, but he stands by his decision in using extreme measures to keep Rachel from becoming a killer. Selene wanders Central Park to get back her strength and life-drains some randoms before returning to the Hellfire Club. She suggests the Club use their resources to kill the X-Men. Shaw hates that plan. She suggests they just kill Rachel. Shaw hates that plan, too, and suggests merely capturing Rachel to make her answer for her transgressions. Meanwhile, Nimrod detects that Rachel is alone and injured in Central Park. In his human guise he bids a fond goodbye to the Rodriguezes and takes off. Rachel recollects the events between this issue and the previous one - she fled Wolverine and the Club and has been holding together her punctured heart and lungs with her telekinesis, which I don’t know whether that’s really bad-ass on her part or just tenuous writing on Claremont’s part. In their search for Rachel both the X-Men and Hellfire Club find each other instead, yell at each other, and throw down. Rachel is nearby, barely keeping herself together and telepathically repels all those who get close. And then Nimrod drops in from above and tells everyone that he’s going to kill all of them (because they’re all mutants).
Through some pyrrhic trial and error, the grudgingly combined efforts of the X-Men and Hellfire Club finally hit Nimrod hard enough for him to stay down. All the while Rachel is spirited away by Spiral. The possessive telepathic entity Malice finds its way to Alison Blaire (Dazzler), who is now a backup player in Lila Cheney’s band. Rogue swoops around and saves some construction workers from falling to their deaths. Afterwards, they have a requisite pointed argument because one of them hates muties and the other thinks they’re just people. If I have time, I may go back and tally the amount of pairs of random people who obligatorily debate the pro/anti-mutant issue after witnessing X-stuff. Doesn’t Claremont believe that pairs or groups of people sometimes all share one opinion at the same time? Magneto decides to take the Hellfire Club up on its offer of membership. He does this with full awareness of what they are and hopes it will give him an inside track on their goings-on. Most of the team are not fans of the idea, but understand and trust his motives. X-Factor (still at this point doing the dual ‘public mutant Ghostbusters/secret mutant help-you club’ thing) sees Magneto enter the club and they collectively harumph, as they are decidedly and historically anti-Magneto. Nightcrawler is harassed at a dive bar because, you know, he looks like Nightcrawler and Colossus, Kitty, and Illyana make a big angry evils-of-prejudice speech to defuse an impending brawl. Storm and Wolverine share a quiet moment together as they discuss his handling of Rachel. She ultimately agrees with him, but chastises him for his specific methods. We are left with the ominous silhouette of the Marauders slaughtering their way to the threshold of Morlock territory.
The end of John Romita Jr.’s first regular run on Uncanny X-Men coincides with the start of the Mutant Massacre. Fairly straightforward, but gripping nonetheless. The Marauders walk down Morlock tunnels, killing any and everyone they see. One lone Morlock manages to make it all the way down the passageway to the X-Mansion to warn the X-Men with his dying breath. They quickly assemble underground and find to their horror a swath of bodies and without ado they come face to face with the group of killers. Here is an action beat for Kitty that I hope one day will be in a movie or animation:
Nightcrawler incapacitates Vertigo by bringing her along numerous quick teleports. He pauses, exhausted, and proves an easy target for Riptide, who whirls around Tasmanian Devil style, whipping a barrage of throwing stars pointblank at Nightcrawler. The Marauder named Harpoon, with the dubiously novel background of being an Inuit (Eskimo) who somehow happened along to this motley kill squad, strikes a critical blow with his lethal (and Gambit-like) power to create harpoons (get it?) out of deadly hurt-you energy. He nails Kitty as she moves to save Rogue from the hit and she soon realizes that she can no longer become tangible. The high tensions get to everyone; Colossus gets so enraged by the chaos and horror, he neutralizes Riptide by killing him:
Which is a truly haunting moment to behold as the gentle giant with a big heart simply has had too much grief to process. The fight disperses and the X-Men gather the few survivors together to bring back to the mansion along with their wounded. Those not physically damaged fare as bad or worse psychologically. The team was unable to prevent a genocide beneath their feet and upon confronting the culprits get taken down. With the casualties tolling in their hearts and minds, Storm and Wolverine have a brief discussion, wherein Wolverine is given carte blanche to do what he’s best at:
Odds & Ends
- The Lords Cardinal of the Hellfire Club are rich and powerful individuals who are secretly mutants who pull strings in their respective spheres of influence and covertly direct their private army to enforce their will. They also affect an anachronistic dress code to evoke the Enlightenment Era, so the men dress in cravats and pantaloons and so forth. The women all wear lingerie because, well, shut up. But when engaging on a furtive search for Rachel Summers in Central Park, Sebastian Shaw, Harry Leland, and Fredereick von Roehm abandon their period garb (good call) and decide to don these outfits (OH NO!):
Shaw is sporting a helmet-less reverse-color Kang costume, Leland is wearing a cross between fat Luke Cage/Power Man and fat Zorro, and von Roehm is in an S&M aerobics outfit. What. The fuck. They make Selene’s black underwear w/cape ensemble the most sensible outfit in this entire scenario.
- There are a number blunt forced character injections during this period. I’m not even talking about the assorted players from other circles of the Marvel Universe being chummy with the team or members thereof out of nowhere—that’s easily explained away—but I refer more so to characters from other books. The big two here are Spiral and Psylocke. Granted, Spiral has her I-still-don’t-quite-understand beginnings in the Longshot mini-series, but Psylocke comes from Marvel UK books and is just suddenly there in the X-Mansion. Ironically, Claremont’s trademark expository diarrhea is nowhere to be found to explain who the hell these people are and why they are there - and he created one of them.
- This is the second time that Rogue has had to be pushed out of danger and the result is that one of her friends becomes irrevocably damaged (again). She needs to watch where the hell she’s going. And/or everyone else needs to remember that she’s invulnerable.
- At this point in time, three full-fledged X-Teams are in play: X-Men, New Mutants, and now X-Factor. I for one have always felt this was the ideal balance of X-Books. Thanks to Claremont there is constantly more going on than can be contained in a single monthly and with these three titles, we have three generations of Xavier’s legacy. Sporadic mini-series notwithstanding, this was the pleasant norm until in 1988 Excalibur and Wolverine became satellite books. The 90s opened the floodgates of too many ongoings to reasonably track.