Super Reads Avengers vs. X-Men so you don't have to! AvX: VS #4! The New Avengers #28! Wolverine and the X-Men #13! X-Men #'s 113 & 114!
This week: Ninja fights! God fights! Prison breaks! An issue of Wolverine and the X-Men with no Wolverine! This is one for the history books, people.
Now, calm down and I'll explain what you've just walked into. This is Super Reads. I read an event comic and then I spoil the hell out of it. The "Nutshell" gives you a three-sentence summary of an issue. The "Bullet Points" list down events in an issue in a brief and orderly manner. With all of that summarizing out of the way, I just go nuts, breaking down the entire comic and doing my best to explain the who's, what's, where's, and why's. I have a lot of fun, honest.
This ain't my first rodeo. I've been covering Marvel events since Secret Invasion, back when I was a wide-eyed young fanboy with hope for the future. :) When this site gets everything back in order, you might be able to look at all of this work by checking out the Super Reads section. For now, a quick Google search can reveal a LOT of past work.
Before we get to it and do it, let me explain some more things.
First up: What the hell, Shi'ar Imperium? What the hell!?
Galactic Empires are all confusing and full of so many upheavals that you might wonder WHO is leading what. The Shi'ar, for example, has been ruled for most of it's Marvel History by Magestrix Lilandra Neramani. Other notable rulers are D'ken Neramani, Deathbird, and Vulcan. At the death of Lilandra and Vulcan, the Shi'ar Imperium was looking for a good ruler.
They found one in Kallark. You might know him better as Gladiator. Magestor Kallark was the long time leader of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard which served as personal body guards to the Shi'ar ruler as well as being the Empire's greatest combat unit. He's also a Superman-class character based on Superboy from the Legion of Super-heroes.
With a new Magestor, the Imperium also has a new Prince, Kid Gladiator. No one's ever heard of this guy before his first appearance in Wolverine and the X-Men #1 but it's not out of the realm of possibility that Gladiator had a kid. After all, Kallark is PRETTY old. Kid Gladiator has been educated at the Jean Grey School in one of Gladiator's... poorer decisions as a father and Emperor. With Earth streaming with Phoenix-powered X-Men, Gladiator has been trying to get his son off-planet.
So that's nice but what about the Avengers? With Pax Utopia running on full steam, Earth's Mightiest Heroes have been fighting a losing battle to maintain their freedom. The X-Men have hunted them down and imprisoned them. "No More Avengers."
We've seen a few heroes being captured in the pages of Avengers vs. X-Men and it's tie-ins. AvX # 7 saw a severely burned Hawkeye taken prisoner, with talk of healing him. If you paid VERY close attention, Spider-Woman was also captured in the same raid. Over in X-Men Legacy #269, Rogue captured Ms. Marvel. Others have been kidnapped off panel (Luke Cage)
So... where are these Avengers prisoners being held? Well, if Scott Summers were Tony Stark or Reed Richards, he'd open up a portal to the Negative Zone and drop everyone off in a quaint out of the way prison where everyone's rights could be completely neglected. Since he's all powerful and beholden to no one, Cyclops can neglect rights without leaving this dimension. Depending on what comic you're reading, the Avengers prisoners are being held in the X-Brig on Utopia OR in a special bit of slice of the Limbo dimension brought by Illyana Rasputin to the Verkhoyansk Mountains in Russia. That second one is ALMOST Hell on Earth.
So the Phoenix Five are awesome.
AvX: VS #4
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Brandon Peterson
Editor: Nick Lowe
Click HERE to see Super Read AvX: VS #3!
The story in a nutshell:
Psylocke and Daredevil fight all over NYC. Psylocke ends up ALMOST taking Matt Murdock down but the lawyer distracts her with a scathing question about the New World Order and he's able to break free and run away.
This story by bullet points:
• Um... Betsy Braddock and Matt Murdock fight. In New York City.
• They use all of their ninja fighting abilities.
• They also use their powers.
• Did you know that Betsy was once the Hand's Premiere Assassin? It's true! She and Elektra have a lot in common.
• Eventually, Psylocke gets the upper hand. When Daredevil comments on how Pax Utopia is going to be just as oppressive as any other reign of terror, Psylocke is stunned into taking a sucker... kick by the Man Without Fear.
• Brave sir Daredevil ran away. He bravely ran away, away. When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled. When evil needed sorting out, galantly, he chickened out.
This story in EXTREME detail:
This, my dear reader... and LESS dear reader... is VS. In the future of event comics, the main event is filled up with so much talking, padding, and nonsense that the fights have to happen in a whole different comic. These fights are only tenuously linked to events happening in the main AvX book and won't stand for any close continuity scrutiny. I mean, like, don't try at all to make them fit in with the actual event. They're just some supposedly fun fights with as light of continuity as you can possibly muster. The gist is simple: Avengers... versus X-Men. And go.
While past issues focused on one of the big fights, breaking down an individual battle that would happen DURING the larger conflict, this issue is less focused on an ACTUAL main event fight. It still slightly fits in with the fights happening in AvX #7. Psylocke and Daredevil were both in the New York fight that happened almost completely off panel. Thor and Emma Frost were both in the Ukraine slobberknocker. So these fights COULD have happened if those conflicts had lasted more than ten minutes.
Anyway, our first arena is the beautiful city of New York.
In this corner, we have everyone's favorite British Japanese telepathic ninja, Betsy Braddock. You know her better as Psylocke. This X-Man is the sister of Captain Britain and has telepathic powers that usually manifest in a butterfly-type of effect surrounding her eyes. For special occasions and as a show stopping maneuver, Betsy can focus the sum total of her telepathic abilities into a psychic knife. Slice that sucker into someone's head and it's usually an instant game over.
Now, all of that seems pretty straight forward which just won't fly for today's confusing X-Men. To hit some sort of status quo, Betsy switched bodies with the Japanese assassin known as Kwannon. The experience swiss-cheesed her memories and in her confused state, the Hand (and the Mandarin) decided to brainwash her into being their assassin, Lady Mandarin. She even got to wield the ten rings of the Mandarin. A confrontation with Wolverine restored most of her memories but it would take YEARS for us to figure out the whole story behind her body switch. Even now, it's pretty confusing.
Over in the other corner, we have the Man Without Fear, Matt Murdock AKA Daredevil. Matt was raised by his widower father to focus on his studies and to avoid conflict at all costs. Naturally, that completely backfired. Noticing a truck filled with toxic chemicals was carreening its way towards a blind man, a young Matt Murdock ran out to push the man out of the way and ended up a becoming the truck's victim. The toxic chemicals bathed his face and while he went blind, comic book magic would give him radar senses and upgraded hearing, touch, and probably smell. While Murdock still got straight A's in school, he was also sneaking out behind his dad's back to train his abilities under the tutelage of Stick, a blind ninja master... or something.
When his father was killed for not throwing a boxing match, Matt Murdock put on the uniform of Daredevil for the very first time, seeking justice and maybe a little bit of vengeance for his dad's death. Even after this event was over, Matt decided to continue on as a masked vigilante while also serving as a defense lawyer in his "civilian" life. Over time, Daredevil has gone from a swashbuckling, poor man's Spider-Man to a grim and gritty ninja vigilante. And sometimes back again!
OK, you know our combatants. Now watch as they pummel each other all over NYC.
This conflict is pretty straight forward. Two ninja like heroes ducking it out on the rooftops of New York. Psylocke and Daredevil use all of their abilities during the fight and Matt can't help but be reminded of Elektra when facing this former Hand assassin.
When Betsy attempts a telepathic shutdown of the Man Without Fear, she is overwhelmed by his heightened senses. This leaves her vulnerable to an attack and Daredevil takes advantage of this. Braddock is quick to compose herself, though so Murdock isn't able to press the attack. In fact, he soon finds himself straight up on the defensive.
After delivering a haymaker, Matt does his best Dark Knight impression and disappears. Before Psylocke can locate him, DD leaps from above and kicks her right off the building. Since this wasn't what he was trying to do, Daredevil ends up leaping after the X-Man in an attempt to save her life.
Which is a mistake.
Bets was just playing possum and the Man Without Fear fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Right before Psylocke can deliver a psychic knife finishing move, Daredevil starts talking to her.
He gets Betsy to doubt her actions by showing her how the Avengers and X-Men have reversed roles. The difference is that the Avengers never hunted a mutant down. Except for in the first few issues of AvX. Stop paying attention to that. Suddenly, Psylocke is unsure of her motivation.
Daredevil kicks the X-Man away during this moment of uncertainty and then he makes a running leap away from this battle. His parting words are about how Betsy should think over the X-Men's position to make sure that's where she wants to side before pursuing him further.
That's right. Psylocke just got lawyered.
In any event, THE WINNAH: NO ONE. This one goes down as a draw. No one is awarded any points.
Writer/ Artist: Kaare Andrews
Editor: Nick Lowe
The story in a nutshell:
The Mighty Thor and Emma Frost wage a two person war in the Ukraine. Thor ends up smashing Emma's diamond form into fragments but those fragments make excellent bullets. Frost reforms, kicks a little ass, and the thunder god goes down for the count.
This story by bullet points:
• We're in the Ukraine. Thor vs. Emma Frost. Fight.
• Emma is senseless after using her telepathy on the thunder god. Thor takes full advantage with his hammer and lightning bolts.
• Frost switches to diamond form. Thor smashes it with a hammer uppercut.
• Emma's diamond bits aim right at the god of thunder, cutting him down.
• The Phoenix-powered X-Man puts herself back together and beats the hell out of the Avenger.
• Thor is defeated.
This story in EXTREME detail:
The battlefield? Well, there's not much for backgrounds but since we're following AvX #7, this fight most likely takes place in the Ukraine.
In this corner, we have the Mighty Thor, god of thunder. You all know who this is and what he's about. Thor is an immortal of Asgard, son of Odin, and weilder of the hammer, Mjolnir. He controls lightning, battles with centuries of experience under his belt, and says thee nay more than you could expect. He also likes "I would have words with thee," even though "words" usually means "battle." There are few Avengers that come CLOSE to his power levels.
In this other corner, we have Emma Frost. No code name. It's a tradition for Cyclops' girl friends. Emma Frost is a former villain attached to the Hellfire Club (White Queen). She traded up to quasi-good guy status when becoming a co-headmistress for the Massachusetts branch of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters (Generation X) and when school was out, she moved on to the New X-Men. When Jean Grey died a tragic death, Cyclops rebounded almost immediately (with a little future help from a reborn Jean Grey) and started sleeping with the former White Queen of the Hellfire Club. Emma's a top-level telepath but got the crazy secondary mutation to change her body to living diamond, making her a power house. Added to the mix are her new funky Phoenix powers that amp her abilities to cosmic levels.
The preliminaries are out of the way. Let's watch this fight go down.
There are two themes you'll notice in this fight. The first is that Thor likes to say stuff like "I am not a mere man!" and "You can't fight a god!" The second is that Emma laces everything she says with as much sexual innuendo as she can muster. I mean, it's pretty tame innuendo but she's doing the best that a "T+" rated comic can allow.
After squaring off for a page, Emma attempts a psychic shutdown only to learn that a god isn't so easy to drop. More than that, she gets some sort of immortal feedback where her own mind can't process the mind of an Asgardian. This is... well, it's funny that Rachel Summers had no problem using her telepathy against Thor (from Wolverine and the X-Men #12). Rachel claimed that her familiarity with the Phoenix made Thor's mind no problem. Emma, who is rocking Phoenix powers RIGHT NOW, seems discombobulated after this attempted telepathy.
Say it with me: "Continuity doesn't matter."
Thor sees her opponent's distress and decides to bring the thunder. More important: the LIGHTNING. Also: the hammer. So there's a big explosion and some hammering. Thor flies in to finish this battle...
...but before he can let Mjolnir strike, Emma has changed into her diamond form and is able to catch the hammer. After suffering some of Emma's taunts and flirtations, Thor swipes her with Mjolnir. While Frost is off balance, the thunder god performs a hammer uppercut, shattering Emma's diamond form and sending it skyward.
The diamond shards return to the ground under Emma's cosmic control. That makes them cosmic diamond bullets that shred through Thor. Emma Frost puts herself back together before the god of thunder has any chance to recover.
And this fight is over, folks. The Phoenix-powered Emma Frost spends the next two pages beating the living snot out of Thor. I mean, this is just brutal business. I'm pretty sure her last move is to plunge her heel into Thor's face but it's happening off panel so it might be his chest. Either way, it's pretty nasty.
Emma strides away from her fallen foe with a quip on her lips.
THE WINNAH: EMMA FROST!
So, by my count, we have three Avengers victories, on draw, and four X-Men victories so far. We'll see how things play out two issues from now.
The New Avengers #28
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Click HERE to see Super Read The New Avengers #27!
The issue in a nutshell:
Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, and Hawkeye make a daring escape from the X-Brig only to learn that they've been living in a virtual reality environment set up by the X-Brig Warden, Danger. The program is reset.
This issue by bullet points:
• Phoebe Cuckoo brings the captured Spider-Woman her food and gets a guilt trip.
• Warpath brings a captured Luke Cage his food and gets startled into dropping it. Luke Cage goes hungry.
• Magma brings a captured Hawkeye his food and nearly gets her arm torn off before Warpath pushes the archer to the back of his cell. Clint steals Magma's bracelet which maybe operates the door mechanism.
• Phoebe supplies Spider-Woman with a bowl of clean water to clean up. Jessica asks for a pen and paper to get her affairs in order.
• When Phoebe brings these, Spider-Woman catches the mutant off guard and forces her to open the door. Jessica knocks the girl out, restoring her powers.
• In the middle of freeing Hawkeye, Spider-Woman finds that Clint has found his own way out. After fighting for a second, Hawkeye realizes that Jessica isn't a shapeshifter.
• The two free Luke and then all three of them make their escape from the island, fighting their way through three of the Phoenix Five and a whole lot of X-Men.
• Just when freedom is theirs, the Avengers wake up, still in the X-Brig. Danger, the X-Brig Warden, explains that they've been living in a virtual reality prison.
• The program is reset and everything begins again.
This issue in EXTREME detail:
Now, I could go off on this issue in any number of places and say what is happening is ridiculous but I've decided that it's not worth it. The main reason for this is that none of it ACTUALLY happens. Yes. Spoiler alert: the Avengers are living their prison sentences in a virtual reality world and aren't really interacting with actual X-Men. If they WERE, I'm pretty sure things would turn out a lot differently.
Let's check on this virtual reality world. It's dinner time and Phoebe Cuckoo is bringing Spider-Woman her meal. Jessica Drew refuses to eat it on the grounds that something in the food is keeping her powers at bay but Phoebe explains that they don't need to drug the food. It's PHOEBE who is suppressing Jessica's powers. Before the mutant can walk off, Drew drops a few words about how "wonderful" this new world order is. It turns out the Avengers are masters at guilt tripping X-Men into realizing how terrible Pax Utopia actually is. It's like a skill.
In another corner of this fake prison, Warpath is delivering Luke Cage's meal. Instead of accepting it as the good nutrition it is, Luke decides to terrify Warpath into dropping the food... and then he asks for a different meal. A frustrated James Proudstar walks away, refusing to answer any of Luke's needy questions.
Our final prisoner is Hawkeye. Since he doesn't actually HAVE any powers but has a WHOLE lot of skills, Clint's prison is a lot more extensive than Jessica's and Luke's. Barton is kept in a maximum detention cell and his meal is devoid of anything that could be turned into an obvious weapon. He screams out that he's gotten a bad cut from the potatoes, claiming that someone put glass inside it. Since visibility into Clint's cell is poor, Magma (his personal attendant) kneels down to look inside the food slot.
Instead of seeing a cut finger, she gets hit by the food tray and then her arm is dragged inside the cage. Barton demands that he be freed. The other two prison attendants rush in to help Magma out.
Warpath is able to separate the two and shoves Clint to the back of the cage but not before the Avenger is able to steal Magma's bracelet. It might also be a large ring. Whatever it is, it's clearly the key to Hawkeye's freedom.
A bit later, Phoebe brings out a basin of water for Spider-Woman so that the Avenger can wash up. Jessica strips off the top of her costume and gets to cleaning. Phoebe tells her how awesome the world will be when Pax Utopia is completed (she also mentions rumors that Thor has been captured) but it's pretty obvious that Spider-Woman doesn't agree. In fact, Jessica makes it a point to mention that she's going to be killed. She's OK with that but she'd like to write to her mom and get her affairs in order before she bites it. All she needs is a pen and a few sheets of paper.
This is completely against the rules but Phoebe still brings the Avengers the pen and paper. She reaches WAY into the cage to hand them to Jessica and that's when Drew goes from this nice, friendly prisoner to master manipulator on the verge of a prison break. She grabs Phoebe and pushes the pen into the mutant's chin, demanding that the door be opened. This time, no X-Men come to Phoebe's rescue and the Cuckoo aquiesces. The door is opened.
Spider-Woman's first act of freedom is to knock Phoebe out. This restores her powers which come in REAL handy when Warpath walks down the aisle and sees her. Proudstar doesn't last too long against the Avenger.
Jessica is right in front of Hawkeye's cell. It opens before she can do anything. This being a major coincidence, Clint believes he's come face-to-face with a mutant shapeshifter instead of his girlfriend. There's a very short fight before Jessica reveals a personal detail that is enough for Hawkeye to believe her to be the genuine article. Together, they race off to free Luke Cage.
Spider-Woman recommends that they find Thor and free the god of thunder before completing their escape but they aren't going to run across the Asgardian so it doesn't really matter. The three run down a hall, Luke punches out an unsuspecting Sunspot, and then it's just up a few flights of stairs and into daylight.
Also: there are some X-Men waiting for them. In the lead is the Phoenix-powered Colossus. Luke takes on Piotr (rather successfully) and the other two keep on making a run down a very long dock. In front of Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are Cyclops and Emma Frost but the two Phoenix-powered leaders of mutantkind are easily bested by Clint, Jessica, and Luke (who caught up while we weren't looking).
Together, the three jump into a boat and sweet, sweet freedom.
Except, as I said, this is all fake. The Avengers weren't actually escaping. They were living a virtual reality world while being held prisoner in much more claustrophobic cages. Phoebe, Warpath, and Magma never actually brought them food. Luke never bested Colossus. Cyclops and Emma Frost were never sucker punched.
The only X-Man who has been watching over the Avengers is the X-Brig Warden, Danger. She tells them what's actually been happening, assuring them that this is all temporary until proper accomodations can be built. Until then, it's back into their false reality as the program is reset to its beginning.
Once more, Phoebe Cuckoo brings Spider-Woman a plate of food that the Avenger will refuse to eat...
Wolverine and the X-Men #13
Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciler: Nick Bradshaw
Inker: Walden Wong, Cam Smith, & Nick Bradshaw
Editor: Nick Lowe
Click HERE to see Super Read Wolverine and the X-Men #12!
The issue in a nutshell:
Gladiator, Warbird and the Shi'ar try to retrieve Kid Gladiator from the X-Men. Warbird's Secret Origin is revealed. Gladiator is probably killed.
The issue by bullet points:
• Ava'dara Naganandini starts her life as a Shi'ar soldier at the tender age of nine.
• Gladiator, Warbird, and a platoon of Shi'ar soldiers attack Utopia in order to bring Kid Gladiator back to the Imperium.
• Ava'dara attacks Emma Frost with an exploding sword.
• Six months ago, Warbird takes down a terrorist cell in the sky slums of Chandilar. Everyone is killed except one of the children of the terrorists who is busy drawing but unafraid of dying.
• In the present, Rachel Summers/Grey/Whatever gets some revenge on the Shi'ar Death Commandos.
• Gladiator takes on Scott Summers in a battle he is destined to lose.
• Six months ago, Warbird DOESN'T kill the little dino-alien with a penchant for drawing. This'll get her in trouble with her superiors and will lead to her assignment as Kid Gladiator's bodyguard.
• In the present, Warbird finds Kid Gladiator just in time to watch Gladiator getting the life beaten out of him. Ava'dara stops Kid Gladiator from entering the fight.
• After Gladiator falls, the X-Men try to save the Shi'ar Majestor's life. It looks like they don't succeed.
• Warbird carries the fallen body of Gladiator away from Utopia with a crying Kid Gladiator trailing behind.
The issue in EXTREME detail:
There are a couple ways to approach a story that zips around between different times, telling a story completely out of chronological order. The second most common is to just tell it like it's written and desperately try to convey what is happening when. Instead of doing that, I'm just going to UNZIP this thing and put it back together in some sense of chronological order. Because of that, it will probably lose some of its poetic sense of storytelling. But, y'know, it's not THAT good of a story so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.
This is the Secret Origin of Ava'dara Naganandini, Royal Warbird, Deathbringer Class of the Shi'ar Imperium. Ava'dara is the bodyguard of the Kid Gladiator, the Imperial Prince and son of Shi'ar Majestor, Gladiator.
Warbird was born in the sky slums of Chandilar. She has a very colorful way of describing her conception and birth but it can be broken straight down as scientifically bred until lab conditions and brought to term in a slave womb. When she was born, she killed the alien that provided the womb. Ava'dara's childhood was filled with fun kid activities like making munitions and assembling weapons.
Warbird has a dirty little secret that isn't that dirty unless you're born into the desensitized and warlike culture of the Shi'ar. While everyone else was playing sociopathic murderer like a good insane Shi'ar child, Ava'dara Naganandini was drawing. She wasn't even drawing torture or bloodshed. She was drawing butterflies and flowers. It was terrible!
Our issues begins with her covering up her depravity in front of the Shi'ar career placement officer at the tender age of eleven. She is shown several Rorschach Drawings. In her mind, she sees butterflies, flowers, and other universal symbols of peace and harmony. Ava'dara lies, telling the officer that she sees various scenes of bloodshed and war. For this, she is congratulated. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Naganandini claims that the life of a Warbird is the life for her.
We skip ahead in time to just a few months ago but we STAY on Chandilar in the sky slums. Ava'dara has earned her Warbird status and is officially known as "Warbird Delta." Naganandini is on a case, tracking down a terrorist cell of dinosaur aliens. When she finds them, they aren't given a chance to surrender. Warbird just starts killing.
Brutally. This is the Shi'ar way, after all.
Everything is going swimingly until she crosses into a room and finds one of the terrorist's kids. The little dino-alien boy is busying himself by drawing. Again, the pictures are of happy and pleasant things. Stuff like sunshine and lollipops.
Command calls in to find out if everyone is dead yet. Warbird leaves them hanging for an answer. The little boy tells her it's cool. His mom told him that this is probably how things would end and the kid has made his peace with it.
There are little things that separate you from being a giant douchebag or a redeemable individual. You know. Like killing a defenseless little boy who's drawing pictures of puppies. You do that, I don't care WHO is writing your adventures, you are an irredeemable scumbag for the rest of your comic book career. Fortunately, Jason Aaron doesn't want you to hate Warbird. Ava'dara DOESN'T kill the poor kid. Instead, she takes the dino-alien away from this scene of butchery and tells the boy to leave and never return. When the kid asks about his drawings, Warbird Delta tells him that there just wasn't enough time to grab anything.
She's lying. In her hand she holds a crumpled up drawing.
Later in the day, Ava'dara gets a hold of a paper and pen and tries her hand at drawing... ANYTHING.
She can't do it. It's been too long and she's forgotten how this whole drawing thing works. She spends the rest of the night, moping on a rooftop.
Later on, Ava'dara tells her superiors about her little "exception to the rules." While pretty damn pissed, her superiors decide to amp up her training to make her that much more bitter and angry at the world. Since children seem to be a weakness, she's made the bodyguard of Kid Gladiator and sent to live in a school filled with more kids. That'll certainly make her hate minors.
The alien-dino kid is eventually found and arrested. The sentence is life as a star miner. This typically leads to an extremely shortened life but Warbird holds out hope that the kid has managed to survive.
So that was a pleasant past, wasn't it? Mixed in with all of that fun is a PRESENT storyline. This one involves Warbird, Gladiator, and an army of Shi'ar warriors attempting to recover Kid Gladiator from the X-Men. Kid Gladiator isn't being held against his will. He's staying with the X-Men of his own free will.
The problem is he's a minor and you don't get your own free will until the universal age of sixteen. Sometimes eighteen.
Instead of coming to the X-Men and asking for his kid back, Gladiator goes on the offensive and attacks his mutant allies. This is mostly because the Phoenix Force freaks the hell out of the Shi'ar. They have a history. It's not pretty. The Phoenix is NOT ally material.
For Warbird's part, she's thinking Gladiator isn't going far enough. She recommends even more assault troops and a whole lot of wacky, Morrisonesque battalions. At least she's able to take out Emma Frost with an explosive sword.
Gladiator reminds Ava'dara that the MISSION is to retrieve his son. While he and his men keep the X-Men (and the Phoenix Five) busy, it's up to Warbird to go fetch Kid Gladiator.
In her way is Iceman. We only catch the aftermath of this battle but Bobby Drake is sliced up and defeated. Ava'dara tells Bobby that she's sorry for having to fight him (especially since he just almost defeated the Red Hulk a couple issues back) and that she sees him as a pretty damn competent fighter (especially... after almost defeating the Red Hulk a couple issues back-- is there an echo in here?). Warbird grabs Iceman's head and plants a big wet kiss right on his mouth. After tossing the head back in the Iceman pile, she assures Drake that she will totally sleep with him if the world isn't destroyed.
Bobby doesn't look too thrilled.
We cut outside to see how Gladiator and the Shi'ar are doing. Namor and Rachel Summers are shown plowing through Shi'ar troops. Rachel even gets a well deserved rematch with the Shi'ar Death Commandos. This is apt because the Death Commandos killed the entire Grey family shortly after the House of M Decimation and Rachel was powerless to stop them. She was even left with a crazy Phoenix brand on her back as a momento of that occasion.
Cyclops tries to reason with the Shi'ar Emperor but Gladiator isn't here to strike a deal with a Phoenix Host. In fact, he tells Scott Summers to give up the Phoenix's powers... or else.
So, "or else" it is.
Back inside one of the buildings on Utopia, Warbird has finally found Kid Gladiator but that doesn't mean that the Kid wants to join her. Lord Kubark tells Ava'dara that he's staying in order to help his father out. Looking on the fight outside, it's pretty easy to see that the Shi'ar Majestor is going to lose. Maybe Kid Gladiator is going to help out his dad in this fight but, if so, he's sure not leaping into battle. Kubark tells Warbird not to get in his way but that's just not possible. Naganandini is acting on the orders of the Shi'ar Emperor and "a Warbird ALWAYS follows orders."
She puts a hand on Kid Gladiator's shoulder, possibly to "hold him back." Again, Kubark isn't rushing into the fight.
Speaking of "fight," Gladiator is no longer fighting Cyclops. Scott and Emma are standing back as Colossus and Namor swat Kalark (Gladiator's real name) around for a while. The rest of the Shi'ar are just standing around, watching the festivities.
Inside, Kubark is finally ready to join his dad in battle and is furious that Warbird won't let him. Before he can attack his bodyguard, Ava'dara takes him down. HARD.
Outside, Gladiator has fallen. Kitty Pride and Doop are rushing in to administer some medical aide.
We jump to a couple hours later. Warbird carries the fallen form of Gladiator out of Utopia. Kid Gladiator is in tears. The Shi'ar are comforting each other.
I'm PRETTY sure Gladiator just got killed. Maybe it's not permanent...
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Editor: Roger Stern
The issue in a nutshell:
Magneto continues his nefarious plans as Ororo uses her master lockpick abilities to free herself and the X-Men from their baby chairs. Their latest battle with Magneto goes MUCH better than previous encounters before the ceiling starts coming down and lava fills the base. Magneto, Phoenix, and the Beast are able to pull themselves to safety.
The issue by bullet points:
• Magneto steals stuff from the Australians.
• Xavier is unable to telepathically communicate with his X-Men.
• Ororo uses her lockpicks in an attempt to escape her baby chair. When she drops the lockpick, everything appears lost.
• Magneto returns to the Antarctic Base from Asteroid M to check on some minor system malfunctions. He is attacked by a coordinated X-Men team.
• The battle literally takes down the roof. The base starts filling with molten rock.
• Magneto escapes but his injuries make him sideline his plan for a couple months.
• Separated from the rest of the X-Men, Phoenix and Beast reach the surface alone. Both of them succumb to the elements.
The issue in EXTREME detail:
The gentleman's name is Magneto and he's got a plan. We don't know WHAT his plan is at the moment and we really don't NEED to know. He never reveals it in this little adventure and the X-Men will ruin his chance to implement it for at least the next forty issues.
What we DO know is that he starts this issue off by attacking the Royal Australian Aerospace Research Facility in Woomera, South Australia. Since our narrator is a reporter (John Cheever, BBC) telling his audience about the attack after the fact, he also informs them (and us) that this was just ONE of Magneto's many strikes of research bases in Australia and New Zealand. What he leaves behind is destruction and no idea what he's taken. The reporter says that the Fantastic Four and the Champions have both disbanded while the Avengers (besides Beast who is being treated like a baby at Magneto's Antarctic base) are under "virtual house arrest." With the X-Men already dealt with, no one is left to stop the Master of Magnetism.
Let's head to the Cyclades Islands off of Southern Greece and catch up on Charles Xavier and Lilandra Neramani's vacation. Lilandra is walking around, enjoying the weather and wondering how she's gonna convince Xavier to join her at the Imperial Court. She she gets back to the love of her life, she finds that Xavier is STRAINING to contact his X-Men with no result except for possibly a headache. We will later learn that the reason Charles can't get into telepathic contact with the X-Men is because Magneto has been magnetically altering the Earth's atmosphere with an "impenetrable wall of psychic static" that prevents long range telepathy. This is just one attempt to limit Marvel's overpowered telepaths. It won't be the last.
And what of the X-Men? Last issue, they were left defenseless at the hands of Magneto. Strapped into baby chairs, the mutant super-heroes were forced into the same helpless state that Magneto himself was in after being de-aged to infancy by Alpha, the Ultimate Mutant. The X-Men can't speak and they have the same motor skills as babies. All of their needs are tended to by the annoyingly sweet robot, Nanny, who treats them all like children.
So this is living hell for everyone. Well, unless you're me and enjoy being pampered by robots. Who needs talking and toilets?
OK, I sort of like talking.
So does Storm. This is her moment to shine in a moment that will be remembered for years to come. Ororo was once a master thief back in Cairo during her youth and her motor skills were already well developed when she was a baby. When Nanny leaves her alone, Storm headbangs off her headpiece and then uses her tongue to remove a set of lockpicks from it. Now, she just has to DELICATELY pick at her shackles to free herself. The rest of the X-Men wait apprehensively for Ororo to succeed.
Unfortunately, she fails. The lockpick slips out of her mouth and drops on the floor before she can release her locks. In frustration, she cries out and that attracts the attention of Nanny. Luckily, she's able to cause enough of a distraction so that all Nanny thinks has happened is that the headdress has come off. Placing it back on Ororo's head, Nanny promises to find something to fasten it on so that it will never fall off again.
When the robot has gone again, Ororo breaks down into tears. The narrator tells us this is only the third time she's cried since childhood.
Since Magneto isn't hanging out at his Antarctic base anymore, we catch up with him at his main headquarters on Asteroid M, orbiting the Earth. He lets us in on why Xavier can't engage in long distance telepathy anymore and then goes into how he respects and admires the X-Men even though they are his mortal enemies. Mags is already on his path to pseudo-redemption.
Seeing that there's a minor systems malfunction going on at the Antarctic facility, Mags is curious as to why Nanny hasn't gotten it repaired already. No other alarms have gone off and the Master of Magnetism is the kind of guy that builds quite a few redundancies in. He decides that this base is still important enough that he'll need to make a personal visit to assess the situation.
On the way back down to Earth, Magneto remarks on how his powers are at their peak once again and how he's in the process of rebuilding his Asteroid M complex for a giant assault on mankind. Right now, however, is a precarious moment because he's still transferring resources from his Earth bases to his orbital facility. If he were defeated now, it could spell an even bigger defeat.
Finally reaching the Antarctic Base, Magneto finds the lights off and Nanny running around in a circle. The X-Men have clearly freed themselves and silenced his alarms but the Master of Magnetism decides to brace himself for an attack while giving the outward appearance that nothing has gone horribly wrong.
However, even though he EXPECTED an attack, Magneto isn't prepared for the full ferocity behind the mutant heroes' multiple attacks. This time, the X-Men are working as a cohesive unit. Cyclops is giving them directions right in their minds, courtesy of a mind link established by the Phoenix. They have strategy, they have teamwork, hell, they even have Wolverine following orders. It's a beautiful thing.
Ororo uses her weather manipulation to remove the moisture from the room while also telling us (via thought balloon) that she freed everyone with a second set of lockpicks. Wolverine rakes his claws into Magneto's back.
The only possible wrench in the X-Men's plan comes when Colossus goes off script and attacks the Master of Magnetism. When your skin is composed of organic steel, you probably shouldn't take on someone who commands magnetism. Fortunately, Magneto isn't given the time to capitalize on Piotr's shortcomings. Cyclops has Beast toss Nightcrawler into the fight and Kurt deprives Magnus of his helmet just in time for Colossus to start punching the villain's face.
The battle is going the X-Men's way but, unfortunately, it's also damaged the Antarctic Base beyond repair. In fact, the ceiling is coming in. On top of the city? Lava.
As the molten rock starts flooding the room, the X-Men's carefully planned strategy runs out. Magneto is able to take advantage of the confusion and makes his escape. Because of the damage he took during the battle and the effort it takes to escape the base, Magnus will need time to recover. His plans are put on hold. For now.
Back down in the Antarctic base, we still have to deal with a whole lot of X-Men who need to not die. Beast and Phoenix are separated from the others as the roof starts coming down in earnest.
Because of this, Phoenix is only able to save herself and Beast. They reach the surface but the strain causes Phoenix to collapse. Beast begins carrying the X-Man to... well, that's a question, isn't it? Where DO you take someone when you're stranded in the middle of Antarctica with the elements against you? The answer is: nowhere. Fast. Hank McCoy doesn't make it the length of a football field before he collapses.
The fate of the rest of the team is left unanswered.
The Uncanny X-Men #114
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Editor: Roger Stern
The issue in a nutshell:
Beast and Phoenix return to civilization to tell Xavier about the presumed fate of the rest of the X-Men. Cyclops and his band of mutant heroes end up in the Savage Land where they mourn the deaths of Hank and Jean. Carl Lykos steals some of Ororo's sweet life-energy, becoming the evil Sauron.
The issue by bullet points:
• Beast and Phoenix are rescued from certain, icy death by a patrolling helicopter.
• The X-Men blast their way into the Savage Land and are attacked by a pteranodon.
• A week later, Hank and Phoenix return to the X-Mansion to tell Professor X about the death of the X-Men.
• The rest of the X-Men spend the week in the Savage Land, playing guests in a Savage Land village and mourning the presumed death of Hank McCoy and Jean Grey.
• While resting on the beach, Ororo is attacked by Carl Lykos. When he steals her life-energy, he becomes the winged monster, Sauron.
• Hearing Storm scream, the X-Men race to the beach and right into a super-villain fight.
The issue in EXTREME detail:
This is the last X-Men issue to feature the Avenger, Beast, for a while so enjoy it! It turns out that Hank McCoy wasn't quite ready to call it quits at the end of the last issue. Against all odds, he found another reserve of strength and forced himself to carry on with Phoenix still unconscious in his arms.
The problem is still: where is he going? This is Antarctica. There's a distinct lack of cities. Heck, there's a lack of villages. HELL, there's a severe lack of shelter of ANY KIND.
I guess Hank is going to need a little luck on his side. Thanks to that luck, Beast spots a helicopter in the sky on random patrol. When his own attempts to flag the helicopter fail, he smacks Phoenix awake to send up a flare. The Phoenix does more than that. In a delusional state, the X-Man attempts to dig up the ground in an attempt to reach Cyclops. That ship has sailed since Beast believes the rest of the X-Men to have died hours ago.
Hank IS surprised at Phoenix's reaction. She was out like a light and near death just moments ago and now she's burning with Phoenix power. Beast is able to get through to her about their current situation and the burst of energy is enough to get the helicopter's attention. It looks like these two heroes are saved.
The rest of the X-Men team is also alive, but I bet reading this back in the late seventies was a TRIP. The title was just starting to build up steam and the death of Thunderbird just nineteen issues ago let everyone know that death was a REAL possibility. Our heroes decided that instead of dying, they would somehow tunnel AROUND the lava and head straight for the Savage Land.
While Cyclops has been to the Savage Land a LOT (especially if you're counting X-Men: The Hidden Years where half the series took place here), it's a first time experience for the rest of the All-New, All-Different team. This is a land that time forgot, complete with dinosaurs, pteranodons, and a tropical forest.
Noticing that Storm is freaking out internally after being stuck in a tunnel for hours, Banshee invites her for a flight through this prehistoric sky. Neither of them is really keeping their eyes open and it's only a few panels later that a giant pteranodon has Sean clutched in its claws.
Wolverine orders up a Fastball Special from Colossus and the Canadian is sent straight and true on a course for the flying lizard. The pteranodon lets Banshee go. Logan, still slicing the lizard, riders the pterosaur back down to earth.
As the X-Men race to the pteranodon's crash site, a man watches them from a safe hiding place. This guy is Carl Lykos, who you probably better know as Sauron. More on him just a bit later.
When Cyclops and the X-Men find Wolverine, Scott starts things out by yelling at Logan for his reckless rescue plan. This is sort of a theme for Scott and Logan but even Banshee is tired of their bickering. He tells Cyclops to chill out. Everything turned out so maybe let this one go?
Besides, Banshee and Storm located a village while they were flying. Maybe they'll find some friendly faces there?
Let's cut a few continents away and a week later as a Quinjet lands in the yard of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Charles and Lilandra have already returned from their vacation and it's time for them to get some bad news. While Hank McCoy talks to Lilandra, Phoenix heads on upstairs to Xavier's study to tell him that the X-Men are dead. She doesn't even have to GIVE him the news. One look at her face and Xavier knows.
Of course, the team ISN'T dead so that means we get to go BACK to the Savage Land to see what a week in a Prehistoric World can do to the X-Men. While they haven't gone completely native, the mutants have stripped off a lot of their spandex uniforms while enjoying the hospitality of that Savage Land village Banshee and Storm spotted. Storm is given a revealing bikini outfit by the village chief's wife. I half believe that this entire Savage Land excursion was just an excuse to get Ororo into that costume.
I would be ok with that. ;)
While Jean and Beast believed that the rest of the team was killed, THESE X-Men think that Phoenix and Hank have died. They all deal with it in their own ways. Ororo finds time to be by herself to get her feelings in order. Scott beats himself up for his failure to lead everyone to safety. He's the team leader. It's his job to blame himself.
The problem is that while he is saddened at the death of Hank, he doesn't really have the same emotional connection to Jean's death. It's like ever since Jean "died" in X-Men #101 only to burst out of the water as the Phoenix, Scott just doesn't feel that she's the same person anymore. When he confesses this to Storm, Ororo yells at him, telling the X-Men leader that maybe he should have accepted Jean's growth instead of trying to keep things the way they were. The irony of the situation is that, thanks to the retcon that made the PHOENIX replace Jean Grey in X-Men #101, Scott is absolutely RIGHT. It's NOT Jean Grey.
This is also the scene where Cyclops shaves but decides to leave the mustache just to see how he'd look. Thanks to his bandana and that little bit of peach fuzz, his reflection in the water looks... a lot like the Starjammer, Corsair...
Anyway, after Scott's talk with Ororo, Storm walks off by herself, full of righteous indignation at Cyclops' attitude towards Jean Grey's death. She almost immediately regrets yelling at Scott but not so much that she goes back to apologize. Maybe Scott is just dealing with his emotions over Phoenix's death in his own way but saying it out loud makes him sound like a complete dick. That SO not like he USUALLY sounds.
Walking back through the village, Ororo sees that Colossus is about to have a threesome with two village ladies. No seriously. This absolutely happens. Piotr even tries inviting Logan for some reason. Wolverine declines. He's also dealing with Jean's death but he tells the Russian to have fun.
Ororo walks off alone to enjoy a swim and some rest at the edge of the water. While she's resting, Carl Lykos staggers over to her and uses his mutant powers to suck out part of her life energy. Since she's a mutant, he ends up taking too much.
Storm's scream gets the rest of the X-Men's attention (exept for Colossus who is busy) and they all meet on the beach to face the menacing power of Sauron.
But that's a tale for another time...
WE. ARE. DONE! Woo! I hope you enjoyed this little slice of Super Reading!
Until next time: Have a good week!
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