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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

X-amining X-Men #100

"Greater Love Hath No X-Man..."
August 1976

In a Nutshell
The X-Men defeat Lang and his Sentinels, but get caught in a solar flare on their way back to Earth.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Anette Kawecki
Colorist: Bonnie Wilford
Editor: Marv Wolfman

Plot
The new X-Men are face to face with the original X-Men as Professor X orders the originals to attack what he claims are impostors. As Steven Lang watches on a monitor, the two teams battle, with the new X-Men mystified by their predecessors' viciousness. After getting hit with a telepathic bolt by Marvel Girl, Wolverine senses the truth, and to the shock of his teammates, disembowels Marvel Girl, revealing her to be a robot.


As the real Cyclops slowly overpowers the Nega-Tube holding him captive, Lang bemoans the loss of his X-Sentinels, and reflects on the creation of Project Armageddon as an outgrowth of Larry Trask's work, with the X-Sentinels intended to be the tools of mutantkind's extermination. Just then, Cyclops blasts free and releases the other captives. As the other X-Men dispatch the rest of the X-Sentinels, Lang boards a gun ship and attacks Cyclops, but Jean telekinetically manipulates the controls and Lang spins out of control, crashing in an explosion that seemingly kills him. The X-Men and Peter Corbeau return to the Starcore shuttle to escape, but there is still a hole in the hull, the flight computer is damaged, and their re-entry will take them on a path through a dangerous solar flare. Jean volunteers to fly the shuttle manually, telepathically absorbing Corbeau's knowledge and using her telekinesis to patch the hole and screen out the flare's radiation. Knocking Cyclops out when he objects, she sends Corbeau and the others to safety in the shuttle's shielded life cell as she leaves the station. Twenty minutes from Earth's atmosphere, however, her shields are overwhelmed and Jean is bombarded with solar radiation as she calls out for Cyclops.  

Firsts and Other Notables
We get our first fastball special in this issue, as Colossus hurls Wolverine at Angel!


Lang mentions being funded by the Council of the Chosen. Later stories (most notably the Classic X-Men backup to issue #99) will connect this group to the Hellfire Club. The idea is that the anit-mutant Council of the Chosen funded Lang's work before being ousted by the pro-mutant Inner Circle, which will make its first full appearance in issue #129.


There's two fun scenes in this one. The first is when Wolverine confronts the Professor X X-Sentinel and Professor X proceeds to stands up out of his chair and simply deck Wolverine. The other is after Wolverine exposes the X-Sentinels and the action shifts to Lang's control room. As he and Cyclops fight, in the background you can continue to see the X-Men battling and ultimately defeating the X-Sentinels on Lang's monitors.


A Work in Progress
Wolverine's enhanced, animalistic senses are highlighted for the first time, as he manages to sense that the Marvel Girl X-Sentinel is a robot.


Storm cites her friendship with Jean, both during the battle with Jean's robotic doppelganger and later when Jean is preparing to fly the shuttle. The former is especially dicey, as X-Sentinel Marvel Girl says she recalls no such relationship, but at this time, such a relationship is also largely unknown to readers. Only those of us reading this issue retroactively (or having read the Classic X-Men backups) are aware of the friendship; new readers at the time were probably as mystified by Storm's claims as the robot was.


Wolverine refers to Jean as "Jeannie" for the first time (and gets verbally bitch-slapped for it, though Jean is under a lot of pressure at the time...).


The "tacataca" sound effect used as radiation penetrates Jean's shields is the same sound effect used in Fantastic Four #1, when the Fantastic Four are bombarded with the cosmic rays which will grant them their powers.


The Vanisher is seen briefly as one of Lang's test subjects in a flashback. Champions #17 picks up on this thread, revealing that Lang's orbital base wasn't destroyed and that when Vanisher awoke, he reprogrammed three remaining Sentinels to do his bidding, after which he, Blob, Unus and Lorelei use them against the Champions.

Visual clues that the original X-Men are fakes of some sort:
Cyclops' visor is the older design, thinner and straighter than his current one.
Beast isn't blue and furry.
Angel is wearing the costume he received from Magneto which was later revealed to be sapping his energy.
Polaris is wearing her older "Queen of the Mutants" costume.

That 70s Comic
Jean's telekinesis is extremely powerful here, as its apparently strong enough to form an airtight seal between space and the hunk of wreckage she uses to plug the hole in the shuttle. And the whole "telekinetically filter out the radiation" only makes sense so long as you don't think about it too much (though, to be fair, this ultimately doesn't work).

Young Love
Cyclops gets mad at Jean when she decides to pilot the shuttle through the solar flare.


Wonder how he was going to finish that sentence...

Later, Cyclops freaks out upon waking up in the ship's life cell.


Human/Mutant Relations
Within the course of two panels, Lang curses mutants then begs for their help.


For Sale
It's a Spider-Man mood ring!


Before G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero, there was the GI Joe Super Adventure team!


Dave Cockrum on Jean's exposure to cosmic rays
 "...[T]hat's what Chris had in mind. He even told me to play off the origin of the Fantastic Four with the cosmic rays and that whole 'TACATACATACA' sound effect. Although, later on, he established that the Phoenix force - which was actually a separate space-going entity - had entered her at that point."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p86

Teebore's Take
The new X-Men's first encounter with an old X-Men foe comes to a close. As will come to be the norm, the ending of one story leads into the beginning of the next, as Jean Grey makes a crucial decision, the ramifications of which will reverberate in the book for years to come. That final panel is affecting, as Claremont cranks up the melodrama. "Lord I'm scared...I don't want to die..." Jean says as they pass into the flare. "Twenty-seven minutes to Earth's atmosphere. Not long at all. Just the rest of my life." This is heavy stuff, and Claremont makes us feel for Jean in what may be her final moments. It may seem quaint or dated now but it creates a sense that these characters are as realized as any fictional characters, that the creators, at least, view them as something more than interchangeable players in a fantastic plot. Underneath all the comic book trappings, beyond X-Sentinels and solar flares, Jean Grey is just a young woman risking her life for her friends, scared she's going to die. Despite knowing what happens next (or perhaps even because of it), it still gets to me.

Centennial issues in comics are usually a big deal, a celebrated anniversary that often looks back over a title's history. X-Men at 100 is in an odd place; a good chunk of its preceding issues simply consisted of reprints of existing stories, and the current stars of the book have all of six issues worth of history under their belt. So Claremont borrows some history from the old team, and has the new team face off against their predecessors in a hook that must have snared more than a few casual readers back in the days of spinner racks. Though the old X-Men are quickly proven to be robotic facsimiles thereof, it's a fitting visual for the book's 100th issue, as the new characters, currently making their own history (history which we know will, in many ways, far surpass the original characters'), clash with representations of the characters whose book got canceled. It is also fitting that the X-Men's 100th issue ends with Jean Grey, the character who first introduced us to the X-Men back in issue #1, on the verge of her most significant transformation.

23 comments:

Anne said...

eeeeeeeeeh! excitement!
i can't even imagine what it ws like to read this back then and not know what's going to come of this
i mean, we didn't start reading xmen until jean was dead and scott was with madelyn prior
i TOTALLY want to know how Scott was going to finish that sentence.
i like the parallel they drew to this issue on the movie- with Scott freaking out and Wolverine having to hold him back. awesome! (until the movies turned to shit- breaks my heart)

Hannah Kincade said...

okay so I want a Spider-man mood ring. Yeah, sure it's a mood ring and mood rings are lame but it's SPIDERMAN!! It's serious mysterious! It's MAGIC!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

I mean, no one noticed Beast wasn't fuzzy Beast? Observation fail.
And also what Anne said.
Choo Choo Woo Woo good times ahead!

Teebore said...

@Anne: i TOTALLY want to know how Scott was going to finish that sentence.

I know, right?

i like the parallel they drew to this issue on the movie- with Scott freaking out and Wolverine having to hold him back. awesome! (until the movies turned to shit- breaks my heart)

Oh man, ask Dr. Bitz, you do NOT want to get me started on X3...

@Hannah: Yeah, sure it's a mood ring and mood rings are lame but it's SPIDERMAN!!

I thought of you as soon as I saw the ad.

@Sarah: I mean, no one noticed Beast wasn't fuzzy Beast? Observation fail.

No, they totally noticed. It was part of their confusion, though it did take a back seat to some of their other questions.

"Why aren't you furry?" wasn't quite as big a deal as "why are you trying so hard to murder me?"

Dr. Bitz said...

Does Chris Claremont even know what a solar flare is?

And X-3 was pretty bad, but I must applaud it for its ingenious idea of jettisoning X-Men's weakest character as early in the movie as possible and then never acknowledging that waste of space again.

Teebore said...

@Dr. Bitz: Does Chris Claremont even know what a solar flare is?

Uh, yeah, it's the thing that almost killed Jean Grey. Duh.

And X-3 was pretty bad, but I must applaud it for its ingenious idea of jettisoning X-Men's weakest character as early in the movie as possible and then never acknowledging that waste of space again.

...

>sigh<

I know you're just trying to bait me, and I refuse to take it.

>controlling rage<

Anne said...

as much as i am not a huge-o fan of Cyclops (like some people i know), his 'death' at the beginning of x3 filled me with rage. i mean- wtf! Scott's ALWAYS on the freaking team- you can't just kill him off.
add that to rogue choosing to get rid of her powers (thereby completely invalidating the point of her character- which is that she has this horrible power that screws her life but she ALWAYS chooses to stay a mutant)...
the rage made me forget where i was going with the end of this statement.
suffice to say
x3 = shit

Teebore said...

@Anne: his 'death' at the beginning of x3 filled me with rage. i mean- wtf! Scott's ALWAYS on the freaking team- you can't just kill him off.

Seriously, you guys, you do NOT want to get me going on this. We'll be here for weeks...

Jeff said...

In fairness, I totally blame Singer/Marsden for making Cyclops a whiny jerk with no real redeeming values.

Teebore said...

@Jeff: In fairness, I totally blame Singer/Marsden for making Cyclops a whiny jerk with no real redeeming values.

Yeah, it wasn't like I was loving how they were handling the character before X3.

X3 was just the large, crappy cherry atop the larger, bitter sundae that was Movie Cyclops.

Blam said...


The cover to #100 has had its share of homages. It's not the most unique design, and I've seen discussion about whether it was in fact based on another cover, but most derivatives of it are pretty exact in the duplication of poses (and often use an "after Cockrum" credit).

I tend to hate the conceit of robot duplicates with more-or-less exactly mimicked superpowers because it begs so many questions:

How do you get the robots so lifelike that you can fool friends and teammates (which sort-of applies to any robot duplicates)?

If you can make such lifelike robots and give them incredible abilities, why are you bothering to fight the superheroes first rather than use the superpowers to rob banks or destroy those who've wronged you or subjugate people or even, more subtly, insinuate the robots into the place of the people you've duplicated (which, granted, is sometimes done, and here the answer is rather provided in the story, but, man, if I could build Amazo and somehow give him the powers of the entire Justice League, from Flash to Superman to Green Lantern — I mean, think about that — the first thing I would do would not be to go after the entire Justice League)?

How the frakkity-frak-frak-frak do you give a robot Marvel Girl's telekinesis (which isn't that new a question given some of the wacky Silver Age plot points we've seen, but that's hardly a valid out)?

And one question that isn't begged so much by the robots' creation as it is during the fight scene is why the robots are so easily defeated once it's discovered that they're robots. I know that it's often stated that the good guys can let loose once they're no longer afraid of killing humans, let alone loved ones, and so can go into carefree destruction mode, but that doesn't really account for the robots' heretofore evident yet suddenly failed agility, speed, and general battle tactics, while it does suggest that that, say, in this scenario, the newer X-Men could kill the earlier crew in short order if they wanted to.

VW: anink — acartridge you put in aprinter

Blam said...


We get our first fastball special in this issue, as Colossus hurls Wolverine at Angel!

I've been waiting for that.

As he and Cyclops fight, in the background you can continue to see the X-Men battling and ultimately defeating the X-Sentinels on Lang's monitors.

Nice touch.

The "tacataca" sound effect used as radiation penetrates Jean's shields is the same sound effect used in Fantastic Four #1, when the Fantastic Four are bombarded with the cosmic rays which will grant them their powers.

I don't recall ever making that connection or even reading about it in an article or interview. Did you notice that before Cockrum mentioned it in the book you cite (or somewhere else) or did it jump out at you?

Wonder how he was going to finish that sentence...

No kidding. Whether your frame of reference is in-story (this is his girlfriend; he's a superhero) or real-world (this is a Code book), it's not ending appropriately, nor does it really make sense. I don't think he was heading for "minx".

"Twenty-seven minutes to Earth's atmosphere. Not long at all. Just the rest of my life." This is heavy stuff, and Claremont makes us feel for Jean in what may be her final moments.

Indeed.

VW: sectax — Tariff levied 60 times per minute.

Teebore said...

@Blam: And one question that isn't begged so much by the robots' creation as it is during the fight scene is why the robots are so easily defeated once it's discovered that they're robots.

Indeed. The easy answer, which you mention, is that the new X-Men stop holding back once they know the truth, but, well, the story makes it pretty clear they're already doing everything they can just to stay alive, so I don't know that I buy that.

While the whole "robot duplicate" idea is problematic for all the reasons you listed, what really bugs me about this specific use is that there's no reason for the robot X-Men to even try and fool the new X-Men.

I mean, there's all this business about Marvel Girl telling Storm they're not friends and Professor X browbeating Wolverine and all that, and while I suppose it gives the robots a slight tactical advantage, it's really just there to make the readers wonder if the original X-Men are legit or not and create dramatic tension.

So it's awfully considerate and fourth wall breaking of Lang to program his X-Sentinels to make things more exciting for the readers...

Did you notice that before Cockrum mentioned it in the book you cite (or somewhere else) or did it jump out at you?

Nah, for all the times I've read this issue, I didn't realize it until I read it in the Comic Creators book. It's one of those things that once you see it, you wonder how you ever missed it, but I totally missed it.

No kidding. Whether your frame of reference is in-story (this is his girlfriend; he's a superhero) or real-world (this is a Code book), it's not ending appropriately, nor does it really make sense.

Yeah, there's just no way that sentence can end well. I really wonder for what Claremont was going.

And...it looks like your third comment (which appeared in my email) either got eaten or you deleted it after the fact.

If it's the later, so be it, but if it's the former, let me know and I'll see if I can get it re-published (or at the very least, respond to it in a manner that will make little sense to anyone but you and me).

Blam said...


I did not delete my third (actually, my second) comment. There would still be a "comment deleted" placeholder if I had, I think, unless/until you permanently deleted it yourself, so maybe Blogger thought it was spam. Anyway, I have it saved as well as in my E-mail feed, so here it is:

I hate to speak ill of the departed, but that is one awkward double-page spread.

Do we know what the stylized 'A' on Lang's chest stands for? (Not a rhetorical question; I might've just missed it or forgotten.)

I'm still loving the ads from my sweetest of nostalgic sweet spots.

I well recall this one-pager and others for the GI Joe Adventure Team; Bulletman also had a rockin' TV commercial, and the figure's resemblance to the Golden Age comic-book superhero of the same name made it one of my most prized possessions. (At 5 or 6 that would've been a major solo purchase, so it was almost certainly a birthday/holiday gift.)

The mood-ring ad I remember, too, as it was one of those things that sent my young brain into "But Spider-Man doesn't wear a ring!" mode. I still don't know if it's weird to be so literal while so imaginative, or if I just had a valid bull detector.

I don't really remember this Hostess strip, for once, but I love the small explanatory print under the title logos, "Note: The Cosmic Cube can do anything." For the purposes of this strip, that apparently includes form thought balloons and covet Twinkies, although I don't think it was ever established as having sentience in actual canon stories.

I wonder if the hyperlink to the Bulletman commercial sent the comment to spam before, now that I think of it, so I kept that out.

VW: zygrate — Shave off bits of a fertilized egg. (Yeah, I know: Ewwww.)

Teebore said...

@Blam: Odd indeed. Blogger has been especially fitzy lately.

I hate to speak ill of the departed, but that is one awkward double-page spread.

Indeed. The figure straddling the crease, the oddly angled insets, yeesh. It was especially tough getting screen caps of some of those panels for the post.

Do we know what the stylized 'A' on Lang's chest stands for?

I don't think it's ever made clear, but I'd guess A for Armageddon, as in Project Armageddon.

I well recall this one-pager and others for the GI Joe Adventure Team

I was a child of the "Real American Hero" era of GI Joe, but was certainly aware of the existence of the larger, original Joes, but this whole "Adventure Team" thing is entirely new to me, and tremendous fun to discover via these ads.

"But Spider-Man doesn't wear a ring!" mode. I still don't know if it's weird to be so literal while so imaginative, or if I just had a valid bull detector.

I'd have had the same reaction as a kid.

I don't think it was ever established as having sentience in actual canon stories.

I'm not sure how canon it is anymore, or if at all, but I seem to recall an Avengers story shortly after the end of Roger Stern's run that either established or suggested that the Cosmic Cube possessed sentience at one point, or was related to the Beyonder in some way, or something like that.

A quick Wikipedia search tells me that yes, the Cube is canonically considered to possess some level of sentience, though whether that was established when this ad was made, or if the writer of the ad was even aware of it, or if that sentience would even extend so far as to desire delicious cream filled sponge cakes, I do not know.

At any rate, like with the Captain Marvel/Nitro ad, I chuckled at seeing Red Skull, Hitler's right hand man, fighting Captain America over Hostess snack cakes.

Dr. Bitz said...

"...or if that sentience would even extend so far as to desire delicious cream filled sponge cakes"

What sentience doesn't? In fact, I think that's the scientific test they use to determine sentience.

Teebore said...

In fact, I think that's the scientific test they use to determine sentience.

If you're not right, you should be.

Blam said...


@Teebore: I was a child of the "Real American Hero" era of GI Joe, but was certainly aware of the existence of the larger, original Joes, but this whole "Adventure Team" thing is entirely new to me, and tremendous fun to discover via these ads.

As I wrote when 2009's GI Joe movie came out, it's really all in what you know — what you know from that sweet spot of childhood in particular. I find that discovery of stuff from other eras, whether you lived through them or not, can run the gamut from indifference to fascination; still, in my experience, you won't have that chill of recognition, that almost Pavlovian thrill, unless something involves memories from the formative years.

The larger, original GI Joes were on their way out when I was a kid, and of the Adventure Team set I only had Bulletman, although I coveted the others (including the Steve Austin stand-in; luckily, I had the real thing — well, a 12" doll of the real thing, not Lee Majors). My real GI Joe contemporaries were the 8" kung-fu grip Super Joe figures, to scale with, although I think more muscular than, the Mego figures of DC and Marvel characters that consumed the bulk of my action-figure playtime. There were also some 12" Mego and Kenner superhero figures, from Superman to Star Wars, who mostly got used as giant robot adversaries for the smaller ones.

Teebore said...

@Blam: I find that discovery of stuff from other eras, whether you lived through them or not, can run the gamut from indifference to fascination; still, in my experience, you won't have that chill of recognition, that almost Pavlovian thrill, unless something involves memories from the formative years.

Absolutely. I'm enough of a history buff that I love finding out the history of toys and things like that from before the era I knew them best, but there's is nothing like the visceral thrill of childhood nostalgia.

Samuel said...

One other note. Notice the original Jean/Wolverine relationship. Where Wolverine was nursing a crush on Jean and Jean, a telepath, didn't know he was alive... until Classic X-Men.

Teebore said...

@Samuel: Where Wolverine was nursing a crush on Jean and Jean, a telepath, didn't know he was alive

Good point. I suppose my No Prize-y explanation would be that she usually does her best to reign in the telepathy so as not to unintentionally pry, but one does have to wonder how anyone on a team with a telepath can keep secrets.

fanfix said...

It is here that Claremont introduces Dr. Stephen Lang as a pioneer in the FIELD OF ROBOTICS and GENETIC MUTATION who hated mutants.

Stephen Lang, after the defeat of his army of massive mutant-hunting robot Sentinels, next pits our heroes against his “X-Sentinels”, android doubles of Beast, Iceman, Angel, Marvel Girl, Havok, Lorna Dane, and Professor X, who, like the robot of Magneto from X-Men #50, possess the appearance of, and could simulate the mannerisms and powers of, those they were meant to duplicate.

While it’s never been revealed who was behind the Demi-Men plot from X-Men #49-52, was Claremont attempting to suggest here that it was Lang who had earlier created the Magneto-robot to similarly simulate the mannerisms and powers of the Master of Magnetism to convince Mesmero to summon the “latent mutants” as part of some government plot, since in addition to being a pioneer in the field of robotics, it was revealed in Uncanny 100 that Lang was originally an employee of the U.S. government placed in charge of a federal investigation into the origin of GENETIC MUTATION?

Did the U.S. government place Stephen Lang on such a project to isolate the mutant gene so they could duplicate it and create their own mutants?

Was Claremont finally going to explain what was behind the Demi-Men plot?

Teebore said...

@Fanfix: Was Claremont finally going to explain what was behind the Demi-Men plot?

You certainly lay out a compelling argument for that, and I can't think of anything that directly contradicts that idea.

I wonder if Claremont just lost that thread in the wake of Phoenix and the arrival of Byrne, with his own ideas? I know Louise Simonson has said that Claremont would often forget about plot threads he'd setup, and she'd have to remind him of all the things he still had left to write when he'd "run out of ideas"; perhaps, in a different editor's hands, he lost track of this particular thread, and no one was there to remind him of it?