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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

X-amining X-Men #102

"Who Will Stop the Juggernaut?"
December 1976

In a Nutshell 
The new X-Men fight Juggernaut and Black Tom

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Sam Grainger
Letterer: John Constanza
Colorist: Bonnie Wilford
Editor: Archie Goodwin

Plot
As the new X-Men battle Juggernaut and Black Tom, Storm is overwhelmed by claustrophobia and collapses. She flashes back to her childhood, remembering the death of her parents and her time as a thief in Cairo. Meanwhile, back in New York, Jean is visited by her roommate Misty Knight as Professor X receives a telepathic flash from Storm. Realizing the new X-Men are facing Juggernaut, Professor X orders Cyclops to Ireland to assist them, but Cyclops refuses to leave Jean's side. The two argue, but are interrupted when Professor X receives another alien vision. Back in Ireland, Nightcrawler is knocked out and taken away from the battle by a group of mysterious figures. The other X-Men are quickly dispatched just as Storm tries to fight back, but she's too weak. With the X-Men at their mercy, Black Tom and Juggernaut await the arrival of Professor X. 

 
Firsts and Other Notables
Storm's origin as the child of an American photojournalist and an African princess born in Harlem is recounted here for the first time, including the cause of her extreme claustrophobia (she was trapped in rubble with the body of mother) and her childhood spent as a thief in Cairo. As such, this is also the first appearance of her parents and her mentor in thievery, Achmed El Gibar. We also learn that Storm's last name is Munroe.


Wolverine's claws are revealed to be made of adamantium.


Nightcrawler's ability to turn invisible in shadows is shown for the first time. This particular power is a bit contentious, as the reprint of this story in Classic X-Men is edited to suggest that Nightcrawler merely blends into the shadows well (as opposed to literally turning invisible). However, later stories make it clear that he does indeed disappear whilst in shadows.


This issue also marks the beginning of Black Tom and Juggernaut's relationship, which extends beyond a mere super-villain team-up to the realm of actual friendship. Some modern readers have wondered if Claremont was trying to suggest a homosexual relationship without being able to come out directly and say so, but I've never read any interviews with Claremont confirming that (or denying it, for that matter), and there's certainly nothing in the text of this issue or most of their later appearances together to suggest it, aside from what amounts to a rather peculiar (for the time) genuine friendship between two super-villains. 

On a personal note, this issue marks the beginning of the continuous run of X-Men issues in my comic book collection. While I own numerous issues older than this one, from this point forward I own an original copy of every issue of X-Men to the present day.    

A Work in Progress
Jean references dying and resurrecting herself.


Professor X gets another vision of the alien haunting his dreams.


It is suggested that Storm is special in a way beyond her mutant power, as she claims to remember events happening around her at six months, and both her parents comment on her specialness.


Like brothers Cyclops and Havok, cousins Banshee and Black Tom are immune to the other's power. While it makes a certain amount of sense in terms of Cyclops and Havok's energy based powers, one wonders how Black Tom can be "immune" to Banshee's scream; does he go temporarily deaf whenever Banshee uses his power?


We see a reverse-Fastball Special in this issue, as Wolverine hurls Colossus at Juggernaut.


That 70s Comic
Storm's claustrophobia is rooted in the Suez War of 1956, and Storm's birth date is explicitly stated as being in 1951, which makes her roughly 25 when the story was published.


Claremontisms
Misty Knight, Iron Fist's girlfriend and a supporting character in his comic, appears as Jean's New York roommate. Claremont was also writing Iron Fist at this time (along with future X-Men artist John Byrne, in some of his earliest work), and supporting characters from that book will pop up occasionally in X-Men. This is something Claremont (and lots of Marvel writers at the time) loves to do, crossing over cast members from the various titles he's writing. In addition to the Iron Fist characters, over time we'll see Claremont bring over characters from his Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel runs.

This penchant of creators for shepherding characters across titles is one of the things that helped give the Marvel Universe its cohesive feel, and while it still happens somewhat these days, we certainly don't see it as often as we do in comics from the 70s and 80s.  

"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
Professor X attempts to give Cyclops a taste of the back of his hand after Cyke refuses to leave Jean's side. And Cyclops is totally scared of it, too.


For Sale
Heh. Will these shoes help you run from the law, too?


Teebore's Take
Things are a bit more traditional this issue, as Claremont and Cockrum bring back their second Lee/Kirby villain to face off against the new X-Men in what amounts to essentially an issue-long fight scene. The driving conceit, of course, is that the new X-Men have never faced Juggernaut before, and more importantly, the key to defeating him (telepathy) isn't readily available to them, with Xavier and Jean across the ocean. Toss in the fact that Claremont effectively sidelines Storm, arguably the most powerful member of the team in Ireland for most of the issue, and Juggernaut comes out looking more fearsome and (dare I say it?) unstoppable than he has since his first appearance.

In the few non-fight scene pages of this issue, Claremont takes the time to detail the origin of Storm. Therein it is hinted that there is something special about Storm beyond her mutant power. Though little will come of this (aside from a few future story points that might tie into Storm having some kind of mystical abilities), it is clear that of all the new X-Men, Storm is Claremont's favorite. She's already received a back story far more detailed than any of the other new characters, and the brief recap of her life we get here (from precocious child to orphaned thief to worshiped goddess) suggests fertile ground for future character development far beyond what we've gotten for any of the other characters. As time goes on, Storm will remain a central figure in Claremont's run, and stand as an example of Claremont's ability to grow and develop characters over time.

17 comments:

  1. I seriously need to find an excuse to call someone an ungrateful cur. Man, oh man am I in a foul mood. I may need those OJ shoes to run after I murder everyone at work who's pissing me off.

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  2. 'Misty Knight'? Really?

    i always appreciate good shadow powers- like when Psylocke gets the ability to travel through shadows

    was there an unspoken rule that they couldn't have gay characters? Since obviously there are a few openly gay characters nowadays...

    Zing on the shoe comment

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  3. @Hannah: I seriously need to find an excuse to call someone an ungrateful cur.

    Yeah, it really doesn't get used enough these days, does it?

    @Anne: 'Misty Knight'? Really?

    Hey, don't knock Misty Knight. She's the synthesis of the blaxploitation and Kung Fu crazes of the seventies, plus she's Iron Fist's girlfriend AND has a bionic arm.

    was there an unspoken rule that they couldn't have gay characters?

    Maybe? I really don't know. I think it was more just that any writer that even thought of the idea of a gay character just assumed it would be shot down because that's how things were back then.

    Most of the speculation surrounding Black Tom and Juggernaut centers on the fact that, in general, Claremont was a fairly progressive writer for his time, and that, specifically, later stories/ideas suggest he's open to the idea of featuring homosexual characters. Specifically, his notion that Mystique and Destiny were lovers, something he was reportedly never allowed to explicitly state but which can be read into their relationship as depicted in the comics, and his idea that they were Nightcrawler's parents, another story idea that was, allegedly, quashed by editorial at some point.

    And, though I have no good way of knowing this, I'd imagine that very few people reading this issue at the time would have ever questioned whether Black Tom and Juggernaut's relationship was anything more than a friendly partnership. The whole "were they gay?" question is very much driven by modern readers looking back.

    Zing on the shoe comment

    Thanks. Expect to see OJ show up again through the years; as famous athletes go, he was surprisingly ubiquitous in the pages of comic books.

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  4. She flashes back to her childhood, remembering the death of her parents and her time as a thief in Cairo.

    ...the child of an American photojournalist and an African princess born in Harlem.

    It's like we're twins!

    ...from this point forward I own an original copy of every issue of X-Men to the present day.

    Cool, that's dedication!

    I like how Jean refers to her good friend by her first and last name. Creep. Ooh, or maybe she only does this now because she is possessed by that... um, we just talked about this... crap. It was like a kinda like a stream of energy that was also a ghost. And an alien. That is exactly what I remember reading. Don't look now, but somebody's getting better at this!

    Hold the Goddamn phone a minute here: Banshee is a boy?! Ahahahahaha! Oh man, that's worse than being the Dolphin Boy:

    DB:"Yes, frolic and twirl for me my gay, gay creatures!"
    Other Super Heroes:"Hehehehe"
    DB:"Oh, go to Hell, you assholes."

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  5. I'm not trying to go Cyclops bashing here, but I think Xavier is over estimating him if he thinks Cylcops is the tipping point in the battle with Juggernaut and Black Tom.

    On the flip side, though, kind of a doush move by Cylcops to decide to make himself useless by staying by Jean's bedside and holding her hand instead of helping the team out.

    Also, for Black Tom's (and his proctologist's) sake, I really hope Juggernaut is the catcher.

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  6. @Joan: he is possessed by that... um, we just talked about this... crap. It was like a kinda like a stream of energy that was also a ghost. And an alien. That is exactly what I remember reading. Don't look now, but somebody's getting better at this!

    You totally are! That's actually a pretty good explanation of what the Phoenix is.

    Hold the Goddamn phone a minute here: Banshee is a boy?! Ahahahahaha! Oh man, that's worse than being the Dolphin Boy

    Okay, first of all, start writing some Dolphin Boy comics STAT. Secondly, yeah, Banshee is a boy. Way back when he first appeared in issue #28, Roy Thomas wanted him to be a woman cuz, you know, it made sense that way and junk, but Stan Lee thought readers wouldn't respond well to a female villain and forced Roy to make Banshee a man.

    @Dr. Bitz: On the flip side, though, kind of a doush move by Cylcops to decide to make himself useless by staying by Jean's bedside and holding her hand instead of helping the team out.

    Yeah, here's how my thought process went on this:

    1. Really Xavier? What the hell is Cyclops, by himself, going to do against Juggernaut?
    2. Besides, he still has to fly to Ireland and drive to the castle. The X-Men are fighting the Juggernaut right now; I don't think they can keep that fight going for the roughly 15 years of travel time facing Cyclops.
    3. Still, it's kind of a dick move of Cyclops to not even try to get there and help out. Especially since all he's doing instead is holding Jean's hand, and he's not even doing that right now.
    4. Then again, 1 and 2...

    Also, for Black Tom's (and his proctologist's) sake, I really hope Juggernaut is the catcher.

    Bwahaha! Indeed.

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  7. i had a lot of things to say, but then blogger kicked me out and i was filled with rage and now i can't remember what i wanted to say.
    You know, Nightcrawler's shadow powers like, never, come up. I always forget about them.
    Also, any cross over in the marvel verse is awesome and i always wanted them to do it all the time.
    Cuz who doesn't like that?
    Nazis, that's who.

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  8. "Wolverine's claws are revealed to be made of adamantium."

    **That had already been revealed, right? I'm pretty sure that Len Wein had Wolverine saying that his claws were adamantium in Hulk #181.

    Maybe it's the first time Claremont dropped the "A"-word?

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  9. I'm pretty sure that this was the next issue of X-Men that I got after #98. All I know is that I've had it a long time, I don't recall picking it up as a back issue, and my copy's as beat up as any of the other comics I've had since the single digits of life.

    #98 freaked me out a bit because of its "adult" nature (the dating, the dress-rippping) and Wolverine's antagonistic brand of heroism. #102 did the same thanks to the castle-dungeon setting, Nightcrawler's weird fadeout in the shadows, those creepy Leprechaun dudes, Ororo's flashback to being buried alive, that panel where Xavier sees the eerie astronaut in the mirror, and that other panel where Jean's face goes dark when she says she's "brought herself back to life".

    Nightcrawler's ability to turn invisible in shadows is shown for the first time.

    I must admit that this never made sense to me. Unless the power works in even weak shadows, in which case you could become invisible almost anywhere, there's going to be a fairly substantial threshold before the power kicks in — as would appear to be the case here; in that case, though, the whole idea approaches not only ridiculous levels of arbitrariness, even in the context of superhero comics, but redunancy. Isn't being invisible in deep shadows kind-of like being invisible when nobody's looking at you or having sound-dampening powers around deaf people?

    VW: salin — The GOP's last candidate for VP after turning around to look at Sodom.

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  10. Isn't being invisible in deep shadows kind-of like being invisible when nobody's looking at you or having sound-dampening powers around deaf people
    Win.

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  11. It is suggested that Storm is special in a way beyond her mutant power, as she claims to remember events happening around her at six months, and both her parents comment on her specialness.

    To be honest, I don't read the dialogue that way. Has there been general fan speculation otherwise? I really just take it as either a foreshadowing of Ororo's mutant nature (since we often see indications of non-primary abilities like above-average intelligence or limited psychic something-or-other) or, more probably, Ororo simply possessing a soulful look and parents who are typically quick to ascribe special qualities to their adorable infant.

    While I own numerous issues older than this one, from this point forward I own an original copy of every issue of X-Men to the present day.

    Holy moley! That's commitment, my good man. I don't know what's more impressive: that you filled in your collection this far back (since, if I recall right, you didn't actually start buying the series new until about 15 years from "now") or that you've kept going through so many changes in creative direction and quality.

    Professor X attempts to give Cyclops a taste of the back of his hand

    I love it.

    Will these shoes help you run from the law, too?

    At least they didn't make him an actual superhero. "O.J. Simpson is... The White Bronco!"

    I had some of those Mead school supplies advertised on the inside front cover, by the way, including for sure a spiral notebook with the Spider-Man cover shown on the three-ring binder and a three-ring binder with the cover to Captain America #193 plus that awesome collage of characters down the side. Do you think that a kid would be allowed to bring a binder with the word "Madbomb" in big letters to school in today's world, even an innocent second-grader, even if it had Captain America on it?

    VW: Prooti — The Canadian version of the Legion of Super-Heroes' protoplasmic pet.

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  12. @Anne: 'Misty Knight'? Really?

    What Teebore said. 8^) She had to know what life held for her once she realized she was living in a place like the Marvel Universe, though. I mean, if I'm born into that world and my name is, like, Stephen Strange, it's not a question of whether I'm getting superpowers, just when and what kind.

    @Teebore: And, though I have no good way of knowing this, I'd imagine that very few people reading this issue at the time would have ever questioned whether Black Tom and Juggernaut's relationship was anything more than a friendly partnership

    I can say that not only didn't it occur to me back then (granted, I was 6 years old) but it hasn't occurred to me on any reread either. This is the first time I've ever heard it brought up and I see no hint of it now. Of course there's nothing in the story to suggest that they're not gay, but that's a whole different thing and can be said of plenty of other pairings in plenty of other stories.

    @Joanie: Banshee is a boy?!

    Yup... I don't know if helps balance the cosmic scales for you, but there's a well-known miniseries from the '80s in which Sir Tristan of Camelot is reincarnated as a lady.

    I'm with Teebore on you giving us some more Dolphin Boy, though. Extra points for frequent use of the term "blowhole"... and... Go!

    @Dr. Bitz: I'm not trying to go Cyclops bashing here, but I think Xavier is over estimating him if he thinks Cylcops is the tipping point in the battle with Juggernaut and Black Tom.

    No kidding...

    @Teebore: Stan Lee ... forced Roy to make Banshee a man.

    Woof! Paging Dolphin Boy!

    @Teebore: The X-Men are fighting the Juggernaut right now; I don't think they can keep that fight going for the roughly 15 years of travel time facing Cyclops.

    Seriously... Chris Claremont indulged his airplane fetish again this issue; you'd think he might acknowledge that even with an SST or, heck, an Avengers Quinjet on call there'd be a problem here.

    @Falen: You know, Nightcrawler's shadow powers like, never, come up.

    I can't even recall another story that references them, but my X-Men reading is far from comprehensive anymore. And of course he could be lurking in any damn panel that has a shadow in it and we'd never know it.

    @Falen: Win.

    Thanks!

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  13. @Joanie: Banshee is a boy?!

    Oh, also: Cyclops has two eyes (and his visor isn't round), The Angel is mortal, Colossus isn't a giant, lots of the X-Men have been women, the original Human Torch was an android, The Flash keeps his clothes on, and Dick Tracy was a pretty swell guy.

    VW: Exhiali — Alien race of heavy breathers.

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  14. @Sarah: You know, Nightcrawler's shadow powers like, never, come up. I always forget about them.

    Yeah, it's one of those random things that is mostly forgotten.

    Cuz who doesn't like that?
    Nazis, that's who.


    Ha, indeed...

    @Jason: **That had already been revealed, right? I'm pretty sure that Len Wein had Wolverine saying that his claws were adamantium in Hulk #181.

    Maybe it's the first time Claremont dropped the "A"-word?


    Yeah, you're right on both counts. I completely forgot the adamantium business was right there from the beginning.

    @Blam: I must admit that this never made sense to me.

    Ditto. Like you say, it's entirely ambiguous and far too random to really be effective.

    To be honest, I don't read the dialogue that way. Has there been general fan speculation otherwise?

    Some. Jason Powell's post on this issue discusses it some, and I've read it in some other places. I'm also recalling some business (I forget exactly when; maybe the upcoming Magneto two-parter?) about how Storm really can remember details from her infancy.

    Certainly, very little ever comes of it, so I wouldn't be surprised at all if this was all just idle speculation.

    I don't know what's more impressive: that you filled in your collection this far back (since, if I recall right, you didn't actually start buying the series new until about 15 years from "now") or that you've kept going through so many changes in creative direction and quality.

    Yeah, my first issue bought off the rack, so to speak, was #289, so I've done a lot of filling in (and by no means is my collection mint or anywheres close to it; I've always just targeted reading copies). It's just one of those things I do when I attend cons: search another issue or two to fill in the gaps.

    As for the dips in quality, well, there have certainly been some rough patches through the years. I've always been enough of an anal retentive collector to ride out them out when my overall enjoyment of the franchise, even in the worst of times, wasn't enough. I'll be the first to admit there are some less than stellar stories/runs, but in general, I just like the X-Men.

    Do you think that a kid would be allowed to bring a binder with the word "Madbomb" in big letters to school in today's world, even an innocent second-grader, even if it had Captain America on it?

    Haha, sadly, probably not. Those school supplies looked a heck of a lot cooler than anything I ever had as a kid.

    I mean, if I'm born into that world and my name is, like, Stephen Strange, it's not a question of whether I'm getting superpowers, just when and what kind.

    It's funny cuz it's true.

    I can't even recall another story that references them, but my X-Men reading is far from comprehensive anymore.

    I know there's an issue of Excalibur that references the shadow invisibility power. I've never read it but the Official Index entry for this issue mentions. Otherwise, the only other instance I can recall offhand is during the Claremont/Byrne Savage Land arc when Nightcrawler infiltrates Garrok's citadel. We'll certainly keep our eyes out for other occurrences as this series continues.

    Cyclops has two eyes (and his visor isn't round), The Angel is mortal, Colossus isn't a giant, lots of the X-Men have been women, the original Human Torch was an android, The Flash keeps his clothes on, and Dick Tracy was a pretty swell guy.

    Bravo, sir. I particularly admire "Dick Tracy".

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  15. It is suggested that Storm is special in a way beyond her mutant power, as she claims to remember events happening around her at six months, and both her parents comment on her specialness.

    Damn, the Red Skull must be a pretty powerful mutant then, since he claims that he can remember things since the moment he was born!


    @Falen: You know, Nightcrawler's shadow powers like, never, come up.

    I can definitely remember one of the Arcade stories (#124-odd?) where Nightcrawler is crawling around in Murderworld's shafts and notes that his body is transparent in shadows. No idea why the apparent change.

    Come to think of it, that Magneto story from around #113-odd also had Nightcrawler hiding in the shadows in the fight, looking for a decent time to strike, so Nightcrawler's powers do rock up from time to time, just not very often.

    @Teebore:Like you say, it's entirely ambiguous and far too random to really be effective.

    I think I remember reading somewhere that it actually relates to his shadow powers thanks to another dimension or something... I have no idea where I read it though. Maybe one of the Handbooks?

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  16. @Harry: I think I remember reading somewhere that it actually relates to his shadow powers thanks to another dimension or something... I have no idea where I read it though. Maybe one of the Handbooks?

    That sounds about right, and it seems like the kind of detail the Handbook writers would include.

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  17. I think "ungrateful, unspeakable cur" is what Cyclops was going to call Jean on the shuttle before he got cut off.

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