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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

X-amining X-Men #124

"He Only Laughs When I Hurt!"
August 1979

In a Nutshell
The X-Men escape Murderworld (alive). 

Writer/Co-Plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Roger Stern
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Arcade watches as Cyclops and Wolverine reluctantly fight a brainwashed Colossus, stopping to tell Colleen Wing and the other imprisoned X-girlfriends his origin. The battle amongst the X-Men leads to Wolverine and Cyclops getting separated. Meanwhile, Storm finds her trap filling with water to the point where she's almost out of air. Cyclops emerges in Nightcrawler's trap and destroys one killer buzzsaw car, only to have several more appear, while Wolverine runs into Banshee, now beset by science fiction star fighters. With the help of his heightened senses, Wolverine is able to find a maintenance tunnel, but when he Banshee enter it, they are confronted by the incredible Hulk and Magneto.


Meanwhile, Storm dives deep into the water of her trap looking for a way out. She discovers a wide pipe and attempts to blast off the bars over the opening with lightening. At the same time, Cyclops and Nightcrawler are getting rushed by multiple killer cars, but Cyclops manages to destroy them all with a single optic blast and expose another maintenance tunnel. He and Nightcrawler split up. Cyclops comes across Wolverine and Banshee battling Hulk and Magneto, who are revealed as robot duplicates, while Nightcrawler finds Arcade's control room. He attacks Arcade, but is gassed into unconsciousness by Arcade's assistant. The other X-Men defeat the robots only to have the room suddenly fill with water. When it subsides, they find an unconscious Storm, whom Cyclops is able to resuscitate. Just then, a still-brainwashed Colossus attacks the X-Men. Storm and Cyclops are able to pierce his brainwashing, and Arcade decides to cut his losses. Gathering the X-Men into a giant pinball, he launches it out of Murderworld. The X-Men emerge far away in time to see Nightcrawler and their girlfriends gift-wrapped and floating gently to the ground via parachutes. A note attached to Nightcrawler from Arcade credits round one to the X-Men. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Arcade details his origin to Colleen: a spoiled rich kid from Beverly Hills, Arcade killed his father and then used his inheritance to create Murderworld, combining his genius and love of killing. After getting bored using Murderworld to kill regular people, he started targeting superheroes, starting with Captain Britain and Spider-Man. 


A Work in Progress
So...after trying to warn the X-Men and learning they'd been captured by Arcade, and becoming so enraged by that fact that he destroyed a phone booth last issue, Spider-Man apparently just gave up and went home.

Cyclops' "inborn talent for spacial geometry" is mentioned for the first time. 

Wolverine's heightented senses are highlighted for the first time again, as he's able to distinguish holograms from reality via smell.


That 70s Comic
When last we saw Banshee, he was being attacked by WWII-era aircraft. This issue, he's in a sci-fi battle zone, dubbed "Battlestarwars: 1999" by Arcade, a portmanteau of Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and Space: 1999


Colossus snaps out of his brainwashing thanks to love. So...yeah.


Claremontisms
Lots of German expressions in Nightcrawler's dialogue this issue: verdammt (damned), mein freund (my friend), fraulein (young lady), was ist (what the!?!),  

In one of those neat little details about someone's power that Claremont likes to work into his stories, Storm notes that using her power in water is difficult as it's a heavier medium than air.


He also teaches us about pearl divers saturating their body with oxygen before diving.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
Cyclops gets a great "F*@% yeah!" moment this issue, as he uses his power to take out all the killer bumper cars with one blast.


For Sale
Don't let icky girls get their hands on your toys!


It's Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture


John Byrne on Colossus
"Colossus I saw as a very simple, very straightforward kind of guy-Jethro with brains. Chris at one point said he was a poet at heart, which I think is a good description, but he's a poet who doesn't have have the words. He doesn't have the language, the control of his thoughts to be a poet. He's just a very simple, basic, straighforward kind of guy. He would have been a great pioneer, and he would have been great out there in the American West two hundred years ago".

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p100

Teebore's Take
The wrap-up to the Arcade story remains as problematic as it was in the first part, with Arcade essentially letting the X-Men go once they've cleared Colossus' head, despite the fact that Arcade had Nightcrawler, at least, at his mercy (not to mention the X-Men's girlfriends). Similarly, the long-running subplot involving Colossus' doubts about his effectiveness and his homesickness is wrapped up a bit too quickly and easily, with Storm and Cyclops reaffirming the X-Men has a family and the importance of Colossus within that family. Again, Claremont and Byrne make the most of what is a relatively simple, throwback story, but that doesn't change the fact that this Arcade two-parter is probably the weakest story in their run. Fortunately, it's our last gasp of air (well, this and an annual) before Claremont and Byrne kick off a series of stories that will raise their run, the X-Men, and superhero comics in general to new heights, a series of stories whose repercussions are still being felt today.

Next Issue: X-Men Annual #3
Before all that though, we check out the first original story to appear in an X-Men annual (even though it's #3). 

14 comments:

  1. you know, i really only have one question - how did storm fire lightning under water and not electrocute herself?

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  2. I'm pretty sure Wolverine's heightened senses were referred to in previous issues. I'm thinking specifically of issue 100, when he destroys the Marvel Girl robot.

    Yeah, the pearl diving, oxygen saturation thing. I still think of that when swimming. Knowledge gleaned from comics.

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  3. I'd guess that just because we don't see Spidey looking for the X-Men doesn't mean he wasn't. But there's not a lot he could do, since he had no way to track them.

    "Cyclops' "inborn talent for spacial geometry" is mentioned for the first time."

    I've always loved that line. And the destruction of the bumper cars is definitely one of the greatest Cyclops moments ever.

    "...the long-running subplot involving Colossus' doubts about his effectiveness and his homesickness is wrapped up a bit too quickly and easily..."

    I guess that's the case, since I think in issue 126 when they arrive at Muir Island he says something like, "from now on, Colossus earns his keep!" and we're supposed to see that as his confidence having returned. But I feel like the actual end of this character arc is the finale of the Proteus saga, when he proves concretely to himself (and the readers) that he can "walk the walk". Until that point he says he's over his issues, but we don't see anything to prove it.

    Regarding Storm not electrocuting herself underwater -- this is the old RPG player in me talking, but I'm pretty sure Storm is immune to her own power. Apparently that extends to potential electrocution when her power mixes with water.

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  4. @Sarah: how did storm fire lightning under water and not electrocute herself?

    Well, my first response was, "shut up, that's why!", but my second, more Claremontian, response was akin to Matt's, of Storm probably being immune to her own power (similar to how she really feel extreme cold when casting a blizzard).

    I double checked the issue itself, and its little help. Storm thinks that she must, "shoot a single, continuous bolt directly into the pipe walls", so maybe the idea is that the electricity she generates is going directly into the pipe and somehow never touching the water?

    @Chris: I'm pretty sure Wolverine's heightened senses were referred to in previous issues. I'm thinking specifically of issue 100, when he destroys the Marvel Girl robot.

    Yeah, you're right. I knew there was another instance of it out there, I just couldn't remember. I should update the post to reflect that.

    the pearl diving, oxygen saturation thing. I still think of that when swimming. Knowledge gleaned from comics.

    Ditto.

    @Matt: I'd guess that just because we don't see Spidey looking for the X-Men doesn't mean he wasn't. But there's not a lot he could do, since he had no way to track them.

    I agree, it's a relatively moot point. And I don't really think there's much Spidey could do. I just get a chuckle at the thought of the imaginary panel after the one where he destroys the phone booth, in which Spidey shrugs and says, "oh well, I guess the X-Men are on their own. And I'm off to meet Cissy Ironwood for a date!"

    I've always loved that line.

    Me too. It somehow manages to be both supremely cool (he blew them all up with one shot!) and colossally nerdy (using the awesome power of geometry...) at the same time, which is pretty much how I think of Cyclops.

    But I feel like the actual end of this character arc is the finale of the Proteus saga, when he proves concretely to himself (and the readers) that he can "walk the walk".

    Yeah, a case can definitely be made that the "ineffective Colossus" subplot isn't truly wrapped up until the end of the "Proteus" story, but I've always viewed that as the beginning of a new bit of Colossus development, where he starts to question his role on the team and the nature of his responsibilities as a superhero. But then again, nothing much comes of that in later issues, aside from introducing that "questioning his role" aspect of his character, which pops up from time to time.

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  5. The ending of this story is pretty lame; the X-men just walk away, in spite of the fact that Arcade will most likely keep on murdering, or at least trying to murder, more people. That's some good super-heroism, guys.

    By the way, this issue came out in Finland (where I'm from) in 1984, with Lenin's face mysteriously gone from the cover. A case of someone over-reacting, I guess, but funny anyway...

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  6. "...the X-men just walk away, in spite of the fact that Arcade will most likely keep on murdering..."

    I've always thought that was weird, too. You'd think they would have tried to follow the pinball tunnel back to Murderworld or something. Even a caption saying that they'd at least tried to find Arcade would have been appreciated.

    In fact, that's one problem I've long had with Arcade, but that I forgot to mention last time. He has a huge, presumably stationary, underground complex, which multiple heroes have been inside, but which none have ever tried to find from the outside. I don't get it.

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  7. Although now that I think about it, don't the "reserve" X-Men actually seek out and enter Murderworld during the Arcade/Dr. Doom story in the 140's? Or was that a decoy Murderworld or something? If they do know where it is and let it keep operating, then that's even worse than their just walking away from it in this issue!

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  8. @Ugus: That's some good super-heroism, guys.

    Yeah, I probably should have made a point of that, especially in light of the Silver Age X-Men just letting Lucifer go after they'd defeated him or handing the unstoppable Juggernaut over to the police after defeating him.

    By the way, this issue came out in Finland (where I'm from) in 1984, with Lenin's face mysteriously gone from the cover.

    That's pretty funny. Was it removed from the interior of the comic too?

    @Matt: Even a caption saying that they'd at least tried to find Arcade would have been appreciated.

    Cyclops and Wolverine argue about going after Arcade, with Cyclops basically saying the X-Men are too beat up and Arcade could be anywhere, so Claremont at least pays lip service to the idea that Arcade is still out there, but you'd think they'd go back later and at least try to find him.

    He has a huge, presumably stationary, underground complex, which multiple heroes have been inside, but which none have ever tried to find from the outside.

    Yeah, that's another problem. Put aside the massive overhead Murderworld must have and it's still a problematic gimmick for that reason. You'd think SOMEONE would have stumbled across it, or noticed it on the power grid, or something. Seems too big to hide that effectively, especially from superheroes.

    don't the "reserve" X-Men actually seek out and enter Murderworld during the Arcade/Dr. Doom story in the 140's? Or was that a decoy Murderworld or something?

    I'm pretty sure they enter the real Murderworld somehow, but then it blows up when they escape, the idea being that from then on, Arcade is constantly moving from Murderworld to Murderworld (which is problematic in entirely new ways).

    I forget the details, though. We'll have to see when we get to that issue.

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  9. Was it removed from the interior of the comic too?

    No, just the cover. They must have thought that the potentially offended people and those who actually read the comic were two totally different groups.

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  10. i haven't read this post yet- i'll probably get to it sunday. but the one thing that needed to be said RIGHT NOW is why the heck did Colossus clearly pee himself on the cover of this issue?!

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  11. @Ugus: They must have thought that the potentially offended people and those who actually read the comic were two totally different groups.

    That's kinda crazy, but also somewhat sensible at the same time.

    @Anne: why the heck did Colossus clearly pee himself on the cover of this issue?!

    Haha! I'd never noticed that before.

    Blame it on a poor scan or the age of the original issue. Or a weak bladder.

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  12. now that i've read the rest of the post, i have nothing more to add that's better than my original comment

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  13. @Anne: That was a tough act to follow...

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  14. This might be the first Claremont/Byrne issue I ever read (in Classic X-men). I remember the scene where Cyclops gives mouth-to-mouth to Storm, and that small detail, plus Cyclops' panic, made the scene feel more realistic than most. This is where I realized this run was something special, despite being completely unaware of it's reputation.

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