In a Nutshell
Cyclops, Phoenix, Havok & Polaris battle Sauron in the Savage Land
Writer: John Francis Moore
Storyboards: John Francis Moore
Pencilers: Mandel Alves Flor, Fabio Laguna, Al Rio, Eddie Wagner
Inkers: Ralph Cabrera, Keith Champagne, John Lowe, Mark McKenna, Al Milgrom, Joe Rubinstein, Tim Townsend
Letterers: Steve Dutro, Bill Oakley, Richard Starkings
Colorists: Joe Agostinelli, Ariane, Mel Sanchez, Andrew Triana, Matt Webb
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Cover: Kerry Gammill & Dan Panosian
As Sauron struggles to find a source of energy to keep him sated, Worm & Whiteout bring a captive Havok into the Savage Land, closely pursued by Cyclops, Phoenix & Polaris. After meeting with Nereel and learning Sauron's attacks have become increasingly vicious, the three mutants infiltrate his citadel in pursuit of Havok, but end up captured. Sauron proceeds to drain the energy of both Cyclops & Havok, but Polaris & Phoenix manage to escape and damage the machine regulating the power transfer. In the confusion, they flee the citadel but are attacked by a super-charged Sauron. Phoenix proceeds to enter Sauron's mind and discovers the lingering presence of Karl Lykos, who, with Phoenix' help, battles the mental representation of Sauron. Ultimately, he launches himself & Sauron over a cliff, killing them both, and leaving Sauron with nothing but his animal instincts.
Firsts and Other Notables
Sauron is functionality destroyed this issue, as the remnants of Karl Lykos in his brain kills himself and the Sauron personality, leaving behind the physical form of Sauron with nothing left but animalistic instincts (he goes on to try to join a flock of savage Land pterandons), bringing to an end the brief run in which he was a semi-recurring villain following his return in X-Force #5, though this won’t stop him from returning again eventually (we'll next see him in Uncanny X-Men #351).
This issue concludes with a series of pinups, including a Bryan Hitch Generation X team shot (which includes Mondo).
The Chronology Corner
This issue takes place after "The Phalanx Covenant", with Cyclops & Phoenix appearing here between issues #16 and #17 of Cable (just prior to Uncanny X-Men #318), while Havok & Polaris appear between Excalibur #82 and X-Factor #107.
A Work in Progress
The Mutates refer to Polaris as Zaladane’s false sister, a callback to the brief time when it was believed Zaladane and Polaris were related.
Sauron’s Silver Age history is recapped.
Cyclops, Phoenix and Polaris meet with Nereel, leader of the United Savage Land Tribes (and Colossus’s baby mama).
Cyclops also notes that Magneto created the mutates to be servile to explain their propensity for falling in behind one leader after another.
It’s said here that Sauron, unbeknownst to Wolverine, hypnotized him into releasing Sauron in Wolverine #71, a continuity patch that helps smooth over the abrupt ending to that story.
Polaris declares that nothing metal can withstand her attack which, again, is not really how magnetism works.
Sauron hypnotizes Jean & Lorna into thinking they’re the Goblin Queen and Malice.
When asked when she and Havok are going to get married, Polaris responds with that old chestnut about don’t needing paperwork to validate their feelings.
This is the first truly superfluous issue of this series (and in that regard, it's a grim vision of its future, though the series has yet to slide entirely into irrelevance): the first issue introduced the series & Sienna Blaze while teasing the return of Magneto (and featured some decent early Chris Bachalo art), the second tied in to "Fatal Attractions", the third kicked off the "Sabretooth in the mansion" storyline, the fourth, while terrible in terms of art & story, nevertheless closed off a long dangling plot thread, and the fifth grappled with the Shi'ar's handling of the defeated Kree (and ostensibly ended the long if infrequently-depicted Xavier/Lilandra relationship). In terms of craft, this issue isn't great, featuring an army of pencillers and inkers working off of Paul Smith's storyboards and a workmanlike script from John Francis Moore, and in terms of narrative relevance, it sort of kills off Sauron, but given the character's tendency to appear then disappear for large chunks of time (and his eventual return), that's not all that eventful.
All that said, I still kinda like this issue. The Savage Land Mutates are always goofy fun, and the idea that they've been bred to be supplicant to a dominant personality is a clever idea that explains their constant henchmen status to the Savage Land leader-du-jour. And I enjoy seeing the Cyclops/Phoenix/Havok/Polaris combo interacting as a family unit (and not just as members of two teams with similar goals), especially in light of the recent Cyclops & Phoenix wedding and Havok's personal (but rarely referenced) history with Sauron. Those four hanging out together as a family isn't something we see very often, and that makes this issue slightly more interesting. Granted, none of that makes this essential reading, and the general level of craft involved makes it hard to recommend, but as far as inessential X-Men Unlimited issues go, this could be a lot worse.
Tomorrow, we continue the theme of "could be a lot of worse" with Excalibur Annual #2. Friday, Cable & Domino go on a date in Cable #15. Next week, Uncanny X-Men #317.
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