Wednesday, October 5, 2011
X-amining X-Men #128
In a Nutshell
The X-Men defeat Proteus
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
Proteus turns his power on the city of Edinburgh, warping reality to attack its denizens and reveling in his power. The X-Men do their best to protect the city's residents until Proteus turns his attention to Moira, transforming her into different hideous forms. Cyclops devises a plan designed to exploit Proteus chief weaknesses, his need for host bodies, and metal, and the X-Men attack. Proteus quickly traps Storm in crystallized amber, and when Wolverine stops to free her, moves in for the kill. But Banshee shoots the villain, forcing him back. Proteus responds by burying Banshee beneath the ground. Cyclops blasts an opening to Banshee and Nightcrawler teleports him out, the strain knocking both of them out of the fight. However, Cyclops first objective has been met, as Proteus has fled the city.
On the outskirts of the city, Proteus heads for nearby Castle Rock when Phoenix intercepts him, attacking with a ferocious psychic assault that knocks Proteus low until he strikes back, making Phoenix feel as though she's been dead and buried for a year. An enraged Wolverine leaps out, gutting Proteus and managing to separate Moira from her son. Just then Cyclops and Havok blast Proteus simultaneously, further degrading his host body until he manages to escape. Now little more than a walking corpse, Proteus grabs Moira and heads to the top of Castle Rock as Colossus climbs after them, taunting her with the thought that her son will soon destroy humanity. Just then an unarmored Colossus tosses Proteus against a wall, his body decaying into powder on impact. Faced with Proteus' true energy form, Colossus stands fast as Proteus taunts him with memories of his brother before moving in to possess him. As he does so, Colossus transforms and plunges his metal fists into Proteus, causing a tremendous feedback of energy that scatters Proteus' being to the four corners of the Earth. Phoenix telekinetically carries the X-Men up to the castle where they find Colossus consoling a heartbroken Moira. As Banshee and Moira embrace, the weary X-Men savor their hard fought victory.
Firsts and Other Notables
Proteus is killed this issue, the first villain to be directly killed by the team, and remarkably enough (given both the genre and the title) he is one of the few villains to stay more or less dead since this issue, (an attempt to reconstitute his energy is made by A.I.M in an early 90s annual, and a briefly-resurrected Proteus is the villain, alongside Gary Mitchell, in the strangely in continuity X-Men/Star Trek crossover).
Implied in issue #97, here's its outright stated that Cyclops and Havok are more or less immune to each others power.
A Work in Progress
In a moment that manages both to be sweet and pretty goofy at the same time, Storm is reluctant to harm a swarm of bees created by Proteus, sweeping them aside with a strong wind and then lowering the temperature to force the bees into hibernation (incidentally, this is also when I first learned that bees don't like the cold).
We learn Proteus's cell on Muir Island was composed of "vanadium steel" and an "esoteric energy" field.
The only time we ever see Proteus' original (abeit decaying) body:
Wolverine continues to be shaken by Proteus, getting scared at the mere thought of being subjected to his reality altering power again.
Cyclops notes that Proteus views everyone else the way people view cows.
This is another strong showcase of Cyclops' leadership abilities, as he puts together and helps execute a successful plan to defeat Proteus based on the villain's two weaknesses. First, to drive the villain out of the city, then to separate him from Moira, all the while forcing Proteus to burn through his host body so Colossus can dispatch him when he's bodiless and most vulnerable.
Phoenix acts as a "telepathic switchboard", connecting everyone's minds together so Cyclops can detail his plan to defeat Proteus.
Proteus taunts Colossus with memories of his Cosmonaut brother Mikhail, first mentioned in issue #99.
That 70s Comic
Joe MacTaggert was rocking some pretty kickin' threads before he was possessed by Proteus.
Another issue that showcases Claremont's strong team dynamics, as each member of the team (including Havok, Polaris and the powerless Banshee) contributes to the ultimate defeat of Proteus in a manner that deepens their characterization (Storm's concern for the bees, Wolverine's fear of Proteus, etc.)
Not to be outdone, Byrne and Austin get to go nuts during Proteus' attack on Edinburgh, as he warps the city around him.
Banshee argues with Cyclops over the later's willingness to sacrifice Moira, but Cyclops, who might soon come to regret these words, insists that Proteus is such a threat to mankind that he'd sacrifice anyone to stop him.
Wolverine flies into a rage when Proteus harms Phoenix, though he significantly uses the past tense when speaking of his feelings for Jean.
By contrast, Cyclops, who is in full on battle mode, forces himself to keep it together and focused on the fight when Jean is hurt for fear of shutting down if he allows himself to stop and think about it.
The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
In another cool scene, Cyclops uses his optic blast to slow Wolverine's descent after Proteus pitches him off a mountain.
Spidey meets "June Jitsu".
The "Proteus" story comes to a close, and it marks the end of perhaps the darkest X-Men story to date. Though the villain is defeated, Moira has lost her son, and for the first time, the X-Men were forced to kill their foe in order to stop him. Tellingly, it is Colossus, the youngest and most innocent member of the team, who dispatches the villain. Colossus' long running subplot, in which he questioned his place on the team and his overall effectiveness, came to a somewhat pat ending during the Arcade storyline, but it could be argued that the true end comes here, as Colossus comes face to face with what he calls pure evil and doesn't hesitate to put an end to it. In the wake of Claremont and Byrne's bleakest and most intense story yet, the X-Men find themselves in a darker world, one in which there are few easy answers. In that sense, while a strong story on its own, "Proteus" also sets the tone for what is to come.
Just as things are getting darker, Claremont and Byrne introduce a little light in the form of a character who will go on to launch a thousand adolescent crushes.