In a Nutshell
Mastermind is defeated, and Cyclops marries Madelyne.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Pencilers: Paul Smith (pp 1-29) and John Romita, Jr. (pp 30-38)
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
The X-Men are shocked when a Phoenix firebird appears in the sky over the mansion, followed by a falling Cyclops. Rogue catches him, and the X-Men convene in Professor Xavier's study. When Xavier attempts to use Cerebro to search for Phoenix, it backfires, knocking him out. As Nightcrawler takes him to the med-lab, the X-Men realize someone has tampered with Cerebro just as Dark Phoenix suddenly emerges from Cyclops. She easily dispatches the team, then flies off, vowing to return. The X-Men attempt to warn the Starjammers, but establish communication just as Dark Phoenix destroys the ship. They next try to contact the Avengers, but the connection is severed when Dark Phoenix destroys Manhattan. Meanwhile, an unconscious Cyclops has an out-of-body experience, and sees a vision of his mother urging him to wake up. He awakens in the med-lab, and thinking over the inconsistencies in Dark Phoenix's actions, realizes what's really going on. Stopping briefly to transfer control of the Danger Room to a handheld device in order to give him an advantage over the X-Men's real foe, finds the X-Men, but they attack him, believing him to be Dark Phoenix.
Cyclops fights them off before getting tackled by Kitty, who ends up phasing the pair into the Danger Room.
Inside, Cyclops uses the Danger Room to put some distance between himself and the rest of the X-Men. At the same time, Madelyne, dressed as Dark Phoenix, comes face to face with Mastermind, who explains that he's spent the last several months convincing the X-Men that Madelyne is Phoenix reincarnated, taking his revenge on them thus by forcing them to kill an innocent. Back in the Danger Room, Cyclops is able to knock out Rogue and takes her to the medlab. There, he awakens her and forces her to absorb Xavier's telepathy so she can read his mind and pierce Mastermind's illusions. When the rest of the X-Men rush in, she's able to show them the truth, at which point Dark Phoenix appears behind them. Calling out the illusion as false, Cyclops is shot, making the X-Men realize Mastermind is in the room with them. Storm calls up a violent tempest that nearly drowns everyone and leaves the room flooded, with Mastermind unconscious. Later, Cyclops visits Jean's grave and says goodbye, before returning to the mansion for his wedding with Madelyne.
Firsts and Other Notables
Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor are married as of this issue. Though no official declaration is made, Cyclops is considered to have left the X-Men again as of this issue; he'll pop up occasionally in the years ahead (including headlining next issue), but it won't be until the early 90s, just before Claremont's departure from the book, that he'll be a regularly-featured member of the X-Men again.
This is Paul Smith's final regular issue of X-Men; he'll return to pencil the two issue X-Men/Alpha Flight limited series, as well as a couple fill-in issues in the mid-90s, but this issue more or less marks the end of his involvement with the title. As mentioned a few weeks ago, his departure following this issue was apparently planned from the beginning of his tenure as regular artist, though I've never read anything suggesting why.
The final nine pages of this issue are penciled by John Romita Jr., son of Marvel legend John Romita, who comes aboard to replace Smith as the series' new regular penciller, making this issue also the start of what will be a lengthy run on the book by Romita Jr. I've also never heard any explanation as to why Romita Jr. was asked to finish the issue, whether Smith fell behind, Marvel wanted to ease the transition to a new artist, or something else.
Mastermind reveals his plan of convincing the X-Men that Madelyne is Phoenix reborn in order to trick them into killing an innocent women. It's also made clear that he was the one impersonating the Yakuza oyabun in issues #172 and #173. It is also worth noting that he says he intended to use whomever Scott was dating at the time in his plan; Madelyne's resemblance to Jean just made things easier for him.
Mentioned in previous issues, we see Cyclops' grandparents for the first time.
This issue celebrates the 20th Anniversary (more or less) of the publication of first issue of X-Men. It is double-sized and originally cost $1.00, the first regular issue of X-Men to do so.
I generally try to avoid quoting directly from Wikipedia, particularly if their source isn't traceable, but I've been unable to track down a better and/or more detailed quote from Claremont regarding his intentions for Madelyne Pryor than what appears on her Wikipedia page, so here it is, with the caveat that it's from Wikipedia and un-sourced, so take that for what its worth.
"The original Madelyne storyline was that, at its simplest level, she was that one in a million shot that just happened to look like Jean Grey, [a.k.a. the first Phoenix]! And the relationship was summed up by the moment when Scott says: "Are you Jean?" And she punches him! That was in Uncanny X-Men #174. Because her whole desire was to be deeply loved for herself not to be loved as the evocation of her boyfriend's dead romantic lover and sweetheart.
I mean, it's a classical theme. You can go back to a whole host of 1930s films, 1940s, Hitchcock films—but it all got invalidated by the resurrection of Jean Grey in X-Factor #1. The original plotline was that Scott marries Madelyne, they have their child, they go off to Alaska, he goes to work for his grandparents, he retires from the X-Men. He's a reserve member. He's available for emergencies. He comes back on special occasions, for special fights, but he has a life. He has grown up. He has grown out of the monastery; he is in the real world now. He has a child. He has maybe more than one child. It's a metaphor for us all. We all grow up. We all move on.
Scott was going to move on. Jean was dead get on with your life. And it was [supposed] to be a happy ending. They lived happily ever after, and it was to create the impression that maybe if you came back in ten years, other X-Men would have grown up and out, too. Would Kitty stay with the team forever? Would Nightcrawler? Would any of them? Because that way we could evolve them into new directions, we could bring in new characters. There would be an ongoing sense of renewal, and growth and change in a positive sense.
Then, unfortunately, Jean was resurrected, Scott dumps his wife and kid and goes back to the old girlfriend. So it not only destroys Scott's character as a hero and as a decent human being it creates an untenable structural situation: what do we do with Madelyne and the kid? ... So ultimately the resolution was: turn her into the Goblin Queen and kill her off."
A Work in Progress
Storm notes that Rogue is not nearly as invulnerable as she thinks she is.
Kurt is once again serving as the team's medic.
Cyclops receives a vision of his deceased mother, telling him its not his time to die yet, one of the few depictions of his mother.
This issue also does a nice job of showing off the newly improved Danger Room, following its incorporation of Shi'ar technology, and providing a lesson (somewhat) in how it manages to simulate environments larger than itself.
Storm notes that calling upon violent weather has become easier for her recently.
Scott and Maddy's wedding is attended by a variety of X-Men regulars, including Beast, Iceman, Banshee and Moira.
While Havok is Scott's best man, Kitty serves as Madelyne's Maid-of-Honor, suggesting Madelyne has few friends or family members, and that Kitty's Mary Sue-ism extends even to weddings.
As Maddy walks down the aisle, her hair is miscolored as blonde, which, considering the character in question, is kind of a big deal. It's also unclear who the man walking her down the aisle is, given we've never heard anything about her family.
For whatever reason, there's a couple notable typos in this issue. Storm refers to herself as "leader X-Men", missing the "of", and later "resurrected" is spelled "resurrectet".
I Love the 80s
Kitty has yet another new costume, this one seemingly taking it's inspiration from 80s exercise clothes, complete with a headband.
As the issue opens, the X-Men are working to remove a tree from the grounds of the mansion.
As Cyclops revives Madelyne following Storm's tempest, they exchange the "Hi/Hi yourself" dialogue in a scene which mirrors the end of issue #136.
As Cyclops prepares to marry Madelyne, he says visits Jean's grave to say goodbye, a moment that Claremont clearly intended to serve as the finale to the Scott/Jean romance.
The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
Cyclops takes on the entire team in this issue, managing to hold his own and expose Mastermind in the process.
The Best There is at What He Does
Cyclops is able to (briefly) knock out Wolverine via a short range optic blast to the head.
This issue features a pair of Return of the Jedi ads, one for model kits, another for the Jedi video game.
It's in the Mail
The letters in this issue are answered by Professor X. In one response, he mentions a computer project Kitty is working on with a young man named Douglas Walsh; this is the first reference to the character who will become Doug Ramsey (who, in his first appearance, will be shown to be working on a computer project with Kitty).
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the creation of the X-Men, this issue contains several significant endings and beginnings. We reach the end of the all-too-short Claremont/Smith collaboration, as Smith turns in one last, expertly-executed action issue. We welcome aboard new series artist John Romita Jr., who has some pretty big shoes to fill. The simmering Madelyne/Phoenix plot comes to a head as Mastermind's plan stands revealed, a plot that, appropriately enough for the 20th anniversary issue, serves as a sequel to the book's biggest and most well-regarded story. Madelyne's identity is confirmed (for good and bad) once and for all (or for awhile, at least). And this issue also serves as Cyclops' swan song, the end of his regular involvement in the book for the remainder of Claremont's run. He'll be back, sometimes for extended periods, but always in the capacity of a returning guest star. Marrying Madelyne is, as far as Claremont is concerned, Cyclops' happy ending.
It's that last item that makes this arguably my single favorite issue of X-Men. Claremont and Smith send Cyclops out on a high note, putting him up against the entire team, all of whom believe him to be their greatest foe. Armed only with his optic blast, years of training and a keen tactical mind (plus a little help from the Danger Room), he single-handedly takes on the X-Men and wins. He not only defeats them but manages to expose the true villain along the way. For diehard Cyclops fans like myself, this issue is often Exhibit A in the case of "Why Cyclops is Cool". Claremont, throughout his entire run, has shown an affinity for Cyclops. Fitting, then, that he gives one of his favorite characters a long-overdue happy ending and sends him out on a high note, all in one fantastic issue.
Tomorrow, the New Mutants continue their Nova Roman adventure in New Mutants #9, and next week, things get a little impossible in X-Men Annual #7.