Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #343

April 1997

In a Nutshell
The Phalanx return as the X-Men fight to save the Shi'ar!

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers: Tim Townsend
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato and Team Bucce
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

As Bishop and Beast tend to the injured Deathbird, Gambit and Joseph arrive to interrogate her. However, Deathbird grabs Bishop's gun and fires on them, revealing both to be Phalanx, the techno-organic aliens who have decimated the Shi'ar Empire. Meanwhile, Rogue attempts to rescue the real Gambit & Joseph, but is drawn into conflict with the Phalanx. She is partially transmoded, which allows her to learn of the Phalanx plans for galactic conquest, just before Gambit & Joseph rescue her in turn. Back on Earth, Bastion arrives at an Operation: Zero Tolerance base with special cargo: the captive Jubilee. Back in Shi'ar space, the X-Men arrive at distant moon of Chandilar, the Shi'ar throneworld. They allow the Phalanx to destroy their ship, using the debris to mask their descent to the moon inside a makeshift lifeboat. Landing on the moon, they proceed to one of Deathbird's safehouses, and from there, teleport to directly to Chandilar!

Firsts and Other Notables
Uncanny X-Men #343 marks the return of the Phalanx, following their defeat in the "Phalanx Covenant" crossover. Specifically, it introduces a new variation on the Phalanx, who call themselves "the Pure" relative to the Earthbound-Phalanx (or "transient") of earlier stories (though of course, the idea of there being extraterrestrial Phalanx was previously introduced and arguably dates back all the way to the introduction of Warlock).   

It's also established here that this particular branch of the Phalanx is responsible for attacking the Shi'ar Empire, and is the threat Gladiator forcibly recruited the X-Men to battle in issue #341. They refer to their goal as "manifest destiny", so presumably, the assimilation of everything. 

It's also worth noting that between "Phalanx Covenant" and this story, the Phalanx did appear in the dying days of the 2099 imprint, returning to Earth intent on conquering it and causing the majority of the surviving 2099 characters to begin rebuilding society in the Savage Land following worldwide cataclysms. 

A Work in Progress
Deathbird knows Gambit and Joseph are Phalanx at the beginning of the issue because they don't smell like Earthlings. 

It was previously established that the Phalanx couldn't infect/transmode mutants, despite partially doing so to Rogue here. Presumably, some combination of her absorption powers and the status of these Phalanx as "pure" allowed them to do so. 

Following his capture of Jubilee in Generation X #25, Bastion shows up in this issue to deliver to an Operation: Zero Tolerance base. 

His seeming right hand man, Harper, is there as well, and now appears as a frailer old man with a bushy mustache. 

The Reference Section
The opening page includes a number of Star Trek references, including the title of the story (which was also the title of X-Men #107) and Bob Harras being credited as the Other Great Bird of the Galaxy, a nod to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's designation as "the great bird of the galaxy". 

Young Love
Believing herself on the verge of assimilation, Rogue opening declares her love for Gambit. 

Austin's Analysis
One of the things that has always stuck in my head about this arc is that for all the big narrative things that happen in it — the Phalanx return (in the present day) for the first time since their big crossover event, and they wipe out a bunch of Shi'ar! — it's a relatively small story, unfolding across essentially just three issues. That feels like too few issues to chronicle a story that big. But I also always forget how it's this issue that is really responsible for that compression. After last issue's setup (and ahead of next issue's climax) Uncanny X-Men #343 is the issue which really does the majority of the narrative work in its scant 22 pages. It is here that we learn the true nature of the threat, discover the new form of the Phalanx, have a skirmish to establish their power level, come up with a plan to fight back, and begin the execution of that plan as a lead-in to the finale. 

That this issue isn't a complete and utter mess as a result of all the plot machinations it needs to carry out is a testament to Lobdell & Madureira's storytelling chops. If anything, the breeziness with which Madureira lays this all out is to its detriment, as it makes the whole thing read even faster, increasing the feeling that we're blowing through a lot of story quickly. Shortly after meeting the Phalanx again we're suddenly heading into the endgame, the characters having come up with their plan of attack and put it into motion during the cutaway for a check-in to the Zero Tolerance subplot. The end result isn't necessarily bad, but it does contribute to the feeling of this story being smaller than it needs to be, that to depict happenings this impactful requires more time than the turn the page or a tap o the screen.

Next Issue
Nate meets Evil Havok's weird new Brotherhood in X-Man #26!

Like what you read? Then support us on Patreon & gain access to exclusive reviews of Classic X-MenX-Men: The Animated Series and more!


  1. Can't help but wonder if that "swipe!" sound effect in the Rogue page above is a shot at somebody.

    1. Probably a shot at himself for the faux manga style swiping he did, especially with the new Phalanx designs?

  2. I've always been a bit dissatisfied with the "diminishing returns" of major villains. Somehow, no matter how big the initial threat, villains get easier and easier to deal with. See also Onslaught's return appearances, the Adversary in X-Factor issues or any number of Apocalypse stories. I get not wanting to do cycles of crossover stories with the same villains, but there should be a lot more challenges as the enemies learn and change their strategies instead of turning into one-note punching bags.

    1. I think Claremont did a decent job with regards to that with Nimrod during both of his appearances during the Romita Jr era.

    2. That's true. It kind of makes me glad he couldn't use The Fury. There's no way it would have been as big of a threat as it was Captain Britain. It really irritates me how ineffective they were in Knights of X.

  3. I still think it’s weird that the specific, play-on-words title of #107 was repurposed here without alteration, unless Lobdell, Harras, et al. bizarrely didn’t know/remember it had been used before.


Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Are mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!