X-Men #134 (1980, June)
We end the Hellfire Club story here, but things get even worse. This issue is titled “Too Late, the Heroes!”
The last issue ended with Nightcrawler declaring Cyclops dead. This one starts with him declaring Cyclops alive. That was quick. And we also see some of Byrne’s great work in Jean’s face. She very clearly has conflicted feelings about what just happened. Even before Claremont mentions it in a caption box, Byrne makes it clear in the art (helped, of course, by Terry Austin’s ink and Bob Sharen’s colours, filling in for the excellent Glynis Wein). Right from the first page, we get our first hints that Jean might be breaking free of the illusion she’s under.
Wolverine busts in, with a couple of the guards from downstairs still hanging onto him. Wyngarde tells Jean to deal with him. She hits him telekinetically, but also releases the lock on Scott’s helmet and reestablishes her psychic rapport with him. He blasts the helmet off, and it hits Pierce in the head, then he frees the others. Then he blasts Leland. Jean tells Wolverine to go to work. Wolverine congratulates her on playing sneaky, and says she’s a woman after his own heart. She says she wishes she wasn’t. Shaw heads after Cyclops, taunting him with the fact that his optic blasts can only make Shaw stronger. So Cyclops shoots the floor. While everyone fights, Mastermind creates an illusion of himself as part of the wall. Wolverine jumps down after Leland, and Leland rather foolishly increases Wolverine’s mass. Bet that hurt. Nightcrawler and Storm try to take out Shaw.
Beast is on monitor duty at Avengers Mansion, reading “The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” by Julian Jaynes. It’s a real book. I can only imagine how dull it must be. An alert goes off, and he sees a report about the X-Men attacking the Hellfire Club. he’s torn between his loyalties to his old team and his new one, and decides on the old one, deleting the message and running off to find the X-Men himself.
Back at the Club, Pierce gets away from Colossus with a broken arm. A semi-frozen Shaw manages to escape Storm and Nightcrawler. Cyclops is looking for Nigthcrawler, when the water in the storm sewer finally reaches the wires Wolverine exposed earlier. Mastermind is thinking about how the X-Men have won, while Jean spies on him from shadows. She’s terrifed of what she knows she’s about to do, but can’t stop it. She attacks him, explaining that his killing Scott woke her up. She demands to know how he accomplished what he did, and he says the White Queen gave him a mindtap mechanism. She decides to repay him by giving him what he wanted – power. She expands his consciousness to encompass the universe. It breaks him.
Scott finds her, but she’s blocking him out of her thoughts. He’s concerned, and doesn’t know what to do. The others wonder why he’s acting so driven when they’ve won. Wolverine looks out the window of their plane as they fly away, and remarks that it looks like the NYPD rounded up an army to take them on. Jean says they would’ve had a chance against an army, but none against her. She repeats her famous words from when she first rose from the water. Her speech about being fire, and life incarnate.
Then she blows up the plane.
So we finally get the answers on exactly how Mastermind was pulling his trick on Jean, and that long-running subplot comes to an end. The Hellfire Club is defeated, though not finished, and they’ll obviously return. The way the X-Men beat them is really good. They use their minds, especially in regards to Shaw, even if he does still get away.
The big moment, of course, is the finale. The whole issue builds up to it – hell, the whole series has been building up to it for a long time. Jean becomes Dark Phoenix. Her speech is a repeat of the one she delivered when she first became Phoenix, in issue #101. Interestingly, it was at the end of issue #100, the one the cover to this issue homages – that Jean “died,” to be reborn as Phoenix in #101. So even the cover homage makes a lot of sense, and possibly hints at the end of the issue. So we now enter the Dark Phoenix Saga proper. We’ve had 34 issues of build-up, all leading to the next three issues. It’s amazing storytelling from Claremont and Byrne.