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X-Men #96 (1975, December)

December 10, 2012

I had my first exam today. I think I did well. Three more to go. Before I get to today’s story, I want to mention Avengers #141. Patsy Walker confronts the Beast, saying she wants to be a superhero, as a follow-up to Amazing Adventures #15. But now, “Night of the Demon!”

Night of the Demon!

This cover’s too stupid for me to even make fun of it.

Cyclops is out walking and angsting about Thunderbird’s death. He freaks out and unleashes his optic blasts at full strength, wrecking the landscape, then chastises himself for it. He angsts a little bit more then leaves, without noticing that a small pillar was damaged, and is now glowing. The whole scene kinda fails. Issue #94 told us the new X-Men had spent several weeks training together, but we didn’t really get to see that, so we never really saw any emotional connection between Thunderbird and the others, and never had a chance to form an attachment to him ourselves. And this issue says it’s been weeks since Thunderbird’s death, and Cyclops is still angsting. Claremont’s overwrought writing doesn’t really help matters, either. So the whole thing just feels too cheesy to be effective.

In the mansion, the X-Men are training. Wolverine gets knocked around a bit by Colossus and Storm. Nightcrawler laughs, and Wolverine tries to kill him. Xavier talks to Banshee about Scott, then mentions a housekeeper coming to take care of the house while Xavier’s gone. The housekeeper arrives before Banshee can find out where Xavier’s going, and we get our first meeting with Moira MacTaggert, a strong, assertive Scottish lady.

Then we cut to a secret installation, where Dr. Lang meets Colonel Michael Rossi, who’s there to give a final recommendation on whether Lang’s Project Armageddon, aimed at capturing mutants. Rossi says he’s shutting Armageddon down, and Lang says Rossi can never leave alive.

Back to the Mansion. Xavier tells the others he’s going on a vacation. Banshee’s quite stricken with Moira. They all hear Cyclops’s eye blasts outside, then Cyclops is thrown through the window, his costume torn up. A demon busts in through the walls, giving its name as Kierrok, and saying he’s there for their lives and their souls. Kierrok grabs Storm, and Colossus gets angry and pounds him through a wall. Kierrok is unimpressed. He’s a child of the N’Garai, the Elder Gods who once ruled the Earth. This is the first mention of the N’Garai, who’ve popped up a couple times over the years, but are probably best-known from the one who chased Kitty in Uncanny X-Men #143.

Anyway, the fight continues. Kierrok smacks away Nightcrawler, and Wolverine slashes him up. He just goes completely wild on him, and feels no remorse after. This leads to a brilliant exchange. Wolverine: “Ya wanta know somethin’ funny – I’m glad!” Cyclops: “You want to know something even funnier? Kierrok’s not dead.” It’s just such a deadpan delivery that it makes me laugh. Xavier probes Kierrok’s mind, then screams and collapses. Banshee knocks Kierrok back with a sonic blast, then Moira runs in with a machine gun. Bad. Ass.

Xavier recovers enough to tell Storm what needs to be done. He directs her to the cairn. She gets hit by a psychic spear, but stays aloft. She gets hit by a bolt from the cairn, and starts being sucked in. She flashes back to a memory of being trapped in the rubble of a wrecked house. She panics and unleashes a lot of lightning on the cairn, destroying it. Kierrok disappears. We get a one-panel epilogue of a burning plane, and an observer saying Colonel Rossi is dead.

This issue was OK. I think, knowing what this series eventually becomes, I’m a little more generous to these, frankly, kinda lackluster early Claremont issues. Still, things pick up starting with the next issue, and even more with the one after that, which features the return of the Sentinels.

Looking through the letters, one stands out. A reader complains about how the old X-Men leaving isn’t going to stick – he figures they’ll be back in a few months and everything will go back to the way it was before. That turned out to be false, as the new X-Men actually became the status quo – it was a decade later before the original X-Men reunited, as X-Factor. I also wanted to mention that Rossi (who is eventually, in 1983, revealed to have survived the crash) was a major character in the backstory of Carol Danvers, though we get very, very few real looks at it. (A bare handful of single-panel flashbacks, and that’s about it.) The original Ms. Marvel series, of course, was also written by Claremont.

And before I go, I also want to mention one last thing. Incredible Hulk #194, by Len Wein and Joe Staton, from December 1975, features the Hulk in battle against one of the X-Men’s greatest foes, as we witness the return of the mighty Locust!

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