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X-Men #101 (1976, October)

December 24, 2012

Tomorrow’s Christmas, so Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. To those who don’t, I hope you still enjoy yourselves. Today’s issue is “Like A Phoenix, From the Ashes!”

Like A Phoenix, From the Ashes!

That’s an awesome cover.

It starts with Jean Grey’s death and the shuttle crashing on the runway at JFK Airport before ending up in Jamaica Bay. The X-Men surface, and Cyclops is determined to go back down for Jean. It turns out that’s not necessary, as Jean pops up all on her own, in a fancy new costume. She declares herself fire and life incarnate, Phoenix. Then she passes out. The X-Men are trying to leave when firetrucks and police cars arrive, but Xavier’s mental powers allow the team to slip away.

Later, Wolverine buys some flowers, planning on giving them to Jean Grey, and thinking about how he likes her. This sets up one side of the attraction, but to be honest, I never really saw the other side of it. I never got the feeling that Jean was attracted to Wolverine, at least not until after Claremont left and other writers decided it was a mutual attraction. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself, I think. Anyway, when Wolverine gets to the hospital, everyone else is already there, and he tosses the flowers in the garbage can. Xavier mentions to Moira that he once thought he loved Jean as much as he loved Moira, something that won’t be brought up again, as far as I can recall, until Onslaught. Scott’s angsting about the possibility of losing Jean. The doctor finally comes out and says she’ll be OK, and everyone goes wild, except Scott, who slips away to cry. Kurt sees him, and leaves him be. I really like how Claremont wrote Kurt as a friend-type character. He always had a humanity to him that was really well-done.

Anyway, Xavier sends the X-Men on an enforced vacation, to get them out of the way while he and Scott look after Jean. Sean mentions a letter he got saying he’s inherited his ancestral home, and Xavier sends them there. When the X-Men reach Cassidy Keep, Black Tom is waiting for them in secret. Inside, Storm feels trapped by the stone walls. Nightcrawler shows up to escort her to dinner, and after some playing around, he settles into his Errol Flynn disguise, while she reveals her own red dress that makes her look smoking hot. When the team gathers, the floor drops out from beneath them. They land in front of Black Tom and the Juggernaut. When Black Tom mentions them being surrounded by rock, with no way out, Storm freaks out.

It’s a good issue. Mostly character-focused, and it does a good job of it. Colossus gets the short end of it here, with almost nothing to say, but all the rest get some good moments. This issue is also notable, of course, for turning Jean into the Phoenix. This begins a series of storylines that dominate the X-Men for the next five years (and its influence over the franchise will never end), eventually culminating with the Dark Phoenix Saga. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This also introduces Wolverine’s one-sided attraction to Jean. As I said earlier, I never saw any indication, before Jean’s “death” at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga, that she felt any particular attraction to him. I think that was something that fans created out of nothing simply because they liked Wolverine, and thought Cyclops was kind of a wad. Since they liked Wolverine more than Scott, they figured Jean should’ve hooked up with Wolverine instead, and so, despite the lack of any evidence, they decided Jean was secretly in love with Wolverine all along. This ended up being made canon, with even Claremont eventually seeming to accept it, but nothing in these early years suggests it was ever intended.

One of the letters in this issue came from a Sam Mandel, who wanted Colossus, Storm and Nightcrawler gone, and for the X-Men to consist of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel and Wolverine. How much you want to bet that Mandel (assuming he still reads X-Men comics) is one of those people wanting Nightcrawler back, Wolverine in a reduced role, and more for Storm to do?

On another note, Amazing Spider-Man #s 161 and 162, from October and November, by Len Wein and Ross Andru, had Nightcrawler show up. Nightcrawler sees something in a newspaper that upsets him, and leaves to deal with it. Peter and MJ are at Coney Island when someone gets shot and killed. Nightcrawler’s at the same carnival, investigating the death of an old friend of his. Nightcrawler sees the shooter, but the guy gets away before Nightcrawler can catch him. He’s wrapping up the shooting weapon when Spider-Man finds him, and they fight, with each wondering if the other might have been the killer. Eventually, Nightcrawler figures out that Spider-Man isn’t the killer, and he retreats, but he hides long enough to see Spider-Man retrieve a camera. Later, Nightcrawler ambushes him, stuns him, and steals the camera. He doesn’t want the world at large knowing about the existence of his team, so he destroys the film, but returns the camera and offers to repay Spider-Man for the film. They fight on the wires of a cable car, which then stops, and the Punisher pokes his head out.

The next issue has the cable car come under fire. Spider-Man and the Punisher team up to stop the killer. Spider-Man gets captured and chained up, and Jigsaw – in his first appearance, no less – calls out the Punisher, threatening to kill Spider-Man and civilians if the Punisher doesn’t appear. Before he can make good on his threat, Nightcrawler jumps in. The Punisher also starts attacking with rubber bullets, to avoid injuring civilians in the crowd. Spider-Man wakes up and starts fighting, too. Naturally, they win. Not a bad team-up, really.

  1. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I love character focused comics, by the way. Can you think about some other issues (or writers) having that narrative style?

    • Well, Peter David is obviously well-known for doing talking-head issues, very character-focused, often with little to not action. Kieron Gillen, as well, who’s just one of the bets writers ever, and his JiM run was one of the most incredibly brilliant things I’ve ever read. I haven’t read his DC stuff, but I thought scott Lobdell was great during his days writing the X-Men – some of his individual issues were actually probably better than just about anything Claremont put out, with UXM #297 and 303 being particular stand-outs.

      As far as writers with Claremont’s narrative style . . . his was a rather unique style. I think some writers might have tried to copy him in the ’80s, but I can’t think of any offhand. I think most writers recognized that, and continued with their own styles.

      • When I comment, sometimes the blogger doesn’t reply at all, some other times he/she replies with a few words and gets rid of me, and some other times I get detailed replies like the ones you usually write. Thank you for being such an awesome blogger, commentor and “replier”! : )

      • I try to give the replies that a comment is looking for.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. X-Men #138 (1980, October) | xmenxpert
  2. Uncanny X-Men #217 (1987, May) | xmenxpert

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