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X-Men Annual #3 (1979, September)

February 25, 2013

There were actually two X-Men comics in September of 1979. One of them was an Annual (by Claremont and George Perez, with Austin still inking). Since that one comes first chronologically, that’s the one I’m doing first. Tomorrow, the regular issue, #125. But for today, “A Fire In the Sky!”

Fire In the Sky!

Wolverine looks totally stoned there.

The first page has Hembeck Deliveries (presumably a shout-out to Fred Hembeck, who’d had some silly little strips printed the Comic Buyer’s Guide) delivering papers to a newsstand. There’s a shop behind it called “Byrne’s Drafting Equipment” – a nice shout-out. Anyway, Arkon shows up. He goes to Avengers Mansion, looking for Thor for help. Unfortunately, Jarvis tells him Thor isn’t available (his own series had him trying to find a way to save the Earth from the Celestials, and that particular month had him hanging with the Eternals). He’s contacted by his Grand Vizier, who tells him there’s a woman who might be able to help.

Cut to Westchester, and the X-Men are working out in the Danger Room. Storm gets trapped between a pair of fans creating a vortex, and she gets out of it with her characteristic subtlety. One of the smashed fan blades almost takes Banshee’s head off in the control room. It also smashes the computer so the Danger Room goes out of control and Banshee can’t shut it down. They use some teamwork (including a variation on the Fastball Special, with Colossus throwing a robot at Wolverine to be sliced up – I can’t decide if I should include it in my Fastball Special Tracker. I’ll leave it out, I think. Anyway, Wolverine’s having fun while the others are getting bounced around. Cyclops finally uses his optic blast to hit the emergency cut-off switch.

Ororo walks out, wanting to be left alone, but Scott runs after to ask why she panicked. She confesses to being unsure of her life as an X-Man, and he tells her to come to him with any problems she’s having. She goes up to her attic, and talks to her flowers. Arkon drops in and grabs her by the throat. She whips up a quick hurricane that only seems to touch him, throwing him across the room. He falls through the ceiling right in front of Cyclops, and gets blasted out the wall, into the pool. He starts climbing out, and punches Colossus. Who responds by punching him hard enough to send him flying over the pool into a tree. After a little more fighting, he throws a lightning bolt at Storm, and she disappears. Colossus smacks him with a tree.

X-Men Annual #3

Wolverine sums it up.

That does it. Wolverine threatens Arkon, and Cyclops checks out Arkon’s quiver of lightning bolts. He picks out five bolts to send the X-Men, with Arkon, to his world, leaving Banshee behind to notify the Avengers in case they don’t return. They show up surrounded by Arkon’s warriors, and a fight breaks out pretty much immediately. Of course. The Vizier sneaks away, followed by Nightcrawler in the shadows. They go to an old temple in some mountains, where Nightcrawler sees Storm in a weird fantasy outfit, talking about being ready to die. He tricks Storm into letting loose a lightning bolt, alterting the others to where she is.

Colossus picks Wolverine and Cyclops up on a giant flying lizard thing. They head over to Storm, and she tells them to go back. Finally, Arkon explains the situation. The energy ring circling their planet is weakening. It had previously been replenished by Iron Man and Thor, but the device failed and needs to be recharged. Nightcrawler and Wolverine check out the device while Cyclops comes up with a plan. He has Storm call down as much lightning as possible, holding it within her for as long as she can, with Colossus acting to ground her so none of her power is wasted. Finally, Cyclops has Storm channel that energy into him, so his body can metabolize it for his optic blasts. Finally, the device is repaired, and Cyclops fires his blast into it, re-energizing it.

Arkon’s men find the the whole mountain the temple was on destroyed. But everyone managed to survive. The X-Men decline to join Arkon in conquering worlds, so he sends them home.

It’s a good story. A lot of exciting action, and some great characterization. And it highlights, to me, one of the key traits of the X-Men. Rather than being just a group of individuals, they’re a team. They work as a team, each utilizing their own unique talents in the most useful way. Not just in combat, but for everything. And there’s also a great selflessness from them. Storm was willing to give her life to save the planet, and Cyclops was willing to give his life to give Storm a better chance at surviving. I’ll also give this issue another Claremazon Moment for Storm, for pretty much the whole thing, putting her at 9 (Jean at 5).

It’s very well-done. Perez’s pencils aren’t quite up to Byrne’s level, but they’re still pretty good. This looks more like an Avengers issue than an X-Men issue, but it’s not a problem. Doesn’t hold it back or anything.

Anyway. Next up, Muir Island, and the beginning of the Proteus Saga!

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