Bizarre Adventures #27 (1981, July)
So I’ve got two comics today. One is a What If, but first, Bizarre Adventures, which featured a trio of X-Men solo stories.
First up, by Chris Claremont and John Buscema, “The Brides of Attuma.” We start with Jean’s sister, Sara, visiting Jean’s grave, a year after Jean’s death. She comments on the fact that Jean’s body isn’t even buried there, but she feels like Jean’s there. She confesses to being worried about her son reaching puberty, and the possibility of him being a mutant. Then we cut back two years. Jean and Sara are on vacation with Scott and Sara’s husband. Sara knows about Jean being Phoenix, and finds it a bit unsettling. The two go sailing, and things are tense. They sail into a fog bank, and pass out. Jean has a flashback (which is a little odd, since I’m pretty sure they were already in Sara’s flashback) to her childhood, and her friend, Annie, being killed by a car. Jean was in Annie’s mind when Annie passed, and it did serious damage to her. Her parents took her to a bunch of psychologists, but her depression remained. Finally, Xavier came, cut off her telepathy, and helped her with her telekinesis.
Jean and Sara awake underwater, able to actually breathe the water. Sara freaks out, and Jean calms her down, though something’s inhibiting her power somewhat. They’re then brought to Attuma, who tells them they’ll be his brides. His plan is to abduct female mutants, transform them into water-breathers, and knock them up so their kids can be used in the war against Namor. Clearly, this is a long-term plan. Jean’s mind has cleared enough that she can bring her powers into play, though, knocking Attuma through a wall and then blowing up the psychic dampers. She flees with Sara, and they eventually return to land. There, Jean breaks Sara down, cell by cell, and turns her back into an air-breather. Then Jean blocks off Sara’s memory of the day’s events.
Back to the present. The block faded with Jean’s death. Sara reflects on how proud she’ll be if her kids are half the people Jean was. It’s a nice, bittersweet story. The framing device is very good. The main story is pretty cool, and I kinda wonder if the later Atlantis Attacks! event might’ve drawn some inspiration from this one-off.
The second story, by Mary Jo Duffy and George Pérez, is “Winter Carnival.” Bobby Drake’s visiting Dartmouth College. The theme of the Winter Carnival that year is superheroes, and he’s admiring an ice sculpture of Angel. Bobby gripes about Angel being the only X-Man present, then whips up a quick ice sculpture of himself. Some frat guys seem annoyed at its presence, and then Bobby starts a big snowball fight. When it’s over, a professor screams for help, and some crooks run out with pieces of a new computer system. Iceman stops them. The crowd asks him to join the festivities, and he agrees, having a great time. After, a police Lieutenant asks about the earlier theft attempt, and Iceman gets suspicious when none of the students know the teacher who sounded the alarm.
That night, the crooks from earlier are back at it, boasting about “Thatcher’s” plan. He staged the phony robbery so an extra box could be smuggled in with a man inside to turn off the alarms in the computer centre. Thatcher is the professor from earlier. Thatcher talks about how, in New York, the crime could never be committed because of how many superheroes there are, which is why he waited for Pym’s computer to reach Dartmouth. He then notices two statues of Iceman. He takes down the crooks, and then Thatcher fires from his cane. He holds Iceman off with the cane-blaster, then stumbles into a frat party. Thatcher sets off a chain reaction in his cane that’ll kill everyone, so Iceman surrounds it with ice, then lifts it high into the sky.
The third story, written by Bob Layton and Mary Jo Duffy, with pencils by Dave Cockrum, is a Nightcrawler story called “Show Me the Way To Go Home. . . .” It starts with the X-Men settling down to watch Nightcrawler’s favourite movie (“The Mark of Zorro,” apparently). Cerebro goes off, and says it’s found half a mutant in Poughkeepsie. The X-Men check it out, and find the Vanisher, half-in and half-out. Back in Champions #17, the Vanisher had tried to teleport, but Darkstar used her Darkforce on him, and it screwed him up. Now, this. Nightcrawler touches him, and the two disappear, going through a trippy warp where they see alternate versions of themselves (female Vanisher is not pleasant), before Nightcrawler finds himself in a forest, and some women offer him a job as a god. Men are hard to come by in that reality, so the women treat well the ones they find. He also finds he can’t teleport. Vanisher’s in the same situation elsewhere.
Nightcrawler’s getting more information from his ladies. It’s . . . interesting. Very amusing. The women are oddly blasé about everything. They take him to see the Oracle, which turns out to be a TV. She tells him about a crater nearby (the Well at the Centre of Time – remember that name for Nightcrawler’s solo mini in a couple years!) that he can jump into to get home, but he has to go in with exactly what he came out with. He tracks down Vanisher, leading to a brief swordfight (which includes Nightcrawler shouting “Cafe au lait!”). He manages to subdue the Vanisher, and drags him to the Well. Vanisher doesn’t want to jump in, due to his philosophical opposition to dying. Vanisher lashes out with his Darkforce suit, but it does no good. In fact, Nightcrawler finds it rather amazing. Then a monster appears, and the two jump in to avoid getting eaten. They wind up back in Poughkeepsie, right after they left it. With Vanisher now naked.
It’s a silly story, but it’s really fun. Very funny. Vanisher is such a loser. It’s hilarious seeing how pathetic he is. Nightcrawler gets to show off his wit and his wits. Some elements of this story did get used in a Nightcrawler mini in a couple years.
The other comic today is What If? #27, by Mary Jo Duffy and Jerry Bingham, “What If Phoenix Had Not Died?” After 4 pages telling us what happened in the normal reality, we start the alternate reality. Jean takes a blast that was meant for Scott, knocking her out, and spelling the defeat of the X-Men. She has her powers stripped from her. Back on Earth, Jean’s behaving a bit oddly, serving the team tea, and generally being docile. Soon, she starts monitoring the team in the Danger Room. The Shi’ar then ask the X-Men’s help to save the planet Arama from Galactus. The X-Men fly out, with Angel, Havok and Polaris along, but get their asses handed to them by Terrax. Jean somehow senses the danger Scott’s in, and turns back into Phoenix. She turns Terrax back to flesh, then fights Galactus. Galactus leaves, telling her that she has the powers of a god, and will eventually have the hungers of one, as well. Back on Earth, Kitty finds herself lonely, but notices Xavier having headaches. Jean is trying to control her power, to ensure she doesn’t go Dark Phoenix again. She starts going out at night, feeding on small planetoids. After destroying some Sentinels. she feeds on a small star with no inhabited planets, figuring there’s no harm. When she returns, Kitty confronts her, and Jean kills her. Xavier attacks her telepathically, and she kills him, too. She then slams Angel into a wall, buries Storm alive, slams Iceman into another wall, burns Nightcrawler, throws Wolverine at Colossus to slice him open, burns Wolverine, kills Polaris, and kills Havok. That only leaves Cyclops. Once he’s dead, she loses control entirely, and starts to destroy the whole universe.
It’s a pretty good issue. What If? always suffered a bit from having to cram a lot of content into limited space. Duffy does a pretty good job keeping plenty of good character work. Of course, it should be noted that we actually know, more or less, what would’ve happened if Phoenix had lived. She would’ve sulked for a while, and then in issue #150, Magneto would’ve offered her back her power, and she would’ve refused. Then she would’ve gotten a happy ending. But I doubt Duffy knew most of that. She was likely aware of the lobotomy – she probably heard about it in the Marvel offices, considering how crazy the situation was with the last-minute rewrites. I can’t imagine no one involved didn’t complain about it to anyone in earshot.
Anyway. Tomorrow, Dazzler.