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Uncanny X-Men #166 (1983, February)

June 8, 2014

Another post already? I must have missed doing these! No guarantees on how long I’ll keep it up this time, though. Today’s (double-sized!) story, care of Chris Claremont and Paul Smith, is “Live Free or Die!”

Live Free or Die!

I’m actually just noticing how weird the ‘X’ on Kitty’s forehead is. Why did I never notice it before? Why is it standing out to me so much now?

When we left off, the X_Men learned they had Brood embryos in them that were going to kill them, and then they decided to take the fight to the Brood and go down fighting. And then Storm showed up and let them know she was now a spacewhale. So, you know, she’s got that going for her.

On a Brood world, they’ve captured an Acanti, and are killing off its higher brain functions and turning it into a slave. Because the Brood are evil. And then Carol, as Binary, shows the characteristic subtlety we all know and love her for, by flying in and wrecking stuff. She tries to free the Acanti, but it tells her what’s happening to it, and she has no choice but to deliver a mercy killing. As she flies off, she comes across Storm, who invites her in to rejoin the others. There’s some talk about the plan to go to the Brood homeworld to kill the Queen.

Then Storm goes into exposition mode. She talks about the Acanti, about the Brood coming from outside the Milky Way and enslaving the Acanti. In their initial hunt, the Brood killed the Prophet-Singer, the Acanti leader and caretaker of the race’s soul. The only way for the Soul to be released is for the Prophet-Singer to throw itself into a sun. But the Brood instead dropped him on a planet and turned his corpse into their throne city. But a new Prophet-Singer was just born – the infant Acanti that Storm merged with. Storm wants the X-Men to free the Acanti Soul.

Cyclops comes up with a plan – Binary and Storm distract the Brood from orbit, the others teleport down and free the Soul. Wolverine argues that he and Carol should go planet-side, since none of the others can be trusted thanks to their embryos, and Scott challenges him to kill them, but Kitty steps in.

We cut to the next day, with Storm’s baby spacewhale rushing in and the X-Men beaming down. The Queen wants the Acanti taken alive, and one of the Brood within the X-Men tells her about the X-Men’s plan. On the planet, the X-Men descend into the catacombs. In space, Binary starts blowing up some Brood ships. Storm helps with space lightning. In the catacombs, the X-Men are fighting, and Wolverine wonders at he and Scott snapping at each other, and the berserker way Scott’s fighting. Kitty falls through a wall, and falls into a nest, with an egg cracked open.

In space, things are going badly, as Binary’s captured and Storm’s hit with a blast. Luckily, the Starjammer’s pull one of their patented Last-Minute Rescues – the only kind they know how to do. I swear, they must just sit and wait until things are getting bad, just so they look better when they show up. On the planet, Wolverine figures out that Cyclops has begun to transform. The X-Men all get captured. Except Kitty, who’s being chased by more Brood. She eventually falls and is caught, but there’s something else in the tunnels that terrifies the Brood. They don’t get far before they’re burned to a crisp. By a tiny, winged dragon. Lockheed! Yay, Lockheed! Not named yet, of course. That comes a few issues later. Anyway, he missed one of the Brood, and it shoots a hole in the wall behind them, which reveals a bright light that Kitty and the Brood walk into.

Back with the rest of the X-Men, Scott’s still resisting the metamorphosis, and his optic blasts go out of control, which Wolverine uses to shatter the shackles the Brood put on him. He uses the opportunity to get the Brood to back down, and the X-Men continue on, to find Kitty coming out of the light. They all go into it, with the Brood Queen accompanying them. The Queen stabs Wolverine in the back as the X-Men start to change. Her corruption, and theirs’ is apparently enough to corrupt even the Acanti Soul. Wolverine prepares to kill everyone, but Carol stops him. And then she releases the Soul. Hurrah! As it left, it conveniently healed the X-Men and turned the Brood Queen to crystal. Then the planet starts to come apart, they all beam back to the Starjammer, with Kitty worrying about the dragon that saved her. I guess it’s dead. The planet blew up, after all, and nothing could possibly survive that. All right, we find out in a few issues it survived. Even Storm’s returned back to health. Happy endings all around.

But wait! The Queen had mentioned there being one embryo left! And Wolverine guesses that it’s inside Xavier! Oh no!

Paul Smith draws a very strange Storm. I just wanted to get that out of the way. I’m not sure what it is. I think maybe her face is too long. Anyway, the rest of what he draws is great. This action has a ton of action, and it’ all exciting. It’s always good seeing Carol kick some ass. The Brood are creepy, and Scott’s partial metamorphosis is especially creepy. Claremont does an OK job capturing some of the horror, but I think he may have toned it down just a bit too much. There’s a little too much quipping, though it’s a little justified as laughing to keep from crying. He does a good job setting up Scott as the “traitor,” just by showing him as being a lot more aggressive than usual.

The bit with the Soul just magically curing the X-Men did feel a bit too convenient, though it was obvious early on that it’s how it would happen. I think maybe it was just done too quickly. Like it needed to have a few panels showing it happen. The whole arc had been about the horror of the eggs being inside them, and then it gets resolved almost as an afterthought. It had so much build-up, and we were at the tensest moment of the whole storyline, and then it’s just, “Oh, right, them. They’re fine now.” We needed a few panels, maybe even a full page, showing them returning to normal. I guess it’d be tough figuring out anything that really could’ve been cut to make room. The issue’s pretty packed as it is. But just the same, the way they got healed didn’t feel satisfying. It was brushed over too quickly.

This whole Brood Saga storyline ends with the next issue, which will also feature the the X-Men meeting the New Mutants. Before I review that, though, I think I’ll do the first three issues of New Mutants, since they take place, chronologically, before UXM #167. Plus, New Mutants! Hurrah!

  1. Do you know if they ever put the original Brood storyline in trade? Because I’ve been interested in reading it for a while, but kind of don’t feel like tracking down each individual issue.

    • A quick Wiki check says that Essential X-Men Vols. 3 and 4 cover it. Vol. 3 goes from #145-161, which includes the first part of the Brood Saga. Vol. 4 goes from #162-179, which includes the rest of it. There’s also Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men Vols. 7 (150-159) and 8 (160-169). There doesn’t seem to be anything that compiles the whole thing, which runs, basically, from #155 (their first appearance) to #167. I’d go with the Essentials, if possible, since Essentials #4 also includes the brilliant God Loves, Man Kills. The Masterworks ones are a bit more recent, though, so those might be easier to find, as well as cheaper, since they’re smaller.

      • I’d be more likely to go masterworks, since Essentials are in black and white. Thanks for checking though. They really should collect it as a standalone trade, even if it’s a larger hardcover book like they did with Fatal Attractions and Bishop’s Crossing last year. I’m sure it would sell ok.

      • Yeah, it’s a little weird that they never put out a trade that has the full story. It basically runs from UXM #154 to #167. 14 issues isn’t that bad. And yeah, it’s a popular enough story, and one that’s pretty famous – it is, after all, the first appearance of the Brood.

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