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Uncanny X-Men #175 (1983, November)

July 17, 2014

A special extra-sized issue! By Claremont and Smith, “Phoenix!”

Phoenix!

A cool cover, but I feel like it could still be better.

The X-Men are cutting down an old, near-dead tree. Storm feels bad about not sensing its illness. Then the Phoenix bird shows up and drops Scott. They all gather in Xavier’s study, to talk about the return of Dark Phoenix. Xavier’s got some questions – he didn’t sense Phoenix’s rebirth, even though he should have, and he’s also not sure why Phoenix fried Scott then healed him. He tries to use Cerebro to find Phoenix, but it winds up putting him in a coma. Then Phoenix emerges from Scott. She easily defeats the team, then leaves. The team tries to contact the Starjammer, only to see it destroyed. Then they contact Avengers Mansion, but it’s destroyed, too, along with the rest of New York City.

In the infirmary, Nightcrawler says Xavier should recover, but Scott, while healthy, seems to have simply lost the will to live. His spirit leaves his body, but is sent back by his mother. He wakes up, alone, and figures out what’s going on, and who’s behind it. He decides he needs to do some planning before meeting with the X-Men. Ten minutes later, when he enters the briefing room, they see him as Dark Phoenix. Colossus breaks a couple of his ribs with a punch. And from here on out, we see why Scott is a badass. He blasts Colossus, then topples him into Storm. He blasts at Nightcrawler, hitting Wolverine instead, then hits Nightcrawler coming out of his teleport. He runs out of the room, but Kitty tackles him. He uses that to his advantage, toppling them off the balcony and through the floor, down into the Danger Room. Nightcrawler teleports down to activate the Danger Room. Scott knocks Kitty out with a nerve pinch, then Nightcrawler gets shocked when he tries to activate the Danger Room.

And then the rest of the X-Men arrive, but Scott’s ready. He transferred control of the Room to a portable console. He activates a Savage Land simulation.

Elsewhere, Mastermind is impressed with Scott’s resourcefulness, while Maddie wants to know where she is and why she’s dressed like Dark Phoenix. He wants vengeance against the X-Men, and he’s going to achieve it by tricking them into killing Maddie. It’s strongly hinted, though not explicitly said, that he was responsible for Emma’s coma and Mystique’s nightmare. What’s not explained is how he put Emma in a coma, or made Rogue leave Mystique, or a few other questions of how he achieved some of the things he did. He takes Scott’s form and makes Maddie kiss him, then retuirns to his normal, creepy-pervert look, then back to Wyngarde.

Down in the Danger Room, Scott takes out Wolverine with an optic blast to the back of the head. Yay! Always nice to see. Colossus chases him, but drops into quicksand. Cyclops reaches a clearing with a cave at the end. He puts on a breathing mask, then runs into the field of flowers. He takes out Storm with an optic blast, then Rogue lands in front of him. He blasts up some Oz-Poppy dust to take out Rogue. Then he turns off the entire house. He heads to the infirmary with Rogue, and makes her touch Xavier. She absorbs Xavier’s telepathy, and freaks out, but Scott helps her through it. When the other X-Men show up, Rogue helps them see through the illusion.

The rest of this issue is drawn by John Romita, Jr. Dark Phoenix shows up again, and Scott’s laid out with a bullet. Wolverine tells Storm that Scott was right, and she whips up a tempest. She fills the infirmary with water, so that when the doors open, Mastermind is washed out, stunned and confused. In the aftermath, Maddie’s unconscious and not breathing. Scott brings her back.

Then, an epilogue. Scott is in the cemetery where Jean’s headstone is, saying goodbye to her. Then, he heads over to marry Maddie.

And then a letters page, “answered” by Xavier.

This is a really good issue, especially for Scott fans. He shows off what a tactical genius he is. He figures out what’s going on quickly, gets a plan ready, and then implements it. Even with broken ribs, he manages to stay ahead of the other X-Men, and if he’d actually wanted to defeat them, he probably could have done it. We also see a bit more of Storm’s leadership, in her willingness to do whatever it takes to beat Phoenix, then to beat Mastermind. Speaking of Mastermind, I assume his experiences with Dark Phoenix gave him some sort of telepathic abilities beyond just the illusions. He mentions being able to make Maddie love him no matter what form he took, and there’s other touches in the previous issues that make me think his powers were vastly more powerful than they’d previously been. Even so, it’s tough to think of Mastermind as being a real threat. His illusions were effective at making the X-Men fight themselves, but I still look at him as a bit of a wuss. Claremont didn’t sell his threat well enough, I don’t think. The problem might be the lead-up. It started with Emma being put into a coma, which is a pretty big start. He was being built up as a vast menace. And in the end, he doesn’t really do much.

The epilogue, with Scott getting married, was sweet. But it maybe could’ve stood to be longer. Oh well. We’ll just have to wait another decade for Scott’s wedding to Jean, to get a full wedding issue.

Smith’s art, in the first chunk of the book, is excellent as always. He draws Scott kicking ass well. Scott’s journey into the afterlife is also well-done, though doesn’t quite match the narration. Smith draws it as just blackness, while Claremont has Scott talking about the spirits he sees, and the one he’s looking for (Jean). It might’ve been nice if Smith had drawn some ghostly figures. JRJr’s art, for the end, is also good. It doesn’t look too different from Smith’s work, which I’m guessing was at least partly the work of inker Bob Wiacek. JRJr takes over as artist after this issue. I can’t say I’m a fan of his style, but he does actually wind up doing a good job on UXM.

I should mention this issue was the 20th Anniversary of the X-Men, sort of. The very first issue was cover-dated September 1963, which means it probably would’ve come out in January. This issue came out in September, and was cover-dated for November. So it’s a couple months late, technically. (Meanwhile, this month marks the 50th Anniversary. Hurrah!)

And the song of the day: We Are the Pipettes by the Pipettes.

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