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Uncanny X-Men #199 (1985, November)

March 29, 2015

Today, by Claremont and JRJr, “The Spiral Path.”

The Spiral Path

This is actually an oddly awkward cover.

Scott’s visiting the school, and getting a work-out in the Danger Room. He uses one of his ridiculous multiple-bank shots to hit the deactivation switch, which impresses even Wolverine. Rachel was hoping to spend some time with Scott, but Moira wants to talk to him. She tells him Xavier’s dying.

In Washington, Val Cooper gets home to find herself already there. Mystique, obviously. Mystique wants to offer the Brotherhood’s services. A trained team of superhumans working directly for the US government. Mystique even suggests the name of Freedom Force. Val’s tempted, but sets some ground rules. They’ll get full pardons, conditional on their performance, and if one of them breaks the rules, they all suffer the consequences. She also wants Mystique’s team to prove themselves first, by capturing Magneto.

Up at Bard College, Rachel visits Jean’s grave site. She sees her grandparents leave, and she heads into their house, and sees some memories. She sees what happened in this reality, where Dark Phoenix was rejected by her parents. In Rachel’s world, Jean was accepted. Then she sees her own memories, of shortly after her birth, and Scott and Jean talk about the dangers to mutants. Next, memories of being a hound. She picks up the holoempathic crystal containing Jean’s essence. She decides to claim the mantle of Phoenix, to live up to her mom’s legacy. Then she passes out, and the crystal drops and breaks.

Washington again! This time, a reception at the National Holocaust Memorial. Magneto, Kitty and Lee are all there. People go on stage, give their name and the name of the people they’re looking for, and see if anyone has any information. Kitty goes up, on behalf of her grandfather, who passed away. She’s looking for information on her great-aunt. Magneto’s recognized by some other survivors of Auschwitz, people he helped keep alive. This is a major, major scene in Magneto’s development. His background had been touched on before, but this scene shows a strong heroic streak in him present since he was a kid. It’s a very powerful scene.

Then Lee reveals herself as Mystique, and says Magneto’s under arrest. Magneto’s not terribly impressed. The rest of Freedom Force – Destiny, Blob, Pyro, Avalance and Spiral – enter. Fight time! Magneto forces all the civilians out of the building while Kitty looks for Lee. She returns with Colossus, who smashes through a wall, which annoys Kitty. Pyro attacks them with flames, which annoys her again. She doesn’t want damage to the memorial. Nightcrawler teleports in, and is immediately grabbed by Blob. Scott and Wolverine get attacked outside by Avalanche. Mystique and Spiral fight against Magneto, with Spiral using her weird magics to mess him up.

Kitty takes out Destiny, Colossus takes down Pyro, Nightcrawler teleports Blob to the top of the Washington Erection Monument, Rogue takes down Avalanche. Spiral manages to neutralize Magneto’s power, and Mystique puts a gun to his head, but Scott blasts Spiral, and Wolverine puts his fist to Mystique’s head.

With the fight over, Magneto decides to actually turn himself over to Freedom Force. He saw the fear on the faces of the people in the hall when he revealed his powers, and he figures he needs to face his accusers, for the good of all mutants.

This is yet another major issue (Claremont’s run certainly had a lot of those), and an excellent one. There’s a lot of emotional drama. Rachel confronting her past, and taking on the mantle of Phoenix, was really nice. It was a bit cheesy, actually, with her seeing the memories, and her melodramatic dialogue. Still, the moment where she becomes Phoenix was pretty cool, even if I hate JRJr’s design for her costume.

Much better, of course, was the Magneto stuff at the Holocaust Memorial. Claremont packs a lot of emotional depth into the scene. I also liked how Kitty treated the place as almost sacred ground, going so far as to chastise Pyro for using his flames inside the building. Magneto seems a little less worried about it. It’s a nice touch.

his issue also has the Brotherhood turn into Freedom Force, and includes Spiral being added to their ranks. Spiral, of course, debuted in Longshot #1, in a fairly minor role. Her role gets bigger as the Longshot mini progresses. During the fight, she thinks about Freedom Force being a fun group to stay with while she hunts “the runaway.” Spiral’s neat. Speaking of Freedom Force, though, I look at this issue as also beginning Val Cooper’s turn towards accepting mutants. She was introduced as something of an antagonistic figure, or at least someone who could be an antagonist. She becomes much more complicated over time, and this issue kinda starts down that road. She’ll always be a manipulative bitch, of course, always playing the angles. And it’ll still be a couple more years before she sees mutants as also being people, rather than just assets or risks. (Again, she never stops seeing mutants as assets or threats, but I think she sees everyone as assets or threats. But eventually, she starts seeing the humanity in mutants.)

I still don’t like JRJr’s art. No change there.

As an aside, the letters page references a mini-series in the works involving Havok and Polaris. That seems to have fallen through. Kind of a shame.

I should also talk about Secret Wars II #5, by Shooter and Milgrom. The Beyonder takes a train apart, and one of the passengers, a young woman, guesses he was responsible. She thinks he’s a mutant, like her, and invites him to accompany her to Westchester. The woman gives her name as Boom-Boom. It’s Boom-Boom! Yay Boom-Boom! She tells him about her strict parents, and her father trying to beat the mutant out of her. He tells her about being rejected by Dazzler, and she starts talking about rejection, and the ways it screws you up. She actually describes it pretty well. The Beyonder decides to leave, and she gives him a hug before he heads back to his own universe. After he blabs a bit, his pants explode.

Back in the world, Boom-Boom’s trying to hitch a ride. The Beyonder drives up. He heals up her eye and invites her in. He drives her to the Xavier School. She knocks on the door, and the X-Men recognize the Beyonder. So they attack. He shoves them aside and drives off, and the X-Men give chase, leaving Boom-Boom all alone. Poor Boom-Boom! She heads into the woods, and calls for the Beyonder. She creates a giant time bomb, and says she’ll blow herself up.

The Beyonder shows up, and they drive off. They drive to the Worldcomplex Headquarters of the Celestials. He decides to mess with them. This scares Boom-Boom, and the Beyonder tries to make it up to her, but she wants nothing more to do with him. Back on Earth, Boom-Boom calls the Avengers to let them know about her run-in with the Beyonder. They ask if she knows where he is, and she says she thinks she can call him. Later, she calls him to a clearing, gives him a hug, and puts a bomb in his pants again. That sets him up for the Avengers.

Boom-Boom! I love Boom-Boom. She’s OK here. She doesn’t quite have the charm she’ll develop in future appearances. But some of it’s there. And she’s Boom-Boom!

Song of the day: Golden Age by Asteroids Galaxy Tour.

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