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Uncanny X-Men #201 (1986, January)

May 8, 2015

All right, we now start on 1986’s comics. By Claremont and Rick Leonardi, “Duel.”


It’s the age-old battle of Leather vs. Spandex.

The X-Men return home to find Madelyne’s had her son. It puts them in a playful mood. Maddie hands the baby to Kitty for a minute, and Kitty quickly gets used to it. Maddie takes Storm aside to talk to her. Maddie expresses her anger about Scott never calling from Paris. She says she gave birth on the kitchen floor, and she got lucky that it went easily and she got to a hospital after, but it could’ve gone wrong. She wonders if Scott really loves her. Kitty hands the baby to Rachel – her baby brother. She psi-links Kitty to the baby, and apparently, the thoughts are beautiful. Rachel swears to protect the baby. Outside, Scott wonders where Xavier is, and whether they can trust Magneto.

In space, the Starjammer’s in bad shape. Xavier feels guilty, since the damage was taken while they rescued him. They can’t get Xavier back home. He wonders if he made the right decision, trusting Magneto with the X-Men. Lilandra reminds him it doesn’t make much difference any more.

Back at the school, Sam’s writing a term paper when the computer crashes and loses all his work. Meanwhile, the X-Men are playing softball. Kitty turns out to be a pretty good pitcher. But Colossus connects, and sends it way off. Rogue flies up to retrieve it, and comes across Air Force One. She leaves a kiss on the window. After the game, Kitty’s on her way to her room by walking through walls, and learns about Sam’s computer crashing. She offers to help him retrieve his paper. It takes longer than she expects, and after, Storm mentions her eye appointment’s been scheduled. She and Storm hear yelling from the attic – Scott and Maddie are having a fight.

Scott says he needs to stay and lead the team, in case Magneto’s not on the up-and-up. Maddie says Storm can lead, but he says that without her powers, she’s a liability. Storm suggests a duel to determine leadership. They head down to the Danger Room, and Scott tells the New Mutants to terminate their session. Everyone heads down to watch from the control room.

A city environment is loaded up. Scott fires off an optic blast, but Storm dodges and gets into cover. She attacks from below, but he manages to throw her off and fire a couple more blasts, which she dodges again. Wolverine says Scott’s heart isn’t really in it, and it’s throwing him off. Scott’s torn between what he sees as a duty to the X-Men, and his duty to Maddie. Maddie is upstairs, thinking about how she’s going back to Alaska, with or without Scott. She wants him to lose the duel, except she knows it’ll break his heart. A storm kicks up out of nowhere. Downstairs, Storm strikes, grabbing Scott’s visor. He can’t open his eyes, so he’s defeated. Scott concedes.

As an epilogue, Rachel visits the Grey home. While they sleep, she tries to repair the holoempathic matrix crystal she accidentally broke. She also adds a little of herself to it. On the moon, an energy flare happens, and the Watcher wonders how it will go. That flare is never actually explained. At all. It’s another of Claremont’s dropped plots, something he did have a tendency to do.

Solid issue. It’s a great downtime issue, focusing on character stuff, especially Scott and Maddie. Scott comes off a bit poorly. Especially his comment that he thought Maddie’s career had come to an end with the baby. Dude, not cool. So, so not cool. He also shows no particular paternal instincts here. He doesn’t even smile about having a son. And unfortunately, the upcoming debut of X-Factor means he doesn’t get a chance to show a paternal side any time soon.

Storm gets to be badass, of course. She shows her keen tactical mind, with her defeat of Scott. She uses the environment to her advantage, and keeps focused while he worries about everything. Rachel’s connection with her brother is really sweet. It does become something of a recurring element over the next few years. Sadly, it seldom gets touched on any more. It’d like to see the relationship between Rachel and Cable get explored again. I think I’d actually love to see them in a book together. It’s a really weird, complicated relationship they have, but it’s also very sweet, because at the end of the day, they really do see each other as family. Here’s an idea: Bring Jean back from the dead, and have her form a team with Rachel, Cable, and a few other characters. Jean’s relationships with those two are also good.

The art’s good here. I like Leonardi better than JRJr. It’s still not the best-looking book on the stands, but it’s better than it was. He’s decent, at least.

Another in a long, long, long line of memorable and important issues.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Avengers #263, by Roger Stern and John Buscema. It has a banner for the upcoming X-Factor. Yeah, that’s right. The team investigates something at the bottom of Jamaica Bay. There’s what seems to be a cocoon, letting off strange energy, with a voice saying to keep away. They manage to get it to Avengers HQ, where, after they leave the room, it becomes translucent enough for a redhead to be seen, and her voice says “Scott.” A caption flat-out says it’s Jean.

Fantastic Four #286, by John Byrne, picks the story up. The FF get back to Earth, and back to Avengers HQ, where they’ve been staying. Sue makes the pod transparent again, and we see Jean Grey, in the dress she wore waaaaaay back in X-Men #98-100. No one in the room recognizes her. And I suppose they wouldn’t. They never met Phoenix, and she wore a mask as Marvel Girl. Anyway, Reed comes up with a device to try to stimulate her mind and bring her out of her coma. He turns it on, and the coffee Jarvis is pouring starts floating up. Everything in the house starts floating. The pod blows apart from the inside, and Jean starts yelling at Lang. Who, of course, isn’t there. She has no clue what’s going on, and doesn’t believe Reed when he claims to be who he is, so she keeps him, Cap and Hercules in the air, until Sue smacks her with an invisible force field, then traps her in one.

Now that she’s subdued, Reed guesses she’s Marvel Girl. Cap says no one’s heard anything from her in a few years, since the Christmas Eve where she got captured. Reed has Sue drop the force field, and Jean sits down and goes over the events of those old X-Men comics. Jean can’t remember what happened after beating Lang, and says she should go see Xavier and the X-Men. She’s told the X-Men have been fighting beside Magneto. Jean starts freaking out, and asks to go to her parents’ house. Reed says it’s a bad idea, since her parents have probably come to accept her death, and seeing her again might hurt them. Sue overrides Reed, and says Jean needs some familiar surroundings, and they’re going to her parents’ house. Cap has something else he wants to check, but Reed, Sue and Hercules taken Jean to her old home.

Her parents aren’t home, and the door is locked. So Hercules smashes it. Which annoys Jean, since there’s a spare key under a hollow rock. Inside, they find the holoempathic matrix crystal that Lilandra gave Jean’s parents after Phoenix’s death. Jean’s afraid to touch it. Back at Avengers HQ, Cap is checking some files, and checks the Beast’s files on her. It gives a quick-and-dirty rundown of Dark Phoenix.

Back at her house, Jean finally takes the crystal, and it triggers her telepathy to allow the other three to see her memories. It’s the shuttle. She’s flying through the solar storm, and a being comes to her. It says it was called to Jean, and offers to save her friends, and herself. Jean takes the offer, and Phoenix takes human form. Then Jean faints in the real world, and Reed guesses what happened. Phoenix took physical form and was imbued with Jean’s essence, while Jean was put in a cocoon to heal. Cap comes in to tell her the Phoenix stuff he learned. Back at Avengers HQ, Jean’s not sure what she should do. Reed comes up with an idea for someone they can call.

It’s a pretty good story. It’s really just a way of getting Jean back on the board so X-Factor can be done. But Byrne does a good job with the story, all the same. The basic idea, of course, came from Kurt Busiek, was refined a little by Roger Stern, and then was written by Byrne, with a few pages of the flashback by Claremont. Apparently, Byrne’s original plan had been for the Phoenix to be evil and selfish, forcibly taking over Jean’s form, and Jean simply fought back by using her telepathy to imprint herself on the Phoenix. I think I prefer the story we actually got. It’s a pretty decent story. Very nice art by John Byrne. A few pages are by Jackson Guice, because Byrne was annoyed at the story being changed. Byrne’s always had a bit of an ego, though he does have the talent to back it up. In any event, with this story done, X-Factor can debut.

There’s also Marvel Fanfare #24, with a story by Claremont and David Ross. It’s one of the superhero poker games. It’s crashed by Carol Danvers and Wolverine. Wolverine and Carol kick ass, with Carol mentioning she taught him how to play. Then Monica Rambeau – Captain Marvel – comes in, and Carol learns that Mar-Vell’s dead. She visits his grave, then talks to Wolverine, and says she’s joining the Starjammers.

I may as well mention the X-Men also have a single-panel cameo in Secret Wars #7, watching a TV report about the Beyonder attracting a following by sitting and thinking. Mephisto sends an army of 99 supervillains to attack the Beyonder, and in the group, we see Juggernaut, White Queen and Silver Samurai. Still a stupid issue, though.


One Comment
  1. I’ve heard of this issue, where Storm and Cyclops duel for X-Men leadership. I even have some of the lead-ups in an old paperback. Now I know where to look for it. Sounds like fun too.

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