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Uncanny X-Men #218 (1987, June)

January 9, 2016

Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Claremont, Silvestri, Green, Oliver and Orzechowski, “Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Charge of the Light Brigade

It’s a nice shot of the newer team members, but maybe a little too pin-up-y. Gives no indication what’s inside.

The issue starts in New Mexico, with Lorna and Alex driving through the Rio Diablo Mountains. It mentions that he’s a geologist, and she’s an archaeologist. I might be wrong, but I think this might be the first time it was mentioned that she’s an archaeologist. It’s not something that gets brought up often. I’d completely forgotten about it. I’ll probably remember it now, though. Anyway, they’re knocked off the road by a van that’s driving wildly. And, see, this scene confuses me. You’d think Lorna would have used her powers to stop the truck from rolling over. It’s so weird to me that she doesn’t. But they do roll over, and then a boulder starts rolling towards them so Alex has to blow it up. Later on, Alex treats Lorna’s injuries, and they apparently have sex. Near-death experiences, including car crashes, have been known to make people horny. There was even a shitty softcore porn movie made about it. That done, Lorna finally puts their truck back on the road.

We then cut to Dazzler. When last we saw her, Juggernaut was declaring her dead. It turns out he’s not a very good doctor. She’s alive, but buried alive. Which is pretty damn terrifying. She manages to get a hold of herself, recap what happened, and come up with a plan for getting out. She starts listening for every little sound of nature, using it to power herself. She then puts up a flare to mark her location for the X-Men. They rescue her, and she feels stupid, and feels like she doesn’t belong as an X-Man. Rogue snaps at her, and Psylocke’s much sweeter.

They head over to Edinburgh, where Juggernaut’s making a mess. Rogue’s up first, and she hits Juggernaut with a massive punch that even she’s impressed with. Juggernaut agrees, but wasn’t hurt at all. He backhands her and sends her flying. Psylocke tries next, and actually hurts him with a psychic bolt through his helmet. Which is pretty cool. It shouldn’t be possible, which shows just how strong a telepath she is. More specifically, it shows how strong her attacks are. Longshot comes next, and Juggernaut just drops a building on him. The women dig him out, and he’s not even scratched. I’ll be honest, I kinda wish there’d been a bit more of a Buster Keaton homage, with Longshot standing where a window had been. Would’ve made for a great gag. Oh well.

Round 3! Longshot’s knives weaken the seals of Juggernaut’s helmet, Rogue kisses him to get some extra strength and pull the helmet off (and also fly him into the air and throw him to the ground. She throws him right onto train tracks. While a train is coming. She’s not smart. So now she has to stop the train, leaving Dazzler and Psylocke to fight Juggernaut alone. Juggernaut’s so adorably happy to see Dazzler still alive. It’s so weirdly endearing. Anyway, she blinds him and takes off his skullcap, leaving him open to be knocked out by Psylocke. And Rogue stopped the train, right before it went over the edge into the big pit she created. Good work, Rogue, you didn’t kill a bunch of people.

The girls start repairing the broken tracks. At the same time, Dazzler makes sure they can’t be captured on camera, and Psylocke manipulates the crowd so they see “their ideal image of a superhero.” Which . . . why? Why the hell would you do that? Why are they not willing to take credit for stopping Juggernaut? It’s bizarre. It makes not a lick of sense. This is the kind of bullshit that bugs me about the X-Men. Take the damn credit! Let people see you! How are you supposed to change the hearts and minds of people if you don’t let them know you’re not awful? It’s bizarre. Anyway, it turns out Juggernaut was just creating a distraction so Black Tom could rob a bank.

Then it’s back to New Mexico, where Lorna and Alex check out a campsite that’s been torn up. They also find evidence something crash-landed nearby, and they unbury a Starshark, one of the living attack ships used by the Brood. The Brood are back!

This is a really good issue. This is basically about bringing the new members together as a team, and it does a good job of that. It shows how poorly they do working separately, and then has them succeed working together, which is how these stories are supposed to go. The fight is really well-done. It’s very exciting stuff. Juggernaut is appropriately unstoppable, which makes it more satisfying when he’s stopped. And Silvestri draws the hell out of it. He gives a good sense of Juggernaut’s power. He also does a great job with facial expressions throughout the issue. Dazzler’s fear is especially good, and when she starts absorbing sounds, it’s really nice. The relief is palpable, and it almost looks like she’s amazed at the wide range of sounds in nature. Like she’s rediscovering sound. It’s a really good effect.

This issue also sets up another story . . . a little over a year from now. Yeah, it’ll take Claremont some time to get around to the Brood. Claremont always did play the long game.

Anyway. Great issue.

There’s also Classic X-Men #10, a reprint of X-Men #102. As always, there’s additional content. Here, it’s by John Romita, Sr, Sam Grainger, Michele Wrightson and Gaspar Saladino. First, a couple pages showing Ororo’s background. Showing her at 6 months old, leaving Harlem with her parents, moving to Cairo, and then a few years later, a plane crashing into her house, killing her parents, and leaving her buried, and thus becoming claustrophobic. It’s just an expansion of something covered in the original story, and honestly, I’m not sure it’s needed here. It tells us a little more about her parents, but not a lot, so I don’t think it’s worthwhile. There’s also a page of her in the Serengeti, showing how she became a goddess. Still not really important. And the final added scene expands on one of Xavier’s dream assaults, when he kept seeing an alien in his brain. Again, not all that useful a scene.

And, of course, the back-up by Claremont, Bolton, Grainger, Wrightson and Orzechowski. Wolverine is in New York, and a cigar gets swiped out of his mouth, and gets taunted, but he can’t find the person doing it. Wolverine heads to a Chelsea bar. This story takes place right as Chelsea was beginning to be gentrified, but when it was still rough. Kinda funny how the story is now dated because of this fact. Anyway, he sits drinking a whiskey, and sees a smile in the window, very briefly. He rushes outside, but still no sign of his hunter, and he wonders if it’s all in his head. Then a woman is killed. He runs around some more, then makes his stand in Battery Park. Sabretooth pops up behind him, rips his throat out and tosses him in the water. Wolverine survives, but realizes his animal side is no match for Sabretooth, and the only chance he has against him is as a man.

The story is . . . OK? I guess. It’s not great. I don’t know, it’s just kinda bland. I can’t really place my finger on the problem, but nothing about this story stands out. The writing is middling, the art isn’t a great fit. This story just doesn’t quite work, the way some others have.

And I suppose this would be the place to talk a little about Mephisto vs. #3, Mephisto vs. the X-Men, by Al Milgrom, John Buscema, Al Milgrom, George Roussos and Rick Parker. (Yes, I did list Milgrom twice. He wrote and inked.) The issue opens with Mephisto chatting a little to Jean Grey about being a collector of souls. The X-Men are notified by Reed Richards about what Mephisto’s up to. Then Rogue trips and almost touches Wolverine with her bare arms and he almost cuts her with his claws. This serves as a chance to bring up Rogue’s power, since it’ll be relevant.  Storm gets Psylocke to link her mind with Longshot, and then randomly probe for Mephisto. He strikes back with psychic wail, which Dazzler turns into light.

The X-Men start patrolling. I should mention this takes place immediately after Dazzler and Longshot joined, but before they went to Muir Isle, so it’s a pretty damn brief span of time it happened in. Truthfully, it doesn’t really line up at all. Oh well. Mephisto confronts Rogue, and he kisses her. She gets a sense of him being old and lonely, and sympathizes with him. But then he kisses her again, and she finds out he plans on killing the X-Men and taking their souls. So she decides to take their souls first. She starts with Wolverine, taking him out with a kiss, then goes after Storm, whom she unfortunately does not kiss. Then Dazzler, and Mephisto actually gives a brief recap of how weird her life’s been, having served as a herald of Galactus and been loved enough by the Beyonder to be given half his power. Seriously, Dazzler is a character with a weird history. Anyway, next comes Psylocke. And then Mephisto says Longshot has no soul.

So that’s that! Rogue’s saved the X-Men. And then Mephisto laughs, because he’s played her perfectly. He could only take one soul, but with her having absorbed all the others, taking her soul lets him take everyone else’s. But he gives Wolverine’s back, as a taunt to him. He sends Jean Grey back, and starts to play with the X-Men.

It’s an OK issue. The X-Men come across as pretty stupid. There’s a real sense of characters doing things because they have to to advance the plot. The art’s better. Buscema does a good job with it. Still, the mini as a whole isn’t all that great. Very much skippable.

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