Uncanny X-Men #232 (1988, August)
Follow me on Twitter (@XMenXPert). Today, by Claremont, Silvestri, Green, Oliver and Orzechowski, “Earthfall.”
The issue opens with a flashback. While Storm and Wolverine fought the Murder Grandpas, and Rogue, Dazzler, Psylocke and Longshot fought Juggernaut, Alex and Lorna were dancing at a party, and some normal people were camping. Their time was ruined when something crashed into the ground nearby. The four campers go check it out, with one bringing a first aid kit, because he’s a paramedic in Denver. The crashed thing turns out to be a shark. A giant shark. A girl suggests maybe it was thrown out of the ocean. And the guy reacts as though it’s a stupid idea. But, I mean, does he not know the world he’s living in? Thor could totally throw a shark. (Of course, decades later, Ms. America would throw a giant shark out of the ocean. Ms. America’s so awesome.)
One of the women starts poking the shark with a stick. Sure, that’s a bright idea.
She gets chomped, because of course she does. Two more of the campers get killed by Brood. The last camper, Harry, makes it back to his truck, and drives away like a maniac, where he ends up running Alex and Lorna off the road.
Cut to the present, Denver, where Harry and his partner are on their way to an emergency. There’s a fire-breathing mutant who’s not in great shape. Harry refers to him and his partner as the “Team Supreme.” Claremont really liked that phrase. He used it for, like, a half-dozen different combos. Kitty and Doug, Doug and Warlock, Bobby and Sam, these random EMTs, and I think there were others, too. Anyway, Harry injects the guy with a Brood egg. Because Harry’s a Brood now. Dun-dun-duuuun!
Now, to Australia. Where Maddie comes through one of Gateway’s portal with some things she bought. The X-Men are off on a mission, so she’s left on her own. She decides that if the X-Men are going to be legends now, they need a symbol. So she draws a star with eight points, to represent the 8 members of the team. Cute idea. It doesn’t really last long, obviously. Then she sees a TV report of Scott being interviewed, with Jean Grey beside him. Maddie, understandably, freaks out a bit, and hits the screen, which then explodes. And oh, is this ever going to lead somewhere bad.
Back to Denver. Harry is walking home, musing about mutants, and worrying about them. He enters his apartment, and Psylocke is waiting for him, in a fancy new outfit.
Colossus is there, too. Harry grabs him and throws him at Psylocke. Luckily, she’s wearing armour. We haven’t seen yet where the armour comes from, but that’s coming. Anyway, the X-Men continue going after him, and he continues fighting them off.
The X-Men gather to talk about the situation, with Wolverine saying the guy’s a Brood, and if the others are squeamish, to leave things to him. Storm says they need him alive, to find out if he’s infected anyone else. On a side note, Harry thinks about how the Broncos have a better chance of winning the SuperBowl than he does of surviving the night. They won it in 1997.
Anyway, more chasing and fighting, with Wolverine and Rogue cornering Harry. I kinda feel feel like this is a panel I could start using in online debates:
Then a couple cops show up. And Wolverine immediately kills them. They were Brood. And there’s more around. Cliffhanger!
This is really good. There’s some interesting horror tropes going in multiple directions. Obviously, there’s the horror that comes from the Brood themselves, and Harry being one of them. But also, Harry ends up being in the middle of a horror story with the X-Men playing the role of the monsters chasing him. Which is actually a lot of fun. It’s a neat twist. But the sad part is that Harry has no idea he’s a monster. He has no idea what’s going on, and he can’t actually stop himself from resisting the X-Men, because the Brood hive-mind hates them and fears them. So you really feel sorry for poor Harry. None of what’s happening is his fault, and yet, he still has to be stopped. Poor guy.
Of course, the X-Men get plenty of good moments. Rogue, at one point, thinks about how Storm, Wolverine and Colossus never talk about their previous encounter with the Brood, and how that’s a bad sign. I do wish we’d gotten more exploration of that. Of how the three of them feel about encountering the Brood again. It would’ve been nice to see it explored more. But there’s limited space, I suppose.
The art is great. I like Silvestri, and he does more solid work here. Combined with Green and Oliver, it’s a great-looking book. Lots of tension. There’s really good off-panel gore and violence that works very effectively. But the atmosphere is where the book shines. There’s a great job done there, with the lines and the colours both giving a really creepy, unsettling feeling to it all.
So, great issue.
There’s also Classic X-Men #24, a reprint of X-Men #118. There’s added material by Claremont, Dwyer, Austin, Oliver and Orzechowski. Jean is in Greece, the Cyclades. Her bag’s been stolen, with everything in it. The local police chief is no help at all, and actually seems to want to see her suffer. She dumps him on his ass. (In the process, she knocks over a TV, just as it was reporting on the X-Men in Japan. Cute.) A cute guy offers to help her.
And of course, the back-up, by Claremont, Bolton, Oliver and Orzechowski. It continues the story of Jean in Greece. We see her arrive in the Cyclades, and get knocked into the water by some kids who run off with her stuff. Jerkass kids. After her confrontation with the police chief, the cute guy named Nikos offers to help her. He treats her to lunch, then offers to let her stay at his place. She’s suspicious, which, you know, obviously. Some random guy is asking her to stay at his house. Of course she’s suspicious. Any woman would be suspicious.
Of course, it turns out that Mastermind hired the kids to steal her stuff, and is disguising himself as Nikos to get close to her. The next few days, he takes her touring the islands. And eventually, they kiss, though she quickly pushes him away, since she’s grieving. And still blaming herself. He convinces her to go to a party with him, which makes her feel better. He then brings her to a temple, where he gives a speech on power:
It feels like Mastermind is tipping his hand too much, and that Jean should have been more sceptical . . . except that this is her reaction:
She freaks herself out with that speech. It’s a good speech.
It’s a good story. It shows Mastermind starting to get his hooks in Jean, and it’s effective at that. We never really saw it in the original comics. So it’s cool to see how it happened. But it’s also really unsettling, because this is basically attempted sexual assault. Mastermind went to her under false pretenses, presenting himself as someone he was not, in order to seduce her. This is horrible. It’s sexual assault. There’s no two ways about it. And it is unsettling how often writers – especially male writers – use that for drama. It’s creepy and gross, and it’s creepy and gross here. And I think it does make it a worse story, relying on that.
How enjoyable the story is will largely depend on your tolerance for this kind of assault-by-deception. When you remove that element, it’s definitely an enjoyable story. Mastermind’s manipulations of Jean are very subtle and clever. It brings real tension to an otherwise pleasant story about Jean vacationing in Greece. If he had been trying to manipulate her purely under the auspices of being a friend, it would’ve been excellent. It’s the fact that he makes clear that he’d like to intercourse her that causes problems.
The art, as usual, is great. Bolton is great at landscapes. Even better than he is with people. I find he does have a tendency to do a lot of flat, expressionless face. On the other hand, this is a pretty good glare:
But yeah, Bolton does fantastic work on landscapes. It really makes you want to visit the locales he depicts. Of course, I’ve been wanting to visit Greece for years. I probably never will. Oh well.
So, yeah, mostly a great story.
I may as well mention Power Pack #39, by Louise Simonson, Sal Velluto, Mark Farmer, Glynis Oliver and Joe Rosen. It continues the story from a couple issues prior, of Rebecca Littlehale, the little girl who teleported around. On the walk to school, some kids talk about her, and about mutants in general, with a couple kids expressing fear of mutants, based on the whole Apocalypse thing. After school, the kids go to see Rebecca, who has protesters on her lawn. Some for mutants, some against. Then the house is firebombed. Rebecca’s dog is still inside, and still alive, so Rebecca tries to rush in to save him, with other people following to save her. So Power Pack has to go in to save all of them. Then Rebecca gets captured by the Bogeyman, an early Power Pack foe whose details aren’t important right now. He’s some dude named Carmody who Power Pack kinda screwed over in one of their first adventures, and he thinks they’re mutants and hates them. He’s now working for the Right, though he’s entertaining offers from other backers, too. He gets away.
It’s a good comic. Power Pack was always good. You should read it.
Also this month, Captain America #344, where Steve Rogers fights Ronald Reagan, who’s turned into a snake-monster.