Monday, April 11, 2011

Against A Legion of Enemies: X-Men 107

X-Men #107 (Oct 1977)
Where No X-Man Has Gone Before!"

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dan Green

Karen: We're back to a favorite series of ours, X-Men, and just in time to be dumped into the middle of a galactic civil war right along with our favorite mutants. To recap: the X-Men followed a kidnapped Princess Lilandra through a stargate and have arrived on an alien world halfway across the universe, confronted with a legion of super-powered beings!
Karen: The second and third pages compri
se a two page spread with almost all the Imperial Guard (aka the Legion doppelgangers). I know there are guides out there on the net, but I'd rather just name off the guardsmen and their counterparts off the top of my head. Let's see:
  • Gladiator stands in for Superboy
  • Tempest is Lightning Lad
  • Mentor doubles for Brainiac 5
  • Hobgoblin for Chameleon Boy
  • Starbolt is like a juiced up Sun Boy
  • Fang fills in for Timber Wolf
  • Oracle should be Dream Girl with that name, but I think she's more like Saturn Girl
Karen: There's also an obvious Colossal Boy clone, a Wildfire clone, and a chick who looks like Shadow Lass, but no names are given. Maybe next time. Got any more to add, Doug?

Doug: Yeah, I think the big guy in black and yellow (who actually looks a bit like Colossus) is a stand-in for Star Boy, the girl with the long red fringe on her boots and sleeves must be Phantom Girl (gives the impression of bell-bottoms, no?), and the guy in white/navy blue with the stylized T on his chest must be Ultra Boy. On the splash you mentioned, there's a girl in purple standing between Tempest and Starbolt. On the third panel after the Starjammers arrive, she's diminutive -- so there's our Shrinking Violet! Right below that is a woman in green with a blue cape -- she has white hair... Princess Projectra? So that's 15 "Legionnaires" if we got 'em all.

Karen: So of course with all these costumed nuts in one place, all hell breaks loose. The badly-outnumbered X-Men take the fight to the Guard. Cockrum does a great job of conveying non-stop mayhem. Claremont does an equally good job in throwing in bits of characterization all through the battle, keeping the Cyclops-Wolverine feud going, for example.

Doug: I agree. S
cenes like this remind me why, as a kid, Cyke was always one of my favorite leaders. Yeah, he's sullen all the time, often even abrasive. But the guy is so focused, and has a plan ready for just about anything. I noticed in this issue, maybe it was the first time, that Logan referred to himself as "Wolverine", dropping "the".

Karen: Speaking of Wolverine, this is the issue where he gets the notoriously awful 'Fang' outfit. After his own costume is burned off of him by Starbolt, Wolvie beats up Fang and steals his atrocious suit because "it beats fightin' in the all-together." No, Wolverine, it doesn't! Really, would Wolverine even care if he was running around naked, as long as he was in a fight? That seemed a bit off, but obviously Cockrum or someone thought this would be a good costume for him. Now I've never been a fan of his John Romita-designed yellow and blue suit, but this one was a real stink
er. That's the only real mis-step Cockrum makes though.

Doug: I love the scene in Iron Fist
#15, which directly follows the goings-on in X-Men #108 and also which you already reviewed, when Wolverine burst in on D. Rand wearing these duds. Ugly, and a heckuva lot scarier than the yellow/blue outfit. But as long as we're talking "dressed for success" here, I never did care for his brown/beige outfit. Yuck! Give me the
original over that earthtoned disaster.

Karen: Really? I actually thought that one was more appropriate for him, more natural colors for an animal-based character.

Doug: Yeah, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Mantis, yes. Vulture, no.

Karen: Lilandra's brother, D'Ken, plans to sacrifice her t
o some sort of creature known as the Soul Drinker, a creepy-looking energy-type being with a forked tongue. Fortunately Nightcrawler is able to teleport to her side and free her. This is the first time Kurt would dare teleporting with another person, and the strain of it nearly knocks him out.

Doug: The scene with Kurt saving Lilandra was really well done. Probably a minor part of the story by the time it's all said and done, but it was carried out with some real drama, and served as a future plot vehicle knowing that he could teleport other people, too.

Karen: Lilandra reveals to Cyclops that her brother had discovered a source of 'ultimate power' (on the very world they are standing upon) and plans to take it for himself. Since he is a complete whack job, this would be a bad thing. She opposed him and civil war broke out. Lilandra escaped and fled to Earth, as she had formed a psychic bond with Xavier. Claremont tries to tie this in to X-Men 65, when Xavier harnessed the mental power of the entire planet to drive back an alien invasion but it's kind of weak.

It's comforting to know that megalomaniacs aren't just holed up on Earth...

Karen: The fight continues, but as it goes on, the X-Men begin to succumb to the Guard's superior numbers. All looks lost and then - the Starjammers arrive! Cockrum shows their arrival on a full page shot, with the team seemingly jumping down from the heavens. It's dramatic all right. Together, they make quick work of the rest of the Guard, and then manage some introductions. The Starjammers look a bit like pirates, and with the exception of Corsair, who is human, they are all alien beings. Cockrum was really at his creative height. All his designs- not just for characters, but ships, technology, backgrounds -are incredibly diverse and original.

Doug: As long as we're t
alking doppelgangers, didn't you think Raza looked a bit like Tharok of the Fatal Five? The arrival of the Starjammers was exciting, but mysterious as well. Ch'od identifies them as heroes, but that's about all they know. They've obviously tangled with the Imperial Guard before, and it seems like they, as these other teams we've discussed today, feature representatives from several intergalactic races. Jean's epiphany is a great bit of foreshadowing.

Karen: However, the worst is not over. The nine stars that power the M'Krann crystal that D'Ken covets are now in alignment. A beam of brilliant white light shines down from them directly into the enormous crystal. Back in orbit around Earth, Dr. Peter Corbeau and Reed Richards both detect that the universe has momentarily 'blinked' out of existence. If it happens again, the entire universe might cease to exist! Can you say 'high stakes' for our next issue?

Doug: Since Giant-Size X-Men #1, have you been hit with the notion that the "high stakes" these guys play for are coming much more often than they ever did for the original team? There have many cases in the first two years of the new team when the Earth, or even the universe, has been severely threatened. This is a bit beyond the Blob just causing trouble... But it's all good stuff!


Anonymous said...

A landmark issue, and Cockrum is definitely firing on all cylinders.

In addition to his Legion homage with the Guard, he even squeezes in a shout-out to Walt Kelly's Pogo with Hepzibah.

J.A. Morris said...

This may be sacrilegious, but I actually prefer Cockrum's art in the Avengers issues over his X-men run. And that's partly because I didn't start reading X-men until the Byrne-Austin issues.
But 107 is Cockrum at his finest, hard to throw a brick into this issue and not hit someone wearing a "Cockrum Sash"!
My only problem with this issue:The "shovel beast" Hobgoblin turns into looks pretty silly and not too scary:

I'm with Karen on Wolverine's costumes, the brown costume is better.

All in all,a great issue from the "All New,All Different" era!

Re the Imperial Guard as Legion stand-ins:
I once read that the Legion fought X-men doppelgängers in their comics around the same time. Can someone tell me which issues featured these characters? Thanks

Ray "!!" Tomczak said...

I haven't read a lot of Legion, so I didn't notice the Imperial Guard/LSH parallels when I first read this issue. The guide you provide is thus much appreciated.
On an unrelated topic...I just noticed the link to my blog Gutter Talk in the blog list over to the left yesterday.
Thanks for adding it. I greatly appreciate it.

Doug said...

Hey, Ray --

Not a problem on getting you onto our blog roll. A little cross-pollination, so to speak!

J.A. --

I, too, would be curious as to the Legion vs. X-Men, part two. I don't seem to recall that. Doesn't mean it didn't happen, though!

Thanks, all!


Anonymous said...

Since J.A. Morris has sort of started the ball rolling along these lines, I really enjoyed Cockrum's early X-Men run, but for some reason, it didn't grab me so much as his Legion run (or his Avengers run). Something about it was different. Was it the inkers that Marvel used or what? I don't have the issues on hand anymore so I can't refer to them.....I just remember it from when I originally read them.


William said...

This is truly an epic issue of the X-Men, and a pretty fun read. However, I'm a big Byrne fan, so I prefer his art to Cockrum's. Although I must say that Cockrum's original run was superior to his second stint on the book "post Byrne". In fact, I personally disliked the art so much back then that I couldn't continue reading X-Men after Byrne left, and I didn't return to it until Paul Smith came aboard.

As for Wolvie's choice of attire, I was always more of a fan of the brown costume myself. But I like the original quite a lot as well.

Also, thanks for the link to the Iron Fist #15 review. It's always been one of my favorite comics. It was such an in continuity X-Men story that I was really surprised that it wasn't included in the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus.

J.A. Morris said...

One more thing I have to say about Cockrum, I love his work shortly before he died in the 'X-men:Odd Men Out' because he drew a dog that reminded me of my dog Joejoe.
Here's Helmut,Fred Duncan's dog:

My dog:

So Cockrum will always be okay in my book!

Karen said...

I don't think Dan Green or Sam Grainger were the best inkers for Cockrum. I thought when he inked himself in GS Avengers 2 his art looked best, very smooth and clean.

J.A.: You're right, Cockrum's dog does look like yours! He's a great looking dog, by the way.


Edo Bosnar said...

Aw, more pictures of Joejoe - thanks J.A.! He's a really cute guy, and his 'face' is similar to my dog's (only she has floppy ears).
Anyway, back on topic: I agree with William, Cockrum's art in his second run on X-men was really sub-par - being a diehard Byrne fan, I was devastated (although I didn't quit reading the title). I was also surprised, when I read back issues, over how good Cockrum's art looks in that first run. I remember reading somewhere a long time ago (maybe in Fantaco's X-men Chronicles from the early 80s) that Cockrum had a real problem with deadlines and worked better on bi-monthly books, so his art looked rushed in that second X-run. I think his work could have really used a better inker - I always wondered why Austin didn't stick around on X-men after Byrne left...

Ram said...

The earth tones costume is the best ever!!!

Dougie said...

The League of Super-Assassins were supposedly the X-Men analogues in Gerry Conway's late 70s run. Most famous "assassin" Blok could be a stand-in for Colossus and Silver Slasher shared some bloodthirsty traits with Wolverine; Titania was a redhead; Neutrax couldn't walk and projected eyebeams... It's really pretty tenuous, however.

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