Thursday, August 18, 2011
He Has His Eye on You: X-Men 115
X-Men #115 (Nov. 1978)
"Visions of Death!"
Writer/co-plotter: Chris Claremont
Artist/co-plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Terry Austin
Karen: This issue starts with big-time action! As the X-Men confront the reptilian Sauron crouching over the unconscious Storm, Wolverine goes nuts. He lunges, claws first, at Sauron. Cyclops tries to warn him, but it's too late; Sauron uses his mental power to cause Wolverine to see his team-mates as hideous monsters. Wolverine turns to attack them, and only Cyclops realizes what's going on. Aware that Logan could chop them into bits given the chance, Cyclops blasts him -hard -and knocks him out, which of course draws protest from Banshee, but Cyclops tells him that Sauron's hypnotism is even more potent than Mesmero's. It is kind of odd to think that the team was facing yet another foe who could alter their minds or perceptions. This was also one of the earliest instances where the X-Men had to worry about Wolverine harming them, and it wouldn't be the last.
Doug: We've seen a trend as we've now covered a couple of years of All-New X-history. The team keeps getting pitted against adversaries only Cyclops knows. He screams "Don't!" or "Wait!", the new guys trudge headlong into a catastrophe... At the time, I really enjoyed seeing the new team fight the old villains (at least those of which I had been previously aware)... But as we've come through Nefaria, the Sentinels, the Juggernaut, Magneto, Mesmero, and now Sauron, it's beginning to be somewhat formulaic. I think that's why, when we get to Proteus and the "Dark Phoenix Saga", there will be some real satisfaction in those stories as almost bucking what has become a system.
Karen: I hadn't thought of that but you're absolutely right. Nobody listens to Cyclops at all!
Doug: The two-page splash to kick this one off is stunning. But a note on the art -- overall, it's just as fantastic as the past several issues have been. But did you detect Terry Austin using Colletta-like lines? I'm reading from the original comic book, and some of the inks are very light, with a feathering-like quality as Vinnie was prone to. I'm not complaining, because I think the book looks out-of-sight -- just throwing that out there. The art is overall quite detailed. And yes, Wolverine was a dangerous chap to have around, wasn't he?
Karen: I've always thought that Austin had a fine pen, but without any of the negatives associated with Colletta. Banshee takes to the air to face Sauron, while Cyclops tells Nightcrawler to take care of Storm and Wolverine. Of course Wolverine comes to and slugs Kurt. Then he goes after Cyclops, whom he sees as a "slime monster." Once again Cyclops has to blast Wolverine and send him flying. It's kind of refreshing to see a Wolverine who isn't invincible.
Doug: Scott's such an unemotional sort, but I'll bet that even in the heart of battle there was some satisfaction with getting (or having) to knock Wolverine into tomorrow!
Karen: Cyke and Banshee combine their blasts against Sauron and he flies off in a weakened state. Unfortunately he comes upon Piotr attending to Storm. Sauron grabs him and starts to drain him of energy. Cyclops yells for Piotr to transform, and the resultant energy release is too much for Sauron; it sends him reeling. Meanwhile, Wolverine, having been launched into the jungle, is gathering himself up to return to the fight when he comes across Sauron transforming back to his humanoid form. He's about to thrash the guy when who should show up but Ka-Zar! He warns Wolverine to let go of his friend, Karl Lykos (Sauron's alter-ego). Logan's in a mood to fight but luckily Cyclops shows up and straightens things out.
Doug: Byrne and Austin crafted another great character intro! This little run we've been reviewing has been rife with poster-quality splash pages. It would be very difficult to say this stretch was not Byrne's best output.
Karen: The X-Men, Ka-Zar, and Lykos hunker down in a hut and Lykos explains to Cyclops how he survived their last meeting (seems when he jumped into an icy chasm he actually landed on a small ledge, rather than fall to his death). From there he made his way down to the Savage Land. While roaming about he came across the Sun People and their priestess, Zaladane -remember her? She's from the Astonishing Tales issues recently reviewed here. Zaladane is back to her old tricks, turning a mortal man into the avatar of her god, Garokk.
Karen: Things get more complicated, apparently picking up story threads from Ka-Zar's own book. Zaladane leads Garokk to a hill where they can see in the distance a futuristic city, complete with a ringed planet floating in the sky above it! Garokk gets upset and blasts it with powerful eyebeams, wiping it out of existence, although Lykos says he manipulated a transdimensional warp. OK. There's more about Ka-Zar riding a flying shark, which disappears...I really don't know what was going on here. I guess I should have been reading Ka-Zar! But the end result is, Garokk is forcing all the Savage Land to join him or else. Ka-Zar wants the X-Men's help. Wolverine is more than anxious to fight, and so is Banshee, but Cyclops says no, they have to make sure Magneto didn't survive too and go after the Professor.
Doug: I guess if I'd been reading Ka-Zar's mag, I'd have been put out by the lengthy synopsis. However, since I wasn't this was all good stuff. Very Burroughs-like, too -- Pellucidarian, even.
Karen: Wolverine is not happy at all about Cyclops' decision, but goes along with it. Ka-Zar is more understanding. Cyclops swears that once they've made sure the Professor is safe, they'll be back. But they soon discover that they can't leave -their way out is frozen solid. Snow begins to fall and they realize that whatever Garokk is doing has upset the delicate ecological balance that keeps the Savage Land a tropical paradise. They have no choice but to stay and stop Garokk.
Doug: Cyke was making like Douglas MacArthur in that scene. Did you think that Ka-Zar and his band should have protested the X-Men's departure just a bit? I mean, Garokk was certainly a tough customer, and it would have been a heckuva lot easier to take him down with the assistance of the X-Men. Storm's prowess alone would have been a boon.
Karen: It seemed a little odd that Cyclops wouldn't stay, but then again, he was very loyal to the Professor. This was another really fun issue. I thought the only weak part was the attempt to tie together the two storylines of X-Men and Ka-Zar. I'm sure they did their best but I still don't really understand what was going on with that alien city and all. It's really not important though; it's enough to know that the X-Men will have to battle Garokk. There was a lot of nice character work here. The tension between Cyke and Wolvie could be cut by a knife (or adamantium claws). I really enjoyed Banshee too; he always brought a nice mature viewpoint to situations. This team will always be my favorite set of X-Men, as their personalities complemented each other so well.
Doug: You're right -- everyone got some decent facetime in this story. It was fun to see a "Nightcrawler moment" with the snowball fight, too!