X-Men #127 (November 1979)
"The Quality of Hatred!
Chris Claremont/John Byrne/Terry Austin
Today is review #400 on the Bronze Age Babies!
Karen: Our cover this month is a more colorful version of our splash page - I like the psychedelic
little purple swirls! The story picks up immediately from the end of X-Men #126, as Proteus has attacked a grounded Storm, who responds by whipping up a tremendous gale. But even that seems ineffective against the dangerous mutant, so Storm makes an effort to take to the air, only to be knocked down by a wave of earth. Proteus' absolute control over reality makes escape impossible. Nightcrawler urges Wolverine to help him save Storm, but shockingly, the typically feisty brawler is frozen with fear. Suddenly gunshots ring out from the ridge above -it is Moira MacTaggert. Even though Proteus is her son, Moira takes aim and we can see through her scope she is deadly serious about killing him. At the last moment her aim is spoiled by Cyclops, who says the X-Men will capture Proteus. But Moira is having none of it -she hits Cyclops in the gut with the butt of her rifle, and he strikes his head on a rock as he falls, knocking him out. She goes back to fire on Proteus again, but he has taken off in his car, since bullets (or anything metal) can actually kill him. However, Moira thinks she knows where he's headed, and jumps in her car too.
Doug: We've been gushing over the art throughout the previous three X-issues we've reviewed this month -- today's fare is no different. I guess by this point in the story I had begun to question just what exactly Proteus was -- he needed the host to be mobile. Storm called him a being of energy, so am I to read into that his sentience but with a lack of physicality (if that's the right word)? His powers seem somewhat undefined, though incredible, at this juncture as well. Are his powers mainly mental? Is all that we see an illusion? Was he really able to withstand Storm's hurricane-force winds, or was that an image conjured only in the minds of the X-Men? I also found it to be an interesting clue that he could only warp reality if he could make eye contact with his intended victim; hence, the travails that Proteus dealt Nightcrawler and Wolverine in the previous issue would not have been felt by Storm as she arrived late to the fray.
Karen: The X-Men regroup and recover. Cyclops assesses the situation and is concerned about Wolverine, who seems to be extremely rattled by his encounter with Proteus. The art team does a nice job depicting this, with our normally swaggering runt sitting with his knees drawn up, head resting on one palm, hands shaking. Cyclops is afraid that Wolverine is about to snap, mentally, and decides to do something about it -and this leads into one of the best sequences in the entire Proteus storyline. Cyke accuses Wolvie of being a coward and tosses his drink in his face. That's enough to get Wolverine fired up and ready to rumble. This is pretty dangerous for Cyke, as Wolverine pops his claws and goes after him. But again, this was back in the days before Wolverine became godlike, so Cyke actually manages to toss Wolverine with a judo throw and hold his own. Banshee, not understanding what Cyke is trying to do, orders Colossus to intervene, but Phoenix tells him to stay back and let Cyclops handle things. Now, this would have been perfect if it had been Jean understanding what Scott was doing, just because she is so close to him and knows him so well, but Claremont had to go and ruin it by having Cyclops explain it to the readers in his thoughts, stating that he had "mentally cued Jean in" to what he was going to do before he started. I just don't see why he felt the need to handle it that way.
Doug: A jumping on point for new readers? Don't know, but I agree with you. For the long-time reader it seemed unnecessary. Not having read this story for many a'moon, I was expecting another Jason Wyngarde interlude at this point, and was surprised to not see one -- in fact, that subplot was back-burnered for this entire issue. I think part of that was the pace of this installment, which probably takes place within the space of one day, day-and-a-half at the most. The details in the art are nice -- lots of backgrounds, etc. This creative team did not shortcut the consumer. There have been two really nice shots of the entire team so far -- you mentioned one last issue with the tension between Scott and Jean. The shot right before Cyclops provokes Wolverine is good. I like the high camera angle, which plays off of the preceding panel of Phoenix in flight.
Karen: As Cyclops and Wolverine go at each other, Cyke verbally jabs at Wolvie, saying he's fighting so poorly, a cub scout could beat him. He's purposely trying to get under his skin, and it's working. He tosses Wolverine at Nightcrawler, who bamfs into attack position right over Cyclops -a stunt that leaves him wide open to Cyke's optic beam, something he's warned Nightcrawler about before. Storm decides she's had enough of this, and brings down a bolt of lightning near Cyclops. He knocks her off her feet with a blast, but decides it might be time to put an end to things, and calls for a truce. Wolverine is not about to have it, until Cyke explains to them this was an impromptu Danger Room session. He had to see how they all were managing after facing off with Proteus. They all get it, and Wolverine especially seems to have a new-found respect for Scott, putting himself in jeopardy to try to shake Logan out of his shock. I recall feeling at the time that this was a real turning point for their relationship, the point at which Wolverine stopped questioning Cyclops' every order and really started to be more of a team player. And of course, back then, Cyclops was a top notch leader.
Doug: The entire fight is really well-choreographed, and the rapidly changing camera angles give a real sense of danger and emotion to it. The coloring on Storm as she attempts to end the fracas was well done, complete with a little Kirby Krackle! I think Scott's intent is to not only assess the team's well-being, but in a way see just how powerful Proteus is. Let's face it -- if Wolverine could be that far removed from his "usual self", then this baddie must be some tough customer! We've discussed the evolution of Wolverine as a character at length, and as his story unfolded over the years, with the immersion in Japanese culture, etc., this "early" version of his characterization couldn't be further from what he (again, given what we would later learn) should have been like. I must say I lean toward the character when we didn't know all of the details (retcons).
Karen: Proteus has moved on, heading for Edinburgh. He accosts a young woman who has a flat tire, possessing her. Moira has reached the city before him, and has arrived at the home of Joseph MacTaggert -her estranged husband.I thought the way MacTaggert was drawn, he had a sort of brutal sensuality. Actually, he reminds me a bit of the way the Black King, Sebastian Shaw, would look a few issues later. It seems that MacTaggert, who is a member of Parliament and has even greater political aspirations, refuses to give Moira a divorce, and so they've lived apart for twenty years. She left him after he apparently beat her so badly she wound up in the hospital. He had no idea that they'd had a son, Mutant X. He's shocked when Moira tells him this -and that his son is coming to kill him. He goes to grab her but Moira pulls a very large revolver and walks out the door. As she sits in her car, sobbing, Proteus watches from nearby, angry that "the one I hate" has upset Moira, again. It seems as though Moira's hatred of MacTaggert has transferred to her son over the years, and Proteus has indeed come to kill his father. We see him entering MacTaggert's home and surprising him...
Doug: So is the root and motivation of this "villain" some sort of Oedipus complex? Or is there something more? The mystery deepens. I want to also say that I don't know much of the geography of Scotland, or the larger UK for that matter, but Claremont sells me on this. For this young reader, it was a real fantasy land, the change in locale for this story. When you think about it, the X-Men haven't been home since the night the Sentinels attacked them, back in the late #90's. After the introduction of Phoenix, they went to Scotland, then a few issues later to the Shi'ar Galaxy, then they fought Vindicator in upstate New York, then ended up in Antarctica, the Savage Land, Japan, Canada, and eventually here -- back in Scotland. What globetrotters these mutants were near the end of the Bronze Age!
Karen: Meanwhile the X-Men have been able to track Moira to Edinburgh and Phoenix is locking on
to her thoughts when she is assaulted by the "psychic death scream" of MacTaggert. Phoenix telekinetically carries Cyclops and four other X-Men to the scene, causing Cyclops to wonder about her power levels. Storm flies herself, while Polaris brings Havok. Before they arrive, Moira is confronted by Proteus -but he's different. Possessing his father, he has absorbed some of his personality. Now he is an unsettling combination of father and son, and he proclaims that he "wants" Moira! Colossus is the first X-Man to make the scene, landing like a cannonball in the street. But when he goes to attack Proteus, he finds gravity twisted sideways and is hurled away from the villain. Cyclops' eye beams are no more effective, turned into flower petals before they can strike his foe. Ever the tactician, Cyke thinks their only hope is to try to wear Proteus out, make him burn out his host body before he can find another. Phoenix readies to attack, saying he hasn't really faced her before, but Proteus grabs Moira and uses her as a shield. Moira yells for the team to attack anyway, that her life is nothing compared to stopping Proteus, but of course his action freezes the X-Men in their tracks. The mutants ask what they should do, and Cyclops says that Proteus is exactly the kind of mutant Professor X created the X-Men to protect humanity from. So -next issue, the battle begins!
Doug: I really liked that the "entire" team was together again in this story, and it's a pity that they didn't wait for the Beast. Proteus seemed the sort of adversary that would have made Angel's comment, "What are we going to do with 13 X-Men?" an easily answered query. In regard to Colossus, those landings never became cliche' for me -- loved it every time! We get another small taste of what Jean has become as she says to Proteus, "Say your prayers, butcher!" Not exactly the Greys' little girl. I felt so bad for Banshee, as Proteus rant is the first time he knew that Moira was married. That's interesting in a way, because when we reviewed X-Men #117, Xavier had commented to Lilandra that although he had loved Moira, she wouldn't wait for him. Was this an allusion to Moira getting married? It seems strange, then, that when Moira came to "keep house" for the X-Men and Banshee took a shine to her that Charles would never have mentioned anything to poor Sean Cassidy. Cyke shows his true colors as a leader on par with Cap and Reed Richards, doesn't he?
Karen: This was another winner, with the fight between Cyke and Wolverine being the real highlight
for me, because it changed the way these two dealt with each other here-on after in the book.Cyclops finally got the respect he needed from Wolverine to function effectively -- he became the alpha dog, essentially, in Logan's eyes - and after that, it really seemed like they were a team. We saw a little of this around the time of the Alpha Flight clash, but here's where it all came together. The only thing missing this issue was another Jason Wyngarde/Dark Phoenix slip, but there was so much else going on, it wasn't missed and probably would have been a mistake to try to force it in. All in all, a great set up for next issue's big finale.