X-Men #118 (February 1979)
"The Submergence of Japan!"
Chris Claremont-John Byrne/Ricardo Villamonte
Doug: Fancy meeting everyone here on a Friday rather than a Monday! As we'd remarked late last week, sometimes real life necessitates re-prioritizing and re-working some things, and our partner reviews for X-Men #s 118-119 falls into that category.
Thanks for waiting an extra four days for this, the first of a two-part review. On Monday if you come by the BAB you'll find a follow-up to my Man-Bat story, and a week from today we'll be back here with the conclusion to our merry mutants' trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Doug: We open on a ship about 10 kilometers from port on the island of Honshu. The X-Men have been aboard this craft for around six weeks, since they were rescued after their adventure in the Savage Land (which had immediately followed their second tussle with Magneto). A hot red glow is in the sky above the city of Agarashima, and the X-Men intend to investigate. Cyclops gives Nightcrawler the order to teleport over and get a visual. Kurt does, without hesitation. Now I thought this was pretty extreme (bamf!ing over six miles??), but even Kurt remarks to himself that without the X-Men's constant training he never could have attempted that. Shortly, the rest of the team joins him (compliments of Storm and Banshee). Cyke says that they have to locate Sunfire immediately, as they have no passports, no money, and no way of contacting Professor Xavier. So off they go, through a panicked city. But first, we get a quick little vignette as to why they cannot contact Xavier -- he is heading into deep space with his love, the Princess Lilandra. Soon, they will warp far, far away. Once the X-Men are close to Shiro Yoshida's (aka Sunfire) compound the team stops to plan. Wolverine has plucked a stray newspaper and read an account of an earthquake warning. Cyclops asks him how he knows that... what, can he read Japanese? Wolverine says, yeah -- he can, and if Cyclops ever would have asked he'd have known. More layers being peeled back from Logan's background.
Karen: This was back when Wolverine was still a mystery man -and still interesting. I liked the idea that he'd spent time in Japan. I didn't care much for the later stories which turned him into a samurai or ninja. My preferred version of this character has always been the savage just holding on to his humanity.
Doug: Cyclops orders the team into costume, as it's their only hope of gaining a positive ID with Sunfire. The compound is heavily guarded and it appears that an important meeting is taking place within. Storm creates a dense fog to cloak the approach of she and her teammates. But they aren't very far when a blinding light splits the dense, heavy air. It is Sunfire, and he is not happy. His troops encircle the X-Men, and Sunfire orders them to arrest the trespassers. And then this gets very interesting. Of all people, Misty Knight emerges from the main house and overrides Sunfire's order, telling the guards to stand down. Sunfire reminds her that she is a guest in his country. She reminds him that the premier of the nation would like to meet the X-Men. Inside, Sunfire argues with his superiors that he alone can protect Japan from any further earthquakes. If Misty Knight is along, you know Colleen Wing isn't far behind; indeed, she's right there in the mix, telling Sunfire (in Japanese, no less) what to do. Now I don't know enough about Sunfire, and/or Iron Fist and these supporting characters, so I was surprised that Colleen was speaking fluent Japanese, was the niece of the premier, and said that she was descended from daimyo and samurai, like Sunfire. It all seemed a bit much to me. And then when Colleen took a shine to Cyclops, even though she knew he was "spoken for", I found that to be some clumsy foreshadowing. I did think it intriguing, though, that Cyke again remarked that Jean's "death" left him unfeeling and he was disturbed by his lack of emotion about it.
Karen: Scott's lack of emotion over Jean's death was always disturbing -a self-defense mechanism perhaps? It certainly bothered Storm -she seemed quite curt in her responses to him in this issue. Of course, she'd blown up at him (uncharacteristically) back in the Savage Land when the subject of Jean's death came up.
Doug: We cut to a second two-panel interlude. In the first, a truck driver had remarked to his partner that whatever dirty deed they were planning was going to go down at precisely midnight. In the second of these quick shots, the same guy assures his co-driver that with what they're packing they won't have to worry about Sunfire or any other mutants for that matter. And we see in the shadows of the semi the legs of Mandroids. Cut back to Shiro's compound where Wolverine is strolling around the grounds until he feels at home (coo coo cachoo -- you know what I'm saying!). He exits to a garden, where he startles a young maiden. She is frightened, but he calms her in perfect Japanese. He says he is one of the X-Men, and that he knows Sunfire. She is Sunfire's cousin, named Mariko, and remarks that Wolverine has wonderful Japanese, for an American. He tells that he is actually Canadian, and had wonderful teachers. She asks why his name is Wolverine, and he begins to say that his name is really Logan, when he is cut off by an earthquake. Was this indeed the first time Wolverine's real name was revealed? Well, OK -- almost revealed?
Karen: I think one of the leprechauns in issue #103 was the first to call him "Logan" -actually, I think it was "Mr. Logan" -but this might have been the first time that he himself started to say his own name. I found it interesting both then and now that Byrne elected to draw Mariko in a very stylized way -not your typical female face as found in comics, but a very deliberately Asian look. Now if one overlooks the fact that she's dressed like someone out of Shogun, it's kind of a bold move.
Doug: Wolverine snatches Mariko from harm's way as a tree begins to fall. He uses his adamantium skeleton's strength to protect her as he races to the clear, away from the crumbling mansion. He soon reunites with his team, who has spirited the government emissaries from harm. Cyke regales Storm, asking why she didn't give a warning about the quake. She says that she only senses natural disasters, and what just happened was not natural! Another attack comes, this one a large blast. And then a trio of Mandroids enters the grounds and says that they are there for the government -- their boss would like an audience. Sunfire steps forward as their protector and is dropped in his tracks by a ray blast and the term "mutie". Cyke tells his team that he recognizes the armor as Mandroid technology that was designed to take out the Avengers. And then he makes a statement dripping with bravado -- "... but there's no way in heaven they could have been prepared to stop us! Hit 'em, X-Men -- with everything you've got!" Yep -- game on, as they say.
Doug: You know, maybe Cyclops was right. Nightcrawler is the first to engage, and his combination of speed, agility, and teleportation neutralizes "Number 3". Colossus is next up, but he gets sent for a ride by a reverse-polarity magnet, leaving Wolverine to carve up that Mandroid. Lastly, Cyke and Banshee work their magic on the third guy, literally rattling his armor off his body. But Number 3 was only staggered, not dropped, and now he takes a bead on Sunfire. Mariko attempts to shield her cousin, but is ordered to run. Sunfire launches a blast of solar energy that heats the Mandroid armor to critical levels. But the suit's "pilot" just laughs, saying he's absorbing the energy. But as he glows, Storm arrives with an onslaught of freezing rain; the stress of going from too hot to too cold wrecks the suit of armor. We cut to the streets outside the compound as they semi drivers are putting this debacle in their rear-view mirror. As they speed along, they attempt to avoid a pothole. Too late, boys -- that was no pothole. It was Colossus's landing spot. Suddenly his organic steel arms reach up through the hole and destroy the semi-truck. The next time we see Peter he's strolling back onto the mansion grounds with a driver under each arm.
Karen: Wow, the X-Men actually win a fight, and quite handily! Poor Colossus though -he was going through a real slump at this time. Taken down by Mandroids? Ouch. And how about the Mandroids. Last seen in Avengers #95, during the Kree-Skrull War. Claremont (or Byrne) knew their stuff. A seven year gap in appearances -and they didn't do any better this time around. If course, we just recently reviewed that Wolverine solo story where the Mandroids were used as baddies again. Something about them stuck with Claremont. Not sure why...
Doug: As the team licks their minor wounds and feels great about their easy victory, a hologram suddenly appears from one of the Mandroid suits. A man in a white suit with a Lex Luthor collar addresses the prime minister of Japan and tells him that he has an ultimatum: within 24 hours, the man must be proclaimed sole ruler of the island nation of Japan. The man's name? Moses Magnum. And if he doesn't get his way, he will sink Japan. Pure and simple.
Karen: "Master of the Magnum Force" -sorry, but I can help but see Dirty Harry in my head when I read that.
Doug: I liked this story -- it was suspenseful and was a nice way to get back into regular continuity after the Professor X one-off that was in issue #117. It's funny now, after all of the wranglings with Wolverine's origin, to see these early attempts at expanding on his backstory. When you think of it now, the character was only around 4 1/2 years old when this issue was on the newsstand. Makes me want a time machine to visit simpler times! And what's everyone's opinion on the art? John Byrne is typical John Byrne from this era -- pretty darned awesome. Ric Villamonte's inks certainly weren't doing any damage, but you could just feel that the pictures were a little less slick without Terry Austin's TLC. But overall this was the beginning of what we know will be a 42-page "story", with just enough mystery and sub-plotting to keep us on that Claremont/Byrne/Austin rollercoaster, begging for more!