Uncanny X-Men #125-128
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #125, Uncanny X-Men #126, Uncanny X-Men #127, Uncanny X-Men #128
Meanwhile, unaware that Jean is even alive, Cyclops is working the X-Men through the Danger Room, with the usual (enjoyable) dynamic.
There's a brief interlude with Magneto, where we see him recuperating after his last battle with the X-Men. I believe that this is where the reading audience at the time was given the final clue that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were Magneto's children. It's handled relatively subtly.
We then shift to Jason Wyngarde, who we learn has been trailing Jean in various identities during her entire vacation, and then back to Jean, who is beginning to show off with her powers in ways that scare her friends.
(Polaris' hair is miscolored in this panel only.)
And to continue the display of simmering subplots, we now shift to outer space, where Xavier is having a hard time adjusting to his new role as Lilandra's consort. There's a lot going on, and it gives the comic a lot of depth.
But the main plot this arc is the intruder in Moira's lab. Just as things are starting to go wrong there, in a creepy horror-movie sort of way, the Beast shows up at Xavier's Mansion to find out who's been disabling his alarms. After a scuffle the X-Men have a happy reunion, and quickly it is determined that Jean is alive as well. The Beast heads back to return his Quinjet so that he can travel with the team to Scotland, but after he leaves Cyclops gives a call and as he's talking to Lorna she lets out a scream, so the X-Men have to rush off without the Beast.
At Muir Island, the X-Men meet up with Havok, Polaris, Multiple Man, Moira and Jean. Jean is so messed up by Jason Wyngarde that when Cyclops finds her knocked out by the mysterious threat, she's moaning "Jason" instead of "Scott", which isn't good for their reunion (although it's not like Scott hasn't been going around with Colleen and getting much more serious than the few meaningful glances Jean shared with Jason). Moira reveals that they're fighting "Mutant X", and that it's her son. We'll soon learn that Moira is also married, although she and her husband Joe don't live together or talk to each other or anything. He's a Scottish politician that finds it convenient to be able to say that his wife is a renown scientist so he won't sign the divorce papers, but it seems that he was abusive.
Mutant X, who soon changes his name to Proteus, has the ability to warp reality. He also doesn't have a true body and survives by killing and taking over the body of others. To make matters worse, Jason Wyngarde continues to mess with Jean's mind, so there's a whole lot of confusion going on.
The X-Men do learn that Proteus is vulnerable to metal.
The X-Men do poorly in their first fight, and Wolverine is so messed up by his encounter with Proteus that Cyclops has to goad him into a fight to get his spirit back, a move that finally earns Cyclops Wolverine's respect.
Proteus soon kills and possesses his father, but something in the process causes Proteus to take on his father's spiteful personality. After a drawn out fight, Colossus defeats Proteus by tricking him into trying to possess his body while in his human form, and then transforming into his steel state, which seemingly kills him.
John Byrne is a great artist, but there's something very straightforward about him that makes his reality-warping scenes a little dull. A lot of the 70s artists (Steranko, Starlin, Colan, Frank Brunner, Tom Sutton... for example) would have had a lot more fun with those types of scenes.
In general though, the art is top notch, as is the plot and characterization. This comic continues to be one of Marvel's best.
Ugh, the back-ups. Xavier acting like a child and hanging out with an alien plumber as Lilandra tries to conduct her royal business. A close-up of a couple of the X-Men dealing with Proteus' reality shaping powers. And some weird anti-feminist philosophy from the White Queen. All by Nocenti, none of it any good.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Implant? P - (Classic X-Men Reprints add new scenes)
Reprinted In: Classic X-Men #31, Classic X-Men #32, Classic X-Men #33, Classic X-Men #34
Inbound References (4): show
Angus MacWhirter, Araki, Banshee, Beast, Colossus, Cyclops, Havok, Joe MacTaggart, Lilandra, Madrox the Multiple Man, Magneto, Mastermind, Moira MacTaggert, Nightcrawler, Phoenix Force, Polaris, Professor X, Proteus, Shakati, Storm, Wolverine
Of a note ... Proteus only claims he may warp reality, in truth, he was merely a potent telepath with style. If you revisit issues 126 - 128, you'll notice only those locked telepathically notice his "reality warping." Those with a little distance or not locked on by him notice nothing. For example, in 126 Moira notices only Storm's weather and not the bizarre reality wolvie and 'crawler perceive. Again, when he makes Jean feel buried alive, wolvie even comments about how he doesn't know what Proteus did to her because he wasn't locked on by him. All those experiencing his reality alterations were actually only snagged by a telepath with flair or, rather, a specific calling card. Like "Psi War" or X-Men #117 Farouk had his style, as did Xavier ... Seraph in "Matrix:Reloaded" explained it best: you never truly know a man until you fight him.
If there is some contention with this due to Marvel Universe, then there is some contention with how it was written and drawn originally in these issues.
The Scott/Colleen romance stops with these issues, and I don't think it ever gets referred to again.
According to the Chris Claremont interview in Comics Journal #50, Jim Shooter interfered with some dialogue & narration in #128, claiming that the issue didn't adequately explain who the X-Men were and what they did. Chris used the obviously redone caption in the "bee" panel as an example.
Chris also said that Scott was never going to hook up with Colleen and that she was only there to give him an alternative, seeing as he'd never dated anyone but Jean.
I actually really like the Nocenti back-up story in this, where Xavier is a useless idiot to the Shiar. It's just funny. It's a perspective story.
As for the Proteus being a telepath bit, that's ingenious, and makes perfect sense. Where what you see and what you're told contradict, go with what you see.
And yes, the Colleen Wing flirtation (and more?) is one of the earliest examples of Scott being a bastard.
Having just read this for the first time in awhile (again, the Essentials volume), I think Proteus has to be what they say he is - a reality-warper. Because several of the things he does when warping reality have tangible physical effects on people (Storm's shoulder sprain, Storm's nearly suffocating when encased in amber, etc). But it's still true that the nature of his reality-warping powers are a bit confusing, as far as the rules. He seems to have to have the person in sight to warp reality for the person, which doesn't make sense, since (again) it seems to make the power a one-to-one, "I'm in your head" kind of thing. But at the same time we see him flipping streets sideways and EVERYONE (not just the target) is falling down. So, who knows.
As far as Joe MacTaggert being abusive, he beat her up/raped her (that's how I read it, anyway) the last time they saw each other, and that was when Proteus was conceived.
This is when Claremont's storytelling style came into its own and he was jugging a bunch of plots at once, setting up things months or years in advance. Altho if you think about it he'd already been doing that, Mutant X escaped 20 issues prior to this. Still, the brief look-in with Magneto in this issue is somewhat baffling, since it's almost contextless. Magneto's last X-appearance prior to this, he was still pure Silver Age bad guy. That was like 15 issues ago. Then he gets fleshed out in this issue and humanized in that cameo, only to not show up again for 25 issues, where the humanizing continues.
Anyway this is a great arc. It's a classic warm-up to the giant classic.
One possibility is that Claremont was trying to limit Proteus's reality-changing powers in some way to prevent him from being unbeatable/omnipotent. But still in practice it doesn't make a whole lot of sense that he had to have a single person in sight and had to alter reality with an individual target in mind, especially since we're shown it effects everyone (ie, is real).
Also, Ramage, as far as other characters perceiving the changed reality, besides all the innocents affected in issue 128 (none of whom was the focus of Proteus), I believe there's a scene where the X-Men are flying towards Edinburgh and see from far away/above what Proteus is doing. I understand why there'd be confusion because of Claremont's odd decision to make the power somehow one-on-one.
It bears noting that Proteus's reality-warping ways bear some resemblance to those of James Jasper's in Alan Moore's Captain Britain stories, which in other respects owe something to Days of Future Past.
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