Uncanny X-Men #125-128
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #125, Uncanny X-Men #126, Uncanny X-Men #127, Uncanny X-Men #128
There's an inhuman stranger loose in Moira's facility as well.
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.
A few cameos in the above scene. On the bottom left is Kyras Shakati, the slaver from the Star-Lord story in Marvel Preview #11, accompanied by his minions Arak and Arion. And the blue guy talking to Lilandra on the right is possibly Dirac, also from that issue (he's definitely of the same species). And if you squint and look in the background just to the right of Lilandra's leg, you can see the uncolored outline of Popeye the Sailor Man. Per Mark's comment, to the left of the two-headed alien might be a similar outline of the Phantom Stranger.
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).
After hearing from Madrox...
...and Cyclops having to talk Wolverine down from just going after the villain without a plan...
...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 renowned scientist so he won't sign the divorce papers, but it seems that he was abusive.
Moira is also shown to be ruthless enough to be ready to kill her own son.
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 bodies 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 (although not before upsetting Storm).
Proteus resurfaces and 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 (note what happens when Cyclops and Havok accidentally use their powers on each other)...
...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.
Here's the scene Mark mentions in the comments. I find the X-Men describing their abilities to be completely obstructive. And years later, when Tom DeFalco is Editor-in-Chief and Claremont is a bigger star and left mostly to his own devices, his stories become a lot less accessible than this.
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 Classic X-Men 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. I guess the White Queen bit is the best, in that it gives us some insight into her personality and choice of clothing.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Regarding the Star-Lord characters, i am assuming that they are just an Easter egg and not meant to be actual character appearances. Star-Lord wasn't meant to be in continuity at this point. And Marvel Preview #11 was published over two years prior to this, and Kyras Shakati died in that story. On the other hand, a Kyras Shakati appears in the 2000 Inhumans series (which featured an abortive attempt to set up Star-Lord as being in continuity in a future reality). So you could assume that this is the same Kyras Shakati. But i'm just going to treat it as an homage.
Continuity Insert? P - (Classic X-Men Reprints add new scenes)
My Reprint: Classic X-Men #31, Classic X-Men #32, Classic X-Men #33, Classic X-Men #34
Inbound References (12): show
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.
Posted by: Ramage | February 24, 2011 11:51 PM
The Scott/Colleen romance stops with these issues, and I don't think it ever gets referred to again.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 18, 2011 1:20 AM
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.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 8, 2012 2:05 AM
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.
Posted by: Paul | May 5, 2012 8:19 PM
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.
Posted by: Paul | May 26, 2012 4:05 AM
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).
Posted by: Paul | May 26, 2012 4:08 AM
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.
Posted by: Paul | May 26, 2012 7:55 AM
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.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 10, 2013 11:39 PM
Terry Austin sneaked Popeye and DC's Phantom Stranger into the Lilandra's Ball panel in #125.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 16, 2013 5:17 PM
@Paul: why would Scott be "a bastard" for dating Colleen? He thought Jean dead, after all.
For what it is worth, the matter is raised and IMO settled in a conversation between Jean and Scott in #129.
One can also point out that while I don't hold that against her, Jean never mentioned Jason Wyngarde to Scott. Of course, Jean was both being mind-pushed by Wyngarde and failed to go anywhere worth relating anyway.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 4, 2013 5:37 PM
I always wondered why they didn't tell Hank what was going on and ask for help. This isn't one of those 'problems that would be solved with a cell phone' things, the Blackbird and the Quinjet *have* radios. They need to be able to communicate, to send (or receive) calls for help.
Ok, Hank is already fifty miles away (or whatever) by the time they hear Lorna scream, so they give him a call and say "don't return the Quinjet, meet us at Muir Isle! We might need your help." How careless do they have to be to realize that Hank is going to wonder what happened?
Or maybe he just likes being abused, since less than ten issues later, he runs to save the team after Dark Phoenix beats them.
Posted by: ChrisW | December 23, 2014 7:05 PM
I agree with Luis Dantas - it's hardly being a bastard to find some comfort in someone else after the person you loved died. And Jean herself didn't seem too bothered by it when they briefly discuss it in #129.
These issues are great, but I agree that the Classic back-ups aren't very good. The Proteus back-up is decent, partially because it expands on what happens to the X-Men during the issue, but the Xavier / plumber back-up was my least favorite of all the backup stories.
The appearance of Magda is where the Magneto / Scarlet Witch / Quicksilver story really hits its peak of, hey, if you're clever, good for you, but we are not just going to flat-out say it. They include that panel in the trade of Wundagore Nights and discuss it there - they had specifically timed it to appear not long after that storyline finished.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 18, 2015 9:28 AM
That unnamed waitress is totally Ann Nocenti herself, though drawn much taller than the real life version. The dark hair, the whole feminist screed, etc. Not that I dislike the feminist discussion here, I absolutely love this story.
Posted by: Hasan | February 21, 2016 8:02 PM
Hasan - That would mean that either Nocenti wrote herself in as a character in fetish gear who's being humiliated and then is lectured by Emma, or the penciller decided to draw that character deliberately to look like her. Seems an odd decision.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 22, 2016 7:04 AM
In UNCANNY X-MEN #126, Proteus was unable to take over Mastermind's body due to a powerful psychic shield. This is a subtle clue that the Shadow King was controlling Wyngarde, as Emma's "mind tap" device had no such power, and neither did Wyngarde himself.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | June 13, 2016 3:25 PM
This was clearly the high point of Wolverine as a character. He was never better written or more interesting than when he learns from Scott in this storyline.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | December 24, 2016 8:17 AM
The two-headed alien in the background of Lilandra's party is one of the Puppeteers from Larry Niven's Ringworld / Known Space books.
Posted by: Andrew | January 11, 2017 10:23 PM
The title of #128 is from Shakespeare’s immortal “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” speech (HENRY V, Act III, scene 1).
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | January 31, 2017 5:50 PM
#125 also features Lorna reacting to the X-Men being alive in the most unemotional way possible.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | January 31, 2017 11:58 PM
Issue #125 is so good. The way the suspense builds throughout the issue makes it one of my x-men favorites up to this point
Posted by: Bibs | June 15, 2017 7:15 AM
There's one scene with Moira that shows how bad Claremont's math could be. Moira asks Proteus if he'll continue to use up bodies until he's the only person left on the planet, and Proteus seems to confirm that he will destroy humanity. If Proteus possessed 20,000 people a year (over 500 a day), he would only kill 20 million people in a century- fewer than died in World War II or the Great Chinese Famine over a far shorter time period.
Posted by: Michael | November 29, 2017 8:18 PM
Proteus has recently returned & is retconned as being 10 years old in this story when Colossus "beat him to death". Not sure if this will stick, but it almost seems as if they hadn't read the original story - Colossus kills Proteus by disrupting his form due to his vulnerability to metal, not by a prolonged beating, & Moira mentions she wanted to kill Joe McTaggart for what he did to her "20 years ago", so Proteus was clearly older than 10.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | March 2, 2018 9:06 AM
Professor X looks like an off-brand Captain Picard in those Shi'ar duds.
Posted by: Mark Black | March 2, 2018 1:35 PM
Hulk #181 has Wolverine telling Hulk "I'll just keep moving, if you please-- --because moving is the thing i do best!"
Later, in his first solo issue, Wolverine will decide that "I'm the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn't very nice."
In #127 here we have something of a transitional phrase between the two, where he no longer seems to be most proud of his moving ability, but still hasn't worked it into a memorable catchphrase yet: "I'm just gonna do what I do best", which he doesn't provide any more detail of, but in this case appears to be "unsuccessfully attempt to decapitate Cyclops".
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 25, 2018 7:31 AM
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