Uncanny X-Men #189-191
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #189, Uncanny X-Men #190, Uncanny X-Men #191
Issue #189 doesn't really even feature the X-Men proper, who are mainly seen at a goodbye party for Storm as she gets ready to return to Africa now that she's lost her powers.
The bulk of the story features Rachel Summers and the New Mutant Magma going after Selene, who is making a bid to join the Hellfire Club as their new Black Queen.
The two are outclassed and overpowered...
...and saved only by a last minute rescue by the X-Men. Sebastian Shaw is wary of Selene and happy to have the X-Men knock her out, but Magma and Rachel are both angered that they aren't allowed to kill their former tormentor.
I say that Romita is a great artist, and he is, but his clothing and (especially) costume designs are terrible!
We learn more about Rachel Summer's timeline in issue #188. She was used as a mutant-hunting "hound". Presumably this was after the events depicted in Days of Future Past.
Issues #190-191 comprise one of my favorite X-Men stories. It's basically Barbarian Secret Wars, and features the Avengers, the New Mutants, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange as prominently as the X-Men, in a story where all of Manhattan is transformed into a barbarian world by Conan adversary Kulan Gath (who also, of course, appeared in a Claremont-written issue of Marvel Team-Up).
The initial exposition is delivered by Valerie Cooper, delivering a report to a group of government types (some of which express the confused sort of anti-mutant sentiment that accepts the Avengers - including the Scarlet Witch - but not the X-Men).
Dr. Strange was captured in the initial launch of Gath's spell.
Additionally, Selene and Warlock are unaffected by Gath's spell, and Spider-Man is deliberately excluded, as a means to torment the "Man-Spider" that thwarted Gath's last attempt in modern times.
Professor Xavier and Caliban are merged into a single entity, creating the ultimate mutant tracking creature.
Selene forms the head of a resistance effort against Kulan Gath...
...even though the other heroes rightly don't trust her.
Magik's Soulsword plays a major part in freeing heroes from Gath's control (although it isn't explained why it doesn't completely break Gath's spell).
The free members of the New Mutants, X-Men, and Avengers team-up...
...and fight Kulan Gath's forces. There's also a lot of panel time given to a librarian named Arilynn. I was waiting for a barbarian/librarian joke, but it thankfully doesn't happen.
Since we're ultimately going to hit the big 'ol cosmic reset button here, we can have some significant deaths...
...but what's really surprising is the level of blood and violence included in this code-approved book.
Gath's defeat really comes when Spider-Man breaks free long enough to shout out that Gath's weakness is his amulet.
Everyone speaks Hyborian, not English, so no one understands poor Spidey except Warlock, who works with Storm to grab the necklace.
It's then that Selene reveals her true colors, but she's defeated when Warlock transforms a dying Storm into a techno-organic being, who then "eats" Selene.
It's said that Kulan Gath and Selene, who is an ancient sorceress, have some history.
To my knowledge, Selene has never appeared in a Hyborian Age Marvel book. It's actually somewhat surprising that these issues weren't used to promote the Conan book in any way.
Kulan Gath was initially released after Jaime Rodriguez, who we saw in issue #188 discovering the amulet, is mugged.
At the end of the Kulan Gath arc, in order to retroactively prevent Gath from manifesting in this timeline, Dr. Strange causes timelines to shift, but he isn't sure what the ramifications of his spell will be.
It turns out that it causes a mutant hunting robot called Nimrod to appear in our reality.
In that above scene with Dr. Strange, it's a little disappointing how quickly Strange dismisses the idea that he could provide any sort of training for Magik. You'd think he'd be a little more interested in keeping an eye on a demonic sorceress adept. Maybe someone could write an Illuminati story for me showing that Xavier was keeping Strange up to date on Illyana's progress.
When Spider-Man is fighting the New Mutants, he thinks to himself that his strength is suddenly dissipating. It could be a coincidence, but he's being held by Sunspot at the time, and i think the strength depletion is due to the fact that Sunspot is currently also channeling the Dark Dimension powers of Cloak, which was part of an ongoing plotline that was resolved in New Mutants #25.
In real life at this time, the Statue of Liberty was under repair. We see a major increase in the amount of scaffolding between issues #188-189...
...but i'm chalking that up to a "temporal reference" as it's said that the energies generated when Kulan Gath is freed was first detected at midnight and then spread across the entire island of Manhattan by the following morning.
Claremont's wordiness and other tics (there's a "quarter neither asked nor given" in issue #191 on page 17) are on display here, but he does a great job with characterization - Spider-Man has a unique voice, as do Captain America, Starfox, etc. - as well as with building a compelling alternate reality, aided, of course, by JRJR's stylistic art. Alternate reality stories have become overused, but this one really felt like an important story that had value beyond the "What If?" aspect. I'm also generally not a fan of "cosmic reset/everybody forgets what happened" stories, but somehow the fact that Captain America and Dr. Strange (And Arilynn the Librarian!) remember what happened along with the X-Men makes it ok.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Ignoring the Statue of Liberty construction, issue #190 takes place soon after the end of issue #189 even though they are unrelated stories. This should take place after ROM annual #3 since the New Mutants seem unaware that Storm has lost her powers in that story. Captain America rejoins the Avengers in Avengers #251, so this arc should take place after that issue, or perhaps during, to allow the Wasp to still be in New York City before leaving for her vacation in that issue. I'd be relatively willing to wave off any continuity problems relating to the non-mutant heroes as "It's magic!", which is why i'm not focusing too much on Dr. Strange or Spider-Man's placement (they fit fine here as far as i can see, anyway). Takes place before New Mutants #23, when Selene is formally inducted into the Hellfire Club (and while Sunspot is still "infected" with Cloak's powers).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
Claremont wrote at least Conan story for Savage Sword of Conan a few years before this, but I don't think Selene was in it. I think Kulan-Gath's presence here was strictly Claremont's idea--crossover between the Marvel Universe and Conan's was non-existent in the 1980s(and almost so in the 1970s).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 22, 2012 11:43 PM
The circumstances of Selene's enmity with the deadly sorcerer, Kulan Gath has previously been unknown but I think I might finally have figured it out.
Recall that Claremont's Marada story was initially intended for Red Sonja and would reveal the circumstances of her slaying of Kulan Gath, as Marvel Team-Up #79 suggested any return he made to our reality would have the She-Devil with a Sword not far behind.
However, given the copyright complications that came to surround Sonja, and Chris still desiring to return Kulan Gath, it is interesting that Selene was introduced after the Marada story as another she-devil who had a burning enmity with the deadly sorcerer.
Is it therefore possible that Selene was introduced as a substitute enemy for Gath?
Then recall how Claremont had not decided on the identity of the telepath showcased behind the scenes of New Mutants #5 and 6 as Amahl Farouk.
Had Chris intended to reveal Kulan Gath's sorcerous abilities a result of his being an ancient mutant, akin to the Stygian wizards?
Recall how during the Hyborian Age, Gath had vied for membership in the Stygian sect of sorcerers, but was rejected. After Mastermind is released from the Secret Empire/AIM facility, he vies for membership in the Hellfire Club but despite corrupting Jean into becoming Black Queen of the Club he never makes the grade. Seeing the pattern here?!
Was the Hellfire Club the modern day equivalent of the Black Ring and Kulan Gath had returned to lay claim to the sect, perhaps as part of some ancient "GAME"? Did Chris intend some epic whereby Gath would lay claim to the Club and become its so-called "Shadow King"?
Given that Selene was based upon the vampiric Princess Akivasha, who had possible connections to the Black Ring sect from Robert E. Howard's tales, was Selene a legitimate inheritor to the title of Black Queen of the Hellfire Club? Did Claremont intend her and Gath to be ancient opponents for the leadership of the sect? Recall that Friedrich von Roehm, who had been leader of the cult that had worshipped her for over 2,000 years, paved the way for Selene to become Black Queen of the Hellfire Club.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | March 4, 2012 5:35 AM
The NYC-becoming-Hyboria story was mentioned in FOOM#22(11/78), but as a future Ms. Marvel story with no X-Men involvement. This shows that there's no telling how long Claremont may have held on to any story.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 14, 2013 7:28 PM
Checked out my issues of Savage Sword of Conan, and Claremont did write just one issue(#78). There is nothing from the Marvel Universe in it whatsoever, but there is some North Pole goddess/alien/whatever in it(I forget her name, Ar-something).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 25, 2013 7:38 PM
Oops! Wrong SSOC: should be #74.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 31, 2013 3:49 PM
Astriel, the member of a mystical, immortal race in Savage Sword of Conan #74 had silver hair so perhaps she is a Faltine, like I've theorised Storm as before.
Did arch-mage Thoth-Amon summon her forth with the aim of using her Faltine power so he could use it to drive his apprentice, Kulan Gath, out of Stygia given it was the only force capable of driving back the forbidden N'Garai sorcery (as Claremont hinted at in Marada the She-Wolf) which Gath had become a disciple of?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | July 3, 2013 4:25 AM
I'm not sure of her hair color; SSOC was in b&w.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 5, 2013 3:59 PM
@Mark: It was stated in the text!
Posted by: Nathan Adler | July 8, 2013 4:27 AM
"In that above scene with Dr. Strange, it's a little disappointing how quickly Strange dismisses the idea that he could provide any sort of training for Magik. You'd think he'd be a little more interested in keeping an eye on a demonic sorceress adept."
That's actually happening now, decades after the fact.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | August 29, 2013 11:47 AM
In Comics Journal #100, Claremont agreed that the last two issues were some of the worst X-Men stories he'd written, and that Dr. Strange rewriting time was necessary because he'd written himself into a corner.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 7, 2013 4:48 PM
That's a shame since even though I had trouble following it I thought it was really neat. This and the New Mutants/X-Men/Asgard two parter make me wish they were mini-series.
Posted by: David Banes | December 8, 2013 4:19 AM
Agreed. These are two of my favorite issues of "X-Men" because, with little effort, they suddenly appeared with Spider-Man, the Avengers, Doctor Strange, and the X-Men, New Mutants and Morlocks seamlessly fit into a story based on an old "Marvel Team-Up." It builds on storylines old and new, gives everybody something interesting to do, sets up plotlines for the future, and I have no particular objection to an occasional 'and then time was reset' conclusion. This was much better than "Secret Wars" in giving us a sense of a shared universe, and I loved the way it ended with Xavier immediately thinking of his students and, despite what they'd just been through, asking Stephen about what Illyana needed. That kind of question could have been handled in "New Mutants," if anywhere, but as the writer at his peak, Claremont knew Chuck's first post-battle thoughts would be about his most-unpredictable student. Kudos for a great superhero story.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 29, 2014 9:31 PM
My guess is that if Sonja has to return when Gath does, she's represented here mosby Selene but by the redhead Arilynn. She doesn't take on Sonja's form because, unlike MJ in MTU, she doesn't get Sonja's sword. But the way Claremont likes to do reincarnation/descendant stories, I suspect MJ and Arilynn are both Sonja in some sense.
The first Marada tale certainly looks like it was going to be Claremont's story of how Sonja met and killed Gath--there's an evil wizard in the story that's a dead ringer for him. I don't think Claremont got around to showing Selene's history with Gath, but you could try a fan-fix relating Selene all the way back to some of the sorceresses/goddesses in Gath's first appearance in the Thomas/BWS Conan. I'm curious as to why Claremont (or Byrne) chose Gath of all the possible Conanan wizards to feature in MTU.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 7, 2014 3:00 AM
Jon Dubya mentions Illyana now having training from Strange. Though the chronology of the matter is a little confused due to time travel being involved (similar to how Doom would travel back in time to learn things from those such as Morgan Le Fay).
In this instance, Illyana would be from the All-New X-Men period and I'm not sure when it would be from Strange's perspective, but it would most likely be at some point before Civil War due to him not being an Avenger yet.
Wouldn't it be ironic if it was during the 1985 period, eh? "I can't train your student because I already am, but she isn't being trained by me yet."
Posted by: Max_Spider | May 4, 2015 8:49 PM
I also like #190-#191 story. I just realised it's effectively a variation on "Days of Future Past" with Gath's recreation of the Hyborian Age swapped for the future.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 16, 2016 10:52 PM
From what has been seen on Bends' Uncanny X-Men, probably Strange refuses to train Illyana because he has already trained its future version.
Posted by: Midnighter | February 11, 2016 9:58 AM
Midnighter - Good thinking, I like that idea. Coincidentally I only just read one of Bendis' run in the past week, where Illyana visits a past Dr Strange for training and is very specific about not telling him too much about the future, even how far in the future she's from.
I'm not a big Bendis fan but that seems as good a fix as you're going to get for why the 1980's Strange isn't training the contemporary her, because he doesn't want to mess with the timeline of the future her.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 11, 2016 2:30 PM
Scarlet Witch's tiny appearance here is the first one she has made in this book since issue 60 sixteen years ago.
Posted by: Steven | December 29, 2016 12:20 PM
Oh Wanda, what could Claremont have done with you? Wait, on second thought, let's not go there.
Posted by: ChrisW | December 30, 2016 12:39 AM
Possibly the biggest mystery of the Claremont Age, how he missed Wanda and Pietro as viable characters, or how the rest of the Marvel Universe kept Wanda and Pietro safe from Claremont's X-Titles. Your mileage may vary on which was the worse fate.
Posted by: ChrisW | December 30, 2016 12:41 AM
Not sure of Claremont's exact thinking, but maybe he felt that since Wanda belonged to the Avengers/WCA editors, he couldn't have done anything much with her without their say-so.
Since Claremont's Magneto always mentions his dead daughter Anya & never mentions his living children Wanda & Pietro, I always believed Claremont basically ignored that retcon as he felt it disrupted his conception of the noble suffering Magneto character (who had few connections to his Silver Age self). I think if it were up to Claremont, he would prefer to have stopped other creators from any further stories about Wanda & Pietro being Magneto's children.
As far as I am aware, these days Wanda & Pietro have since stupidly been retconned to be Inhumans who are neither mutants nor related to Magneto (while Polaris now is stupidly Magneto's daughter again), so I guess any 1980s Claremont tale of Wanda & Magneto's relationship would now be irrelevant anyway.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | December 31, 2016 11:15 AM
Just to clarify, though, Byrne has said in interviews that the scene in X-Men 125 with Magda was supposed to indicate that Magneto was their father- Magda had already been revealed in Avengers 185-187 to be Wanda's and Pietro's mother and to have had a husband that developed superhuman powers, so anyone that read both stories would have to be pretty slow not to make the connection. Maybe Claremont didn't mind it while X-Men 125 was being written and changed his mind later. (Or maybe Byrne convinced Claremont to do that scene without letting him know what was going on in Avengers, so Claremont didn't realize what that scene was implying.)
Posted by: Michael | December 31, 2016 11:56 AM
Agreed, though I don't believe that Claremont would have had any firm plans for the reformed Magneto when X-Men 125 came out. (At that point I think the next planned appearance for Magneto was that he'd try & give Jean her Phoenix powers back in X-Men 150, hoping he'd be able to control her.) I agree Claremont would probably have been okay with it at the time and regretted it later.
I can't remember a time Magneto ever mentions Wanda or Pietro in a Claremont comic? (Or if there is a time, then I don't believe it happened more than once.) That's why I think Claremont disliked the retcon, because he seems to do his best to ignore it.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | December 31, 2016 12:46 PM
Magneto briefly says "My children hate me" in Uncanny X-Men 196. And I think that there's a picture of Thomas and William in one of the New Mutants issues but I'm not sure if the artist threw it in on his own initiative. But yeah, that's it until after Disassembled.
Posted by: Michael | December 31, 2016 12:55 PM
Thomas and William? Are they people introduced post-Claremont because they aren't ringing a bell?
In hindsight, it's hard to believe that Claremont never got his hooks on Wanda and Pietro the way he got the Blob or Mastermind. But that's probably what saved them as characters. I was telling my Dad [who's also a long-time comics fan] about Pietro and especially Wanda in "Avengers 2," and he said "I didn't know you were a fan." I'm not, but she is a classic Avenger and deserves to be included in the movies. [Although George Perez himself says Wanda doesn't wear underwear, but the screen Wanda definitely did ;) ] They aren't evil mutants, they are Avengers.
Why Claremont didn't find a use for Wanda and Pietro probably has to do with how involved they were with the Marvel Universe [Wundagore, Chthon, the High Evolutionary] and the respect he had for the overall continuity. Yes, I just wrote that sentence.
Posted by: ChrisW | January 1, 2017 12:21 AM
As for the "Magda" appearance, my understanding is that the Marvel creators wanted to come up with secrets that were really obvious for close readers but invisible to general readers. I don't remember how Byrne said it happened, but Magda's appearance was planned with a similar scene in another comic to let people know that Magneto was Wanda and Pietro's father.
I also don't think Claremont had any thoughts about Magneto's reformation until Byrne threw him in a wheelchair for "Days of Futures Past." When he sees those pages, he sees the parallel with Charlie and starts thinking about long-term subplots.
Johnathan, totally agree about the stupidity of making Polaris Magneto's actual daughter. Worst. Retcon. Ever.
Posted by: ChrisW | January 1, 2017 12:27 AM
Thomas and William being The Scarlet Witch's children.
Oh, and... Happy New Year Gang. Thanks for all your efforts and bringing us together, fnord.
Posted by: Wis | January 1, 2017 12:27 AM
The twins who suddenly didn't exist or something? [I don't know much about the Scarlet Witch.] That could be the greatest Magneto story ever. His grandchildren are gone, and he's got his duties to the X-Men, the New Mutants, the Hellfire Club, Xavier's School, and his children who hate him, but he's seen generations wiped out, and he's not going to let it happen to his bloodline. He has to fight with Pietro [for the sake of argument, he's still married to Crystal, so the Inhumans get involved] and Wanda [ditto the Avengers]
He has to go to Mount Wundagore where the High Evolutionary ruled and Chthon captured his daughter, the place where his wife died. The place where Spider-Woman and Man-Wolf were born. [And the Puppet Master, and a number of other characters.]
I have no idea what happened to Wanda and the Vision's twins, but I love Nathan Adler's idea that they came back as Cable and Stryfe. And I can see Kang, Dormammu and Mephisto as players in this story. Throw in Dr. Doom, the Beyonder and whatever version of the Sentinels are the new hotness, we've got a story going on.
Yoo-hoo! Marvel! Over here! Send me the reference, I'll give you a story! Yoo-hoo!
Posted by: ChrisW | January 1, 2017 12:42 AM
Shit, I didn't realize this was the Kulan Gath page. Never mind.
Posted by: ChrisW | January 1, 2017 12:43 AM
Yeah, I've never been into Claremont or Magneto or any of that but always liked the intricate tapestry of the MU where Magneto is related to the Vision who is related to Wonder Man, etc. etc... Nathan Adler has a lot of good ideas, and an unbeatable screen name.
Posted by: Wis | January 1, 2017 5:16 AM
Wanda's kids eventually came back (in a way that doesn't make much sense timeline-wise, but hey, it's superhero comics) as Wiccan and Speed, two teenage superheroes in the Young Avengers. It was too late to repair the damage Byrne had done, but they are interesting characters and have appeared in some cool comics. And Young Avengers writer Allan Heinberg did a great mini with them and Wanda called "Children's Crusade", in which he was able to fix the damage Bendis did to Wanda in Disassembled and House of M, an impressive feat given how thoroughly Bendis had mishandled her.
Posted by: Tuomas | January 1, 2017 6:56 AM
Wanda and Pietro under Claremont's penmanship, would that be a wonderful thing or a terrible thing?
Posted by: D09 | February 8, 2017 12:58 AM
The weird thing though is the the initial "revelation" of the Maximoff Twins paternal heritage happened around (roughly) the same time that Claremont's "Magento:Reformed" plotline started in ernest. So despite happening separately, both stories end up working rather well for strengthening the narrative of the other (the same way it was implied that a relationship with Lee Forester helped contributed to his eventual turn toward heroism.)
Posted by: Jon Dubya | February 8, 2017 7:47 AM
I loved this story when I read it in X-Men Classic as a kid in the 90s; the XMC issues came out within my first year of collecting, and this left a lasting impression on me. I have reread this several times over the years (for example, after I tracked down the entire Busiek/Perez run of Avengers and happily discovered another Kulan Gath story), and I most recently reread it just a few months ago, and I was happy to find that it still holds up. Very fun story.
Posted by: J-Rod | February 27, 2017 3:51 PM
By the by (and I didn't read all the comments so I apologize if someone has mentioned it, though it doesn't appear so from my Ctrl+F), the ending, wherein Nimrod saves Rodriguez, was retconned in an issue of New X-Men (formerly New X-Men: Academy X) from circa 2008 or so. Originally, it was assumed that Nimrod came directly from the Days of Future Past timeline, right? Well, in a story featuring William Stryker attacking the mansion and mostly dealing with the 2000s-era young students not long after Decimation (I don't have issue numbers handy atm, but I can easily check later), a Nimrod that Stryker's team seems to have found somewhere is used and then is sent back in time, popping up in the scene at the end of 191 (the scene is duplicated), indicating that Nimrod made another stop between Rachel's time and this issue. I thought it was a fun bit of continuity insertion that doesn't seem to have disrupted anything else.
Posted by: J-Rod | February 27, 2017 3:55 PM
Comments have been disabled for the summer while i'm not around to moderate.
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