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 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 on 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 Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
Inbound References (4): show
Black King, Caliban, Callisto, Cannonball, Captain America, Colossus, Dr. Strange, Harry Leland, Henry Peter Gyrich, Jamie Rodriguez, Kulan Gath, Lockheed, Magik, Magma, Mirage (Dani Moonstar), Nightcrawler, Nimrod, Professor X, Rachel Summers, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, Selene, Spider-Man, Starfox, Storm, Sunder, Sunspot, Tessa, Valerie Cooper, Warlock, Wasp, Wolfsbane
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).
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.
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.
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).
Oops! Wrong SSOC: should be #74.
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?
I'm not sure of her hair color; SSOC was in b&w.
@Mark: It was stated in the text!
"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.
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.
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.
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