Uncanny X-Men #203
Issue(s): Uncanny X-Men #203
I thought it was interesting to see that in Rogue's telling of events, she just says that "something went wrong" instead of specifically saying the problem was that she touched Ms. Marvel for too long. The latter was my understanding, and a double-check of Avengers annual #10 confirms that Rogue says the transfer was permanent because she stayed "in contact too long". But a quick scan of a few other key issues shows Rogue asking in Uncanny X-Men #185 "suppose somethin' goes wrong" when Storm is voluntarily offering to share her powers. The phrasing both here and in that issue seems to imply that Rogue isn't sure why the transfer was permanent with Carol Danvers, with perhaps some revisionism from Claremont implying that there was actually something special between Rogue and Carol that caused the transfer to be permanent. The immediate counter-argument, of course, is that since UX #185, Rogue has become more and more willing to borrow her teammates' powers when needed, so it's unlikely she was really unsure what caused the transfer to be permanent with Carol, or she's been taking some really big risks.
I'm over-analyzing this because i know that Claremont felt a special ownership of Carol Danvers, to the point where he "rescued" her from what was done in the Avengers story and then re-powered her and made her a part of the cast of this book for a while. But after Rogue joined, Carol left, which made sense for story reasons but may also have been because Rogue has a part of Carol inside her so Claremont got to play with those elements. After that initial roster shift, we haven't seen much of Carol/Binary, and nothing resolving the conflict of Carol both being in Rogue's head and existing as a separate entity. Even this issue, which features a cameo by the Starjammers, oddly does not include Binary, although her appearance would have been logical considering the introduction. You can see in a scan below that Rogue says that Carol is a part of her, and in #206 this issue will be said to be where Rogue came to terms with what she did to Carol. File the above as me shifting through for clues on what he was thinking about it at this point in time, and not really finding anything (but of course i left it all here for you to read through; hazards of unlimited vertical space and no editor).
When Rogue returns from thinking about Ms. Marvel, she finds that Kitty has again taken on Magik's Darkchilde aspect, at least in the sense of having an armored form and Illyana's Soulsword.
We also learn that Kitty still remembers the New Mutants, although no one else does.
Rachel Summers is still ready to kill the Beyonder. She still has the portion of his power that he gave her last issue, and she also requests that Kitty and Rogue donate their life forces to the cause. They agree.
There may be something to the fact that this issue starts with Rogue remembering absorbing Ms. Marvel's life force (an act that Rogue regrets; the act of a villain) and then Rachel requesting the same. Both what it tells us about Rachel and about Rogue agreeing to do it.
It's also worth noting that Rogue is saying that she doesn't believe in God. In the most recent issue of New Mutants, we saw most of the New Mutants' religious figures and we've also seen Sunspot having a crisis of faith thanks to the Beyonder. Also in West Coast Avengers #9 we'll have Tigra saying that she does believe in God (and, of course, so does Firebird). I bring this up only to observe what seems like a sudden spate of religious revelations and because it'll be a topic of discussion when we get to Infinity Crusade.
The X-Men are staying with Jessica Drew while they are in town (another nice opportunity thanks to the San Francisco location)(Lindsay McCabe can also be seen at the end of this issue), and she also volunteers her life essence to Phoenix when she hears about the Beyonder.
We should acknowledge that Jessica, especially, is sacrificing her life for a cause that she only knows about from Rachel's telling of events. From Rachel's interpretation of the Beyonder, Jessica has determined that the Beyonder is a being of "the foulest evil". And we know that's not really true. He's confused, he's capricious, he's naive, he's possibly too powerful to exist, but he's not evil. Rachel's quest has been misguided in that sense, and seeing Jessica give up her life based on that hammers that home, for me at least. On the other hand, as Kitty reminds us, he did wipe the New Mutants from existence, so he's not innocent either.
When she runs out of volunteers, Rachel then goes through Jessica's house, absorbing the essence of the sleeping X-Men, and then from an awake and protesting Storm.
She then flies off to destroy the M'Krann Crystal, passing the Watcher...
...the aforementioned Starjammers...
...and the Crystal's guardian, Jahf...
...absorbing the latter two's essences as well. The idea is she'll destroy the entire cosmos, including the Beyonder, and then the universe can begin anew. Retcons about the Beyonder aside, it seems clear (at least to readers, if not to the characters who may still have not fully grasped the Beyonder's power) that this wouldn't actually work. The Beyonder is meant to be his own multiverse, whereas the M'Krann Crystal is simply a part of our multiverse. Rachel's intended action would have resulted in exactly what the Beyonder has been saying he wants in recent issues: it would destroy our universe and leave him alone, perhaps restoring him to his primal state. But when Rachel goes to destroy the crystal, she finds herself feeling each and every life in the multiverse.
The scene shifts to the X-Men back in San Francisco, restored to their bodies. And the Beyonder shows up disappointed, confirming that destroying the M'Krann Crystal was actually his plan all along. But when he demands that the X-Men fight him or die (as opposed to fight him and die; not much of a choice), Rachel hits him with the same connection to all the cosmos' beings as she felt. And it affects him nearly as much.
Wolverine raises the point made in Secret Wars II #8, that the Beyonder's immortality is what's blocking his ability to understand humanity. And he leaves considering the possibility of becoming mortal.
One thing i questioned before, in Secret Wars II #8 again, was why the Beyonder had such a focus on humanity even while he was shown being active throughout the universe. The simplest explanation can also be derived from that issue: it was the Molecule Man's origin that made him aware of this universe, so he has a special attachment to humanity. But at least here Claremont and Romita are sure to show that the Beyonder is experiencing non-human life as well as part of the blast from Phoenix that changes his course.
And it's worth emphasizing that this does change the Beyonder's course. This issue is arguably the most integral tie-in to Secret Wars II because his experience here actually results in development for the character (the runner-up in my opinion would be Doctor Strange #74, where the Beyonder is convinced to be a champion of life for a time). Jim Shooters script in Secret Wars II #9 won't acknowledge this event explicitly, but i think it still serves as an important part of the story.
I've felt like Claremont has been a little distracted lately, basically since #199 (which really wasn't that long ago, i guess), introducing one major change after another but not having the time to explore any of it. You'd expect that a Secret Wars II tie-in would add to that distraction. And while i think that was true of last issue, this one is remarkably focused.
(That said, you'd think the next few issues would be about the Shi'ar reacting to the fact that a Phoenix nearly destroyed the M'Krann Crystal.)
To end with a completely insane bit of time wasting trivia, i noticed a number of rescripting edits in my X-Men Classic reprint, and when i went to check them out, they were largely about hyphen placement. Like, instead of "recreate", it was changed to "re-create". And instead of the word "nothing" being being broken onto two lines as "no-thing", it was changed to "noth-ing". I'd argue that it wasn't worth the effort or the inconsistency in lettering, but i know i already sound like an old man sitting on his porch yelling at clouds.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The X-Men (except Nightcrawler) have been in San Francisco since last issue, and next appear in Secret Wars II #9. Also, and it's a minor point, but it seems to me that the Beyonder's appearance here should be his last before Secret Wars II #9, since it's here that he starts considering becoming mortal.
Crossover: Secret Wars II
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: X-Men Classic #107
Inbound References (7): show
Claremont's also distracted because his big plans for '86 and possibly beyond have all been derailed. Plans for Nimrod and the original mutant massacre have been scotched by the Alan Moore thing, while Jean Grey's return means Maddie and Rachel are both redundant. After the SWII crossovers we get a couple of fragmentary one-off issues before the revamped mutant massacre and Maddie/Sinister mega-arc begins. For now, though, Claremont is at loose ends through no fault of his own.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 13, 2013 8:26 PM
Many readers felt that it was out of character for Kitty, Rogue/Carol and Jessica Drew to agree to destroy the universe to stop the Beyonder. In Kitty's case, the point might have been that the Soulsword was corrupting her. But it seemed out of character for Rogue/Carol and Jessica, although in Carol's case this isn't the first time she's displayed a liberal attitude towards destroying the planet:
Posted by: Michael | November 13, 2013 8:32 PM
I don't like the Romita/Williamson version of the Watcher at all. He looks like the guy who judges Top Chef.
Posted by: Todd | November 15, 2013 1:27 AM
Yeah, it seems like Romita was trying to dial back the Watcher's look to before John Byrnr rebooted it (but not all the way back to his first appearance).
Posted by: Jay Patrick | November 16, 2013 5:03 AM
These are some relevant comments from a review in Amazing Heroes #97:
"Claremont's cliches are very much in force, and he still writes scenes by forcing the characters into ill-suited roles just to play them out the way he wants the scenes to go. He still will exploit a good idea until the life's been worn out of it. Kitty has become much too serious. Rogue has turned mopey, like every other Marvel character. And the pseudo-poetry on the double-splash pages is just that."
"The art: John Romita, Jr. is still drawing much like Paul Smith, or as close as he can get. At least the hair on his women doesn't look like ribbon. He does have some major flaws that Smith doesn't, like keeping faces consistent or indicating the dimension of depth."
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 7, 2014 7:19 PM
Kitty may have been more prone to the idea given that she remembers that the Beyonder just slaughtered the New Mutants.
Something that I don't know ever gets brought up - Rachel is familiar with Carol Danvers' mode of speaking. Since they haven't met since she came to this time, I have to assume that Rachel knew her well enough in her own timeline - and since she doesn't seem familiar with the fact that she's in Rogue's head, maybe that says something about Rogue in that timeline.
I love also, how in the original storyline with the M'Krann Crystal the X-Men (including Phoenix) had to fight a big battle, but Rachel just waltzes right in.
I do have to agree with other commenters - Romita's Watcher is just terrible.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 10, 2015 11:33 AM
I've been scanning mutant titles today for an unrelated reason, but going through these last half-dozen issues, I have to wonder how much Jim Shooter was writing "Secret Wars II" in hopes that Claremont would give him ideas of how to do it.
The "X-Men" #196 entry points out that, of all the SWII #1 spin-offs, it was the first time the Beyonder actually did anything other than observe. Then "Secret Wars II" #2 had him quoting Rachel's instructions on how to eat.
Shooter knew what he wanted to do, but didn't know how to do it. Long-running subplots that never go anywhere, like resurrecting Kurse, which I assume was handled in an issue of "Thor" but I never read "Thor" so all the promotion in "Secret Wars II" was for nothing. Unrequited love for a favorite of the higher-ups, like Dazzler. And building towards the X-Characters appearing more and more often.
A year after "Secret Wars II" ended, I was a brand-new fan of the muties. But at the time, I had very little clue who any of them were, and cared even less. Yet they took up more and more space, especially in the spin-offs where Rachel becomes Phoenix, the New Mutants get killed, they revisit the M'Kraan Crystal. Rachel goes straight at the Beyonder in SWII #8, calls everybody together in #9, and even fires the killing shot. I had no idea who she, or Phoenix, was at the time. "Who are these people and why should I care?" was not the response Marvel wanted.
Now I'm developing a theory that "Secret Wars II" was partially driven by letting Claremont have the ideas and Shooter get the royalties.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 1, 2015 5:43 PM
Was the fact that Kitty was able to recall that the New Mutants ever existed the first action to establish that the Beyonder was not all-powerful?
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | November 27, 2015 12:18 PM
If he was all-powerful, I don't think Doom would've been able to steal his powers the way he did in the first Secret Wars.
Posted by: Tuomas | November 28, 2015 9:36 AM
When I reread this a couple of months ago (though I don't know if I ever got around to actually reading it as a kid buying X-Men Classic), it totally destroyed Rachel's character for me. She's so out of line here that I have a hard time believing she could be seen as anything but a new Dark Phoenix. Is she treated a little unfairly, by Rogue and others and particularly Wolverine? Yeah, but I can't really blame them for doing so after this. This is to say nothing of the fact that the Shi'ar absolutely should have had a reckoning for her after this. (I mean, I guess there WAS a reckoning for Rachel decades later in End of Greys, but IIRC it doesn't reference this attempted destruction of the universe even obliquely and doesn't seem aware it even happened, despite also being written by Claremont. Or maybe I'm wrong.)
After rereading this issue, I wasn't sorry to see her leave the team a few issues later. Rachel is too dangerous.
Posted by: J-Rod | February 20, 2017 3:38 PM
This was the issue where I finally gave up on Claremont. The idea that the Beyonder was foul evil was questionable enough, but the idea that the only solution was to destroy the entire universe is just absurd.
Posted by: Andrew | March 14, 2017 8:13 PM
I've always loved that splash page.
Posted by: Chris | May 18, 2018 9:30 PM
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