Characters Appearing: Angel, Astra, Beast, Black Light, Blackthorn, Captain Britain, Carol Danvers, Ch'od, Corsair, Cr'reee, Cyclops, Deathbird, Earthquake, Electron, Gladiator (Shiar), Hepzibah, Hobgoblin (Shiar), Hussar, Iceman, Impulse (Imperial Guard), Jean Grey, Lilandra, Lockheed, Magic, Meggan, Mentor (Shiar), Neutron, Nightcrawler, Nightside, Oracle, Phoenix Force, Professor X, Rachel Summers, Raza Longknife, Scintilla, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Ship (Prosh), Sikorsky, Smasher (Shiar), Starbolt, Tempest, Titan, Waldo, Warstar, White Noise, Widget
X-Men Spotlight on... Starjammers #1-2
Issue(s): X-Men Spotlight on... Starjammers #1-2
And if nothing else, this is Dave Cockrum drawing the Starjammers and the Imperial Guard and he even manages to get in Nightcrawler, via Excalibur, at the end. And it's certainly nice to see Cockrum playing with his co-creations and favorite characters. The story, though, is almost not worth talking about.
Things start off simple enough. In fact, it is downright formulaic. The Starjammers get into trouble while raiding a ship in the service of the rebellion to the Shi'ar Galactic Empire.
And, with their ship damaged by Deathbird's forces, and Professor X injured, his consciousness merged with the robot Waldo, the Starjammers feel that they have no choice but to act on information they've acquired about a legendary object called the Phalkon. And there are information pods about it scattered across the galaxy. So that results in a traditional "break up the team for solo/pair adventure" scenario. In Marvel Comics Presents that means that each individual/pair would get the majority of an issue (8 pages) devoted to them. So it's a Phalkon Quest (a play on Falcon Crest?).
Everyone eventually gets their piece, and i think the idea is that each group makes some sort of moral compromise to complete their part of the quest, although it's not that consistent and it doesn't really lead to anything.
What's important is that Chapter IV of this story is devoted to Cr'reee, Ch'od's little pet, whose part of the quest has him going to his home planet.
I have no idea what's going on, and i don't care. I don't think we're supposed to be able to decipher the dialogue, except for that line about Claremont-sized thought balloons. And i don't really need to understand anything. It's just awesome, and i wish this was the entire story.
It turns out that Cr'reee has a family, and they go back with the Starjammers when the Phalkon info is found.
When the Starjammers have all the pieces, though, Deathbird kidnaps Lilandra and the Phalkon stuff. She does this with the aid of the Starjammer's little floating bug robot Sikorsky, who everyone assumes is a traitor, but it's later confirmed that Deathbird infected him with a computer virus. (Cr'reee is shot during the fighting, and thought dead, so his family replaces him for the rest of the mission until he returns at the end.)
That's the easy part. That's book one. Book two has more linear plotting but gets wildly complicated and crowded.
The Starjammers try to rescue Lilandra.
The Imperial Guard start getting brought in.
You can see that something's going on with Manta, but if it goes anywhere i missed it.
Deathbird gets away with the Phalkon info, but Lilandra is rescued and the Guard defeated. Corsair figures out that Deathbird is heading to Earth, so the Starjammers pursue. In the meantime, a little downtime.
Potentially interesting character development for Binary there. Contra Ch'od's thoughts, Raza is actually upset because Binary killed one of the Imperial Guard, Zenith, who he had a vendetta against. And there are a few more hints in this story that Ch'od has a thing for Hepzibah.
When they get to Earth, there's more space fighting but they eventually get to the planet's surface, and find that the Phalkon is actually a device that can capture the Phoenix. And Excalibur doesn't know what's going on, and they're primed for a fight.
Despite recognizing each other, they get into a dumb Misunderstanding Fight (Captain Britain is having a "can't... must..." moment in the first scan below).
Cockrum's art is, like much of his later art, a bit stiff and a little weird, but i still like seeing him draw the characters. And of course Cr'reee family vs. Widget is God's gift to humanity. And it's nice that he gets in a scene of Nightcrawler doing some swashbuckling swordfighting.
But this is still a crazy hot mess. I am also skipping over a LOT of clutter with this review, for my sanity and yours. In fact, one thing i feel guilty about skipping over is this panel, so i'll drop it in here out of context:
Back to the story. Since all of the Starjammers and Excalibur aren't enough, let's bring back the Imperial Guard, and this time the full group.
And suddenly, for no reason, X-Factor.
This literally has nothing to do with anything, so let's get back to the Starjammers/Excalibur/Imperial Guard fight.
This story introduces two new Imperial Guards, White Noise and Black Light.
Black Light later talks about Deathbird like she is his mother.
Deathbird tries to use the Phalkor to control the power of the Phoenix, but she's knocked out by Lilandra and the Imperial Guard flee with her.
"Months later", for the final chapter, we see the Starjammers fomenting a rebellion on a planet on the outskirts of Deathbird's empire. Professor X, whose body was thought dead, is restored in mind and body thanks to the Phalkor and has become, er, Bald Phoenix.
I was pretty sure before, but now i know that someone is fucking with me.
The Starjammer-led rebellion is successful.
And in the end Deathbird is convinced by one of her minions to give up on that planet and renew focus on Earth. The minion turns out to secretly be an agent (or worshipper) of Thanos.
Yeahbutwhat? We do have Infinity Gauntlet coming up, but if this leads to that or anything else Thanos related, nothing in the book directs us to it.
My recommendation to you, if this happens to fall into your collection, is flip through it and enjoy the Cockrum art for what it is. If nothing else, enjoy the Cr'reee chapter. Do not attempt to actually read it.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Has to take place while Shadowcat is with Excalibur, after Excalibur #34. The X-Factor appearance is context free and may just be a fever dream on my part. Professor X has some behind the scenes appearances staring in Uncanny X-Men #269 so i assume this should take place prior to that.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
This was actually another very very early comic my parents got for me for my birthday, both parts, so I have a soft spot for it. It was amazing reading Claremonte's X-Men run years ago and seeing all these old old faces from my childhood suddenly popping up from the Starjammers to the Emperial Guard.
Posted by: david banes | July 22, 2015 5:42 PM
Raza isn't upset because he had a vendetta against Zenith, he's upset because Zenith was his brother.
Posted by: Michael | July 22, 2015 9:27 PM
The story seems to say he's called Black Light, not Night? Or is it the story that has the typo?
I cannot believe I actually own this. And, indeed, never read it ☺
Posted by: PeterA | July 23, 2015 1:14 AM
Given Kavanagh is scripter, I expect the character he introduced in his Moon Knight run, Seth Phalkon, was connected to the Phalkon here. He was founder of the Templars, who in conspiracy history were claimed to be guarding some secret treasure. Did Kavanagh intend that treasure to be the Phalkon energy?
Interesting Cockrum factoid for you all. In Comics Journal #50, Chris Claremont revealed Dave Cockrum and he intended Raza to be D'Ken's brother who had been almost assassinated, and resurrected as a cyborg.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | July 23, 2015 3:28 AM
@Michael, as i read it, Zenith killed his brother, and Raza is upset that Binary ruined his chance at vengeance. See page 24 of issue #2, if interested.
Regarding placement. That scene in X-Factor probably was intended to be part of this, but it's actually pretty different in what it's actually showing, with a bedridden Xavier suffering from "madnes" and growing weak, whereas in this he's in a coma the entire time after getting injured and until he's merged with Waldo. I think it's safe to assume that was a separate incident. And i assume X-Factor's ship-building can still fly when it wants to. And regarding the costumes, as you say, since Widget is fully functional it probably has to take place after the Cross Time Caper.
I don't know what's going on with the Thanos people, and it's possible that they are just worshippers that aren't acting on his orders specifically. It seems like most of Thanos' followers either went to Nebula or just dispersed until Thanos called them back after his resurrection. But those are all mercenaries. These guys seem more like a religious cult.
@PeterA, you're right, it's Light, not Night. See, i didn't read it either. ;-) I've fixed it, though.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 23, 2015 7:37 AM
Fnord, I am looking at that page, and I read Raza as saying that Zenith WAS his brother, not that Zenith killed his brother.
Posted by: Michael | July 23, 2015 7:48 AM
Oh i guess you're right. Period placement is important! "And killed. My brother". Not "And killed my brother." I thought he was using staggered speech because he was upset. Either way, he clearly had a vendetta against him because his next line is "And the privilege of slaying him was mine by right."
I have now officially spent way too much time looking at anything in these issues. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | July 23, 2015 8:08 AM
I've tried to read this before and failed, so my condolences. Flipping through and enjoying the Cockrum art is my recommendation also.
It's even sadder because, to my knowledge, this turkey is the last time Dave Cockrum drew a comic with the Starjammers and Nightcrawler before he died.
Posted by: Red Comet | July 23, 2015 10:43 AM
I was a long-time fan of Dave Cockrum's work, which is why I got this minsieries, although I didn't get around to buying it for a couple of years due to the then-expensive $4.50 per issue price (and I now have to laugh at that because nowadays that's only slightly more than the $3.99 that Marvel charges for their regular 22 page comics).
I thought that Cockrum's penciling was fantastic... but, like everyone else, I was confused by Terry Kavanagh's writing. In the late 1990s I got this autographed by Cockrum, and he told me that he didn't like the story, and that Kavanagh didn't understand the characters. It's a pity that Marvel didn't have Cockrum write this himself.
Of course, it's a pity that Marvel didn't have Cockrum do a great many things. He was available to do work throughout the 1990s and was sadly neglected by Marvel editorial & management. I would rather have seen Cockrum pencil one of the innumerable X-books that were churned out during that decade instead of yet another Liefeld / Lee / Manga imitator who had graduated from art school less than a month ago.
Aside from a few specials, fill-ins and annuals, Cockrum wasn't really hired to do anything for Marvel (or for DC, either) in the 1990s. His most significant body of work during the decade was penciling Soulsearchers and Company, a supernatural comedy series written by Peter David and published by Claypool Comics (which, admittedly, was a better book than a lot of what either Marvel or DC were doing at the time).
In any case, this wasn't the last time Cockrum had the opportunity to draw the X-Men and related characters. He penciled a fill-in story written by Roger Stern that recapped much of the team's history up to the start of X-Men volume 2. Unfortunately it wasn't published until after Cockrum's death. I'm sure fnord will cover it at some point. There's only a narrow window where it can fit into continuity since it features the X-Men's old FBI liaison Fred Duncan very prominently. So it has to be set somewhere between X-Men volume 2 #3 which came out at the end of 1991 and Uncanny X-Men Annual #17 which came out Summer 1993 since that story indicated Duncan had died some time before.
Posted by: Ben Herman | July 23, 2015 1:31 PM
@Ben: Given Dave told you himself he didn't like Kavanagh's scripting, someone should the entire dialogue for the issue a complete rewrite:)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | July 23, 2015 3:30 PM
The fill-in you're talking about was called X-men: Odd Men Out. It included the Roger Stern inventory story and one other one.
I don't remember if Nightcrawler or any of Dave Cockrum's cosmic characters had a cameo in it, though. Been a while since I looked at it. I think both stories only had the X-men Blue Team/Gold Team line-ups from 1991.
Posted by: Red Comet | July 24, 2015 2:54 PM
While trying to figure out who was whom in that Imperial Guard arrives picture, I noticed that Electron, Magique, and Mentor were not tagged. (As if there weren't enough characters appearing already...)
Posted by: Erik Robbins | July 24, 2015 10:07 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | July 24, 2015 11:33 PM
I hope Tempest and Electron have learned since this to stop attacking the same target at the same time. Both Scanner the Spaceknight and Shadowcat have caught them with essentially the same trick.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | July 25, 2015 12:53 AM
I dug out my copy of X-Men: Odd Men Out. Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Phoenix and the Starjammes do have cameos in the flashback. There's also a few pages where Xavier recounts his times living with Lilandra in Shi'Ar space.
I located a 2008 interview with Roger Stern where he explained how he originally came to write this story back in 1991. When Stern plotted it, he says he had no idea who the artist was going to be...
"And when the pages showed up for me to script, I was jazzed to discover that the penciler was Dave Cockrum. I only wish I'd known in advance that Dave was going to draw the story; I would have figured out some way to include scenes of Nightcrawler having a sword fight … Dave always loved stuff like that."
Here is a link to the entire interview...
Posted by: Ben Herman | July 25, 2015 2:12 PM
@Michael Back in Uncanny X-Men #195, Kitty phased Wolverine, Rogue, Rachel Summers, and Katie Power at the same time when they were going down to the Morlock tunnels. This issue's Captain Britain, Nightcrawler, Meggan, Widget, and Lockheed isn't that much more weight-wise.
Posted by: Stephen | July 26, 2015 6:23 PM
Interesting theory that this was originally meant for MCP—that would definitely explain why it was all the short stories focused on the individuals/pairs. Though, I suppose they used to do the same thing a lot in Avengers Annuals, so who knows.
Agree this is wholly incomprehensible. I picked it up, as I've become a Carol Danvers completist, and it does actually help set up her return to earth fairly well, but the actual plot makes no sense. When I read it, I spent a while looking up what was happening in X-Men at the time to see if I had completely missed something that would help it make sense, but no. Oh well, at least I got it cheap.
Posted by: Darth Weevil | July 30, 2015 11:15 AM
Given that the Starjammers are about to come slamming back into X-Men, it's surprising that they would put out this story that seems to have nothing to do with the upcoming storyline. It's just like all the Wolverine appearances that could be completely ignored and not have any effect on what you're reading in X-Men.
And Xavier with a sash is just, oh so bad.
Posted by: Erik Beck | November 5, 2015 6:52 AM
No-one else but Cockrum (R.I.P.) draws Ch'od with that vaguely froggy-with-fangs face. At the hands of other artists he looks more purely reptillian, or (worse) Abomination-lite.
As for Terry Kavanagh's script, the pantomime stuff with Cr'reee is the best part, if you know what I mean.
Posted by: Oliver_C | November 12, 2015 9:05 AM
Bald Phoenix looks a little like Grant Morrison. Just saying.
And Cockrum could draw some cute Hepzibah. She looked interesting, not like a generic catwoman later pencillers turned her into.
As for the story, this thing looks crazy. Which is... surprising, in a good. I didn't know Kavanagh was capable to do that kind of crazy... even if not intentionally.
Posted by: Piotr W | November 12, 2015 5:29 PM
The Cr'reee bit is like the Star Wars Holiday special.
Posted by: FF3 | March 31, 2016 7:25 PM
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