Marvel Super Heroes #6-8 (X-Men)
Issue(s): Marvel Super Heroes #6, Marvel Super Heroes #7, Marvel Super Heroes #8 (X-Men story only)
This story does have Thomas revisiting his glory days, namely the Sentinel story with Neal Adams in X-Men and the follow-up in Avengers (which was by Rich Buckler, who draws the first part here).
Something that makes me forgive a lot about the faults of this story is the fact that it features the Abomination (and Doc Samson). To some people, it might feel like the Abomination is here because they couldn't get the Hulk (that's certainly the attitude of the Sentinels), but to me there's something inherently awesome in the X-Men meeting the Abomination.
The story starts with the Abomination having wandered to Philadelphia (where he apparently used to live) while he was recovering from time sharing his body with Tyrannus.
He's on a rampage and the police can't stop him, but a Sentinel shows up, captures him, and teleports away.
The X-Men take interest in the appearance of a Sentinel. Rogue is familiar with the Abomination from back when she was "a member of the club" (i.e. bad guys).
The X-Men decide to send Colossus and Rogue to Doc Samson, who is giving a lecture in Sydney, because he's also a "Gamma".
Note Wolverine's lack of interest in this line of investigation.
Sentinels show up while Samson is doing a Q&A after the lecture. Colossus and Rogue try to warn him but Samson won't shut up in time to listen.
Colossus pulls off a rubber mask when he goes into battle since this takes place when he couldn't change back into human form.
I'll note that the Sentinels seem perfectly capable of seeing the X-Men despite the fact that the mutants were supposed to be invisible to electronics at this time. But the Sentinels don't have data on them.
The Sentinel gets away with Doc Samson.
As Colossus and Rogue return, the other X-Men determine that the Sentinel that captured Abomination is a Mark II sentinel, said to be the most powerful type of Sentinel that the X-Men have encountered, since they could instantly analyze and adjust for their opponents' attacks. Of the current X-Men, only Havok has previously fought a Mark II.
Wolverine continues to be a real jerk. He seems to be back in 1978 mode. Of course, all the characters sound off compared to how they're normally written.
Storm sends the X-Men to investigate the Sentinels' base, which is said to be "only a couple hundred miles" from the X-Men's Reaver base (the X-Men still use Gateway to get there, though).
The last we saw of the Sentinels' Australian base was in West Coast Avengers annual #1, where we learned that the Australian government had turned it into a particle beam research facility. There's no evidence of that in this story (you'd think the Australian government would have removed the Sentinels and given Larry Trask a proper burial). They do find the remains of a recent work crew that has been massacred; more on them in a minute.
They also find Cynthia Chalmers, daughter of the Judge Chalmers that was one of the men behind the Mark II Sentinels.
Meanwhile, Storm realizes that if Mark II Sentinels are up to something, solar flares are likely to be involved, so she heads to an observatory in New South Wales. She's expecting to just ask scientists about solar flares, but instead she finds that this is where the Sentinels are operating from.
Among other things, the Sentinels have apparently been playing 'pin the tail on the Abomination'.
Number Two is still looking gooey in the face.
Storm alone is no match for the Sentinels, and she is defeated and put in a tub alongside the gamma guys.
We jump back to Cynthia Chalmers and the other X-Men for the start of issue #7. I'll warn you that she initially lies to the X-Men, but they know that she's lying thanks to Rogue brushing against her bare skin, and then Psylocke uses her telepathy to learn the "truth", except in the end it will turn out that Chalmers was hiding her true intentions from the X-Men (Psylocke is only scanning surface memories). So what we learn at this point may not be entirely accurate, although i think it's more about motive than action that she was lying about the second time.
What we learn is that she's an archaeologist, but when she found out that the Sentinels killed Larry Trask, she stole the Sentinel blueprints from her father and tried to get a permit from the Australian government to do an archaeological dig at the Sentinel base.
She went ahead with the dig anyway, using shady workers, and they turned on her.
However, human contact with the Sentinels "provided the final impetus to [the Sentinels'] self-repairing process already nearing completion", and they woke up and killed all of the workers. They left Chalmers tied up because they don't kill humans that aren't actively opposing them, but they didn't untie her, either.
As for #2 having been melted to slag in the Avengers story, well that's no problem.
The other Sentinels decide that they were being too literal last time, so they don't kill #2 for being different. It's almost like Roy Thomas is making fun of his own story.
But he does like the basics of the old story, because the Sentinels get right back to creating solar flares to sterilize all humans. Their use of the gamma irradiated humans as a catalyst doesn't make any sense to me, but as usual i have to admit to not being a regular scientist, let alone a Marvel super-scientist.
The one thing i do like is the idea that most humans can't turn into gamma monsters. Only some humans, who all share a common ancestor, will get gamma powers.
The scientists that work at the Australian observatory stage a mini-protest, and the main agitator's head is turned into a bloody smear on Storm's tube.
The rest of the scientists are killed as well; the Sentinels use them as guinea pigs to determine how much gamma radiation is the safe amount.
The good news, so to speak, is that the scientist head that smashed into Storm's tube has cracked it a little, meaning that Storm can use her powers to get the rest of the way out. This time, instead of fighting the Sentinels alone, she's joined by Doc Samson and the Abomination.
The Abomination goes through a crack in the floor with the #2 Sentinel, and the crack inconveniently closes up behind him (especially in two of the panels above, the art is looking very rushed).
But luckily the rest of the X-Men show up at this point.
Psylocke doesn't try to use her telepathy against the Sentinels the way good old Professor X did in the old day, but she does use her powers to (somehow!?) suppress Havok's power readings so that he can surprise the rest of the Sentinels.
At this point it seems like the threat is over, so Gateway opens a portal for the X-Men to go home. Doc Samson goes with them (although he must get dropped off somewhere because he doesn't return to the X-Men's Reaver base, but Chalmers decides to stay behind. As she leaves, she mutters that she intends to kill the X-Men, and then the Abomination bursts out of the ground with #2's head.
Note the order of events. Chalmers says she wants to "remedy" the fact that the X-Men are alive while the crack in the ground is indeed still just a crack. The final part of this story is written by Michael Higgins instead of the Thomases, and i guess he either had no idea what the Thomases intended or he deliberately went in his own direction. Because he'll have Chalmers say that she only said she wants the X-Men dead in order to dupe the Abomination to work with her. I guess she figures those big ears of his aren't just for show.
One more scan from the Thomas issue (you can tell because the Abomination says "in point of fact", which is totally a phrase he would use), Chalmers tells the Abomination that she's dying of cancer and convinces him to rebuild the #2 Sentinel.
For the final issue, the Abomination helps Cynthia rebuild the #2 Sentinel. Chalmers says she wants to use the Sentinel to kill the X-Men and therefore die a hero to those that fear mutants. The Abomination irrationally blames the X-Men along with the Sentinels for what's been happening to him, plus Chalmers says that he can have the Sentinel for his own purposes after she dies. So he begrudgingly goes along with it. But it turns out she's lying again, and she instead transfers her mind into the Sentinel. And it doesn't go quite as planned; the Sentinel brain starts off dominant, and it immediately returns to its plans to sterilize humanity.
The X-Men are having a "Danger Room" session - holograms generated by their computer - when suddenly the holograms disappear. When the X-Men go to the computer to see what is happening, it seems like the computer is talking to them.
The Sentinel arrives grabbing Rogue and apparently making Wolverine feel super inadequate.
Sure you can, Wolverine. You're a big man.
The Sentinel wants Rogue because Doc Samson is gone. So it makes Rogue absorb some of the Abomination's essence, and then it continues with the prior (incomprehensible) plan to use their gamma something something to interact with a solar flare and sterilize humanity.
The rest of the X-Men fight the Sentinel again, and now with Higgins scripting Wolverine is making Mets references.
This time the Sentinel does have a mind that Psylocke can affect, so she mindlocks with Chalmers. Meanwhile, Storm uses her powers like she's never used them before, to block the solar flare.
It turns out that the Sentinel's mind is a mental collective of all its past programmers. And Chalmers' mind is now mixed in with that. And this is where Psylocke reveals that Chalmers was pre-emptively lying to the Abomination at the end of issue #7. She really just wanted to escape her cancer by living in the robot body.
But now Chalmers takes the Sentinel back up to the sun for fear that she won't be able to control it forever.
The last we see of the Abomination, he's passed out on the floor after the X-Men came to rescue him and Rogue. Poor guy didn't get a lot of out this adventure. I don't know what his problem with the X-Men was, really. It's a weird, almost pointless, use of Doc Samson and the Abomination (and yet... and yet... i still like seeing the Abomination and the X-Men).
This story is not "good" in any sense of the word, and i guess i'm extra protective of the X-Men since they'd been written by Claremont by so long, but Roy Thomas and company do not match the tone or voice of the way the X-Men had been written since the revival of their series by any means. Still, this series is better than the average Marvel Super Heroes stories just by virtue of the fact that it's a full three issues' worth of content. Even with that, though, the third issue feels tacked on, and i'd say that was entirely the case if it wasn't for the fact that the final page of issue #7's story leads directly into issue #8. Because it's really on the last page of issue #7 that Chalmers suddenly reveals that the X-Men didn't get the whole story and that she's got an entirely different scheme. I do still wonder if this was originally meant as a two-parter for some other book, and then Marvel (editor Mike Rockwitz, presumably) decided they liked having the X-Men headlining this book (or, again, it could have been Marvel Fanfare at the time), so they asked Thomas to keep it going, but when the time came to do the third part, Thomas didn't have the capacity or couldn't come to an agreement with Rockwitz about how it should go.
Some people will probably like to see Roy Thomas on the X-Men revisiting the Sentinel story, since prior to the revival of the book, Thomas and Neal Adams' X-Men was definitely the highlight of the series. But this is Roy Thomas with some of his worst habits on display, especially in the scripting, and at the time of publication this would have felt like a very cheesy cartoonish story even before the "everything you know is wrong" plot twist at the end of issue #7.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place while the X-Men were still thought dead and living in Australia, and soon after the Abomination was separated from Tyrannus during Atlantis Attacks.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (11): show
Hilariously, the Sentinel's Australian base is seen again in Wolverine 72-74, and Wolverine acts like he's never been there before and everyone acts like it hasn't been disturbed since Avengers 104. At least writers are consistent in forgetting each other's stories with the Sentinel's base.
Posted by: Michael | November 25, 2015 5:52 PM
I think we can forgive (I assume) Larry Hama for not doing in-depth research into this dumping ground for unused inventory stories.
I had the third issue of this as kid and remember liking the Wolverine action scenes even though the story made next to no sense.
Posted by: Red Comet | November 25, 2015 8:17 PM
The art's a bit um...interesting. In the third scan from last, Wolverine in the top right-hand panel looks as if he's battling constipation rather than a sentinel. It was decent of the crooked site workers to let Dr Chalmers put on trousers before tying her up too.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 25, 2017 8:50 PM
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