To the Outback & Beyond… Part 5

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Letter: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Bob Harras

Right off the bat, largely due to the graphic on the cover declaring “NOW ON SALE TWICE A MONTH”, there is a part of me that feels the need to point out the current shipping schedule for a great deal of Marvel’s comics is nothing new.

As evidenced by this issue from the summer/fall of 1988, current titles like Superior Spider-Man and All-New X-Factor that ship twice a month are not something alien to The House of Ideas.  As a point of fact, although decades may have skewed my memory slightly, double shipping was a staple of Uncanny X-Men for several summers during my youth and it was not the only book that ventured into that territory (Amazing Spider-Man too perhaps?).  It wasn’t a year round initiative as several of their books are today, but it was a way to pump out more issues, I suppose at a time of the year when their target audience of children were home from school.

Now onto the next issue in our journey through this portion of the X-Men’s history; when we left our heroes last, they had been corralled into an alleyway by Brood host, Harry Palmer and found themselves surrounded by a horde of the alien race.  We pick up this issue exactly where we left off, with dialogue from the previous issue’s final page used on the first page, and then we quickly learn that these Brood creatures are not exactly what the team has encountered before:

We have super-powered Brood, including a fire-breathing one, which answers the question of just what Harry did to the lawyer Delgado last issue with his tentacle arm.  Harry, talking about himself in third person as if this Brood-version was a whole new entity, distinctly points out that all of the hosts for this incarnation of the Brood are in fact mutants, a fact we clearly see on display in Colossus’ panels above.

The fight ensues with the X-Men completely unprepared for their foes given that the three members of the team who had previously faced The Brood (Wolvie, Storm, Colossus) only faced the standard fare (a threat enough on their own).  Add that factor into the unexpected number of mutants Harry had turned into Brood hosts and you have a recipe for disaster for our mutant heroes.

Colossus is taken out of the game quickly by Brickbat while Storm is nearly removed from the field by the combination of Tension and Temptress.  Instead, in her panicked fight against Temptress’ pheromone emissions, Storm takes herself off the board by fleeing into the sky only to be chased by the fly-winged Divebomber.  Havok, in a position to stop the Brood member from chasing his leader, hesitates to use his powers out of fear of killing the “human” host.  It is a struggle which Havok has dealt with for quite some time and had been previously alluded to during the course of these issues in #229 when Havok blasted the cyborg Reavers.

We begin to see the advantages of Harry selecting mutants as his Brood hosts when Temptress’ abilities overwhelm Rogue and Rogue, with Temptress in control, then turns those pheromones on Psylocke.  Their tandem attack on Wolverine then puts Logan in the unenviable position of trying to figure out how to deal with his teammates without truly hurting them.  As the scene turns to Colossus’ fight with Brickbat, the reader learns that our Russian powerhouse is battling with the same sort of internal struggle as both Wolverine and Havok.  As the Brood beats him with a car, Colossus can only question whether or not there is still something human about his foe and if there is, is killing his foe morally wrong?  Is the human host responsible for the actions of the Brood and should he/she be punished for the crimes of the Brood? Is there even a human left in there?

It’s a question that lingers as we return to Wolverine’s battle, all alone, against not only an alley full of Brood but also his own teammates.  It is fight that the Canadian cannot possibly win without slaughtering his possessed friends as well as the Brood and given that Harry does not apparently want to risk losing any potential hosts in the X-Men, the alien known as Lockup takes Wolvie out of the fight. Harry’s tentacle hand emerges as the man responsible for impregnating all of these other mutants says to the unconscious Wolverine, “And you know X-Man…what happens next.”

Cut scene to the Red Rocks site playing host to Reverend William Connor’s GLORY DAYS CRUSADE (not such a random billboard from last issue after all) where we find Harry Palmer’s paramedic partner Josey engaged in…something…as the construction process for the ministry goes on around her.  More importantly for the moment though is the look in on the lives of the Reverend and his wife Hannah.  Claremont’s very brief, one and a half page focus on these two supporting characters does wonders to breathe life into heretofore nonexistent entities.  We see how the Reverend looks at the ideas of race when informed there’s a mutant battle going on in Denver (“Might as well say Blacks or Midgets or Women or Martians…the accusations would make as much sense”) and we can see from the artwork by Silvestri & Green that Hannah’s hands shake uncontrollably.  The Reverend even expresses a wish that he too could be a mutant if only for the purpose of curing his love’s arthritic affliction, showing the reader vulnerability and a feeling of helplessness that he carries right alongside his powerful religious convictions.

Of course we have to get back to the fight unfolding in Denver where Colossus and Brickbat continue to duke it out with the X-Men’s man of steel very much on the losing end.  Interesting note in this sequence, as a video crew attempts to film the Brickbat/Colossus battle, it is noted that only Brickbat appears on the monitors; a nod to Roma’s promises back in #229.

We also check in on Storm as she soars high above the effect of Temptress’ pheromones but Divebomber is still in pursuit. Her lightening apparently useless against the Brood member, this has become a game of tag but when playing with someone who cares not for rules, the game is a deadly one.  The Brood turns his attention to ripping out the engines of a passing airplane, using Storm’s concern for the safety of the innocent bystanders  to sucker her in and take her out as she brings the out of control behemoth to a safe landing. His words as he removes Storm from the fight, “You’ll make an aces addition to the Brood team”.  Between this, what was done to Wolverine, and Harry’s insistence that Psylocke and Rogue not be harmed, it is completely clear what Palmer intends to do with our mutant heroes.

As Storm is taken out our focus shifts back to Madelyne Pryor, who we left unconscious on the floor of the Outback’s computer room after she punched a computer monitor.  In what is an obvious dream sequence, Madelyne soars through the skies with wings a la Angel and lands on the ground where she is greeted by her stroller-pushing husband Cyclops.  We pull out of the dream world to see Gateway standing sentry over Madelyne’s unconscious body only for him to simultaneously appear in the dreamscape as well.  He spins his bullroarer, which Claremont cleverly points out is used as a teleportation device in the real world but, as indicate by how it tears the dreamscape to shreds, as other applications here.

One of the recurring themes for Madelyne Pryor has always been her uncanny resemblance to Jean Grey and that being a prime motivator for Cyclops to have married her in the first place.  Although that wasn’t exactly something I was aware of at the time I initially read this issue, when dream Cyclops strips Maddie of all traces of identity and uses them to construct a Jean Grey, it began to make some kind of sense to me.  Dream-Cyke and dream-Jean first deny Madelyne her dream of flying when they take her wings and then piece-by-piece, from possession of her own son down to her very features, dream-Maddie is stripped down to nothing more than a mannequin.  It’s a heartbreaking sequence rendered wonderfully by Silvestri and company with my favorite panels being the three that see Cyclops traditional X-Men uniform transform into his X-Factor one while naked Jean gains clothing at the expense of Madelyne’s.

Leaving -Maddie alone and featureless in her dreamscape, we return to Denver where Havok is paralyzed by the fear of his own powers, watching his teammates fight The Brood while he stands by impotent.  That all changes in a moment of rage as Divebomber returns to the scene with Storm in tow and Harry Palmer promises to implant her with a Brood Queen egg.  Finally at his tipping point, Alex Summers unleashes a plasma blast that kills Divebomber instantaneously while simultaneously Colossus finishes his fight with Brickbat in a victorious fashion.  While it’s not 100% certain that Brickbat is dead in this moment, there is no doubt about Divebomber…

It breaks Havok’s heart to see the reversion to human form but Storm points out the obvious thing to assuage the guilt her teammate fears.  The human in Divebomber died as soon as he became Brood; the implication given that Rogue, Psylocke, and Wolverine are in the clutches of Harry Palmer is that this fate is also in store for them and the rest of the world…

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Christopher Maurer is a graduate of Michigan State University w/ a BA in English who then proceeded to get wrapped up in the world of videography for local news & sports, including the 2003 March Madness tournament, before migrating to Philadelphia in late-2003 where he then jumped into the crazy-ridiculous world of professional wrestling under the moniker Shane Hagadorn. It is a world in which he, his wife, and cats have since resided for the last 10 years. Chris, an avid fan of comics for 25 years & counting, has been writing his own personal blog since late-2010 at 20 Plus Years of 32 Pages and recently had his first published work in the September 2013 issue of Philly Beer Scene Magazine. His loves include Batman, mutants, Grant Morrison, craft beer, and not taking it all too seriously...

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