To the Outback & Beyond… Part 6

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

That is without a doubt one of my favorite X-Men covers of not just this portion of the run I’m covering, but possibly of the entire series. It’s just powerful, painful even, with the curl of Wolverine’s fingers and how I can almost hear the scream the pain of transformation would induce.  One of Silvestri’s best…

When we left our merry mutants, Harry Palmer kidnapped Wolverine with the assistance of Rogue and Psylocke who had fallen under the thrall of Temptress’ pheromones. Havok, much to his dismay, was forced to slay one of the Brood and then watched him return to human form in his dying moments.

Our scene picks up just outside the Mile High Diner which, as near as I can tell based on a Google search, is not currently a real setting in Denver, closest I found was a Mile High Café that was located in the mountains.

The fight between the remaining X-Men and The Brood rages on as Dazzler and Spitball battle into the crowded restaurant.  Seeing as how neither Dazzler nor Longshot made a real appearance last issue, it is nice that Claremont chose them for the kick-off to this final chapter of The Brood arc.

There’s a cuteness to the fight as this couple keeps making out in the  background, oblivious to the chaos around them, but there is also a sadness as the human customers choose to restrain Dazzler after she blasts Spitball with her photon eyebeams.  Since Spitball had yet to use his powers, they see a normal human being assaulted by a mutant and jump to the rescue only to find themselves on the painful end of their prejudiced assumptions.

We are introduced to two more Brood in short order named Whiphand and Blindside as the former attacks Dazzler while the latter looks to make a meal out of the human customer who stepped up to fight him.  Longshot hits the scene to save the innocent but finds himself also in Whiphand’s clutches until Colossus makes his arrival…

That first panel, nay this entire page, shows an inherent change to the methods in which the X-Men normally operate even compared to the previous issue.  With Whiphand, Colossus kills his second Brood in two issues while Storm incinerates Blindside with lightning; a far cry from the Russian powerhouse who was questioning himself during the Brickbat fight of last issue.  Of course, the couple finally notices something going on but only pause their make out session for a beat…

Our scene returns to Australia where Madelyne Pryor still lays unconscious in her computer room as Gateway stands sentry over her prone body.  The monitors of this mysterious system are inexplicably playing images from last issues “dream” sequence and we drift back into Madelyne’s mind as her mannequin-self wanders out into the deepest parts of the desert while dream-Gateway merely watches from afar.

The heat of the sun melts away the mannequin layers of her dream-self and we once again see Madelyne’s as herself. A trip, fall, and dip in a pool of water later and she emerges “…honed to a killing edge…” as the text on one of the pages states.

As Maddie emerges from the pool, a pair of purple hands drapes a cloak over her naked body and as we turn the page it is revealed the hands belong to someone who was, at the time I initially read this, completely unfamiliar to me. New Mutants readers of the time, people who had read the Magik (Storm & Illyana) mini, or those who read UXM #160 when he first appeared would recognize S’ym, demon resident of Limbo, but to me he was a fresh face.

Sidebar: for those who are unaware (as I was way back then) the character of S’ym is homage to Dave Sim’s creation Cerebus The Aardvark after Sim had a character named Professor Charles X Claremont appears in his book.

To Maddie this is all a dream, so when S’ym offers her a bit of a Faustian deal, she takes the most dangerous option the demon offers and as he stabs her in the chest with his fingernail and licks her blood from his claw, we see a woman changed in appearance in this dream world but what will it be when she awakes to reality?

We return to the Red Rocks Theater where the Reverend and his wife prepare for the kick-off of his ministry. We get another glimpse into the man Reverend Conover is as he overhears one of his people use the term “mutie” and as he heads off to begin his task, Josie (Harry Palmer’s paramedic partner) tells Hannah Conover she has something to take care of her arthritis…

We jump back to Wolverine, Rogue, and Temptress as the possessed X-Man transports her unconscious teammate and her Brood captor both to the Red Rocks location.  Rogue is fully under Temptress’ spell as she rejoices in the thought of being turned into a true Brood whilst Wolverine is depicted in mid-transformation, his skin beginning to take on a scaly appearance.  The Canadian X-Man comes to just to rip Temptress’ guts out with his claws only for Rogue to hurl him to the ground with a Claremontian description that truly encapsulates Rogue’s power: “Meteors have hurled to Earth with less force”.

Simultaneously Harry, Spitball, Tension, the possessed Psylocke, and Lockup head towards Red Rocks themselves only via automobile. Their path hits a roadblock named Colossus head-on and The Brood unit his set upon by Storm as well as the Russian powerhouse.  Rogue quickly joins the fray, threatening Storm with the implantation of a Queen egg, as Dazzler and Longshot are reintroduced to the battle.  Dazzler, as Colossus and Havok before her, is put into a life-death situation only this time it isn’t a Brood life at stake, it is that of Storm’s.  As Ororo struggles with Rogue in mid-air, Dazzler is the only one available with the long range abilities to assist but it requires a pinpoint accuracy with her strongest photon beams to even hope to phase Rogue.  A miss, on the other hand, would cost Storm her life by that same beam so luckily for Dazzler (or perhaps its Longshot’s presence) the beam strikes the nigh-invulnerable Rogue and saves Storm. Also luckily for the team, the collision with Colossus knocked Psylocke free from the influence of Temptress; presumably it could have been the Brood’s death but since Rogue remained under the thrall that is doubtful.

So as those X-Men battle it out above and around the theater, the infected Wolverine stumbles his way into the ongoing ministry as Reverend Conover attempts to calm his flock. Conover, based on Wolverine’s ramblings, assumes the man is on drugs but as Logan’s body begins to physically transform he remarks that “the demon is real” and begins to perform what I can only call an impromptu exorcism.  Unbeknownst to Conover though, it is Wolverine’s healing factor that ultimately saves him from the transformation rather than the words.

Now a comment on that transformation; although it wasn’t known to me at the time of my original reading, as I would come to later find out back in UXM #162 Wolverine was implanted with a Brood Queen egg for the very first time.  In that story, his adamantium skeleton prevented any of the physiological changes of Brood transformation occurring.  He merely got scaly temporarily until the healing factor fought off the egg as it would any infection in Wolvie’s body.  Exactly why his body transformed in this case, with the tentacles and facial appearance of a Brood, is something never quite explained but presumably this different breed of Brood represented by Harry Palmer implanted him with a different kind of egg, one that could somehow mold the unbreakable metal inside Wolverine’s body.

Back to the story at hand as Tension attempts to attack the Reverend only to be blasted to bits by Havok who laments that “…once you start killing, each one becomes easier…”.  As he’s distracted, Spitball and Lockup attempt to sneak up on the solar-powered X-Man only for Longshot to save his teammate from Spitball’s blast.  Thanks to Longshot’s inherent luck, the blast strikes a stage wall which falls down and crushes the Brood pair of Spitball and Lockup (note that the captions incorrectly state “Tension and Lockup”).

In the chaos Harry Palmer takes Hannah Palmer hostage and spouts off about the end of the human race and other such villainous tripe as Wolverine, the one X-Man at this point with no qualms about doing what needs to be done, saves the day and pops his claws into the brain of the Brood leader.

The intriguing thing about the above page, besides a Reverend crediting a biblical quote to Abraham Lincoln (although Lincoln’s usage might be more commonly known), is that Hannah’s arthritic hands seemed to have been healed.  This, combined with Reverend thinking himself responsible for Wolverine’s salvation, lead Conover to question whether or not he has been graced with some sort of healing power by God.  This dangling plotline of the Conover’s & Josey the Paramedic is the first in this reread that is NOT addressed by Claremont before his departure from the X-Men books in 1991.  It is actually tackled nearly ten years later in the two issue series X-Men vs. Brood: Day of Wrath written by John Ostrander with art by Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary.

The X-Men return home to Australia, some in a celebratory mood, others like though are Havok more distraught over the actions they had to take in order to survive the Brood onslaught.  Unbeknownst to any of the team though, Madelyne Pryor lay unconscious beneath their feet and with her simple “dream” the entire fate of the world may have changed…

Next up: GENOSHA!

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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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