Monday, September 21, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Uncanny X-Men #128-131 and Iron Man #120

This is my last week with the X-Men for a while.  Assuming I stick with the Comic Book Herald reading list - and there's no reason to suspect I won't - I will be back and will in fact pick up exactly where I'm leaving off now.  However, it's time to visit a few other series, starting with Iron Man.

The Claremont X-Men run is every bit as good as advertised.   As Marvel teams go, I have always preferred the X-Men to the Avengers (though I will concede the Avengers movies are better).  And yet, when I jumped on to the X-Men train in #94, I experienced the same frustrations I had with Avengers #89-97: too many characters, too many fight scenes, just too much.  Give me a simple narrative with a small group of relatable characters.  That is the heart of every truly great story ever, no matter how elaborate the trappings and good luck trying to convince me otherwise.  There was so much going on with the Avengers that I barely cared about the outcomes and I worried the X-Men would be the same way.

Chris Claremont settled things down when he became head writer for the series.  Even following a character cast overhaul, the X-Men were a family again.  Stories became simpler and thus more engaging.  Plus, Claremont was committed to developing the female characters.  By #131, Jean Gray is the most powerful and enigmatic team member and Ororo isn't far behind.  In short, I've grown to care about the X-Men - first time I've felt that way since Spidey.

My Recent Reads

Uncanny X-Men #128
Originally Published December 10, 1979
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: John Byrne
  • When we left off last week, Proteus, now in the form of his just slain father, Joe MacTaggert, now holds Moira as a human shield in a stand off with the X-Men, seemingly intent on doing her harm as well.
  • At last, the X-Men defeat Proteus.  Colossus delivers the killing blow.


Uncanny X-Men #129
January 10, 1980 
  • Major personnel development: Banshee leaves the X-Men, preferring to stay with Moira at Muir Island.
  • Upon returning to Westchester, the X-Men are delighted to find that Charles is back as well.
  • Scott and Charles have words over their differing leadership styles.  It's interesting to see that relationship evolving.
  • With principal characters leaving the story, obviously we need to add some new ones.  Cerebro (the mutant tracking system) identifies two new mutants, one in Chicago, another in New York.  Are they potential recruits or potential threats?  Obviously, the X-Men need to find out.  They divide forces.  Charles, Storm, Wolverine and Colossus head to Chicago, Cyclops, Phoenix and Nightcrawler to NYC.
Kitty Pryde - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia
  • We meet Kitty Pryde, a 13-year-old girl who has been experiencing strange headaches but doesn't yet know they're related to mutant powers.  Charles and company arrive at her parents' home to recruit her to the School for Gifted Youngsters.  But there's competition...
Emma Frost | X-Men Wiki | Fandom
via X-Men Wiki
  • A Ms. Emma Frost is trying to recruit Kitty to her own Massachusetts Academy.  Unbeknownst to the others, Emma Frost is also the White Queen, a leader of the Hellfire Club.
  • When the X-Men take Kitty out to the malt shop, they are attacked and captured by Frost's Hellfire Knights.  
  • Kitty escapes and in so doing, discovers her powers: walking through walls.


Uncanny X-Men #130
February 10, 1980
  • Meanwhile, Cyclops, Phoenix and Nightcrawler head to a Manhattan disco but can't find their mutant target.
Sebastian Shaw (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
via Marvel Database
  • The interest of the Hellfire Club has been drawn here as well.  We meet the group's leader, Sebastian Shaw.  Where there is a White Queen, apparently there must also be a Black King.
  • Here our old friend Jason Wyngarde is drawn into the story.  He is also a member of the Hellfire Club.  He promises Sebastian that he will take care of Jean Gray himself.
  • For several issues now, Wyngarde has been causing Jean to fall into a timeslip where she finds herself in a late 18th century-scape, also with Wyngarde.  He does it again.  This time, the alternate time Jean and Jason get married.  When she comes out of it, they are kissing in the disco.  Scott sees them.  Oh dear...
Alison Blaire (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
via Marvel Database
  • As it turns out, the target is the club's singer: Dazzler (aka Alison Blaire).  Her powers allow her to do funky things with light.
  • Kitty Pryde calls the X-Men car phone for help with the Chicago situation.  Nightcrawler answers and promises aid, though he has more pressing matters to attend to.
  • The Hellfire Knights attack the disco.  Fortunately our friends, including Dazzler, get away.


Uncanny X-Men #131
March 10, 1980
  • Cyclops, Phoenix, Nightcrawler and Dazzler arrive in Chicago just in time to rescue Kitty from Hellfire Club minions.
  • The New York group now rescues the Chicago group, who had been captured by the Hellfire Club.
  • We meet two other Hellfire Club members:
Harry Leland - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia
    • Harry Leland (aka Black Bishop)
Donald Pierce - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia
    • Donald Pierce
  • Phoenix defeats White Queen in psychic battle.
  • The Dazzler declines to join the X-Men, preferring to get back to her singing career.
  • Kitty, on the other hand, eagerly agrees to attend the School for Gifted Youngsters.   With some brainwashing help from Phoenix, Kitty's parents consent.


Iron Man #120
March 10, 1979
Writer: David Michelline
Artist: John Romita, Jr. 
Iron Man - Wikipedia
via Wikipedia
  • Iron Man #120 kicks off the Demon in a Bottle arc in which Tony Stark, along with all his usual superhero business, confronts his alcoholism.
  • As we join the story, Stark is riding in an airplane and ordering his fourth martini.  The plane is suddenly hit by a flying tank.  Stark rushes to the bathroom, changes into his Iron Man suit and saves the day, bringing the plane into a relatively safe water landing.
  • The tank was thrown by our old friend Namor.  Iron Man and Namor battle, first on land, then underwater.
War Machine - Wikipedia
War Machine via Wikipedia
Bethany Cabe (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
Cabe via Marvel Database
  • Meanwhile, back on Long Island, word of the plane crash gets to Jim Rhodes (aka War Machine) and Bethany Cabe.  They rush to the airfield to help.
Justin Hammer (Earth-616) | Marvel Database | Fandom
via Marvel Database
  • Also meanwhile, we meet Justin Hammer who can apparently, from his remote location, control Iron Man's armor.  As the issue comes to a close, Iron Man's sealing plates have failed and water rushes into his armor, threatening to drown him.


  1. The introduction of Kitty Pryde was somewhat of a gamechanger for X-Men, but I suppose that's not apparent yet. I wonder how much of how that develops Claremont planned ahead of time. Because you can't really predict the popularity of characters. And I don't think Wolverine would have become the character he became without her.

    I have those Iron Man issues, but I don't know if I ever actually read them.

    1. I'm not terribly impressed with the Iron Man run so far. It doesn't help that I don't particularly like the character. It also hasn't gotten too deep into the alcoholism part of the story yet.

    2. Iron Man was never one of my favorite titles. It was good enough to read, but I didn't love it.
      On the other hand, there were so many DC titles that, no matter how hard I tried to get into them, I could not.

    3. IM is just a jerk. I don't like him in the movies either. No humility. Ever.

    4. Yep, he's an asshole.
      He didn't go through the kinds of things that Strange did to learn humility.
      But, know, Downey played him wonderfully.

    5. Agreed. I have no issue with the actor.

  2. Uncanny 128 might be my favorite cover of all time. Just a visceral reaction to the colors and layout.

    Plus it was the first comic I spent more than $5 on!

    1. Interesting choice. Byrne definitely channeled Ditko for that story.

      Speaking of Ditko, The Amazing Spider-Man #28 would be my favorite cover choice so far.