1980 · The 80s

June 1980: X-Men 137 Or, Why doesn’t the Watcher just lock his door?

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Notes: X-Men 137: Fate of the Phoenix was written by Chris Claremont with art by John Byrne and Terry Austin and  opens with Uatu, the Watcher commenting on the  events that have led to this issue and points out that this is where the universe may pay the price for what transpires next. What happens next is the X-Men appear aboard the cargo deck of a Shi’Ar battle ship, with Charles Xavier’s girlfriend Empress Lilandra Neramani and her Chamberlain Araki as well as representatives of the Skrull and Kree empires. Next to Lilandra stands Gladiator of the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard, who informs the X-Men (Charles ‘Professor X’ Xavier, Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers, Jean ‘a depowered Phoenix’ Grey, Hank ‘Beast’ McCoy, Warren ‘Angel’ Worthington III, Woverine, Kurt ‘Nightcrawler’ Wagner, Peter ‘Colossus’ Rasputin and Ororo ‘Storm’ Munroe) of the genocide committed by Jean under the influence of the Phoenix, an influence stopped by her battle with Xavier. The Shi’Ar are not impressed by this and demand a trial. Xavier demands a trial by combat and the team are given till dawn to prepare.

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We then get some little vignettes, showing the X-Men in preparation. Nightcrawler and Angel question what they are doing, Jean gets a copy of her old costume made, Wolverine realises that right or wrong, he will stand by Jean as will Colossus and Storm. The Beast is the only one who objects to a trial by combat at all, preferring an actual trial with evidence and stuff like that. He’s then treated to a massage which he responds to by say “Hellllll…llo” Just before dawn, Jean meets Scott and reads his mind, realising that no matter that he understands Lilandra’s position, he errs on the side of mercy and the side of Jean.

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The battle begins, the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard, plus a Kree and Skrull soldier, versus the X-Men (less Professor X) for the life of Phoenix on the blue area of the moon. (Editor’s note, the Blue Area is an area of the moon in the Marvel 616 Universe, which has an atmosphere and a long history in Marvel stories) One by one, the X-Men fall, Wolverine at one point is thrown into the house of the Watcher, who teleports Wolverine into different times and places before throwing him out in a scene that is weirdly out of place. This brings him back into the fight, this time against a Skrull, who is saved from Wolverine by the Kree, which starts a fight. Nightcrawler falls to Manta, Beast falls to Warstar, Angel is beaten by Smasher and Earthquake and Hussar finish off Storm. The last match up between Colossus and Gladiator goes as you expect. Colossus falls hard, but he does fall and then it’s the entire Imperial Guard vs Cyclops and Marvel Girl.

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The two of them battle bravely, but the battle wears them down and bit by bit, Phoenix returns and when the X-Men start to get back up, it’s to battle Jean, not to save her. Phoenix gives way to Dark Phoenix and she comes face to face with  Scott in a ruin, surrounded by ancient machines. The machines activate and one fires a blast of energy at Phoenix, reducing her to dust and Cyclops realises that she planned the whole thing. The Kree and Skrull would have known about the tech and set the whole thing to end there, by her own hand. He realises this, breaks down and cries.

 

The watcher speaks to his audience, a Rigellian Recorder and explains that it was important for Jean to have died a human. This was a triumph, not a tragedy.

Notes: Well, what do you say to that? The X-Men battle for their lives and the life of Phoenix, who has committed acts of genocide. Everyone must search their soul for the will to fight, hearts are broken, bodies bruised and a god dies as a woman, for love. Damn that’s epic. It was rare the X-Men got to this height, but whenever they did, the owned the stage. Claremont threads characters and scenes together flawlessly, no one’s thoughts or actions were anything other than on point.

The art is gorgeous, the battle toll shown on each character and everyone looks as though every emotion is painted to their face. It looks as good as it is written, this comic earns it’s ‘classic’ status.

I could say more, but to be honest, a better job was done by Rachel and Miles of Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, they covered the end of the Dark Phoenix saga on this link here

http://www.rachelandmiles.com/xmen/?p=695

Next time: Fantastic 4, Salem’s 7, that sounds like an exciting score

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