Wednesday, May 7, 2014

1982: Infectious X-Men part II: I Put A Spell On You

By Jef Willemsen (

After the X-Men's initial clash with the alien Brood, their leader Charles Xavier and his lover Lilandra Neramani had secretly been implanted with the embryo of what would one day become a young Brood Queen. In part two of Infectious X-Men, we'll find out there's plenty more where that came from.  

The cover to October 1982's Uncanny X-Men I#162 really gets ahead of the story, but what better way to start off the second part of this retrospective than with the pivotal moment of things to come?

When we last left the X-Men, they had just liberated Charles Xavier and Lilandra who were being kept prisoner by Deathbird aboard one of the Brood's giant space whales. They were able to escape courtesy of Corsair and the other Starjammers who rammed their ship straight through the side of the whale to freedom. The X-Men were free to prevent Shi'ar admiral Samédar from destroying Earth, which Xavier tried to do by telepathically reaching Nightcrawler and Shadowcat who were being held captive on Samédar's vessel in orbit over the planet.

Then he hit a little snag...

"In the process, Xavier senses an anomaly within himself..."

In retrospect, the clues are right there... Xavier senses the growing Brood Queen embryo inside him and, despite the shock, the professor decides it's for the best to render himself comatose while he tries to deal with the alien intruder. The writing is literally on the wall, with Dave Cockrum's obvious symbolism: Charles' already alien looking face slowly turning into a Brood, with the tiny embryonic queen in the corner. 

Still, how could the X-Men have known? And with Charles safe in the Starjammer's sickbay, the team went on to expose Deathbird's involvement in Lilandra's kidnapping. As soon as the empress showed up alive and well, the Shi'ar Imperial Guard and the forces under Samédar's command quickly turned on the admiral.

With Earth safe, but the school still destroyed by the Sidri, the X-Men temporarily moved into Magneto's old base on a mysterious island in the Bermuda triangle. They had all but forgotten about the Brood, their biggest concern was helping their ailing founder. Nowadays, the X-Men have mind readers to spare but back then they were a little shorthanded in that department. That's why Lilandra brought in the Imperial Guard's telepath Oracle, who apparently shops for headdresses at the same store as Storm.

Oracle tried her best to reach the comatose Charles.

"She will forge a psionic rapport with Charles and then examine him to
determine what force struck him down..."

Sounds good in theory. 

However, not even the Shi'ar's premiere telepath can hold her own against the mind of Charles Xavier in turmoil. Despite the fact he'd been waging a losing life and death battle against the infant Brood queen inside him, he was still able to mind control Oracle and tried to her to use her powers to kill him. Oracle was forced to turn her powers on Xavier, using their mental connection to fire powerful psi-bolts potent enough to kill him. Fortunately, the X-Men were on hand to save him.

"Wolverine, use your claws to sever the energy link between them!"

And so he did. Oracle was okay, the danger had passed but Xavier was still in a coma. In the months (in our time) that followed, they had encounters with their future member Rogue (by then still an enemy), squared off against Dracula and inadvertently went to Belasco's Limbo where they watched helplessly as Colossus' kid sister Illyana lost her childhood and innocence within moments. All those stories took close to half a year to tell, long enough for even the biggest of fans to lose track of the Brood storyline. However, there was one scene back in Uncanny X-Men I#157 that effectively foreshadowed the shape of things to come.

"We must have them, Deathbird. At any cost."

The Brood were more than a little intrigued by the X-Men and their powers. As such, they even forgave Deathbird for causing the deaths of many of their soldiers and the not so small wound in the side of their space whale when the Starjammer burst through it. But that was months away... And while the X-Men went through all the aforementioned trials and tribulations, Charles Xavier was still in a coma, at war with himself.

"Somehow, an alien consciousness has become part of him.
His thoughts, his mind, his very soul are no longer quite his own" 
Uncanny X-Men I#161 finally dealt with the comatose Charles, albeit in an ingenious way. While fighting for his life, soul and sanity Xavier had a fever dream that took him back to a memory of his own past. All of a sudden, he was in Israel in the late 1950s (by 1982, that was still credible given Marvel's sliding timescale). Charles had come to visit Daniel Shomron, his old army buddy from the war in Korea.

After the Korean conflict, Shomron had gone to Israel where had set up a mental hospital in the port town of Haifa which catered exclusively to holocaust survivors. Xavier was called in to help a young, catatonic girl called Gabrielle Haller (who would years later give birth to Xavier's son Legion). At the hospital, Charles also met and befriended a certain silverhaired orderly called Magnus (Magneto, natch) Charles and Magnus eventually teamed up to fight off Baron Strucker when he abducted Haller when it became obvious her mind had been imprinted with a roadmap to the Nazi's hidden stash of gold (which had caused her mental collapse).

Shortly after reliving that experience, Xavier woke up... seemingly none the worse for wear. With Charles restored to perfect health, his lover Lilandra no longer had an excuse to remain on Earth and saw herself forced to return to Chandilar to resume her duties as empress. As a parting gift, Lilandra hosted a banquet for the X-Men aboard her flagship the Z'ree Shar. With Xavier still too weak to attend, Carol Danvers joined the team in his stead. However, as soon as they got on board Lilandra's ship, things took a turn.

"A trap. We tried to react... but a stasis bomb ended the fight as soon as it had begun"

Deathbird had kept her promise: she'd deliver the X-Mena to the Brood and so she did. Heck, she even threw in her own sister, free of charge. However the team had no idea what was going on. They thought, through the magic of Brood mind control, they were celebrated guests at a marvellous party thrown in their honor. Only Wolverine knew there was something wrong when he woke up in Uncanny X-Men I#162 (remember the cover?).

This issue, cover dated September 1982, is in many ways a companion piece to the widely praised, first ever Wolverine limited series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, published between September and December 1982. In this chapter of the Brood conflict, Claremont really focuses on Wolverine, highlighting how he thinks, what motivates his often feral behavior and above all showing just why he is the best there is at what he does. Consider his monologue on the opening page of issue 162...

"I'm Wolverine. I'm a long way from home. An' I think I'm dyin'..."

Some 30+ years later, this "ruff 'n tuff" style narration has become a bit of a tired cliche, but the reason it's been done to death is because it works so perfectly. 

Over the course of the story, the deadly ill Wolverine slowly figures out what has been happening. First, he realizes the whole ceremony aboard Lilandra's flag ship had been staged, with someone behind the scenes pulling the strings... However, when he tries to tell Storm of his discovery, she appears completely convinced by the lie the Brood want the team to buy into. Logan knew better and struck out on his own, discovering they were in fact on an alien world surrounded by Brood. And then, his real memories of the events slowly returned...

"Carol!! This is crazy! Those winged clowns are sleazoids!"

Wolverine recalls how Carol Danvers was taken away for experimentation by Brood scientists during the reception. We'll see what happened to her in one of the next chapters... For now, let's continue with Logan's, pardon the pun, run in with the truth... Especially when he happened to spot a squadron of Brood cornering Fang, a member of the Imperial Guard loyal to Deathbird. At first, Wolverine was more than a little pleased to see the Brood dealing with the traitorous Guard member and then, this happened...

"It will consume you, Fang. Transform you and, in the process, absorb the totality... of your memories, your abilities, your genetic potential."

Logan didn't need a house to drop on him: that is exactly what was going to happen o him and the others. This would also explain why the Brood chasing him were going through such great lengths to prevent him from getting hurt. And even as he considered the scope of his discovery, he flashed back to the truly horrifying moment when he received the Brood embryo now growing steadily inside him.

"The kid struggled, to no avail. I heard her screams, wanted to act... but I couldn't.
Some power held me fast."

And there you have it... the Brood Queen had been aboard the Z'Ree Shar, somehow succesfully manipulating the minds of the X-Men while she implanted each and everyone of them with her embryos. While Wolverine succesfully continued to fight off the Brood warriors sent to collect him. he was suddenly overcome with incredible pain. 

The Brood inside him had reached maturity. 

Logan's time had run out.

"My flesh begins to smoke... Comprehension....
The transformation, my metamorphosis has begun.
I fight."

And fight he did... Thanks to both his mutant healing factor and his adamantium enhanced skeleton, Logan was able to overcome the Brood embryo's influence. His body essentially treated the egg like it would any other infection, even though it caused him considerable discomfort. At dawn, Logan had returned to his right mind... Bruised, battered and scarred but once more in control of his own body. Unfortunately, he now realized the dire task that lay ahead of him.

"I'll... kill them all. My friends. Then, it'll be the sleazoids' turn."

But more on that in part III of Infectious X-Men: Logan's Choice (nah, he won't run)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting how you connected this to the Wolverine mini. I've never thought of that before, and it seems pretty obvious to me. This always seemed to me the second big "Wolverine moment" in terms of making him first among the X-Men, rather than one of the crowd (the first being the time he took on the Hellfire Club by himself). It's an interesting change, to see the books shift to a point where they can become a little "Wolverine and the X-Men" seeming (not that they're like the Jason Aaron books in tone, per se; just that they're like them in terms of putting the ol' Canucklehead front and center).



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