Thursday, May 22, 2014

1983: Infectious X-Men part VI: Charles In Charge (of his legs!)

By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)

In the sixth part of Infectious X-Men, most of the team is about to transform into Brood royalty courtesy of the rapidly maturing embryos in their guts. Ready to go out in a blaze of glory, the X-Men learned of a better, more noble way to pay back the "sleazoids" for what they had done. Oh, and back on Earth... Charles Xavier has assembled a band of, well, New Mutants. But more on that later.


After learning they'd been infected by the Brood Queen, the X-Men's initial response was to head back to the Brood homeworld and kill as many of them as possible before they turned. Thanks to Storm, who had rid herself of her own embryo by sacrificing her life in space, only to end up inside the cheek of an infant Acanti Prophet-Singer (ah, comics), the team came up with a better idea. They agreed to help free the soul of the Acanti, which had been trapped inside the deceased form of the former Prophet-Singer that the Brood had enslaved ages ago. They'd even forced it to commit suicide by crashing on a planet, where they Brood used its rotting remains to build their throneworld. 

The plan is relatively simple: the X-Men would approach the Brood homeworld, keeping themself hidden inside the infant Acanti Prophet-Singer that Storm is now guiding. Once they're within range, they'll use the teleportation systems of their space ship (Lilandra's yacht the Z'reee Shar) to beam down to the planet and look for the Acanti soul. 

Meanwhile, aided by Binary, Storm and the Acanti would keep the Brood's planetary defense forces properly distracted. However, Wolverine has some concerns about the X-Men still being trustworthy. After all, they could change at any moment. More annoyed by Logan's attitude than we'd grown accustomed to, Cyclops dared him to finish them all off if he felt they weren't to be trusted.

Luckily, Kitty intervened before the big ol' snikting could start.


"Stop it, both of you...Stop it!"

With everyone relatively calmed down, the X-Men headed for the Brood homeworld to carry out their plan. The appearance of the Acanti alarmed the Brood military, giving Lilandra and the X-Men the opportunity to beam down and get to work. However, Cyclops still wasn't anywhere near his usual self.


"Energize, Scotty! Beam us down!"

Thanks to Carol Danvers, by now in full control of her newfound Binary powers, Storm and the Acanti child were able to hold their own. The Brood Queen was intent on getting her tentacles on the young Prophet-Singer, aware that capturing the infant space whale would assure the Brood's control over its race for ages to come. As suspected, she sent the bulk of her forces after it, totally unaware the renegade X-Men were on her world. 

That is, until this happened....


"Do you not recognize your own progeny?"

Secretly and silently, one of the X-Men had already started to change, even able to contact her mother the Brood Queen before she finally took over. Furious to find out she was being deceived, the Queen led a strike force to the lower level catacombs of the Acanti corpse  The Brood, as it turns out, were hesistant to go down there because the world they crashed the Prophet-Singer on turned out to be filled with indigenous lifeforms (read: monsters) even the Brood were no match for. (read: the natives had the sleazoids for breakfast. Literally, as Kitty discovered when she stumbled on a nest that was littered with Brood skeletons). 

The X-Men meanwhile had met some those fearsome natives the second they beamed down. During the fight, Kitty had accidentally gotten seperated from the team and was wandering the corridors aimlessly, discovering the aforementioned nest remains in the process.

During this, Wolverine made a disturbing discovery.


"I've been worryin' since we started about a traitor in the group...
an' I think I just found one!"

Reading Uncanny X-Men I#166  back when I was a kid, this particular image haunted me for days. I guess yours truly was what they nowadays refer to as a "sensitive child". Still, it is a pretty gruesome image, both on face value (see what I did?) and the inherent implication: the changes were happening and as far as we knew, nothing short of a miracle could stop the Brood embryos from hatching. Also: note the level of detail artist Paul Smith puts in the ripped off visor: the tiny nuts, bolts and wheels flying off. 

Her identity revealed, the young Brood Queen inside Cyclops showed what she was truly capable of, controlling Scott Summers' eyebeams in a way her host was never capable of due to alleged brain damage (. After already having stunned most of his former teammates, all the X-Men were taken out when the Brood Queen arrived on the scene with her forces. Cradling her soon to change daughter, the Queen ordered the other X-Men and Lilandra to be chained up awaiting their transformation.

Meanwhile, the Brood had found the lost Kitty Pryde... After they chased Shadowcat for quite a while, the young mutant suddenly received help from the unlikeliest of allies: a certain native of the Brood planet who used his fire powers to turn the terrible creatures to toast.


"Are you for real?"

Before she could properly meet her savior, they were attacked by a lone Brood soldier whose blast hit a particular fleshy wall (remember, all this went down inside the belly of the dead Prophet-Singer)... 


"No! It burns! It burns!"

And while Kitty and the Brood warrior entered the innerchamber of the Acanti Prophet-Singer's soul, the
X-Men found themselves captured by the Brood Queen.

Luckily, things weren't all that bad out in space. Despite the fact the Brood warriors incapacitated Binary with a variation of the slaver virus they use on the Acanti, Storm was able to keep the young one safe for the moment. Her luck lasted long enough for the cavalry to arrive...


"The great starship has been searching for the X-Men for weeks...
True to form, they've arrived in the proverbial nick of time."

Back on the surface, the Brood Queen was already celebrating her victory when Cyclops' embryo suddenly decided to fully hatch. In a move that stretches all credibility, this process caused both embryo and host such tremendous discomfort and pain that Cyclops started firing his eye beams uncontrollably, knocking out Brood warriors left and right.

Wolverine, sensing an opportunity, jumped in front of one of the blasts in order to shatter his shackles. Now free, he quickly knocked out Cyclops, used his claws to cut off the Brood Queen's poison stingers and held her hostage while he ordered the remaining Brood to free his teammates. With the Brood soldiers chained up using the X-Men's old bonds, the team dragged the Brood Queen and a shackled Cyclops down to where Wolverine sniffed out and eventually located Kitty.


"X-Men, you are flesh of my flesh, where you go... So shall I"

With the Brood Queen in tow, the X-Men entered the domain of the entire Acanti race. However, as soon as they were inside, their embryos tried to take over. As the host bodies went through the change, the Brood's dark, evil influence tainted the crystalline purity that is the unblemished Acanti soul. 


"A majestic sight, is it not?
The empathic resonance of their metamorphosis already saturates this chamber"

Wolverine, free of the Brood's influence because of his healing factor, is ready to kill his friends before their change is completed... And to be honest, seeing the X-Men and Lilandra about to overtaken by the embroys is as horrific as it gets. Fortunately, before Logan could strike, the newly recovered Binary entered the Acanti's inner chamber and intervened. Using her amazing (dare we say anything-to-fit-the-story) borderline magic abilities, this happens...


"A blinding bolt of energy rips upward into space...
Leaving in its wake a song of longing and joy and eternal love."

Thanks to Binary's energy powers, the trapped Acanti soul is able to reconnect with the infant Prophet-Singer that Storm had been shepherding. This set the race of space whales free (even though most of them are still mindless slaves to the Brood, who have erected prime real estate in their flesh). Still, a new chance is a new chance, no matter how you turn it. Speaking of turning, weren't the X-Men and Majestrix Lilandra about to turn into Brood royalty? Well, sure, but Deus Ex Danvers had struck again...


"I think the soul took care of things for us... by purging the Sleazoid elements from their bodies."

Well, isn't that convenient? Not only did Binary's intervention allow the Acanti to gain their freedom, upon leaving the race's soul also rid the X-Men of their Brood embryos... And, more importantly, even turned the Brood Queen herself into a collectible crystal figurine. Newly restored to normal, the X-Men were then teleported to the Starjammer where they were met by Corsair, his teammates and... Storm, whose original body had miraculously been restored by the newly anointed Acanti Prophet-Singer after absorbing its race soul.

With everyone alive and well, the time seemed ripe for a celebration of sorts. But Wolverine, ever the party pooper, made one rather poignant observation in the closing pages of the double sized issue...


"Before she died, the Queen boasted about another royal embryo, one that indirectly threatened the Earth itself. I figure there's only one person who could be hosting it: Charles Xavier."

Yup, what everyone had already suspected for several months (or weeks, if you've first discovered this storyline through these recaps), Charles Xavier had been infected by the Brood Queen as well.
Carrying the embryo around longer than any of the X-Men, the young Queen inside Xavier was already calling the shots. First, by assembling another band of fresh faced, impressionable young teenagers with powers... Better known as the New Mutants. While the X-Men were still fighting for their lives in space, the Brood controlled Xavier was slowly grooming his young charges to become the Brood's future progeny... However, she sensed the young Native American Dani Moonstar would be trouble, forcing the embryo to act during a dream like sequence back in New Mutants I#2.


"You alone have sensed my presence, you alone could bring about my destruction."

That's why in New Mutants I# 2 & 3, circumstances made it seem as if Dani was either losing her mind or had been mentally unstable to begin with. Then, driven so mad by the infant Queen's influence, Dani used her powers to drag her teammates into a lifelike illusion that saw them fighting the Brood Queen (remember, they still had no idea who or what the alien was). That all ended when Moonstar pleaded with the others to knock her out, correctly figuring this would end the illusions.

Later that night, a still shaken up Dani was consoled by her teammate Sunspot (Roberto DaCosta), who managed to bring her back inside so all of them could watch Tom Selleck in the latest episode of Magnum P.I.
But not before they spotted a shooting star.


"I've never seen one so bright. Consider it a good omen."

Or, maybe not... Because a month earlier, Uncanny X-Men I#167 came out and revealed just what this "shooting star" really was: the arrival of the Starjammer in Earth orbit and the inevitable return of the X-Men in possibly one of *the* defining spreads of the early 1980s.


"Who's been sleeping in my head?"

Shocked and even a little stunned, the New Mutants nonetheless remembered what little combat training they'd received from the professor at this point and their best to hold off these somewhat familiar assailants. 

While two generations of mutants duked it out downstairs, Kitty Pryde secretly phased in with a Shi'ar blaster in hand, ready to take out the professor before he could become a problem. But, speaking of problems, how do you surprise a telepath? The answer's not that hard when you think of it: You just don't. Cos, well, as soon as you think of it... They know.

Don't believe me? Well...


"You should have heeded Wolverine's injunction, child, and fired."

Fully aware of the danger, the Brood controlled Xavier took care of Shadowcat before making his presence known to both teams of mutants fighting downstairs. What followed was one of the most memorable but nonetheless truly horrific scenes of the early 1980s. Professor Charles Xavier transformed into a Brood Queen and just how so much graphic detail ever got past the Comics Code Authority is quite possibly the eighth miracle of the world.

So, here goes... the full page horror that is Charles Xavier: young Brood Queen.


"Charles Xavier is no more."

Reading this as a kid of nine, maybe ten, I wasn't that shocked per se. Sure, it was disturbing but I knew Xavier would be fine one way or another (I'd just read 1991's massive hit X-Men I#1 by Claremont and Lee, with Xavier alive and well, so...don't start with me). Funniest thing though, even today, whenever I'm at the dentist I can't help but recall that fourth panel with the Brood fangs shooting out of the professor's gums. Fat load of good all that brushing did over the years.

The X-Men and New Mutants quickly teamed up to stop the young Brood Queen from escaping, with Wolverine even lobbing off her stingers, but she gets away anyway and takes to the skies... Only to find some unexpected opposition waiting for her.


"The name's Binary! I hate to disillusion you, monster. But from us... there's no escape."

On a complete and total side note, I obtained the Dutch version of this issue from the back issue bins at the local market when I was around 10. Call it Claremont's striking storytelling, Smith's surprisingly strong visuals or a child's vivid imagination... But back then, yours truly was able to imagine himself a part of the adventure.

Especially Binary's surprise attack really stuck with me. So much so that for weeks on end, I imagined myself being Binary swooping down to dole out vengeance whenever I rode my bike off this small slope right next to  my primary school.


I suppose it takes a magnificent amount of imagination to make that fly, but there you go.
... And there I went...

But before we segued into another episode of "Jef: The Mini Series", the injured Brood Queen was caught off guard by Binary's assault. Coupled with Storm trapping her inside a freak weather event caused the Queen to crash to Earth. Pinned down by the X-Men and the rather frazzled New Mutants, her fate seemed sealed. X-Men don't kill? Think again, bub... That is, until a voice of reason popped up from the most unexpected of places.


"Kill me, Scott. I beg you!"

Wolverine was ready to honor Xavier's request, but Cyclops refused to lose the closest thing he ever had to a father. Making a command decision, he ordered the Brood Queen to be taken to the Starjammer (incidentally captained by his actual father Corsair). There, the ship's chief medical doctor Sikorski teamed with doctor Moira MacTaggert to create a new body for Charles. 

Guess how that turned out...


"Professor Xavier?! You're all right?!"

With a freshly cloned body (though you'd think they could have corrected his hair loss), Charles was no longer plagued by the spinal cord injury that paralyzed him fighting the alien Dominus. Now able to walk after fifteen years in a chair, Xavier eagerly made his first steps... only to fall back into said chair, doubled over in pain. Even though he was potentially able to walk, he'd completely forgotten how to, causing his muscles to spasm (along with the fact he'd been using his telepathy to dull the pain of having shattered limbs all these years).

Charles was now forced to retrain himself, but that didn't seem to bother him. He was thrilled to have his first students home again... And we all know what the professor does when he has his dander up...
That's right, make someone else feel miserable.

Take 'r down a peg, Chuck!


"As soon as we return to Earth... you are to leave the X-Men... and join the New Mutants!"

As Kitty Pryde'll be happy to attest, possessed by a parasitic alien embryo or not: professor Xavier is still a jerk.

That pretty much concludes the X-Men's early run ins with the Brood... But like any other good horror movie monster, they always come back, as we'll see in part VII of Infectious X-Men: Normals Need Not Apply.

1 comment:

  1. The only Marvel cover where the UPC code box got zapped. :o)

    ReplyDelete

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