Sunday, May 25, 2014

1988: Infectious X-Men part VII: Normals Need Not Apply

By Jef Willemsen (

In the seventh part of Infectious X-Men, Chris Claremont has the Brood prove the old horror movie adage "sometimes they do come back" still holds true. It's been five years since we last saw a Sleazoid, but now the alien body snatchers are back... And they have a plan.

"The Brood is back" 

"IS" back? I always figured the Brood (by the very nature of their name) warranted a plural. But who am I to argue with creatures with giant teeth this size of Godzilla... But that's neither here nor there, let's rejoice that after five long years of absence (and one tiny lil' 1986 movie called Aliens), Chris Claremont was letting the body snatching baddies out to play again. Though, in all fairness to Claremont, he'd been planning their comeback for well over a year. Back in June 1987's Uncanny X-Men I#218 we got this seemingly unrelated scene.

"Lorna, look out!"

Thanks to their mutant powers, Havok and Polaris survived this particular accident and the other driver seemed alright as well. A full thirteen months later in Uncanny X-Men I#232, we find out why the maniac behind the wheel of that VW van was so upset. 

And he wasn't anywhere near 'alright'...

"Is this paradise, cruisers, or what?"

Camping with cruisers, eh? That sounds like the sort of fun weekend you'd need some antibiotics for on Monday. If only because you're about to be eaten by a space shark. Yes, this particular outing was interrupted by one of the Brood's living vessels crashing near the campsite. Unable to keep well enough alone, the cruisers went to check out the site.

"Wow oh wow. Oh WOW!"

Harry Palmer, the blonde one in the back rushing in with a med kit, wants his friends to keep their distance until they can confirm it is indeed safe.

Big mistake.

"I can't walk!"

Ah yeah... the Brood are back on Earth. Marc Silvestri's take on them is even more monstrous and horrific than either Paul Smith or Dave Cockrum's versions. Harry Palmer, in a near mindess panic, drove off in his Volkswagen and almost ran Havok and Polaris off the road. However, as Uncanny X-Men I#232 showed his state of anxiety didn't last too long...

"That was then. This is now."

Harry Palmer has resumed his job as a paramedic, along with his partner Josie. It seems like business as usual for ol' Harry, but when he's called in to help a lawyer who had a heart attack and suddenly started breathing fire, he shows his true colors.

"I don't want to die"

Yup, Harry did not escape the Brood... Somehow, he was infected with a royal egg and is now implanting others. Saving lives by implanting an alien embryo that supercharges a person's natural healing factor? Wonder if that's covered by Obamacare. All attempts at topical nonsensical humor aside, Palmer has been secretly recruiting. However, when he came home after a busy day of emergencies and umplanting, he found some unexpected guests waiting for him.


Somehow the X-Men learned of the Brood's arrival on Earth and tracked Palmer to his appartment. At first he seemed totally oblivious and innocent, until he suddenly charged Colossus and effortlessly threw him at Psylocke who only survived the collision thanks to her new body armor. The X-Men briefly confront Palmer who eventually managed to evade them and disappeared into the night.

"Either we stop it now... or our world is doomed"

Of the current X-Men line up, only Colossus, Storm and Wolverine had any experience with the Brood and knew the true extent of the danger they faced. Psylocke's telepathic powers didn't pick up anything weird about Harry, so the team had to rely on Wolverine's senses. Again, it's not been revealed how the X-Men discovered their old enemies were back... A bit of an oversight on Claremont's part, though structuring the story this way adds a layer of suspense. 

Still, it could have been easily explained with a few lines of dialogue... During those days, the team operated out of the Reavers' old base in the Australian outback. The place came equipped with an advanced computer system that monitored television broadcasts from around the world. It stands to reason discovering the charred remains of a giant shark in the mountains would have made headlines. Recognizing the creature as a Brood vessel, the X-men would surely have gone down to New Mexico to check it out.

Getting back to Palmer, still scared out of his wits he decided to get away from his assailants by bus. It seemed like he was still very much unaware he was possessed. 

"Safe... but for how long?"

Good question, Harry... cos, to paraphrase Alanis Morissette, the stranger on the bus trying to make her way home sure ain't God. Rogue had somehow managed to get on the (conveniently empty) bus before Palmer even came up with the idea. Maybe the nebulously defined "seventh sense" she absorbed after taking over Ms. Marvel's powers clued her into it. But those predictive abilities didn't tell her she was no match for Palmer who was ready to do some serious impromptu implanting...

"This is a moment long overdue, little X-Girl"

Not to go all Freudian on you, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar after all, but there's something inherently sexual about Harry's Brood stinger about to stab and implant Rogue. It's a little surprising that the Comics Code Authority did not view this as particularly suggestive. It also wouldn't be the last time Claremont wrote a situation in which Rogue was overpowered and about to be jabbed with an enemy's transformative poker. Case in point: Uncanny X-Men Annual 2000.

"It's more interested in transforming Rogue into a Prime."

At the last moment, Wolverine intervened, saved Rogue and engaged Palmer in a struggle that caused the bus to crash. Escaping the fiery wreck, Palmer found himself backed into an alley with the X-Men closing in on him. However, before the mutants can deal with Harry, the police arrive on the scene. Wolverine immediately attacks them, sensing they're Brood. And, as the team finds out when Harry finally shows his true colors...

They're not alone. 

"We're all of us Brood here. And soon, old enemies, very soon... 
YOU will be too!"

And with that, Uncanny X-Men I#232 ended... Quite the cliffhanger, much like a beat from an actual horror movie. Luckily for the fans at the time, they didn't have to wait a whole month to see what happened. Uncanny X-Men I#233 kicked of a bi-weekly Summer schedule for the book Marvel initiated at the time and things were really heating up when the first Brood to attack turned out to be the fire breathing lawyer Harry Palmer had "saved' the other day. Which led to this obvious revelation... 

"They're mutants, just like you!"

In a move that mirrored the original Brood saga, the aliens only wanted hosts with superhuman powers their progeny would inherit. That meant Palmer had been rather selective when it came to the people he picked to be pricked. The X-Men found themselves under attack from a group of well trained, supremely powerful Brood/mutant hybrids who were tough as nails and were also more than a little at home when it came to Chris Claremont's favorite pet peeve: mind control.

"Breathe deep, Storm... flood your system with my pheromones..."

Storm managed to escape Temptress, thanks to Rogue tackling the mind witch. Unfortunately, that was just the start of the X-Men's problems...

"Can't help myself, ah'm absorbin' Temptress's power... an' psyche"

On a sidenote: I'm from a rural part of Holland and have been known to speak in somewhat of a dialect... But I've never "thought" the way I sounded. Still, Rogue took over Temptress's powers and in turn was controlled by the Brood mind mucker as well, who immediately used her pheromones on Psylocke and managed to lure her to the Brood's side as well. While the two female X-Men took on Wolverine, it turned out the newly free Storm wasn't in the clear yet either.

"Holy cow... wings!?!"

Meet the Brood Divebomber... apparently a mutant who can fly. Now, I don't want to armchair quarterback Harry Palmer's recruits for the Brood's vanguard on Earth... But if you're selecting mutants as hosts for aliens that has wings to begin with... You might want to pick someone with a more unique power.

Also, first hand experience with them or not, Havok shouldn't have been thát surprised a Brood grew wings. But, while Havok was contemplating using his immensly powerful plasma beams to stop Divebomber, Wolverine was busy fighting off his mind controlled teammates.

Well, he tried...

"And you know, X-Man... What happens next."

Let's end on that truly creepy panel. When next we meet, the Brood's adventure on Earth concludes with a little religion in part VIII of Infectious X-Men: The Power Of Chris(t) Compels You!

1 comment:

  1. I know this is an old article, but I just read it today while combing through your archives (great blog, btw!).

    Re: your confusion over how the X-Men know they are back in the first place, you missed the last page of issue 218, which showed Havok and Polaris discovering the remains of the Space Shark. Havok recognized it, which is how they knew the Brood were back. I remember the letter pages at the time expecting for 219 to begin the Brood story, as that is one heck of a cliffhanger, but they put it off a year as you said.

    I would bet it's this incident which caused Havok to seek out the X-Men in 219, and then the more "pressing" events of the following issues (saving Madelyne from the Marauders, saving Storm from the Fall of the Mutants) delayed them in checking out Havok's story. I'm not sure how you would reason away X-Men vs The Avengers, which clearly showed Havok and the X-Men chilling at the school, but it's my best explanation at making this all work.



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