I picked up this issue of X-MEN at my regular 7-11, my second issue as a regular reader of the title. And I found it a lot easier to understand and follow than #108’s conclusion to the M’Kraan Crystal storyline, with all of its guest-stars and extra characters. Here, I would begin to learn about these new X-Men–including stuff that was new revelations for all readers but which to me came across as information that had been previously established.
To begin with, this issue made it very clear right from the jump which of these characters comprised the X-Men, which I found helpful. Even with the top copy on the splash page that gave a quick summary of the series, I found that I couldn’t necessarily have picked Banshee or Nightcrawler or whomever out of the line-up in the prior issue. The exception was Cyclops, who I knew from reading X-MEN #1 in SON OF ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS. This issue would give a bit more insight into his character–at this point in the series, the relationship between Cyclops and Phoenix was the central axis around which all else turned, and so it was perhaps no wonder that Cyclops became my favorite character in the series. He combined aspects of what I liked about such other characters as Captain America, the Thing and Spider-Man.
This issue was intended to be a bit of a cool-down issue after the preceding epic, and so a great deal of its space is given over to characterization rather than fisticuffs. It must be said that, while their relationship eventually grew strained and irreconcilable, even at this early point there was no better combination for this sort of emotional exposition than Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Just look here at how much we learn about Nightcrawler and Colossus in this one brief page–from their individual personalities to their attitudes towards life to their backgrounds and interests. This was economical storytelling at its finest. What’s more, it was fun–these were characters you liked spending time getting to know.
After more time getting to know our cast, including a heartfelt exchange between Nightcrawler and Cyclops, five members of the cast decide to head out for a picnic: Colossus, Banshee, Storm, Moira MacTaggart and Wolverine, whom Byrne is able to put back into his original costume. (The suit he was wearing previously was intended to be a new permanent uniform for Wolverine, but Byrne didn’t like it and so it was swiftly discarded here.) Another nice, memorable bit of business here when Wolverine announces his intention to go hunting, Storm reprimands him, and then he throws it right back in her face, telling her that he’s not going to be killing anything, merely hunting them. Great characterization, and the beginnings of the development of the ethos that would guide Wolverine for so many years. Unbeknownst to the X-Men, however, they’re being tracked and monitored by shadowy forces.
An interesting facet of the X-Men’s adventures during this time was that, despite the fact that they were ostensibly super heroes, most of their stories and conflicts came from them being attacked by outside forces–they didn’t typically seem to do any active super-heroing unless a fight came to them. Which is what happens here: Wolverine’s hunting is interrupted by the explosive arrival of Weapon Alpha, a Canadian-styled super-character who tells Wolverine that he’s come to drag Wolverine back to Canada. There’s clearly history between these two men, all of it established for the first time here, but as a new reader I assumed this had all been established earlier.
A fight breaks out between Wolverine and Weapon Alpha–and at this point, Wolverine wasn’t quite yet fully-formed as a the character he would eventually become. For one thing, he didn’t overtly have a haling factor at this point (heck, the idea of him possessing an adamantium skeleton on top of his claws had just been a relatively new revelation) . So Weapon Alpha kicks his ass, knocking him over by the lake where the other X-Men are having their picnic. Bad move as it turns out, since Weapon Alpha has no idea that these other newcomers are mutants as well, and he’s ill-prepared for their powers.
He’s also still a bit of a novice himself, so when he tries to zap Colossus with ray-blasts, they ricochet off the Russian’s metal body and accidentally strike Moira. This drives banshee into a rage, and he attacks Weapon Alpha all-out, forcing him to retreat and withdraw–but he promises to return later, accompanied by the rest of Alpha Flight next time. I didn’t know who Alpha Flight was (nobody did at this point) but after this skirmish I certainly wanted to know. Sadly, the following issue would provide no answers, and it’d be close to a year before the storyline would get back to any of this stuff. But I can’t say that I would really mind. This was a pretty great comic book, and I definitely wanted to read more about these guys.