Now this was a good issue all around, one that catapulted the new X-MEN into the upper tiers of my favorite comics of the era. I’d been growing more enchanted by this strange new team for a couple of issues now, having had to work out who everybody was on the fly a little bit since I’d previously read only the first issue of the series in SON OF ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS. By this point, I had a handle on the cast, and the creative team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne were firing in synch, at least as much as they ever would.
I didn’t really make conscious note of it at the time, but X-MEN at this point was and had been one of the most consistently best-looking and most contemporary-feeling comics on the stands. The folks working on most of the other classic titles were still largely trying to emulate the style of Stan Lee by way of Roy Thomas, were harkening back to some past glories. But X-MEN, for all that it used its history as much as any other book, by necessity had to move forward, because most of its cast was brand new. Their Dave Cockrum designs looked like nothing visualized in the 1960s, too, which made them feel of the moment.
What’s more, new artist John Byrne was proving to be the perfect middle point between the Jack Kirby classicism of the past and the Dave Cockrum explosion of the present. He was growing by leaps and bounds every issue. His drawings were always attractive, but his true, secret value was his storytelling and dramatic skills. Byrne had aspirations of becoming a writer himself, as he eventually would, and so he composed his pages to tell whatever story was at hand in the most dramatic and effective way possible, never stinting on characterization along the way. As he and Claremont began to work together, it becomes increasingly difficult to work out which bits of business may have originated with Chris and which with John.
This issue opens with Magneto, the evil Master of Magnetism, reprising one of his greatest hits: smashing his way into an assortment of aerospace technological firms and overcoming all resistance, making off with whatever newly-developed high-tech equipment might be crucial to his plans. This was still the totally villainous Magneto, before Claremont had come up with the notion that he was a survivor of the Holocaust. It’s tough to remember now that Magneto had been characterized as just an evil mutant supremacist for almost twenty years before those additional shades were added to his character. It helps to explain why so many people over the years have tried to shift him back towards his more straightforward villainous roots–if you first encountered him in this era, that’s very much what he was about.
And where are the X-Men while all of this is happening? Trapped, imprisoned in Magneto’s volcano headquarters, strapped into chairs that reduce their motor control to the level of infants. It’s a horrifying trap, and one that made a real impact on me when I first read it. But Magneto has failed to reckon with the ability to suddenly graft some backstory onto these new X-Men. So it turns out here that Storm, in her youth, had been a thief and a pickpocket, and even with her limited physical skills she’s able to use a concealed lockpick to get herself out of her chair and free the others. So when Magneto returns from his shopping spree, the X-Men are ready to ambush him. The balance of this issue is one long, intense, crazy fight scene, the first in which the X-Men actually work in concert like a proper team.
It’s a good battle, but as it progresses, the base itself begins to take the worst of it–to the point where the place starts collapsing in on itself, letting in torrents of molten rock. Magneto is able to levitate himself out of the volcano by shielding himself with his magnetic powers, but the X-Men aren’t so lucky. At a key moment, a section of the wall collapses, separating the Beast and Phoenix from their teammates. Since being transformed into Phoenix issues earlier, Jean Grey has seemed to have no practical limit to her powers. But here, in the fight with Magneto, she suddenly comes up short for mysterious reasons. She does still have enough juice, though, to blast herself and Hank McCoy up out of the volcano to safety.
The rest of the X-Men, however, are seemingly annihilated when the base is consumed. And once Jean manages to get herself and the Beast to the surface, she passes out, her reserves of energy seriously depleted. This is catastrophic news for the both of them, though, as they’ve come up somewhere in the Antarctic circle, and are marooned who knows how many miles from the nearest outpost in the middle of a raging snowstorm. The X-Men battling the elements of nature was a theme that Claremont would go back to on multiple occasions over the years, but this was really the first time. And so, as the issue closes out, the Beast tries valiantly to carry Jean out of the storm and back to safety, but he collapses from exposure to the elements himself in just a few yards. To Be Continued! This issue was a hell of a ride, start to finish!
6 thoughts on “BHOC: UNCANNY X-MEN #113”
My second issue of X-Men, so it holds a special place in my head and heart. I thought the battle was terrifically coordinated.
Amazing stuff, though the Savage Land sequence that followed was pretty “meh”(a later letter column admitted it had problems). But they picked up fast afterwards.
September 1978: I was completely blown away by this issue! However, I was so glad that I only had to wait 30 days for the next issue and not the usual 60 days!
One the best runs of comics of all time, that’s not Stan and Jack or Steve.
Oh, the memories. Even now, forty four years later, I can remember buying this issue and being unable to wait until we got home to read it. I dived straight into it whilst sitting in my Dad’s car on the old market car park in Congleton, Cheshire… and then read it again on our return home.
It’s hard to believe that it is now over four decades since Claremont and Byrne first wove the four-colour magic that made the X-Men such a phenomenon.
“But Magneto has failed to reckon with the ability to suddenly graft some backstory onto these new X-Men. So it turns out here that Storm, in her youth, had been a thief…”
This had already been established almost two years earlier in #102. Be a bit of a cheat if it hadn’t.