Monday, 14 November 2011

UXM #137: "The Fate Of The Phoenix!"

("It's better to burn out...")


We've arrived at the seventeenth anniversary of the first issue of the X-Men.  Usually, no-one really cares all that much about this milestone - people give up on prime numbers after five, because if a number isn't expressible by a given amount of open hands, no-one gives a shit.

Claremont, however, is smart enough to see through and repudiate such anti-prime bigotry, and is pulling all the stops out.  To celebrate exactly 204 months since Xavier first started threatening people with demerits, Uncanny X-Men is proud to present a double-sized issue, in which shit gets real on an intergalactic scale, and Jean Grey is... well, that would be telling.

We learn immediately that the special effect that snatched the team away last issue has taken them into space.  Indeed, Xavier recognises their surroundings as being the cargo hold of a Shi'ar Imperial dreadnought, due to his time with Lilandra, which is a lot like saying I've been at my girlfriend's flat enough times to recognise the exact dimensions of her kitchen cupboards.  Admittedly, Xavier's hunch turns out to be correct, but if Keynes was writing this blog (which he clearly isn't, having better things to do and also being dead), I'm sure he'd point out that one's predictions proving correct does not mean one's reasoning wasn't a pile of shit, something any number of journalists and politicians could stand to learn.

After arriving on what happens to be the cargo hold of an Shi'ar Imperial dreadnought, our heroes are met by Empress Lilandra herself, who tells them she plans to execute Jean because a) she killed five billion people, and b) there's no way whatsoever she won't give it another go the day after tomorrow.

It's always nice to see situations in which all sides have a point.  There's no doubt that Lilandra and her allies (the Skrulls and the Kree, who usually can't be in the same sector without trying to murder each other, so you know it's important) are doing what's best from their perspective: Jean is guilty of the genocide of a sentient race (to say nothing of slagging a Shi'ar vessel), and a clear and present danger.  "No, honest, we've sorted it out ourselves" is hardly persuasive enough when you've got a star-eater to deal with.

Indeed, I think Lilandra probably has a better case than the X-Men do: their argument boils down to "We love Jean, she's awesome, and she hasn't eaten any stellar objects for the last twenty-five pages."  The best point in their favour is that it might be worth waiting to see whether Jean does relapse before scattering her atoms across half the galaxy, but that's hardly practical either, since "relapse" also means "once again become an unstoppable force of destruction".  Beast pushes for a trial nonetheless, saying "Satan himself" should have the chance to defend himself in court.  So I agree with him, as well.

It is, as Flanders might say, a dilly of a pickle.  Xavier's response is to challenge the Imperial Guard to a fight to the death, a demand undeniable in Shi'ar law.  To the winners goes the redhead. [1]

This is inspired, not just because it makes total sense that Charles would try this (his loyalty to his original students is something he never could entirely shake), but because Beast immediately points out that committing the team to a fight to the death is unbelievably selfish.  It's one thing to decide to risk your life to defend someone who massacred three Chinas worth of people.  It's quite another to assume your mates will happily join in.  Their best case scenario is that that the most prolific mass-murderer since Galactus will walk free?  That's supposed to motivate them?

It's too late for complaints, though (especially since Beast lacks the courage to confront Xavier in person).  This shit is on!  On at dawn!  What that means on a spaceship is fairly unclear, actually, but the X-Men all get alarm calls, so that's OK.  The battleground: Earth's moon.

The fight does not go well for our team.  The X-Men are outnumbered, and fighting in a location with different gravity to what they're used to.  The Imperial Guard are used to such vagaries, and all capable of flight in addition.  If that weren't enough, the Skrull and Kree ambassadors have sneaked into the arena to help out Lilandra's forces.  One by one, the heroes fall, until only Jean and Scott remain, hidden in an alcove as the "Impies" prowl outside.

Hiding, of course, is not their style.  Their final stand will be in the open, out where the star of their home system can shine upon them.  Maybe the Sentinels were right all those months ago, and the Sun really was what caused their mutation.  It's certainly what gave them life, though, and all these thousands of miles from their homes, Sol is their only reminder of where they come from.

They fight beneath it, and as they do, Phoenix is once more reborn.  Her first blast cripples Lilandra's dreadnought, taking the Shi'ar out of the fight.  As her power builds, the X-Men realise that they will have to stop her themselves, before her next atrocity.  Wolverine takes advantage of the limited gravity to throw Colossus at her, knowing that he's already proven himself unable to do what's necessary. Peter, though, can't gothrough with it either, but it turns out to matter.  Jean has been using this entire fight as an opportunity to drain her power to the point where she can end her own life without any interference from the Phoenix.

And she pulls it off.


This story continues directly from the previous one, and takes place over approximately a day.


Wednesday 13th to Thursday 14th of October, 1982.


X+4Y+197 to X+4Y+198.

Compression Constant

1 Marvel year = 3.74 standard years.

(Shadowcat is 21 years old.)

Wears stupid hats.
Contemporary Events

Tommorow's World announces that he near future could include touch-screen computers.  Also, the benefits of wanking off particularly pampered Japanese bulls and using the results to inseminate entirely unpampered Eurposean cows.

Standout Line

"Once upon a time, there was a woman named Jean Grey, a man named Scott Summers.  They were young.  They were in love.  They were heroes.  Today, they will prove it -- beyond a shadow of a doubt."

[1] These legal loop-holes are always more trouble than they're worth: "You are so terrifyingly powerful that we cannot afford to waste time on a trial before we execute you." "I demand to be allowed to try and punch you to death!" "Er, okay..."

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