(Rat a tat tat, Badoon, boom!)
It's another round of special guests this month (having already had Spider Woman and Ms Marvel show up in the last issues - the latter so gratuitously and so pointlessly that I didn't even bother mentioning her) as we spend some time in the company of the Fantastic Four. Apparently they're even less progressive than the X-Men once were with regard to gender equality - Sue spends all her time bitching about how her boys have failed to show up for the dinner she's been "slaving" over, and all they do is either ignore her, patronise her, or demand she sends out for pizza instead. Nice.
Fortunately, this parochial scene of familial disharmony is interrupted by an emergency coming over the police radio. Some lunatic woman is shooting a ray gun at random a few minutes away. It's hardly a tough job for the FF, and Little Miss Gunfire gets herself disarmed pretty quickly.
Just one problem: the perp's a Shi'ar searching for Professor Xavier, and her actual targets were a bunch of invisible reptilian gorilla known as the Badoon. Said aliens execute the Shi'ar in cold blood, before gunning down the Fantastic Four, all barring Sue, who's saved by her forcefield. The arrival of the local cops cause the Badoon to retreat, taking their captives back for interrogation, and Sue takes off, intent on finding her son, and then heading over to see the one person who might know what the hell is going on: Charles Xavier.
Meanwhile, at the mansion, Storm is stuck in a recurring nightmare of being back on Arkon's homeworld, fighting for her life against a swarm of reptilian gorillas. Could these dreams be prophetic? Of course they are! This is fiction! All fictional dreams are prophetic, or at least fundamentally revealing of some important character trait (except in erotica, when it's just an opportunity for more tits). I'd like to see more realistic dreams, which is to say, more totally impenetrable lunatic dreams. Last night I dreamed I was arguing with ny brother over the cultural bias of the choice of sporting events in Deep Space Nine. Who wouldn't want to see that immortalised in literature?
In any case, Storm is spared more night terrors when Sue bursts into the mansion at three in the morning, Franklin in one arm and a Shi'ar blaster wrapped around the other. Sue's description of the aliens she so briefly caught sight of through the blaster's targeting array matches Storm's dreams so precisely that no-one believes it can be coincidence. Lacking the ability to reach the Shi'ar to warn them of the Badoon's movements, the team - along with Sue - chooses to head to Arkon's world instead.
(Lucky Arkon left them some lightning bolts as a way back to his realm, isn't it? Also, why exactly can't Xavier contact Lilandra? Mind you, I suppose they probably broke up after she sentenced one of his favourite former students to death.)
Upon arrival in Arkon's palace, our heroes meet Sashia (apprentice to the Grand Vizier) amongst the burn-out ruin of the Imperial Palace. Turns out their world turned its back on their warrior ways after the X-Men inspired them, and that led to them being woefully unprepared when the Badoon invaded. Heckuva job, Xsies!
It turns out Sashia was sending Storm the dreams to lure her back, not, as might be considered reasonable, to slap her around for all this swords to ploughshares bollocks, but to ask her to lead a rebellion against the Badoon (which, now I think about it, would probably do more damage to Storm in any case). Wolverine is pretty blunt about the chances of success, but Cyclops is adamant. One half of the team will strike at the Badoon stargate. The other half will sneak into the alien HQ to back up Storm and Sue, as they pose as alien hookers so as to seduce the Badoon leader. For those keeping track, Sue's skills so far have been bent to making dinner, running away, looking after her son, and dressing up as a streetwalker for a giant lizard.
Their plan does work, at least; the guard Badoon judge themselves happy with their newest sexy inmates, and send the girls inside. Presumably they'll have to wait a while to "entertain" Brother Royal; he's a little busy torturing Mr Fantastic, hoping to find out why Earth is so infested with super-powered cape-clad freaks.
That's always a sensible question for would-be invaders of Earth, of course, though a rather better one would be "Are we absolutely sure this is worth the effort?". The Skrulls had no luck, the Z'Nox brought an entire planet and still got bitch-slapped, and Galactus himself ended up slinking away with his tail between his giant legs. It's like attacking Russia in the middle of winter: what makes Brother Royal think he'll do any better? And it's not like the Badoon's plan isn't pretty ambitious already: they got their stargate from some Shi'ar fifth columnists, and once they've overrun Earth, they'll help those traitors depose Lilandra. That explains why Pathfinder D'Syndri was running around New York, but you'd think invading one of the universe's most violent wild cards might be difficult enough, without taking on one of the most powerful interstellar empires in known space.
Wolverine and Sashia drew the job of meeting with the rebels and destroying the Stargate whilst under a spell making them resemble Badoon, along with Nightcrawler, who'll teleport on ahead. There's time first for Kurt to once again lecture Logan on the importance of leaving one's enemies alive. Wolverine, as usual, is none to impressed by this argument, and makes the entirely reasonable point that 'Crawler hadn't chosen to tell either Sashia or the rebel leader to keep their blades to themselves. Kurt wins this round, though, noting that neither of the natives made claim to be an X-Man, and either Wolverine is able to live up to that name, or not. Logan agrees to give mercy a try - we'll see how long that lasts.
Back at Badoon HQ, Brother Royal is inspecting his new acquisitions, and seems reasonably satisfied. To scare them into obedience, he shows them a recording of a prisoner undergoing torture, and Sue is unable to avoid screaming Reed's name out when her husband swims into view on the monitor. Brother Royal, smelling a rat, orders the women seized, and the resulting fracas is loud enough for Cyclops, Colossus and Sprite, still sneaking their way into the city, to overhear. All thoughts of stealth forgotten, they immediately switch to Plan B: Operation Desperate Frontal Assault.
Amazingly, they manage to pull it off (though they're somehat delayed when Brother Royal sics his giantest monster ever on them), and with Storm and Sue having escaped and freed the captives, Nightcrawler disrupting and then detonating the stargate, and the rebels attacking the Badoon instillation en masse, it's clearly time for a tactical withdrawal for the occupying forces.Brother Royal sets the base's reactor to overload as he flees, hoping to destroy his victorious enemies, but with the X-Men and Fantastic Four combined, their's no shortage of the brains or brawn necessary to prevent the detonation.
So it's a happy ending at last, particularly when the head of the rebels announces he finished off Brother Royal whilst the cold-blooded bastard was trying to get away. Alas, Nightcrawler has been gravely wounded during the fighting, but on the upside, everyone has time to stick around for a celebratory feast whilst he recovers (including the FF, God alone knows how Xavier is coping with Franklin running round the mansion). Kitty has her own opportunity to dress up like an interstellar trollop to impress Colossus (and freak the rest of us out, since she's still south of fourteen), and Storm and Arkon have a moment to confess to each other that they would both be willing to abandon their worlds for each other, but know they should not. Frankly, these two have less chemistry than two noble gasses pumped into an ice cave, so it's probably just as well.
So ends the third proper X-Men annual (the first two were collected reprints of previous issues, if anyone was wondering). This is definitely the best of the three; whilst Claremont still seems insistent that no annual should ever take place out in the "real" world, at least this was a story with a strong structure to it, rather than just a strange combination of travelogue and violence.
Plus, the X-Men liberated an entire planet within a few hours of arrival, purely to help their mates out. That's pretty damn badass, however you slice it.
This story takes place over two days, and starts on Saturday. Since Cyclops returned to the X-Men in UXM# 150, and Kitty references the events in this annual in UXM #151, this story must take place in between.
We learn from Sashia that the events of UXM Annual #3 took place a minimum of two months ago, but that's easily within range. Indeed, from our timeline, the golden age of peace and prosperity presided over by Arkon must have lasted around five months or so.
Saturday 12th of March, 1983.
Don Ritchie breaks the world record for running fifty miles, with a time of 4 hours, 51 minutes, and 49 seconds. This remains the record at the time of writing.
"That warm-blooded wench dared strike my imperial person!" Yeah, no-one enjoys it when that happens. Wenches, eh? Eh?