Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Deadly Aim of--Deathbird!

In Part One of a story involving a terrorist group's abduction of Lilandra, Empress of the Shi'ar, we saw Corsair, leader of the Starjammers, arrive on Earth and involve two of the X-Men, Storm and Cyclops, in a firefight with alien bounty hunters. And if you're a little dizzy at just reading that, you'd best strap yourself in, because Part Two isn't likely to notch down the action for you. With their Empress in the hands of enemies, it doesn't take long for the Shi'ar to mobilize and follow their trail, which unfortunately leads to Earth.

In addition, Cyclops has finally discovered that Corsair is his biological father. To say that it hasn't exactly been a pleasant family reunion is an understatement:

But the family drama will have to wait--because if anyone would take the direct approach in their dealings with other races, it's the Shi'ar, who have arrived in Earth orbit and immediately assemble the X-Men from whatever locations they happened to be in, in order to make use of Xavier's telepathic abilities to locate Lilandra. They're also wanting a few words with Corsair, who's being charged as a co-conspirator in Lilandra's abduction:

Xavier, as Lilandra's consort, fortunately carries some clout with the Shi'ar, which is the only thing keeping them from taking a bull-in-a-china-shop approach to the problem and landing on Earth like storm troopers. And so a compromise is reached in order to minimize the potential collateral damage:

With this incident obviously having shaken up the Shi'ar as far as trusting anyone, Araki also insists that two of the X-Men (in this case Kitty and Nightcrawler) remain on board as hostages while the X-Men's rescue operation is attempted. Reluctantly, Xavier, Storm, and Cyclops agree to the condition, though Xavier establishes a mind-link with Kitty for an undisclosed mission aboard the Shi'ar ship. And so we return to Earth, as the X-Men race against time to locate Lilandra and uncover her captors before the Shi'ar take matters into their own hands.

With time of the essence, the X-Men attempt to reach out to both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four for assistance--who, in accordance with Marvel policy, are all away on other missions. There's of course a contingent of the Imperial Guard available--and it would make sense to involve them, considering that by definition they exist to safeguard Lilandra and intervene in direct matters involving the throne. But writer Chris Claremont side-steps the notion of dealing them in, presumably to avoid giving the X-Men an edge in this conflict--so we're left to assume that the Guard would likely act autonomously and wouldn't fall in line with the X-Men's way of handling the matter.

With their mansion destroyed, thanks to the Sidri's attack on Corsair, the X-Men head to Avengers Mansion, where Xavier begins an attempt to telepathically locate Lilandra. In the meantime, Tigra and Wolverine are getting to know each other, though their introductions leave something to be desired:

Xavier, in the meantime, has been dealt a setback in the form of a psionic "ambush" by their foes, which has only left him able to narrow Lilandra's location to Manhattan. Which, coincidentally, is where both Corsair and Storm have headed for a leisurely stroll. It's odd that the Shi'ar would release Corsair on this mission rather than hold him for questioning, since they strongly suspect him to be in league with the terrorists. Left on his own recognizance, he presumably represents a security risk to Araki's efforts to coordinate a response. It's also odd that both Corsair and Storm would just take off like this without informing the other X-Men. If Xavier's efforts had borne fruit, and the X-Men needed to scramble, they'd all have to cool their heels waiting for these two to return. As it is, Claremont has made them conveniently vulnerable to their foes:

It's something of a surprise to see the Brood allied with a rogue group of terrorists, given that they generally follow an aggressive and independent agenda of their own. But this is our first look at them, and Claremont has yet to take us down that road. We also see the return of Deathbird, who previously suffered a rather humiliating defeat by Hawkeye but who now appears to be taking steps to further her ambitions regarding the Shi'ar. And, thanks to the Brood's potent psionic weapon, she's effectively neutralized two key members of both the Starjammers and the X-Men:

Fortunately, the rest of the X-Men have already begun their search on Manhattan's streets. And they brought along someone who's always eager to pounce on a bird:

Once she deals with Tigra, Deathbird unleashes advanced weaponry that targets the rest of the X-Men. Xavier barely escapes the assault with his life, thanks to the intervention of Colossus--but the streets have now become a battleground, with the X-Men dealing with attacks on several fronts. Xavier, at least, is on hand to nullify one of them:

It's unclear why Claremont has Cyclops declaring that he has a plan, since, given the general chaos of the situation, the fact that the X-Men's foes have them totally on the defensive, and that the X-Men don't even know how many foes they face or who they are (aside from Deathbird), Cyclops forming a plan when he has so little information to go on seems unlikely.  Also, up until now, he'd been defending himself from Corsair, who attacked him viciously due to the effect from the Brood's psi-weapon. It's also interesting that Claremont hasn't tapped into Xavier, who could probably make a quick scan of the area to determine who they're facing and how many.

At any rate, we really don't see or hear anything further of Cyclops' plan for the remainder of the battle.  Storm, however--this team's leader, by the way--is obviously eager to return the initiative to the X-Men. And there's another X-Man who prefers to be on the offensive, as always:

Yet the Brood are warriors of the highest caliber, and they quickly turn this fight around again--first, by once more neutralizing Storm, and then making another attempt to take out Xavier:

But all their time spent in the Danger Room serves the X-Men well in this fight, and they respond to their attacks accordingly:

Nor, as skilled in battle as they are, have the Brood likely met anyone like Wolverine, who might just have something of a reputation with them once this fight is over:

As for Corsair, he's joined by the X-Men to take out the remaining Brood. But, during this battle, Cyclops has begun to have second thoughts about his father, and their reunion at last gets off on the right foot:

Yet, in the melee, the one participant in this fight who's apparently escaped everyone's notice is Deathbird--and she's used that to bring this conflict to a screeching halt with a clear tactical advantage:

Cyclops is able to parry Deathbird's spear so that they escape death, but the damage is done. Not only have Deathbird and her group evaded capture, but the X-Men have failed to retrieve Lilandra--and now Xavier is lost to them, as well. But, once they dig themselves from beneath sixty stories of building debris, things get even worse when they discover that there has been a fatality among their number:

How, we have to wonder, can the X-Men hope to recover all that they've lost this day? A heated battle with Lilandra's abductors and nothing to show for it; the Shi'ar waiting in force to possibly make matters worse; New York's finest poised to take the X-Men into custody; Deathbird and the Brood at large, with Xavier an additional hostage; and the second X-Man since Thunderbird now dead. There's nowhere for the X-Men to go but up at this point--nowhere for Colossus to go but into a pine box--and nowhere for you to soon head but to the post featuring Part Three of this story. Don't worry, you just know Kitty and Nightcrawler are bound to save the day.

Uncanny X-Men #155

Script: Chris Claremont
Pencils: Dave Cockrum
Inks: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Joe Rosen


Anonymous said...

The X-Men don't kill....(wait for it).....HUMANS!!! But if you're from a different planet or evolved from a different life form, then all bets are off and out pop the claws.

Why wasn't Ororo freaking out when she was wrapped up like a mummy? I would think the claustrophobia would kick in for sure.

Okay, why does Scott keep the tanning googles when he's not using them? I don't see a convenient fanny pack to slip them into. Perhaps the top of his boot?

The Prowler (help celebrate National Preparedness Month by sending a card to George Peppard).

PS: Wait, what?

Comicsfan said...

Prowler, I suppose we can presume that Storm was indeed eventually overcome with claustrophobia, since she lost control of the winds holding her aloft and started falling when the snare-web began to tighten. And I'm guessing those darned unstable molecules provide pockets in those uniforms for all sorts of handy accessories, like Cyke's mini-goggles. (Or maybe he just had a spare set stashed on the Blackbird.)

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