And then, this one time? The X-Men went to outer space and discovered that their enemies… were ahem legion. Your Major Spoilers Retro Review of Uncanny X-Men #107 awaits!
UNCANNY X-MEN #107
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dan Green
Colorist: Andy Yanchus
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Archie Goodwin
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 30 Cents/35 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $250.00
Release Date: June 21, 1977
Previously in Uncanny X-Men: Dave Cockrum’s comics career began in fanzines, then in the offices of Neal Adams’ Continuity Associates, as a member of the legendary Crusty Bunkers, a rotating team of inkers who could finish a job in record time by working in clusters. His real big break came in 1972, as the new penciler for DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes during the time the group was only a backup feature in Superboy’s book. Though he left DC for Marvel in 1974 to relaunch the then-canceled X-Men, the last issue of Dave’s initial run proves that you may take the boy away from the Legion, but you can’t take the Legion away from the boy.
Having encountered someone wearing the costume of Erik The Red (a false identity once used by Cyclops himself), The X-Men tracked the villain, only to end up fighting a herald of Galactus himself, then found themselves teleported into deep space. Landing on the Shi’ar home world, the heroes are confronted by that planet’s protectors, the Imperial Guard, led by Superbo– Erm, by Gladiator! The seven mutants are outnumbered almost two-to-one by the alien warriors, all of whom are under the impression that they’re protecting their Emperor from alien invaders. The members of the Guard are all analogs of Legionnaires, which leads to the battle to end all battles.
Those in the know (like listeners to our Legion Clubhouse podcast) are aware that Dave’s re-design of Legionnaire Timber Wolf’s face is remarkably similar to his design for Wolverine sans mask. That similarity makes this fight feel like an in-joke as, with his costume destroyed by Firebolt (who is totally NOT Sun Boy), Wolverine encounters and defeats Guardsman Fang and steals his two-tone brown costume.
That costume was something Dave designed for a proposed villain team to fight the LSH and was worn by an alien villain… called Wolverine. Cockrum’s design work is wonderful, as always, but his layouts are what makes this issue really sing. The battles between mutant heroes and alien warriors are visually stunning, and these visuals are a big reason why the Imperials keep showing up in Marvel books. (AS of this writing, it was as recently as last month.) As for Lilandra, the Empress-in-exile, her own brother has stolen her throne and wants her dead at all costs, which leads to a shocking moment in X-History!
These days, that final panel isn’t a big deal, but this is the first time that Nightcrawler ever tried to teleport another person, and it leaves him exhausted, barely able to stand. Wolverine is next to fall to the Impies, then Cyclops, and things are looking grim for Professor Xavier’s home team. Fortunately, the cavalry arrives just in time to even the odds once more.
The pirate crew of Corsair catches the I.G. flat-footed, allowing our heroes to quickly down them all (which would never have happened to the REAL Legion, by the way). Phoenix reads the mind of Corsair to find something shocking that we won’t find out for a while, while the other team members come to the realization that D’Ken wants more than just to steal leadership of the Shi’ar… He wants to conquer reality itself!
The M’Kraan Crystal (which the X-Men cartoon insisted on pronouncing “EM-kron”) is his true goal, a reality-warping structure that causes such an anomaly that, light years away, Mister Fantastic reports that reality simply CEASED TO EXIST for a moment. Fans of the ’90s animated series know what comes next, but Uncanny X-Men #107 does is much better, with clever dialogue, epic costume designs, and excellent storytelling from Claremont and Cockrum, earning a well-deserved 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. This is the run of X-Men that cemented them as one of Marvel’s top books, and the quality of art and story on display here make it absolutely clear why.
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UNCANNY X-MEN #107
This issue survived mostly unchanged into cartoon form, which is why most of you remember it, but the original is superb stuff.
It's just a shame the cartoon pronounced Ch'od's name as "Choad".