Not-So-Giant-Size X-Men

Key X-Men are isolated on a dangerous island, leaving a founding member to rally a new team to come to the rescue. The stories that followed this turning point led to a seismic and lasting shift in the X-status quo.

That's right, for the Super Blog Team-Up theme of “Bring on the Replacements,” I'm taking a look at “Eve of Destruction,” from X-Men #111-113 and Uncanny X-Men #392-393, in March and April 2001.


Oh, this is awkward. You thought I was leading into Giant-Size X-Men #1. I can see why you'd be confused. The original X-Men (plus Havok and Polaris) were trapped on a dangerous island, and Cyclops did escape and return with a new team of X-Men. With the introduction of Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus and the induction of Wolverine into the team, that was a historic issue, and the Chris Claremont era soon followed.

“Eve of Destruction” had some of these elements and... OK, less. But lots of people have weighed in on GSX #1 and its importance in comics. How many have delved into the first appearances of Omerta, Sunpyre and Wraith? Plus the first member of Alpha Flight to join the X-Men other than, you know, Wolverine.

All five issues were written by Scott Lobdell and edited by Mark Powers. Leinil Francis Yu penciled all three adjective-less X-Men issues, inked by Mark Morales on 111 and Dexter Vines on 112 and 113, with colors on all three by Liquid!* and Comicraft handling the lettering. Salvador Larroca penciled Uncanny #392, inked by Scott Hanna and Tim Townsend, while Tom Raney did the honors on #393, with Hanna inking. Comicraft did the letters and Hi-Fi Design the colors.

The story starts off in X-Men #111, providing a recap of how we got to this point. The war between mutants and humans that Professor X always sought to prevent is closer than ever, with Magneto ruling a mutant-filled Genosha that is no longer ravaged by the Legacy Virus after Colossus' sacrifice in Uncanny #390. He snatches Charles Xavier to use as a rallying symbol for his troops and a personal MacGuffin for the X-Men.

It's a highly effective information dump but kind of a disappointment as an issue purchased at the cover price of $2.25. It would have made a decent Free Comic Book Day offering.

We get a glimpse of Captain America saying the Avengers won't attack a sovereign nation pre-emptively, which, fair enough, but this seems like an X-Men problem anyway. Like, the problem they exist to stop in the first place, right? Too bad they're all otherwise occupied, even Beast, who was somehow free for an interview with his on-again, off-again paramour Trish Tilby, but unavailable to intervene in Genosha.

In Uncanny #392, this puts Jean Grey – who was going by Phoenix again at that point despite not possessing the Phoenix Force or having telekinesis – in the position of having to recruit a new team. She starts with Frenzy, Genosha's super-strong ambassador who is being held in the Pentagon by some shadowy government types who seem unconcerned about pesky details like the Geneva Convention. Fortunately, Jean's there to... free her and then telepathically force her to help the X-Men, such as they are.**

From there, Jean recruits Hector Rendoza, whose power seems to be that he can make his skin translucent. He's sort of like Nickelodeon's Inside-Out Boy, but with less risk of infection, I guess? Oh, and he's a super nice guy. At some point, he gets the codename Wraith.

Then she goes for a known quantity, Alpha Flight's Northstar, with superspeed and jerkiness to rival Quicksilver, as well as flight and pointy ears. She recruits him at a book-signing where a guy tries to assassinate him for being gay, because I guess some morals are more important than others?

After that, it's Paulie Provenzano, whose superheroing resume includes invulnerability, a stint in the Marines and an alliterative name. He's also an obnoxious thug looking to use his powers to make his mark in the local underworld but willing to play the hero game if it gives him more chances to ogle Jean.

Jean remembers Giant-Size #1 because she called Sunfire, but wound up getting his head-strong teenage sister, Sunpyre, who gets points for tweaking the name rather than just keeping the same one.

As Jean is explaining to her recruits that the fit is about to hit the shan in Genosha and most veteran X-Men are busy, there's a knock at the door and Dazzler shows up. So that's four mutants with X-perience on the team now.

Cyclops and Wolverine are already in Genosha, helping Polaris evacuate humans to safety. Since these issues were released in the year after the first X-Men movie, Cyclops is still in his James Marsden phase, which is actually more concerning than Wolverine's narration in X-Men #112 (cover by Ian Churchill) about how Cyke has changed since merging with Apocalypse. The issue gives us a nice glance at Cyclops and Wolverine as old friends instead of rivals, even though Logan is unsure of what to make of this new Scott Summers, who even cracks jokes.

It also reminds us that longtime Magneto Acolyte and former Xavier love interest Amelia Voght is in Genosha, and she's conflicted. That'll be important later.

It's back to the new team (and another Churchill cover) in Uncanny #393, where the team identified as “interim” X-Men flies toward Genosha in the Blackbird. Paulie grates on everyone by hitting on Jean and mocking Northstar for his sexuality. We learn Dazzler came looking for help after the X-Babies went grim and gritty in the spirit of the Age of Apocalypse and ravaged Mojoworld, leaving Longshot missing in action. I never read about that being revisited and, although I find it an amusing bit of meta-commentary, I'm not sure I want to read about murderous X-Babies.

When they arrive over their destination, Magneto rips the plane apart and brings them right down in the middle of Magda Square, where his army is massing and Professor X is chained to a metal X. Dazzler attacks, using her ability to transmute sound into light to hit Magneto with a powerful blast that he turns on her, reducing her to dust.

Jumping to X-Men #113, the new team launches an all-out attack against Magneto, getting in a few good licks since he doesn't know most of them. But one-by-one, he takes them down, finally coming to poor Hector. Before killing him, Magneto asks if he has any other ability besides see-through skin. It turns out, he does. Hector can share his incomplete invisibility, giving the person touching him, in his words, the equivalent of an ice cream headache. Surprisingly, this does not finish off the Master of Magnetism. But it does let Cyclops and Wolverine make an entrance. They don't fare much better than the others, but they do distract Magneto, which is what Jean was going for the entire time.

See, she telepathically made Magneto believe he'd killed Dazzler, distracting him as Voght – told you she'd be important – freed Xavier and Dazzler took his place, using her light powers to create a holographic Pinata X. Then Chuck kept the mind games going, shutting off Magneto's powers and making him think he was slapping around the Interim X-Men.***

Magneto takes this all in relatively good humor, chiding him for not being willing to take final, fatal action – and forgetting there's one X-Man there who has no problem doing that.

Jean is shocked, Professor X feels bad, and Cyclops concedes maybe Wolverine was right. Professor X telepathically addresses the gathered Genoshans and says, “Hey, you've been mistreated because you're mutants; why would you mistreat others because they're human?” It's a fair point, and I guess it works, because there is no war. The way they act, Magneto's wounds were fatal, but he didn't actually die until the Sentinels attacked Genosha in New X-Men #115, and really not even then.

Back at the X-Mansion, the new team members turn up their noses at years of comic tradition and decide not to keep on being a team. That leaves Xavier, Cyclops, Jean and Wolverine as the last X-Men standing.

That didn't last long, of course. These were the last issues before Joe Casey took over Uncanny and Grant Morrison transformed X-Men into New X-Men, leaving an indelible mark on the franchise. As I've written about before, I followed both for a while, but lost interest.

Thematically, “Eve of Destruction” works. The details and execution, though, are not on the same level.

That may be because of when it happened. The aforementioned merging of Cyclops and Apocalypse took place at the end of Alan Davis' run on both titles and just before Claremont's return, which generally wasn't regarded as triumphant. I haven't revisited those issues but it felt at the time like Lobdell – my favorite X-writer due in part to being the guy at the helm when I started reading regularly – was coming in to clean up and/or mark time until the big guns of Morrison and Casey could take over.

I've often lamented the tendency of contemporary comics to drag out stories just enough to fill a trade or two or only use a status quo for a limited time, but this one could have actually benefited from those approaches. The idea of the X-Men recruiting a new team in a crunch is solid, and these characters had some interesting dynamics.

Northstar is the most experienced outside of Dazzler and is not easy to work with. Sunpyre doesn't have the record to back up her arrogance, and Hector's obvious crush on her is hopeless but he's so nice, you kind of feel for the guy. I'm always happy to see Dazzler. Jean's mental altering of Frenzy led to some funny “aw, shucks” dialogue.

Paulie is an oaf who irritates everybody, usually comically. I'm not sure how his nastiness toward Northstar over his sexuality would be received today, but it's written in character and clearly not endorsed. I sometimes think Northstar has been pushed into the spotlight because of his sexuality, which frankly is not something I am interested in reading about or seeing promoted. However, he's usually presented as a multidimensional character, not a token presence, and his sexuality has long been an established part of his character rather than a late change based on little or no context. Regardless of my or aanyone else's personal beliefs and convictions, there's no justification for behavior like Paulie's, let alone the violence attempted in Uncanny #392.

Northstar and Frenzy, minus the mind control, would go on to be X-Men after this. Paulie would get the codename Omerta and resurface in a “Weapon X” title I never read before popping up briefly in the Krakoan era. Sunpyre returned and was killed off in Casey's run, though the Marvel Fandom wiki says she might have been resurrected even before Krakoa. Hector – I just can't call him Wraith – apparently didn't show up again except to lose his powers on M-Day.

This squad did not earn their place in the annals of X-history, and even rereading this now, they don't make much of an impression. Northstar's the only one who even made it onto a cover! But I've always been fond of the obscure, oddball characters, and they certainly did follow in some big footsteps as mutants drawn into a conflict to protect a world that hates and fears them.

For a look at some other heroic legacies and replacement heroes, check out these other Super Blog Team-Up offerings:

Super-Hero Satellite: The Reign of theSupermen

The Telltale Mind: Replacement Heroes -When Marcus Johnson Finally Became Nick Fury

Dave's Comics Heroes Blog: Blue Beetle (Secret Origins of Ted Kord)

Between The Pages Blog: I Am Groot! - The growth of Groot from the seed of an idea to the world's most beloved tree.

Source Material Comics Podcast: WE KILLED JASON TODD!

* - It's credited with the exclamation point. I mean, it's good work, but I'm not that excited about it.

** Remember, kids: Mind manipulation is bad when you do it to Batman, but OK for villains or to otherwise advance a plot.

*** - Wait, does this mean Hector didn't really get his hero(ish) moment?