October 1991 – “Rubicon”
Let me preface this blog by explaining that I am very aware that I am looking at this issue with a certain sense of nostalgia. As such, I may be hyping it more than it really deserves, but I don’t care.
For many children, X-Men (vol. 2) #1 was the start of their X-Men “careers”. It was such a momentous occasion, bringing together the original 5 X-Men and the newer X-Men that had slowly been accumulating throughout the years. Finally, we had Cyclops, Jean Grey (finally got rid of the Marvel Girl moniker), Beast, Archangel, Iceman, Wolverine, Storm, Psylocke, Gambit, Colossus, Forge, Banshee, and Rogue all on the same team (Jubilee was never an official X-Man). We hadn’t seen this many X-Men members since right after Giant Size X-Men #1!
So for this blog, I’m going to try something new. I’ll post a detailed synopsis at the end. For now, let’s take a look at this issue.
Now, I realize that this issue came out almost two full years into the 90’s (or almost 1 full year depending on how you count), but I still consider this issue to be the start of the 90’s for the X-comics. Yes, Jim lee had been drawing them for over a year on a regular basis. Rob Liefeld had been drawing New Mutants and in fact X-Force came out 2 months before this issue.
But X-Men #1 heralded the start of the X-Men that would define the 90’s. Every artist would try to emulate the style in X-Men #1 (most would fail) and so many issues would have multiple covers to try and capture the excitement that X-Men #1 brought (with its 5 covers – 4 individual ones and 1 giant gateway). It was this team that was picked through to create the X-Men animated series that brought even more into the X-Men’s fold. As I’m reading my collection from Giant Sized X-Men through to current issues, it really just feels different. There’s a definite change in the feel of the books. Maybe it started with New Mutants #98, but I still remember it as all starting with this issue.
This book also has (to my knowledge) the first instance of glossy pages. They wouldn’t become a regular occurrence for a couple of years, but they were definitely preferable to the standard pages we knew. Glossy pages supposedly resist the oils from fingers and so they would last longer. X-Men #1 was definitely marketed as a collector’s book. And it worked. I bought all 5 of them. Not at first, of course. I was 13 and had an allowance.
The artwork is Jim Lee at his absolute finest. Nothing matches up before this or since then. Claremont is in good form, drawing on events that happened 10 years ago (such as the sinking of the Russian submarine in Uncanny X-Men #150) and crafting a story that perfectly fits with the direction Magneto had been taking under Louise Simonson’s helm (I really can’t stand that she made him back into a villain, but Claremont at least made the transition easier). That’s why, unlike many other special issues or cross-overs, I really do feel that this issue lives up to its hype.
It’s hard to describe the feel of reading this book for the first time from the point of view of a 13 year old. I can only imagine it was akin to someone watching Star Wars for the first time in 1977. I was totally blown away. I had collected some back issues and read as many TPB as I could (although keep in mind that in 1991 they weren’t commonplace), so I was beginning to get experienced when it came to comics. And this issue came along and made every other comic before it seem like it had been done in someone’s mom’s basement. The art was beautiful. The pages were glossy (none of that faded paper crap). The writing and dialogue were engaging. Twenty years later, this is still one of my favorite single issues ever, even if I am now able to recognize it for the marketing tool it was.
We start off at the outer limits of our atmosphere as two ships (SHIELD) chase a third. One of the pursuers is blown up and before the remaining craft can open fire, a blinding light fills the screen.
Magneto has arrived! His power destroys both craft and he keeps the pilots/passengers alive for questioning. We find out that the fleeing ship had stolen SHIELD property and was seeking out Magneto to join him. They plead with him to take them aboard his base (Asteroid M). Magneto appears indifferent to their suffering as we cut away to a briefing in Russia and the White House about how to deal with the Magneto threat.
Meanwhile, the X-Men are enjoying a training session in the Danger Room. Cyclops and Storm are overseeing their progress. Banshee and Forge are controlling the room. Jean and Professor Xavier are the targets. Iceman is downed with fire missiles and more go after Rogue. Meanwhile, Archangel and Colossus provide an improvised Fastball Special (one of my favorite scenes in the book) and Colossus hurls himself through a window to “tag” Professor X. Unfortunately, Jean’s telepathy easily downs the Russian.
Underground, in the sewers, Gambit, Psylocke, and Wolverine try a different route. Cyclops sends robots after them, but as Gambit and Psylocke engage the droids, Gambit sneaks off to try to win the game. He finds Jean and knocks her down with a charged card. Taking his prize with a kiss, he discovers that this Jean was only a decoy as she explodes. This leads to some great banter between Jean and Cyclops, which is why, once again, I was so glad that Claremont was writing these two. Of course, then Wolverine shows up and wins the game by “tagging” Xavier with the tip of his claw. This then leads to some back and forth between Cyclops and Wolverine. Another great Claremont scene.
Soon after, Nick Fury advises the X-Men of the problem Magneto is having with the world powers. We then learn that it was Cyclops’ idea to split the X-Men into two strike teams: blue and gold. The blue team’s stories will be told in this X-Men book while the gold team will be in Uncanny X-Men.
On board Asteroid M, both the fugitive crew and the SHIELD crew comes to. They begin fighting when one of the SHIELD crew slaughters one of the fugitives. Magneto easily turns the man’s own gun against him, turning his head into mush (of course the actual mush part is inferred as it happens off panel). One of the “acolytes”, a Fabian Cortez, then convinces Magneto that he must prepare a defense against the humans below.
Soon after, thanks to Cerebro, Magneto’s mutant signature is detected, entering Earth’s atmosphere. The blue team springs into action. Elsewhere, Magneto raises a Russian submarine from the depths of the ocean (I mentioned that earlier, remember) and pulls out the entire nuclear missile arsenal. He turns and finds three X-Men facing him: Rogue, Wolverine, and Psylocke. Suddenly, the Blackbird hurls out of the sky, but Magneto easily freezes it. Gambit and Beast jump out to try and take him down, but neither are able. Psylocke gets the drop on him, but she is also dropped by Magneto. Wolverine goes in for the kill, raking Magneto across the chest. Cyclops’ blast then knocks Magneto through the wall of the submarine, where he discovers the bones of the crewmen. Magneto decides to flee with the missiles, but Rogue follows him to try and talk him down. Unfortunately, Russian fighter jets strike her with their own missiles, knocking her out of the air. In retaliation, Magneto detonates one of the missiles.
He returns to Asteroid M, where he is revealed to be severely injured. Cortez volunteers to heal him (turns out that’s not what he’s doing). On Earth, Rogue wakes up in a Genoshan hospital to the sounds of explosions all around. Turns out the Acolytes are after Rogue and turning Genosha into a wasteland in the process. The Acolytes attack the hospital, but before they can do anymore damage, the X-Men show up. They make quick work of the Acolytes, but then Magneto shows up.
Back at the X-Mansion, Moira MacTaggart is extremely upset, to the point of tears. Apparently, this massive fight with Magneto is her doing.
Hope you guys enjoyed this blog! I loved this issue and this is when I really started getting into X-Men, so I remember a bit more about what was going on than some of the earlier issues I’ve covered. Ever since this issue, I never missed a single issue of X-Men (except for when Grant Morrison took over…I skipped about 2 years at that point).