This week in geekdom, my comic pulls: X-Men Blue #10, Jean Grey #6, Secret Empire #10, and Optimus Prime #10!
X-Men Unlimited #12 (September 1996)
“The Once and Future Juggernaut”
[Onslaught, Impact 2]
Writer: John Francis Moore
Pencilers: Steve Epting & Ariel Olivetti
Inkers: Kevin Conrad & Ariel Olivetti
Dr. Strange (how strange to find him in an X-book…I make no apologies for that pun) floats through Westchester to the X-Mansion and makes his way through the walls inside, following a mystical disturbance. He finds on Xavier’s desk the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak! While trying to ponder the fate of Juggernaut and what this would mean (since Juggernaut was supposedly bonded to the gem), a mystic animal made entirely of arcane energy and looking like the Japanese language (although if I have that part wrong, I apologize, folks – I know next to nothing about written languages from asian countries) creeps out of the computer and is poised to attack Dr. Strange.
When suddenly Gomurr the Ancient shows up and kills it. The creature belonged to Tar, the keeper of the Crimson Dawn. For this reason, and because Tar kind of holds a grudge against Dr. Strange due to the events in Uncanny X-Men #330, Gomurr agrees to investigate the Juggernaut but Strange must not. He’d be too much of a target.
Gomurr enters the crystal to see Juggernaut screaming at Onslaught (who as we know can’t hear him…after all, Juggernaut is unknowingly trapped inside the crystal). Suddenly, he starts burning as a fire begins eating through his armor. Then, as the pain is unbearable, it stops and Juggernaut is now just Cain Marko, lying in a hospital bed. His stepbrother, Charles walks into the room, not knowing who Onslaught or the X-Men are and explaining that Marko had been paralyzed ever since the Korean War when Marko went into a cave, tried to pry loose a gem, and triggered a cave in.
Xavier wheels Cain outside and they find Jean Grey and other X-Men playing volleyball, but they are not X-Men here. They may be gifted and special, but not mutants. Cain of course thinks this is just Xavier screwing with him. Of course then Xavier starts gloating and finally Gomurr shows up, scolding the entity at this unnecessary deception. The scenery then shifts and a woman in gold armor is there. Her name is Spite (I think they were running out of cool names by this point). Gomurr confronts her but then decides the best way to drive her off is by releasing Juggernaut from the rock he is trapped in.
The two walk to find another odd part of this alien landscape: the X-Mansion carved into the side of a cliff. Once inside, Cain is forced to relive (or at least watch) parts of his childhood spent in this home (remember, the X-Mansion has been in Xavier’s family for years). None of it is pleasant. There’s constant arguments between his dad and Xavier’s mom. Marko is constantly compared against Charles and fails. He is forced to watch once again as his father saves Charles from a lab fire and ends up dying as a result, which is the final straw in Marko’s hatred for Xavier. As Cain finally begins to admit that his hatred of Charles is more of an unreasonable obsession, Gomurr begins to look for the way back to reality.
But Spite returns, binding Gomurr and turning her attention on Juggernaut, tempting him with offers of revenge and power. Gomurr points out that only by renouncing the curse of the Juggernaut can Cain ever be free of curse. But Spite seems to win, convincing Juggernaut to come with her in search of the gem. She brings him before a statue of Cyttorak. Of course Cyttorak suddenly brings to life and Cain realizes that he’d been duped. Spite was simply delivering him to the god. But like most gods, Cyttorak can’t be trusted and devours Spite. Then he turns his attention to Cain, intending on killing Cain and using Marko’s body to become his living embodiment on Earth, allowing him to conquer our dimension. And the bad part is? Cyttorak is winning.
Off to the side, Gomurr and Tar show up, ready to assist Juggernaut. Even as the Juggernaut lies broken, dying, Tar’s spell (his little neon creature from before) finds its way to Juggernaut and stings him. A surge of power runs through him, healing him completely and granting him the power of the Juggernaut once again. He uses this to smash through Cyttorak, returning to Earth and preventing Cyttorak from coming through. Juggernaut finds himself back in Xavier’s study, in full armor.
Whew…the last of the Impact titles, and I must admit… I actually loved this issue. Sure, it had very little to do with Onslaught, but it was still dealing with some of the fallout. For that reason, I didn’t care for it the first time through, or the second time…both times I just skimmed through it. But this time around, as I slowed down to read it, I found myself really enjoying most of it (I’ll get into the problems I had here in a few). Mostly, this is the first issue I’ve read that actually had Cyttorak in it. I don’t know if it’s his first appearance, but it’s the earliest X-Men issue I have with him. And I love getting to see him in action as a god. I also keep thinking this would make for a GREAT “What If…” story. I mean, hell, if Tar had simply decided to not intervene (because of being pissed at Gomurr) then Juggernaut dies and Cyttorak returns to earth right in the middle of the Onslaught mess. Would have been an awesome storyline.
Second, I really like seeing inside the Juggernaut’s mind. I love seeing his motivation for his anger. This issue is really where he starts becoming a three dimensional character instead of just a lapdog for Black Tom. Let’s face it…until now, he was just a “gonna smash everything” villain. But to really get him to face his past, to confront his motives… I think we see enough growth of Juggernaut through this issue that we actually feel kind of bad when he finally regains the power.
Plus the art… sure, it’s fairly 90’s art, but it’s really well done.
Wasn’t all good, though. Spite is a fairly 90’s villain. Not much to her, silly name, silly costume, and bland motivations. My other issues really come in at the beginning. When Strange approached the X-Mansion, know what was missing? Devastation. The mansion looked untouched, despite it having been demolished when the X-Men left and it’ll still be demolished when they return. And on top of that, Strange lives in New York…and yet he seemed completely unaware of what was happening there? I could’ve accepted that he was visiting the mansion to check up on the X-Men, but he seemed completely ignorant. And that’s just not believable to me.
But still…it’s a good story. Near my favorite of the Impact issues.