Fan Retrospective: Chris Claremont's X-Men: Part 2: Night of the Demon

Chris Claremont is arguably the most influential X-Men writer and one of the most important superhero comics creators in general. His command of prose, deft use of subplots, and willingness to let characters grow in unexpected ways put a definitive stamp that few has been able to replicate since. Come and see how X-Men rose from obscurity into the a global pop culture phenomenon primarily under the pen of this one man.

"Night of the Demon"  Uncanny X-Men #96

Writers: Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo

Artists: Dave Cockrum

Review by Eric Lee

Previously on X-Men: The original roster of X-Men all quit, with the exception of Cyclops, leaving him to lead the all-new, all-different X-men team. Count Nefaria and his Ani-Men took over a nuclear facility and blackmailed the world to pay his ransom. The X-Men defeated him but at the cost of Thunderbird sacrificing himself to prevent Nefaria from escaping.

In the aftermath of Thunderbird's death, Cyclops does what he does best and broods around a forest alone. An interesting thing writing tic that writer Chris Claremont did was make the captions in the second person, making as if the narrator is talking directly to Cyclops.

This culminates in the narration boxes practically bullying Cyclops and, weirdly, Scott's responding.

"...try as you might, you can't balance those scales in your mind or in your heart... can you Cyclops? Can you? CAN YOU?!"

Jeez, captions, you're being really mean to Cyclops here. 

In his anger, Cyclops unleashes his optic blasts destroying the forest around him, including an ancient demon burial ground. Yes, somehow the Xavier Institute has an ancient demon burial obelisk that nobody ever knew about.

You know what? Since modern-day writers like to write shocking stories about how Professor X has always been a secret terrible person, they should just make a story about how he purposefully built the school on the ancient demon burial grounds.

In fact, he probably got a really good discount because the real estate agent warned him about the demon obelisk and Xavier was like, "Yeah, yeah... unleashing evil spirits... TELL ME MORE ABOUT THIS CHEAP WESTCHESTER ACREAGE!"

Meanwhile, the rest of the X-Men are in the Danger Room sparring with each other. Nightcrawler laughs at Wolverine, which pisses Wolverine off so much that he straight up lunges at Nightcrawler with his claws out.

You can't mistake it: Wolverine was going to kill Nightcrawler if he didn't teleport to safety. This really ups the stakes for the rest of the team, where Wolverine is not only a wild card, but a potentially murderous one.

Xavier and Banshee reprimand Wolverine but then they get interrupted by the arrival of Xavier's "housekeeper" Moira McTaggert.

Yes, this is the first appearance of Moria, who later on has an insane reality-warping mutant son. And then she was later revealed to also be an insane reality-controlling mutant herself. Then she became a mutant-killing cyborg. In other words, of all the X-Men supporting cast characters, Moira is the one who got "X-Men'd" the hardest.

The arrival of Moira- who is just a "housekeeper" at the moment- sends the comic into a critical mass of crazy accents. Look, Chris Claremont loves writing accents. And there is a high level of accents in the Xavier Mansion at the moment, including Colossus' Russian accent, Nightcrawler's German accent, Banshee's Irish accent, Wolverine's tough-guy accent, and now Moira's Welsh accent.

Anyways, the whole "housekeeper" title is clearly a cover for Moira. This is something that Storm vaguely picks up on. I'm not gonna reveal Moira's real reason for joining the Mansion, but let's just say that this whole "Housekeeper" facade is sexist and clearly totally Professor Xavier's idea. Professor Xavier is a jerk!

Speaking of running subplots, we get a tease of a certain Dr. Stephen Lang at some mysterious military base where they're studying the X-Men. You can immediately tell that Dr. Lang is evil because he says that he is working on "Project: Armageddon"

Actually, no. He SCREAMS "PROJECT: ARMAGEDDON!!" at the top of his lungs with a bug-eyed look that only a mad scientist would have. If you need more proof that he's a bad man, his military supervisor informs him that the government is shutting down the project and Dr. Lang ominously responds with: "...That means you must never reach Washington... alive." 

So yeah, that military liaison will be super dead soon. By the way, we're jumping ahead a bit, but check out how they subtly foreshadow the Sentinel's boot in the frame. Pretty neat detail.

Back at the X-Mansion, the X-Men's dinner is interrupted by Cyclops flying through the window. Apparently, when he accidentally blew up the demon obelisk, it unleashed KIERROK THE SHATTER OF SOULS- THE SLAYER OF MEN- KIERROK THE DAMNED!

I know this demon is a one-off villain, but that is such a cool entrance.  Actually, I take that back, Kierrok actually did make future appearances and had a backstory that I won't get into here- because it is not superhero comics if they didn't have random characters like Kierrok return. Unfortunately, none seem to explain why there is a demon dimensional portal in Xavier's backyard.

Wolverine straight-up butchers the demon to death. This is pretty shocking and graphic for the 70's. Interestingly, Wolverine reveals that he went through years of therapy, drug treatment and prayer, but he still has an insatiable bloodlust.

But death means nothing to a demon and he immediately heals back up. But what's funnier is Wolverine's reaction to Kierrok's healing. 
That dude looks SO DEPRESSED. I imagine he's thinking, "Jeez. I guess I'm not the best at what I do." This would've totally been a viral internet meme if memes were a thing back in the 70's.

Then Moira unleashes  A FREAKIN' MACHINE GUNFIRE onto the demon. That's pretty badass.

Let's also take a moment to admire how the X-Men have an armory of machine guns. Even better, it looks like it's right next to their dining room! One can only imagine why Xavier felt the need to have them right next to each other. I assume when dinner guests stay too long, Xavier clears them out by brandishing an AK-47 and telling them that the evening's festivities are over.

I also wanted to unironically point out how the panel where Xavier tries to psychically probe Kierrok looks amazing. Dave Cockrum is a master at these dramatic montages of images. It's wild and otherworldly. It makes you wish that Cockrum did some fantasy comics.

So Xavier asked Storm- the most agile member of the team- to destroy Keirrok's obelisk to send him back to his dimension. Storm has to fly through a now demon-infested garden to reach the obelisk. We also get a taste of Storm's backstory including her crippling claustrophobia. I don't know how much Claremont already planned a backstory for Storm at this point or if he just made it up as he went along, but either way, it is quite impressive how he seeds things for the future.

 In turns out Storm's PTSD causes her so much distress that she quickly summons lightning to destroy the obelisk, sending Keirrok back to his demon-sion  dimension.

Elsewhere, we see that Dr. Lang's military liaison's plane went down in a fiery wreck. The captions state that the man responsible watches from his console and laughs. Uh oh...

By the Numbers

Notable Developments:

  • The first appearance of Moira McTaggert
  • The first appearance of Kierrok 
  • The first appearance of Dr. Stephen Lang 
  • The first mention of Storm's backstory and her claustrophobia
  • The first tease of Wolverine's backstory

Subplots Count:

  • What is Project: Armageddon?
  • What is Moira McTaggert's real role?

Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • Number of times Banshee says 'Ye': 8
  • Different accents used: 5 (Moira McTaggert, Banshee, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine)

Professor X is a Jerk!:

  •  He calls Moria McTaggert a "Housekeeper"
  • He has a secret demon dimensional portal in his backyard
  • He apparently has his armory of guns stored right next to the dining room

The Most Claremontiest Quote of the Issue:

 “I AM KIERROK, little animal--KIERROK THE SHATTERER OF SOULS--KEIRROK THE SLAYER OF MEN--KEIRROK THE DAMNED! And I have come for you this night, humans--for your lives--and YOUR SOULS!!
- Keirrok (obviously)

Images May be Subject To Copyright


Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: George R.R. Martin Presents: Wild Cards: Now & Then

Thought Bubble 2024 convention & festival dates announced

Mystic Muses: A D&D Podcast