Fan Retrospectives: Chris Claremont's X-Men: Part 3: My Brother, My Enemy!


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.

"My Brother, My Enemy"  Uncanny X-Men #97

Writers: Chris Claremont

Artists: Dave Cockrum

Review by Eric Lee

Previously on X-MenThe X-Men are still reeling from Thunderbird's shocking death. The Mansion gets a new housekeeper who may not be a real housekeeper Moira McTaggert, And the team fights a demon who resides in their own backyard.

We open up to a completely new plot thread: Professor Xavier is haunted by dreams of a bug-like alien spaceship. There also happens to be an insectoid armored humanoid reaching out to Xavier before the professor wakes up in a cold sweat. 

Elsewhere on a ranch, former X-Men Polaris and Havok are enjoying their retirement. They've decided to focus on completing their doctorate degrees. In the modern day, Lorna Dane does indeed have a doctorate in geophysics. However, it does not seem that Alex Summers ever completed his doctorate program. I'm not even sure what skill sets he has beyond his powers.

While Alex goes out to do...something, Lorna stays at home. But then a mysterious stranger is at her front door and then shoots Lorna with a ray- knocking her out unconscious. Alex hears her scream of pain and runs back to the house, only to find Lorna getting a new Polaris costume out of the closet. She shoots Alex with her electromagnetic powers. It seems that Polaris is conversing with the mysterious figure saying that their prime directive is to kill Charles Xavier. 

We cut to an airport where the X-Men see Charles Xavier off as he goes on a vacation. Jean Grey is also there to remind the professor to wear sunblock. Seriously. This is a weird, unceremonious way to bring her back into the series, but whatever. 

In the meantime, Colossus and Nightcrawler are just chilling and checking out the pretty girls. Nightcrawler in particular is using a holographic image inducer for the first time. He hilariously chose to look like Errol Flynn. Once again, Chris Claremont seems to be revealing Kurt Wagner's more playful side of his personality. 

 As Xavier boards his plane, Havok and Polaris- in full costume- step up on the blacktop and start attacking Cyclops and Jean. In a scenario that would never happen in real life, Xavier's plane sees the battle on the nearby tar mat and decides to take off full steam ahead. Even wilder, the plane FLIES THROUGH A FLAMING WRECK OF ANOTHER PLANE and escapes. Those pilots must've graduated from the Michael Bay aviation school.

 It turns out that with a stray blast, Havok accidentally blew up an entire air carrier. The captions say that it was empty of passengers and crew... which seems like something that Claremont has to write in after the art came in, to make sure that Havok isn't a mass murderer.

This leads to the main villain who is mind-controlling Polaris and Havok: Eric the Red. Actually, interestingly, his official spelling is "Erik" not "Eric" but for reasons, this issue spells it as "Eric" so I am sticking with that for now.

Anyways, Jean Grey and Storm confront Polaris, Cyclops battles Havok, and Colossus and Nightcrawler handle Eric the Red. Shockingly, Eric is able to hold his own against the two X-Men and is even able to punch Colossus through an airplane landing wheel. 

Cyclops seems to be able to shake Havok loose from his brainwashing. When they were blasting at each other, a wall fell on Cyclops, which wakes Havok up long enough to save Cyke. Unfortunately, Storm was too effective and defeated Polaris resoundingly, which switches Havok back to "kill all X-Men" mode.

Soon, Wolverine and Banshee fly in to give the X-Men reinforcement. Knowing that he is outmatched, Eric the Red decides to fly off with Havok and Polaris in hand. Cyclops has a clear shot to blast them out of the sky, but he stops himself from firing.

An annoyed Wolverine comes in to admonish Cyke for letting the villains escape and we are treated to the first punching match between Cyclops and Wolverine. 

We're left with a open-ended cliffhanger. Even more shocking, Chris Claremont does not immediately follow-up with Polaris and Havok's story in the next issue. This really sets the precedent of Claremont having long-running plots that don't have an immediate resolution- if at all. One can only imagine readers back then being slightly confused and frustrated that we don't know what happens to Polaris and Havok for a few months.

However, we are treated to a tease of next issue where Dr. Stephen Lang of Project: Armageddon spying on the X-Men from his computer screen. Even funnier, there is yet another unknown hand that is spying on Lang spying on the X-Men.

By the Numbers

Notable Developments:

  • The first appearance of Eric the Red - the villain (the first first time was in Uncanny X-men  #51, but that was Cyclops in disguise. Don't ask).
  • Eric the Red brainwashes Havok and Polaris to attack the X-Men.
  • Polaris gets a new costume when she is brainwashed.
  • Professor X has nightmares of some alien insectoid spacecraft. He takes a vacation to recuperate.
  • Jean Grey seems to be back on the X-Men after taking a 3-issue long sabbatical. 
  • The first appearance of Nightcrawler's image inducer that he uses for disguises.
  • There is another mystery person watching the X-Men.

Subplots Count:

  • What is Project: Armageddon?
  • What is Moira McTaggert's real role?
  • Eric the Red brainwashes Havok and Polaris for an unknown reason.
  • A mystery person is monitoring the X-Men.
  • Why does Storm have claustrophobia?
  • What is Wolverine's mystery backstory?
  • Professor X is haunted by visions of a mecha-insectoid being.

Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • Mystery villains spying on the X-Men: 2 (and on the same panel too! Bonus!)
  • Professor X screams wildly: 3 (in X-Men  #95, 96, and while dreaming in this issue)
  • Wolverine calls someone "Bub": 2
  • Number of times Banshee says 'Ye' this issue:0  (Banshee didn't get a speaking role in this issue)
  • Characters with accents: 5 (Moira McTaggert, Banshee, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine)

Professor X is a Jerk!:

  • No new jerky actions this issue! Yay!

The Most Claremontiest Quote of the Issue:

 “But the dream doesn't hear Xavier's anguished, soul-torn cry--or, it if does, it doesn't care to answer. And, once again, Charles Xavier finds himself drawn out across the infinite drawn into nightmare...DRAWN INTO HELL!"- Captions

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