Wednesday, 29 August 2012

X-Men #96: Demon in an Obelisk

X-Men #96 is very character-heavy, and manages to get about halfway through before any superheroics happen.

In the wake of Thunderbird's death, Cyclops is moping. This time he really cuts loose with his powers in frustration, destroying what my colleague Alexa, in her post on this issue, points out is an "odd-looking obelisk that would never actually exist in upstate New York".

Back at the mansion, we have a training session where we get to know the new X-Men a bit better. Xavier takes Banshee aside for a bit to discuss his concerns about Scott's melancholy, before the new housekeeper, Moira MacTaggert, turns up, to cover for Xavier on his holiday. The intrusion of staff into the life of the X-Mansion is not entirely unprecedented - there was mention of a cook in X-Men #6, but they've remained off-panel and presumably unaware of it being anything other than a prep school. (Although, it has to be said, a prep school for "gifted youngsters", with a headmaster who is goes on the telly as a talking head talking about genetic mutation. It's not rocket science.) MacTaggert, though, is immediately let in on the secret. Banshee is smitten with her, telling her (and us, finally) his name: Sean Cassidy.

While they're all getting to know each other (and Xavier casually ignores the fact that Wolverine is carving a tic-tac-toe game into one of his tables), they wonder where Scott is. At this point he makes a quick entrance through the wall, courtsey of Kierrok the Damned, who he appears to have awoken by destroying the obelisk.

During the fight we see inside Wolverine's head a bit. He's a killer, and not proud of it. He gets a speech bubble "ten years o' psycho-training, o' hypnotism. o' drug therapy, ten years o' praying'... an' I cut him to pieces without a thought". We have here a reformed Wolverine lapsing back into killing - not for his own safety's sake - but to protect his new team-mates, who he's grown very attached to already in this short time. It doesn't work, admittedly, and we get several more frenzied pages of fighting, including Moira's admirable response of just shooting at the blasted thing with a machine gun. The problem is ultimately solved by Storm destroying the cairn, which vanishes the demon.

At the start of the issue, Scott was worried about whether these new people would be able to work as a team under his leadership. By the end we see they can act together already.

As a plot tease, we meet Dr Lang, who has been working on "Project: Armageddon" for six years, which appears to be some kind of government black project (a billion dollar budget), based in northern New York state, near the Canadian border. Lang reckons that both Bolivar Trask and his son have been murdered by the X-Men. But he's got a better plan (which I'm willing to bet involves more giant robots and fixing the specific problem that went wrong last time), even if he has to kill Michael Rossi (introduced here) to make it happen.

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