Writer Bill Mantlo
Artist Sal Buscema
Letterer Michael Higgins
Colorist Ben Sean
Consultant Chris Claremont
Cover Artist Frank Miller
Cover Dated April 1981
You can read along thanks to this website :
Issue opens at the X-Mansion. Cerebro’s siren is going off. The X-Men come in, Kitty – proving her use as the introductory character that she is – asks what is a Cerebro.
The issue of Uncanny X-Men that came out in April 1981 is issue 144 so this issue probably takes place before that as well as before Days of Future Past. Kitty appears at the X-Mansion at the end of Uncanny X-Men 138, so it may take place between that and 139. For anyone who is interested.
The captions and later Xavier makes a big point of stating that there is five X-Men, which harkens me back to the Original Five X-Men.
Cyclops – Jean Grey – Angel – Beast – Iceman
Storm – Kitty Pryde – Nightcrawler – Wolverine – Colossus
Five really is a decent number for a squad. Whedon / Cassaday’s Astonhishing started with just five – Cyclops – Emma – Kitty – Wolverine – Beast Though five hurts when you are trying to create a team on Ultimate Alliance but Kitty wasn’t playable in that game so you could make this team toward the end of the first X-Men Legends game. Not the best team going forward as the game didn’t make Emma as strong as she is, so she is mostly a fighter and coupled with Wolverine and Beast, that is a lot of close range fighters. But I do love playing as the Astonishing team, so I always leave a permanet saved file right there so that I can just play with that team as the game doesn’t have a New Game Plus mode so we can’t play with all the characters and their proper levels from the beginning of a second play through.
Wolverine is very sassy in these first two pages.
Cerebro has detected a new mutant but their origins seem to be odd, so Xavier sends his team to go and investigate. Once they are gone, Xavier gets a panel to himself where he prays that they travel safely as he has lost too many X-Men already. Which is a clear reference to the Phoenix dying at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga that would have ended just recently.
Cut to Clayton, West Virgina. Dr. John Stennis shows up to the Marks farm and first notices all of the dead livestock. Deadstock?
Turns out that Jacob Marks has a secret. He’s a Dire Wraith, the sworn enemy of ROM and his Spaceknights of Galador! 15 years ago, his human wife, Marjorie, gave birth to their son, Jimmy. That’s right, ya’ll, this is the origin story of the grossest looking fool in the Marvel Universe – Hybrid!
Dr. Stennis is disgusted to see Marjorie aged to what appears to be a hundred years ago, which she was barely 38 so that is quite the shock.
Jacob has to reveal his true form to the doctor, and then the doctor sees Jimmy in his current state. Buscema does a great job of just casting Jimmy’s shadow on the wall and that image doesn’t make any sense. It does once Jimmy is revealed but before that, it just looks like a mess.
The doctor runs away. Jacob wishes that Jimmy would have let him at least take his mother to the hospital. Jimmy wants to hurt his father for taking the ‘smooth-skinned sow’ as a wife. Which is pretty harsh words for one’s own mother.
Then we get to the ROM portion of the story as some of these characters are his supporting cast. Others are just members of the town. Silas Lane arrives at the Clark home. He is shocked to see ROM sitting in a chair. At this point, ROM has gotten a reputation for showing up, shooting dudes with a gun and leaving behind ash – it looks like he straight up kills people. In reality, he is only shooting Dire Wraiths who have shape shifted to human form and sending them to limbo (but not Magik’s fun Limbo).
Jonathan Clark tells the truth to Silas, and Silas thinks this is the plot to a B-Film. Jonathan is the father of Brandy, who I know is for sure a supporting cast member of the title. Brandy’s finance, Steve Jackson, was going to marry her on their wedding day (as people do) when another Steve Jackson showed up at the wedding and shot the one standing near her at the alter and the fellow died. I guess he did object.
Turns out that the man about to marry his daughter, was a Dire Wraith and Steve has been held hostage for a while until he escaped and saved his future bride.
Apparently in this town of Clairton, ROM has been slaying waste to a slew of Dire Wraiths. Silas takes out a sleeve of index cards and asks if the names on the cards are the ones who have vanished. Turns out that all but Jacob Marks are now gone.
Back in November 9, 1945, the Dire Wraiths took advantage of the fact that American soldiers were coming back from World War II and many were just showing up in various cities. So they took human disguises and did the same thing. They also gave themselves the same birthday. Then with ROM going around banishing fools, they realized people will start writing obituaries and will notice that they all have the same birthday – which would be suspicious.
ROM believes that there is a Dire Wraith who is a high level officer in the government, who has started changing their birthdays but Jacob Marks’ was left unchanged.
So they know that Jacob Marks is a Dire Wraith but also that Marjorie isn’t as Sarah and others grew up with her since she was a child. This disgusts ROM has that means their son, Jimmy, is a half-breed. This has never been done before, so who knows what Jimmy’s deal is now.
ROM, Brandy and Steve race off to the Marks farm. ROM tells them to stay back as Jacob and Marjorie come out of their home. Jacob confesses to being a Dire Wraith. ROM tells Brandy and Steve to quickly get Marjorie to a hospital.
Brandy is horrified to realize that if Steve hadn’t escaped, she would have married a Dire Wraith and could be in the same situation that Marjorie is in now.
Jacob then tells his origins (which I feel like we have already gotten for the most part but now done in chronological order – plus some extra information). Jacob showed up in this sleepy town. He married Marjorie, at first to just blend in and then later, grew to love her. He resisted the idea of children at first but eventually was convinced that if he can love, so can his child. Which is odd, I wonder how that actually worked. On their wedding night, he just made up an excuse to not consummate their marriage and then kept making up excuses? That doesn’t seem like something that could last years on end.
Eventually some elder Dire Wraiths learn of the birth of two races and came to see Jimmy. They started teaching Jimmy the ways of the Dire Wraith. Jimmy learns to hate the human race and starts being cruel to his mother.
One week ago, the elders quit coming and Jimmy started punishing his parents. Also one week ago? ROM sent the elders to limbo.
So that brings us to the present.
Jacob already knows that Jimmy is stronger than any previous Dire Wraith.
ROM goes inside the house to confront Jimmy. The room is covered in ice. What he sees is this :
A face that even a mother couldn’t love. Before he looked like this (which he chose to discard his original form) he looked like a 15 year old blonde boy.
ROM and Hybrid start fighting. ROM realizes that he doesn’t need to hold back as the normal banishing setting on his gun isn’t going to do much hard to Hybrid. Hybrid has telepathic and telekinesis powers so he is a force to be reckon with. ROM calls his gun, his Neutralizer.
Jacob tries to distract his son (and also to plead with him). In thanks, he takes a pitchfork to the chest and dies.
ROM is about to set his gun onto the highest setting, right when Hybrid reverts to his human form.
There is a Hostess Twinkee ad with Spider-Man starring in The Rescue.
The final page is the X-Men showing up to stop a mad robot from killing a little boy. Kitty, who is going by Sprite, at this time, tells Jimmy that he is in safe hands. He thinks to himself that this is working out perfectly.
I am reviewing issue 18 as Frank Miller does the cover for that so we will have to wait two days and see what happens next issue!
I do wonder, if Marjorie survives this, how does the town respond to her afterwards? If she still looks like she is a hundred years old, they probably won’t give her much grief but if she reverts back to looking like she is 38, then that might change some things. Like if she gives a different opinion, how quickly the town folk will throw in her face that she once had a freak family. People can be so cruel sometimes!
There were moments here with the way Sal Buscema draws faces in 1981 that remind me how much his great and wonderful style hasn’t changed that much when he was the artist on Spectacular Spider-Man, from issues 134 to 238! Which is from January 1988 to September 1996, a whopping eight years as the continuous artist on one comic. That has to be a record, at the very least at Marvel. So many storylines and moments Sal was part of and responsible for during that era.
He also was the first artist on Spectacular Spider-Man from issue 1 to 20, then he came back for 38 and was gone until 134. At one time or another, I owned all of these issues before selling them.