Writer Chris Claremont
Artists John Romita Jr. and Dan Green
Colorist Glynis Wein
Letterer Tom Orzechowski
Reprint of Uncanny X-Men 190
Cover Dated April 1994
Another fine cover by Tom Raney.
We are off and running with the Kulan Gath storyline. I think, rereading it now, my problem is that it is such a departure from an X-Men story. Seems like you can insert any hero and have the same results. One thing that I do enjoy is that it takes place in New York City and it actually has a collection of heroes that would be found in the city at that time, such as Spider-Man and various members of the Avengers. Also, the merged version of Xavier and Caliban is unsettling, so when I read it as a kid, that may have left a bad impression. Also, now that I am thinking about it, I may not have known as much about the Marvel Universe, so all of these characters were pretty new to me.
So the issue opens with the outside of Manhattan being fine. There is an energy barrier surrounding the island, and everything inside of the barrier resembles Medieval times.
We get a meeting of government officials, including Val Cooper. I like how Claremont uses this scene to establish the rules of the barrier and gets us up to speed. The barrier has only been up for an hour. We know that anyone who walks in, converts to Medieval times. Their clothes, their weapons and vehicles all change. One nice benefit is that you keep your personality. If you were a hero, you are still a hero in the barrier. You remember that if you have siblings or family members, they are still your family members. Also, if you for whatever reason walk outside of the barrier, you revert back to who you are, and you remember what happened inside. So this is where most of their intel is coming from. Since it is an island, most of the people who are coming back out, are through the water ways.
We find out that the person behind this is Kulan Gath. He is using the Morlocks as his personal army. He is able to use magic in a way that seems like magic is common place. He also, for some reason, has taken to children sacrifice.
The government has only been able to confirm a certain number of heroes inside the barrier. For the Avengers – Captain America (looking very much like He-Man from the cover), Wasp, Starfox (the only Avenger prone to rape-y situations), Vision and Scarlet Witch. For the X-Men – Colossus (who is sporting a narly looking horn helmet), Nightcrawler (all Swashbucklery), Rogue and Storm. Spider-Man is also bouncing around but his costume hasn’t been converted so he is inside the barrier but not affected by it.
While Val Cooper is providing this intel, men start piping up. One complains that the X-Men shouldn’t be counted amongst the heroes such as the Avengers. One gentleman speaks up, stating that these comments are pretty racist and should stop. Honestly, I never get these comments about rounding up mutants and keeping them away from other races, just typing that points to how horribly racist the metaphor is. We don’t treat any races like that, nor should we.
Within the barrier, Storm wakes up, from a dream of a future time. Sunder crashes through her wall and Callisto is close behind. JRJR has decided that all women’s costumes are going going to be skimpy bathing suits or will have those Valkyrie breast plate thingies. Honestly, how do those breast plate cone things work? Does one factory make hundreds in various sizes or is it one size fits most? Callisto has one, Storm eventually gets a set, as does Dani Moonstar later.
Sunder tries to place a red hot slave collar on Storm, she breaks free and runs off. Callisto gives chase. During their confrontation, Callisto stabs Storm, such like she did to her to gain leadership. This time, she stabbed her in the stomach. For whatever reason, this triggers Storm’s real memories. Now Storm is in pain and confused by her surroundings. Storm pushes Callisto and they both fall into the water. They float out of the barrier – thus regaining their memories.
Storm wonders who has the power to do this and Callisto informs her that Kulan Gath does. Storm tells her that all of the X-Men were in the city last night and wonders if the others are under the spell, so she was by herself this entire time.
This transitions us to Kulan Gath, as he taunts his prisoner, Dr. Strange. Poor Dr. Strange’s mouth as been sealed and his fingers no longer work. Which was something I have thought for years is pretty silly. For instance, we always see Xavier point to his head to indicate he is using his power at that moment. But if he was about to bring his hand to his head and you got there in time to slap his hand, it isn’t like he has to do that motion to activate his power, that’s just something to show that it is working. It’ll be like taping Storm’s mouth shut, making her not able to use her power. She can summon the weather without having to shout about it.
Speaking of Xavier, Kulan Gath states that it is easy to manipulate flesh to Dr. Strange. To further his point, he merges Xavier and Caliban together into one weird chalk white man worm of a creature. This way, Caliban’s mutant ability to track and Xavier’s telepathic powers are now one.
Due to Spider-Man, who Kulan Gath refers to as Man-Spider – which is a shame as Man-Spider was an awesome action figure from the 90s Spider-Man cartoon, fighting Kulan Gath back in Marvel Team-Up 79, is immune to his transformation spell.
Kulah Gath uses Caliver to summon the New Mutants – Dani, Sunspot, Cannonball and Wolfsbane. Warlock comes along but he isn’t under the spell. He also looks like Peter Parker sort of, which I thought was confusing but then he speaks with that Warlock specific word balloon.
Kulah Gath wants to use the New Mutants as his hounds, which Claremont with Rachel, is really into the concept of human trackers chasing individuals.
Warlock tries to rescue his friends but Kulah Gath is much stronger and now Warlock has to flee from the attacking New Mutants. Now the New Mutants are not only just wearing Medieval costumes, now they look like hulkling versions of themselves.
Kulah Gath orders Caliver to seek Warlock. Xavier part doesn’t want to but Caliban wants to please his new master. We see that Selene is watching this unfold. She recognizes Kulah Gath as she is as old as time. I get the impression that she is older than him.
We see that Magma and Rachel have been taken captive by some Morlocks. Selene shows up to free them. The Morlocks are no match for her. The two gals are under the spell so they don’t know that they hate Selene.
Storm and Callisto are trying to figure out their next move. They have new clothes, essentially it seems like they just switched outfits but tailored to their specific tastes. Callisto is mad for two reasons, firstly, she doesn’t like owing Storm anything and secondly, she doesn’t like the fact that she and her family were turned into soldiers.
Selene communicates with Storm, and Storm can tell from the image that Selene has become the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club. Selene is using Rachel’s telepathy to communicate. Selene wants to work together after Storm threatens to hurt Selene if she hurt Rachel. Selene states that she knows Kulan Gath and that if this spell isn’t reversed soon, the spell will become permanent and then it will start to expand.
Callisto explains that inside the barrier, she was part of his army. Selene explains she can cast a spell wherein Storm and Callisto will retain that they are there to fight him and not be lost in the transformation.
Storm tries to pick the lock of the door they are stuck in. Callisto explains that now is no time to show off and she should use her powers. Storm explains that she no longer has her powers. Callisto isn’t happy about this, as she wants Storm to be at full power so that she can fight her for leadership of the Morlocks again. Callisto also states that if she will kill the person who did that to Storm, as n one is safe from him. They enter the sewer system to get back inside the barrier.
We catch up to Spider-Man, who has both the New Mutants and the Morlocks chasing him. He recognizes the New Mutants from the various times he has met them before. So he doesn’t want to hurt them so he is holding back his punches but they don’t care or know him so they are not limiting themselves in anyway.
Spider-Man ducks into a tavern to try to hide in a crowd. As luck would have it, though his luck is never this good in his own title, Starfox and Wasp are also in this tavern. Spider-Man’s strength is disappearing due to the spell. Dani mentions Kulah Gath and that’s the only words he can understand as everyone is speaking Latin or something. Now he knows what is up.
The New Mutants chain Spider-Man up. Caliver explains there is another threat. Dani looks around and sees who the threat is, and it is Illyana!
Captain America steps inbetween the two ladies. He isn’t going to let Illyana get taken away. Then Kurt and Rogue show up to help this band of Avengers.
Storm and Callisto take a breath before they step through the barrier. This time, they don’t have their old personalities, they have brand new ones. Callisto is a mercenary and Storm is a sorceress. Of course, they are attacked by Morlocks, so they don’t get to get their bearings.
Morlocks, typical of their fighting style, swarm the Avengers with their mass numbers. Cap, being the leader that he is, will not back down or retreat. Turns out, Magik, being a sorceress herself, was never under the spell. She was just trying to figure out what to do. She takes her soulsword and strikes her brother. Colossus is now no longer under the spell. It is amazing how Claremont defined the soulsword and then kept coming up with threats that the soulsword could be used against.
Sunspot blasts the ground, forcing Illyana to drop her sword, so she can’t continue to wake the other heroes up. Thanks to Kulan Gath’s spell, if he didn’t make it so, you don’t have access to your powers. No one in the comic refers to Kulan Gath except by his full name, so I’m not sure if I could be shortening it or not.
Selene acts as the carvery, and crashes through the roof. Sunder saves the New Mutants from the debris and they all run off. The heroes are saved!
Selene explains to Captain America that she is on his side, as Rachel and Magma come through the roof to join the scene. Selene recruits the Avengers for her side. Right then, Kulan Gath teleports Selene away. He does recognize her from the good ol’ days. He offers the gathered heroes to surrender, as he does so, Storm and Callisto arrive onto the scene.
Once more Morlocks show up, the heroes have already disappeared. Kulan Gath orders Caliver to locate the heroes and he/it/they can’t. Selene mocks the wizard for his limitations.
The heroes are in the old Morlock tunnels. They wonder if they are safe there. Rachel and Magma do not sit with the other heroes and this causes Callisto to wonder about them and their loyalty.
Captain America reveals that in this new age, non-mutants look upon mutants as if they are magical. Illyana reveals that she like Selene, magical and above the transformation. She asks Cap if he will still protect her and fight along side her. Of course he will, he judges people on deeds and not on what others tell him. So great to see Cap and Magik talking to each other. I suspect that the Avengers’ memories of this interaction vanishes so it isn’t brought up again but I could be wrong. My memory of this story is pretty hazy.
Cap does state that Selene is most likely as deadly as Kulan Gath, so once they defeat him, they will have to worry about her. Kurt states that without Selene, they have lost their greatest weapon. Storm offers that they can use that to their advantage, that Kulan Gath will no doubt suspect them easy pickings. Storm wants them to use stealth to attack the wizard. He is not a god, but a man so he can be defeated. This is the Marvel Universe, even if he was a god, he could be defeated, I mean even Thor loses in the first round so that he can heroically stage a come back.
Captain America stands up, he has fought evil as long as he could remember and evil will not win this time either. He cares not if mutants are in danger, as far as he sees them, they are people and people need to be saved! He gives us an “Avengers Assemble!” and morale is boosted. Except for Magma and Rachel, they are wet blankets.